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The Beauty Of Blackness Fine Art Show

Event Summary

The Beauty Of Blackness Fine art Show Started as a premier indoor event showcasing some of the finest Black and African American artists from across the country. “Producing a fine-art show with talented African American artist has been a dream of Founder and artist Louise Cutler, for many years. However, in 2020 her dream turned into something quite different yet amazing. The Beauty Of Blackness Fine art Show became one of the first ever live-streamed fine Art shows in the country. After cities and venues closed, instead of postponing the show until next year, the show went fully virtual, live streaming the entire festival for 4 straight days from artist studios from across the country on all major social media platforms.

This year’s show Featured Artist is Mr. LaShun Beal. He is a contemporary, figurative artist who has mastered the technical subtleties of several different mediums and subject matters. Beal is content with the spirit that drives him to create a particular work of art and the evolution of his progress, exemplified in his creations. He has traveled throughout Europe, South America, and the Far East, affording him the opportunity to witness other cultures, which are reflected in his art.

Guest Speaker and renowned urban fine-Artist Kevin A. Williams’ original and lithograph artwork hangs from coast to coast in celebrity homes such as talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, and late actor/comedian Bernie Mac. It can also be seen in small businesses and corporate offices. He is the best-selling artist in the African-American print market. Williams is a popular personality at national art shows, conferences of African-American groups, and major international events. His art has been featured on television’s “Law & Order” (NBC) and “Soul Food” (Showtime). Kevin will be speaking on the Art Of Social Injustice. The show features an array of nationally known artists: Carren Clark, Thomas Lockhart, Kibibi Ajanku, Guest host Corinthia Peoples, Phillip Cutler, Patricia Kabora, and many more with host Artist Larry Poncho Brown as well as hostess, artist, and founder Louise Cutler.

This year’s show will feature a 2-week brick and mortar Art Gallery Exhibit in Fort Collins Co at the Merchant Room Gallery in Walnut Creek from Aug. 27 to Sept. 8, presenting the works of the participating artists. There will be an Artist reception on Sept. 3, during First Friday. And yes, the show will still be fully live streamed starting Sept. 2, continuing through the 5th for four straight days. You can purchase art and speak with artists directly in their studios in real-time, live.

The Beauty Of Blackness Fine Art Show founder, Louise Cutler, is a Fine Artist living in Fort Collins Co. She has spent years doing various art shows with fellow artists around the country. For information on the show or to become a virtual host, contact




Streaming Live daily from September 3-6 on all multiple social media sites

The Beauty of Blackness Fine Art Show will host a free online festival Sept. 3-6 that will feature several nationally renowned Black and African-American artists who will participate in studio tours, talks and Q&A sessions that will stream on various social media platforms. There will also be music and the chance for participants to purchase an array of the artists’ work.

Much like an art walk, viewers will be able to virtually stroll to a dozen studios throughout the multi-day event. Attendees can watch the streams on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or the show’s website.

Unlike an actual art walk, the beauty of technology allows folks to visit the distinctly creative spaces of artists outside of Colorado.

Artists have Zoom links in place to speak one-on-one with potential patrons during times they are not live on the air. From the news article written by By KALENE MCCORT

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Comeback to Being the Change: Activist Zyahna Bryant

Zyahna Bryant was just 15 years old when she started the petition to remove the Robert E. Lee statue in her hometown of Charlottesville. Since then, other statues of the confederacy and oppressors have been removed as well.  Zyahna told me of her journey and what’s next for her, including her brand Black Women Built This, to learn more visit:

Check out this episode!

The post Comeback to Being the Change: Activist Zyahna Bryant appeared first on Comeback with Erica Cobb.

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Lizigns Studio

Lizigns uses the everyday space around her to create and tell a story. With her designs she wants to share both her creations and visions when it comes to creating art, design, clothing and culture. Being a freelance graphic designer has allowed her to help individuals bring their design visions to life for their businesses and brands. This website is used to display Lizigns’ services and the variety of works created by Liz Lawrence. The goal of each project is to create art that pushes the aesthetics of design in a unique way.

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How To 10x Your Confidence & Income Earning Potential.

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Confidence takes intentionality, consistency and time to build. You must be confident in yourself and your skills to be a boss. When you…

Confidence takes intentionality, consistency and time to build. You must be confident in yourself and your skills to be a boss. When you are confident in YOU and what you do, no one will doubt your skills and craft. Sometimes, we find ourselves second guessing who we are and what we are capable of. We need a little confidence booster. Outlined below are 7 steps you can take to 10x your confidence and income earning potential:

Turn off your inner critic and turn on your inner hero: Silence that voice that tells you that you are not good enough and turn on that voice that encourages, uplifts and improves you. Envision your favorite superhero. Put yourself in their shoes and feel the confidence boost.
Practice, Practice, Practice: An unprepared person has the right to be nervous. You will not feel confident if you haven’t been practicing your craft. You are never too good to grow. You can always raise the bar no matter how good you are. Practice does not make perfect, it makes confident.
Look and smell the part: Hold your head up high, walk with confidence, smell good. These steps and changes to your appearance will build up your confidence. Walk the walk, talk the talk and smell good.
Set small attainable goals: Setting smaller goals sets you up for more celebration. This is because they are easier to attain and they help you build up to a bigger goal you want to accomplish. If you set bigger unrealistic goals, they will appear harder to reach and deplete your confidence. Take smaller steps and celebrate more often.
Do something scary everyday: Do something you have been avoiding. Take a cold shower. Call that person. Send that email. Just do something small that can challenge you.
Lay down in public for 10 seconds: Sidewalks, airport, grocery store, anywhere public. The 10 seconds will go by fast. It will show you no one is paying attention to you. You are the one judging yourself. Do this at least two times. It will be easier the second time and you will notice a change in your confidence.
The Rejection Report: Get 3 No’s in one day. Ask people for things you are expecting a no from. It will surprise you how hard it is to get a no.

Food For Thought: Brought to you by Haziq Ali.

“Perfection is the curse of the poor.”

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Off White Dress || A Farewell To Summer 2021 | Ranti In Review

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With the temperature reaching a steaming 91 degrees yesterday is a reminder that it’s very much still summer here in Denver. I am however ready to slowly transition into fall fashion. And given the fall season is just a few days away, I’m saying farewell to summer styling this off white Adriana Degreas dress. The
The post Off White Dress || A Farewell To Summer 2021 appeared first on RANTI IN REVIEW.

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My Picks Of Emerging Designer Handbags For Fall | Ranti In Review

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It’s that time of the year again, we are all ready for all things fall fashion. The boots, layering, beautiful earth tones and much more. This fall, what better way to instantly elevate your everyday fall uniform than with the perfect novelty bag. Novelty does not mean breaking the bank. As a huge bag connoisseur,
The post My Picks Of Emerging Designer Handbags For Fall appeared first on RANTI IN REVIEW.

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Considering others

by, Isam Itson III

Matthew 25:37-40 – Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.

Jesus was always encouraging his disciples to honor the Father’s love for others. In this passage. How we treat others is a reflection of how we feel about God. It signifies the depth of our trust in God. If I identify deeply with God, then I will love my enemies as well as my brothers and sisters in Christ. See Luke 6:27-36; Romans 5:6-8; and 1 John 4:7-21. The writers of the gospels always emphasized Jesus’ motivation. He was moved with compassion. His heartbeat was in tune with the heart of the Father. He revealed that the righteous judge was consumed with the restoration of the lawbreaker. Jesus came to set the captives free and secure the lives of the poor, and powerless. He did it knowing that doing so would lead to his betrayal and crucifixion.

This is not the mindset I wake up with every morning. My heart is bent on getting God to work things out to my benefit. Or at least allowing me to pursue my own ambitions without interference. I forget that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all of God’s promises to me. So I need to remind myself every day and throughout the day of how good God has been to me in sacrificing Jesus Christ for my benefit. 

We have been delivered from the power of sin and death. We are now free to live for the glory of God. Now, we can surrender to the fulfillment of God’s purpose in creating us. Now we can trust the Holy Spirit to help us as we commit ourselves to honoring God’s love for others, no matter what it costs us in pride or treasure. It is so easy to get caught up in our own concerns. Then we fail to see how we can help the people around us.

Hebrews 13:1-6 is one of the scriptures I like to pray when I meditate on God’s faithfulness to me in response to my fear for the fulfillment of my own desires. “Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. 4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. 5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we can confidently say, the Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

In response

1. Take moments throughout the day to meditate on God’s love for you.

2. Remember that God loves everyone the same.

3. Ask God to give you opportunities to love someone who offends you or who can do nothing for you.

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How to 10X Your Confidence & Income Earning Potential

Do you know what the curse of the poor is? I got a nugget or two from Haziq Ali of @millionairemindedtv this morning that fed right into to show today. We both had the same thing on our list this morning about giving your inner voice a name. Listen to the end to get the two best expert tips to 10X your confidence this week! If you gain one thing from today’s episode, be sure to share it with someone you love. *The video version of today’s episode can be watched on Instagram and Youtube. *Mimi the Motivator is the modern-day Master Teacher, a dynamic Speaker, Educator, and Coach who empowers all to create the life and business desired. The host of “Get High On Motivation” is on a mission is to educate, empower and equip the minority community through her platforms of self-education, Holistic Health, and Universal laws. The vision is to institute a cycle of generational and community wealth in historically economically challenged families and communities.Sign up today to Convert 30 minutes of content into a 6-week Online Course. Learn how you can easily repurpose your old or new content to create passive income.Buzzsprout – Let’s get your podcast launched! Start for FREESupport the show ($mimileut)

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Comeback to Representation: Talent Relations Manager Giselle Phelps

Giselle Phelps is a seasoned talent executive who currently represents a diverse slate of top TV talents & experts, including myself, since launching her boutique firm in 2013.

I sat down with her to talk how she used her emancipation to emancipate others and the genesis of this calling coming from her ancestors’ freedom stories. We also talked the lack of representation from the agency talent rosters to the screen and how she’s taking her experiences to create change. For more on Giselle go to:

Check out this episode!

The post Comeback to Representation: Talent Relations Manager Giselle Phelps appeared first on Comeback with Erica Cobb.

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Jessica Newsome

When thinking about what I do and the reason(s) why I do them, my mind goes directly to my promise to educate all families from the youngest to the oldest. Why? I do so because I believe that by being available for the whole family, I’m better able to bridge the gap between home and school. I began teaching on the preschool level, followed by entering into the world of special education within the elementary and middle school sector, and am now an administrator administration all for the simple fact that (I believe) God knows that our children and families are still desiring to see that individuals in our school systems (that look like them) care and will continuously push for the whole family to succeed. I know what my struggles were through primary, secondary, undergrad, grad school, etc., and I’ve committed both my ministerial and secular teaching careers to uplifting families.

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6 Simple Ways To Increase Your Peace During The Plandemic.

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The pandemic bought along with it a lot of questions, confusion and most of all, STRESS. Fear of the unknown. Constantly changing…

The pandemic bought along with it a lot of questions, confusion and most of all, STRESS. Fear of the unknown. Constantly changing information. LOCKDOWN!! I’m happy we made it this far. However, we need to take extra steps to destress and increase the peace in our lives.

These are 6 simple ways you can increase your peace during this PLANDEMIC.

Clear the clutter: When you clear the clutter in your life, you clear the clutter in your mind. Is your house, office or car cluttered? Clear it. Make some open spaces. Store things away. Don’t keep them piling up in your space and building clutter. Use storage bins and label them. If you have a lot of papers lying around, use a file. Have a file system and store them so you don’t keep looking for stuff.

Get organized: Organize your house. Organize your mind. Organize your calendar. Know where meeting links are and have them in your calendar. Put deadlines and bills on your calendar. If you are going to be successful, you need time management. In addition, organize your mind. Get organized with your thoughts. Write down all the ideas on your mind. Write a forgiveness list. Write a gratitude list. Bring some calm to your chaos and get organized.

Get some plants: Decorate your space with plants. Plants improve your overall wellness. They build calm and concentration. They also serve as beautiful decor. Seeing new growth on your plane improves your mood. Plus, the green indicates manifestation, money and abundance.

Get some natural sunlight: Go outside. Open up the blinds, curtains and doors. Let some pollution out of your house. Let fresh air in. Let the stale energy out and let some fresh energy in. Go outside and feel nature. Recharge. Feel the warmth of the sunlight on your skim. The warm feeling gives you peace.

Breathe: Breathing will bring you more peace. Inhale. Exhale. Take deep breaths. Do some breath observations. Take time out of your day to breathe and destress. Do some yoga. Do some Tai Chi. Practice mindfulness and incorporate it into your daily schedule.

Exercise: Go outside and exercise. You don’t need a gym membership to exercise. Go walking. Do some jumping jacks. Use the resources the Universe has provided. These movements coupled with the nature around you will provide more happy chemicals and reduce the stress hormones.

Make it your business to take these steps daily and create some peace. Start by getting rid of the clutter in and around you. Get organized. Buy some live plants. Take care of them and watch them grow. Spend time in nature. Soak up some sunlight. Exercise. BREATHE.

Food For Thought: “Emptiness creates all things. Emptiness is the divine. Emptiness is the doubt. Emptiness is the source of all universes.”

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What is the world coming to?

by, Isam Itson III

Matthew 24:9-14 –  “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. 

The disciples asked Jesus about the signs of the “End of the Age.” That is the time of Jesus coming to rule and reign on the earth. It marks the end of our struggle against the forces of evil in our own hearts and the hearts of others. It is the day of our reward as faithful servants of God and his Messiah. 

We often forget that Jesus’ proclamation of the coming of God’s kingdom was a political statement. He was calling people to live every aspect of their life in submission to God. His miracles were reminding people that they could trust God with all of their earthly concerns and needs. His coming as the fulfillment of God’s messianic promise to Israel was seen by his followers as the sign of God’s promise to rule all of the nations of the earth from Jerusalem. In their minds Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ of God, was the leader of a righteous and glorious political and cultural revolution that would extend the peace and justice of God across the face of the earth. Jesus would fill the whole earth with the glory of God and the twelve disciples would rule at his side.

The heart of Jesus’ answer is profound and not exactly what they were expecting. In essence Jesus said, don’t focus on the social, political, and environmental turmoil you see around you. In fact, things are going to get worse for you. Stay faithful to God and God’s love for others. Cultivate a close relationship with God so you are not deceived by the claims of false prophets and messiahs. Don’t get caught up in multiplying political turmoils and natural disasters. Live in light of the knowledge that God himself gets the final word and that Christ’s return to rule and reign on the earth is certain. Just keep doing your Father’s business. That is Jesus’ answer to his disciples.

By extension it is also Jesus’ encouragement to his followers today. We should live in submission to God’s word as the expression of God’s heart. This honors God’s authority in our lives. We should live trusting that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ has made us right with God. We should look to the Holy Spirit to fill us and strengthen us to honor God’s love for others, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter the cost to ourselves. We do this in light of the certain hope that Jesus Christ will return to deliver his people, reign over the nations of the earth for 1000 years, and bring an end to sin, tyranny, and death once and for all. 

But until that day, we must commit ourselves to nurturing our love for God and others, not wringing our hands over the shortcomings of our political leaders and social institutions. If we want to change the hearts and minds of people to place their trust in God and bow to God’s authority, we have to place our own trust in God and bow to God’s authority for ourselves. When people ask us why we live with so much hope and love we tell them that we know Jesus. We tell them that he loves us and that he loves them. We tell them that he gives us the strength and courage to trust God with every aspect of our lives. Some will turn around and follow Jesus with us. Others will dismiss us and continue following their own path, as if their life is in their own hands rather than God’s hands. They will continue to live under the delusion that everything depends upon them rather than God. This is the heart of human sin, shame, and death. This is the root of our social ills and political turmoil.   

Our hope and the hope of our children and grandchildren is in personal submission to Christ alone, not a temporary, human, political ideology or a surface level shift in popular culture or civic life. Apart from trust in God there is no hope for the people of this world. With God we have an absolute and certain hope in the ultimate victory of God over self righteousness, injustice, and immorality. Our hope in Christ endures through social persecution, material loss, personal betrayal, and physical death. The followers of Jesus Christ are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven first, last, and always. No matter what, God is with us and God’s Spirit lives in us. We are not alone. That is Jesus’ response to our political, social, and personal anxiety in relation to the godless tyranny, corruption, and vice of our political and social leaders that corrupts our societies and breaks God’s heart.

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6 Simple Ways to Increase Your Peace During the Plandemic

Has life been getting chaotic with all the changes in the world? Does peace of mind sound like a fairytale versus a plausible reality? Could you use more peace in your home or office… or if you are like most of the world, in your home office? Today your favorite motivator’s Favorite Motivator will share 6 easy, free and/or cheap ways you create more peace in your life. Food for Thought in this episode address the value of emptiness. “Mimi the Motivator,” is a modern-day Master Teacher. Although degreed in Mathematics, her expertise consists of Entrepreneurship, Holistic Health and Marketing. Your favorite motivator’s Favorite Motivator is on a mission to establish a cycle of community and generational wealth in socio-economic challenged cultures. Her boutique consulting agency provides a holistic approach to personal and professional development through workshops, events, online courses, coaching, and podcasts. You can catch a new episode of “Get High On Motivation” every Wednesday, on your favorite streaming app.Sign up today to Convert 30 minutes of content into a 6-week Online Course. Learn how you can easily repurpose your old or new content to create passive income.Buzzsprout – Let’s get your podcast launched! Start for FREESupport the show ($mimileut)

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How Mortgage Shoppers Can Save $2K in Extra Fees

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Shopping around for a mortgage can provide savings beyond just the interest rate. Borrowers could save thousands in lender fees as well
The post How Mortgage Shoppers Can Save $2K in Extra Fees appeared first on Element Home Life.

How Mortgage Shoppers Can Save $2K in Extra Fees

The Fees

Shopping around for a mortgage can provide savings beyond just the interest rate. Borrowers could save thousands in lender fees as well.

Borrowers who collect up to five offers from mortgage lenders could save more than $2,000 on mortgage fees, according to a new study from LendingTree of 300,000 loan offers. These extra fees include the costs for a mortgage application, underwriting, origination, appraisals, and up to 16 other fees that borrowers are charged by lenders.

Some mortgage fees are flat fees. Others may be based on a percentage of the loan amount.

“Most aspiring home buyers are focused on saving for their down payment—and they may not have budgeted for additional thousands of dollars in fees,” the study’s authors note.

About 7% of new-purchase borrowers paid no fees when taking out a mortgage, and 15% paid less than $500. On the other hand, 13% of purchase borrowers paid $5,000 in fees and 3% paid more than $10,000.

Taxes, flood certification, city and county stamps, and recording fees tend not to be negotiable. But other mortgage fees may be, researchers say.

“You can skip the back-and-forth by shopping around for the best rate and fees before you commit to a lender,” the researchers note. “In our study, we looked at the savings available to the same borrower who received offers from multiple lenders. The median spread between the highest and lowest fees proposed was $2,045 for people who received five offers or more. That’s a lot of money to potentially save.”

The post How Mortgage Shoppers Can Save $2K in Extra Fees appeared first on Element Home Life.

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What Your Driving Says About Your Personality And Communication Style.

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I will start with stories about a 3 drivers; Driver 1: The “No signal” driver. Driver 1 drives like everyone can mind read. He moves from…

I will start with stories about a 3 drivers;

Driver 1: The “No signal” driver.

Driver 1 drives like everyone can mind read. He moves from lane to lane without letting others know his next move with his turn signals. He does not necessarily take note of his surroundings and expects others to adjust to him. Driver 1 has been in so many accidents, his insurance is through the roof. He blames these accidents on other drivers; “Well they weren’t watching where they were going.”,”They didn’t wait for me to completely merge.”, “They are terrible drivers.” He doesn’t recognize how his lack of proper communication contributes to these crashes.

Driver 2: The “Slow on the fast lane” driver.

Driver 2 is moving at 40MPH on the fast lane. She wants to fit in and is worried about being left behind. However, she is slowing other drivers down. She recognizes this from all the hunks and stern looks from drivers who overtake her. But she doesn’t budge, she has to keep up. She doesn’t want to look like a weakling who gives up fast. She speeds up, but inevitably slows down again. Drivers around her are frustrated.

Driver 3: The “Beautiful exterior, messy interior” driver.

Driver 3 takes time to make sure her car looks perfect. She has a custom paint job and flashy rims, goes to the car wash every other day, and parks her car away from other to avoid scratches. She gets comments on her car all the time and loves the attention. However, no one can see the inside through the deeply tinted windows. If they could, they would recognize the mess that is the interior.

Something about their driving style speaks to who they are and how they relate with others. Driver 1 doesn’t take responsibility for anything. Everyone is to blame for each of his missteps. He does not communicate and doesn’t think it is necessary to. Because of his personality and lack of communication, he has lost opportunities and relationships. He expects others to understand him with the minimal information he provides. Driver 2 is a nervous wreck who is in a silent battle with her peers. She’s so concerned about being left behind that she doesn’t see she’s holding herself back. She’s holding those relying on her back. She’s afraid to ask for help because she doesn’t want to appear weak. Lastly, Driver 3. She’s pretty on the outside, but messy on the inside. She wears the most expensive clothes, face beat to the gods, nails always on point and hair on fleek. But this is all a facade. She feels empty on the inside and keeps away from other to avoid getting hurt.

Who are you as a driver? Are you the fast driver in the fast lane doing your own thing? Are you the driver who cusses people out? Are you the driver pushing your car past its limit? Do you take care of your car? Do you invest time in your car to make sure its clean outside and inside? What are you doing on a daily basis to be mindful? These are questions you should spend time reflecting on.

The way you treat you car and communicate with other drivers around you is reflective of how you treat yourself and others around you. Take time out to observe your interactions and make necessary adjustments. If you don’t know what to adjust, ask for feedback from trusted ones around you. Ask for help. An eye cannot see itself, you need a mirror to see your own reflection. Be intentional and make use of the resources available to you. Take steps to be 1% better today.

Food For Thought: “You can not eat your cake and have your cake.”

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No justice, no peace

by, Isam Itson III

Matthew 23:23 – “justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others”.

Once our relationship with God is secured in Jesus Christ we have nothing to fear. This enables us to give ourselves more fully to blessing others. Not only our eternal life, but also our present life and livelihood is secure in Jesus Christ. God will always provide enough for us to do what he wants us to do in the moment. We no longer need to live with a fear of tomorrow, because we understand that our life and daily provision are in God’s hands. We need only be faithful with the time and relationships God has already given us. 

Our faithfulness is expressed in being, just, merciful, and faithful in relationship with others. In God’s courtroom the judge is prone toward mercy. 2 Peter 3:9 states that God does not desire that any should perish, but all should come to repentance. Judgement delayed is forgiveness made possible. When we “do”  justice we are acting in ways that honor God’s love and faithfulness as the creator, provider, advocate, and ruler for every person on the planet. Even if they don’t believe he exists or that they owe their lives to him. 

Mercy is the expression of God’s love and grace to a helplessly sinful people in a fallen world. Remember, the heart of sin is taking our lives into our own hands rather than acknowledging the sovereignty and faithfulness of God in our lives. We commit all types of short sighted offenses against the character, wisdom, and authority of God because we are filled with fear for our own life or reputation. God’s justice is merciful and his mercy is just. This offends us unless we are the one who needs mercy. 

God’s response to our offensive behavior is offering opportunities for our good standing in relationship with him to be restored. Restoration and reconciliation is God’s loving response to our wrongdoing. God’s love is the heart of God’s mercy. People may have to endure painful consequences for their wrongdoing, but God never wants us to treat them as if they are worthless. God loves them and Christ died for them. God wants our attitudes and actions in relationship to them to reflect his love for them. That’s how we “do” mercy.

Faithfulness is another word for integrity. Faithful people are worthy of our trust. Faithful people have a proven record of honoring the love, loyalty, and authority of God no matter how much it costs them. Faithful people are willing to endure temporary pain, discomfort, and loss for the sake of long term fulfillment. Faithful people do not tend to sacrifice ultimate benefit and reward in exchange for instant gratification. Faithful people fall and fail, but they do not give up. We “do” faithfulness by continuing to show up with our best effort, no matter what.  

Justice from God’s perspective pays the penalty for the sins of others. Faithfulness from God’s perspective embraces suffering for the sake of others. Mercy from God’s perspective makes room for more of his children to live with him now and forever. To the degree we trust God’s love and faithfulness to us in Jesus Christ, we function as God’s ambassadors, spending our energy for the good of others in faith filled obedience to God. This is how we do justice, mercy, and faithfulness as citizens of God’s kingdom and followers of Jesus Christ.

In response

1. Take stock of your time for one or two weeks and determine how much is devoted to concern for your own interests and how much is committed to the wellbeing of others. 

2. Ask God to reveal where you are afraid that His immediate grace is not enough for you. Don’t give in to feeling ashamed. Everyone is afraid of something. 

3. Repent of your unbelief by trusting God more as you meditate on His word, thank Him for His love and grace revealed in Jesus Christ, and look to the Holy Spirit to help you honor God’s love for others.

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What Your Driving Says About Your Personality & Communication Style

Have you ever wondered why people say you can’t have your cake and eat it too? Today, Mimi shares the original Proverb that sets us straight. Do you know what the way you handle your car, traffic and other drivers says about you? Hopefully, this episode may shed some light on some things you weren’t quite aware of. “Mimi the Motivator,” is a modern-day Master Teacher. Although degreed in Mathematics, her expertise consists of Entrepreneurship, Holistic Health and Marketing. Your favorite motivator’s Favorite Motivator is on a mission to establish a cycle of community and generational wealth in socio-economic challenged cultures. Her boutique consulting agency provides a holistic approach to personal and professional development through workshops, events, online courses, coaching, and podcasts. You can catch a new episode of “Get High On Motivation” every Wednesday, on your favorite streaming app.Support the show ($mimileut)
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Yodit Tewolde: Legal Expert and Host Talks Comeback and Access

Yodit Tewolde is a well-respected trial lawyer, legal analyst, journalist and fashionista. I sat down with her to talk, her greatest comeback and the lessons she takes with her.

We also talk the responsibilities felt by on-air talent of color and how she navigates on “Making  the Case with Yodit,” her primetime show on The Black News Channel  (“BNC”). Yodit also serves as legal expert on the reboot  of the iconic “America’s Most Wanted” which debuted in March. She’s an established trial attorney, a staunch advocate for criminal  justice reform and she’s here!  Follow @YoditTewolde on social media!

Check out this episode!

The post Yodit Tewolde: Legal Expert and Host Talks Comeback and Access appeared first on Comeback with Erica Cobb.

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The 5 P’s Required For Your Success

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It is not enough just to have a goal or a dream. These can easily be crushed by discouragement, disappointment or simply loss of interest…

It is not enough just to have a goal or a dream. These can easily be crushed by discouragement, disappointment or simply loss of interest over time. It takes being intentional to be successful. Below are the 5 P’s required for you to be successful.

Purpose: You must have a purpose in order to be successful. What is your why? What is motivating you? Why are you in the Universe? We are all on earth for a specific purpose and only you know what your purpose is. Your purpose is what is given to you in a vision. People can tell you what you are good at but only YOU knows what your true purpose is. We all have a vision and it is our purpose to fulfill the vision that was planted in us. You don’t have to have the map that leads you to success, you just have to be willing to fulfill your purpose. All you have to be is willing to work towards fulfilling your purpose. The Universe will provide all you need to get there. Don’t think it’s going to be an easy journey. Your purpose might make you feel uncomfortable because it is going to be bigger than you. It is bigger than what you could ever think of. Bigger than what you can imagine. It will require more than you. That is why when you have purpose, it will give you passion.

Passion: When you are passionate about something, you are always working on it. When you have purpose in life, it drives you. It’s not something you have to talk about. People will recognize your purpose because they see it in you everyday. If your passion drives you, it will attract people to hop on your bandwagon. People will want to help you fulfill your purpose because of the passion they see you moving with. The passion is not to get rich! Passion is something you are both willing to live for and die for. If you pour your passion into your purpose, the profit will come. Passion does not accept rejection. Regardless of the road blocks you keep going. There s nothing that will stop you, you may get discouraged and distracted but it will not stop you. If you are really working towards your purpose and you have passion, you need a plan.

Planning: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Write down your purpose, your dreams, visions, aspirations, legacy. We have to have a plan if we are going to be successful. You don’t have to have a step by step road plan, but have a vision for where you plan on being. Where do you plan on being in 6 months? 5 years? 10 years? You have to write it down. Be intentional with your purpose. Don’t worry about the steps to get there, your Job is to just have the plan of where it is you desire to be. Once you have a plan, surround yourself with people who will help you fulfill your purpose.

People: The people around you are important to you fulfilling your purpose. Surround yourself with people who will drive you to your destiny. The people in our life who can be the most damaging, discouraging, distracting are our family. You need to create those boundaries or cut people off. Create a distance between you and toxic people. But also, invest in people. Train them, teach them so they can fully perform for you. Treat them like people not robots or profit makers.

