Forgiveness Isn’t a Hallmark Card

Well, it’s not. It sounds that way when other people do it. They look so beatific and peaceful. But when it’s my turn – your turn perhaps? – it’s hard and my stomach is tied in knots. I’m angry and hurt, frustrated, heartbroken even – and forgiveness is just too much work.

I was given a reprieve from work about, oh, 14 years ago. I headed to a park nearby because it was such a beautiful day. And even though God and I weren’t on the same speaking terms we are now, I still talked to Him and prayed – and even read my Bible. But we didn’t have the intimate, restorative relationship we have now. Which totally debunks the whole “miracles don’t happen anymore” theory I have heard lately and the idea that if you aren’t as close to God as you should be, He won’t help you.

Y’all, that is a bald-faced lieGod knows your heart more thoroughly than anyone on the face of the planet – even if you don’t know His. And sometimes, He comes through for you in a big big way just to show you Who’s boss. Like He did for me that day.

I didn’t come to the park thinking about a significant person in my life. I didn’t even talk about him to God that day. I just thanked God for the beauty around me, and asked that He provide the money to make up the hours I wasn’t getting paid at work that day. Somehow.

Well, He didn’t. He gave me a much bigger gift – the present of forgiveness For some reason, He laid miraculous, supernatural forgiveness of this significant person on my heart that day. The truly amazing thing was that on that day 14 years ago, or so, I didn’t even realize how fully I had forgiven this person!

I just knew my hatred of him was gone. In the years to come, in his presence, I would no longer cower, or grow angry. I would usually laugh at the stupid, inane lies he told me about myself. Sometimes I would even laugh out loud. Oh y’all, I still do! It’s been more than a decade and that forgiveness is still a daily part of my life about this person!

However, here’s the thing people: this isn’t how forgiveness is supposed to work! This was truly, really, believe me – a miracle. God doesn’t make forgiveness this easy on us 99.99999% of the time.

Makes you mad, doesn’t it? Here’s someone who has hurt you and maybe even done unspeakable things to you – and not only are you supposed to forgive this person, but also you’re supposed to do it gracefully, effortlessly, despite the very real repercussions that you may have to suffer through – for the rest of your life.

You think I don’t have those? I sure do. Those things done to me – those things I did to myself – I have to live with that awful nasty terrible ugly crap too! Consequences aren’t just born of what we do; they’re born of what others do to us.

Forgive, huh God? Oh yes – you’ve maybe even heard it said that forgiveness isn’t just about the other person – it’s really for you. So you can go on without a stained conscience and with peace in your heart.

Well, let me tell you something – I don’t think that’s the whole point of forgiveness, and if you disagree, let me turn your attention to Mark 11: 25 And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses. (KJV)

Did you get that last part? If you do not forgive, you will not be forgiven. Now that’s a pretty big problem huh?

Forgiveness isn’t usually a miracle and it’s rarely easy. It’s a choice you may have to make every day for an indeterminate amount of time! I’ve spent years forgiving people. YEARS.

And yet – how many years has someone – or some people – spent forgiving me?


Repentance Isn’t Painful

A wonderful illustration of repentance from Lily & Light describes it as the following:

Repentance is simply 
comforting and healing our weariness and pain
by changing the course of our thoughts.

It is turning from sin and to God. 
It is securing our peace, and our place with Jesus.


When you think of repentance as comforting, does that change the tenor of the act for you? It does for me. As a daily exercise, repentance can absolutely feel like a real bummer. Who wants to start, end, or meet God in the middle of their day with a heavy heart full of self-loathing? Not me. Yet I have done it for as long as I can remember, even if only moment-by-moment.

Yes, repentance involves feeling badly about something. Otherwise you wouldn’t realize or care that whatever it was, was wrong in the first place. But here’s the key that I think Kristin was making: that’s where feeling badly ENDS.

After that initial feeling of wrongdoing, and turning that sin over to the Lord, it’s time to be comforted. Imagine yourself a child who has been punished and is crying because you feel sad about disappointing a parent. What does that parent do? Turn around and walk away? “Glad you’re crying, you horrible kid!”

Of course not. You wrap your arms around the hurting child, despite being angry at what they did – and maybe you still are! You don’t let that feeling overcome your desire to show your love to your child.

