Level 4 Member
Monday, December 1, 2014, 8:41 PM
Recently, I viewed (for the second time) the D. Channsin Berry/Bill Duke documentary "Dark Girls." It was a painful view, but I felt compelled to watch and listen carefully because I could identify so deeply with much of what was said.
This message rang through the film: there is something ugly and unpleasant about being a "dark girl". This does not mean dark girls are ugly or unpleasant. Still, much of what is presented in this film shows how differently dark girls experience life. Generally speaking, these differences are not considered positive ones. I think there was much truth and painful honesty in this film, but a part of the story is missing.
Since Lupita Nyong'o won an Oscar, made a famous and well-documented speech, and appeared on several fashion magazine covers, I have listened and watched many women describe how triumphant Nyong'o's story is: she is the manifestation of dark beauty, her confidence and poise are enviable, her skill and preparation have won out over the color prejudices that dominate much of Hollywood. Many, many dark girls are cheering for Lupita.
No one says "I wished I looked like Lupita." I have yet to read or hear that comment.
It's hard to be different. Dark girls are a minority within a minority. We may have been the "original woman", but now we are often sidelined and rejected by those who gave birth to us, raised us, and shared our childhood homes. Society has labeled us as second class, and often we are not strong enough to resist and overcome that programming until we have lived much or most of our lives.
When I watched the film for the second time, I was able to see and absorb a lot of the spiritual pain expressed by the women interviewed. Most of these women were pretty, and some were very beautiful. A sadness lingered in the eyes of almost all of them, even those who stated they have grown into an appreciation and gratitude for their looks. The injury of rejection by family and friends--and society at large--did not fade away with increased awareness and personal growth. This pain seemed to be persistent across generations, classes, geography, and personality types.
Is there a remedy? I am always looking for a reason to hold hope close to my heart. Will dark girls have to wait for society to change before we can be happy, fulfilled, and joyful?
As I thought about the answer, I remembered the Bible verse that tells me: "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:2, NIV)
My default position is to be conformed to the world, to see myself as others who appear powerful choose to define me, to live within those limitations, and to fear moving beyond them. My default position is to absorb what is sent my way, even if that message is destructive and limiting to me, even if that message causes me to dislike my appearance or even my very existence
When I move from conformity to transforming renewal, I am embracing the God who is powerful enough and loving enough to smile at me and say "you are beautiful because you have been created in my image." New thoughts and images appear in my mind. When I live in transforming renewal, I am able to "test and approve" God's good, pleasing, and perfect will. In my own experience, God has never failed a test. In transforming renewal, I am expecting and approving of God's ability to bring into my life those who will also smile at me with loving kindness and joy.
In transforming renewal, I release and forgive those unable to see me as whole and lovely, because their short-sightedness does not limit what God will do in my life.
In transforming renewal, I remember God's will is good, pleasing, and perfect for me, not just for God alone.
In transforming renewal, I begin every day smiling at myself in the mirror, happy with what I see, knowing that I am an intentional creation of God and not a result of random chance. I no longer wish God had made me someone else, or something else. I approve of God's choice to form me as I am. I trust and know God has prepared something good for all creatures He has made.
In transforming renewal, I expect more than what I can see today.
For dark girls, and for all people, gratitude for self begins by knowing and living the truth that we are intentionally made by God, for his joy---and ours---and we can live in the transforming renewal that changes us from objects of scorn to beautiful channels of grace. That's the truth.
(c) 2014 Deborah Evans
Sunday, October 19, 2014, 1:52 PM
Why would someone choose to be a Christian?
You must really make this choice for yourself. It is deliberate
and no one can do it for you. No one "inherits" Christianity.
It cannot be passed down like money, property, or heirlooms.
You may inherit the practice of certain Christian traditions, but
you cannot inherit the status of Christian. As someone has said,
"God has no grandchildren, only children."
You should be able to look back to a place and time in your own life
where you made a conscious choice to turn over
the reigns of your life to God, a time when you admitted you had
a sin problem you could not solve, a time when you asked God to
solve it for you. In most cases and barring certain illnesses,
we remember major events of our lives: finishing school,
getting that first job or joining military service, marriage,
buying that first home or renting that first apartment.
It's perfectly reasonable that we remember turning over control
of our lives to God, the most important decision we will ever make.
Becoming a Christian isn't the same as joining a church or getting baptized.
Those can be positive experiences, but they do not substitute for salvation
because salvation is a totally personal "you and God" experience. Perhaps
you were baptized as an infant, in which case that baptism wasn't your choice.
Perhaps you joined a church because you were lonely, or liked certain social
activities the church offered, or because a spouse or parent belonged to that
church. Those aren't necessarily bad reasons to join a church, but those
reasons don't address your relationship with God.
Some have been told to become a Christian because Christianity assures
prosperity, health, and what the world generally calls "success."
Trust me, it's not true because Scripture doesn't teach this and
history disproves it.
