PCC Scroll: Editor’s Corner

This is a piece I wrote for the summer “Editor’s Corner” of the PCC Scroll.

I used sections from the piece I wrote earlier about Chris Cornell.

https://latonjab.wordpress.com/2017/05/21/say-hello-to-heaven/

When I heard Chris Cornell had died, I was shocked. I had fallen in love with Grunge during my high school years when I first heard it. Pearl Jam. Sound Garden. Nirvana. Mother Love Bone. The shock of Chris Cornell’s death further increased when I learned his death had been ruled a suicide. Cornell struggled with depression and anxiety, and he was quite open about it. His death made me think long and hard about the internal battle that each of us face daily, often silently.

 

I remembered a young girl who committed suicide some years back. I remember someone saying that we should never make a “permanent decision based on temporary circumstances.” I wondered at her age if she knew that life has ebbs and flows, ups and downs. Nothing is permanent, though in the middle of some seasons it seems like the season will never end. And the sad truth is that people end up at the point where they don’t want to experience the extreme ebbs and flows anymore.

 

Internal battles and struggles can be exhausting and the temptation to give up is very real. The level of despair can get so high. High enough that family, friends and community are not enough to hold a person to this life. Regardless of where you are in life and regardless of your current trials and tests, I beseech you to endure. One of the definitions of the word endure is, “to remain firm under suffering or misfortune without yielding.”

 

There is a quote that I love. It says, “Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” The saying may be a mesh of two quotes. One is attributed to author James M. Barrie that says, “Be kinder than necessary.” The other is a quote attributed to Plato that says, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

 

One thing I find beautiful is that we were designed for community. None of us are meant to walk alone. We are all fearfully, wonderfully and uniquely made and there is a community that needs our unique gifts and talents.

 

At the end of the day, people are trying to cope and play the hand they were dealt. Some cope with drugs and alcohol as addicts. Some cope as functioning alcoholics and addicts in nine-to-five jobs. Some cope with sex. Some cope with food. Some cope with God. We all find ways to cope and cling to some hope. We find ways to numb ourselves and numb our pain.

 

One of the beauties of my walk with God is that I have hope. I have hope in this life and in the life to come.

 

In the end, what I am trying to say is be kind. It doesn’t matter how successful a person may seem on the outside, or how happy a person may seem on the outside. You never know what a person is dealing with or going through. Be kind to others and be kind to yourself. And above all, endure. Fight because the gifts within you are valuable, sacred and needed. Fight because your life, presence and being are precious. Fight.

 

 

 

PCC Scroll: Word of the Quarter

The “Word of the Quarter” section from the summer PCC Scroll.

In this issue of the Scroll, we are concluding the overarching theme of “How Do We Arm Ourselves without Giving into and Operating Out of Fear.” The overarching theme began in the fall issue with the theme of “Changing Our Viewpoint.” In the winter issue, we continued with the theme of “Where is the Real Battle?” In the spring issue, we continued with the theme of “Get in the Fight.” In this summer issue, we complete the overarching theme with the theme of “Enduring the Fight.”

 

When the editing team met to write the “Word of the Quarter,” we discussed that to endure the fight, you needed to be equipped with the correct tools and have a strategy for endurance.

 

Imagine yourself as a boxer in a match. You must pace yourself to fight 12 rounds that will last three minutes each. It is rare that a fight is won in one blow, so you must be prepared and trained to fight the entire match. Between rounds, you will be given advice from your coach. Your coach may have noticed a weakness in your opponent they want you to exploit. In some cases, your coach may have to re-strategize because your enemy has shown moves that were not anticipated and are very effective against you. All the while a team of trainers and medical staff are tending you. They are giving you Gatorade, encouragement and treating any wounds.

 

But before you even stepped into the ring, you prepared with your coach and trainers. You watched film on your opponent. You studied their weaknesses and their strengths, and you saw their tactics. You practiced on when to advance on your opponent and when to retreat. You trained on how to block their shots and learned which of their punches had the most power. You repeatedly rehearsed doing jabs and uppercuts. You learned how to lead with your entire body to produce a powerful blow. You surrounded yourself with a team of people who gave you advice. You secured all the necessary equipment, like your mouth guard and your gloves.

 

Guess what? Your opponent also analyzed you. Your opponent also trained and secured their equipment. Your opponent learned your weaknesses because they studied you. Your opponent will attack and come after you in these areas. Just look at the example of Job. The devil attacked his wealth, family and health. You must equip yourself with the armor of God, and keep your armor on! Sharpen your awareness of the devil’s tactics, discerning when to advance and when to retreat. Sharpen your ability to recognize the voice of God so that He can direct you, and yield to His direction and lead.

