Sunday, November 22, 2020

Sharing Our Stories: Empathy is an Art


The Art of Empathy
A guest post by Marie W. Watts

Being the change we seek requires us to practice empathy. 

Simply put, empathy is trying to understand another person’s feelings.  

According to Merriam-Webster, sympathy implies sharing (or having the capacity to share) the feelings of another, while empathy tends to be used to mean imagining, or having the capacity to imagine, feelings that we do not actually have.   

If I have had a divorce, for instance, it is easy to imagine the feelings of another who is going through marital issues (sympathy). However, if I’ve never been in that situation, conjuring up that emotional state may not be so simple (empathy).

Matthew 9:35-38 (NIV) describes how Jesus Christ practiced compassion. Compassion refers to both having empathy and the desire to mitigate the pain:

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  


As our journey in the footsteps of Jesus Christ unfolds, how do we develop empathy for those who are different from us, so we can move to compassion? A few suggestions follow …

    When we are in a one-on-one situation:

·      Suspend judgment. Don’t judge until you know the person better.

·      Listen.    

·      Ask questions if you think something is wrong.    

·      Ask about feelings.

·      Show concern.

·      Pay attention to the needs of others.

 

When listening, follow these tips:

 

·      Reflect the speaker’s feelings. Example: That must have been a terrible experience.      

·      Ask for clarification using “I” phrases. Example: I’m not sure I understand. Not You’re not making any sense.

·      Use eye contact.

·      Show interest through body language.

·      Don't plan rebuttals.

·      Don't jump to conclusions.

·      Give the person your undivided attention.

·      Don’t interrupt or impose your solutions.

·      Summarize what you believe the person is saying.

Often, we are not in a position to speak with individuals who are different from us. We can still develop empathy by reading or watching programs about their experiences. My next novel involves a character whose mother is mixed race African American and Korean. Until I read an anthology of stories by these individuals, I never realized the pain and suffering they endured.      

Lastly, if you are in a position to ease someone’s pain, do so. There’s quite a bit of hurt in the world right now, and we can all use some tender loving care.

~*~

Author Bio:


Marie W. Watts is a former employment discrimination investigator and human resource consultant with over twenty-five years of experience. In pursuit of justice in the workplace, she’s been from jails to corporate boardrooms seeing the good, the bad, and the ugly of humans at work.  

Her on-the-job observations came in handy when she co-authored a textbook about how to behave at work, Human Relations 4th ed. Additionally, her work has been published in the Texas Bar Journal and the Houston Business Journal as well as featured on Issues Today syndicated to 119 radio stations, NBC San Antonio, Texas, and TAMU-TV in College Station, Texas. 

A popular diversity and employment discrimination trainer, Marie has trained thousands of employees to recognize their own biases and prejudices and avoid discriminating against others in the workplace. She has brought her experiences to life in the trilogy Warriors For Equal Rights about the struggles of ordinary people who work at the little-known federal agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

She and her husband live on a ranch in central Texas. In her spare time, she supports a historic house and hangs out with her grandsons. For more information about Marie and her stories about life, visit www.mariewatts.com

~*~
Connect with Marie:
Bookbub - https://www.bookbub.com/profile/marie-w-watts
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/mariewattsbooks
Twitter - https://twitter.com/MarieWattsBooks
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/mariewattswriter/
Linkedin - https://www.linkedin.com/in/marie-w-watts-5b2a2b/

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Sharing Our Stories: Roseanna's Review of "Wings Like a Dove" (book)


Roseanna M. White’s review of the book Wings Like a Dove by Camille Eide:

“Any town that is predominantly white could not possibly be so by accident.” 

This is a line and indeed an idea that I first encountered in the author’s note of Wings Like a Dove, which is in turn quoted as the premise of Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism by James Lowen, which in part inspired Camille Eide to write her novel, Wings Like a Dove. Until I read this masterfully written historical by Eide, I’d never heard of “sundown towns,” where people of color were not allowed to remain after dark. Coming from a town and county with an extremely low minority rate, this statement made me open my eyes in new ways to my own community and wonder what it would have been like a hundred years ago.

