What Businesses Can Learn by Engaging a Wakandan Princess

Princess Shuri-Mar-23-18

What more can be said about the blockbuster movie Black Panther, which has clawed through the veil of exclusion and has captivated its audience with its emergence and majestic moves on big screen. Well I am going to give it a try. And this is not for the sake of the need to add another remix of thoughts and insights gleaned from the film. However, I would like to advance the conversation in the context of business, as a microcosm of society, where most of our waking hours are spent.

I will be comparing the contemporary, organizational leadership and hierarchy to the countercultural message of leadership from Black women in the Black Panther. One of the striking things about the Black Panther, in this historically-fiction land of Wakanda, is the deconstruction of effective leadership to be neither just male and nor just white. There is a strong emphasis of Black females in meaningful leadership roles from Okoye, the king’s general to Nukea, the international spy to Shuri, the intellectual, warrior princess. It’s Shuri, the heroic imagery of an intellectual, warrior princess, who I would like to focus on to support this counter-narrative message and theme.

Creation of a New Princess Image

To use the term intellectual princess is by design because the word princess is fraught with the stereotype of beauty without brains and brawn. In most films the princesses are rarely geniuses and rarely are willing to get into the octagon or ring to rough it out. But Shuri did! (I would offer that an intellectual warrior is a juxtaposition of contradiction.) Many fell in love with her character especially Black women. (See New York Times article by Reggie Egwu, Did You Watch ‘Black Panther’? Let’s Talk Spoilers.) There was a sense of romanticism as if these qualities were long lost treasures of a distant time. The truth of the matter, however, is that these qualities in many professional Black women in corporate circles have been always present. But many non-Black leaders (and not just White) have ignored them or have feared them.

When I say ignored, I mean their ideas are not taken seriously because they are not viewed as smart enough to advance into greater leadership. When I say feared, their words are taken to be threatening or destructive, and not passionate and constructive to the workplace conversation. Really their incisive words coupled with their expressive body language are routinely misunderstood, because of latent fears and prideful biases. I suggest however the language (verbal and non-verbal) should be like the Brazilian martial art of Capoeira where actions of dancers may look like strikes to hurt and scare, but really are strikes to dance and cleverly challenge each other. The interpretation of a Capoeira competition/dance be producing a win-win for both contestants and not a zero-sum outcome. The community of onlookers benefits from this exchange as they incorporate the rhythm of engagement in their own subcultures.

I believe that is the intellectual, warrior mastery that we see in the film with the win-win relationship between Princess Shuri and the CIA agent, Everett Ross. This is Shuri’s heart and desire when she pokes fun and challenges Agent Ross to stretch himself and see Black women in a different light as an equal partner in the business of saving the world. We see this intellectual, warrior mastery come to a head as an apex of this countercultural message where this young, Black female was leading, instructing and guiding this older, white male into battle. Let’s pause for a second and feel the magnitude of the moment. I don’t know about you, but this represents paradigm shifting. For each quality: young, female and Black, are historically a knock not to lead. Yet Ryan Coolger, the director, provides us with an unseen world where Black women are given access to the throne room of Eurocentric leadership. Hidden Figures no more but women like Shuri are ready to lead and fight the good fight.

Now the term warrior may seem to be much for some but think about every company that says we’re number one in an emphatic roar of beating of the chest. Think of all the company-wide rallies that major companies throw like Google, Apple, Amazon, and Walmart to name some. It implies someone else is number two (2) and the company will fight to remain number one (1). These aren’t just your regular, humdrum meetings, but these gatherings are held in packed arenas and stadiums akin to ancient Roman coliseums to muster a battle cry to fight for marketplace supremacy while slaying their competition in folding. That attitude takes a warrior spirit. This is the same kind of spirit that Shuri and other Black women like her possess but not taken serious because of her race.

The Royal Snub & Passover

What do I mean by not being taken seriously? Well, would any venture capitalist like the ones in Silicon Valley invest in the talent of this kind of a professional? Most likely not! (See former CNN anchor, Soledad O’Brien’s work: Black in America: The New Promised Land – Silicon Valley) Would any non-Black person go into partnership with her? Probably not! Would anyone from Silicon Valley or any tech company hire her? Yes, but only when they have exhausted all other talent or feel the guilt of being non-diverse in their organization as compared to their peers and competition. What about that boardroom? Would you follow her lead to go into battle to develop the next new cutting-edge software, platform, car, derivative, service, policy etc.? Maybe—but only if she has gone above and beyond board to sell you its merits!

