The Other Side of Christmas

The clandestine escape from Nazareth to Egypt covered 487 miles, one way.

He was a child on the lam, fleeing to Africa where He could secretly survive in a natural environment without obvious detection. The promised Savior, sent to redeem a renegade world, now was a refugee seeking asylum in His ancestor’s Motherland from would-be assassins.

For centuries only half of the Christmas narrative has been told. Shining angels singing. Lowly shepherds are in awe. His mother is doting. The Babe is asleep in an animal trough. Christmas, the yearly classic re-run of the centuries has long-lost its sacredness to a world that prioritizes getting gifts above receiving its Redeemer.

The Other Side of Christmas

However, for people who live on the outskirts of hope, or in the crosshairs of oppressive systems, or languishing in an unjust world as social refugees, they exist on the Other Side of Christmas. Here, in the land of the free and the home of the brave, groups of people live life in polar opposites.

While one group stands and removes their hats putting their hands on their hearts during a national anthem, the other group drops to one knee, bows their heads, and ponders the injustices and brutalities continually perpetrated against them. The dichotomy of the Christmas narrative actually depicts “two unreconciled strivings.”

Merry Mayhem

In this yearly season where debt increases to simulate a Merry Christmas, many people in this country live in the vice grip of man-made poverty and pain as collateral damage of the inhumanity of man against man.

The 2017 U.S Census Bureau report cited 40 million Americans living in poverty, while 41 million people in the U.S. faced hunger in “food-insecure households.” These numbers have increased almost three years later.

Ironically, as this Christmas season kicks off, the Washington Post reported on December 4, 2019, “The Department of Agriculture played the part of Grinch, finalizing a rule to cut billions of dollars from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. The rule will remove nearly 700,000 from the program and jeopardize the food security of hundreds of thousands more, representing a callous escalation of the Trump administration’s war on people in need.”

For disenfranchised and discarded people, the Merry Side of Christmas is not their reality. It’s the Other Side of Christmas, the Side on which Christ was born and lived. Oppressed peoples can better identify with Christ from His wounded Side – for He too experienced poverty, hunger, suffering, verbal and physical abuse, abandonment, false arrest, police brutality, a hanging judge, torture in custody, and lynching.

The African Hebrew prophet Isaiah penned, “But He was Wounded for our wrongdoing, bruised for our iniquities. Our chastisement upon Him brought our peace, and with His Wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

The Greatest Risk and Rescue Mission

On the day celebrated as Christ’s entrance into this world, humanity was under great duress. This day commences the greatest risk and rescue mission ever undertaken. The Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) that was carried out against Him throughout the duration of His life was unprecedented. Yet, He would not be deterred from His mission impossible. He accepted His assignment to redeem a lost world.

In Christ’s first public discourse He read from the writings of the prophet Isaiah. “The Spirit of Yahweh is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, and to set the oppressed free” (Luke 4:18). Unfortunately, the commercialization of Christmas has conveniently muted the real message of Christ’s birth.

A prolific author encapsulated His life’s mission this way:

Many feel that it would be a great privilege to visit the scenes of Christ’s life on earth, to walk where He trod, to look upon the lake beside which He loved to teach, and the hills and valleys on which His eyes so often rested. But we need not go to Nazareth, to Capernaum, or to Bethany, in order to walk in the steps of Jesus. We shall find His footprints beside the sickbed, in the hovels of poverty, in the crowded alleys of the great city, and in every place where there are human hearts in need of consolation. In doing as Jesus did when on earth, we shall walk in His steps.” (Desire of Ages 640.2)

During His life on earth, the multitudes came to Christ. It was through His wounded side that they received help, hope, healing, and wholeness. Their joy of salvation became the result for many who received Him through His wounded side. Is it possible to be healed from our wounds? Yes. Christ went from Victim-to-Victor, and you are only two letters and one decision away. It’s time we live on the Other Side of Christmas – the Wounded Side – where people are called and equipped with the knowledge and skills to help those who suffer the deep and painful wounds of life. If you or someone you know lives on the Other Side of Christmas, know that you can seek help, your wounds can be healed. Be encouraged. Your wounded side can be changed into the merry side of Christmas. Just receive the refugee redeemer into your heart.

“People who enjoy joy the most are the ones who’ve experienced sorrow at its depth.”

– Stephen E. Patterson




This Pineapple Love: A Testimony

Heartache. Heartbreak. Two miscarriages. Two separations. Two foreclosures. Two children. Two divorces.

Multiple lives shattered into innumerable little pieces. Darkness with seemingly no entry point for light. Long, winding roads that seemed to go nowhere. Depression. Anxiety. Anger. Grief. Numbness. Challenged faith. Pruning. Winter. Spring. God, who? God, where? God, here? Not here? Yes, absolutely here. Right here.

This is the tale of a love story where boy meets girl on a beautiful summer night and wonderful things happen. Luc, my pineapple love, and I vowed to become partners on this marital journey for the rest of our lives. And it’s been a harmonious love song since we exchanged those vows on November 3, 2018.

What is “this pineapple love”? Grab a cup of tea and let me tell you a story.

