The long history of how Jesus came to resemble a white European

The portrayal of Jesus as a white, European man has come under renewed scrutiny during this period of introspection over the legacy of racism in society. As protesters called for the removal of Confederate statues in the U.S., activist Shaun King went further, suggesting that murals and artwork depicting “white Jesus” should “come down.” His concerns about the depiction of Christ and how it is used to uphold notions of white supremacy are not isolated. Prominent scholars and the archbishop of Canterbury have called to reconsider Jesus’ portrayal as a white man.

As a European Renaissance art historian, I study the evolving image of Jesus Christ from A.D. 1350 to 1600. Some of the best-known depictions of Christ, from Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper” to Michelangelo’s “Last Judgment” in the Sistine Chapel, were produced during this period. But the all-time most-reproduced image of Jesus comes from another period. It is Warner Sallman’s light-eyed, light-haired “Head of Christ” from 1940. Sallman, a former commercial artist who created art for advertising campaigns, successfully marketed this picture worldwide.

Through Sallman’s partnerships with two Christian publishing companies, one Protestant and one Catholic, the Head of Christ came to be included on everything from prayer cards to stained glass, faux oil paintings, calendars, hymnals and night lights.

Sallman’s painting culminates a long tradition of white Europeans creating and disseminating pictures of Christ made in their own image.

In search of the holy face

The historical Jesus likely had the brown eyes and skin of other first-century Jews from Galilee, a region in biblical Israel. But no one knows exactly what Jesus looked like. There are no known images of Jesus from his lifetime, and while the Old Testament Kings Saul and David are explicitly called tall and handsome in the Bible, there is little indication of Jesus’ appearance in the Old or New Testaments. Even these texts are contradictory: The Old Testament prophet Isaiah reads that the coming savior “had no beauty or majesty,” while the Book of Psalms claims he was “fairer than the children of men,” the word “fair” referring to physical beauty. The earliest images of Jesus Christ emerged in the first through third centuries A.D., amidst concerns about idolatry. They were less about capturing the actual appearance of Christ than about clarifying his role as a ruler or as a savior.

To clearly indicate these roles, early Christian artists often relied on syncretism, meaning they combined visual formats from other cultures. Probably the most popular syncretic image is Christ as the Good Shepherd, a beardless, youthful figure based on pagan representations of Orpheus, Hermes and Apollo. In other common depictions, Christ wears the toga or other attributes of the emperor. The theologian Richard Viladesau argues that the mature bearded Christ, with long hair in the “Syrian” style, combines characteristics of the Greek god Zeus and the Old Testament figure Samson, among others.

Christ as self-portraitist

The first portraits of Christ, in the sense of authoritative likenesses, were believed to be self-portraits: the miraculous “image not made by human hands,” or acheiropoietos.

This belief originated in the seventh century A.D., based on a legend that Christ healed King Abgar of Edessa in modern-day Urfa, Turkey, through a miraculous image of his face, now known as the Mandylion.

A similar legend adopted by Western Christianity between the 11th and 14th centuries recounts how, before his death by crucifixion, Christ left an impression of his face on the veil of Saint Veronica, an image known as the volto santo, or “Holy Face.”  These two images, along with other similar relics, have formed the basis of iconic traditions about the “true image” of Christ. From the perspective of art history, these artifacts reinforced an already standardized image of a bearded Christ with shoulder-length, dark hair.

In the Renaissance, European artists began to combine the icon and the portrait, making Christ in their own likeness. This happened for a variety of reasons, from identifying with the human suffering of Christ to commenting on one’s own creative power.

The 15th-century Sicilian painter Antonello da Messina, for example, painted small pictures of the suffering Christ formatted exactly like his portraits of regular people, with the subject positioned between a fictive parapet and a plain black background and signed “Antonello da Messina painted me.”

The 16th-century German artist Albrecht Dürer blurred the line between the holy face and his own image in a famous self-portrait of 1500. In this, he posed frontally like an icon, with his beard and luxuriant shoulder-length hair recalling Christ’s. The “AD” monogram could stand equally for “Albrecht Dürer” or “Anno Domini” – “in the year of our Lord.”

In whose image?

This phenomenon was not restricted to Europe: There are 16th- and 17th-century pictures of Jesus with, for example, Ethiopian and Indian features. In Europe, however, the image of a light-skinned European Christ began to influence other parts of the world through European trade and colonization. But Jesus’ light skin and blues eyes suggest that he is not Middle Eastern but European-born. And the faux-Hebrew script embroidered on Mary’s cuffs and hemline belie a complicated relationship to the Judaism of the Holy Family. The Italian painter Andrea Mantegna’s “Adoration of the Magi” from A.D. 1505 features three distinct magi, who, according to one contemporary tradition, came from Africa, the Middle East and Asia. They present expensive objects of porcelain, agate and brass that would have been prized imports from China and the Persian and Ottoman empires.

In Mantegna’s Italy, anti-Semitic myths were already prevalent among the majority Christian population, with Jewish people often segregated to their own quarters of major cities. Artists tried to distance Jesus and his parents from their Jewishness. Even seemingly small attributes like pierced ears – earrings were associated with Jewish women, their removal with a conversion to Christianity – could represent a transition toward the Christianity represented by Jesus. Much later, anti-Semitic forces in Europe including the Nazis would attempt to divorce Jesus totally from his Judaism in favor of an Aryan stereotype.

White Jesus abroad

As Europeans colonized increasingly farther-flung lands, they brought a European Jesus with them. Jesuit missionaries established painting schools that taught new converts Christian art in a European mode. A small altarpiece made in the school of Giovanni Niccolò, the Italian Jesuit who founded the “Seminary of Painters” in Kumamoto, Japan, around 1590, combines a traditional Japanese gilt and mother-of-pearl shrine with a painting of a distinctly white, European Madonna and Child.

In colonial Latin America – called “New Spain” by European colonists – images of a white Jesus reinforced a caste system where white, Christian Europeans occupied the top tier, while those with darker skin from perceived intermixing with native populations ranked considerably lower. Artist Nicolas Correa’s 1695 painting of Saint Rose of Lima, the first Catholic saint born in “New Spain,” shows her metaphorical marriage to a blond, light-skinned Christ.

Legacies of likeness

Scholar Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey argue that in the centuries after European colonization of the Americas, the image of a white Christ associated him with the logic of empire and could be used to justify the oppression of Native and African Americans.

In a multiracial but unequal America, there was a disproportionate representation of a white Jesus in the media. It wasn’t only Warner Sallman’s Head of Christ that was depicted widely; a large proportion of actors who have played Jesus on television and film have been white with blue eyes. Pictures of Jesus historically have served many purposes, from symbolically presenting his power to depicting his actual likeness. But representation matters, and viewers need to understand the complicated history of the images of Christ they consume.The Conversation

Anna Swartwood House, Assistant Professor of Art History, University of South Carolina

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Honoring James Cone, founder of Black Theology

Honoring James Cone, founder of Black Theology

Photo credit: Union Theological Seminary

The Rev. James Cone, founder of black liberation theology, died Saturday morning, according to Union Theological Seminary.

The cause of death was not immediately known.

Cone, an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, was the Bill and Judith Moyers Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Seminary in New York City. His groundbreaking 1969 book, Black Theology and Black Power, revolutionized the way the public understood the unique qualities of the black church.

Cone was a native of Fordyce, Ark., and received master’s and doctoral degrees from Northwestern University.

We would like to hear how Cone influenced you. We invite you to share 200- to 250-word tributes on UrbanFaith.com. Send your tribute with your first and last names, city, state, and church affiliation (if desired) to [email protected]

 

 

Africa on the Rise: Meet This Generation’s African Artists

For a while the most popular literature and television programming about black people captured no sense of African consciousness. We’ve been far removed from The Cosby Show which introduced many of my generation to Miriam Makeba or A Different World which introduced us to divesting from businesses that supported apartheid in South Africa. Those shows and others of the late 80s to early 90s taught my generation that we don’t only have a history in Africa but our actions affect our present and future connection with the continent. But since then we have slipped out of the realm of cultivating such an understanding of our connection to the continent. For the last decade or so, television programming about black people has been driven by self-interestedness over communal values. There has been nothing to remind us of our descendants and ancestors. On the literary front, we were also hard-pressed to get beyond the Zanes and the Steve Harveys of the world. But recently there has been an uprising of African narratives from African-born writers and creators that is breathing a breath of fresh air on literature and on-air/online programming.

We see its presence in the work of Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie author of the novel “Americanah” which tells the story Ifemelu, a young woman who journeys from Nigeria to America and back again. It is primarily a love story but it also acknowledges the cultural differences between American black people and non-American black people. Ifemelu captures and critiques these differences on her blog and Adichie uses Ifemelu’s blog posts to break up the narrative arc of the book. Though these blog posts are the work of a fictional character they resonate as fact among African and African American alike. Adichie also has Ifemelu return to Nigeria where she comes to grips with the ways that America has changed her and also the ways in which Nigeria in particular and Africa in general will always be a home to her despite the ways in which she has fallen out of love with it. African-American readers of “Americanah” are forced to take a look at the ways in which American culture influences their perceptions of African people and question the relational disconnect between American and non-American blacks. “Americanah” is at the top of many books lists and is rumored to be optioned for a screenplay starring Luptia Nyong’o as Ifemelu. Adichie’s earlier novel “Half of a Yellow Sun,” which tells the story of the effects of the Nigerian-Biafran War through the eyes of five different characters, is now a full-length feature film and is currently being screened in major cities. The film features an all-star cast including Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, and Anika Noni Rose.

Teju Cole is also a part of Africa’s uprising in American literature. Nigerian-American Cole was born in the US, raised in Nigeria until the age of 17 and came back to the states. A Distinguised Writer in Residence at Bard College and a regular writer for publications such as the New York Times and the New Yorker, he recently released his novel “Every Day is for the Thief” in the US–it was published in Nigeria in 2007. The novel tells the story of a young man revisiting Nigeria and facing some of the less beautiful aspects of life in Africa, such as watching the audacious Nigerian scammers in action—you know, the ones who e-mail many of us claiming we will inherit millions if we respond to their message. Cole’s is a less glamorous account of revisiting the continent, but he also holds that in tension with the fact the he believes Nigeria is “excessively exciting” to the point of being overwhelming. In an interview with NPR’s Audie Cornish Cole said, “But for me, personally, I have not actually really considered seriously living in Nigeria full time. This is my home here [New York and the United States], and this is the place that allows me to do the work that I do…I’m fortunate to be able to travel to many places, and to go to Nigeria often. And so I feel close enough to the things happening there without needing to live there.” This quote captures the beauty of Cole’s work which banks on both his lived experience in Nigeria and life as an Nigerian-American writer trying to maintain some semblance of a connection. His next book will be a non-fiction narrative on Lagos.

Finally the most recent example of Africa’s uprising in American literature and entertainment is the new web series “An African City.” Created by Ghanaian-American Nicole Amarteifio, the series follows five young African women who move to Ghana after educational and professional stints in America and Europe. The show is billed as Ghana’s answer to “Sex and the City” but it is actually smarter than SATC. The characters don’t just navigate the sexual politics that SATC was famous for, they launch into the deep of socio-economic politics on the continent. The show touches on the plight of the underdeveloped countries, the people who hold the power in such countries—mostly men, and the premium placed on the authentic African woman over the African woman who has been corrupted by Western ways. It branches out from self-interest to communal concern. The series also provides viewers with a look at the landscape of Accra, a region that is reaching toward urban metropolis status in the midst of strong rural roots. Shots of dirt roads lined with shacks where vendors sells their wares and old Toyotas putter down the streets offset the young women’s appetite for cosmopolitan fare and fashion. The show balances inherited American sensibilities with ingrained African pride with style and grace within each 11-15 minute webisode.

And lest I be remiss there is Kenyan Lupito Nyong’o. Born in Mexico City and raised primarily in Kenya, she stole our hearts in her first major acting role as Patsy in “12 Years a Slave.” She also steals our hearts every time she appears on a red carpet, gave an awards acceptance speech, or appeared on the cover of or in the pages of a magazine. Her beauty is being celebrated by many–and it isn’t limited to the fashion and beauty industries. Nyong’o is blazing the trails that supermodel Alek Wek set for African women and expanding dominant views of what is beautiful. But it is not just Nyong’o’s beauty that is captivating, it is her    humble spirit and intelligence that is reminding the world that Africa is a force to be reckoned with.

Lupita Nyong’o, Nicole Amarteifio, Teju Cole, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and many more African-born actresses and actors, producers, writers and other creative types are broadening American understanding about Africa and its people. They are also expanding the African-American consciousness on Africa. We can only hope that this is truly the  start of a beautiful relationship that goes from this generation beyond.

 

 

Juneteenth: A Commemoration of Black Independence

Juneteenth: A Commemoration of Black Independence

Video Courtesy of AL.com


Today Twitter, Facebook, Instagram; even parks and some backyards are overflowing with the celebration of “Juneteenth.”

What is it, exactly?

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration that commemorates the actual ending of slavery in the United States. Although President Lincoln signed The Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, it was not until June 19, 1865 that the Union soldiers, led by General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, TX, with news that the war ended and the enslaved were free at last!

The Emancipation Proclamation had very little impact on Texas in 1863 due to the minimal number of Union troops in that area to enforce the new Executive Order. Of course some questioned President Lincoln’s authority over the rebellious states, but for whatever reason conditions in Texas remained the same well beyond what was statutory. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and with the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces finally had enough strength to overcome the resistance.

Today, Juneteenth is experiencing an extreme growth rate within communities and organizations around the country. The Smithsonian, the Henry Ford Museum, and a few other organizations have begun sponsoring Juneteenth –centered activities. It currently celebrates African American freedom and achievement, encourages continuous self-development and respect for all cultures. Although the historic day is celebrated mostly in Texas, it is now taking on a more national and even more global perspective.

If you didn’t know your history before, now you know!

For more information on Juneteenth visit Juneteenth.com

Connecting the Dots with Linsey Davis x Michael Tyler

Connecting the Dots with Linsey Davis x Michael Tyler

UF Linsey Davis x Michael Tyler Interview

by Linsey Davis x Michael Tyler | UrbanFaith

 

UrbanFaith contributor Maina Mwaura sat down with Linsey Davis her co-author Michael Tyler to talk about her newest children’s book The Smallest Spot of a Dot, which explores our common humanity. Excerpts of the interview are below edited for clarity and length, the full audio interview is above. 

Maina:

How do you write these books, Linsey? Like you’re on the news every day. You have a big life going on. How do you do this?

Linsey:

Well, the very easy answer is Michael Tyler. He’s the brain trustee. We started working together on the last book, “The Small Spot of a Dot,” and that was something that had really been on my heart for a long time that I wanted to do a story about the Human Genome Project, but I couldn’t figure out how to conceptualize it in a way that would be palatable for the youngest crowd. And the idea that our DNA is 99.9% alike. So I just had a brainstorming session with Michael, and he immediately came up with the idea of spots or dots. And so every since that, I was like, “All right, Michael, you roll with me. We’re gonna do the next book together as well. And he has been my partner ever since. But you know what? The thing to me is that the kids’ books for me have always been the fun part of what I do. I’ve always considered myself to be a storyteller. It’s just that normally I’m talking about murder and mayhem and missing in chaos. And so I didn’t really always want my son to watch me doing the news, but he wanted to kind of see what mom is doing. But this to me was a way to share the good news. And with my first book, “The World is Wake,” which was really an homage, just a love letter to God, just about His majesty and His creations, including us. I always feel like you make time for the things you’re passionate about. And so as far as like, how do I have the time? I, one, it’s something, it’s a nice positive outlet. It’s something that I want to do. But also I think that we make time for the things that we want to do.

 

Maina:

Why do you think kids resonate with your book?

Linsey

Well, I’m glad to hear that that is the case. One thing I would say early on, because my son was really my muse, I would always use him as kind of the sample audience. I would look at and study what he found interesting, intriguing in books, what really grabbed his attention, the books that he wanted to keep reading again and again. And I also kind of went into this– I always feel like whatever you do, you study the greats who did it before you. And so for me, everybody would have a different opinion about who the greats are. But for me, it was Dr. Susan, Shell Silverstein. Those were the book authors who I really loved as a child. I looked at what was really effective, what really grabbed my attention. And one of the things I thought was they all had great messaging. There was meaning. They had great rhymes, but there was [meaning]. It wasn’t just about popcorn and bubble gum for the sake of it. There were things that you could really take away. And that’s what I’m hoping [to share]. It’s kind of like candy-coated medicine. Something that’s good for you but tastes good too. It goes down smooth. And I think that’s what at least I’m aspiring for. And I hope that it is resonating with kids.

Maina

So you come up with these ideas. Do you call Michael up immediately and go, hey, I got another idea? How does that work?

 

Linsey

Maybe we had two or three phone calls. Michael, you could help me remember first small spot of a dot when we were coming up with that original idea. But I want to say it was within that first phone call that you came up with the dots. You correct me if I’m wrong. Do you remember how that happened?

 

Michael

That is correct. Because I remember you calling me up after you had done a reading to a classroom of children. And I think it was. And you discussed the human genome project with a classroom of children. And you were fascinated that they were about it. And you called me up and said, there’s something here. We got to figure out how to get them to understand that. And for me, the lessons that I got in the life that lasted the longest all came by way of metaphor. My mother was a metaphor magician. And so I always thought if you give somebody a physical model to keep in their mind, they will always be able to associate the lesson with it. And then genes and double helixes and things like that are far too complex for children to comprehend. Far too complex for many adults. For me to comprehend. And so I figured particularly when Linsey and I wanted to focus on this one salient truth that came out of human genome project. And that is that 99.9% of all of our genes are alike, are identical. That only 1/10 of 1% is different than it counts for our individual looks and individual distinction. And I am thinking, how do we show them how much that 99.9 is and how much that 0.1 is? And I could do that just by getting them to understand something that’s already in their universal frame of reference. And that’s bots and dots.

 

Maina

I’m talking to people all across here who are asking me, are we going to make it through this? And when I see you on in the morning times, sometimes when you’re filling in, I always go, how does she do it? There’s so much bad news. So here’s a simple question. Are we going to make it through this season? I mean, are we going to come out OK, remembering the 99% here?

 

Linsey

Oh, yeah. I mean, to me, there’s no benefit in being a pessimist. Right? It goes back to one of my favorite quotes to Henry Ford, whether you think you can or you can’t do something, you’re right. And so, if we set out thinking, oh, boy, this is the end, then that is going to just be the beginning of the end for you personally. Right? And so I’ve always been a glass half full kind of a girl. I feel like whether it was Vietnam, whether it was the series in the ’60s, where you had JFK, MLK, RFK assassinated, I’ll bring up this quick point. I was fortunate enough to be able to do an event with Carol Simpson at the beginning of the year. And I was telling– we were talking to a class of journalists that teach at Franklin College in India. And I was saying to her– and really, they were asking questions, but I had a question for her. And that was about are things as bad now as they were then? And she felt like even though, yes, the world is on fire right now, it was so much worse in the ’60s. That was her perspective. And so the people then in the ’60s, maybe they had that same mindset of, boy, how are we going to make it? Is this the end? But they’re just like everything in life. It’s cyclical. They’re upturns and they’re downturns. The leaves fall off. They dry up. But then in spring comes the warm weather and the sunshine. And they’re back again and new revitalized. And I just feel like that’s my outlook on life. So even when things seem like, boy, just can’t get any worse and somehow it still does, I think that’s where my faith comes in. I mean, I just have to believe that as Jeremiah 29:11 says, God has a plan. And it’s for good. It’s for hope. And I just kind of live by that. And I think to not have faith is when we would become so down and out and really feeling like nothing good can come of this. I just choose to be optimistic and choose hope.

 

Maina

All right, Michael, I’ve got to ask this question, man. Where do you come up with these things? You take them. And it seems like you take them to another level, man. I appreciate you saying that. Do it, man. I really appreciate you saying that. I think part of it, a large part of it for me, is intrinsic. I think that everyone has a certain intrinsic trait, quality, ability that is their genius. For some people, we see them flying through there and dunking basketballs. For some people, we hear virtuosity on a horn when I listen to John Coltrane. There’s a genius there. And so for me, part of it was I had this ability, that no matter what I looked at, I had to break it down to its least common denominator. But through the years, my brain was always trained to constantly breaking things down, analyzing things. And then that gave me the ability to do reverse order on it. How do I construct it? And as quickly as I could break it down, I was able to bring it back together again and have a different understanding of it. And my fascination with words was what really drove me to be able to do this with respect to writing. Because as long as I can remember, five years old, I was always fascinated with how language came to be. Why do we even have words?

