Harper Lee – Shannon in Kansas City

Harper-Lee-Feature-1180There are many types of people that I admire.  I admire 90s super models, professional athletes, artists, fashion designers and domestic goddesses.  But I admire writers more than anyone else.  Writers work with their mind and the writing instrument of their choice and that is all.  They have the ability to use the resource of their mind to break your heart, inspire your imagination or sharpen your intellect.  One of my favorite authors was Harper Lee who died last weekend.

I read “To Kill a Mockingbird” in my tenth grade English Literature class.  I absolutely loved it.  Harper Lee created a small southern town that was rich with character.  The detailed characters made the town feel real and e minor characters of the book captured my imagination.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” could have become an entire series of books.  I always wanted to know more about the Scout’s neighbor that lived down the street; not Boo but the older lady in the neighborhood.  I was also curious about the man that had the appearance of a bachelor but had a relationship and family with a Black woman.  He simply stated that that was his preference.  I reread the book a few years ago in my women’s literature class while I was studying for my MLA.  It was just as good as I remembered.

I also admired the way that Harper Lee made a significant mark on the world of literature but she lived a quiet life out of the spot light.  I’ve never seen her on television or heard her voice.  But I felt heart ache when I heard of her passing.  Until recent years “To Kill a Mockingbird” was her only credit.  She said that she only had one story inside of her.  I admire an artist that is motivated by inspiration as opposed to money and fame.

Writers are my heroes; far more than the beautiful Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista whom I love dearly.  The talent of a writer impresses me more than that of Megatron or Cam Newton.  The gifts of models and athletes are physical.  Physical talents can be awe inspiring but athletes, dancers and models are bound by time and the limits of the human body.

Writers have gifted minds and our minds are limitless.  They create entire worlds from their imagination.  They are architects that build palaces with words.  Authors are painters that make art on the canvas of our minds with sentences.  They make time travel possible and give us a passport to anywhere on the globe.  Harper Lee was one of the all time greats.  Hats off to her.

 

False Ideals – Shannon in Kansas City

We are taught to love, uphold and strive for ideals.  The media and the culture at large teach us about ideal beauty.  We should all want to be thin, young, have long hair and be White, or at least the Whitest version of what your ethnic group can provide if you are a non White person.  We are told how an ideal citizen is supposed to behave.  We are all supposed to want to go to school, get married, have a few kids, buy a home, work for forty years and pay taxes.

I don’t think anyone truly benefits from ideal imagery.  Privilege is given to those that match a culture’s ideal imagery but that privilege is based on superficiality and falsehoods.  But they sometimes struggle to maintain their admirable façade and suffer when their reality doesn’t match the image that the world sees.  Those that don’t match what their culture calls ideal can become victims of discrimination and must endure the consequences of unfair treatment.

Anyone that tries to promote an ideal image is most likely trying to manipulate you for their own benefit.  The cosmetics industry needs to present you with an ideal image so that you will want to buy what they are selling in order to pursue their idea of beauty and desirability.  Weight loss companies sell fat people the idea that an ideal thin figure will lead to happiness.  Dating websites promote that being a part of a couple is the ideal to single people in order to sell their services.  White supremacy has been sold to the world in order to consolidate resources and wealth for certain people and places in the world while others suffer.

The only ideal is Jesus Christ.  Nothing else matches His purity or perfection.  Beware of anything or anyone that tries to sell you an image or idea of perfection other than Christ.  When humans try to convince others that they or something they produce is ideal they are going to try to exploit and take advantage of others.

There are many people that I admire for their abilities, talents or beauty.  But we all have gifts and talent but none of us are perfect.  It does not matter how beautiful, athletic, smart, wealthy and talented an individual is we all need a savior.  There is nothing wrong with striving for beauty, career success or wealth but it is important to remember that none of those things are the end all and be all.  It is easy to create unhealthy idols of our ideals.  Always put God first.

 

Exodus 20: 3-4

3 You must have no other gods  before me.  4 Do not make an idol for yourself-no form whatsoever-of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth.

Romans 3:23

All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, 24 but all are treated as righteous freely by his grace because of a ransom that was paid by Christ Jesus.

Psalm 146:3-4

3 Don’t trust leaders; don’t trust any human being-there’s no saving help with them! 4 Their breath leaves them then they go back to the ground.  On that very same day, their plans die too.

Perks of Being a Christian – Shannon in Kansas City

Discernment

I am so grateful to know Jesus Christ and to have access to his word.  The Bible has opened my eyes to the will of God and the plans God has for my life and thereafter.  Christians are promised redemption for their sins and an eternity spent with our father in heaven.  But there are perks to being a Christian while you are living here on Earth.

The world we live in today is very confusing.  Some of the people in it will smile in your face but will have every intention of using you just like the devil will.  They will act like your friend and then take every thing you have to give and leave you with absolutely nothing.  Following God’s standard will help you sort out sweet spirits from evil ones.

I am a woman that has never been married.  Near the beginning of a relationship I tell men that I am not interested in sexual intercourse unless we marry.  Usually I stop hearing from them after that.  Sometimes if I even mention church attendance or attending a Bible study I don’t hear from these men anymore.  It is disappointing and hurtful but at least I did not allow myself to be used and it is because I decided to trust God.  God’s word spared me a relationship with a man that is selfish and only sees women as play things.