In 2014, I was two years removed from a tumultuous divorce and on the road to rebuilding my life with the help of supportive family, friends, and a lot of therapy. Over the course of my six year marriage I’d lost two children to miscarriage, our home, as well as pieces of myself I thought I’d never regain. Divorce is a death of sorts.

But, this particular year was different. A collective of women from my church and I formed a prayer circle that changed our lives forever. We gathered once a week and read, prayed, and fasted our way through a book called Draw the Circle – The Forty Day Challenge by Mark Batterson.

I’m entirely certain that I did not know what I was getting myself into. As we met in my little oasis I trudged ahead hoping to get something out of it. I sought God’s guidance over numerous areas of my life – one of which was remarriage. God had given me a vision of what He intended for marriage though I had not yet experienced it, and it was this vision that I held on to. The zaniest part of Batterson’s challenge talked about crazy faith and encouraged us to pray about what to pray about. If ever I was confused, this day took the cake.

Dear Future Husband,

While talking with God about the desire to remarry, He responded telling me to demonstrate my belief by writing a letter to my future husband. Then He instructed me to buy him a tie. What an odd thing! How do I write a letter for someone I haven’t yet identified, and how do we select the right tie for this mystery man? Y’all, I sat down with pen in hand and the words came. I bought a gift box and placed the letter in the box. But I held off on the tie for a while.

Soon after this prayer circle ended, I began to hear stories about how God was answering the prayers of the other women. I celebrated all that He was doing in the lives of my sisters excited about what I believed He was about to do for me. These answers to prayer made me so happy some days I found myself leaping forward almost as if to jump into the things I was believing Him for. 

On the heels of a 2016 trip to London with my cousin, she and I talked expectantly of how life would change when these husbands appeared in our lives. At the end of that trip, we decided to refer to our husbands as pineapples. Why pineapples? We needed to be able to talk about potential suitors without being obvious, and so pineapple it was. Little did we know, some view pineapples as an expression of “welcome” – an invitation of hospitality, friendship, and warmth.

Obedience in Dating

I finally got my dating shoes broken in by 2017 and got past the shell shock of swiping left and right. However, it was time for another fast in my life. I met this guy who seemed to line up with a number of prayer journal entries but something was just a little off. I was confused (major hint that this probably wasn’t God) and wrestled with God. After toiling through this 40-day journey with a couple girlfriends, the Lord distinctly showed me that His hand was not leading me toward this man and He instructed me to leave him alone. By this time, I’d learned to tell my feelings what to do and let them catch up. My spirit was at peace. On that last day of the fast, July 14, 2017, I released that man and registered my own business.

The next day, July 15, 2017, I took this newfound freedom and peace out for a spin. I was schmoozing with friends at a fundraising event when I met a gentleman by the name of Luc A. Gabriel. He approached me and our exchange was light-hearted and easy. Little did I know that here stood my “pineapple.” We became friends and things would remain that way for nine months until God revealed who we were to each other.

The Other Side

After nine years of marriage and subsequent separation, Luc found himself a year removed from divorce in late 2014, and at the time I wrote that letter, God was in the process of pulling Luc back toward Him. The divorce had left him injured but he struggled forward.

By 2016, Luc was reconnected in church and regaining his footing. God began speaking to Luc very subtly and persistently. He wanted to remarry and serve God alongside his wife and though unsure if God would come through, he began to search. He continued to date and started wrestling with God over many things. God challenged Him to go deeper and though he couldn’t conceive His will at the time, Luc accepted the challenge.

About this time, Luc had actually come across photos of me by way of social media and thoughts of interest surfaced but nothing would come of it for quite some time. He dated around, searching for something more but not quite finding it.

Preparing For What’s Ahead

Luc relocated back home to Philadelphia in late 2016. His life took many twists and turns with his career, living arrangements, and his own share of dating escapades. He too suffered many losses along the way and wondered if God was ever going to deliver on His promise to restore to him what he’d lost.

Around the time we met in July 2017, Luc was recommended for jobs he was well qualified for but nothing was materializing. Suddenly, after joining the Navy Reserves, an opportunity for full-time orders came about and what would normally take up to a year, took less than two months! Approximately nine months later, Luc began the process of moving back to Maryland.

Looking back on that time, Luc needed that temporary move back to Philadelphia to reset his frame of mind, desires, and focus. He believed that God pulled him back home as a means of preparation for something ahead. He had no idea what that would be until that first friendly date in November of 2017. It was short and sweet. We discovered a few of our common experiences and life moved on. But one thing we both took notice of was that our friendship developed effortlessly.

There’s Love in Hard Conversations

Months later, as our core values seemed aligned we both sought clarity from God about whether this was what He was orchestrating or not. Either way, we were prepared to accept the friendship. Not long after, we had a turning point conversation in Spring of 2018 that laid things out pretty clearly. You know the ones – the make or break conversations that determine whether to move forward or not.

I returned from another trip with girlfriends to a very serious Luc who stated his intentions with crystal clear precision. I stated my expectations and requirements and God showed off from there. Suddenly and abundantly, just as God had said, I AM began to restore the years the locusts had stolen.

