Freeing the Mind of Negative Thoughts

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Even though I am a die-hard optimist, I had a rude awakening about the power of positive thinking – as a committed Christian, my positive thoughts don’t hold any inherent supernatural power to force God’s will into existence.

My positive thoughts, affirmations and visualization aren’t a substitute for discerning God’s will.  Nor can my positive thoughts and visualisation substitute the “hard work” of patient trusting and faith that declares “Thy will be done.”

Sounds obvious, doesn’t it?  God, not my positive thoughts, is the Almighty and only real power in the Universe.  Yet many of us have seen and heard testimonials of the benefits and outcomes of positive thinking.

Jesus implores us to “Ask believing to receive.” (Matthew 21:22)

Asking and believing imply the expectation of a positive outcome.  Belief requires holding positive thoughts in faith.  Our faith influences the outcome of our prayers.

Paul admonishes the believers in the Church at Rome to “be transformed by the renewing of their minds,” to not think and act like non-believers who are influenced by the things in this world.  Our thoughts coming from our renewed minds influence our behaviour. (Romans 12:2)

Disappointing outcome of positive thinking

Following the teachings of the Bible and influenced by an endless list of spirituality teachers, I recently spent quite some time and effort convincing myself, through positive thinking and visualization, that a new career opportunity was mine.  I saw a series of coincidental events as further proof that I was headed in the right direction and that I could expect to get the job offer.  Many people were praying with me and for me.  Many people made positive affirmations and said that they could clearly see me in that new role.  So did I.  When the job offer did not materialize, I was disappointed.  What the heck went wrong?

On reflection, I realized that I had spent an inordinate amount of time convincing myself – fighting against recurring negative thoughts and doubts that I wouldn’t get the job offer. Negative thoughts stirred up feelings of fear and anxiety, which I tried to eliminate by using positive thinking to predict a positive outcome.  The positive thoughts not only calmed my fear and anxiety, but made me falsely believe that I correctly discerned God’s will.  That’s wishful thinking!

Nothing is wrong with replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts that are based on the teachings of the Bible.  Our thoughts do determine our attitude and influence outcomes of things that are generally within our control.

The big lesson I learned from this experience is that affirming a positive thought, or visualizing a desired outcome is not to be mistaken for the voice of God or the revelation of His will.

Faith to receive God’s best

Faith in the uncompromising love and goodness of God is at the core of the declaration “Thy will be done.”  The believing that Jesus implores us to do when we ask in prayer is about having faith that His answer will always be for our highest good.  Rather than fearing an outcome that I don’t want, I have resolved that I will ask in faith for what I desire but leave myself open to receive God’s highest and best.

In my struggle to rid my mind of negative thoughts, I have learned that residual fear can co-exist with faith.  This is where the struggle between intention and action occurs.  Paul tells his fellow Christians in Rome that he knows in faith what he is to do, but he is prevented by his fear of letting go and trusting God completely to help him do what he ought to do. (Romans 7:24).  The truth is that even in the face of fear it is possible to step out in faith to do what I ought to do.  This is courage.  Courage comes from trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit, who is also my Comforter and support in times of struggle with fear which can weaken my will to surrender to God’s will.

3 steps to increase faith

In my ongoing journey to live a life free from fear and anxiety, it is possible to root out negative thoughts, which is essential if I am to get to the place of increased faith and unbridled trust in God’s infinite goodness and love.