 

Develop an understanding of your own personal weaknesses so that you can guard against them. Also know that you are not meant to fight alone and choose your community/team wisely. It is important to protect yourself and surround yourself with people who are praying for you, believing in you and rooting for you. Exercise spiritual disciplines like prayer, fasting, service, giving, solitude (in the presence of the Lord), meditating on the Word, etc. Stay in shape, and stay strong in the power of His might!

 

We invite you to study the following scriptures about endurance: James 1:4, Matthew 24:13, Isaiah 40:31, Revelation 3:10-11 (NIV) and Ecclesiastes 9:11. Above all, we invite you to endure.

 

PCC Scroll: Men of the Bible – Paul

The Men of the Bible section from the summer newsletter.

Name: Paul

Meaning: Little

His Character: Paul had an intense, strong personality. This intensity was evident in the mercilessness of his persecution of Christians as well as the passion of his strong faith and love for Jesus Christ after his road to Damascus experience.

His Sorrow: Paul was an early persecutor of Christians, and he was a witness and approver of Stephen’s stoning. Because of his past behavior, his initial conversion was met with skepticism and suspicion.

His Triumph: After his encounter with Christ, Paul was a force in the early Christian church. He wrote most of the books of the New Testament and strongly believed that the Gospel should be preached to Gentiles.

Key Scriptures: Acts 7:58-28:31, the Pauline Epistles

The Apostle Paul was one of the key figures who shaped early Christian history. Because of his belief that salvation should be offered to the Gentiles, he is known as the Apostle of the Gentiles.

 

Paul’s story had an interesting beginning. He was born in Tarsus and trained as a Pharisee. Paul was a Jew, and he was educated in Greek culture. He was also a Roman citizen. All of this would be used later in life.

 

Then known as Saul, he was a Pharisee (and possibly a member of the Sanhedrin), and he knew the law. He felt that Christianity was a threat to Judaism, so he relentlessly set out to destroy it. Saul’s mission was to end the Christian church. He was responsible for many Christian men and women being imprisoned, persecuted and, in some cases, put to death.

 

Saul was a persecutor of Christians until he had an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. After that encounter, he had a name change from Saul to Paul. Paul’s intensity remained the same. It just shifted to telling the world about Christ. He would make three missionary journeys across the Roman Empire during his lifetime. Paul went from being the church’s greatest persecutor to the leader in spreading the Gospel, especially to the Gentiles, throughout the empire.

 

People were amazed by his transformation. Saul, who had gone to Damascus to arrest Christians, ended up preaching about Jesus after several days with Ananias and other believers in the city. He left Damascus as Paul. He had to be smuggled out of the city because Jews now sought to kill him. He went to Jerusalem where he spent time with Peter. As was to be expected, he was greeted with suspicion because of his sudden change in belief, but his transformation was true and complete.

 

God used Paul’s Roman citizenship, knowledge and weaknesses to the glory of His Kingdom. He is a great example that none are beyond the grace of God. Paul mentioned dealing with a “thorn in his flesh.” What this thorn was has been debated. What we do know is that Paul continued despite whatever it was. Paul faced his persecution with faith and courage and was an example to other Christians to do the same. He was very open about the hardships he endured as he sought to preach the Gospel. Paul was beaten, imprisoned and his life was threatened.

 

Even when imprisoned, Paul kept the faith. He wrote letters to the Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians and to Philemon. He also wrote letters to the Corinthians, Galatians, Romans and Thessalonians. He was also a mentor to Timothy and others. 14 of the 27 books of the New Testament are attributed to him.

 

It is believed that Paul was beheaded during the Emperor Nero’s persecution of the church. Paul ran his race and kept his fight. He endured until his end. He is a great example of enduring the fight.

 

PCC Scroll: Your Money Matters

The “Your Money Matter” section of the summer newsletter.

In the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, Habit 2 is “Begin with the end in mind.” The section begins by asking the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It goes on to ask the reader are they where they wanted to be. It makes the point that if your ladder is leaning against the wrong wall, every step you are taking is getting you closer to the wrong place. This makes achievements meaningless and empty.

 

In some ways, the discipline to achieve short-term goals is easier than the discipline to achieve long-term goals. With goals that stretch out for years (like retirement planning), it can be hard to keep the end goal in sight because it seems so far away. In your twenties, retirement seems like a lifetime away.

 

Habit 2 is all about letting your imagination go and this step can help you think about how you want your life to look when you retire. The book talks about things being created twice. First things are created mentally and then they are created physically.

 

Financial planners often ask you a series of questions when they are helping you plan for retirement. At what age do you want to retire? How much money would you like to have by that age? How much money will you need in your monthly budget when you retire? What sources of income will you have when you retire? Will you have your mortgage paid off when you retire?

