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Trash Can Christians

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From Daily Thoughts Vol. 2

Thought of the Day…Don’t Be a Trash Can Christian: My Name is not Sugar, Honey, Ice or Tea!

“I will praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:14

The word “rubbish” is synonymous with waste, trash, garbage, junk, litter and it means unwanted and useless. The Israelites call the location “The Gehenna Valley” a place where they placed their sewage, their garbage and waste; a place of utter filth which is disgusting and repulsive to the eyes and nose; a location where the Jews took trash to be burned. Jesus used Gehenna as an illustration of hell.  My question to some of us is have we allowed ourselves to become somebody’s Gehenna? Have you offered yourself as a location for people to dump their trash? Have you become a Trash Can Christian?   When a person is willing to dump unwanted and useless things on you (or in you) then they are making a pretty clear declaration of what they think and how they feel about you. Let’s face it.  What type of person would allow another person to dump on them; to treat them with utter contempt; to render them undesirable or useless?  My best guess is the individual was already feeling unworthy. Along comes a person who picks up on this and says to themselves, here is a person who doesn’t feel good about themselves, suffers from low self esteem, and will not fight back. So let the exploitation begin! Or should I say let the dumping begin.  We need to stop being trash cans for people.  We all have people in our lives- friends, people who double as friends, church members, co-workers, and of course family members. Yes, family members!  And don’t let me forget people we are in so-called “love” relationships with i.e. spouses, lovers, play lovers, a piece on the side (you have to make up your mind if you are piece on the side or they are), friends with benefits etc.  Truth be told, they all dump on you. They bring their waste, their rubbish, their refuse to you.  Why you? Because they know you will receive it-without question.  They take your kindness for weakness cus that’s how they see you-as a weak Christian.  Any Christian who will allow another person to bring them a bunch of sugar, honey, ice, or tea; allow these same people to talk sugar, honey ice, tea to them, turn around and take that sugar, honey, ice, tea from these people, has set themselves up to be treated by sugar, honey, ice tea. You have allowed yourself to become their dumping ground. The place where people bring stuff they don’t even want, they no longer value.  Think about it. If a person who is supposed to be loving on you (God knows you have loved on them) brings you trash, then they either believe you deserve it or you are the place where garbage is supposed to be placed. Today when you take a piece a paper and put it in the “waste paper” basket realize that eventually you are going to take that waste and put it in somebody’s dumpster to be thrown away.  Some Christians need to get to the point-today seems like a real good day to me- where they tell other folks don’t bring that sugar, honey, ice or tea over here any longer. I am not the one.  In fact, remind them of what God says about you…

“Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life.” Isaiah 43:4

This is God expressing loving sentiments (precious, honored and loved) to his beloved people. When you love, honor and respect a person; see them as precious, you don’t dump on them. You don’t treat them like a trash can. You don’t treat them like sugar, honey, ice, tea.  If you don’t love them any longer, let them go. I promise you someone else will! In fact, they are waiting for you to get the hell on but the person loves you too much to let your trifling assets step. Sorry, I digressed! While you wrap up this season of reflection, sacrifice, and renewal, but finds yourself being treated like unwanted waste, here is what I want you to do. On this Palm Sunday Eve, Bro. Chisolm gives you permission to do what you should have done a long time ago- take out the trash! Put that sugar, honey, ice tea out of your house, out of your mind, out of your heart, out of your soul, and out of your bed.  When the devil comes to dump trashy thoughts in your mind, here what you tell that ole devil…

“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down of strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” 2 Cor. 10:4-5

A stronghold is a mental construct-a negative mind set. The enemy is interested in taking your mind, your negative thought about yourself and using it against you. Anyone who has no compunction to dump trash in your mind, heart and soul, and then turn around and treat you like rubbish, has declared to you and the rest of the world that they are from pits of hell. They are one of the devil’s disciples. Oh, you didn’t know the devil had disciples. To that particular type of hell, you need to tell that hell to get the hell out of your face.  On this day, when someone wants to dump emotional trash in your heart, tell them your heart is neither a playground nor a play pen. Here is what you tell them you are going to do starting today and forever more…

