My Concerns with a Trump Presidency

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In what may be the most stunning result of a presidential election in the 240 year history of our country, Donald J. Trump around 2:40am Wednesday November 9, 2016 was declared the 45th president of the United States defeating Hillary Clinton, who was thought to be the overwhelming favorite heading to the election. As someone trying to be a decent human being, let me congratulate President-Elect Trump and his supporters on winning the election. At the same time, allow me to express some concerns that I have with a Trump presidency.

Let me start by discussing a little bit about by political ideology. I was born and raised by parents who overwhelmingly supported the democratic party platform. Over the last few years, I’ve become an independent with democratic part leanings because I agree with some of the platform issues in both the democratic and republican parties. As a result, I believe in giving candidates on both ends of the political spectrum the opportunity to convince me of why they would be the best candidate to govern our nation.

As an African-American male, the result of this election is puzzling and bothers me for one huge reason:

We have taken a step back in terms of cultural diversity and race relations. Many have argued that this election was about white privilege having its last stand in a society that is becoming more and more diverse. Race relations have always been dicey, but I have to wonder if it will be even more dicey under President-Elect Trump. Whether he wanted it to be this way or not, his candidacy gave ammunition for those who are racist and disrespectful of other people groups to behave in a way that reflected their values. As an African-American male, will I have to be more worried when I go in environments that are predominately white? Will white people feel justified in treating me as less of a human being due to President-Elect Trump being in office? Will more police officers believe it is okay to murder unarmed black males? Will our government feel justified to keep laws and practices in place that systemically hurt blacks and other “minorities”? I have more questions than answers and that is not a good thing as I try to be a productive citizen in this country.

I understand that many supported Trump in an effort to not support Hillary and to vote on the values of the republican party, but how do people justify putting in the office someone who has insulted so many people? I am also disappointed in so many evangelicals basically saying that in this moment, character was not as important as the political issues on the line. As someone that has tried to support evangelicals over the years, this flip-flop was very discouraging.

I would love to have a decent conversation with someone who supported Trump to explain to me why they did and juxtapose it with the concerns I have as we move forward as a nation.

At the end of the day, putting the philosophical and political issues aside (including my fear/frustration that everything President Obama put in the place the last 8 years will be destroyed), my concerns boil down to how we will interact with each other in a country that says as long as we get what we want we do not care who is put in office. How we treat each other matters especially if we call ourselves Christians or Christ-followers. I believe that the reputation of Christianity is on the line even more the next 4 (or 8) years in terms of how we live out being salt and light in the world.

My prayer is that some way and some how, even in this period of time we’re about to live in, we do what we can to ensure that America is a nation for all people. While I admit that I am concerned about me and my family’s future in a society under the leadership of President-Elect Trump, I will also use this moment again to be salt and light and remember God’s sovereignty in this moment.

If you supported Trump, will you comment and let me know your basis for supporting him? Can you speak to the concerns I’ve put here? What will you do as a Trump supporter to ensure that we try to have positive race relations with each other?

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Why I’ve Become a Mental Health Advocate

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Picture courtesy of http://www.aacc.net

For years it has been my goal to live a life that valued making a difference in the lives of others. Because of the household I was raised in, I hold in high regard living a life that is focused on helping others. However, until this year, I was not aware of how serious a topic mental health is. As I began to look at mental health issues along with looking at my life and the life of those around me, I came to a conclusion that mental health is a topic that needs to be discussed and looked at in our society. As a result of this revelation, I consider myself a mental health advocate. Allow me to share some reasons why I’ve become a mental health advocate.

