Wednesday, December 30, 2020

2020 - The Year In Review

 You know what kind of year this was!  The year we were all put into time out for our continuing pattern of bad behavior.  It had the potential to be a devastating year in many ways.  Some trauma came to fruition while other categories in my personal life achieved growth and found prosperity during a pandemic.

Ironically there were indications late in 2019 that a China trip I had planned for April of this year would not happen.  Not due to Covid but due to my chosen dates not being filled with anyone traveling except me.  The trip was officially canceled in early January by the tour company I had signed up with saving me thousands of dollars that would be needed elsewhere in the coming months. 

My mother's health continued to decline from Alzheimer's and dementia.  Her home care wasn't up to adequacy resulting in her having to go to a nursing home in late January.  January also began our search for a winter getaway home which we found.  Then came a relaxing trip to New Orleans in February just as Mardi Gras was starting.  We then took a Western Caribbean cruise from New Orleans.  So we were in environments that were to become Covid spreaders due to the closeness of contact during Mardi Gras parades and on cruise ships.

March brought the full blown impact of Covid as it spread throughout the United States.  This put an end to normal routines such as going to restaurants, movies, or spending time with relatives and friends.  Masks became a new required fashion accessory that would save your life. People we knew started getting ill from Covid and some died.

One thing Covid brought to my life was financial discipline. I no longer was spending money on discretionary items.  The Veterans administration finally resolved a claim for benefits that I had filed on my mother's behalf some two years before.  The lump sum payment of retroactive benefits she was owed came right on time as her nursing home stay ended.  This got her out of a dangerous Covid environment and allowed her to return home where she passed away a month later.  The retroactive VA benefits paid for her 24 hour professional homecare her last month of life.  God worked it out that way.

We closed on our winter getaway home in July.  My spouse retired in late December.  Under the grace of God we have both avoided the deadly effects of Covid, so far.  The promise of a vaccine is on the horizon.  We never go without food.  We have more than one place to live.  We can pay our bills on our fixed retirement incomes.  Our health is good.  

I grew spiritually during this year.  I am at the point where my writing skills are now being utilized in the church. My other writing and research projects are going well.  I am doing what I want to do.  Covid helped to keep me away from people and situations that were not good for me personally.  Covid refocused my mind on what I should be focused on.  Covid helped me manage my financial resources better. 

I still have my human faults. But I am a better person than I was on December 30, 2019.  The ways of the world have always failed me.  I no longer seek the glory of this world.

2021. It may get better, it could be worse.  All I can say is so far with one day left, I have survived a world wide pandemic.  In the United States, some 300,000 people did not.



Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Spiritually Managing The World Around You

 

2 Timothy 4: 3-5.   For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching.  They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.  They will reject the truth and chase after myths.  But you should keep a clear mind in every situation.  Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord.  Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.

As you continue your Christian spiritual journey, understand that many of the day-to-day cares of the world will not support your journey.  You will need to interject God into daily human rituals that don’t consider God first.  Think of your average day.  If you are in the habit of turning on the morning news, how many news shows begin with a prayer? If you drive to work, how many of your fellow drivers are showing love and compassion to you in their driving techniques?  In school, do your classmates treat you with love as a fellow child of God?  As you shop for groceries are your fellow shoppers behaving as considerate Christians?

The number of non-Christian images thrust at us every day can be overwhelming.  Whether you are at work, in school, watching or streaming television or movies, on social media, shopping for groceries, etc. you will see one common theme.  The world does not openly acknowledge God in many of our daily common activities.  Our government is not focused on incorporating Godly principles into how we are governed.  As Timothy states, we are focused on following our own human desires.

How do we overcome the power of the World?  It takes maximum effort and you must work at it hourly.  Not just every Sunday via church services. The focus of the World is to tell us from a worldly standpoint what we need and what we should do while we are alive in the world.  We are bombarded with that message every hour of every day.  The focus of the World does not include telling us to prepare for life after death through our spiritual journey.  How do we manage the world around us?  As Timothy says “keep a clear mind in every situation.”