“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23

The NIV says “guard your heart.” Our hearts dictate the patterns of our lives. We make far more decisions in life, about life with our heart instead of our head. In fact, our thoughts lead into our feelings. Solomon says guard your heart as a source of protection.  Make sure your affections are in the right place, with the right person, for the right reasons.  Don’t pursue everything you see.  Don’t react to every good looking person that comes along whispering sweet nothings in your ear. Why? Because that’s exactly what that sugar, honey, ice tea amounts to-nothing! So the moral of this story boys and girls is don’t let anyone dump refuse in your life-in the life of your children.  You are NOT useless, you are NOT unwanted, you are NOT unloved, and you are NOT a piece of garbage waiting to be thrown away. Just the opposite!  God respects your position. And your position is in Christ. So on this Palm Sunday Eve, I deputize you to take the position and prerogative to take out the “damned” (Mark 16:16 KJV) trash. As for you and your house there is no condemnation in Christ (Romans 8:1).  You are NOT anyone’s trash disposal. They need to take that sugar, honey, ice, tea somewhere else.  (For those of you that haven’t gotten this by now you are slow but you are worth waiting forJ).

“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

You are a Child of the Most High God.  Stop being a Trash Can Christian!  Peace, Love and Blessings!!!

Fornication & Cognitive Dissonance

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From 40 Daily Thoughts Vol. 2

Day 10 Fornication, Cognitive Dissonance, and the Impact on Trust!

“Do you not know that fornicators shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven?” 1 Cor. 6:9

The term fornication comes from the Greek word “porneia” which means illicit sexual intercourse. By illicit we mean “unlawful.” Fornication is the unlawful sexual act between two single people who are not married to one another. God created sex. However, it would appear that the Creator created it for married (a man to a woman) people only.  Cognitive Dissonance is a mental state of mind that an individual reaches once he/she has an imbalance between cognitions. Cognitions are defined as “attitudes, emotions, beliefs and values.”  Fornication (and adultery for that matter) causes a special type of dissonance. In addition to it being “spiritual incest,” the unintended consequences of Christians unlawfully sleeping with one another produces mistrust, confusion, and hurt feelings.  When God instructed Hosea to marry a woman who would be unfaithful to him, I am sure it caused a level of cognitive dissonance. Or it should have. God’s salient point to Hosea (and to us) was your relationship with me is indicative of your relationship with your wife.  Your wife cheating on you is the same as you cheating on me.

So my question to brothers is, have you ever wondered if your woman has ever been unfaithful to you? Or is being unfaithful to you right now? Sisters, can you really be sure your Boaz is not cheating on you currently? Has cheated on you in the past and you just don’t know about it? Or is he in the active process of cheating on you right now?  Well, it cuts both says. Not just between man and woman, but between mankind and God.  Let me try and explain this best I can.

This is the question we have to ask ourselves today. As Christians, when we fornicate is that a form of being unfaithful to God. Thus, it begs the question brothers, if a woman of God is willing to defy and disrespect her God in order to sleep with you, how much confidence should you really have in her that she will not cheating on you with another man? After all, if her love for Jesus or Jesus’ love for your woman wasn’t able to stop her from being unfaithful to Him, what makes you think her love for you will stop her from cheating on you? Think about it. Jesus has loved her, provided for her, saved her, healed her body, forgiven her countless times, taken care of her, provided for her children and her momma, was there for her in the middle of the night, made a way out of no way, and lay down His life on a cross for her. And after all of that, she still decided to cheat on him with you. Are you superior to Christ? If a woman has the spiritual gall to defy Christ, then I think she has telegraphed her spiritual and emotional capacity to be unfaithful to you. Sisters, the same holds true for you and your Boaz. If he is willing as a man of God to defy his God by sleeping with you, why in the name of Christ would you ever think he would not defy you? If God’s love for him was not strong enough, deep enough, or compelling enough to keep him for straying, why do you think yours can?  If he can sleep unlawfully with you in the sight of God then he can sleep with at least one other woman in the sight of that same God. The fact that we commit fornication has already indicated to God that trust has been compromised. How can we expect God to trust us?  How can we trust one another? The brother could be saying to himself, “if she doesn’t respect God, why does she believe that she is worthy of my respect?”

This man of God, your man of God, could reasonably ask how can I really trust a woman of God who blatantly and without hesitation disrespects God by sleeping with me? Hasn’t she already shown me the type of woman she is, and if I marry her, the type of wife she will be? Has she not already answered the moral character question when she went horizontal with me? It should cause a crisis of conscience if not a crisis of belief. Forcing the questions: Who am I really? Who is my lover really?  It is mentally conflicting to say the least. How can it not be?  This is the crisis of conscience Hosea faced and the crisis of faith we face even today.