Persistence: This is a bigger resistance to resistance. It is a consistent resistance because you are focused on nothing else but what you want. “No matter what happens, I am still going to work on what I have come to do.” When you have purpose and passion, it gives you persistence. If you desire success, you have to be persistent. You have to be ready to be bigger than our resistance.

For you to become successful, start applying the 5 P’s today! Take intentional steps towards achieving your purpose. Be passionate. Make a plan. Surround yourself with like minded people. Be persistent. This is how you can be 1% better today.

Food For Thought: The 5 P’s.

“Proper preparation prevents poor performance.”

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AJ Walls

What is your name, what role do you play in education, how long have you been in education?

AJ Walls recently received a promotion to Instructional Coach. Prior to that, AJ was a Lead Teacher seven years. AJ has been in the education field for a total of eight years. AJ has a passion for working with children with challenging behaviors. 

Why do you think education is important?

It is the key; it is the antidote to ignorance. Education is the way that we set ourselves free. Learning not to make the same mistakes that we have made in the past is a part of becoming a critical thinker. I chose to work with preschool age kids because I want to give them an opportunity to love education, especially as it relates to their first encounters of learning and engaging critically. I make sure that they enjoy their experiences and that I provide them with the tools to continue to be successful. It is important for children to see people that look like me teaching and holding a position that requires education. 

What do you love most about your role in education?

Being the “safe person” for children with challenging behaviors. Allowing them to see that not everyone is judgmental and that moving forward I can help them turn it around and build the necessary skills needed. I love being able to model for my peers and fellow teachers that kids can be successful under the right conditions. It is ultimately up to professionals like us to help set those conditions for children to be successful.

What is the best advice you have received about impacting the education sector?

Stay true to myself. As black people in America, we often feel forced to assimilate in order to be successful. It is important for me to embrace the way I learned and use those tools to connect with my students. I choose to play music and use language that reflects my culture. It is essential to stay true to who I am and what I value versus feeling like I have to be someone else. 

What advice would you give the younger generation about their education?

Take every opportunity you can to educate yourself about any topic that you can. The more knowledge you have, the more power you have to affect change. This also leads to growth and being able to create more opportunities for yourself. Never miss an opportunity to learn, grow, and experience. You will never regret it! 

Interview By Milton Whipple


Self Submission

I recently started a new position supporting teachers in developing classroom management and curriculum implementation. Prior I have been the lead teacher in an effective needs room. I work with challenging behaviors and children who are a safety concern in the traditional classroom.

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Taunashea Williams

What role do you play in education, and how long have you been an educator for? 

I have a couple of roles in education, I first started with DPS in 2016, and I was a program leader for Discovery Link. My role was to put together an after school curriculum where kids can learn and have the opportunity to explore what their interests are. That was truly really amazing. 

In 2017, I started working with Aurora Public Schools and I became a preschool paraeducator.That’s an assistant teacher who assists in leading the classroom, and is that second set of eyes who assures the kids safety while helping them learn. Obviously, it’s preschool, but you’d be surprised by how much they learn. They are always soaking in so much information, and truly learning every subject at the beginning level. 

How long have you been doing your dance program?  

I started my business in 2015, but prior to that–in 2012– I began by coaching cheerleaders. About three years later, I started down at the Denver Red Shield Salvation Army. That’s where I realized that one of the programs that I used to do there as a kid was no longer there. That program was such a huge staple for the community that I was concerned about what they would do if the program was no longer there. So, I kind of put all the things I loved together, which was being an entrepreneur, working with kids and dance! 

I created Divine Dynasty Dance and partnered with the Denver Red Shield, working with kids ages 5 to 18. I teach them dance, and valuable life skills, like how to work as a team and express themselves.They also have the opportunity to perform, which builds character and confidence.

In 2018, we started our own nonprofit, which allowed me to branch out beyond The Salvation Army. I still kept my cheer dance program there, but I created another Dance Program out in Aurora. A lot of my dancers actually lived in Aurora,  and they would express how difficult the commute was for them. I wanted to be able to serve the youth in different areas, and that’s when the Divine Dynasty got to really expand our network and outreach to the kids. 

Why do you think what you do is an important part of education? 

I was really nervous starting as a teacher and a program leader, and I did not know how much I would love it and how amazing it was to support them. To work with kids, help them cope with things in their lives, while also helping them to learn and expand. I think it’s very important for the kids to have a good support system within the schools. 

We all know schools are very structured. You have your lesson plans, rules, and regulations, but also there’s a part of things that you don’t learn in school, that there’s not a lot of time for like creativity and even things like writing a check! I was sweating bullets when I had to write my first check, and it should never be like that. Of course in school, they do help you with a lot of useful knowledge, but when there’s so much to learn outside of school, it can be intimidating. 

As an entrepreneur, it was important to me to also show them that there are options outside of the traditional college route. Of course, I think college is very necessary if you want to be a doctor,  a lawyer, or a teacher, you know, jobs of that nature. However it’s not a bad thing to use your creativity as a profession as well. You can still go to college and be an entrepreneur,  or you don’t go to college and you can still become an entrepreneur. 

I feel that sometimes, as humans, we overthink things and we feel forced to have to pick a career as soon as we go into college. Sometimes, it’s the simplest thing. Mine is helping and loving kids. I would have never guessed growing up that I would just end up helping kids, I assumed it was more complex. I thought I was going to be like a lawyer or a paralegal, working in office or something, and turns out that it was the exact opposite!

What do you love most about what you do? 

What is amazing, is to be on both sides of education! To work with the schools and expand the children’s knowledge, and also to work with the youth outside of the schools where they can explore and be a bit more adventurous. The best part is what brings it all together–my love for dance.

The reward is endless, and I love to see them grow. Seeing those three year olds saying full sentences in the spring as opposed to just the few words they said in the fall. It’s amazing because like, oh my God, they’re actually learning. We’re helping them, and the kids in this next generation are so funny! I live for the witty things they say, and they make me laugh at anything. 

As far as my program, it’s amazing because it builds the community. My students come from Littleton, Thornton, Aurora and all throughout Denver, all for our program. There is a sense of unity, which I love. It’s a second family for sure. A home for them to come express themselves, whether it’s good or bad, they just have that safe place where they can really be who they are. 

What is the best advice that you ever received from someone about your impact on educating the youth? 

I would say the best advice I had was to keep your intentions pure. You do not have to change just because someone else wants to change you. With all the negative things going on in the world, we may wonder why we stay good ourselves, and keep doing good things. I know that it is good people who keep the world moving. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and keep going because the real really needs it. We don’t need people to give up, and turn sour just because of the other things going on around us. 

What would be your advice to your younger generation?

I always tell my kids, be Confident, Courageous and Committed. I grew up very timid and I lacked self-confidence. I feel that I missed a lot of opportunities because of that. Confidence doesn’t mean being conceited, but you have to believe in yourself and carry yourself with confidence. 

I tell them to be Courageous because it’s okay to be different! It’s okay to do something that might not be popular to other people, but trust me someone’s going to feel it. Someone’s going to love your idea or whatever it is. There’s millions and billions of different kinds of people in this world, you never know who you are going to inspire. 

Commitment is the biggest thing, not just for my students, but for everybody. Commitment is what keeps you moving forward. It’ s okay if something isn’t for you, but to quit just because it gets hard, or because of something really small is not a good thing. I say, finish what you started, stick to it, and realize that not everything is going to go your way. Whatever it is that you work through is character building. It’s going to make you stronger. 

Written by Talisa Caldwell 

Self Submission

I am very passionate about our youth. They are at their prime age where they are learning and exploring as well as being very impressionable. I am the founder and head coach of my non profit called Divine Dynasty Dance. Here I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with our youth and help them build character, teach life skills, encourage continued educated, expose them to new experiences, and promoting healthy choices both physically and mentally all while being apart of the various programs we offer. Outside of running my business, I am a Preschool Para Educator for a public school district. Here I have the opportunity to make positive connections with children as young as three years old while they explore life and learn the fundamentals of numbers, letters, sounds, friendships, colors, people, how things work, etc… I feel like my purpose on this earth is to teach children not just academically, but socially and emotionally. I love giving back and being able to help children and their families however I can. I want to be the person in their lives who they may need during that time rather that is a coach or someone like a big sister. My hopes are to be apart of that village that raises bright young adults that our future needs. Being a teacher/coach has been very rewarding. The pure joy that children bring me is priceless!


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Terrell Brown | Hillside Connection

Hillside Connection is a  501(c)(3) public charity designed to “leverage the game of basketball to create pathways to opportunity for kids in Southern Colorado Springs”. Using sports as its primary medium, Hillside Connection brings together youth throughout the Pikes Peak Region to play basketball, develop resiliency and leadership skills, while working as a team.

Hillside Connection was founded by Terrell Brown in March 2017 as a way to give back to the Southeast Colorado Springs community. From 1999 to 2008, his father Nathan Brown served as a youth basketball coach/mentor for at-risk youth in the Hillside Neighborhood. Growing up, the Hillside Community Center and the game of basketball saved his son, Terrell, from falling victim to the environment in which he grew up. After overcoming several obstacles both athletically and personally, Terrell became determined to use sports as a medium to empower youth in Southern Colorado Springs.

The organizations  five-tiered approach towards youth development includes: basketball clinics, enrichment activities, community engagement, competitive leagues and academic/family  support services. To date, all programming is provided FREE of charge and runs on volunteer power! #HILLSIDESTRONG

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Shanae Adams

An Interview with Sexuality Professional Shanae Adams

By N’dea Carter

N’dea Carter: Hi, Shanae, thank you for taking some time out of your day and busy quarantine schedule to do this interview with me. So let’s jump in with some questions…

You are a sexuality professional and professor. What role do you see yourself playing in education as a sexuality professional? 

Shanae Adams: So as a sexuality professional I provide comprehensive sex positive sexuality education in my community, and that looks like the lectures that I do in community resource centers, I’ve taught at universities, I’ve spoken at conferences. I teach more or less anywhere someone will let me come teach. 

Carter: And how long have you been in this role as a sexuality educator? 

Adams: I have been in sexuality education for about 10 years now. I joined a group when I was an undergrad called S.H.A.P.E. that stands for Sexual Health Advocate Peer Educators. I joined it because I was a transfer student trying to make friends and needed something to do. They taught us, you know, comprehensive human sexuality, how to present, how to create conferences, they taught us classroom management and I kind of fell in love and every job I’ve had since then has been related to sexuality in some way. 

Carter: That’s awesome that you found that program as an undergrad and it really shaped your entire career.

Adams: Yeah, I was already, like, low-key the sex-pert of my friend group. So I was already interested in sex and sexuality, and then finding out that this is an actual profession was mind-blowing for me. 

Carter: That’s so cool! And that’s amazing that there’s an actual career for people to be educated in [sexuality] and in a very intersectional mindset and way. I think that’s so important. 

Adams: Yeah. 

Carter: So why do you think education is important? And specifically education around sexuality.  

Adams: For sure, so the United States has a very “don’t ask, don’t tell”, keep it under the rug relationship with sexuality. But we are also plagued with things like rape culture and double standards within sexuality, and all of that, to be a 100 % honest is the influence of colonialism and the patriarchy. 

And when we have these conversations, when we approach sex and sexuality in a comprehensive, positive, inclusive way, we actually shift the narrative of our society and we shift the narrative of our culture. Comprehensive sex-ed helps to deter things like rape culture. It helps to break down the patriarchy and actually liberate all peoples as a whole. It makes society and community safer for all of the people that inhabit it when we come from the perspective that everybody has experiences, everyone’s experiences are unique and valid. That you should believe people’s experiences because there’s no way you’re going to know my experience, because you’re not me.

When we talk about comprehensive sex positive sexuality, those are the three pillars that I built all of my education off of. Really paying attention to who’s in the room, who’s not in the room, the experiences that could possibly be in the room, and helping to make sure that I provide a really inclusive, comprehensive program that you’re able to then take home and impact your life. 

A lot of the things that we talk about in sex and sexuality are actually things that impact other aspects of people’s lives, not just their sex and their sexuality; so things like being able to advocate for yourself sexually, may make it more easier for you to advocate for yourself professionally and make it more easier for you to advocate for yourself personally.

I teach consent to kindergartners and it’s really about, you know, you can’t hug your friends unless you ask you can’t touch your friends toys unless you ask. If you already have this idea that you need to get permission before you invade another space or encroach on another person’s thing when you move into the sexual landscape, it becomes a lot easier– and you’re also just a better human in general, who’s paying attention to the fact that people get to decide how and when and why they’re interacted with.

Carter: That is so awesome. I love how you teach that consent to children at a young age, like you have to ask permission if you want to hold hands when you want to cross the street, or if you want to hug your friend. And it really is inspiring that you take that into other areas of life, bringing consent into how we think about things as a whole, and also with how creating the landscape in this foundation of breaking down these barriers into other aspects of people’s life like it is– I feel like I’m repeating myself– but it is just so important. 

Adams: Oh yeah, most definitely. 

Carter: You are a highly sought out presentator. You have a lot of workshops. You have a lot of youth and adult workshops, can you get into a little bit about those, and what you provide in those workshops?

Adams: Yeah, so all of my workshops are sex positive comprehensive and inclusive. Basically no matter the topic that I’m talking about, I’m always really thinking about who’s in the room, but most importantly who’s not in the room, and just the fact that like, I don’t know everybody in the room’s experience. So I really want to cast as wide of a net as I can. A lot of the topics I’ve broken down into adult and youth workshops, but really sex and sexuality is a learning process that takes place over the whole lifespan– were sexual creatures even in the womb. So we are sexual beings from the point that we’re ready to come out, to the point that we’re ready to go into the ground. And there is a way to provide all of those topics in an “age-appropriate” way. So I always like to make sure in my workshops that I create an environment where people feel like they can ask questions. I create an environment where people feel like they can learn, and they can, you know, take educational and emotional risks if they so choose and then I always provide myself as a resource after the workshop. So that way people can continue their learning, expand on their learning or, you know, if they have any more sensitive discussions that they want to have in a one-on-one area. I do make myself available. 

Carter: Oh awesome. And I see that you provide online workshops, which is perfect for during this pandemic. So, how can people reach out to you to get those services to start their experiences with you? 

Adams: Yeah, so my website [] is the easiest place to learn about me and find out what I’m doing. All of my workshops are there, with a link that’ll connect people to my online webinar platform, which is through Thinkific, and I constantly am adding more. I believe there’s only two workshops up there now, but I’ve written a couple of others that go through there. People can also find my therapy and my coaching services. And then I also own, run and have co-founded a sex positive collaborative, which is basically a community resource center, where we provide a food pantry, we have clothing pantry, currently we’re closed because humans make me nervous. But before Covid-19, we were having maybe like 10 to 20 events a month, because my co-founder and I really just truly believe that community is literally to cure for everything and that’s the same perspective I take as an educator. That’s the same perspective that I take as a therapist–  that community is secure for everything. So we founded a community center where we can come together as a community. We teach black people how to play Spades, which is healing the black communities– healing work as we like to say– and we host kink events. We host a monthly Munch which still happens, it’s now virtual and  happens the last Thursday of the month. So building community and making myself available for my community is really important to me. Another good place to find me is on all my social media, @honestlynae, to keep everything consistent people can find me there as well. Even my YouTube is “Talk Sex with HonestlyNae”. 

Carter: Awesome, I will be sure to follow you on all fronts. And what is your sex positive collaborative called?

Adams: The name of our sex positive collaborative is the Chrysalis House and we say that our goal is transformation. So, a chrysalis is the cocoon caterpillars going to before they become butterflies. And literally that process involves the caterpillar turning into a gelatinous mess. So we tell people that you can come and you can be a mess here and you can emerge as a butterfly who can go out and do you know these beautiful things.We always like to highlight the fact that butterflies can’t see their wings. So we’re also here to, you know, remind and affirm you of your beauty and of all the power and strength of things that you can do. 

Carter: That’s wonderful. I saw on your website that the Chrysalis House is one of your partnerships, that it’s you and your partner’s brain child. You also have partnerships with the Center on Colfax, which I’m very familiar with, be well, Inter Fest, Vag Esteem, MCA Denver, The Weekend Soiree and the list goes on. 

Adams: Yeah, those are all places where I’ve presented and collaborated with things of that nature. 

Carter: Very nice. Now, what advice would you give to the younger generation about their education? How do you think younger people can really benefit from different types of education?

Adams: One thing that I’m really learning is that Gen Z is out here pushing the envelope. They’re challenging their parents. I’m loving all the Tik Tok’s from Gen Z’ers recording their racist parents. Gen Z really has a voice, and they really have a platform, and they really know themselves and they’re really, you know, ready to put all of that on the line. I think when it comes to education, especially given the fact that, you know, the patriarchal capitalistic white cis hetro system runs the education. You have to push and you have to advocate for the information that you want to know, because they’ll have you thinking, that black history started with slavery and not that slavery interrupted black and African-American history. You’ll have you thinking that your women and femmes haven’t played a role in every single social justice reform. That queer people don’t exist outside of their queerness, and the the educational system is really good for trying to use your queer people’s words without acknowledging their queer identities. And so I think that it’s really important for people to educate themselves, for people to seek out educators that they know, and that they trust and that they feel like and support and affirm them. And then also just like not to listen to what the mainstream tells us and the bullshit they want to continue to push to us. Because at the end of the day what you know is what you’ve gathered and you can gather information from anywhere. You don’t have to get it from the “sources” society tells us are available to us. 

Carter: I completely agree with you. Gen Z has really done such a good job, and at such young ages are really pushing the envelope and I love your advice to keep pushing past what society wants us to know and keep learning more. That is great advice. 

So what’s the best advice you have received about impacting the education sector? Especially, being the melanated representation we all need.

Adams: Yeah, the still the sexuality landscape is very much dominated by white people by cis white people to be specific. So, you know me trying to bring melanated representation, queer representation, kink, BDSM and fetish representation is something that you know is really important to me and I really let all of my identities in my experience shine through in In the work that I do. I think the best piece of advice that I have ever received is, “I can’t do nothing for nobody if I’m not okay”. And I think that especially as educators, and especially as community leaders and people who want to be of service and want to do want to give, we oftentimes– I’ll speak for me– I have known other people who have given themselves to the point where they burn out. Especially depending on the field you’re in, like I’m a mental health clinician and one of the things that is really known in this profession is that people burn out really fast and they burn out really hard. It’s because people have this Superman mentality that we have to save everybody and I very much know that I can’t save nobody. I’m not here to save anybody. I’m here to be a resource. I’m here to support you. I’m here to give you tools and support, but ultimately, at the end of the day, you’re the one who’s going to save you. But I also know that if I’m not good, I can’t do anything. So I’m very good at saying no and I’m very good at disappearing. I will go take a nap– is what I like to tell people all the time. And I definitely during this pandemic from clients, and even with myself, there is this idea that like we’re not doing enough we need to be doing more. And I’m like, you know what the world’s on fire. If you want to go and take a nap, you should do that. If you want to go and get away and turn off your phone, you should do that. The world will be on fire when you come back, because, unfortunately, that’s the reality that we live in. So if there’s something you can do that will make you happy and give you rest, I highly believe rest is reparations. And you know, that’s one of the reasons why I am this entrepreneur who works for myself so that I can set my own limits and set my own capacity and I don’t have to conform to systems that are in place. I can make sure that I’m taken care of so that way I can continue to be of service and be a support to my community. 

Carter: Yes, 100% Yes. I think the first time that I heard that you can’t build up somebody’s house. If you don’t have one of your own, was from… I think my mom told me that, or someone really really close to me. And so I absolutely think that is so important– and yes, take that time to nap, girl. Mmm. That is beautiful advice. 

Last question. What do you love most about your role in education? 

Adams: I really enjoy the light bulb moment that pops for participants and for students. I like it when, you know, I teach this lesson or I provide this education and it clicks. I know for me I fully understand something when I can teach it to somebody else, and I want people to take this education in and go and deliver it to places. One of the group norms I send in programming is that lessons leave, story stay. In that, somebody teaches you something if they tell a story and you learn a lesson from the story. I want you to go tell the whole world. I want you to take this lesson. I want you to go tell the whole world what you learn. But I want that person’s story to stay here in this confidential space. And there’s so much that we can learn from each other, so even when I’m out, you know teaching participants, some of my participants are able to teach me something and are able to put something new in my tool bag that I can take and run with. I always like to let people know that sometimes there’s a power dynamic, you know, that is set up for like educators and their participants and that makes me think of Matilda–  “I’m right, you’re wrong. I’m big and you’re small” kind of thing, but really education that sticks around and lasts is a collaborative process. I really want to know what it is that you want to know, so that way you’ll leave here with the knowledge that you want.

Adams: It is healing work. We’re just trying to heal the community. 

N’dea Carter: Yes. That is so important. Okay. Well, thank you so much for your time and commitment to our community.

Shanae Adams: Yeah, of course, it’s a pleasure.


Self Submission

Shanae “HonestlyNae” Adams, MA, LPCC, CIGT serves her community in a variety of ways including therapist, educator, and sex-positive enthusiast. Her mission is sexuality normalization, explanation, and melaninated representation. Her passion revolves around the liberation of embracing sexuality. She is known for dynamic workshops, sex-positive mindset, and eliminating the “taboo” surrounding sex and sexuality.

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Rico Munn

Interview By Kenya Fashaw

What is your role in education?

I’m the Superintendent of schools for the Aurora Public Schools. The Superintendent of schools is the CEO for school districts. 

How long have you been in education?

This is my eighth school year as Superintendent. Prior to that, I was a lawyer practicing commercial litigation here in town. I was also the head of higher education for a number of years under Governor Ritter and I was an elected member of our state board of education. 

How did you end up becoming a  Superintendent? 

I’ve been involved in education policy for many years. My undergrad degree is in education. After I spent some years at the governor’s cabinet and went back to practicing law, I recognized that there were some other things that I thought were important to work on and wanted to address in the community. The position came open for Aurora Public Schools and I thought I had something to contribute to and wanted to competed for.

What are some of your most valuable lessons you’ve learned on your path to become Superintendent?

That’s a big question. I would say that

it’s incredibly important to understand the community that you want to serve. To be able to understand what those in the community are interested in and what they expect of you. It’s not about trying to be the best school district in the world, that’s not valuable to anybody. It’s about trying to be the best that you can at surveying this particular community.

What would you say your philosophy on delegating authority is?

Early and often.

How can you maintain accountability with that?

I think the first key is to surround yourself with talented people who you can trust. Set clear expectations around what you need and what needs to be done one by one, and then you follow up on that.

What do you think our schools need to do to continue to improve?

I can only speak about my school not all schools in general. What our schools need to do is to stay focused. We have a strategic plan and a strategic vision about every student shaping a successful future. What that requires is for us to get to know each of our students in a very deep way so we can engage them in rigorous and relevant learning. Then we think about how we make sure that every one of them has a plan for their future and a set of skills to implement their plan. Then, how do they get credentials and open the doors that they need opened in their life?

What roles do you think the community or the neighborhood would play in education? 

We recognize that we can’t do this work alone and that communities and parents are our partners in education. There are a lot of different roles to play in it. First and foremost,  the accountability role is to identify for us what they need, what they expect and then holding us accountable to deliver that. Secondly, it’s about being that partner and making sure that they are connecting and understanding what are our kids trying to accomplish. What are their plans? What are their goals?  Then helping to support that and provide opportunities for them.

As it relates to people who look like you and, what advice would you give a young minority pursuing a leadership role such as yours?

Hard work is always first and foremost. I think it’s also about bringing your creativity. The real opportunity for diversity is to demonstrate creativity. You can bring a different perspective to the work that’s being done in a way that can solve problems for people.

What role do you think the extracurricular activities play in education?

Students need to be connected and to be engaged. Students engage for very different reasons. It may be that they have a deep passion for science or maybe that they have a deep passion for baseball. What’s important is that we as educators have to understand what doors are opening for us and walk through whatever door they’re opening. So if the door they’re opening is their love of video games, I don’t try to tell them to open a different door. I walk through that door to say okay, how do we use that blood and passion to connect you to rigorous and relevant education.

How do you think the educational system will adapt to covid-19?

We’re adapting as we speak every day and it’s tough. It’s tough to answer that when you’re in the middle of it like we are. But, clearly everybody now has had exposure to online learning. Everybody now has had that experience. I think that online learning will become a much bigger part of our education on destruction moving forward because of that universal experience to it at this point.

How do you measure success in education?

There are lots of different measurements. The federal and state government give us a measurement,  parents give us measurements and there is a measurement that kids give themselves. So what we try to do is look at that holistically and we talked about every kid shaping a successful future. We recognize that it’s up to parents and students to decide what success looks like. For a different family success might be getting a PhD in neurosurgery, or success might look like a taking over the family’s garage. I don’t have a value judgment in that right, but I understand what their picture of success is and then help come alongside them and support their success.

I know that you talked about really making it a point to involve the parents in the student success. How do you involve the parents to make sure that students are successful?

That’s always the challenge educational systems have is how and when to engage parents. There are traditional structures like parent-teacher conferences and giving people access to online report cards and so forth, and those are important. I think the really important thing is to have open doors where you help parents understand the technical side of what you’re trying to do in the classroom and then how they can reinforce that at home. A lot of the work that we do is very technical. Teaching students how to read is a technical thing. Then working with parents to say here are the types of books that you can help your kids find in the library or to read, or to read to them, is how they can help reinforce that. 

What do you want your legacy to be as a Superintendent? 

At the end of the day, Aurora and Aurora Public Schools, are a strong and diverse community. I think it’s important that Aurora Public Schools be known as a districts that will fight for their kids and kids who will fight for their own futures. I just want to support that.

What principles and values lead your decision making?

There’s two sets of things. One, is I have a list of ten essential truths that I tell people. As a leader in the Aurora Public Schools, I will always Benchmark myself against these 10 essential truth. I also have a second thing, which is universal job description. I ask everybody in the district to adopt a job description. For all of us, the first sentence is the same, the third sentence is the same and the middle sentences where we differentiate how we do our jobs. So what that says is our first sentence is, my job is to accelerate learning for every Aurora public student every day.  Everybody in the district has that job. There’s one job and that is the same job for everybody, from bus drivers, to our principles, and to me. That is the job. The third sentences says our community needs us to do our job. We have to understand the why, why do we have to do that job? The middle part again for me, is that I do my job and I’m making sure that we have the right people and can access resources to do the work. There’s different formulations over the years. Over time that second sentence can involve a change.

Do you have somebody that inspires you?

I think it’s important have a lot of different Inspirations as times change. For me personally, first and foremost, I’m a person of faith. I get a lot of inspiration from my faith. I also have people in my family like my parents who would have inspired me over the years. I always wanted to live up to who they wanted me to be and who they expect me to be. I’m inspired by my family, my wife, and my kids by who they are and who I want to be for them.

Is there a quote that you live by?

Yes, there’s one that hangs in my office it says, “From the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is King.” 

What was the biggest lesson you learned as an educator coming in?

It’s tough to think about one single lesson. I think it’s always got to be about trying to understand what the community needs and expects. I believe that, but I think it’s become more true for me over the years as I continue to learn and grow in this role.

Why do you think it’s important for black students to see themselves represented in an education?

That’s a loaded question. I do believe that it’s important! Why I believe that, is because I think that we all want to aspire to things we all want to be our best selves. We all want to be greater than we currently are. It’s incredibly powerful and impactful to have models of that and to see what that can look like.

What advice would you give to black students to help them Excel?

The advice that I give today and whenever I have the opportunity is to be yourself, but don’t limit yourself.

What is the biggest win you’ve experienced as an educator?

I think the biggest win was last year when we closed the the graduation achievement gap. When I came to the district, we had a significant gap between graduation rates. Last year we eliminated that.

As Mr. Munn’s cape continues to blowin the wind from all his hard work and dedication for Aurora Public Schools, we applaud him for his amazing super powers in helping to keep the, students, staff and community thriving and successful.

Here are the links Rico referred to:

  1. Rico’s Ten Essential Truths
  2. Rico’s Unified Job Description
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Dr. Michael J. Thomas

  A True Team Player: An Interview with Dr. Michael J. Thomas

Article By Tina Adams, August 2020 Dr. Thomas is the Superintendent of the District 11 schools here in Colorado Springs, where he holds it an honor and a privilege to give back to the community. He strives to not only be a quality leader, but to lead by example, reflecting the achievability of this community. Michael speaks about the heart of what he does in this interview.

What would you say is the ‘meat and potatoes’ of why you do what you do as Superintendent and how you do your job?

