A Rat’s Nest of a Problem

When I was growing up I had long hair. Everybody had long hair. But long hair is like freedom, it has its costs and it requires maintenance. Quite often I had what I call a Rat’s Nest in my hair:  a big wad of a knot in the back of my head that resulted from sweating at night, tossing and turning, not using proper conditioner,… it was intractable, which means it was not easily resolved or fixed.  I could have cut all my hair off but I wanted long hair…and being able to keep long hair if you want it, is a good example of freedom.

I’ve read a lot recently about institutionalized racism.   Well, I’m going to have to look up on Merriam-Webster to find out exactly what “institutionalized” means.  For now, however, I am going to call it a Rat’s Nest of a problem because that is more descriptive and easier to visualize.  It makes it more “tractible.”

The way I got rid of my rat’s nests, was to put a solution on it like vinegar (to sort of soften things up) and then I would sit in front of the TV and slowly work the knots out one small strand of hair at a time.  It took several shows but I eventually got them all out.

The only way to sort out seemingly intractable problems is to soften the situation and to take your time working  out the mess…one strand at a time.  You could throw the whole thing out but that would likely result in destroying somebody’s freedom.

Having a nice word with several syllables like “institutionalized” is okay but simply applying a word to an issue…even a big word… does not improve the issue… unless of course there is a standard method of fixing an institutionalized thing.  But, I don’t know what to do with institutionalized things other than throw out the institution…and you really don’t want to do that.

Last year, a ‘gentleman’ was given the title of  “Humanist of 2015.”   (I’ll leave it up to you to look up who it was.). He was quoted as saying something about how organized religion was like a major problem in democracy and the sooner we got rid of it the better.  Well, my response to him was, “Just how do you propose to get rid of organized religion…or disorganized religion, for that matter?  You can outlaw religion, and that has been tried, but the believers go underground and persecution makes faith grow stronger.  Or you can annihilate the believers, and that’s been done, too, and genocide is always good for democracy, don’t you think? ”  I recommended, at the time, that this humanist out vote the extremists or, better yet, join their ranks and try to adjust their extreme viewpoints from within… but I digress …

My point is this:   while it is useful to come up with terminology that helps encapsulate an issue so that it is easy to address quickly, simply giving it a big word, (a big title, a big label) only serves to make it more abstract or abstruse or obtuse or any other word that most people don’t know.

Call it what it is:  a rat’s nest…  a complex, gomming together of abuse, dirty practices, mismanagement, neglect, and struggle which damages something natural like hair or people or lives.

The only way to resolve the issue of racism is to deal with it the way I dealt with my rat’s nest:  first you have to soften the situation with something like vinegar.  (BTW, vinegar is what they gave Christ to drink while on the cross.)  For racism, instead of vinegar, use what Christ gave us:  love, forgiveness, and the power of the Holy Spirit.  That will loosen up a lot of the dirt and the residual stickiness of the past.

The Holy Spirit makes it easier to work out each knot, one strand at a time…one issue at a time..one event at a time…one confrontation at a time.

When you’re out in public at Walmart or Target or the IGA or Quality Foods and you pass by someone of a different race, say “good morning;” ask “how are you doing?” and wait for an answer.  If they need help with their groceries, help. Carry a bag.  Show them…demonstrate that there’s more in this world for them than anger from a member of your race.

Addressing racism one strand at a time is a very important point so I will repeat what I mean:

Every instance of racism (or sexism, or extremism, or terrorism) on your street, at your work, on television, or from another city or another country, is just an individual strand and needs to be addressed individually.

When you gom them all together into a big generalized issue that you label with a big multisyllabic word like “institutionalized,” you are making it abstract…you are detaching yourself  from it, and you are making it seem intractable and it is NOT.

Besides, terms like “institutionalized” make it sound like the fault is the institution; “systematized” or “systemic” makes it sound like the fault lies with the system.  Institutions and systems are abstract entities governed by rules and perceptions.  To change the rules and perceptions, you must change hearts.

THE PROBLEM IS US.

And, remember, you can not legislate love.

So, one strand at a time…one heart at a time.  Every heart and every event is a separate strand.

This may seem unrelated at first but follow me here:  I am enlisting the help of a very strong spiritual healer to help address the problems of a loved one.  I was asked to pray for this loved one because he needs to get a job. But I know that before he can get a job, he needs to deal with his mental illness, his alcohol abuse, his rage issues, and a bunch of other resentments and stuff.

When I described all this to the spiritual healer he pointed out that each of these is handled in a different way… they have different demons associated with them and there are different ways of handling those demons.  In other words, there are many strands to my loved one’s life that need to be handled individually …and separately.