In a 2015 Fortune.com article, writer Valerie Purdie-Vaughan quotes authors, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, founder/CEO of the Center for Talent Innovation, and Tai Green, the organization’s Vice President of Communications. “Black women who are ready to lead—whose qualifications, track record, drive, and commitment make them ideal candidates for executive roles—stick firmly to the marzipan layer, in sight of the C-suite, but seemingly not in the sights of those who occupy it,” (Black Women Leadership Study by Fortune.com)

For many company leaders, many of whom are racially White, this preconception and bias has blinded them to this talent all around them in their organizations. The false and stereotypical narratives have misled these businesses and leaders to create Hidden Figures of talent in their business story. Purdie-Vaughan attests and recalls a common situation shared by Yvette Miley, senior vice president and executive editor of MSNBC who said, “During editorial meetings in the ‘90s, I noticed that sometimes if I were to say, ‘Let’s do A,’ the room would continue in its discussion. I’d hear that idea of mine coming out of someone else’s mouth. And then the room would hear it, understand it, and get behind it”. A report by the Center for Talent Innovation shared 26% of Black women felt their talent were not recognized by their managers compared to 16% White women. Author Sylvia Ann Hewlett and company wrote in their Harvard Business Review article, Leadership in Your Midst: Tapping the Hidden Strengths of Minority Executives:

“Why aren’t companies more attuned to the untapped leadership in their ranks? First, because they haven’t looked for it. Traditionally, to the extent that management takes an interest in employees’ “extracurricular” lives, the focus has been on activities that have long been sanctioned by white male executives and are thought to burnish a company’s image or enhance client relationships: United Way drives, symphony orchestra sponsorships, and sporting events, for example. Most companies do not bother to note the kind of pursuit that Stephanie, a bright, young African-American manager we interviewed, is involved in: running an award-winning Girl Scout troop in a homeless shelter.”

Next Steps toward Dignity

How do we improve the end of this tragic story, which for many women of color is not a fairy tale but a nightmare? Is the answer a shining white knight to riding in to save the day for the princess? Not quite. I think the simple answer is less rushing to bring in the Calvary but more listening, for example, over a cup a coffee. This will help leaders of businesses and organization to see Shuri as not an invisible anomaly but a visible quality in their firms. This quality of talent has been all around their company, but they were not aware or really considered looking for them. It takes a cup of coffee and a bread of openness to hear the stories of skillful and compassionate warriors in the workplace who have remained invisible like the citizens of Wakanda. For the truth is, many Black women in the workplace recognize they must work several times harder than their (White) peers in their area of craft just to reach parity and maybe, just maybe—get noticed.

So, getting noticed by the powers-that-be has become paramount in building career mobility and career velocity (my term to describe the pace of career movement). Many Black women now have a collective recognition that leadership exposure increases visibility and upward mobility. (The age-old, philosophical question of if a tree falls without anyone to hear it, does not equate the circumstances of the female Black professional. It is more like does the falling tree, make a sound is what I’m getting at.) Hewlett concurs with this necessary inner posture, “These lives remain invisible largely by choice. For many reasons, minority professionals are reluctant to speak of their outside pursuits and accomplishments to colleagues and managers. We are left with a dual challenge: Companies can’t leverage what they don’t see—and they can’t see what is purposely concealed.” Katherine W. Phillips and company mentioned the same in their Harvard Business Review piece called Diversity and Authenticity, “Opening yourself to others requires risk taking and trust, but without it employees are less likely to build the deeper relationships that lead both to success and to more happiness at work.”

However, I readily acknowledge it takes two to tango, and leaders must be willing to engage with the willing. It is acknowledged that Black women must take some risk and be forward with their leaders and say, “Hi Joe! This is what I can bring to the table for greater corporate profits. I’d like some time to sit with you to hear.” “Jill, I think we really need time to discuss what I bring to this organization for you may not be aware. Can we a grab a coffee soon?” Once the royal invitation is sent, both Joe and Jill must show up as servant leaders.

