Book of the Month: To Kill A Mockingbird

Ah! This is a classic modern American Literature, and will always be one. Grateful to my sister for gifting me with this amazing literary piece. I mean, where do I begin?

The book tells the story of Atticus Finch, a lawyer who defends a black man accused of rape, against the backdrop of a fictitious Maycomb county in 1930s Alabama. The book is written through the point of view of a six year old girl, Jean Louise [Scout] Finch, the daughter of said lawyer. Scout lives with her brother, Jem, their widowed father, Atticus, and their maid, Calpurnia. While this case is going on, we see on another end the dynamics of Scout's—an  inquisitive, brilliant, and opinionated six-year old—with  her family and the adults in Maycomb. Actual details of the case and the humiliation they had to go through because their white father defended a negro does not come till later parts of the novel. Before then however; in earlier parts of the novel, we are shown how Scout, Jem, and their best friend Dill come up with ways to lure a recluse, Arthur "Boo" Radley out of his house, where he has never stepped out of in years. The first half and second half of the novel come to an interesting conclusion/intersection/twist, when...okay, that would have been the king of all spoilers. Haha.

It's filled with a lot of depth and humor. The most prominent theme, of course, is racial inequality and injustice. Anybody can write a poignant tale of inequality, especially set in the South, and more especially, in 1930s America, but no other person could have written To Kill a Mockingbird like Lee did. The art of story telling and narration were exceptional; exquisite. The problem with a book this beautifully written is that it becomes incredibly hard to describe. I'm ashamed it took me this long to read it. But I am like that sometimes; always terribly late to the party.

The dynamic of Jem and Scout's relationship was very poignant and funny at the same time. And it was very familiar. It was very reminiscent of my relationship with my brother when we were kids. I sure was not as violent as Scout, but the dynamics of their relationship bore certain resemblance with that of my brother and me. At first, largely dependent on him for recreation, but still very independent and strong-willed. She would sometimes blame him when things went wrong, yet defend him fiercely other times, up to the point of attacking a grown man on her brother's behalf. Her curiosity and innocuous way of describing the different events in Maycomb was refreshing. I particularly loved reading the events as told by a child. Although it sometimes became hard to distinguish if I was reading the viewpoints of Scout as a child, or of  Scout (much older) infusing her now mature thoughts on incidents that occurred when she was young.

Jem's deep childlike faith in the jury was at best amusing, and at worst ignorant. But I found his compassion very endearing especially considering he was just a child. And that's another recurring theme of the book: destruction of innocence.

"You couldn't, but they could and they did. the older you grow the more of it you'll see. The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom,  be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box. As you grow older, you'll see white men cheat black men everyday of your life, but let me tell you something and don't you forget it—whenever  a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash."

Atticus said to Jem, in what I thought was a very accurate prognostication. It was the reality then, and is still sometimes the reality now.

Man this book was raving in social issues. It took on gender roles, economic inequality, racism, injustice, prejudices. Wasn't it so pathetic that at the time women were not allowed to sit on juries in Alabama? To think that the opinionated, strong-willed protagonist, whose voice, the story was being told could not have been able to sit on a jury, [even if she was old enough].

I suspect that a [silent] overarching theme and the one message Harper Lee wanted to leave with her readers was summarized on the last page of the book; when Atticus read a book to Scout about someone who was wrongly accused of a crime. Upon finally meeting the accused person, they (his accusers) found that not only was he innocent, he was real nice. Atticus responded, "Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them."

Most people are.

There's no telling you what happened or how it happened; or that Scout was this tomboy you wished was your friend in school; or the solid [albeit not very talked about love] love that bound Atticus, Jem and Scout together; or how Atticus became the most loved fictitious character and a "role model" to lawyers.

This is a book you don't read once, you read it over and over. Just because.

Now off to see the movie.



Friday Reflections

1.) Long weekends are reminders of God's blessings. #Grateful

2.) This story of the woes of infertility brought me close to tears. Even as I read, I felt a roller coaster of emotions: I hit my palm on the table in mini-celebration when I saw they were pregnant and slouched in disappointment and sadness when they lost it. Imagine how THEY felt when it happened.

3.) Law and Order SVU had a poignant season finale.

4.) All my shows are over for the year. I can't. I just can't. What do I do now, on Wednesday and Thursday nights?

