Monday, August 21, 2017

Black and White

Black and white. Black or white. This seems to be the line of demarcation, particularly where we live. There's an unspoken narrative around these colors that goes something like this:
Black - bad; criminal; fighting for equal rights; less than; minority; a problem; burdensome.
White - good; controls all the power structures including the church; responsible for slavery but won't accept the scars from this pain; always assumed to be well-meaning and good.
These associations have crept into every facet of our society including the church. In the 60s we had overt racism and now we have covert racism - where it's systemic and impacts the very fabric of all of our lives.

The very origins of America's racial history are closely tied to the America's church history. Missions were used as a way to rationalize the genocide of the native population and later on justify recruiting them into abusive boarding schools. Missions were used in theology to rationalize the slave trade as some European Christians argued that Cain's curse was a justification to steal humans from West Africa and enslave them in the new world though there is no actual proof of this. The American founding fathers wrote the Constitution within a culturally Christian identity yet most of them, Thomas Jefferson included, dehumanized their African brothers and sisters through enslavement. Looking at the origins of this country it's hard to say that covert racism crept in like a thief in the night. In the Constitution, the founding fathers proclaimed everyone equal under the law, an idea which was quickly contradicted by protecting slavery under the law. The cognitive dissonance it takes to say you love God and yet destroy people made in God's image because you found yourself superior is significant and must be acknowledged as such. It is important to take a critical look at how people can incongruently identify as Christian culturally and yet relationally have distance between the God they claim to serve. 

America said one thing and lived out another and now is wondering why they cannot recognize their own reflection. These associations we have with people groups have a deep history to them and are supported by living institutions. These associations go against how we should treat each other as Christians, believers in Christ, yet culturally this is our normal. We are called to have a different standard, a paradigm shift, since so many cling to these entrenched views and are unaware until something like Charlottesville happens.

In church, we see what we thought was hidden seep out in our interaction with others, in particular, those not like us. We see our churches become homogeneous. There's a danger in sameness - we think everyone thinks the way we do and therefore there's no fear our shame in expressing those thoughts. The fact that so many "ethnic" churches exist is heartbreaking. Therefore, it becomes something to be celebrated when we truly see a multi-ethnic, diverse, united church - because this is not the norm.  

This phenomenon exhibited by churches and others is something called in-group bias: "It's a well-known principle in social psychology that people define themselves in terms of social groupings and are quick to denigrate others who don't fit into those groups. Others who share our particular qualities are our "in-group," and those who do not are our "out-group.""(Source: psychologytoday.com)

In light of the current climate, I am challenged to be known by my fruit: to live differently think differently and act differently. To let my heart and my actions line up. To let my biases not define my life but to love and accept all because like me they are made in God's image. The thing about racism is that it feels the worse when it shows up in churches - where God's love should be evident. If you've suffered racism at work, in a road rage incident, DWB (driving while Black), being followed in a store, or just the gnawing feeling that something isn't right with a particular interaction which you know stems from the skin you're in, then sometimes you expect a safe place where you can just be and when it seems that no safe place exists, it creates a widening gap.

I posit that that safe space is the church, at least it's supposed to be. The church can accept all while at the same time speak out on societal ills. The church can be a place where healing begins. But it requires the hard work of love, faith, and forgiveness in action. I don't turn a blind eye to racism in my personal life and as such I'd like to see the church become more vocal on addressing the ills of racism - not the Black Church or the Evangelical Church or the White Church - just the Church - one body fighting against injustice. Jesus wouldn't have it any other way.



This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another.

If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead. Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them. 