Three steps that I take every time I have a negative, fear-filled, anxious thought are–

  1. I have a conversation with myself –
    • Is the thought factual?
    • Is the thought supporting me?
    • What’s the worst and best that could happen?
  2. I surrender to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, by aligning body (physical reactions), soul (ego, emotions) and spirit (thoughts)
    • Stop struggling to know the outcome
    • Breathe deeply and relax in silence
    • Pray – ask God to prevail, to be present, to powerfully control my emotions and give me more faith
  3. I affirm the Word of God, speak positively and courageously, even if I feel scared –
    • “God has a good plan for my life” – Jeremiah 29:11
    • “All things are working together for good.” – Romans 8:28
    • “Every thought that God has not planted in my mind and heart will be uprooted.” – Matthew 15:13

Expanding faith

Finally, the Bible teaches us that faith is counted as righteousness. Abraham’s faith was counted as righteousness, which put him in a right, loving, guiding relationship with God. (Romans 4:3) 

I am reassured that by Christ’s death, God sees me as having Christ’s righteousness.  I can run to Him as my loving “Abba Father” when I feel afraid and my faith is weak (Galatians 4:6).  God doesn’t hold my lack of faith against me, as long as I ask for more of it.  I know for sure that I am being transformed as I grow in faith.  Growth and transformation take time.  Negative thoughts will die, as I nourish my mind with the Word of God.  That’s how my faith will expand as I leave myself open to accept God’s faithfulness and goodness in the answers to my prayers.

Christ in me, the hope of glory!  That’s why glory matters.

@Glorymatters

www.camilleisaacsmorell.com 

Identity, Inclusion and Love – Thoughts on Baptism and Black History Month

Approximate reading time: 20 minutes

The following is the text of a sermon delivered by Camille N. Isaacs-Morell on 19 February 2017 at the Anglican Parish of St. Andrew and St. Mark, Dorval, Québec, Canada.

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Today we are celebrating Black History Month and the sacrament of Holy Baptism.  Both these events cause us to focus on the themes of identity and inclusion.  Through baptism a person is identified as a child of God and welcomed into the family of Christian believers.  Black History Month celebrates the identity and contribution of persons of Black African descent.

Today, Ella will be marked with water, a sign that Ella belongs to God, is a follower of Christ and a member of the fellowship of Christians.

Like Ella, I was given my Christian identity through the sacrament of baptism and the promise made by my parents and godparents that I would follow the way of Christ. Like Ella I am female and a citizen of Canada.  But there are other names to identify me that are different from Ella’s.

I am the descendant of Black African slaves who worked on sugar plantations in Jamaica centuries ago.  Among my ancestors are Jewish, Irish and German free men who made their way to Jamaica two centuries ago to seek their fortune.  I identify as a Black person with cultural ties to Jamaica.

Finding one’s identity is a personal and public issue.  Being who you are and who you associate with can be problematic – especially if you are a Muslim worshipping in a mosque in Quebec City or if you are a Black male living anywhere in the United States of America.

The questions of identity are not new.  At the time of Paul’s writing, the early Church in Corinth was dealing with identity issues.  The Church in Corinth was a wealthy congregation comprised of persons of diverse backgrounds, religious experiences and affiliations.  In the verses we read today from Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians, he warns Christians there against basing their identity on affiliations with human leaders and creating factions and alliances built on human definitions.  Paul instructs them to base their identity on Christ and on Christ alone, as Christ is the foundation of the Church.

Laws also play an important role in defining who we are.  Laws that govern nations, define religious behaviour and create associations and clubs, shape the way people behave, think and act.  In our reading from Leviticus, when Moses receives the law, God establishes the people of Israel’s identity as a reflection of God’s essence.  They are to be holy as God is holy.  The people of Israel, God’s people, are to differentiate themselves from all other people by adhering to the law that requires them to respect their parents, honour the Sabbath, give to the poor and the stranger, refrain from stealing, abstain from profanity, oppression, injustice, hate and revenge.

By following God’s law, the people of Israel claim their identity as God’s chosen, holy people, set apart and favoured by God.

And here comes the big, huge, hairy problem of “us” and “them” that inevitably arises when we address questions of identity and the complex maze of diversity through which we are called to journey together as we build an inclusive society that ensures justice and respect for all of its citizens.

So although laws intrinsically define the identity of nations, religious groups and associations, laws also have the potential to exclude and discriminate against “them” who are different from “us”.  And exclusion and discrimination lead to ignorance, stereotyping and injustice.  This is why and how racism insidiously thrives in many social institutions.

