Higher Learning

Dear Sensible Students,

For most, September marks the beginning of Back to School Season. Back to busy mornings and nightly homework. Back to learning. Back to building relationships with teachers and friends. Back to increased stress, mid-terms and finals. For many, it’s the end to the mental staycation of summertime. Unfortunately, it’s not always the start of commonsense and passed tests. We have to go back to basics. Let’s use Alyssa Douglas as an example.

Who is Alyssa Douglas, you ask? She is the 16-year-old girl who, for whatever reason, decided to tweet an appeal for the assassination of our President last night. Yes, right after President Obama delivered his DNC nomination acceptance speech, this young lady tweeted an asinine statement that may very well change her life (I’m not going to dignify the remark by reposting it here). Who knows if she truly intended to make a threat against our President’s life or if she was just “playing around” in an attempt to gain retweets and possibly become a trending topic. What matters most at this point is how we- as elders, teachers, and lifelong learners- respond to such foolishness. Here’s what we must learn:

1. Words have power.  Joking or not, your words are powerful- especially in this day and age. We live in a technologically advanced, social media infested society. Between sound bytes, retweets, YouTube, and Instagram, everything we say and do can go viral within a few clicks of our fingertips. Our words are loaded pistols; they have the power to either protect, or intimidate, inflict pain, or kill. Let’s use our words to uplift and encourage- not tear down and curse. As Abraham Lincoln once said,

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt.” ~Abraham Lincoln

Alyssa Douglas’s Twitter account is no longer public (or it has been deactivated) but her words are still etched in the memory of millions in the Twiterverse. You can delete a tweet or terminate your account, but you can’t undo the damage. It’s like trying to unring a bell, unblow a bubble, or unshoot a gun… once it’s out there, you can’t take it back. Done deal. Not only might you hurt someone’s feelings, you’ll damage your reputation (and/or your future) in the process..

2. Actions have consequences. While we Americans can enjoy our right to freedom of speech, that right is waived when it comes to threatening someone else’s life. We can’t just let folks off the hook when their actions violate boundaries. Dismissing someone for their destructive decisions is a detriment to their well-being and possibly even our own.  I don’t know if she ever saw the respectful reply I tweeted her and who knows if Alyssa’s disturbing tweet will lead to her arrest and/or her being questioned by the Secret Service. But I pray that someone close to Alyssa is courageous enough to compassionately confront her hostility and hold her accountable for her remarks. Otherwise, how will she ever learn from her mistakes?

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” ~Sir Isaac Newton

You reap what you sow, people. Sow wisely.

3. It takes a village to raise a child. All too often, many of life’s students don’t graduate to a higher learning of wisdom because no one took the time to correct their ignorance. While many will say “leave her alone. She’s only 16.”, few will take the time to challenge the recklessness of a girl who is just 2 years away from becoming legal. To dismiss her ill-conceived remark as just childish is an error or our society’s behalf. Sure, her parents are ultimately responsible for her upbringing, but they probably aren’t following her on social media forums to see what type of trouble she may be getting herself into (or perhaps, they just don’t care).

When children don’t think any one cares, they begin not to care what anyone thinks. If we, as a society, don’t confront the careless acts of others, then we can’t complain when the offender goes on to serve a life of criminal behavior (that you, dear taxpayer, will ultimately pay for). I wonder how many felons would have chosen a different path in life if someone had invested in their potential rather than devalued their worth…? I wonder how many lives would have been spared from the hands of gun violence if someone reached out to the perpetrator when they first noticed their abnormal behavior…? And I wonder what the crime statistics would be (especially in urban areas) if each one of us reached out to teach someone else that there is a better, more excellent way of life outside of drugs, promiscuity, bullying, violence, etc.

“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” ~Margaret Mead

4. Love your enemies. I know, this is far easier said than done. The seemingly “rational” thing to do is to attack via word or deed. But hatred begets hatred. While it saddened me to read Alyssa’s infuriating tweet, it also sickened me to read the hate-filled replies that others posted. Belittling a fool is not a catalyst for change. You can’t successfully fight hate with hate… the very thing that you are fighting against is what you ultimately become. Why perpetuate a cycle of hostility? It won’t solve a thing. In less than 65 characters, Alyssa gave the world a huge glimpse into her character (which, upon further investigation of her crude timeline, one can surmise that her character is in need of an extreme makeover). Clearly, this is a troubled girl. I pray that Alyssa’s heart is filled with love before she self-destructs. I pray that she gets the help and support she needs to become a productive member of society.

