Friday, October 26, 2012

Wasted Fruit In The Hood

Wasted Figs in the Hood

We live in an over-abundant world.  God, in His infinite wisdom and eternal love has made it that way.  He has made it so we have more than enough, right here on earth. We have the makings of paradise if we would just look around us with "eyes to see".  We don't need to fret about material needs, because we have all that we need.  Do you believe it?  In the Holy Scriptures, Matthew 6:31-34 Jesus tells us:

Matthew 6:31-34(NKJV) 
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

A fig tree on A Street in East Oakland

I went to church this past Sunday and was excited and anticipating the preached Word being delivered by our friend, the Rev Dr. T. Dewitt Smith, Jr., of Trinity Baptist Church of Metro Atlanta, Georgia.  He's a preacher who can peel the paint off the walls of the church with his delivery and power, so I was looking forward to being in the company of the saints and listening to a Word from the Lord.

As I was driving and took my exit at Edwards off the 580 Freeway and came down the hill and made my way into deeper East Oakland, I looked around the hood as I always do.  Maybe I was checking to see if things were in place generally speaking.  So much goes on in the mean E. 14th St. between 73rd and 90th Avenues.  E. 14th is also known as International Blvd, a euphemism that mostly doesn't work.  There is so much pain and hopelessness here, both imposed by others and self inflicted.  But at the early hour of 8:00 am, it's relatively quiet.  I continue driving along the boulevard and turn right at 85th Ave, where the solid rock of Allen Temple Baptist Church sits, an oasis in the midst of the desert, or not, depending on who you're talking to.

I drive down a block and make another right on "A" Street and pull up to my normal parking place around the corner from the church.  It's a cool little space that's available to me most of the time, in spite of the many cars parked all around. This neighborhood usually fills up with the beautiful cars of the church family, an overflow from three modest parking areas for the church.  Allen Temple takes over the area within a two block radius with the kinds of cars that silently speak of having made it out of this hood - Mercedes Benzes, Range Rovers, Jaguars, and the occasional Cadillac.

So my little parking place is so cool and mostly available, because it's in front of the driveway of an abandoned house.  I've been able to get this space because many of the church folks don't realize the place is abandoned.   But I'm in the know, and I pull to the curb, partially blocking the driveway.  Now , I only have a block to walk to the church.  Ghetto perks, I suppose.

As I was parking this day, for the first time I notice a fig tree in the front yard of this house, by this garage. This tree has already dropped its fruit and is now approaching the end of its season.  I thought it was strange that I hadn't noticed this tree before now. It's not like it's hidden.  So I glanced at it and was struck by the huge amount of figs that were covering the garage driveway and the ground under the tree.  There were at least a hundred figs! All wasted and rotting.  I decided that this is one of those strange paradoxes of life.  I lamented to myself, then went on into the sanctuary and forgot about it.

Later in the week, I thought about it again and an analogy came to my mind.  The wasted fruit in the hood, laying there rotting and unused is like so many of the people in the hood.  Too often, because of the difficulties of life, they believe and accept whatever negatives they were told about themselves and their circumstances.  Too often because they don't get the proper love and care and positive affirmation, the negative things of life influence them and stunt their spiritual growth.  Because they don't know any better, and have no one to carry them to the pool of knowledge, they accept the narrow confines of their wrong thinking.  Because no one will put in the work of convincing them that they can overcome the negatives of life, they accept these narrow confines as inevitable.  When people - family, friends, associates and loved ones tell them and show them the lie that life is hopeless, and when there is no one there to bring forth the truth, then they believe the lie.  Consequently the spiritual light of life goes out and they fall victim, lay wasted, their talents and beauty dropped to the ground and slowly rotting away until the end.  What a tragedy!

I went back to the place by the church where the fig tree is and took a few pictures of it.  I can't help but think how sweet and delectable figs are, and how nutritious, healing and cleansing they are to our bodies.  Figs are known to help in lower blood pressure, and fig leaves are known to lower the amount of insulin needed by diabetics.  God has given us the food and medicine we need and in his love and attention to detail for us, he has made the medicine delicious!

I've noticed that the city of Oakland is filled to capacity with trees.  There are so many fruit trees in this city, it's not even funny.  My neighborhood the Fruitvale District is even named after the trees.  Here's a thought: If we as a community across this city would harvest the fruit of all of the trees, and distribute this fruit to families in need at little or no cost, we could put a dent in hunger and sickness in this city, killing two birds with one stone.  Of course this is something that would need the cooperation of the residents of this city all working in together in harmony and love.