If you are not considering marrying the person you are currently sleeping with then, I guess it doesn’t matter to anyone but God. But if you want to honor God, and honor your spouse to be, then maybe you should wait to consummate the relationship.  I believe fornication is a form of cheating on God. It doesn’t matter if it’s against God or man (or woman).  When we are cheated on, the first question out of your mouth to the violator of your love is “how could you do this to me.” “Don’t you know how much I love you?” “How can I trust this person with my heart ever again?” Well, isn’t God in the throne Room asking the same questions of us? When we cheat on him with “another lover,” doesn’t God have the same right to ask the same questions? We never seem to think how our actions hurt God. God feels just as betrayed as our Christian lover. “You who make you boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law. (Romans 2:23). “And the Lord was sorry he had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in his heart” (Genesis 6:6). The word grieved means “to cut off, detest, to be vex, pain, hurt.” God’s heart is impacted just like yours and mine.  Our behavior is not just about our feelings; it’s about God’s feelings as well. The real reason God hates sin so much is because He knows that sin has the capacity to hurt you. And because He loves you dearly, He doesn’t want to see you hurt. That’s how we are supposed to love each other.  Likewise, we shouldn’t want to do anything in the name of love that hurts God, hurts the other person, or hurt ourselves.  A cheatin heart is a selfish Heart. A cheatin heart has no regard for God. A cheatin heart is about lack; lack of character, lack of commitment, and lack of conscience.  This is dangerous grounds for Christians.  Someone always gets hurt, even if that someone is God.  And finally, we should consider how unlawful sex not only displeases God, but it could block the blessings of the person we are going horizontal with?  How do you know that God wasn’t just about to bless that person, advance that person, and do something supernatural in that person life or for that person’s children? But because you couldn’t keep your pants zipped (brothers) up or because you couldn’t keep your legs closed (sisters), now blessings of the one you claim to love are delayed, if not denied.  Yes, inheritance can be lost. Our ancestors taught us that we damage the world not only by what we do wrong, but also by what we fail to do right. My prayer is that we all do what is right; right by the God we worship; right by the person we say we love (or in love with) right by ourselves who we should be true to. Let’s eliminate our cheatin heart and turn it into a heart of obedience! After all, that’s how we shall inherit the kingdom of God. We should want that for ourselves and for the one we love.  What does your heart say right about now?

Love, Peace, & Blessings!

Jesus Can See at Night

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From 23 Thoughts for the Young Christian Soldier….

Thought 8 Jesus Can See at Night Time

While I was stationed overseas in Friedberg W. Germany I was attached to the 332 Infantry Battalion. I was a Medical Specialist-91 Bravo. As a Medic, I was fortunate enough to earn the Expert Field Medical Badge-the highest peace time award given to a Medic. To earn such an award, one had to pass a number mental and physical skills test such as pass a PT Test, Qualify with your M-16 Rifle, complete a 25 mile hike in full gear, pass a day time and night compass course. None of was easy but the most difficult tasks besides walking 25 miles in full gear soaking wet (yes, it rained that day), was the night compass course. That tripped most of us. It requires team work. Just you and another soldier. You had to get the measurements correct or you would go off course. We were out there in the middle of the night straining. To this day it had to be the grace of God. We simply could not see where we were going. Just a compass and a prayer and it were timed!  It reminds me of the time the disciples were in a boat late one night. They too were trying to navigate their way to safety. The story goes something like this:

“Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He sent the multitude away, And when He sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray. Now when even came, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and He was along on the land. Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by. And when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw Him and were troubled. But immediately He talked with them and said to them Be of good cheer. It is I do not be afraid. Then He went up into the boat to them and the wind ceased.” Mark 6:45-51.

There are 5 things I want to lift up about this incredible episode in the life of Jesus and His disciples.

  1. Jesus Positioned the Disciples (v.45)

Clearly from Scripture we see that the disciple where in the boat when the storm arise because they were made to go. Sometimes you can be exactly where God sends you and still end up in a storm. Just because you are facing strong winds in your life, don’t take it to mean this is not where God intended for you to be at this moment in time. Not necessarily for your benefits but for His glory. God would not put you in a vulnerable, dangerous position unless He knows how it would end. Listen carefully Soldier; this is not the same as you putting yourself in dangerous situation. Being a child of the Most High God does not exempt you from storms and heartache. In situations like this, be encouraged that even though you don’t see a way, remember God does. He has positioned you there for a reason, if not a season.

