A Note of Thanks

For many, Thanksgiving is the one time of the year for reflections of gratitude, service to humanity, and of course time for family. While these things are noble, these things fail to convert to a life of gratitude. I have made it my intent to live a daily life of gratitude and praise. I’ve witnessed many things that have caused others to lose all but their lives or sanity. As a pastor and chaplain, I minister to families and individuals who have had sickness or death change bring about sorrow that is so strong that it seems unbearable yet they find the strength through family and faith to make it. This produces a sense of gratitude for life and the material things that come with that. This Thanksgiving day find a way to convert the experiences with family, friends, or service into daily acts of gratitude towards the giver of every good and perfect gift.

Blessings and Love

An Affirmation

Rise to the Light of the Sun
Flow with gentleness of the wind
Make each step meaningful for you and others
Be at peace at the days end with the knowledge that all that could be done has been done
All that will be done shall be done
You are light climaxing til twilight’s end
You are all you need to be right now

Namaste

An Affirmation

Rise to the Light of the Sun
Flow with gentleness of the wind
Make each step meaningful for you and others
Be at peace at the days end with the knowledge that all that could be done has been done
All that will be done shall be done
You are light climaxing til twilight’s end
You are all you need to be right now

Namaste

The Risk of Discovering Your Purpose

When a man thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Galatians 6:3

Being religious means asking passionately the question of the meaning of our existence and being willing to receive answers, even if the answers hurt. Paul Tillich

Recently I had several restless and sleepless nights that I surmised to be simply nothing more than my body clock was off because of some excessive ministry related activities. A dear friend of mine challenged me to seek the Lord regarding this unusual restlessness. I of course did not because I didn’t believe it was anything more than just me needing to get back on my sleep schedule. I was wrong. I began to seek God rather awkwardly because I was so sure that I didn’t really need to. I mean after all, everyone has a few sleepless nights sometimes.

Well I eventually got some very good sleep the following night, but it was accompanied by an overwhelming sense of guilt and shame from sin. I was confronted by the Holy Spirit to remember that although I had believed I was ok and didn’t really need God at that moment, I was actually sinning against Him and grieving Him.

The two quotes above summarize my experience. First, I didn’t think I needed to pray. Scripture is clear that man should always pray and faint not (Luke 18:1). It doesn’t matter what you pray about, you should always be talking to Abba because in Him you live, move, and have your being (Acts 17:28). I believed I was just capable of handling my own affairs without truly trusting God for help.

The second quote by Tillich really is the driving force of this post. As a pastor, it is my job and purpose to empower believers to become stronger and better in their walk of faith. This takes courage. It takes the courage to actually let go of the fear of being unable to do so. When I reluctantly prayed, I realized that I had a great fear-Fear of Failing God by trying to be something or someone I wasn’t. That may be what many of you are experiencing at this moment. You may believe that if you pray too much, read and study scripture too much, that you may get puffed up and fall from grace. The reality is that you’ve already fallen as far as you can go, and God has still kept you. Proverbs 24:16 says that a righteous man will fall seven times but gets up again. God also promises to keep you from falling and excitedly present you before Himself as someone who has no faults (Jude 24).

That beloved is the risk of discovering your purpose. You step and walk by faith and not by sight (II Corinthians 5:7). The walking is your’s but the direction and leadership is the Lord’s. Take the risk and make the mistakes, ask for forgiveness, but keep walking, praying, singing, and especially trusting and you will discover your courage to be your authentic self in Christ.

Personal Mission Statement

As a pastor and an individual, I am all about self and community empowerment. In the more recent history, I’ve been learning that just knowing scripture isn’t enough to accomplish purpose. I know for some that is a terrible thing to say. Life is full of more than just what we read in the scriptures, but all of those are enhanced and grounded through and by scripture.  I learned one thing from studying and analyzing successful businesses: They have a mission statement that everyone knows and can carry out. This means that everyone in the business from the janitors to the CEO knows that the success or failure of that company rests in how internalized the mission statement is.

