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Saturday, December 31, 2005

Kuumba!

(k'OOM-bah)

Black folk are some of the most creative people on the planet - we gave the world Jazz and Hip Hop and we put mad flava in the NBA and NFL, from Dr. J to Chad Johnson. Dr. Charles Drew created a way for life to be preserved through the transfusion of blood while George Washington Carver freaked the peanut so well that it gave birth to hundreds of new ideas and products. We are truly a creative people.

Kuumba.

What we must do now - as much as we can, in the way we can - is to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it. That is the 6th principle of Kwanzaa, Kuumba. How do we do that? We do that by making it our collective purpose to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it. Each of us have our own purposes, our own agendas, but one purpose that we should all have in common is the benefit of our community - making our community better and more beautiful. We do that through cooperative economics - through patronizing our own businesses, through cooperating with one another such that our businesses are only dependant upon Black folk, through financial independence. We do that through collective work and responsibility - building and maintaining our community together, making our brothers' and sisters' problems our own problems, and solving them together. We do that through self-determination - defining ourselves, naming ourselves, creating for ourselves and speaking for ourselves. And we can only do that if we are unified, striving for and maintaining unity in the family, community, nation and race.

Someone once said that if you keep on doing what you're doing you'll keep on getting what you're getting. I don't know about you but I say that it's time for something different, time for something better, time for us to get up off of our do-nothing and do something for the advancement of our families, community, nation and race. Too many of us are having a pot-luck dinner in the middle of a combat zone - it's time to put down the ham sandwich and get into the struggle. Learn the essentials of economics and create opportunities for yourself and your brothers and sisters to survive and thrive in this hostile world - it's time for the hunted to become the hunters. Let us come together and create that opportunity - divided we are but cattle for the economic slaughter.

Kuumba.

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 9:45 AM :: (0) minds freed

Friday, December 30, 2005

Nia! (NEE-yah)

Nia -- Purpose. The call for us to build and develop community.

Recently I have resolved to police my own vocabulary on this issue. I get impatient now when I hear another Black person implore "what we ought to do" for the Black community. Please tell us instead what you are doing. In my mind, that's the essence of Nia.

If you can articulate a purpose that you will stand behind, I will follow or collaborate with you if that purpose speaks to my heart and I am able to contribute. When I have a purpose to build and develop our community, I will share what I'd like to see happen and contribute myself towards making the purpose real.

For instance, when it comes to the response to Hurricane Katrina, I try not to talk in the language of "what we ought to do." Instead I try to talk in terms of what I believe I should do. What will you do?

Emancipated by Quintus @ 11:25 PM :: (3) minds freed

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Ujamaa!

The next principle of Kwanzaa is Ujamaa -- Cooperative Economics. How might we more frequently transact with each other cooperatively? In ways that brings mutual benefit to our respective families and to greater African American community?

The African diaspora is varied and spread throughout many parts of the world. Yet, in our histories, we share the consequences of capitalism stripped of its moral dimensions. Enslaved, our ancestors were the products in economic transaction, and nations profited and became great powers on their suffereing.

Those who came before us were later excluded from economic transactions. They were free to transact as human beings, but they were always under threat of having their transactions overruled by domestic terrorism. And by a supremacy of "white" that ruled the creation and enforcement of law.

Through our shared history, we have endured by practicing economics for moral and community ends. In America, we have ancestors who purchased their families out of slavery, when they could. Later we created our own businesses, when we were socially and legally segretated out of the mainstream. Today we can express our talents more freely, and we profit from products and services that suit our own needs and tastes. We are so good that others can't help but to sample (and imitate) our style.

But the dream isn't finished yet. Many of us are still left out and left behind.

Ujamaa - Cooperative Economics.

Dream about it as you make economic decisions. Demonstrate it. Perfect it. For your family and for those in wider African diaspora. It's a path to our greater wealth, security, and prosperity.

Emancipated by Quintus @ 11:24 AM :: (0) minds freed

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Ujima!

Today, right now, it is time for Black folk to build and maintain our community together, to make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems, and to solve them together. As we look to the future and make plans for our grandchildren, we must not neglect today and the needs of our brothers and sisters, here and now. The clearest example of this need would be the thousands of displaced natives of New Orleans who have been disbursed throughout the United States. If ever there was a time for Black folk to come together and take care of Black folk this would be it, but we lack three essential components that are required for us as a people to handle such a responsibility.

First, we lack capital. Large-scale projects such as the restoration of New Orleans take money, serious money. Congress just allocated another $29 billion in Katrina aid to the victims of the storm, and that doesn't even touch restoration of the city. Restoring New Orleans itself has been estimated to cost north of $100 billion - now I've got $5 on it, but where are Black folk going to get the other $99,999,999,995? We, as a people, lack the capital to finance such an endeavor, and we have to change that in a hurry.