 

You can envision what you want to do in retirement. Do you want to travel a lot when you retire? I know that I do and that will require some extra savings. Do you want to sell your house and move into a smaller place like a condo or a retirement community? Do you want to retire overseas or in another state? Do you have any known medical conditions you need to plan for (or a family history of things that could surface)? As you answer the questions, it helps inform how much money you will need to save for your retirement.

 

The book talks about creating a Personal Mission Statement. You write down how you want things to be. You write your goals down, reaffirm them and move toward them. One reason to keep the end goal in sight is because it will motivate you to work toward it. As you are saving for retirement, keeping a picture of the vision on your bathroom mirror will keep you focused on your goal. Then, when you have a choice between putting money toward your retirement or a big money item you want to purchase and are tempted to dip into your retirement accounts, your retirement wins.

 

I was talking to an economist over a year ago. He said that people his age (late fifties) raided their 401ks and IRAs when the market fell. Although it helped in the here and now, it will impact them down the road when they retire. Many will need to retire at a later age.

 

Keeping the end in mind could also be applied to shorter-term goals like paying off your mortgage, saving for a vacation or paying off credit card debt. When temptation rears its head for short-term pleasure, it can be combatted by longer-term financial goals.

 

At the end of the day, when handling money, try to think long-term. Don’t make snap decisions. Today’s choices will have long-term consequences down the road, so keep your desired end in mind.

 

PCC Scroll: Word of the Quarter

Here is an article I wrote for the latest issue of my church newsletter. Crazy that we are in the 16th year!

Word of the Quarter, PCC Scroll, Volume XVI Issue II

Get in the Fight

In this issue of the Scroll, we are continuing the overarching theme of “How Do We Arm Ourselves without Giving into and Operating Out of Fear.” The overarching theme began in the fall issue with the theme of “Changing Our Viewpoint.” In the winter issue, we continued with the theme of “Where is the Real Battle?” In this spring issue, the theme is “Get in the Fight.”

 

When the editing team met to write the “Word of Quarter,” we talked about how there were different ways to get in the fight. Getting in the battle didn’t always mean engaging in hand-to-hand combat on the frontline.

 

Look at the military. Before engaging, they understand the territory they are entering. They understand the language, culture, and customs. During war (and peace), there are different roles that people perform. There are those on the frontline. There are those who are strategist. There are those who work from home. All have roles. Some are soldiers. Some are generals. Some are in medical units. Some are suppliers. Some are far from the warzone, working at home in industry.

 

The Bible tells us that we are in a spiritual battle. What is the church’s response or role? A call to action or battle may be intimidating to some. But the call to battle looks different for everyone. Your call to battle could be an internal ministry of the church or an external ministry. Your call to battle could be facilitating a conversation at your church. Your call to battle could be encouraging others. Your call to battle could be equipping others through teaching or preaching. You can’t, however, sit on the sideline and complain. You are called to act. We all have a part to play.

 

There are things that prevent us from getting in the fight. It could be fear/intimidation, lack of education, or not knowing what language/lingo to use. It could also be a fear of change because we are uncomfortable with change. It could be that we are so focused on internal comfort that we ignore external circumstances. Being a bystander is not our call.

 

In our spiritual battle, it is important to hear from God. In the Bible, there are times when God’s people were told to be still and know He was God. Though it is important to know that one can be proactively still. Then there are times when God’s people were told to pursue and recover all.

 

There are certain areas that God is clear that we need to focus on. There are countless scriptures that deal with caring for the widows and the orphans. We are to fight for the people and fight against injustice. We are to advocate for people. This means we need to build relationships and hear people. We are not to damage people and create refugees in our wake.

 

We encourage you to know your position and get in the fight.

 

PCC Scroll, Editor’s Corner

Here is an article I wrote for the latest issue of my church newsletter. Crazy that we are in the 16th year!

Editor’s Corner, PCC Scroll, Volume XVI Issue II

It’s not about Me

There are times when it is very tempting to disengage from what is going on around me. There is this constant bombardment of information, be it from social media or the news. It is tempting to completely unplug, but I don’t have that luxury. In the end, my call is to help and minister to those who are marginalized and oppressed.

 

I invite you to read the following scriptures: James 1:27, Isaiah 1:17, Psalm 146:9, Deuteronomy 14:29, Isaiah 1:23, Psalm 82:3, Proverbs 31:9, and Jeremiah 22:3. This fight for social justice is not new, nor is it for ourselves. It is for those who society tends to forget about and those who society targets as scapegoats.

 

What strikes me is the strong level of selfishness and denial in our society. In fairness, this is not new either. People don’t want to hear truths that make them uncomfortable, but as a woman of color, I can tell you sexism and racism do exist. And if it makes you uncomfortable to hear about my experience, imagine how it feels to experience it.

