Caught

CAUGHT

“The Lord will be your confidence and keep your foot from being caught.” Proverbs 3:26

In the movies, during an action sequence, there is a go to moment that helps heighten the excitement.  The woman in high heels.  Running across train tracks… her heel gets caught.  Running along a pier… her heel gets caught between the planks.  Running across the street… caught in a manhole lid.  Running down the sidewalk… caught in a great or crack.

I’ve never been running for my life, but I have gotten my heel caught.  Once, at a bridal shower, my heel got caught multiple times.  At the hostess’ home there was a beautiful deck and my heel kept getting caught in between the wood planks.  The first time, I laughed it off.  The second time, I almost dropped my plate.  The third time, it brought me to a sudden stop and I almost created a three woman pile up.  I was embarrassed that I kept allowing this to happen.  I could have paid more attention where I stepped.

In life, there are a lot of times where I could stand to pay a bit more attention to what is happening around me.  Perhaps I could have been a bit wiser, or exercised a bit more caution.  I could have learned from my mistakes, instead of repeating them.  When others shared their wisdom with me, I could have heeded their warnings instead of digging in my heels and thinking I could do things my own way.

As a believer, I can learn a lot of practical wisdom in the pages of the Scriptures.  The more I commit myself to the Lord, dig into the Scriptures to understand His character, and dedicate myself to following His commands the more I walk in confidence, God Confidence.  I am confident in who He is, I am confident in His promises, I am confident in His direction.  When I am walking with God Confidence, I don’t have to worry about my heel getting caught.

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A thought on Gossip disguised as Prayer.

MBA

I think we have all experienced, at one time or another, a person who uses the prayer request time during small group to openly gossip.  Or, you get stopped in the church lobby by someone who has an urgent prayer request for you… and you know that their intentions are less than honorable.  I think gossip disguised as prayer is something that becomes more obvious, especially as you mature in your faith.

However, I’ve noticed another form of gossip and it’s absolutely unintentional.  I recognized it, even spoke to the person about it, and yet at the same times I was bothered by how it happened in the first place.  Only recently was I able to put my finger on exactly what the underlying issue is.

It was many months ago, when I was sitting in a meeting.  A woman came into the meeting, she was clearly upset.  She asked those of us in the meeting if we could pray for her neighbor.   As she left her home to get to the meeting, she became aware of a serious situation unfolding.  Knowing the neighbor’s background, this dear woman knew that prayer was something that was needed.  We were happy to pray for her neighbor.

However, it was how it all unfolded that made me uncomfortable.  As she explained the prayer request, she also went into a long description of the woman’s history, past issues she had witnessed, her concerns for the woman, etc.  I was uncomfortable because I knew that I didn’t need all of this information in order to pray for this woman. God already knew her details.  I couldn’t help but wonder, “What if someone in this room knows the woman?  What if they recognize her in the details?  What if they got a call on their way in about this situation, and here is someone putting it all out on the table?”   I also questioned whether or not this woman had permission to share these details with complete strangers.

After the meeting, my heart weighed heavy.  I recognized that I was in a situation that was a well intentioned, sincere, prayer request.  At the same time, it had the familiarity of sitting and listening to gossip.  I knew that our colleague was NOT the gossiping type, there was no question of her integrity in this matter.  It was clear to me that she had no idea what she had just done was really inappropriate.

I spoke with her directly, and then I shared a memo to our team about prayer requests in the future.  I made sure that I hit all the major points, starting with making sure we have permission to share details and clarity on which details can be shared and which cannot.  I stated that if you didn’t have permission to share, prayer requests for that person should be done in name only and leave the details to the Lord.  I reminded our team that it is a small community, and you never know who may actually know the person you are speaking about.  It may not be our place to share the dirty laundry they are struggling with.  I even pointed out that giving out too much information was akin to gossip and we must be careful.

We’ve never had a situation since.  However, I’ve not been able to let the situation go.  I really wanted to understand HOW that happened in the first place.  How did she not realize she was giving too much information & teetering on the edge of gossip?  Why did she not even consider that someone in the room may know this person?  What kept her from taking into consideration that she should ask for permission to share the details?  And, truthfully why did she even feel it was necessary to give all of this information in the first place.  These questions stuck with me for quite some time.  Today, I figured it out.