Jesus Prayed for the Disciples (v. 46)

The Bible says after Jesus positioned them He went to pray. It doesn’t say what He prayed about but we do know He prayed. In my spiritual imagination, I believe Jesus prayed for His disciples as He was sending then into a storm. This is one of the many ministries of Christ even today. He is a praying Shepherd:

“It is Christ who died and further more is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” Romans 8:34

“I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those You have given Me” John 17:9

The Amplified Version says Jesus is “pleading as He intercedes.” The word pleading means “advocacy of a cause in a court of law.” You (we) have no greater advocate than Jesus. It is Satan who is the accuser to God. Every time Satan goes to God to accuse you, Jesus is right there making the case on your and my behalf.

  1. Jesus Previewed/Perceived the Disciples (v.48)

Jesus was standing the shore watching the disciples struggle and strain. This was during the first watch the night The Romans had divided the night into 4 three hour intervals. The first watch was from 6:00- 9:00; Second watch 9:00 to 12:00 a.m.; 3rd watch 12:00 to 3:00 a.m. and the 4th watch from 3:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m.  This means Jesus saw this about 9:00 at night but didn’t start toward them until 6 hours later! What’s up with that? Could it be that Jesus may not enter your storm until the 4th watch! But I like the idea that it was at night. It was pitch dark. The 4th watch is the darkest part of the night, just before dawn. It is also the best time to pray. Ever wondered why God wakes you up at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning? This why? You may be in the 4th watch of your storm, but I am here to tell you, that Jesus can see in the dark! He sees that you are in a dark place right now. He sees you make have dark thought right now. It doesn’t matter. He sees you. You may be straining and struggling in your situation, but Jesus sees you. And not only does he see you in the dark, look at what the Bible says… “He came to them” v. 48. Jesus will position you, pray for you, perceive you in your darkest moment, and then He will come to you. This is exactly what He told the disciples on Mount before His departure

“Let not your heart be troubled…I go prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am there you may be also” John 14:3

What a Shepherd indeed!

  1. Jesus Pacified the Disciples (v. 50)

The word pacify means to conciliate, appease, and/or soothe; to make comfortable. There is no doubt that the disciples were in an uncomfortable situation. By speaking to them, Jesus’ voice undoubtedly appeased or pacified them. It was a comfort to know that Jesus had come to them. I am not sure why the disciples were not praying themselves but fear has a way of paralyzing you. Jesus constantly had to do this for His followers.

Is. 35:4  “Say to those with fearful hearts, Be strong, do not fear, your God will come, he will come with vengeance, with divine retribution he will come to save you.”

Is. 41:10 “So do not fear, for U am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you.”

Ps. 94:19 When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul“

The disciples were troubled so they cried out! If you are indeed troubled today, cry out to God. He will listen to you and He will answer you. It doesn’t matter much what the trouble is, call on the name of Jesus. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12 NIV).

It is God desire to help you. In fact it pleases Him to help. But you have to asked and ask in faith. In a time of trouble, we are admonished to call on God. (Psalm 50:15). God promised to deliver us.  “When he calls out to Me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver and honor him” (Psalm 91:15).

How comforting is it to know that even in our troubles, our darkest moments, we serve a God that will not only help us but give us honor in the process. Who will not serve a God like that?

  1. Jesus Protected the Disciples (v.51)

Jesus got into the boat, the very place he sent them 6-8 hours ago. The place where they were troubled, a place where they were struggling, a place where they were afraid. Now Jesus confronted the very thing that was causing so much grief, the wind! He told to be of good cheer and to not be afraid.

“Be anxious for nothing but though prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your request be known unto God…

When Jesus arrives in your wind storm, He has the ability to conqueror that which is overwhelming you. His presence provided stability and confidence in the disciples. They still marveled at Jesus. I am asking you young Christian Soldier to now marvel at Jesus. Just be thankful to Him for all He has done, is doing and will do for you.