No one is filled with such hatred by accident. This is a learned trait. Negative influences are at work somewhere in Alyssa’s life. The good news is that she can learn to turn the negatives into a positive picture. Love is an excellent teacher. The most effective way to kill the hate is by uprooting it with kindness. Take the time to unmask the hurt that’s hiding behind someone’s hatred- the horror of their story. It’s beyond racism, bigotry, prejudice, political affiliation, discrimination, or intolerance. What you will most likely find is a person who wrestles with fear, self-doubt, rejection, and low self-esteem. Rather than discarding the offender as useless “trash” (as many have labled Ms. Douglas), pick them up where they’ve fallen and literally love the hurt away. How do I know it works? The Lord did it with me.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

We will never EVER progress as a people if we don’t start advancing our scholarship of commonsense. We have to stop blaming others for our failures and own up to our own shortcomings. Name calling, finger pointing and tit-for-tat behavior is a bunch of elementary school child’s play. As Christians, we must stop signing up for Superficial Christianity 501 and seriously start doing as Jesus would do. We can’t effectively build God’s Kingdom by consistently withdrawing from Loving Kindness/Tender Mercy 101 just because it’s easier to receive Grace than give it. We must submit to higher learning. We have to grow up.

What grade would you give yourself for your role in resolving conflict? How well are you doing with becoming more Christlike? Are you passing or failing? The next time life offers you an opportunity to do better, make every effort to pass the test the first time. I know I will. Then take what you’ve learned and help another failing student to improve their grades. It’s no fun (and so unproductive) repeating the same class over and over because you were too stubborn to do well, do good, and help someone else do better.

“Make every effort to be at peace with everyone and to be holy; for without holiness it is impossible to see the Lord.” ~Hebrews 12:14

Practically Yours,

~The Practical Chick

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Make UP Your Mind!

Dear Aspiring Beauty Queens,

Step right up and have a seat at the make-up counter (aka, the altar). Relax. Inhale. Now close your eyes and take a good look into the mirror of your soul. Do you like what you see?  Sometimes the shoddy situations of life cause us to see ourselves thru a magnifying mirror, with minor imperfections appearing majorly enlarged. Our perception of self is distorted. And so we become cover girls. Our beauty is skin deep… as deep as our ability to mask tear-stained faces and outfit the skeletons in our closets with churchy couture. But regardless of your unsightly past, the traumatic experiences that have beaten your self-esteem black and blue, or the sinful scars that challenge your spiritual growth, a marvelous make-over is awaiting you! Hey, why just look the part when you can be the part?! All you have to do is make up your mind to be the beautiful woman of God you were created to be.

To become a Beauty Queen in Christ, you must make up your mind to:

1.  Submit to Surgery (Salvation)- If you’ve never accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, your make-over has to start with a Spiritual Face Lift. Trust me, you need it as bad as I did.  Sin is ugly and disfiguring. It contributes to premature aging- leaving an unsightly rash of spots and wrinkles, forcing you to cringe at your own reflection. It must be done away with.  Here’s the Good News: accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior will redefine your spiritual anatomy. Jesus is the real deal and a dynamite physician. He loves you so much, He went ahead and paid for your entire procedure! It won’t hurt, there’s no down time and the results are lifetime guaranteed. This isn’t plastic surgery, it’s fantastic surgery! AND, you won’t even be ashamed to tell folks you had some work done. Girlfriend, if you haven’t done so already, I highly recommend you run to Jesus for your spiritual facelift. Get your fresh start today! Take it from me- you’ll love the results… they’re perfect!

2. Flush Your Face (Repentance)- You were fearfully and wonderfully made but you’ll never see it for yourself until you wash away the filth that litters your life. Just as you should wash your face a couple of times a day to remove the built-up dirt, you must also cleanse your spirit of sin through repentance. Do it as often as necessary. For a deeper clean, don’t be afraid to engage in a spiritual exfoliation (fast) every now and then. This will aid in your spirit’s rejuvenation process by ridding your system of the pore-clogging impurities that have  caused chaos to break out in your life. Gotta keep that new spirit fresh and clean!

3. Slather on the SPF Moisturizer (Holy Spirit… the ultimate Sin Protection Factor)- The purpose of moisturizer is to reinforce your natural skin barrier. Regular use of moisturizer lessens the occurrence of dry, rough, scaly, itchy skin and minor skin irritations. Likewise, submitting to the Holy Spirit will keep you aligned with God and lessens the occurrence of a dry, rough, unproductive spiritual life. And the integrated Sin Protection Factor (SPF) helps to reduce the likelihood of burning in sin and pre-mature aging associated with too much sin exposure.