1 John 3:11-15

Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. In every nation, he accepts those who fear him and do what is right.This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 
Acts 10:34-36


Racism and its implications are no longer the elephants in the room; instead, these elephants are roaring demanding attention. "The church needs less lip service and more love accompanied with action. Until we are willing to confront and discipline our brothers and sisters who are knee-deep in this type of sin, and others, we will be villages in valleys, rather than cities on a hill." (Source: desiringgod.org)





Thursday, August 17, 2017

Time for a New Start

All of a sudden, August 14th seems to be the date when most schools resume all over these United States (did you catch the irony in the name of this country? I digress). The Little One started high school on Monday and I am still trying to wrap my brain around it. She is my late in life child, the child of my old age, our surprise blessing. Prior to discovering I was pregnant with her, I was seeing my way across the finish line and looking forward to a respite from childrearing. This time, I'm much closer, and there will be no surprises.

She started High School with all of its promises of new beginnings, experiences, and excitement. As an older parent, I'm there for her but I'm also nudging her to embrace the good that High School has to offer. As I've prayed for all of my children, I'm more cognizant of how to intercede for her in light of what's happening around us.

I pray for peace; I pray that she has a peaceful disposition and that she is a peacemaker.
I pray that she has no anxiety and that when she becomes uneasy, she is reassured that she need not be anxious about anything.
I pray for favor with her teachers, guidance counselors, administration and any position of authority that she interacts with.
I pray that she is surrounded by good friends and that she is a bright light to all; that her light will shine.
I pray for protection from people and things that mean her harm.
I pray for bravery to combat injustice and to speak up as needed.
I pray for wisdom and discernment.
I pray for determination and strength as there will be things that she will just have to persevere through - whether it's dealing with a tough project, making a team or short-sightedness on her part.
I pray for memory to recall God's word that is hidden in her heart; to recall what she has studied.
I pray that she will be a friend to the friendless.I pray that she exudes joy.

I have prayed a variation of these prayers for my children daily as they navigated the halls of learning and will continue to do so. I found these scripture bracelets on Groupon and got her one with her favorite verse on it so she could have a visual reminder of God's promises.

We're all in need of fresh starts. This country is in need of a fresh start, just as the thousands of students who start school annually. In the midst of transition let's not forget the importance of prayer. At the beginning of this school year, let's take a moment to pray for our children, their teachers, their schools, their communities, their homes, their countries. Perhaps the Little Ones, empowered by love from praying parents, can truly initiate the fresh start we all need.

Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.
See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.
Always be joyful. 
Never stop praying. 
1 Thessalonians 5:14-17


It's time for a new start; start with prayer.

--Nylse

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

What Love Feels Like

My husband and daughter
As the father walked his daughter down the aisle, her nervousness was assuaged by his confident reassurance. She had eyes only for her groom while steadily leaning on her Dad. This is love.

The groom looked on with wonder, as a tear fell from his eye; he had eyes for no one else. This is love.

"Who gives this woman to be wed? My wife and I do."  Yet another act of love, parents releasing what was held dear to her groom who will hold her dearly.

Love is more than butterflies in the stomach. It's valuing a person and treating them as you would yourself or better. It's being selfless which typically breeds more selfless love. It's forgiving often. It's not holding on to stuff. It's seeing the good in others - and always expecting the best even when they show otherwise. The element of love makes being patient and kind doable.  When you are loved, you cannot help but love in return. Love removes the rough edges and smooths out your flaws.

Love is knowledge. Love is sure. Love provides comfort like a roof over your head.
"Love knows no reasons, love knows no lies. Love defies all reasons, love has no eyes. But love is not blind, love sees but doesn't mind." — Hemant Kumar

So just love.
"My mother's last word to me clanks inside me like an iron bell that someone beats at dinner time: love, love, love, love, love." — Cheryl Strayed

Love provides a feeling of invincibility and hope.
"I strongly believe that love is the answer and that it can mend even the deepest unseen wounds. Love can heal, love can console, love can strengthen and yes, love can make change." — Somaly Mam
Love is what drives everything.
"There are four questions of value in life: what is sacred? Of what is the spirit made? What is worth living for, and what is worth dying for? The answer to each is the same. Only love." — Johnny Depp

This is why a wedding ceremony is a celebration of love; it encapsulates love in the past leading to an expression of love in the present which is the underlying support for love in the future. This is what love feels like. Simply love.





Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love
1 Corinthians 13:13


--Nylse

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Monday, August 7, 2017

Women of the Word - Tyra Lane-Kingsland

This series has birthed some God ordained divine connections. Tyra is one such connection. As a blogger, I spend significant time online not just writing but reading other blogs. I'm always looking for like minded Christian bloggers online and when I read Inspired To Live fully I knew I was reading a kindred spirit. I reached out and I was blessed with this interview. Even in initially chatting with her, she encouraged me to continue with this series, to do the hard things, especially if God has placed it on my heart. I'm so grateful for her and I know you will be too. Meet this month's Woman of the Word - Tyra Lane-Kingsland.

Tyra Lane-Kingsland

1. As someone who studies the Bible, what are your favorite tools and resources?
TLK: Armed with my journal, pen, iPhone, Blue Letter Bible App and Scofield Study Bible, I am eager and excited to jump into the Word. I do a lot of note taking on my iPhone but at heart, I’m a writer so old fashioned pen and paper work well for me. The Blue Letter Bible App is great because it has built in commentary, concordance, and dictionary.

2. Old Testament, New Testament or both?
TLK: For me both are vital. The Old Testament illustrates so much of God’s character. We see Him as Judge and Creator and we see His unfailing love for mankind. At the same time, the New Testament gives us a very clear picture of how we ought to live our lives today as modeled directly through the life of Jesus.

3. Why do you study the Bible? What was your initial motivation?
TLK: My reasons for studying the Bible are many but two primary reasons are to hear from God and to get guidance for daily living. Just as I enjoy hearing from relatives and friends, I like to hear what God is saying and I can hear directly from Him through His Word. Additionally, life’s many demands and the tug of culture can pull us away from living out the faith we profess. So in order to keep my mind and behavior in alignment with my values, I have to STAY in that Word!

My initial motivation to begin studying the Word started before I was saved. I was reading the Left Behind book series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. In those books, they would mention scriptures so I opened the Bible just to see it in context and I was so intrigued it made me curious to find out more.

4. How does inspiration work for you? How do you know that what you're writing or understanding is as if God is moving the pen and you're just the vehicle? 
TLK: Because I spend so much time listening to the Father, I find that He’s always speaking to me. Often He speaks to me through nature or when reading the Word a single word or phrase will stand out. When He illuminates an image or word I’ll do a word study on it. And I know it's Him because He’ll confirm the word again and again through out the week.

5. How do you handle complex topics that may not align with popular views? (Can you give an example?) 
TLK: God has called me to deliver some tough truths so I often find myself having to share that which may be unpopular or uncomfortable. But God reminded me that I’m not here to just make friends or to have people like me but to declare His truth. So I present the truth in love and share my personal stories related to the issue. An example of this would be the charge to honor God by honoring the physical temple. In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 we are reminded that this body is not our own and we are to honor it yet most of us make decisions daily to defile the temple by what we eat. And we see a preponderance of this occurring in the church. It is an uncomfortable issue to tackle but I am committed to sharing the truth in ways that can be easily implemented so people can begin to honor Him with their food choices.

6. When confronted by the truth of scripture, even for difficult topics, how does it re-orient you? 
TLK: The truth keeps me headed True North. And for me, that is continuing to walk in paths of righteousness for His namesake.  I’m not just doing this for myself but I recognize that I’ve got my children and the women I serve observing my walk.