Second, we lack natural resources. Rebuilding a city requires wood and concrete and steel, and we own precious few lumber, mining and milling companies - certainly not enough to rebuild a city.

Third, we lack leadership. Who speaks for Black people? Jesse? Please! Rev. Al? Don't make me slap you. Colin? Condi? Clarence? As if they'd want to speak for Black folk. A big part of this is that there is no single Black concern so there is no single Black voice, but we should have a single Black concern - our collective survival and well-being. If you think you're not part of the Black concern then let times get hard - you'll learn the punchline to the running joke in Get On The Bus in a hurry. The truth of the matter is that we ain't them - or them. We have to take care of our own, and that requires coordination. That requires vision. That requires leadership, and today's leadership is woefully inadequate for the task at hand. It's time for us to get our act together. It's time for us to build and maintain our community together, to make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems, to solve those problems together. It's time for Ujima!

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 10:30 PM :: (2) minds freed

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Kujichagulia!

If I have said it once I have said it a million times - Black folk have got to do for self. We have to define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves - that is the essence of the second principle of Kwanzaa: Kujichagulia (pronounced Koo-jee-choc-ah-LEE-ah).

If we have learned anything from the disaster that followed Hurricane Katrina it is the simple fact that we are on our own - the government doesn't really care about any of us and the private sector is only concerned about maintaining their profit margins. We have to be in a position to take care of our own in a tragedy and in every-day life - I am my brother's keeper. We have to walk in Umoja if we are to step up and embody Kujichagulia.

What does this look like? Ghana gives us a glimpse of where we can start. Obviously, we need to control the means of production such that we can build businesses whose entire supply-chain is fed by Africans throughout the diaspora. That is a long-term plan for which we must lay the groundwork now. We can begin by building ties between ourselves and other Africans throughout the diaspora, beginning in Ghana. Europeans used Triangle Trade to exchange textiles, rum, and slaves between Africa, North America, and Europe. I say we do something similar, only in reverse - siphoning off the best of North America and rebuilding the motherland, beginning in Ghana. Ghana is opening their doors to such an endeavor, and I say that we should unify behind that idea and facilitate the well-being of our grandchildren in their soon-to-be home - Africa.

China and India will be running the world in two generations, and the United States of America will be to them what the Soviet Union was to us. If we want to be truly independent - to truly define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves - then we will need to be somewhere other than America in the coming generations as Americans battle for ever fewer jobs and even more scarce resources. We would be prudent to build an ark now before it starts raining...

Kujichagulia.

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 9:30 PM :: (6) minds freed

Monday, December 26, 2005

Umoja!

Today is the first day of Kwanzaa, a celebration of African culture, family, and community; the word "African" in this context refers not only to the continent, but to the Diaspora as well.

There are seven days of Kwanzaa reflecting the Nguzo Saba, or Seven Principles. Today is the first day, Umoja.

Umoja=Unity

Y'know, I don't think that we've been very united as a people recently. There's not even a general consensus about who we are; whether it be Black, Afro-American, African-American, African, or some particular nationality, a different Negro on a different day will have a different term for their self-identification. Slave descendents in the U.S., Africans immigrating to the U.S., and Caribbeans seem to be split right along the triangular trade routes.

"I'm not Black, I'm Nigerian." That's the response I got from one person when trying to sign them up for the Black Student Union while in college.

"I don't know nothin' 'bout no Africa." That's a paraphrased oft-used response by many us who are descendents of slaves in the U.S. when asked about African heritage. Substitute "you" for "I" when addressing the person raising the topic.

"Black Americans are lazy." That's a comment I've heard is frequently expressed by some of our more successful Caribbean brothers and sisters.

There is no doubt that strong cultural differences exist between Africans in North America, African is South America, and Africans in Africa- but we're all still Africans. We face many of the same issues: health (especially HIV/AIDS), violence, & economic develoment. Of course the topics named are broad and vary from community to community, but all Africans in the Diaspora face uncertain peril if things continue. It is not inconceivable that our populations could be severely diminished if not extinguished.

Don't think it could happen?

Ever think about the millions upon millions of Native American Indians that used to populate the entire North American continent? Native American Indians now constitute less than 1% of the U.S. popultion.

The sky is not falling and this is not a doomsday type thing. However we do need to wake up and get with the program. Peoples all over the world are continually planning for their survival except for us.

There may not be only one solution to all of the problems, but I fully believe that we can be successful if we all work together recognizing our common African heritage and view the future through the lens of our common interests.

Umoja

Emancipated by Talib @ 2:33 PM :: (0) minds freed

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Word For The Week

Now that everyone has opened their gifts and given gifts to friends and family, let us now look at the first three men to bear gifts in celebration of the birth of Jesus.

"Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him."