Of all the gifts that Christians are given I think that discernment is one of the greatest.  Whenever I come to a cross roads in my life I pray about it.  If I meet a man that wants to get to know me romantically I always pray about it and ask God if it is His will.  I ask God to make the relationship flourish if it is of His will or take it away if it is not.  I’m a little nervous at this point because all of my romantic pursuits have floundered but I will continue to have faith in God.  I’m still hopeful that there is someone for me.

I also pray when it comes to professional commitments.  I have had a great deal of on the job drama.  I don’t know why because I just want to do my best and make a living.  I have lost several jobs due to work place politics.  I have been slighted and forced out the door more times than I care to remember.

But I don’t think I’ve ever lost anything that was going to take me to where I want to be in life so I’m better off without it.  If something isn’t a help it’s a hindrance and we all need to know our value and fight for it.  Hopefully, God has something fulfilling and financially viable for me.  Despite my checkered professional past I’ve always been able to find another job, I pay my tithes, my bills have been paid and I have and do nice things.

When I pray over relationships and situations that I’ve been in I ask for the Holy Spirit to intervene on my behalf.  The Lord has always revealed the truth.  We just need to ask and give Him time.  I have always learned the true character of the people.  The Lord will show you who is trying to take advantage of you and make a fool of you.  He will also show you who really cares for you.  Jesus will take you right out of a negative and stressful situation that is draining your spirit.  The peace God gives is a blessing.

1 Corinthians 14:33

God isn’t a God of disorder but of peace.  Like in all the churches of God’s people,

If you are experiencing a lot of confusion you should consult the Bible and pray about it.

1 John 4:1

Dear friends, don’t believe every spirit.  Test the spirits to see if they are from God because many false prophets have gone into the world.

It is OK to test friends, romantic interests, family members and business partners.  Ask God to help you sort out who is good for your life and who isn’t.

1 Thessalonians 5

Pray continually.

Keep on praying.

#bodypositivity – Shannon in Kansas City

 

 

#bodyposi is a popular social media hash tag which encourages women to be comfortable with and love their bodies.  The hash tag is often accompanied by a photograph of a nearly naked young woman.  I am completely in favor of women feeling good about themselves regardless of their body shape, height or ethnic background.  There are many types of beauty in the world and that should be appreciated.  However, I think the body positivity movement is misguided.

The confusing thing about #bodyposi is that these women want to put as much flesh on display as they can get away with.  The women in these photographs are typically heavier set and do not have the type of bodies that are commonly featured in fashion magazines.  I’m sure any one of them would look great if they styled themselves and wore flattering clothing.  I’m not exactly sure what these women want.

A lot of thin women look awkward in bikinis as well.  Everyone isn’t going to look great in a bikini or under wear.  That’s why fashion models are well paid for their efforts.  They also work out and follow a health conscious diet.  There is a price to be paid for everything including a fit body.

I’m sure there are some women that are uplifted by the body positivity movement and there is value in that.  But we are probably just changing the beauty standard instead of helping women find real contentment and peace within themselves.  Mattel recently designed Barbie’s that have alternative body shapes.  “Sports Illustrated” is featuring a heavier (size 10) model in their swim suit issue.  Stores are using fuller bodied mannequins.

Standards of beauty have changed throughout history.  Changing the standards may help a few people feel more accepted but then someone else will feel left out.  I think that we shouldn’t give the media, the fashion industry or the entertainment industry such power over our minds that they have the ability to make anyone feel less worthy than someone else.  The power that we have given popular images is idol worship.

I was given a copy of the New Testament to read when I was nineteen.  It made a huge impression on me and I would hate to think what I would be like without God’s word in my life.  If I was not grounded in Christ I would probably be as vulnerable to media images as all the “body positive” women are.

The Bible taught me that I have a savior.  That savior was born to be a living sacrifice to save my soul.  I don’t know how anyone can hate themselves with this type of conviction.  If God loves me that much who am I to doubt myself or my worth as a woman.  The following scriptures can help anyone that is struggling with self image:

1 Samuel 16:7

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Have no regard for his appearance or stature, because I haven’t selected him.  God doesn’t look at things like humans do.  Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the lord sees into the heart.”

Try to see people, including yourself the way God sees them.  Focus on the human heart.

James 4:14

You don’t really know about tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for only a short while before it vanishes.

Life is fleeting and so is youth.  Don’t drive yourself crazy over something that is guaranteed to end.

Colossians 3:11

In this image there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all things and in all people.

We’re all the same in God’s eyes.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.

You are a vessel for the Holy Spirit when you accept Christ.

Exodus 20:3

You must have no other gods before me.

Worship our savior, not your body.

I think that people would have a better self image if they learned about the love God has for us and the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross for mankind.  People would also be well served to not be so self focused.  Love yourself and treat yourself well but it seems to me that some young women and men are absolutely obsessed with their image.  None of us are perfect and we are not meant to be.  No one is perfect but Christ.

God gives us different gifts.  Some of us are artists, great in math or great singers.  Some of us are blessed with the gift of looking great in a bikini.  We all can’t have the same gifts.  Instead of coveting someone else’s blessing be grateful for your own.

 

Your body will fail you one day.  If you live to be old your youth will become a memory.  Don’t let frivolous things become an idol in your life.  Beauty and image is subjective and is often an illusion.  Focus on serving God.  I’m certain that you will become a happier, satisfied, joyful and content person.