Discovering Humanity – A Christian Practice

Discovering Humanity Brandon Blankenship

… then I will look at you with your eyes and you will look at me with mine.
– Dr. J.L. Moreno

There is a woman who sits in a park in Birmingham, Alabama. For as long as I can remember, she has sat in that park. She is older now. She doesn’t smell too good. She usually sits at the intersection of two walking paths hoping for someone to give her money for food. She is passive for a beggar but she is always present. I walked past her many times. Sometimes I shared pocket change. Most times I just walked by.[1. ©2017 Brandon Blankenship, Image Credit: Donnalee Blankenship]

One day, while waiting in line to enter an event at the park, we started talking. She slowly shared the story of the husband that beat her into the hospital. No longer able to think clearly she eventually lost her job. Her husband left. Unable to care for her children, they were taken by the state. Thirty something years have passed and she grieves the loss of her children. She wonders where they are and what kind of lives they might have had.

If her children had become pro athletes or millionaires or professors, I might have been quick to acknowledge that I knew their mother. I am quick to share her honor. St. Paul’s encourages that when one person is honored, we are all honored. And challenges that when one person suffers, we all suffer.[2. 1 Corinthians 12:26.] Since her children became wards of the state, I am tempted to reject her instead. I am slow to share her suffering. The real work of discovering humanity is leaning into, sharing the suffering with her. The real work is in not pulling away.

I don’t know what it is like to be beaten to the point of irreparable brain injury. I do know what it is like to suffer an injustice and not have the power to change it.

I don’t know what it is like for a court to determine that I am inadequate to be a parent. I do know what it is like to want or need to do something and question if I am adequate to do it.

I do not know what it is like to spend entire days ignored in a public park. I do know what it is like to feel alone.

By discovering her humanity, I discover that – whatever our differences may be – we have these things in common. We have a shared humanity. She agrees that she is still a mother even though her children were taken from her. I asked if I could call her mother, and she said I could.

Now, when I walk through the park, I look for her. When I see her, I call out “Hello mother!” and she smiles.

I am America, carefully picking the route I walk and drive so as not to interrupt my happy day. And when I stumble upon an interruption by accident, I have carefully honed my peripheral vision to ignore it. Visions of people who are beaten, alone, or hungry would interrupt my happy day. So, I avoid them where I can and ignore them where I must.

It is a Christian Practice to discover humanity as we walk, drive, work, and play. This requires stopping the practice of looking past people who are different from us to find people like us. It requires engaging humans as we encounter them.

People are sometimes gross, offensive, or painful – it is a Christian Practice to acknowledge them anyway, to engage them anyway, to love them anyway.

### Brandon Blankenship

Discomfort – Finding Abundance in The Abundant Life

Discomfort Finding Abundance

Want a car? Sure. But which one? Isn’t finding abudance in the abudnant life really just about lifestyle?

Got a car but you got a new raise? Well, you need a better car. Got a better car? Then you need a better place to live. At a certain level of earning, you need a second car, a second house (beach, mountain or lake). No matter how much your check is, you always seem to end up with the same amount at the end of each year – little to nothing. No matter how much you make, you end up living a lifestyle of scarcity.

Yet you believe that there is such a thing as an abundant life. But no matter how hard you work, abundance evades you. It plays an unfair game of hide-and-seek, unfair because it cannot be found no matter how hard you seek. It seems like a better car would be an abundant life. It seems like more clothes would be an abudnant life. It seems like a better house would be an abudnant life. Finding abundance, however, is not about more.

The opposite of scarcity, however, is not abundance – it is enough.

If you can find a away to shift your lifestyle so that rather than sliding up the scale to the next better thing, you slide down the scale until you have just enough (until perhaps you are just a little uncomfortable).

Then you will be left with an abundance.

And when you have the opportunity to help others with your abudance – then you find the abundant life.

### Brandon Blankenship

 

 

Things I Learned Alone On The Farm

Brandon-Blankenship Things I Learned Alone On the Farm

There is always something to do on a farm. Even when you fix everything that is broken, there is preventative maintenance to do: greasing equipment, treating wood handles, sharpening…. If you get all of the preventative maintenance done, there is always something that could be improved. Better soil, better fences, better drainage, better water, all of this makes a better farm.