Wings Like a Dove is by no means a non-fiction treatise though—it’s an engaging, soul-piercing work of historical fiction that lingered with me for months after reading it. Have you ever read one of those books that’s so packed full of spiritual and emotional truths that you want to bring it into nearly every conversation while you’re reading it, and long after? Yeah…that’s how this book was for me.

The story is about Anna, a Jewish immigrant from Poland who finds herself in a terrible predicament. She’s pregnant, and she’s unmarried. Her mother gives her an ultimatum: go to a home for unwed mothers and agree to sign her child over to the institution or be disowned. Anna, however, can’t comply when she sees some of the shifty things going on at the home. So she does the only thing she can think to do: She packs a bag and heads west, determined to track down her father, who none of them have heard from in years.

Her path leads her to a small Indiana town, where a passel of orphan boys—and the former minister who is in charge of them—are in rather desperate need of help. One of the boys, Sam, was told he couldn’t attend the local school because he’s Black…and so, all the boys quit with him. Which means they’ll all be in hot water unless they can pass the tests for their school years. Rather desperate herself, Anna agrees to tutor them and cook and keep house—for a while. But she knows she can’t stay long or her shameful situation will become known.

Tossed straight into a town fully in the clutches of the then-newly-revitalized KKK, Anna experiences what too many of us have chosen to forget or not teach our children about: the terrors of a white supremacist culture, where the supposedly upright, moral citizens were willing to stoop to terror to preserve what they called the “pure American” lifestyle. Anna, being Jewish, learns firsthand about this hatred; and feels it all the more keenly for Sam, the sweet-natured boy who is clearly hiding an inner agony. Also in the crosshairs of the Klan are the Catholic nuns who are the only ones who will bring aid to the group of orphans and their guardians.

What I love about fiction is that it can ask the hard questions in ways that truly touch our hearts. Wings Like a Dove asks questions about how we can tear down the invisible walls between us. How we can choose to walk a different path. How we can open our eyes to what makes our hearts the same and be blind only to what would drive us apart. How we can love, forgive, and embolden others to do the same with our actions.

As a novel, Wings Like a Dove is riveting and so very impactful that it will forever remain one of my favorite books. As a glimpse into our nation’s shadowy history, it’s a heart-wrenching portrayal of an era that was filled with terror for anyone who was a minority in race or religion of which I’d known far too little before reading this. As a faith-filled work, it’s a reminder that God and His love are bigger than all the walls we build. Bigger than all the hatred we stack up. Bigger than all our excuses. And it challenged me to look deeper at my own heart, my family, my church, and my community.

Because those invisible walls that separate us can be torn down—but only if we put in the work to do so.

~*~
Reviewer's Bio:
Roseanna M. White is a bestselling, Christy Award nominated author who has long claimed that words are the air she breathes.  

When not writing fiction, she’s homeschooling her two kids, editing for WhiteFire Publishing, designing book covers, and pretending her house will clean itself.

Roseanna is the author of a slew of historical novels that span several continents and thousands of years. Spies and war and mayhem always seem to find their way into her books … to offset her real life, which is blessedly ordinary.

You can learn more about her and her stories at www.RoseannaMWhite.com.

~*~
Connect with Roseanna:
Blog: https://roseannamwhite.com/blog/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RoseannaMWhite/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/roseannamwhite/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/roseannamwhite/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RoseannaMWhite
Website: https://www.roseannamwhite.com

~*~
Book Blurb for Wings Like a Dove:

Can the invisible walls that separate people ever come down? 