The wise men came from the east to Jerusalem on a quest for that child. They could have said, "If such a king be born, we shall hear of him shortly in our own country, and it will be time enough then to pay our homage to him." But they were so anxious to be better acquainted with Him that they took a long journey to seek after Him. Their question was, “Where is he that is born king of the Jews?” They do not ask whether there were such a one born – they knew who that child was, and spoke it with boldness. They wanted to know where he was born. The magi called Jesus the King of the Jews, because that is what the Messiah was expected to be: and He is Protector and Ruler of all of Abraham’s seed, the household of faith. He is born a King.

But Herod was troubled. Herod’s thinking was that there could be only one king in Judea, and he was it, so who was that child? Any opposition must be neutralized. He knew Jewish history, being an Edomite, a descendant of Esau. He knew of the Maccabees and their rebellion centuries earlier. He knew of the Zealots and their desire to rid Israel of the Roman occupation. He knew of the messianic prophesies which said that One would come and deliver Israel, and how the people longed for this messiah. Herod did not receive news of the child as Good News. However, you would think that Jerusalem should have greatly rejoiced to hear that her King was here; yet the Bible says that all of Jerusalem was troubled with Herod, apparently afraid that this would involve them in war, or restrain their lusts - they desired no king but Herod; not even the Messiah himself.

I’m sure that we can relate.

Americans despise restraint. Freedom and liberty are to Americans what Grace and Mercy are to Christians – can’t live without them and wouldn’t want to try. Americans shout, “Give me liberty or give me death!” while God says to Christians, “My grace is sufficient for you.” Most every church has two flags, one hanging on each side of the pulpit: the American flag and the Christian flag. To which kingdom do you pledge allegiance? “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…” “No man can serve two masters: either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” “Choose this day whom you will serve…” We must render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, but we must render unto God that which is God’s.

Herod had obtained his kingdom by great crimes, by shedding much blood. He was therefore easily alarmed by any remarkable appearances, and the fact that this star appeared - and that it was regarded as proof that a King of the Jews was born - scared him. Besides, it was a common expectation that the Messiah was about to appear, and Herod feared that his reign was about to come to an abrupt end. Herod therefore began to inquire about how he might secure his own safety and the permanency of his government.

Herod, at this point, was an old man and had reigned thirty-five years - this child was but newly born, and not likely to start anything considerable for many years - yet Herod was jealous of him. People often cannot bear to think of successors, much less think of rivals. Ask anyone about who will chair their committee after them and see how they reply. Most people can’t conceive of anyone replacing them, let alone the think of being ousted from “their” position. Nothing less than the blood of this child would satisfy Herod. Apparently, it never occurred to Herod that, if this child should indeed be the Messiah, then in opposing him, or making any attempts upon his life, he would be fighting against God Himself - an exercise in futility if ever there was one, nothing which could be more dangerous. He’d just have to find out the hard way that his arms were too short to box with God. Passion got the best of his reason and conscience. How many times have our passions got the best of our reason, the best of our conscience? It’s not that we lost our minds - we still think - but we lose our will to do that which would be pleasing to God. Look at Herod.

See how cunningly he laid the project in v. 7-8. He privately called the wise men in order to talk with them about this matter. He would not openly air his own fears and jealousies; it would be to his disgrace to let the wise men know them, and dangerous to let the people know them. Herod learned from the wise men the time when the star appeared, that he might take his measures accordingly; and then implores them to inquire further, asking them to return with a report. All this might have looked suspicious if he had not covered it with a show of religion: “that I may come and worship him also.” I have found that the greatest wickedness often conceals itself under a mask of piety. Absalom cloaked his rebellious project with a religious vow. Hitler slaughtered the Jews under the veil of being religious. Bush invaded Iraq under the pretense of "fighting evil-doers." People often think rationally while losing the ability to think reasonably. We can learn three things from this text:

First, people with ill intentions often cloak their designs with the pretense of piety - they attempt to deceive those who are pursuing Jesus and make them believe that they have the same intentions. There was a song a few years ago that said, “They smile in your face. All the time they want to take your place. The back-stabbers. Back-stabbers!” That’s biblical. People will pat you on the back just to see where the knife should go. Ask Jesus. He’ll tell you that your friend, the one you trust with your money, will kiss you just to help your enemies destroy you. Like the writer of Ecclesiastes said, “Ain’t nothing new under the sun.” (Oscar translation)

We also find that wicked people often pimp the pious to pursue their personal plans. Men like Herod will stop at nothing to achieve their ends. They endeavor to deceive the simple, to lure the unsuspecting, and to beguile the weak in order to accomplish their own purposes. In politics, there are those who care nothing about God and cringe at the name of Jesus, yet they would have the majority of Christians in America to believe that the only way to be a good Christian and a responsible American is to support their party - even though their policies defy the very teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “You are blessed of my Father, for I was hungry and you fed me,” but that party opposes the very concept of society feeding the poor – they say that some charity will do it, so collectively we as a people need not be about the business of feeding the poor, i.e. no food stamps. Jesus said, “I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,” but they oppose handouts, as in no welfare – except corporate welfare (tax cuts). Jesus said, “I was a stranger and you invited me in,” yet that party has people chanting, “America for Americans only.” Jesus said, “I was sick and you visited me,” yet that party says that health care is only for those who can afford it. Those people will actually try to pass their party off as the only party for Christians, and too many Christians go for it – hook, line, sinker, rod, reel and a little knuckle too.

