Daunting Options that Led to Courage

FDBackgroundGrowing up in Greene County, Alabama, I learned early on that the concept of pro-black didn’t mean anti-white or anti any race or culture. It meant having a mind to promote a people who struggled to overcome—a people—who still struggles to overcome injustices. Oftentimes, the idea is misrepresented because of a lack in understanding the historical context. It is essential to remember that many valuable figures throughout history were white men and women who stood with blacks—then and now—in the struggle.

emma_rev_gimore3In recognition of Black History Month, I would be remiss not to recognize an individual whom I considered a friend and mentor, the late Rev. Dr. Thomas E. Gilmore. Rev. Gilmore was the second black sheriff in the state of Alabama and the first black sheriff elected in Greene County. The movie, This Man Stands Alone [a.k.a. Lawman Without A Gun] (1978), portrays Rev. Gilmore’s road to becoming a sheriff in the deep south. Today, the court house square in Eutaw, Alabama is named in his honor.

During my tenure in divinity school, Rev. Gilmore and I discussed much theological dogma, which often led to conversations about Black History. I enjoyed listening to Rev. Gilmore, lift up brave men and women that he knew from the struggle. One such individual was Rev. Frederick Lee “Fred” Shuttlesworth .

Rev. Shuttlesworth led the fight against segregation and other forms of racism as a Baptist minister in Birmingham, Alabama. He was a co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). This summer I visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute while back home in Alabama. It was humbling to stand beneath the statue of a man who was such a giant among men.

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No one need ever have to apologize for the greatness of who they are. To be uniquely oneself is powerful. Genesis 1:27 affirm that we are created “in God’s image”. As God’s image. . . we should be an official, visible, and comprehensible representation of who God is and what He is really like. Therefore, we should treat others as we wish to be treated (Luke 6:31).

For there are many men and women of great character who have dreamed and practiced what is good. Yet the dream that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned and the dream that we envision for ourselves—our world—has yet to be fully realized.  Harriet Tubman said, “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”

Living in Alabama, there were things you knew… about the dream… by the time you got to third grade. Even if you weren’t sure whether you learned it at school, church, home or from Uncle Bob. Things like (Oh and yes you knew the dates too)…

  • the first slaves were brought to the New World in 1619
  • people of color fueled the cotton industry of 1793
  • abolitionism and the underground Railroad started around 1831
  • civil war and emancipation 1861
  • post–slavery south began in 1865
  • separate but equal 1896
  • NAACP founded in 1909
  • Harlem Renaissance started in 1920
  • Brown v. Board Of Education May 17, 1954
  • Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, December 1955,
  • Freedom Rides of 1961
  • Birmingham church bombed, 1963
  • “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963 by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Coretta Scott King is from Heiberger, Alabama
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • Selma to Montgomery March in March 1965
  • Voting Rights Act of 1965
  • rise of Black Power Movement late 1960’s & and early 70’s
  • Shirley Chisholm runs for president, 1972,
  • Jesse Jackson runs for president, 1984

I’ll stop here… but there’s much more that could be said about Black History through the eyes of a black person who grew up in the 70’s & 80’s in the South. Today… we might have trouble remembering our children’s birthdates—but I bet—we know the assassination dates of John F. Kennedy (Nov. 22, 1963), Malcolm X (Feb. 21, 1965), and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (April 4, 1968).

As an African-American, I love Black History! It’s a legacy. It’s the love of a people who faced daunting options so that others may have choices. It’s the hope of the past, present and future generations. It’s the gift of brave men, women, and children who remind me of the words of Dr. Maya Angelou. . . “Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”

God Bless. . . I am Wiley’s granddaughter.

Forgotten Wisdom: Aesop’s Fables

As I embrace Black History Month—my ancestors—people of color. . . I’m honored by their creativity, ingenuity and sheer perseverance. And while I orientated myself in place and time, Aesop’s Fables came to mind.

