Category: Encouragement

Protected: The Art of Being Care-Free

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Weathering the Storm, Al B. Sure is Grateful for His Second Chance at Life

Tan Walker | UAB Community Health & Human Services

You may know the artist, Al B. Sure from his hits “Nite & Day”, “Off On Your Own Girl”, or as one of the collaborators in the song “U Will Know” by Black Men United. Today, Al B. is a 54-year-old award winning R&B singer who recently awoke from a 2-month coma. He explained to his fans that he lost feeling in the left side of his body while sitting in front of a computer screen and then fell over. However, he was able to call for help since his phone was in reach at the time of the incident. He then expressed that he encountered multiple surgeries, blood transfusions, and an organ transplant during his hospital stay. He also had pneumonia, became septic, and had his lymph nodes removed (Daniels, 2022). Despite all of the health challenges that he went through, he is extremely thankful to be “alive, alert, and gradually healing.” He also says that is “maintaining a positive mindset throughout this healing process” (Daniels, 2022).

Al B. has overcome many obstacles in his life in such a short time, yet he still remains positive through the storm. It can sometimes be hard for people to become bigger than their circumstances and exercise the strength, courage, and faith to make it through the challenging times. This is what is meant by being resilient.

Photo by Ann H on Pexels.com

Resilience is the process and outcome of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences, especially through mental, emotional, and behavioral flexibility and adjustment to external and internal demands (APA, 2022). Part of being resilient is remaining positive and optimistic when experiencing challenges.

Here are a few tips to stay positive during hard times:

  • Acknowledge all of the good things in your life
  • Look at your situation from a different perspective
  • Focus on the things you can control
  • Spend time with positive people
  • Ask for help when you need it

No matter how hard a situation may be, it is important to stay positive and not let your circumstances define you!

References

American Psychological Association. (2022). APA Dictionary of Psychology (2nd ed.). Retrieved November 18, 2022, https://dictionary.apa.org/?_ga=2.261668622.261180337.1668820604-1749021350.1667872057.

Daniels, K. F. (2022, November 5). R&B singer Al B. sure! shares health update after 2-month coma and organ transplant. Al B. Sure! shares health update about 2-month coma ordeal. Retrieved November 18, 2022, from https://www.nydailynews.com/snyde/ny-al-b-sure-health-update-two-month-coma-20221105-t3tayky6bnhrbb557go5cdmisq-story.html 

Kirsten Parker, M. F. A. (2021, November 16). 10 ways to keep positive during Hard Times. wikiHow. Retrieved November 18, 2022, from https://www.wikihow.com/Keep-Positive-During-Hard-Times#:~:text=How%20to%20Keep%20Positive%20During%20Hard%20Times%201,…%208%20Practice%20breathing%20meditation.%20…%20More%20items 

The Power of Healthy Friendships

By Tan Walker | UAB Community Health & Human Services Intern

Photo by nappy on Pexels.com

Sometimes being with friends is all the therapy we need! Making connections is a primary human impulse. Researchers have found that people that have healthy friendships are deemed healthier and happier than those who are friendless (CDC, 2022).

Friends are essential to our well-being and are some of the most powerful bonds people have. They can also keep us grounded and help us manage the craziness that life throws at us, and provide an abundance of social support which is vital for our mental health. Having healthy friendships is powerful and has many benefits. It can help reduce stress, loneliness, and anxiety (Serene Health, 2022).

True friends will listen to our problems and support us through hard times, but it is important that we do the same for them. Here are four tips that will help us maintain healthy friendships:

1. Make time for friends – making an effort to see friends regularly is extremely important for maintaining a friendship

2. Communicate openly and honestly – try to share any thoughts and feelings with friends, and be open to hearing theirs.

3. Respect each other’s differences – It is important to value each other’s opinions and perspectives, even if we don’t always agree with each other.

4. Be supportive – Good friends are there through the good, the bad, and the ugly. If our friends are going through something, be there to listen and to provide the support that they need.

Whenever we are down, or battling with our mental health,  it is comforting to know we have people in our lives that will be there to support us always. 