Often, my mind joins my hands and is consumed in the work. Other times, the work itself (like driving a tractor) lends itself to watching things, to learning. Here are some of the things I learned alone on the farm:

  1. Honeybees are a living example of the Christian lifestyle. They work and work to have a surplus of the food stores they need to survive. Even when they give away 2/3 of what they make, they have plenty left for themselves.
  2. Thousands of honeybees work in perfect harmony with each other toward a common goal. Best as I can tell, excluding queen selection, they never argue in spite of making countless daily decisions that will determine their survival.
  3. Border collies work when they are hurt.
  4. On the farm, it is obvious that death in its full meaning is at work every day. Wood rots, metal rusts, moths destroy and the cute field mouse eats next season’s seeds.
  5. Life will force its way through rock.
  6. Left alone, the plants that I don’t (or can’t) eat will overtake the plants that I can eat.
  7. The honeybee makes honey for the survival of the honeybee colony. The beekeeper only manages surplus.
  8. A good file is more valuable than a new axe.
  9. A bucket of bolts and screws saves a bunch of trips to the hardware store.
  10. I can track the season by what is blooming.
  11. Good soil is better than the best fertilizer.
  12. This year’s potato harvest has to last until next year’s potato harvest.
  13. Acquaintances are indirectly proportionate to the work that needs to be done.
  14. Friends are directly proportionate to the work that needs to be done.

### Brandon Blankenship, On the farm.

Spring Break Adventure 2016

I love adventure blogging. First, it requires an adventure. Check. Second, there are sure to be some family “discussions” (loosely translated “tense voices”) on how we are doing what we are doing. Check. Check. Yep, I am adventure blogging now.

It really started as a quick trip to Nashville during spring break. From there we would drive to Atlanta for ice dance testing. Then home.

True to Blankenship form, we had no sleep accommodations when we left the house. No road map planned out. No ideas on where to eat. Just get from point A to point B and figure it out along the way. If you don’t travel like that, there is an adventure right there. It doesn’t bother Brandon or Anna, but it ties my stomach in knots. I’m learning to embrace the adventure of it.

The trip to Nashville was uneventful. We have made it there many times. We bid on a hotel through Priceline.com and got half off at a Marriott. Not bad. However, I did start to think that Netflix binge watching “Person of Interest” made me hyper aware of all the exits, weird behaviors of the hotel guests, and make-shift weapons in case we got attacked.

We headed over to Franklin, one of our favorite towns, and did some restaurant hopping. Appetizers and coffee at the Frothy Monkey (most excellent cheese and fruit tray!) and supper at Puckett’s Boathouse with a live band. In between, we walked the downtown area checking out all the shops and historical markers. Altogether very pleasant.

The trip from Nashville to Chattanooga to Atlanta was a whole different story.

A few miles outside of Murphreesboro, I-24 shut down. I mean, in the middle of nowhere, everybody came to a complete stop and sat there for about two hours. The police blocked people from crossing the median to go back. Several truckers blocked the shoulder so that impatient people could not speed past the traffic to get off at the next exit, 2 miles down the road. (Seriously, thank you! That is so irritating and dangerous.) Lots of people were standing outside their cars, wandering around, and chatting.

Brandon and Anna were asleep, so I of course woke B up to help me find an alternate route….and because duh. Misery loves company. I searched the AM and FM channels for traffic news, to no avail. Then the public potty breaks started. Grown men running into the woods to relieve themselves. Worried women pacing. College kids making a party of the whole situation.

People watching is seriously interesting. I mean, think of all those apocalypse movies where you are minding your own business and suddenly you are stranded with the people around you trying to survive. Somebody has an arsenal in their trunk. Somebody has survivalist training. The locals know where all the food supplies are. Some puffed-up windbag tries to be the leader, but he messes it all up and the real leader steps forward to save us and keep us alive. There are some casualties, of course. Some people taking crazy risks. We mourn them, but have to keep moving…

The cars inch forward a few feet.

What if road block is another one of those trucks carrying millions of bees that turned over? Too bad we don’t have our bee suits in the car.

At one point we were stopped over a lake on a really tall bridge. As the semi trucks whizzed by on the oncoming lanes, the whole bridge would vibrate and freak me out. Again, I blame too many James Bond, Die Hard, Mission Impossible movies. I could totally see this as a rogue terrorist group hijacking the interstate and blowing the bridge to cover their escape, plunging thousands of innocent people to a murky death in the freezing waters. I planned, that as we sank into the river, we would quickly unbuckle, make our way to the last remaining air pocket in the car, and take our last deep breath before kicking the door open and swimming through the debris to the surface. Brandon would of course be injured and unconscious, so I would get Anna to help me carry him to the surface, but if she couldn’t, I instructed her to leave us and save herself. In an act of bravery and heroism, she would make it to the top and come back down to save us both.

The traffic started moving again.

We finally got off the interstate after two hours of going only 2 miles. We stopped right there at the over crowded fireworks gas station (who thought that was a good combo?) and kissed the ground before stretching. We had made it out of the traffic and off that bridge!

We made the Blankenship family decision of going the opposite way of all the diverted traffic, and feeling our way towards Atlanta. Our personal detour took us through multiple small towns.