I’m that player-coach. Some may think that’s not a good combination I know, but I grew up in a community and went through school systems that really weren’t designed for me at all. I remember being pulled out of my urban community and moved to the suburbs, which was only like 15 minutes away, but back then, that felt like a country mile. And here I am, a little speck; I would say that my brother and I doubled the diversity at our elementary school upon our enrollment. And that’s when I realized the structural inequalities, that I lived and faced as a young black kid growing up in an all-white K-12 system, that clearly didn’t see me. Had it not been for the saving grace of my church, and me being able to go back and visit, I would have lost it.  So fast-forward to where I am today, I see that my lived experiences through K-12 education, taught me a lot and if nothing else it taught me that no matter what as adult in this system you need to be perceived as a leader by every young person. I don’t care if you are a building and grounds keeper, cafeteria worker, a classroom teacher, board president, or superintendent; it doesn’t matter, every young person should look to you for leadership, support and guidance. And since, I never got that, I do like to roll up my sleeves. I know, my role as a superintendent, I will try to stay in my lane as much as I can, but from time to time I want to get down on the field where the game is being played. I want to see it, you know right there on the front lines, and not just read a report, so I’m in the schools at least twice a week. I’m there all day so if you need to meet with me, you’re meeting me at one of my schools, because that’s my priority. My staff needs to see that I can play the game with them.

What is the role of black educators in this community?

It is important that this community understands that black educators have the responsibility of their role as educators, but also to transform the system of education so that it truly does meet the needs of all students, as it should have been intended to do at inception. 

We thank you, here at My Black Colorado for the work that you do in the education system and for the community. We stand behind you and hope that you have great success in your endeavors to create an impactful learning environment for all students. Teamwork work will make the dream work.

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Dr. Thomas S. Tucker

Leading by Example With Dr. Thomas S. Tucker

An Interview By Milton Whipple

[ Prior to interviewing Dr. Thomas S. Tucker, I googled him to become familiar with his career and who he may be as a person. It was impressive to read and see such high accolades regarding an African American man. I am an African American man also, and it was truly inspiring to read about some of Dr. Tucker’s accomplishments. Dr. Tucker is from a small, rural town and was raised in an era where black people did not have the same opportunities as today. The many obstacles and challenges Dr. Tucker had to overcome to get to the point he is at in his life and career is nothing short of iconic. Dr. Tucker is the epitome of a highly educated professional. Before I reached out to schedule the interview, I was already honored to have the opportunity. ]

What is your name and role in education?

My name is Thomas S. Tucker and I am the Superintendent for the Douglas County School District. My role in education is to improve and save the lives of our students, staff, and community members. 

How long have you been in education? How long have you been in the role of Superintendent? 

I took my first professional teaching job circa August 9, 1989, in Topeka, Kansas at Jardine Middle School. I have been in education thirty-one years and Superintendent for twelve years. The end of this year will mark the beginning of my thirteenth year. Prior to becoming Superintendent, I spent two years [2006-2008] as a Director of secondary education curriculum in a large suburban school district in Ohio. I became Superintendent after that and have been serving continuously every since. 

What is your philosophy of on delegating authority? How do you maintain accountability? 

I delegate authority, or influence as I prefer to call it. I think I have more influence because of the relationships that I build with the people that I serve. I have the opportunity to serve and build relationships based upon trust. Knowing that we hire the right people with the right skills to go about doing their jobs is the foundation. It starts with hiring people who love children and have a passion for what they do! We build strong, trusting relationships with them on top of the requisite skills they already have to create a joint vision together. I am a huge part of that vision creation. It is my job to clear all obstacles out of the way and allow people to lead. Accountability starts with creating a shared vision. Everyone should know the mission of their institution and what their shared vision is. From there goals are created and everyone is held accountable for their three or four goals. The objective is not to create a thousand goals or try to be an overachiever. The objective is to be the best in our district for our students, staff, and community. The shared vision is created together, and goals are adapted to influence improvement. 

How do you measure success in education? 

Success is measured one student and one staff member at a time. It is not just test scores; it is a multitude of things. It is both the road test and the written test. I always start with the road test. How many students and staff members feel great about what they are accomplishing? How many of them feel great about their school experience? Do they feel that someone is there who cares about them? We have an obligation to go beyond the learning that is taking place in the community. It is important to serve and be an active part of our communities. Once these connections are made, the academic part becomes relatively easy. 

How important is parent involvement in a student’s success?

Student success begins and ends with parents, grandparents, and other family members. Community involvement is also another contributing factor to a student’s overall success. I look at any success I have had, and I must acknowledge my grandparents and parents. My grandparents were sharecroppers and they taught each other how to read. In Arkansas at that time, it was still illegal for colored people to go to school. My great-grandparents were slaves. I attribute any success I have had to my grandparents and parents. My grandparents played a huge role in educating their own kids, but also had an everlasting impact on their neighbors. My grandparents were bold enough in Cottonplant, Arkansas to teach other sharecroppers how to sell and market their cotton. They were involved in the Civil Rights Movement before there was ever such a thing. When you look at a civil rights movement for women and people of color, it is about mobilizing and improving working, living, and educational conditions. It is about economically being able to take care of your family and not being dependent upon others for your prosperity. Therefore, it is important for parents and families to be involved. 

Why do you think it is important for black students to see themselves represented in education?

I think it is important for all students, especially African Americans students and students of color, to see representations of themselves in education. Research shows that there is an influence on the outcomes of black kids, especially when they see role models who look like themselves. In the last study I researched, black kids who have a teacher of color (a female teacher in particular) before they finish fifth grade were forty-five times more likely to graduate high school. It is important to have representation. As our world continues to change and shift underneath our feet, all students of color and students who are part of the LGBTQ community need to have someone who is compassionate and looks like them. As an African American, I also contribute much of my early success to my African American teachers. My teachers were huge role models in my education and in planning and helping me plan for life after high school. Schools were still segregated back then, yet my teachers finished at the top of their classes and were dedicated to help me make something of myself. After strong parental support, teachers are the second most important indicators as to whether an individual is going to graduate from high school. Having a highly qualified teaching staff that is compassionate and dedicated to students plays the second biggest role in the outcome of people, especially African Americans. 

What are some lessons you have learned or currently learning in your role? 

Each student matters! We have to fight each and every day for every student. During this pandemic, every student in America is at risk. 

How do you think the educational system will adapt to COVID-19? 

The American educational system has been around for nearly 400 years. Dating back to the first public school, the Boston Latin School in Massachusetts. If you were not white, did not own any slaves, or were not a Christian; you could not attend. We survived that. We survived the Civil Rights Movement. We survived mandatory busing in the 70’s. We survived H1N1 in 2008 and we are going to survive this. We live in the toughest and most resilient country in the world. Our public education system is the most resilient in this world. I have had a chance to study systems across the world but there is no educational system like the American public education system. We open our arms and educate all students under tremendous challenges. Our system is almost 400 hundred years old and we still prevail. We will get through this. 

What role do you think extracurricular activities play in education? 

It is huge! I talked earlier about the written test and the road test. Extracurricular and co curricular activities are part of the road test. They help shape a student. I am proud to be a part of the Douglas County School District because we sincerely believe in educating and focusing on the whole child. We want to make sure our students receive a top-notch education, which they can use to compete with students across this planet. We also want students to understand and appreciate art, music, athletics, and other extracurricular activities. For some of our students, one of their main motivators is the arts, choir, and athletics. We do a great job here at the Douglas County School District focusing on the whole child, not just the academics. We provide our students with choices and opportunities to thrive in any type of environment. 

Where do you get your inspiration from? 

I get it from my parents, grandparents, former teachers, etc. but it is also in my soul. Particularly when you look at poor children of color or students with special needs of color coming from low-income families. They deserve a chance to learn. To learn skills at a very high level will help build a future that will help them live out their dreams. I had teachers and other people who really inspired me by telling me and showing me that I could be anything that I wanted to be. I come from a very large family; I am the youngest of eleven children. I was born in 1965 without the passage of the Civil Rights Act. My parents would have had eleven children born in their home had it not been from the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Ironically, I was the only one out of eleven children born in a hospital. 

Do you have a quote you live by?

It is a very spiritual quote, but it is really simple. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Regardless of who they are or where they come from, it is ultimately all about what a person is made of. 

What are some of your biggest wins you have experienced as an educator? 

My biggest win as whole, which motivates me to be an educator was being born in a hospital. It means a lot to be the first of my parent’s children to be born in a hospital. However, I was born two months prematurely and I weighed only three pounds, eight ounces. The physician who delivered me said to my parents it was new for a black child to be born in the hospital I was born in, yet along to be in the nursery. There were some white parents who were a little leery about me being in the nursery with their kids. Less than twenty-four hours later my parents took me home to a two-bedroom shotgun house with my ten siblings. We had a pot-bellied stove to keep us warm and no running water. My religious upbringing is also a big part of who I am, and my family prayed over me and I still thank God to this day for allowing me to be healthy. I have been named National Superintendent of the Year twice, once in 2013 and again in 2016. I have also been named National Educator of the Year once. I am a member of many local and national educational committees, including (but not limited to) the National Alliance of Black School Educators. 

As it relates to people who look like you and I, what advice would you give a young minority pursuing a leadership position such as yours? 

I go back to the advice that my people and teachers have given me. You must develop hard work and dedication. For so long education has been our passport and it is still our passport if you choose to pursue any type of degree. You must work for those and sometimes twice as hard. If you dedicate yourself to working hard then you can realize your dreams. It is also important to rely on those who come before you as well. It is essential to have a feeling or desire to give back. There are challenges people of color deal with that the majority does not. It is important to embrace that challenge of making things better for the people who come after us. We must pay it forward! I believe in paying it forward to the next person. Some of the challenges I have had to face and endure, I will make sure people who come after me do not. Our society has changed for the better. When you think about Brown vs. the Board of Education or the crisis at Central High. People like you and I could not get into those places. We were spat on, beaten, and hit with rocks and bottles for no reason. So, we have come a long way but we still have a long way to go. As black people, we need to rededicate ourselves to education and the power that public education can provide us to help level the playing field. I say to our young people, do not give up! Do not give up on your education! Do not give up on improving yourselves! And do not give up on the generations that will come after you! It is important to continue the fight for racial equity and justice.

What do you want your legacy to be as superintendent? 

I have worked with many demographics. I have worked in an urban school district; a wealthy, suburban school district; a large, mostly African American inner-city school district; a small urban school district; and now I am here in Douglas County. I want to be remembered as a standing bearer who held himself to high educational standards and held students, staff members, and community members to high educational standards as well. I also want to be remembered as using education as a vehicle to improve our community, while improving and saving lives. 

[ It was very rewarding and insightful to have the chance to interview Dr. Tucker. He is a very humble guy with a very kind spirit. Almost immediately, Dr. Tucker informed me to refer to him as Thomas. Considering that he is two-time National Superintendent of the Year, Dr. Tucker did not focus much on his awards and accolades. As a matter of fact, the Public Information Officer had to take a moment to “brag” on Dr. Tucker’s awards that he put the hard work in to achieve. Dr. Tucker’s upbringing and background allows him to use his platform to further advance the African American culture. Dr. Tucker spoke with a lot of passion and it was evident that he has always had a passion to make his mark on the world. Dr. Tucker has dedicated his life to make the world a better place, especially for people who had a similar upbringing as himself. Dr. Tucker will be retiring in the next couple of years and reminded me that it is important that we all continue carrying the torch. ]

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Dr Marion Smith

Disrupt, Dismantle, Collaborate 

An Interview By Talisa Caldwell

[Dr. Marion Smith, the first ever black Superintendent of Summit schools, daringly dives into creating a whole new foundation for public schools in the midst of COVID-19. ]

What is your role as superintendent of Summit Schools and what led you to this point in your career? 

The superintendent is responsible for day-to-day operations and the organization of our school system. I have the privilege of supporting over 3,500 scholars and 500 staff. This year, we have been learning to navigate through COVID-19 and create a whole new education system. 

In the past I taught Pre-K through 12th grade as an urban school educator. I like to define urban education as education within school districts that have predominantly Black and Latinx, and minority scholars. I began my career in my hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada in the 5th largest school district in the country, the Clark County School District. 

In the last 20 years, I have had the opportunity to have different positions at different levels of responsibility across a variety of school districts and educational communities. I have been able to serve diverse, linguistic, cultural, socio-economic communities in Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Washington state for the last decade. I have served in Colorado since July of 2020. 

What are some of the most valuable lessons you learned when becoming Superintendent? 

I would say that it is important as educators to be mindful, and to remember that we’re in the people business.  We must try to understand that all perspectives are valid, yet partial. We must find a way to create opportunities for all of those different, divergent voices and perspectives to be a part of the conversation.

As a superintendent, I’ve learned to create a longer table so that everyone can have a seat at it. It is critically important for me to understand the power of representation, being that I am the first black administrator ever in the Summit School District, as well as the first black superintendent. I try to remember the significance of that, not only for the community here, but also to others who may see me and aspire to be like me. Really, I want them to be better than me. 

I must determine how to create the infrastructure for those that come after me by disrupting and dismantling inequitable policies, practices, and procedures so that all of our scholars, families, community members, and staff can thrive.

What advice would you give young-minority students who are pursuing leadership roles? 

I appreciate that question. I would say that it is important to understand the national trends in data. If we look at public education, about 80 to 85 percent of the teaching force in public education is white and female. If we look at the demographics across the nation, there’s only a small percentage of superintendents of color.

I would advise young minority scholars to find a network of individuals that you can learn from, that could be your mentors, that can be your coaches, and that can be your confidants. Watch them, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Find opportunities to be physically around them as they’re engaging in your field of interest and reach outside your comfort zone.

You don’t even need to have those individuals in your immediate community because we’re now interconnected by technology. I encourage scholars to reach out to people in their field of interest via social media, because there are many people who may respond to your messages. 

How do you measure success in education? 

That’s a loaded question there. Education is often measured by quantitative data, but I think it is important to create a system that is equitable for everyone. I define equity as everyone in the system getting what they need in order to thrive, so I believe that we have to define success for ourselves.

When I talk with family members and scholars, I ask them directly what a successful school year would look like to them. I think it’s important to  understand our definition of what success means, and then being able to create the practices that will allow for us to be able to meet those standards. 

How important do you think family involvement is when it comes to student success? 

I believe that our family members are our first teachers. We only have our scholars in school  for a finite amount of time, and they may be involved in some after-school activities, but they always go back home. It’s critically important that we support our scholars as a community,  and develop authentic family communication and connection.

We may do that by bringing families into the school, or by paying a visit to the family’s home. Certain communities may have been marginalized or muted, so they don’t see themselves being a part of the work that’s happening in their school district. We must ensure that all families feel represented within the school district, and give authority to leaders that are able to seek those voices and perspectives that may not be a part of our everyday conversations. 

What are some ways that you are planning on closing the equity gap between the marginalized, under-privileged, minority students and the rest of the student population? 

National data shows that there are oftentimes three scholar groups that are within that gap: scholars that receive special education services, scholars that are receiving English language learning services,  and scholars that belong to a particular lower socioeconomic background. If we add race and ethnicity, we would also need to include our Black, Latinx, and Indeginous scholars as well.

 We must ask ourselves what the root causes of these particular opportunity gaps are. I’d like to say that intellect is abundant, but we know that opportunity isn’t. We must develop ways to create equal opportunities within all of our schools, and reach the specific needs of all our scholars. 

For example, we recognize our second language learners as bilingual learners, not as a deficit. One way we may build upon a bilingual learner’s needs is by teaching half of the day in English, and half of the day in Spanish. Not only can these scholars learn another language, but they can be in a space where they’re learning something brand-new and they’re on equal footing with all other students, closing that opportunity gap. 

What are some of the teaching practices that parents can expect to see this year in regards to COVID-19? 

This year, we’d like to have an emphasis on social-emotional learning, and bring in  trauma-informed practices. I feel that it is safe to say that each of us have been impacted by COVID-19 in different ways, be it financially, socially or emotionally. We’re looking into what pandemic pedagogy looks, and figuring out ways to shift our learning and teaching practices to address what learning is during a crisis. 

We are striving to create community spaces, and develop relationships between staff and scholars so that we can really focus on the trauma that most of our scholars have experienced, and continue to experience in the midst of the pandemic. I’m sure it’s not hard to imagine the toll that it’s taken on some of our families, scholars, and educators.  

What do you love the most about your role as an educator? 

I love having the opportunity each and every day to do great things for other people. I genuinely love to bring people together, who may have different perspectives, and talk about new possibilities to better our education system.

I am specifically excited about the way things are moving this year. COVID-19 has turned national conversation to education. If you turn on the news, read a news article, or look at your social media feed, it seems like education is always highlighted. 

I have been given the opportunity to collaborate with our scholars, family members, community members and staff to fundamentally rethink education. COVID-19 has made it so that we cannot do some of the things that we did before. It requires us to be innovative in our thinking. We have to be able to learn, unlearn, and relearn some things in order for us to be able to move forward.

I have the pleasure and the privilege of being able to serve a school district as we’re going through this transformative journey together. It’s exciting to think about what this year will yield for us as a community. There will certainly be challenges that we face this year, but one certainty is that school before COVID-19 wasn’t working for all of our scholars. They have the data that supports that, and now we have the opportunity to fundamentally rethink our school system and our teaching practices. We must now pause and ask ourselves, what do we do, why do we do it, and how do we do it? How can we begin to create new systems, structures, and practices to meet the diverse needs of all of our learners? 

What advice do you have for future generations? 

First I’d like to say that it’s going to be hard. However, just because it’s hard and challenging doesn’t mean that we should stop. Your voice is critically important in this work. What you do and who you are matters. Your perspective is critical and essential to the conversations. 

You may be the only person of color in a space, or the only person who’s boys voicing a perspective. It is important to stand firm in what you believe, and know that by doing that, you are pushing the conversation forward. What you want may not happen in the timeline that you envisioned, but your mere presence may be a serious threat to the status quo. 

Stand firm in who you are, knowing that the challenges will be there, but that your voice is needed. Your perspective is needed and it’s all about challenging the process. Don’t just accept things because it is the way they’ve always done it. I would not be the superintendent of Summit Schools if I believed in that narrative.

What do you want  to leave as your legacy? 

I want to be known as someone whose words matched their action. I want to be remembered as someone who was able to disrupt and dismantle inequitable policies, practices, systems and structures so that everyone in the system could thrive. 

I want to be remembered as someone who interrogated the norm, meaning that I challenged the ideals we accepted as a society. I want to be remembered for someone that was unapologetic when it comes to establishing equity in our systems.

I want to be known as someone collaborated with the community, brought people together, and took action. At the end of the day, it is about paving the road to success for each child and eliminating the opportunity gap by leading with equity. I’d like those things to be the final reminder of the work of Dr. Smith. 

[ Dr. Smith continues to uplift the voices of the community, subvert outdated policies and systems, and push for equal opportunity within schools in order to create a better tomorrow for our future scholars. ]

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Tay Anderson

“Remember me for what I fought for.” 

Tay Anderson tackles big city issues as the new Denver School Board At-Large Director in order to end generational inequity. 

[If you haven’t heard of him by now, you want to. Tay Anderson is the youngest Denver School Board At-Large Director to ever be elected into office. Coming from the Denver Schools himself, this spirited activist fights with great tenacity to bring equality within his community. Under his leadership, he has plans to restructure the schools and bring real change in issues ranging from mental health to racial equity. ]

How long have you been the Denver School Board At-Large Director and what led you to that point in your career? 

 I was elected in November 2019 after running an unsuccessful campaign in 2017 for the Denver School Board. Instead of quitting, I decided to get involved and to become an educator in the district. I realized that there was a need for minority representation and wanted to make that happen. I decided to get involved with Denver School Board again and ran for a second time.

How does your experience as a former student in the Denver Schools impact your decisions as the director? 

It gave me first-hand experience, and now, I am able to relate to our children and what they’re going through in the Denver Public Schools. People may say that you need to have political experience to hold office, but I believe that the best experience is from those who have been directly impacted. 

Can you briefly explain some of the major issues that you’re currently addressing as the new director? 

We’ve already created our 100 day plan for the district under my leadership. I have been pushing for every school to have an all-gender restroom so that students that are a part of the LGBTQIA+ community have a place where they are comfortable going to the restroom in peace. Gender-conforming restrooms may not always do that for our children. 

We have also updated the student handbook on gun safety, because gun-violence is a big problem in our communities. We’ve lost over 10 children to gun violence this fiscal year. We implemented the Be SMART program in our schools, working with the Denver Police Department. 

We’ve also been increasing our funding towards our Mental Health Counselors, Restorative Justice Counselors, and we have endorsed a measure to allow students to have the right to vote in our School Board elections. I believe that students, sixteen and seventeen years old, have a right to say who’s leading their district. We pushed for that to happen, and now it’s in the hands of the legislature.  

How do you plan on addressing institutional racism and closing the equity gap in our public schools? 

I believe that the number one thing that we have to do is hire educators that look like our children, so we are constantly striving to find applicators that match the demographics of our kids. We are also figuring out how to teach our history in our schools, and right now we have an incredible group of young black women that are pushing our district to make Black History a graduation requirement. 

 How do you plan on addressing mental health in the school system, and why do you feel that is important? 

It’s one of our top priorities to increase the support found in our schools. We spend tens of millions of dollars on mental health support within our district, but there’s always room to do more, and there’s always room to grow. We want to make sure that we are not being a district that is complacent when it comes to the social-emotional needs of our children.  

We are taking bold action and prioritizing our children because we know that teen suicide is on the rise in Colorado. We must make sure that we’re doing our part to combat this issue and at least provide resources so our students do not feel like they are alone during very discouraging times. 

What are some ways that the Denver School Board could show more support to their educators? 

I would say that providing a livable wage is the first thing. I would also go as far to say that we need to start really valuing the profession and not just looking at it as if anybody can do it. Not just anybody can be a teacher. Teachers are a special group of individuals that I believe need to be held sacred in our communities.

I also believe in empowering the voices of our educators. They should be able to take control of their classrooms, so that they’re not having to follow a playbook, but rather they are able to create their playbook. 

Can you talk a little bit about your involvement with the George Floyd and Elijah McClain protests?

Being a black man in America, George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, and Elijah McClain all could have been me, or could have been my younger brothers and sisters. That’s the reason why I don’t take these issues lightly, and why I show up for communities. 

We often see elected officials show up, give these nice glorified speeches for a moment, and then never follow up with actions. I don’t want to be one of those elected officials that only shows up for our community when it benefits them. I want to show up consistently because I know it’s the right thing to do. 

One of the things I told folks while running for office is that I’m not going to change who I am. I’m not going to stop being “Tay the Activist” just because I now and a public figure with a title. That title just gives me more power to implement change in the system from within.  I’m going to continue to stay steadfast and to support unity and equality.  We’ve had enough of those who get into office by talking about the good things they are going to do, then don’t do them, and still have the nerve to come back four years later and ask for support for another term.

 What are some of the challenges that you’ve faced when it comes to changing the neighborhood named “Stapleton”? Could you briefly explain the history behind that name? 

Benjamin Stapleton was a former KKK leader, was the mayor in the County of Denver, and held other political offices in the early 1920s. He was honored with an airport that was named after him, and once the airport was decommissioned, it became a neighborhood. 

Ever since the neighborhood was named, activists have been fighting to change that name because they understand that upholding white supremacy does not represent, in any way shape or form, who we are as a city. 

I simply put out a call to action on Twitter. I’ve always been a supporter of the renamed movement and I don’t take credit for the work that was done to rename Stapleton to Central Park. It was the work of activist organizations like Black Lives Matter and others over the last five years. It was our elders like Dr.Gregory Diggs,  who passed away a couple of years ago, that really pushed the rename Stapleton movement forward. 

What was some of the best advice that you received from somebody else when you were starting your career? 

I think that some of the best advice I’ve received is to be careful of who you’re dealing with. People will try to take advantage of somebody who’s new, young, and going into politics because they don’t know everything. If someone shows you who they are, believe them. 

What advice do you have for future generations? 

Stay involved, and don’t give up. If we don’t stand up now, we’re going to inherit something that we’re going to be forced to go against once again in the future.

What do you hope to leave as your legacy? 

Whenever the sun sets on my time here, I want people to remember not who I was as an individual, but what I fought for. I want people to remember that we stood up for our communities. 

The reason why I had to use my voice and run for office wasn’t because I wanted to be in the spotlight, it was simply because I got tired of those who looked like me not representing me. Sometimes, it’s even our own people that are doing wrong to us that are not fighting for us. 

That’s why I decided to stand up, and to bring change. 

I don’t want a statue, I don’t want a school, I don’t want anything named after me. What I want is to start putting our energy into our future, instead of focusing on the people of the past. Let’s make sure that we live out the memory of those individuals instead of just giving them symbolic gestures. Let’s turn our energy towards action, and implement real change. 

Anderson continues to fight for his community, and bring about real change. He is an inspiration to those within the community who feel they don’t have a say in changing the way things are. He gives a voice to the voiceless, and loudly proclaims his call to action for all who want to see more righteousness in the world. 

He is unafraid in his acts, and represents what it means to truly be a Voice for the People. 

-Written by Talisa Caldwell 


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A necessary intermission

by, Isam Itson III

Psalm 105:12-15 – When they were few in number, of little account, and sojourners in it, 13 wandering from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another people, 14 he allowed no one to oppress them; he rebuked kings on their account, 15 saying, “Touch not my anointed ones, 

do my prophets no harm!”

While retelling the story of the Hebrew people in Canaan before they resettled in Egypt under Joseph, the author of this psalm reminds the congregation of the fact that God kept them safe from more powerful nations during the time of their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob . If we look at the history recorded in the book of Genesis we realize that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his children were far from perfect. They were as bigoted, lustful, dishonest, and prideful as anybody else. The only thing that really set them apart for God’s favor was God choosing them as his special people. They were not protected and provided for by God because of their integrity. God looked out for them because he chose them. 

This tells me that we don’t measure people’s value based on their accomplishments or performance. We measure their value based on their value to God. God is doing a work in their lives to draw them closer to himself. God wants to work through their lives to draw others closer to him. And God wants to use us to help them in that process. In their weakness God is more and more becoming their strength. God wants us to join him in blessing them. He told Abraham in Genesis 12:3 that he would bless those who blessed Abraham and he would curse those who curse Abraham. How much more should we refrain from cursing, harming or speaking ill of those for whom Christ died?  

We need to side with God when we are frustrated by our fellow followers of Jesus Christ. Especially those in positions of religious and civil authority over us. We so freely exercise our right to free speech as a value that we often fail to honor the revelation that there is no authority except that which has been established by God. We use our civil freedom and access to social media to demonize men and women for whom Christ died. And like the enemies of the children of Israel during the bible days, we miss the opportunity to join with God as he reveals himself and glorifies himself in spite of the weakness and foolishness of his people. 

My own prayer in light of this tendency to pass judgment, take offense, and fight in fear for my own interests: Father, forgive me for my foolishness, fear, and selfishness. Fill me with your Holy Spirit. I commit to praying for and helping those around me in their areas of weakness. Especially those you have placed in authority over me. Help me be a more courageous agent of your almighty loyal love, and faithfulness. I commit to being used by you in my congregation and community, with diligence and thanksgiving. I will pay the price to help others and I will trust your faithfulness for my own life. If I perish or suffer loss, I perish or suffer loss. To live is Christ and to die is gain. Glorify yourself through me. Amen.

In response 

Pray your own prayer in this regard and begin thinking, speaking, and acting accordingly.

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Two Things That Must Happen For You To Have & Be More

Are you following the money? Or have you figured out how to make the money follow you? Today you will learn to crucial things necessary to go to the next level in life. Have you ever felt like today’s listener like you “have no voice, no good ideas, no smarts, and no leg to stand on?” Listen to the end to find out what advice was given that you can immediately apply to your own situations. “Mimi the Motivator,” is a modern-day Master Teacher. Although degreed in Mathematics, her expertise consists of Entrepreneurship, Holistic Health and Marketing. Your favorite motivator’s Favorite Motivator is on a mission to establish a cycle of community and generational wealth in socio-economic challenged cultures. Her boutique consulting agency provides a holistic approach to personal and professional development through workshops, events, online courses, coaching, and podcasts. You can catch a new episode of “Get High On Motivation” every Wednesday, on your favorite streaming app.Support the show ($mimileut)
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Kimberly Seals Allers: Founder of Irth App

Award-winning journalist and expert in Black maternal health, Kimberly Allers Seals, joins Comeback to talk Irth App, like the word birth, but the “b” is dropped for bias.

Irth is a Yelp-like review and rating platform for Black and brown women and birthing people to find and leave reviews of their OBGYNs, birthing hospitals, and pediatricians. This is the kick off of Black Breastfeeding week, to learn more about this amazing initiative Kimberly launched, go to:

Check out this episode!

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The Link Between Food and Finances

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It is really easy to pick up bad eating habits especially during a pandemic. Picture this, its 9pm on a Friday the evening. I’m scrolling…

It is really easy to pick up bad eating habits especially during a pandemic. Picture this, its 9pm on a Friday the evening. I’m scrolling through the timeline, and I see a seafood boil platter. Shrimp, crabs, corn, you name it! All in a juicy Cajun sauce. I HAVE TO HAVE IT!! Boredom, my love of everything seafood and my cravings coupled with this ad has pushed me over the edge. I reach for my wallet, make my order and wait impatiently to sink my fingers into some crustacean glory.

