The Artist formerly known as LTB

The title is a joke, of course. LTB forever!

As part of an innovation fair, my homeport is having a Port Employees’ Artistic Creative Expo (PEACE) event. The exhibit will be up all month. Today we had the kickoff complete with a toast (Martinelli’s of course).

I submitted pieces for the exhibit: two books, two photographs and three paintings.

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In full disclosure, I feel my strongest gifting is in writing.

Photography is something I am developing. I was thinking this morning what an art form photography truly is. You literally get once chance to take certain shots. If you miss it, the moment is gone. There have been so many times I have missed shots because I was not prepared. One that stands out is during a boat ride in Australia. There was a fast moving train, that went by, and I so wanted to capture that from the water. By the time I got my camera out and ready, the moment had gone.

My paintings are from sip and paint classes. I have nine pieces on my wall, and I so love doing them. It’s not my strongest gift, but it is something I enjoy doing a lot.

Needless to say, I have some very talented colleagues. Here is a sample of the other submissions.

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PCC Scroll: Editor’s Corner

The following poem by Wu-men has always resonated with me:

 

Ten thousand flowers in spring,

the moon in autumn,

a cool breeze in summer,

snow in winter.

If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.”

 

As I have mentioned in the past, I suffer from what I like to call “chronic dissatisfaction” – though I would like to think I am getting better. Part of the problem is that I overcomplicate life by overthinking. I overanalyze the concepts of happiness and success. Am I happy? Am I successful? What exactly are they, and what will it take for me to “be/feel happy” and “be/feel successful?”

 

Philippians 4:8 tells us “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

 

For me, a big part of this season and getting back to basics is simplifying life. Happiness and success are found in simple, everyday life. They are not in the next big trip, a job promotion or meeting Mr. Right, although they would all be nice.

 

Happiness and success come from spending time with my friends and family. It means I am surrounded by love and am able to maintain healthy, stable relationships. They come from something as simple as sitting on my couch, sipping ginger tea with honey while watching the rain. It means I have the ability to provide shelter for myself and that I have food in my house. Happiness and success are not overcomplicated, impossible to achieve abstract ideas. They exist in the everyday and the here and now.

 

In our high-paced society, we have lost the basic ability to just be. Even if we achieve something wonderful, we move quickly to the next accomplishment. We often don’t sit and enjoy our success. We move at such a fast clip, that we literally don’t have time to stop and smell the roses or notice all the “little” things to be happy (and thankful) about. This summer, I was mindful of grounding myself. This included things like actually stopping to hear the waves when I walked on the waterfront and actually stopping to smell the roses in the rose garden, even if only for a few minutes.

 

Since summer has made way to fall, I am enjoying watching the leaves change colors. Such a simple and basic pleasure. It is about learning to slow down and be satisfied for what is right in front of us. There will always be goals for the future, but before you move to the next goal, celebrate what you accomplished.

 

As you look at your life, I invite you to live with gratitude. I invite you to slow down and give thanks for all the things to be happy about. I encourage you to think about and give yourself credit for all those things that point to how successful you are (and how far you have come).

 

PCC Scroll: Your Money Matters

For this section of the PCC Scroll, we will talk about “Going back to basics.” In today’s world, what does that even mean when it comes to finances?

 

Because of our busy schedules, we often opt to pay a premium for convenience. We can have groceries and food from restaurants delivered to our homes and jobs. We can buy meat, fruits and vegetables pre-cut. While it may save time, the costs associated with the conveniences quickly add up. It is important that we focus on what we are spending our money on and limit spending where we can.

 

I have long since thought that we have somehow managed to blur what we need vs. what we want. For example, while I may want wi-fi at my house or a data plan for my cellphone, are they really things I need? They are convenient, but are they life and death needs? For me, the answer is no. Though some could argue that both are necessary for the running of their household. So not only is want vs. need debatable, in some cases, they could be different. If you work from home, wi-fi is crucial for your day-to-day work. And according to financial advisors, in some cases, want vs. need could be less financial and more psychological.

