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For Jesus And For The Culture. . .Being Black, Christian and a Millennial In America

The Unforced Rhythms of Grace: What it is, What it Isn’t

How to Practice Unforced Rhythms of Grace in Your Daily Life

Dear Reader: 

Whether you are religious or not, the unforced rhythms of grace can be practiced in your daily life.

There is no one way to define grace. It may be defined as the unearned and unmerited favor of God or as an abundance of divine blessings, or it may simply be a state of being that we experience, but regardless of how you define it, you can live by its principles every day.

The most important thing is to be aware of your thoughts and actions. You can do this by paying attention and noticing what you say and do. When you notice thoughts that are unkind, try to replace them with kinder ones. This will help you live a life with unforced rhythms of grace.

Matthew 11:28-30

Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

Matthew 11:28-30 is a passage from the Bible that explores how Jesus Christ offers a spiritual solution, which can offer relief to those who are looking for rest.

The Benefits of Living a Gracious Life with Grace

We have been conditioned to believe that life is a battle and that we must fight for every inch of the ground. We are taught to be selfish and self-absorbed. We are told that we should always “do it now”, and “have it all”.

But what if there is another way? What if life is not really a battle at all? What if the world is not really out to get us? What if we do not need to control everything in order to feel safe or successful?

What would happen if we could let go of our fears, our constant yearning for approval, and our need for control?

If we could let go of our fears, our constant yearning for approval, and our need for control then we can take a step back and see that the world is much simpler than we think. We’d have more time to relax and spend time with the people who matter most to us. We would be less stressed out, happier, and more creative.

One way to live in the unforced rhythms of grace is to be near nature. The beauty of the world can be overwhelming, especially if you’re someone who’s been living in a city for a while. If you’re feeling suffocated by the urban lifestyle and need to take a break, take some time to visit nature. Living close to nature is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress and improve mental health.

Living close to nature is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress and improve mental health. A study published in the journal Nature has found that living near green spaces has even been shown to reduce risk factors for heart disease, like high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Another way to live in the unforced rhythms of grace is to be kind and gracious. Being gracious and living a life with grace is not just about being polite. It is also about being humble, thankful, and compassionate.

A life of grace is a life of humility, gratitude, and compassion. Grace isn’t just about being polite. It’s about taking the time to appreciate the small things in life that are going right. This is why it’s so important to say thank you when someone does something for you, or even just smiles at you in a store.

Graciousness is the act of being kind and considerate to others without expecting anything in return. It can be seen as an aspect of civility, which refers to the social skills that help us get along with others in society.

The word graciousness is defined as the quality of being kind, quick to forgive, and considerate. It is a virtue that we should try and live by.

Let’s try to live a life that dwells in the unforced rhythms of grace today. 

Easy winter craft ideas for when you’re stuck in the house

Dear Reader: 

If you’re looking for something to do this winter, why not try your hand at some fun and easy crafts? From making your cards and decorations to cozy knitwear, there are plenty of projects to keep you busy. And what’s more, crafting is a great way to relax and de-stress. So get out your supplies and get ready to get creative!

Make a wreath out of old newspapers

Get creative and crafty with your old newspapers! Making a wreath from recycled materials is an easy way to get crafty and upcycle. All you need is to gather up the newspapers, scissors, glue, and some string or ribbon. You can cut out shapes or strips of paper from the newspaper and use these to create the wreath shape. When it is complete, all that’s left to do is add a finishing touch by attaching a bow of your choice, such as some colorful ribbon. There’s no wrong way to make a newspaper wreath—make it bold and striking with large pieces of paper, or subtle with tiny strips interlaced together to form a delicate frame. This project also serves as a fun activity for all ages—it’s perfect for family member bonding during the winter months! With just a few simple materials, you can have the satisfaction of creating something unique and beautiful that expresses your creativity. Plus, it’s an incredible way to give old newspapers new life! This DIY project can be further jazzed up with other materials such as buttons and beads if you want a sparkling touch on your newspaper wreath. So get creative this holiday season and make something special just for yourself!