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Black History Month was established in 1926 with the aim of overcoming the issues of identity and exclusion of people of Black African descent, whose 12 million ancestors were transported to the Americas and the Caribbean where they were enslaved for more than three centuries.  Here we are, 90 years later, with valid reasons justifying the need to have Black History Month.

The economic contribution of slave-based labour and the slave trade to the world is still conspicuously absent from mainstream history books. The financial proceeds of trading in slaves lined the pockets of plantation owners and fuelled the industrial revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries.

  • Slavery was a highly profitable investment which yielded rates of return that compared favourably with most investment opportunities in manufacturing.  For example, a study conducted by Alfred Conrad and John Meyer and reported in The Economist magazine, indicates that slave capital yielded a return on investment as high as 13% compared to a yield of 6% to 8% on the railroads.

We still need Black History Month because the many inventions and accomplishments of persons of Black African descent have yet to be widely acknowledged and publicized beyond the four weeks in February every year.

  • Did you know the first Canadian to be awarded the Victorian Cross for gallantry was Alexander Roberts Dunn, a Black soldier from Nova Scotia, who served in the Crimean War?
  • There’s Elijah McCoy, the Black Canadian inventor and engineer.  His 57 patents including lubrication devices for steam engines greatly contributed to workers’ safety, transportation systems and industrial development in Canada.
  • In more recent times, we have Henry T. Sampson, the inventor of the cell phone.  There’s the trio of Black women mathematicians – Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, whose work at NASA contributed significantly to space travel safety.

The Church also needs Black History Month. Eurocentric interpretations of the Bible have generally failed to acknowledge the presence and role of Black people in Biblical history, in Jesus’ ministry and in the spreading of the Gospel.  There is Moses’ wife Zipporah and the Queen of Sheba among several Old Testament personalities.  There is Simon of Cyrene, the Black man who helped Jesus carry his cross.  Mary Magdalene was in Jesus’ entourage.  The Ethiopian eunuch, a man of great influence, accepted Jesus Christ as His Lord and Saviour and continued on his way back to Africa, where I am sure he spread the Good News.

The systemic exclusion of the contribution, presence and truthful history of Black people has served to perpetuate negative perceptions of the Black race and has undermined the progress of Black people everywhere.

Black History Month is a valiant effort to highlight the on-going need for the inclusion of the missing pages in the world’s history books and seeks to remind us and educate us about how we came to this place….together.

But Black History month is not enough.

In the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement championed the need to enact anti-discriminatory laws and affirmative action.  These laws acknowledge the presence of visible minorities and legislate the prevention of exclusion from economic opportunity and social participation on the basis of race.

The recent emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement and its militant demands for formal dialogue and recognition tell us that the war on identity and inclusion is still being waged.  Race riots, reports of racial profiling and the disparities in the economic and social conditions of visible minorities are persistent reminders that anti-discriminatory laws don’t guarantee inclusion and justice.

So laws are not enough because they only provide minimum standards and cannot bring us up to be the best we can be.

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Turning to today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is preaching His Sermon on the Mount, where he declared earlier that He has not come to abolish Roman Civilian Law or the Religious Law upheld by the Prophets.  We hear Jesus refer to Religious Law – an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth – straight out of the book of Deuteronomy.  He then refers to Roman Civilian Law which gives a person of high social rank the right to use his left hand to slap the cheek of the person of lower social rank.  Jesus also refers to the law allowing a Roman soldier to force a citizen to carry a Roman soldier’s heavy coat for a maximum of one mile.

Both Religious Law and Roman Civilian Law are exact and clearly define their versions of justice and the rights of persons.

Jesus surprisingly instructs His listeners to do more than what these oppressive laws permit.  We are to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile and above all, we are to love our enemies.  He says that it is by loving our enemies that we become perfect like God.  Perfect love is God’s true identity.  If our identity is founded on Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our lives must reflect the love of God.

