Shots Fired: Chicago!

Yesterday, I stopped by Calumet Park Elementary School with my sister to pick up my twelve and thirteen year old niece and nephew who are in the sixth and seventh grade. School normally lets out at 2:30; at 2:45 the school doors were still closed. No kids where milling about laughing, playing or making their way to the yellow buses as they stood empty. I knew something was amiss.

I got out of the car, which I didn’t want to do because I was still having problems with my left knee. As I walked towards the front door, I was met by a young lady who informed me the school was on lock-down. A shooting recently occurred near the school and the police officials advised the school authorities not to release any students until they felt it was safe to do so. Parents were allowed to go into the school and personally pick up their children. So, of course I went inside and asked for both my niece and nephew.

It was an eerie feeling as each parent gave their child’s name and grade to the principal, who then called each name over the intercom. Mary, Sharon, Latisha, Jason, please come down to the main door. Only one door was available for exit at the time. I felt as if I were part of a scene in a Lifetime movie.

Thankfully, the children were never at risk, nevertheless the prospect of violence was way too close for comfort. As I was speaking to the bus driver, who looked to be in his late fifties to early sixties, we shared comments that the wave of violence the black neighborhoods were experiencing was ridiculous. And, I felt this gentlemen’s sense of hopelessness about the problem and simply not knowing what to do.

The incidents of black young men senselessly murdering their own leaves me and many others overwhelmed. Yes we are praying, listening to WVON talk radio, and other news outlets talk about the problem. There are solutions being thrown out there to stop the violence such as making rap artist accountable for their lyrics, increasing job availability for youth, reforming the availability of services available for those released from jail, and other similar solutions. A WLS/ABC website has a list of resources aimed at providing solutions; however, immediate answers are not forthcoming.

This emotionally and spiritually deficit picture being painted of a tainted population and community of Black people is heartbreaking. It sends a message of pain, helplessness, and hopelessness as the violence appears to be escalating. And summer ain’t even here yet. At one time people felt horrible about war-torn areas around the world, but now no one has look that far. How about right out your back door or window?

Yes, Black lives do matter, but we are the first ones who must realize and embrace this. Who are the influences of today? Why aren’t they doing more, and  crying loudly and not sparing? We need to show our young brothers and sisters their transgressions (Isaiah 58:1). Who are these young people listening to? These are those who need to speak up and out. Many say they are not role models, but most are whether they want to be or not. Something revolutionary has to be done. HELP!

Self-Cleaning: Getting Ready for 2016

WasherCleaning Last Year’s Debris

Washing machines have several wash cycles, from normal to gentle, and from delicate to self-cleaning. I recently put a large area rug in my washer; I wasn’t sure I should have, but I did it anyway. The result, it left a good deal of debris in my washer. It was quite a mess, but at least my rug was clean.

As the year comes to an end I’d like to share two observations; usually washing machines clean other things, but one Thanksgiving I set mine to clean itself. As the machine was self-cleaning, I begin to think about the upcoming holidays, and maybe our self-cleaning is part of releasing stuff taken on last year.

God is allowing us to take debris from the old year, cleaning out the internal trash and garbage collected in our minds and spirits in 2015 and putting it all behind us. Like the washing machine, we need to clean out our interior, so we can have room to accept the new bundles for 2016. By self-cleaning, we are getting ready for the supernatural coming our way.

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The second thing pertains to the upcoming new year, and how Thanksgiving and Christmas is a time God has set aside to prepare or introduced us our upcoming future. Beginning with Thanksgiving preparations, God knows we need time to reflect on things which occurred last year, perhaps a new job or career, perhaps a move, perhaps a divorce, perhaps a new love or a new life.

Many things were introduced and experienced in 2015, and our wise and gracious Father gives us a moment to introduce us or get us ready for 2016. I feel some of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve are about looking forward.

Sixty, Sexy, and Getting Better—Aging Gracefully Beyond Sixty

Oops-you’re Sixty!

