God, Heal Our Land!
As I conclude a beautiful weekend of celebrating my two African-American sons; one graduating from high school and one graduating from college, I must admit that I feel a sense heaviness. I look around the world and I am grieved. I am grieved by the reality that the world may not look at my sons the way in which I do. I see young black men who are on their way to doing great things in the world. The reality is that many people in society see them as threats.
The world is talking about the George Floyd murder. The. World. Think about that… the world is talking about how in the United States black men are murdered at the hands of law enforcement and even at the hands of regular citizens. With all of the talk around the most recent murder, my mind is all over the place. My mind is on my sons. My mind is on my nephews. My mind is on my godsons. My mind is on my male cousins. My mind is wondering how people can be so full of hate that they see no problem killing a human being because of their skin color. My mind is wondering how people can believe a person with color has no value.
When these types of cases occur, social media fires up. People (mostly African-American) make posts about the atrocity of the murder. Rallies are held to bring light to the unfair treatment that took place.
For this case with George Floyd, I see a little different reaction. This time around, I see more people of other races speaking out about unwarranted murders of African-Americans. I see organizations speaking out as well as celebrities. As the outcries go out, history says there will be many more black men killed. Regardless of the social media outcry and the raised voices at rallies, it continues to happen.
My mind then goes to wondering about a solution. Let’s turn from the outcry that this is just wrong to how we prevent this from ever happening again. One way to make a difference, is to apply strong consequences for hate crimes, regardless of who it is… police officers, citizens, etc. Perhaps people won’t be so quick to murder minorities if they knew they would have to pay for the crime. Another solution that could be quite powerful is for those who truly disagree with discrimination and racism to stand for what is right. When your “friends” begin to talk negatively about another race of people, you speak up and challenge their beliefs.
Aside from those solutions, my mind goes to how do we change the ideals of racist people. The root of racism is the heart. Hatred sets up camp in the heart. Negative thoughts about a whole race of people is housed deep in the heart. So, then I ask… how can you change a person’s heart.
There is only one person who can truly change someone’s heart…. and that is God Almighty. Scripture says, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” -2 Chronicles 7:14
I have heard this scripture a lot lately applied to the concerns in the world about the COVID-19 pandemic, but this scripture covers everything that is happening in the world. It covers pandemics, famine, racism, drought, crashed economies, etc. So, if racism is a heart issue, then only God can change things and only God can heal our land. If you are a Christian and you believe God’s word, you must humble yourself (knowing we need God), pray (talk to God about it), seek His face (seek God for who He is… the all-powerful God), turn from your wicked ways (acknowledge there are some parts of you that aren’t quite right). THEN God will hear us, He will forgive their sin and HEAL OUR LAND.
So, are we truly tired of these atrocities? If so, we have some work to do… on our knees. Prayer truly does change things.
I am motivated by a blog post last week by Texas Superintendent, Jill Siler. Superintendent Siler talked about the various options facing public education in Texas regarding what school will look like next school year. There are many options with various plans within each option. This week, I am compelled to focus on how we should proceed with creating our plans.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced educators to redesign education. The one thing that is certain right now is that we CANNOT do education the way we’ve always done education. In Texas, we cannot open our doors and welcome all of our students and teachers back into the building. We can open our doors, but only to a small number. Currently, the guidelines are that no more than 11 people can be in a room at a time. We are to keep 6 feet of social distance at all times…. on the bus, in the cafeteria, in the gym, in the hallways, in the restrooms… everywhere.
This is in no way “normal” for us. Thinking of educational life in this manner, I think about the losses we’ll encounter. I think back to my principal days. If I were a principal during this time, I would miss dearly the morning hugs from students as they arrive for the day. I would miss opening car doors and helping students into their cars at the end of the day, getting more hugs as my little ones headed home. Again, this “normal” is gone.
So, with these changes… how in the world do we begin to redesign education? We know what’s most important when it comes to educating our students; however, sometimes we can get lost focusing on the education and forget the characteristics we need to exemplify in the midst of the redesign.