During the last year of my work career, every week I would travel from Indianapolis to my last employer in St. Louis, Missouri.  I would live and work in St. Louis during the week and then return to Indianapolis for the weekend.  When driving to and from St. Louis, my journey on I 70 would take me past Effingham, Illinois and a large tall white cross built next to the highway.  198 feet tall and 113 feet wide.  Every time I saw the cross it served as a reminder of where my focus should be as I traveled to work or returned from my week’s work in St. Louis.  It was a reminder that God created us and is in control, even if we don’t acknowledge Him in our daily lives.  The view of the cross was a” reboot” to my mind allowing me to refocus and manage whatever thoughts were on my mind.

Timothy reminds us that it does take “work” to share the Good News with others.  Managing how the world influences us takes work on our part.  We have to filter out what is not of God and search for what is of God in every situation.  Not all of us have the luxury of seeing a nearly 200-foot cross to remind us to reboot and refocus.  In your personal life seek to create a visible landmark and reminder that helps you reboot and manage what you allow from the outside world into your spiritual life.  It could be a scripture verse you keep in your pocket.  Or it could be a Christian themed bracelet or necklace that you wear every day.  Whatever your choice, begin to manage the world around you.  Work at deciding what worldly information comes into your world and what worldly information is kept out.  Work to keep a clear mind in every situation.



Friday, November 27, 2020

Black Men Run (BMR)

 


This is a letter of Thanksgiving for the existence of Black Men Run (BMR).  Thanks especially to the founders of BMR and those who may have tried before, but were unsuccessful in starting the movement that exists now.   I am writing this from the perspective and memories of my days in the year 1977, when I was a 20-year-old runner, full of energy, enough to be able to run twice a day.  Now I am lucky if I get in 4 runs a week!

I’ve told this story before but it seems more relevant on this Thanksgiving Day.  Back in 1977, I was living in an area near a military base in Indianapolis that had ample space for distance running.   I took advantage of that opportunity and would run 2-3 miles several times a week.  On weekends I would often see a group of European American runners gathered at the YMCA on base for their group run.  I would pass them by never being invited to join their group. I would think, it must be nice to run with others.  I recall running with a couple of older brothers later that summer who lived in the same apartment complex I lived in.  My first group run.  The brotherhood and camaraderie were a positive change from my usual solo runs.

In the early 2000s I ran in several Prostate Cancer 5Ks.  In those events myself and the few black runners in the event would often comment about the lack of black men in “our” event.  Especially in such an event where the cause, Prostate Cancer, impacted many of us. In fact, the Prostate Cancer event in Indianapolis was named after a black gentleman, Charles Williams, who had died from Prostate Cancer.

Move forward to the year 2016.   A friend sent me a link about a group called Black Men Run.  I was still running and was inspired by the runners in the 2016 Olympics to run longer distances.  I was 58 going on 59 and could tell that most of the local BMR chapter runners were younger than me.  But I didn’t hesitate at meeting up with the group for a weekend group run.  Ironically the location for us to meet for the BMR Indianapolis group run was that same YMCA where in 1977 I wasn’t invited to join the European American group runs.

For me BMR is more than just a group where I can be competitive against others.  At my age, it definitely is not about fast times, negative splits, beast mode runs, mini marathons, marathons, etc.  It’s just about the opportunity to run with other brothers, share stories and communicate with someone who looks like me.

When I think of BMR I think of the story my cousin told me about her youth.  I imagine the negative mile splits of her family running away in the middle of the night from a treacherous sharecropper in the 1950’s with all their belongings on their backs.  I think about the past when numerous black boys and men were unable to do distance runs together due to fear of black men.  I think of Ahmaud Arbery.  I think of that YMCA in 1977.

This Thanksgiving I am especially thankful for the BMR Virtual Race Series.  I have long advocated participating in events that reflected “Us” and those causes we care about.   So, when you are out running, doing what you do, understand that BMR hasn’t always been around.  Be thankful that it exists.  

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Make It Personal

 

Make it Personal

Every second the world thrusts at us information, events, stories, and entertainment activities all focused on life from the human standpoint.  Imagine yourself standing in one spot being covered with all these human based things to the point where only your head, shoulders and arms are visible and free! This continuing flow of humanity threatens to engulf you totally.  Imagine seeing within reach of your free arms a bible. You have a choice to reach for the Word to gain knowledge that will free you from the pile of humanity.  The Word in the bible will describe your real purpose and free you from the pile of human concerns before it engulfs you.  What choice do you make?  Seek the Word or continue to be engulfed by the world?

Why reach for the bible?