The Grand Ole Party.

Democrats aren’t much better – it is very easy to see how they frequently disregard the commands of Christ, but nobody is implying that they are the only party that a true Christian should support as many do with the Republicans. The point is that Godless people have beguiled Christians into believing that politics is the savior of this society, and the avenue to that salvation is through the Republican Party - just like Herod fooled the wise men into believing that he wanted to worship the living Christ. It took special revelation from God to show the the wise men Herod's deception as it will no doubt require God's special revelation to enlightened today’s believers.

The third thing that we see here is that the plans of wicked people are often well laid. Those plans occupy a long time and can stretch out over many years – even generations. Satan has great patience – if he can’t get you then he’ll come for your children or grandchildren or great-grandchildren. He’ll bring it into the church, having entire denominations condoning sin. People twist scripture to make it say what they want it to say and ignore scripture that they cannot twist. Such people make diligent inquiry much like Herod, and all of it has the appearance of religion. But God sees through the design, and though people are deceived, God cannot be mocked.

See how strangely Herod was deceived in all of this? He trusted it with the wise men, and did not choose some other managers that would have been true to his interests. Bethlehem is only seven miles from Jerusalem - Herod could have easily sent spies to watch the wise men, who could have been there to destroy the child as the wise men came to worship him! God can easily hide from the eyes of His enemies those methods by which they might easily destroy His work; that’s why no weapon formed against us shall prosper.

Herod waited a long time for the return of the wise men. He hoped that though they be slow, they would be sure, and he would crush this rival at His first appearing. But when he found out that they’d departed in another direction he correctly suspected that they pledged allegiance to this new King, which made Herod exceedingly angry – more passion and less reason. It obviously did not occur to him who he was dealing with, even though he’d been told. Herod did all that he could to obtain accurate information regarding the Child, that he might be sure of destroying him. He not only determined the probable time of His birth, and the place where He would be born, but he sent the wise men that they might actually see him, and bring him word.

Go back to verse 4 - he’d convened the Sanhedrin council to determine where the messiah was to be born, and they responded with the word of God. Micah 5:2 clearly told of the location: Bethlehem. Isaiah 7:14 told of the virgin birth. Zechariah 9:9 foretold of His triumphant entry (some 37 years later) while Isaiah 53:3 and Psalm 118:22 foretold His rejection by His own countrymen. Psalm 41:9 foretold His betrayal by one of His close associates, while Isaiah 53:7-8 foretold how he would stand silently before His accusers as He was put on trial and condemned. Isaiah 50:6 foretold how He would be struck and spat upon while Psalm 22:7-8 foretold how He would be mocked and insulted. Psalm 22:14-17 foretold how He would die of crucifixion and Isaiah 53:12 foretold His execution among criminals. Isaiah 53:5-12 foretold His death as a sacrifice for our sins and Psalm 16:10 foretold His resurrection, while Psalm 110:1-2 foretold Him being seated at the right-hand of the Father. (Parenthetically, it is this Psalm that Jesus used to shut down the Pharisees and assert His divinity.)

Herod must have heard all of this and more as the Jewish scholars recounted the Servant Songs in his hearing and quoted the messianic prophesies in his presence. Nonetheless, Herod was unmoved. He dismissed the council and met with the wise men privately to send them on a final intelligence-gathering mission. He missed the answer to the question that demanded a verdict: "Who is that child?" So, who is that child? Glad you asked. He is the One who has authority over the Law, the Sabbath, and the temple. He is the One who has authority to forgive sins. He is the One who is supreme over Moses, Jacob, and Abraham.

He is the Son of God.

He is the Messiah.

He is God incarnate.

The Jews of Jesus’ day understood what Jesus said and meant, but many would not believe. Thomas put his fingers in Jesus’ wounds and believed and worshiped Christ. Peter confessed Jesus’ lordship immediately. Who do you say that Jesus is? James 2:19 tells us that even the demons believe in God and tremble, yet they are still condemned. Is Jesus the Lord of your life? Have you surrendered you life to the King of kings, the Lord of lords, God with us – Immanuel? Herod would not submit to Jesus' authority, will you?