I believe it works sort of like that with God. He doesn’t like what we did; He didn’t want us to choose sin over obedience. But He isn’t holding it against us when we’ve sincerely repented. He’s ready to wrap His arms around us!

So our thoughts have turned in a different direction. Now we have our second choice to make: to keep sinning or stop. It’s that simple (to say – in actuality stopping that sin is often incredibly difficult).

Therein lies the rub, yes? If we have decided to trust in our loving God and repent, and be welcomed back into a complete relationship with Him, it’s just as hard to stop doing what we were doing. The following are some examples that are problematic – to say the least – to disengage from:

  • Rage – to stop letting your anger emerge against yourself or others;
  • Lust – to stop letting your thoughts wander towards that man or woman, especially if you’re married; to stop wanting ANYTHING more than God;
  • Greed – to stop thinking you need to make more money if you can’t afford what you want – because the more you make, the more you’ll want;
  • Laziness – to put down the remote and get up and do what needs to be done; to get off Facebook (AFTER you’ve read this post, of course), and get back to work;
  • Addiction – to put down that drink, that drug, that food, etc.;

These are just some of the many obstacles that separate us from God. You have your own, private ones, and the public ones you can’t hide. At any rate, they gotta go. If you can decide to put them down and turn away and never do them again – awesome. Congrats. But most of us have to put them down A LOT before they’re fully gone. And even then, we have to be watchful for the prowling lion from 1 Peter 5:8. We cannot let it beat us.

Some of these sins require more than a promise made to God, to yourself, and/or to family and friends. Some of these sins require significant outside help. Do it. It’s worth it. Anything is better than hating yourself for what you’ve done and continue to do.

Let Jesus set you free! Blessings y’all!


The Chariot of Victory

Streams in the Desert has been a God-send in my life. I would like to quote a passage from today’s lesson, which is incredibly timely, this, the day before Easter:

“This is the prayer we need to pray for ourselves and one another: Lord, open our eyes so we may see. We are surrounded, just like the prophet Elisha was, by God’s horses and chariots of fire…[E]ven the smallest trial may become an object crushing everything in its path into misery and despair if we allow it. The difference then becomes a choice we make. It all depends not on the events themselves but on how we view them.”

If, today, you are in the right frame of mind – the place – to hear these words; to let these words speak to your heart and your very soul – then they convey a powerful message. It’s a two-pronged offense.

1. We are surrounded by God’s horses and chariots of fire! Forget a sleeping, peaceful angel – we are surrounded by power. There isn’t a sniper in the world who can compare to God’s protection. Even former Cleveland Browns fullback Jim Brown can’t provide the victory in the place of Christ. Imagine what Satan thinks and feels when he sees a godly person stand his or her ground, surrounded by God’s vengeful horses and chariots blazing.

It’s comforting and peaceful to think lovely thoughts about God. But we don’t need that facet of God when we are facing down Satan; facing down circumstances that threaten to plunge us into deep despair. We need a vengeful, avenging God, and we have it at our disposal every moment.

2. We have a choice. When we can only hit our knees in prayer, we have a choice in how things go forward. The baby we didn’t believe we were prepared to have until we lost it; the wife we took for granted until she left; the husband who was unfaithful and isn’t repentant; the child who broke our heart when she became addicted to drugs in high school; the job we lived for until we were fired; the loss of the parent who was our best friend; the day we can’t stand being beaten another moment; when we watched the Twin Towers fall and knew our wife was trapped inside – the possibilities are absolutely endless.

Not only that – the myriad ways they could play out are mind-blowing. I have figured out that this is one of many instances in life where the advice is simple and practically impossible to follow. At first. We have to choose to lay that baby at Christ’s feet and thank Him for it – and then for days and days and weeks and months we have to do it again and again, and thank Him for the doing of it! We have to choose to face that husband and either accept his leaving or offer forgiveness, day in and day out, for as long as it takes, and thank the Lord for His love and mercy and grace, and remember that time we were tempted to cheat on that man and didn’t – which doesn’t make us better than him – it only makes us understand how he got there in the first place. We have to choose to move forward despite the loss of our livelihood and we have to thank God for giving us the job and have hope that we will gain another just as great or better. And when money gets tight and the nightly glass of wine turns into two or three, or that lonely neighbor starts to pique your interest – in those moments, you have to choose to hit your knees, raise your eyes to heaven, rent your garments – but choose to believe in the hope of Christ.