In 1933, Anna Leibowicz is convinced that the American dream that brought her Jewish family here from Poland is nothing but an illusion. Her father has vanished. Her dreams of college can’t make it past the sweat-shop door. And when she discovers to her shame and horror that she’s with child, her mother gives her little choice but to leave her family. Deciding her best course of action is to try to find her father, she strikes out…hoping against hope to somehow redeem them both.

When Anna stumbles upon a house full of orphan boys in rural Indiana who are in desperate need of a tutor, she agrees to postpone her journey. But she knows from the moment she meets their contemplative, deep-hearted caretaker, Thomas Chandler, that she doesn’t dare risk staying too long. She can’t afford to open her heart to them, to him. She can’t risk letting her secrets out.

All too soon, the townspeople realize she’s not like them and treat her with the same disdain they give the Sisters of Mercy—the nuns who help Thomas and the boys—and Samuel, the quiet colored boy Thomas has taken in. With the Klan presence in the town growing ever stronger and the danger to this family increasing the longer she stays, Anna is torn between fleeing to keep them safe…and staying to fight beside them.

Oh, that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest…

~*~
Author Bio:

Camille Eide writes more than a romance with her tender tales of love, faith, and family for those who enjoy inspirational romance and women's fiction. 


Her novel, The Memoir of Johnny Devine, was awarded 5 Gold Stars/Top Pick, Best Inspirational Romance, the December Seal of Excellence from RT Book Reviews, and Oregon Christian Writers' Best Historical Fiction.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Sharing Our Stories: Being "Woke"


The Hole in the Soul of America
A Guest post by Dr. Angelle M. Jones

“Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” 
–Psalm 82:3-4 (NIV)

I cannot remember exactly, but I believe I was a mere twenty-one years old when I voted for the first time. This year, I voted by absentee ballot; another first.

I was surprised because in my early years of ministry, I traveled and relocated from one city and state to another. I guess wherever I traveled, one way or another I always returned in time to cast my personal vote at the polls.

As always, I prayed, I did my research, and studied the candidates. It seemed to feel more daunting than ever before. It also seemed to take much longer than it should have. As strange as it may seem, it was not that it was difficult to know who I would vote for, instead I was challenged because for the first time in many years, I felt free to vote how I chose to vote. For the first time, I set myself free from the bondage of voting the way I was told I should vote.

During the most controversial election in my life time, along with my first absentee ballot, came the freedom to vote my own conscious. This election, not my Black family or friends, or my White church would tell me how to vote. This time, after forty years of voting, I showed up as an emotionally healthy, spiritually mature adult. No longer divided by race or religion. Free in the comfort of my own sacred space, called home. Free from the elements. Free from being harassed with sample ballots by last minute campaigners. Freed from the volunteers and onlooker’s stares holding me captive, if my ballot wasn’t found in the majority party’s book for my neighborhood. This time as I marked my ballot, it was as if I heard it shout loudly in return, “Free at last, free at last!” Thank God Almighty, she’s free at last!

In the midst of what political analysts are considering to be the most divisive election in my lifetime, I had the unmitigated gall to vote just how I wanted to. I realized as I toiled to fill in the empty white circles legibly, as they were colored black by the stroke of my pencil, I was finally returning to myself from a wilderness journey of personal deconstruction. The years of grief, loss, tears, and finally emotional and spiritual growth were all left on that road to my current state of being, which had now become my transformation of reconstruction.

I was woke for the first time in years, or possibly, the first time ever. I felt as though I could think clearly, more importantly, I could finally think for myself. No more did I have to follow whoever showed up as the leader of who I should vote for, which party, which candidate, or which issue. I would not allow my family, my race, nor my religion, continue to hold the reins on my way of doing life any longer, especially as it related to how I spent my time at the ballot box.

As it happens, I finally accepted the fact that from now on, I am free to be the leader of how I cast my ballot. I finally embraced the baton passed down from generations of my ancestors who showed up at the polls in years past, knowing it could cost them their life to even show up to vote. Those same dark melanin ancestors like Fannie Lou Hamer, marched to the polls anyway, prepared to vote her conscious, after being beaten days before, for trying to register to vote.