Yes, Jesus can certainly see all of the darkness in your life and He is still willing to see you and help you. Don’t be dismayed today. Cry out to Christ. Realize that you are special to Him and you are exactly where you are supposed to be. Maybe Jesus put you there? But even if He did, He is coming to you and for you. Jesus is your day time and night compass. The presence of Christ in your life should have a calming effect. To recognize Christ’s presence is the antidote for fear. Remember, Jesus can see in the dark!

Under Word Command

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From 40 Daily Thoughts Vol.1

Scripture Reading 1 Kings 13

“For I was commanded by the word of the Lord: You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came. So he took another road and did not return by the way he had come to Bethel” (1 Kings 13:9-10)

As Christian soldiers, we are under constant command by the Word of God. Our Commander in Chief-Jesus the Christ- has given us specific orders to live our lives by. And it is for a good reason. Thus was the case with the prophet from Judah in the 13th Chapter of 1st Kings. The Lord had given the young prophet precise orders not to eat or drink in Bethel and then he left to go home via a different route. As the story goes, he refused King Jeroboam at first. He even repeated the command to the old prophet from Bethel, who ended up lying to the young prophet. Some interesting points! First, a man of God lied to him to get him to stay and eat and drink, thus defying God. Why did he believe the lie? Why not just do what God had commanded? But folks will come to you and tell you what God told them about you! If God is going to give YOU a specific command, then I believe He is going to tell YOU if he changes His mind or has another set of orders! Thus are our struggles as Christian Soldiers. We are under so many commands from so many “chiefs” when we should be listening to only one. The moral of the story is that this young prophet lost his life (being attacked and killed by a lion) because he stepped out from his orders. On this day, are you as a Christian Soldier under specific commands to carry out a work for the Lord? Are you following orders? As a former soldier in the Army, I was trained to follow orders without question because somebody’s life could be on the line; to include my own!

 

Consider these examples:

Adam and Eve were under the command of God’s Word.

“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:16).

There are two ways to mess this interpretation up. It is pretty straight forward. They were told what to do and what not to do. They were told the consequences should their behavior contradicted that which they were commanded to obey. We know how that story ended. When Adam and Eve stepped out from under their command orders not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil we know how that turned out for them and mankind!

Moses was under Command of God’s Word

God was equally explicit and crystal clear with Moses in the Wilderness of Zin at Kadesh. “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying take the rod; and you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals” (Num. 20:7-8).

Again, it is hard for me to see how Moses could get this wrong. We know that Moses did not heed the voice of the Lord; he decided (on his own in anger) to strike the rock twice instead. And it cost him an opportunity to enter into the Promise Land.

King Saul

Likewise, the Lord gave King Saul specific instructions to carry out an order.

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel…now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey” (1 Sam. 15:2-3).  Of course this is a difficult passage of scripture to accept. Why would a loving and holy God call for the extermination of an entire race of people? We don’t know why, but we trust God because “His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.” Plus, God is all knowing and He knew that these same Amalekites, these people of color from the descendants of ….would be a thorn in the side of Israel.  Saul lied and said he had killed everyone, but he kept alive the Amalekite King Agag (1 Samuel 15:20).

As result, a couple decades later these same Amalekites took David and his men’s families captive (1 Samuel 30:1-2). Several years later, a descendant of Agag, Haman, tried to have the entire Jewish nation exterminated.  So, Saul’s incomplete obedience almost resulted in Israel’s destruction.

Thought Prayer

Lord, grant us the wisdom to realize that we are under your command. Help us to adhere to the commands of grace in the Bible. The command to love, the command to repent and the command to spread your gospel throughout the world. It is in the name of Jesus I submit this prayer and by His precious blood I claim victory, Amen.

Focus Thought 

After reading about the need to be under the command of God in the Bible, how does that alter your thought life as a Christian Soldier? There are possible consequences for violating the commands God has given you. What will it cost you to disobey God? It is really quite simple…follow the commands of the Lord! Stop listening to people’s lies and version of the truth. Listen to God and God only.

Systemic Barriers or Personal Responsibility?

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With the recent pledge by our President to help raise money for “My Brother’s Keeper,” an initiative to assist black and Hispanic males, and the comments made by the Republican Budget Committee Chairman, Paul Ryan, who talked about a “tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working, and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and culture of work,” it has set up a classic discussion about race, class and politics in this country. This is not new! On the surface, the two aforementioned perspectives do coincide with one another.  