  1. Mental health affects all of us in some way, shape or form. Although physical health is extremely important, I believe mental health is equally important. One aspect of mental health is our mind and thoughts. All of us have to think on a daily basis. Our thoughts at times can be influenced by how healthy we are internally. Sometimes our attitudes toward others is a reflection of whatever thoughts are circulating in our mind. In addition to all of us having to think, it is highly possible that all of us have family members that are struggling mentally. In my opinion, mental health is not so much about intellectualism but about the state of our minds. Because all of us are affected by mental health, it is important that all of us are aware of what mental health is and how it can affect every part of society.
  2. Life can be one of the causes of mental health issues. From my own experience and hearing the stories of others, I am convinced that many people struggle with mental health because of some of the events that have happened in their life. Whether it was being bullied as a child, being raped in childhood or going through some other traumatic experience, these events in life can damage our mental health especially if we do not seek the help needed. Life is tough and a part of life being tough involves some of the things we have to go through. It only takes one traumatic event in our lives for us to be damaged mentally. No matter where we are in life, life can get the best of us. The biggest thing we should be doing is helping each other navigate through this journey called life. Being aware of mental health issues gives us another vehicle to helping people who’ve been scarred by life get on a path of healing and restoration. Moving past the hurts of life is no easy feat, but I believe that through the power of God, therapy if necessary and a supportive community, one can get to a place of healing and restoration within their mind and heart.
  3. God cares about our wounds and concerns. 1 Peter 5:7 instructs us to cast our cares (anxieties) upon Him because He cares for us. If God is concerned about the things that worry us, then we should be concerned as well. While this verse speaks of us casting our cares to God, I believe that God created us as relational beings. As a result, we should have communities that allow people to express what is going on mentally with them. Our communities should be supportive of one another on the path to healing. We need not have people in our communities who act like mental health issues are something demonic. Mental health issues are real and can be the difference between someone trying to move forward or giving up on life. God’s concern for the things that concern us should empower us to be concerned about the wounds of others. If we had this amount of concern that God has, a lot of us wouldn’t treat people the way we do. Our attitude towards others should always reflect the heart of God.
  4. I want to see our churches talk more about mental health. One of the bad stigmas about the American church that I’ve heard is that churches are not talking enough about mental health issues. Is this stigma true? Perhaps, but it’s time to change this stigma. Our churches have a huge amount of people hurting each and every Sunday. As I said in a blog post I wrote about mental health, putting a praise on our problems is fine, but there are times where our problems need more assistance in being solved. I believe that some of the issues that take place in our churches come from people not being where they need to be mentally. Churches must lead the conversation in mental health awareness. On a personal level, even though my irons are in a lot of fires already, I hope to be one of the leaders in my home church in starting something that increases the conversation of mental health in my church and the faith communities in our area.

In conclusion, I want to share a couple of ways that I’m getting involved in mental health advocacy. First, I am a part of a group on Facebook called the Faith & Mental Wellness Community that was started by Sis. Brittney Moses, who is also the founder of the Unashamed Impact movement. The stories that our members have been expressing regarding some of their mental health issues has blown my mind. People are really hurting and need a safe place to be a part of. If you’re struggling with mental health issues and need a safe place to express yourself and whatever you’re facing, join our community of love, support and encouragement. The link for joining this group will be at the bottom of the page. Second, I have a mental health board on Pinterest. It is there where I post some of my favorite mental health posts, quotes, etc. The link will also be on the bottom of the page.

If you have any ideas in how I can become more of a mental health advocate, please do not hesitate to leave me a comment. I am serious about mental health and want the conversation to continually increase. If you’re struggling with any sort of mental health illness, please be encouraged to know that God loves you and so do I! Let’s heal!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/faithandmentalwellness/?fref=nf (Faith & Mental Wellness Community)

C level expectation with A+ potential

gradePicture courtesy of http://www.pixgood.com

I’m a firm believer in being honest about our weaknesses, failures and mess ups. Unfortunately we’ve been taught as a society how to fake the funk whether than admit when we’re weak or not at our best. I’ve came to a conclusion that there is an area of my life in which I am not consistently practicing what I preach and that is the area of expectation. I preach hard and constantly to the children I serve that they should have high expectations in everything they do. Yet as I evaluate the last few assignments of my classes, I realize that in several of the assignments, I had an expectation that I was going to receive a low grade. Why did I feel that way? Was it insecurity? Maybe. Was it lack of confidence? That ties with insecurity so that’s possible. When I received the grade, I was amazed that I actually did better than I expected. After this last go round with it, I became frustrated that instead of having humble expectation of progress, I was expecting a bad grade.

These thoughts have me pondering why so many of us like myself have low expectations of ourselves from time to time. I want to raise 3 possibilities and then offer some solutions for us to think about.

3 reasons why we have low expectations of ourselves:

1. We haven’t been consistently pushed in our lives to do great things. Everybody was raised in different cultures. Some people were raised in cultures where there were nothing but high expectations and if you didn’t meet them you would be disappointed. Others of us were raised in cultures where it was about effort and giving your best. As a result of being raised in an effort culture, some of us are just satisfied being in the race. This is in no way meant to condemn the families or cultures we grew up in. This is to demonstrate how sometimes the effort culture can be detrimental to us as we grow up. Another aspect of this is that some people grew up in cultures where there was no one there to push them to do bigger and better things. One of the consequences of not being pushed consistently to do great things is perceiving those who are trying to push you as being mean and pushy. I’ve learned in my life that the people who are pushing me to be great care about me and want me to be best I can be. Yes their techniques have to be harsh at times, but we will see over time that those techniques were beneficial for us. We see this very often in the sports world. Some of the best teams ever were pushed to greatness at every step not being satisfied with just getting in.