5.) For someone who anticipated sunshine for so long, I don't think I can cope any longer with the amount of humidity and heat that has descended upon us in all the two seconds of "summer".

6.) Still, here comes the sun! It's alright....

7.) Currently too tired to even reason.

8.) Chocolate cake...nom nom nom.

9.) I'm learning the art of not giving a darn what people think or say about me. I think it will be freeing, to some extent at least. 

10.) There is a God and he loves me.

Happy Memorial day, folks! 

Real Religion

"If you claim to be religious but don't control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you."- James 1:26-27

Religion gets a bad rep these days. Understandably so; many heinous crimes have been masked by religion. There is too much hate from self-confessed religious people. I can understand how such hypocrisy can be confusing. There are two points I want to make though. I will be making them from the point of view of a Christian.

First, when people say they are Christians, they are not announcing to the world that they are perfect creatures devoid of mistakes. Rather they are acknowledging their weaknesses and shortcomings, trusting not in their seeming perfection, but in an absolute God who is able (despite those shortcomings) to redeem and save them from destruction. They are saying, "here is my life, Lord, make it whole". Before God, they were incomplete, defenseless, and failures. With God, they are whole. After all, Christ himself admitted that he came for the sick not for the healthy. So yeah we are Christians doesn't mean we won't make mistakes. It means we are saved by his grace.

My second point speaks to what true and/or real religion is. Referencing the above, while we know we are not perfect, we also know that as God's children, our priority is to live a life that pleases God. The toxicity, vile, hatred being perpetuated by so-called Christians is abysmal and shameful, just to say the least. And yes, you are somewhat right to call Christians out for such hypocrisy. Non-Christians tend to see Christians as sanctimonious, holier-than-thou, pious people who are really full of filth and just call themselves Christians to feel good about themselves. They then transfer this aggression to ALL Christians, because of the transgressions of a few. Consequentially, they develop a deep hatred for Christianity as a whole, or in more extreme cases: all religions.  I just want to say Jesus himself HATES hypocrisy more than even you do. So calm your nerves. On several occasions, he addresses hypocrites and calls them out on their behavior in the bible. So before you say one more terrible thing about Christianity because of a few (or many, depending on the case) hypocrites, remember that Christ has a low tolerance for hypocrisy too. Christianity is not about all that hate you see today. Look Jesus would NEVER force you to serve him. He would never thrust salvation down your throat. The choice ultimately belongs to you. You don't have to tout every minute of everyday the fact that you hate religion. We hear you. You hate Jesus and his followers, okay. You can't believe how any one in their sane mind believes a God they have never seen, or participates in religion. Okay. I will still tell you what I think real religion is though.

So, what is true religion? James 1:27 perfectly describes it. True religion; True Christianity is helping those in distress; reaching out to the poor, homeless, and orphaned. It's doing your best to guard your mind and yourself against worldly corruption. it's remembering that you are not of this world. The verse preceding that explains what true religion isn't. It's not about always proclaiming just how pious you are.

There you have it: First, relax Jesus also hates hypocrisy. Second, Christianity is less about condemnation and more, much more about love.



How To Find 'THE ONE'

I decided to write this because after listening to a Pastor Prince's message on finding the right partner, I was sure I wanted to share it with my friends. The only thing was I knew it would be hard to convince someone to listen to a two-hour sermon. It took even me days to complete it, but it was totally worth it.

I think Christians (everyone really) need to listen to this Pastor Prince's message on practicality in picking the right partner.  Christians are most notorious for believing there's a "the ONE" for us. I have always believed in freewill and choice. So imagine my joy when someone of that statue shared the same sentiments. I will summarize some of what he said below; I would mostly be paraphrasing.

He argued (and with biblical proofs) that God doesn't just give us ONE single choice. Rather than emphasizing on how to choose a spouse, God focuses more on being a right spouse. Also if God was in the business of making choices for us, he would have forced everyone to receive salvation (which is the most important choice anyway). For Christians, the most important thing is that we marry within God's family—a  Christian. Practical lists are up to you. He says it's just a  decision making process, one we should  definitely involve God in.

He mentioned how, as human beings, we are always afraid of decision-making. So we look to pastors and prophets to make decisions for us; we depend on dreams and prophecies for something as permanent and important as marriage. But getting married is just the beginning, he said.  For instance, let's assume someone said they heard a "prophecy" about who their spouse would be. Let's further assume such a person is now married to the said person from the prophecy. That's not the end of it all. That they are married to who the prophecy asked them to marry doesn't automatically translate to victory. It doesn't mean they made the right choice.