Luc and I began taking this journey together and I had a few Gideon-like encounters just to make sure this was it. Remember the tie? Remember the pineapple? After several signs, I asked God for one more. One morning I prayed in my heart and said “I’ll walk away today if you say to.” While getting my hair done, I got a call from Luc. We’d already spoken a couple times that day so it was a little odd that he was calling back so soon. He’d been window-shopping and began gushing about a pin-striped shirt and I wondered where he was going with this story.

Then time seemed to stand still as he uttered the next few words, “and you should see this dope tie to go with it, it’s navy blue with gold pineapples.” I have no idea what he said after that. I simply sat in shock looking down at my wrist staring at my gold pineapple charm bracelet. It was at that moment that I realized I would never have to question God about this pineapple love ever again. I bought the tie and presented it and the letter at just the right time. He wore it on the day we married.

The rest, is His story to continue writing. We are now expecting our first pineapple chunk this December.

The lesson from this pineapple love is…

God restores!




A Word for the Weathered

It was January 15, 2018. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The campus was closed for the day except for a program later in the evening. I decided to take advantage of this chilly Monday morning and take my time. I got ready for a brunch meeting I had in a few hours. I opened my blinds and the brightness reflecting off the snow filled my apartment. The snow was steady falling, but it was nothing for Michigan. I reached into the cabinet and pulled down my jar of flour. With a deep breath I began a process I know so well, combining measures of flour, milk, butter and baking powder to my bowl. I floured my counter and began to shape my biscuits as I waited for my ride to a mid-morning meeting.

“Weathering”

Like many others, I use baking as an opportunity to catch up on my growing list of podcasts. Immediately one of the hosts of NPR’s podcast Code Switch, Gene Demby, introduces today’s topic: the impact of racism on health. My interest is peaked as the podcast shares the story of Shalon Irving, a 36-year-old epidemiologist at the CDC who died just weeks after giving birth to her daughter in 2017 due to complications post-pregnancy.

The researchers and experts attributed Shalon’s death as a result not of race, but of racism. They call the term “weathering” and researchers are finding that the impact of systemic racism in the United States, the stress responses to micro-aggressions such as being followed around in stores, stopped by the police, or even being called the n-word create a response that the body internalizes and it can impact the very DNA of an individual.

The Dangers of Being a Black Girl

The statistics are striking – black women today are tree times more likely to die in childbirth or after childbirth than white women. Black women are five times more likely than white women to report experiences of headache, upset stomach, tensing of muscles, or a pounding heart because of how they were treated in society based on their race in the past month. The American Journal of Public Health reports that black women are twice as likely to have higher stress scores than white women – regardless of age.

In fact, black women are dying faster and at higher rates than any other group in America from preventable diseases. For example, 82% of black women are over a healthy weight right now, 53% of black women are obese, and every 11 minutes 137 black women die from a preventable disease. T. Morgan Dixon, founder of health nonprofit GirlTrek, likened it to a plane full of black women crashing to the ground every 11 minutes.

The Mule of the World

The research and statistics made my heart weep for my sisters, aunties, cousins, mothers, and myself as I realized that Danyelle Solomon of the Center for American Progress was right, “The impact of systemic racism is manifesting itself in black women’s health.” I mean, Zora Neale Hurston did write in Their Eyes Were Watching God that the black woman was the mule of the world. Hurston wrote this not to belittle black women, but to call to our attention the unnecessary burden and stress that is placed on black women in particular.

If we’re honest, “weathering” is also caused by the burden black women bear of being valued by the amount of pain we can endure, and how much we can give to others, and sacrifice for others oftentimes to the detriment of ourselves. This burden of blackness “weathers” a black woman’s body and according to these statistics – kills her.

I mourn for the women whose lives have been cut short because of “weathering.” I mourn for the generations of weathered ancestors who died at the hands of this patriarchal, white supremacist American system. I mourn for women like Erica Garner, Sandra Bland, and Shalon Irving. I mourn for the women whose names we do not know and faces we will never see on TV, names we won’t read in our newspapers or hear on our podcasts. I mourn for the 137 black women who would succumb to preventable disease in the next few moments. I mourn for those of us who remain, and who move through life day-to-day with aches and pains and problems in our bodies that we cannot quite pinpoint. Those of us who are yet enduring the “weathering” of being a black woman in America.

Weathering in the Bible

Although I’m in mourning, as a womanist I am comforted by the way Scripture responds to the weathering of black women. Mark’s account of Jesus healing the woman with the issue of blood in Mark 5:21-34 reveals to us how the Divine responds to weathered women.

After His journey to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (the non-Jewish side), where Jesus delivered the man with the Legion of demons, and restored his ability to function in society socially and economically, Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee again returning to the Jewish side. The oppressive Roman legions that monitored this side of the Sea also cripples the people socially, economically and politically.

These soldiers kept the privileged and powerful safe, while abusing, misusing and discarding the powerless and the poor. The legion, merely agents of the more powerful oppressive system, ravaged the lives of those they had taken captive. And the effects of this ravenous system were truly seen in the lives and bodies of the people Jesus encountered, like this nameless woman whose story Mark interjects in the midst of this larger narrative of the healing of Jairus’ daughter.