Royal Engagement—Showing H.E.A.R.T.

I think one call to action that Joe, Jill and other leaders can get from the Black Panther movie is to have coffee with Shuri, and engage and learn from her as the White, high-ranking agent did. This will require courage. This will require heart and spirit (which is the etymology of the word in the Latin) to overcome misplaced fears of the unknown and the estranged. I would like to suggest five (5) key steps of what this engaging process looks like as to make H.E.A.R.T. connection: Honesty, Empathy, Affirmation, Reflection, and Togetherness. Let me elaborate:

  1. Be Honest – Admitting you don’t know is not a bad thing. But being thankful to get to know is a better thing. Consider your time with a person like Shuri as a privilege to hear her story. You may want to express gratitude as well because you are now engaging in a posture of a student and not a teacher.
  2. Be Empathetic – Hear everything from Shuri’s view. Do this without any judgements or imposing your story on her narrative. The late Dr. Stephen Covey talked about avoiding seeing her story as your autobiography to correct and/or shape. In other words, don’t colonize.
  3. Be Affirming – Move from communicating in logic but to more feeling-based language. This may be the toughest one because we’re so wired to analyze and critique everything. We would like to move straight to action. That’s what executive do. We solve problems. However, this is the most critical piece to build understanding, solidarity and belonging.
  4. Be Reflective – Communicate what you’ve heard and pull out insight or implications. You may even ask follow-up questions to help move you out of your headspace to her headspace. This is really the definition of empathy—seeing the world or perspective of the world through the other person’s eyes.
  5. Be Together – Once Shuri has confirmed with you she’s been heard (her goals and/or perspectives), find together the best way to respond. It could be letting her know you’ll think or feel differently on the matter shared; helping her with further mentoring or coaching; or supporting her career or project goals. The key question is to answer: how will you journey with her through work-life?

As a networking professional, I know when Joe and Jill meet enough Princess Shuri’s over time with some H.E.A.R.T., they will most likely discover the latent and overflowing talents around them. This will help them to resist hiring redundant talent and lose frustrated talent like Shuri. Engaging these professional women of colour who really want to show their hidden talents will eventually show in the bottom line as a lagging indicator of the company’s success. All these women ask is that their leaders to listen them, so they could show their geniuses and help the company fly their businesses and organizations to unchartered territories.

And Not Forgetting to Bow

Lastly, I didn’t touch on this much. Nevertheless, it’s just as sobering to consider, and I would be remiss not to mention to wrap up. Shuri was a princess. Metaphorically, this should remind businesses and organizations that all women especially Black women have dignity and value. They must be treated and respected as royalty. This should not be lost on us. As the Me Too movement ramps up, we may forget sometimes that it was a Black woman who raised the flag and coined the phrase. This is to say the issue that impacts women in the workplace have been happening to Black women for a very long time, and it should not be forgotten. Let’s joyfully bow and fight on with Shuri!

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Healing Our Racial Division with the Fiery Passion of Pentecostal Love

As our American friends are in the midst of their 2016 presidential election, politicians are on the campaign trail explaining the reason to be voted as a president. The country is divided in many ways where activists ranging from race, to gender, to class and to religion are all crying out to be heard. When it comes to race, the division is much more sharp and piercing. Both Democratic and Republic politicians are professing to be the glue to unify their nation and mend the divide between Black, White, and Brown people.

Canadians may laugh at the made-for-t.v., political circus and comic show down South. Yet there are challenges of division with racism as deals with Afro-Canadians/Caribbean and First Nations and its offshoot religious racism with Muslims/Syrians/Middle East migrants and residents. It seems that both nations are having a difficult time closing the divide and opening our hearts. Americans are more blatant in their vitriol whereas Canadians are subtler. Either way – both are dehumanizing! I believe the Pentecostal Church could provide a road map for unity and reconciliation where both countries could learn from.

The Pentecostal/Charismatic Church is the fastest growing church in the world and approaching the size of the Roman Catholic Church as the largest Church family. The phenomenal growth and size is not by fluke. It is intentionally based on an open door and outreach position for diverse cultures and nations to embrace the message of Gospel love. Where did this attitude of passion fiery love come from for Pentecostals/Charismatics to reach out to Russians, Brazilians, Filipinos, Nigerians, Chinese etc.?