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2022). Talking to Your Love Ones. Cancer Survivors. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/survivors/healthy-living-guides/emotional-health/talking-to-loved-ones.htm

Serene Health. (2022, August 16). Friendships are essential for mental health and Wellbeing. https://serenehealth.com/mental-health-and-friendships/

Journaling Can Benefit Your Mental Health

By Tan Walker | UAB Community Health & Human Services Intern

Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

When you think of “journaling”, it is easy to picture a young girl locked away in her room writing about her high-school crush in a diary with a lock on it. Although this is an easy perception to have, it likely matches with the overall consensus for adults: journaling is for young people still trying to figure out their purpose in life and gossiping about the latest high school drama.

Believe it or not, many adults own a journal of some sort. Whether it’s a diary, a 3 subject notebook, notes taken on a smartphone, or just a plain sheet of paper and a pen: journaling has no required format. Journaling only requires that you share your thoughts openly. Effective journaling can help you meet your goals or improve your quality of life (Ackerman, 2022; Purcell, 2006). Although personal goals vary from person to person, they are almost always positive and journaling can be a process that support goal accomplishment.

Effective journaling can help you clear your head, reduce anxiety, and it can also help you connect your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and behaviors. But how exactly does dumping words on a page have an impact on your mental health?

Well, journaling has been proven to help people struggling with a mental illness or people who want to improve their mental health (Ackerman, 2022; Purcell, 2006). More specifically, effective journaling has been found to:

Boost your mood
Enhance your sense of well-being
Reduce symptoms of depression
Reduce symptoms of trauma and PTSD
Improve your work memory

Here are some following tips to ensure your journaling is effective:

Write in a space free of distractions
Journal at least once a day
Keep your journal private -“my eyes only”
Be in control of the topic and structure of your writing

Try journaling today! The process may take some time, but the benefits can support your health and quality of life. It can be fun! Whether you choose to write about how your day went or your current thoughts and emotions, the fun part is that you get to choose what your narrative will be!

Courtney E. Ackerman, M. A. (2022, September 8). 83 benefits of journaling for depression, anxiety, and stress. PositivePsychology.com. Retrieved September 8, 2022, from https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-of-journaling/

Purcell, M. (2006). The Health Benefits of Journaling. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 10, 2022, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-health-benefits-of-journaling/000721

Working to Be Heavenly Minded & Earthly Good…

By Larrell L. Wilkinson

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

Many have heard the Bible verse, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33, NIV). So being real for a moment, many of us do become distracted and/or challenged in the action of first seeking His kingdom and righteousness. We are challenged in making Him the priority over things of the world. So often our troubles in and of the world take precedent in our daily lives. Whether personal or social, a person may wake up thinking about their troubles or literally “yell angry expressions through typing” on Twitter to express their opinion about a particular topic that irks them. Let’s not forget our instinctive reaction to people who cut us off on the freeway! These first thoughts, instinctive reactions and/or expressions on social media may occur before we have once prayed to God about the problem or meditated on the “trouble” given God’s instruction to us from His Word.

Let me be clear, there are many serious trials and tribulations that we may encounter in life. For James wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4, NIV). Consider it “pure joy…”, REALLY? It tough dealing with challenges like hate through racism. Lord, I really rather not have to deal with the stresses of racism or concern myself with how racism may impact my children. And what about other hardships? What if a couple is going through a rough patch in their marriage; a person is battling with serious illness; and/or coping with other inequities within society…I mean who really desires to be faced with these other difficult life circumstances.

Still, I want to encourage us to press into God (& His kingdom) more! Practicing patience, finding joy in hope, and being consistent in prayer (Romans 12:12) may help us to resolve our personal troubles. The book of Isaiah suggest that we do right; seek (require or demand) justice; defend the oppressed; take up the cause of the fatherless; and plead the case of the widow (Isaiah 1:17) within society. This is how we can work to address some major issues impacting our local communities. For the last part of Matthew 6:33 says, “…and all these things will be given to you as well.” Thus, God is telling us that racial reconciliation, health and recovery, a flourishing society, a better marriage, overcoming our personal challenges…can occur when we seek His kingdom and His righteousness.