There are more uncertainties than certainties at this time. This can be crippling for those of us who like to plan. It is challenging to those of us who like being in control of all situations and having a strong ability to attack problems with solutions and move forward quickly. During this time, we must “put on” patience. We must solve the problems that are facing us that day… because it is likely that it will change the next day. We must be patient with the state as they release guidelines. We must be patient with your leaders as they carry this heavy burden. We must be patient with your team as they ask questions for which you have no answers. We must be patient with parents who are frustrated. We must be patient with our students who are going through their own measure of trauma. Be patient.
A love for your students, staff members, team members, parents, and community members will drive you to make decisions that put their safety as priority. As much as we all want to be back to our normal, if we truly love all of our stakeholders, that love will drive us to decisions that protect them because we really want the best for them. In this instance, leading from the heart may work better than leading from the head.
We MUST have faith in God that He will give us the wisdom to make the right decisions. We must have faith in our leadership. We must have faith in our leader’s leadership. We must also have faith in our team members… that we can accomplish so much more when we’re working together. This faith can also exemplify itself in a positive attitude. If we have faith that we can all do this… we begin to work as if we can overcome this barrier.
Be kind to yourself. During these times, the world is watching. Sometimes, the world is quick to judge and speak ill of educators because, quite simply, they can. There are thousands of people ready to judge our decisions… don’t join them. Be kind with yourself. None of us gets up each morning and thinks about how we can ruin the lives of our students. Will we get it right every time? Absolutely not, but we certainly are trying to get it right each time. Realize that and be kind to yourself.
Finally, we must attack this challenge ONE DAY AT A TIME. The present day is all we have. Get up each morning with a renewed mind, a clear mind, and a positive outlook. We. Can. Do. This.
The word transformation sounds good. We love the idea of “being transformed” because we see it as a positive thing. We want to be better people. We want to be better followers of Christ. The reality is that transformation is a great thing, but going through the process of transformation takes work and sometimes doesn’t feel good. It’s not comfortable. It takes sacrifice and self-discipline.
Transformation is defined as a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance. We oftentimes use the words “transformation” and “change” interchangeably, but they are not the same. There is a difference between “transformation” and “change”. Change means to use external influences to modify actions. Transformation means to modify beliefs so actions become natural and achieve the desired result. Key words in the meanings… change is to use EXTERNAL influences to modify actions. Transformation is when you modify BELIEFS so actions become natural. Change is external and transformation is internal.
When I think of the word change, I think of some people’s journey on weight loss. If I want to fit into a dress for my wedding, I modify my actions to see a change in my external body. On the flip side, if I want to be transformed… I work on my beliefs. I work on my beliefs about healthy living. If my beliefs about healthy living become strong, my actions follow. If I believe that eating fried foods and chips and cookies is not healthy for my body, I don’t eat it. It becomes natural for me to refrain from eating those things because my beliefs are that they are not good for me.
Let’s put it in a spiritual sense. I can go to church because that’s what I’ve been told I am supposed to do. I can do all that I am told I should do. I’m told to do this… so I do this. I’m told not to do this… so I don’t do this. My action changes because I’m being instructed to change, not because there is a modification in my beliefs.
Spiritual transformation takes place when I change things in my life because there’s been a change in my mind and in my heart. I am transformed when my mind is renewed… made new in God. I am transformed when I receive the heart transplant God gives me… when I accept a heart like His… that loves unconditionally… that applies a measure of grace to others. A transformation takes place when I believe God and His word; therefore, my actions naturally conform to that word.
How does this transformation take place? Just about all things that undergo transformation have a cycle of time in darkness. There is a cycle of being pruned. There is a cycle of being molded… and that molded is someone pushing and pulling. Transformation always includes a cycle of darkness, pain, and suffering.