Maina

So one of my questions is, where do you get these words from? That I ended up writing? Yeah. Because the poor children, which the books are hard, Michael, they’re not easy, right? Where does that come from?

 

Maina

It’s really– you hit it on the head. It’s really not easy. The hardest part is the rightful for me, our children, because you have the fewest amount of words that you have to work with. And I think what enabled me is, early on in life, when other people were– for the second, third, fourth, grade, fifth, grade, sixth grade reading books, I was reading dictionaries. Because I looked at dictionaries as a way to people look at crayons. And to me, crayons allow you to draw a beautiful picture. And to me, words allow you to speak a beautiful picture. And I always wanted to be able to create the best image possible about what was in my head by using my mouth. And that meant that I had to paint with words. I had to draw with words. I couldn’t do it with tempered paints. I couldn’t do it with finger paints. I couldn’t do it with crayons. And so instead of having that eight crayon box, I was always trying to get that 148 crayon box. And that’s what’s in my head. So it started for you early. It’s what you’ve got here.

Maina

One thing I’d like to draw before we get off is– ask Lindsay, are we going to make it through?

Michael

Yeah. We’re going to make it through this season. I do wonder sometimes. She was optimistic about it. She was optimistic. And she used the word hope. And I want to give a definition for that word. Because oftentimes what I’ve learned in life is people use words and they won’t fully understand what we’re saying. That’s why we have so much communication, confusion. If you were asked a 50-year-old and a 5-year-old to define the word hope, both of them would struggle with it. If you asked them to define a word trust or truth, they would both struggle with it. And so one of my exercises in life growing up was always a write-down my own definition for a word. And the way I describe hope– and I think it varies on to what Linsey’s optimism is– to me, hope is an emotional alignment to possibility. Where you see no possibility, you are hopeless. And hopelessness to me is the most dangerous thing to the human mind. That’s what causes us to completely give up on everything. And so as long as you can align yourself to the possibility of something being better or something being more or something being recovered or something being redeemed, as long as you can align yourself to that possibility, even if it’s a 1% chance, a 1% chance is a 100% greater than no chance at all. And so I always try to align myself to the possibility of what humanity can excel to, because we’ve nowhere near gotten to that level. And there’s a big margin for us to go ahead and move towards.

The Privilege of Prayer with Andrew Carter

The Privilege of Prayer with Andrew Carter

Have you ever wanted to pray, but it felt like a chore? Have you ever been seeking God for direction but felt like you didn’t know if you could hear Him? Have you ever wanted to pray but simply didn’t know what to say? Pastor Andrew Carter has written the book for all of us on how refocus our prayer lives. The Privilege of Prayer: Find Healing, Transformation, and Answers, is Pastor Andrew’s guide on how to help us connect with God in ways many never thought possible. The full interview is above. Excerpts and more about Pastor Andrew are below.

UF: We are excited today to have another amazing author, minister, pastor, leader, pastor Andrew Carter, who is sharing with us and we’re talking about his book, The Privilege of Prayer: Find healing, Transformation, and Answers. Can you talk about why it’s important that you frame prayer not as a formula or a way to make something happen, but really focused in on prayer as a relationship with God?

Pastor Andrew: Yeah, absolutely. I believe that all of our relationships really trickle down from our relationship with God. And I talk about just that. If you struggle to communicate with God who loves you, right, even with all of your flaws and mistakes and blunders, if you struggle to talk to the greatest lover of your soul, what does that look like when you communicate to somebody who’s not going to love you like that, your spouse or a friend? If you struggle to spend time with God, like how hard is it going to be to spend time with other people in a way that is devoted and is intimate like you would with God?

UF:

You developed a discipline of prayer in jail amid a community and I think that’s so key that we have to be surrounded by people to help disciple us and raise us up in the faith. Can you talk a little bit about why that’s important and kind of your journey to being discipled in prayer?

 

Pastor Andrew:

Yeah, yeah, as far as the discipline aspect goes, I grew up unruly with a lot of instability, both of my parents were drug addicts and so what I found is that in chaos, I typically match my environment. I’m chaotic as well, but when there is a sense of consistency and discipline and stability, I thrive. And so, I understood early on when you discipline yourself consistently it always equals results and I found that out in the physical fitness realm before the spiritual realm. And so really, I just adapted what worked in the physical, applied it to the spiritual and watched my prayer life just take off.

 

 

UF: Can you talk about why it’s important to see prayer as an opportunity and an honor and a privilege instead of as an obligation?

 

Pastor Andrew:

I mean, if you ever try to put together any kind of a toy the day after Christmas or try to put together a cabinet from Ikea, any of those things, they all come with an instruction manual. And, you know, I know that men tend to be adventurous, and we think that we can put things together without the guide. But nine times out of ten, you’ve got extra pieces laying around. You don’t know where things are supposed to go. It’s probably not sturdy. It doesn’t look the way that the manufacturer had made it out to be. It’s important that we’re praying because that is a part of the design that God made for us, this communion, for this intimacy, for this communication. So, rather than looking at it like you said an obligation, like we have the privilege to go directly to the source of the instruction, not just the instruction manual, the writer of the manual one on one to get all the direction guidance, vision, happiness, peace, enjoy that we could ever imagine. It’s really a privilege.

 

UF:

Can you talk a little bit about how we can overcome some barriers that keep us from connecting and communicating with God in prayer?

Pastor Andrew:

Absolutely. I would say that most of the barriers that people experience come from a lack of knowledge or understanding of the enemy uses lies to try to prevent you or stall you from entering that relationship. They’ll say “did he really say that” or you can’t hear his voice or he’s not listening and we allow these barriers to come between us and God and so one of the things that I preach all day and I’m not trying to be too preachy but like, you can’t say that God’s not talking to you if your Bible is closed, right? You can’t say that he’s not talking to you when he speaks primarily through the Word. And so many people are trying to hear God’s voice but they’re so attuned to what the world says and they got the world turned all the way up they got His voice turned all the way down. Many times, they’re not barriers at all, they’re what we perceive as barriers, but it’s many times just us not understanding who we are, based on what the scripture tells us.

 

 

UF:

Second to last question I have you a lot of the folks who are listening and hearing and engaging with us they’re young adults, and they’re trying to figure out how do I ground myself?

Pastor Andrew:

Yeah, I love that question because I work with young adults, myself here in Los Angeles and one of the things that I see about young adults right now are probably some of the most spiritual and connected individuals that I’ve met. I’m surrounded by [people in their 20s], and they are so spiritual they’re so in alignment with the voice of God, like there is an anointing on this net I get goosebumps talking about it there’s there there’s an anointing on this next generation. One of the things that they lack is consistency and discipline. They’re up until two three in the morning, doing God things right. They’re at prayer meetings and they’re doing all of these amazing things for the Lord, but they can’t even keep a regular job because they’re just following the Spirit wherever the Spirit goes and I think that a lot of them are missing that solid practical discipline and consistency because it’s not one or the other it’s both and right you need to have that that kind of spiritual, you know, alignment with the Lord but it also needs to be in a way that is discipline and consistent and has order so if I were to say one thing I would say, get yourself around a man or woman of God, who has gone before you who exemplifies the discipline and consistency. Mentorship is probably one of the most important things that I’ve done. I have leaders and mentors and accountability partners and overseers in my life who I check in with every week, to check my blind spots, and it has helped me grounded. So, in the same way young adults, don’t be afraid reach out and get yourself some good solid mentors and individuals who will disciple you.

UF:

What is the piece of advice that you would give to folks who are trying to deepen their prayer lives so what what’s the number one thing you would tell them as they go to get your book for more.

Pastor Andrew:

To be to just show up. I think that that’s one of the hardest things to do I was in the fitness industry for a long time I owned a gym, and one of the hardest things that people struggle with is just showing up like once they get there. You know, they’re able to go through the motions but getting there is many times the battle, so the same with prayer sometimes. The words come, Holy Spirit will intercede, we know Jesus intercedes on our behalf. God will speak to us, but many times it’s just getting there.  So, I would encourage people to carve out some time, set an alarm, turn everything off and just show up, and you’ll be surprised what God does in those spaces that we create and allow. He’s not always looking for ability. He’s looking for availability, and I’m a testament to that, because I am probably the least qualified to write a book, I’m probably the least deserving. There are guys who are way smarter, better communicators, more articulate, have spent more time in the Word. But the one thing that I’ve done is I made myself available and because of that availability, He’s overlooked my ability and he’s made sure that I’ve been fully prepared and equipped for every situation not by my strength, but by His. It starts with showing up

Andrew is the founder and lead pastor of Royal City Church in Los Angeles, California. He runs a popular live YouTube Bible study called ‘Coffee and Prayer’ that streams on all major podcast platforms. He appears on television networks, podcasts and stages preaching the good news of Jesus. Andrew travels the world guest speaking at conferences, churches, and events.

Andrew has become an inspiration for others who face difficult times and struggles. With millions of followers, Andrew has become an influencer for God’s Kingdom. He is a leader, speaker, writer, husband and father. Andrew and his wife, Kyra, live in Los Angeles, California. You can find Andrew on all social media platforms @andrewfcarter

Finding Your Voice and Feeling the Vibes: An Interview with Kierra Sheard

Finding Your Voice and Feeling the Vibes: An Interview with Kierra Sheard

 

Maina:

Kierra, you are also one to speak into young women at the same time too. Does that come from the family?

Kierra

I think it does. And just from what I’ve seen, my father and my mother, they are spiritual leaders, spiritual advisors. And my mother, like it’s funny you’re asking that because I just got off the phone with her and we’re planning our women’s weekend. For my mother, I think it comes from her sisterhood. We’ve seen the Clark sisters do their thing musically. But I think her bond and her desire for, you know how you are about your siblings, I want my sister to win. She has one brother as well, but he’s much older. So having that connection and always wanting to see your sister win and seeing what you and your sisters can do together and how you can empower other women and then me seeing what my mom and my aunts have done. And then here I am. I’m like, I have a brother, but I can make a community of sisters and I’m important to them. So I absolutely think I draw that from, I can call my family, my bank, I draw that from that bank as well. I think just from my personal experiences with relationships and having best friends. I’m sure you’ve probably heard it where women will say, “Oh honey, I can’t get along with women.” And then “all I can get along with is men.” And then it’s like, well, if you find the right woman that you connect with, you really can get some answers. And we even see it biblically, where we see women drawing from the well, we see both Mary’s coming together from different aspects of life. And then we saw what they did with Jesus. We see Esther, we see Ruth and Naomi, so when you read that and you believe God’s Word and also you experience a liberating relationship from a sisterhood that may not be biological, but it could just be covenantal. If you know what I mean? You just want to give [it to] the world that so that they can see it, because the world has kind of demonized relationships and they’ve put so many labels that are associated with toxicity. And it’s like, if only you’d get in touch with the God ordained relationship, you’d see how powerful it is. I think I’m pulling from the familial bank, but I’m also pulling from my spiritual bank to create these things that are women’s empowerment.

 

Maina:

And your newest book, Kiki Finds Her Voice, how did you find your voice?

 

Kierra:

I found my voice again from my family. So I’m going through school and I’m talking about it in the book. I wanted to sing an R&B song and I was trying to fit in with the girls there. And I knew if my mom or my dad found out that I was trying to sing, you know, an R&B song about getting weak in the knees or the boy being mine, I knew they would have just, you know, shut it down. And my mother surprised me and she said, girl, you ain’t singing that song. This is inappropriate. You know, and I talk about it in the book. And just going through that journey…it felt like I was being embarrassed. For adults, it feels like an attack when it’s actually accountability. And I think that is what my mother was doing, holding me accountable and redirecting me to purpose. And literally that day changed my life. It set me up for my debut. And I found my voice and became a voice for a generation and connecting so many listeners to the Gospel by way of singing. And that’s how I found my voice.

 

Maina

Your last book, The Vibes You Feel, where were you at when God told you to write the book?

Kierra

Oh, man, that’s a good question. So the vibe you feel is actually just from everyday kinds of situations. I don’t even know how to explain it. That’s such a good question. Where was I at? I was everywhere. I was just living if I could just say that.

 

Maina

Why has it resonated so with girls and women?

Kierra

Yeah, I don’t know what the call is. I know it’s a call. It’s a heaven call. Because I know that I have a responsibility to the age group that are in their 20s. I don’t know what that is. But so what’s funny is that I went through a space where they annoyed me so much. I was just so annoyed with ages 20 to like 30. And I’m only 36. And I think it went, I think the frustration came from me wanting to pour into young women as I’ve been poured into. And I saw how helpful it was for me. And I remember myself in my 20s, where I was on the brink of knowing it all, but also honestly saying in myself, you don’t know it all. But I found those advisors that I could connect to and relate to that I felt comfortable with being a student and didn’t feel like I had to do a match with them if that makes sense. It was that and then all of the wrong decisions that I made in my 20s. I made some bad decisions in relationships. And then being a PK (Pastor’s Kid), they say they’re like the worst kids. It’s like you got some PKs who are that kind. But you have some who are like, “well, actually, I really do want to live like Jesus.” But I do have a side to me that I think everybody else may have as well. So that’s where I was in that place, though. It’s a conglomeration of those experiences of me, you know, just kind of walking through life and then seeing the essence in valuable and God ordained relationships versus relationships that I was trying to make work. And I often ignored God’s voice, but also would say, I don’t hear God. And it’s like, no, you hear him, you just don’t hear him the way that you think you’re supposed to hear him. And so that’s what you get from the book. It’s literally me evolving in my relationship. And over the course of time, just collecting data like; “my gift of discernment is actually far more on than I thought.” And it was like that in my 20s. But I just kept doubting myself. But that’s where I was. And that’s why it’s a book. But even with me then growing to love the generation that I’m responsible for that are in their 20s; it’s like, this is why I connect with you so much because I know it. I get it. I’ve been there. And I know how it feels to feel like you have so much to do, but you don’t know which steps to take and you’re brilliant.

 

Maina

When you hit send on The Vibes You Feel, did you feel like you said it all? Did you feel like, okay, this is ready?

Kierra

Yes, I did feel like it was ready. The only challenge that I honestly faced was trying to make sure it didn’t sound so much like another memoir. Because I still wanted to give God and his scriptures. So yes, though, because it is so many good moments in there that really happened. Even with my working relationship with me trying to find like a personal assistant, it was like, this person is good, but they’re not called to be your personal assistant. They’re not bad. And it was things that I could pinpoint. If you know what I mean. And I just kept misplacing people. It was like, you’re called to be in their life before a season and not for this space. And I couldn’t play victim because I knew. So, the book is basically me, talking about my work choices. It’s me talking about my relational choices when I was dating. It was like, you knew this guy was no good, but you kept trying to make it work. People prophesied to you, and you even saw bad habits. So those stories were true, and it actually happened. And that’s when I saw God talking to me. So that right there was when I was like, “yeah, this one is the one.” And I really hope more people get a chance to read that book because I really think it is a blessing for a lot of young people, for sure.

Maina

So Jordan [your husband], can we talk about him for just a minute? What is it like? You guys are definitely in love. So how do you find a Jordan?

Kierra

That’s a good question. I remember a lot of people saying marriage takes work. And I heard them. I’m a good listener. Like I listen and I take the note. But when I got in it, I said, oh, baby, this take work. I don’t know if you can put that in writing. It takes work. And you know, I think it also takes even a village for the married couple. I always say the village is not just for the child, it’s for the adult too. And you got to have people around you two who can even see sometimes what’s going on. They can even see your bad days, but they don’t charge it to your marriage and what your entity is called to do in the earth. And that contributes to the days when you must choose to love, if I can say it that way. But Jordan is amazing. He’s an outstanding man. And I think what makes what makes marriage possible with this man of valor is his heart. His heart is always what push through. So if I were to tell [a young woman] what to look for, it is to do what my mama told me, make sure that man loves God more than he loves you. Because when you can’t get them, God’s gonna get them. And literally, when I couldn’t get certain memos to my husband, I just say, “you know what, you get it God.” I go in my room right here in my office, and I would cry and say, God, I need you to do it. And I’m sure [my husband’s] done the same for me. And then I think to just making sure you have a friendship. So, I also tell young women, I’ve done it both ways and not with my husband, but I’ve done it both ways as in I was out of the will of the Lord. And then I did it God’s way. And I saw why he says don’t have sex before marriage, because it’ll blur the lines and you can’t see what you need to see to make a good choice for marriage. You’ll just make a choice off of an attachment and how you feel. Jordan and I, we went through a process of abstinence, and we lived before the Lord, we prayed, and that made all the difference. So that’s what I would tell a young girl, make sure you get his background too, you know, and pray and ask the Lord, give me somebody that loves [God] because I need them to be convicted if ever they decide to do something that ain’t right. And so that’s how Jordan and I are doing. We’re doing really well though, we’re loving each other, we’re growing together, and we’re willing to just love each other and have fun. The other day we were arguing, we just started laughing like, this is stupid. So, we’re even growing to laugh and argue.

 

 

 

The Invisible Ache: Interview with Courtney B. Vance x Dr. Robin Smith

The Invisible Ache: Interview with Courtney B. Vance x Dr. Robin Smith

UrbanFaith talked with acclaimed actor Courtney B. Vance and famed psychologist Dr. Robin L. Smith (popularly known as “Dr. Robin”) about their book: The Invisible Ache, a moving combination of memoir, psychology, and practical tools that offers Black men guidance and support for reclaiming mental well-being and finding whole, full-hearted living. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Maina

Well, Mr. Vance, I gotta tell you, this book starts off like captivating from the introduction page. And it’s one of those things where I was glued in from the start. So Mr. Vance, you’re going through your own background here as well in this amazing book. What did it do for you?

Courtney B. Vance

You know, it’s always the whole idea of telling one’s truth. I can imagine most people, they keep their truths to themselves. There’s no vehicle…for being able to share or just get it off of yourself. And I was blessed to be able to have one. After the tragedy happened 33 years ago with my father, my mother asked my sister and I to go back to our respective cities to find a therapist there. And, just the journey of that… the journey of trying to honor my mom and what she asked us to do. Which I came to find out was saving my life. I had no idea. But it allowed me to be able to begin my journey and get myself whole. To get myself ready for the next phase of my journey, which was Angela. Getting myself ready for that phase of my journey required something else of me, more of me. But if I hadn’t done the work that my mom asked me to do, I wouldn’t have the courage to go the next phase to get myself ready for Angela and then to get myself ready for our twins and get myself ready for what God’s got for me after the twins [went to] college and Angela and I had our life without our children. It’s really all about “be strong and be of good courage,” because life is not going to be smooth. You have to prepare yourself for those battles.

And it doesn’t mean just because there’s a battle, there’s something wrong. It’s just part of life. And you have to understand that wisdom is the principle thing, get wisdom. If you don’t know that trials are part of life, when you come up on a trial, you bail. [But] it’s just the beginning. God’s just trying to get us ready for what he needs us to do. Don’t think that you’re the only one. [God said to Elijah there’s] 3000 other people, God’s got ready. So, I’m just grateful that my mom asked my sister and I to get ready for the next phase of our lives through this therapy and sharing our stories with someone, our truth with someone. And because sharing the truth seems like it’s so much work and so hard, you don’t know that it’s gonna be okay. But that’s just a part of it. As Dr. Roberts says, it’s your God given right to share your truth and your story and to come into fullness.

 

Dr. Robin Smith

Courtney and I talk a lot on the road and in the book The Invisible Ache that we all have holes, H-O-L-E-S. And so often we’re ashamed of our holes. The parts of us that are broken, and that ache and that hurt, are part of our divine birthright to be human.And we all have holes, longing to be whole, W-H-O-L-E, which is a holy, H-O-L-Y, journey. So if we think about the way in which we were robbed of our whole humanity, the holes and our longing for wholeness and told that we were only three-fifths human, much of The Invisible Ache is about inviting and re-inviting black boys and men and all of those who love them to remind and encourage black boys and men to recognize that it is their right to have their holes, longing to be whole. It is to help black men not only identify their pain, but to claim and reclaim their power that they are indeed wholly human. They’ve got holes, longing to be whole, and that is a holy journey. And so, we know that black men and boys have been so marginalized, have been pushed to the margins that Courtney and I are calling all black boys and men to the floor of their own life, to the table that has been set for them to flourish, to grow, to grieve, to receive, to be fully and wholly human.

Maina

Well, you’ve definitely done that in the book. I just wanna once again thank you both. Dr. Smith, can I ask you this question? Why are we seeing these numbers the way that we’re seeing them? When it comes to suicide rate amongst black men. Where do you think this is coming from?