I was speaking with a friend about the difference between men and women.  My husband once came home with a handful of cash.  His boss’ wife was in the hospital, they took up a collection and wanted to send flowers.  He handed me the cash and asked if I could handle it, he gave me her name and the hospital she was at.  I began to ask questions.  What was the procedure?  When was she admitted?  How long would she be there for?  My husband thought I was being nosy asking for so many details.  However, that wasn’t the case at all.  I needed to know the details to determine if I needed to spend extra on next day delivery while she was still in the hospital, or could put the money into a nicer arrangement that could be delivered a day or two later.  Was she in a room/ward where should could have flowers or would a balloon arrangement be more appropriate.

Details are important to women.   Details help us to see the bigger picture, and understand the full scope of the circumstances.  We see the details as important particularly in areas where we have more experience, so that we can respond appropriately.  When we pray, being able to pray in detail can make us feel more productive and involved than a general prayer.

Recently, a friend reached out for help.  A pretty terrible situation fell upon one of her family members.  She needed prayer and she really needed actually help of donations of funds or physical items.  In honesty, her first few sentences were more than enough.  Anyone with a heart would have felt bad for the family and would help anyway that could.  However, as she explained the need, she gave a LOT of backstory.  It was as if she was trying to justify her request for immediate prayer and immediate help.  His current situation was bad enough, but she felt by sharing more of his history we could see that it’s been one thing after another.  She felt this information either helped to justify her plea for help or would illicit more response from us due to the urgency and severity of the circumstance.

The more details we give, the more we can connect with people on a mental and emotional level.  The more details we have, the more real something is.  The more details we have, the more urgent a need is.  The more details we have, the more we can justify our actions or help others to justify responding to our need.  When we express details ahead of a prayer request, we are attempting to get an emotional reaction to the request.  It is a way of indicating that this prayer is necessary, urgent, and needs to be taken seriously.  It can also be our way of justifying the request, especially if we are going interrupt something else happening to make the request.

As I think about my colleague, I realized this was the case for her.  From her perspective, it was highly unlikely that we would know this woman.  She wanted to interrupt our meeting to pray for her neighbor, and therefore felt as if she had to justify that interruption.  Her heart was so broken for this woman, that she wanted to make sure we understood the urgency and severity of her request.  She was using the details so that we would view the request with the same importance she did.

This heartfelt desire for compassion and urgency in praying is why my colleague was incapable of thinking rationally about how she was going about her petition for prayer.  It was her concern for this woman that kept her from seeing with clarity that she might be gossiping. Her intentions were noble and wonderful.  When I spoke with her about my perspective, and how uncomfortable it made me… she was apologetic.  In hindsight she could see what she didn’t see in the moment.

So, I ask this of you.  Before you accuse someone of gossip disguised in prayer, consider what you know about the person.  It could simply be a matter of their heart overthrowing their reason, because they love and hurt so much for the world and those who live in it.

Also, make sure you ask yourself before sharing any prayer request:

  • Do I have permission to share?
  • How much do I have permission to share?
  • Am I sharing these details because they are important or to justify my request?

Created for Connection

createdforconnection

This past weekend, the family drove down to one of the biggest malls in our state.  We spent the day shopping, met up with some new friends, and had an amazing lunch.  Each family member came home with decent haul of goodies, my absolute favorite take home was from the candy store.  I was able to fill up a ziplock style bag with my own custom blend of Jelly Belly jelly beans.  Why is this such a big deal?

  1.  I hate all jelly beans other than Jelly Belly.
  2.  Within the Jelly Belly menu, I have just a few that actually like.
  3.  When I buy a bag of Jelly Belly jelly beans, I end up eating like 10 beans and giving the rest to the kids.

Being able to fill up a bag full of my favorite, hard to find, flavors brought me joy.  I didn’t even care how much it was going to cost.  FILL HER UP!  I should also confess that thanks to this insane election day, I pretty much finished off the bag already.  Sigh.

Many years ago, I think my husband would have had a fit about me spending so much on “jelly beans”.  I’m sure there would have been a few Dave Ramsey quotes thrown at me.  No, I don’t NEED a custom filled bag of jelly beans in the flavor of buttered popcorn.  However, we have also learned over the years that my husband doesn’t NEED to understand why I desire something.  He just needs to respect the fact that I do want it.  Just like I don’t NEED to understand why he likes certain television shows that I don’t enjoy.