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And what is love?  Regardless of how you define it, love always points us to the highest good.  Love is given full expression in the way we treat people, individually and collectively.  So we cannot speak about love without speaking about inclusion, justice and the rule of law.

I must admit that it took me a really long time to understand Jesus’ teaching about turning the other cheek.  But on the day that I did understand it, I gained a whole new perspective on how Christians should respond to oppressive laws and acts of injustice.

As I mentioned earlier, under Roman law at the time of Jesus’ ministry, persons of higher social rank had the right to slap the face of a person of lower social rank – but the slap had to be given with the left hand as the right hand was reserved for religious actions and could not be defiled.  So if someone wanted to slap another person in the face with their left hand, they would have to deliver the blow to the right cheek.  If the person receiving the slap were to turn his left cheek as Jesus suggested, the slapper would have to use their right ‘holy’ hand to deliver the blow.  By following Jesus’ suggestion to turn the left cheek to be slapped, it would mean that the oppressor would have to stop and think before striking again.  He would have to consider firstly, if he should defile his right ‘holy’ hand.  Secondly, and more importantly, he would hopefully question himself as to whether or not his action was right and fair to the other person.

 

So what I understand is that Jesus was advocating a radical form of nonviolent action as the line of defense to oppressive laws and injustice.  This principle of nonviolent protest and moral suasion is meant to appeal to the conscience of the oppressor to consider whether or not the law is fair and serves the highest good of all citizens – regardless of their race, gender, religion or any other differentiating criteria.

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The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. applied Jesus’ principle of nonviolent protest and moral suasion in the Civil Rights Movement.  Under Dr. King’s leadership, millions of Black persons took to the streets for peaceful protests as well as acts of civil disobedience.  A major factor in the success of the movement was the strategy of protesting for equal rights without using violence.  And where did this lead to?  Thankfully racial discrimination was outlawed and laws forbidding injustice and upholding racial equality were enacted.

Enshrined within Jesus’ radical teaching on nonviolent protest and moral suasion is the principle of love, which is the spirit of the law and the foundation of justice.  Love is the guiding principle of the law that God gave to Moses.  I daresay that laws in free and fair societies are enacted to uphold the principles of justice and the highest good of its citizens.

But in spite of anti-discriminatory laws, racism and injustice still persist.  Why?

The answer is simple.  Love cannot be legislated.  Genuine love cannot be enforced by the law.  Love comes from the heart and motivates right actions that go beyond the limits and requirements of the law.

Jesus is calling us, His people, to enshrine the principle of love in all our actions.  As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, “Love never fails.”  When all else fails, love, like God eternal, never fails.  When everything else is lost, God’s love is all we have left.  Paul also tells the Christians in Rome that “God’s love is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us.”  The capacity to love comes from God.  Love is the fruit of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.  We are channels of God’s love.

For my part, as a Black person who has had to confront racism and injustice, I am reassured that my identity as a Christian, is founded and built on the love of God.  Like the crucified Christ, I must forgive and love those who don’t know that what they are doing is not loving, respectful or inclusive.  This means that I must love and forgive the Christian woman I overheard saying that the ‘N’ word is not at all offensive.  I must love and forgive the defense lawyer and judge who attempted to entice me to play the race card in a court of law.  I must love and forgive the city official who considers my outrage at the selective removal of racist graffiti on public property as being my problem, not hers or the city’s.  I must love and forgive Canadian border agents who harass me when I am travelling alone, but welcome me without any problem when I am travelling with my White Canadian husband.  I must love and forgive my co-worker who openly declared that I need to trade in marijuana in order to give credibility to my Jamaican identity.

The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit empowers me to love and forgive.

Black History Month reminds me that the love of God conquers all.

It is the love of God that sustained my enslaved foreparents throughout their journey to freedom.  It is the love of God and respect for human dignity that motivated the Christian Abolitionist movement.  It is the love of God that motivated the Civil Rights Movement, led by Dr. King who enlisted the support of persons of other religions and races to advocate for inclusion and equal rights for all.  It is the love of God that motivates us here today as a fellowship of Christian believers to build an inclusive Church, nation and world.