Some have been told to become a Christian to avoid Hell. Maybe you will
avoid Hell (which, by the way, I believe is a real place), but fear never
motivated anyone to consistent goodness or greatness. If Hell, or avoiding it,
is your focus, you have missed the entire reason why people have sought
a relationship with Jesus for over 2,000 years.
Some have been told become a Christian because Christians are "better" than other people and, of course, you want to be among "the best." Jesus
constantly taught against pride, judgment of others, and haughtiness.
He never invited anyone to follow Him based on feeling superior to others.
In fact, during His time here, He often sought out and embraced those
who were on the outskirts of society: the poor, the rejected,
the weak and the lonely.He had wealthy followers as
well---and still does--but they are not "better" followers
because of their material advantages.
Hopefully, you have chosen or will choose to become a Christian because
you have received a glimpse of this truth: "Jesus, you are all compassion,
pure and wondrous love you are."
Only someone like this is worthy of your unconditional
allegiance and faith.
It is only to someone like this should you hand over the reigns of your life.
Only God is powerful enough to be "all compassion" and only God is
generous enough to express to us "pure and wondrous love." Whoever you are, and in whatever condition you find yourself, Jesus waits to express these things to you and will wait for you as long as you live and will
never withdraw His offer of compassion and love.
That is the reason to become a Christian.
(c) Deborah Evans 2014
Friday, September 19, 2014, 1:25 PM
Why would anyone pray for someone who despitefully uses them?
You would do it because that prayer is your guarantee against the permanent soul damage that may result from the user's actions.
How does this work?
1) When you pray for that person, your mind and spirit free themselves from responsibility for that person's hostile actions and hostile energy. You have turned that person, and their state of mind, over to God. You no longer try to adjust your behavior to "fix" them and to "keep them happy."
2) When you pray for that person, you place yourself under God's protection. Your decision to obey this very challenging command is an affirmation of faith in God's judgment of how difficult people are to be handled. Your prayer is an affirmation of your obedience.
That affirmation of obedience directs your focus away from the "user" and back to God. Your thoughts are no longer tied to "what they did." Your thoughts are focused on "what God will do." Instead of uselessly expecting someone to "make things right", you look to God. This looking to God cancels disappointment. This opens your mind to faith and hope, and to new possibilities.
How many times have you heard speakers and teachers say "Energy follows focus"?
Ironically, when you pray for the despiteful user, your focus moves away from them.
3) Praying for someone who did not treat you well is your personal expression of freedom. You cannot hold the hurt and pain while you pray for them. At first, this will not "feel right." Stick with it! As you continue, you will notice you don't cry anymore when you think about them. Your fists don't ball up. You don't feel that tension in your shoulders. You remember facts, but you are no longer poisoned by negative energy.
If someone is abusing you and placing you in danger, you must take carefully planned steps to get away from them. Praying is not a substitute for rational action when your safety is at risk. Please see my post on the topic of "Why Do So Many Churches Tell Women To Stay In Abusive Marriages?"
Regardless of where you are physically located, you can pray for that person. You can begin the process of healing yourself. As is often the case, prayer is not about making a different outcome. Prayer is about making you a different person who is free and capable of creating God-willed outcomes.
The command to "pray for those who despitefully use you" is definitely one of Jesus' "hard sayings." This saying seems counter-intuitive. As you practice this prayer, something happens in you, something you could not have anticipated or expected. It is called a miracle.
(c) 2014 Deborah Evans
Friday, August 8, 2014, 3:10 PM
"Once upon a time, a visitor came to the monastery looking for the purpose and meaning of life.
The Teacher said to the visitor, 'If what you seek is Truth, there is one thing you must have above all else.'
'I know', said the visitor. 'To find Truth, I must have an overwhelming passion for it.'
'No", said the Teacher. 'In order to find Truth, you must have an unremitting readiness to admit you may be wrong.' "
photo from Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement
Why was it so difficult for the southern, white church to acknowledge segregation was wrong?
For some, this question may pose another question: why was it so difficult for southern white culture to acknowledge segregation was wrong?
My original question is based upon the assumption that the church does not accept without question or challenge the values and mores of the larger society. In this case, the church obviously did accept those values and mores. The few who spoke out for what was right were often labeled "enemy." Did the church lose its testimony because it refused to visibly and vocally challenge the violence that was needed to enforce segregation?
Was the southern church co-opted culturally by the larger society in which it lived and functioned? For the record, many elements in what was then called the southern Negro church did not support civil rights during its earliest days. Many conservative African-Americans feared the disruption and retribution that would come with a push for civil rights. Based on their (well-founded) fear, they also sat on the sidelines, or accused the civil rights workers of being trouble-makers and rabble-rousers.
Why was the southern white church also so afraid of change that those who spoke out for the righteousness of civil rights were excluded and ostracized?
How was it possible that southern white Christians did not see a brotherhood and sisterhood of faith in their African-American neighbors? Why was it so much easier to speak about "personal salvation in Jesus Christ" and "holiness and sanctification" that it was to say that all Americans should be treated as citizens? Who were "the least of these"
in this situation? How many sermons on the Good Samaritan
were preached in churches where African-Americans were not welcomed or even permitted?