My brothers and I were often enchanted by stories that our mom told involving some ants and a grasshopper, a fox and some grapes. Coded meanings spoken by magical creatures that brought moral messages to those who would hear. Lions and wolves struck fear and courage in my heart long before I went to kindergarten.

But, imagine my delight, when I learned that a Black man had spoken those words centuries ago. How amazing it is that his words and identity survived to teach me. . .  to inspire me. . . to show me wisdom through moral and spiritual lessons.

For it’s generally accepted that Aesop, a slave and storyteller, lived in ancient Greece during the 6th century. He is believed to have been an African, possibly from Ethiopia. A Black man in ancient times, telling universal truths with words that even a child can understand reveals an image of a wise person. Take the story, The Lion & the Mouse, where the moral is that A kindness is never wasted, which was true in Aesop’s time, is true now, and will be true in the future.

I’ve always enjoyed reading Aesop’s Fables. Maybe it’s because my mom created an awareness for the nuances of learning through parables. Or maybe it’s the unique ability that the stories have to show a person’s beliefs, character and actions. . . and then masterfully show them consequences of such.

I picked up my cell phone. . .  called my daughter and shared my passion for the fables with her.  Then I asked if she’d read Aesop’s Fables in school. She told me that she didn’t think so. Guilt washed over me. I don’t remember sharing Aesop’s Fables with her when she was a child. Not in a real intentional way. . . like my mom did. . . Have we forgotten the wisdom found in Aesop’s Fables?

With a little persuasion from me, we read a few together and discussed the moral of each fable. It was an enjoyable experience. Which goes to show that the young and not so young can see the wisdom in Aesop’s Fables.

It’s my goal to re-read all the fables during the month of February and consider their relevance for living today. I invite you to join me in this quest.

God Bless. . . I am Wiley’s granddaughter.

Who Are The Peacemakers?

Who are the peacemakers? Without conflict… there’d be no need for peacemakers. But, we’re unlikely to always avoid strife…  so there must be peacemakers. Ignoring problems or pretending everything is okay when in fact it’s not—doesn’t make one a peacemaker. Who does Jesus call the peacemakers?

Let’s look at the word peacemaker. It’s a compound word composed of two very common words… “peace” and “maker.” Shalom is the Hebrew word for peace. Often used as a greeting, such as “hello” or in departure much like “goodbye”. It’s a term associated with health, harmony, prosperity, and completeness. Shalom denotes perfect welfare, tranquility, fulfillment, free of trouble, and liberation from all that blocks contentment.

The term “make” comes from the Greek verb poieó—meaning— “to do” or “to make”. It’s a word of action, energy and initiative. It denotes that peace must be made. And that peace rarely happens by chance or accident after a conflict. It’s worth recalling that peace in the Bible is always based on justice and righteousness. For where justice prevails and righteousness rules…there also is peace.

Taken together, “peace” and “makers,” describe people who actively pursue peace. This includes a pursuit of more than the avoidance of strife… or merely seeking to appease those in disagreement. A peacemaker doesn’t try to accommodate wrong. But rather enforces the blessedness of God by producing a right solution in each situation.

According to Jesus, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6 KJV), peacemakers are those people who actively work to reconcile people to God and to one another. For peacemakers:

  • have integrity,
  • listen without taking sides,
  • love based on Jesus’ model of forgiveness,
  • pray for wisdom, guidance, understanding, and courage,
  • recognize deceit and honesty,
  • allow ethical principles to inform their decision-making, and are
  • fruitful by glorifying God with just and right results.

Matthew 5:9 (KJV) tells us that Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. May we be the peacemakers—this Holiday season—as we seek peace on earth and goodwill towards all.

 God Bless… I am Wiley’s granddaughter.

A Thankful Heart

I once went to church with a lady, who during service would stand up and give thanks to God for allowing her to see another day. In my immature state of mind, I would think, “…that’s the same thing you said last week”. Now let me put this in context, other members were testifying about a prayer that was answered or a blessing that was received—something that was new news. But over 90% of the time—this member stood up—and told us to “taste and see that the Lord is sweet… and He’s allowed her to still be here”.

