Friday, January 16, 2009

OSF: Television Theme Songs

I always liked the energy of this theme song. And, in dark times, for some, our assurance is that there is a guiding light that comes from a higher power. We should also be reminded that we have the ability to do more than curse the darkness we see. We are more effective when we shine a light on it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Look Up and Live

“The greatest inspiration is often born of desperation.”

Next Tuesday will mark the inauguration of our first African American (who is actually bi-racial) President. I am amazed and ecstatic that this will occur in my lifetime. However, I can’t help but be angry because it is unlikely that he would have had a real chance at winning the presidency had our current economic crisis not occurred.

For those who identify as Christian, we believe that “all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28). So, one might agree that despite all of the corruption going on around us, Americans were inspired to set aside racial prejudices to elect a truly inspirational and capable figure to lead us. And, though something so marvelous, and to many so unexpected has happened right before our eyes, we seem to be preoccupied with all that is wrong in our world.

I am not saying that we should fail to acknowledge injustices as we experience them, but I am presenting the results of cultural oppression according to current literature. Those results can include being controlled by feelings of guilt, doubt, shame, and anger. Additionally, these feelings can lead to preoccupation with pessimism, aggression, and having unrealistic expectations of support systems and the world itself. Again, I am not suggesting that we bury our heads in the sand, but I am suggesting that we do what is necessary to effectively deal with the harsh realities of the world in which we live.

One way we can do so is by emphasizing the personal and cultural strengths that we bring to the world. Though we may be unable to actualize all of the accomplishments set by dominant culture, that does not have to stop us from setting our own standards of achievement in our individual and subcultures. That is one of the strengths that African American churches have contributed in decades past: the ability to affirm its members, and give each member the opportunity to be a stakeholder in the church’s development. Furthermore, African American churches affirmed the esteem of its members, and taught ingenuity in the face of opposition.

There are other support systems as well. The Children's Defense Fund is one of the organizations with which I have personal experience. As the organization advocates locally and nationally, it also emphasizes affirming the personal and community strengths of its participants. As the organization demands change at a national level, a commitment is made by its leaders to “fill in the gaps.” Sometimes we do not recognize that we are capable of meeting many of society’s needs when we work together.

That is why the opening quote is striking to me. Challenges and injustice are a part of life, and will probably always be a part of the human experience. Dwelling on these challenges, as easy as it is to do, can leave us uninspired. We need to assess our strengths more often, and allow positive thoughts to encourage us to move on. I think that may explain the verse in Philippians that instructs us to think on things that are lovely, and pure, and etc… In order to be effective in making this world a better place, we must look above the ashes, and live abundantly, so that others may see us and feel empowered to join us in leaving a positive mark.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Old School Friday: Graduation Song

I thought that this song would be appropriate, as it was released the year I graduated from high school (1997). Since financial difficulties are on many of our minds at present, sometimes it helps to remember that wealth does not always correlate with happiness. All that glitters is not gold.

For those who still "have" keep on doing what you're doing.

For those of us who "have not," it may help to prepare ourselves (psychologically and emotionally) for the time when we do "have."

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Practices of Self and Self-Care

In reflecting on the present state of our economic condition (personal and national), as well as the increasing rate of crime and other societal ills, it has grown tempting to focus on all that is wrong with us (personally, socially, nationally, and politically). Focusing on what is wrong, and what we do not have can place us in an emotional, psychological, and physical “rut” if we are not very careful.

I am reminded of Edward P. Wimberly’s book, African American Pastoral Care and Counseling: The Politics of Oppression and Empowerment (2006). Wimberly discusses “practices of self”, which he defines as altering oppressive and self destructive identities and thoughts. I applied this principle to my life by focusing on what I do have as opposed to what I do not have. What I do have is what I need as opposed to all the things I want. I do have the ability to make my modest house a home by the way I treat myself and my housemates. I may not be able to afford all of the luxuries I would like, but I do have the ability to share love, understanding, concern, and time.

Wimberly mentions the need to reshape our lives, and to create new opportunities. Each individual has to apply this principle in a manner that complements their environment. For the person who values individualism, this may be simple. For those like me, who value collectivism, it is imperative that we keep balance on our scales. As we give to others in our environment, we must take as well. And, those who value a linear-hierarchical sub culture must embrace their role within the society (if one decides not to change the environment), and not assume unnecessary responsibilities.

In order to realize these opportunities, we might consider adopting Wimberly’s concept of self-care. That means that we should seek out emotionally, psychologically, and physically safe environments where we can be nurtured. We should avoid negative environments that remind us of what we lack, and replace those negative individuals and situations with others that edify us and challenge us to better ourselves, our families, and our communities.

It is always easier said than done. However, we are more likely to take better care or ourselves and one another if we take a little time to center ourselves and incorporate principles such as self-practices and self-care into our daily lives.