A few minutes into my grub delight, I get an alert from my bank “your checking available balance fell below your threshold of $$$.” I think to myself, “How can this be? I haven’t even spent much”. So, I go to my bank app and open my account statement in a haste to prove my bank wrong. I scroll through my statement and, alas, they were right. I see all my takeout and food purchases over the past few weeks. Reality set. I need to make changes to my eating habits, and FAST!

So, let’s think about this, How is your food affecting your finance?

1) Eating out: restaurants, uber eats, grub hub and all get expensive really quick. The cost of eating out or ordering takeout adds up over time. Remember, you are not only paying for the food, but also for delivery and other restaurant/app fees. Instead, cook your own food. Grocery shopping cost much less than take out. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish! Don’t spend $30 on a pasta meal that would cost you $10 if you made it yourself.

2) Not eating right costs: “Contrary to public opinion, it does not cost so much to eat health.” What is the true cost of not eating right? YOUR HEALTH!! A lot of these take out spots cook foods that are not health for you. So much fatty stuff that can clog your arteries, foods that slow you down and make you sleepy after instead of replenishing your energy. Food is supposed to be the body’s fuel not a sleeping pill. “When you are not eating right, you are not feeding your body the fuel it needs to function and heal.” Think about this, Health issues cost more than eating healthy. It would cost you more to take a trip in an ambulance after a heart attack than doing your own groceries and cooking. “Take care of your body, you only have one of it.” Health is wealth.

Be more intentional about your health and your finances. Take active steps toward changing bad habits. Create a budget and stick with it. Eat more vegetables. Do your own cooking. Exercise. Spend less on unnecessary purchases and see how much more you are left with to put towards saving and investments.

Food For Thought: Brought to you by Mimi’s Teabag.

“Find strength in knowing you can make a difference in the world.”

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God help us

by, Isam Itson III

Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” 

Love God and your neighbor, even your enemy, unconditionally. So simple. Jesus declares that this is the sum of the Law and Prophets. The Jewish religious leaders agreed with Jesus on this fact. Jesus taught this to his disciples. Jesus declared in John 13:35 that their love for one another would be the proof that they were his true followers.

Yet, we have never had the strength to fulfill God’s law by ourselves. In Acts 1:8, we learn that this fundamental obedience is so far beyond our ability to fulfill that Jesus tells his disciples to wait until they have been filled with the Holy Spirit so that they can actually fulfill their mission as leaders of his church. 

Where do we falter without reliance upon God’s Spirit? Our pride. We refuse to humble ourselves and accept the fact that we cannot be good enough without God’s grace to help us. Therefore, we either hold others to a standard that God does not even hold us to, or we beat ourselves up over the fact that we keep failing and sinning. There is one provision for our sin before Christ and after Christ. That provision is acceptance of God’s grace, and reliance upon God’s grace. God’s grace is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who trusts him. God forgives wickedness, sin, and rebellion. 

In relationship with the Jewish people, God accepted the sacrifice of blameless animals as a penalty for their sin. In relationship with all people through Jesus Christ, God accepts the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as a penalty for sin. In each case, God allowed another to carry the weight of punishment so that his people could follow him without fear of judgment.

For the Jewish people the sacrifices took place twice a day, everyday, and on special national holy days on behalf of the entire nation, in the Temple at Jerusalem. Throughout the year people brought their individual sacrifices and offerings as a sign of their acknowledgment of their personal sins and their individual gratitude to God for his protection and provision in their lives.

The death of Jesus Christ on the cross represents all of God’s people for all of time as the sacrificial penalty for everyone’s sin. The voluntary sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross paid the penalty of sin for all people everywhere, forever. We simply need to acknowledge the truth that we need God’s help to live lives that honor God’s love and faithfulness as the source and strength of life for everyone.

We are not alone. God is with us and God is for us no matter what we suffer in this life. God remains committed to us no matter how much we fail. God stands with us, helps us learn from our mistakes, and move forward with the fulfillment of his purpose for our lives. 

As followers of Jesus Christ we rely upon God’s grace, his love and his faithfulness, to help us help others in the name of Jesus. Without the Spirit of God our efforts at consistently loving one another at our own expense are hopeless. We are not sufficient in and of ourselves to live lives that honor God and bless others. 

When we give in to our pride we feel shame and anger because of our essential powerlessness. When we humbly accept the truth that we cannot please God without God’s help we are filled to overflowing with gratitude for God’s love for us. That’s the irony. Our strength of character demands that we acknowledge our weakness. Only then can we experience the joy of God’s strength and faithfulness on our behalf.

In response

1. Accept the fact that you are powerless to please God without his grace.

2. Thank God for his grace, expressed completely and perfectly in Jesus Christ.

3. Ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit so that you can honor his sovereignty, love, and faithfulness for yourself and for your neighbor.

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My Recently Added Wardrobe Pieces | Ranti In Review

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We have a month left of the summer season and if you live in a dry climate like I do, you technically have about 2.5 months of warm days and nights. I have added a few dresses that will help transition well into the early part of the fall season. With the exception of the
The post My Recently Added Wardrobe Pieces appeared first on RANTI IN REVIEW.

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How to Grow Up & Be a Capital Investor w/ Walt Watkins

Bob Marley and Walt Watkins  have something in common, they both believe in making a difference. However, today we will learn how to make a difference in our own lives with some practical wisdom from a retired banker, who now serves the community as a Capital Investor. Mimi the Motivator is the modern-day Master Teacher, serving a dynamic Speaker, Educator, and Coach who empowers all to create the life and business desired. The host of “Get High On Motivation” is on a mission is to educate, empower and equip the minority community through her platforms of self-education, Holistic Health, and Universal laws. Her vision is to empower a billion people to transform their life, love and finances! the show on Apple Podcast, Pandora, Spotify, Stitcher, Buzzsprout, iHeartRadio and more…Support the show ($mimileut)
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Designer Byron Lars: In Earnest Official

Byron Lars started designing under his own label in 1991 with a small collection of sportswear of what he refers to as “twisted American classics.” His line has been carried  by such prestigious retailers as Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s. His notoriety also led to his designing a limited edition of designer Barbie dolls for Mattel and styling icons such as Angela Bassett and Michelle Obama.  Byron joined me to talk about his next chapter and the comeback after the setback.

Check out this episode!

The post Designer Byron Lars: In Earnest Official appeared first on Comeback with Erica Cobb.

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Ripe fruit

By, Isam Itson III

Matthew 21: 43-44 – “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

I love fruit. Peaches, pears, apples, oranges, lemons, plums, cherries, mangoes, papayas, pomegranates, etc… The funny thing about fruit trees is that they only produce their best fruit once per year. Most of the time fruit trees are indistinguishable to the untrained eye. I don’t know an apple tree from a cherry tree. But I do know that under the right circumstances and at the right time, the type of tree I am looking at will become self-evident. An apple tree will produce apples. A cherry tree will produce cherries. I just have to be patient. I have to nurture the life of the tree and the fruit will come in its best time. 

According to Galatians 5:22, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control. The effect of God’s Spirit operating in and through our lives is that people find peace with God, healing from the wounds of life, and contentment in relationship with others. We will be prone to being forgiving and to asking for forgiveness. We will recognize that God’s grace is the only hope for the world. We will understand that Jesus Christ is the only one with the power to deliver us from the chaos and destruction of sin and death. All to the glory of God and in humble gratitude for God’s grace toward us in Jesus Christ.

Submission to God and the joyful, grateful reception of his mercy and forgiveness overflows into the lives of those around us. In the process we start acting more and more like Jesus Christ. 

Unfortunately, from time to tine, all followers of Jesus Christ lose sight of this basic truth. We begin focusing on our good works and our moral uprightness as the measure of our faithfulness to God. We forget that our work is meant to produce fruit. We start viewing our work as an end in itself. We go to church and read our bibles and pray as a matter of routine. We forget that we are nurturing our relationship with God. We forget that we are spending time with God. We begin to think that we are holy because we do all of the right things. We forget that God makes us holy. We do not make ourselves holy. The best we can do is remember that God has made us holy and to thank God that he has set us apart for himself because he loves us.

This outlook will help us to stop judging “sinners” who are leading our country to hell in a handbasket. If someone does not know God, how can they see God and learn to believe in God? How can they produce anything but fruits keeping with unbelief? In our frustration we often forget that without faith it is impossible to please God. And to please God we must believe that He exists and that he is good and merciful to those who cry out to Him. They need to see God, and God wants to use us to reveal himself to them.

So let’s commit to cultivating attitudes and actions that express kindness and gentleness to those who are lost and perishing. Let’s give credit to God as the source of our good fortune and theirs.  This is the fruit of a righteous life. And it is the only hope people  have of seeing God at work in their lives through their relationship with us. We want people to be embraced by God’s love, not crushed by the weight of our indignation. God hates that.

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The 5 P’s Required for Success

Ironically the Food for Thought and the conversation this week consists of five P’s. You will definitely want to listen again, whether you take notes or not. Your favorite motivator’s favorite Motivator is finishing season 3 strong!Mimi the Motivator is the modern-day Master Teacher, serving a dynamic Speaker, Educator, and Coach who empowers all to create the life and business desired. The host of “Get High On Motivation” is on a mission is to educate, empower and equip the minority community through her platforms of self-education, Holistic Health, and Universal laws. Her vision is to empower a billion people to transform their life, love and finances! the show on Apple Podcast, Pandora, Spotify, Stitcher, Buzzsprout, iHeartRadio and more…Support the show ($mimileut)
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Glynis Albright “The Waffle Queen” Talks Battling to Building an Empire!

Glynis Albright is known for her amazing line of products, including Glynis’ Kitchen Scratch Mix® currently in HomeGoods stores, TJMAXX and Zulily.  But this “Waffle Queen’s” pivot in life came after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.  Now her clientele includes such notable names as John Legend, Halle Berry and Bill Clinton! Learn more and shop the line:

Check out this episode!

The post Glynis Albright “The Waffle Queen” Talks Battling to Building an Empire! appeared first on Comeback with Erica Cobb.

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One more time

By, Isam Itson III

Matthew 20:23 – “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

The phrase “drink my cup” means that you will share my life and fate. You will come to my same end. Jesus directs this statement to James and John after they send their mother  to ask for positions of honor for them when he establishes his throne in Jerusalem. These are two of the three disciples that are closest to Jesus. They have been with him since the earliest days of his public ministry. They knowJesus better than all of the other disciples know him. In their minds they are the most qualified to speak for Jesus. They should be entrusted with the positions of greatest authority and honor when Jesus begins to rule in justice and righteousness over all of the nations on earth. 

Like most of us, James and John are thinking about how they can ensure that they have the best life possible. They want to make certain that they receive all they are owed for being faithful to Jesus. They deserve positions of great honor and to be rewarded for their faithful service. All of the disciples have a place in Jesus’ kingdom. But James and John believe they deserve the best place.

First, Jesus tells them that they will have to face the same challenges as him. At this point in their journey with Jesus, they are not thinking about Jesus having to die for the sins of the people. They are only thinking about the end of Roman tyranny and the beginning of the reign of God on the earth. Jesus knows that his path leads to death for his followers. 

We tend to dream of paths in life that lead to personal fulfillment, security, and satisfaction. The freedom to enjoy ourselves and to do as we please. Jesus leads his followers down a path that fulfills God’s purpose for our creation and directs us to spend our lives seeking the best for others. God wants us to share the life he has given us with others. God wants us to commit all of our time and energy, our whole life and passion, toward helping others experience the love and faithfulness of God through our relationship with them. 

God is calling all of us to surrender our lives as living sacrifices so that he can bless others through us. God wants us to share fully in his work of reclaiming and restoring all humanity for the blessed life he created us for in the first place. James and John will indeed drink the same cup as Jesus. God will call them to give their lives fully to help people see the power and faithfulness of God. 

Second, Jesus reminds James and John that their places in the kingdom are ordained by the Father. He goes on to instruct them to be faithful as the servants of others and to see themselves as slaves of God. In the world of ancient Greece and Rome, slaves had no say over their lives. Their entire purpose was to bring honor to their master. They had no life, ambition, or honor of their own. Their only legitimate ambition was the fulfillment of their masters’ interests. Their only goal in life was to honor their master. 

Jesus is reminding James and John that God is the one who assigns them their lot. They cannot manipulate God or  use the system to achieve their own self serving ends. Following Jesus means that we understand that our lives are completely in God’s hands.  He does with us as he wishes for the fulfillment of his purpose. He places each of us where he has ordained us to thrive in his service. Following Jesus means accepting that God knows the best place for us in life. We just have to be faithful, no matter what.

God wants us to trust him, to humbly bless others, and to experience his faithfulness, in a way that only he can be glorified. We are pursuing God’s agenda, not ours. Along the way, we need to learn to trust in God rather than ourselves. God’s grace is sufficient.

In response

1. Serve God and others faithfully.

2. Trust the wisdom of God’s timing and purpose in your life.

3. Be thankful for God’s grace and faithfulness in your life.

4. Don’t spend your energy pursuing wealth and honor.

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How to Use the Power of Your Tongue to Create More Successful Life

The first of The Four Agreements is the hardest to apply. Today Mimi will break the agreement down and how you can utilize it to manifest a more enhanced life experience. Have you ever wondered why people take cold showers and ice baths? It’s not just for pain relief; it’s not just for athletes and extremists.Get your copy of “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz High On Motivation is a weekly 30-minute show to help you get your mind, body, spirit, and finances right!Mimi the Motivator is the modern-day Master Teacher, a dynamic Speaker, Educator, and Coach who empowers all to create the life and business desired and deserved. The host of “Get High On Motivation” is on a mission is to educate, empower and equip the community through her platforms of Self-education, Holistic Health, and Ancient Technology. The vision is to institute a cycle of generational and community wealth in historically economically challenged families and communities.Connect with Mimi at the show ($mimileut)
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Erin Douglas

What role do you play in education?

I am a seventh grade English language arts teacher at Strive Prep Montebello.

How long have you been in education? 

I have been in education for 11 years and I have been teaching for 9 years. 

Why do you think education is important?

It goes back to a quote that I saw a long time ago in grade school that “knowledge is power.” I take it to heart when my ancestors weren’t allowed to read and write. They kept us ignorant and it made me wonder, why didn’t they allow us to read and write? Because they knew that there was power in knowing what’s going on around you and educating yourself. So that’s why I think education is extremely powerful. 

What do you love most about your role in education?

The kids! I have learned to hide my surprise when something really crazy comes out of their mouths and I’m like…okay!  But I do, I love the kids. I am so fascinated with how their minds work. I love to watch the, “aha” moment when they get it. I love it when they’re like, thank you Mrs. Douglas for being there for me. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for helping me. Even when we get on your nerves, you are still there for us. So it’s the kids!

What is the best advice you have received about impacting the education sector? 

The best advice that I have received, and I won’t say that this is advice, I would say that it’s more of a culmination of learning experiences. You will never be perfect. There’s no such thing as a perfect teacher. But you have to do the best that you can. If you love what you are doing, then everything else will come together. If the kids see that you’re passionate about the work, then their going to take their education more seriously, whether they like it or not. They kids may say, I hate to read but Mrs. Douglas loves it, or I hate my math, but Mr. Fashaw loves it. I’m going to try to do my best for them. If you bring your love and passion towards it, the kids will see that and respond to it. 

What advice would you give to the  younger generation about their education? 

You have to have the basics and always learn. It doesn’t matter how you learn. Whether it’s a four-year college, a vocational school or in the military, keep learning. Wherever you can get some kind of learning experience and some kind of educational experience jump on it and learn it. You’re never too old to learn something new. You can always learn something new.

Interview By Kenya Fashaw


Self Submission


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Tai Beauchamp: Founder of Brown Girl Jane and Tai Life Media

I have adopted this Queen as my big sister! Tai Beauchamp is not only the founder of two companies, Brown Girl Jane and Tai Life Media, and the host of “Morning Mindset with Tai” six days a week on IG LIVE but she also made history as Seventeen magazine’s first Black and youngest Beauty and Fitness Director in the title’s history! So much to learn from this powerhouse, connect with Tai and her brands on social media @taibeau @itsbrowngirljane and shop:

Check out this episode!

The post Tai Beauchamp: Founder of Brown Girl Jane and Tai Life Media appeared first on Comeback with Erica Cobb.

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Beware jealously

By, Isam Itson III

Matthew 20:13-16 – But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.” 

We are prone to envy, covetousness and jealousy in our relationships. We are borderline obsessed with not being left out or left behind. We are consumed with the fear of being overlooked or under appreciated. The disappointment of not being picked for a team on the schoolyard turned some of us into wallflowers and others of us into bullies. Even when we grow up we think we are outraged by life’s inherent injustice when we are passed over for a promotion at work. Sometimes that is true. More often, we never fully acknowledged our feelings of rejection and disappointment from our childhood.

This story reminds me of Cain who killed his brother Abel. Cain kills Abel because he is angry and jealous that God accepted Abel’s offering of worship but rejected Cain’s. Rather than learning from God and submitting to God’s way of life, Cain led his brother Abel into a field and killed him. Cain was so committed to being  honored that he killed his brother to have his own way. He broke faith with God and he broke faith with his brother. For Cain nothing and no one was more valuable than his personal sense of pride and honor.

We can fall into the same trap as Cain when we nurse our sense of grievance and outrage. Our anger turns into bitterness and we justify our hurt feelings rather than learning from our mistakes. We harbor feelings of resentment rather than focusing on fulfilling the tasks that God has already given us within our own sphere of life. At a critical moment there is nothing to stop our unresolved feelings from fueling an outburst of thoughtless passion that breeds chaos. Why? Because we do not take responsibility for ourselves within our present circumstances. We resent others for what they have rather than honoring God with what he has already provided for us. 

Submitting to God in faithful obedience and practicing gratitude for what he has already provided for us is crucial to following Jesus Christ. God humbles and exalts us. He trains, corrects, and promotes us as he transforms us more and more into the image of Jesus Christ. Daily, we have to remind ourselves that the only reward that matters, is the certainty of our everlasting life with God in Jesus Christ that frees us to fearlessly live for God everyday.

Every other social and material reward is inconsequential by comparison. God has already given us himself as our prize, even though we have done nothing to deserve his presence with us. He simply loves us. What a glorious gift! 

The antidote for jealous pride and envy is gratitude for God’s all sufficient grace. Our goal is submission to his direction, and the strengthening of our character. Our goal is not getting God to fulfill our self centered ambitions. 

In response

1. Every day, thank God that his grace is sufficient to meet your needs today.

2. Every day, remind yourself that you have nothing to fear, since death no longer has any power over you in Jesus Christ.

3. Submit to God’s purpose for your life: In obedience to God, show others how much God loves them by being willing to spend your time and energy meeting their needs.

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F*** Up Better, The Battle Is Indicator of the Blessing

 Ralph Waldo Emerson gives us the motivation to be okay without some things and maybe people in our lives. What if instead of avoiding failure, we decided to fail on purpose? Looking for some easy first steps to improve your health? You got the right episode baby!”Mimi the Motivator,” is a modern-day Master Teacher. Although degreed in Mathematics, her expertise consists of Entrepreneurship, Holistic Health, and Ancient Technology. Your favorite motivator’s Favorite Motivator is on a mission to establish a cycle of community and generational wealth in socio-economic challenged cultures. Her boutique consulting agency, The Phil-Rich Group Ltd., provides a holistic approach to personal and professional development through life and business coaching, workshops, events, online courses, and podcasts. You can catch a new episode of “Get High On Motivation” every Wednesday, on your favorite streaming app.Learn more about what Mimi offers at your virtual ticket fo this month’s Masterclass on Saturday 7/31 at 10am MDT/12pm EDT! Get Paid for Your Thoughts: A Beginner’s Guide to Getting Published Fast clicking here.Buzzsprout – Let’s get your podcast launched! Start for FREESupport the show ($mimileut)
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Comeback to healthy relationships with Kim Wilson

This licensed psychotherapist, relationship expert and professional speaker’s goal is to provide an outlet for those who are bravely living their lives and help them build healthy relationships. We talk about it with the super effervescent Kim Wilson!

Check out this episode!

The post Comeback to healthy relationships with Kim Wilson appeared first on Comeback with Erica Cobb.

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Trusting God with our whole life

By, Isam Itson III

Matthew 19: 21-22 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 

This is Jesus’ command for this particular person. Jesus is not telling everyone who follows him to sell everything and give proceeds from the sale to the poor. Jesus is showing everyone who follows him that we have to learn to trust him with the well being of everyone we love.

Jesus’ command to the rich young ruler was radical. First the young man is identified as a ruler. That means his father is no longer in charge of the household,  or more likely his father is dead. Otherwise, the young man would not be able to put the family’s possessions up for sale. Being a ruler also means that the young man was a member of an important family. Most likely a family that had been rulers in Israel for a few hundred years. His family were members of the ruling class. He was a member of the ruling class.

Second, the word translated possessions, or wealth, literally refers to land. Matthew writes that the young man had great wealth. That means there were many people who depended on this young man for their life and livelihood. Selling his lands and giving the money he received for the sale away meant dispossessing his other close family members as well as his servants. Doing so is material and social suicide. Obeying Jesus would bring shame and poverty on his entire family. Jesus is asking the young man to leave his family in a state of poverty. Jesus is asking this young man to climb down the social ladder.

In our world it is as if Jesus said, “Leave your entire way of life behind. Your dad is dead. Now, empty out mom’s retirement savings, sell the family home, sell your own home, liquidate the family business, give the money to the poor. Trust God to take care of your mom, your brothers and sisters, your employees, and anyone else who depends on you. It’s going to be good.” If you went along with this plan people would call you an irresponsible idiot.

I would only do something this radical if God commanded me personally, directly, verbally, and wrote it on the wall while I was watching. And even then, I might not do it. So I have to seriously ask myself, am I prepared to entrust my whole life to God? If I do not trust God with the well being of my family, then I do not really trust God. Am I still a good father if my child does not have his own room? Am I a good husband if we are riding the bus or walking everywhere because of obedience to God? Do I want God to bless my personal and social desires and expectations, or is my life defined by God’s love and guidance for me?

No matter the cost to me or my family, do I live for God? Do I follow Jesus? Do I believe that the life Jesus has for me with him forever is what gives meaning to my life and the lives of my wife and son, right now? Do I belong to God or to myself? Does my family depend on God’s grace, faithfulness, wisdom, and power,  or my wisdom and power? Do I trust God with my life and with the people I love most in the world? Do I believe that God loves them more than I love them?

In response

1. Everyday, meditate on the depth and breadth of God’s love for you. Matthew 6:25ff.

2. If you are single, don’t even consider marrying someone who is not committed to pursuing God no matter the cost.

3. If you are married, have a serious, considerate, and respectful talk with your spouse about what it means to trust God with your family. 

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There’s a Book Inside You; Get Paid For It w/ Publishing Pro Brianne Smith

Am I the only one who has trouble minding my own business? Today’s Food for Thought is a line dropped from Greek philosopher, Plutarch about staying on track. Then we roll into conversation with a publishing pro who went from getting her Teen Gay Romance banned from Amazon to traveling the country in an RV cowriting bestseller You Can Heal Your Life with Handwriting. Brianne Smith is our guest and the featured presenter for this month’s Masterclass, How to Get Paid for Your Thoughts: A Beginner’s Guide to Getting Published.About Brianne Smith In January 2018, Brianne self-published her first book, Spooning Leads to Forking: A Gay Teen Romance Story. The book met with instant success! She sold 400 copies the first month…before Amazon suddenly banned the title due to the erotic and LGBT content.Refusing to let her voice be silenced, Brianne decided to make her ebook available for free online and was soon hired as a consultant for My Word Publishing, a company that guides authors through the process of professionally self-publishing their books. Two years later, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Brianne sold her car, cancelled her lease, and hopped into an RV with a friend to study graphology, help build a small business, and co-write the best-selling book, You Can Heal Your Life with Handwriting.Brianne hopes to become an inspiration to women entrepreneurs and help other aspiring authors avoid the same mistakes she did so they can share their stories with the world.IG: @brie_2230 FB: BrianneSmith56LinkedInAbout Mimi the MotivatorMimi the Motivator is the modern-day Master Teacher, a dynamic Speaker, Educator, and Coach who empowers all to create the life and business desired. The host of “Get High On Motivation” is on a mission is to educate, empower and equip the minority community through her platforms of self-education, Holistic Health, and Universal laws. The vision is to institute a cycle of generational and community wealth in historically economically challenged families and communities. Her boutique consulting agency, The Phil-Rich Group, provides a holistic approach to Personal/Professional Development.IG: @mimithemotivatorClubhouse: @imotivateGet your Early-bird Discount for Get Paid for Your Thoughts: A Beginner’s Guide to Getting Published Fast clicking here.Buzzsprout – Let’s get your podcast launched! Start for FREESupport the show ($mimileut)
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Your Bliss Skin & Body Care

Here at Your Bliss, I am committed to working with you and your body. This is why we customize all of our services. Anyone can do the work for you and make you feel nice, but I will work side by side with you to teach you how to best care for yourself and put your best self forward.
Using natural and botanical products helps ensure that your body will be receptive to the treatments that you are receiving. Reaching your goals takes time, care, and attention. I guarantee that I will do everything within my power to achieve the results that you desire.
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The power of forgiveness

By, Isam Itson III

Matthew 18:21-22  Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”  Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Forgiving others is central to honoring God’s love for us. Especially in relationship to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Practicing forgiveness as a regular way of life does not make us weak; it makes us peacemakers. Earlier in Matthew 18 Jesus tells his disciples how to resolve conflict among fellow members of the people of God. Peter’s question about forgiveness reveals his clear grasp of the challenge to being a peacemaker. 

Like all of us, Peter is wrestling with what it means to follow Jesus in his everyday life and relationships. How does following Jesus affect how we act with people? How often does God expect me to let people disrespect and dishonor me? This is where our trust in God’s personal love, honor, and faithfulness toward us is most frequently tested. 

Not holding offense against one another requires us to patiently endure other people’s pride, stubbornness, shortsightedness, and denial. Not defining our worth by how other people treat us  makes us trust God’s sovereignty as the only judge. Defining ourselves exclusively by our relationship with God challenges us to be as gracious and merciful to others as God is to us. This attitude testifies of God’s power and presence in our lives in two meaningful ways.

First, valuing God’s opinion of us above everyone else’s means that we are free from being manipulated and pushed around by other people. The less we are moved by the opinions and actions of other people, the less power they have to influence and shape our attitudes and actions. The less power others have to influence us the more strength we have available to love people unconditionally.  Practicing forgiveness frees us to more genuinely love one another the way that God, in Jesus Christ, loves us.

Second, valuing God’s opinion of us above everyone else’s means that people who disrespect us have to wrestle with their own relationship with God. When someone offends us and we do not hold it against them or fight back they cannot justify their poor treatment of us. Our practice of forgiveness means they have to wrestle with God in order to get their own way. Because in our love they see the power of God’s love to overcome, dismiss, and withstand every external assault against God’s supreme power and authority in our lives. Our love for them proves the reality and power of God’s love for them. When we practice forgiveness God is using us to reveal his power, love, and presence to the people around us.  

 Like Peter and the other disciples, we are tempted to think practicing forgiveness brings shame upon us. But Jesus says that not being prone to forgiveness is the real shame. He compares it to having a millstone tied around our neck and being thrown into the sea. That was another one of those heinous executions that the Romans were known for.  Like crucifixion, it brought shame upon one’s whole family.

The astounding fact is that Jesus’ response speaks to a deeper truth. When we follow Jesus we can never be put to shame, because only God’s opinion matters. No one’s actions against us can diminish us, because our standing, our righteousness with God, is secured by God’s gracious mercy, kindness, and love. Nothing can separate us from God’s love. Nothing can make God stop loving us.  So it is impossible for anyone to put us to shame. 

In response

1. Continually thank God for his gracious love and personal presence in your life.

2. Continue to honor God’s love the people who offend you.

3. Comfort yourself with the fact that only God’s opinion of you matters.

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Ask Jesus

By, Isam Itson III

Matthew 17:24-27 – When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” 26 And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”

I bristle at exceptions to the rule. My inner eight year old demands absolute fairness. I like things to be yes or no, black or white, wrong or right.  So Jesus really challenges me with this one.

 It’s about paying the temple tax. Back in the Bible days Jews were required by the Laws of Moses to pay a certain amount of money every year for the maintenance and operation of the temple. Peter is simply coming to Jesus to get the money to pay the tax. Jesus uses the moment to teach Peter a lesson.

Jesus is inaugurating a new way of following God that fulfills and moves beyond the worship of God administered through the temple. Therefore, continuing to honor the requirements of the upkeep of the temple system doesn’t make sense. Those who go to Jesus to mediate their forgiveness owe nothing to temple worship. 