On April 1906, in a rundown church in Los Angeles, a passionate Black preacher William Seymour with a loyal group of Black Christians who prayed for racial unity and Christian unity. What made this prayer and fervor unique was in the midst of Jim Crow laws that these brave Christians were extending themselves to hug racist White Christians. God rewarded their desires by a phenomenal event where those Black Christians miraculously spoke in a different language never taught to them. This documented event echoed biblical times just after Jesus’ death and resurrection where the Early Church spoke miraculously through God’s Spirit in a different language to share the good news of Jesus to a diverse yet divided crowd in Jerusalem. What happened in Los Angeles 1900 years later known as the Azusa Street Revival had the similar effective power where it drew different races. Many of them experienced this miracle of speaking in a different language (called tongues speaking) and other miracles like healing. But the biggest miracle was the beginning to heal the divide of racism (and sexism) between people and their segregated churches. The reason being the experience was bigger than any race or culture (or gender). This Déjà vu moment was God pouring his love on all people, which humanized and humbled racist and sexist people to see each other with dignity and equality.

Although the Pentecostal Church is a human organization, not perfect and still struggles with racism and sexism like other organizations, but they have learned principles and practices to overcome the sin by God’s love. And the people are their fruit. This compassionate experience plus a compelling story is what our respective countries need to hear – especially our politicians. And quite possibly, they can feel the fire of unity that these men and women felt at Azusa Street. We can only pray in tongues for that miracle to happen.

~ Denley W. McIntosh

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Athanasius – The Hidden Jewel of Christian History in Africa

As a Black man or more accurately a Canadian, Afro-Caribbean man who is also a Christian, I constantly encounter members of my Black community who have a lingering anger and sometimes downright vitriol toward Christianity and the Christian faith. Many of them still carry the wounds of atrocity passed down from slavery that many of their ancestors had to bear. And in some cases, admittedly, they too are still bearing. There is a strong absence of forgiveness, which stems from that dark time – demonic time, to be truthful. The hurt would consistently recite a script similar to the one below about the historical account of Christianity toward Black Africans. It may take on this form:

“The White man, Christian Colonizers who took our African ancestors to the Americas, so they can enslave us, change our names, and colonize the New World, which didn’t belong to them but the Native Indians. The only reason that we as Black Africans are Christians because the White man forced it on us. Christianity is a White man’s religion. You are in bondage to accept this system. You must be liberated to our African Blackness and royal history.”

Often, the question is asked of me, Denley, how can you follow a White man’s religion? This question initially troubled me early in my faith, because I couldn’t reconcile the God and Christ I love with the atrocities of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade during the 15th century and its ongoing impact today like racism that intractably followed. (Sometimes I feel and sense in some ways that organized sports within the United States especially is a beautified and tamed version of slavery.) Colonization and many cases, genocide of the American Indians (Central, North and South Americas) was done seemingly under the divine imperative, beginning with Christopher Columbus, to explore God’s creation in authority of Jesus Christ.

It didn’t help matters that the Western Christian artwork and images were only White. Not to mention, the textbooks on theology were just as telling of the impact of slavery. These books just reinforced anonymity and the under representation of Blacks and minorities in scholastic guilds and circles of seminary. Of course, it seemed like Black or African participation in theology was salvaged by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which some Christian sources cited some of Dr. King’s prolific writings. It would seem that the contributions of Africans or Pan African descent begun in the 20th century. I felt that Christians of African descent brought nothing into the development of our early Christian faith especially theology.

This began a personal movement of studying and researching. I studied the movement of the early Christian church from the 1st Century. I encountered active African characters such as the Queen of the South (Sheba) mentioned even by Jesus in the Gospel of Luke; the Ethiopian Eunuch (who might have started the Ethiopian Church) and Simon the Black in the Book of Acts (a leader in the Early Church); and Tertullian of Carthage in North Africa (who provided the theological concept of Trinity, three in unity). My readings over Christian timelines and history allowed me to stumble upon the “Black Dwarf” who was the most beloved saint of the Early Church among both Eastern Church (Egypt, Ethiopia, Middle East, Eastern Europe etc.) and Western Church (Western Europe, North Africa etc.) His name: Athanasius – The Hidden Jewel of Christian history in Africa.

