Love, Basketball, & Justice: An Interview with Maya Moore Irons & Jonathan Irons

Love, Basketball, & Justice: An Interview with Maya Moore Irons & Jonathan Irons

Maya Moore was a WNBA Champion, MVP, and superstar when she left the game in her prime to pursue more justice in the US criminal justice system. The incarcerated man she advocated for, Jonathan Irons, had been advocating for prison reform from the inside. Now the two are married and sharing their story through their book Love & Justice. UrbanFaith sat down with Maya and Jonathan to talk about their incredible story following Jesus to sacrifice and live out their faith by seeking justice for the least of these. Excerpts from the interview below have been edited for length and clarity.


We are here with Jonathan Irons and Maya Moore Irons to talk about their book Love and Justice, the story of their incredible journeys; Jonathan in advocating for justice and Maya in joining in that justice fight after being a WNBA superstar. Can you talk about just that how the context and the environments that you are you all were in, allowed you to see that injustice in different ways?


I mean, it’s not hard. Like kids that are going on struggling and poverty and in situations that are just unfair and disadvantaged. I volunteered with kids down at the school called Peace Prep. And like they are aware, like they’re very intelligent. They are aware that they’re not getting the same type of resources and as other kids in other schools. They are aware that their city is riddled with addicts and there’s criminal activity that’s going on. They think police don’t like them and don’t care about them. And I won’t say that they’re making it up. Like I had so many different examples of things that just showed me that I wouldn’t be treated like everybody else [growing up]. And it just felt like people were being dismissive. Like my teacher didn’t like that I had so much energy. I was always up and down up and down up and down. Maya had a teacher that basically allowed her to stand around and use her energy and she turned into sports and encouraged her like, burn your energy off. Be a kid. Like for me, I didn’t have that experience. And I was aware of that. I was aware that I was treated different than other kids. I went I went to a friend’s house and they had a toilet. I didn’t have one. I’m like, man, what is that? They were like “oh that’s a toilet. That’s where we use the bathroom.” I’m used to a five gallon bucket and bathing in a tin tub. And then fast forward into prison. Like, I’m seeing like the racial inequality. I’m like, how is it that we’re the minority here [in America], but there are more black people that are in prison than there are any other race. I don’t understand this. What’s going on? And then I started to dig into it. I started to look at statistics. I started to read case law and treaties. I started to watch the news. I started asking questions. I started to let my curiosity just run wild. And I got to really see like all the injustices that are happening, happening around me. It got so bad that I overcame my own fear and I started to advocate for other people. I advocated for ice in prison because they stopped giving it to us for a long time. Filed complaints about that and basically talked to the warden face to face and like explained like, “hey, man, this is a basic human right in here that the Supreme Court has already said that we need yet we are not getting that.” And there is a list of things like you don’t have to worry about getting all those other things that were missing. Just give us this. Like just fighting for basic things. It’s like, if you if you have eyes to see, you cannot miss it. That’s why I kind of share some of the some of the things that were happening in prison to me.


And what about you Maya?


I think when we, you know, we’re born into the generation that we’re born into. And Ava DuVernay had a quote, I think she was quoting someone else about our mindset…about how we do this together. And the illustration was you inherit this house. We’re all living in this house. And we look at the house and there’s mold over here. There’s some foundations that are just rotting away. There’s broken windows over here and we say, we didn’t break that window. I’m not responsible for the mold over there. But this is the house that we’ve been given. And so it’s our responsibility to fix it as much as we can as best as we can. We have to look at people as people first and foremost. That’s the fundamental skill. Like in basketball, first thing you learn to do other than dribble is shoot. The fundamental skill is you have to be able to see people. We need other people who’ve gone before to help us know. The house is broken like what do we do? [We go to] that mom, grandma, grandpa, like somebody ahead of us. Help me know how to respond to this and say don’t panic baby I know this looks bad, but we can fix this. I had people to show me this is something we can do to help this system correct. And then also just being in relationship, that’s the majority of the work is not being afraid to be in a relationship with the people who have been stepped on. I had a measure of privilege. And I tried to use that to say hey, I’m no better than you. We’re both humans, you deserve to be treated like a human. I’m just saying everybody have basic humanity. Then your work ethic, or your gifts can kind of, you know take you where it goes but basic humanity cannot be a negotiable. So that’s kind of where I came in of like, I didn’t know this was happening. We need to do something because we can do something with this house that we inherited.



Can you talk about what you how your faith has motivated and played into [your work]?