No one is saying it will be easy, at least I’m not. As a matter of fact, or my opinion, I believe it may be extremely difficult to address challenging areas in our personal lives and socially. Plus, we must consider God’s timing and that His ideas may be different than our expectations. Still, working to seek God and His kingdom FIRST, is our FIRST step to addressing problems in our lives. Second, I believe it is important to change our own attitudes positively about the challenges that we experience. This is why James says, “consider it pure joy” and I am sharing with you that I am a “work in progress.” To help me, I am intentional about keeping positive and healthy family/friends/mentors around me from whom I can seek good advice and social-emotional-mental-physical-financial support. A church can be helpful in this endeavor as well. Finally, I also work to accomplish small tasks around me, challenging myself to take on bigger issues as I build momentum (confidence) with smaller successes.

So what about you? How do you address challenges in your life? What concerns can PHAME-US Life help to encourage you through from the “test” to the “testimony” for others to see? Feel free to share in the comments section or join us on social media. May God Bless You and Yours.

This Little Light of Mine, I’m Going to Let it Shine: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2021

I can remember hot Sundays and weekdays sitting in the pews of hot Mississippi churches listening to my grandmothers sing:

“This little light of mine,

I’m gonna let it shine, (Ohhh!)

I’m gonna let it shine

This little light of mine

I’m gonna let it shine

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine…”

If you have never heard a deep, southern gospel group of adults or even children sing this song, well, run to YouTube quickly and find some videos or download the music at Apple, Amazon, Google, etc. The song can be an uplift, whenever you need it most. I can still hear both of my grandmother’s voices in my inner ear, singing this song among the other church choir members. At one of my home churches in Mississippi, I can hear the choir singing under the direction of my aunt playing the piano and keying up the verses. I am telling you; the church was hot with the bright sun beams coming down on both of my family churches (in different parts of the State of Mississippi), but the song was “SANG” the same. I can still hear the passion in the voices of the choir, most of them older women: mothers, grandmothers, aunties, cousins, sisters, family…instructing us in the audience to let our light shine.

Most of the church was much older than me. My grandparents’ generation lived through World War II, Jim Crow Laws of the South, and the Civil Rights struggle and gains of the 20th Century. They combatted the ugliness of racism: burned down African American owned stores, fire bombed churches, challenges to perform the guaranteed civic duty of voting, discrimination, and racial bias in the Armed Services while fighting for the United States of America, inability to get farm loans, etc. because of the color of their skin. But through it all, they “let their light shine.” By law, it was determined that they would live as second-class citizens in the South, segregated as “separate and unequal” and through it all they “let their light shine.”

It didn’t matter if you were an older adult, adult, teenager, or child…in the church, listeners were told:

“Everywhere I go

I’m gonna let it shine

Everywhere I go

I’m gonna let it shine

Everywhere I go

I’m gonna let it shine

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”

And why? Why did (do) we have to shine the light? It is true that the Bible reads, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, NIV). But I tell you more practically, my grandmothers and the leaders of their generation were singing more practically. They were teaching and encouraging, saying to combat White Citizen’s Council policies, redlining, Jim Crow Laws, lynching, unlawful arrests, racial profiling, and other violations of African Americans (& People of Color) civil rights, we must let our light shine. They did GOOD when faced with EVIL, demonstrated LOVE when given HATE, and offered FORGIVENESS (not forgetfulness) when presented MEANNESS, OPPRESSION, and OFFENSE. The choir knew what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Let’s choose to love today and every day, loving our neighbor (others) as we do ourselves (Mark 12:31, NIV). Love to all of you and thank you for your leadership Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. May we continue to let our light shine!