Within the bible are the spiritual instructions to know, honor, love, and fellowship with God, our Creator.  Know that it is your spiritual life that will lead you to eternal life and fellowship with God not your worldly life.  As you interact with the world you will constantly be challenged to make choices to infuse spirituality into worldly/Godless situations.  The choices you make will lead you either towards God or further away from God into the values, and rules of humans.  Here are some biblical instructions that God has provided to assist you in your walk.

A strong layer of solid concrete is the foundation of many homes.  In your life, allow God to be your concrete foundation.  

Hebrews 13: 6 says,” So we can say with confidence, The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear.  What can mere people do to me?” 

Psalm 28:7.  The Lord is my strength and shield.  I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. 

Making God your concrete foundation offers you help, provides you strength, and protection.

At your foundation is also the power of communicating with God through prayer. 

Ephesians 6:18.  Pray in the spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

Speaking to God through prayer, expressing your frustrations, desires, hopes, needs can be done anywhere.  At work, in your car, indoors, outdoors.  Establish a prayer routine that will help you build a relationship you with God.

From our foundation we move towards our personal goals and aspirations.  As you move forward towards your goals, understand that the journey will not be problem free.   You will face difficulties, frustrations and hardships.  You will have doubts.  You will be tempted to make decisions contrary to what God wants you to do.   

James 1:2-4.  Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

Romans 5: 3-4. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.

In your daily life, understand the presence of sin in the world.  Sin is any transgression against the laws of God.  Realize that some choices people make in terms of life styles are sins against God’s law, not a human right. Don’t get tricked by these references to “human rights” as a reason for condoning un Godly behaviors or lifestyles.

Romans 3:23. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 

Understand that in our daily lives we are subject to situations, where we will have to make a choice to do what is correct and not sinful in nature. How do we control our sinful nature? 

Ephesians 6:10-18 provides the Christian strategy in the spiritual war against sin.  “A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.  For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.  Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil.  Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.  Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.  For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.  In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.  Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Your armor can take many forms.  But a full plate of armor requires several pieces linked together.  Here are some examples of what can be in your armor arsenal:

1.       Play gospel music while going to work or school. 

2.       During the week make time to attend a bible study virtually. 

3.       Block out time every day to read and study your bible.

4.       Participate in ministry meetings and church events virtually.

5.       Attend and participate in Sunday School virtually.

6.       Regularly participate in Sunday church services.  

7.       View Christian themed films.

8.       Find a quiet moment in your day while at work or school to just pray, slow your human day down.

9.       Reach out to another believer to check on how they are doing.

10.   Find a nature spot to just enjoy and reflect on what God has given us.

11.   Think about all the blessings in your life, past and present.

Always look for armor arsenal items to help you defend yourself from sin.  Why?

Genesis 4:7 You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out!  Sin is crouching at the door eager to control you.  But you must subdue it and be its master.

 How you connect with God is a personal decision.   What armor works for you may not fit another person.    Specialize your armor and personal walk with God.





Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The Bizarro World of our Alleged President

 The Bizarro World Has Arrived

When I was a kid, I used to read Superman comics.  One of the repeating stories was about Superman discovering an alternate universe of Earth.  It was called the Bizarro World.  In the Bizarro world everything was the exact opposite of life in the real world.  The people had white faces that looked like puzzle pieces put together.  Now this was the early 1960s.  So you know there was no chance of having any black characters in the Bizarro world.  That was one thing that was constant between real comic books and the Bizarro world.  No black people were acknowledged!  We simply did not exist in the eyes of regular white people or Bizarro white people.  I realized this morning that the current alleged President of these United States is from the Bizarro world.  That's why he will not accept that he lost the election.  That's why he lies so much!  He is in the wrong alternate universe.  I think NASA should just go get him....put him on whatever rocket they have and send his ass back to the Bizarro world.  Problem over and we can move on with the transition.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Pre Election Thoughts -2020

 It was November 2016.  My wife and I were touring the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C.   It was the day before the Presidential and national elections.  We were awed by the coverage the museum provided of OUR story as African Americans. A story never fully and honestly told in the American education system.  We returned to the museum the next day, election day, as we felt one day didn't give the museum enough time.  