Yeah, as you look into the Bible, you won’t find Superman in the Bible. You won’t find Batman. You won’t find people that were flawless outside of Jesus. Like everybody [had flaws]. Moses was a murderer. You could just pick anybody a character in the Bible any person in the Bible and see something. And what that does is it lets you know you’re not alone in your flaws and your weaknesses. And what that does, they call us to remember when we see other people that are struggling that are going through things. It calls us to look at them like, “hey, I have my weaknesses. We all need to have compassion on each other. We all need to help each other.” It calls us to remember those people that are less fortunate than we are.. We are supposed to want them to have the same things that we would want. We have to remember the vulnerable. Everybody’s got something going on, whether they want to admit it or not, whether it’s in the forefront or not, we all wrestle with things. And we are called to just lean into each other and be a part of community and show up for each other. And be present and speak out against injustice and things that are happening in this world. And me reading through the Bible and seeing that playing that out. Like, that is that is that to me that’s God talking to me through this word, and through other people, through my environment. God is asking you to remember those people and care for those people where you can that are disadvantaged.


Yeah, Matthew 25 right, if you did for the least of these you did it to me. Maya, can you talk about how your faith plays into this work? Because it’s a huge step going from where you were to where you are now and focused on caring for the least of these and seeking justice.



I was one of the least of these.


Man, understanding God’s story, right? God has given us a story. And he says there’s a competing story. There’s the story of the world, of the flesh, of devil is like what does that mean? And it’s a way of seeing that is contrary to the kingdom of God. Every day, we have a choice to make. Are we going to believe God’s story, which is the real story or are we going to believe this world story, this empire story? I think we just unfortunately see some of these systems that have been set up in our house right… in our culture. That are so empire and just crush people and dehumanize and devalue and use and manipulate and coerce all based off of [the idea that] I want to preserve myself.

I’m so fortunate to have been able to feel like I’ve been walking with the Lord since around middle school where my faith became my own, before my name became a name. I had that basketball experience with an awareness [that] my identity is “I’m God’s daughter,” and my purpose is not building my name [or] becoming the best, or making the most money. That wasn’t what got me up out of bed. And so when the when the time came where God was like really making it clear to my heart the shift that I needed to make out of that sports entertainment rhythm into a different rhythm that was unknown. [What was it] going to look like when I stepped away from the game in 2019? But I knew it was leading me towards doing more in this kingdom story that I was learning more about, which required me to give some stuff up; some of my comforts, my status or whatever you want to call it in order to be the hands and feet of Jesus and show up and do the hard things and get educated humble myself learn from people. When I was able to speak and use my platform, I could be helpful and accurate in trying to encourage and equip people. It’s about seeing God’s kingdom as clearly and as rightly as I can and then being able to live my life in a way that makes that kingdom a reality as much as I can every day. Which again is going to probably mean some sacrifice right, love costs. Jesus did sacrifice a lot for love, restoration, and redemption. But it was for the joy that was set before Him. Looking ahead to that future joy. We might not see the full benefit of what our lives are going to do but we’re tasting it now in bits. Until that fullness comes into play. But it is the center of all that we do.



Jonathan your story is unfortunately not unique enough that there are so many people who are subject to this criminal justice system that the statistics are pointing to that, but that you offer hope that there is something in the midst of it to be gained and that there are is a fight to be fought. Maya you gave up a lot. But showed there’s more to life than WNBA of success and living out our faith can mean a lot for us. So I just thank you both so much. Any last words of wisdom for young folks were out there?



I want to say you can’t make this type of story up. [The one I lived.] You can’t do that. And I’ll say this, it can be your darkest moments. Don’t forget that God loves you. And God got your back. All you got to do is seek a relationship with Him. I promise you. You won’t regret it.


Maya any parting words?


I would just say when you get discouraged because it can be [discouraging], it’s just it’s part of life. If you look into the dark it’s discouraging, but don’t stay there. There is something. There are people. There are things in motion that are happening that you can plug into. I’d say get plugged in to something because we can’t just look at the dark things by ourselves in our inner room. If we’re going to look at hard stuff you’ve to link arms and be like, we’re going to look at this together and we’re going to do something together. So, my encouragement is always get plugged in to something already happening and stuff will happen out of that. Keep encouraged and keep moving forward. The black church has modeled resilient ways for centuries. It’s not a new thing. There’s a legacy there. Learn and plug into those elders. There are people who have [wisdom], there’s jewels that are still alive that we can have conversations with and glean from. Let us continue to lift up our people who have gone before and make sure they’re appreciated and that we’re receiving what they can pour out. Because those are team members that need to be honored and still have something to offer us.  Keep learning.




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.

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. 

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.


  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.




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