 

So, what do we need? We need housing (shelter), transportation (car, gas or bus/train fare), insurance (health, car, etc.), groceries (food and toiletries), clothing, childcare, debt repayments (credit cards, student loans, etc.) and utilities (gas and electricity). What are some popular wants? Travel, entertainment (movies, cable, Netflix, etc.), designer clothing, coffee (not made at home) and gym membership.

 

Now, let’s break that down further. Even items in the need category can be blurred with a little want. You need a house, but a family of four may not need a six-bedroom house. In the same vein, while you need a car, you might not need a luxury car (Though if your job requires a lot of travel in your car, you may opt for comfort). While you need clothes, you don’t need to have designer clothes. While you need food, going out for lunch five days a week could add up very quickly and organic fruits and vegetables, though healthier in some cases (do a search for “clean” fruits and vegetables), add up.

 

As always, these are just guidelines. Based on your individual circumstances, what you consider a need may differ. We are meant to enjoy the fruit of our labor as much as we can. By rule, don’t go into debt for travel, food, clothes, electronics and other “stuff.” At the end of the day, the goal is to get to the place financially where you not only cover all your needs, but you also have money left over for some of those wants. My main vice is travel, but in order to take it, I have to save for it.

 

If you need help budgeting, the 50/30/20 rule is a popular approach. You spend 50% on needs, 30% on wants and 20% on savings and paying off debt.

 

Begin by tracking your monthly expenses: every expenditure from your mortgage to coffee to bubble gum. Place those items into broad categories like housing, utilities, insurance, food, etc. Divide these items into wants and needs. Insurance and phone would be a need but coffee and eating out is a want. If your needs are over 50% of your income, take the percentage out of your wants.

 

There is software (and even basic Excel) that can help you create a budget. When you create your initial budget, be flexible with it and yourself. Adjust your budget as you go until you have a solid budget and then keep it. Then as your income and circumstances change, revise your budget. And remember, leave a little room for fun. Otherwise you probably won’t stick to it.

 

PCC Scroll: Men of the Bible – Jesus

Name: Jesus (Christ)

Meaning: To deliver, to rescue; Anointed one; Yahweh is salvation

His Character: He was fully God and fully man, but He never sinned.

His Sorrow: He took upon the sins of the world, and He died for them.

His Triumph: He completed His earthly mission – to die for the sins of the world.

Key Scriptures: The Gospels

Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy of a savior-deliverer who would come from the line of Judah and King David. The book of Matthew traces Jesus’ lineage to Abraham. The book of Luke traces Jesus’ lineage to Adam, the son of God. The book of John traces Jesus to the beginning as the Word (which became flesh and dwelt amongst people). Although the people wanted an earthly king, that is not why He came. His purpose was to sacrifice Himself and take away the sins of the world and save us from death through His life, death and resurrection.

 

The four Gospels talk about His miracle birth and then fast forward 12 years to His first Passover feast in Jerusalem. Jesus stayed behind and amazed everyone with His wisdom and understanding at such an early age. Then fast forward 18 years with His baptism by His cousin, John the Baptist. Jesus started His ministry with His first public miracle of turning water into wine. He spent three years traveling throughout cities with His disciples proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven and performing miracles. His ministry ended with His ascension into Heaven after spending time with His followers after His resurrection.

 

What does the life and ministry of Jesus tell us about “Going back to basics?” Jesus cared for the needs of the people before He ministered the Gospel. This is evident in the fish and loaves scripture where He fed people before He ministered to them.

 

In His ministry, He cared for people. He developed relationships with a wide range of people. Look at His relationships with Lazarus, Mary, Martha and His disciples. He interacted with people many thought He should not – from a tax collector, to criminals, a widow, a woman caught in adultery, a blind beggar, sick people, etc. He was drawn to the marginalized.

 

While teaching, Jesus used analogies and parables that people could understand to teach spiritual ideas. He did not talk down or above the people like the Pharisees and Sadducees. He used real-life examples that the people could understand and relate to. He taught moral issues and spoke about our relationship with God by illustrating spiritual truths with narratives.