 

Dr. Robin Smith

Yeah, black men and the suicide rate for black children, not just adolescents, but black children have increased. Eight-year-olds are dying by suicide. And so, I think the question you’re asking is, what is it that is sitting on the souls of black boys and black men and black people? The surgeon general is considering making loneliness a health hazard. Not like it’s something that is upsetting, but because he knows, and the statistics and research are showing, that isolation and loneliness can be as toxic, if not more, than some of the chronic diseases like diabetes or cancer or smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness is more detrimental to our health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day. That doesn’t mean it’s good to smoke 15 cigarettes a day, but it says what isolation and loneliness does to black men and to black boys. And so, the reason that we are seeing such an increase in depression, anxiety, as well as attempts at suicide and unfortunately, suicides is because we don’t ask black men, does it hurt? We ask, where does it hurt? Courtney and I asked this in the book. And the increase in suicides, but also in mental torture, has so much to do with isolation, systemic racism, and the inability to understand why I hurt so badly.

 

Maina

Mr. Vance, if I can ask you a question here, when it comes to going to counseling in the black culture, especially with black men, there is kind of this stigma towards it. What would you say to a black man like myself [about why we] need to go to counseling? Like here’s why it’s a very healthy thing to do.

Courtney B. Vance

And I would say that you’re talking to someone who was in the achievement business up until I was 30. I mean, that’s how I was raised. I was raised to excel in sports, academics. We knew the classroom was where we were supposed to do our thing. And we did. And that cured a multitude of evils and sins. You know, I could retreat into my books and get pats on the head and on the shoulders and get great job, great grades, wonderful, wonderful . And meanwhile, you know, my father and mother were dealing with their invisible aches based on how they were raised and where they were coming out of The [Great] Depression, raised in the depression. And what their mothers and fathers were able to give them coming out of just the vestiges of slavery and their parents were slaves. But we’ve all been harmed by the vestiges of slavery, white, black, brown, beige and everybody in between. We’re all dealing with the trauma of that act. And mentally, emotionally, you know, we’re dealing with the trauma of the pandemic and what it did to those babies and young people that Dr. Robin mentioned. We’ll be dealing with the repercussions of that for generations because nobody wants to talk about it. We’re in the business of achieving but pretending. And the out that they find is to end the life as opposed to begin the journey of self-discovery. So, as Dr. Robin says, this is holy work. This is a ministry where we’re dealing with this book of just getting people to recognize everyone gets to the end of their rope, but get to the end of your rope, not the end of your hope. Get to the end of your rope and look up and ask for that help that is there for all of us. We all get to that place where we don’t know what to do. You’re sitting on your bed at the two in the morning and you don’t know what to do. Then the next step is what Dr. Robin says, then let’s begin. Here’s some information. Here’s some tools. Here’s some exercises. Let’s just begin. Don’t just give up. Don’t give up. Just begin.

 

Maina

Guys, the last question here is, I’m going to stay true to our time, I’m going to ask you both of these questions differently on the last one. Dr. Smith, I’ll start with you. You mentioned shame in the book, which I thought page 21 was the best part of the whole book. Can you talk about like what the problem is with shame and when it comes to the black man?

 

Dr. Robin Smith

Yes. And thank you for that question because I call shame and blame the toxic twins, but shame is a spirit killer. Shame murders the soul often. And we don’t know that. We don’t know when we are feeling not good enough. You know, I call it the not good enough wound, It’s like being followed 24/7, 365 days a year, the way black men feel often when they go into a department store. They just know that someone’s eyes are just on them, that they are being targeted, not just physically, but that there is an expectation that they will fail, that they will suffer, that I mean, that they will steal, that they will harm someone. W.E.B Du Bois said “how does it feel to be a problem?” Then he went on to say, “when you’re not the problem.” What does it feel like to have someone stalking you, Ahmad Aubrey, what does it feel like to have someone [watching you] when you’re jogging or living while black? And so there is something that happens around victimization. When women have been violated, when they have been sexually violated or physically violated, often they will not want to tell people as if somehow, they contributed to the assault. You know, people will even say, “well, what were you wearing? What did you have on?” So whether that’s to a woman or saying to a man, did you have a hoodie on? This is the whole thing about what did you do to make someone hate you? Instead of that black people have been targeted most often because of our excellence and our refusal to die. And so shame is something that it’s a warped misunderstanding about whose fault and whose responsibility your life and hardship is. And I just want to say this in closing, that does not mean we don’t have responsibility. It does not mean that we are not accountable. It does not mean that I can just let someone else do my work. But what it does mean is maybe I can have more courage and strength and resilience, as Courtney often reminds us to do the work if I understand where my responsibility begins and where it ends.

Easter Sunrise and the Risen Inmate

Easter Sunrise and the Risen Inmate

Early Easter morning, millions awaken before sunrise with a purpose. The dark skies give faint hint of the sunrise within the hour. A stretch of the arms, a wipe through the eyes, feet reaching downward for temporary covering against the floor terrain, and it is time to get moving. Slivers of remaining moonlight provide faint illumination through narrow openings above the bed. The millions have heard the call, and now respond! The time has come to join the line as men and women, even some boys and girls put their feet in the line to the appointed destination to which they are called this Easter Sunday. There they will see familiar faces, hear familiar sounds, and may even smell familiar odors. It is a dawn of a new day, and they are on their way.

Their destination? “Chow call” in the prison refectory or “Meds up!” to the cart the nurse brings on the unit for those requiring morning medication. The stretch of the arms relieves some of the tension from the cell’s hard cot, the eyes crusted literally and figuratively by biology and monotony, the floor’s terrain cold on even the warmest day when one’s address is prison. We do not know how many millions go to church on Easter–but we know how many awaken in state and federal prisons: an excruciating 2.1 million men and women arise at Easter’s sunrise to another day when they seem oblivious to anyone on the other side of the prison walls. Another several million arise in county jails, many not physically far from home but incarnations of “out of sight, out of mind” even to those who are descendants of those to whom Jesus spoke just before his arrest and incarceration “I was in prison, and you visited me.”

Yes, millions have arisen with a purpose: count down the days, occupy the mind, anticipate a visit, and perhaps even attend chapel — purpose is a precious commodity for them. They are inmates, prisoners, convicts peopling America’s jails and prisons in record numbers — over two million in state and federal prison alone — and they arise every morning about the time the Easter Sunrise service crowd shakes the cobwebs from their consciousness to face their annual celebration.

The Easter lens well fits any view of incarceration. After all, when Jesus Christ died on the cross, he was an inmate. We celebrate the truth that God raised his only begotten son from the grave — we overlook the fact that the body which breathed its last before burial belonged to a prisoner. He hung between two thieve or malefactors, but “was numbered” with them as well.

Shame and Stigma of Incarceration

Incarceration in America carries more than the punishment of “doing time.” Shame and stigmatization plague an inmate during incarceration and after release. Those twin maladies spread like a virus to relatives left behind, children separated from fathers and mothers, parents grieving for their children, grandparents serving as caretakers for a generation forty, fifty, and sixty years their junior while fathers stretch their arm in the cell and mothers wipe their eyes on the block. Shame and stigma, contagious and infectious as they manifest in symptoms of silence, rendering the affected loved one incapable of sharing the true hurt with anyone at the Sunrise service in celebration of the Risen Inmate!

It is Easter sunrise…. God listens for the praise of God’s people from the cathedrals and storefronts, the megachurch and mass choirs, parish priests and local pastors, pulpit and pew. But God also listens for the prayers of the prisoner, wrestling with past demons, present conditions, and future uncertainty, all with some hope of the transformation promised by the Risen Inmate who makes all things new. Millions arose this Easter morning to attend a sunrise service. Millions more arose to attend to the business of doing time.

An important connection exists between these two populations — this dual set of early risers on Easter morning. Many of them count people in the other crowd as kin — many who run with one crowd used to sit with the other. Many who heard the sound of the choir’s “Hallelujah Chorus” or “Christ the Lord is Risen Today,” or “Praise is What I Do,” this morning once heard “Chow Up,” or the slow grind of motors turning to open a series of cell doors. The cymbal was the clanging of cages, the tambourine the rattling of chains. And some who this morning donned uniform orange, blue or tan jumpsuits once sported matching white or black robes on a morning such as this.

Preaching seldom reaches the pain felt by the incarcerated and their families. The separation traumatizes, the anger and disappointment of those left behind papered over by Sunday School memories of lessons on forgiveness. Many incarcerated parents long to see their children; some allow shame to hold their children at bay. Many who do seek the comfort of the Risen Inmate to dry their tears and encourage their hearts find disappointment in the prison chapel service when the local church sends well-meaning but poorly trained volunteers to preach sermons that the church’s pastor would never allow on a Sunday morning, especially an Easter Sunrise service.

Seldom do they hear that the Risen Inmate ministered to another convict before dying by telling him that he would be in paradise with him. They rarely hear that the Risen Inmate suffered brutally at the hands of the corrections officers, and was raised with evidence in his hands of eighth amendment violations of cruel and unusual punishment. They do not hear about the Risen Inmate’s long march up the Via Dolorosa to “endure the cross, despising the shame” as an encouragement for them to receive strength from knowing that “Jesus knows all about our struggles…” They hear an Easter message that rehearses the resurrection as saving act, but seldom as the sustaining act which brings “a living hope.”

Gospel of the Risen Inmate

The late Rev. Lonnie McLeod, who completed his first seminary degree in the New York Theological Seminary Sing Sing program said, “In all my time incarcerated, I really only heard one sermon: you messed up, you got caught, get saved …” But not only does salvation come by preaching, but also “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the “preaching of the Risen Inmate. After his release, McLeod’s preaching both in and out of prisons and jails acknowledged the pain caused by incarceration. At his passing in 2009, he was working on a Christmas sermon that dealt with the pain of incarceration. I asked him how he could make the connection between the manger and the penitentiary, and the good Dr. boldy remarked: “Trulear, this is Christmas. Everybody wants to talk about the first night of Jesus’ life. But no one wants to talk about the last night. And without the events of the last night, the first night loses its meaning! His incarceration, execution, and vindication make his birth worth celebrating!

This does not mean that prison preaching overlooks the responsibility of prisoners to own their sins. Accountability, indeed, signals a recognition of the humanity The Risen Inmate was executed to restore. The “Adam, where art thou” question lives in the Risen Inmate’s heart, for it is precisely for the sinner that he has come. He has come for the one who uses “wrong place, wrong time, wrong crowd” the same way Adam used “wrong crowd” to describe “the woman that You gave me.” He came for the violent defender of a friend’s honor, and will transform and use him even as he did Moses. He came for the popular musician who conspired to put out a hit on another man so he could have his wife, all while singing, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I see what I want.” He counted the transgressions of a contracted hit man, accessory to murder as his own- and that same man later wrote that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.” The Risen Inmate sees their humanity, and for precisely that reason calls the unrighteous, the violent offender to become a deliverer of his people, the lamp of Israel, and an apostle to the Gentiles.

Not only does the Risen Inmate have a word for those persons arising in America’s jails and prisons on Easter, the Risen Inmate seeks to be seen and heard of the families left behind. Families struggle to hear a word for them in the pain of separation. They sit on the Good Friday side of the sentencing of the Risen Inmate, and don’t always see the potential for a reunion in the garden on Easter Morning. “Touch me not” stares from signs in the visitation room. It wells up in the heads on visitors subjected to searches by the corrections officers before and after time with an inmate. It is not a phrase pointing to ascension, but a descent into deprivation, motivated by security and draped in dehumanization. They want a word that addresses the morning they came to visit with new prison clothes, like the women who cam that first Easter with new grave clothes for the Risen Inmate. But when these families are told “He is not here,” it does not point to the surprise turned joy of a resurrection, but disillusionment turned panic in the discovery of a transfer to another facility, or a confinement to solitary. Does the preacher, in the name of the Risen Inmate, have a word for them?

Reimagining Our Prison Ministry

My colleague Dr. Kenyatta Gilbert once asked me to post a sermon on his website The Preaching Project, with the subject being preaching to families of the incarcerated. The message, titled “Preacher, We Are Dying in Here,” makes the case that preaching to the families of the incarcerated is something we already do! They people our pews, tithe their treasure, sing their songs, pray their prayers every Sunday, but suffer in silence. The church may have a prison ministry, but it often does not touch them, or their incarcerated family member. Prison ministry is institution focused, unlike ministry to the sick. If we replaced ministry to and visitation of the sick with the prison model, we would stop visiting individuals and families connected with the church, and just train three volunteers to give a service and a sermon once a month at the local hospital. The Risen Inmate declared that the church “shall be witnesses unto me, in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.” For most, the jail of prison is the uttermost part of the earth; for the family of the incarcerated, it is Jerusalem.

Preaching often overlooks the scars of the formerly incarcerated, wounded by warehousing, roughed up in reentry. They looked forward to their release date as a time to step into the Promised Land, only to discover a wilderness of collateral sanctions limiting their ability to work, find housing, access education and exercise their franchise. The wilderness extends to congregations that either openly reject them, or buy into the world’s stigmatization process rendering them silent. Theirs is a tacit fellowship of frustration shepherded by shame, silence, and stigma. And the ones who come home to this stony reality find a wilderness where they had expected grapes in bunches for two men to carry.

The newspapers and other media champion the need for jobs for ex-offenders. Employment woes dot the pages of those outlets that give the formerly incarcerated coverage at all. Poor training and education wed the stigma and shame of incarceration in a double ring ceremony that morphs from ties that bind into chains that restrict. A word from the Risen Inmate can minister Easter hope beyond incarceration, and encourage the jobless soul on the other side of imprisonment. The Resurrection says that there is life beyond the dank jail, the taunts of guards and fellow inmates, the pain of separation from loved ones. “I have scars,” Jesus declares, “but I am useful, triumphant, compassionate and giving!” It is Jesus, post-release, who says “Fear not.” It is Jesus, post-release, who says “Feed my sheep.” The post-release Risen Inmate declares “All power has been given unto me in heaven and in earth.”

And he promises his presence “even to the end of the earth.” There is a word for the ex-offender! A promise of a transformative permanent presence that knows how to look at a former accomplice who turned scared on him to avoid arrest, and tell him to feed his lambs. The Risen Inmate knows something about change, and trusting the formerly untrustworthy. He anticipated the change when he told Simon Johnson that he was a rock. So too does he call the formerly incarcerated by names that spell hope and promise, like the term “returning citizens.” But most of all he calls them human, beloved, and even “fearfully and wonderfully made,” and that, the conspirator who put out a hit on Uriah the Hittite knew right well.

And Remembering the Victims

Is there a word from the Risen Inmate for those who have been victims of crime? What is a bold Easter message for families of victims, by walking toughs of town watch, by drive-by or beef, by violence domestic or street? Does God hear their pain on this Easter sunrise, and what evidence is there in the text expounded to let them know that the Healing God knows. The horrific screams heard on a Florida 911 tape may echo those of the sobs of a mother witnessing the unjust execution of her Son by alleged protectors of the common good. Is there no word for her?

“Woman, behold thy son, Son behold thy mother,” comes from the lips of the Preaching Inmate in a message that speaks hope and application in a moment of deep grief. When the Inmate’s visitors go home, they share space and possessions in a family reconfigured to provide care for her misery. The women received a word — but that word became flesh in the ministry of caregiving John supplied surrounding her, the victim of a horrific crime.

The Risen Inmate demonstrates in three days the woman’s vindication by virtue of the Resurrection. In the background, an Easter choir of formerly enslaved Africans, the old Jim Crow, sings: “I’m so glad trouble don’t last always.”

Grabbing Resurrection Hope

Easter brims with the fullness of incarceration and its implications. It celebrates the vindication of the life of a man who did the hardest of time in the shortest of time. It recognizes that the One whose life we celebrate understood the pain of incarceration. Easter brings to judgment our fear of the inmate, our stigmatization of the prisoner, our shunning of those who return for a second chance-or a third chance, or a fourth chance…Simon Johnson elicited a response from the man destined for incarceration of seven times seventy.

Early Easter morning, millions awaken before sunrise with a purpose. The dark skies give faint hint of the sunrise within the hour. A stretch of the arms, a wipe through the eyes, feet reaching downward for temporary covering against the floor terrain and it is time to get moving. Slivers of remaining moonlight provide faint illumination through narrow openings above the bed. The millions have heard the call, and now respond! The time has come to join the line as men and women, even some boys and girls put their feet in the line to the appointed destination to which they are called this Easter Sunday. There they will see familiar faces, hear familiar sounds and may even smell familiar odors. It is a dawn of a new day, and they are on their way.

Early on the first Easter morning, one was risen for all of them.

This essay originally appeared at The Living Pulpit. It is reposted here by permission.

When Shift Happens: Michelle McKinney Hammond x UrbanFaith

When Shift Happens: Michelle McKinney Hammond x UrbanFaith

Dr. Michelle McKinney Hammond is one of the most successful authors in the country. She is the new host of UMI’s Sunday School Made Simple. She is an award winning artist, producer, entrepreneur, host, former advertising executive, internationally sought out speaker, and faith leader. But she has had her life shaped by profound changes and difficulties. In her latest book When Shift Happens, she gets real about her struggles, her faith, and the lessons she has learned about embracing change through our seasons of life. Full interview is above. More about the book and author is below.

In When Shift Happens: Say Yes to Your Next (available September 12 from Whitaker House), Michelle examines the difference between those who flounder and those who flourish in the seasonal transitions of life. She details the ways that understanding and addressing the season you are in–and assessing its purpose–allows people to not only survive their shift, but to thrive.

Michelle brilliantly bridges the gap between modern society and ancient biblical times, showing that God has been helping people endure “shifts” for centuries. She doesn’t shy away from sharing her own challenging situations, recounting her experiences with the pandemic, a car accident, and other personal traumas, along with how she found the strength through God’s teachings to say “yes” to these challenges as they arose.

“Mindset is everything when confronted with unanticipated change,” Michelle writes in When Shift Happens. “You are never out of options unless you choose to be. Emerging cycles all point to one thing—whether you are ready or not, shift happens. It’s not the end. There’s always a next!”

 

MORE ON THE AUTHOR: Many discovered the explosive talent of Michelle McKinney Hammond with her first bestseller, What to Do Until Love Finds You: Getting Ready for Mr. Right, in 1997. Since that time, Michelle has enjoyed a multifaceted career as an author, speaker, singer, producer, actress, relationship expert, and life coach, reaching men and women from all walks of life.

We’re Still Doing Easter?

We’re Still Doing Easter?

Is it time for Easter again? It doesn’t feel like Easter season. Easter (or Resurrection Sunday for the purists) is around the corner, and yet many Millennials feel little reason to celebrate. When I think of Easter, I think of special sermons, church presentations, fancy outfits, and big dinners. I also think of bunnies, eggs, and baskets thanks to corporate marketing. Ironically, what I don’t think about immediately is the Resurrection. But isn’t that the reason for the season?

Selective Memory

For the past few years, social media campaigns have tried to remind people that Christmas is about Jesus’ birth. It has become so commercialized that people come out of the woodwork you didn’t even know were Christian. They remind everyone following them that Jesus is the reason for the season, that Jesus is the best gift we could get in the season, that Jesus wants us to give in this season, and that we should be content whether we get other gifts or not.

But Easter doesn’t have gift-giving traditions. Were it not for multi-colored chocolate eggs, most of us would not even think about what we receive on that holiday. But Easter is supposed to be the center of the Christian faith. Jesus goes to the Cross, dies for our sins, and resurrects with power, giving hope of salvation to all the earth.

Perhaps one of the reasons why Easter doesn’t immediately remind us of resurrection is because resurrection hope seems so far removed from our current situation. Current events in our world—from politics to protests, global warming to global injustice, doubt in our lives and doubt in our faith—have caused many to lose hope.

The Sweet By-and-By

It is hard to think about the hope of resurrection when we are surrounded by so much death. But that is exactly why we as Christians need to remember the Resurrection. What greater hope is there in the midst of a death culture than the revelation that death is not the end of the story? That our God loved us enough to take death on Himself and then overcame death itself?

Resurrection is not just about “the sweet-by and-by” either. We have to hold on to the promise of life after this life, but resurrection also comes when we hear the testimonies of those who are still living, still striving, still fighting, still hopeful despite facing ridiculous obstacles and even threats to their very lives.

Jesus gives new hope to a woman with an issue of blood who was treated as dead by society, and He not only wasn’t afraid of a man with a legion of demons, He set the man free and made him a missionary. Jesus is hope for resurrection in a world that needs new life.