But go ahead Peter, let’s do it for the sake of their sensibilities until the kingdom of God comes. Not because they have absolute authority over our lives.

The life of Jesus presents his followers with a new source of tension. The already but not yet nature of the coming of the Kingdom of God. Already Christ has come. But he is not yet ruling the world in power and glory from Jerusalem. For us today, already Christ has risen from the dead and is ruling over the universe from his position of authority at God’s right hand. But he is not yet directly ruling over the nations of the earth. 

Until the day of Christ’s return we will all be confronted with the necessity to navigate when and how we submit to our civil governments and live within our political systems. When do we go along with their demands and when do we decide they are asking too much? When do we accept their God given authority and when do we call them out for abusing their positions of authority? 

Jesus is demanding that his followers take the higher road of honoring the conscience of others rather than demanding their acceptance of our understanding or way of life. This takes wisdom. When does consideration of others crossover into fear for my social standing and the compromise of my principles and character? Will we just keep giving in to the demands of others until we don’t even recognize ourselves anymore? How do we know when we are about to go too far?

Like Peter, we have to make a habit of going to Jesus. Do what he says and trust him with the results. Two years after Peter’s death, the Temple will be destroyed by the Romans. 400 years later, Rome will fall victim to barbarian invasions. God settles his own accounts in his own time. Until then, we honor his patient endurance of sinners like us. He knows when, where, and how to act. We are simply called to trust him along the way.

In response

1. Take your social justice concerns to God in prayer.

2. Respond to injustice in a way that honors God’s sovereignty and expresses faith in his wisdom.

3. Have faith in the timing of God’s judgment.

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Don’t take the bait

By, Isam Itson III

Matthew 16:1 and 4 – And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. Jesus answered them,.. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed. 

Over the years I have learned that every comment someone makes in casual conversation is not casual. You say hello to someone in line at the store or while waiting for public transport and they state their opinion or ask you what you think about some current event. You give an honest response and then…they pounce. The next thing you know your heart is racing and you are in a heated argument. Your day is ruined. Followers of Jesus Christ who want to honor God and encourage other people to honor God are especially vulnerable to people who have an agenda against the authority or existence of God.

It is very tempting to want to defend our trust in God against every accusation. And followers of Jesus Christ are often asked to prove the supremacy and exclusivity of Christ to those who reject him as God. Sometimes people ask honest questions about our relationship with God or the nature of the Bible, or why we do the things we do. They may have even been taken advantage of or deceived by someone who claimed to be a follower of Jesus Christ. In this case we should be prepared to respond gently, simply, honestly, and openly with them. They truly want justice, accountability for the wrongdoer, and wisdom from God.

Other times we run into people that want to question us. This is different from asking honest questions. There are people who have a personal agenda against the authority of God or church leadership. They want to make a case for their rejection of God, or encourage other people to follow them. These are opponents of the gospel of the kingdom of God. 

Often our opponents will bait us in an effort to stir up our anger, or expose our ignorance, supposed irrationality, and self interest. They want to prove their superiority to themselves and others. They want to prove that their rejection of God or the church is honest and legitimate. They want other people to back their personal agenda. And they don’t mind using us to fulfill their self-serving desires. 

Jesus essentially told his opponents that they had already been given enough signs. They had witnessed his miracles and heard his teachings. They had seen his concern for the poor and outcast. There was nothing left except for his death and resurrection to confirm their need for salvation. Jesus was simply going to fulfill the work that he had been born to accomplish; sacrificing himself for the salvation of his people from their sins. 

Sometimes it becomes clear that people who ask us questions are really just questioning us in an attempt to accuse us of wrongdoing. They don’t want answers; they want ammunition to justify their rejection of Jesus Christ. Like Jesus, we have to know that any such accusation is really just a distraction. The enemy of our souls wants us to spend our time and energy on empty arguments rather than fulfilling the work of God. Jesus reminds us of the necessity to keep loving God, and honoring God’s love for others. Our best reply is fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives.

In response

1. Recall the last thing that you know God directed you to pursue in your life.

2. Identify the steps that you can take toward the fulfillment of God’s direction for you.

3. Pray and trust God to provide what is necessary for the fulfillment of his purpose for you.

4. Surround yourself with people who embrace the call of God in their lives.

5. Do not be distracted by naysayers when you know you have heard from God.

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Be righteous

By, Isam Itson III

Matthew 15:17-20 – “Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” 

One of the biggest lessons about social interaction that I learned while living in the Philippines was the importance of allowing people to save face. At its core, face represents the fact that a person is in good social standing. Saving face means a person is able to be seen in society because their social standing is intact. They are a member of society in good standing.

As a result there is a great deal of value placed upon knowing and honoring the proper responses  across the breadth and depth of one’s social encounters. Knowing and honoring a person’s relative status in relationship to oneself is crucial to maintaining smooth interpersonal relationships and keeping face. Speaking and acting in ways that honor the value and dignity of others is crucial to the integrity of a person’s relationships. This means there is a lot of social pressure placed upon people to say and do the right things at all times. 

According to Jesus, the key to honor and righteousness is not figuring out the right way to speak and act. The key to honor and righteousness is a heart filled with love for God and others. Even for our enemies. Jesus helped others because he was moved by compassion for others, because he was filled with compassion for others, because he was filled with the love of God for others. This is the call of Jesus for his followers.

An inner life defined by meditation upon God’s nature and character revealed in the scriptures is vital to a social life of personal integrity and legitimate testimony. When we meditate upon the fullness of God’s love for ourselves and others, the Holy Spirit reveals the words and actions that honor God in relationship to every person we meet. When we start with “what honors God’s love for this person?”, we don’t have to worry about saying or doing the wrong thing. God will show us the words, attitudes, and actions that honor his power, love, and glory through prayer, his word, and fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Then it is up to us to speak and act accordingly. 

In response

1. Take time to meditate on what the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, reveals about God’s love for you.

2. Look at your present situation in light of God’s love for you.

3. Stay mindful that God loves your enemies, even political ones, as much as he loves you.

4. Speak and act in relationship to other people, accordingly.

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Taste Bud Bullies, LLC

Taste Bud Bullies is a catering company & food truck located in Denver, CO We offer an eclectic menu that strives to keep food fun and simple. Our recipes come from years of being in Grandma’s kitchen, where everything was scratch-made. Elevating cuisines from childhood favorites to local favorites. Our mission is to never forget tradition and always respect the craft.

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Idris Goodwin

What is your role as an educator and how long have you been doing that for? 

I have been a part of the educational platform for a long time, roughly 15 years. I started out as a teaching artist in Chicago, teaching poetry and spoken word in schools and community organizations. I also taught in New Mexico and Iowa, then I made my way to Colorado. There I was a professor at Colorado College for six years as well as an assistant professor in theater,dance, and playwriting. Now, my role has shifted more into Arts Administration, where I do things like Q and A’s and teach the occasional workshop. 

My values as an educator influence everything that I’ve done, from the type of work that I write, to the type of projects that I’ve helped organize. I believe in using the arts to educate people and to spark conversation. In the wake of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd issues, I’ve released a series of free plays called Free Plays Open Source Scripts for an Anti-Racist Tomorrow aimed at multi-generational readers to create conversations about race, racism, and Black History. 

Why do you feel what you do is important? 

I think that issues like racism are taught and passed down through generations, and are centuries old. Only in recent times has the general public become familiar with the terms Black Lives Matter and anti-racism. It’s going to take some time to teach these things and to unlearn negative points of view and perspectives. I believe that the Arts are a powerful way to do that. We can facilitate spaces where people can gather to tell their story, and listen to others. I believe that it’s only through education that the world becomes better. It is how we can become better stewards of the world and of each other. 

What do you love most about what you do? 

I love people. I find humanity very fascinating, wonderful, and frustrating. We are capable of beautiful and  terrible things. I believe that the Arts are an examination of the human experience, and I love being a part of that. 

What is the best advice you ever received about your impact on education? 

Starting out, I was a very young educator, and—like a lot of young educators are—I was somewhat insecure. Though I am still workin on that at times, I learned to go in and just began to talk to people and ask questions. The best advice I ever received was to learn about the power of listening. It is important to be an active listener and show people that you care about what they are saying by paying attention. It can be so much more powerful than what you say to them. 

What advice would you have for future generations? 

I would tell the future generations that we all have a responsibility to this world. People fought for us to enjoy the life that we have now, and it is also our duty to play our part for the next generation. We all have our dues to pay to humanity.

I would also tell them to learn from other human beings by watching and observing them.  Whether you are an educator or not, you still are teaching others every day by your actions.  There’s always someone younger than you who is watching and learning from you, whether you like it or not. 

You may as well be aware of that, and pay attention to what it is that you’re teaching. What are you passing down? What are you leaving as your legacy? You can have a positive or negative influence on the world, but that is your choice. 

Written by Talisa Caldwell 

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Jonhda Starling | Creative

Artists who are versatile acapable of creating visual elements for novels, children’s storybooks, comic books, graphic novels, infographs, and can create designs for tattoo flash, vectors for silkscreening apparel. Can sometimes take on the role of Graphic Designer for Brand Identity palettes. Services for murals and canvas paintings available for personal use and business.

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Enough to start

By, Isam Itson III

Matthew 14:14-18 –When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. 15 Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 

One of the things that North Americans take great pride in is being “plain spoken”. We do not place much value on formal speech or manners in everyday life. We are busy, hard working,  people who have important things to get done. Sometimes we forget the basic courtesies as we go about our daily lives. 

We have a job to do. If we fail to say “hello”, “excuse me”, or “thank you” don’t hold it against us. We are just focused on getting things done. We don’t mean any personal offense. We are just average people doing the best we can for ourselves and our families. We don’t have the time, energy, or resources to do anything about the problems other people face. We can barely deal with the problems we face in our own lives. This outlook makes it very difficult for us to see that God intends to use us to meet the most basic needs of others. 

According to Genesis 1:26-28, the “average” person, the “regular” person, is made in God’s image. We are all made to function as God’s co-rulers on earth. God made us to work together as agents of his wise, loving, and life giving presence throughout the earth. And God has given us everything we need to get the job done. This is what the authors of the scriptures mean when they refer to God’s people as priests and kings. 

Every common person has been made by God and redeemed in Jesus Christ for royal responsibility as God’s ordained representative. We honor that truth when we take the time to see and acknowledge each other as we go about the business of our daily lives. This is how we begin 

God does not just want to do amazing things. God wants to do amazing things for others through the people who trust him as their lord, savior, and provider. Like the disciples of Jesus in this point of the story, many followers of Jesus Christ today only look to God for their “spiritual” needs. We look to ourselves for our material needs. God is a part of our religious lives. Jesus is revealing that  God is king over our whole life. God takes responsibility for meeting all of our needs as we give ourselves to doing his business in the world around us.

God created us for a full life on this earth as his co-rulers. God created us to take responsibility and help meet each other’s God given needs. Now he wants us to work together extending the impact of God’s way of life into more and more communities and societies. To take this step we need to experience God’s faithfulness to provide what we need to fulfill God’s purpose for us as we go about God’s business. 

So Jesus leads us into personal and social situations that are impossible for us to manage by means of the resources at our immediate disposal. God leads us into situations that are too big for us to manage on our own or with the help of other people. God leads us into situations that only he can manage. Then God calls us to come alongside him and use what he has already provided for us as a part of his miraculous work.

As followers of Jesus Christ we are so often focused on what we lack, that we cannot begin to imagine being used as God’s primary instrument to bless others in situations beyond our immediate resources. Like the disciples, we often have prior experience of God stretching us and using us, (Mathew 10, Luke 9:1-6). And like the disciples, we need to be stretched further. That is what Jesus is doing in this passage. He is stretching the trust of his disciples in his ability to meet their most basic needs.

Jesus wants us to be moved with compassion like he is moved with compassion. He wants us to see the people around us and face their most basic needs. Then Jesus wants us to come to him with what we already possess, as paltry as it is in light of the size of the problem we are facing.He wants us to pray and offer ourselves as his instrument. Then Jesus wants us to do what he says, moving out with what He blesses. He may use us directly. He may use another one of his followers directly. Either way, he wants us to see others and be moved to act. The key is trusting God’s sufficient grace for the moment. We need to grow in faith regarding our own needs, and the needs of others. The multitudes were not fed forever; they were fed for the moment. They too would be challenged to continue trusting God for their provision.

God is the provider, not us. We are simply the instruments of his deliverance. Do we believe that with God’s help, we can do anything God calls us to do, as we follow his direction step by step? Even if he only reveals one step at a time?

In response

1. Come to Jesus with the needs of those around us.

2. Pursue Him in prayer until He answers.

3. Obediently and faithfully, act on what Jesus tells us to do.

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By, Isam Itson III

Matthew 13:23  –  “As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word (of the kingdom) and understands it.”

 I enjoy seeing a well tended garden, and I have the utmost respect for independent family farmers. I have even worked with family members and friends in their gardens and on their farms. But,  I am not a farmer. I am not even a gardener. I do not enjoy “working on the land.”

I have learned one thing over the years though. Good soil does not happen by accident. It takes a lot of time, energy, and attention to keep soil productive year in and year out. The potting soil my wife buys for her flower beds is full of dead plant material. Our neighbors who practice composting fill their compost pile with their waste vegetable matter from their kitchen, manure from chickens,  and even add waste wood and paper to sustain the life of the microorganisms that eat and break down the plant matter in their compost pile. People have even turned some toxic industrial waste sites into healthy and fertile urban farm plots by patiently building compost over contaminated sites. 

In the story that Jesus is explaining in this passage, it is understood by his audience that good soil is soil that has already been prepared and worked by the farmer. Good soil is full of old plant material. It is well watered and loosened to receive and nourish the seeds the farming is spreading. The seed in this story is the word of the kingdom of God. 

How does God enrich the soil of our hearts? He allows us to experience the consequences of our self centered efforts to pursue life by our own wisdom and strength. He allows us to experience our inability to maintain control over the outcomes in our own lives and the lives of our loved ones. He allows us to suffer tragedy and disaster in spite of our best efforts to keep ourselves free from heartache. 

When we finally give up on our own efforts, then we are ready to allow God to begin working on us. He breaks our hard hearts and turns over the dead undergrowth of our futile efforts. Over time the wisdom of his word and the love of his Spirit turns our former shame and pain into a vessel for the fulfillment of God’s glorious and distinct purpose for us.

In the words of Isaiah the prophet in Isaiah 61:3, God gives us the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a beautiful headdress in exchange for our ashes. And we become oaks of righteousness and the planting of the Lord. But for this great and glorious transformation to take place in our lives, we must patiently and surrender to the work of  God’s Spirit in our hearts. 

Then God plants his word in our hearts. The word of the kingdom of God reveals our need for salvation from sin and an intimate relationship with our sovereign God. Followers of Jesus Christ understand and accept their absolute and unending dependence upon God and their need for relationship to one another, through Jesus Christ. As we read the rest of the parables in Matthew 13, we realize that embracing this truth is worth more than any material or social value our culture can give us.

Whatever we have to give up to gain Christ, is worth it. Nothing can be compared to the love of God that is offered to us in Jesus Christ. If Jesus is not worth everything to us, then He is worth nothing to us.

The exclusive claim of God as our sole source of life, love and wisdom is a bitter pill to our sense of self sufficiency and pride of place in life. It deals a fatal blow to any aspect of our personal identity beyond “child and servant of God”. We hate the fact that embracing our fundamental weakness is absolutely necessary for our relationship with God to be fruitful and nourishing to those around us.

We have to be honest with ourselves. We have to admit that we want to define life and God on our terms. Only then can we humble ourselves and accept the fact that God defines and sustains life on his terms. Apart from God working in our lives to reveal our inherent powerlessness, the word of his love and purpose for our lives is meaningless. 

In response

1. Thank God that even when we are at our worst Jesus Christ offered on the cross is the measure of God’s love for us. 

2. Thank God that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.

3. Trust that what God provides is sufficient for the fulfillment of His purpose for our life, today.

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Do You Speak Energy Fluently

Can music make a difference in your work performance? Are you aware of the energy in the room? How can a listener stop playing games with his partner and asks for what he wants to know? These questions and more will be answered in this episode.

Upcoming Events:

Black Coffee TalkMoon Meditation Magic Black Wealth NOW Masterclass Part III: Heal Your Money WoundsSpeak with Confidence: Use Your Voice to Get What You Desire 

Mimi the Motivator is the modern-day Master Teacher, a dynamic Speaker, Educator, and Coach who empowers all to create the life and business desired. The host of “Get High On Motivation” is on a mission is to educate, empower and equip the minority community through her platforms of self-education, Holistic Health, and Universal laws. The vision is to institute a cycle of generational and community wealth in historically economically challenged families and communities.

Mimi the Motivator is the modern-day Master Teacher, a dynamic Speaker, Educator, and Coach who empowers all to create the life and business desired. The host of “Get High On Motivation” is on a mission is to educate, empower and equip the minority community through her platforms of self-education, Holistic Health, and Universal laws. The vision is to institute a cycle of generational and community wealth in historically economically challenged families and communities.

Support the show ($mimileut)

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By, Isam Itson III

Matthew 12:1-8 – At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” 3 He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? 6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

Mercy and grace are the clearest expressions of justice and righteousness in a fallen world, among people in need of salvation and followers of Christ in need of encouragement. Remember from Matthew chapter 1, the goal of Jesus’ coming is the salvation of God’s people from their sins. God’s goal in our creation, redemption and ultimate glorification is life with him and each other, forever. As disciples of Jesus Christ, the proper response to someone who is weak or broken flows from a soft and open heart. Harsh responses are saved for the hard hearted, self-righteous person, who identifies as a leader of God’s people. 

So much of our time and energy outside of work and home can be spent on church life with church people. Our meditations too easily focus on making church more suited for ourselves, than making Christ more available to others. The fruit of this mindset is more frustration with our fellow congregants, and less joy and thanksgiving in their being with us. It is a subtle but disastrous slip from joy in the righteousness of Christ on our behalf, to satisfaction with our self-righteousness and seeking the approval of others. 

Self righteousness is an expression of self justification. Self justification is an expression of our desire to be in control without regard for our accountability to God, or our responsibility in relationship to others. Self righteousness and self justification are the direct consequence of living as if we answer only to ourselves. They lead us down a path in life that denies the presence and power of God. This is the heart of sin and the root of all evil, cruelty, and wickedness in our world. And it is the heart of sin that battles for dominance in the heart of every follower of Jesus Christ. 

The remedy for the evil rooted in our own hearts is refocusing on the love, grace, mercy, and power of God toward us revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Purposefully turning our thoughts throughout our day to the fact that God is with us right now, wherever we are, whoever we are with, and whatever we are doing. Nothing can separate us from the love and presence of God revealed in Jesus Christ. There is no place on earth where God is not present and active. There is no tyrannical power on earth that can ultimately overcome the power of God at work in and through the people of God.

As followers of Jesus Christ, God’s presence, love, power, and faithfulness inspires us to obey God. In obedience to God we help each other fulfill the purpose of God in the world around us. In pursuit of God’s purpose we love one another no matter what it costs us in time, status, or financial gain. Our lives are in God’s hands, not our own. We are products of God’s craftsmanship created in Jesus Christ to pursue God’s good works. We answer to God for how we spend our lives, not to ourselves. And thanks be to God in Jesus Christ, God has already given us his seal of approval, his promised Holy Spirit living within us. We don’t have to prove anything to anybody. God already approves of us. We are free to live for God honoring his mercy, love and grace for one another.

In response

1. Remember often, what God has done for all people in Jesus Christ.

2. Thank God for his faithfulness revealed in Jesus Christ.

3. In prayer, trust God to guide and keep ourselves, our loved ones, and our enemies, in the center of His will.

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Is anything happening?

By, Isam Itson III

Matthew 11:2-6 – Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” 

In the face of the chaos, corruption, and destruction that plagues life on earth we rightly look to the people who rule over our societies for solutions. We recognize their responsibility for the decisions that negatively impact our lives. “If they weren’t so greedy.” “If they weren’t so unreasonable and closed minded.” “If they weren’t such cowards.” Sound familiar?

When our rulers break enough promises or life in our societies become too chaotic, we protest, rally, and even revolt in an effort to change the hearts, minds, and personnel in charge. Out with the old. In with the new. This is what the promise of Messiah represented to the people of Israel in the time of Jesus. A new king, a new head of government, who would establish a glorious, just and righteous kingdom for all of the people on earth. 

But over time, John the Baptist and his disciples had become confused by Jesus’ ministry program. The popular understanding of Messiah was that he would liberate the nation from Roman rule and reign from Jerusalem over the entire earth. Faithful Israel will be vindicated and all unrighteousness and injustice will cease. Jesus was moving way too slow.

Jesus reminded the people in his First Coming that God’s motivation behind the execution of his judgment is saving people from the power of sin and death. In Matthew chapter 1, the angel told Joseph that Jesus would save the people from their sins. The message of John the Baptist and Jesus was “repent,  for the kingdom of heaven is near.” The signs that Jesus pointed John’s disciples to were the people Jesus liberated from the power of sin and death. Jesus pointed to the fact that because of him people were now able to live for God freely among the people of God. Those marked as unclean and outcast were made clean and reincorporated into the community at large, by the power of Jesus’ word.

God was not working from the top down through Jesus. God was asserting his supreme power and authority through Jesus and his followers among those at the bottom. Jesus doing what the Roman and Jewish authorities, even the religious authorities, were unable to do. Jesus and his disciples were using their God given power and authority to transform the lives of the people society had left behind. Jesus was not leading a revolution. Jesus and his followers were living in light of the eternal and invincible rule of God over his creation, among the most disreputable people in Jewish society. They were spending their time, and energy on and among those society deemed cursed and hopeless. 

Their impact shone a light upon the impotence and self serving nature of humans exercising authority apart from submission to God. Jesus and his disciples revealed that the problem in our society was not poverty or ignorance or corrupt government. The problem was everyday people living without trust in the powerful, faithful, and loving presence of God. Jesus revealed that God was with them. Jesus revealed that there was no earthly or human power that could overcome people who trusted God’s loving wisdom, mercy, and grace. Jesus revealed that God had a purpose and responsibility for everyone to fulfill in this life.

The warning for those of us who identify with God in Jesus Christ is not to be offended that God’s first priority is not the destruction of our cultural enemies. God’s first priority is the salvation of his enemies  for life within his kingdom. 2 Peter 3:9 states that God does not desire that any should perish, but all should come to repentance. Romans 2 :4 states, it is the kindness of God that leads to repentance.

We are called to speak the truth in love. We are called to represent God among those whom society dismisses. When people question our motives and activities as believers, we persuade them with our faithful testimony of the liberating and transforming power of God in and through our lives. Just like Jesus did for John’s disciples.

In response

1. Love one another, no matter what. According to Jesus this is the one commandment that makes us stand out the most as his followers. (John 15:12,17)

2. As God gives you opportunity, spend your time and energy helping others experience the power, presence, and love of God. Especially those who are overlooked, discounted, and dismissed by your society at large.

3. Accept the fact that everyone will not understand or embrace your new priorities.

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As we go

By, Isam Itson III

Matthew 10:14 – “And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.”

Even people who don’t know God know that the ills and conflicts that plague our lives and societies are evil. Death, disaster, and destruction are evil. Even if we can temporarily secure ourselves against disaster and destruction we cannot overcome the inevitability of death and loss. We do everything within our power to stay alive and we die anyway. We are ultimately powerless in the face of death. 

Poverty, distress, disease, and rejection signify the pervasive presence and power of death. In response to this truth most of us spend our lives sheltering ourselves from the signs of death. We strive to secure ourselves financially against poverty. We buy insurance for everything. We either seek independence from the opinion of others through tribal isolation, or we sacrifice our integrity in a vain attempt to have everybody love and value us. No matter what we achieve or accumulate, no matter who loves us, we cannot escape death, decay, and destruction. We cannot save ourselves from loss and death. We are not in control. We have no real power over our own lives. In this life we are vulnerable to circumstances and the decisions of people beyond our influence or control.

In the face of this real danger, Jesus sends his followers into the world with the good news of God’s kingdom. God is in charge and God is with us. We are not alone. God holds our lives in his hands. God works in our lives and through our lives to fulfill his purpose for all of creation. God provides all of our material and relational necessities for the fulfillment of his purpose for our lives. 

Though we are vulnerable to death and destruction like everybody else, God’s followers live with the assurance that death is merely a transition into the infinite and eternal presence of God. We can trust God with our lives because he has given his life for us in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because Jesus passed through death into life, we have the assurance of the same experience for ourselves. We can overcome our fear of suffering and death by trusting in the grace of God revealed in Jesus Christ. By the grace of God we can overcome the evil that results from our fear filled choices and from the fear filled choices of our fellow humans.

Through faith in Jesus God has given us the vision, ability, and authority to do great things in the world. Every human being has the capacity to use what God has given them to love and trust God with their lives and to honor God’s love for other people by virtue of his Holy Spirit living within them. This shift in our focus and intention hangs upon our trust in God’s love and faithfulness to provide for our physical, social, and material needs.

Our sympathy and empathy for one another grows out of our trust in God. We are not free to faithfully consider others until we are certain of our own safety. “What about our children?” “What about my spouse?” “What about my brothers and sisters?” “What about me?” Even as followers of Jesus Christ we still have to wrestle with our personal concerns for the cares of this life. But we do not have to be held back by our fears.

Our fear for our own lives and the lives of our loved ones keeps us from spending our lives as a blessing to others in obedience to God and service to one another. If this is so difficult for those of us who have experienced God’s love in our lives, how much more difficult is it for those who have not yet experienced God’s presence and power? How can we expect them to trust God with their lives in the face of the very real dangers of life? By loving one another and reaching out to others in spite of our fears. As representatives of God, followers of Jesus Christ have to prepare themselves for the inevitability of personal loss and rejection as we live in light of the presence of God and proclaim the rule of God within this world that is still subject to death and decay. 

This is the setting for Jesus’ instruction to his disciples in Matthew 10. People who follow Jesus identify closely with Jesus. So Jesus is telling his disciples not to take the rejection of his message personally. Put it quickly behind them and move on until someone perceives the hope and value of the offer of everlasting life in God’s kingdom.

In 1 Corinthians 9:22, the apostle Paul wrote that he had become all things to all men, that by all means he might save some. And Jesus shared with his disciples in John 6:44 that no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws them. So as followers of Jesus Christ we put time, energy, prayer, and care into sharing the life transforming power of the Gospel with others. Knowing they may reject our message. Perhaps even demeaning us in the process. All it means is that God has not yet drawn them close enough. 

With all respect just move along if someone is not ready to accept your expression of the love, wisdom, power, and faithfulness of God. We cannot give in to the temptation to take personal offense at their rejection.  They are rejecting the offer of God’s grace, not ours.

When we move on peacefully and respectfully we are honoring God’s sovereignty and his gift of free will. God will keep working on them. We can still pray for them, but we need not be anxious over them. God loves them more than we do. We are responsible for our own choices, and accountable to God for how we spend our lives, but we have no control over the choices of others. 

So we move on trusting God’s love, grace, and power displayed on their behalf in Jesus Christ. If honoring God’s love for others costs us time, energy, money, reputation, or even our lives, what is that in comparison with the life God has given us in Jesus Christ? Just brush the dust off, and move along, with all love and respect.

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An open heart

By, Isam Itson III

Matthew 9:10-13 – And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

“I am right.” That simple sentence sums up the heart of my self righteousness and sense of superiority. “They are wrong.” I use that simple sentence to justify my contempt and my sense of self importance. Those words and attitudes keep me separated from the very people Jesus has called us to bless and to serve. 

All of us who have bowed the knee to Jesus Christ know that we were sinners in need of grace. Over time as our lives become more and more defined by the habits and rhythms of the Christian life we tend to take that fact for granted. That is when we are in danger of losing focus on the fact that without God ‘s grace we are still captive to our sinful, selfish hearts. 

Many of the commands of the Law in Deuteronomy were affirmed by the warning to stay mindful that the children of Israel had been slaves in Egypt. The apostle Paul grew more mindful of the depth and severity of his own imperfection as he grew closer to God over the course of his lifetime. By the end of his life he defined himself as the “chief of all sinners”. God has been gracious to us and he calls us to be gracious to others. 

We too easily lose sight of the fact that we are all always helpless without God’s loving, wise, attentive, and powerful presence in our lives. We need God and we need each other. No one is beyond God’s reach, so no one is unworthy of our attention. We are not more holy or worthy because of anything we have done. We stand where we stand by the grace of God. Period. We add nothing to our standing with God by our good works. 

Daily, our starting point must be the grace of God in the moment. No matter how long we have been following Christ we can do nothing for the glory of God, without God’s loving, attentive, and immediate presence. The beauty of this truth is that when someone accuses us of something terrible we have done we can fearlessly say “yes, that was me.” or, “yes I did that. Please forgive me.” Even more confidently we can encourage ourselves, “Thank God for his grace.” “Thank God, that he loves me.” This is the freedom of submitting to the judgment of God. 