While I write specifically to black women, this text has relevance for black communities as a whole. There are three words this text gives to the weathered that I’d like to share with you here:

1.You are debilitated, but not defined by what weathers you (v.25-26)

This woman was most likely known in the community by her ailment. At this point in her story, there were many who believed that she would never be healed. But, the woman herself believed that while she was debilitated by her health problem, she was not defined by it. On a larger scale she was not defined by the oppressive socio-economic system that alienated her on every level. 

Black women know the statistics, we know what is stacked against us, but it does not define us. I know this to be true because like the woman in this narrative, we continue to see healing and resolution even when others believe our journey is in vain.

2.Tell the whole truth (v. 33) 

I am certain, when given the opportunity, that this woman did not just tell Jesus about her physical ailment, but also about all the loss she had suffered because of it. I image that she spoke about the system that made it difficult for her to receive care. She probably shared how no one believed her and how those who were supposed to support her abandoned her when she needed them most.

Verse 33 says that she told Jesus the whole truth. Likewise, black women are empowered to be truth-tellers. We have to tell the truth to our friends and family about what is happening to us physically, mentally, emotionally. We have to tell the truth to a society that attempts to ignore the root of what weathers us. We have to tell the truth to ourselves and realize that this truth is one that will set us free.  

3.Accept your status as “Daughter” and know that you are whole (v. 34)

This woman entered the crowd as a nameless woman who had been bleeding for 12 years and left as a whole daughter of God. She had been alienated from society and community, but in a word God restores her to community. She was unclean, but in a word God made her clean. From the beginning of the narrative, this woman believed she was going to be healed and by the end of her encounter with Jesus, her status was changed to whole.

While I live as a black woman and see the effects of weathering on myself and others, I know that we will be healed and eve more than that, I know that our God will continue to speak a word over us and make us whole.




Reparations: “What Would Jesus Do?”

June 19, 2019 is forever a historic day in African American history. Congressional members of the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony for H.R.40 – Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act. Democratic Congressman John Conyers, Jr. first introduced the bill in January of 1989. Believing in the importance of repair and remuneration for the descendants of African American slaves, Conyers consistently reintroduced the bill every year until his retirement in 2017.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee officially took on the role of first sponsorship in March 2018. Her work successfully got the bill to its historic hearing on Juneteeth 2019. It is because of their combined efforts that in the 400th year since the first African slave was brought over and sold in this country, Congress heard testimony on the importance of establishing a committee to discuss proposals for reparations for slavery.

Witnesses included Ta-Nehisi Coates, writer of the Atlantic article “The Case for Reparations, activist and actor Danny Glover, economist Dr. Julianne Malveaux, Reverend Eugene Taylor Sutton, and others. Their statements, since re-tweeted and leading the news on major outlets, stirred the room as they answered questions from the bi-partisan panel.

“The matter of reparations is one of making amends and direct redress, but it is also a question of citizenship,” Coates said. “In H.R. 40, this body has a chance to both make good on its 2009 apology for enslavement, and reject fair-weather patriotism, to say that this nation is both its credits and debits.”

Asking The Difficult Questions

Coates’ statement targeted the hard question: “why should the federal government be responsible for something that happened in the past?” Many wanted to know, “Why congress?” “Who receives reparations?” “Are there any evidences to the affects of slavery in the present?” But the question that truly grabbed me, came from Democratic Representative Sylvia Garcia.

Addressing Reverend Eugene Taylor Sutton, Garcia asked, “what would Jesus do about reparations?” Many immediately groaned in frustration as they saw the question as a distraction from the pertinent economic issues that needed addressing. In fact, one woman yelled out, “separation of Church and State!”

The question came off as a ploy, or a distraction to stall important discussion regarding the historic and economic ramifications of the bill. Thus, to the delight of many in the room, Sutton deflected politely.

“Well, when it comes to those kinds of questions I like to remind people that I’m in sales, not management.”

While the question seemed out of place, the answer missed a great opportunity.

The Great Disappointment

Without compromising principles of church and state, without restricting the religious freedom of any of her hearers, Garcia sought some moral basis in the life of Christ. It was the perfect moment to talk about how Jesus walked this Earth doing nothing but repairing what sin has broken both physically and spiritually. Garcia gave him the perfect opportunity to show that reparations is not a partisan agenda, but a moral responsibility, one certainly found in a biblically based approach to restorative justice.

As the Episcopal Bishop of Maryland, Sutton has been working for decades with the Diocese of Maryland on racial justice, reconciliation, and reparations. He wrote a letter to the Maryland Episcopalian Church at large, and on May 11, 2019 he led out in the vote on the historic “Resolution on Racial Reconciliation” at the 235th diocesan convention. The resolution calling “for Episcopalians to study and support the concept of reparations…passed unanimously.” In fact, the Maryland Episcopalian Church reports “the ‘All in favor of this resolution’ call resulted in a rousing voice vote of ‘Aye!’ Then came the ‘All opposed…’ vote. There was complete silence.”