4. Paint on the Primer (Prayer)- Primer is a makeup and skin care solution used to prepare the skin for foundation, powder and other cosmetics. Face primer has two main purposes: 1) to help achieve a smooth, even complexion,  2) enables makeup to stay on for an extended amount of time for a flawless, long-lasting look. Just like face primer, prayer is necessary to keep you connected to God. Without it, your efforts will be in vain and nothing you apply will stick.

5. Express thru Eyeshadow (Faith)- Tastefully adorning one’s lids with beautiful, bright, bold eyeshadow is an outward expression of inner confidence.  And guess what? Your faith is a visible sign of personal trust and confidence in God. It expresses the depth of your belief. Without faith, it’s impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). The more colorful and elaborate, the more abundant and believable is your faith!  A woman who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, has eyes that are decorated with the shadow of the Almighty. Her faith in God shines brightly. Her trust in Him enables her to walk boldly. Confidently. Her eyes are the windows to her Savior, not the doors of hidden disgust. How do you express your faith? It’s easier to see yourself as the Beauty Queen God created when you express yourself through faith.

6. Affix the Foundation (The Word of God)- You can build a beautiful work of art when the Word is your foundation. More often than not, the average person tries to apply God’s Word to their life without first plugging into their Power Source via the Holy Spirit and prayer (and they wonder why their spiritual foundation is shaky). So be sure to follow steps 2 and 3 prior to attempting to build a solid foundation. Don’t get me wrong- you can read the Bible 24/7… but your level of understanding and effective application won’t be firm until you apply your spiritual Moisturizer and Primer. And once you start applying God’s Word to your pretty little palette, you’ll wonder how you ever survived without it! Meditating on the Word of God and speaking it over your life will help you walk confidently in His unparalleled promises.

7. Consent to Concealer (God’s Grace)- God’s Word often challenges our flesh. It exposes some sins that we would rather keep hidden. But it is the grace of God that enables us to press on in spite of the weight of our sinful past. Just as concealer covers up your physical imperfections, God’s grace covers your personal flaws and blemishes from public embarrassment. The more you spend time in prayer and study His Word, the more you will understand His grace. It’s a gift He gives freely, as an expression of His love for us. Sin can scar one’s spirit with guilt and shame but accepting God’s grace liberates us from the disgrace of that duress. When the King of Kings gives you a priceless gift, don’t argue with His generosity- accept it! Walk in it. Be grateful and sin no more. Oh, and don’t be selfish with it. Your beautification process will be accelerated when you’re a giver of grace, not just a receiver. 😉

8. Brush on the Blush (Humility)- Humility keeps pride from sinking in and enables you to see and acknowledge God at work in your life. It keeps you from becoming so full of yourself that you live a life void of Christ. You can look like Miss Universe but an arrogant, nasty, stank attitude will cause you to more closely resemble Medusa. Ladies, “pride  goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18). Nobody looks goods good falling. Nobody.

9. Lay on the Lipstick (Praise and Worship)-  We serve a Mighty God… the King of kings and Lord of lords! Bless (speak well of) His Name at all times. Tell Him how much He means to you. Thank Him for His grace, mercy, and unmerited favor. Worship Him simply because He alone is God. The most beautiful words that will ever grace your lips are the praise and worship of your Lord and Savior.

10. Bask in the Bronzer (Glory of God)- Ahhh… the Glory of God. It shines brightly all around and about those who are in deep, intimate relationship with Him. It gives us that radiant, Son-kissed glow- proof that we’ve spent quality time alone in His presence. Don’t hide the Glory of God in your life! Smile about it! Bask in it. For it is the Glory of God that will attract both strangers and loved ones to lay at the altar of His operating room- to undergo their own spiritual face lift.

Woman of God, you are beautiful, loved, and lovely. You were created as such. Now it’s time to walk in that splendor. Hold your head up high. You are a child of the King! The more you grow spiritually, the more you should look like Him. Make up your mind to be the phenomenal femme you were destined to be. You’ll walk in more confidence (physically and spiritually) when you place more value on your spiritual beauty than your outer appearance (please don’t use this as excuse to let yourself go physically- that’s not cute! LOL). Being beautiful is a lifetime commitment that must be maintained. After undergoing your spiritual surgery, you must apply steps 2-10 on a daily basis. And as an aspiring Beauty Queen, you must also commit to being selective about what you feed your spirit (thru what you watch, eat, listen to, etc.). Be sure to feast on a well-balanced diet of God, Church, Bible Study, and prayer, and steer away from gossip, temptation, foolishness, and ugly conduct. You are what you eat… eat well, not hell. Be a beauty, not a beast. 🙂

Practically Yours,

~The Practical Chick

*Written as a prelude to my May 2012 'REAL WOMEN. REAL TALK.' session.