 

In addition to being an understandable teacher, Jesus also performed miracles such as giving sight to the blind, speech to the mute, hearing to the deaf and movement to the paralyzed. He cured diseases and raised the dead. These miracles were meant to prove Jesus’ divinity. Although we may not have the power to do any of that, we do have the power to be a miracle in someone’s life.

 

Do you want to go back to basics in your ministry? Jesus gave us our greatest commandment, which is to love. Love God and love people. It will make us all live better, forgive more readily and be better lights for the world just as Jesus was. As the Bible says, “And above all things have fervent charity (love) among yourselves: for charity (love) shall cover the multitude of sins.”

 

Jesus is a wonderful example of a person fulfilling and living out purpose. He came as a servant who was full of compassion and experienced sorrow on our behalf. He was drawn to the poor, despised, hurt and those in sin. He helped people by fulfilling their basic needs, ministering to them and healing them. Jesus served, and He loved God and others. He is the ultimate example to live by.

 

PCC Scroll: Word of the Quarter

With this issue of the PCC Scroll, we begin a new editorial calendar year and a new overarching theme. When the editing team met to develop the new calendar, one word that surfaced was anchored, and it became the overarching theme for the next four issues. The word anchor can be described as, “something that serves to hold an object firmly” or “a reliable or principal support.” We thought the first step toward being anchored was “Returning to the source” with a sub-theme of “Going back to basics.” Our source, of course, is God.

 

During our retreat, we talked about the importance of being firmly anchored to our source in the current chaotic environment. We must seek and maintain stability of mind. With all that is happening in the world, it is important to maintain spiritual, mental, emotional and relational health. We talked about the importance of spiritual discipline, being in a solid community and nurturing our soul.

 

So, what are the basics in spiritual discipline that can keep us anchored to the source? They are things like prayer, Bible study and praise and worship. Prayer is how we communicate with God. This communication goes two ways. We talk to God, and God talks to us. It is our one-on-one time with God where we can share our cares, petition our needs/wants and listen for instructions. Bible study is how we know what God says about us and wants for us. It is the blueprint on how to conduct our lives. The Bible is full of instructions and examples. We were created for praise and worship and to surrender to God. In praise and worship, we hand over our cares to God, thank Him for what He has done and magnify His holiness. All three are key instruments in our war chest.

 

Being in safe, loving and nurturing communities is a critical part of our walk. We all have different communities: church, work, family and friends. In all of our communities, each of us bring different strengths, talents and passions, and we are connected to one another. Collectively, we can accomplish quite a bit. As humans, we are wired for community. We have a need to love and serve one another, and having community gives us a safe place to go when we need help. In terms of community, it is important to recognize the importance of personal accountability when dealing with one another.

 

Nurturing our soul can be done in many ways and involves making time for ourselves. It can be taking a walk in nature, volunteering, exercising, trying something new, traveling, journaling or whatever gives you joy and satisfaction. Take the time to laugh and enjoy your life. Spend time with your family and friends and be sure to pursue your passions and hobbies. It is all part of the self-care that is important for us to be healthy and balanced.

 

John 3:16 is one of the most popular scriptures in the world. It says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

 

As we go back to basics, it is important that we simply love and give. We love God, and we love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We give our resources, time and gifts/talents.

 

How many “lone wolfs?”

My brother posted a comment about racial profiling, and it brought up a thought that has been running in my mind for some time: How many “lone wolfs” does it take for the pack to be recognized?

 

When I was growing up – whether consciously or unconsciously – this mantra of “representing the race” was instilled in me. As if every action, deed or misdeed represented something bigger than the actions of a mere individual. My actions represented every other black person across the nation. That is a heavy burden to carry.

 

It seems like black people (people of color in general) are not allowed individuality. Everything we do is weighed, measured and balanced as part of the reflection of the whole. This is why this constant “lone wolf” brush or diagnosis of “mental illness” has always troubled (for lack of a better word) me. How many white males with clear white supremacy radicalization will be given a pass without ever acknowledging the pack of wolves?