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Today, as Ella is marked with the water of baptism, she receives the mark of her Christian identity, which is the love of God.  We join with Ella’s parents Amanda and Mark and all of her family, to make a commitment to nurture Ella in the ways of God’s love that transcends race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, health status and all the other social identifiers.

As we lovingly encircle Ella and her family today, it doesn’t matter one bit that there are differences in our racial or cultural identities.  We are affirming our common identity as God’s people – a people committed to love, justice and the highest good of all.

As we kneel at the altar to partake in Holy Communion, let us remember that Jesus’ death is the greatest act of love ever committed for all humanity.  For this reason, we come to the Lord’s Table as equals, loved unconditionally by God and as members of the whole human race.

I end with the words of Nelson Mandela –

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion.  People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Thanks be to God and to you for giving me the opportunity to speak this morning.

I love you. May God bless you all!  Amen.

3 Lessons from Learning to Listen to God

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Feeling vulnerable, confused and anxious come with the territory of personal uncertainty, particularly in relation to life’s big questions – Who should I marry?  Should I take this job?  Where should I live?  Why am I here?  What’s my life’s purpose?   

We only find the answers when we find our truth.  Our truth is what’s right for us in our particular situation.

While the good advice of others cannot always be discounted, it is really up to each person to find their own truth.

Finding one’s truth can be very tricky.  This is because no one but you really knows what impassions you or what your life’s purpose really is.  Intuitionthe ability to know without conscious reasoning – for most of us, is generally the source of our truth.  Whenever I have come to a crossroads in my life’s journey, I have had to rely on my intuition to take the next step.  Admittedly, this is not easy, but I have learned a few lessons, which I share below –

Lesson #1 – Claim your own power

It takes faith to own your truth, which only you intuitively know.  Intuitively knowing doesn’t always come easily to most of us as we’ve been taught and conditioned to rely on our intellect, logic and reasoning to solve our problems and find the right answers tough questions.  It’s very easy to buy into the good advice of others, without really knowing that what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for us. To follow someone else’s dream is to surrender your own power and deprive yourself of the pleasure and fulfilment of your life’s mission.

As a Christian, I consider intuition to be the quiet voice of God speaking specifically to me and my situation.  In fact the apostle Paul, in his first letter to the church at Corinth speaks about the capacity of the Christian mind to discern and understand spiritual truths.  When we personalize these truths, we gain personal insight and direction.

What I know now is that following my intuition is the best way to claim my power and find true fulfillment in life. 

In my experience, silent meditation opens the mental space for inspiration and the voice of intuition to be heard.  Positive affirmations and mantras support alignment of purpose and intention.  The inner knowing that comes from intuition empowers me to take action in the face of risk and uncertainty.  This requires faith and surrendering the outcome.

On the face of it, it seems ironic to say that claiming one’s power requires faith and the ability to surrender. This is because we often equate power with control.  Faith and surrender require that we relinquish the power to control outcomes.  My experience has taught me that there is power in faith and in surrendering the outcome.

Lesson #2 – The power of faith

Whenever I tried to control the outcome of situations beyond my control, I realized how powerless I made myself become.  I ended up being sick with worry and the effects of anxiety attacks over things like other people’s decision to hire me, extreme weather conditions, election results, etc.

What I know now is that the only power I really have is faith.  

Faith is the courage to say “Thy will be done.” For me, faith lets me know that regardless of the outcome, I’ll be okay.  I’ve come to understand that the Universe is God’s orchestra and that understanding the interplay of events with the benefit of hindsight has reaffirmed my mantra that “All things are working together for good.”

Lesson #3 – The power of surrendering

Having faith for a specific outcome can be very limiting.  In fact, I have been fortunate to learn this lesson the easy way.  The hard way would have been to get what I thought I really wanted only to find out later that I had missed out on enriching opportunities.  With the benefits of initial disappointment and hindsight, I have come to understand that very often, what seems to be the best really isn’t.  Several declined applications to advanced degree programs, made me feel crushed and caused me to question my faith.  Taking a partly paid leave of absence from a job in which I saw no future, opened the door to a scholarship to study abroad for 2 years, a promotion on my return and I eventually had the opportunity to migrate to a country where there was greater scope for professional growth and expansion.

