Have you come face to face with life yet?

Facing life 1

Are you alive? You’re probably saying that’s a dumb question. I’m reading this, so I must be alive. My friend, I’m not asking you this question simply to determine whether your heart is beating or that your lungs are inhaling and exhaling air. The old saying that starts with the words “life comes at you…” is based in some degree of experience you’ve never had before. It usually occurs when some calamitous event visits you when least expected.

My pastor recently preached a sermon based on the book of Job. Job was a man God considered most righteous. His righteousness was a thorn in the side of Satan. Being highly motivated to do his job well, Satan secured permission from God to interject some horrible misfortunes into Job’s life. For those of you familiar with the story, you know Job lost all his children, his cattle, his home, in fact all that God had blessed him with, except his wife and a few judgmental friends. From the ancient text (the Bible), it’s made abundantly clear that Job lost all, of what we today would call, those things that make some look at with profound envy. Even the Jones’ would lose their position of being the standards for material gain by which others would measure their achievements.

Facing life 2

There are people in society who seem to have it all. They were born into the perfect family. They always had adoring friends, graduated high school and college at the top of their class, had no problem establishing great careers, and the rains of good fortune just seemed to be in the forecast at all turns. But then as with Job, everything takes a southward direction, resulting in stresses and strains they didn’t see coming. The feasts they have been enjoying for so long finally morphs into famine, and they’re not prepared to cope. It’s at that point that their health might have collapsed, or they might have lost all the material gain with which they’ve been blessed. Chapters in life like this are when you’re forced to look life dead in the face. You can’t continue to skip happily through the tulips without a care. You must pay attention.

Life has many hues. It’s always there; however, oftentimes we don’t take stock. We don’t recognize that our good fare comes by way of God’s blessings and not by anything we’ve done. Life is more than the reflection produced by our decaying accomplishments. In order to live it fully, one must make the effort to recognize all that goes into it to make it what it is. It takes this kind of thinking, this kind of consciousness to experience an introduction to life, and to begin living it as one should, being mindful and thankful.

Facing life 3

Job came face to face with life, when he realized that God provided it, sustained it and provided all the good things that make life grand. Take some time, take inventory of all you’ve been provided, no matter the amount. Let life introduce itself to you before a calamity comes knocking.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Faith: an intangible or not?

 

Faith for living

I’ll begin by asking a question: How long have you been alive? This may seem like a strange question to ask; however, I hope the more words I share, the more its purpose will become obvious.

Let’s talk about faith. If you’re a religious person, you no doubt have an explanation for faith that hails from an ancient text. For those of us of the Christian tradition it is these words: Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. But, let’s consider something here that you may not have given substantial thought to, that faith is a necessary ingredient for living.

Let me ask another question: Can any human being live without holding unto faith of some kind? I would venture to say undoubtedly, no. When was the last time you flipped on a light switch? Why did you flip it? You did it obviously to shed illumination on some area that needed it. From experience of flipping light switches, and instantly seeing that light ensued, you had faith that future flipping would result in the same again.

If you’re not a person of the faith community, you know that group of folks who have faith in a non-corporeal entity, you might be saying a light switch is much more concrete that someone or something I can’t see, touch smell, etc. I respect that but consider this. When you flip on a light switch, don’t you have confidence that movement of the switch will result in light? When was the last time you journeyed down to the regional or local electric generating plant to see where electricity comes from and to make sure the mechanisms were there and working properly? I would dare say that there is a relatively small portion of the population that sees the equipment at an electric plant regularly. Yet we operate based on what others have said, and we have confidence that the plants are located all around the country.

Faith for living 2

You might be thinking at this point, at least the few people who’ve seen an electric plant can testify to their authenticity. Who am I to question them? Consider this: Those of the Christian tradition are basing their faith on the testimony of others who have witnessed the presence of God on earth. The New Testament isn’t just a compilation of stories written in the genre of fairy tales. There are people providing eye-witness testimony to the presence of God on earth in the embodiment of Jesus Christ.

Of course, I realize that I probably haven’t provided an overwhelming argument here for having faith in God; however, if you’ll recall, that wasn’t my purpose. My purpose was to address the question of whether faith is intangible or not. Most dictionaries define intangible as: unable to be touched or grasped; not having physical presence. Isn’t it awesome how faith is so prevalent in all our lives, and that it only exists in each of our lives when we’re still living? Intangible though it may be, it’s woven into the fabric of all our lives. For something so intangible, it must be in place before we step out of the house each day. We can’t choose to be without it.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

A South African preacher at an American Baptist church

map of south africa

Here’s another one of those moments I often experience while sitting in church. We had a great preacher today from South Africa, the reverend Mpendulo Christopher Machi, pastor of Saint Peters Baptist Church in Maigate Township, South Africa. Pastor Machi is also President of the National Baptist Convention in South Africa. This was interesting to find out they have a national organization like what we have in the Unites States.