Turn an empty wine bottle into a vase for fresh flowers

Reusing and upcycling are great ways to use the items that occupy our living spaces without breaking the bank. A fun and creative project you can do with minimal effort are turning an empty wine bottle into a vase for fresh flowers! All that’s needed is a few general household tools and some patience; this do-it-yourself project has endless possibilities! To begin, choose an empty wine bottle–whether black, green, or clear glass–to place in a pot of warm water on your stovetop. Put it on low heat until the bottle is covered in steam (it should take just a few minutes). After that, grip the neck of the bottle firmly with oven mitts or towels and carefully twist off the neck. Once cooled, wash away any remaining label glue from the scored lines left around the bottle. Dry it out and you now have your very own decorative upcycled vase for your lovely space! Place wildflowers or boughs of your favorite plants to show off your green thumb skills. Whether decorating indoors or outdoors, creating something beautiful out of common items is always inspiring–as well as giving new life to something collected. So go ahead and be creative while helping out Mother Earth at the same time! It’s a win-win situation all around.

Create a photo collage of your favorite memories

Your favorite memories are the ones you will remember and cherish for life, so why not capture them forever in a photo collage? Not only is it easy to create a stunning collage out of pictures, videos, and other types of media, but it’s also the perfect way to relive those special moments. When creating your collage, think about what makes each image special to you. Maybe it’s from an unforgettable time with friends or family, or maybe it reminds you of an important event in your life. Whatever the case may be, each image should tell its own story — and when combined in a single artwork, these stories can create something utterly unique. A photo collage helps to immortalize your most cherished memories and is sure to evoke powerful emotions whenever you take a look at it. So take some time out of your day to assemble the perfect collection of images and create a lasting keepsake that you’ll be proud of for years to come!

Side note: I LOVE COLLAGES. I realize that all of this are messy ideas but winter is the time to get messy and watch snow fall. DO IT !

Paint a picture of your favorite winter scene

In my favorite winter scene, the snow lies heavy and pristine on the ground. The trees stand in stark contrast to shades of white, their silvery branches stretching like veins against a deep blue sky, illuminated by a bright winter sun. Ambling across the field, I come upon an immense pile of snow – the perfect ramp for launching myself into powdery softness. Nothing can compare to racing down that mountain of snow on a sled or even just tumbling lightly off of its apex. This, coupled with running and jumping until I am out of breath, is one of my most cherished winter activities. In this wonderful landscape, I also appreciate how everything is transformed under the cloak of white so that familiar places look like something completely new and exciting. At winter’s end when the blanket melts away again, I take comfort in knowing that I’ll be able to experience it all anew once more when cold times return. Until then, I remember it fondly as part of those rare and beautiful moments in life that make life distinctly worth living.

Make a gingerbread house out of graham crackers and candy

Making a gingerbread house out of graham crackers and candy is a great way to get creative in the kitchen. Start by gathering all the supplies you need such as graham crackers, colored icing, and plenty of assorted candies. Next, prepare your workstation so that you have easy access to all the materials. Think about what type of house you want to make and plan out your design before getting started. After that, it’s time to build! Use the graham crackers for walls and roofing, the icing for cementing them together, and the assortment of candy for decoration. Believe it or not, creating a gingerbread house out of traditional ingredients isn’t that different – just construct the walls with graham cracker sandwiches filled with frosting instead of dough! So go forth and get building – no matter what kind of gingerbread house you make with this method, it will be sure to delight family and friends alike!

Build a fort out of blankets and pillows

Make your fort – it’s easy and fun! All you need is some blankets, pillows, and a little creativity. Start by draping the blanket over two chairs or other pieces of furniture to support it. Then grab some more blankets or sheets and arrange them in triangular shapes coming down from the top blanket to create walls. Add pillows to the inside for comfort and decoration–throw in some colorful stuffed animals for more fun. Don’t forget to find a way to close off the sides such as using a rolled-up carpet as an extra door. With your fort complete, now you are ready for hours of imaginary playtime! Build a train station out of chairs and make passenger tickets under a desk or pretend you’re camping under the stars with fairy lights twinkling overhead. No matter what activities you choose, building a fort out of blankets and pillows will surely create special memories that will last forever. So go ahead–it’s time to escape into your imagination!

Bible Journaling 

I know you remember a time when Bible Journaling was a huge craze. People were just buying tons of highlighters, special pens, and special Bibles with special paper. Now dust off that hidden journal Bible you have somewhere and get to work! Or if you don’t have a Journaling Bible, maybe use your regular art supplies. Paint a scripture. What images come to mind when you read this verse? Draw the image. Write the verse on top of it. I’ve been doing that with my mini watercolor notebook after work and it had an impact on my ability to unplug. Let’s use this winter to get crafty with Jesus! I’ll share one of mine with you below: 

Simple Tips for a Fit and Healthy Winter

Dear Reader: 

Hey there! Now that winter is in full swing, it’s time to buckle down and get serious about staying fit. For some of us, that means hitting the gym harder than ever. But for others, it might mean trying a new workout routine or signing up for a fitness class. No matter what your approach is, we’ve got some tips to help you stay fit this season. So let’s get started!