We are different people, God didn’t make us a duplicates of each other in different gender form.  We are very, VERY, different.  Yet, we always find ways to connect with one another.  We recognized that it was important for us as a couple to find things we enjoyed mutually.  This gave us something to talk about, to connect over.  It is very easy when you have kids to connect over parenting, but one day those children move out.  When that happens, then what?  What will you talk about?  What will you do together, when your lives no longer center on your children and their activities and events?

It is imperative that as a couple we stay connected, and we were created for connection.  This is why God states from the beginning that it was not good for man to be alone, and so from his rib a woman was fashioned to be his helpmeet.  God gave man a companion in woman, and they did life together.  They connected over their responsibilities, they connected in emotional relationship, and they connected physically.  Connection is important, and when we can recognize that connection is important between US… we also see how important it is that we ware connected to God.

Once, I was scrolling through my husband’s notes app on his phone.  He was in need of information from one of his task lists.  I happened upon a list that my husband was keeping in his phone on ways he could be a better husband.  Unbeknownst to my husband, around this same time I working through a women’s study on how I could better meet his needs.  Our connection is so important to the both of us, we are seeking it out independently as well as together. 

This all brings me to the book, “Created for Connection” by Dr. Sue Johnson.  What I really enjoy about this book is that it isn’t passive.  Sometimes, you pick up a book on marriage… read (or speed read) you way through it.  You feel a bit better or more hopeful, or a sting of conviction that you could do a better job… but life moves on at it’s normal pace.  Dr. Johnson makes you stop and actually participate in the process.  Taking inventory and putting principles in to practice as you move along, brings an active element toward making real change in your relationship (or taking a great relationship and making it even greater!). 

You can read the book and do the work on your own, or go through it as a couple (I recommend the latter).   Dr. Johnson uses her experience as a couples therapist as well as the Scriptures to walk us through what she calls the “seven conversations” that will lead to a lifetime of love.  This is a take your time book, that will pay off in dividends if you are genuine about connect on a deeper level with your spouse … and then ultimately God.

 

Successful Women – #Write31Days

successfulwomen

Quite often, when a woman wants to understand biblical womanhood… she turns to the Proverbs 31 scripture. However, this is not the only woman ever mentioned in the scriptures.  She is among the company of many notable women who fulfilled very specific roles in God’s plan.

Esther.  Deborah. Miriam. Hagar. Mary. Martha. Eunice. Lois, Priscilla. Lydia. Mary Magdalene.

And those are just the ones we have names for.  There is also the woman at the well, the woman who touched the hem of his robe… just as examples.

FaithWords provided the book Successful Women of the Bible to be reviewed, and I think it is a valuable addition to your library.  If you are a fan of Liz Curtis Higgins Bad Girls of the Bible books, you’ll have the same affinity for Successful Women of the Bible.  Washington Patton looks at these influential women in the scriptures, updates their story to a more modern adaptation that readers can relate to.

Each chapter focuses on one woman’s story, allowing you to work through this book as quickly or slowly as you wish.  It would make a great book for a Christian Women’s Book Club, Small Group Study, or broken up into a series of Women’s Ministry event topics.

Tend the Orchard – #Write31Days

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit,

showing yourselves to be my disciples.  John 15:8

Oh, to bear much fruit.  Good fruit.  This is a good thing for the body of believers.  In order to bear much fruit we need a few things to happen.

  • Seeds of the Word planted in good, fertile soil.
  • Daily exposure to the Son.
  • Nourishment through the Living Waters.

Our roots grow deep in the word, our tender shoots are fostered the God and the Pastors who lead the church we sit in from week to week.   We grow stronger, and then it is time for us to begin bearing good fruit, much fruit, and fruit that is long lasting.

Whether you are leading a church, a women’s ministry, or a small group… you will have an impact on how much fruit your members produce.

A careless orchardist will trim back the trees too far, which can limit their growth, limit their fruit, and even kill the tree.

A good orchardist will know how to trim to tree in a way that will encourage growth, foster repeated burst of fruit, and tend to the tree so that it continues to produce fruit for many years to come.

A few years ago, a woman I know approached a Pastor.  She had a gift and talent, and she wanted use it in her church.  He didn’t spend anytime talking with her about her offer, he responded swiftly:  “We don’t do that here. Thanks for offering.”