This dark time of transformation is really important to us today because to many, this is a really dark time. Our lives have drastically changed in the matter of a day. One day we were going about our business, in full control of where we went, what we wore when we went, and how we took care of business. Today, you can no longer go where you want to go because many places are closed. You may be one who doesn’t like masks, but regardless of what you like, there are some establishments where you must wear a mask. You can no longer just walk into a grocery store and peruse the aisles as you’d like. Stores have directions you must walk and strict guidelines on how you wait to check out.
These dark times for some may be the jobs that have been lost. It may be the kids who are home and now you have to figure out how to feed them two meals more than usual… and have to figure out how to teach them. It may be that you are sick or have a sick loved one with the coronavirus. The reality of it is that these times are dark in some respects. But it’s really about what we do in the dark times. Do we take this darkness and allow it to transform us?
These dark times can transform you because you could use this time to do MORE. You could read your bible MORE. You could listen to sermons MORE. You could pray MORE. You could praise and worship God MORE. You could witness to others MORE. These are the spiritual disciplines of a Christian… the things that should be second-nature to us, but sometimes we place these acts on the backburner because of the busyness of our lives.
The busyness has suddenly slowed down. All of a sudden, we have more time, so why not use it to allow God to transform us? When we individually allow this time to transform us, something else happens.
The business dictionary defines transformation as a process of profound or radical change that orients an organization in a new direction and takes it to an entirely different level of effectiveness. Imagine what we could do for the kingdom of God as a church body if when we come back together, we have all been transformed? The very definition says we will have a new direction… that will take us to an entirely different level of effectiveness.
What will you do during this time of being apart? Will you allow it to transform you?
Think back four months ago… January 1st, 2020. We entered into a new decade. We were full of hope, determination, and passion. We made new year’s resolutions and/or declared one word to summarize our goals for the year. I saw social media post after post about having 20/20 vision!
Four months later as we find ourselves in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, I ask, “What do you see with your 20/20 vision?” I see a world divided, a nation divided, a town divided, and questionable leadership (in too many areas to list). My perfect 20/20 vision in the pandemic shines light on time, money, character, and heart.
The busyness I once had, I no longer have. My evenings used to begin with me rushing in from work to hurry and cook dinner. My mind would be so full of work and other issues that may be going on that I couldn’t really relax or enjoy the evening. I now take an energizing and calming walk around the neighborhood each afternoon to signal to my brain to turn off work and anything else that may have invaded my mind during the day and turn on the family time. After my walk, I cook dinner, take a calming soak in the tub, and settle in for the evening. My mind is clear and ready to enjoy time with my family.
My 20/20 vision shows me to stop the busyness and to stop and smell the roses.
Not being able to do the things I once thought were non-negotiables, I see that they may not be so mandatory after all. My hair, nails, housekeeper… it all adds up. I am saving more money now that I’m unable to spend money on these things and realizing that I’m not so bad at doing them myself.
My 20/20 vision shows me to be a better steward of my finances.
True character shows during adversity. Who we really are shines through when things get tough. How do we respond when things don’t go our way? How do we respond when we lose control of everything around us? Leaders, how do we respond when our teams don’t willingly follow? The reality of how we respond to these questions will reveal our true character.
My 20/20 vision shows me to work on my character… be braver, be more honest (with ourselves and with others), be more compassionate, be more unselfish, and to be more loyal.
Our conversation and actions are representative of our heart. My heart is shown each time I make a decision that is best for me and not others. My heart is shown each time I intentionally use my words to hurt others. Likewise, my heart is shown each time I make decisions that may be inconvenient for me, but is what’s best for others. My heart is shown each time I make the choice not to use my words to hurt others, but to instead, find a more effective way to express myself.
My 20/20 vision shows me the need to ask God to do a heart transplant on me… to give me His heart and desires so that I may love like He does (unconditionally).
What do you see more clearly in your life from your 20/20 vision?
Paula Patterson is a Superintendent of Schools who shares practical points on leadership.