Though I was interested to see and hear Pastor Machi, I must admit I was a bit curious about how his presentation would go over with us westernized folk of African ancestry. After all, the old saying about “if it looks like duck and walks like a duck” doesn’t always apply. I wondered how thick his accent would be; how effective his metaphors used in preaching would translate; how comfortable he would be standing before members of the African diaspora descended from captives kidnapped from the continent of Africa. I also thought how both he and we have suffered from the effects of European colonization and brutality.

map of the american south

Brother Machi entered the seating area of the pulpit, while the congregation was praising God with our normal hymns and other activities that are preambles to the apex of the service, preaching. I found his stature to be attention focusing. He’s a small man, light brown in complexion, well dressed in a three-piece gray suit, appearing quite western in over all image. No surprise here. After all, the Dutch, and the English have applied a heavy hand on the indigenous people of South Africa to have them appear western from the outside.

As Pastor Machi approached the rostrum to speak, he did so with what appeared to be the same confidence as any of our “preachers in residence.” When he first spoke, the accent was there. I had no problem understanding anything he said. Of course, I found myself paying closer attention to every word he uttered. I couldn’t afford to take one minute of mental vacation. I found this to be more of a benefit than a hindrance. Being in a more focused mode of listening resulted in even greater absorption of what was being shared from the pulpit. During his first few minutes of speaking, he mentioned that he normally preached in Zulu, with an interpreter. He said that presenting his sermon strictly in English might be somewhat of a challenge for him. If it was, I couldn’t tell.

south african worshipper

The sermon, brother Machi delivered was textually based on Luke 5:17-26, titled “When Faith is at Work.” (This is the account of a group of men, anxious to have their friend healed, lifted him to the rooftop and let him down to where Jesus was speaking, because they couldn’t get through the crowd that was surrounding the house.) As he revved up his exegetical talents, I and the rest of the congregation were quite comfortable responding with the amen, glory to God and other culturally customary animations you would find in any African American Baptist church in the American South. All felt, at the end of the sermon, that an ocean and a continent apart had in no way diluted our Sunday morning ritual. What great preaching, what commonality, accent and other cross-cultural norms notwithstanding.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Beauty Redefined

This is worth reblogging. Thanks to my/our young blogger, Joseyphenia for sharing such insight.

Joseyphina's World

We live in an era where beauty equates cosmetic perfection.

Flawless exterior, glowing skin and great posture;

No longer about what is real but what it is made to look
like;

Because there’s an application for nearly every
imperfection;

We no longer strive to work on our inner persons;

Forgetting that beauty is from the inside out;

When you have a kind, generous and gentle spirit;

A beautiful countenance will always radiate from you;

According to the Bible, those called with beautiful feet
aren’t those

Without calluses or scars or blemishes

But those who bring the Good News

Hence I believe beautiful hands are not necessarily for
those

Which look perfect through a camera lens

But those who lend a helping hand to those who need it;

Beautiful eyes go beyond the color of your pupils

It’s for those who allow themselves to see past their own
needs

Into the…

View original post 150 more words

We’re going to Africa

Accra 5

I posted a blog recently; titled Africa is calling. https://oldblessed.com/2019/07/02/africa-is-calling/ Chris and I are answering the call come May 2020. We’ve booked a trip to Ghana, West Africa. I was also able to interest my oldest child, Felicia and one of my cousins, Hansel Jeffrey and his wife to make the trip with us. I’m looking forward to a great mini family reunion. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am about making this journey. I feel like it will be a journey back in time to a place of which I have no familiar connection. I’m hoping that this will be one of, if not the most powerful emotional experience I’ve ever had. I’m confident that, though I may not have a familiar connection, I have a spiritual one, rooted in the DNA of people who harken back for millennia.

Accra 2

 

accra 3

I’m not writing much with this post. I simply want to start the process here of chronicling the experience. Yes, the experience did begin when I made the decision to make the trip. I’ve learned more about the continent from which my ancestors were stolen, since I made the decision to visit there, than at any point in my life. Thus, I do feel as though the trip has already begun. I will be sharing information, steps in planning for the trip and my emotions about going to my ancestral homeland up to the date of departure. I hope you can vicariously get a true flavor for what I’m experiencing.

Accra 4

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

911 still runs deep for all of us

Nine Eleven 1

Today is September 11. I sat at my keyboard early this morning, wanting to write something about September 11, 2001. Of course, that was the date of the tragedy involving the destruction of the twin towers in New York. There were many ideas circulating through my mind, but I couldn’t settle on just one. As I watched the national evening news, there were some images that cinched it for me.