You’ve heard that patience is a virtue.  Patience IS a virtue. But do you know why patience is so important?  It is not just because it makes you able to wait on God, (and it does and that’s good), but because you need patience to deal with seemingly intractable problems… because quite often they can only be handled with patience, one strand at a time.

Racism is a rat’s nest; my loved one’s life is a rat’s nest.

I have another loved one who struggles with disorganization;  her life is a rat’s nest and I am helping her separate all of the disparate parts of her life so she can address each one …one strand at a time.  Otherwise, all of it gommed together seems intractable…it is too overwhelming.

My neighbors live a rat’s nest life; they have legal issues, financial issues, medical issues, addictions, abuses, …  Until they start handling these issues one strand at a time, the seemingly intractable nature of their rat’s nest life will continue to overwhelm them and nothing will improve.  Taken one strand at a time, these issues are resolvable.

These people are important…all people are important…and when anyone has a gom of problems that looks like a rat’s nest, they need to work it out one strand at a time.  But don’t forget the vinegar: the love of Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit…for the balm on the issue that will help work things out.

It will happen; I’ve done it enough times to know.  And with every strand you pull out, thank God for that one.

Thanks be to God and to God be the glory

Make it Real – Going Public

Have you ever noticed how when you mention God in conversation (no, not that way…), that things suddenly become real?

I was having a difficult time finding funds for gas.  I had funds on a card the gas station didn’t take.  I did a work around through my phone by doing a funds transfer from the unacceptable card to another card and then, again through my phone, from that card to my refillable gas gift card.  The attendant swiped the gift card; …nothing.  I murmured, “Come on, God, help me…”  Another attendant looked up along with a customer.  I swiped again.  It went through and I murmured, “God is good.”  When I looked up, everyone was smiling.  Some were smiling to themselves.  Many were nodding.

Why is it when people pray out loud, they sound as if they are speaking for your benefit or for the benefit of the room and not as if they really are speaking to someone?  Have you ever heard anyone say out loud, particularly in church, “Okay God, let me ask you this…”   or even, “God, I want you to know something…”  It’s always in a ‘recite the creed’ tone of voice.  If you don’t sound like you believe in God, how is anyone else going to believe in God ….or even believe that YOU believe in God?

A friend of mine has been battling dark forces for years.  She’s good at it.  She is a prayer warrior.  She advised me to speak ‘out loud’ when commanding the evil ones to get away from me, in the Name of Jesus, etc.  I will explain why I believe speaking ‘out loud’ makes a difference:

There have been many times when I thought I was going to do something but didn’t.  In ‘psychiatry/psychology-speak’ this is often referred to as ideation, such as in ‘suicidal ideation,’ a rather derogatory term meaning you’re a wimp and you haven’t got the nerve to do it.  (I don’t want to think about how many people have gone through with suicide just to prove ‘friends,’ family members, and doctors wrong.)

There have been times when I thought I was going to cross over into on-coming traffic…but didn’t.  There have been times when I thought I was going to jump off of something high…but didn’t. There were times when I thought I was going to take bottles of pills…but didn’t.  It wasn’t out of fear that I did not do it, because there have been times that I have done it.  More benignly, there have been times I told myself I was not going to go into a store…but did; furthermore, I told myself I was not going to buy books…but did.  I confess…and digress…

My point is this: taking it out of the mind of intention and into the verbal makes it more real for me.  My imagination and mind of intention are not trustworthy.  And I don’t think I am alone in this.  I read an article yesterday that mentioned cognitive behavioral therapy…or ‘talk’ therapy.  Talking about how one thinks about things, situations, and life; and how one behaves as a result of one’s thoughts; and talking about making changes (not just thinking about making changes) gives it more oomph.  Verbalizing affirmations is what gives them power, not just the present tense of the verb.

It is similar to what the Apostle John says about “In the beginning was The Word…” how at creation there was a difference between when there was just the Mind of God and when there was Christ: the Logos or the Word.
The Word.
God uttering Christ made Him real.  God uttered Christ into being.
I’ve read and heard a great deal about how naming a fear gives you power over it.
God calls us by name.

I believe the invocation of a prayer…the speaking of the prayer…makes it manifest…or maybe just more likely to be manifest.

Am I making any sense?  Talk to me…

 

(The image above is borrowed from the internet.  I did an internet search for “making it real;” don’t do that.  just don’t.)

 

Shadrach, Meshach, and whatshisname

I’m with them.

They had been thrown into a fiery furnace for not bowing to an image of  Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.  Similarly, I am finding myself in a bit of a ‘warm environment’ which I believe is due to my not giving in to demons and other annoying influences.