This past summer, I was speaking with a Pastor about the role of women’s ministry in the church.  As I shared my view on the need for women’s ministries to come up along side the Pastor’s vision, he placed his hand on my shoulder and said:  “What I want the women in my church to do, to help me the most, is to serve their husband and children well.”

A man I know spent years evangelizing on the streets of his city.  By the time he moved to a new city, he had gotten wrapped up in life, and a bit complacent.  After attending a men’s conference, he was convicted of his lukewarm Christianity and was ready to step back up to the plate.  He met with his new Pastor, confessed his complacency, and said he wanted to serve in the church.  The Pastor didn’t even take a moment to learn about this man’s background, but instead responded:  “No, brother.  Let us serve you.” 

I’ve listened to women share ideas at Women’s Ministry meetings only to have their suggestion dismissed for a myriad of reasons.  A leader who can’t see the value others can add to the ministry, looking for workers to do her bidding vs. Kingdom work.  Dismissing ideas without even listening to them in entirety.  Dismissing people who want to serve without knowing their background, credentials, or heart to serve.

In the last several years, I have spoken with many men and women who have stepped up to the plate to bear fruit, only to be trimmed back sometimes to the point of death of their dream or calling.  A person can only be rejected so many times before they stop offering.  A person can only be dismissed so many times before they stop feeling valuable.

The Bible tells us that every believe is given gifts, fruit bearing gifts.  These gifts will vary, and how they will be used will vary as well.  A leaders we have a responsibility to help those we lead identify their gift, develop that gift, and find a place to serve with that gift.

Not just some believers, but all believers.  That means when a Pastor looks over his podium to the 50 people or 5,000 people who are in his flock… each person has a gift to bear fruit.  If your body is not bearing fruit, it’s imperative to determine WHY.  If you are leading a Women’s Ministry of 15 women or 150 women, and your ladies are not bearing fruit, there must be a reason.

Before we look out to the faces we serve to place blame, we must examine ourselves as the leaders first.  Am I guilty of dismissing the gifts of service that have been offered to the ministry?  Am I guilty of dismissing people who have sought to step up to the plate and serve? Am I guilty of not recognizing the gifts in all of our members, helping to develop those gifts, and finding a place for those gifts to be used in our church or community?

A tree that has the gift of bearing fruit, can only bear good, plentiful, long lasting fruit if the conditions for this success are met.  If the Lord has planted a good seed in fertile soil, light from the Son, showers of Living Water… the roots will grow.  However, if that tree is continuously neglected by those charged to care for it and trimmed too far back, the fruit will be minimal … if any at all.

Failure…

Failure is a funny word to me, because I truly believe that we rarely utterly fail at something.  Sometimes, it is simply a matter of perception.  Follow along with me for just a moment on that thought before we get into the meat of this topic.

Below is a series of photographs from a wedding, several years ago.  At the time, I owned my own confectionary.  This was not my first big event, but it was my first wedding.  The bride wanted a confection bar full of candies, sweets, and treats.  She didn’t want a traditional wedding cake at all.  We decided upon some cupcake towers and a small cake at the top, which was adorned with their wedding topper and serve for the “cake cutting” part of the reception.

What you see here is a very well executed plan, right?  Wrong.  I had a MAJOR failure.  I promised her Jolly Rancher Cotton Candy.  I woke up that morning to make the fresh cotton candy, only to find that there was just too much humidity in air.  The cotton candy, which I had made dozens of times before, was melting before I could even bag it.  So, I bought some cotton candy that was pre-made and portioned it out into the bags.

The bride was happy, there were no gaping holes in the table set up, and there was not a single bag of cotton candy left over.

I failed.  Yes, it was due to circumstances outside of my control… but I still failed to deliver what I promised.  Even if, ultimately, I was really the only one who knew about the failure.

 

The next large event I catered was for a fundraiser.  I met with the planning team and they presented an adorable center piece concept.  They brought out super cute little tiered dessert stands. The plan was to have the stand filled with cupcakes. There would be a giant cupcake “topper”.  The small cupcakes were part of the dessert for the evening.  They would have table drawings for the centerpiece (inclusive of the giant cupcake topper, plus an additional 1 dozen mini cupcakes).  In addition they wanted gift bags for the VIP sponsor tables.  I was super excited to get started.  I measured out the centerpiece they provided to determine the number of cupcakes that it would hold.  Sent them a quote.  The order was set.