In his letter Sutton quotes Isaiah 58:12 and II Corinthians 5:18-20. It is safe to assume these texts and others were included in his official statement as Congresswoman Garcia says, “Bishop…it really did warm my heart that you have some scripture notes here.” By stating such a compliment before asking the question “what would Jesus do about reparations?” it’s clear she wanted him to speak on some of these Scriptures.

The Biblical Case for Reparations

While Garcia asked specifically about Jesus, we first have to understand this notion within the Bible as a whole. From Genesis to Revelation, Scripture makes a strong case for reparations. It does not explicitly use the term, but it consistently speaks to the holistic repair of people traumatized by sin and injustice, in all of its various forms.

In fact, we’re first introduced to the concept of reparations in the story of Jacob and Esau. Recorded in Genesis chapters 25-33, the Bible describes the story of twin brothers. Genesis 25 chronicles how Jacob takes advantage of Esau’s exhaustion and hunger and gets him to sell him his birthright. But as if that weren’t enough, two chapters later Jacob disguises himself as Esau in order to steal Esau’s blessing.

The Bible says Jacob put on Esau’s clothes, covered himself in sheep’s wool, and made the meal Isaac requested of Esau. Because Isaac was blind he could not recognize that the son in front of him was not Isaac. Perplexed Isaac said, “the voice is Jacob’s, but the hands are the hands of Esau. And he did not recognize him because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him” (Genesis 27:22-23). Esau became furious and so Jacob fled Esau’s wrath.

The Cost of Reconciliation

After being a part for 20 years, Jacob wanted to reconcile with Esau. But he didn’t merely offer an apology. Jacob sent Esau “two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty milk camels with their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys, and ten foals” (Gen. 32:15). Even though Esau tries to deny the gift, Jacob insists saying:

No, please, if I have now found favor in your sight, then receive my present from my hand, inasmuch as I have seen your face as though I had seen the face of God, and you were pleased with me. Please, take my blessing that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough.” So he urged him, and he took it.

Genesis 33:10-11

In these verses, Jacob recognizes that his deception and manipulation of Esau was unjust. By giving Esau from the fruit of the blessings that he received through deceit and manipulation, Jacob paid Esau reparations. This is what reparations is about. It is about acknowledging the injustice and repairing and restoring the wounds and the voids that the injustice created.

God Commanded the Children of Israel to Pay Reparations

In fact, reparations is so important that God even commands the children of Israel to do it:

If your brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and serves you six years, then in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. And when you send him away free from you, you shall not let him go away empty-handed; you shall supply him liberally from your flock, from your threshing floor, and from your winepress. From what the Lord your God has blessed you with, you shall give to him. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this thing today.

Deuteronomy 15:12-15

In these verses, God tells the children of Israel how to treat their slaves. He explicitly commands them not to hold a slave indefinitely, and that when released the slave should not “go away empty-handed.” Unlike Scripture, slaves in the U.S. were held indefinitely. In order to perpetuate this injustice it was written into the constitution that blacks were 3/5ths of a person. This systematically restricted blacks to the position of chattel slave.

Once emancipated officially in 1865, African Americans were promised “40 acres and a mule”. This promise was rescinded. From this Scripture alone, we see that God would not be pleased with such dealings. This verse shows the God of the Old Testament believes in reparations. But what about the Jesus of the New Testament? Some believe the God of the Old Testament holds different values and principles than the Jesus of the New Testament.

“What Would Jesus Do About Reparations?”

According to Luke 4:16-21 Jesus began his ministry reading scripture in a synagogue in Nazareth. Standing behind the pulpit, Jesus read from Isaiah 61:1-2:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me; Because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind. To set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

Luke 4:18-19

Quoting from the prophet Isaiah, Jesus declares that his ministry is to enact the restorative justice of jubilee as recorded in Deuteronomy. He declares that He has come to liberate the enslaved and to restore what oppression has stolen. This commitment to the restoration of humanity and their reconciliation to God all culminates in Christ’s death on the cross. Understanding that sin wounded the human race stripping us of a relationship with the Father, preventing us from operating at full potential, robbing us of any chance at eternal life, and inflicting us with mental, physical, and social enslavement, God knew that a debt had to be paid in order for eternal repair, restoration, and reconciliation. It was for the injustice of sin that God paid reparations in the form of His son Jesus.

Was it God’s fault? Did God personally inflict these injustices on humanity? No! But the beauty of God is that He took responsibility for something He didn’t do. He paid a debt He didn’t owe. All because responsibility was not as important to Him as restoration.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

John 3:16-17

When Jesus died on the cross he said, “I’m willing to pay the debt required. I’m willing to use my life as reparations for the reconciliation of Creation to God the Father.” So when you ask, “what would Jesus do about reparations?” The Bible says He gave His life.

Through the story of Jacob and Esau, the commands God gave the children of Israel, and ultimately the life and death of Jesus Christ, we see that reparations is about acknowledging that injustice exists and being willing to pay the costly price necessary to institute restorative justice and inspire true reconciliation.

