The Me I See: My Race, My Faith, My Identity

The Me I See: My Race, My Faith, My Identity

“Are you brown all over?”

The innocence of the question did nothing to prevent me from being flabbergasted. As I stared into the almost cartoon-sized blue eyes of this 4-year-old boy, compassion filled my heart. I simply smiled and replied, “Why yes, of course!”

He nodded in understanding and continued playing with the toys that had previously occupied his attention. As I sat there watching his imagination create a world only he would understand, I wondered if this moment would be as memorable for him as I was sure it would be for me.

There’s a temptation to somehow prove my humanity, to validate my existence; especially because I live in a society that labels me a minority. The definition of “minority” is “a racial, ethnic, religious, or social subdivision of a society that is subordinate to the dominant group in political, financial, or social power without regard to the size of these groups.”

My nation, my homeland, defines me as a racial subordinate to the dominant group. It’s a label that follows me every time I check “Black/African-American” on any document. It’s a label that follows me any time I walk into a room and I’m the only one there who looks like me. I have a pre-disposition to believe that I am less than because it is what I’ve been told since I was born. It’s even printed on my birth certificate.

In indignation, I wear my hair natural. I comb through hundreds of photos on Instagram that have the “#BlackGirlMagic” marker. I recite Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman” at any given opportunity. I go out of my way to compliment any black woman I meet.

I vote knowing what it cost my ancestors to grant me this right. I fight to prove that no quantifiable data could box me in and keep me from living the life I want to live.

It’s funny, all of that effort did nothing to quiet the comparison or stop the Caucasian woman from accosting me and my little cousins. It did nothing to abate the voice in my head that hurls insults every time I’m in front of a mirror. The only thing that has proven strong enough to rectify my identity is the Word of God.

I am black. I am a woman. I am southern. I am a millennial. I can come up with lots of ways to identify myself. I can make a list of a thousand superlatives. However, anything I fathom about who I am does not compare to who I am in Christ.

Society has a lot to say about who we are. In fact, we have a lot to say, ourselves, about who we are, and a lot of times we are better than anyone at putting ourselves down. Is it possible that when we say “yes” to Jesus, when we surrender our lives to Him, in doing so, we subject our idea of identity to Him as well?  Identity then becomes more than a list of quantifiers.

If the Word of God created the world and all we see, how much more powerful then would it be to believe His words about us? We are children of the Most High God. We are His handiwork. In the same way He created the earth, He fashioned us together in our mothers’ womb. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. We, the children of God, are His royal priesthood. We are the head and not the tail. We have every spiritual blessing made available to us through Christ. We are chosen.

We aren’t beautiful because of, or in spite of,  being black. We are beautiful because we were created by Beauty Himself. My skin color becomes more than a sign of my socio-economic status; it is part of the hand-picked design as imagined by my Creator. We aren’t worthy because our society calls us worthy, but because Jesus thought us worthy enough to die for.

Our choice is this: To live subjected to societal labels or to allow this new identity to supersede what we once believed. My faith then doesn’t just inform my identity. It becomes the lens through which I’m even able to see who I really am. It doesn’t stop there.

When we are able to see ourselves through this lens, we are empowered, nay obligated, to see others the same way. It transforms a “me against the world” ideology into an understanding that it is “us under God.” The need for validation becomes obsolete and pure confidence flourishes as the love of Christ permeates the entirety of our beings.

 

Are you embracing the 4 C’s of financial literacy?

Are you embracing the 4 C’s of financial literacy?

Video Courtesy of NABE Webinars


A lot of people have heard of the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child”. I was thinking the other day, the reason why people have a sense of belonging for a community or a city or an estate is because of the people who live there. The experiences and support they bring to that environment promotes a positive culture that draws everyone who lives there to feel as though they belong. They become protective and nurturing of their “village”.

That is the same way we should think about our finances. You do not get to financial stability and freedom by guesswork, feelings or emotions. It is an act of intentional commitment, discipline, education and accountability and it will involve you, and those you are willing to listen to.

I am a firm believer that money is a magnifying tool that reveals the intent and the character of your soul. Who you really are will always be revealed in the abundance of money or lack of it in your life. I have been around people who seemed humble and kind when they did not have money, until they reached a place of financial prosperity. All of a sudden, a sense of being rude and dismissive becomes appealing as though it is supposed to be fashionable. Pride becomes a regular smoothie partaken to make sure that you prove to everyone you made it.

On the other hand, having a lack of money can bring out the insecurities, fear, withdrawal and lack of confidence of embracing true purpose. I have also seen people sabotage great relationships, their integrity and character, because the struggle of not having enough turned them to desperation. They ended up doing things they wished they had not, or going back into situations they should not have, to get back to that place of financial comfort.

