Combat CHARLIE with EDUCATION from a great Facebook post, and PRAYER

If you haven’t heard about the Charlie Charlie game going around on the internet, sit up and pay attention. THIS IS SCARY STUFF. FOR REAL.  Any Pastor, Priest or Rabbi will tell you that Ouija boards and the occult are NOT something you should fiddle around with.  Movies may make things look fun and harmless, and that’s one of the biggest dangers of the Internet- this is catching on because kids pass it around.  The videos seem harmless, often seem funny and most people have access to a phone so they are so accessible.    IF YOU’VE PARTICIPATED IN THIS, OR IF YOU HAVE FRIENDS WHO HAVE, I URGE YOU TO PRAY.  I’m including a prayer and some scriptures here to get you started.

Internet-Safety Prayer

Here is an excellent analysis by Matt Walsh, who writes for theblaze.com.  Look for him on Facebook (this post was featured on his Facebook page) or follow Matt Walsh at themattwalshblog.com.

“I’ve seen this floating around, and want to add a quick note about it. Apparently, some kids have devised (or picked up from somewhere) a new makeshift version of the Ouija board. In this “game,” they make a cross with two pencils and attempt to summon a demon named “Charlie.” The “game” has become a viral sensation, and I’ve seen many people on my Facebook and Twitter having a grand old time with it. Even many Christians, from what I’ve seen, have laughed about it, or at it, and treated it like some silly bit of child’s play.

To those who want to deny the metaphysical and spiritual realities of existence, what I’m about to say will sound superstitious. But it isn’t. A superstitious person sees objects, numbers, and rituals as somehow powerful all by themselves. If I were superstitious about this game, I would believe, I guess, that the pencils have some kind of magical power on their own.

That’s not what I think. It’s not about the pencils. It’s not superstition. But I will tell you that if your kids are playing this game, you need to have a very serious chat with them. It’s not “silly” or “stupid.” It’s dangerous.

Demons exist. Evil forces are at work in our world. This is a fact. As a Christian, you have to believe this or you are not a Christian. To deny it is to deny Scripture and to deny Christ’s saving work on the Cross. Demons are real. Possession is real. It’s scary, it’s horrible, it’s terrifying, but it’s the reality.

When you play “games” like this, you are explicitly inviting them in. You might think it’s funny, but as humans we do actually have supernatural abilities. We can participate in things beyond our physical nature. On the good side, this is what happens when we pray. On the very bad side, this is what happens when we mess around with demonic “games,” or witchcraft, or fortune telling, or whatever else. We are attempting to harness something that we don’t understand, and don’t want to understand.

“The Exorcist” was based on a true story of a boy who was possessed after playing with a Ouija board. There have been, in fact, many documented cases of this kind of thing, where possessed people have levitated, exhibited superhuman strength, spoken in dead languages, etc. These have been documented, filmed, and witnessed by impartial observers. In every case, the possessed person invited the possession somehow, often through tinkering with these sorts of demonic experiments.

There are things happening out there that science can’t explain, no matter how hard it tries.So, seriously, leave this stuff alone. Satan wants to eat you alive and condemn you to an eternity of torment, not play a fun game with you so you can put it on YouTube. OK?
OK.  Thanks.”

Here is the link: http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/05/25/viral-charlie-charlie-social-media-challenge-has-kids-trying-to-summon-demon-with-ancient-ritual/

Memorial Day 2015: THANK YOU, VETERANS!!!

Star Spangled Banner Forever WP photo

MEMORIAL DAY 2015: THANK YOU, Veterans!!!
These two little words are so important! As children we were taught to say “please” and “thank you” as a matter of courtesy- but “thank you” is the more important of the two because it offers gratitude, rather than an introduction for making a request.

But how do you thank someone when words are completely inadequate?

How do you thank someone you don’t even know?

How can we truly thank our Veterans for protecting us, for saving our lives, for saving the lives of our children and families? How can we thank our Veterans and their families for their sacrifices?

Well, we were also taught as children that actions speak louder than words, so here goes…

You may have seen this question posed on social media:

“SHOULD THE NATIONAL ANTHEM BE SUNG AT EVERY GAME?”

As an American who is so grateful to live in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, my answer is YES, OF COURSE! And what better way to thank our Veterans and their families than to take up this fight at home?

The National Anthem pays tribute to our country and honors our Veterans. Let’s answer that question with a loud and clear, “YES, THE NATIONAL ANTHEM SHOULD BE SUNG AT EVERY GAME.”