2. We have a low view of ourselves. Let me be clear that I’m not advocating for us to have a view of ourselves that is arrogant as if we’re all that and a bag of chips. At the same time, too many of us do not view ourselves the way the Creator sees us. As a result of not aligning ourselves with God’s view, we accept any and everything in our lives instead of the best. Some of us will focus more on what’s wrong with us (our weaknesses) than we will our strengths. Too many of us focus on our deficiencies instead of the things that make us strong. When you talk down about yourself too frequently, those words become a part of your memory that you’re not erasing. How we view ourselves can be a determining factor in the level of expectation we have for our lives.

3. We live in a constant state of mediocrity. Mediocrity is the habit of doing things at a quality that is less than excellent. One of the byproducts of having low expectations is feeling comfortable not presenting the best work and product that we’re capable of. While we are not perfect, we must have a spirit of excellence in everything we do (more on that later). What is related to mediocrity is average. Average living (doing things at a C level) comes from low expectations. When you do not expect the best, you most likely will not give the best. However, if you have high expectations, you have a better chance of giving your best.

So how do we raise our expectations to line up with our A+ potential?

1. Surround yourself with people who are willing to push you in a loving way to greatness. The people that you want in your life are those who see the A+ potential in you and are willing to squeeze it out of you. Hanging around people who are fine with you having low expectations of yourself has to be a no-no at this point in your life. If you’re a brother, surround yourself with men who do not mind seeing you progress as much as possible. Have conversations with them and keep them updated on what’s going on allowing them to hold you accountable. The same thing goes for my sisters. The people who push you lovingly are not jealous of you and may actually be a little more successful than you at this point. Let them have access to your life. We cannot make it in life without the proper relationships girding us up especially when things get hard. Having low expectations will definitely hurt you when you’re already struggling. In those moments, you need your friends to remind you of what you have in you as they refuse to let you do anything less than great.

2. View yourself based on God’s approval of you. This is a constant battle for most of us, but too many of us put our value and worth in the hands of other human beings. Too many of us allow society to determine how valuable we are. We must get to a point where we see ourselves as children of the most high God. How we see ourselves changes every aspect of how we live. When we know that God is the greatest power, we realize that we do not have to accept defeat because of the one we serve. As I’ve said many times over the years, our lives would be so much easier if we spent more time focused on God’s approval of us than society. To be valuable in society we must have certain clothes, a certain amount of money and a certain amount of popularity. God doesn’t see us based on what we have or don’t have. God sees us as valuable just because He created us. That is enough for me to live and do what God wants me to do to the best of my ability. Speaking of doing things to the best of my ability…..

3. Live a life of excellence. As discussed earlier, living a life of excellence isn’t about trying to be perfect. At the end of the day, everyone falls short in some regard. The goal of our lives should be to make sure that by the end of a task, we’ve given our best to it. If I’m living within my A+ potential, every part of my life should have excellence written all over it. The God that we serve is excellent; therefore I am obligated to operate in excellence. When you live a life of excellence, you are saying that you refuse to be average. Too many people have paid the ultimate price over the years for us to be average and mediocre. Give your best to every task and leave the results to God. Even if it doesn’t turn out well, it is a good feeling to know that no matter how things go, you gave your best. Excellence is the model of someone who knows they have A+ potential.

Today I encourage all of us (especially me) to be determined from this day forth to live a life reflecting of the A+ potential we have. No matter how things turn out, raise your expectation and do what you’re capable of doing. God has placed so much inside of you. Bring it out and have the expectation that it will produce something glorious! I am determined from this day forth to have A+ expectation that matches my A+ potential!

What I’ve Learned in 2 1/2 Months of Grad School

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2 1/2 months ago by faith, I finally started my post-baccalaureate studies after a 6 year break from school. A part of me regrets waiting so long, but as I’ll reemphasize later on, God’s timing is perfect. In just 2 1/2 months, a lot has taken place for me personally. I’m starting school in the midst of a season of my life that’s been kind of difficult and challenging. However, in this season there’s been tremendous growth to take place. While I could share probably 10-15 things I’ve learned since starting school, I’ll share with you four.