You and H.R.40

Photo taken by Claudia Allen from inside the H.R.40 hearing on June 19, 2019.

As we think about H.R.40 and how our government is seeking to commission a committee of researchers, academics, economists, and activists, we must ponder the Congresswoman’s question. H.R.40 is not a pay out. It is a request that we think about 250 years of slavery and 150 years of systematic oppression through “share cropping, convict leasing, Jim Crow, redlining, unequal education, and disproportionate treatment at the hands of the criminal justice system.” The lens of scripture would certainly be instructive here.

It remains to be seen how reparations for African Americans in this country will work practically. All I know is that the guidance and resolution that we need on this can be found in the Word of God.

I leave you with the pointed words of Ellen White, a prophet, abolitionist, and activist in Seventh-day Adventism who spoke consistently on the importance of uplifting former slaves and their descendants:

“The law of God contained in the ten commandments reveals to man his duty to love God supremely and his neighbor as himself. The American nation owes a debt of love to the colored race, and God has ordained that they should make restitution for the wrong they have done them in the past. Those who have taken no active part in enforcing slavery upon the colored people are not relieved from the responsibility of making special efforts to remove, as far as possible, the sure result of their enslavement.”

Review & Herald, January 21, 1896.




Restored

Wisdom for the Ages: Wisdom Restored. Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Monday, February 19, 2018

Listen to “Thoughts in Worship 02.19.2018” on Spreaker.

“Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who obtains understanding. For her benefit is more profitable than silver, and her gain is better than gold. She is more precious than rubies, and none of the things you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are very pleasant, and all her paths are peaceful. She is like a tree of life to those who obtain her, and everyone who grasps hold of her will be blessed” (Proverbs 3:13–18, NET)

Transcendent Correction

Adam and Eve needed to be chastised by God after they sinned.  Thus, they were barred from the Tree of Life until they accepted His desired outcome of His discipline in them—holiness. Now, all who embrace God’s instructions, discipline, refinement under trials, and know He has only our good at heart, will have a right to the Tree of Life when Jesus comes.

Our theme text comes right after the passage that describes God’s loving chastisement. Just as a caring father must correct his own son, God corrects His children. God’s correction transcends earthly rectitude, however. It works the peaceable fruits of righteousness that lead to eternal life with God. Once we learn to accept and embrace this fact, we will give thanks for God’s goodness.

We’ll Be Glad He Did

We will be happy that God’s correction made way for us to find the fullness of His wisdom. We will value it as we understand it more and will recognize that silver, gold, and precious jewels pale in comparison to God’s wisdom.

Yachts, mansions, sports cars, millions of shares of highly valued stocks and bonds, vacations to the most exotic destinations in the world cannot compare with God’s wisdom to those who embrace it. For once we have acquired all of the world’s wealth, it just takes one seemingly random accident, end-stage diagnosis, strong-armed robbery, or heart attack to take it all away. But if we receive God’s correction, which leads to reception of His wisdom, no power on earth or under the earth can take it away, except our own decision.

Rights Restored

We must choose everyday to embrace wisdom and seek for her as we would earthly treasure. So when we do this by faith, we will receive the reward. Here’s what the Bible says: “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city” (Revelation 22:14). The payment for sin is eternal death. The payment for righteousness by faith is immortality and eternal life.

Truth is, God gave all of heaven’s treasury, in the person and work of Jesus Christ, so we can be restored and eat from the Tree of Life that bares 12 manner of fruit, and whose leaves are for the healing of the nations. Embrace wisdom, and embrace Jesus with the life He gives.

A word to the foolish is wasteful. A word to the wise is sufficient.




Restore Me

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Audio Link: https://www.spreaker.com/…/r…/thoughts-in-worship-01-17-2018

This is devotional thought number 52 in our devotional series, God’s Promises are Sure!

“He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3).

God loves you. He loves you, not because you have been good to Him or you’ve done something to impress Him. He loves you because it’s in His nature to love, and He created you for His glory and eternal companionship.

Restoration Explained

Notice what the Bible says: “Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:1–6, NLT).

This is how the Old Testament makes a similar point: “The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations” (Deuteronomy 7:7–9).

Restoration Planned

Now that we have made it clear that God loves you, we can take it a step further. Since we have done a number on ourselves by choosing to sin, the One who loves us dearly enacted the restoration plan because He is righteous.

Do note the principle of God restoring us for His name’s sake. What does that even mean?

Before we get to that, read this similar reference: “For thou art my rock and my fortress; Therefore for thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me” (Psalm 31:3).

The Lord is gracious enough to protect and guide us as He continues the work of restoration. He keeps us safe (spiritually) as He transfers us from the kingdom of darkness where we had no choice but to do wickedly, into the kingdom of light where we receive power from the Spirit to please Him in all things (just like Jesus).

Restoration Now

He does all this because He loves us, and for the sake of manifesting His honor, reputation, and character. He promised that He would restore all who surrender to Him. For the sake of His good name, He pledges to do just that and make of us a holy nation and a royal people who have been called out of darkness into His marvelous light.