The reality is, having financial stability is a great feeling. Waking up each day with the amazing peace that you can pay every bill or anything you owe and have so much left over is a wonderful blessing to experience. However, the biggest mistake we make including myself is, camping in that place of wishing that could happen if we are not yet walking in that reality.

To embark on a journey to success regarding your finances, it has to begin with your outlook. What do you think of yourself regarding money? Proverbs 23:7 KJV states “As he thinketh in his heart, so is he”. Your outward behavior and reaction including your relationship with money is a direct reflection of how you think about yourself.

To create an outlook that will push you and motivate you to a healthy relationship with your finances, including being vulnerable and honest with yourself, as to why you push yourself each day to financial success, practice the “4 C’s to a positive outlook on money” as given to me by Holy Spirit”:

1. Courage

Be willing to face yourself and examine the true motives of your heart. How do you view money? Is it dreadful? Are you stressed out every time its payday or do you have a heart of gratitude for Gods provision? Are you courageous to admit that a lack of money has created a void that you need God to fill? Are you willing to admit that you have used money to attain a status that will make people like you? You have to be courageous to face yourself on your outlook of money.

2. Commitment

You have to commit to change. Denial is not a choice. It is an invisible wall that you create in the circumference of your mind to convince you to cope with the assumption that everything is okay when it is not. Commit to have a positive outlook regarding money. This will give you a fresh perspective of the root cause of your behavior and relationship to money. If money is a tool that motivates you to live a purposeful life, it will be revealed and you will be encouraged to continue working hard. If it is not, you can pause and find out why and adjust your outlook to route you in the right path.

3. Confidence

Confidence is very connected with faith. God always tells you to believe the opposite of what you feel or see. Sometimes at your worst, when you are experiencing lack, God encourages you that “He is your Shepherd and you shall not want” Psalms 23: 1.

As a child of faith, you have to remember that God orchestrates each of our steps and as we live yielded to Him, He will guide us to wisdom, knowledge, education that will equip us to great stewardship. However, we have to first be confident in Him. I am learning that daily, God never gets tired of empowering us with confidence. Seek Him, ask Him, He is right there, and He is willing to release to you the measure of confidence you need to handle the financial obligations at hand.

4. Consistency

Consistency is what icing is to a cake, what syrup is to a pancake, what salt is to soup. Have you ever had soup with no salt? There is no taste to it. But you add a bit of salt and the flavors seem to be awakened as you drink it. It is the secret ingredient that so many of us miss. We start, but don’t finish. We set the budget, but don’t follow it. We open the savings account, but never deposit any money in it. I look at consistency as pacing yourself to savor the sweetness of life.

I love drinking tea. I specifically enjoy a nice cup of Kenyan brewed tea. It takes a special skill to brew a really good cup of Kenyan tea. To add up the flavors and make sure the taste of it is not bitter. The key is time. I consider myself a “master” at making tea especially for a large group of people but, it took me years and years of making tea everyday to learn. I could make tea in my sleep. Was it exciting? No! In fact, sometimes I dreaded it. But, when I see people close their eyes and smell the tea as they drink it with a smile and savor the taste, it brings me great joy!

It is the same way with consistency. You are not going to have butterflies and feel a sense of excitement truth be told you may get bored, not want to do it, dread it, but that is when you should do it. Be consistent in your commitment to be courageously confident about your outlook on money and watch how open you will be to learning how to be a wise steward of what God has blessed you with.

 

How’s Your Relationship with Yourself?

How’s Your Relationship with Yourself?

Video Courtesy of Dr. Minnie Claiborne, Ph.D. LHD


A column by Dr. Minnie Claiborn, Ph.D., a licensed counselor, life coach and author. 


There are seven basic areas wherein all human challenges lie. One of these is our relationship with self. We form many of our opinions of ourselves based on what others around us say to us and about us, or how we interpret what they say and do.

In some respects, we do come into the world with a “blank slate” and we write on it based on how we are treated. Some of us encounter rejection, abuse, abandonment, and many other hurtful experiences from our primary families or caregivers when we are young. From these experiences, which may be accompanied by ugly words, we often form unhealthy opinions of ourselves.

I had a young woman client once who in her mind and experience did not fit the societal standard of beauty. When she told me that she had been raped, she asked with incredulity, “Why would anyone rape me?” Her opinion of herself was so low, she felt so unattractive, that she was amazed that even a rapist would want her.

On the other hand, I observed a young lady whose body shape and physical features also did not meet the society standard of beauty, yet she exuded self-confidence. I discovered that she was a daddy’s girl, had a loving, doting mother and had married a man who also adored her.