By letting God define us, we can confidently affirm God’s declaration of our righteousness in Jesus Christ. And when we do sin as believers and confess our sins to God, we know he forgives us. There may still be social and even legal consequences, but our relationship with God remains secure. His grace is sufficient, and nothing can separate us from the love of God for us that is in Christ Jesus. 

I believe this is the hardest truth for many followers of Christ to accept, because it is the last stronghold of our self-righteous and sinful hearts. Therefore, nothing glorifies God more than forgiving and embracing the honest sinner. It reminds us that apart from God, no matter how good we are, we still have no hope. God only works meaningfully through people who know they are hopeless and helpless without him. Just like everybody else.

In response

1.Know that everything in your life comes from God and belongs to God.

2. Therefore, meditate on the fact that God defines everything and only his opinion matters. We define nothing.

3. Never grieve over your past sins without rejoicing in God ‘s immediate and everlasting grace.

4. Be more and more quick to extend grace to those who sin against you.

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Faith in action

By, Isam Itson III

Matthew 8:5-10 – When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, 6 “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” 7 And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 8 But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.

I do not like it when people disagree with me. Depending on how strongly I feel about my opinion or how well I slept the night before, I might even become angry with them for not seeing things my way. I can waste hours, even days, fussing and fuming over their lack of reason or empathy. When I slow down long enough God reminds me that they answer to him, not to me. They do not have to agree with me.

We are all people to whom God has given authority to rule. God has created us and redeemed us to take responsibility for the well being of other people and the realm of earth as representatives of his power, love, and presence. And God holds us accountable to how well we represent him. But we have no control over how other people respond or react to us. Though there are real consequences, they are free to say no to us.

The centurion who came to Jesus for the healing of his servant, recognized that the real issue with Jesus was a matter of authority. He did not just come seeking a miracle. He came acknowledging the sovereignty of Jesus Christ. The centurion had the clearest vision of Jesus to this point in Jesus’ ministry. He knew Jesus was in charge and accepted Jesus’ authority.

Recognizing and bowing to God’s presence with us and authority over us  is at the heart of our faith. We know one of the main reasons the Pharisees had trouble seeing Jesus clearly was because of the fact that Jesus refused to bow to their authority.  Often, we have trouble walking with God because God refuses to do things our way. By extension, we often have trouble with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ because they fail to see things exactly our way. This even extends to our preferences in song selection by the worship leader, the pastor’s preaching style, and the church policies ratified by the church board.

There is no authority except that which has been established by God. God sets one in authority and removes another. Trusting God as supremely sovereign is a great test of our faith when we do not agree with decisions made by those he has placed in authority over us. That is true in how we respond to  our political leaders, but it is especially true of how we respond to our church leaders. 

God expresses his overarching authority over the earth indirectly through human beings. He gives every human the power and authority to serve him as a means of grace and blessing to one another. God does not give us power and authority to serve our own ends. He has not blessed us with power, vision, and intelligence for the fulfillment of our self serving desires. God has created us and redeemed us in Jesus Christ to honor his love, not to indulge our lust for power and control. 

Voluntary submission of our God given power and authority to those whom God has placed in temporary positions of authority over us is vital to the growth of our trust in God.  Submission to their authority teaches us how to recognize and submit to God’s supreme and immediate authority. Their presence in our lives trains us to value and recognize God’s presence in our lives. God is in charge, not me. My life is in his hands, not my own. God covers me. I do not have to cover myself. I simply have to use the life, wisdom, talents, and opportunities that God has given me to bless others in his name. 

Do we trust God with his training of our church leaders? Are we willing to suffer long, to be patient with them and keep my heart open toward them,  as they grow in their faith? Are we willing to trust God and pray for our church leaders as God works on their hearts and renews their minds? In other words, are we willing to be as gracious with the people whom God has placed in authority over us, as God has been gracious to us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the powerful presence of his Holy Spirit within us?

In response

1. Pray for the leadership of your congregation and community.

2. Pray that they would accept and act upon the wisdom of God.

3. Graciously submit to their oversight until they mature, or God removes them.

4. Stay faithful in your God given service in the church, at work, and in your community at large.

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Reject rejection

By, Isam Itson III

Matthew 7:6 – “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” 

Recently I saw a father shopping in the store with his two small children. The youngest was around two years old. He was pushing the shopping cart while she was walking between his legs, holding on to the bottom of the basket, and crying angrily. He stopped walking and picked her up. She almost fell to the ground as she twisted around in his arms and grabbed hold of the handle of the shopping cart. Her father was barely holding on to her legs while she was suspended parallel to the ground. But she did not want to let go of the handle. She got what she wanted.

The child wanted to hold the same handle as her father was holding. But she was too small. The father could not navigate through the store allowing his child to steer while he held her legs. He knew better than her. But that did not stop her from being angry with him when he made her let go and placed her inside the basket. 

As  disciples of  Jesus Christ, God leads us through many circumstances that refine our faith and increase our wisdom. Sometimes we see people making choices contrary to what God has graciously revealed to us through our life experience and the teaching of his word. We rightly desire to share with them what God has so freely revealed to us. We don’t want them to experience unnecessary pain or difficulty. We know their desired choice of action will not work out well for them.

Sometimes though, people are not always ready to accept our offer. Whether they are a family member, co-worker, or fellow church member, we are often tempted to take their rejection of our offer to help them personally. With God’s help, we must do our best to keep our hearts and minds open to those who reject our offer of advice.

All of us at one time were not open to the good news that God is with us and we can trust him with our lives. And if we are honest, at various times since submitting to God and putting our faith in Jesus Christ we have been resistant to counsel from other people that later proved to be very wise. Thankfully, most of us received grace from our elder brothers and sisters in Christ when we were too immature, shortsighted, or proud to accept their counsel. 

When Jesus speaks of us not casting our pearls before swine  and  treating others  the way we want to be treated, he is really just instructing us to treat others the way God has treated us. Over time and through the ups and downs of life, the hardest heart may be softened toward God. Or not. God accepts this fact, and we also need to accept it. In the meantime, we just need to stay on point, honoring God with our own choices, and trusting his infinite love for others to bring them around. Or not. No matter how much we love someone, God loves them more. Their resistance is a test of our faith in God’s power, wisdom, love, and faithfulness to everybody.

In response

1. Thank God for revealing his wisdom for life to you, and live in light of  his wisdom.

2. Accept that other people have the right to reject your input.

3. Keep loving others as they grow in their relationship with Christ.

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God is our dad

By, Isam Itson III

Matthew 6:9 – Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

Matthew 6:30-33 – if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 

None of us is ever alone. All of us are alive today because of the presence and attention of others throughout our lives. Our mothers are with us when we are born. Our fathers, mothers, and siblings live with us and provide for our needs. They spend their time, energy, and money clothing us, feeding us, and teaching us how to live. They look out for us and guide us through life until we are able to navigate the world in light of the lessons they have taught us and the habits they have cultivated within us. We walk with them until the day we die. 

 Even if your mother abandoned you and you never knew your father, someone else took their place. I know this because you are reading this article. For better or worse we cannot live in isolation. Our survival depends upon people who provide for us and teach us how to live. Their voices and examples guide us throughout our life. 

Again and again Jesus refers to God as our heavenly Father. The apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 8:15 that we have received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out to God, Abba!  or Daddy! This awareness is the revelation of Jesus Christ. That the creator God, enthroned in glory and holiness, has a tender heart and attentive ear in relationship to us. He is our Father to be revered and our Daddy to be loved and trusted.

So, we need to relate to God as a loving, present, and attentive father. Honoring him, that it may go well with us and we may live a long life on the earth, and loving him, because he first loved us, giving the life of his only begotten Son for our sake. We know this because we have received his Holy Spirit who now lives within us and guides us in light of the truth of God’s word. 

Knowing God loves us and is with us is the heart of following Jesus Christ. Knowing that in Christ, God has fulfilled all of his promises to his people, forever. Through Christ, God has restored our relationship, with himself and each other. Now, we are free to live the life for which God has created us.

Whatever we need to fulfill his purposes, he will certainly provide, in his time, in his way, and according to his wisdom. And we can trust him because we know, daddy loves us and knows what is best for us. We are never alone. Thankfully, God is always with us. Even when we are by ourselves.

In response

1. Meditate on the paternal nature of God ‘s love and presence throughout the day, every day.

2. Cherish the privilege of your relationship with God as your heavenly Father.

3. Respond to (a) others, (b) life’s challenges, and (c) opportunities, in a way that honors God’s loving faithful presence and his good  name.

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Loving our enemies

By, Isam Itson III

Matthew 5:44, 45 – But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

I want to put my enemies in their place. I want to lash out at people who insult and belittle my sensibilities and way of life. The most difficult test of my trust in God throughout the time of Covid restrictions has been not passing judgment on confessing Christians who disagree with me. Sometimes I pass the test. Sometimes I fail the test. Then I remember God’s faithfulness to me. Sun and rain are blessings to people who live in agricultural societies. No sun, no rain, no harvest. No harvest, no food. No food, no life. God lovingly gives life, and light to everyone. God wants to transform me and the rest of his followers into people who honor his depth of love and faithfulness for others.

In Matthew 7: 12, Jesus says that treating others the way we want to be treated is the sum of the Law and the Prophets. In Matthew 22:35-40 Jesus identified love for our neighbor as ourselves, as the second greatest commandment. In Luke l 0:25-38 Jesus reveals that loving God with our whole being and loving our neighbors as we love ourselves is necessary for inheriting eternal life. When asked the question of who qualifies as a neighbor, Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan.

In that story the Samaritan showed mercy to the Jew. In historical context we know that Jews looked at Samaritans as unclean dogs. So when Jesus says love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, he means those people that look at us like we are dogs. Those people who disrespect us and disregard us. Jesus says that when we love our enemies we show that we are children of our Father in heaven.

 How does God transform our hearts? He allows us to experience his love for us through the faithfulness of other followers of Jesus Christ. This encourages our own trust and faith in God. Then he calls us to meditate upon his word and the meaning of his word for our daily lives. Then he calls us to express ourselves to him and to listen to him as we pray and turn our attention to his presence with us throughout the day and into the night. 

Then God does the thing that tries my love, faith, and patience the most. He draws me into the path of people who offend my conscience and sensibilities. I hear them on the news. I see them on my social media feeds. I encounter them at work and around town. Every one of those encounters reveals how much my heart and mind is focused on God’s presence with me and his love and purpose for me. Every one of those encounters is an opportunity to trust God and become more like Jesus in my actions and attitude toward myself and others. Each one of those encounters is a reminder of how much time and space that God continues to give me to find my sense of peace in his loving presence while his desires are becoming my desires. Then he calls me to extend that same grace to others.

As followers of Jesus Christ our whole focus is glorifying God. Don’t be surprised when God calls you to be merciful and gracious with difficult, inconsiderate, or even willfully hurtful people. God gives us these encounters so that we can practice our righteous calling. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this, while we were still sinners Christ died for us,” Romans 5:8.

Loving people who do not love us is critical to reflecting the love of God toward others, because that is how we first experienced God’s love for us. On the front end this practice is humiliating. Upon our obedient surrender to God, and for the sake of God ‘s  name, this practice is liberating for our souls and deadly to the pride that keeps us from growing closer to God in Jesus Christ.

In response

1. Every day, ask God to fill you with his Holy Spirit so you can be kind to others.

2. Meditate on the value of sinful hurtful people to God. He considers them worth the life of Jesus Christ, so certainly we can lay down our lives for their sake.

3. Think about that person that really makes you angry and pray for God to be merciful and gracious to them. And make yourself available to God to be used for their benefit.

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Let’s go

By, Isam Itson III

Matthew 4:18-20 – While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him.

The fishermen were rough men with calloused hands and sun darkened faces. In Luke 5:1-11 we learn that Jesus had preached to a crowd on the shore from one of the boats while Peter and his crew were  washing their nets after a full night of fishing. When Jesus finished teaching the crowds he asked Peter to put out into the deep and drop his nets. 

Peter was an experienced fisherman. He knew that what Jesus was asking him to do made no sense. You always fish at night. But because he respected Jesus, Peter followed his lead. And the catch of fish was the biggest he had ever seen. His crew could barely pull the nets in and they needed help from some nearby boats to pull the haul to shore. 

At this point of miraculous God given success in his business, Jesus called Peter and Andrew to follow him and start reaching out to people in his name. Jesus wants to do things in our lives that are miraculous beyond our wildest imagination. He wants to meet us where we live, show us we can trust his provision for us, and begin transforming us into agents and representatives of his kingdom. 

Jesus does not demand that we submit to his will. He invites us to surrender to his will for our good, the good of others, and the praise of God’s glory. Peter heard Jesus’ words. He followed Jesus’ lead in his business. He experienced the power, faithfulness, and wisdom of Jesus while he was still a fisherman. Then, Peter realized he could trust Jesus with his life. 

Followers of Christ are called into the extraordinary while living their ordinary lives. Peter was not trained for teaching the scriptures or public speaking. He was  not a recognized spiritual powerhouses in the community. He was a  regular person presented with an extraordinary opportunity, and he trusted that Jesus could do something beyond his own ability or life experience.

Our past does not matter. Our willingness to trust God with our lives and livelihood and to move forward today matters.  Do we trust God enough to follow Him into the unknown? Are we willing to move forward step by step? Will we stick with Jesus no matter what? When we blow it, will we humble ourselves, repent, and move forward? Followers of Jesus Christ trust him to do the impossible in spite of their imperfections. Don ‘t underestimate what God can do through someone you may think is hopeless or beyond redemption. Especially if that person is you.

In response

1. Ask God what he wants you to do.

2. Follow his lead in pursuit of what he reveals to you.

3. Treat everyone you meet as honored by God and potentially fit for God’s work.

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Trial by fire

By, Isam Itson III

Matthew 4:1-4 – Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”

Fellow follower of Jesus Christ I must confess…I hate this part of the story. Mainly because it leaves me with no self-justifying excuse when I sin against God. Jesus followed the certain direction of God and the place God led him was far from “blessed “. Jesus was in a dry, desolate, lonely place, fasting and waiting on the Father to reveal Himself. For forty days he heard nothing. Then, when someone did show up, it was the Devil.  It was not until after the time of testing by God through the temptation of the Devil, that Jesus was ministered to by the angels. Only then, did he experience God’s immediate blessing.

Fasting demands that we focus more purposefully upon God and meditate more deeply upon His word to us. In the process we become more sensitive to our need for God and hopefully, more grateful for His presence with us. Yet, the overwhelming majority of us, myself included, are more inclined to question God when He leads us into situations where our fundamental weakness is exposed. Just beneath the surface, our primary preoccupation is with our physical circumstances, material security, and social status. If any of that is jeopardized we practically turn our backs on God, rather than focusing more purposefully upon God and meditating more attentively upon God’s word.

The other part that troubles me about this passage is that God led Jesus into this desperate situation. When I think of God leading me I think of fulfillment, success, and accomplishment. I think of a life where all of my needs are comfortably accounted for and all of my desires are satisfied. But this sounds more like Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

This is the psalm that starts with “The Lord is my shepherd.” Shepherds lead their flock from the front. Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit of God. He was not alone. Jesus fasted and prayed and meditated on the scriptures for forty days and nights. He was alone with God and his human weakness for forty days and nights. He faced the depth of his human limitations for forty days and nights. He humbled himself before God for forty days and nights. He was exposed to the elements for forty days and nights. And God was with him the whole time. 

As followers of Jesus Christ we do not have easier lives than people who do not follow Christ. We do not escape the experience of tragedy and loss. God does not keep us from experiencing the shame and despair we feel in the face of our weakness and failures. God does not shield us from betrayal, mockery, and disappointment. 

The difference is God leads us, stands with us, and embraces us through our times of confusion, grief, disappointment, and despair. In moments of crisis our temptation is to take our lives into our own hands as if God is no longer with us and no longer faithful. Will we trust in God to our last breath, or will we look to ourselves? Will we continue to live for God, no matter what it costs us in status, time, or treasure? Or will we give in to our fears and spend our lives covering ourselves no matter what it costs the people around us?  If Jesus had given in to the temptation to cover himself, no one would be writing or talking about him today.

Part of our testimony as Christ followers is that God’s grace through Jesus Christ frees us to live for God without fear of loss or death. We can only fully experience this truth when no one but God can help us. So rather than wringing our hands when we face desperate circumstances, let ‘s remember that God is with us. We are not alone. Let’s commit to drawing closer to God in prayer, and accepting more fully our essential dependence upon God and stay true to God through the hard times. 

In response:

1. Meditate on God’s word. Keep it simple. Consider what your immediate circumstances look like in light of God’s presence and glory.

2. Remember you are not the center of God’s program. You are a part of what God is doing for the glory of his name and the redemption of his creation.

3. Wait faithfully for God to answer your prayers while you continue to honor the depth of his love for others.
4. In all humility, thank God for his faithfulness in continuing to guide you into all truth and equip you for his work. Especially in the face of temptation.

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Active patience

By, Isam Itson III

Matthew 3:11 – “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

Luke 3:7-16 – He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 9 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” 

10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”

As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, 16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

Corruption and injustice are not modern problems in human societies. People have been taking advantage of their positions of authority as long as there have been people in positions of authority. There were people calling for the overthrow of Rome throughout Israel during the lifetime of John the Baptist. They were working for radical change in their society. But John did not rally the people for revolution. He called the people to personal repentance. 

John the Baptist called on people to stop exploiting their positions within the Roman system for personal gain at the expense of others. John called people in positions of authority to sacrificial service. He called people to live for God’s honor and to trust God with the fulfillment of their personal needs. He called them to live within their means and to bless others. 

Followers of God in Jesus Christ need the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist was looking ahead, preparing for Jesus to begin His work. John knew that his efforts were nothing without Jesus Christ coming to fill people with the Holy Spirit. Like John, God shows us things that must be dealt with in our personal lives, our worshipping communities, and our society at large. Also like John, we need to recognize that the timing of the commencement of God ‘s work through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit in our churches and society, is up to God Himself. 

As we wait for God to move through our societies and across our world, Jesus Christ fills us with his Holy Spirit so that we have the strength and wisdom to honor God’s love and consideration for the needs of others right now. God helps us trust him enough to bless others at our own expense as a lifestyle. What God provides today is enough to honor God and God’s love for others today. We trust God with our needs and strength for today, tomorrow, and every day after that.  

We easily grow anxious and discouraged as sin multiplies around us. We can even be tempted to “take matters into our own hands”, because “something must be done.” “Justice delayed is justice denied.” “No justice, no peace.” As followers of God we follow God’s lead. We get in line with what God is doing, the way God is doing it. We live with integrity. We speak the truth in love. We bless the people we encounter in our daily lives. We work on the ground and trust the timing of God’s intervention in the world from the top down.

Don ‘t give in to discouragement when God seems to be “taking his sweet time” answering your prayers or fulfilling his word. Stay faithful, trusting in God’s love, wisdom and power to act at the most opportune time. Even if that timing does not agree with your own estimation of the situation.  Do not be distracted by what is happening from the top of society down. Participate in what God is doing in society through his faithful followers from the ground up. 

In response

1. Identify those things that God has most recently shown  you to do in your own life  through His word and by His Spirit.

2. On a consistent basis, pray and ask God to help you love him and honor his love for others.

3. Trust God to provide for your legitimate needs while he works through you in the lives of the people around you. 

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Right this way

By, Isam Itson III

Matthew 2:1,2Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

Followers of God in Jesus Christ are called to reveal Jesus Christ to others. God wants everyone to worship Jesus. “For God does not desire that any should perish, but all should come to repentance.”(2 Peter 3:9). These wise men from Persia came to the court of King Herod looking for the one who was born “king of the Jews.” The Roman appointed king Herod did not know who they were talking about. When he consulted the Jewish religious leaders they said that according to the scriptures, the Messiah would be born in the town of Bethlehem. So they sent the royal advisers from the Persian court to search for Jesus on their own.

We do not want to be like the chief priests and the experts in the law who simply know the scriptures for themselves and are content with that. When people who do not yet follow God want to know what the Bible says or why we have faith in God what they are really seeking is an introduction to  Jesus Christ.

We listen patiently and show them how their point of interest or concern relates to Jesus Christ, because Jesus displays the love, grace, and wisdom of God. We join them on their journey, step by step, day by day, personally walking with them toward them to Jesus. Not simply providing a quick answer and sending them on their way. 

The chief priest and experts in the law should have gone with the wise men to seek out Jesus and worship Him. When people come to our churches, we do not always know who they are. We only know that they are looking for Jesus. We need to welcome them, encourage them and guide them in a manner that is true to the love of God for them revealed in Jesus Christ.

God has blessed us to work with him in drawing people to himself and delivering them to a fulfilling  and everlasting life with God from now until forever. We need to show up at church ready to engage fully with the people God sends us.

And if you don’t go to a local church…start going to a local church. And when you show up…take it upon yourself to greet the people around you. You might end up meeting someone who also came to church for the first time that Sunday, or you may end up meeting your next best friend. You never know. No promises. Taking a little extra time to focus on the people we encounter truly honors God ‘s love for them and leaves them with one less excuse to reject the love and lordship of Jesus Christ.

In response

1. Prepare your heart the night before you go to church.

1a. Acknowledge God’s sovereignty.

1b. Remember God ‘s faithfulness.

1c. Thank God for His goodness, mercy and grace in your life.

1d. Confess your sins.

1e. Trust God’s forgiveness.

1f. Ask God to fill you with his Spirit for the upcoming  church service.

2. Honor God’s love for the  people you encounter at church.

2a. Focus on them.

2b. Greet them.

2c. Listen to them.

2d. Lead them where they need to go, or help them find someone to help them.

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By, Isam Itson III

Matthew 1:16 and 17 “…and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.”

What can we learn from a list of names? The list of names in Matthew chapter 1 tells a follower of God in Jesus Christ that in spite of our faithlessness, our creator God is faithful. From the birth of his chosen people in Abraham, to the glory of David’s kingdom, to the exile in Babylon and upon the return from exile under the rule of pagan kings and emperors, every man and woman named in Jesus’ genealogy was just like us.

Some were completely faithless, and even the most faithful sinned horribly at times. Even though they were far from perfect God was faithful. He honored his role as our creator and fulfilled his promise to Abraham and David. He sent his perfect son, the Messiah, the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, into the world, through his chosen people Israel, when neither his people, nor the world at large, were worthy.

The second thing we learn is that God does not do everything we want him to do when we want him to do it. God calls us to love him and honor his love for others. While God is helping us do his work, God is working toward the fulfillment of his purpose for everything and everyone across all of time past and until the end of time.

Except for Mary, every person Matthew listed in his record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ died before Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead. They lived and died waiting for God to fulfill his promise to humanity in Genesis 3, to Abraham in Genesis 12, and to David in 2 Samuel 7. God moved toward the fulfillment of his promise over the course of thousands of years from our Fall from grace in the Garden in Eden until the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem toward the end of the reign of the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus. 

Some of the people listed in the genealogy lived during relatively peaceful and prosperous times. Others lived through the shame, pain, and disappointment of slavery, social decay, exile, and foreign occupation. God calls all of his people through all times to love him and honor his love for others no matter the temporary impact on their social status or material profit. 

So what does that mean for followers of Jesus Christ today? In his time and his way, God glorifies himself through his children. His power and faithfulness is displayed through our helplessness and weakness. Whatever we achieve, whatever we suffer, no matter how far we fall, no matter how weak we are, we do not ever need to be ashamed, or afraid of loss, or falling beyond the reach of God ‘s saving grace. God has made us to glorify him and fulfill his purpose. 

God’s power is perfected in our weakness, because it shows that God is in charge and we are not. God does not care about how much money we have, where we live, or what family we belong to. He wants us to trust him no matter our material or social circumstances. And when we are at our lowest 

God’s glory shines the brightest.  So no matter what, we look to God and thank Him for creating us, and choosing us, and saving us. God’s loyal and faithful love frees us to follow God into the world, helping other followers of God in Jesus Christ. And if we lose everything and everyone, our lives are safe with God in Jesus Christ forever. God is faithful.

In response

1. What you are afraid to lose or afraid that others will discover about you?

2. Imagine those things, people or habits on full display in front of God.

3.Surrender them to God, bow your knee, and thank God for His mercy in sending Jesus Christ to you in spite of your fear, pride, and faithlessness.

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All together now

By, Isam Itson III

Ephesians 5:21 – Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Considering our relationships as members of our local churches, there are two summary statements in Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. First, as followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to live as close family members, like members of one body, in spite of our social and cultural differences. This is a testimony of God’s supreme wisdom and power to every competing spiritual and human power. Second, we honor the depth of our union with God and each other in Jesus Christ by sacrificially submitting ourselves to each other out of reverence for Jesus Christ. 

We submit to each other by honoring the fact that God has made us to be gifts to each other within our households and local congregations. As we grow in Christ together, we become a blessing to the people in our surrounding communities. This lifestyle is the heart of our confession of faith in Jesus Christ to the people around us. 

Unfortunately, we are often afraid of our inherent weakness and vulnerability. Apart from God, we spend our lives making ourselves invulnerable to chaos and disaster. Our goal is joining the ranks of the strong and the able as we build lives impervious to social, financial, and material disruption. But God made us to live under his protection in light of our inherent weakness and vulnerability. This becomes our testimony of God’s strength, love, and power to the world. 

When we see God and get to know God we learn to trust him and follow him in spite of our essential vulnerability. God teaches us to live as his agents of love, grace, wisdom, and faithfulness. God’s presence encourages us and keeps us from being overwhelmed by our fear of distress, disaster, and death. 

Rich and poor, married and unmarried, parents and children, men and women, citizens and foreigners, are all privileged by God to help each other help other people in the name of Jesus. All followers of Jesus Christ are called to honor God’s love for each other, and for others, no matter how much it costs us in time, energy, attention, financial profit, or social standing. 

When we follow Christ in this way we become the best friends, spouses, children, parents, and servants to one another in our churches, communities, and societies. God made all of us, male and female, rich and poor, and young and old, to cooperate and collaborate as responsible representatives of God’s unconditional loyalty, love, and faithfulness. Personal submission to this call glorifies God and shames his enemies. 

This approach to life tells every self righteous human power structure that God is in charge, not them. In this regard our personal and communal devotion to righteousness, justice, and holiness in Jesus Christ is revolutionary within every nation, through all time, across the entire globe.

We submit our cultural expressions to the service of honoring God and his love for others revealed in Jesus Christ. Our cultural expressions serve the purposes of God. They do not prove our superiority in relationship to each other.

We do not call others to sacrificially devote themselves to the fulfillment of our purpose and values. We sacrificially devote ourselves to the fulfillment of God’s purpose and value for the life of others. And they do the same for us in submission to God within the body of Christ, the Church. 

Identification with God in Christ is primarily about identification with the one who is in the position of legitimate, righteous authority. Jesus Christ defines our personal and social way of life, not our cultural  heritage or social standing. We all help each other love God and bless others personally, closely, and enthusiastically.  

The people who are served well and honored by the stars quo and society at large are called to humble themselves in the same way that Christ humbled himself. He set aside his rights and privileges as the eternal Son of God to embrace the shame and pain of the cross in service to us all. He took it upon himself at extreme personal cost to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. Now Jesus calls us and empowers us to do the same for others.

To the lowly and the social outcast, Christ raises us up to share in his sacrificially responsible exercise of his righteous authority. To rule and reign with him, in submission to him, and to the glory of God the Father. No matter our social standing, or lack thereof, God fills us with his Holy Spirit to use what he has already blessed us with to help each other help other people recognize their value to God and each other. 

God loves us and enjoys us. Christ died for us. The Holy Spirit empowers us to live for God by honoring the depth of God’s love for each other. Our God given life in human society is rooted in our shared responsibility to meaningfully and purposefully honor God’s love for the people around us, to the glory of God.

Any other approach to life is inhumane and contrary to God’s wisdom and grace for us as human beings, male and female, made in his image, no matter where we come from or how much money we have.

For reflection

1. How does the use of my time, energy, and money express an essential dependence upon God and interdependence among others, for my life and well being?

2. How am I nurturing deep, meaningful relationships among the people in my local church?

3. How do I regularly make myself available to work with my brothers and sisters in Christ, blessing people in our local community?

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Rich and poor

By, Isam Itson III

Ephesians 6:5-9 – Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or is free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

James 5:9-11 – Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

As we have discussed in various ways throughout all of the series on, competing rivals for control are at the hear of the conflicts within every human society. One side is in charge and believes they should be in charge. The society is not perfect, but it works best in their hands. They don’t want to shake things up too much because things are working pretty well for them. The other side is not in charge and believes they should be in charge. Because society would be better if their needs and values were honored. Or at the very least, they believe they should be free to be in charge of their own lives while enjoying a good quality of life. These two sides are represented by the masters and slaves in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, and by the rich and the lowly in James’ letter. 