Ryan is correct about one thing—far too many men (males) of color are isolated and marginalized from mainstream America. It is said that Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman, Marcia Fudge, was “troubled and offended” by Ryan’s comments. My question is, “Why?”  Is Ms. Fudge offended by Congressman Ryan, a white man, speaking a reality he thinks is true about black inner-city life, or is she offended by the fact that a lot of black men do not take care of their children, don’t aspire to have gainful employment, and could care less about the black family and/or community. 

The Bible speaks of a good man leaving an inheritance to his children’s children” (Proverbs 13:22)—a two generation approach! Far too many brothers are committed to a life of crime and ineptness. Isn’t that kind of the point and justification for “My Brother’s Keeper?” If we have to be offended, let’s be offended at the notion that racism is global and structural, as well as it is personal. For me, the dichotomy between personal responsibility and structural barriers is real.  

Structural inequality is defined as a condition where one group of people is attributed an unequal status to other categories of people. Institutional racism describes any kind of unequal system based on race. I am not sure what type of “productive conversation” Ryan wants to have with the Congressional Black Caucus about poverty, but if it doesn’t include how to eliminate systemic racial barriers, then I don’t know if anything constructive will get done. We also seem to leave the debate at the personal level. This is where it seems “My Brother’s Keeper” is going with it.  If we can just get these black and Hispanic boys and men to behave better, everything will work itself out. Maybe. All I know is that $200 million is a lot of money, and if it is not allocated wisely it will prove, once again, to be not enough. 

If we are to believe the conservatives spin on the issue, the federal government spent roughly $668.2 billion on 126 separate federal programs to fight poverty. If this is anywhere near true, then it makes Ms. Fudge’s point that the main culprit behind poverty is “lack of resources.” Really? If billions didn’t put a dent in the problem then how will $200 million work out for us?  But every little bit helps. Right? Also, I am just wondering (out loud) how much we need to spend on tearing down the walls and barriers that keep poor people trapped in poverty. Which of those foundations or private donors will step up and put their resources there? 

Structural racism gets a pass sometimes because we put a microscope underneath what the “person” should do to act responsibly. My question is, “When will we have a “serious” conversation about racism, classism, sexism and poverty from a structural inequality point of view?” It is an easier talk to have when we focus on the people in poverty because we can always default to blaming the victim. When we are courageous enough to have that conversation, I suspect we will affirm Ryan’s point that both black and brown boys suffer from isolation and marginalization.  

The conversation will also affirm that those who hold the true power are also isolated. They are isolated from the day-to-day struggles of the working poor and the entities in place to help. They are isolated not because they don’t know, but because they don’t care. My fear is we will spend a lot of good money ($200 million and holding), get more black and brown boys to act better, but still not get the core issue that helped to put them in their impoverished situation in the first place.  

There is no debate (or shouldn’t be) that structural inequality has a detrimental effects on black life. Inequality has nothing to do with feelings per se. It is more insidious than even hatred. It’s not a matter of either personal responsibility or systemic barriers—it’s both. It takes both to contribute to inner-city life for far too many black boys, and it will take addressing both to solve the problem.

When the “Home” Needs Home Training”!

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  Scripture Reading 1 Samuel 2:12-17

            “Now the Eli were corrupt, they did not know the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:12)

Many of us in the black community have heard of the term “home training” and have a close relationship to the concept. We remember the warnings coming from our parents and grandparents—“that boy ain’t got no home training.” The whole idea behind home training is that it needs to occur in the home. An African proverb states that “the ruin of a nation begins in the homes of its people.” 

With the many negative statistics and social ills that beset our community, now is a good time for us to take a critical look at our homes and the socialization processes we have in place. We have to ask the tough questions. Are we responsible for producing thugs, gang bangers and social misfits? Can we really say the devil made me do it? Can we still blame the evil of white racism on our attitudes and actions? 

There is a growing concern with this issue. As a black community we cannot ignore it. But where do we start? For most people, we need to start in the home. But that might just be problematic. It’s a natural inclination to say that training should start in the home…with parents. But what if the “home” needs some home training? 

The term home is defined as “an environment affording security and happiness; a place where something is discovered, originated, or developed; an institution where people are cared for.” Based on this definition, many of our homes are anything but caring, developing, happy or secure. I truly believe that most parents want the best for their children. But many are struggling caretakers. Some are disinterested providers. And, still others just don’t give a darn. That is a sad commentary on the status of many black homes, but it is true. 