Time to Remember

It could be because of Saint Patrick’s Day that takes place around the same time, so people are focused on Irish beer and clovers. It could be because we feel like we’ve heard the Easter sermon before, so we’ll catch it on livestream. It could be that you didn’t know Mardi Gras, Carnival, and Lent had anything to do with Easter, so it just isn’t in your mind.

It could be because no one you know buys Easter clothes, or because there will be no big dinner, or because you’ve got so many other things going on that you just forgot. But whatever the reason we weren’t thinking about the Resurrection yet for Easter, we should take time to remember it now.

It is the story of our salvation. It is the “right now” power of God. It is what we need to face today together.

Legendary Woman: An Interview with Michelle McClain Walters

Legendary Woman: An Interview with Michelle McClain Walters

As more women than ever continue to move into positions of leadership and all women seek their purposes it is important to have role models from Scripture to help inspire and encourage us. Michelle McClain Walters has identified not only role models, but Biblical principles that can be learned from their stories to help women and men discover and walk in God’s calling for their lives. UrbanFaith sat down with Michelle to talk about her new book Legendary Woman: Partnering with God to Become the Heroine of Your Own Story, which captures the wisdom and encouragement we need for this moment. The full interview is linked above and more about the book is below.

In today’s times of women go-getters, entrepreneurs and bosses, Michelle McClain Walters uses her faith and God’s promises to motivate women to their calling! The book highlights the legendary women who aren’t just those in traditional powerhouse positions in business, finance or politics, but also the everyday women — the single mom, the prayer leader, the stay-at-home wife— who choose to say yes to God, are also indeed, legendary. She also shares the twelve characteristics of a legendary woman,and challenges women to identify their defining moments—those moments when your destiny intersects with an epic need within your family, community, nation, or your world—and be willing to say yes to the legendary role God has uniquely fashioned for them. 

Masters of the Air x UrbanFaith

Masters of the Air x UrbanFaith

UrbanFaith Editor Allen Reynolds had the opportunity to talk to Dee Rees, one of the directors of the hit Apple TV+ series Masters of the Air which featured the Tuskeegee Airmen and fighter pilots during World War II. He talked with Dee about what it was like to tell share this piece of history with the world.

Allen

Thank you so much for sharing with us the Urban Faith. And I would have to say that it was really moving and a pleasure to watch these episodes of Masters of the Air, especially episode 8 you got to take part in directing. My first question, Dee, is looking at that second to last episode, why was it important in the midst of a series that focused a lot around the Fighting 100th squadron to tell the story of the Tuskegee Airmen for you? Why was that an important choice?

Dee Rees

Sure. It was important to tell the story of the Ninety-Nine Fighting Squadron, because they are what enabled the 100th to be successful. So, it was important to kind of get that part of the story in front of audiences and know that these men were also masters of the air.

Allen

Absolutely, they were. Can you talk a little bit about why you chose to not just show them as heroes, but also show them as folks who were trying to overcome a lot in the process?

Dee

Right, so in episode seven, we’re a lot, the story is set in Stahlglof 3, and so our guys are literally grounded, you know? And so without the gear, without the planes, without the machines, they’re really forced to confront themselves and confront the things in them that are gonna have to change to not just escape, but to make their lives post-war better. And so, it was good to really get into the friendships and just kind of get into the [humanity] and the struggles. They’re gonna have to like vow to be like better people. I think when they’re [not] flying it forced the characters to literally sit. Sit out of the action and to relent. And in that [waiting], being able to relent to circumstance, becoming like better men and stronger men and really thinking about having to change their lives. And the same for the Tuskegee airmen in that camp. I wanted to show that that was the first time that a lot of their white colleagues had been in proximity with black people and a forced to kind of confront those own demons within themselves and decide who they’re gonna be.

Allen

Can you talk about why it’s important that we got to see them make that bridge and kind of what that speaks to in the midst of that larger World War II context and for us learning that history.

Dee

Yeah, so for Megan and Jefferson [The Tuskegee airmen], they’re acutely aware that they’re not just fighting this battle abroad, they know that they’re gonna have to go home to another battle, you know? In this fight, they have allies and that’s the way they’re able to survive. And it’s kind of getting through the idea that they’re gonna need those same allies to fight their battle at home. And in this small way, we start to suggest that maybe they’ll start to kind of find those [allies] in these men who’ve served together. It kind of highlights the bravery and courage of these airmen who are fighting for a country who’s not necessarily gonna fight for them. It heightens their struggle and then contextualizes it versus the other the members of the 100th who are, you know, caught up in their own worlds. It kind of broadened their kind of outlook to say, “wow, look at these guys who have this bigger struggle.”

Allen

Absolutely. So last question for you, Dee. What are some takeaways or some lessons you would want young folks to hear from [Masters of the Air]?

Dee

I would kind of go to some of the mottos of the fighting squad themselves: “aim high and expect to win,” you know? Even though, you can’t change the weather, like one of my favorite lines, like “you can’t change the weather, but that just teaches you how to fly better and be better pilots.” And in that way, the Tuskegee airmen had to become better pilots because they were up against winds that they couldn’t change.

UrbanFaith x Sow and Tell

UrbanFaith x Sow and Tell

Denya & Cellus Hamilton were inspired by the idea of being faithful to God while working in the marketplace. But they didn’t see a space for Black & Brown people to talk about faith and works. So they created one. Sow & Tell is their organization devoted to creating community and equipping leaders to live out their faith and be impactful in their work life. Their annual conference titled “There Will Be Fruit” on April 6, 2024 will be the largest yet in NYC as they welcome professionals and creatives of color to engage learn and connect. You can register here. UrbanFaith sat down with Denya & Cellus to talk about the conference and why they are passionate about integrating faith and works. More about the conference is below.

Like the tax collector and fishermen, Jesus found many of us while we were working—But instead of commanding us to shift careers, He altered what we’d fish for. And this is why There Will Be Fruit exists.

Join 150+ Christian marketplace leaders of color in NYC on Saturday April 6, 2024 at the only Faith and Work conference for the Black and Brown community, known as There Will Be Fruit.

Expect panels, breakout sessions, network opportunities, vendors, a celebration mixer, and more!

The women who stood with Martin Luther King Jr. and sustained a movement for social change

The women who stood with Martin Luther King Jr. and sustained a movement for social change

Women listen during the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963. Bettmann Archive/Getty Images
Vicki Crawford, Morehouse College

Historian Vicki Crawford was one of the first scholars to focus on women’s roles in the civil rights movement. Her 1993 book, “Trailblazers and Torchbearers,” dives into the stories of female leaders whose legacies have often been overshadowed.

Today she is the director of the Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collection, where she oversees the archive of his sermons, speeches, writings and other materials. Here, she explains the contributions of women who influenced King and helped to fuel some of the most significant campaigns of the civil rights era, but whose contributions are not nearly as well known.

An activist in her own right

Coretta Scott King is often remembered as a devoted wife and mother, yet she was also a committed activist in her own right. She was deeply involved with social justice causes before she met and married Martin Luther King Jr., and long after his death.

Scott King served with civil rights groups throughout her time as a student at Antioch College and the New England Conservatory of Music. Shortly after she and King married in 1953, the couple returned to the South, where they lent their support to local and regional organizations such as the NAACP and the Montgomery Improvement Association.

They also supported the Women’s Political Council, an organization founded by female African American professors at Alabama State University that facilitated voter education and registration, and also protested discrimination on city buses. These local leadership efforts paved the way for widespread support of Rosa Parks’ resistance to segregation on public busing.

A man in a light-colored suit and a woman in short-sleeved dress look at a piece of paper together in a study.
Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King work in his office in Atlanta in July 1962. TPLP/Archive Photos via Getty Images

Following her husband’s assassination in 1968, Scott King devoted her life to institutionalizing his philosophy and practice of nonviolence. She established the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, led a march of sanitation workers in Memphis and joined efforts to organize the Poor People’s Campaign. A longtime advocate of workers rights, she also supported a 1969 hospital workers’ strike in South Carolina, delivering stirring speeches against the treatment of African American staff.

Scott King’s commitment to nonviolence went beyond civil rights at home. During the 1960s, she became involved in peace and anti-war efforts such as the Women’s Strike for Peace and opposed the escalating war in Vietnam. By the 1980s, she had joined protests against South African apartheid, and before her death in 2006, she spoke out in favor of LGBT rights – capping a lifetime of activism against injustice and inequalities.

Women and the March

While Scott King’s support and ideas were particularly influential, many other women played essential roles in the success of the civil rights movement.

Take the most iconic moment of the civil rights struggle, in many Americans’ minds: the Aug. 28, 1963, March on Washington for Jobs and Freeedom, at which King delivered his landmark “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

As the 60th anniversary of the march approaches, it is critical to recognize the activism of women from all walks of life who helped to strategize and organize one of the country’s most massive political demonstrations of the 20th century. Yet historical accounts overwhelmingly highlight the march’s male leadership. With the exception of Daisy Bates, an activist who read a short tribute, no women were invited to deliver formal speeches.

A black and white photo shows several formally dressed women putting money in a church collection plate.
Members of Carmel Presbyterian Church donating money for the March on Washington. Carl Iwasaki/The Chronicle Collection via Getty Images

Women were among the key organizers of the march, however, and helped recruit thousands of participants. Dorothy Height, president of the National Council of Negro Women, was often the lone woman at the table of leaders representing national organizations. Anna Arnold Hedgeman, who also served on the planning committee, was another strong advocate for labor issues, anti-poverty efforts and women’s rights.

A woman in an evening dress with a corsage stands next to a man in a suit, both smiling and chatting.
Dorothy Height stands with Martin Luther King Jr. in November 1957. Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images

Photographs of the march show women attended in large numbers, yet few historical accounts adequately credit women for their leadership and support. Civil rights activist, lawyer and Episcopalian priest Pauli Murray, among others, called for a gathering of women to address this and other instances of discrimination a few days later.

Hidden in plain view

African American women led and served in all the major campaigns, working as field secretaries, attorneys, plaintiffs, organizers and educators, to name just a few roles. So why did early historical accounts of the movement neglect their stories?

There were women propelling national civil rights organizations and among King’s closest advisers. Septima Clark, for example, was a seasoned educator whose strong organizing skills played a consequential role in voter registration, literacy training and citizenship education. Dorothy Cotton was a member of the inner circle of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, of which King was president, and was involved in literacy training and teaching nonviolent resistance.

A man crouching on the pavement cradles an injured woman.
A civil rights marcher exposed to tear gas holds an unconscious Amelia Boynton Robinson after mounted police officers attacked marchers in Selma. Bettmann/Getty Images

Yet women’s organizing during the 1950s and 1960s is most evident at local and regional levels, particularly in some of the most perilous communities across the deep South. Since the 1930s, Amelia Boynton Robinson of Dallas County, Alabama, and her family had been fighting for voting rights, laying the groundwork for the struggle to end voter suppression that continues to the present. She was also key in planning the 50-mile Selma-to-Montgomery march in 1965. Images of the violence that marchers endured – particularly on the day that came to be known as Bloody Sunday – shocked the nation and eventually contributed to the passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.

A sitting woman with gray hair in a gold-colored dress and jewelry.
Civil rights activist Amelia Boynton Robinson attends an awards ceremony in New York in 2011. Marc Bryan-Brown/WireImage via Getty News

Or take Mississippi, where there would not have been a sustained movement without women’s activism. Some names have become well known, like Fannie Lou Hamer, but others deserve to be.

Two rural activists, Victoria Gray and Annie Devine, joined Hamer as representatives to the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, a parallel political party that challenged the state’s all-white representatives at the 1964 Democratic Convention. A year later, the three women represented the party in a challenge to block the state’s congressmen from taking their seats, given ongoing disenfranchisement of Black voters. Though the congressional challenge failed, the activism was a symbolic victory, serving note to the nation that Black Mississippians were no longer willing to accept centuries-old oppression.

Many African American women were out-front organizers for civil rights. But it is no less important to remember those who assumed less visible, but indispensable, roles behind the scenes, sustaining the movement over time.The Conversation

Vicki Crawford, Professor of Africana Studies, Morehouse College

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

HistoryMakers x UrbanFaith Interview

HistoryMakers x UrbanFaith Interview

Ms. Julieanna Richardson went from broadcast and television executive to the founder of an organization dedicated to preserving Black History. She now runs one of the largest organizations dedicated to the location and preservation of African American historical archives, stories, and history: The History Makers. UrbanFaith contributor Maina Mwaura sat down with her to learn about the Historymakers and get her insight on our world and history today.

27 Summers: Ronald Olivier x UrbanFaith

27 Summers: Ronald Olivier x UrbanFaith

UrbanFaith Editor Allen Reynolds sat down with prison chaplain and author Ronald Olivier to talk about his story of going from a life of poverty and violence to facing a life sentence in prison to being saved and freed by the power of Jesus Christ in his amazing book 27 Summers. The full interview is above, below are excerpts edited for clarity and length.

Allen

I am excited today to have with me an author, a chaplain, a man of God who has an incredible story and an incredible journey to share. And that is Mr. Ronald Olivier sharing to tell about [his] book: 27 Summers. One of the things people don’t realize is how long the justice system can take. Can you talk a little bit about the trouble of getting used to living a life that is violent or that is trouble? And really, I’m trying to get to how the idea of living a sinful lifestyle can feel so normal that we don’t realize that sooner or later it’s gonna catch up [to us].

Ronnie

Yeah, I think one of the tricks is what the enemy uses is that belief that you will never get caught. Yeah, [they] got caught, but not you. You too slick, you too sharp. He just lets us see all that we can accumulate, all this stuff, the money, the fame that comes with it. But never let us see the end of it. And most of my friends never made it out of their teens. Murder was all around me and I really thought that was my fate. I felt that’s how I supposed to go. I thought this was a way of life. You do what you do, live as long as you can live and die. And I always thought I would die before I was 21. I never thought I’d make it out my teens.

You just become accustomed to it. It’s like I heard a story about boiling a frog. You never just put them in hot water. You put them in temperate water and let the temperature increase and he’ll stay there and boil. But if you just drop them in hot water they get out.

So that’s how sin is. You know, it progresses, and you can’t figure out how to get out. I really felt like that was my fate and I couldn’t get out. Now I can look back and see all the escape routes that God was trying to get me out on. But the enemy had been blinding my mind so much to make me think that there was no way out and that’s one of the greatest lies of the enemy. Man, you’re stuck there. You never get out. This is the way life is supposed to be. No, that’s a lie.

 

Allen

Yeah, and I think that’s so seductive. I want to take you to that moment which I think was God moment where you realized that you weren’t going to get the death penalty but instead, were going to get life in prison. Can you talk about just what it was like literally to be placed between death and life and to find out you got life?

Ronnie

Yes, so I’m on trial for first degree murder facing the death penalty. And up until that point, everything was fun and games to me. It wasn’t real. I thought I was getting out. I didn’t feel the weight of it until I placed in the holding tank about 12 AM, 1 AM in the morning while the jury was deliberating. I can still hear the iron door slam and the key turn. And I could still hear the guards footsteps fading off until I couldn’t hear him no more. And I’m there alone in a box. And man, the weight of that was going on came crushing down on me. I was like, whoa, there’s 12 people that don’t know anything about me that are making the decision on whether I live or die. I was like, wow. And at that moment I was like, man, I don’t wanna die. I believe God used my mother’s voice. I heard her saying this so clearly to me. It was so loud in my spirit to where she said, son, if you ever in trouble that I can’t get you out, you should call on Jesus. And at that moment, I got on my knees. I’m crying and I called out to Jesus, and I had a very simple prayer. I made a deal with God. A lot of people say you don’t make deals with God. I made a deal with Him. And I said, Lord, if you don’t let them kill me, I promise you, I’ll serve you the rest of my life. And for the first time in my life, I had experienced and felt the peace of God. There was a peace that came. I didn’t know what it was then, but I just had this inward resolve that I was gonna be okay. It was this calmness that came over me. And so the jury came back with a guilty verdict of the lesser offense. That carried a mandatory life sentence without benefits of parole or probation. In layman’s terms, you die in prison. You never get out. But I like to put it like this in that holding tank, I received two life sentences. You know, the state was giving me a life sentence with no benefits. But God was giving me a life sentence with so many benefits that he encouraged me in His word to not forget them. So there it is, man. I get this life sentence and I’m headed to penitentiary. Not just jail, but penitentiary, which is a big difference.

Allen

A lot of times we think that, you know, we give our lives to Christ and then they just get better all of a sudden. I love that your story is not a story of an instant change. Why is that important?

Ronnie

I think that’s very important because I know it helped me to be patient with other young believers because you could be you could be very judgmental if you’re not careful and say, oh, they’re not born again. They’re not. But, when you think about it, just like in the natural, when a baby comes out of the womb, the baby looks like what it came out of. And so that baby, you know, that baby don’t come out looking like the little [girl or boy they will be when they’re big.] The baby looks like a little prune with all type of afterbirth on.  They have to go through a process to be clean, to be fed, to be to be changed. And the baby is totally dependent on someone else. And so that’s what the discipleship comes in, you know, and even though I knew I was born again, I look like what I came out. I still was doing some of the same things. But I continued to go to church.  A lot of people [put] pressure on guys, you’re going to church, you’re still doing all that. As if you’re supposed to be perfect when you go to church. But and not realizing that the church is, it’s man, it’s a spiritual hospital. People go there because they’re sick. We’re all getting some type of treatment. If you break your arm, you don’t wait till it get well, then go to the hospital. That’s absurd, you know, I’m going to get some treatment because I’m broken because I have all these issues because, you know, I’m messed up and I’m wrapped up in sin. That’s why I’m going to church. And man, we need to have people with that understanding when guys get to church to help them to disciple, to love on them, to get them where they need to be. And that’s what guys did for me, man. They discipled me. They didn’t judge me. They kept pushing me in the right direction, kept praying for me, you know, and kept being there for me. And man, that’s so important and helping young believers because they look like they’re not nothing really changed. But something did happen in their hearts, and it takes a process. And that was going on the inside coming on outside where you can see it and enjoy.

Allen

What advice would you give to young adults now who may be feeling hopeless or may feel like there’s not any way out of their situations? Because I think your story really speaks to that.

Ronnie

One thing I would say is to have hope. Man, you got you embrace the hope of glory, which is Jesus Christ. There is absolutely no hope without him. And so I would encourage you to develop that relationship. I’m not talking about religion. I’m not talking about just going to church. I’m talking about having a real personal relationship. Spending time with him, you develop your ear to hear his voice, to distinguish his voice from any other voice and allow him to lead and direct you. I was in prison. God said, look, don’t go that way. Go over here. And something would happen over there. You know, I get drugged up or killed and all this other thing. And he was he was leading and protecting me in the midst of chaos. He would do the same thing for you. But he’s not a respecter of person, but he is a respecter of faith. He just looking for someone to believe Him at His word. And I promise you God can do exceedingly, abundantly, above all you ask or think, but it’s going to be according to the power that’s working in you. You got to let him work in you. And so I just encourage you with that.

Share The Dream: Chris Broussard on MLK’s Dream

Share The Dream: Chris Broussard on MLK’s Dream

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August 2023 is the 60th anniversary of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech and the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  UMI (Urban Ministries Inc.) has partnered with Harper Christian Resources, and the K.I.N.G. Movement to honor, celebrate, and share the lessons of MLK through the Share the Dream Project and curriculum. UrbanFaith sat down with the award winning journalist and Fox Sports commentator, K.I.N.G. Movement President, and co-host of Share The Dream Chris Broussard to talk about the project and MLK’s legacy 60 years after the “I Have A Dream” speech. The full interview is above, excerpts are below edited for length and clarity. 

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Chris Broussard co-host of Share the Dream

 

Allen

We are talking about something so special, which is the 60th anniversary of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. It has inspired us and inspire others to honor and celebrate the legacy through a project called “Shared the Dream.” And so today I am here with the commentator, the journalist, the host, the co-host for this project, Mr. Chris Broussard, who has just been someone who’s been at the forefront of helping push the dream forward.

 

Chris

It’s great to join you, Allen. And wow, thank you for that introduction. I’ll try to live up to it in this interview, but it’s great to be with you guys at UrbanFaith. And this Share the Dream project is something that’s special, something that’s anointed, and something that we do hope and believe can have a great impact in our country.

Allen

In a lot of ways it feels like we see Dr. King as a meme, right? Like it’s just a picture on social media with a quote taken out of context. People don’t even know for the I have a dream speech, that he starts with laying out the problems before he gets to a vision for what we could do together. Can you talk a little bit about what it looks like to have a vision going forward and why it’s so important to learn from our history and address those realities before we rush to the vision that God might have for us being united and being one?