By the way, in a lot of small towns, the gas station quick stops don’t have public restrooms. File that away for future use.

Our Siri GPS calculated and recalculated a lot of back roads, and I imagine if she were a real person, she would have been yelling at us. There were a few times I was tempted to yell at “her.” As it was, we went south before Chattanooga back into Alabama going west. Then found another road that took us southeast through Mentone and then back into Georgia. Lots of curvy mountain roads going up and down and winding through three states. We have now been to South Pittsburg and travelled on Turkey Mountain Road. Yay us!

Our arrival time in Atlanta jumped from 5pm to 9pm. Of course, we had to jump forward an hour for Eastern time and then there is an extra hour to Spring Forward for Daylight Savings Time, so I really have no idea what time it is. And since Anna is testing in the morning for ice dancing, we have to BE THERE at 5:30 a.m., so I’m not even sure how much sleep we are getting. This is too much math for Spring Break!

Lesson to learn here? Use a real map people! Siri and google maps could be hijacked and they will lead us all into some kind of concentration camp where we will all be interrogated for our top secret Intel.

OR…

When traveling, put yourself in the adventure mindset so you won’t go crazy. I do love that about my family. We are up for just about any kind of a spontaneous adventure. This was one brought to you by the I-24 shutdown outside of Murphreesboro, TN.

P.S. I should probably cut back on the movies. Some adventures are all in my mind. ?

Will We Celebrate Your Day?

Fireworks

As the 2016 Martin Luther King, Jr. week comes to a close, I am sharing this post from by friend Darrell “Coach D” Andres, CSP. This post appeared earlier this week on Christian Professionals Network and poses the question, will we celebrate your day?:

Dr. Myles Munroe’s Challenge

No question that Jesus my Lord and Savior has had the greatest impact on my life as a father, husband, minister and business owner. Besides my mother, the one person he placed on the planet that has impacted my life personally more than anyone is my mentor/Pastor – Dr. Myles Munroe out of Nassau in the Bahamas. He taught me more about living on purpose than anyone else. We lost Dr. Munroe a year or so ago, but his words still impact my life.

The Question Left Them In Stunned Silence

He once shared a story describing how during one of his many Martin Luther King Day speeches, he posed a question to his audience relating to Dr. King that left them in a stunned silence. He said and I quote, unquote, “Dr. Martin Luther King was a one of a kind person. His life and legacy was one of the greatest the world has ever seen. We are here to celebrate his life, legacy and impact today. The question I have for you however is as follows, “At some point in history are we going to celebrate your day? Will your life count in such a manner that the world, your city, state, nation or community is better off because you were here or will history not remember you? When I heard this, I made the commitment that my life would not end without making a considerable deposit in the world I live in. History will remember me. For me, it is using my voice and gift of motivation (Or biblically-exhortation) to change the world around me. My family, city, state nation and yes world (One day!)

Nothing matters except faith which worketh by love.[1. Brandon Blankenship paraphrase of Galatians 5:6, Image Credit: Fireworks Jorgen Kesseler CC flickr 31DEC2010]

The Bible tells us clearly in John 14:12:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.[2. KJV.]

We (Men and Women) are told through scripture that we will do great works. We are not all called to be a global revolutionary like Dr. King, but the question I am posing is, “How will your life be remembered?” Through your business, work, ministry or other calling, what contributions are you going to make to transform society? I speak to youth, families and parents often (purposely) because one of my three missions is to transform the next generation via passion and purpose.

We Have Confused Wealth With Purpose

One belief that youth have is that you are only significant if you are wealthy. I do not blame them for thinking this way. We have confused wealth with purpose. Society, which includes many people of faith have wired them to think like this. My response to them when they make this statement is simple: “History does not remember rich people, it only remembers people who have positively impacted the world around them. The world and our nation does not create holidays for Millionaires and Billionaires, it creates them for people who improved the outcomes of others via the lives they live. If you just so happen to become wealthy in doing so that it another thing, but wealth as your only goal is empty.” I tell them, use your life in such a way that your life counts. Just like King, live your life on purpose and whatever gift you bring to the table will have meaning and significance to the world in which you live.

Will We Celebrate Your Day?

My dear friends, I say the same to you. Whatever affinity (Passion, Gift or Ability) God has given you, use it in such a way that betters the world around you. Luke 6:38 states: “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” Dr. King’s Dream blessed the world in such a way that streets, schools and communities are named after him. Because of his dream, the world is a better place, and the world is responding (Giving back) by honoring his life and legacy.

My friends, Dr. King left us a legacy, and now it is your time. What will you do to make the world a better place?

Darrell “Coach D” Andres, CSP
http://www.coachdspeaks.com/

PS-My brothers and sister who live in nations where this is a real challenge, we are praying for you![3. Special thanks to Coach D who allowed the reprint here.]