May the LORD bless you and keep you;
May the LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
And may the LORD,
Who gave us the greatest gift of all - Jesus,
May He turn His face toward you and give you peace.

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 11:00 AM :: (0) minds freed

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Christmas 2005 At The White House


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Emancipated by Athanasius @ 6:30 AM :: (0) minds freed

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Word For The Week

Have you ever noticed that in relationships it is the little things that seem to provoke the fiercest arguments? "You always leave the toilet seat up!" "Do you really need yet another pair of shoes?" Knowing how to fight fair is critical to the survival of any relationship, be it a marriage, friendship or business relationship. Conflict and misunderstandings are unavoidable - the key to the survival of your relationship is how do you manage conflicts and misunderstandings. We know that Satan is the author of confusion and the father of lies, and that he prowls like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. It is Satan who sows the seeds of stress in our situations, but we know that God is faithful - He will not allow us to be tempted beyond that which we can bear. Unfortunately, all too often, we let our true adversary get over on us with some pretty petty stuff, and that is often due to the accumulation of petty things - the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. That is why a good fight isn't necessarily a bad thing - you simply have to know how to fight fair in order to clear the air in your relationship. Conflict is the price that you pay for deepening intimacy. It's about open, honest communication.

There are four omens that your relationship is in trouble, four steps to destroying a marriage. They are sometimes called "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse," for as each horseman arrives, he paves the way for the next. These four disastrous ways of interacting are (1) criticism, (2) contempt, (3) defensiveness, and (4) stonewalling. You might want to check out Dr. John Gottman's book Why Marriages Succeed or Fail (New York: Simon & Shuster, 1994) for more details.

Criticism
Everyone has the right to complain - I've heard one woman call it a birthright. Complaining is a healthy marital activity (contrary to the testimony of billions of men over the ages) in that it attempts to communicate the feelings and desires of one person to the other. Open, honest communication is a good thing, even if it is not always a pleasant thing. There is a fine line however, a dangerous line, between complaining and criticizing. Criticism involves attacking someone's personality rather than their behavior. Complaints usually begin with the word "I", while criticisms usually begin with the word "You." Criticism: "You never take me anywhere." Complaint: "I wish we would go out more than we do." It may not seem like a big difference, but it is indeed huge, and you can feel the difference when you're on the receiving end - receiving criticism feels far worse than receiving a complaint.

Contempt
Contempt will poison a relationship, regardless of how long a couple has been together. The difference between criticism and contempt is the intention to insult and psychologically abuse your mate. "You are a packrat!" Contempt is aimed directly at the heart of the spouse and it rarely misses, which is why it is lethal to marriages - blotting out every positive feeling spouses have for each other. Contempt manifests itself in many ways: name-calling, hostile humor, mockery, and many other ways, but the end result is always the same - the relationship goes from bad to worse.

Defensiveness
Once contempt enters a relationship, defensiveness jumps right in behind it. If your heart has been attacked then the natural inclination is to defend it at all costs. The danger of defensiveness is that it easily, and quickly, becomes a reflex - the modus operandi for interacting in the relationship. The "victim" - reacting instinctively - usually doesn't see anything wrong with being defensive, but defensiveness tends to escalate rather than diffuse conflict, especially when both spouses feel like they've been attacked, as is often the case.

Stonewalling
Overwhelmed by emotion (either his own or the spouse's), defensiveness having failed to mute the attacks/nagging of the spouse, the fourth step into the chasm is emotional withdrawal, erecting a stone wall between the hearts of the partners. The intentions are often noble - "I'm just trying not to make things worse" - but stonewalling itself is a very powerful act. It conveys disapproval and icy distance, even smugness and arrogance. This is, in effect, an emotional divorce. Most stonewallers are men - about 85% of the time according to Gottman. Stonewalling doesn't necessarily mark the end of a marriage, but once it becomes a regular pattern the relationship is in deep trouble and will require a significant amount of effort to save. Each of these harbingers of doom - criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling - can be exhibited in even healthy relationships on occasion. The problem is when they become patterns, when they become habits - that is when they will take a relationship to the pit.

Peter says that wives should be submissive to their own husbands and for husbands to love their wives in an understanding way, summarizing that all of us should be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead. There are seven ways to fight a fair fight, seven steps to imparting information without injury:

Don't Run From Strife. There is a story about a genie who was locked in a bottle. During his first thousand years of captivity he said, "Whoever lets me out will get three wishes", but who in his second thousand years of captivity said, "Whoever lets me out I'm gonna kill." The longer we bottle up grievances the meaner and more dangerous we become. What's more is that sooner or later it's going to come up anyway, as will testify anyone who has had a loved one bring to your remembrance a wrong suffered decades ago. It is better to address the issue when it first comes up than to repress it and have it come up later dripping in bile. It may be uncomfortable, but it is better not to run from strife.

