Monday, August 14, 2017

Charlottesville, VA was NOT What I Wanted for My Birthday

I read the following quote in Time or Life Magazine many years ago. Its sad reality moved me so deeply that I instantly memorized it, and occasionally, it rises to the surface as it has now.

"If we were to wake up some morning and find that everyone was the same race, creed and color, we would find some other causes for prejudice by noon." George Aiken (Governor of Vermont 1937-1941. And no, I was NOT alive then!)

Newsflash::No elected official, government agency, statue or flag removal or burning, or written law can make even a dent in the issue of hatred and racism in humanity. Not one iota.

The truth spoken in that quote over 80 years ago has not changed. Not in America, not in the world. It is not the fault of the current administration. It's not the fault of administrations of the past. It is simply the fallen human condition. That means the culpabiltiy is on YOU and ME. We LOVE to hate, and then blame it on someone else!

My pastor said it this way as he talked about the Charlottesville, VA incident. "Before you point to someone else, check your thumb!"


Be honest with yourself and with God who already knows. How are you accountable for NOT loving others who are not like you or don't agree with your stands on issues? Why is it that we haven't learned our lessons about peace, unity, and love?

Is there no hope for us? Are we doomed to hatred and violence?

There is an answer for those who truly desire to see and be the change. Here's my take on it. (No particular order other than how it falls on the page.)

1. FIRST, stop blaming everyone else. (This or that racial group. This or that President or administration. That political agenda or party, etc.) Check your thumb! (Go ahead, point it at your heart!)
2. Stop sharing the negativity on social media through memes and statuses that are not solution-focused and driven!
3. Ask God to change your heart, so that He can have the opportunity to fill it with his unconditional love.
4. Start making conscious decisions to love on someone you would rather not! To help someone you think should help themselves. To offer grace to someone who has offended or hurt you. To bless someone who curses you over and over again. Do it afraid. Do it mad. Just do it.
5. Fight battles that can actually be won! Learn that our battles are not with flesh and blood, but with a spiritual enemy that loves us to be divided and hating each other, making his job easier! Our weapons are also not of this world. They're spiritual! Get on your knees and pray for our nation, its leaders, and its people.

We can't change the world unless we're willing to change ourselves. Start with you and I'll start with me. It may seem trite or too little too late, but it's NOT! It's never to late to right a wrong, to fight injustice on a personal level, to commit to making a difference. Because if every one of us commits to begin walking through this life a little differently, change will come!

It can and it will if you and I want it to. How badly do you want it?

"If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14
And for those Christians who state that "this is NOT the time to talk about peace and love," because of the nature of the incident in Charlottesville, let me tell you why I disagree. Demonstration MUST be tempered by true love and peace or it ends in the kinds of violence we've become too used to seeing in the news. True love and peace are not platitudes or cliches. They can be as brutal as the God of Love sending the Prince of Peace to be tortured to death for those like you and me who were yet sinners when he chose to suffer on our accounts. Be passionate and stand strong, fight injustice with everything you've got, but always be led by the love of God and allow the peace that passes understanding guard your hearts and minds, guiding and directing that passion so that it brings God glory and changes circumstances.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Bronx Zoo Snob

After spending the day visiting and photographing animals at the Bronx Zoo, I realized something about myself I’d never realized before. I come before you, my friend, to confess this new-found flaw in my character! I am a zoo snob! Yes, that’s right. A bonafide snob of the zoo and its creatures!

It started in Madagascar. One of the first lemur species was the beautiful Coquerel’s Sifaka. As I was taking photos of the two Sifaka’s within view, I heard several excited children call the creatures “monkeys" with no one correcting them. What was worse was parents who said to their children, “Look at the monkeys!” This same scenario replayed before the ring-tailed and the red-ruffed lemurs. The Bronx Zoo has detailed signage at every exhibit with the name of each animal, their species and class, their natural habitat, and many important facts about them. When adults stand right in front of that information and still get it wrong with their kids, I roll my eyes like a snob!

And it wasn’t just the misnaming of the animals. There were the millennials who seriously had never been to a zoo, watched the nature channel, or read a book about nature. (Bet you any amount of money they could tell you every fact about each Kardashian, though!) There was the young woman who looked at the river otters with a grimace and loudly exclaimed, “EW! What are those things? They’re disgusting!” Really? The adorable river otters? And at exhibit after exhibit, there were pretty young ladies who had no idea what the animal they were looking at was, even as they leaned on the information about it. I had to tell myself to just keep shooting with my camera, but my zoo snobbery was in full force!

I don’t know how many times I smiled and spoke to parents and children who happened to be right next to me to either tell them what the animal was or show them where the animal was “hiding.” Then there were the two women at the Himalayan exhibit who oooh’d and ahhh’d over the cute red panda but had no idea what it was, even though the informative sign was directly to their right. Because I was next to them, I kindly told them it was a red panda. They had no idea. They thought it was a species of lemur. In the Himalayas. (Did you see that snobbery right there?)

The best was at the snow leopard exhibit. These incredible, stunningly beautiful creatures are in grave danger of disappearing from the planet, and having them in the zoo, although sad because of their lack of freedom, is the only way most of us will ever have the privilege of seeing them with our own eyes. One woman actually said they’d make a great coat. I have no words for her and her thoughts. Then someone behind me called the snow leopard another big cat that I don’t recall. It could have been a cougar, a tiger, a panther. I think I heard them all today! There was a family with two children standing next to me enjoying the growling and activity of the snow leopards. To the person who called the snow leopard by another name, Daniel, the four-year old little boy said with great certainty, “It’s a snow leopard!” I smiled. Out loud!!! 

Daniel and his sister, Sofia, saved the day! They tamed the zoo snob in me, and made me realize that some children are actually being taught correctly about the creatures of our world, and will help save them from extinction because they’re learning to care. Good job, Daniel and Sofia! You two are awesome! In the meanwhile, I’ll continue to help the ones who happen to stand next to me with their questions and try not to roll my snobby eyes when others don’t happen to know everything there is to know about wildlife! At the very least, they were supporting the zoo and all it does to make our world a safe place for all its creatures! (Oh, and you may ask why I don’t get a job at the zoo. I really have considered it, but I don’t think they hire zoo snobs!)