In the book, “Black Children: Their Roots, Culture and Learning Styles,” Dr. Janice Hale-Benson, she states that black children are educationally at risk. About 28% of African-American students drop out before graduation. The achievement scores for black children are approaching critical. This is where I think the home needs some home training. Young parents especially need our help. One of the things we need to concentrate on is an Early Childhood Development Strategy for the community. 

I am the Executive Director of the Chatham-Savannah Youth Futures Authority, which is a 28-year old collaborative that was started with Annie E. Casey Foundation dollars back in 1987. We are a state legislated authority to address critical issues impacting youth. Two of our collaborative partners are the Savannah Early Childhood Foundation (SECF) and the Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) of Southeast Georgia. The SECF was founded by my good friend, Paul Fisher. Two other good friends, Ms. Sherrie Costa and Ms. Katrina Chance, are affiliated with the CCR&R, which provides information and training to childcare facilities and parents. 

There is a tremendous amount of interest in brain development and the first five years of life. Studies have shown that this is a very crucial time for brain development, and we need to pay more close attention to the development of our children at this early age. There are things we can do, and other things we can do better, to create a “home” environment that is truly developing, nurturing and affirming. We are at a place as a black community where infanticide (the killing of an infant) is happening at a more alarming rate. I can’t imagine what a three-month-old baby could do to deserve being shaken to death, but there lies the notion that the environments in which some of our children are being raised are not safe and developing. Yes, many black homes need home training. Yes, training up a child in the way he should go is the Word. But that assumes the person doing the training is himself or herself trained. That’s not the case in so many of our homes. 

The concept of early childhood education is about our future. It has been said that the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now. This is the best time to plant seeds of encouragement, training, education and skills to an entire generation of parents. The human by-product of some of these homes indicates we have a serious problem. We are our brother’s keeper and we are responsible for one another. Each one reach one, each one teach one. The cognitive development of black children is predicated on the cultural and social environment in which they are produced and raised. In other words, social class and ethnicity develop sets of behaviors and attitudes that “train” the home environment. It is this socialization mechanism that we are calling into question. Something is happening (or not happening) where scores of black children are under achieving academically, socially, and morally. Early childhood education is about training the home to train up a child socially, academically, and morally in the way they should go. 

It would be somewhat of a moral victory if we could honestly say that the child “departed” from the training. But in many instances they never learned the proper behavior in the first place. That was the case with Eli, a very good man but a bad father. The sons of Eli, Hophni and Phineahas, brought shame and ruin to their father and sin to a degenerate priesthood. Eli, like many of our men today, was a failure as a father. The primary responsibility of rearing children in the way of God is in the home. As a father, Eli knew the sins of his sons but did not restrain them. This is what the Lord said to Eli:

“In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them”                       (1 Sam. 3:12-13). 

So many of our black youth are doing vile, ungodly things in our homes and in our communities, and the fathers and/or parents are not restraining them. Early childhood is the time to teach and train them. After a certain time, it becomes too late. The old saying, “bend the sap while it’s young,” means teaching children while they are teachable, while they are young and impressionable. Eli should have disciplined his sons before it became impossible to do so. After a while, children turn a deaf ear. “Nevertheless, they did not heed the voice of their father…”     (1 Sam. 2:25).  

The terrible fate of Eli and his evil sons is recorded in 1 Samuel 4:10-18. Phinehas and Hophni were both killed at war. Eli, as an old man, fell and broke his neck. As black Christian parents, we can save ourselves a lot of pain and grief if we just do what the Bible says when it comes to raising our children: “And you Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Galatians 6:4). Prayerfully, it will come a time when we will never have to say again “that boy ain’t got no home training.”

“What the child says, he has heard at home”-Nigerian Proverb. “Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die” Proverbs 23:13. As a parent or elder in the village, I will correct if need be a young person if I see they are going astray. 

Youth Violence and the Case for Moral Aptitude!

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Like most Savanniahians, I am appalled by the rash of violence in our beloved city. I am equally disheartened over the number of youth and young adults who are engaged in violent, deadly behavior. Most recently, the District Attorney’s Office is trying four young black men and is seeking the death penalty in those cases. At a recent symposium sponsored by the Chatham County Juvenile Court, it was reported that there were 1,281 delinquent referrals in 2015. Of that amount, 63 percent (809) were black males. In 2016, the majority of the delinquent referrals (94%) were youth 12-16 years of age. Sadly still, the majority of these incidents involve African-American males, both as victims and perpetrators. It appears to be a growing problem. 