When I arrived the morning of the event to set up, to my shock… the tiered center pieces had be replaced.  They made the decision to go with something nicer, which was the right decision.  However, they neglected to inform me of the change.  These new centerpieces were MUCH larger.  Almost twice the width on every tier.  I placed the topper, the dozen mini cupcakes, and it was SPARSE.  I flagged down the coordinator, explained the problem, and she made the decision we would forgo the dozen cupcakes as part of the table prize and instead use them to fill up the tiers.

The following Monday, I received an email from the main chairperson.  She wanted a partial refund because I failed to produce the dozen cupcakes per table for the prize.  She was never informed by the coordinator, and thought I had shorted their order.  I explained what happened, who authorized the decision to use them, and apologize profusely.   In her response, she was very kind and canceled the request for the refund.  However, I never received another order from her or their organization again.

In this case there was a perception that I failed.  I knew that I hadn’t, and that I met my obligations.  However, based on what she could see… the chairperson perceived that I failed to come through.

This weekend I was reading an blog piece in which the author was brutally raw about her feelings, as she declared that Jesus had failed her family that year.  I was really stumped by those words. Jesus… who is perfect, flawless, dependable, truth… failed you?  I couldn’t understand it.  It didn’t seem possible.

In all the years of unanswered prayers, I’ve never felt like Jesus let me down.  Not once.  I can’t think of a time where I looked up to the heavens and declared “Lord, you really let me down this time.  I needed you to come through.”  I was struggling with every single time her words “Jesus failed me” flew past my eyes.  Yet, I not offended … angry … or hollering out “heretic”.

Perhaps, that is because in all of those times where things didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to… I blamed myself.  I told myself that the reason my prayer wasn’t answered or the Lord didn’t show up was because I failed Him.  I feel like I fail God daily.  I never feel good enough.  I question why in the world He would want to use me in ministry.

What I realized was that how we see things was very different.  I was seeing failure in the way I described the first scenario.  In some way, I failed to deliver on my end of the bargain… even if I did my best.  Even if I made up for it in someway.  Even if no one in the world knew or cared about it.  I knew.  I failed.  My focus was there on that place where I failed, versus the ways that I succeeded.

The woman who wrote the blog piece was more akin to my second example.  She was the chairperson who had expectations on how things were going to turn out.  She brought in the right people, and through no fault of her own in that scenario, something wasn’t right.  She turned to the person she trusted to come through, and she said “you failed me”.

You see, she ascertained that failure based on the limited amount of information she had.  She didn’t know that the centerpieces were different sizes, or that it would make a difference in the end product presentation.  She didn’t know that I was never informed of the change.  She wasn’t brought into the decision making being done on the spot to accommodate the changes, nor filled in after the fact of what happened & why.

When the Lord is working out things for us, we are not always clued in to what is going on in the background.  We can’t always see the people or situations that the Lord is coordinating into just the right places, at just the right times.  In fact, sometimes we never will.  We may never see those fingerprints where God was moving mountains and mustard seeds.  So, when the end product (or process) isn’t what we expected… we may feel like God failed us.  He didn’t come through.

On the other hand, we can become so focused on all of the areas where we ARE messing up… that we think we have failed God to the point He is ignoring us.  We may think He is deliberately keeping blessing from us.  We may even think that he is disciplining us.

In the first case, we are so focused on our perception of the situational outcome that we can’t see those who kept their word and did their part.  We don’t appreciate the people who were pressed into hard decisions.  We lose the ability to give people the benefit of the doubt.  We make assumptions, assign unjust blame.  Our vision becomes clouded to the work God is doing, the blessings that are coming, the people who did care, and the hundreds of little ways God came through with something BETTER.  Jesus never fails us, we just perceive that He did because we didn’t get the outcome we desired.

Or, we become so focused on how wrong and sinful we are.  We become so inwardly focused that we beat ourselves up, disqualify ourselves, and stamp FAILURE on our foreheads.  We make vows to never try again, step away from commitments or ministry work, and wallow in how terrible we think we are.  We put up our hands to the Lord, shouting STOP… I can’t be used.  I’m a failure, not Jesus.