Get a jump start on your day by going for a morning walk or run

Nothing quite compares to the feeling of getting a jump start on your day with some exercise in the morning. Not only is it great for your physical health, but studies have shown that regular exercise can improve mood, sleep quality, and overall cognitive functioning. Going for a morning walk or run has many benefits – you get a dose of fresh air and exposure to sunlight which can naturally boost energy levels. It’s also a good time to zone out and let your mind wander – coming up with creative ideas or solutions for any problems weighing on you. Morning walks or runs can help to clear the cobwebs from the night before, allowing you to approach the day refreshed and energized. And to top it off, squeezing in some exercise first thing gives you an incredible sense of accomplishment! All in all, there are so many reasons why starting your day with a walk or run might just be one of the best decisions you make each morning.

Join a winter sports team to stay active and social

As the temperatures drop, it can be easy to retreat indoors in hibernation mode and ignore your physical activity goals. But don’t let Old Man Winter slow you down! Joining a winter sports team is a great way to stay active, even in the coldest months of the year. An organized team provides structure and accountability for players who are looking for motivation to stay on track with fitness goals. Plus, playing with a sports team gives you access to network with people from different backgrounds and experiences, which can help open up doors for professional opportunities or develop new friendships. And of course, there’s nothing like cheering on your teammates and celebrating victories as a collective unit — especially when you’re bundled up against brisk winds! From skiing to hockey to basketball and beyond, there are plenty of winter sports that can keep you active and social during the chillier months of the year. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and join that dream winter sports team this season!

Invest in some at-home workout equipment so you can stay fit even when it’s cold outside

Staying fit during the cold weather can be an uphill battle. With the shortened days and longer nights, it’s tempting to stay in and veg out on the couch. However, investing in some home workout equipment is a great way to stay active all winter long. Not only will you save money on gym memberships and fitness classes, but you’ll also enjoy being able to get your sweat on anytime, day or night! Look for items that are multi-functional, such as adjustable weight benches with built-in racks so you can customize your workouts from the comfort of your own home. You could also consider buying kettlebells, resistance bands, or jump ropes for a full-body workout without having to leave your house. In addition to saving time and money, exercising at home is a great way to stay motivated even when temperatures start to drop. So don’t let winter keep you from staying fit – invest in some quality at-home workout equipment today!

Make healthy food choices – focus on fruits, vegetables, and lean protein

Eating healthy doesn’t have to mean giving up all your favorite foods. Making small changes in your diet can lead to big improvements in your overall health – and it’s not as hard as it sounds! To get started on the path to healthier eating, focus on adding more fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins into your diet. Fruits and veggies make delicious snacks and sides and provide essential vitamins and minerals for keeping bodies strong. Lean protein sources such as chicken, fish, or beans are great options for adding protein without excess fat or calories. When making meals at home, try experimenting with flavorings like herbs or spices so you don’t get bored with your dishes. Eating out? Ask for a lighter version of your go-to dish; many restaurants now offer healthier options like salads and grilled proteins. Making smart choices when it comes to food doesn’t have to be dull; a little creativity can go a long way toward creating tasty meals that are both nutritious and satisfying! , And soon you’ll find yourself swapping out unhealthy habits for new ones in no time! Making healthy food choices means treating yourself right – after all, nutrition is an important part of self-care.

Avoid sugary drinks and snacks that will only make you feel sluggish

Many of us turn to sugary snacks and sodas for a quick energy boost. But, unfortunately, these processed foods are just empty calories that end up leaving us feeling more sluggish than ever. It’s important to remember that too much sugar can be toxic to the body, especially when combined with alcohol and caffeine. Even natural sugars like honey and agave should be consumed in moderation, as an occasional treat or reward. Instead of sugary beverages or snacks, opt for healthy alternatives such as water, unsweetened smoothies or teas, fresh fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds, legumes, and whole grains. These options contain healthy carbohydrates that will give you sustained energy throughout the day while also providing essential vitamins and minerals. Making smarter snack choices will not only help maintain your weight but also leave you feeling energized so you can focus on your work or other activities. So next time you’re looking for a pick-me-up, reach for healthier fuel instead of sugary treats!