God never comes up short on His promises. Submit to Him and watch Him do wondrous works in your life. The mouth of the Lord has spoken.




Drama Files: Bye-Bye Jamal. You Can’t Have it All.

 

 

Paris sought  counseling with me while going through a divorce. The problem: she always had concerns about her husband working around women, and not setting boundaries with his students.

Paris and Jamal had been married  for only two years. She was a high school teacher and Jamal was a college professor. They loved  each other very much.

Tell-Tale Texts

Jamal had been receiving text messages on his phone consistently. Paris noticed he would turn his phone over, or just ignore the text. One afternoon, she received a text that her husband was involved with one of his former graduate students and that she needed to go immediately to his office.

Paris was off work on that day so she went right over to Jamal’s office. She opened the door and there he was kissing another woman, and she was pregnant. Jamal was in shock and all Paris could do was stand there and cry. She calmly walked out of his office and waited for him to come home.

She never saw any signs of the unfaithfulness in their marriage. She tried to play it over and over in her head, but she would become more frustrated. Finally, Jamal came home and told her everything. He also stated that the child was his and that the affair had been going on from day one of their marriage. On the day of their marriage, he had sex with her, yet and he claimed he loved them both. Jamal had tried to keep it a secret, but he knew it would eventually come out. He was to afraid of loosing Paris and being away from his girlfriend and his new baby.

“You lost me the moment I walked through that door today” Paris told him.

Too Late to Apologize

Jamal’s pleadings of  “Please  don’t do this to us, and I love you Paris,” made no headway with Paris. He was selfish and only cared about himself.

Paris had been trying to conceive and Jamal kept making excuses why they should not have a child. That evening Jamal packed his bags and moved out. Paris filed for divorce and never had any further contact with Jamal until three years later.

Paris was the keynote speaker at an educational conference, and after she finished greeting people, Jamal stepped up.  She was taken a little off-guard, but not totally surprised that he would possibly attend. After they exchanged greetings Jamal plunged right in with an apology.  His relationship with the other woman broke off shortly after his divorce, and she had a miscarriage.  He lost everything over his own pride and selfishness, he admitted.

For Paris, Jamal’s admissions and apologies now brought closure to their dramatic and painful divorce.  It was still over, however, and Paris made that very clear. She forgave him, but would not reconcile with him.

Choice At the Heart of the Matter

“But, you never gave me an opportunity to choose you,” Jamal countered.

” You chose the day you brought a another woman into our marriage,” Paris wisely observed. Their conversation ended, and Paris walked away never looking back. She continues to flourish and is focusing on her life with Christ and family.

I shared with Paris something my father told me. “If someone you have trusted can’t make  a decision for the betterment of your life, then you need to make it for yourself.”  Paris will continue her counseling with me me, is looking forward to a wonderful future and trusting God for her outcomes.

 

 




God’s Creation. Satan’s Destruction. God’s Restoration.

Family began, according to the Bible, with God who “created man in his own image in the image of God created he him: male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, “Be fruitful, and multiply. . .” (Genesis 1:27, 29). God intended family happiness, however, with the entry of sin into the world, all forms of unhappiness, including family problems, exist today.

Some family problems stem from childhood experiences that one may not remember, understand, or accept. For example: some children had a parent who denied that they were the parent of that child. Some children were sexually molested by a parent or other family member. Some were abused in other ways. Some grew up in homes where all they heard were parents arguing. Others grew up in homes where God was not honored. As a result, they may have looked for a mate in all the wrong places. To exacerbate these painful experiences, some adults who may know what their issues are, rather than getting the help they need, blame others.

On the other hand, some people grew up in good homes, homes with potential to propel and nurture. However, because of the influence of friends, the places people hung out, TV programs and movies watched, and even some of the music to which they listened that potential was lost.

Enough of the negatives. There is a way to bring happiness back into the family:

  1. Acknowledge that there is a problem and you could be it.
  2. Invite God to come into your heart and family. Be willing to obey whatever He asks you to do, before it is too late to save the family.
  3. Be willing to seek professional counseling if needed.
  4. Communicate with your mate honestly, and calmly.
  5. Ask for forgiveness where you have wronged your mate and children, and be willing to forgive what your mate may have done. If you want forgiveness, you have to be willing to forgive. Jesus forgives us when we ask in sincerity. He is our example.
  6. Show true love to your spouse and children. Show genuine interest in them.

Others who may be blessed with happy homes can help others by showing love to those whom they know are struggling. I did not say to intrude uninvited. Rather, invite them to hang out with you some time just for fun. People can learn how to love by being shown love, and seeing how love is shown. Invite the young, single people to your home for fun so they can observe what a happy home is, and what theirs can be when they get married and have a family.

Pray for the parent or parents, or other family members who wronged you in such a hurtful way. When you pray for the person or persons who wronged you, God gives you a peace that only He can give.

I said pray for, not about. When you pray about someone, there are times you may be asking God to punish him or her for what they did. When you pray for someone, you are asking God to please reach their hearts and help them to recognize their issue, and ask for God’s forgiveness, and those they hurt. Because of some things I have been through, I can tell you from personal experience, that when I started praying for . . . it helped me. Only God!