When I started my doctoral coursework earlier this year, one of the first things we had to do was write a personal and professional mission statement. Some think this should be a breeze for a pastor,  but I found it a difficult task. I spent time in prayer, meditation and reflection and an acronymn coined by my college BSU director came to my mind..my mission statement is to be R.E.A.L.

My mission is to be Relational, Encouraging, Authentic, and Loving. That sums up the entirety of my ministry and my professional career desires. I realize that is what every individual desires from themselves, God, and others. I’m so sold on this that I’ve even included it in the vision statement for the church I pastor.

Being REAL is a lofty mission goal with the added expense of death to selfish service and disenchanted destinies. If we earnestly desire our father’s goodness to mercifully accept us as we are, then we will do our best to present ourselves REAL to him and others we encounter throughout our life’s journey.

After May 21, then what?

If you have not heard or seen yet, Harold Camping, founder of Family Radio has been promoting may 21, 2011 as God’s Day of Judgment when the true Christian believers will be raptured away and the wrath of the Lord’s tribulation period will begin ultimately culminating in the Earth’s destruction by fire on October 21, 2011. To many this is a sure event; one that will usher in the glory of Christ’s New Millennium  kingdom. For others, it is nothing more than a sincere but fanatical preacher ignoring the fallacies and failures of past end time prediction prophets. Camping has managed to incite the hopes and fears of sincere yet Biblically ignorant people to the point of  extreme excesses such as quitting jobs, leaving families, and criss-crossing the  country spreading the word of Earth’s last day. Where does Camping’s prediction  rank amidst the more recognized and well received predictions of the ancient Mayans, Nostradamus and other cultures regarding December, 21 2012 as Earth’s last days? Another more pressing question for me is “How will this prediction, if proven false, affect the Christian view of end times and the authority and authenticity of the Christian faith and Gospel message?

Camping, 89, said of the rapture in a May 11 interview with New York magazine, “The Bible has every word in the original language – it was written by God. Incidentally, no churches believe that at all, they don’t hold the Bible in the high respect that it ought to  be.” He went on to say, “When we get to May 21 on the calendar in any city or country in the world, and the clock says about – this is based on other verses in the Bible –  when the clock says about 6 p.m., there’s going to be this tremendous earthquake that’s going to make the last earthquake in Japan seem like nothing in comparison. And the whole world will be alerted that Judgment Day has begun.” This of course implies that only those who are in the know regarding his calculated and articulated view or  revelation of this significant event are eligible for salvation, rapture, or whatever you want to call it.

There is no shortage of rebuttals to Camping’s claims with and without scriptural support. Tim LaHaye, author of the popular “Left Behind” book series recently on his website wrote a letter to the public advising them not to buy into Harold Camping’s prediction that May 21 is the beginning of the end of the world. He remarked that it “is not only wrong but dangerous.” He also said the claim that God will destroy the world on October 21 “is not only bizarre but 100% wrong!”

According to Jason Boyett, Christian author of Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse and speaker on End Times, writing in the Washington Posts’ On Faith Page, “Camping’s faith will survive the impending disappointment, as will his ministry and radio empire. He’ll make excuses and set another date. I don’t worry about him; I worry about his
followers and their families.”

There are some within Camping’s own organization, Family Radio, who have not succumbed to the irrationality of his prediction. Many like Anthony Hernandez, a frequent speaker on Camping’s Family Radio, are acknowledging the fears, doubts, and concerns of their families and friends but still clinging to the assurance that the event will happen just as Camping predicted. What Hernandez and others are experiencing is what social psychologists call cognitive disequilibrium/cognitive dissonance: when experiences clash with expectations. A relevant example of this is found in the book When Prophecy Fails by Leon Festinger, Henry Riecken, and Stanley Schachter. The authors infiltrated a group that was expecting the imminent end of the world on a certain date. When that prediction failed, the movement did not disintegrate, but grew instead. By sharing cult beliefs with others, they gained acceptance and thus reduced their own dissonance.