Keep moving even when you’re inside – take the stairs instead of the elevator, and do some light stretching throughout the day

Whether you’re stuck inside due to the weather or, due to the pandemic, stuck inside most of the time anyway, it’s important not to neglect your physical movement. Every little bit counts and helps maintain both physical and mental health. Take the stairs instead of relying on elevators – if possible, two at a time! But if that’s too much for your current fitness level, don’t choose several steps over quality and take one step at a time. Moving your body for just 10 minutes a day can up your energy levels, improve circulation, and provide some cardiovascular benefits. Going for a stroll is always beneficial but if that’s not an option due to restrictions (or it’s just too darn cold outside!), try light stretching throughout the day. Find yourself an open space in the house and stretch your arms above your head from side to side and do gentle chair squats periodically – these will help reduce cramps and stiffness caused by period ended periods. It’s all about consistency – no matter what type of movement you decide on doing. Give it a few days/weeks and almost subconsciously you’ll find yourself drawn to boosting your daily fitness regime without having to think too hard about it! So why not give it a go? All of us couch potatoes need our dose of incentive once in a while – whether we stay inside or venture outside! So keep moving even when you’re inside – leave laziness behind! You won’t regret it. 😉

By following these simple tips, you can stay active and healthy all winter long! Start your day off right with a morning walk or run, then make sure to eat healthily and get in some at-home workouts. And finally, keep moving even when you’re inside – take the stairs instead of the elevator, and do some light stretching throughout the day. By making small changes to your daily routine, you can stay fit and feel great all season long!

WRITE THE VISION

Dear Reader:

Habakkuk 2:2-3 states “And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”

I know this is not the first time you’ve heard this verse in relation to the beginning of a new year. It is standard practice for almost everyone, no matter culture, religion, or creed to start their year off by writing down what they envision the new year to look like. We either focus on what we want to improve about ourselves (weight, appearance, talent, skills, etc) or our ideals (family, better home, etc). What does the bible have to say about this practice? I believe that vision is a biblical concept.  However, we cannot just merely willy-nilly dream. 

HOW TO BEGIN VISION PLANNING

  1. The first step in your process of writing the vision needs to be reflection. What happened in 2022? What worked? What didn’t? Why didn’t it work? What spheres of life declined and which prospered?  Before you can start to plot and plan, you should prayerfully journal and reflect upon the previous year. 

My biggest challenge of 2022 was moving. Living in a new place can disrupt everything you know about yourself, your faith, your family, etc. I was very much disrupted by the change in the workplace, routines, etc. My biggest challenge of 2022, however, also lead to my biggest triumph: I learned to drive.  Like for real. Multiple hours of driving. Not a lot of young people who grow up in the 5 boroughs of NY can say that they’re good drivers and take road trips. Having to drive for work made me by force a better driver. 

  1. The second step after reflection is really just to imagine. Having reflected and prayed, what would you and God (the dream team) like to happen in 2023? Do you want to grow in your profession?  Do you want to make some money off a hobby? Do you want to be more connected to your family? Are there one or two particular spheres of life that call out to you more for the vision? 

I know it’s lame and very encouraged in secular circles, but I think vision boards are cool. I think that they present a visual reminder as to the vision for the year.  Vision boards are very debated in Christian circles. But let’s go back to Habakkuk. The above verse is talking about a time when the people Habakkuk was instructed to write the vision for were not following the will of God and Habakkuk was pretty frustrated. I’m not asking you to create a vision board to “Manifest” anything. I’m asking you to create a visual reminder of your covenant with God for the year 2023. In the same way we take communion often to remind us that Jesus died for us and that we bear the responsibility of the new covenant with him. 

  1. WRITE THE VISION. You have to write it out in words. There are many many verses in the Bible that talk about the power of words. (James 3:2-12, Proverbs 11:9 to name a few).  There are many people who perhaps cannot write out the words because of disability but if you are able to… put pen to paper. WRITE IT OUT.

The vision that Habakkuk was writing out was death to Babylonians who had captured his people. Maybe that’s not the theme you’re going for … contend with those who contend with me, Lord. Maybe you just need to learn Spanish for work. Lol.  Write it down. 

  1. KEEP IT TO YOURSELF. Not all of the vision needs to be shared with others. Some of it might need to be, like if you’re married and you vowed with God to do something that directly impacts your spouse. But some matters need to be held in a secret place for God to water it in secret. 