That evening, we all were given just what we deserved.  A President was elected who has promoted un godly, un Christian like behavior.  A name calling bully who could find no wrong in himself and his behavior.  We as people have implemented all types of decisions and lifestyles that go directly against what we have been taught as creations of God.  We have sought to do whatever we wanted to do regardless of what we have been told God wants us to do or how to behave. Our reward was to be given a President fitting for the behavior and lifestyles we have condoned and supported.

Then we were given Covid.  Another warning regarding our behavior.  Behavior that had us worshipping everything from athletes, entertainers and all the human focused activities we participated in before Covid.  With Covid we were shown that our man made idols, and most of our human activities had no real value or purpose, except to promote our own human desires.

Now we as humans are being given a chance to correct the political course we chose in 2016.  Are enough of us going to participate in the human process of voting to correct the course?  God is waiting to see what we do.  Then he will decide if we are ready to get back on track.

Covid 19 and its resolution is another story.  Our behaviors overall shows there is a large contingent of people who have not gotten the message.  Or they have decided to ignore the message and promote human superiority as the answer to Covid.  Covid seemed to be a great opportunity for many of us to modify our lifestyles and behavior.  A great opportunity to live in accordance with the principles established by God on how we should live and behaver. 

As we enter both the winter season of Covid and the political winter, we should all pause and ask ourselves "Did I get the message and respond accordingly?"

As of today, Covid has yet to have a negative impact on my life.  On the contrary, I have learned to manage my finances better; improved my health; avoided many situations and places not beneficial to me; and made more time to spend reading and then trying to apply the Word of God.

The politics of the President has irritated me but otherwise I understand that God is in control, not a man spouting hatred and stupidity.  No matter what happens tomorrow life will continue as it always continues.  

Why worry about what you cannot control?



Monday, October 19, 2020

A Real Life Testimony on How God truly does provide.

 Matthew 6:25-34 urges us not to worry about every day life. It reminds us how God provides everything we need and to have faith.  Our disconnect is not understanding that what WE think we need may not truly be what we need!

Our human culture often attempts to define what we need via commercials on television, and other visual methods that depict riches, and material items we should aspire to.  Those items and images are forced upon us.  Those images are often not what we need.

My spouse and I have achieved our dream of having a winter getaway home, only through the grace of God.  We always thought we could not afford a second home/winter getaway home unless we had a financial windfall such as winning a lottery.  But, God showed us that our current incomes was sufficient enough to purchase a second home that would be our winter getaway home.  The home is nothing extravagant but it is modern, in a new development, and in a warm weather state.  My wife and I had previously spent the equivalent of two months of mortgage payments at a vacation resort in the past.  So  we knew we had the means, but the question was where to search for the second home?

Last December on one of these expensive vacations, we were relaxing on a bench, God sent to us a gentlemen, I call our Guardian Angel,  who inspired us to put our efforts to finding a winter getaway into action.  God had already placed in my mind that 2020 would be a year when I would cut back on some areas of my spending and just save money.  After talking to our Guardian Angel, I began the serious search for a second home.  This lead to finding an opportunity in Florida.

Here is how God works.  My prior job in Human Resources for the federal government had me as a black male hitting the glass ceiling where jobs I aspired to I was not selected for.  I found myself working in a six figure job with no challenging assignments.  Instead of complaining, I of course continued to seek challenges.  But until the challenges came I used the time to get away from the job and enjoy life.  I traveled to Hawaii, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite Park and other destinations to see the world.  I called it my Pre Retirement Tour.

God then allowed an opening to occur in Human Resources where I was selected to be  a key program manager for 2 years.  After that again the glass ceiling was put back into place above me.  I sought positions across the country seeking to earn the salary I made and new challenges.  Finally God lead me to a Director of Human Resources job in Saint Louis, Missouri where I had spent the first 11 years of my life.  While there one of the employees on my staff became one of my friends.  After I retired from that job we stayed in touch.  This friend told me about a community in Florida to check out as he had moved there.  I finally followed his lead after meeting my Guardian Angel last December.

That community is where my wife and I found our getaway home that provides everything that we need. It's within driving distance of a beach, and provides all the privacy and other amenities that we need and desired of a second home.

Sometimes what we already have is what we need.  Sometimes God has already provides us the means to have what we need.  Beware of those shows on television that display grandiose homes and feature lottery winners who are buying their dream homes.  Call timeout in your life.  Assess if God has already provided what you need.  He did for us.