There truly is nothing new under heaven. Human beings have been facing crises after crises just like these since the beginning of time. It doesn’t even have to be something monumental – it could just be the growing desire to do more with your life that has you down in the dumps. Maybe you’re bored with your spouse, or your job, or your friends, or your church, or just your life in general, and you know you need a change, and you feel so stuck. Maybe that just starts to eat away at you, day by day, until you have totally lost the person you once were. Little things, we know, can snowball awful quick.

It’s the choosing that’s so hard. Because it isn’t one choice – it’s choice after choice after choice, day after day after day, and no one can tell you how long you will have to do it! But if we do not choose to allow God to take us under His wing behind that blazing chariot, and consent to follow His will regardless of what our flesh is positively screaming to have or do, we have no hope.

That’s not true for you, is it? Oh no – because you have implemented control mechanisms into your life so that whenever something falls out of balance or goes sideways, you have something to hold on to. But guess what? That is the very thing God will take away from you if you persist. He will rip it painfully out of your life and leave you with nothing.

Right? Wrong! Oh, so wrong – because you will be in the position I was in, five years ago, as I knelt on the floor of my apartment with my two-year-old sleeping soundly in the next room. I was devastated. I was a single parent, didn’t have a job or way to support my child, and had never felt so alone in my entire life. I had no family there, few friends, and literally did not know what to do. So I made a choice –  to stay there on my knees until I was able to rise with hope and faith to overcome my fear.

It was in that moment that my “nothing” became something greater than I’d ever known – when that sense of nothing became a sense of purpose and peace and calm. Yes, of course – it had become God’s love and hope. That fear is still here, and I fight against it most of the time. Meaning, there are few moments in my life ever since that time when I feel at peace without having to work at it. I am married, have all I need, and have a great life. I have another beautiful child. I have a church home and have been working hard at mending some seriously dinged fences. But that fear surfaces often, and I have been hoping and believing God for a long, long time. It is a choice I make, and every time I have left that decision to choose up to chance, I have experienced extremely painful times of loneliness, despair, and anger.

Gracious, by the Lord picks me right back and up and sets me on those shaky feet! I look so forward to having no suffering, only perfect peace. Right now I have the peace that passes all understanding, and it is more than enough. Blessings to you and your loved ones this Easter season. Sunday’s coming! Be ready!

Gun Control: Do Your Homework!

Everyone is up in arms (pun intended) over gun control, almost completely polarized, because it’s such intensely emotional issue. Gun control might not seem puzzling to most people, but it is topics like this that people tend to obstreperously voice their opinions about, and inevitably this makes the problem worse. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves how harmful it is to disrespect other people’s values. By not listening  and considering the other side’s values and beliefs with calmness and care, politicians increasingly contribute to the out-of-control rage we have going on in this country about gun violence and its solutions. They aren’t the only ones who need to calm down and think – we do too.

When we don’t think things through carefully enough, we can cause dangerous consequences. Case in point: The Journal News, which recently published the names and addresses of gun owners in two counties in New York. In the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, the paper thought the residents in these counties would like to know what type of guns their neighbors were keeping in their homes. Before reading the article, I hazarded a guess that it was intended to show people that even neighbors they thought they knew well might be harboring weapons designed for military use. Then I read the piece, and discovered it’s not just about what types of guns a person owns, but how many. What may have sparked the idea for the article wasn’t just Sandy Hook, however; it was the shooting of a woman on the street by a mentally-ill man who had “amassed a cache of weapons — including two unregistered handguns and a large amount of ammunition — without any neighbors knowing.”

If you were living in a quiet little suburban town in upstate New York, for example, and had your bucolic, provincial peace shattered by such a terrible event, you too might want to know what else the neighbors might be hiding other than affairs, drinking problems, strange cult followings, or boredom. You might think that not only is it possible your kids aren’t safe it at school, but you can’t even walk down the street without worrying about getting shot in the head. I mean, this isn’t 8 Mile, for crying out loud.  I can see why the reporter or the staff of The Journal News came up with the idea, and in fact they printed a similar piece back in 2006, but I do not believe it was as detailed as their latest publication.