  1. My standards must increase in every area of my life. One of the biggest difference between undergrad and grad school is the depth that our work must have. No longer will we get an A or even a B for just “attempting” the assignment. If we’re going to get an A, we must present scholarly work that is excellent. This is a core lesson for me as I am a few months away from 30. In this season of schooling, I have also accepted my call to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because of schooling and the call I’ve accepted, I realize that my standards must increase in every way possible. It’s not fair for me to expect excellence from others but not operate in it myself. My calling demands me to walk in excellence honoring Christ. It’s not just about being good enough to get by, but it’s about excelling in every phase of my life. Luke 12:48 reminds us that if we’ve been given much, much more is expected of us. An opportunity to earn a master’s degree and this calling has been given to me. Because of what’s been given to me, much more is required.
  2. Be at peace with what God leads you to do. Four words have guided me through the start of grad school and accepting my calling to preach: God’s timing is perfect! More and more I am at peace with the decision I made to attend Grand Canyon and accept my calling to do what I was created to do. I firmly believe that in this life you will not have true peace until you are obedient to what God has placed in your heart. While I am nervous about some of the different parts  of what God has called me to do, I am peace knowing that He is pleased with me. When you are at peace with what God is calling you to do, you do not owe anyone an explanation. At the end of the day, we as humans are fickle and inconsistent. While we should have accountability in our lives, we should be careful about giving explanations of our call to people who do not have the right to determine what God has called you to do. Be at peace knowing that God is directing your steps in every way possible.
  3. Making connections is critical to success. Already in grad school, I’ve made wonderful connections with men and women of God who are determined to live out their call. The biggest thing that I love about college and grad school (especially with the way social media is these days) is that we can make connections that will last forever. I love being around people (even online) who do not mind having an intellectual talk about the Christian faith, life, etc. To have people who are struggling like you to accept and understand their call is a tremendous blessing. It is also great to have people who want to help you grow especially spiritually. Lastly, let me take a moment and thank God for a connection that’s happened in this season. God has blessed my church with a new pastor. Since his arrival at our church, he has really encouraged and challenged me to be my best. His push and encouragement is part of the reason why I am moving forth in what God has called me to do. It is great to have someone, especially someone you call your pastor, who is in your corner and doesn’t mind investing in you. There is no telling what God is going to do in my life as a result of who I’m connected with.
  4. The Old Testament is a portrait of how gracious and mighty God is. If you’ve been around Christians for a long time, you probably know that there’s been this belief that the God of the Old Testament is a mean God full of wrath. While it is true that God punishes disobedient, the God of the Old Testament is also gracious. I’m in the next to last week of my Old Testament class and it has been a blessing in terms of understanding the overall story line of the Old Testament. Since the fall, God’s main concern has been establishing the relationship he had with humanity before Adam and Eve sinned. Taking this Old Testament class has allowed me to gain an appreciation for God in terms of who He is and what He means to me. I’ve been challenged to live my life with more reverence as a response to how holy our God is. I would encourage everyone at some point to really study the Old Testament starting with creation. What we see in the Old Testament is how great and mighty our God is. As Israel and New Breed said, who is like the Lord? Nobody!!

I pray that something I’ve said will be a source of encouragement and hope to you. My focus at this point of life is being obedient to what God has placed in my heart and soul. Life is too short to sit on the gifts God has placed in me to make a difference in this world. I thank the Lord that even though I do not feel qualified, God has called me and that’s all that matters!

The Struggle Is Over!

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And after almost two decades (20 years) of running from it and about 4-5 years of serious wrestling, the battle is over and God has won. In May of this year, I firmly and humbly accepted my calling to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ through informing one of our associate ministers at the church I serve at.

How am I feeling you may ask? I am humbled, nervous, joyful and excited about what is going to take place. This is a serious assignment that I am honored God would allow me to fulfill. For about 6 years I’ve served in a teaching capacity at my church. Yet, the call to preach the gospel feels like a very weighty assignment to me. I have tried to run from this task for years, but I realize that I will not have peace until I do what God has called me to do. There are other dimensions of this call that I will not announce yet, but I am in awe of God wanting to use me for His glory to declare His gospel to all creation.

I ask that you would keep me in your prayers that God continues to mold and shape me as He prepares me to carry out this assignment. There are times that I regret waiting so long to fulfill this task, but God’s timing is perfect. At almost 30 years old, I have a different perspective on God and life that I may not have had years ago. God has been working and continues to work on me with my character and sanctification.

Let the journey begin…….