Read what they said to Nebuchadnezzar:

our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.

But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.  (emphasis, mine)

I serve God, through Jesus, with strength and conviction from the Holy Spirit and in the Name of Jesus, saved by His blood by the Grace of God.  I look to Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the very Father God to protect and save me.  But if He does not, I will not turn from God nor will I stop drawing close to Jesus and neither will I stop turning to the Holy Spirit for guidance and protection.  I will not worship anything else.  Emphasis, MINE.

Are there any questions?

Dealing with Race in America

Keith is truly a man of God and a man of guts and integrity. He pointed out correctly that the problem is one of perceptions and degrees. White people…and while I want to say “MOST white people” I will just say “many white people” are pushing in the correct direction…but there is so much farther to push….so much so that from the black perspective, we’ve hardly moved at all. The black perspective is accurate.

My only defense for white people is that for MANY white people, they’ve made a 180 degree turn from that of their parents and grandparents and, from personal experience, that was not easy. Many many times I heard from my father, “Why can’t you be like the rest of us?”. I am truly sorry that we have not made more progress. I do not know what more can be done in one lifetime than to make a complete about face, push against the tide, and do what I can to convince those around me to consider turning around, too. I ask for forgiveness (from Keith, from my other black friends, and from God) for not having done more or enough to matter.

Please refer to previous posts Generalizations are Generally Wrong and In the Name of the Father.

The Light Breaks Through

images

I am going to delve into another sensitive area in this blog post. I grew up hearing from black people that we don’t have the ability to discriminate. This may come as a shock to every other race on the planet. In order to explain this unique perspective on the issue, allow me to define the word discriminate.

First, the dictionary defines discrimination as: “the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.” That definition pretty much says it all. It would appear to be all inclusive. However, living life as an African American I ran across an interesting time and space anomaly. I was told that African Americans cannot discriminate, we really can’t be racists. Yes, you read that right. If you want to understand the heart of so many misunderstandings, you need to understand this concept.

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Learning to pick my battles…

…even if only after the fact.

I’m doing…okay.  I’ve been trying too hard for a while now…encouraging loved ones to leave a toxic boss (efforts wasted); helping my neighbors survive his 2.5 month hospital/rehab stay after what was supposed to be outpatient surgery and encouraging them to make better choices (efforts wasted); writing about fighting evil and being reconciled to God (efforts draw evil to me); water pipes splitting and soaking carpeted floor, sections of floor falling in, door falling off hinges; battling mosquitoes, heat, drought,  …are we having fun, yet?

It’s like single-parenting….you just don’t die from this….well. not yet, anyway

I am emotionally depleted and physically worn out from the heat.  My plants are heat stressed and turning yellow.  My dog has had intestinal issues for days (throughout the house) and is not eating (she just watches as the cat eats her food 8 inches away) and my neighbor insists on throwing chicken bones and pizza scraps in the yard for her to find.  Oh, and my cat apparently has cat-betes and is losing his eyesight.

But, I persevere.   Yesterday, I spent the Fourth watching the flag gently wave in the rippling heat and the Morning Glories slowly unfurl and re-furl…and not much else.

Besides, I am happier and more stable than I was in North Carolina.  I’m physically stronger and on less medication.  And I pick my battles…even if only after the fact.  (“Well, that was a pointless, losing battle.”)

Today’s Lament

I was in a bad place last night.  I had gotten whipped up emotionally in what I was wanting to pass on in my blogs, was frustrated because I struggled to convey clearly what I had received, and then had several interactions with people during the day that went sour.  Driving home last night with the top down on my car, I had to admit to Jesus that He is the only One for whom I don’t have to adjust my personality…the only One who appreciates me just the way I am and Who welcomes what I have to give.  I am too direct, intense, or ‘real’ for everyone else.  My brother is able to accept me but advises me to ‘turn it down’ for everyone else.  I have nearly ruined 2 of his business relationships recently because of my ‘corporate’ voice; I need to learn how to lighten up, joke, and say, “yeeeuuup.” like the locals..

The ‘being whipped up’ and then ‘feeling the down side of that’ dances way too close to bipolar mood swinging.  (Please God, don’t let me take that demon back.  I am doing so well without it.)

In all honesty, if it weren’t for my relationship with Jesus, I would be totally alone.  Please take this the right way but I am often having to adjust my sensibilities for people .  No one wants to hear what I know about anything:  God, talking to Jesus, science, quantum physics, the government, hate, racism, global warming, …even thunderstorm downbursts.  No one around me, family included, knows or even understands what I did when I worked for the government; none of my family and very few of my friends read my writing; people that I have offered paintings to don’t even care to see them and don’t even bother to respond and say “no, thank you,” much less “yes, thank you.”