However, had the newspaper staff considered the idea further, they might have come up with the following objections to printing it:

  1. Some of those gun owners were retired police officials who had put criminals away. Said officers have the worry that some of these criminals would retaliate once they were released, and now those officials, who served the very public now publishing gun ownership information about them, were in even more peril of being hurt or killed by these criminals.
  2. Women with restraining orders against spouses, former spouses or boyfriends for domestic violence were now not only easier to locate, but said men targeting them and/or their children now knew they were armed and how, leaving them wide-open for attack using more dangerous weapons.
  3. Gun owners with expensive weapons, or those often sold as “hot” on the street, were now easy picking for burglars.

I confess I didn’t come up with these ideas; I heard them in an NPR interview this past Sunday. A reporter, who does not work for The Journal News, brought up the second amendment, which is a nice segue into the main reason for this blog post, which is the question: have you done your homework?

If you have, you will know exactly what the second amendment states about gun ownership, and I quote: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

Here is what the second amendment does not say – that we the people have the right to bear military weaponry. It does not say we have the right to bear those huge ammo belts seen in Hollywood movies. Is this amendment open to interpretation? Perhaps. Some could say that in order to form a “well-regulated militia” civilian citizens would need military weapons and a large capacity of ammunition. But at the time the Constitution was written, the need for a militia was in existence to overthrow the British government; to expel it from this country. For those of you who believe it’s time to do that, surely you understand that having a machine gun isn’t going to help?

Many believe the Constitution absolutely is open to interpretation, which begs the question: is any kind of weapon what the framers had in mind? I personally doubt that because these weapons were not in existence at the time, nor were mass shootings like Columbine or Virginia Tech or Sandy Hook a part of their lives. This is not to say that the framers did not live in politically and racially-charged times. Indians massacred pioneers and vice-versa, for example. Some people might call that senseless violence, but it was very different in nature from some deranged person shooting into a crowd of people just because of sheer lunacy.

The next homework question is this: do you even know what Obama said in his initiatives? Good! Because I am going to list them for you below. Uh-huh – all 23. And by the way, at no point in this whole affair did he state he was proposing a plan that would keep Americans from buying the normal weapons they currently are allowed to purchase. So if that’s what you’re hearing, politely remind those around you to get their facts checked.  Just because it’s a cutesy photo on Facebook doesn’t make it true!

  1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
  2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.
  3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.
  4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
  5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.
  6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.
  7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.
  8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).
  9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
  10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.
  11. Nominate an ATF director.
  12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.
  13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
  14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.
  15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.
  16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.
  17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
  18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.
  19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.
  20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.
  21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.
  22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.
  23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.

These initiatives were found on and included the following: “The president also proposed universal background checks, a ban on military type assault rifles, a ten round limit for ammunition magazines and eliminating armor piercing bullets. It’s up to Congress to act on these measures.”

So you can keep your Glock-9, your rifle, your shotgun – but you would be banned from purchasing an Ak-47. This seems like extreme…common sense to me! After all, why would a civilian American citizen need an assault rifle and unlimited ammunition rounds? No one I have asked has been able to give me an answer except to say that they don’t like their “rights” being taken away. Some people are appalled by Obama’s restrictions but have no desire to buy a gun.

I think the reason many Americans – barring those who plan on taking down the federal government in a suicidal stand-off, holed up in some mountain cabin – have heated feelings towards what the President did because they believe that he erred in his method. To them, I ask the following question: why would he have done this if he had enough support from Congress to pass his plan? If the only reason you’re against what he did is because of how he did it, then ask yourself yet another question: does the end justify the means? If it helps keep mentally-ill people from showering a crowd of children with bullets, ending their beautiful lives, can you honestly say it isn’t worth it? Of course not. If it prevents people who don’t need machine guns from buying them and hosing down someone for no reason, why is it not worth it?

There is one other reason some Americans are against Obama’s initiatives, which is that they don’t want “big brother” having even more control over their information. The NRA, I believe, is also of this opinion. Again, though, if it saves lives, it seems advantageous. However, being one of those Americans who resents government control over so much of our lives, I can understand their position. The truth is, in my opinion, that this is yet another classic example of choosing the lesser of two evils.