Christ died because we are failures at keeping God’s statutes and commands.  Throughout the Old Testament, on a repetitive cycle…   God would move, the people would celebrate, the people would forget, the people would fall & cry out, and God would rescue.  By the time of the New Testament, when Jesus enters the arena… God’s ultimate plan of redemption for his people who just can’t keep it together on their own.  In her piece, she repeated a few times that she waited for Jesus to rescue her… and He didn’t.  I would contend… HE ALREADY DID, ON CALVARY.

And, in that moment we were given victory over sin and death.  We are not failures, but perfected in Him.  By His stripes we are healed.  We need to keep our eyes on Him, not ourselves.  Trusting His word, even when we don’t understand what is happening around us… or God seems quiet or far.

Then, I read the article a 2nd time.  Something else jumped out at me, and we are going to talk about that next time.

Understanding is not Condoning

praytogetherRight now, there is a vein of pain in the United States.  Yes, the media (including social media) are quick to paint pictures without all of the facts.  Yes, there are some responses to what is happening in our country that are not RIGHT.   Yes, there are good cops out there who love and are committed to their communities.  Yes, there are people out there under the guise of “protestors” that are just trouble makers.  A predominant question I am seeing a lot of lately is about the protests that have become riots, coupled with looting.  It is a question of not understanding WHY communities are responding in such a radical… and violent way.  

Understanding what brings a group of people to this place is NOT condoning.  Understanding however does bring clarity, sympathy, and empathy.  Understanding can be the catalyst for change as more eyes open to what is happening around us.

I penned this on my Facebook page today:

If you have ever been so mad about something that you slammed a door & a picture fell off the wall and shattered…

If you have ever been so frustrated that you threw whatever was in your hand down hard on the table and it snapped in half…

If you have ever snapped back at a family member or raised your voice before you gave them a chance to speak…

If you have ever punished your child based on the evidence before you without giving them a chance to explain…

You have a FRACTION of the understanding needed to wrap your head around what is happening in Charlotte.

Sometimes it hurts… it hurts deep. It is raw and you just can’t control your actions. Right? No. Real? Yes. There are real people who are hurting right now, and it’s not because of one incident but the culmination of incidents. A boiling point.

Will there be opportunists who take advantage of this situation for their own gain? Who are not truly protesting or broken, but happy to take advantage of an opportunity to create mayhem … knowing with the # of people protesting they most likely won’t get caught? Of course.

We have a media who is happy to tell us about the long wrap sheets of these people who have been killed. Yet celebrates the accomplishments of guilty men who are let off with minimal to no consequence.

But you do have to scratch your head and wonder how in the world NY police took down the bombing suspect during a gun fight with a shot to the leg… and yet an unarmed man, walking away from the officers was such a threat that lethal force was required.

Just as much as scratching my head and wondering why a routine traffic stop has to take the life of one of our officers. Or, how the calculated attack on the Dallas officers occurred.

What this tells us is that there is still work to do. There are still strides to take forward. There is still hurt, pain, and marginalization. Just because we don’t see it here in our own lives or cities doesn’t mean it isn’t existing elsewhere.

As I have been listening to my fellow human beings talk about their experiences with racism… whether they are my grandmother’s generation or young kids… we can’t put our heads in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist. We can’t ignore it. Because, when we try to pretend or ignore… it impedes our ability to be honest and take the necessary steps to move forward.

We need to be the change.

 

Perhaps in God’s providence he is bringing forth an injustice to people whom he loves greatly that are being mistreated? He is exposing a bitter root that has gone deep and been ignored. Perhaps God is saying to his people STOP … LISTEN… and be my hands and feet. Stand up to injustice of all types. Maybe we are not in chaos and confusion, but instead the Lord is dropping the scales and opening our eyes to hurt, pain, and suffering of a group of people who are created in His image. Perhaps the Lord is calling us to STAND up for what is right, honorable, noble, and good. And in our stubbornness to see the sin before our eyes… we had to be shaken from our stupor.

Lord, I pray for our communities… the people who live in them and those who serve to protect them.  Let there peace and calm that comes, let real conversations happen that lead to healing and growth.  Let us more forward and not backward. Protect us from those who mean us harm.  Open our eyes to injustice.  Let us stand united, every color… civilians and officers… for good.  Amen.