This is clearly what may happen after May 21 comes and goes. It is sure to put the  eschatological aspect of the Christian faith to the back of the average church goers mind. It may contribute to an already decline in attendance and financial contributions for mainline and evangelical Christian churches. I only hope that does not delineate the authentic Gospel message to continue to be preached and heard by all persons and nations. As Christ himself said “Let him who has ears to hear, hear.”

SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY IS EVERYBODY’S RESPONSIBILITY

I came across this article in the Christian Recorder Online Magazine and decided to share it here. Blessings

YPD CORNER: SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY IS EVERYBODY’S RESPONSIBILITY:

*Miacia F. Porter

Something about this year pushed and urged me to change my career goals. I didn’t want to be a journalist anymore, so I just stopped trying. I had lost all my drive to write, so I forced writer’s block upon myself. I neglected my pen and pad as if it was a century old building, whose frame and foundation had given way to the hardships of life. There was nothing left for me to say; at least not in print. I was mute, not in thought, but in sharing it.

I don’t know what caused this. I am not sure if it was the pressure of knowing that I was overworked, and stressed-out for a degree that might never hold any significant value to anyone outside of my family. Or, if it was the realization that I was 9 months away from another major milestone without a clear idea of what the future held? I am not sure if it was either, or; it possibly was a combination of both. Whatever it was, caused me to freeze right in the middle of time and I was immensely satisfied with my empty pages.

Then it hit me…I had used the fact that I no longer desired to be a journalist, to be a scapegoat to free me from something that had nothing to do with my career choice. Truth is I don’t want to be a journalist. However, the greater truth is I stopped writing because I no longer wanted the burden of social responsibility for the things I wrote.

So what is social responsibility? Wikipedia provided a great definition. According to this site, “social responsibility” is an ethical ideology or theory that an entity, be it an organization or individual, has an obligation to act or benefit the society at large. This responsibility can be passive, by avoiding engaging in socially harmful acts, or active by performing activities that directly advance social goals.

W. E. B. DuBois was a major activist for social responsibility, and as an individual greatly influenced by his work, I immediately reckoned with this concept. I wanted to be socially responsible for the welfare of my race and others. I knew this want and desire was wedded to my calling. I was eager to start life with this new belief, but somewhere along my journey I lost my zeal. I began to feel like it was becoming more and more challenging to believe, push, and motivate people; our people, who refuse the to see the light at the end  of the tunnel. Pessimism started to weigh down my optimism when I was trying to persuade others that they could achieve goals, and all they seem to decode was they could not.

Playing tug of war with ignorance, laziness, and the lack of drive can pushed me down, so much so, that even my own tears couldn’t convince me that the fatigue and mental anguish was worth the fight. And I am sure I am not the only one that has been at this point. I’m pretty sure this need to free ourselves from social responsibility is an attitude or desire that plagues our churches. I am certain of this because I am sure the church does not preach and teach like we use to because we don’t want the burden of social responsibility. We don’t witness and share because the responsibility of doing it, is just too demanding. Doing the right thing and going the extra mile just seems like too much responsibility in a world that does not demand that we go an extra mile. But it’s necessary for me to go the extra mile … I picked up my pen and pad again, not because I am a flawless wireless writer, but because I reckoned with the fact that the message is greater than the struggle. There is life embedded in the truths I speak, and I will not rob myself,  or anyone else from being inspired.

The same is true for our churches. There is so much life in our AME lineage. We are a life-line to our black community and we need to make sure this “breath of life” falls on every man, woman, boy, and girl in our communities. I had to write again and now I challenge preachers to preach again, Church School teachers to teach again, parishioners to witness again, all of us to share and love again, even in the mist of all of the dysfunction and economic problems because there is something we have been called to say that can free us all again.

*Miacia F. Porter is an Intern for The Christian Recorder and is a senior at Middle Tennessee State University