 

People are willing to go along with social injustice when it doesn’t impact them. To some, because they don’t experience sexism and racism firsthand, they couldn’t possibly exist. This period reminds me of Protestant pastor Martin Niemoller’s poem “First They Came for the Socialists.”

 

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

 

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

 

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

 

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

 

What strikes me about the poem is that we continually go down the same path. We say, “Never again,” yet we find ourselves at the same crossroad over and over again. And many people, including people in the church, are willing to sit back in complacency because they are not impacted. I am a Christian not a Muslim, but I will fight against a Muslim registry. I will fight against any and all targeted racial and religious laws and bans.

 

And to be quite frank, as a person of color, I look at some people who I have considered friends and realize they won’t fight for me when “they” come for me. People are fine with not speaking out because they are enjoying their privilege and will continue to do so as long as events don’t impact them.

 

My mind moves to the parable of the Good Samaritan. It asked the question of who is your neighbor (I would add friend). The person who looks like you or is from the same place as you but can’t be bothered to help when you are in need, or the stranger/foreigner who comes to your aid.

 

It is time to get in the fight and speak against social injustice. Although there are many political “leaders” who I am not fans of, I have to remind myself that I am not fighting against them. I am fighting against a system created that thrives on injustice. I am fighting against this seemingly need to create “other” and “hierarchy.” I am fighting.

 

PCC Scroll: Men of the Bible

Here is an article I wrote for the latest issue of my church newsletter. Crazy that we are in the 16th year!

Men of the Bible, PCC Scroll, Volume XVI Issue II

Gideon

Name: Gideon

Meaning: Cutter or hewer

His Character: Gideon was a hard worker, who worked passionately when aligned with his task.

His Sorrow: Gideon’s faith was tested.

His Triumph: Gideon overcame his doubts and fears and led the Israelites to victory over the Midianites.

Key Scriptures: Judges 6 – 8

Gideon was the fifth of 12 judges to rule Israel. He started as a farmer from the tribe of Manasseh (Manasseh was the eldest son of Joseph and Aseneth, who was an Egyptian.) to become a warrior for God. Gideon was a judge of Israel for 40 peaceful years.

 

Gideon’s story is told in Judges. In chapter six, we learn that Israel had done evil in the sight of God, so God delivered them into the hands of the Midianites, who were a nomadic tribe who would raid in the Canaan area. The children of Israel lived in fear and were emotionally defeated. A greatly impoverished Israel cried out to God for help.

 

Gideon’s life was constantly challenged by the Midianites invaders. He was working on his father’s farm when an angel spoke to him. Gideon questioned the messenger. If God was with them, why were horrible things happening? Where were the wonders their forefathers experienced? Why had God abandoned them?

 

Gideon had been selected to show the people that their struggles were due to their having turned their back from God to worship idols. Gideon was hesitant. He was fearful and wondered why God was allowing Israel to suffer. He worried about his family. He doubted his call, and he doubted his ability and adequacy to complete the task. Once he was convinced, he wholeheartedly went for it.

 

Gideon was instructed to destroy a temple that had been built by his father for the pagan god Baal in the city of Ophrah. Because he feared the people, Gideon secretly destroyed the temple at night. The people, upon realizing it was Gideon, threatened him with death, but his father intervened.

 

After that, Gideon led the campaign against the Midianites. Because of doubt, he asked God for a sign of victory. Upon receiving the sign, he still did not believe, so he asked for another one, which was given. To test his faith, God had Gideon reduce the size of the army to 300 men (the army they faced was thousands) so that all would know the victory came from God, not the strength of men. Gideon and the men surrounded the Midianite camp at night and used trumpets and the breaking of pottery jars to cause confusion and the enemy fled.

 

The people wanted Gideon to be king, but he instead took gold, which he fashioned after an ephod, which is a pagan image. The people began worshipping this image, which is exactly what Gideon was supposed to turn the people from.

 

In Gideon’s example, we see the importance of relying on God despite seemingly unwinnable circumstances. Even though he showed a lack of faith, he is listed in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. Gideon, like many of us, focused on his own limitations and was concerned God could not work through him. But God uses our gifts and abilities despite our failures and fears.

 

God is constantly preparing us today for our tomorrow. We just need to have faith that God will equip and prepare us for our assignment. Like Gideon, we must look beyond the status quo of our lives. We need to set aside our vision for our lives and embrace God’s. When the angel of God spoke to Gideon, the angel called Gideon “mighty warrior.” At that time, Gideon didn’t even know he would be a warrior. God’s vision for us is greater than our vision for ourselves.