Chris

No, that’s a great question. Because a lot of times you hear talk about racial reconciliation. And to some people, like I said, does that mean a hug? Does that mean, you know, just some superficial gatherings, but not addressing the issues that left us unreconciled and leave us unreconciled? As you said, most people don’t even know that Dr. King addressed those issues before he said, “I have a dream” and all that stuff. And of course, later in his life, he really to some degree was distraught and disheartened when he really looked at the economic differences. And obviously he knew that [before]. But, in the South the racism was so overt that they were addressing those situations. Blacks couldn’t go here; blacks couldn’t go there. You just address those issues. And then we went up to the North and you saw the economic conditions that many Africans Americans were living in. In the North there [wasn’t persistent] legal segregation, but blacks were clearly getting the short end of the stick. It really disheartened him, and he had to rethink and was in the process of even thinking like, “Okay, how are we going to address this?” And he did have ideas and he talked about redistribution of wealth and all that stuff.

I think the key is that, our white brothers and sisters, particularly in the church, have been miseducated on the history of America. All the talk about a great Christian nation, and manifest destiny and the city on the hill. What about the way African-Americans and Native Americans were treated? And so that miseducation informs the way a lot of whites view the racial situation today. And by using a lot of Dr. King’s principles and teaching, like we want to hopefully shed light on how the true racial history of America, as bad as it was, in the past, but also how it impacts us today. How it impacts the disparities you see today and the tension and the distrust that you see today and all the events that we’ve seen in the past few years. All of that is a remnant to some degree of much of the past. The wealth gap. That’s not just because whites have worked hard, and blacks haven’t. It’s not because of that at all. It is because of things like the federal housing administration loans that were given out to mainly overwhelmingly white Americans in the from the 1930s on into the 1960s that built these beautiful white suburbs. The red lining of the African-American neighborhoods that have cost African-American families on average hundreds of thousands of dollars. These are the things [that must be addressed]. It’s not just let’s go have dinner together and be friends. It is let’s address these economic issues that really were created by the racism of the past and address the those. And then [there can] be some real racial unity and we can have some real robust discussions about how we can solve these problems that we have today. So yeah, I think that’s, you know, part of what we’re trying to do with Share the Dream.

Allen

[In this curriculum] you outline the six principles of Dr. King’s legacy beautifully: Conscience, justice, perseverance, hope, freedom, and love.] What principles have you seen stand out in your own life or be most influential to you or what were your favorite ones to share in the series?

Chris

Yeah man, there’s so many. I think to some degree I’ve addressed a little bit of the conscience of really making America in particular, many of our white Christian brothers and sisters aware of the true history of this country. I’ve talked to whites who have talked about city on the hill and the great Christian heritage of America, who have talked about slavery as if it was just a little blind spot. It was just a little mistake. I’m like “No, you understand that the reason America was able to become the greatest superpower we’ve ever seen was on the backs of slavery.” So that is a part of it trying to just awaken that consciousness within white Americans to understand. So, I think that’s the conscience. I could focus more on justice as well. Yes, we see overt acts [of racism] here and there. But a lot of it is subtle. If you if you don’t have a deeper understanding of it and really dig beneath the surface, you can get the wrong idea of the racial situation in America today. [Racist policies] created the wealth gap and all of that, that’s a part of the justice we need to look at. I’ll quickly just throw out one more, the perseverance. Like a lot of time, I think a lot of people have been beaten down, particularly African Americans by the situation in America today, by the persistence of the oppression. Where they have given up, where they just decided, nothing can improve for us overall or for me individually. It can affect your decision making and things like that. Whereas you look back in the day when Dr. King was marching and even before that, in the face of even worse oppression, you did have, I would say, you probably had more perseverance and hope within the Black community than you do today. And I believe a lot of that was because Dr. King and many of the people that were working with him were rooted in Jesus Christ. And when you’re rooted in Christ, no matter how bad things look on the outside, you will have hope. As bad as things look in this country, I do have hope because of the gospel and the transformative power of the gospel and how it can change a person and a people’s outlook on life, worldview, and decision-making behavior, all of that. And I think that’s what our ancestors had. And that’s what gave them the perseverance and the hope through slavery, through Jim Crow.  We have more opportunities and freedom today, but many of us lack the same perseverance and hope that our ancestors had. So that’s something I would wanna highlight as well. Why did they have that hope? Let me tap into that reason behind their perseverance.

Allen

Yeah, I mean, they were so rooted in their faith. And I really appreciate this series pointing that out, highlighting that, bringing that to the forefront, because a lot of times people forget that Dr. King was a minister, right? Like he wasn’t just some great speaker and marcher, he was a minister. You got to work with his friend Andrew Young who was there. What are some of the lessons that you feel like people take away from being able to hear from some elders and from some other folks who are part of the project in the video series in the curriculum?

Chris

Well, I think that’s a great question. I think Ambassador Young, he obviously gets accolades and people understand and talk about what he did in the past and his involvement in the movement and all of that. But I don’t think people understand and fully give him the credit for just being how great of a man he is. And to your point, a man of faith. People want to divorce the faith of Dr. King from what he did. They want to divorce [him from his faith]. I could go on and on Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, even Marcus Garvey who [was] a Christian. People want to divorce or [history from faith]. They want to look at these great actions of our ancestors and yet and not look at the sources of their power and the source of their wisdom and the things that they fought for and fought against and stated and so on and so forth. And Ambassador Young is also like that. Ambassador Young is a great man of faith. And I get that we should focus on the other things he talks about and the things he fights for. And everything’s not a religious conversation. But I think it is important that people understand, especially in this day and age, where faith is being marginalized. Christian faith has sustained us as a community and as a people and is now being marginalized, tossed aside, watered down and things like that. It’s important to see in a great man like Ambassador Young that his faith has always been vibrant and to this day is vibrant. And that that’s what motivated him and led him to be able to do and have the strength to do what he did.

 

Setting Goals

new years

Where do you see yourself in two years? What about five years? Do you have a detailed plan for achieving these goals? It’s easy to live from day to day without thinking about the specific steps you need to take to reach your future goals successfully. Many of us may be so bogged down with trying to balance work with school, responsibilities at a job, and expectations from others that we think there is no time left in the day to plan. But if we are going to be successful, we must make time to think about where we want to go, and create a map that will take us there. As a Christian, keep in mind that it is not enough for you to simply implement a plan you thought of on your own. Be sure to pray as you plan your future. Below, find three steps to help you achieve the resolutions you set for the New Year and the plans you make for your future.

1. Set a specific goal

2. Write the goal

3. Making necessary adjustments to reach the goal.

(more…)

What is Kwanzaa Really About?

Video Courtesy of Inside Edition


All week long, African Americans have been celebrating Kwanzaa across the U.S.

Perhaps you may attend a Kwanzaa celebration at your church or even participate in Kwanzaa in the comforts of your own home, but do you really know why? What is Kwanzaa and why do so many African Americans choose to celebrate the holiday?

Dr. Maulana Ron Karenga created and developed Kwanzaa in 1966. Dr. Karenga is an author, professor, and scholar-activist who is passionate about sustaining Pan-African culture in America with an emphasis on celebrating the family and the community.

There are three main ideas that are foundational to sustaining Kwanzaa tradition. The first idea is to reinstate rootedness in African culture. The second is to serve as a consistent, annual, public celebration to strengthen and confirm the bonds between people of the African diaspora. And finally, Kwanzaa is to familiarize and support the “Nguzo Saba,” also known as the “Seven Principles,” which are each celebrated during the seven days following Christmas.

These seven principles represent the values of African communication. They include the following:

  1. Umoja or Unity
  2. Kujichagulia or Self-Determination
  3. Ujima or Collective Work and Responsibility
  4. Ujamaa or Cooperative Economics
  5. Nia or Purpose
  6. Kuumba or Creativity
  7. Imani or Faith.

People celebrate Kwanzaa in numerous ways and have different practices that have been incorporated into their celebrations.

Symbolic Decor

Are you unsure as to how you and your family can participate in a Kwanzaa celebration? A good way to start is to decorate your home or living quarters with the symbols of Kwanzaa.

First start by putting a green tablecloth over a table that is centrally based in the space in the space you intend to decorate. Then, place the Mkeka, a woven mat or straw that represents the factual cornerstone of African descent, on top of the tablecloth.

Place the Mazao, the fruit or crops placed in a bowl, on top of the Mkeka symbolizing the culture’s productivity. Next, place the Kinara, a seven-pronged candle holder, on the tablecloth. The Kinara should include the Mishumaa Saba, seven candles that represent the seven central principles of Kwanzaa.

The three candles placed on the left are red, symbolizing struggle, the three candles to the right are green, symbolizing hope, and one candle placed in the center is black, symbolizing those who draw their heritage from Africa or simply just the African American people. The candles are lit each day in a certain order, and the black candle is always first.

Next, include the Muhindi, or ears of corn, used to symbolize each child. However, if there are no children present, place two ears to represent the children within the community.

Also, include Zawadi, gifts for the children, on the table. And finally, don’t forget the Kikombe cha Umoja, a cup to symbolize family and unity within the community.

Pan-African Creativity

You may also choose to decorate the rest of your home with Kwanzaa flags, called Bendera, and posters focusing on the seven principles of Kwanzaa. Some children usually take pleasure in making these flags or they may be purchased instead. African national and tribal flags can also be created to symbolize the seven principles.

Other ways to celebrate may include learning Kwanzaa greetings, such as “Habari Gani,” which is a traditional Swahili greeting for “What is the news?”

Other activities for celebrating Kwanzaa is to have a ceremony, which may include lighting the candles, musical selections played on the drums, readings of the African Pledge and the Principles of Blackness, reflections on the Pan-African colors, discussing African principles for that day and/or reciting chapters in African heritage. Be creative!

 

Have you and your family been participating in your own Kwanzaa traditions? Share them below.

Devotional: The favor that pushes purpose to fruition

Devotional: The favor that pushes purpose to fruition

Key Scripture

“This was because Ezra had determined to study and obey the Law of the LORD and to teach those decrees and regulations to the people of Israel.” (Ezra 7:10, NLT)

Full Scripture Ezra 7:1-26

 

There are moments in everyone’s life when the question of purpose will come up. Discovering, pursuing, and fulfilling purpose is one of the greatest achievements that can happen to a human life.

When you understand and know your purpose, it becomes easy to know what direction you need to take to manifest and walk in it.

In Ezra 7, we are introduced to Ezra who had devoted himself to the study and observance of the law of the Lord and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel. Ezra was a teacher, and he loved teaching. He found his purpose in teaching and learning the law, and sharing that with others.

His commitment to this purpose brought such favor from God which caused King Artaxerxes to write a letter of his approval of him and funded him adequately as he went to Jerusalem.

A lot of times we stress out and worry about where our provision will come from when in reality, the provision is always connected to purpose. It is wise to set time, energy, and focus in discovering and committing ourselves to what we have been destined to do in this life.

Remember:

  1. You have a specific reason for being alive, God has a destiny for you
  2. Your purpose will not be difficult for you because purpose motivates. You are graced for it
  3. Discovering your purpose does not mean you will have all the answers, however, you will sense a strength and confidence to pursue it even if you are not sure how it will end
  4. God will place confirmation and signs on your path to encourage you that you are on the right track. This will come through unexpected provision, favor for open doors, kindness from people with influence who can bless you to fulfill your destiny. Make sure you stay alert and avoid sabotaging yourself through fear or pride

 

Ezra was a teacher, that was his purpose and he committed to it. God blessed him because he was walking in his purpose. The favor that was bestowed upon him allowed that purpose to come to fruition by touching so many lives by his obedience to his call.

Do not give up on your purpose, do not look down on it. Even if other people do not understand it, your purpose is worth pursuing. You are an answered prayer. Someone is waiting for you to manifest your purpose.

 

 

Prayer

Dear God,

This week, reveal to me my purpose. Remind me why I am here. Open my eyes to see clearly what I need to do to fulfill my destiny. Grace me with the courage to receive your favor and provision to pursue my purpose without fear. Let me be a testimony like Ezra by committing to the reason you have created me. I know you will reveal to me and guide me because I desire to leave a great legacy.

 

In Jesus Name

Amen

Trolls Band Together Interview

Trolls Band Together Interview

The Trolls franchise is one of the most popular animated series in the world. It brings together recognizable music and fantastic animation to tell stories of joy and challenges in relating to one another. The new movie Trolls: Band Together explores the fun and frustrations of being part of a family. It was a fun, focused, fantastic edition to the Trolls saga that truly brings families together. UrbanFaith sat down with the Director of Trolls Walt Dohrn to talk about the new movie which is in theaters everywhere November 17. The full interview is above. A trailer for the movie is below.

Invisible Generals

Invisible Generals

In Invisible Generals: Rediscovering Family Legacy, and a Quest to Honor America’s First Black Generals, author Doug Melville tells the incredible true story of the 1st and 2nd Black Generals in the United States, Benjamin O. Davis Sr. & Benjamin O. Davis Jr. They were his extended family and were a father and son who changed our country and yet their history has rarely been told. Ben Sr. established the Tuskegee Airmen, integrated the Armed Services, and served in the Air Force for decades. Ben Jr. was the first Black 4 star General, established the TSA, and shaped the Transportation Administration. As we honor our former soldiers this Veterans Day, let us learn about these Invisible Generals who changed our nation. The edited interview is above, more about the book is below.

 

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In Invisible Generals, Melville shares his quest to rediscover his family’s story across five generations, from post-Civil War America to modern day Asia and Europe. In life, the Davises were denied the recognition and compensation they’d earned, but through his journey, Melville uncovers something greater: that dedication and self-sacrifice can move proverbial mountains—even in a world determined to make you invisible.

Invisible Generals recounts the lives of a father and his son who always maintained their belief in the American dream. As the inheritor of their legacy, Melville retraces their steps, advocates for them to receive their long-overdue honors and unlocks the potential we all hold to retrieve powerful family stories lost to the past.

A God with a heart for the marginalized

Devotional Scripture

10 When you make a loan of any kind to your neighbor, do not go into their house to get what is offered to you as a pledge. 11 Stay outside and let the neighbor to whom you are making the loan bring the pledge out to you. 12 If the neighbor is poor, do not go to sleep with their pledge in your possession. 13 Return their cloak by sunset so that your neighbor may sleep in it. Then they will thank you, and it will be regarded as a righteous act in the sight of the LORD your God.
14 Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns. 15 Pay them their wages each day before sunset, because they are poor and are counting on it. Otherwise they may cry to the LORD against you, and you will be guilty of sin.
16 Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.
17 Do not deprive the foreigner or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge. 18 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this.
19 When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20 When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. 21 When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow.

Help for Homeless

Of late, I have been thinking about the orphaned, widows and those who are struggling to make ends meet. The feelings of despair and hopelessness can become every day emotions if there is no stability in the area of provision.

Currently, there are millions of people who are one paycheck away from poverty. Many carry the burden of shame, fear and trauma of what will happen to them if they are not able to make ends meet.

A lot of times, in the midst of trial and tribulation, one can feel as though no one sees or understands the plight they are going through. However, in Deuteronomy 24:10-21, we see the thoughtfulness of God.

God cares. He is thoughtful and attentive to your needs. You may not have the courage to pray or ask Him because you are afraid of disappointment. Maybe all your help is gone, you are starting over, going through a break-up or a divorce. A loved one who was your main source of support financially is gone, and now you are picking up the pieces of what is left of their memory and trying to make the best out of the situation you are in.

God’s senses are alert and keen to your needs. Provision may not appear in the form or the way that you thought God would bring it to you, but open your eyes and look again. In the times of old, He instructed those who were harvesting to leave some of the harvest behind, because He knew there were those who did not have fields to harvest from, and what was left behind would be their only meal.

God is constantly providing for you. It may be through:

  • Ideas
  • A fresh perspective
  • A helping hand from a stranger

 

You will never know if you do not ask, seek, or make your request known. This week, do not wallow in your sorrows, reach out for help. Sometimes your provision is a phone call or an email away.

What you need, is within arm’s reach. You have to stretch yourself by faith, be humble and ask, believing that on the other end, God has already touched a heart to help you in your time of need.

If He did it before, He is able to do it again, do not assume that God has written you off. You are in His thoughts, and He wants the best for you. He has placed the provision in your path, all you need to do is ask Him to show you what to do, and where to go, and He will guide you.

Prayer

Dear Father,

This week, to reveal to me the fears I have of receiving or asking for help. Remove any form of pride, shame or condemnation that lingers in me, that would cause me to suffer in silence. I believe what I need, you have already provided. Lead me to the path of provision that has my name on it. Open my eyes and show me who I can confide in regarding what I am dealing with, and let me have the faith that you have already made the way.

Lord, If I am the answer to someone’s prayer, show me how I can be of help, and place me in the pathway of the people I am supposed to help this week. Nudge me, when I ignore your voice and affirm me, when I do what is right. Thank you for reminding me, you will use people to bless me, and you will use me to bless others.

Regardless of what I am dealing with today, lift my spirits up, and remind me that you are a thoughtful God, you have always had me in mind, and all things will work out for my good.

 

In Jesus Name

Amen

Wrong Lanes Have Right Turns: An Interview with Michael Phillips

Wrong Lanes Have Right Turns: An Interview with Michael Phillips

Michael Phillips is the Chief Engagement Officer of the TD Jakes Foundation, a well respected pastor and education advocate. But his journey was not easy or simple. His book Wrong Lanes Have Right Turns details his journey, his context, and his perspective on one of the most important topics for us everyday: how to educate our children and dismantle the school to prison pipeline. He masterfully blends personal stories with scripture, statistics, history, and context to help us understand and impact the education system. Check out the full interview above!

You can get the book here

We’ll All Be Free: UrbanFaith x Caroline Sumlin

We’ll All Be Free: UrbanFaith x Caroline Sumlin

Many of us battle for self-worth in a world that is constantly bombarding us with messages that we are not enough. But author Caroline Sumlin argues that the enemy we are fighting is not just our own thoughts, but the insidious nature of white supremacy and the ways it impacts our society. UrbanFaith Editor Allen Reynolds interviewed influencer and author Caroline Sumlin about her new book We’ll All Be Free which confronts white supremacy’s assault on our self worth no matter what our background is, and shares ways we can liberate ourselves, each other, and seek healing. The book is available everywhere. The full interview is above, excerpts below have been edited for clarity and length. More about the book is below.

———————–

Allen

Hello, Urban Faith. It is a joy and a pleasure to be with just an awesome person someone who I’ve known for a long time who is doing work as an Instagram influencer as an author now that is Caroline Sumlin. And she has written a new book, We’ll All Be Free about dismantling white supremacy talking about self-worth. Why is it that you think it’s important that we deal with these difficult and tough issues?

 

Caroline

I think we can see the impacts of not having the tough conversations on our society. Even taking white supremacy aside, when we talk about going to therapy or we talk about dealing with mental health, we talk about trauma. We talk about those tough things. One of the most basic ways that parents sometimes explain emotions to children… is that they’re like farts. Kids don’t have any inhibitions to keep things in because they know it feels good to let out the burp, to pass gas, to cry, to get angry, to stomp our feet, right? They live and then guess what happens? They feel better because they release that stuff. As adults, we are conditioned to keep things inside, to be ashamed of it, to be ashamed of our humanity. And then what happens? The anger happens, right? The crippling and debilitating mental health [issues] happen. I could go on to name things. I mean, I even think the rise in gun violence, all of that is connected to the fact that we are not dealing with what’s going on inside, both individually, but also systemically. The culture we have created has magnified a society of people that are walking around with a lot of anger, with a lot of hurt, with a lot of unworthiness that they don’t realize is going on. Then we wonder why we see what we see in society. And I understand that people would also argue well having the conversations can also lead to “division.” And I would argue back that the reason why we see division when we have these conversations is because we have been conditioned to be defensive. We’ve been conditioned to ignore certain things and as a result we haven’t been [healthy]… But that’s all the more reason to keep going and to keep fighting and say, “Hey, we can get healthy. It takes work.” You know, no one goes to therapy and comes out smiling every day. You’re going to go to therapy and you’re going to come out with tears. You’re going to come out with anger. You may have to process some things that may feel uncomfortable at first, but then the burden starts to lift off your shoulders and it does get better. I do believe in pushing and continuing to have the conversation. I do believe that there will be a positive ending, but sometimes the messy middle is just necessary.

 

 

Allen

You have that chapter on hustle culture and how that’s tied to white supremacy. Can you just talk a little bit about that?