As well for the people struggling to survive emotionally speaking, if we would make a point of blessing the lives of people around us, freely giving love and hugs and words of encouragement to the people we come in contact with, even if we believe they don't deserve it, we could help turn around the sadness of wasted potential in the lives of so many people in deep East Oakland.  Amazingly, God has given us an endless supply of love.   The more we spend the more God gives to us, so that we can never run out.

The world is full of abundance.  Do you believe it?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Black Woman Confronts Self Injury Disorder aka Cutting (of the wrists)

We are living in very difficult times, pretty much the world over.  We in the West may not be as poverty stricken as some countries when it comes to material resources (and that's up for debate) but we definitely have our share of emotional and mental traumas.  There is so much mental imbalance and emotional brokenness!  In my opinion, it all stems from a lack of love - both giving and receiving, and it's evident everywhere we look.  Our children often bear the brunt of this love poverty.

I was recently reading Blu Jewel's blog, someone who I recently subscribed to.  She is an intelligent sister who is a part of my large blog circle of friends.  I came across a post where she shares a very personal struggle that she has had over the course of her life.  She candidly and bravely talks about the fact that she had been cutting herself as a coping mechanism for an inordinate amount of stress that she had been dealing with in her life.  It's amazing to me how many of us are struggling with some trauma or another - and how we often are excellent at masking our pain.

In this piece that is published in its entirety at Up For Discussion blog, Sister Blu Jewel tells her story, so that we can learn more about Cutting, aka Self-Harm and how it affects the lives of so many young women and men.  As evidenced by Blu Jewel's story, it affects black women as well.  This dynamic of the disorder is under-reported.

Not Just for White Girls: Self-Harm (Part 1)

Introduction to Self-Harm
When we think about certain things, we tend to assign gender, sex, age, or skin color as if it, whatever we’re talking about, solely fits into that presumed category.  In reference to Self-mutilation, sometimes called Self-Injury/Harm, it’s seen as specifically a ‘white girl’ condition.  Well, I’m here to dispel that myth.  How you may ask…because I’m not white and can personally identify.
Please, refer to the link in order to gain a better understanding of what Self-Harm is.

Sadly, I had a difficult time finding U.S statistics for white-to-black ratios of those who Self-Harm.  But suffice it to say, the statistics would not be quite accurate as many African Americans, such as myself, do not report what they’re doing unless someone finds out and mandates counseling.  What I do know for sure is that it’s more prevalent than most of us think and it’s rising at an alarming rate.  My recent interaction with some college students (ages 19-22) determined that 3 of the 20 young ladies in the room had or continues to wrestle with self-injuring.  In addition, two of the students knew of other young ladies who were currently engaging in the behaviour.  Know this readers, this behaviour is less about a latent desire to commit suicide, but instead is predicated on some of the same reasons why people become anorexic, bulimic, promiscuous, etc.  Self-Harm is a coping mechanism adopted to manage stress, pain, discomfort, etc.
My Journey/Story
I began Self-Harm (SH) at age 13.  I am now 44 and didn’t stop until I was about 37.  At the time, I didn’t know my behaviour had a name and it wasn’t until my late teens that I began to understand it.  According to a British study on Self-Harm, 1 in 12 teenagers Self-Harm, with many outgrowing it by their 20's.  Personally, I feel their results are skewed because as I said before, they can only quantify what has not been identified.  Furthermore, some do not start until their late teens or early 20's.  My case went unreported until I was 25, which by then I’d already been cutting for 12 years.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Iyanla Vanzant vs Evelyn Lozada

Roundtable of war and grace  Anna Renee
Not too long ago, Evelyn Lozada's life made turn for the worse, when her month old marriage fell apart.  She accused her husband Ocho Cinco of domestic violence after he allegedly head butted her during a confrontation they had.
I have never watched her show, but had read things here and there about her out of control temper.  Some people were even commenting on Facebook that just because she has out of control anger issues, does not mean she deserves to be domestically abused by her husband.  Interestingly, many women feel she did deserve it - what's good for the goose is good for the gander.  She dished it out, so she should be made to take it. 
What I appreciate is when someone is able to look beyond the foolish behavior to the heart of the person  and what pain they are suffering through that often pushes them to act so out of pocket like Evelyn did.  And my sister girl, Mother Iyanla was on the case.  With her new OWN show, Iyanla, Fix My Life in the works, she has started earnestly spreading her gift helping women to see into their issues and heartaches and bad decision making. 
Thank God they had sights for our poor sister Evelyn.  In a society that worships beauty and wealth, we often feel no sympathy for people who are so endowed.  But the truth is, neither wealth nor beauty stands for anything.  A devastatingly beautiful woman like Evelyn can easily be the most broken creature walking around in stilettos. 
For many woman, our brokenness stems around our unresolved daddy issues. And Iyanla went in and quickly found that was the case with Evelyn. The episodes that were taped were so real and so raw due to Evelyn's realness.  So much healing came out of Evelyn's encounter with Iyanla.  It was a beautiful and very power thing to watch.  If only we all had a mother/sister/girlfriend like Iyanla, who can get right in our face with our stuff and tell us the truth about who we are.  All this time Evelyn was acting like a "thug among women" when really she was just a broken little girl still grieving the loss of her father at the time she needed him most.