7. Tell us a little bit about yourself, current projects you are working on and where you can be found.
TLK: At my core, I am an encourager so any day I can be found inspiring hearts; from my children to women on the playground, I’m usually sharing some nugget the Holy Spirit sends through my lips. I am an author, blogger, speaker and Women’s Group Leader. I am currently promoting my newly released book, Purposeful Parenting. It is not just for parents but is a story on how adults can transform their hearts so that they can give children the love they need and deserve. You can find the book here http://amzn.to/2unhvRi
I can be found inspiring hearts to live fully mind, body and spirit @ www.inspiredtolivefully.com
And on these Social Media platforms:
www.twitter.com/inspiredfully
www.instagram.com/inspiredfully
www.facebook.com/inspiredfully


8. How do you deal with discouragement and doubt? (Bonus question)
TLK: When doubtful or discouraged I saturate myself in truth. I listen to music that exhorts the truth, I take my eye off whatever the issue is, I take my eye off myself and I place it back on what God said about it. I may even blog about it as a means of ministering to others and to myself. I also have a few women in my circle that provide wise counsel and remind me of things the Lord has previously told me.

--Nylse

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Magical, Mysterious, Miraculous Prayer

Have you ever felt that your life mirrored the spin cycle of a washing machine? Everything has been thrown in and now it's all spinning at the same time? It seems out of control, this spinning, but it's not, because the spinning is for a purpose and the spinning ends, but you don't often know when your spin cycle will end.




Wedding     Surgery     Paperwork     Travel
     Moving     Packing     Merging of families
              Post Surgery Recovery
       Spin Cycle

The best thing to combat the Spin Cycle is to be prayed for and to pray. One of the first instances of actual interceding for someone on their behalf, where the word pray is actually used happens in the Old Testament in 1 Samuel 7:5 where Samuel prays for the Israelites. The Israelites recognized that they were in their own spin cycle - they thought the Lord had abandoned them, which is quite literally how we feel when it seems like everything is thrown at us and we're out of control. Samuel gave them some instructions: "get rid of your foreign gods and your images of Ashtoreth. Turn your hearts to the Lord and obey him alone; then he will rescue you from the Philistines." During the spin cycles of life, we become distracted and our focus shifts from the One who matters. So the Israelites did so and worshipped only the LordThen Samuel told them, “Gather all of Israel to Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.”

The Israelites recognized their need, they changed their ways and Samuel prayed. Once Samuel prayed, the Israelites went on to victory. Prior to Samuel praying they had misplaced confidence but after he prayed, though uncertain, their faith was strengthened and they had success.

Pray is magical, mysterious and miraculous; it is healing, encouraging and an act of love to hear someone petition God on your behalf. It will remove anxiety; it will remind you to be still and propel you to pray. To intercede in prayer means to go before God on another’s behalf.

Lamentations 2:19 encourages us to, "Lift up your hands to Him for the lives of your children." So as the wedding approaches and there's standard pre-wedding jitters and stress in addition to dealing with a major health crisis, I took my daughter aside and prayed aloud for her. If I were focused on her demeanor during prayer, I'm certain I would have noticed relief, surprise, comfort, relaxation which encapsulates what happens when we are bold enough to pray for someone audibly in their time of need.

Sometimes it does not matter what you say - just the very fact that you are praying makes all the difference in the world. You experience a selfless love when you pray. Praying demonstrates a relationship - definitely between you and God, and between you and the person you are praying for. Praying demonstrates hope and faith. Praying says I know Someone who can help. Praying provides wisdom, guidance, and peace.

Prayer is as vital as breathing; I encourage you to do it. Pray from the heart when you're happy or sad; mad or glad. Don't worry what others think, it's your heart and it matters to God. There is absolutely nothing that you cannot bring in prayer to God. Just Pray.

Spin cycles come to an end and usually after all of that turbulence your clothes are clean. In the same vein, I know, just like any bride knows that the spin cycle of wedding planning will come to an end and with God's covering it will be the start of a new thing that God is doing in both of their lives, propelling them on to victory.
For we are not presenting our petitions before You based on our righteous acts, but based on Your abundant compassion. Daniel 9:18,19



We don’t know what to do, so we’re looking to you. 2 Chronicles 20:12


Men ought always to pray and not to faint.  Luke 18:1


If you can center yourself, be still, pray and be prayed for, you'll be able to go through your spin cycle and come out standing. Simply pray.


--Nylse

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