Where exactly did those forties and fifties go? Aging can sometimes sneak up on you, especially when you’re having fun, are productive, and just plain busy. You paused for a brief moment and realized you’re beyond what’s considered middle-aged. It’s a high probability that marriage, children, grandchildren, and other wonderful events have resulted in more years behind you than likely before you. Relax, it’s quite alright. Aging gracefully beyond sixty is attainable and actually a pretty awesome place to be.

This is the age where you can put regrets behind you, develop fully your inner beautiful, and teach others life lessons that proved to be important to you.

No Regrets 6489623615_a330c191fb_z

Why bother with past regrets? The fact is, the past remains unchangeable, and regrets may ultimately bring you into a negative space, which can be emotionally unsafe. When reconciliation, forgiveness or making things right is a possibility and if your inner spirit pushes you towards this, then by all means move forward. However, if these things aren’t a reality for you, then you must forgive yourself, resolve yourself, and free yourself so that you can move peacefully forward to an emotionally healthy place as you age. Then you are helping yourself and others in a positive and holistic way.

Being Beautiful

5437070898_cee17ac7df_mAging gracefully involves nurturing an inner beauty that will radiate in your smile, personality, and the way you interact with people. Beauty is truly what lies within your heart. A beautiful soul shines through.

Facing the reality of becoming a physically mature person will ease the gradual transition of an aging face and body. If you’re fortunate enough to migrate into your 60s, 70s, 80s, and beyond, take into consideration that reduced energy, wrinkles, lines, and gray hairs are generally inevitable.

Of course, you don’t have to take these changes lying down. Stay active, engaged, at your best weight, and eat appropriately, but also understand outward youthfulness at some point will mature and reach refinement. Retaining the beauty that lies within, the beauty that relates to attitude, character, spirituality, and graceful maturity is the one that truly matters.

Teaching Others

Whether you like it or not, you are someone’s mentor. A young person’s eyes are on you. They are examining how you respond in certain situations. How many times have you heard someone make a remark about how a mother, aunt or grandmother influenced a specific area or idea about something? So make the best of life’s lessons and pass down positive tidbits. Be aware of what you say and do, and how it will impact those paying attention to you. Aging is about taking responsibility for future generations and understanding that your life matters in so many ways to others.

The great thing about being 60 is even though you’re leaving a great deal behind you, it’s also an entryway to some wonderful experiences yet to be realized in front of you. Regrets and forgiveness are reconciled. You are more decisive, thereby making decisions and choices that are healthier, emotionally and physically. The word grace refers to elegance and refined movement; it refers to the free and unmerited favor of God; it refers to honor by one’s presence. Therefore, embrace aging gracefully beyond 60; it’s an awesome mantle to carry.

Image via Flickr by Jason Howle; Image via Flickr by Justin Vidamo;

Black Women: Unmarried, Not By Choice

574993779_7dfd93b2bb_bAs I was sitting in church one Sunday morning, I noticed a compelling observation which prompted me to question, why are so many black mothers single? Why are so many black women single? Unmarried? A few aren’t even knocking on the marriage door, but most are, if he were the right one.

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Black women are their own persons; they are independent and self-sufficient; they are strong and can do almost anything a man can. But…black women need and want life partners too. Someone to have quiet conversations with in the middle of the night; someone to mow the lawn; to go down into a dark damp and musty basement or up into a creepy attic. Someone who is not like her, but a part of her all the same.

Yes, sister-girls are nice and a heart-to-heart with God is even better. In church, when the presence of the Holy Ghost comes down, in, and through…ain’t nothing like it! But when she walks through the door of her town home, condo, tri-level mansion, or two bedroom rental she wishes for a moment, a size 12 ½ pair of shoes were walking through the door with her.

The “Single” Status of Black Women

There are real conversations going on about singleness and the unmarried status of too many black women. Seventy percent of black women are not married. Seventy-two percent of black females are single moms. One of the overriding factors contributing to this phenomenon is too many young black males serving time in prison. In Chicago alone, eighty-percent of black males carry the weight of a felony on their record. This is a costly blow, even if one has paid his debt to society, it means finding work and supporting a family is significantly compromised.

Unfortunately, for black women, black men available for marriage have a pool of various ethnicities to choose from. The landscape is very competitive. Smith, a relationship and dating expert list several reasons why black women don’t make it to the wedding chapel.