In fact, an ABC News poll shows that most Americans support the President on this one. Which begs my last question: how should the American public, the President, and Congress handle this? I propose by using the democratic principals this country was founded on. How? By Congress voting what their constituents want, in a transparent way. The winners win and the losers lose. However, in the meantime, how it is handled, at least by the President and Congress, is not tricky at all: simply listen to each other with respect. Don’t shout at each other. Don’t threaten or make demands. Just publicly get your points across. Pick someone from each party to address Congress, as well as the President, and give all three the same amount of time in which to speak. Do not let Congress members or the President fire off heated, intense epithets in front of cameras or in print. Grow up. Because this is an issue that needs to be settled, and Americans deserve to be safer than we are. And then let the American public decide.

In fact, I may be on to something. How nice it would be if American officials could behave like this about all the issues that come up. What would this country look like if most (because I am not deliriously naive) Americans behaved this way as well?What do you think?

The Many-Sided Story

Story. Situation. Argument. Error. Whatever the case may be, there is always more than one side to a story. Or is there?

Take the case of Tyrone W. Miles. He was sentenced to 25 years for attempting to cash a bad check at a California convenience store. I read about the story in the Saturday/Sunday edition of The Wall Street Journal, but a blog version tells the tale more quickly. His attorney did not, apparently, know that his latest arrest aimed a direct hit at him for punishment under the three strikes rule operating in California.

Miles committed a crime, and he was punished for it. In fact, Miles committed three crimes, and as punishable by law, he must do the time. Period.

This could be the end of Miles’ story, but is it?

The history of his criminal record goes back to when he acted as a “lookout” for two robberies. He did not actually rob anyone, nor did he physically harm anyone. Despite U.S. military service, he became a drug addict, which led him to pass bad checks due to “deteriorating finances,” according  to the WSJ.

Some might look at the case of Tyrone Miles and believe that since he did not commit a heinous offense, he should not be prosecuted under the three-strikes rule, or that if he were to be prosecuted, the fact that his lawyer did not seem aware of the impending crisis of his third strike, means he should serve a commuted sentence rather than 25 years. In fact, that is exactly what the Stanford Law School’s Three Strikes project is intending to argue for him.

I may have lost some of y’all,  who are wondering what in  the world this guy has to do with your life. I maintain he has everything to do with it.

When we are maligned in some way, or when we malign another, it is so easy to see our own side of things; the reason or reasons we did or said this or that. It is downright impossible, it seems, to see the side (or sides)  of another’s action or statement towards us. In the heat of our anger and hurt, all we want is vengeance. We do not want to see the other angles of the situation.

And yet, if we do take a look at how things play out for others, we run the risk  of being surprised and even ashamed at what we have done to them. How we have made them feel. This is another reason that we don’t want to consider the many sides to a story.

We can breeze through life, refusing to see our own actions in the light of truth, but in doing so, we run an even greater risk: the risk of being treated that way ourselves. That’s going to happen anyway, though, isn’t it? You bet. But it is better to be the one who thoughtfully considers all sides of the story, and  moves past our hurts. The only way to move past them is to realize that we may have played a role in them, or that there are extenuating circumstances that caused someone to hurt us. And one thing we must never forget: And there but by the grace of God, go I.



Where Were You When?

The assassination of JFK. The Berlin Wall. 9/11. The first time a Bieber record went on sale. There are things throughout history we remember,  and some of you have never even heard the Biebs croon a pop hit. In fact, an entire generation of Americans cannot tell you where they were when O.J. Simpson was acquitted.

I remember where I was. I was in the library of my small, all-white private school. The entire high school was crowded into the back room where there was a tiny tv. They may have wired it for cable just for this event. Just kidding. Anyway, we were riveted. We had very strong opinions, even as teenagers, about the verdict. We all knew he was guilty, and most, if not all, of us, had  heard our parents express  their outrage or opinions on how the trial went and how it would end.

Today I closed the page on Without a Doubt, written by Marcia Clark, someone else an entire generation will not remember. She was the lead prosecutor of the case. And she got squashed. I mean, absolutely pounded by what folks dubbedThe Dream Team,” headed by none  other than Johnnie Cochran. Rings a bell, doesn’t it? There’s a Cochran law firm. And I bet when you read the words “Rodney King” you start to get an idea of what we’re talking about.