Choose Your Battles Carefully. If love is blind then marriage is a magnifying glass. The closer you get to someone, the clearer you see their warts - and the clearer they see your warts - but everything is not worth fighting over. Squeezing versus rolling the toothpaste is not an issue to take to the mat, nor is having the toilet paper roll over versus under. Couples must find a way of negotiating these minor issues so that they don't become major ones, as an avalanche can begin with one well-placed snowball. We are all familiar with the serenity prayer, and while it is now cliché it is also true - some things can be and need to be changed while others can't and won't - don't sweat the small stuff. We must discern the difference and choose our battles carefully.

Define The Issues Clearly. The stimulus for a disagreement is often lost in an argument as the tit-for-tat banter back and forth breaks new ground and takes a life of its own. The military calls this "Mission Creep" and it is anathema to open, honest communication. When tensions begin to rise, define exactly what is at issue until both partners clearly understand what the conflict is about. This avoids mission creep and the phrase, "And another thing..." This also keeps the fight centered on the issue as opposed to the individual - complaint vs. criticism. Before you fight, define the issues clearly.

State Your Feelings Directly. Women, generally, don't have a problem with this one. However, for us guys this is often a major issue. Here's a way to state feelings directly - from Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts by Les & Leslie Parrott (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), called the XYZ formulation, where you replace the variables with your particular gripe in mind: "In situation X, when you do Y, I feel Z." For example, "Yesterday (X), when you failed to return my call (Y), I felt neglected (Z)" or, "When you leave (X) and don't hug me (Y) I feel unloved (Z)." Using this formulation will help you to avoid insults and character assassination which summon the four horsemen, instead focusing on the partner's behavior and how it affects you. This can be annoying for some of us, but the payoff in effectively communicating with our loved ones is worth the effort to state our feelings directly.

Rate The Intensity Of Your Feelings. This might sound corny but it is imperative if you want to communicate effectively. In virtually every relationship one partner is more expressive emotionally than the other, the effect of which is that the lack of sufficient expression from one partner may be construed as a lack of concern by the other when it is merely a lack of effective expression. When discussing these matters, rate your feelings on a scale of 1-10 as follows:
  1. I'm not enthusiastic, but it's no big deal to me.
  2. I don't see it the way you do, but I may be wrong.
  3. I don't agree, but I can live with it.
  4. I don't agree, but I'll let you have your way.
  5. I don't agree and cannot remain silent on this.
  6. I do not approve, and I need more time.
  7. I strongly disapprove and cannot go along with it.
  8. I will be so seriously upset I can't predict my reaction.
  9. No possible way! If you do, I quit.
  10. Over my dead body!
This might seem a little cheesy, but it will help when one partner is less expressive than the other. This is actually printed on cards and you can get them from Zondervan free by calling (800) 727-3480.

Give Up Put-Downs. Everybody has jokes these day, and cracking on folks is an integral part of our culture (have you seen Barbershop?), but they can be death to a marriage. Nobody knows you better than you spouse (hopefully), but that also means that they know your vulnerable spots, you Achilles' heel. Cracking on your partner's vulnerabilities is absolutely out of line and must never, ever be done. If your spouse confesses that he was ridiculed in high school as being an egghead then that nickname is absolutely off-limits. If she tells you that it really hurt her when she used to be called a tar-baby then that is not something that you can ever call her. There are a couple of areas that are mentioned so often that they are probably universally off-limits, specifically sexual performance and parents. "You're just like your no-good daddy" - never. "Well, the fruit doesn't fall far from the tree" - can't do that either. "That's it?" - bad idea. "I've had better" - go directly to the curb, do not pass Go, do not collect alimony. No spouse should have to put up with put-downs, and the greatest gift you can give your mate is to give up put-downs.

Don't Dwell On Downers. We cannot get into runaway spleen-venting and piling negative on top of negative to prove, "You're worse than me" or "It's really your fault." We cannot focus on negatives - we must address issues. Another way of putting it is this: give up the mindset of winning or losing. Get to the issue and solve the problem. It's not about assigning blame; it’s about coming up with a solution to a problem. The solution could be a better understanding or the solution could be some action(s) that needs to be done, but don't dwell on downers. When your partner brings a complaint, don't escalate the tension by redirecting the focus onto them. If they bring criticism instead of a complaint then redirect the focus onto the issue, but not onto them. We can easily get caught in one-upmanship where we have to get the last word in, but it's not about the last word, it's about the final solution to the problem that is raised - even if that solution is the realization that there really is no problem. We must avoid runaway spleen-venting, and the best way to do that is not to dwell on downers.