 

Caroline

Yeah, absolutely. I have an entire chapter on this because it is one of the biggest ways that white supremacy culture shows up in our daily lives. Are the entire idea of the American dream and the message that we are given as young children that if you just work hard enough and you just go to college and you’ll be able to achieve this ideal life in America, you’ll be able to buy a house, you’ll be able to have your family, you’ll be able to afford certain things and you’ll have that American dream. Over time that American dream has become a lot higher, a lot narrower. It used to be that middle class and now it’s gone beyond that at this point because again with the white supremacy culture, the standard is always moving. But I wanted to make sure that the readers were able to understand again the roots in that. I wanted to look at where [this idea comes] from where we have to achieve to be worthy. What [is] the definition of achievement, what the definition of success is, where did that come from? What is the definition of professionalism? Where does elitism come from? Where are all these different beliefs? Even the way that we look at intellect and how we score ourselves. All these things have roots, they have backgrounds. Even the economic decisions and how we’ve gotten to the point of having this free market and why again those decisions were being made.

I was able to tie all of that to racist ideas, systemic racism, white supremacy. The ideal in our country is that whiteness should always be the standard, should always be what rules the country, should always be what leads the country, should always be what’s in charge. And to be successful, you have to assimilate to that. And that comes from, again, decisions that were being made based on ensuring that there was a racial hierarchy. Creating these standards in education, these standards in professionalism, these standards in our careers to ensure that that hierarchy always maintains. If you happen to be a person of color and you happen to kind of ascend higher than what, you know, the status quo says that you’re supposed to be as a person of color, well, you had to assimilate quite a bit and you had to make sure that you essentially connect yourself or tie yourself to whiteness in order to get there. And then if you happen to be a white person, there still is the fact of the matter is the standards of whiteness are also very inhuman. They go against our natural rhythms. We’ve been conditioned to believe that going against our human rhythms, being very industrial, being very work on the clock 24/7, all those things kind of tying back to again the plantation and then the industrial revolutions, all those things [tie] to where we are now. We’re conditioned to think that that’s like normal and it’s not. Even the way that we have constructed a society to ensure that black indigenous and people of color are at the bottom, it still affects everybody because now everyone is tied to this hustle mentality, this work around the clock mentality in order to make something of yourself, in order to prove yourself worthy, in order to prove yourself to be really more white, so to speak. So that America and the western world approves of you. I could go on and on and on, which, which is why I wrote the book.

Allen

What advice would you give to the young girl, the young person who’s trying to find their self-worth in this culture that’s telling them that they’re not as valuable?

Caroline

To understand that the standards that you are being told you [must] measure up to were constructed for a reason and they were constructed not because of who you are but of maintaining that hierarchy of whiteness. So, to understand that it’s really not you. Like if you think you’re constantly swimming upstream and you’re working against a current and you just can’t figure out quite what is wrong with [you], why am I always exhausted? Why am I always trying to measure up to something? Why am I always looking in the mirror and saying something is wrong with me? It is because you’re being fed these messages left and right from every corner of society to try to tell you, “Hey, you’re not worthy,” so you can spend more money, so you can keep trying harder, so you can keep assimilating, so that white supremacy can continue to be maintained. And it’s not you. It’s them. And of course, you have to still live in this world. I wish we could just take a remote and just kind of turn it off. But unfortunately, that doesn’t work that way. And I think just knowing where it comes from and knowing that you can say no to believing those things and choosing a different route in how you approach life, I think is extremely freeing. I think the knowing the roots of it [is freeing], even if you still have to play the game a little bit. Because everyone’s gonna have to play the game a little bit, especially in the workplace. I’m not saying just, go tomorrow and start just doing things differently because you might lose your job. But I’m saying at least you know the roots of something, and you can say, “Okay. I know that it’s not me. I know that society is set up like this and I don’t have to measure my worth against this.”

 

Allen

What message would you give for the church about how to confront white supremacy?

Caroline

Stop being afraid to talk about it, stop being afraid to have the meetings about it and looking at how you are perpetuating white supremacy in your congregations. This is not something to be afraid of. This is not something that is against Jesus. This is something that Jesus, I believe, would be for. He would be for dismantling any system that oppresses anybody else. This is the work of Jesus. And again, it doesn’t have to be simply marching in the streets when another black person is killed or there’s another racist injustice that we see. That’s important, but it is perpetuated in our boardrooms. It’s perpetuated within leadership, and it’s perpetuated with misogyny. It’s perpetuated when you refuse to play any other worship songs in your church besides a certain group that doesn’t have any people of color in it. Let’s be real. And then you dismiss somebody that wants something else because that’s not the only way to worship. There are simple ways that white’s supremacy is perpetuated, and they all need to be talked about and confronted so that every single human being that walks through your church doors feels like they are home and welcomed there and don’t have to be on edge because they’re a person of color. But again, not even just that, for everybody because my book is We’ll All Be Free, and I make it very clear that my book is written for everybody. White supremacy harms us all. It causes all of us to deal with feeling unworthy in some type of way. And so, looking at how you’re perpetuating it is the first step to dismantling it and it’s not a conversation to be scared of. It’s not work to be scared of. It’s work that is freeing.

 

The Burial: UrbanFaith x Willie Gary

The Burial: UrbanFaith x Willie Gary

The Burial is a film inspired by the real life story of black Attorney Willie Gary known as “The Giant Killer” who takes the unexpected contract case of a white funeral home owner named Jeremiah O’Keefe in southern Mississippi. Mr. Gary is one of the most successful trial attorneys in American history who has won lawsuits against multibillion dollar corporations to protect  and get justice for his clients. The inspiring story is filled with comedy and drama as what begins as a case about deal gone bad begins to expose corruption, injustice, and power that would change both men’s lives. Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx plays Willie Gary who alongside Academy Award winner Tommy Lee Jones and Jurnee Smollett deliver truly amazing performances. UrbanFaith sat down with Willie Gary, the man behind the legend to talk about the film and his hopes to inspire others. The full interview is above. The film is rated R for language, but it is a movie I will be fine watching with my kids. There is use of the n word in context which likely contributes to the rating, but this film is a cinematic take on important black history and American history. The film is in select theaters now and on Amazon Prime Video October 13!

 

 

Here are 4 Amazingly Simple Steps To Making Godly Decisions

Here are 4 Amazingly Simple Steps To Making Godly Decisions


At some point in life we’ve all made big decisions. Whether it’s the college we attend, the person we marry, the first home or car we purchase, or the city we move to, decisions are a part of our lives. And to some degree, we always feel like we have to make the right decision. But how do we know what the right decision is? What do we do to prepare ourselves for major decisions?

A study conducted some years ago showed that the more choices we’re presented with, the more debilitat¬ing choices can become. Participants were presented with an assortment of 30 items to choose from and an assortment of 6 items to choose from. More people stopped and recognized the display with 30 choices, but a lesser percentage of those people actually made the choice to buy. We can get to a point in our lives where we think through decisions so much that we talk ourselves out of doing the very thing we set out to do in the first place—making a decision. Why? Because we don’t want to “miss God.” But is that how things work? Are we supposed to agonize over the choices we need to make?

One passage of Scripture may be helpful here: “Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established” (Proverbs 16:3, ESV). Commit literally means to roll over into or put your full weight on some¬thing. It’s giving everything. Interesting that Scripture doesn’t say commit your plans to the Lord. But that’s what we do, right? We commit our plans to the Lord, rather than our work. The distinction is huge. There are four things this verse teaches us:

1. There will be times when things do not go as planned.
It’s inevitable. It’s like walking through the store with your wife and a shopping list. As much as you might want to, “Stick to the plan,” she deviates. And you may get upset when she deviates. You want her to follow the list—to the letter. But your wife has the special ability of remembering stuff that you forget. We get mad when God gets away from our list too. We make plans to be married by a certain age. We make plans to retire by a certain age. When something pops up that isn’t on the list, we are furious. God remembers the stuff we forget too.
38

Maybe we should change our approach. Stop just committing your plans to the Lord and start committing your work to the Lord. Then Scrip¬ture will make more sense when it says, “The heart of a man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9, ESV) or “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD” (Proverbs 16:33, ESV). It is only by committing your work to Him that He establishes your plan. So stop working on that ten-year plan and start working on committing yourself fully to Him in your work.

2. There will be times when you won’t have peace about the decision you make.
Most times we feel like if we have peace about something, then it must be the right decision to make. I remember one decision I made where I didn’t have peace: the decision to move across the country to attend semi¬nary. I didn’t want to move 3,000 miles from home, but decided to do so anyway. Peace was the last thought on my mind. But, in hindsight, it was one of the best deci¬sions I ever made. If Jesus’ experience in the Garden of Gethsemane reveals a moment of agonizing conflict over the decision to bear the world’s sin, then surely there will be decisions in your life where you don’t experience peace in the short term.

3. Never think God is not at work, no matter how absent He may seem to be.
Author Tim Keller said, “God’s guidance is more something God does than something God gives.” In other words, God guides you through events and occurrences in your life, ultimately based on the choices you make. So where you find yourself right now is right in the middle of God’s guidance. Stop looking for it. God is doing it in your life right now. We spend so much time seeking God’s guidance, but don’t realize that we’re right slap dab in the middle of it.

4. God expects us to develop wisdom to discern His guidance.
“The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her” (from Proverbs 4:7–8, ESV).
Developing wisdom accompanies our spiritual maturity. Another illustration by Tim Keller is key here: How would your parents react if you, an adult, called them to ask permission to go outside? They’d prob¬ably think you were crazy. Why? Because you are mature. As we mature in our faith, God (our Father) wants to trust us more and more to have the wisdom to make good decisions.
So after we pray, get counsel, and ask for His will, we’re ultimately left with the decision to make. In de¬veloping wisdom, we can decide with confidence that He is at work in what we decide. Decisions can be tough. Decisions can be agonizing. Decisions can be filled with uncertainty. If you have a tough decision to make, commit your work to the Lord. You’ll find out over time that in doing so, God will establish your plans.

4 Ways Marriage Requires Adaptation

4 Ways Marriage Requires Adaptation

As a young married couple, we have several friends who are still single and many who are in relationships wanting to be married. Many of our friends ask us for advice on their relationships. How do you know when your significant other is the right one? How do you move forward from single, to engaged, to married? What is your advice for the difference? How do you navigate your relationship in healthy ways? We don’t have all the answers, no couple does. Each relationship is unique. But we agree one of the most important skills and principles we think is core to marriage is adaptability. When we get married, we must adapt in ways we are often not taught prior to being married. Here are 4 ways we see adaptation as key to moving from relationship to marriage for those who want to be married.

1. Your mindset must adapt

From the time most children can reason they are being shaped with expectations for what romantic relationships should be. Parents, peers, and popular culture shape our mindsets for better or worse. Many of those mindsets are unrealistic and toxic. When we have serious relationships as adults, we do not have a sense of what marriage is really like or what it should be like. Many of us expect our spouse to do what we want, agree with us about big and small plans, be present with us for everything we find important, and generally not exhibit any human flaws. Moreover, we expect them to think like us. And this is a big area of necessary adaptation. It does not matter how much or how well you communicate (and most of us don’t do that well), your partner is an entirely separate person from you who will think differently than you. You must adapt your expectations with humility and grace to thrive in sustainable ways. For example, you know that people should ask if you are hungry when they get something to eat. You believe that is what loving spouses do. But your partner may have been raised to believe you speak up if you want someone to get you something to eat. You can avoid a lot of arguments by first discussing this difference and then allowing that each person will not get the action “asking if you are hungry” right even if you talk about it 10 times. It may take two conversations for them. It may take 27. It doesn’t make them bad spouses. It doesn’t make them uncaring. They may get better in the future. They may not. In either case, they will think the way they think, not the way you think.

2. Your heart must adapt

Opening our hearts is a challenging task. It was much easier when we were younger, just venturing into the world, filled with enthusiasm to embrace everything life offered. During our adolescent and young adult years, navigating through life seemed effortless. We were influenced by social media, television shows, and the experiences of our elders and communities, all guiding us on how to coexist with our significant others or what society deemed as finding a “successful” partner. We internalized notions about the ideal height of our spouses, the number of children they should have, and the careers they should pursue. We even hesitated to consider anyone who didn’t meet these expectations. Consequently, societal influences and challenges compelled us to guard our hearts, never settle, and cling tightly to our preconceived ideas of the perfect spouse. Now, understand me; having personal boundaries and standards is healthy. However, the problem arises when our expectations become unrealistic and hinder our ability to form deep connections and intimacy with our partners. Some of us may find ourselves grieving over unmet expectations that arose when we initially began dating, got engaged, or entered marriage. Our partners may face career setbacks that limit our financial freedom, or one partner may not share the same desire for the number of children they may have together. Reality may not align with the idealized image we envisioned in our minds and hearts. This fear can cause us to retreat inwardly, creating a sense of distance from one another. However, when we choose to let go, we open space for love to find its way into our lives. Letting go involves recognizing our agency, embracing vulnerability, and granting ourselves the opportunity to receive love, even when it may bring difficulty. Opening our hearts to the intricate complexities of marriage can be terrifying, but relinquishing unrealistic expectations is essential for growth in our relationships. It demands intentional effort from both partners and a willingness to release our fears, allowing genuine and unfiltered love to flourish. Let go of the burden of expectations and embrace one another for who you are, remembering that love can overcome fear.

3. Your behavior must adapt

We behave in ways that are consistent with our context. Our behavior is one of the most adaptable things about us as human beings. We are very good at adapting our behavior to new schools, new jobs, new organizations, new friends, and new situations but sometimes we have a hard time adapting to our romantic relationships. We feel like we shouldn’t have to adapt to our spouse. They should accept us for who we are. But as followers of Jesus, we should be willing to change how we behave as an act of love. If we know our spouse is allergic to a certain food, we wouldn’t cook it for them just because we like it. We might make a separate version for ourselves or make something entirely different. Adapting what we would normally do to show care for our partner is an act of grace. This does not mean we need to conform to all our partner’s desires. They won’t conform to ours either. But if we yell to express our anger because that’s the way we were raised, and our partner hates yelling because they grew up in an abusive house, we should find a way to express ourselves without yelling. We can always change our behavior and our spouse can work on changing theirs. We can only work on ourselves they must work on themselves.

4. Your plans must adapt

The concept of sacrifice in relationships often triggers resistance. It brings to mind feelings of pain and discomfort, especially when we have meticulously planned our lives through spreadsheets, vision boards, and journals, envisioning how they should unfold in the coming years or even decades. But what happens when those carefully constructed plans are unexpectedly threatened or fall apart? How do we navigate the decision to uproot our lives or relocate across the country for the sake of our spouses or families when we are happy, successful, and settled? Or how do we cope when an unforeseen injury or illness disrupts our envisioned future for our families? In such moments, whether to embrace or reject the idea of sacrifice becomes increasingly crucial. Sacrifice is undeniably challenging; it may be one of life’s most difficult lessons and being in a relationship can make this concept even more difficult. Most would likely choose the former if given a choice between experiencing life without pain, challenges, and uncertainties or enduring a painful journey with inevitable bumps and bruises. However, the truth is that without sacrifice, joy cannot fully exist in our relationships. During those difficult moments of sacrifice, the presence of joy serves as the adhesive that holds our relationships together. Maintaining open and honest communication during the process is crucial, as it keeps both partners informed about each other’s feelings and helps them adapt to the changed plans. Engaging in weekly check-ins with your spouse can be particularly helpful, as they allow each person to express their emotions and articulate their needs without the fear of judgment. By fostering a safe space for open dialogue, couples can navigate the challenges of sacrifice while maintaining a solid and connected relationship. We are each responsible for our own feelings, not our spouse’s feelings. But being aware of how our partner is coping during challenging transitions enables us to meet each other’s needs in healthy ways and intentionally throughout the week. Consistently practicing this awareness and consideration is crucial in building connection and intimacy, particularly during difficult moments faced together. By actively supporting and understanding one another, a solid foundation is created, and bonds are strengthened while navigating the ups and downs of life as a team.

Blue Eyes-Brown Eyes: An Interview with Jane Elliott

Blue Eyes-Brown Eyes: An Interview with Jane Elliott

Jane Elliott is one of the most impactful educators and social activists in US history who performed experiments as a teacher that showed convincingly how racism impacted children. Her blue eyes vs. brown eyes exercise in 1968 after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and subsequent world wide publicity of the exercise changed how society viewed race. Her work is a major basis for scholarship on race as a social construct. UrbanFaith contributor Maina Mwaura sat down with this hilarious and brilliant woman to discuss faith, the impact of her work, and her hopes and concerns for relationships between people from different backgrounds today. The interview above has been edited for length, clarity, and content. The views and opinions of Ms. Elliott are her own, not necessarily those of urbanfaith. 

Marriage Be Hard: Interview with @Kevonstage and @Mrskevonstage

Marriage Be Hard: Interview with @Kevonstage and @Mrskevonstage

Marriage is one of the most important institutions in the lives of believers. Unfortunately it is rarely spoken about beyond the headlines of culture wars in the news or as the excuse some believers hide real conversations about sex behind. A lot of believers have a hard time keeping it real about how hard it is to be married. Kevin and Melissa Fredericks, aka KevOnStage and MrsKevOnStage, rarely hold back on keeping it real in conversations.

With over a million followers on social media (which don’t happen for church folks), they are some of the most busy and influential believers on the internet. Their authenticity and creativity have helped them connect with the “churchy” and unchurched alike. But like all married folks they have had challenges in life and in marriage. Their new book Marriage Be Hard is a candid look at their marriage and the lessons they have learned along the way through reflection, therapy, The Love Hour podcast and real work. They hope to help couples everywhere to get past “just making it” in marriage to thriving through their insights.

UrbanFaith sat down with Kevin and Melissa to talk about their journey and their book. The full interview is above, more information on the book is below.

 

ABOUT MARRIAGE BE HARD

Discover the keys to upholding your vows while staying sane in this hilariously candid guide to relationships, from the husband-and-wife team of comedian Kevin Fredericks and influencer Melissa Fredericks

Growing up, Kevin and Melissa Fredericks were taught endless rules around dating, sex, and marriage, but not a lot about what actually makes a relationship work. When they first got married, they felt alone—like every other couple had perfect chemistry while the two of them struggled. There were conversations that they didn’t know they needed to have, fears that affected how they related to each other, and seasons of change that put their marriage to the test.

Part of their story reads like a Christian fairytale: high school sweethearts, married in college, never sowed any wild oats, with two sons and a thriving marriage. But there’s another side of their story: the night Melissa kicked Kevin out of her car after years of communication problems, the time early in their marriage when Kevin bordered on an emotional affair, the way they’ve used social media and podcasts to conduct a no-holds-barred conversation about forbidden topics like jealousy, divorce, and how to be Christian and sex positive. (Because, as Kevin writes, “Your hormones don’t care about your religious beliefs. Your hormones want you to subscribe to OnlyFans.”)

Celebrating God’s answers

Celebrating God’s answers

Scripture Reference

The Temple’s Dedication

13 Tattenai, governor of the province west of the Euphrates River, and Shethar-bozenai and their colleagues complied at once with the command of King Darius. 14 So the Jewish elders continued their work, and they were greatly encouraged by the preaching of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo. The Temple was finally finished, as had been commanded by the God of Israel and decreed by Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes, the kings of Persia. 15 The Temple was completed on March 12, during the sixth year of King Darius’s reign.

16 The Temple of God was then dedicated with great joy by the people of Israel, the priests, the Levites, and the rest of the people who had returned from exile. 17 During the dedication ceremony for the Temple of God, 100 young bulls, 200 rams, and 400 male lambs were sacrificed. And 12 male goats were presented as a sin offering for the twelve tribes of Israel. 18 Then the priests and Levites were divided into their various divisions to serve at the Temple of God in Jerusalem, as prescribed in the Book of Moses.

Celebration of Passover

19 On April 21 the returned exiles celebrated Passover. 20 The priests and Levites had purified themselves and were ceremonially clean. So they slaughtered the Passover lamb for all the returned exiles, for their fellow priests, and for themselves. 21 The Passover meal was eaten by the people of Israel who had returned from exile and by the others in the land who had turned from their corrupt practices to worship the Lord, the God of Israel. 22 Then they celebrated the Festival of Unleavened Bread for seven days. There was great joy throughout the land because the Lord had caused the king of Assyria to be favorable to them, so that he helped them to rebuild the Temple of God, the God of Israel.

There is a relief and a comfort that comes from the completion of a thing. When you pray and ask God to do something for you, or you step out in faith and begin a project or a task, there is a blessing when you see the completion and the success of it.