Basically, he was asking that we make wise, informed decisions. Although it is not prudent to base the choice of who to marry entirely on superficial things like what they look like, he mentioned that it is certainly good to go for what you actually like. The great thing is that God gives us a range of choices to pick from. Decide to make an informed decision; pray God helps you; try to hear from God yourself. After all, it is you who would enter into a partnership with the said spouse.

Beyond the theoretical aspects of his message, he touched on practical things I think would be very useful for anyone seeking a partner. One of such is to never confuse a person's zealousness in church/the ministry for spirituality or  an actual love of God.

Instead, he said, go for true spirituality:

How does this person treats his/her parents and others?
How does he/she overlook offenses?
How does he/she take care of his finances?
Can he/she keep a job?
What is his/her attitude towards his/her boss?

Those are practical questions that also define true spirituality. In Pastor Prince's words, "...not 'brothers' that start every single sentence with 'God told me to'...'God said'..."
Now I know that these may not seem spiritual enough. Perhaps because you haven't heard any chapter and verse from the bible. That's okay, because he actually gave a list of things to look out for based on the bible:

1.) Faithfulness. Don't listen to a man proclaim, but look for a faithful man/woman; someone steady, reliable, and trustworthy. The bible says if a person is faithful in small things, he would be faithful in big things. If a person is faithful with money, God can trust them with bigger things. So check the person's financial records, are they reliable? Or do they always borrow money (from you and everyone else) and are drowning in debts? Is the person generous? Notice this isn't about how rich the person is, but how faithful they are with money. Does this person live beyond his/her income? Are they keeping up with the joneses? So instead of spirituality on the outside, go deeper. Faithfulness in small things will be faithfulness in big things.

2.) Grace. Proverbs 19 V. 22 says "Loyalty makes a person attractive." Kindness and grace make a person attractive. A person full of grace is generous; he's forgiving...
Therefore, look for grace in a person.

3.) Prudence.  Here Pastor Prince focuses on what to look for in women. But I am going to generalize and say what to look for in a spouse.  Proverbs 19:14 says PRUDENCE. Look for a person with practical wisdom.

He really emphasized the need to put yourself out there more. According to him, you can't just sit at home 24/7 and expect a partner to drop on your laps. Erm nope. He uses the term "position yourself in the right place". Don't say "if God wants it to happen" yada yada. Lol. No, God won't force you marry.

Take chances (with wisdom)...try; that's what dating is for! Actually, he said (and I didn't really agree with this) to  date around. He however emphasized on date not have sex around. If things don't work out, part ways while being civil. Oh boy, I loved that he mentioned this. I read a story the other day of a girl cursing a guy (actual CURSES) because this guy decided to not marry her after years of dating her. It really is not that deep, please. We need to erase the thought that a person owes you marriage because you have been dating since forever. No. if you're not married, you're not. It's that simple. I mean there are some wildcats out there whose main mission is to hurt as many people as humanly possible. It is unfair for instance, that after giving a guy your kidney, he suddenly realizes he has fallen out of love with you. P.S: don't be going about doing crazy things for people you are not married to UGH!!! Moving on.

He also mentioned how we can grow into love. I used to think this too, but frankly I am no longer sure where I stand on the issue. I used to go as far as saying I wish parents still matchmake their kids. I mean I trust my parents and  all, but not so sure about the concepts of matchmaking generally anymore.

Above all [and MOST importantly], be sure to find a place of rest on this matter of finding the right spouse. There's no need to be antsy, worried or desperate for a partner, such that you don't take time to enjoy your life. Cast all your cares unto God, and stop worrying and go into a place of rest. He said [and I AGREE] you don't want to be that person that goes on a first date, and starts planning your wedding, marriage, and children's education with that person. Erm no. Desperation is unattractive. Don't insult God by being desperate. Trust God to prosper your ways and put you in the right place at the right time; to provide you with wisdom; to help your decision making process; to help you against loneliness and despair;  and to help you realize you are unique, precious, and whole by yourself.