What I know now is that if all things are working together for good, then I leave myself open to limitless possibilities.  

I don’t have to have all the answers, but I do have to know my truth.  Guided by my intuition, if I am clear on my life’s purpose, affirm my intention and have faith, I know that the final outcome will lead me to my highest good.

 

Christ in me, the hope of glory…That’s why glory matters!

www.camilleisaacsmorell.com

 

Bold Faith: Piety, personal agenda or God’s will?

Jesus’ ministry was marked by His preaching to pious, religious, Jewish people, who, by Biblical accounts, held many prejudiced beliefs about Gentiles.

In St. Mark’s gospel, the story is told of how Jesus honoured the faith of a Syrophonecian woman as she begged Him to cast a demon out of her daughter.

“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”   [Jews regarded Syrophonecians as dogs.]

“Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”

She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Jesus spoke in terms to which the Jews could relate.  His play on words was really a challenge to the Jewish disciples who were listening to His conversation with the Syrophonecian woman.  This begs the question – was Jesus indirectly addressing deep-seated prejudice and self-righteous piety that may have been in the hearts of his disciples?

I believe that Jesus was fully aware of the woman’s faith and was prepared to redeem her daughter from the grip of the devil.  But Jesus’ message was clear:  Salvation is not reserved for a few.  It was the Jews’ responsibility to accept Jesus’ teachings and spread the Good News to other nations.

Two dimensions of faith: trust and belief

Faith is the universally acceptable response to the Good News.  Responsive faith has two dimensions – belief and trust – both demonstrated by the Syrophonecian woman’s bold declarations that Jesus could rid her daughter of the demon and her belief that the Good News of salvation was also for the Gentiles.

Recent events have given rise to my own reflection on how declarations of faith can appear to be a veil for self-righteous piety and the promotion of personal agendas.

 

Belief or self-righteous piety?

  • The US Supreme Court’s ruling that makes same-sex marriages legal, has led to an uproar of debates in many Christian communities with quotes from the Bible to justify labelling ‘us’ against ‘them.’

It’s not my intention to make or break the case for same-sex marriage here.  I have a greater concern.  I question if the reaction in some Christian quarters is really about deeply rooted fear of others who are ‘different’?  I also question, if in the heated debates and hubris, have we strayed from the baseline teachings of Jesus – love of God and our neighbours?

The core belief of our Christian faith is love.  Jesus’ death is the greatest manifestation of love, motivated by our need for redemption.   If we agree that all of us are beneficiaries of God’s redemptive love, shouldn’t our faith lead us to embrace diversity as we proclaim the Good News?

Trust in God or a personal agenda?

  • And speaking about proclaiming the Good News, I recently learned that a prosperity preaching televangelist asked his congregation to purchase him a $65M private jet.

The intention to purchase the private jet was “to help empower the ministry to reach the lost and change precious lives around the world.”  Fair enough.  But I am led to question if the televangelist’s trusting faith has more to do with his own agenda, than the big picture of God’s plan when the televangelist declared: “I can dream as long as I want to. I can believe God as long as I want to. If I want to believe God for a $65 million plane, you cannot stop me. You cannot stop me from dreaming.”  I won’t judge the motivations and faith of the televangelist and his followers.  I will say, though, that the messages are mixed.

True faith expresses bold humility

There is much we can learn from Jesus’ encounter with the Syrophonecian woman:

  • Falling at Jesus’ feet was an act of humility, setting the stage for her bold declaration of trust and belief.
  • The woman had a trusting faith as she begged Jesus to heal her daughter.
  • Before receiving Jesus’ confirmation that her daughter was healed, she boldly declared her transcendent belief in God’s universal plan of redemption for all people.