It gives you hope, courage, and strength to keep pushing especially during the times when you are waiting on God. It gives you strength in the seasons which require patience, endurance, and long suffering.

 

  1. Remember, God’s will for your life is continuous. He is always working on something within you to make you better. Look within yourself frequently to see what areas God is desiring to mature and grow you as you wait for the manifestation of prayers you have prayed.

 

  1. Everything God does that manifests as answered prayer, will bring glory to Him. You will always feel drawn to God to appreciate and honor Him.

 

  1. God desires to bless you and answer your prayers. He delights in fulfilling and meeting your needs. It is the will of the enemy to make you think that God desires your continuous suffering. Trust His love for you and believe that He is working it out for your good.

 

In Ezra 6:15, there was a date that the temple was completed. A specific month. We serve a God of specifics. He has scheduled the completion date of every test and trial that you are dealing with today.

Believe again, that very soon, you will be celebrating His goodness, faithfulness, and love towards you. You will rejoice because you will see the completion of a thing, and the power of God’s provision to see it through.

Prayer

Dear God,

There are moments in my life where I have felt a strong sense of loneliness, because I thought you forgot about me. I wondered if you would ever come through for me and bring me victory. Today I believe there is an expiration date to my trial. My answer is scheduled and very soon, by the power of perfect timing and your divine provision, I will see the completion of the promises you have shared with me.

Help me to count the many blessings I have experienced so far. Teach me not to compare myself with others. Let me steward my time, treasure, and talents with great diligence and grace as I expect the breakthrough of answered prayer. I believe this by faith, and encourage my heart to trust you again.

 

In Jesus Name

Amen

Never Forget, Despite the Pandemic

Never Forget, Despite the Pandemic


I was three months pregnant and working as a Web editor in New York City at iVillage.com when tragedy struck at the World Trade Center buildings. That particular morning, I had scheduled a prenatal appointment before going in to work. A mere few minutes after hearing my son’s heartbeat for the first time, a nurse burst into the room and said that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. The doctor and I were puzzled, but we figured it was some random accident by a confused pilot in a small private plane.

But after I left the doctor’s office, I realized what happened was no accident. When I first arrived at work, I learned that another plane had hit a second building. And these planes didn’t hit just any buildings — they made the World Trade Center buildings burn down in the most depressingly spectacular way. The entire staff was crowded around a small TV and quickly became very emotional. No one knew all the details, and my coworkers were telling fantastic stories, such as eight hijacked planes were circling all across the country. When I heard a plane hit the Pentagon, it became personal. My brother-in-law worked across from the Pentagon at the time. I couldn’t help it; the tears started to flow. The fear and sadness were overwhelming.

Fortunately for my coworkers and me, our company had a corporate apartment in the city. Most of us lived in Burroughs outside of Manhattan, and all the trains and busses were shut down. Around 15-20 of us squeezed into a one-bedroom apartment, but at least we had a place to go. That said, we still had to get there, which required a long, sad 17-block walk from upper Manhattan towards downtown and the direction of “Ground Zero,” which was the destroyed World Trade Center site’s former name. As we walked, we passed by several first responders, all covered in ash. Everything was covered in ash. Once in the apartment, we saw a hospital right outside the window. Several medical workers were clearly on high alert outside, waiting to take in survivors — but the slew of patients in need was far lower than expected. I called my husband. He never left Brooklyn, where we lived. He started work later than me and was standing on the train station platform waiting to board when he saw one of the buildings go down. A lady on the platform with him fainted.

The next day, I was so afraid to take in the air, fearful of its effect on my unborn son. It took me more than a year before I braved going down there, still afraid of what was in the air and how it might affect my breastmilk. It turns out that it was a smart move. We all know about the many 9/11 heroes who suffered from complications due to the poor air quality.  When I was finally able to catch the train home, I saw flyers posted by loved ones desperately seeking information asking about missing people. The entire city was in mourning.

My son is now 19-years-old and has grown into a young man. I’ve made sure to tell him about that day and those who we lost. I know that I am Blessed. For so many people, that painful day stole their children, parents, and loved ones. I saw firsthand the devastation and the deep wound inside the hearts of New Yorkers. I realize that 9/11 affected all Americans differently, but even amidst this ongoing and insufferable pandemic, we owe the victims and their families a moment of recognition and remembrance. I’m heartened by the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Tomorrow is not promised. We must #NeverForget.

Praying For Our World

As I’msitting in my little home office, it can be a challenge to understand that the world is much bigger than where I live in Kennesaw, Georgia. Or even the country that I’m proud to call home America, the same country that my father Moses Mwaura migrated to. Yet God calls for us to not only recognize that we’re part of a world representing over seven billion people, but at the same time to love the world. In fact, I would even venture to say that Isaiah 37:16 makes it clear that God made and sees the entire world, which is unlike me. God doesn’t see just one part of the world which is why as Christ Followers we should be praying for our world daily.

Recently on a rare Thursday Evening when many people were done working for the day, I had the privilege of spending a few minutes with United States  Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas Greenfield. During my amazing time with her I learned so much about our world and the reasons that we should see ourselves not only as citizens of America but worldwide citizens. We have been placed here by a God who made and oversees the world. He desires for us to do our part, which in part is praying for the world around us.

During my time with Ambassador Greenfield, she stressed that although she loves the world that the one part of the world that she is concerned about is Haiti. As a man who has lived in Florida, I understand her sentiments. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world and the rate of famine that is plaguing that part of the world is alarming. Although the Haitian people are a resourceful and steadfast people they have been through a lot. “Every two to three years, a national disaster seems to hit Haiti which makes it hard for them to bounce back,” according to Ambassador Greenfield. I can still remember that two years ago their President was assassinated while he slept, and it sent the country into turmoil. As citizens of the world, if we’re to make a difference we should listen to the prompting of the spirit. We should find our part of the world that God may want us to get involved with, pray for it, and even go if we can. If we are to do our part in loving the world we must get out of our personal boxes and get involved.

New Hope for Haiti's Recovery for urban faith

“We prevented famine in Africa by providing $500 million dollars to confront famine.” In hearing Ambassador Greenfield say this, it brought tears to my eyes. I think at times in our world we can get consumed in thinking that our tax dollars aren’t at work. But they are in cases like these. Luke 4:23 is clear that to much is given much is required. Although we have our problems in America, we have been given a lot. Which is why we should be missional as believers. The Great Commission is clear that we have been called to go into all the world which has never been easier than it is today with modern technology. In the world that we live in today, with just a click of a button, we can have conversations with people that our ancestors would have never dreamed of having. Just by having a conversation with someone in another part of the world we could be making the connection of a lifetime and maybe even bringing peace. I believe that great connections always bring peace. “The United Nations has prevented World Wars and is the only institution that we have worldwide.”  This may explain why Ambassador Greenfield loves her job and seemed to be upbeat even after most of us have stopped working for the day. “I’m on a mission”, which for ambassador Greenfield began growing up in a small southern town in Louisiana. During our conversation she was on her way to the airport heading home from a trip to New Orleans. “I loved being back in my home state and the hospitality that they show me…I hope I’m making them proud.”

As citizens of the world my prayer is that when people see us as American Citizens and followers of Jesus, that we are making them proud. We have been given a mandate by God to not only go into all the world, but also tackle issues that the world may be ignoring like climate change.  The Ambassador is clear that climate change issues are not only affecting the us globally but also right here in America. To truly see the needs that are around us, we must people that love and recognize the needs around us. The United Nations is in New York City and is known as “The People’s House.” Ambassador Greenfield says, “It’s the peoples house, so anybody can come”.  I will be taking her up on that offer because I believe that we are not only called to love our world, but we are also called to participate and engage with the world as world citizens. God doesn’t just love America, but He loves the entire world and there is so much work to be done. It is going to take all of us to pull off the task that He has called for us to do: bringing heaven to earth so that all may experience the kingdom of God.

 

 

 

10 Things I’ve Learned from Homeschooling

10 Things I’ve Learned from Homeschooling

It has been six months since we started on this journey with our 14-year-old son, who began a home-based high school curriculum last fall. I’m no expert by any means, but you’d be surprised how much several trials by fire in a short amount of time can teach you. I know there’s a lot more knowledge to grasp with each year, but here are ten things I’ve learned so far.

1. You can’t just go with one curriculum.

Even though my son is enrolled in an online accredited high school, there are still gaps I need to fill. For example, Khan Academy has been vital for him (and me!) to understand Algebra. Also, it can be challenging to find Christian history, literature, and other educational materials from an African American perspective in a mainstream homeschooling curriculum. I’ve posted a few history resources here on UrbanFaith.com, but you can also check out  Store.UrbanMinistries.com.

2. Think nontraditional.

The main reason we’re going through this journey is that the structure of a brick and mortar school was not working for our son. So why repeat the exact same schooling structure at home? I’ve learned that sometimes he works better at night. He doesn’t necessarily need the weekends off. He’d rather do a little bit seven days a week instead of a normal five-day week. You can learn anywhere —  for example, we’re going to learn Spanish vocabulary in the grocery store.

3. You do need some structure.

Every kid is different, but I can’t leave the house without making sure he knows what he’s supposed to do and then following up when I get home. I’ve heard horror stories of people thinking their kids are working only to find nothing but a trail of video games and social media filling up the day. Setting boundaries are important, and you can include your child in making those decisions. For example, I will talk to my son about the week and what we are going to accomplish and we will agree on which days and times he will complete the work. Some families might have routines that are more strict. But this works for us.

4. Connecting with other homeschooling parents keeps you sane.

I’ve spent a lot of time on social media with other parents who have kids in the same program. It makes me feel less isolated as we’re all going through it together and sharing our stories. We all have kids of varying ages, but there are always a few moms with kids the same age as yours. You’d be surprised at the similarities in our stories. I’ve learned a lot from those moms and gotten great tips and teaching resources. Check out these groups when you have time.

5. You have more time in your day to make learning fun.

When you strip out lunch, advisory periods, the time between classes, gym, assemblies, and time for teachers to work with other kids, that streamlines your child’s day quite a bit. My son can pretty much do his entire day’s work in three hours. I’m finding that is common among other kids who are learning at home. So I’ve started to get creative. We’re going to take advantage of several museums that offer free museum days to area residents. Also, we’ll be going to work out together at the local YMCA, which has affordable pricing.

6. You become the school guidance counselor.

If you don’t go to an online accredited school, you’ll need to develop your own transcript for your child. The Homeschool Mom has a great blog post about this, but keeping track of all the courses, lessons, tests, and grades become your responsibility. Also, it’s on your shoulders to plan out your child’s future, making sure that they are taking in all the subjects necessary for whatever transition they plan to make after high school. I’ve created a spreadsheet for my son that goes from freshman through senior year and has all the courses he will need to take to graduate.

7. Standardized testing is a little more challenging.

My son needs to take the PSAT this spring and it was not easy to get the local high school to let him take it there. I made several calls and emails that were ignored. If you’re not enrolled in the school, don’t be surprised if they simply don’t care that much about assisting you. Unfortunately, when you call the people who administer the PSAT, they say to contact your local school. In the end, the only reason I got a response was that I pointed out that I do have another child at the school. It was very frustrating. The lesson learned here is to start a few months early if you want your child to take standardized tests. Don’t wait until a week before the test. They have to make special accommodations for homeschooled kids and that can take time.

8. It takes a village to homeschool a child.

In my opinion, homeschooling will be hard to do if you work full-time without other family members to support you. This is a tough one to write because I know not everyone can survive financially on a part-time salary. But honestly, you have to be present to make this work. You can’t give an assignment and just leave without touching base during the day and providing assistance as needed. Not to mention, it requires a lot of planning in advance on what to teach, what classes to incorporate into your curriculum, when to take time off, how to provide extra help in subject areas unfamiliar to you, etc. That said, I could see it working if there is an extended family in the house who can help share the homeschooling load. I have a friend whose mother is helping to teach her small children a few days a week. It gives her a break and grandma time to bond.

9. People will be judgemental.

I’ve had people tell me they think I made the wrong decision. That I just gave in to my son’s anxiety. They’ve said there’s no way he can learn at home what he could learn in a public school. Some scare me with warnings that he won’t get into college. It’s hard to hear. From my point of view, my son actually doesn’t mind learning now. No more “I hate school” mantras. I know we made the right choice for our family.

10. Choose your path based on your circumstances.

If your goal is to give your child a flexible schedule in the short-term and you intend for him or her to eventually go back to regular brick-and-mortar schooling, consider starting with your local public school first. A lot of school districts have home-based, online curriculum partnerships you can look into if your child has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Or, they may have a program where you can work with your child’s teachers and take the work home. We did that when my son was in middle school. If this is a long-term choice and there’s really no going back, do your research first before you make the leap if you have time to do so. Talk to other homeschooling moms. There are so many options now and you can tailor something specific to your child’s interests. Start with the Homeschool Legal Defense Association.

Originally published April 2019

What to do when Jesus sleeps while the boat is rocking

Matthew 8:23-27 KJV

23 And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him.

24 And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep.

25 And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish.

26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.

27 But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!

This scripture really ministers to me. Before you judge the disciples for running to Jesus in a panic and waking Him up from His sweet nap, may I say that if we truly were honest with ourselves, many of us have been in similar situations.

Have you ever felt as though God was on a yacht drinking His favorite smoothie and enjoying Himself when you are clutching onto the boat with all of your strength because of the storm that is rocking the boat? Have you ever questioned God when you wondered why each time you set sail in faith on what He showed you, all of a sudden the waters of your life turn to angry waves?

If your life has been a smooth sail and you wake up every day with everything laid out and nothing to worry about then we praise God for you! But this inspiration today is for that person who cannot make sense of what is going on.

You gave your life to God and now everything seems chaotic. You have been praying like never before, reading your word, going to church, sending tweets and memes on how good God is, but the more you do, the more you feel as though you are shaking and everything around you is rocking.

Take courage and let your faith be empowered today by the following:

1. You cannot sink in a ship that Jesus is sailing

The disciples followed Jesus onto the ship. He is the Shepherd and He knows everything. The situations you are dealing with have not come to drown you but to teach you how to swim and navigate through life. Don’t worry, you will not sink.

2. While you are pacing around and worrying, Jesus is chilling

The disciples were looking at the storm and wondering why would Jesus be asleep? You have been asking yourself “where is God?” but the reality is Jesus is there. He is resting and waiting to see what your reaction will be. If God is not stressed out, why are you stressed out? This is a perspective issue. How are you viewing your situation? Shift and think like your God. If He is not worried, neither should you.

3. If you cry out to God He will answer.

The disciples saw the waves and water getting in the boat and went to wake up Jesus. A lot of times we think that the disciples were weak for waking up Jesus and acting scared, but the reality is we scream and call on Jesus all the time, because we do not know what to do with the storms we are facing. Guess what, it is okay!

Sometimes crying out to Jesus for help shows us His authority. Jesus woke up and calmed the storm. Even though He rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith, the reality is the boat stopped rocking. People may wonder why you cry out to God so much or why you seek God so much and yes God may give you a rebuke here and there but He will answer you and calm your storms. Don’t stop calling on Him, Jesus will pay attention to your situation.

Be encouraged this month, and strive to wake up Jesus in every situation if you have to. Better to call on Jesus even if the boat is rocking, than to wonder if Jesus is even in the boat of your life during a storm!

 

Dear God,

Thank you for encouraging me that each time I follow You, You will walk me into a ship that will begin sailing to my destiny. In that journey, there will be storms, and I may be afraid, but remind me that You are on my boat, and I can call on You. I can come to You to wake You up, and You will ease my fears, and calm the storm. I am honored to serve a God who hears and answers my cry of help…

Blessed be Your name…

Amen.

 

 

 

 

How to Avoid the Box of Limitation

Video Courtesy of LeahsEssence


We have been privileged to live in a generation that has mastered the art of multitasking, being able to do multiple things at the same time and excelling. You really have to, otherwise, life will pass you by.

Sometimes the news changes so fast that if you wait too long, you are outdated. Have you ever been in a situation where you did not check your phone all day, and by the time you turned it on, it seemed as though you were on a different planet because so much had happened? That is the gift of living in a world of possibilities. Everything is possible and anything can happen. The sky is the limit.

Limitation presents itself in a very cunning way in our lives. For some, it begins at a young age through criticism from a parent or guardian, a teacher or peers that begin to conform your mind to think a certain way.

Or, it could be the environment that you are first exposed to. Unfortunately, depending on the zip code that you reside in, it can determine the kind of privileges that are afforded to you.

Limitation can enter your life through rejection, a lack of acceptance, where you never fit in and regardless of how kind you try to be, or all the things you try to do, you just never measure up. Therefore, you feel limited, constrained, suffocated and blocked.

Limitation could be geographical. The opportunities that could bring a breakthrough in your life may not be at the proximity of where you are currently located. Moving out of that geographical region would be coming out of that box of limitation and pursuing something that could change your life.

The mistakes that we make are stepping into these boxes of limitation that are presented to us daily in our lives and getting comfortable. We take our pity party pillow, and our “poor old me” throws, find a nice corner to hibernate, and hope that Jesus will come down and rescue us from our misery.

I love the Bible because it is a wonderful and precious book filled with verbs. God is all about movement, action, and purpose.

In the book of Genesis, our first encounter with God, is His interaction with an earth that was void and filled with darkness. That did not intimidate Him or make Him cower back. Instead, His Spirit “moved” upon the face of the waters.

Genesis 1:2 KJV

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

Your life may be filled with void and darkness, but guess what God wants you to do? MOVE!

I created an acronym for the word MOVE to push me during those times that I sense limitation is looming over me, trying to push me down a dungeon of hopelessness.

M– Mastering

O– Of

V– Victory

E– Everyday

Sometimes you have to look at life as a classroom that you show up to master and excel in every lesson presented. By the time we get to verse 31 in Genesis 1, God had taken the earth that was void and made it to be very good. You have to take your void situation, be motivated by purpose and create the environment that makes it very good.

Genesis 1:31 KJV

31 And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Instead of throwing a glamorous pity party and sending out beautiful invitations to host limitation in your life, I suggest:

1. Returning the limitation box back to the sender

Just the way you return mail that is not yours, you do not have to receive projections of limitations that are said to you, thrown at you, or even perceived by you from others. You have the power to control what you receive. Learn how to reject that which will limit your progress. Let it “talk to the hand!”

2. Follow God’s role model

The first thing that God did was move. He was not concerned about how things looked, He got busy creating. He got busy with purpose. Instead of complaining about what is wrong and how unfair life may be (which may be true), get busy moving into purpose and finding out why you are here. Passivity is a hobby that many take up, waiting for a change that may never come. You are the agent that triggers the change you are praying for.

3. Believe in yourself

There comes a point of decision and reckoning that you are unique. You have to begin investing in self-affirmation ministry to yourself and build up the confidence muscles that may be feeble in you. You may have to cry sometimes and that is okay, but after crying let there be purpose in your tears. The greatest gift that you can give yourself is to refuse to be limited and live a life that is open to receive all that God has for you.

Dear God,

Help me with the daily struggle of limitation that overwhelms me. If I have limited myself and allowed sabotage in my life, or refuse to step on the platforms that You bring to me, forgive me. I give myself permission to succeed. I look to You for confidence, and I receive the boldness to walk into purpose and the liberty of being myself. That is a gift, a precious gift that I ask You to help me guard. The gift of being me. Thank You God for making me, me.

 Amen.

 

 

Uphill: An Interview with Jemele Hill

Uphill: An Interview with Jemele Hill

Jemele Hill became known as a popular journalist in sports, but she is now one of the clearest voices in the country for social justice. She is a woman of faith and at the same time a fierce critic who asks questions and fights for the marginalized.

UrbanFaith contributor Maina Mwaura sat down with Jemele Hill to talk about her new memoir Uphill where she tells her own story with the depth and clarity she has used to tell other people’s stories for decades. The full interview is above, more about the book is below.

 

Jemele Hill’s world came crashing down when she called President Trump a “white supremacist”; the White House wanted her fired from ESPN, and she was deluged with death threats. But Hill had faced tougher adversaries growing up in Detroit than a tweeting president. Beneath the exterior of one of the most recognizable journalists in America was a need—a calling—to break her family’s cycle of intergenerational trauma.

Born in the middle of a lively routine Friday night Monopoly game to a teen mother and a heroin-addicted father, Hill constantly adjusted to the harsh realities of not only her own childhood but the inherited generational pain of her mother and grandmother. Her escape was writing.