After all, Rodney King was beaten by Los Angeles Police Department cops. Their acquittal is said to have started the LA Race Riots of the 90s, a truly brutal time in that city’s history. There must be a billion rap songs about it out there. He was, also, famous for his hair. What happened to Rodney King, despite what he may or may not have done illegally, was so wrong it’s sickening. And when O.J. stepped up to bat, an almost all-black jury gave him the go-ahead. Get-out-of-jail-free card. He walked.

He walked despite overwhelming physical evidence that he was guilty of the murder of Nicole Brown  Simpson and Ron Goldman. The brutal murders of these two people. And he had a recorded history of domestic violence with Nicole, whom he had two children with. There are those who believe that the O.J. verdict was direct retaliation for Rodney King. I happen to think it’s a very distinct possibility.

Here is some information Clark wrote about in her book that was published in 1997:

“The People lost this case not because we introduced too much evidence or too little evidence. We lost because American justice is distorted by race. We lost because American justice is corrupted by celebrity. Any lawyer willing to exploit those weaknesses can convince a jury predisposed to acquittal of just about anything…[A] handful of clever, expensive attorneys were allowed to manipulate the system by invoking the wholly irrelevant, yet provocative issue of racism…You took a jury itching to avenge Rodney King and incited it to nullify the law.”

Get on it Marcia.

Just so you know, O.J. did not fare so well in the civil trial. He was found guilty.

I have dealt with racism my whole life. In fact, we all have. You don’t have to be Southern, from Compton, or a resident of 8 Mile to know what I’m talking about. The fear of things we don’t understand is the human condition, and racism is born out of that fear. It is not mutually exclusive to whites. It is something I dislike but understand from the white perspective and sympathize with from t he black perspective. I’m not one of those white people who says I can totally put myself in the place of a black person, but anyone with half a brain can imagine what it would feel like to be brutalized or treated unfairly due to race. Oh, wait a minute…I actually can. I once was told I wouldn’t get a job in my field because I wasn’t in the right racial category the company was hiring from. Yep. I never want to work in my field again. I just don’t have the heart.

I have wondered how I would ever write about race. It’s an issue that polarizes just about everyone – at least how they respond publicly to it. Not everyone has looked at it from all the angles.I think I have. I have never been a slave. As you can see from my avatar, I’m white. So that explains it. I’ve never been black in the 60s. But slavery ended a long time ago, and blacks have the same rights we have. So I say let bygones be bygones.

I’m not simplifying the issue of race; I’m giving the only option that lets us move past race issues and into relationship with each other. I have no idea if that will ever happen on a large scale but we all know it happens every day, one-on-one. I don’t look at a black person as a “black person” – I look at them as if they’re a person, and I expect the same thing in return. I hate the term “race card” but the truth is that sometimes race does determine how a person is treated. You don’t have to use the N-word to be a racist. Harboring hateful ideas in your mind determines your character, even if you’re the only one who knows about it. Jumping on a bandwagon of unwarranted animosity is the same thing, but because it’s what a lot of other people are doing, it’s considered ok.

The perfect example works for both blacks and whites: the dislike of the President of the United States simply because he is black, or the support he has received simply because he is black. There are a lot of white people who voted for him because they felt it would somehow balance the scales, in my opinion. That’s just plain stupid, as is disrespecting the leader of our land due to color and not even trying to see his good points. I’m not a fan, by the way, of his presidency. However, I do see sides of his personal character that I  like (as well as those I don’t.) This is only possible if you strip your consciousness of unnecessary hindrances to understanding and appreciation.

I am not naive enough to think that one day,  we will all live in peace and harmony – at least, not until the Lord  comes back and we all get to heaven. Until then, we have to do the best with what we have. So who am  I appealing to? The white family who raises its children to respect those of all colors? No. The black family who does the same? Obviously not. I am appealing to those of any and all colors who raise their children and live their lives hating  the color of another person’s skin. To you I say: get over yourself. God loves variety or He wouldn’t have painted us so beautifully in the first place. And I know y’all don’t think you’ve got something over on Him, right?

It takes a strong mind, as well as an exceptional character (in my opinion) to give credence to different viewpoints, and at least to think about them. Aristotle said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” I do not have a strong mind nor an exceptional character. I am extremely opinionated, impatient, and strong-willed to the point of absurdity. But even I have trained myself to think through things that really bother me and consider all the different facets or perspectives. And when I can’t see any but my own, I always get the thoughts of someone else on board, which has taught me a lot. You wouldn’t even believe it.