A Prayer for Our Country on January 6, 2021

Father God,

As we watch the turmoil in Washington, D.C. right now, we turn to you and pray for our nation. We pray for peace, calm, & demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ. We pray for the safety of the Capitol Police protecting Congress; the safety of Senators and Representatives; and the safety of peaceful protestors. We pray protection from those who divide, sow discord, & perform acts of violence. We pray the leaders of our government, leaders of the United States of America do the serious work to form a more perfect Union…working toward Justice, Tranquility, the Common Defense, promoting the general Welfare, and continuing to secure the Blessings of Liberty for ourselves and Posterity. Amen. #capitolhill#democracy#StrongerTogether

Working to Reduce Our Racial Biases in 2021


But the Lord said to Samuel, “…The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7, NIV).” A recent incident going viral through social media portrays a European American woman accusing an African American teenager of being in possession of her iPhone in a hotel lobby. The story has gone viral due to the unfortunate escalation of this situation, eventually involving the Arlo Hotel staff and local police. According to video posted online, the European American woman works to tackle the young man who she believes is in possession of her phone. Soon after this ill-fated incident, an Uber driver return the woman’s iPhone to her at the hotel.

Certainly, an apology is in order and it is likely that civil and probably even criminal charges will be pursued. Although there are many sides to a story and more will come to light related to this situation; many African Americans specifically, and “people of color” generally are physically weary, emotionally drained, and socially tired of living with and pushing through these circumstances caused by bias. All kinds of biases exist regarding sex, age, race/ethnicity, socio-economic status, disability, sexual orientation, height, etc. Focusing on race, this unnecessary circumstance experienced by this young man due to his African American ethnicity (there are millions of iPhones made and distributed annually and he has one) is the result of a woman acting on her biases (how many other iPhones might there have been in the hotel lobby).

After a year like 2020, let’s work to be kinder to one another. Let’s work to be intentional in reducing our racial biases. We can all become aware of racial biases (implicit or otherwise) that we may have. If you are a parent, and if you can imagine a stranger accosting your child, then we can all be concerned about the consequences of acting on our biases without just cause. Even if you are not a parent, you have family, friends, and others in your network that can be made to experience unfortunate moments, penalized for no other reason than due to their race/ethnicity. But most importantly, I encourage all of us to work to substitute our biased reactions to racial situations with non-biased reactions related to our Christian values. Let us work to identify people as God would, looking at the heart! Even if we believe that someone has our phone, I am sure that there are dozens of different ways that this circumstance could have ended better.

Fatherhood: Black Men are Challenging Negative “Daddy” Stereotypes

Watching TV, the other morning, I came across an interview of leaders of “The Dad Gang.” According to their website, thedadgang.com, the mission of the Dad Gang initiative is partly to “shatter myths and celebrate black fatherhood everyday.” Started by Sean Williams in November 2016, The Dad Gang started as an Instagram page focused exclusively on reflecting positive images of active black dads. In learning more about this organization, I am reminded a little about what active dads do. Deuteronomy 11:19-21 (NLT) instructs leaders of their households (men) to “Teach them (decrees from God) to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that as long as the sky remains above the earth, you and your children may flourish in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors.”

Active dads are leaders of their children. Active dads are ministers to their children. Active dads are protectors of their children. Active dads are providers to their children. Active dads are teachers to their children. Active dads have fun with their children. Active dads are involved with their children. Active dads train their children (in the way they should go) [Proverbs 22:6]. Active dads develop the character and talent of their children. Active dads serve their children. Active dads love their children. I appreciate the men of The Dad Gang Initiative and encourage US to work to promote a positive and healthier fatherhood for all to see and witness. Let’s do it, together!

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Reflection on the Killing of Mr. Ahmaud Arbery

I walk/jog/run most days of the week. I walk/jog/run for my health & well-being. I encourage other men who look like me to walk/jog/run for their health & well-being. I encourage ALL people to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” & “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31, NIV).

I cannot explain the tragic circumstances of #AhmaudArbery. My hope is WE can ALL work towards LOVING our God and LOVING our fellow MAN. Perhaps when we treat each other the way we would want to be treated, then these tragic events will decrease and end. Heavenly Father, I pray for peace, love, strength, encouragement and comfort for the family of Ahmaud Arbery. I pray the same for all the many families who have lost loved ones due to violence. God, grant us the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Lord, please embolden men and women in solidarity with each other, in You, to champion the causes of the just, the good, the defenseless, and those experiencing unfortunate circumstances. May we speak up and judge righteously. Amen.