iyanla vanzant2

iyanla vanzant3

iyanla vanzant 4
iyanla vanzant 5
iyanla vanzant 6

Monday, October 1, 2012

Are You Too Arrogant To Give Yourself Credit?

You have decided to work on a particular area of your life, and have made significant steps towards your goal of perfection.  You're no slouch either; you've put in work and can perceive a certain amount of success, although you're not satisfied with it.  You haven't reached the prize of the high calling yet, but you know that you're on your way.  Even your friends and family are noticing a change in you, although you won't allow yourself to celebrate your gains.  Why do you belittle, deny or ignore your steps in the right direction, rather than encourage your gains?  You do realize that you're being arrogant towards yourself, right?

It seems to be a human thing that we are always striving toward some goal.  We are always reaching for some prescribed box to force ourselves into. We do this, not for our own upliftment, but to comply with the ever changing opinions of nameless, faceless people who will never know us nor care to.   Whatever foolishness is currently floating on the winds of popular culture, that's what we too often mindlessly seek to have.  Whatever "they" tell us we lack as women, we mindlessly seek to acquire.    Yesterday, it was a zero fat body...except for the boobs.  Keep them fat and fatter by any means necessary.   Today it's having monstrously huge all costs!  The end always justify the means, even if you went to a back alley butt pumping party to get yours.  For many women, risking our lives is a small price to pay to conform.  We erroneously believe that in conforming, there is love.  BTW, seeking to conform is not solely a woman thing, not by a long shot.
But I digress.

So when you are working out, losing the weight slowly, surely, sanely, do you despise your small beginnings?  When you are building a new skill set, do you hate yourself for not already knowing, or for taking too long to learn?  Are you upset at yourself  because you're still answering phones at the job, and are not yet that natural hair salon owner?  Deep down, you feel you should somehow already know what you're now learning, you should never have gained all the weight, or you shouldn't have been so fearful in the first place.

Do you even know why you hate on yourself like this?  Do you know why you are so harsh in your unspoken self judgements and give yourself zero leeway in your growth curve?  Do you understand why you're this way, even when you're doing the right thing and see your positive growth?  It's a lack of emotional clarity.

Ok, to recap:
1. Self hate wells up within your heart when you aren't doing "the right thing".
2. When you decide to do the right thing, you're angry at yourself for not deciding sooner.
3. You hate your life during the process of doing the right thing. 
4. And the pièce de résistance, you hate yourself when you get the end result you sought, because you still aren't happy.    

All of this is kinda arrogant, you know.

Have you ever stopped to question whether you're correct in your self hatred, or do you arrogantly believe you're always right?  Sit down with a nice cup of tea and ponder these hard things.  While you're at it, take another sip of your tea and question your reading of your entire life.  Have you been well balanced in your conclusions?  Have you allowed self prejudice to come in and besmirch your true essence?  Be honest, now.  Have you negatively judged yourself in those milestone times of your life?  Well, that's alright.  You can be kinder and gentler to yourself now.  As Mother Maya Angelou has taught, "When we know better, we do better."  You didn't know any better.  You actually thought your negative self assessments were right, just because you made them.  You actually thought you were right when you called yourself a fat pig, ugly duckling, skinny stick figure, short and stumpy, dummy, etc., etc.  Now you know you were jacked up in your self assessments. 

Are you beginning to see the light?  Do you see where you were wrong all this time?  Good.  You have now freed yourself from the grip of arrogance, if you can now see yourself in a better light.  Maintaining this emotional clarity is a lifelong endeavor.  You are always a work in progress as you move to the place of self acceptance, but it's a journey worth taking and it gets easier as you go. 

Blessings and Happy Trails...