One final word on fighting fair comes from Paul - "Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger." We must always look for resolution to our differences with our loved ones since we are harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not ones returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but who give a blessing instead. Jesus said, "For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions." We must always be willing to forgive and forget, always seeking to reconcile our differences with our mate, always being conformed into the image of Christ through the renewing of our mind. Don't let the sun go down without you having resolved any differences with your spouse. You'll sleep better, together.


May the LORD bless you and keep you;
May the LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
And may the LORD,
Who wants you to fight fair,
May He turn His face toward you and give you peace.

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 11:00 AM :: (0) minds freed

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Impossible Dream



Not like he gives a damn about the Constitution...

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 10:43 PM :: (2) minds freed

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Word For The Week

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”

Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in Him.”

John 18:36-38

What is truth? Some people would assert that the world is round – is that true? Some people would assert that Napoleon Bonaparte actually existed – is that true? Some people would assert that Jesus Christ is fully God while others would assert that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet – which one is true? What is truth?

It has been asserted that the world suffers from truth-decay, that skepticism has eroded the enamel of truth and has infested it with nihilistic cavities. The situation is such that to the postmodern mind the most offensive thing that one could do is to assert that someone else is wrong – the word “tolerance” has been modified to mean “Never tell me that I am wrong!” The postmodern mind, however, is incredibly inconsistent and even celebrates its inconsistencies. To the postmodern mind it is wrong for a Christian to assert that a Jew or a Muslim is wrong, but there is nothing wrong with asserting that Robert Oler is wrong. Any- and everything is to be tolerated except that which the postmodern mind finds to be intolerable. It seems that even to the postmodern mind there is such a thing as objective right and wrong, such a thing as objective truth.

No matter how hard you try, you simply can not escape the Law of Noncontradiction – it’s not just a theory. When you assert a woman’s inalienable right to choose an abortion you simultaneously assert that those who affirm a baby’s inalienable right to life are wrong. When you assert that the death penalty is immoral you simultaneously assert that those who support the death penalty are wrong. When you assert that all roads lead to God you simultaneously assert that those who affirm Jesus’ statement that no man comes to God but through Him are wrong. Whenever you assert any proposition as being true you simultaneously assert that all contradictory propositions are false, that all contradictory propositions are wrong. Such is the nature of the Law of Noncontradiction.

But what is truth?

Truth is that which corresponds to objective reality. Some would say that perception is reality, but our perceptions can be deceived like Adam and Eve. As I look down a set of railroad tracks I perceive that they eventually touch, but that perception is wrong – the two tracks never touch each other. As I observe the sun I perceive that it rises in the east and sets in the west, but that perception is wrong – the earth rotates, the sun does not circle the earth. As I sit in my chair I perceive that it is solid, but that perception is wrong – it is primarily blank space with bits of matter held together by covalent and ionic bonds. Human perception is not sufficient for understanding objective reality; it can not get us to the truth.

In order for us to properly discern the truth, in order for us to understand objective reality, we need the understanding of One who created objective reality. Without divine revelation we can know nothing of objective reality. The universe bears God’s fingerprints and we can learn a lot about the universe through the faculties that He has given us, but we can know nothing about Him who gives meaning to the universe without special revelation from Him about Him. If you ask a person on the street, “Who is Jesus?” you will hear any number of answers – “A good man,” “a prophet,” “a teacher,” “an angel.” People have misunderstood the person and work of Jesus Christ since His incarnation. Joseph initially thought that He was some other man’s baby. Herod the Great thought that He was born to overthrow him. Herod Antipas thought that He was a sideshow entertainer to amuse him. Some people thought that He was their free lunch, while others thought He was one of the prophets reborn. People, left to themselves without revelation from God, have always been wrong about Jesus.

Always.

I wish that Pilate had waited for Jesus’ answer to his question about the nature of truth, but Jesus answered that question earlier when He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” It is said that all truth is God’s truth, that anything which is true affirms God and is affirmed by God, and that assertion is supported by Paul’s epistle to the Colossians where he testified, “For by [Jesus] all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” John testifies, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” Truly, Jesus, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

There is a reason why some things are truly right and some things are truly wrong – the universe has a Moral Lawgiver, a Creator, and He loved us enough to empty Himself into flesh and blood and walk among us. We who are called by the name of Jesus Christ seek to advance His kingdom – the dynamic rule of God over the lives of men and women, boys and girls. The Kingdom is not advanced through coercion, force or politics – it is advanced by giving people an opportunity to accept citizenship in His kingdom, to accept Jesus Christ as Lord.

Some people find it offensive when Christians tell them that they are going to Hell under the influence of sin, but is that any different from progressives telling Americans that the country is going to Hell in a hand basket under the influence of the Bush Administration? The truth can trouble you. The truth can terrify you. The truth can totally twist your thinking (“I’m fat?!?”), but that does not negate its truthfulness: I am fat, the Bush Administration is destroying America, and no one comes to God except through Jesus Christ – to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God; children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

That’s the truth.