Oh and two things I forgot. First, don't ever marry someone you are settling for. I have strong opinions about the concept of settling but in general, I personally would say don't marry someone just because. Second and just as important, we are and can be complete by ourselves. No human being can make you whole. The whole concept of marriage can be summarized as 1 + 1= 1 not 1/2 +1/2 = 1.


This was so long, but remember I had to cram a two-hour talk into one post. There's a second part I don't think I will blog about because I'm lazy. Lol. Or I may.



President Obama's Commencement Speech At Howard

"If you had to choose a time to be, in the words of Lorraine Hansberry, 'young, gifted, and black' in America, you would choose right now." 
- President Obama.

Yesterday, May 7, 2016, Howard University was extremely lucky to host the sitting president as their commencement speaker and also bestowed upon him a honorary degree. Also present was Cicely Tyson; she too like the president received an honorary degree. Like I said on my Facebook post about President Obama's speech, just when you think the dude has given his best speech...bam! He blows your mind. It was an empowering, motivational, and inspirational speech, just to say the least. I think the really amazing thing about most of what he said is that in ten years time, they will still be valid.

"When I was graduating, the main black hero on TV was Mr. T. Rap and hip hop were counterculture, underground. Now, Shonda Rhimes owns Thursday night, and BeyoncĂ© runs the world. We’re no longer only entertainers, we're producers, studio executives. No longer small business owners—we’re CEOs, we’re mayors, representatives, Presidents of the United States."

Besides being just inspirational, and a pretty much brilliant speech, there were practical lessons to be learned from everything he said. One part that really struck a chord in the speech was what he said about  learning  to empathize with all persons struggling—blacks, women, gay, transgender, and yes, “even the middle age white guy who you may think has all the advantages, but over the last several decades has seen his world upended by economic and cultural and technological change, and feels powerless to stop it. You got to get in his head too.”

It's too easy to get carried away by our own problems either as a member of a particular race or gender that we forget about the one thing that binds us all: our humanity.


Frankly speaking, all the politicking aside, I think the President is a really great guy. You hear it in him when he expresses compassion. You hear it in him when he talks about compromise, which is a really important part of human discourse generally. Compromise isn't something you often hear politicians talk about these days. And it's not just a "millennial" problem. Even the old guys in politics; they have their lofty ideas on how to make America perfect, but then they stick to it even in the face of every opposition. Now, like the President said; it's good to have values and principles. But sometimes you have to get off your high horse and ask yourself what really matters: your selfish ambitions or the people you were called to serve? Many politicians all over the world would rather shut down a government, watch the people suffer, or destroy the political system...for  their own goals and ideas.

Oh one last thing was his emphasis on strategy in addition to passion. Christ, everyone is passionate these days; we have ambition and a collective voice. The question is: are you willing to do anything? Or would you just rather tweet hashtags and cyber-bully anyone with a counter opinion than yours? In other words, be willing to back your talk with actions. Do something, no matter how little. Vote. Write your representatives, be a part of the process somehow.

And that's it, ladies and gentlemen. I hope with these few words of mine I have been able to convince [and not confuse] you that the President's speech was a great one. haha.

You can watch it below, or read it here.


Friday Reflections

1.) "Time and pressure....that's really all it takes." Shawshank Redemption is an amazing film. I am probably extremely late to the game. It's over twenty years old but probably still beats every latest drama out there.

2.) Man, gotta give it to Shonda Rhimes for continually attaining new heights and telling stories and themes others wouldn't dare. No one does it like her. Oh, and the irony of "Mama Tried" being aired around Mothers' day is just occurring to me. Lol


4.) This video of President Obama explaining parenting is spot on. Some people need to ask themselves: "Am I sperm donor, or am I a father?"

5.) Still on last night's Grey's Anatomy episode; whew. I knew it would end up that way though. I gotta say if I had to pick only one thing that I have learned on all episodes of ALL Rhimes' shows, it would be that divorce is messy.

6.) Aww Don Lemon wishing his mom [and sister] Happy Mothers' Day on his show tonight was too cute.

7.) P.S; Happy Mothers' Day to my mom and every amazing mom out there. Y'all rock!

Have a fabulous weekend. Show someone some love, even if they don't deserve it; especially if they don't deserve it.



Gender Equality And Your Christian Faith/Home

When you say gender equality, feminism, misogyny, and those like terms, a lot of Christian women are worried. How do I balance being a Christian woman and wanting equality? First and foremost, gender equality in the society is not at odds with your faith in anyway. Demanding to be treated as equal to your coworker, or to the next guy walking into the bar is your human right. You deserve as much respect as the man. So now that's out of the way. The next most equivocal thing is gender equality in your home/marriage.