Nothing You Can Do About His Love

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Monday, May 23, 2016


Today’s Scripture Focus: Hosea 11:8-11

sin recovery planWe are focusing on sin recovery principle number five of 12: “We confessed to God, and when necessary, to people we have offended, the exact nature of our offenses.”

I was watching an old friend’s Facebook live video a couple of weeks ago. After he had poured out his heart to his viewers about success principles that could change our lives forever, he said something like, “I love you with all my heart, and there is not a…thing you can do about it.” He clenched his teeth with a playful smile as he modulated his voice to get his point across and then he signed off. I could feel the sincerity in his voice as he made the point.

Have you ever felt God’s love as He poured into your life? Have you ever read the Word and realized that there was nothing you could do to increase or diminish God’s love for you? Just think; Jesus subjected Himself to pain, ridicule, beatings, rejection, feelings of abandonment, and a humiliating public execution for you. And it’s fascinating that He did this all while the human race was in the worst shape of our lives. After thousands of years of degradation, and at the time we were at our weakest, Christ died for the ungodly.

God is longing to restore somebody reading this today. … Whatever the case, if you sense the call of God to give your life to Him, He’s waiting. He’s ready to listen to you tell him how you feel and where you think you have gone wrong.

The book of Hosea communicates this love masterfully. We get a glimpse of this love as God tells His prophet to buy his adulteress wife off the public slave trade block. What? You read this right. God commanded the man of God to purchase his harlot wife with his hard earned money. Notice what happened next: “And I said unto her, Thou shalt abide for me many days; thou shalt not play the harlot, and thou shalt not be for another man: so will I also be for thee.” (Hosea 3:3).

This unexpected love gesture illustrated the point that when we disrespect our relationship with God, He does not love us any less. Jesus paid our sin debt to release us from slavery to the devil. No, God does not take sin lightly. No, God does not just bury His divine head in the sand and act like nothing ever happened. However, before He can begin to mold and fashion us after His image, He has to cancel all rights Satan has to our lives. When we sin, we give the enemy the right to rule our lives. When we confess and forsake our sins, we give God the right to take over and transfer us to the kingdom of light where we can be in right relationship with Him.

God is longing to restore somebody reading this today. You may have turned your back on God for some reason or another. Perhaps you felt He abandoned you at a time you needed Him most. Maybe you loved the entrapments of this world more than your misperception of what God had to offer. Perhaps you have just been coasting through life, and now you want to live your life on purpose—His purpose for you. Whatever the case, if you sense the call of God to give your life to Him, He’s waiting. He’s ready to listen to you tell him how you feel and where you think you have gone wrong. He is ready to share His deepest thoughts and hopes for you from His Word through the Spirit. Won’t you surrender to Him today?




I See You, But Do You See Yourself?

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Sabbath, May 14, 2016

Today’s Scripture Focus: Genesis 3:6-13

sin recovery planWe are focusing on sin recovery principle number four of 12: “We are submitting to an honest self-inventory as the Holy Spirit makes us more aware.”

Peek-a-boo! I see you. But do you see yourself? This is the question we all must face. Do I see me as God sees me? Submitting to this level of introspection can be jarring, intimidating, disruptive to our confidence levels, and impactful on our relationships. The way we view ourselves certainly influences our behavior.

There comes a time in every person’s life that God stops by. We may or may not understand what’s happening exactly, but it’s still the reality. And when God stops by our proverbial houses, He brings a clear light and perfectly buffed mirror.

What we see in the mirror is an accurate reflection of who we are. It’s the naked, imperfect, and shameful version of us we wish nobody will ever see. Even the best of us spend lots of time propping up our reputations and appearances so other will not see what God has revealed. We front like our marriages are fine and dandy when our husbands are abusing us. We behave like we are in happily wedded bliss when our wives are cheating on us regularly. We act like we are going along with our manager’s recommendations during yearly appraisals, but secretly think they’re idiots. These are not to mention the times we have road rage, say bad words in our minds that we would not even consider uttering aloud. Some of us would much rather watch the next new sensual or graphically violent movie than pray. Most of us would rather overeat Thanksgiving style feasts with far too much fat, sugar, flesh foods, crazy portion sizes, than exercising moderation. Are you getting this? Then there are the unmentionable thoughts some of us have on a regular basis.

The blessing is that when God stops by our houses and starts rummaging our drawers, closets, basements, and garages, completely bypassing the grand staircases, formal living and dining rooms, and entertainment suites, He brings help. The Holy Spirit is on task, ready to bring not only true self-awareness. The Spirit brings extraordinary power for us to surrender to His guidance. He brings extraordinary power to yield our sinful, hopeless selves to be molded and cultivated according to the model Character of Jesus Christ.

So come out of hiding. God is not stopping by to merely throw open all the doors to embarrass anyone. The only way any of us can be cleaned up and refined to golden, glistening perfection is if we first get a real look at who we are in contrast to who God is. Then, and only then will be on pace to live God’s ideal in purity. Submit to the process. Submit to God and your life will never be the same, which is a good thing.