If you agree that the National Anthem should be sung at every game, please LIKE this page on Facebook, and SHARE with friends and family.

https://www.facebook.com/StarSpangledBannerForever

 

 

Prayers for Peace: Thanksgiving 2014

This Thanksgiving Day, I’m lifting up prayers for anyone who is hurting because I’ve been there.  I’ve grieved the loss of friends and the loss of family members including both of my parents.  I’ve also suffered enough to know that we don’t always make the best decisions when we’re hurting or under pressure.

The scriptures tell us, “and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  (Romans 8:28 NIV)   It’s often hardest to feel close to God when we’re going through a storm, but this song by Laura Story conveys the depth and constancy of God’s love for us beautifully.  He is always, ALWAYS there for us, but we must remember to seek Him and watch for Him working in our lives.

And in the aftermath of the Ferguson grand jury verdict, I offer two excellent viewpoints, one from a black woman married to a black police officer, and the other from a well-respected NFL player, along with my prayer that we will have peace while we wait to see God use this incident, and so many others like it, for good.  The waiting is always the hardest part but God is there with us for that too.

I offer continued thanks and prayers for the men and women of our armed forces and their families, who sacrifice so much for our great nation.  Prayers for our first responders, doctors, nurses, teachers, clergy and all those who make it a priority to serve and care for others.  Best wishes for a very blessed and Happy Thanksgiving.

 

http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/25/opinion/simmons-ferguson-grand-jury-complicated/index.html

Editor’s note: Safiya Jafari Simmons is CEO and chief strategist of SJS Consulting, a Washington public relations consulting firm. She is communications director for the Congressional Black Caucus, the Center for Policing Equity and other clientele. She has been a press secretary to U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Maryland. She lives in Washington with her husband, a police officer, and their three children. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) — I dreaded the Ferguson grand jury response for weeks. Not simply because I knew it was likely to lead to more heartache and unrest for the black community — my community — but because it would most certainly dredge up deep internal conflict for me.

I’m raising a black boy to be a black man. So the grand jury’s decision seems to double down on a pattern in this country of killing black boys without care or consequences.

Safiya Jafari Simmons

Safiya Jafari Simmons

But I’m raising my black son with my black husband, who also happens to be a police officer in Washington. And being the wife of an officer means I can’t support either camp fully — neither the outraged black community nor the justice system sworn to protect us.

When my husband first donned his uniform nearly 10 years ago, I told him clearly and directly: “You do whatever you must to come home to me.” Nearly a decade and three children later, he’s heeded that order, navigating the dangers that only populate my nightmares — just to make sure he comes home.

The irony isn’t lost on me. I know what the research says. I know that this country often denies agency to African-American boys, and that they’re often seen as a threat just by virtue of their skin color.

But in moments such as this, it’s the denial of agency to law enforcement officers that angers me.

All cops aren’t bad. All cops aren’t racist. Many cops have spouses and children. They have loved ones and friends and pets. They leave all this every day to place themselves in harm’s way for people they never meet.

They love their communities. They want the law of the land to work as it’s supposed to. They don’t like to see children hurt, people taken advantage of. They are people doing a job that few are brave enough to take on.

So when I heard St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCullough describe how Michael Brown allegedly lunged at Officer Darren Wilson in his police car, I knew it was likely that my husband could have responded the same way: shoot to disable the threat. Do what he must to make it home to us at night.

This is part of my reality. It’s how I process these incidents now.

But it was also my reality when, as we sped home to relieve our sitter one night, my husband and I were pulled over by a police officer on a dark, wooded parkway in Virginia. And I watched my husband, an officer for nearly 10 years, immediately turn off the car, turn on all the interior lights, place the keys on the dashboard and put his hands on the steering wheel.

He turned to me, calmly and coolly, and said, “Get our insurance card out. Don’t make any sudden moves, and leave your hands on your lap.”

I froze. I teared up, and fear welled up as a lump in my throat. Because that night, before he was an officer, my husband was a black man. Like Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant.

These conflicting parts of my reality are why the South Carolina state trooper shooting earlier this year isn’t, to me, a black-and-white case of excessive force used by white law enforcement on an unarmed black teenager. And it’s why I’ve not waded into the debate waters on Michael Brown either.

Because I need my husband and his colleagues to make it home. Every night.

So I can’t “like” many of the stirring posts I scroll through on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter. I can’t post my own rants of outrage at the failings of our justice system, nor can I post any statement that might be interpreted as in support of the Ferguson officer. Not because I can’t connect to them or feel them on some level, but because it’s complicated.

And complicated in a way that no one seems to respect or acknowledge or care to understand.

 

 

https://www.facebook.com/BenjaminWatsonOfficial?fref=nf

At some point while I was playing or preparing to play Monday Night Football, the news broke about the Ferguson Decision. After trying to figure out how I felt, I decided to write it down. Here are my thoughts:I’M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.I’M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.I’M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I’m a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a “threat” to those who don’t know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.I’M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.I’M SAD, because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.I’M SYMPATHETIC, because I wasn’t there so I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.