  • Black male shortage
  • Black women are too angry, abrasive, and brash
  • Some have weighed their options and made conscious decisions to remain single
  • Black men don’t marry the attributes nor images of their mothers in the women they date, whereas other ethnicities do.
  • Women are pursuing careers and waiting until they are too old to seriously pursue a marriage partner.

Why Too Many Black Women are Single

And here is my two cents. Black women are so preoccupied with raising children, helping their mothers and extended family members, working in church, they forget to take care of themselves. They become overweight and stop doing the things necessary to stay at their beautiful best outwardly and inwardly. And let’s face it, appearance is the number one appeal factor for men.

A problem like this has no easy fixes. The reality is that black women have to be open to looking beyond their own race for companionship.

Solutions 

A long-term solution, is black mothers must work harder to raise successful black young men. Teach them not to buy into the propaganda that dark-skinned women can’t be beautiful. Teach them to take pride in their heritage, foster integrity, honesty, and respect for black women, so they will be honored to take her as his wife.

Mothers, teach your daughters to love, love, love who they are and who they will become. If you don’t love yourself, it becomes difficult for others to love and value you. Women are not bitches, teach your daughters to never answer to it.

5481998203_552d241601_bNever give up. If marriage is your heart’s desire, just like anything that you really want, create a plan.  Successful relationships don’t just happen; map out a plan, and set a goal. In the meantime, have fun! Don’t put your life on hold while you are on your journey. Disregard the statistics, it never stopped black people from pursuing and achieving their destiny despite insurmountable odds.

Purposeful Visions Creating Life

Without a vision, the people perish Prov. 29:18

BE GRATEFUL FOR YOUR VISION

It gives life. Participate in your vision every day.

For me, visions are how we see ourselves in the future. It addresses goals, aspirations, great ideas and amazing possibilities. Your visions are never ordinary. The size of a vision is only measured by you; try not to limit it.

Yes, you can have more than one vision; you can even have add-ons. Sometimes on the journey to realized visions the scope changes…it is enlarged.

It often takes time for visions to manifest or be realized. Keep your vision in the forefront; never lose focus. Work towards it frequently even if the steps are miniature ones. Research, reevaluate, revitalize, compile, recreate, renew, and do whatever you can to keep moving towards it.

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DO NOT BE DAUNTED IF PERCHANCE YOU ARE WAYLAID

Start again. Living presents the ever present opportunity to try again. Visions may require adjusting as you journey through the changes that life presents; nevertheless, refuse to perish. Your dream may be the catalyst for someone else’s vision. Your dream may drive another’s aspirations.

6776270554_6e64178b62_n16255176372_ab221a5c52_nStaff Sgt. Samira Abdullahmuhammad with a female engagement team, 40th Engineer Battalion, 170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, gives a high-five to a child during a mission to deliver medical supplies to a clinic in Deh Dadi, Afghanistan, June 1.8445499572_bae1764732_b

Visions are a breath of fresh air and cannot be limited by age, race or gender. I rather be a visionary always looking towards possibilities, than to dry up and wither “like a raisin in the sun.”1 I challenge you to attack your vision with vigor and to reject the naysayers. As long as you can see yourself within the vision move forward and change the world today and for generations to come.

(1) A Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes

CHANGING BY RENEWING

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MENTAL RENEWAL

Renewing the mind is a daily endeavor. The journey to betterment is continual and never stops. If you are still involved in living, and if you’re reading this you are, you must embrace an ever evolving mental renewal.

Never cease learning and exploring to gain more wisdom and grace. To retrieve the mantel of compassion you momentarily threw aside after tasting some of life’s difficult realities, daily renewal is one of the life altering keys.

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HOW SHALL WE RENEW?

Throw aside every weight that slows you down, deters you, or that prevents you from renewing daily. Change something in your life. Try just one thing, and it doesn’t need to be anything major.