Images often tell a story in a much more powerful way than words can ever do. It’s at that time when we see a certain image, the adage about “a picture is worth 1000 words” is arrestingly real. All the television news programs, local and national, devoted time to commemorating 911. The national news program I watched showed images of people standing at a podium, at the sight of 911, making comments about the loved ones they lost in the tragic event. There was also the customary naming of the nearly 3,000 souls who lost their lives that day. My television screen seemed to speak to me about the diversity of individuals participating in the memorial event. There were faces of all hues, making comments as they shed tears that were as fresh today as they were eighteen years ago. One lady even spoke in Spanish, which presented a degree of poignancy that I prayed gripped that hearts and minds of all Americans who saw and heard her.

Nine Eleven 2

Many have said that America is more divided now than it has been in quite some time. I take issue with that characterization, preferring to believe that we’ve always been divided. There are times when civility places a thin lid over how we truly feel about each other and are willing to demonstrate those thoughts in actions. Why can’t we remember all the numerous times in our history when people from every stripe imaginable have paid the price in suffering unto death to preserve freedom, voluntarily and involuntarily, for all of us? Why can’t those of us, who think we are somehow superior to others, look at what I saw on the evening news and realize that the highest of prices have been paid by a diversity of individuals for these amber ways of grain?

I remember 911 and how it caused large numbers of people to visit houses of worship. People tend to think about the value of their relationship with their maker after such tragedies. Unfortunately, that need to connect with powers greater than themselves wears off soon. I also remember the hate many showed toward people who looked a certain way, as if the evil minds that steered the planes into the twin towers were somehow a contagious condition that affected others who had brown skin, or wore a turban, or spoke with a certain accent. The angel of death chose liberally on 911, taking the lives of people who represented a bouquet of colors and ethnicities. All the blood shed that day was red! All the lives sacrificed were God-given.

Nine Eleven 3

It takes many, over generations to make a nation great. A nation’s greatness is not to be enjoyed by one group at the cost and sacrifices made by many other groups. God bless America and all who reside within her.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

The new norm: Not always born from light

Security 1

I just finished reading an article in my local newspaper about the soon-to-be completed construction of a new school building in one of our state’s communities. The superintendent was interviewed about the school, which will be an answer to a lot of needs in the community. The old school is no longer equipped to meet the needs of students and teachers. The superintendent extolled a list of features the new school building will provide: 128,000 square feet of space, an art classroom, fully equipped chemistry lab, a library, an indoor sports facility and more. All of this sounded worthy of lauding, but the one thing that caused me to take pause was the security measures that will be in the new building to ensure student safety.

Security 2

The writer of the article referred to a recent tour of the new school building, when the superintendent pointed out all the new security measures. These features include a bullet-resistant glass door, separating the main entrance area from the main building. This door can only be unlocked from the reception area, which is behind bullet-resistant glass windows. Are you seeing what I’m seeing here? Along with the new features this new school will provide, for improvement of the educational experience of the children who will occupy it, there will also be additional features suitable for any correctional facility. This is the new normal. This wouldn’t have ever been thought of when I attended public school way back in the separate-but-equal days of the mid-twentieth century. In the 1950s South, African American kids often went to school in old buildings, with worn classroom furniture and hand-me-down books, but security from wackos with guns was never given a thought.

There are many things to which we can point that have become parts of our new norm. Technology has had an enormous impact on our society, quickly ushering in new norms in every aspect of our lives. I have been dragged into contributing to the growth of e-commerce, purchasing clothing and other kinds of merchandise online, while I witness the slow death of some of my old commercial favorites like Sears and J.C. Penny’s. Just a few years ago, I wouldn’t have ordered clothing online under any circumstance. Shifts in how we buy and sell, communicate, connect with others around the world, receive our news are new norms that make life better for most of us; however, the need for extreme security measures in our schools, places of worship, and other areas in the public square are new norms which I wish we didn’t need.

Security 3

I’ve written before about the normalcy which has developed around the frequency of mass shootings in the United States. This stands out as one of the primary reasons for the heightened security measures we now see in many of our buildings that have been constructed to house workers, who are there to serve us all. Don’t you get a feeling that these people are, out of necessity, being separated from us, not being allowed to have close relationships with their fellow citizens? No matter how impressive the security measures in a newly constructed school building, a new post office, a new customer service center might be, I will try my best to not accept the high-tech security features they possess as the new norm. Unfortunately, my efforts will fail just as they did in my finally succumbing to the convenience of e-commerce.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.