Why I Haven’t Blogged Lately

Grand Canyon University

It has been a good little while since I’ve done a blog topic. However, there is good reason for that.

In June, I was accepted into the Master of Arts in Christian Studies program with an emphasis on youth ministry with Grand Canyon University. I am currently taking my 2nd course on Old Testament Foundations. This class is a blessing to me in being able to study in depth the Old Testament. Because of this new commitment with school, I’ve had less time to blog as the class I’m in demands a lot of time for reading, studying and writing, along with my other life commitments (work, church, family, etc).

This doesn’t mean that I’m done blogging, it just means that I do not have as much free time for blogging as I used to have. I am currently working on a schedule and plan to regularly blog again.

There are some other things on the horizon in my life that you will hear about later. God is doing wonderful things in my life and the life of my family. All I’m wanting to do is obey God’s direction and voice.

Pray for me and my family!

A Letter to My Fellow African-American Brothers (And Eventually Everyone Else)

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To my fellow brothers,

I need to talk to you guys for just a moment. As most of you may know, our community has yet again experienced the loss of two fellow brothers due to police brutality. The names of these brothers are Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Everything I’ve read tells me that these brothers were trying to survive the daily grind of life like the rest of us. However, these police officers apparently didn’t see it that way. These police officers saw these black males as threats and decided that their lives were not worth the living of. What do we do when the people who are suppose to protect us decide that we’re not worth being alive anymore? Many are us are now living with that question and as a result we’re confused and in a daze. However, I want to suggest three things that we can do to get through this battle together.

1. We must stand together in every way possible. If we have any petty or legit disagreements, we must work to solve them. There is a bigger issue going on with us as a community and the issue is survival. So many times we are fighting and fussing with each other getting away from what the real enemy is. What would happen if we came together and put our differences aside working to solve the real problems going on in our community? However, if we have a disagreement with each other, we should handle it like grown men and come to a resolution immediately! Life is too short and too much is on the line for us to be fussing at each other like children. In whatever way possible, it’s time for us as black men to stand united on these issues in our community. It’s not about who gets the credit or who has the idea. It’s about working together to ensure that our society is safe for the next generation of black males. Remember that in 100 years, most of the issues we’re arguing and fussing about really won’t matter. Let’s move on and attack the real issues going on in our community.

2. Be educated on the political process, the candidates running and vote. Some say that who we vote for doesn’t matter because of the system. I agree and disagree. I agree because the system is so entrenched in our society that it seems like it doesn’t matter who you vote for. I disagree because I’m convinced that if we put the right people in power, our country can be a safe place for every person, especially black males. A lot of the issues in our community take place because we’re putting in office the wrong people. Also, there are far too many people in political offices that do not have the intention of the people they serve in mind. This has caused so many people to be skeptical of the entire political process. It is up to us as black males to be educated on who we’re voting in and bug the heck out of the people in these positions until something changes.

3. See your value and the value of your fellow black males through Christ. Let me preface this by saying that even though everyone reading this blog doesn’t believe in God or Jesus, I believe this point is relevant to all. As I mentioned earlier, the police killing black males (and others including black females) for no good reason says that the black (and anyone else) lives they kill don’t matter. Too many of us live our lives under the assumption that we are not valued, loved and appreciated (this is not just a problem for black males but for FAR too many of us as a whole). Because of us feeling under-appreciated, we live in a way that devalues who we are. This is why many of us sag our pants and in general don’t take care of ourselves. As I said in my Facebook post today, so many of us are so used to dysfunction that it’s become the norm for us. So many black males are used to feeling dysfunctional that it’s become a normal feeling to them. It is so normal that they can’t explain why they’re behaving the way they are. Through the death of God’s son, Jesus Christ, He settled the issue of our worth. The Bible in 1 Peter talks about us being a “holy nation, a royal priesthood.” How are we behaving like royalty when we don’t take care of ourselves or tear down a fellow brother (or another human being)? To my black brothers, please don’t allow society to determine how you see yourself. In Christ we are loved and accepted. We do not have to continue living life below the value that God sees us as. Treat yourself like royalty and make a difference in this world.

Brothers, I love you all and want you to know that I’m in this battle with you. I’m brainstorming ways that I can get involved with this battle. What is going on hurts my heart as a black male myself with a family and others who really love me. I struggle daily with a lot of things like you may as well, but I’m determined to stand with you to fight this battle. Brothers, let’s encourage one another and stick together through thick and thin. We will overcome these issues. We will fight together for change. Our time is now!

 

 

Your brother in the fight with you,

Bennett