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START HERE:

  • Learn something new
  • Listen to others intently
  • Pick up a self-help or self-improvement book in an area you’d like to change or improve on
  • Slow down and make sure you get all the details no matter what environment or situation you are in
  • Eliminate negative preconceived notions
  • Allow goodness and mercy to grow in your heart
  • Forgive and be forgiven

RENEWAL PRAYER:

I speak a life altering renewal in your life that will change negative habits and behaviors. I speak a renewal of self-encouragement, open mindedness, an outpouring of love and compassion given and received. I speak a renewal of joy once again in life’s simple pleasures. I speak the ability to put into perspective the things in this life. I speak encouragement, inspiration, and change. In Jesus name, Amen.

Alternative Meeting Places For Christians

Hebrews 10:25 instructs believers in the importance of gathering or assembling together with other believers. One of the reasons for doing so is to create an atmosphere of encouragement. But, there may be more than one way to gather together with the saints.

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Fellowship Defined

Most common, is the traditional definition used by most that assembly means to physically come to the church house. An alternative idea is being in the presence of others through Christian devotionals, Christian focused self-help books, and fellowship with favorite pastors via television, e-mail and social media. This type of meeting is effective because it promotes inner reflection and often the voice of God is clearly heard and does not need to compete with other distractions.

Assembly:To Gather Together With Others

Certainly, no one is advocating eliminating traditional fellowship, but if the goal is encouragement, then it’s beneficial to come by it as you see fit.  So, if you are gathering together with other saints by reading, meditating, learning or listening by all means continue…even if they can’t hear you when you say “Amen.”

It is well.

Stay In Focus–No Matter What!

Understanding the importance of “firsts” 

We hear this so many times, but it is really critical to keep first things first. Determine your true priorities. These are the things that will make a difference in your life. If you leave these goals, dreams or everyday responsibilities unattended, nothing happens, nothing changes, and nothing is accomplished. Change will be unrealized unless you take action; unless you pick up the pieces and put them back together.

Losing Focus

When you lose focus, stuff falls apart, it can’t fix itself without you, without your intervention. Listen to the small voice which gently, and sometimes not so gently, prods you to take action and move onward and forward.

Don’t allow a new path to overwhelm you.

Claim who you are! God made you incredible, even if only among your circle of friends and acquaintances. Just because the world doesn’t know your name, only means this is not your direction. What are your life’s priorities? Don’t get busy with insignificant tasks so that you become distracted and forget on purpose what you really need to do. Only you can reach inside to determine your firsts. When you leave them neglected, it influences everything else in your life.

 

Move from your so-called comfort zone

Because you are miserable in that space anyway. Take authority over your priorities. Stay focused – examine where you are spending your time and energies and how this aligns with your destiny.

God Made you Carefully – He made you uniquely you! Focus on that!

 

A Saint from the Other Side

One thing I thought I would never do is talk to dead people. I often, not to anyone’s face of course, thought when relatives, co-workers and friends said someone from the other side had spoken or visited with them, that they were exaggerating or simply not telling the truth. After all, what sane person talks to dead people? But now I have another take on the entire matter. Having lost a dear friend, to me—a sister, a few months ago, every now and then I find myself out loud having a conversation with her. And, despite how crazy it sounds, it is very therapeutic. Now, I will say, while I was talking, I went between talking with her and Jesus—we were having a three-way! Now, when someone says they were visiting with a saint from the other side, who am I to say they aren’t.

Happy New Year!

Yes, I realize that my greeting is late; past the first quarter, past my birthday, past the crucifixion, past the resurrection, past winter and hopefully now spring. But it is a new year-already bursting with joy, happiness, and pain and lost. I am glad to be here, nevertheless the lost of love ones leave a void which cannot be filled. What became real to me this year is the scripture, though the outward man perishes, the inward man is being renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16). Only those of a certain age, and that are at peace with their age, can readily admit this.
Recently, my friend Pat Gray went home to be with Jesus. My soul and spirit felt the blow of this sudden and unexpected loss. To me in a sense this also embodies the outward man perishing. I miss Pat! I regret that I could not say goodbye. Pat was such a private person; and few people, ones we mutually knew, were allowed into her real secret chamber. Losing Pat makes me look at death in the eye, and that is okay. I know that only God and time will make the heart ache less.
Today, I must love more. I must be more patient. Compassion should be my best friend. Peace should be my amour bearer; listening should be my default; bearing other’s burdens should be my life.
We will talk later.