How many ministers said "those people won't come to our churches anyway?" How many laypersons felt it was permissible to eat food and wear clothes prepared by women with whom they refused to worship? How many times did ministers preach on Lazarus and the Rich Man
without considering how their actions appeared to an unredeemed world?
Why was so much pseudo-science accepted as reasonable explanations for legally and forcibly separating
people who worshiped the same God, read from the same Bible, and looked forward to the same Heaven?
I suppose arguments could be made regarding social comfort and traditional practices. Still, I wonder how many of those outside of the church watched in wonder or mockery as church leaders and laypersons affirmed the right of the government to separate people based on race. I wonder how many atheists mocked the Gospel as so-called Christians remained silent while churches were bombed, busses were bombed, and peaceful demonstrators were set upon by police dogs and high powered fire hoses.
Why was it so difficult for the church to admit legal segregation was wrong? Can a testimony lost ever be regained?
(c) 2014 Deborah Evans
Thursday, July 3, 2014, 4:24 PM
Ladies, when you look in the mirror, what do you see?
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, your answer can be “I see a beautiful reflection of God when I look in the mirror.”
Why is it so difficult for so many of us to easily and honestly give that answer?
Perhaps no one has ever told us we are beautiful reflections of God.
Reflections of God must be nothing less than beautiful, if we believe God to be beautiful. If our God is beautiful, surely we must share at least a sliver of that beauty in our physical selves. We can see it every day and acknowledge it with gratitude and grace.
Do we let the world tell us what is beautiful? Did some of us get mixed up and lost at that point?
Basically, the world tells all of us that only a very tiny number of us are (or ever can be) truly beautiful and the rest of us must spend some of our spare time imitating, adoring, watching, and obsessing over “the beautiful.” When we are finished with the obsessing and the adoring, we are (directly and indirectly) instructed to head off to the stores and sites to buy something to bring us to a near approximation of beauty. We are offered no guarantees we will actually arrive at “the beauty destination.” We are, however, told we can never give up trying. Trying, by the way, often seems to involve spending lots of money and experimenting with lots of products and waiting in lines in salons, spas, gyms, and the like.
I am all for enhancing physical appearance. Of course, we all want to look our best. Healthy enhancement, however, begins from a place of self-acceptance, not a place of self-denial.
God tells us we are beautiful because we are His children. I like that approach to beauty. It’s possible for everyone to qualify to be beautiful in God’s approach.
How often have you watched family and friends smile over a newborn, certain the child will grow up to be beautiful because both parents are “good looking”?
Can any less be true for the children of God?
Recently, someone posted this quote on my facebook: “Do not fall in love with what’s on the outside. Fall in love with what’s on the inside, because that is what you will live with.”
I decided to memorize that statement because it is an ongoing reminder to me of how easily so many of us are seduced by good looks, of how easy it is to believe if someone is physically attractive they must also be good in the ways that really count and really matter.
Like many of you, I followed with interest and excitement this year’s media coverage of the Academy Award winning Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o. Her stunning expression of confidence in her own beauty (based on character and skill and preparation and courage, along with genes!) seemed to convince many that beauty had no single look. I hope that belief lives on.
Too many of us believe if we have dark skin, tightly curled hair, and full lips, we cannot be beautiful in anyone’s eyes, including our own. That belief is a spiritual problem, because that type of thinking elevates the legacy of colonialism and slavery over God’s permanent declaration of the goodness and beauty of His people.
Too many of us believe if we have fair skin and straight hair, we need to be “fixed” with tanning and (chemically caustic) perms. That belief is a spiritual problem, because these processes are known to damage the health of the physical bodies we need to continue living on the Earth.
Too many of us believe if our bodies do not match a certain size or number, we have no right to be seen in public, and certainly no right to go to swim at the beach or in a public pool, or to wear bright, happy colors. That belief is a spiritual problem, because God does not wait for us to reach a certain size before He expresses His love for us and sends His Holy Spirit to live in us.
Too many of us believe if we have reached a certain age, the best is behind us and we can never achieve any new heights because we are too old to be accepted or appreciated. That belief is a spiritual problem, because all of the life experience God has allowed you to have can guide and bless someone who waits to meet you around the bend on life’s road.
Beauty is a gift from God, and must always exist in whatever form He has chosen to create us. If that’s too difficult to believe, I invite you to spend more time listening to God
and reading His word, and less time listening to those who aren’t in “the family of God.”
Beauty was not created for some of us to generate envy or jealousy from the rest of us. Beauty exists at all because it is God’s expression of self, and must be good and can live always within and upon anyone who is His, who is in “the family”, who looks to Him for everything worth knowing and having.
P.S. “Family” membership is open to any and all, at no cost, and upon request. No sponsor is required for this membership. You can nominate yourself. That’s “the good news”, aka The Gospel.
(c)2014 Deborah Evans