The Story of Christmas 

Dear Reader:

I know I’m probably preaching to the choir here,  but I felt that December wouldn’t be complete without discussing at least a little bit of the story of Jesus. While scholars are certain Jesus wasn’t born in winter, it is the time we chose to commemorate this occasion, so I will discuss it nonetheless. 

THE GOSPEL STORY

The story of the “good news” , often call the gospel can be summed up as follows: Christ was born. Lived. Died. Resurrected. And is Coming Again. These are the basic tenets of Christianity. 

BORN

The born part is the Christmas story. The account is in all four gospels : Luke 1 and 2; Matthew 1 and 2; John 1 and Mark 1. It is important to note that while there are differences in the gospels that they begin with the birth. I’m sure if I was entrusted with telling the story of Jesus, I might start with his miracles or maybe the resurrection. But the gospels begin with Jesus, the baby. 

Matthew and Luke talk about the birth story in more detail than the other gospels. I mean Luke gives all the details, starting with how his birth was foretold.  Matthew talks of the wise men who wisely avoided reporting to Herod. 

To sum it up, Mary was in a perilous position. Joseph was a good guy. Baby Jesus was already most wanted in utero. And somehow they all made it as a family unit because it was the will of God. 

I don’t purport to know a whole lot about God’s will because I think the whole point is we don’t know what it is. However, it is a strange story. 

SO WHAT?

I didn’t grow up celebrating Christmas, coming from a family of old school Seventh-day Adventists. The first time I celebrated was with friends as an adult. And the first time I attended a Christmas service was with friends as an adult. Christmas was a spectacle. 

And after thinking on it, the birth of Jesus was also quite a spectacle. A Virgin birth? Unheard of… highly unlikely in any age… the son of God? Oh really?! It just seems implausible and boy does the story continue in a weird way as well! Water into wine? Rose from the grave?

It is precisely the scandalous nature of the gospel that makes it so potent. It challenges the status quo. It breaks up reason. The idea is  that what we see with our eyes is not all there is and that there exists a power inside of us that can change the world… and has already done so.  That is the good news.

To Everything, There is a Season

Dear Reader

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8  reminds us that to everything there is a season. As we near the end of the year 2022, we can reflect on the seasons of life we’ve experienced this year. We can pause and think about what knowledge and wisdom we learned this year that we can store in preparation for the upcoming year. 

A SEASON FOR LEARNING

Sometimes life feels like it’s K-12 math: it is cumulative. We cannot build on what we didn’t learn last year. I remember being in college statistics, going to every office hour, and struggling. Finally, the professor was like please talk through this problem aloud. When I did, she declared, “I’ve got it! { I was like “what”? “ You lack a fundamental understanding of the number line,” she said.  That was not a huge surprise to me. I struggled so hard from K-12 with math.  To be fair, the reason I took statistics is that I figured out of all the options for required math courses, surely, that was the least math-y. It was not a surprise that I couldn’t do the math because of one fundamental thing I was supposed to learn in the second grade… mainly which numbers are bigger than the others on the negative side of the number line. 

Life gets like that too. Sometimes it feels like I am missing some fundamental piece I was supposed to learn before. God is the best teacher. He has infinite patience and compassion. He will not suddenly declare “ you lack a fundamental understanding of… !” Instead, he’ll talk you through it step by step like an after-school tutor. 

A SEASON FOR PREPARATION 

 One of the stories in the bible which highlights how God is a God of order and preparation to me is the story of how the Israelites were given mana. While to me, mana has many meanings since I play board and videogames… I’m talking about the original meaning in Exodus 16. 

Exodus 16 states that the Israelites were instructed to collect mana for the day and then the day before the sabbath to collect a double portion. For those ya’ll who don’t remember the background but the Israelites were a bit grumpy and were like how they were starving in the wilderness. Then suddenly, by the Grace of God,  they got some bread like rain, every single day except the Sabbath.

The Bible also talks about how if you tried to not follow instructions; things didn’t work out. So if you tried to store extra on a not sabbath it would rot. If you didn’t store for the sabbath, then you would starve. Sometimes we’re given specific instructions from God. Sometimes we’re just called to get up and go. But I want to encourage you that there is a plan and to store up inside of you, the good God has already done… so when it feels like God isn’t there and isn’t real, you can be reminded. Perhaps even write it down?