###

Return on the Investment of Intention

… what a person plants, he or she will harvest. [1. Galatians 6:7, The Message, gender modified.]

I am encouraged with the farm-to-table movement in the United States. The side benefit is that as a new generation studies the source of the food on their table they become interested in things like seeds. Heirloom or hybrid, instead of thinking that fruit comes from the grocery story a whole generation knows that an apple grows on a tree and that there are many varieties of apple trees.

The simple knowledge that apple seeds, when planted in good ground, grow apple trees and good apple trees produce apples give this law meaning: what a person plants, he or she will harvest.

Intention is the Seed, Not the Act Itself

The seed that I plant is what I do and the tree and the apple that I harvest is what I get in return. What about those who give and give and get frustrated in the lack or quality of their harvest? Test your intention. Intention is the seed, not the act itself. The harvest is based on the the quality and quantify of your intention.

I Was, After All, Giving to the Homeless

Consider the story of when I would walk once a week or so from my office to a Bible study downtown. Often, I would pass homeless people on the walk. I kept a few dollars folded separate from everything else in my pocket so that I could easily give it as I felt lead to to so. As each person asked, I would pause and consult my conscience.[2. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.] As I felt led, I would give.

One day, I was compelled to start saying “in Jesus name” each time I gave. “O.K.,” I thought. “How hard could that be.” So, when the opportunity came, I opened my mouth to speak  —  and stuttered something even I didn’t understand. Giving “in Jesus name” turned out to be a lot harder than I expected.

The Nature of the Seed

When I give, if my intention is to look good to others or to be a good person, then that is what I harvest. So, when the harvest comes others see me as good in their estimation or worse, I see myself as good in my estimation. The intention of my planted seed is harvested.

Neither result is a good return on the investment. The Christian disciple seeks for “Christ to be magnified in our bodies whether by life or by death.”[3. Philippians 1:19-20.]

Checking my Intention

Perhaps that what David meant when he prayed, “search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.”[4.Psalm 139:23.]

Maybe David knew that there were places where his intentions were not right. Maybe David suspected that there were places where his true intentions were hidden, even from himself.

Challenge

There are several tools Christian disciples can use to check our intention. Here is a simple one. After you resolve to do something, add the phrase, “in Jesus name.” If adding this phrase is difficult or makes you uncomfortable, it may be time to ask, “what is my true intention?”[5. Image Credit: Return on Investment, Simon Cunningham CC flickr 1JAN2014 LendingMemo.com, ©2015 Brandon L. Blankenship Attorney Lawyer]

### Brandon L. Blankenship

 

 

 

Let Me

Anna B Resting at Grand Canyon

Lord,

Let me be a place of rest for the unexpected traveller. A hot breakfast. A long talk over hot tea. The name of a friend in the next town and a package of cheese sandwiches for the road.[1. (c)2015 Brandon L. Blankenship, Image “Anna’s Canyon Rest” See Guillebeau, Chris, Happiness of Pursuit, Page 208.]

### Brandon Blankenship, Alabama

For the Lack of Ten Men

Ten Men

The ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because they lacked ten righteous men.

If you don’t know the story, the God of Abraham condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to absolute destruction because the wickedness in the cities had become great and exceedingly grave.

Eating while others hunger.

Sodom’s wickedness and the wickedness of the cities that had grown up around it was that its citizens exaggerated their own importance, had more than enough to eat but didn’t share with the hungry, pushed all of their work off onto others but didn’t provide for the poor.[1. Ezekiel 16:49]

Abraham begged for the cities to be spared.

Abraham[2. He was actually called Abram at this point in history because God had not yet called him by his new name of Abraham.] pleaded with God not to destroy the cities because righteous people might get executed alongside the wicked even though they were innocent. God agreed that if ten righteous men could be found He would stop the destruction. Abraham did not call for the destruction of the wicked. He pleaded for the righteous.

There were not ten righteous men.

The saddest part of this story is Lot who was Abraham’s nephew. Lot sat at the city gate of Sodom (and was therefore esteemed among the city government). Even though Lot was surrounded by hundreds, perhaps thousands of men, he did not have ten friends that he persuaded to be righteous.

The cities were destroyed.

Challenge

What if God was looking at your city right now? Would it be destroyed or would it be saved? What role would you play in either fate? Consider these three questions that might make a difference:

  1. The next time you focus your attention on condemning something you think is bad, can you shift your focus onto something righteous? Something good?
  2. Can you take some step (no matter how small) to care for the poor and needy in your city?
  3. Can you encourage nine others to shift the energy they put into showing off into gratitude?[3. ©2015 Brandon L. Blankenship, Image Ten Men by Sarah Hennington, used with permission.]

###