I’M OFFENDED, because of the insulting comments I’ve seen that are not only insensitive but dismissive to the painful experiences of others.

I’M CONFUSED, because I don’t know why it’s so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don’t know why some policeman abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.

I’M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take “our” side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it’s us against them. Sometimes I’m just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that’s not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That’s not right.

I’M HOPELESS, because I’ve lived long enough to expect things like this to continue to happen. I’m not surprised and at some point my little children are going to inherit the weight of being a minority and all that it entails.

I’M HOPEFUL, because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends and mentors. And it’s a beautiful thing.

I’M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So, finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.

 

 

Celebrating Dad as Veterans Day Approaches

Dad army photoThis morning, on the anniversary of my dad’s death, and two days short of his 77th birthday, my daughter sang with the chorus at her elementary school’s Veteran’s Day celebration and I was struck by sadness that she never really knew my dad.  She has no memory of him because she was only three years old when he passed away, so it’s up to me to tell her about the man who helped make me who I am today.

Dad would have been so proud of her this morning as she and her class signed the Pledge of Allegiance in American Sign Language.  My daughters constantly amaze me with their gifts and talents and sometimes I catch a glimpse of him in the flash of their smile, or the show of their strength.  My dad was a strong man, but I didn’t always realize it at the time.

Dad used to take us fishing a lot, and once when I was about my daughter’s age, I overheard him speaking with an older man.  I heard him thank the man for his service to our country, but I noticed that my dad stayed silent about his time in the Army.  Later on, I asked him why he didn’t mention that he’d served too, and he looked at me and said meaningfully, “that man served in World War II.”

It didn’t make much sense to me at the time, but it makes sense now because when my dad joined the Army he went where they sent him, and most of his time was spent in Alaska.  While it was no picnic, his service years were spent building character, not at war.  It was only much later that I realized my dad, who was a child in France during WWII, came face to face with one of his heroes on the fishing pier that day. I can only imagine what that must have been like for him, but it has taught me three important lessons: first, we never know when we may find heroes among us; very often, they just blend in.  Second, even heroes have heroes.  Third, it’s a huge blessing when we get to thank them for their service.

God Bless Our Veterans

God bless our Veterans.  Let’s thank them every chance we get!

dad smiling

Being In The Picture

mom

mom2Mom and girlsOn this day 26 years ago, I lost my mom- and my world was forever changed.  Words can’t describe the feeling of a loss so profound; the initial shock is like having your feet pulled out from under you (I literally fell into a chair when my sister broke the news to me) and having your heart leap into your throat at the same moment.  It got worse before it got better; thankfully it’s gotten a little better each day, but life will never be the same.

I often spend days like these looking through old photographs, and it struck me today that my mom was so different before she became, well, Mom.  In her portraits she was absolutely beautiful, like a movie star even, but those pictures were taken back in the days when she was just Sandy.  In the last picture she was Mom, and that makes all the difference to me.

We only have a few pictures of my Mom with us, so I resolved a long time ago to force myself to be in pictures with my girls, even on bad hair days.  These days the girls aren’t always jazzed about posing for a picture with Mom, but someday I bet they’ll appreciate it.  I also know they’ll appreciate my commitment to live a healthy lifestyle, because truth be told, I want to be in the picture for as long as possible and will do whatever is in my power to make that happen.

So my prayer for you all today is that you take pictures with your family & kids as often as possible, and do something every day to improve your health.  This morning I took a long walk and remembered the amazing lady I called Mom, who taught me the value of hard work and the importance of family.  Please remember to stop and smell the roses, and do whatever is in your power to be in the picture as often, and for as long, as possible.  God bless.

Happy Father’s Day 2014

Dad army photoHappy Father's Dayimg098dad smiling

Happy Father’s Day 2014!

As a writing teacher, I teach my students that every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. I also teach that we can learn from all of our stories, so we should save them all- but we can always write new stories or change the ending if we don’t like how one of our stories has turned out.

My dad didn’t have a good childhood; as a child during the war in France, he saw things that no child should have to see.  He was sent away to boarding school when he was twelve, and his parents divorced during a time when it was considered scandalous, but my dad persevered and got an excellent education.

My dad began a new story when he came to the United States at the age of 19. After his mother remarried, my dad followed in his stepfather’s footsteps, serving in the U.S. Army.  The Frenchman who came to America and drove a U.S. Army tank before he drove a car of his own went on to become an American citizen, a family man, a loving dad and grandfather, and a success by the world’s standards. And while I wish the end of his story hadn’t come so soon, I am so grateful for the time we did have. I choose to remember the happy times, many of which were in the middle of the story, rather than the end- which came too soon.