A good example of this, I think, is the opinion a lot of whites have that Latinos are ruining the healthcare system.  Let’s say you believe this to be true. I can give you that, because there are a lot of people out there who would agree with you. Can you at least understand where the desire to flee to America comes from? Imagine living in a country that can’t provide you clean drinking water and you have children. Wouldn’t you be tempted to become a fugitive to give them a better life? Imagine living in a country where drug cartels run everything. The absolute danger you would live in, day in and day out. If you would  not even contemplate moving your children to safety, you have issues other than racial bias and you should probably explore that.

And let us not forget all the white people who got off easily: Lyndsay Lohan. Casey Anthony. Robert Blake. I once wrote a blog post about cosmic fame and how it totally distorts our perspective on reality. Celebrity status definitely played a role in the O.J. Simpson verdict, as well as these previously mentioned cases above. Casey Anthony wasn’t a star; she was a figure made famous over the Internet and on tv. It’s ridiculous the role fame plays in courtroom antics.

So the next time a racial thought runs through your mind, try seeing it from another point of view. When you see a white person living in a nice house, with nice things, instead of saying, or thinking to yourself, how entitled  he or she must feel, try to think about the possibility that he or she worked really hard to get those things. That person may even give some of it back to people like you! When you see a black person charged with a crime, try to remember that a lot of people grow up poor and don’t have the emotional and physical blessings of others,and that can lead to a lot of problems you, in your upper-class suburban bubble, will never understand. When you see an illegal alien sitting outside a gas station trying to find work for the day, put yourself in his place. What if you lived in a foreign country so you and your family could have a better life, and you couldn’t speak the language, understand others, and get a decent job?

What Does Judging Someone Mean?

While this topic seems so hot right now, it is part of the human condition to judge others so I don’t think this problem in our psyches is a recent development. It’s been at the forefront  of my mind as I examine some of my worst tendencies and how to correct them. One of those, unfortunately,  is a tendency to judge others based on my opinions, beliefs, and values.

1 Corinthians 4:5 states the following: Don’t be judgmental about anyone “ahead of time – before the Lord returns. For He will bring our darkest secrets to light…”

Whoa. That’s the part we tend to forget as we think or talk about the faults of others. There is that niggling fear in the back of our minds, as Christians: what is He going to say about me, and will it be in front of a long line of people waiting to meet Him in heaven? That could prove a bit awkward!!

So what is judgment exactly, and how do we stay away from it? First, here are some things it is not:

  1. Judging is not being angry at someone for their sins. Feelings are feelings; you cannot control them. You can only control how you respond to them.
  2. Judging is not forcing someone who has committed a crime to pay their legal price.
  3. Judging is not confronting someone you care about, out of pure love and not hatred or spite or envy or malice, when they are sinning.

Here’s what judgment IS: Judgment  is feeling superior to someone because of their sin, or their faults. And before you go rushing off to confront all the judgmental people in your life, stop and think: that’s a lot of people! And you’re on the list!

No? You don’t think so? Ok. Here are some normal, every-day ways we judge others:

  • When someone commits a crime, we call them  names: loser, idiot, reject, worthless. The worst criminal in the world is still God’s child.
  • When someone does something sinful, such as engage in promiscuous sex, lie, cheat, steal – etc., we get on our high-horse. We tell ourselves (and possibly even that person) that we would never do such a thing! But hold up though – they could say equally bad things about you!
  • When someone isn’t who we want them to be, we withhold love from them. The people I know who do this have themselves been in this situation, for things that were not at all their fault. Harsh, judgmental, critical people with unrealistic expectations often do this.
  • Any time you think or say that someone isn’t good enough for you, you are judging that person. Jesus told us we are not to throw our pearls to swine. What that means is that  we are open with love towards everyone, but protect your heart (your pearls) from people who only want to harm you. It doesn’t mean you are better than them, and it doesn’t mean that you don’t show them love. They may have done a really terrible thing, but throughout the course of your life you are going to do many sinful things, some of them really terrible.
  • Private people tend to have hidden sins most people, if any, can’t see. It’s easy to point out the visible sins in others through spite. Don’t!