Aren't I supposed to submit to my husband?

Am I not the weaker sex?

Who am I really in Christ? Just a mere woman?

Am I even allowed to speak out loud?

I'm not going to answer these questions with my own wisdom or knowledge. I am certainly not going to tell anyone what to do, especially regarding their faith. What I will do however, is give you evidence from the scripture that you matter. I do have strong opinions about some of these things, but I need to tread carefully. Plus I am afraid of misleading anyone especially with regards to their spiritual life. I must say though, before proceeding, that although I am a feminist and strong advocate for gender quality, I don't wander into marriages. What you do in your marriage is your business. My only concern is the society generally, not marriages. So basically, I am saying do YOU. Would you rather kneel every morning to greet your husband? Then go ahead. Would you rather do all the chores at home and then go to your day job too? It's fine. Do you want to be a stay at home mom, while your husband brings home the bacon? You're valid. The only time I would ever wander into marriage in my gender equality quest is when it has to do with domestic abuse. Because physical, emotional or any other abuse puts your life (and your children's) in danger. But that's about it.

I am writing this post because there are women who legit think God considers us (women) inferior. They think if you are not doing everything I mentioned above, you're sinning or not being a good enough Christian. They think the onus is on the woman alone to sustain a good marriage. So I found evidence to prove them wrong. By the way, none of us is a good enough Christian anyway. Just thought to put that out there.

So what does the bible say?

Ephesians 5: 23-25:
...The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, NOT by domineering but by CHERISHING. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands. Husbands go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting... (MSG)

1Peter 3:7:
The same goes for you husbands: be good husbands to your wives. Honor them, delight in them. As women they lack some of your advantages. But in the new life of God's grace, you're EQUALS. Treat your wives, then, as equals so your prayers don't run aground. (MSG)

Where the MSG version says "...women they lack some of your advantages.", other versions, like NIV say " the weaker partner." I use a life application bible, which suggests that "weaker" does not imply moral or intellectual inferiority. Rather, it recognizes women's physical limitations. Apparently, women in Peters' day (as it is today too) were more vulnerable to attack, abuse, and financial disaster.

Galatians 3:28-29:
In Christ's family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. Also, since you are Christ's family, then you are Abraham's famous "descendant," heirs according to the covenant promises. (MSG)

1 Corinthians 11:11:
But among the Lord's people, women are not independent of  men, and men are not independent of women. For although the first woman came from man, every other man was born from a woman, and everything comes from God. (NLT)

We have to also understand that the bible, although very true and inspired by God, was written in a different time than we are now. Times when it was okay to have slaves. We have of course evolved (thank Jesus), and slavery isn't the only thing that is now absurd. Treating women like second class citizens; the notion that a woman can not be a leader whether in the church or elsewhere are also absurd. Now hold on. There were laws of the society, which of course depended and reflected the particular societies, and there are TENETS of God which are timeless [both of which can be found in the bible]. So don't bother coming here to justify any kind of sin based on my theory of evolution. Either way however, we are not saved by the law, or by obeying God's tenets; we are saved by his amazing grace. So pleasing God isn't meant to earn his approval or be righteous, it's a response to his love and a testament of our faith in him.

Let me conclude with a story found in Numbers 27. When Zelophehad died, only male sons were allowed to inherit properties of their fathers. Unfortunately for Zelophehad's children, they were all girls. So they went to Moses, Eleazer, the leaders, and the whole assembly to complain.

"Our father died in the wilderness...why should our father's name disappear from his clan because he had no son? Give us property among our father's relatives."

You know what Moses did? He took the case to God. Look pastors, preachers, or anybody else are just  mere representatives of God. In terms of your faith, GOD alone calls the shot. Moses took the case before God, and God agreed with the girls, telling Moses to certainly give them property as an inheritance. In my mind, those were pioneers of feminism. They didn't just accept the norm and then proceed to sulk in a corner. They took charge; and challenged the status quo. By taking charge, they would eventually not loose their possessions. So we can stay silent, cower, be subservient or we can choose to take what is rightly ours.



P.S: For a different perspective, this article tackles the same issue. Feel free to check it out.