It takes a relationship with a liberator to liberate oneself from the bondages of sin and evil. The soul of America sadly, is an interconnection of both ills, the sin of racism and the evil of oppression. As my grandmother would probably say, this country is “Rotten to the core.”

To be fair, the most important lesson learned, is it takes a liberated mindset to free one from themselves. To be freed from oneself, is to be freed from allowing the oppressive attitudes and actions of individual or collective oppressors to control your life. What I finally learned from my own wilderness journey, was, no matter how oppressed you may feel, you can free yourself.

When your mind is free, no matter how tight the physical chains, as the Apostle Paul says in Galatians 5:1 (NIV), “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” I finally set myself free to vote as I chose, and although it may have been with good intentions, not how others instructed me to in the past.

Today we need leaders like the prophet Asaph, in Psalm 82. Bold prophets and leaders who are willing to call out the modern-day oppressors. These individuals need to be called out from hiding the darkness of voter suppression, and even the manipulation of bullying Christians who try to make their political opponents feel threatened because they don’t vote a certain way. Yes, to vote is to offer one aspect of your voice, however to defend the weak, and not only the aborted fetus, but also the fatherless children, should be the voice of today’s prophets. Where are those who God has called to speak in behalf of the weak and needy?

From now on, I will cherish the right of American citizens to vote as they please. Instead of stacking votes for their preferred party and political pundits, hopefully Christian leaders from all political parties will strive to uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.

This is my prayer: O Lord I pray, raise up the people of your Kingdom, who are willing to work as one, from the Conservative Right and the Liberal Left, to rescue the oppressed from their wicked oppressors.

~*~
Author Bio:

“Inspiring and Motivating With the Power of Words” 


Angelle M. Jones believes that the power of words inspires, and motivate to bring about transformative change individually and collectively.

Angelle originally hails from Cleveland, Ohio. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in African-American studies from the University of Cincinnati. Angelle has a master’s degree in Theological Studies from Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia and an earned Doctorate in Ministry on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, and his philosophy of The Beloved Community from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.

Her ministry career began as a staff member of the Northeastern Ohio Billy Graham Crusade in 1994. For twenty years, as founder and director of In The Spirit Ministries, Inc. she led teams on mission outreaches throughout the world. From 2007-2012 Angelle served as Missions Director of New Salem Missionary Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio where she currently resides. Angelle is founder and director of GlobaLife Coaching and Consulting serving as a Life and Transformation Coach and Church Consultant.

In 2016 Angelle authored and self-published her first book, Happily Never After. Along with sharing words of hope by sharing her writings on her social media platforms, she has been published in Vantage Magazine which is a literary source for faculty, students and alumni of Columbia Theological Seminary, and Ready which is a cutting-edge online magazine addressing current events and trending socially relevant topics for women.

Angelle is the mother of an adult daughter. She is a grandmother and great-grandmother.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Sharing Our Stories: Challenging the status quo


Challenging the Status Quo: Going Against Our Elders

A guest post by Kristen Terrette

Spiritual Elders. We all have them. They may be our church leaders or mentors. Or grandparents. Or parents. Or even our friends’ parents. 

Really, what I consider an elder is anyone with earned respect through evidence of wisdom and spiritual maturity. It’s a position garnered through life experience, and it warrants a level of reverence and humility in the mentee. It’s a place, even if figuratively, of honor.

But what happens when an elder lets you down? Are we, as the underling, allowed to combat them? Do we speak up about the injustice? Or are we supposed to halt our mouths?

I’ve been dealing with this struggle a lot lately when it comes to the tension amongst whites and black or brown people. It seems the moment you agree to take a stand and do your part in fighting racial injustice of any kind, the devil comes prowling to show you just how weak and unworthy of the cause you are.