The Apostles Paul and James are both saying that neither side is right. The truth is, God is in charge and everybody in the church needs to honor God in the most public and most private moments of their everyday lives. Jesus Christ has freed us from the power of sin and the fear of death so we can honor God’s love all day, everyday, everywhere, and with everyone. We live honoring the fact that God is our faithful , loving father. He is the source, strength, and lord of our lives. We exist for his glory. We do not exist for our own power and prestige, the reputation of our family, the pride of our ethnic or religious group, or the glory of our nation. Rich or poor, we live to serve God’s interest, not our own. Like Jesus Christ himself, humans are created to do the business of their Father in Heaven (Luke 2:41-52).

Our call and devotion to honoring God’s loving relationship to everyone as their Father and their redemption by God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, overrides all human claims on our personal identity, family honor, social status, and political allegiance. “Masters and slaves, live to honor God and place God’s interests before your own in submission to serving one another, no matter what it costs you personally or socially.” That is what Paul is saying to the members of the Church in Ephesus.   

According to Paul, masters and slaves are both called to serve the best interests of each other out of reverent submission to Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul is directing the slaveholding men within the church to spend their time and energy honoring the values that reflect respect for Jesus Christ. He is calling them to live without regard for their own reputation. He is calling them to honor Christ and Christ’s love for others, above their concern for their personal prestige, family honor, and public career. 

The master who follows Christ is called to help their Christ following slave grow and mature in service to God and others as a fellow member of the body of Christ. The Christ following slave is called to serve their Christ following master as an expression of their devotion to God and their faith in Jesus Christ. The master who follows Christ and the slave who follows Christ are both called to focus on the lordship and reputation of Jesus Christ rather than their social status or public reputation. 

The Spirit of Rome promoted pride, strength, and honor as the public virtues for male Roman citizens. The husband, father, and master of the household nurtured their public reputation as a strong master of their domain. Every move in public and private was calculated to enhance their reputation as the Roman ideal of a strong, uncompromising, and dominant leader. Everyone in the household honored the position of the head of the family. Paul is promoting the humble and considerate service of others at home and in public, in deference to the supreme sovereignty of Jesus Christ, even if you are the head of the family. 

For the slave, devotion to Jesus Christ places God first in their hearts and frees them from the judgment of their master. For the master, devotion to Jesus Christ places God first in their hearts and diminishes their devotion to Roman superiority and their personal reputation. That’s what the Apostle James is writing about in his letter to the church. Devotion to Christ simultaneously ennobles the slave and humbles the master. 

In relationship to Jesus Christ the lowest person in Roman society, the slave, is blessed with being exalted to their proper place as a representative of God because of their redemption to God through faith in Jesus Christ. The highest member of Roman society, the wealthy, married, slaveholding, male citizen,  is humbled through their relationship with God in Jesus Christ, because God calls them to spend their God given lives serving the best interests of others rather than expecting everyone in their household to serve their personal interests and public reputation. 

The master places their slave before themselves out of reverence for Christ. The slave serves their master with excellence out of reverence for Christ. The Christ following master treats their slave with dignity and respect as an object of God’s love and grace and their coworker. The Christ following slave serves their master with excellence out of reverence for Christ and as their brother in Christ. In Christ they are brothers, building each other up in love and service to God and their neighbors.

The implications are pretty clear that like Jesus Christ himself, his followers are called to serve, not to be served.The social and financial consequences would have been devastating to a wealthy Roman citizen of the time. His peers would have pressured him to man up and get his house in order. They would have shamed him for dining with his slaves during worship services and treating his slaves with respect in public.

For us today, within the body of Christ, a person’s high social status does not excuse them from devoted personal service to their brothers and sisters in Christ. And, a person’s lower social status does not absolve them of the privilege and responsibility to serve others out of devotion to Jesus Christ. Rich and poor, in close, personal relationship to one another in Jesus Christ, are privileged and obligated to honor the love of God for each other revealed in God’s sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for all of us.

Followers of Jesus Christ are called to live knowing that God is in charge. Our lives are in his hands. He has faithfully provided all that we need to begin honoring his love for the people around us. And he will faithfully continue to provide all that we need to fulfill his purpose for our lives. We are all free from the tyranny of public opinion to serve one another faithfully, sincerely, and sacrificially in obedient imitation God’s love, revealed in Jesus Christ.

For reflection

Do you order your life to maximize the indulgence of your personal desires, or to maximize your opportunities to bless and work with others for their good and God’s glory? On what concrete information do you base your answer?

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Parents and children

By, Isam Itson III

Ephesians 6:4 – Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

In ancient Rome the father was seen as the head of the family. He lorded his authority over the members of his household. The whole purpose and value of his wife, children, and slaves, was to honor and enlarge his public reputation. Their goal as members of his family was to honor and increase his status no matter what it cost them.  

The Apostle Paul is encouraging the followers of Jesus Christ in a way of life that is completely contrary to the ideal of Roman manhood. He encourages the fathers within the church at Ephesus and in the surrounding region to not make their children angry in a way that leads to lasting bitterness and hatred. In the Greek language this is the word for anger that tempts people to sin. Instead they are encouraged to actively train their children for life with the awareness that God is in charge and to fulfill God’s purpose for creating them. 

As followers of Jesus Christ we are called to raise our children to live the way that God created humans to live in the first place. The discipline and instruction of the Lord is a bible way of saying that we are called to raise our children in the way that Jesus Christ lived in a broken world  and among broken people, for the glory of God. We raise our children within our way of life as followers of God.

Fathers are instructed to equip and train our children to follow Jesus in the same way that we follow Jesus. The apostle urges us to help them see that they are called and blessed by God to bless others. This means we hold them accountable to considering the needs and sensibilities of others as vital to their own integrity and authenticity as human beings made in God’s image. We help them learn to help others at their own expense. We show them what it means to love God with their whole being and to love their neighbor as themselves. We help them experience the fulfillment of helping people help others in the name of Jesus and to the glory of God the Father. 

Through our love and joy in them fathers help them experience the infinite depth of God’s love for them and joy in them. We are called to love our children and rejoice in them and value them the way that God loves us, rejoices in us, and values us. We pay the price for their life in the same way that God paid the price for our life. We hold nothing back from them that contributes to their well being and the fulfillment of God’s purpose for them. 

We raise our children to weep with those who are grieving and to rejoice with people in their happiness and accomplishments. We teach our children how to focus on their end goals and persevere through opposition and suffering. We meet them where they are at and help them grow step by step as responsible human beings made in God’s image. 

We acknowledge and celebrate their accomplishments along the way. While raising them, we prepare them and equip them to overcome the challenges at their next level of development.

And as fathers who follow Jesus Christ, we do this in cooperation and collaboration with our wives. Unlike the Roman ideal of manhood, God’s glory and honor expressed through the lives of our wives and children, is infinitely more valuable than our reputations at work and in the world at large. 

Ephesians 6:1-3 – Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

This simple instruction to children seems self evident to some and archaic to others. The implications of this command point to the core of what all followers of Jesus Christ find most difficult. Submission to God given authorities. From a young age children are challenged to live within the boundaries their parents establish for their behavior. Ideally this will prepare them to follow the authorities that God has given for the equipping of the members of the church for a life of cooperative service to others in submission to God (Ephesians 4:11-16 and 

In all humility the most important life skills we pass on to our children are the habits that embody grace, honor, and patience in relationship to our family, friends, neighbors, and enemies. Our daily example of humility in relationship to God and submission to one another makes the deepest impact in the hearts and minds of our children. As we walk with God and wrestle with ourselves  we prepare our children to walk with God and wrestle with themselves. 

Taken together, Paul’s instruction to fathers and children and husbands and wives in his letter to the church at Ephesus promotes an approach to domestic life oriented around the life, love, and glory of God. Paul highlights the fact that our private lives are meant to reflect our public profession of faith in Jesus Christ, and the way we treat people at church should be consistent with how we treat one another at home. 

For reflection

1. How do you purposefully and consistently honor God’s love, value, and purpose for your children?

2. If you are married, what does your spouse say about the example you are setting for your children?

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10 Tips for Healthy Sleeping Habits

How sleep deprivation affects health and what to do about it

woman sleeping
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

According to the CDC, over a third of all adults in the U.S. are getting less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep each night. People of color fair the worst when it comes to getting enough sleep. Just over half (51.5%) of Black adults sleep an average of 7 hours or more each night compared to two-thirds of White adults.

Infograph by FIT & NU™. Data are from the CDC 2014 BFSS Survey.

Research shows that getting too little sleep is associated with memory loss and other cognitive issues, weight gain, poor mental health, and a higher risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

A lack of sleep can also lower your motivation for exercise or reduce the amount of time and energy you spend when you do work out. This may in turn also affect the quality and quantity of your sleep, which can lead to a self-reinforcing cycle since exercise helps our body maintain its circadian rhythm.

Given all the negative health implications of sleep deprivation, it’s important to think about our sleep schedule and what we can do to improve it.

10 Tips for Healthy Sleeping Habits

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

1. Reduce your screen time.

A lot of recent studies have shown that blue light can affect the quality and duration of sleep among adults and children. Blue light signals to our body that it’s daytime so it produces less melatonin, which is a hormone that helps us sleep. This means that we should try and reduce the amount of time we spend on our laptop, television, phone, or tablet, especially right before we go to bed. Some sleep experts suggest that we should avoid screens starting 4 hours before our usual bedtime, while other research indicates that we should try to limit our screen time in general to improve our ability to sleep.

If you can’t reduce your screen exposure, blue light glasses may offer some protection for sleep. Additionally, many newer electronic devices now include a nighttime mode. Check out this article from PC Magazine that walks through the process for turning on the nighttime setting on your devices.

2. Block out light pollution.

All sources of light can affect our sleep, not just blue light. Check your room for sources of light pollution that may be affecting your ability to sleep. Make sure that your windows are covered with dark curtains to block out any streetlights. Close your door and turn off the lights to see if there is light shining through from underneath the door. If there is, roll up a towel or use an extra pillow to block out the light. Alternatively, consider investing in an eye mask.

3. Skip the nightcap.

Although alcohol may initially help some people fall asleep, it can actually lead to restlessness later in the night. The Sleep Foundations recommends that we have our last alcoholic beverage at least 4 hours before bedtime.

If you’re looking to reduce your alcohol intake, check out our 5 tips for identifying your limit and cutting down on drinking.

4. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon.

Caffeine stimulates the body and may prevent us from falling asleep or staying asleep. Avoid drinking or eating anything with caffeine in it after 3–4pm to minimize the chance of it affecting your sleep.

5. Tune out.

Noise pollution can affect our sleep just like light. Consider investing in some wax or foam earplugs to prevent noises from waking you up during night. You could also use a noise machine or app that plays pink noise or white noise.

6. Exercise.

Exercise can be just as effective for sleep as a medical prescription. One thing to note is that an intense workout shortly before bedtime may affect your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep by raising your body temperature. The general recommendation is to get at least 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week and to make sure that you complete your workout at least an hour or more before bedtime.

7. Avoid eating close to bedtime.

Food also causes our body temperatures to rise as we are digesting. Some people are also more likely to experience gastrointestinal problems if they lay down shortly after they’ve eaten, which can also impact the ability to sleep. For these reasons, you should aim to finish dinner 3 hours before laying down for bed.

8. Be consistent.

Our biological processes operate in cycles. When our behavior is inconsistent, we disrupt these natural cycles and throw our whole system out of whack. Sleep is a critical part of this cycle so it’s important to consistently sleep at the same time each night, even on the weekends, so that your body can synchronize your internal clock.

9. Resist the snooze button.

Similar to going bed at the same time each night, try to wake up at the same time each day even if you went to sleep later than usual. It’s important to get up at the same time each day to prevent yourself from getting out of rhythm.

If you feel like you need a nap, the Sleep Foundation recommends that you avoid napping after 2pm and limiting your nap to 20–30 minutes to ensure that you don’t disrupt your sleep-wake cycle.

10. Create a winding down routine.

Stress and stimulating activities can sometimes make it hard to fall asleep. Get into the routine of scheduling an hour or more of relaxation time before bedtime to calm the body and prepare for sleeping. Spend that time doing something you find relaxing like reading a book, journaling, meditating, or taking a nice warm bath.

Getting a good night’s rest is about more than feeling energized the next day. Sleep deprivation can have serious consequences on our health and wellness. Establishing healthy sleeping habits is the best way to beat the fatigue and improve our overall well-being.

10 Tips for Healthy Sleeping Habits was originally published in HEAL • THY • HABITS on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Married life

By, Isam Itson III

Matthew 19:4-6 – “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Now that the engaged couple sitting in front of me has some insight into how Christians are meant to spend their lives, time, money, and energy whether or not they are married, we are finally prepared to discuss how married people are intended by God to live and work together as members of the body of Christ. 

Christian marriage is two, whole people, living as one whole person, submitted to the sovereignty and purposes of God, revealed in Jesus Christ. The couple works with each other and on behalf of each other, at home and in the world at large. And as husband and wife, they work with other members of the body of Christ blessing the church and honoring God’s love for the people they encounter in their daily lives. 

How do two people live as “one flesh”? The best example I can think of is Olympic Ice Dancing. Every Winter Olympics I see couples perform incredibly complex routines that are a combination of gymnastics, figures skating, and ballroom dancing. The man and the woman are both amazing athletes. They are strong, fit, and flexible. It is obvious from their performance that they are disciplined, experienced, and dedicated. They execute tricks that could easily leave one or both of them paralyzed. Their performance is only possible because they are each willing to humble themselves and work together for the sake of winning a gold medal.

In the same way, husbands and wives are meant to move as one person in pursuit of God’s purpose for us from the beginning and affirmed in our redemption in Jesus Christ. 

Genesis 1:28 – And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

We learn from the manner in which God created the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1 that rulers take personal responsibility for the well being of others at their own expense. Everything God did from day to day was done for the sake of the living creatures, including humans, that would live on the earth.

According to the blessing that God spoke over humans in creation, God has made us for cooperative and creative leadership over creation, in submission to himself. Cooperation demands mutual consideration and submission to one another out of reverence for God, in Jesus Christ. We are fulfilled as human beings when we spend our God given time and energy in mutual submission to our God given purpose of helping each other nurture the lives of our fellow creatures.

Like the ice dancers, married couples bring what God has given them as individuals to their cooperative work in submission to God. They use what God has has given us each of them, to help each other, fulfill their responsibility as children of God and co-rulers within God’s kingdom, helping people help other people, in the name of Jesus.

 We honor God’s gift of ourselves to one another, the church, and the world when we work together as husbands and wives. We serve one another, and together we serve others, in recognition of our cooperation in submission to God in Jesus Christ, and filled with the Holy Spirit. 

Ephesians 5:21 – Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

We submit to God, and then we submit to each other. Christ is the head of both of us. We give ourselves completely to Christ for the fulfillment of God’s purpose and to the praise of God’s glory. Toward that end, God gives us to each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, and members of the church. In marriage, the husband and wife embody that same depth of commitment to God and each other in their home. Together, the husband and wife share one life dedicated to honoring God’s purpose for creating humans as his cooperative co-rulers in the earth.

Ephesians 5:25-31 – “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ ”

Ephesians 5:22-24 – Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

We are meant to move as one person in pursuit of God’s purpose for us from creation and affirmed in our redemption in Jesus Christ. With grace and humility we honor our God given boundaries of time, energy, personal integrity, and maturity in relationship to each other as we move through life together.

Husbands love their wives in the same way that they love their own bodies and Christ sacrificially loved the Church. We are called to love our wives as if they are a part of our own bodies and critical to our survival. A wife is meant to help her husband fulfill his God given work of loving God and loving his neighbor as himself, in the same way that she devotes herself to loving God and loving her neighbor as herself. 

The wife helps her husband live for God. The husband helps his wife live for God. They sacrificially encourage each other’s service to others, in obedience to God, and in mutual submission, out of reverence for Christ. According to the scriptures, this is the foundation and goal of a marriage between two followers of Jesus.

For reflection

If you are a Christ follower who is married to another Christ follower, how do you encourage your spouse to discover, develop, and engage their unique, God given contribution, to the church and society at large? 

If you are not married, how are you helping others, and allowing others to help you, discover, develop, and engage your unique, God given contribution, to the church and society at large?

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Making friends

By, I sam Itson III

John 15:15 – No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

Proverbs 18:24 – A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Most people make their best friends while they are in school or serving in the military. While thrown together in pursuit of common goals they also spend quality time with each other while off duty or outside of the classroom. They observe each other’s likes, dislikes, strengths, and weaknesses while relaxing, playing, and fighting together. They share their hopes, dreams, fears, and regrets with each other. Time, commitment, and perseverance builds friendships as well as character.  

Over the three to three and a half years of Jesus’ ministry on earth, his disciples became his friends. He taught them how to help each other, help people, help other people in his name and to the glory of God. As they travelled they ate, laughed, and argued. They grew closer and learned to trust Jesus and each other. Out tho the twelve, three were Jesus’ best friends. While hanging on the cross, Jesus even entrusted the care of his mother to one of them rather than one of his brothers. 

We all need friends who are like family. We need people we can turn to in a crisis. For single people and married couples, making new friends is hard because it takes so much quality time. We have to designate time for people outside of work and school to become friends. It takes time around each other to learn to trust each other. This is our modern dilemma.

When I speak with young adults fresh out of high school, university, or military service, one of their greatest complaints is their lack of close friendships. A few years ago I came across some research numbers that still seem to bear out under more current studies. According to Jeffrey Hall’s article in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, “How many hours does it take to make a friend?” vol. 36, issue 4. In North America,

It takes adults 50-90 hours to turn acquaintances into casual friends.Adults need, on average, 164 hours to transition from casual friends to friends.Adults need an additional 100 hours for friends to become good or best friends.

Mathematically, at best, we will never have more that two to four good friends.

In the modern North American church setting, these numbers are brutal. Church is a great place to meet people, but it is the time spent with people outside of worshipping and serving together that really builds relationships. Most people are slow to reach out to people they do not already know. And a new church is full of strangers. People passing each other in and out of the main doors as they go about their busy lives. So much activity and so little meaningful human connection. On a good Sunday at church a person spends 10-20 minutes after service in conversation with people outside of their immediate or extended family before rushing out the door.

At 10 or 20 minutes a week how long will it take to  make those 90 hours to build a casual friendship? The total 160 hours to build a friendship? The 260 hours to build a deep friendship? I am not so great at math but all of a sudden the task seems overwhelming. For most of us, single or married, the demands of work, home, and family leave us exhausted. Living day to day and week to week leaves us worn out. 

Some people refresh themselves through social contact. Others, like me, need time alone to restore their energy. They need time away from people in order to have the energy to meaningfully engage with others. Yet, all of us need to prioritize making time and spending our energy making friends.

To love our neighbor as ourselves in obedience to God, we have to have other people in our lives. Love demands that we have the opportunity to give and receive in meaningful relationships with each other. Love does not exist in isolation. So we come back to the fundamental challenge of how we spend our time.  

I encourage everyone I counsel to make a log of how they spend their time for a period of 2- 4 weeks. This is the only way I know to clearly see how a person is spending their time. We can’t make any responsible and reasonable steps forward until we know where we are starting from. 

Once we take this inventory of how we are spending our time, then we can start evaluating what we need to keep doing and what we need to stop doing. We have to make time for the activities that help us fulfill our personal responsibilities at home and work. This includes diet, exercise, sleep, rest, and family time. As followers of Jesus Christ we have additional responsibilities in relationship to God and our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. All of a sudden we do not have much free time. 

Exactly. Our lives are meant to be full and meaningful. Our lives are not for us. God has a plan for each of us in relationship to one another. The fulfillment of God’s plan for our lives in relationship to one another grows out of our personal relationship with him. Time spent with God, enriches our time spent with each other. The friendships that we develop with each other as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ help us work together in relationship to our neighbors and among those in need in our local communities. Even our enemies. 

Consideration, dedication, and perseverance in our relationships with God and each other will produce meaningful and enduring friendships. Over time. We have to consistently submit ourselves to God and share our hearts, lives, and  resources with one another, if we are going to build friendships that enrich our lives and honor the grace and love of God in the lives of others.

It takes time to build a relationship with God. It takes time to make friends with each other. We can’t afford to waste our God given time. Our lives and the lives of others hang in the balance.

For reflection

1. How are you spending your time?

2. If you do not know the answer, when will you start making your time log?

3. Who will you work with to review and evaluate the use of your time?

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Living single

By, Isam Itson III

Genesis 2:18 – Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

It is not good for us to live alone. So just because a person is not married does not mean that they should be living in social isolation.

When a couple comes to me for premarital counseling the first thing I do after hearing how much they love each other and can’t live without each other is speak to them about life as a single or unmarried person. Before they get married, I want to make certain they understand what God intended for their life as a single person. 

Before we get married we should already be loving our neighbors as ourselves. We should already be honoring God’s love for others. We should already be honoring their dignity as people made in God’s image. We should already be people who graciously and humbly honor each other’s personal boundaries. This prepares us to honor God and one another when we get married.

While we are single most of this takes place in our public life. Even if we have roommates or live with our parents while we are single, we can stay late at work, or study until the library closes, without worrying about who is waiting for us at home. 

The real benefit of being unmarried is we have plenty of room at home to meditate and pray with God about the events of our day. We can examine what we did, and said, and thought, in light of God’s word. We have plenty of time and space to review how we are practicing our faith in God. This allows us to make adjustments to our attitude and outlook as we prepare to reenter life in public. 

As a single or unmarried person we have more time, space, and energy available to prepare ourselves to more consistently honor God’s love for others, even their enemies, at school, work, and in the church. Unmarried people have more time to discover and pursue the development of their God given contribution to the well being and encouragement of the people they spend their time with in public.

If an unmarried person is feeling especially overwhelmed by catastrophic events or gross personal failure on a particular day, they can retreat with God while they pull themselves back together. They have time to pray, and listen to God, and reorient themselves so that they can respond to the challenges and crises of life in a way that honors God’s love, faithfulness, and authority in their lives. An unmarried person has plenty of time and personal space to prepare themselves to live well with others and to work with others as a vital, contributing member of the body of Christ and their local community. 

This was how the apostle Paul writes about it to the church at Corinth,

“I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 33 But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided.” – 1 Corinthians 7:32-34.

A single person is free to give their time and energy outside of work and family obligations to God, their church, and the work of their church in their local community. The single person is not alone because they are members of the body of Christ. They have brothers and sisters in Christ whom they are free and privileged to meaningfully assist in cooperation with Jesus Christ. Additionally, unmarried followers of Jesus Christ are free to work together with their brothers and sisters in Christ as they serve the needs of the poor and powerless in their local communities. 

As I wrote about this subject in the article, Get Another Chair in our series Stepping Up, ( followers of Jesus Christ are meant to meaningfully open their hearts and homes to each other. We cannot fulfill our personal calling as Christians without giving our lives in service to each other and service with each other, like members of a close knit family. 

In other words, I want an engaged couple to understand that a Christian marriage presupposes that each person, the man and the woman, are already living a Christian life. They are already following Jesus Christ. The man and the woman are already loving God and honoring God’s love for others in how they spend their time, energy, and resources. They each already have meaningful relationships with their brothers and sisters in Christ.

An unmarried person who follows Jesus Christ, should not be characteristically lonely or empty. Ideally, their life is already rich, full, and whole, though sometimes they may feel lonely or isolated. Even married people sometimes feel alone or isolated, but that will be addressed in another article. 

A responsible, unmarried, Christian man or woman, is already helping people help other people in the name of Jesus. They are already thriving in their relationships with God, their brothers and sisters in Christ, and their community at large. They have a growing sense of how God specifically uses them to help others. Mature followers of Jesus Christ are not afraid to be vulnerable. They allow people with different gifts and personalities to help them make what they do in service for others even better. A follower of Jesus Christ who is ready to consider getting married is already working and playing well with others in mutual cooperation and submission to Jesus Christ. 

Even if they do not ever get married, their life is already full of peace, love, and joy. They already know that they are vital to the well being of the people around them. And in all humility, they know that the unique contribution of their brothers and sisters in Christ is vital to their most meaningful work in service to others. Like Jesus Christ before he began his public ministry, they are already growing and living in favor with God and others. As single people, followers of Jesus Christ are already deeply integrated into the life and work of the body of Christ in their community at large. They are not alone. Their life is good.

For reflection

1. How much of your time is spent helping others or preparing to help others in obedience to Jesus Christ?

2. How open and generous are you in helping others and allowing others to help you?

3. What have you learned about yourself from working with other people?

4. How can you make more time to personally contribute what you do best in cooperative service to others?

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Life changing prayer

By, Isam Itson III

Ephesians 6:17 and 18, “and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,…”

The forces that appeal to our self interest and fear are relentless and overwhelming. We are bombarded with messages designed by people who want us to happily spend our lives and resources for their benefit. Apart from reporting on natural disasters, most of the news we see is designed to make us accept a way of life that really only serves a select segment of the population. The commercial advertisers who finance the news programs want me to buy their products or employ their services. They want me to spend my time, energy, and money for their benefit, no matter what it costs me. And they want me to be happy about it.

This is the heart of what the Bible calls sin. God did not create us to take advantage of each other. God created us to help each other. Our relationships only work when we are dedicated to helping each other. This is the way of life that honors God. This is the very definition of a righteous, just, and virtuous life. Simple. Not easy.

Why is it so hard to do the right thing? Because self indulgence feels good. Every one of us battles with the temptation to justify our dedication to our self interest. We don’t want to share. We don’t want to look out for anyone else. We want people to make us happy. And, we want people to be happy about making us happy.  Scale that mindset up and that explains the heart of every conflict between people, communities, societies, and nations.

As followers of Jesus Christ, how do we overcome our predisposition to selfishness? How do we live faithfully in relationship with God and each other? How do we find the strength to keep loving our enemies and repaying evil with good, in the name of Jesus? According to the Apostle Paul, we remember who God is and how much he loves us. Then we encourage each other and help each other honor God’s love. Finally, we pray. A lot.

Ephesians 6:18, “…praying at all times in the Spirit with all prayer and supplication.” 

Prayer honors the fact that our lives come from and depend upon God. And prayer honors the fact that our lives are meant to be dedicated to honoring the love, faithfulness, wisdom, authority, and power of God. Our prayers honor our trust in God for ourselves, everyone else, and all creation.

We pray by ourselves and we pray together. We pray for the things we need in order to fulfill God’s calling for us as human beings made in his image, redeemed by Jesus Christ, and filled with the Holy Spirit. We carry on a conversation with God that honors the fact that God is with us, that he is listening, and that he wants to help us live for the fulfillment of his purpose for creating us. And like all good conversations we listen more than we speak.

How do I listen to God?  When I see or hear about something that captures my attention I ask God how his word relates to what I am seeing and learning. I really want to know what God thinks. I remind myself of God’s written word and I ask God about the implications of his word on my attitudes and actions, in relationship to myself and others. That’s why making time to attentively read or listen to the scriptures being read, is so important. 

Then I speak to God after reflecting and meditating on the scriptures. Sometimes I am happy with what I am seeing and hearing through my meditation upon God’s word. Sometimes I am troubled, frustrated, and angered by it. Sometimes it feels like God is asking too much of me. Sometimes it feels like he is being too soft on on people. Sometimes it feels like he is being too hard on us. Mostly, God is reminding me of how trusting him with my needs frees me to be used by him to help other people with what they need. 

Some of my general prayers along this line of thought are, “God, help me organize my life and spend my time blessing others. Because I want other people to live their lives with the peace of knowing and trusting you.”  “God, help me be righteous, just, and honorable. Help me be kind to the people I encounter today. And help me do all of this no matter what I have to sacrifice.” “God, help me trust you with the concerns of my life today so I can be respectful, kind, and loving to the people I meet today.”  “God, I trust you to provide the time, people, wisdom, and opportunities I need to fulfill your purpose for me today.” 

The bottom line is we are never alone. God is always with us. His loyal love and faithfulness encourages me to keep moving forward.

We read and meditate on God’s word throughout the day. We pray throughout the day. We pray together, meet together, and worship God together. At church and in small groups, we hear God’s word applied to the challenges we face within our families and communities in our daily lives. All in order to bring our best to each other in response to God. We do this to help each other love one another in obedience to Jesus Christ. And we do this to help each other help others, in the name of Jesus Christ. Even our enemies. Especially those who do not yet follow Jesus Christ. 

All so that more of us can help people help other people, in the name of Jesus and to the glory of God the Father. This is how we fight self righteousness, injustice, and immorality in ourselves. We sharpen and use the time, energy, and expertise we already possess, and start helping each other bless the people around us. As more of us fully embrace this God given responsibility for each others well-being our communities become better.   