Why did God give me intelligence, quick thinking, keen insight, and artistic talent if no one wants it?  Is it truly just for Him?  and me?  My paintings are stacked in storage and staged down my hall waiting to be bunched up on my walls.  My writings dry up on my hard drive or are sent out into the internet ether…received by 5 maybe 6 viewers; liked by 2 or 3.  I implore tech support ‘experts’ to help me with Trojans and malware only to discover they know a fraction of what I do about my computer and their software.  Half the time they hang up on me.  Why?

I ‘get’ why I have received the disappointments, neglect, and abuse in my life; I understand the wisdom of God developing ‘wounded healers.’  But what is the purpose of my having knowledge, wisdom, and talents that nobody wants?  God doesn’t need it; He invented it.  I don’t understand.  Somebody help me…what good can I glean from being totally useless to friends and family, irrelevant in conversation, and more than is necessary or wanted by the world?  I am sincere in my query.

And, yes, I realize this is  a demon which I must check at the door.

(BTW, I pulled this photo from a post I wrote over a year ago on my blog, Turning 60.  Most of that blog deals with identifying and getting rid of my life’s demons.  The blog starts with A Little Late Getting Started , goes through Forgiving my Childhood , A Reversal of Fortune, My Addictions, Starting Over , and I Have Exceeded My Welcome (which sounds remarkably like what I have just written.  I guess I have not travelled very far after all.) This picture comes from the one titled, Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit.)

Christ’s Embassy – some of the Best Practices

” We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

I am not implying that these are the best practices of these denominations or that these are the only good practices.  What I am implying is that these are practices that should be adopted by all of the other denominations…and any BiaFoC Collectives established from here, forward:

  • Spend some time on your knees.  (From the Episcopalians).  That is a good posture to get used to and familiar with.  It is difficult to cop an attitude while on your knees, except with God and He is the Only one Who will let you say everything you want to say without interrupting.
  • Silent prayer.  (The Presbyterians and, similarly, the Quakers). The more time you spend in silence, the better.  Try to spend half the time silently talking and the other half silently listening.  Consider a quiet bell to mark the dividing line…and to wake up the older men.
  • Confession.  (The Catholics).  I would suggest this twist on the conventional approach:  have slips of paper and pencils at the door.  BiaFoCs can write down their demons (illnesses, resentments, hates, fears, prides, addictions, vanities, generational abuses,…) as well as their gratitudes and intercessions.  The pieces of paper go in a bucket.  The bucket of confessions is prayed over then burned; the issues go up in smoke.  (More of an Episcopal thing.). You can call it “checking your demons at the door.”. Make it clear that you can not dig in the ashes to take your issues back home with you.
  • Stephen Ministry (multi-denominational, I think) where a seasoned with experience in adversity, spiritual warfare, personal demons, and faith walks beside a new BioFoC or a BiaFoC who is struggling.
  • Healing Ministry (the Order of St. Luke, which is multi-denominational.) with regular weekly ‘Soaking Prayer’ and “Generational Healing’ services.
  • Sponsors, ‘seasoned believers’ to walk along side of the new members to introduce them to the faith warriors in the Collective, the various services like the different ministries, and to help them find their best Collective Subset.  The sponsor should be confident enough to talk candidly about God, their relationship with God, and their faith.  I address how sponsors can help new believers in my article about the BiaFoCs Inverted U.  When someone who ‘gets it’ walks along beside someone who doesn’t yet, the connection to God is clarified and faith is strengthened…for both of them.
  • Prayer Ministers, Prayer Chains and Prayer Request boxes.  Many churches have these.  Many don’t.   In God Loves You. No Exceptions. I relate how street corner preachers were ‘augmented’ by an humble booth at a street fair which housed a table with a shoe box labelled “Prayer Requests”, scrap paper, and pencils.  Prayer Ministers were on hand for requests for immediate intervention and supplication.
  • Walk through Practicing the Presence of God during the service, and talk about it. (Nobody does this.)  Talk to God as if you really believe He really is there…and not with the “Apostle’s Creed” tone of voice.  Creeds are fine; Creeds are good. But demonstrate what Practicing the Presence looks like…what it sounds like.  Ask God a question and wait for an answer.  Someone may hear it.  If you, who believe, don’t act like you believe, how is anyone else going to believe?  Or believe that you believe.