Today I pray for all the fathers and grandfathers out there.  We never know when the end will come, so all we can do is make the middle of our story the best it can be.  And whenever necessary, begin again. God bless.

25 Years… and a day.

His AMAZING Love

It’s hard to believe it’s been over 25 years since I lost my mom.  I hardly feel old enough to have been without her for so long; I’m only 43 years old, and it seems like 17 was a whole other lifetime ago.  Actually, it was, because when I turned 34, I reached the age at which I had lived as long WITHOUT her as I had lived WITH her.  God willing, in a little over 5 years I’ll reach 49, the age when she died.  From that point, on I’ll always be older than my mom ever got to be.

I guess I’ll always measure my life in terms of before- and after- I lost my mom.  I miss her every day, and time hasn’t done anything to take away the sting of losing her because each new milestone for me is a milestone I can’t share with her.  She’s missed telling us about motherhood and holding her grandchildren, she’s missed proms and graduations, she’s missed joys and sorrows, triumphs and defeats.

She’s missed watching us grow up, and we’ve missed having adult relationships with her, the kind where all the pieces fall into place and you finally get to thank her for all the times she encouraged you, or prevented you from doing something you’d later regret.  The times where you tell her how RIGHT she was about this, or how WRONG she was about that, the times where you laugh until you cry, or you cry until there are no more tears left.

There have been many times over the years when I’ve thought about what she would say or do in a certain situation, and her wisdom has continued to guide me.  I’ve marveled at how I’ve continued figuring her out, and how she’s still influenced me after all these years.  And I’ve been amazed at how getting older and walking through some of the things she walked through has given me the perspective to understand her life and come to terms with losing her so suddenly.

And while I know it may never get any easier to bear than it is right now, because nothing will bring her back, at least I feel like it has already been as bad as it’s ever going to be.  While this pain will never go away because I will never stop missing her, I take tremendous comfort in knowing she has gone to be with the Lord, and she’s safe in His arms.  And while I’m here and she’s there, that’s one comforting thing we’ll always have in common.  God bless.

Prayers for Peace in 2013

 

This has been a difficult holiday season for many, including myself.  When I last saw my beloved grandmother Meme, who celebrated her 99th birthday this year, we talked quite a lot about life, family, and Heaven.  We shed tears together as she told me that she had had a good life, but having already lost her husband, her only son, and so many friends, she was ready to move on.  It was hard to hear but she had peace about it, and she often said the waiting was the hardest part.  This year, Meme got her Christmas wish a little bit early, and she was laid to rest in Pennsylvania with my grandfather, the final chapter in a love story that started during WWII in France.

Just a few days after losing my grandmother, I was shocked to hear about the unthinkable tragedy in Newtown, CT, when countless lives were touched directly and indirectly in a senseless act of unspeakable violence.  As a mother, a teacher, and a child of God, the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary will haunt me forever.  Ever since hearing about this tragedy, I have been praying for the victims, their family and loved ones, the survivors, the first responders, the community, and the world whose heart breaks for everyone affected by this tragedy.

I know that God hears our prayers, even our most anguished prayers, even when we don’t know what to pray for and even when we can’t even form words.  There are no words for what happened, and as my heart has broken for everyone affected by this tragedy, as I’ve cried for them and offered my own anguished, wordless prayers, I know that He has cried right along with us.  And we will keep on praying.  God bless.

Thanksgiving Prayer

This Thanksgiving, as the Northeast still reels from Hurricane Sandy, as friends face difficult diagnoses, as families break apart, and as I face my own struggles, I am especially thankful to live so close to God after being away from Him for a long time.  I offer this prayer with humble thanks to all my friends and family for being there when I needed you most.  Have a blessed Thanksgiving!  God bless.

 

 

 

 

Happy Father’s Day: Precious Memories

This picture must have been taken sometime in late 1973 or early 1974, because my little sister was REALLY little… I can still remember marveling that she could grip my hand so tightly with such tiny little fingers.

Memories are so precious, even more precious than photos because of our memories’ endless storage capacity and the ability to store the little details that make all the difference.  When I close my eyes I can still picture the cabin we vacationed in every summer.  When I remember the creaky front screen door, and the long splintery wooden table we sat at for dinner, I can go back to that place where there were no phones, no appointments, no agendas.  We had mom and dad’s undivided attention, and it was on these trips that we really got to spend quality time together.  Dad taught us how to fish in the stream, jump from rock to rock to reach the other side, and toast a marshmallow after having found the perfect toasting stick…

And how awesome that the two little girls pictured above can now make memories with our own kids, in little cabins of our own.  Thanks, Dad.  Happy Father’s Day.  God bless. 🙂