Years later, I now believe that church member had a thankful heart. She knew God for more than a gift giver of things. She knew Him as the keeper of her mind, body and soul. Psalm 9:1, tells us to give thanks and tell of the Lord’s wonderful deeds. And the most wondrous deed of all is that we’re still here. Because from here… we can move forward.  We can grow in the grace and favor of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Wrapped up in the cares of life, it’s not always easy to nature a thankful heart. Yet, this is the very thing we’re required to do in order to see God’s will accomplished in our lives. So, let us:

  • Counts our blessings (Psalm 103: 2-5) 
  • Celebrate the mighty deeds of God (Psalm 9:1; Psalm 107:8; 1 Samuel 2:1-2)
  • Appreciate our uniqueness… not comparing ourselves to others (I Samuel 18:8;Galatians 6:4)
  • Constantly avoid complaining(Philippians 2:14-15;Exodus 16:8)
  • Cultivate a heart of contentment (Psalm 50:23)
  • Demonstrate a generous heart towards others (2 Corinthians 9:11-12)
  • Value our resources  (Mark 8:1-10; Luke 22:17-19)
  • Give praise for the good times, happy times, and sad times—we can learn from them all (Hebrews 13:15; Psalms 100:4; Psalm 138:4-5; Psalm 138:6-7)
  • Praise God for His love (Psalm 138:1-2; 1 Thessalonians 5:18)
  • Know that being thankful can change circumstances (Acts 16:25;Psalm 138:3)

Having a thankful heart fills us with an attitude of gratitude. We no longer, think that we deserve to have everything. Or that all things should go the way we want them to go. We lose that feeling of entitlement and gain the wisdom of thankfulness. With a thankful heart, we see the good and positiveness in life and focus on that. We quickly turn away negative thoughts that come into our mind… because we now see who keeps our mind, body and spirit.

We celebrate God, life and others. As the lady who stood up in church—we too—recognize the power of a thankful heart. It leads to overflowing joy because we delight in the Lord of lords!

God Bless… I am Wiley’s granddaughter.

 

In His Presence

There are days, when regardless of the circumstances of life, you feel God’s loving embrace. You snuggle up in fellowship with reverence, thankful for forgiveness and hopefulness—praising Him for what isn’t as though it was. In Acts 13:22, we’re told that David was a man after God’s own heart. You wonder, “Is this how David felt?”  You consider… “What is this that the sovereign God should be mindful of little O’ me?”

Then you remember… Matthew 10:29-31 tells us that we’re in our Father’s care. He is so mindful of us that He knows the very number of hairs on our heads. And we need not be afraid because we’re precious to Him. We’re God’s masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10). He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things He planned for us long ago (Ephesians 2: 10).

So, you revel in God’s grace and mercy. Gazing up at a beautiful blue sky…  you desire to be like David… Knowing that David was:

  • Kind—2 Samuel 9:3
  • Humble—Psalm 62:9
  • Reverent—Psalm 18:3
  • Respectful—Psalm 31:9
  • Trusting—Psalm 27:1
  • Loving—Psalm 18:1
  • Devoted—Psalm 4:7
  • Grateful—Psalm 9:1
  • Faithful—Psalm 23:6
  • Obedient—Psalm 119:34
  • Repentant—Psalm 25:11
  • Promise Keeper—1 Samuel 18:7
  • Gracious—2 Samuel 9:7

As God swath’s you in His presence… you realize that you don’t have to feel God to know He’s there. You’re aware that you must live by faith (Romans 1:17), because it is impossible to please God without it (Hebrews 11:6). However, you leap for joy within your spirit because you feel the presence of God.

You take a deep breath, and be still (Psalms 46:10). Then you call His name… Jesus… Bless this day for the calmness of my soul (Acts 4:12).

God Bless… I am Wiley’s granddaughter.