May we, like the Syrophonecian woman, have faith that is marked by bold humility as we declare the Good News and receive the blessing of answered prayers.

Christ in you, the hope of glory.  That’s why glory matters.

www.camilleisaacsmorell.com

@glorymatters

Women’s rights & freedom of responsible choice

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In the week that has followed International Women’s Day, I have read with interest some very impressive statistics on the progress women have made over the years. Earning the right to vote, ascension to leadership in Fortune 500 companies, success in male-dominated professions and legislation protecting safety, pay scales and employment access were in the mix of articles and social media posts published on or around March 8.

In spite of the progress, we must lament the fact that far too many women with limited access to economic opportunities continue to be persuaded or forced into prostitution and human trafficking situations, where they are sexually exploited for the profit and entertainment of unscrupulous men.

Just one month before International Women’s Day, the 2015 Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition was released with the model on the cover removing her bikini bottom, leaving very little to the imagination. Appallingly outrageous!

But before you think I’m going to take a prudish position on this, I’ll say that I am thrilled that feminism has earned women the right to make our own choices. We can boldly be who we want to be, choose what we wear and how we wear or not wear what we want to wear. Bravo!

What I find appalling is the consensual use of a woman’s body as a sexual object to market men’s entertainment products. I am disappointed that the model on the Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover has chosen to have her body used in this way. It does nothing to uplift the portrayal and image of women and it is a slap in the face to the many women and men who are working so very hard to build respect and gender equality.

It is unfortunate that the media is neither an enabler nor a game changer in the quest for genuine gender equality. The 2014 Hollywood Diversity Report states that 74.4% of leading roles in Hollywood movies are portrayed by men. With the majority of movies telling men’s stories and women who too often play secondary roles as lovers, wives and girlfriends, it is no small wonder that stereotypes of women as sex objects continue to be perpetuated.

I am not advocating censure. I am advocating opportunities and choices for women to be positively portrayed in the media, which influences public perceptions. Bearing in mind that men make up approximately 50% of the population, women need to make responsible choices about the opportunities they accept in the domains of advertising and entertainment. In spite of any progress women make in the corporate, academic or any other field of economic activity, the portrayal of women in the media holds an even greater influence on the way in which women are perceived and treated by men.

I stand fully behind the programs that support women’s professional development. Kudos to the women and men who have launched projects to increase the proportion of women on corporate boards and in senior leadership positions. But since we believe in freedom of choice, not all women will choose to ascend the corporate hierarchical ladder, if and where it exists, in the new corporate world order.

The focus must be on empowering women and girls to develop their talents in whichever field they desire, and to have the self-confidence to decline offers of economic gain that objectify them for the benefit of men’s entertainment.

Christ in you, the hope of glory.  That’s why glory matters.

@Glorymatters

http://www.camilleisaacsmorell.com

 

What advertising agencies do for their clients, we’re called to do for Christ.

Originally published on Christ Notes – Week of 23 October 2013

You’ve probably heard these slogans: “Just do it,” “Drivers wanted,” and “It’s everywhere you want to be.” And you’ve almost certainly heard of Nike, Volkswagen, and Visa; however, you probably have never heard of the advertising agencies that coined those slogans: Wieden & Kennedy; Arnold Communications; and Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn.

In a lot of ways, we’re supposed to be like those advertising agencies. We are called to proclaim the name of Jesus to the entire world; we’re not called to proclaim the name of our denomination, our ministry, our church, or our pastor.

Compare how often you talk about your church or your pastor versus how often you talk about Jesus.

When unbelievers see Christianity, I can’t help but wonder how many of them simply see a bunch of denominations fighting about petty issues: Contemporary vs. traditional worship? Drums and guitar vs. organ and hymns? Powerpoint slides vs. hymn book? Jeans and tee-shirt vs. suit and tie?

Instead, wouldn’t our testimony to the world be so much better if, with one voice, we proclaimed “Jesus!”? In Romans 15:9, Paul writes, Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name. Paul’s singular focus was on making the name of Jesus known throughout the world.