 

If a black person does a crime, they are thugs and criminals. If a brown person does a crime, build the wall or they are terrorists. Yet this individual – and I will be curious to see how Dayton, Ohio, pans out, gets to be a lone wolf or mentally ill.

 

I can begin to name the many black and brown people who have been unarmed yet killed by police. Yet how many white male gunmen been captured without incident. As I read comments – and I really do need to stop reading comments on articles for my own piece of mind – there is always justification. This justification is appalling and never addressed the real address. This fear of other. This fear of the “browning of America.” This fear of a shift in power structure.

 

Until being black or brown is “un-criminalized,” there will always be a reason to fear me. There will be a reason to follow me in stores (I wish I were being paranoid). There will be a reason to clutch your purses, wallets and phones as I walk by you. There will be a reason to teach your children that I am 3/5 of a person, a monkey and subhuman.  There is absolutely nothing I can do with your fear of me – whether consciously or unconsciously – that is something you have reconcile within yourself.

 

As for the current administration, I think of the book of Hosea. Sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind. How does one expect to sow so much hate and expect to not see results? And for the “Christian right” who support the administration, I leave you into the hands of God. In your silence, you are culpable.

 

And my brother is right, we need more healers. The wounds are festering and raging. We need a healing balm to flood the world to heal the rage, anger and fear that wants to overtake and consume us.

 

This is me unedited, literally. I will edit and add more later. But these are the thoughts that have me up at 2:00 in the morning.

PCC Scroll – Editor’s Corner

We completed the summer issue of the PCC Scroll.

Here is the Editor’s Corner.

I love the Lord of the Rings movies. The development and growth of the main cast is extremely well done over the course of the trilogy. As with a lot of movies, quizzes were developed to identify which character you were most like.

 

People desired to be Aragorn, Gandalf or Frodo. Aragorn is thought to represent God as King. In the movie version, he struggled with being the heir of Gondor, but he eventually embraced his birthright to be king. Gandalf the Grey/White is thought to represent the resurrected Christ and prophet. He was the all-knowing God the Father figure. Frodo is thought to represent God as the sufferer and priest. He saved the world but not for himself and left with the elves.

 

I ended up attending a history lecture series about the books. There I discovered that, according to Tolkien, the character that most represents Christ (and is the “true hero” of the story) is Sam, though other characters have attributes. While a lot of people have opinions, it is Tolkien’s assertion that means the most. Although often relegated to being a follower of Frodo, it was Sam. Not Aragorn who was brave and mighty. Not Gandalf who was all-knowing and wise. Not Frodo who was the ring bearer. But overweight, frightened and often overlooked Samwise Gamgee (whose name translates as halfwit).

 

So why the Sam character? Sam was a gardener who enjoyed dancing, music and poetry. Although a character who was often overlooked and seemed insignificant at first, Sam was the most servant like of the characters. He never sought glory. He was in the background, always there but often unnoticed and not celebrated. Sam is the character who was with Frodo for most of the quest to destroy the one ring except for a short period of time when Frodo’s mind was poisoned against Sam by Gollum.

 

It was Sam, overcoming fears of water and heights to stay with Frodo, to the rescue. He beat a giant, man-eating spider in a one-on-one battle (If I had encountered Shelob, there is not enough electro-shock therapy that could bring me back). He stormed a tower full of orcs to save Frodo. And, my favorite, he carried Frodo on his back up the side of Mount Doom (a volcano) when Frodo could go no more, even though he too was tired, fatigued and hungry. Think of the poem “Footprints in the Sand” with Christ carrying you and your burdens.

 

Sam was a hero and represents Christ as servant and is a model for Christian discipleship. Sam sacrificed of himself to help Frodo in the quest to destroy the one ring. He did not always agree with the choices Frodo made, but he stayed because of his love for his friend.

 

So how does this tie into the newsletter’s theme of sharing your gifts and talents? It is the everyday acts of people like Samwise the Brave, that often get overlooked, that make the difference. Once he knew his assignment, Sam carried it out despite the price.

 

Remember they wanted Jesus to be a king, but He came to be a servant. Whenever you use your gifts and talents, I admonish you to serve with the spirit of a servant.