It takes time, dedication, perseverance, and patience to live dedicated to God’s purpose for our lives as human beings made in his image. First things first. If we want to make a difference in our societies, and we are already followers of Jesus Christ, we have to meditate on God’s word and we have to pray. Otherwise, we will not have the strength to stand with each other against the relentless temptation to place our self interest before the love of God and the best interests of others. 

For reflection

1. Are you speaking to God about the things that concern you in your life and in the world?

2. What does God think about the things that concern you?

3. Will you take the steps necessary to find out what God thinks?

4. What will giving your life to God in this way cost you?

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Overcoming evil

By, Isam Itson III

How do we respond to the self righteousness, injustice, and immorality of our governing authorities, political opponents, and social power brokers? What do we do in response to the people who are mainly committed to being large and in charge no matter who they harm in the process? How do we deal with people in positions of power and influence who value their self interest more than the integrity and well being of their fellow citizens? 

Ephesians 6:17, “and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,”

As stated in the previous article, we do not follow their example. We do not give in to the devilish temptation to take our lives into our own hands and slander them. As followers of Jesus Christ we stand shoulder to shoulder with each other covered by God’s love, grace, and faithfulness. Then, we address the challenges we face in life as if we believe God’s word is true, wise, righteous just, powerful, and adequate, for ourselves and others. 

We don’t just shield ourselves and each other from self righteousness, injustice, abuse, and social chaos. We counter attack the forces of evil with the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. We give ourselves completely and wholeheartedly to helping people help others, no matter what it costs us socially or materially. As followers of Jesus Christ we honor God’s love for the person right in front of us at our own expense. 

The sword of the Roman foot soldier was a short sword. That means the soldiers could not use their sword effectively until their enemies were right in their face. They had to allow their enemies to get close before they could use it. All while maintaining their shield to shield formation. At the same time that we are each standing with God we are encouraging and supporting each other to stand with God as well. As a follower of Jesus Christ my resistance and counter attack against the slanderous attacks of the Devil helps your resistance and counter attack against the Devil. 

The Holy Spirt sharpens and strengthens our understanding of God’s word. The Holy Spirit helps the members of the Church honor God’s word. What we call the Bible. The Bible is the record of the revelation of God as the creator and ruler of the cosmos. As people made in the image of God and as followers of Jesus Christ, we are royal representatives of God. Our lives are fulfilled in the fulfillment of God’s purposes and the praise of God’s glory. 

When asked to name the greatest commandment in the Bible, Jesus said that the whole Bible was summarized in two commands; to love God with all of our heart, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. When pressed to clarify who qualifies as our neighbor, Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:29-37. In that story Jesus identified the person that his audience viewed with suspicion and disgust as being a good neighbor to someone who was in need of immediate and inconvenient assistance.  

Remember what the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:12. The human in front of us is not the enemy. The person in front of us is made in the image of God. The person in front of us is someone for whom Christ died. We call them out for abusing their God given position of authority. We call them out for not honoring the well being of the people whom God has entrusted to their care. We call them out for treating people as dispensable. We call out  their lack of commitment to honor God’s love for others. But we never deny their value to God. Given time the foolishness of their self-interest will reveal itself. 

As followers of Jesus Christ we overcome and repay their evil with good. We focus through the chaos, confusion, and noise of social unrest.We embody the love and grace of God revealed in Jesus Christ. We redouble our personal efforts to help the people around us discover, cultivate, and contribute their unique, and irreplaceable blessing to humanity and the world in submission to God, through faith in Jesus Christ.

We set aside our self interest and serve God’s interests on behalf of others. We use the time, energy, and resources that God has blessed us with in order to bless others. We help our brothers and sisters in Christ honor the depth and breadth of God’s invincible love for the people in our local communities.

We stand in God’s love and we respond with God’s love. In 1 Corinthians 13:6 the Apostle Paul writes, that love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. We honor the truth of God’s love and personally represent the presence, power, and faithfulness of God to those who are perishing around us. This exposes the evil and cowardice of those who exploit the fear, need, and desperation of their fellow human beings.

Together, as followers of Jesus Christ, we stand with God on behalf of others, no matter what. The governing authorities and the spiritual powers that employ the slanderous accusations of the Devil for their selfish interest will ultimately come to nothing. The power and truth of God’s word will be revealed in the end.

For reflection

1. How do you contribute to the well being of the people you encounter on a daily basis?

2. Like the Good Samaritan, how do you prepare yourself to use your time and energy to help people in desperate need?

3. How can you personally help a “needy” person become the Good Samaritan that God created all of us to be?

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Stand strong

By, Isam Itson III

How do we respond to the self righteous agendas of the powers that be in our societies? How do we deal with the practices and policies that perpetuate an unjust status quo? What do we do about the immoral exploitation of the poor and powerless for the benefit of the rich and powerful? What do we do about the social, economic, political, national, and international threats to our way of life and well being? Why don’t my older/younger relatives agree with me?

According to the Hebrew Scriptures, self-righteousness is the root of the injustice and immorality that plague our societies with increasingly destructive force from generation to generation. Self justification and jealousy fuels a wave of violence, vice, and sexual immorality, that overwhelms families, peoples, and nations like a tsunami. Our self centered pursuit of material security and increased social status leads us to justify the dominance of other human beings for our personal, social, ethnic, class, and national interests. It destroys our relationship with God and each other and leaves us riddled with guilt and shame. Unable to bear the implications of the truth of what we have done we create stories that help us live with ourselves by casting blame for our faults on others or aggressively defining our self interest as justifiable and righteous. The Bible word for following this path in life is sin.

In opposition to sin, God calls his people to aggressively, purposefully, and sacrificially embody his righteousness, justice, and love for humans in relationship to each other, out of respect for God as our king. God’s plan is that his people should serve as an example to the other peoples and nations on the earth of the superior wisdom of God’s way of life for all humanity. As followers of Jesus Christ and members of the body of Christ, we are meant to individually and collectively represent the existence, wisdom, love, and power of God to the world around us as we go about our daily lives. And we are meant to live like this as if our lives depended on it.

That’s what the Apostle Paul is communicating in his letter to the church at Ephesus. 

Ephesians 6:10-20, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”

Paul says that as followers of Jesus Christ we stand  against the the schemes of the Devil. We wrestle with the spiritual rulers, authorities, cosmic powers, and forces that follow the Devil. The word we translate devil is the greek word diabolos.  Diabolos means slanderer. Another word for the Devil in the Bible is Satan. Satan comes from a Hebrew word that means accuser. In Revelation 20:2, the writer calls the enemy of God’s people the devil, Satan, and the serpent. The serpent is the serpent from the garden in Eden that tempted Adam and Eve to believe that they could not trust God with their best interests.  

The Devil and the spiritual powers that follow his lead influence people to view God and one another with suspicion. He would have us use one another as instruments of our self interest to perpetuate his narrative of our personal, social, and political isolation and vulnerability. As followers of Jesus Christ we are called to stand against the schemes of the Devil that slander and accuse God and our fellow members of the body of Christ of malicious intent. And we do not wrestle, or struggle intensely with human beings. We fight against the spiritual forces that want us to take our lives into our own hands and follow our own wisdom, to death and destruction. 

The image that Paul uses for our struggle against the temptation to take our lives into our own hands is that of ranks of fully armed Roman soldiers. Roman soldiers stood and advanced on the battlefield standing shield to shield, like a dynamic wall. Their success depended upon moving in unison and maintaining the integrity of their shoulder to shoulder formation. It took a great deal of training and discipline to hold their formation while under attack, and their approach to warfare sustained their empire for centuries. 

So, how do we stand and wrestle in response to the evil spiritual forces that motivate the self justifying, self-righteous, unjust, and immoral exploitation within our evil days as members of the body of Christ? We take up the whole armor of God. We strengthen our core with the truth that we are created in God’s image and redeemed by the gracious sacrifice of Jesus Christ  for the fulfillment of God’s purpose for our lives. God’s righteousness in Jesus Christ covers our lives and provides for our livelihood as we honor his authority over our lives. Because of Jesus Christ, nothing can separate us from the life and love of God. This is our righteousness.

Our peace is the fact that every follower of Jesus Christ has been made a member of the one people of God and a citizen of the God’s kingdom. We are dedicated to spreading the good news of the gospel of peace provided by God through the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

God’s proven faithfulness protects us from the slanderous accusations of God’s human and spiritual opponents. Our trust in God’s faithfulness keeps us from abandoning each other when times get tough. Our success depends upon maintaining our shoulder to shoulder formation. We remind ourselves and each other all of the time that we are saved by God so that we may live for God and honor God’s love for each other.

This is how God protects us and provides for us as his people among the other people in our societies. In our next article we will discuss how God equips us to advance within our societies as citizens and ambassadors of the kingdom of heaven on earth as we wrestle against the forces of  self righteous injustice, violence, and immorality. What the Bible calls evil, sin, and wickedness.

For reflection

1. How do I respond to the slander and accusation of my personal, social, and political opponents?

2. How can I respond to personal offense in a way that honors the presence, power, and love of God within me, among God’s people, and towards God’s human enemies?

3. Why am I so quick to take my life into my own hands? 

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Mutual respect

By, Isam Itson III

Ephesians 5:21: Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

In addition to practicing the expression of gratitude, as followers of Jesus Christ we have to practice mutual submission if we are going to be filled with the Holy Spirit and bring glory to God.

The Covid 19 pandemic has added a new category to society. The essential worker. Workers whose physical presence at the job site is critical for society to function. We have also learned that many of these essential positions have relatively lower rates of pay and are typically filled by people with lower social status. One of these categories is food distribution. What would we do without field laborers, food processors, warehouse workers, truck drivers, and retail grocery workers? We have learned that we are absolutely dependent upon people whom we are tempted to take for granted.

We always need other people. The ability to pay for a service does not make us less reliant on being served. When someone accepts responsibility for meeting our needs they are honoring God’s role as our provider. They are imitating God. Our ability to pay them does not negate our inability to meet our need all by ourself. The ability to pay does not make us independent. If we have the money but no service providers or caregivers, we are still helpless and desperate. Our lives depend upon the willingness of others to faithfully and gratefully honor our need for them and their need for us. 

This is what makes honoring God so difficult for people who judge themselves and others by their relative wealth, poverty, influence, or power. It is too easy for them to forget their essential dependence and necessary interdependence. Our vulnerability as humans is not shameful, it is essential. It encourages us to take care of each other and do the best we can for ourselves. Because at any moment we can be the person in desperate need of help.

God addressed this fact most fully in the laws regarding sabbath and its ultimate expression in the year of Jubilee, in what we call the Law of Moses. Keeping the sabbath is the fourth law within the Ten Commandments. The law of  sabbath was that every resident of the land of Israel took every seventh day off, to remember God’s supreme position as their creator and attentive ruler. 

Even the servants, foreign laborers, and slaves had the day off. The sabbath day honors the fact that everyone in the land exists under God’s covering. God is the source, provider, and protector of their lives. He is their father, their god, and their king. Everyone’s life rests safely in the hands of God. God enables them to fulfill his purpose for their existence. They need to work. But God is their ultimate provider.

Additionally, every annual  harvest was marked by days of consecration and special sabbaths. The Law of Moses in the Hebrew scriptures calls these “feast days”. The barley and wheat harvests marked days of remembering and thanking God for their miraculous deliverance from slavery in Egypt. If you have seen the films “The Ten Commandments” or “The Prince of Egypt” you are familiar with the story. The orchard, and vineyard harvests were celebrated every year with special days of remembering God’s miracles that protected them and provided for them while they travelled from Egypt through the desert wilderness for forty years until God led them into the land of Israel. The crops that kept them alive, fed their beasts of burden, provided extra income at the marketplace, and gave them the strength to work the land, were all recognized as gifts from God. 

Every seven years the land was given a sabbath. The Israelites were instructed by God to not plant their fields. Whatever wheat or barley sprouted on its own was adequate for themselves and their livestock. But there was not going to be any grain available to trade or sell at market. Again, they were to trust that what God provided was enough to sustain their lives. In addition all monetary debts were cancelled or forgiven. And every seventh sabbath year (that is a Bible way of saying every 49 years) was designated a Jubilee.

The Jubilee took the most trust in God to honor. In addition to eating from what the land produced on its own, and forgiving any outstanding loans, the Jubilee also required that people who had sold the use of their family plot of land to others had to have their land returned to them. So if you fell on hard times you would not be perpetually dispossessed of your family land. If you were a member of one of the tribes of Israel you were always secure within the social fabric. 

In a rural agricultural society like ancient Israel this was most beneficial because anyone could fall on hard times any given year. Illness, death, drought, storm, plague, infestation, foreign invaders, or simple mismanagement could all spell disaster for a family or a tribal province within the nation at any moment. The sabbath years and the Jubilees were meant to honor everyones place within the society. Every family necessarily contributed to and relied upon the contribution of others for their mutual well being. Their trust in God and each other was the source of their security. Not their ability to amass wealth, power, and influence.

The celebration of the weekly sabbaths, the annual feasts, the sabbath years, and the Jubilee, were all meant to strengthen and enrich their ties with God and each other. God was the core of their security, status, and identity as families and as a nation. Not their financial wealth, political alliances, or the strength of their military. 

For the ancient Israelites the observance of the sabbath laws were disciplines that forged habits of faithfulness and gratitude in relationship to God and to each other on a personal, communal, and national scale. For followers of Jesus Christ, our essential dependence upon God and our necessary interdependence in relationship to each other is honored through our mutual submission to one another out of reverence for Jesus Christ no matter our national, ethnic, or cultural identity. Or our political affiliation.

This is how we act on our faith in Jesus Christ in relationship to each other as members of the body of Christ. Within the church, the body of Christ, we honor each other as fellow co-rulers with God. We consider each other as we stay focused on moving forward with God together. I honor the value that God adds to me through you. You honor the value that God adds to you through me. And we work together honoring God’s love for others in our surrounding communities. We do this out of reverence for Jesus Christ as our savior and king.

When I am helping you do what God has called you to do for the benefit of others, I follow your lead. When you are helping me do what God has called me to do for the benefit of others, you follow my lead. We are made to work together. God created us to serve and be served by each other as we honor God’s love, power, and faithfulness in the world around us.

Without this depth of mutual submission, honor, service, and consideration of one another as followers of Jesus Christ in our homes, churches, communities, and workplaces, our proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is meaningless and our lives have little to do with the Spirit of God. We are all essential to each other.

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Thank God

By, Isam Itson III

People have been drinking alcohol as a way of coping with stress and loss for a long time. When we get really angry or really sad, we often want a drink. We just want to relax, escape, and forget. It’s a way of comforting ourselves and pushing through the inescapable trials and tribulations that life throws at all of us. Proverbs 31:6,7 says, “Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; 7let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.” 

But we can take it too far. Proverbs 20:1 says, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” We all know this, but it is really easy to be “led astray” by that warm feeling we get from drinking alcohol. Life is hard. And when I have taken as much as I think I can take, all I want is to isolate and self medicate. 

I can’t wait to clock out, go home, and zone out with some good music or an old movie, and a cold adult beverage.  I don’t want to talk to God or anybody else. I just want to be left alone and do as I please without the opinions or considerations of anybody else. I just need some time for myself. “Leave me alone. I’ll be fine.”

Anyway, that’s how I sometimes feel at the end of a hard day. Let alone when I am reeling from a devastating loss or in the middle of a personal or professional crisis. According to the Apostle Paul, that response to the stress and pressures of life is unwise and foolish for followers of Jesus Christ. 

Ephesians 5:15-20, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

For Christians, the wise and mature response to our troubles is being “filled with the Spirit.” According to Paul, being filled with the Spirit is facilitated by seeking each other out and expressing ourselves to each other and to God with songs that honor our fear and frustration as well as God’s presence with us through everything. When I read the Psalms, the book of worship songs for the Jewish people, I am struck with the fact that the books of the Bible were written by real people, with real desires, facing real challenges. 

Sometimes they were happy and hopeful, Psalm 1:1 and 2,“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” 

Sometimes they were filled with awe, Psalm 8:1, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.”

 Sometimes they were fearful and anxious, Psalm 3:1 and 2 “O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, ‘There is no salvation for him in God.’” 

 Sometimes they were in the depths off despair, Psalm 88:13 and 14, “But I, O Lord, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you. 14 O Lord, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me?” 

And through it all, they talked with God. By themselves, and with each other, they talked with God about how they were really feeling about their lives. Good or bad, they worked it out with God. By themselves and with each other.

That’s what we are really thankful for. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are not alone. God is with us no matter what we are going through. Rather than isolating and self medicating, I need to express myself to God and join with my brothers and sisters in Christ so we can express ourselves to God, together. Not just going to worship services. By investing real time and energy building meaningful, personal relationships with each other. Expressing what is really going on inside of us to God and to each other. 

That’s what helps me cope with life’s tragedies and disappointments. God has given me my brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. Most importantly, he has given me himself, through faith in Jesus Christ, by virtue of his Holy Spirit who lives inside of me. 

Thank you God, that we do not have to go through this life alone because you are always with us. Thank you God, that no matter what happens, we can honor your love and faithfulness for ourselves and others. Even when it costs us everything, you provide everything we need to live a rich life that helps other people do the same. 

As a follower of Jesus Christ, nothing makes me feel better after a rough day than expressing my heart to God, and meditating on God’s heart for me revealed in the scriptures. I am so thankful for God’s presence with us.

For reflection

1. What do you turn to when you need to cope with the difficult times of life?

2. Do you have a community to turn to when things are tough? If not, what would it take to find one?

3. If you do have a community, are you intentionally being available to be a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on for them?

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Imitate God

By, Isam Itson III

Ephesians 5:1-2. – Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Growing up in Southern California during the 1970’s convertibles were everywhere and I knew I would own one someday. When I was around eight years old, I told dad and he said, “Yeah, I remember my last convertible, a 1969 Mustang. Royal blue with a white top and white interior. I loved that car.” I was shocked. I had no idea that my dad was ever that cool. 

The obvious question was what happened to it? Why did he get rid of such a great car? This is what he told me. “Your mother gets colds really easy. So, I got rid of it to keep her from getting sick.” Unbelievable. Dad couldn’t have a great car because of mom? Just keep the car and drive it when mom isn’t with you. He shook his head and said, “No, being with your mother is way more important to me than what type of car I drive.” I thought he was crazy.

Fast forward to 2001. My wife Lori and I had been married less than a year. While running errands I told her about my desire to get a convertible one day and she said, “They’re nice cars, but I get cold sores too easily to ride in one.” I thought to myself, ‘Are you kidding me? God you have a crazy sense of humor.’ First my mom, now my wife. I was never going to own a convertible. Like father like son.

That’s what it means to sacrificially walk in love. Surrendering what we want for ourselves in order to honor the needs, limitations, and boundaries of others. When honoring my own desires comes to a choice between me and them, I choose what’s best for them. The price I pay for ongoing relationship with them is worth it. According to the scriptures, that’s what it means for us to love God and love each other. 

The question is, what stops us from loving each other in a way that reflects the sacrificial love of Christ? Covetousness. A lack of gratitude for what I already possess combined with an insatiable desire for what other people have. The apostle Paul defines covetousness as idolatry. Ephesians 5:5, “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”

Idolatry is simply devoting myself to my idea of how I think life should be in opposition to God’s design for human life on earth. God has revealed his provision, plan, and wisdom for our lives in the scriptures. When we say we want something else or something more, that is idolatry. And that is covetousness. And that produces a lack of value and gratitude for the life God has given us. I want what I don’t have and I don’t value what I do have. 

That’s where the sexual immorality and impurity fit in. Sexual activity between humans was designed by God for men and women who are committed to one another as husband and wife. Within that relationship sexual activity honors God, the husband, and the wife. Outside of that relationship sexual activity is out of bounds or immoral or impure. 

So when I participate in sexual activity outside of my marriage I am being covetous. I am desiring to take pleasure for myself from someone who is not my wife. I dishonor them, I dishonor my wife, and I dishonor God. When I honor the boundaries that God has placed on my sexual behavior I honor the other person, I honor my wife, I honor God, and I honor my best self. That is a real expression of gratitude and value for my wife as God’s gift for my life.

As followers of Jesus Christ, walking in love means placing the honor of God and the blessing of others above our own desires and preferences. Gratefully using what God has already given us to help others fulfills our lives as human beings at the deepest level. This attitude and opportunity is available to everyone, in every setting, under any circumstances. 

We can all honor God and love each other if we are willing to sacrifice our selfish desire for life on our own terms. This is why Christ giving up his life for us was received as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. He honored the wisdom of God and the depths of God’s love for us, in spite of the cost to himself. This is what it means to imitate God in relationship to the people around us. 

Do I find my deepest sense of identity in God? Am I grateful for what God has given me to this point in my life? How can I use the life God has given me to honor his love for the people in my life, today? These are the types of questions we encourage ourselves and each other with as members of the body of Christ. Following through on our answers, no matter the personal sacrifice, reveals the power of God’s love to the people in our communities. And God’s love changes everything.

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Stay on target

By, Isam Itson III

It is 2020 and I work in a grocery store. I wear a face mask every shift. I spend at least one hour every shift at the front door making certain everyone is wearing a face mask who enters the store.  On my days off when I run errands, sometimes I get out of my car and forget my face mask. I get to the door of an establishment and have to go back to my car to get a mask so I can enter the store and go about my daily business. It is inconvenient and tiring. And of all people, I should never forget my mask. 

But forgetting my mask and going back to my car or into my home to retrieve a mask has never been life threatening. I recently found this story on a German news site,

A music producer, Michel, was walking in Paris without wearing a face mask, French media reported, when he spotted a police car. Wishing to avoid a fine for not wearing a mask, he ducked into his music studio. According to the video footage taken by neighbors and published on the French website Loopsider, three officers followed Michel into the studio where they attacked him with truncheons and punched him repeatedly, yelling racist epithets at him. They then allegedly returned with back up to throw a tear gas canister in the studio, before holding Michel for 48 hours in custody.

Injustice enrages us. We get angry when the people we love and identify with are used, abused, violated, and exploited. We get angry when they are exploited, bruised, battered, and killed. For followers of Jesus Christ the opportunity for anger and outrage increases potentially exponentially because we are called to identify with everyone as a member of our extended family. After all God is their creator, and Christ died for all of us. God calls us to honor his love for each other and to reach out to the people around us, as agents of his love, grace, and faithfulness to all people, who like us, are made in God’s image. 

So what do we do with our anger in the face of injustice? Ephesians 4:26-27, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.” We don’t sin. We don’t take matters of retribution into our own hands. That’s what the devil wants us to do. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay says the Lord.”, Deuteronomy 32:35. 

So what do we do? First, we express our anger, grief, fear, and pain to God. Individually and collectively, we cry out to God. And when we get angry again, we express our anger to God again, as often as necessary. Whenever I read through the book of Psalms, I am a little unsettled by the calls for violent retribution against the writer’s enemies. What really unnerves me is the fact that these songs were written to be sung by the congregation. 

Then I remember that these psalms, or songs, were addressed to God. God wants us to express our emotions, even our anger, to him. He wants us to do it privately and collectively. Then, God wants us to get back to loving him and honoring his love for others. 

Paul wrote in Romans 12:19-21, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Second, we embrace generous and meaningful contribution to the well being and development of people beyond our immediate circle of friends and family. Ephesians 4:28, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.”

We get to work honoring God’s love for the members of our congregations and communities, with the fruit of our own labor. We stop taking advantage of the weakness and vulnerability of others. We get jobs that do not exploit people and destroy our communities. Even if it means making less money. We trust God with our own needs and surrender our time, energy, and money to his work in the lives of other people in our churches and communities, by purposefully helping to meet their material needs with our God given resources. 

Third, we stop nursing the memories of personal and social offenses. We practice being energetic agents of righteousness and justice, using what God has legitimately and faithfully given us in order to help other people do the same. Ephesians 4:31,32, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” 

Yes, they did us wrong. Yes, they do people dirty. But we have also offended others. And God sacrificed his Son, Jesus Christ on our behalf anyway. In response to our faith in his love, he forgave us. So we imitate God by sacrificing our fear of looking “weak”. We courageously embrace the possibility of looking foolish for the sake of restoring people to their God ordained place among us, by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. That is, if they want their relationship with God restored. Regardless, we humble ourselves first by reaching out with the offer of reconciliation. Just like Jesus Christ humbled himself in order to reach out to us. 

As followers of Jesus Christ, we do not let anyone rob us of our true identity in Jesus Christ. We embrace our God ordained role as representatives of God, who are made in the image of God. We stay true to God. Our essential humanity is fulfilled by honoring the love and faithfulness of God to the people around us. Especially our enemies. We must remind ourselves and encourage one another with this truth, even as we honor the expression of our personal and collective grief and outrage as a part of our worship and devotion to God. 

We must not give in to the temptation of forgetting that we belong to God. Especially when we have been wronged. 

For reflection

1. Who or what do you feel has wronged you or wronged those you love? How long have you been holding on to it? 

2. How can you express your anger, grief, fear, and/or pain in light of Ephesians 4:26-27?

3. In light of Ephesians 4:31,32 how do you move forward?

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Stop lying

By, Isam Itson III

Ephesians 4:25 – Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 

I remember going to dinner during an overnight primary school trip when I was nine years old. Sixty fourth and fifth graders descending on a national chain restaurant like a swarm of locusts. A bunch of loud, hungry, children who had been out all afternoon doing I don’t remember what. But I do remember that we were hungry and happy to be going someplace that was not McDonalds. Finally the food arrived at our table. For everyone except me. Where was mine?!??!!  I had been left out. Everyone was eating except for me. I felt hurt, and rejected, and angry, and hungry. Then came the hot, angry tears.

One of the teachers alerted the waitress, they rushed my order and I got to eat. But…I had to watch everyone else eat, and smell their food, while I waited. Why had I been forgotten? It wasn’t fair. Why had I been left out? Why didn’t these people care about me? What was wrong with me? 

Of course I had not been cruelly singled out. Our large group had simply overwhelmed the kitchen and serving staff. And they had rushed to make things right and take care of me. But that didn’t matter to me at the time. The fact remained that for however long it took for them to make my food, I had been left out and there was nothing for me. I was crushed and my friends at my table ate in awkward silence while everyone else at all of the other tables were happy and laughing. 

The most destructive lie we tell ourselves is that there is not enough for everybody. In light of this lie, we compete for whatever resources are necessary for our survival and whatever acknowledgments, affirmations, or rewards prove our worth within our social circles. The lie of scarcity justifies our competing self interests. 

Therefore we justify our fear and anxiety for our own lives. We compete for our rightful share, and our share is as much as we can get. When we win, we convince ourselves and everyone else that some people just have to make do with less than enough while others, rightly, have more than enough. The winners get the biggest portion and the best life. The vast majority scramble for the leftovers. And some unfortunate (perhaps undeserving) few, get nothing. Life is a harsh struggle for survival. The fact is there is simply not enough to go around. Enough of what? Fill in the blank.

When we lose, we often get angry, bitter, and jealous. Life isn’t fair. Our hearts grow hard and we  equate joy and optimism with naiveté, immaturity, and ignorance. Maybe God does not exist. And if he does exist, he can’t be good. Because if he were good, we would not be left out of all of the good things that everyone else is enjoying. We would get to win also. 

This attitude is a deadly downward spiral that kills our hope, relationships, and communities. It drains us of the energy necessary to persevere and pursue God’s purpose for our lives. The truth is there is more than enough for everybody. The fact is too many people believe the lie of scarcity. We build our lives, societies, systems, and institutions around the lie of scarcity and the inevitability of competition. 

The truth is we are designed by God to be on the same team. His team. We are not meant to be opponents. We were designed by God to be teammates. We are meant to oppose the lie that we can’t trust God or each other. God has not called us to win at all costs. God has created us, redeemed us, and called us to excellence in committed service to one another. Why? Because we are members of one another. When my hand puts food in my mouth that is good for my feet. In the same way, helping you helps me, and helping me, helps you. We are members of the body of Christ, the church, the people of God.

This is the truth that frees us from the tyranny of false measures of personal worth and social value. God has made certain that there is more than enough provision and opportunity for mutual service and for everyone to have enough. What we have is enough to serve one another. This serves our best interest because we are members of one another. 

We are not opposed to each other. We are members of one another. Our mutual generosity is to our mutual benefit. In light of God’s extravagant faithfulness in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ our mutual generosity is rational, reasonable, and wise. We thrive in cooperation. God did not make us to compete with one another for survival and prestige. God made us to discover and develop our gifts and talents to serve and honor his love for each other. 

We are our brother’s keeper. We are members of one another. When we honor this truth as individuals and members of our congregations, we glorify God in our local communities.

For reflection

1. How do I express the lie that “there is not enough for everybody” in my relationships within my family?

2. How do I express the lie that “there is not enough for everybody” in my relationships at work?

3. How do I express the lie “that there is not enough for everybody” in my attitudes and actions toward the people in my community?

4. How can I begin honoring the truth that God has provided enough for everybody when we personally commit ourselves to serving one another in our families, churches, and communities?