It’s not about your church, your ministry, your Bible study, your small group, or your denomination. Your single focus should be on shouting the name of Jesus to all peoples. Your life should be a walking advertisement for the hope, peace, and joy that’s available to all people in Christ.

Prayers of a man in prison

In an earlier post, I observed that the church’s mission goes beyond our preferences and perceptions of how, where and who to serve. The church’s mission is rooted in Jesus’ command in the great commission defined in Matthew 28 v 19 – 20 to teach others about who God is and what it means to follow Him.

True it is that there are many people who won’t be reached initially through Biblical teachings. Like Jesus, we also have to commit ourselves to activities that cater to both the physical and spiritual well-being of others. This is what sets the Church apart from other social service organizations.

Christians must commit to intentionally and actively understanding the needs in our communities and beyond and make a collective effort to address these needs by spreading the Good News in word and action. Acting on this understanding of mission in the local context will require the abandonment of assumptions and judgements about people and their circumstances. Mission will require us to go into places where all hope seems to be dimmed by the darkness of sin, suffering and despair. In the face of resistance, we must still press on with sharing the Good News.

Prisons are dangerous, difficult places where inmates have many reasons to have very little or no hope. With lives rooted in poverty, abuse, abandonment, addiction and crime, some are repeat offenders, never having been given any guiding principles, labelled as incorrigible, despised and forgotten by their families.

The Prison Chaplaincy Programme at the Cowansville Correctional Centre offers the opportunity for mission. Under the leadership of Rev. Canon Tim Smart, volunteers visit the prison to participate in Bible studies and fellowship meetings lasting more than an hour each week. These meetings provide the opportunity for inmates to hear the Good News and commit themselves to personal transformation and eventual reintegration in the society.

During a visit nearly two years ago, one inmate, serving a life sentence, expressed his helpless, hopeless frustration at being locked away from society and his desire to die, rather than continue living in prison. The inmate, who I will call “Louis,” is a repeat offender with a heavy criminal record, once considered among the most dangerous criminals in Québec. In his frustrated state of mind, he vehemently declared that the teachings of the Bible on hope and salvation could have no meaning to him.

On the face of it, we could empathize and take a hands-off approach, offer to say a prayer and not persist with bringing the message of hope and the Good News to this frustrated man. However, in the months that followed, it was the commitment of the Prison Chaplaincy Programme volunteers to fulfill the Church’s mission that has led Louis to share the following prayers that he wrote earlier this year and has taped to the wall of his cell:

Prayer of an inmate
Lord, from the depth of my cell, here I am humbly before you, calm and at peace by your great mercy O God my Saviour.
I thank you for this day – one more has passed. Even if the other inmates say that I’m serving a long, hard sentence, in this way I’m getting to know you better O Jesus.
It is not easy to be on the inside, in prison and to call on Your Name. When the other inmates hear Your Name, they say that they are here because of You. This is why I need Your strength. Increase my faith so that I may live each day in the joy of Your forgiveness and in the hope of Your presence.
Watch over my family who are on the outside. Fill them with your love and peace and may we one day,
By Your grace, be reunited. Amen

I’ve changed
Lord, I no longer recognize myself. I, who was violent and impulsive, have become calm and patient.
I, who wanted to win always and everywhere, have learned to become a good person.
I, who was lazy and a thief, now work to earn my living.
I, who would always be ashamed to pray to you alone, here I am, praying to you along with other people.
Frankly Lord, I have come a long way. Never would I have believed that I am capable of changing this much. You know how happy I am. I am comfortable in my own skin. I am at peace and I feel free.
But what I want to say to you, above all, is that I am aware that this change does not only depend on me. Much of it comes from You. For this reason, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Amen

These beautiful prayers of a former criminal are testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit working through people who are committed to mission.

Sharing the Good News and helping to transform lives, everywhere, at all times and in all places as God leads is the best and right use of the teachings of the Bible. That is what mission is all about.