Many young men who were not affirmed by their fathers suffer from a sense of insecurity, fear, rejection, lack of self-identity and a lack of belonging. Other people contributed to our being broken, but God can heal us (Luke 4:18). We can’t go back and change what was said or done to us or about us, but with new information and truth, we can change how if affects us.

Truth trumps facts. Divine truth (truth from God’s perspective) is greater than the facts of our experiences and thoughts. If you were not told that you are beautiful, or handsome or valuable by anyone else, know that God made you and He thinks you’re all of that (Psalm 139).

How do you change a wrong or bad opinion of yourself? Put God’s Word in your mouth and speak it to yourself out loud. A good place to start is by saying, “God loves me.” The entire Bible bears witness to that truth. I have witnessed the power of Scripture-based affirmations. An affirmation simply means that you affirm and agree with what is being said. Here is an affirmation that you can use every day that will help you to begin to have a winning relationship with yourself. You might know it in your head, but you need to SAY it over and over so that your subconscious will receive truth and your conscious thoughts and behaviors will begin to change. God told young Joshua to meditate on His word day and night and he (Joshua) would have prosperity and good success (Joshua 1:8). I suggest that you say this out loud at least five times per day until you know in your soul that it is true.

AFFIRMATION: God loves me. God accepts me. I love and accept myself. I invite God to change the things that do not please Him and things that are detrimental to me.

READ: Psalm 139, Joshua 1:8, John 3:16


 

The Mother of All Gifts

The Mother of All Gifts

The Mother of All Gifts for Urban FaithFlowers, candy, and cards are nice, but for moms, the best Mother’s Day gifts of all are the people who make us mothers.

Usually, when Mother’s Day comes, we think of the women in our lives who nurture, teach, rear and comfort us. We think of blood mothers and other mothers who love us with an unselfish love that is its own brand of insanity. And a grandmother’s love is quintessential radical love. However, Mother’s Day is also a day to consider the gift of love that our children are to us.

When my son and daughter were still children and old enough to cook some basic things, they served me breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day: sliced hot dogs in scrambled eggs with fresh fruit on the side. When our dog was a puppy, he tried his best to get into bed with me and share my breakfast. But mother did not play that. No doggie in my bed. On Mother’s Day morning, my bed became our breakfast table.

After breakfast we got ready for church while listening to Mother’s Day music on the radio — Bill Withers singing “Grandma’s Hands” and Dianne Reeves singing “Better Days.” The songs reminded us of mother wisdom that counsels patience. “You can’t get to better days unless you make it through the night.” My Aunt Sarah usually came to church with us, since we lived in Philadelphia and my mother lived in East St. Louis. After church we went to dinner. The day became a treasure, a precious memory gem that a mother hides in her heart.

The Bible speaks of such a moment when Jesus’ parents find him in the Temple in conversation with the teachers. He tells his parents that he is compelled to be in his Father’s house, to be about his Father’s business. The Bible tells us: “His mother kept all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51).

We watch our children grow and they amaze us. Through laughter and tears, through achievement and disappointment, we watch them grow as Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and humanity. Even those episodes that make us think they are creatures from another planet beamed down to Earth by some evil genius with a singular mission to pluck our last nerve become a part of the mix of events that is accumulated wealth, no matter the amount of money we have in the bank.

Our children are the reason we get up every day to work to earn a living and work for social justice and for peace. We want them to live in a more beautiful, sensible, and happy world. We work to demonstrate the praise of the glory of God, because it is through what they see us do that they will know their own moral responsibility to Creation.

God shows his love to us in a multitude of ways. God’s presence in our lives is present in uncomplicated gestures, simple and pure. God’s love loves us through our children. It is a blessing for which I am truly grateful.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Related Article: Calling All Moms.

Words of Encouragement from Urban Faith

Words of Encouragement from Urban Faith

We’ve seen the local and national news and, like you, our timelines and newsfeeds are filled with sad videos. However, it is important that we keep in mind that there is indeed light at the end of the tunnel. And even when times get hard, it is important to remember that God is always in control. So, with that being said, our staff has provided some brief words of encouragement that we have found to be helpful during difficult times. Stay strong!

 

1. Things are never as bad as they seem.

2. Let every challenge make you better, not bitter.

Brothers laughing and talking

3. Be patient.

Teenage Girl Visits Doctor's Office Suffering With Depression

3. As long as there’s breath in your body, there’s still hope.

Open hands

4. God’s got this!

Worship Silhouette

5. It’s o.k. to cry. Just remember that God will wipe away our tears in the midst of our pain.

Sad African American female with tears rolling down her face

6. Proverbs 3:5-6

Tired afro man with laptop

7. We serve a resurrected God. Our God is alive! Death doesn’t have the final say and neither does man.

 

Freedom and sun at the beach