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.

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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.

 

PCC Scroll – Men of the Bible – John the Baptist

We completed the summer issue of the PCC Scroll.

Here is the Men of the Bible section.

Name: John the Baptist

Meaning: Jehovah has been gracious

His Character: John was focused, fearless and uncompromising as he preached repentance and announced the coming of Jesus.

His Sorrow: He was beheaded.

His Triumph: Out of all the people John baptized, it must have been amazing to have baptized Jesus.

Key Scriptures: Matthew 3:1-17, 14:1-12; Luke 1:5-25, 3:1-20

I have often wondered how Christians of today would have reacted to John the Baptist during his ministry. He ate strange foods (locusts and wild honey) and wore odd clothes (clothes made from coarse camel hair with a leather belt around his waist). His face was weathered from the desert sun and living in the wilderness. His beard was unkept, and his hair was wild and long.

 

John’s ministry was foretold by Isaiah (40:3-5) and Malachi (4:5-6), and he is often compared to the prophet Elijah. John prepared the hearts of the people for the coming of Jesus by encouraging them to repent of their sins.

 

John was born to Elisabeth (who was of the priestly line of Aaron) and Zechariah (who was a member of the priestly order of Abijah). Elisabeth and Zechariah were elderly and childless. While Zechariah was serving in the Temple, he was visited by the angel Gabriel. Gabriel told Zechariah that his wife would conceive. They would have a son, and they would name him John. Gabriel told Zechariah what John’s mission in life would be and instructed Zechariah on how John should be cared for. Zechariah doubted, and he was struck mute. He was told he would not speak again until after the baby was born.

 

John and Jesus were related. Their mothers were cousins or close kin. John and Jesus’ first encounter occurred when they were in their mothers’ wombs. John jumped for joy in Elisabeth’s womb when she heard Mary’s voice.

 

When it was time to name the baby, many assumed he would be named Zechariah. Elisabeth named the baby John. Zechariah, who was still mute, wrote down the name Gabriel had given him and was then able to speak again. He made a prophecy over his son, outlining John’s mission to prepare the way by preaching salvation through repentance.

 

John was raised in an orthodox home where life centered around learning the Torah and religious traditions. He may have been a Nazirite. The Nazarites took a vow to abstain from alcohol and not cut their hair. John may have also lived with the Essenes, a community that was committed to study, prayer, celibacy and work.

 

John’s role was to announce the coming of the Savior. John spoke like a prophet of old, the first true prophet in 400 years. John challenged the ritualism and legalism of the day, and people were drawn to his message. He preached repentance. He firmly believed that faith must be followed by a change in behavior, always pointing to the One who would come after him. John encouraged his disciplines to follow Jesus. He knew that for Jesus to increase, he must decrease.

 

John challenged people to turn from their sins and baptized them as an outward sign of their repentance and commitment. As he inspired people, he also gained enemies. He confronted Herod, who was a tetrarch or a sub-king of Galilee under the Roman Empire, to admit his sins (among which was marrying his brother’s wife), and Herod’s wife plotted to have him killed. He was beheaded, but Jesus was already on the move.

 

John had baptized Jesus, proclaiming, “… Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” John 1:29, at Jesus’ approach. Jesus said that out of all who have ever lived, none was greater than John the Baptist. In John’s own words, “He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias,” John 1:23.

 

PCC Scroll – Your Money Matters

We completed the summer issue of the PCC Scroll.

Here is the Your Money Matters section.

Every one of us are blessed, and we are rich in knowledge, skills, gifts and talents. With so much need in the world, it is important that we give back in as many ways as we can. We could give of time, knowledge, skills, gifts, talents, money and other resources. The main thing is knowing what you are passionate about and seeking out opportunities in those areas.

 

If you feel a passion toward the elderly, there are many things you could do. They can be done at a senior center, hospital or a person’s home. Perhaps the simplest and biggest way to give is simply the gift of time and fellowship. That could be done over a meal, tea/coffee, a walk or talking. If the person(s) in question has a yard, there are things you could do for them in all seasons. For example, mowing the lawn in the summer, raking in the fall, shoveling snow in the winter and pruning/weeding in the spring.

 

Is cooking your passion? If so, you could fix and serve meals. This could be done for the elderly, and it could be done for friends, family or church members who have had surgery, are bereaved or are shut in. If cooking isn’t in your gifting, bringing a meal from a restaurant or deli is just as helpful.

 

If you feel a passion toward the homeless, you could volunteer at a shelter or a soup kitchen. During the winter, you could host drives for coats, scarves/gloves and blankets. You could hand out toiletry kits. Having a list of social services and shelters on hand could also be helpful.

 

If youth are a passion, there are different ways you could give back. Were you an athlete in school? Perhaps you could volunteer as a coach for a team. You could also volunteer at your local school or community center as a tutor for students. In addition, you could take part in or host a school supply drive. You could also become a mentor. For example, the Seattle Girls’ School looks for women mentors to partner with their students from November to June.