May the LORD bless you and keep you;
May the LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
And may the LORD,
Who desires an objectively real relationship with you,
May He turn His face toward you and give you peace.

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 11:00 AM :: (0) minds freed

Friday, December 09, 2005

We Ain't Them

Wow.

It's really funny; yesterday I was just questioning what it means to be liberal and what are liberal/progressive values, etc.

And then the "conservatives" in the House pass more tax cuts.

Not for lower class folk. Not for folk who are hustlin' trying to pay the light bill, the gas bill, the rent, food, etc.

No.

Tax cuts so that people who already have money will be encouraged to invest more.

Now, I understand the argument that more investment is good for the economy overall (at least I think I do).

But really. Seriously. Let's think about this.

The overall economy may look better in terms charts and graphs and all that good stuff, but none of that is really helping people feed their family. None of that is making schools any better, or healthcare more accesible.

And it certainly, certainly doesn't help pay for the war effort.

Not to mention the huge deficit.

I mean, this doesn't really help define liberal values to any great extent...but I know enough to know those values don't include cutting taxes for people who don't really need it when we got bills to pay!

Emancipated by Talib @ 10:14 AM :: (0) minds freed

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Who Are We?

Recently I've been struggling with a few questions: what is the role of government? How can government best help people? How can the political process serve as an avenue for people to improve their condition? What are the realistic limitations of government and the political with regards to making inviduals and society better?

I suppose some of these answers can be answered or least directed by subscribing to some form of political philosophy. It seems that these days though, a person can only be one of two things: liberal or conservative. When I read the newspaper or watch television, seems like unless you identify as a conservative, you must be a liberal.

But what does that mean?

What does that mean to be a liberal- or, to use the more fashionable term- a progressive?

What value sets define the term and what policies flow from those value sets?

What would a more liberal America look like?

I've often wondered where Black folk fall within this context. I don't think most Black folk really fall into either pre-set category.

Sure we vote Democrat 90% of the time, but that has more to do with historical party loyalty than current policy initiatives.

I mean, don't a lot of us constantly argue that the Democratic Party isn't addressing our issues? Don't we often comment that we're just catered to during elections, seldom to see the fulfillment of a campaign promise?

So I guess my questions are two fold: what defines a liberal, and what then defines a Black liberal?

I keep thinking of J.C. Watts' book, What Color is a Conservative?

To be honest, I haven't read it.

But I'd love to hear some opinions on the matter.

Emancipated by Talib @ 1:51 AM :: (1) minds freed

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Shock & Awe

It was 64 years ago that America was personally introduced to the concept of Shock & Awe - by the Japanese. President Roosevelt declared that it was a day that would live in infamy, yet three score and several years later America is shocking the world with its awful behavior - deception about unilateral wars of agression, secret prisons, torture, spying on American citizens, questionable elections, and the list goes on.

It would seem that Ronald Reagan called the wrong empire evil...

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 9:53 AM :: (0) minds freed

Monday, December 05, 2005

Beautiful Union

The following is an excerpt from an essay I am currently working on...

Hip Hop and democracy are two things which may not conjure up images of each other. While there has always been a political consciousness within hip hop, it alone does not directly translate as a connection to a particular form of government. A closer look, however, reveals more commonality than some may think.

Hip Hop and democracy share a vital and crucial element- both are sustained through participation. If the people cease to become involved and cease to care about themselves and their surroundings, both hip hop and democracy die. The cry for freedom echoed by the Founding Fathers bellows louder and deeper in the soul of hip hop; the culture is in large part a culminating spawn of the struggle for freedom following the grand victories and disappointments of the 20th century Civil Rights movement.

It is no coincidence that the United States is the birth country of hip hop culture, for it is the very duality of freedom and oppression that conceived hip hop culture. Finding themselves in continually oppressed circumstances, young blacks and Latinos in New York City used their freedom of speech and freedom to peaceably assemble to express themselves and highlight their conditions. The four pillars of rap, artistic graffiti, DJing, and breaking set the foundation for a new forum of free speech, while rooted in a timeless ideal.

Emancipated by Talib @ 8:24 AM :: (0) minds freed

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Cable Guy

Three cheers for the cable guy - he got everything connected Saturday. Unfortunately, by the time I got my PC moved in I was too tired to connect it, let alone get online and write anything. Today I was too sore to move or think critically, so hopefully tomorrow I can get caught back up on things.

All's well here in the 'Ville.

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 11:30 PM :: (0) minds freed

Moving Day

I am moving today so I may be offline for a while - the cable guy said that he may or may not be able to get my internet access up and running today, so if there is no Word For The Week up tomorrow know that I will back-post it whenever I get back online.

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 8:36 AM :: (0) minds freed

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