If you are a pastor or church leader, look into adding these to your offerings at church.  If you are not a pastor or church leader, consider taking these ‘best practices’ to them.  Look into becoming trained as a Stephen Minister or joining the Order of St. Luke , if you feel led to.

If your faith could be stronger, try taking on more adversity; suggestion: help shoulder someone else’s.

 

 

 

Christ’s Embassy – The benefits of Adversity (a clarification)

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

There are benefits to being desperately in need of God…desperate to the point of not questioning the truth of God…just desperate and dependent.  It is not a bad place to be.  People talk about issues that have affected families down through the generations:  I believe that black people have stronger faith and blind dependence on God because of how horribly they have been treated for many generations.  I don’t envy them their experiences…just their faith.  Not sure that what I have just written wouldn’t get me hit or shot, but I think it is true.

This sounds perverse, but be thankful to God for your adversities.  It has strengthened your faith.

Consider this: If you don’t have a very strong faith or dependence on God, consider helping shoulder someone else’s adversity.  Own it and turn to God for help.

Christ’s Embassy – the BiaFoCs Inverted U

” We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

(Much of this information about the Inverted U, while basic data analysis, is borrowed from Malcolm Gladwell’s book David and Goliath – Underdog, Misfits, and The Art of Battling Giants.  How this data depiction applies to faith and connection to God was revealed to me while reading Gladwell’s application of it to class size and wealth.)

The Inverted U describes situations that improve as a factor (like time, money, or class size) increase..up to a point.  After that point, the situation stays the same for a bit and then gets less good and eventually is as bad as when you started…if not worse.  An example Gladwell gives is the quality of life as your income increases.  Gladwell’s book was published in 2013.  In it he states that, “scholars who research happiness suggest that more money stops making people happier at a family income of around seventy-five thousand dollars a year.”  Beyond that and the returns are diminished.  (Again, I will leave it up to you to read the research further.)

I would suggest that a similar graph will describe the relationship between hardship and faith, if the practice and application of one’s faith is applied to lessen one’s adversities.  Before I get into examples, an aside was offered in Gladwell’s book on the 4 Phases of the Inverted U or, as I translate it, the 4 Phases of the Hardship/Faith Relationship:

  1. Establishing the Footing (as in a foundation):  Becoming a believer: desire, repentance, baptism,…
  2. Flagging:  Too much stress and hardship (financial instability, illness, toxic relationships, abuse, neglect, poverty, poor nutrition and self-care) Believer needs help; Believer turns to God; Life improves,…
  3. Flat (The Optimum State): Tolerable stress balanced with strong connection to God
  4. Falling:  Too many blessings; Not enough Stress and Hardship; A lessened sense that one needs God

As Gladwell states:  “All positive traits, states, and experiences have costs that at high levels may begin to outweigh their benefits.”

I would add, likewise, all adversities have potential benefits that, if utilized, can mitigate those adversities. Over time, however, with the decrease in adversity, the appeal and perceived value of those benefits also decreases.  The benefits of adversity CAN be faith, hope, confessed dependence on (and frequent communication with) God, honed problem solving skills, stamina, desire to persevere, …

The key is to maintain the Flat: The Optimum State: retain the desire for the Presence of God, and the need and appreciation of blessings, when hardships decrease and life gets easier.

How? Increase your need for God.

How? By giving more of yourself (time and money); by helping shoulder some of the hardships of others… which, in turn, presents more need for divine assistance and continued connection to God…for your own strength and for wisdom concerning the other.  For example, growing a prayer list of other fellow BiaFoCs who need God…and praying for the mitigation of their hardships will keep you busy.

It’s a delicate balance.  Demons must be released which opens up connection to God; as demons revisit, they must be released again, and one’s attention must return to God.  Note, blessings can carry demons with them such as pride of accomplishment, ‘free’ time spent dwelling on things that are detrimental to our connection to God, financial prosperity, …

A while back I wrote on keeping busy.  That is how I deal with demons and keep focusing on God.  If my deeds are validated, I give that validation to Jesus.  If I am thwarted and I get discouraged, I give that discouragement to Jesus.  At this point in my life, it is a constant dance to keep my demons at bay and to turn my attention back to God…but every time I do, it is more automatic and a stronger, clearer connection.

(Addendum:  Tonight I am a bit thwarted; I am trying too hard and failing to get these ideas across as clearly and convincingly as they were presented to me.  And I wonder what the point is.  What difference is any of this going to make?  In many respects, it feels as though it is too late.  (Here, Lord.  I don’t like giving this discouragement to you but I don’t know what else to do with it.  I’m confused, uncertain, and vulnerable.  I need protection now, please.  You’re the only One I can talk to…the only One Who understands.)