 

If you wish to make a monetary contribution to a charity or a family in need but money is tight, you could solicit goods and organize a yard or bake sale with proceeds going to that charity or family.

 

If you are an art and history lover, perhaps you could volunteer at a local museum as a docent. As an artist, you could volunteer to help with art classes at schools or senior centers.

 

The Bible talks a lot about supporting widows, orphans and those who are underrepresented and marginalized. Perhaps you could lend your voice and serve on a community group or board to advocate for resources.

 

Giving back could involve giving food or money to a local foodbank. There is a growing need across the country as wages are stagnant and food prices continue to rise. Many foodbanks need volunteers to box up donations. Don’t forget the ongoing food drive at our church.

 

If you are a writer, cook, lawyer, doctor, photographer, etc., many charities, nonprofits and advocacy groups could use your donated services.

 

The possibilities are endless, and we all have something to offer the community. If time is an issue, start small. Committing to do something weekly may not be feasible, so commit to doing something monthly or quarterly. If things aren’t working out, don’t be scared to make a change. Once things click with something, remain committed.

 

Giving back is good for you! Volunteering is shown to make people less stressed and shown to make people feel better – emotionally and physically. It’s also a great way to meet people with similar interests and passions.

 

PCC Scroll – Word of the Quarter

We completed the summer issue of the PCC Scroll.

Here is the Word of the Quarter.

In this issue of the PCC Scroll, we conclude the overarching theme of “Being a good steward: Working what’s in your hands.” The overarching focus started in the fall issue with the subject of “Recognizing what is in your hand: What are you steward over?” followed by “Exploring creative ideas: How else can you use your gifts?” in the winter issue and “Multiplying what you have: Expanding your territory” in the spring issue. In this issue, the overarching thought completes with the topic, “Stewardship: The call to share your gifts, talents and the Gospel.”

 

At first, using our gifts and talents can be daunting, but we must be willing to overcome our fears and take some risks. Everyone has a part and a role. If something is not working right or strained in the body, other parts feel it. Whatever part you play, don’t shortchange it like it’s not big enough. Paul and Peter are well known for speaking to large crowds, but Andrew was known for creating disciples through one-on-one interaction. Whatever we contribute is important whether we view it as significant or not. There are many things that are done behind the scenes that go unnoticed and may be taken for granted. In fact, we don’t notice them until they are not done. Things like yard upkeep (mowing the lawn and gardening), cleaning the church or washing sheets or baptismal clothes.

 

If you have a hard time committing, start with a short-term commitment. You don’t have to do everything at once, ease into it. A month can turn into a quarter which can turn into a year. We can seek God for how long an assignment should last. God will honor our trying and putting ourselves out there. Sometimes it’s a matter of knowing the direction and heading that way, believing God will order your steps. Instead of waiting for the full picture, put one foot out there.

 

We call on all of us to share and risk offering ourselves. If we know each other’s gifts, we can reach out to each other for certain needs. On the flipside, when the editing team met, we talked about offering our gifts as opposed to waiting for an invitation to use them. If people know that we have a gift, we wait for a request as opposed to just offering when we see a need.

 

The editing team also talked about our children. How do we help them find, learn and walk in their gifts? Once they know their gifts, how do we nurture their gifts and keep them balanced? How do we encourage them to use and understand their gifts? There is a spiritual inventory test geared toward children, so perhaps that would be a good place to start.

 

How do we offer platforms and spaces for people to use their gifts freely? For example, there has been a lack of platforms for the arts in general in the church. There is an opportunity for churches and the community to create platforms to share these gifts. We can’t get upset with people sharing their gifts in other platforms, but never present them the opportunity to use them for God.

 

PCC Scroll – Women of the Bible (Daughters of Zelophehad)

Names/Meanings: Hoglah – a partridge or a boxer; Mahlah – sickness or disease; Milcah – queen or counsel; Noah – rest or comfort; Tirzah – pleasantness

Their Character: The sisters had the assertiveness and tenacity to declare and fight for their inheritance.

Their Sorrow: Their father passed away.

Their Triumph: They were able to win a legal battle that granted them their deceased father’s share of the promised land.

Key Scriptures: Numbers 26:33; 27:1-11; 36:1-12; Joshua 17:3

Once upon a time, women had no property rights. If a man died without sons, his daughters did not inherit his property. The property would be passed to the nearest male relative, leaving the unmarried daughters without an inheritance.

 

Once upon a time, five women fought for their rights after their father died. These five women were Hoglah, Mahlah, Milcah, Noah and Tirzah, and they were the daughters of Zelophehad.

 

The sisters lived at the end of the exodus from Egypt as the Israelites prepared to enter the promised land. Their father was a descendent of Hepher, son of Gilead, son of Maker, son of Manasseh, son of Joseph. They presented a petition to Moses, Elezar the priest, tribal leaders and the community at the entrance of the Tabernacle.