In 2014, there were 1,825 arrests for Part I crimes. Of this number, 301 arrests were to youth ages 8-16 (16%). Of the Part I crimes (minus shoplifting, car theft and arson), there were 421 arrests. Of this number, 99 arrests were to youth ages 8-16 (23%). For 2015 between Jan 1st to August 23rd, there were 261 arrests for Part I crimes. Of this number, 182 were to youth ages 10-16 (70%). Of the 62 youth arrests, 50 were black males, five were black females, six were white males, and one was a Japanese male. (Source: SCMPD) 

To stop the violence we have to stop what is feeding the beast. We are told by politicians and social pundits that a major culprit is poverty and related factors (i.e. lack of education, high unemployment, lack of things to do, and a host of other “lacks”) they like to espouse. Granted, these elements do play a part. However, I want to make the case for another type of lack: lack of “moral aptitude.” Aptitude is defined as “inclination, intelligence, being appropriate.” The best way to effectively dealt with youth violence is before it starts. “Bend the sap when it is young” my grandmother used to say. The truth is, not enough bending of the sap goes on in our homes. What we are witnessing is the Biblical, spiritual truth of “you reap what you sow, more than you sow, and later than you sow.” I don’t care how much jobs, government benefits, welfare reform or other antipoverty measures you put in place, until and unless we deal with the “root” causes of antisocial behavior, the violence and bloodletting will continue. 

In 2017, social service organizations are simply overwhelmed to deal with the madness. And in some cases, ill-equipped, to deal with the sheer number and magnitude of the problem. Parents, especially many teen parents, are ill-prepared to take on the rigors of parenting and socializing children of today. The socializing/parenting apparatus is broken in far too many cases. Not to get too deep into Bible study, but recall (or if need be study) the case of the Priest Eli and his two sons (Hophni and Phinehas) who were behaving wickedly. Why? Because their father rebuked them too lightly and was unable to stop them. Eli’s failure to lead his family led to his downfall. The punishment for this lack of “bending the sap” was all male descendants dying before reaching old age. (1 Samuel 2:1217; 22-36). The point is clear—absence of moral and ethical training of children at a young age (sow) will eventually end up with our youth acting wickedly and blood running in the streets. If we fail them, then they will end up failing society and us. 

Many homes have relegated the responsibility of moral education to schools and the social service industry. That is why we have initiatives like “Character Counts” sponsored by the school district. I am glad we have such programs in the community, but that does not mean it is solely, or even primarily, the school district’s job to properly instill moral values in our youth. They can assist, but it is not their job. 

This leads us to the question of who is ultimately responsible for the moral training of the community. Or perhaps a better question is, “Who is in the best position to offer such training?”  Many would say it is ultimately the responsibility of parents to convey moral values to their children. Others might identify the church to dispense such teachings. So point to the notion that Christ left the church in charge: not the schools, not DFCS, not Greenbrair Children Services, not EOA, not YFA, but the church. The rest of us can help because it does take an entire village to successfully raise children. You can provide everyone with an appropriate amount of jobs, food stamps, EITC benefits, health insurance, and other poverty reduction efforts and still not end the violence in homes, in neighborhoods, in schools, and eventually in the streets. 

“The ruins of a nation begin in the home of its people” (African Proverb). The “ruins” we are seeing in our streets is a byproduct of the ruins in homes. A child without a moral compass is liable to take the life of another child because of their lack of moral aptitude, not simply because he was bored and had no other outlets. The sooner we begin to deal with the root of this problem, the sooner we can alleviate it. Statewide in Georgia, there were 34,946 youth served by the Department of Juvenile Justice in 2013. The cost of confinement was approximately $249.66 per day per youth, or about $91,126.00 per year (Data sources: Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, Statewide Snapshot, 2013; Justice Policy Institute, Sticker Shock, 2014). I am not saying we should not do our best to amass the appropriate amount of social benefits to people, but I am saying that a lack of ongoing moral training of our youth at a young age stands the chance of rendering those benefits non-consequential. I do know we need to do something different, intentional, and forceful concerning our wayward children if we want the violence to stop.