I’ve dealt with family members who don’t see eye to eye with my views on interracial dating or marriage. I’ve had someone who went to school with my husband incorrectly assume I’d be offended if I had a biracial grandchild one day. These were handled, hopefully, appropriately when I carefully stated I did not agree with their opinions. But recently, I was confronted not once, but twice with an uncomfortable situation with an elder.

And now, I’m feeling like I didn’t handle it correctly. That I let God and the people of color in my life down. Let me explain.

I was at an event with many childhood friends, and a man I’ve known a long time proceeded to tell a racist joke. My back was turned away from him at the time. He wasn’t close by but made an effort to tell the awful joke loudly so all could hear it. I froze, not knowing what to do. I decided to pretend I didn’t hear him, to ignore him. Maybe that way he’d leave having gotten no reaction from his audience. And no one, to my knowledge because I had my back to them, did indulge him. I didn’t hear laughing or comments. And honestly, it happened so fast, I thought: Okay, I reacted somewhat appropriately to that despicable joke which completely disgusted everything inside of me.

But then, hours later, he drew near once more and told another racist joke. A different one, like he had plenty to choose from, all stored away in his mind to pull forth when he wanted. I was facing my friend and, again, not him at the time. Both our eyes went wide. Our expressions turned angry and red as we, through the eye stare only close friends can have, silently asked each other, “What do we do?” 
I steeled my body against the rage. We rolled our eyes and made extra effort not to allow any movement or sound escape. We silently told one another not to let him even think he got a laugh out of us. 

But I didn’t say anything. Didn’t call him out for this repulsive humor. Didn’t stand and leave the area with a snarl he could see. Didn’t make sure, absolutely sure, he knew I didn’t think his jokes—or rather insults—were funny, that they in fact not only offended people I love but offended me as well by him thinking he could tell them in my presence.

And see, this man is a devoted church member. He’s raised a daughter with a beautiful heart and love for God. He prayed over the microphone for our dinner. He openly talks about Jesus, His Savior, which makes this situation so hard.

But, in prayer, I realized that I witnessed a blind spot in this man’s soul exposing itself. We all have them—blind spots. They’re a deception placed on us by the enemy. A part of our self that needs work, but a part that the devil has covered up carefully so that we don’t even notice it’s causing problems in our journey with Jesus.

My battle is not with this man, but with the enemy, so I must pray his blind spot is revealed to him (as I pray mine are to me as well). And I must ask God for forgiveness over my failure, and that He, in His glorious mercy, will give me opportunities to redeem myself.

I want to be respectful to my brothers and sisters in Christ, but I also want to stand up for my brothers and sisters in Christ. And as I’ve dwelled and prayed over this, recalling those few seconds after he concluded the joke, the conviction in my heart tells me I should have done more. This person told two racist jokes in my presence, and, elder or not, I should’ve reacted better and differently, defending openly my beloved people of color. I should’ve fought for them and the heartache his flippant words caused.

Will you, person of color, also forgive me, please? I am sorry I failed you. Will you also pray for me? Pray I have the courage and wisdom to combat respectfully anyone who may be in a position of authority, whether officially or superficially, over me when needed? Pray I’m able to stand up for justice, love, and my fellow Christian brothers and sisters without faltering?

I can do better. More. I will. For you. For my children. For my grandchildren.

And for yours.

~*~
Author Bio:

Kristen's passionate about storytelling and helping people take their next steps in their relationship with Jesus. 

She lives forty-five minutes outside of Atlanta, GA. where she served as a Children's Ministry Director for many years. With the support of her husband and two children, she now stays home writing fiction and non-fiction.

She also serves on the women’s leadership team at her local church and writes for Crosswalk and Wholly Loved Ministries. You can check out her articles and novels at www.kristenterrette.com.

~*~
Connect with Kristen:
Website - www.kristenterrette.com
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/authorkristenterrette/
Twitter - https://twitter.com/KTerrette
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/kterrette/
Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16252020.Kristen_Terrette
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