 

Their father had died in the wilderness. The sisters pointed out that their father had not rebelled against God or leadership with Korah. Because his death was natural and did not involve any actions that would nullify his inheritance, they argued they were entitled to his share. They contended his name and family line should not disappear from his clan because he had no sons.

 

Moses sought God, and God said that their claim was legitimate. Because there were no male heirs, the sisters were granted the land that would have gone to their father. Furthermore, the people of Israel were given instructions. If a man died without a son to inherit, the inheritance would go to his daughters. If he had no children, the inheritance would be transferred to his brothers. If he had no brothers, the property would go to his father’s brothers. If his father had no brothers, it would go to the nearest male relative. The judgement became law among the tribes of Israel.

 

The decision didn’t come without some complications. Male family members came to Moses and the family members of Israel. They were concerned that if the daughters of Zelophehad married men from other tribes, the land would go to their husbands’ tribe causing the land to be lost to the ancestral tribe. This would reduce the land of the Tribe of Manasseh.

 

Moses ruled that land could not pass from tribe to tribe. The daughters could marry anyone they liked with the caveat that they must be from their territorial tribe. Each sister ended up marrying a cousin from their father’s side, so the land stayed within their tribe.

 

What a group of exceptional women. They are the first recorded women to declare for their rights, and their case is one of the earliest reported lawsuits on record. They did not sit back and let their inheritance slip from their fingers because of tradition. They fought for it, and their fight helped not only themselves but other women who would find themselves in similar situations. The decision of their case is still upheld by legal courts of law, and it is said to be one of the oldest decided cases that is cited as an authority.

 

Although we don’t know much about the sisters individually, we can assume that their parents raised them to be assertive. Under Jewish oral law, the sisters are referred to as wise, righteous, and students of the Torah.

 

Once upon a time, five remarkable women stood up to injustice and slew their dragon.

 

 

 

 

 

PCC Scroll: Men of the Bible (Jabez)

Name: Jabez

Meaning: He makes sorrowful

His Character: Jabez was a pious man who tried to live righteously.

His Sorrow: His birth caused his mother pain, and she gave him a name that means sorrowful.

His Triumph: He prayed for God to bless him and enlarge him, and God honored his petition.

Key Scriptures: 1 Chronicles 4:9-10

Jabez was a descendant of Judah. It is believed that he lived after the conquest of Canaan during the time of the judges. Jabez is mentioned during a genealogy of Judah in 1 Chronicles. The author interrupts the genealogy to briefly tell us about him, which is a reason to take note. We learn that he was named Jabez by his mother because his birth was exceptionally painful. The Bible refers to him as more pious than his brothers.

 

Jabez is remembered for his prayer request that is found in 1 Chronicles 4:10. The prayer is, “And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!”

 

In his prayer, he asked for four things. He asked for God to bless him. He asked for God to enlarge his coast. He asked for God to keep His hand on him. He asked for God to keep him from evil.

 

The first thing Jabez prayed was, “Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed.” Jabez recognized God as the source of all blessings. In his request, he was asking God for supernatural favor. He did not say what he wanted those blessings to be. He trusted God for the results.

 

The second thing Jabez prayed was, “enlarge my coast.” The word coast can be replaced with the word territory. When Jabez says this, he is not just referring to physical land, wealth and prosperity, though I am sure that was part of his request. He was also referring to his relationship with God and his spiritual impact on those around him. He was referring to expanding his influence.

 

The third thing Jabez prayed was, “that thine hand might be with me.” Jabez wanted God to protect him and lead him in all that he did, every moment of his life. He wanted God with him through all trials and circumstances that came to him.

 

The fourth thing Jabez prayed was, “that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me.” Jabez’s name means sorrow. He was praying to be protected from the meaning of his name.

 

I am not sure what caused Jabez to pray those words. As mentioned, his mother named him sorrowful. Names were very important during Biblical times. A name was a wish and a prophecy for that child. People often ended up living out the meaning of their name, which is a reason for the names changes in the Bible. Jabez did not want his name to define his future or anything to do with its meaning. Perhaps he prayed to cancel that label and that his life would not be sorrowful.

 

His life certainly ended up far from the meaning of his name. He prayed, and God heeded his prayer. In Jabez, we see a person who defied the label placed on him. He believed in the power of God and prayed that power into his life.

 

Today, the Prayer of Jabez has been marketed as a book (part of the prosperity movement) and turned into a song. But I think the lesson of Jabez’s story is his faith and belief in God. God answered his words and his prayer. When praying to God, it is perfectly suitable to pray using scripture. It is also okay to pray for blessings. Just remember you are blessed to bless others. At the end of the day, God knows your voice and your needs. Like Jabez, call on Him.