Hill’s mother was less than impressed with the brassy and bold free expression of her diary, but Hill never stopped discovering and amplifying her voice. Through hard work and a constant willingness to learn, Hill rose from newspaper reporter to columnist to new heights as the coanchor for ESPN’s revered SportsCenter. Soon, she earned respect and support for her fearless opinions and unshakable confidence, as well as a reputation as a trusted journalist who speaks her mind with truth and conviction.

In Jemele Hill’s journey Uphill, she shares the whole story of her work, the women of her family, and her complicated relationship with God in an unapologetic, character-rich, and eloquent memoir

 

Just Pray: An Interview with Pastor John Hannah

Just Pray: An Interview with Pastor John Hannah

Have you ever looked at your life and wondered how your needs would be met this week? Have you been in need of advice and not known where to turn? Have you ever wondered what your purpose is? How can you grow in your relationship with God?

The answer to all these questions is prayer. Many of us want to pray, but struggle to figure out how to pray which is the reason why Pastor John Hannah wrote his book: Just Pray: How a Life of Prayer Grows Unshakeable Faith which is now available everywhere and can be found here. UrbanFaith interviewed Pastor John Hannah about his new book Just Pray: How A Life Of Prayer Grows Unshakeable Faith. The full interview is linked above.

Prayer is a foundational part of every Christian’s life, it is literally the way we communicate with God. As we desire to grow in our relationship with God, we must learn how to pray in ways that are powerful and practical. Pastor Hannah leads prayer calls weekly with thousands of people, has spoken and taught on the subject of prayer for decades, and has decided to share his insights on why and how we can grow in our prayer life as foundational to a life of faith through this book.

About Pastor John Hannah

John F. Hannah is the founder and lead pastor of New Life Covenant Church Southeast. A speaker and author, he has impacted thousands of lives through his ministry and dedication to serve. Through his focused desire to teach people how to grow their relationship with God, Pastor Hannah has become renowned for his commitment to prayer. Because of his heart for people, Hannah has traveled the globe speaking in regions of Jiji, Australia, and South Africa and even shared multiple media and conference platforms with acclaimed faith-based leaders Bishop T.D. Jakes and Steve Harvey. He has been married to Anna Hannah for over twenty-five years.

Three Tips for Bringing Your Ministry Skills Into the Marketplace

Three Tips for Bringing Your Ministry Skills Into the Marketplace

Tip #1: Break Out of Your Box

Understand that God uniquely designed you. Everything about you was created to appeal to the people, place, and position that God destined for your life. Breaking out of your box is an act of surrender that allows God the opportunity to move on your behalf. If you’re seeking help discovering your destiny, reflect on these scriptures: Isaiah 43:19, Psalms 139:14, and Jeremiah 29:11.

Tip #2 Trust God

This tip could not be overstated. Many in ministry are joining the “Great Resignation for various reasons, forcing them to step out on faith into vocations outside their typical comfort zone. When I was called to consult for a land development opportunity, I wanted to decline the offer. After prayer and agreement from my wife, I accepted. Turning down the chance to lead a development worth millions could have caused me to head in the opposite direction from God’s calling for my life. If you’re desiring to trust God in this season, reflect on these scriptures: Proverbs 3:5-6, Psalms 46:10, and Matthew 6:25.

Tip #3 Be Strategic

Strategy is time-consuming, tiring, and sometimes frustrating, but it’s what makes and breaks organizations and sets the successful apart. The planning, implementation, and execution of an idea puts your faith into action. As you balance strategy and trust, reflect on these scriptures: Habakkuk 2:2-3, James 2:14-26, and Proverbs 16:1-3.

For Christians, walking in the will of God is critically important. Understanding how your uniqueness in Christ relates to the world provides the opportunity to thrive and spread the Good News in the unreached parts of society. Even those skilled in ministry can find themselves venturing into opportunities to be influential in the business sector. I believe that God is calling many Christians to break out of the box and pursue ministry in the marketplace, trust Him by taking opportunities to work in secular settings, and strategize for success. Isaiah 43:19 “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

UrbanFaith x Tabitha Brown

UrbanFaith x Tabitha Brown

Tabitha Brown is one of the most recognizable people on the planet right now. She is a multifaceted entertainer and entrepreneur producing everything from social media content to TV shows, haircare products to food seasonings, clothes and games. She is also a person of deep faith. UrbanFaith contributor Maina Mwaura had a few minutes with Tabitha to ask how she does what she does and how she feels living into God’s call for her life. The interview is above, more about Tabitha is below.

Frederick Douglass: ‘What Is July 4th to the Negro?’

In the nineteenth century, many American communities and cities celebrated Independence Day with a ceremonial reading of the Declaration of Independence, which was usually followed by an oral address or speech dedicated to the celebration of independence and the heritage of the American Revolution and the Founding Fathers. On July 5, 1852, the Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society of Rochester, New York, invited the Black abolitionist and civil rights leader Frederick Douglass to be the keynote speaker for their Independence Day celebration. The Fourth of July Speech, scheduled for Rochester’s Corinthian Hall, attracted an audience of 600. The meeting opened with a prayer and was followed by a reading of the Declaration of Independence. When Douglass finally came to the platform to deliver his speech, the event took a jarring turn. Douglass told his audience, “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.” And he asked them, “Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?”

Within Douglass’ now-legendary address is what historian Philip S. Foner has called “probably the most moving passage in all of Douglass’ speeches.”

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

On this and every July 4th, Americans might do well to re-read and reflect on Douglass’ famous message. It challenges us to move beyond the biases and blind spots of our own cultural privileges and consider those around us for whom, as Langston Hughes said, “America has never been America.”

Read Douglass’ complete speech here, and watch actor Danny Glover recite an excerpt from the address below.

From Freedom to Freedom: Memory & The Space Between

From Freedom to Freedom: Memory & The Space Between

“Liminal” is defined as the space between. It is the no-longer before, and the not-yet other. It is the space where we find ourselves caught between the light of Juneteenth and the shadow of July 4th. We are caught in the space between. No longer enslaved on plantations, but not yet with a freedom fully realized. It’s an imaginative space; an emergent space; and a space for reflection.

It is in this space that I am reminded of the Statue of Liberty, and the broken chains at her feet. I first learned about the chains in 2017, at a training in Chicago led by Dr. Joy DeGruy. She told the story of how the chains were part of the original vision of the statue, how American financiers insisted that the chains be removed, and how the sculptor still managed to sneak the chains in under Lady Liberty’s garments, lying broken at her feet. She told the story how the National Park Services didn’t talk about the chains unless someone happened to ask. The chains were not part of the Park Services’ narrative about the Statue. In the Statue’s 135-year history, information about the chains have only officially been included in the park service’s literature and website for about the past six years.

Yasmin Sabina Khan goes even deeper in her work, “Enlightening the World: The Creation of the Statue of Liberty.” Conceived in 1865 by Édouard de Laboulaye, sculpted by Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi over the course of approximately 20 years, the Statue of Liberty was unveiled at New York’s Ellis Island as “Liberty Enlightening the World” in October of 1886. At the base of the Statue, out of view from anyone looking from ground level, lie the broken chains of slavery. Visible only from helicopter or drone, the chains weren’t spoken of. Laboulaye was an ardent abolitionist. With the end of the US Civil War in 1865, Laboulaye imagined a gift that would embody the significance of the liberation of those who were enslaved. Bartholdi’s original model placed the torch of liberty in one hand, and broken chains in the other. The Statue of Liberty’s entire visual and artistic vocabulary was meant to both celebrate and honor the freedom of those enslaved in America. But financiers balked at the idea of chains placed anywhere on the Statue, and after profuse opposition by Bartholdi, the chains were removed, replaced by a tablet emblazoned with the Roman numerals for July 4, 1776. Since they aren’t easily visible, and since there was no concerted public effort to connect the statue with the narrative of the abolition of chattel slavery, the memory of it’s connections faded. And for the past 135 years, barely anyone remembered the chains.

For Black people within this liminal march of history, the Statue has long sat as a symbol of hypocrisy—celebrating a freedom that became connected to a honoring of ideals that have yet to be realized. There’s much to unpack about our historical reactions to the unveiling of the Statue, but there’s also much to be said about the loss of memory. The obscuring and loss of communal memory around the presence, history, and meaning of the chains at the feet of the Statue of Liberty is important because it reminds us that  memory is important.  And not only is memory important, memory is crucial in this liminal space between freedom and freedom. Memory is what helps us imagine. Memory is what helps us create. It’s something we can use to construct and define a new world, a new freedom, a new way of being.  We must tap into it. 

In his book, “Something Torn and New: An African Renaissance” Ngugi wa Thiong’o writes, “creative imagination is one of the greatest of re-membering practices…” and that “memory is the link between the past and the present, between space and time, and it is the base of our dreams.” Harnessing memory is our work.  These broken chains at our feet, the light of Juneteenth, the long shadow of July 4th—this liminal space—all of it is here to remind us that we have worlds to build. We have a freedom to define—to make clear and meaningful. It is within this creative tension where we have the possibility to gain a clear-eyed view of what a full realization of freedom could look like, both collectively as a community and a country, and particularly in the living out of our individual lives and individual situations. But understand, there can be no clear expression  of freedom without integrating communal memory into the foundation of work. 

If memory is the base of our dreams, what are our dreams of freedom? What if we could transform freedom in the same ways that we’ve always transformed culture? In this liminal space of history, we’ve seen Black creativity, Black genius, Black art, and Black joy shift and drive culture (and economies) around the world. Have we fired that same ingenuity in our definitions of freedom? What would the world look like, if we defined and constructed freedom based on our criteria, our imaginations, our memory? It might look something like a society built on the idea of thriving rather than destruction.  It might look something like a society built around dignity—of humans, animals, and the earth. It might look something like systems built to nourish and sustain life rather than profit. Freedom could look like so many different visions of more and better. The dreaming is up to us. 

We have work to do. We have worlds to build. We have a freedom to create. And as we go about protesting and advocating for our lives, here in this liminal space between freedom that was and freedom that might yet be, may we remember that the work we have to do, the worlds we are building, and the freedom we are creating, cannot reach their fullest expression without our communal memory. 

Let us remember the chains broken at our feet, so that we may creatively continue in our generation’s leg of the journey toward the light of freedom fully realized.

UrbanFaith x Chris Paul: Sixty-One Memoir

UrbanFaith x Chris Paul: Sixty-One Memoir

Chris Paul is one of the most accomplished NBA Veterans to have longevity in his career. He is also one of the most pivotal players in history having served as the President of the NBA Players Association during a time when many changes were made inside and outside of the league. But the most important thing to him is not on the court, but on the sidelines: his family and their consistency in his life. UrbanFaith sat down with Chris Paul to talk about his new book Sixty-One telling his story of how his family made him the man he is today. The full interview is above.

The Original Juneteenth-An Interview

The Original Juneteenth-An Interview

Juneteenth, observed June 19 each year, has a long history of commemoration among African Americans in the United States. It commemorates the day that the last slaves in the former Confederacy received the Emancipation Proclamation, officially acknowledging their freedom on June 19, 1865 nearly 2 years after it was officially issued.  But within the past few years, Juneteenth has become a national Black holiday. It has been celebrated by Black people in Galveston, Texas and the immediate surrounding area for generations. UrbanFaith sat down with Valerie Boyer, an educator, minister and Galveston native to talk about the history of Juneteenth and its meaning today as it becomes a federal holiday in the United States of America.

Honoring Our Heavenly And Earthly Fathers on Father’s Day

Every year during Father’s Day, a wave of complexity sweeps across the country. Father’s Day can be an great occasion for celebration, a reminder of loved ones lost, a day of sadness for those who did not grow up with their fathers, a day of angst for those who do not like their fathers, and a day of relaxation for the dads who treat it as a break. And every year in churches, we try to figure out how to approach and celebrate Father’s Day. Father’s Day is not celebrated in our society the way Mother’s Day is, and everyone knows it. We know how to celebrate mothers. We know what to get them; the flowers, clothes, crafts, candies, meals, and more are readily available with updates each year. But Father’s Day feels mysterious. We ask ourselves, did we already get this tie? These socks? This outdoor equipment? Why is it that we may struggle so much to honor fathers but find it easy to bless our mothers? The answers are unclear and varied. But if we start with figuring out how to honor God as our heavenly Father, it may help us get better at honoring our earthly fathers.

 

God is Our Father

The Bible refers to God as a father in multiple places in the Old and New Testament. Moses notes in Deuteronomy 1:31 that God cared for Israel in the wilderness like a father cares for their child. The Lord protects and provides for Israel as He leads them out of bondage. He says at the end of the same book that God is to be respected because He fathered Israel by creating, forming, and establishing them, and He mothered them by giving birth to them. Psalm 68:5 identifies God as the Father of the fatherless and defender of widows. God is the Father who cares for us when human fathers are not present. Isaiah 9:6 prophesies that God is the everlasting Father, and Malachi proclaims that all in his audience are children of the same Father God. But Jesus makes this relationship with God even clearer. Jesus calls God His Father, and He is identified as the Son of God in each of the Gospels. In Galatians 4:5-7, Paul explains that believers in Christ are children of God,  and John declares that truth in 1 John 5:1. So it is clear in scripture that God is a Father to all who will receive Him as one. But what does that mean for us?

 

How God Relates To Us As A Father

God is a Spirit and cannot be fully understood or explained using any analogy or even human language. God is greater than any roles we could use to try to explain Him:  father, mother, king, brother, friend, lover, lord, healer, provider, protector, or otherwise. But God chooses to reveal Godself in ways we can understand so we can have a genuine relationship with God. It is because of the descriptions of God relating as a Father in Scripture that we can relate to God a little better and also to human fathers a little better. God relates as a father in many ways but a few key ones we’ve already mentioned are as a source of identity, a protector, a provider, a caregiver, and a guide. God rebukes David and also encourages Him which other biblical fathers do. Hebrews 12 makes it clear that God corrects us because we are His children. Galatians 4 underscores that God blesses us because we are His children. God is present with us in good times and bad times, like any good father. God leads, encourages, provides, protects, corrects, counsels, comforts, and instructs us in the wilderness and the places of plenty as a good Father. Most of all, God loves us as our heavenly Father. God has shown Himself to be a good Father, but how can we be good children to God our Father?

 

How We Honor God Our Father

Jesus gives us the perfect example of what it means to be a good child of God, demonstrating how to honor God. Summed up, it is to love God. We love God through obedience. We love God through spending time with Him. We love God through caring about what He cares about. We love God through giving to other people, because He doesn’t need our money. We love God by doing the work and ministry He has called us to do. We love God by loving our neighbors well. We love God by doing justice. We love God by using our lives to bring Him glory, which is to live in a way that makes Him proud. Jesus explains at length in John 8:31-58 that Father God loves it when we believe in Jesus and do what He said. 1 John 5:1-5 is exceedingly clear that obeying God and loving others is how we can express our love to God. Now that we understand how to honor God as our Father, how do we honor our earthly fathers? 

How Can We Honor Our Human Fathers

Human fathers can never truly compare to our Father God. We shouldn’t even expect them to reach that standard. But they should follow God as the standard, and we should honor them as our fathers if we have good relationships with them. Earthly fathers can be honored in many of the same ways as our Heavenly Father. 

It all comes back to loving our dads. When we care about the things our fathers care about, it makes them happy. It may be sports, cooking, fishing, movies, work, decorating, or some other hobby. When we show care about what dads care about, it brings them honor. We give to dads because they do need our money and gifts, unlike God. Give them something they like, and ask for ideas if you need them. Spend time with your dad if you can. Many people wish they could. If you have an opportunity, then take advantage–it will definitely bring your dad happiness on Father’s Day. 

When young children do what their father says, it brings their father honor and happiness. As a father myself, I cannot tell you the joy I have when my children do what I told them to do without complaining, demonstrating a bad attitude, giving up, or getting distracted. When we are older, this obedience becomes conversational. If you want to honor your father on Father’s Day, ask him what He wants! Sometimes we spend so much time trying to figure out what our dads want instead of simply asking them and then following through. This simple form of relating can bring honor to a father like nothing else. 

But many dads will tell you the best honor their children can give them on Father’s Day or any other day is to live lives that make them proud. Just keep following God your Father. If you honor God with your life, you can rest assured you are making our Heavenly Father and every good dad proud.

Faith, Fatherhood, and Football The 2% Way Interview with Myron Rolle

Faith, Fatherhood, and Football The 2% Way Interview with Myron Rolle

We love to see examples of successful black men who are also wonderful fathers. Dr. Myron Rolle is an inspiring role model with an incredible story. He was a celebrated football player who was drafted to the NFL. He received a Rhodes Scholarship and graduated Oxford University before he went to the league. And now he is a neurosurgeon in Boston working with brilliant minds from Boston University, Harvard, and others to tackle the most pressing issues of the human brain. He does all of this while being a devoted husband and father of 4 including two newborn twins. He’s a millennial who has lived his dreams.

How does he do it all? How did this middle class boy from the Bahamas become an exemplar on the football field and the field of medicine? How does he balance fatherhood with his research? UrbanFaith sat down with Dr. Myron Rolle to discuss his tactics and testimony in his book the 2% Way.

Shooting Stars: The Story of Young LeBron James

Shooting Stars: The Story of Young LeBron James

LeBron James is one of the greatest basketball players and greatest athletes of all time. But as long as he has had the professional spotlight he has been more about his team and community’s success than any of his individual accomplishments. Many have wondered what makes him such a team first star.

(from left), Willie McGee (Avery S. Wills, Jr.), LeBron James (Marquis “Mookie” Cook), Lil Dru Joyce III (Caleb McLaughlin), Sian Cotton (Khalil Everage) and Romeo Travis (Sterling “Scoot” Henderson), in Shooting Stars, directed by Chris Robinson.

Well it started with his first team as a young kid turned high school phenomenon from Akron, Ohio. Shooting Stars is a new film on NBCUniversal’s peacock platform that tells the story of LeBron James’ first team and formation into the superstar we know today. UrbanFaith sat down with the director of Shooting Stars, Chris Robinson to talk about what it was like to tell the story of the young LeBron James and his teammates. The full interview is above, more on the film is below.

The film is rated PG-13 for strong language suggestive and alcohol references . The film does not necessarily reflect the views of UrbanFaith. Viewer discretion is advised.

 

 

 

It’s not how you start the game. It’s how you finish.
Based on the book by LeBron James and the Pulitzer Prize winning author of Friday Night Lights, Buzz Bissinger, Shooting Stars is the inspiring origin story of a basketball superhero, revealing how LeBron James and his childhood friends become the #1 high school team in the country, launching James’s breathtaking career as a four-time NBA Champion, two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.

Starring: Marquis “Mookie” Cook, Wood Harris, Caleb McLaughlin, Khalil Everage, Avery S. Willis, Jr., Sterling “Scoot” Henderson, Dermot Mulroney, Natalie Paul, Diane Howard, Algee Smith, Katlyn Nichol
Director: Chris Robinson
Executive Producer: Gretel Twombly
Producers: Rachel Winter, p.g.a., Spencer Beighley p.g.a, LeBron James, Maverick Carter, Jamal Henderson, Terence Winter
Screenplay by: Frank E. Flowers and Tony Rettenmaier & Juel Taylor, based on the book by LeBron James & Buzz Bissinger

Brainwashed: An Interview with Manny Arango

Brainwashed: An Interview with Manny Arango

Manny Arango believes we are all brainwashed. Our thoughts are shaped daily by positive and negative influences whether online, in our social circles, in our workplaces, in our schools, or in our churches. The enemy of our souls desires for us to live in mental bondage, unable to walk in the freedom Christ has purchased for us. But we can choose whether to be brainwashed by the world or have our brains washed by blood of Jesus Christ. Pastor, author, youth ministry expert Manny Arango shares his insights on how to renew our minds and take on the mind of Christ in his new book Brainwashed: Overcome Toxic Thoughts and Take Back Control of Your Mind. UrbanFaith sat down with Pastor Manny to discuss the book and his journey to maintaining mental and spiritual health. More information about Pastor Manny and the book are below.

 

You can either take your thoughts captive or be held captive by them. The choice is yours. Scripture declares we will be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Manny Arango, preacher, storyteller, and self-proclaimed Bible nerd, describes this process as God cleansing our brains. It is the surest way to overcome anxious thoughts, self-doubt, bitterness, and other mental struggles. But how can we experience this healing power?

Brain Washed: Overcome Toxic Thoughts and Take Back Control of Your Mind is a biblical roadmap for winning the battles in your mind. Readers will identify faulty ways of thinking and learn how to take every thought captive under the authority of Christ.