Who was Athanasius? He was considered as one of the great Church Fathers or even greatest Church Father of all time. (A Church Father was someone who was a key leader of a church or group of churches and in the forming of teachings to protect their churches from false teachings.)

Athanasius was born between 296 and 298 in Egypt to a Coptic family who were seen as a lower class. He understood Coptic and Greek language and studied in Alexandria, which was the intellectual centre of science, mathematics, philosophy and theology of its ancient day. Athanasius was a brilliant man. However, the two of the most distinguishing features of Athanasius was that he was short and dark-skinned, which afforded him the name “Black dwarf” reported by many historians including highly acclaimed historian, Justo Gonzáles. Admittedly there has been recent debates if Athanasius was a Black man as we know it today. There are some who say he was not Black based on the fact that he lived in Alexandria, Egypt, the capital city of the day (economic and intellectual) and a cosmopolitan centre where the skin complexion of many Egyptians of that time varied from fair skinned to dark skinned and every shade between.

There are others who say he was Black because he was born into a Coptic family who were more likely to be dark-skinned based on the fact that Coptic had interactions with the Nubians who were dark-skinned where its region known today as Sudan. Although it is a job of scholars to discover and reason out the evidence, this debate is not my concern. My main concern is that Athanasius is not European but African – specifically Egyptian of North Africa.

It’s worth noting that it was only when the British colonized Egypt in their illustrious history the political demarcation of the Middle East came about, which created an artificial separation culturally from Africa. Egypt today is not seen as part of Africa but as part of the Middle East. However, during Athanasius’ time that was not the case.

Like the ancient bishop or pastors before and after him such as Tertullian and St. Augustine respectively, he deeply impacted our understanding of our faith in Jesus. There are many things that Athanasius taught to develop Christian theology in Egypt (before the country was conquered by the Mohammedans in the 7th Century and became Muslim in its belief and culture), the Roman empire after the Emperor Constantine and today, which many of us as Christians are not aware. The main teaching that stood out would be the incarnation. This simply means that God took on our sinful humanity as his own (without sinning himself of course). God became a human being without diminishing his divinity or being God.

Athanasius taught in an ancient Egyptian world with competing creation myths (like Isis and Osiris) and worldviews that the invisible God who created the universe and all the creatures within including human beings became of one of his visible creatures – a human being. Jesus – far above Adam as the first human being – became a human being (who was Jewish) without ceasing to be God to heal (atone) and make peace (reconcile) with our human nature to God. This is when he lived and died without evil (sin) for our individual and collective evils (sins) and was raised to life again (resurrected). Athanasius helped organized and clarified our understanding of Jesus of Nazareth in both East, West and Coptic Churches as the One unique being who was and is fully God and truly human at the same time.

What makes Athanasius a significant jewel for the Christian community especially the Black Christian community is Black History month. Many times when Black Christians and Christians in general celebrate Black History month, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is the poster child. I am not diminishing the work and teachings of Dr. King. He is part of our Christian heritage not just Black heritage. However, how much more impactful to a lay Christian to know Christian scholarship of African descent goes back to the Ancient Church? How much more impactful to know that the Church in ancient times was more inclusive than thought and was not divided among race? How much more impactful to know that there was a hidden jewel who shined brightly reflecting the truth of Christ against false teachings like Arianism, who make Jesus Christ not God but a lesser being like the Jehovah Witness today teach? How much more impactful to know that Athanasius has helped us as Christians identify all 27 books of the New Testament that we still read today?

February tends to be a significant month when usually Ash Wednesday tends to fall. This is a forty-day period of fast known as Lent, which Catholics, Coptic, Orthodox and many Protestant churches religiously practice. Many Christians are not aware that Athanasius was the one who developed this kind of fast as a spiritual practice and discipline to prepare new Christians in the last 40 days for their baptism on Easter Sunday. Today Lent is practiced as a spiritual discipline of restraint and sacrifice for new and seasoned Followers of Jesus or Christians alike. There is no doubt this period of time significantly impacts the way Christians practice their heartfelt devotion to their Lord Jesus Christ.

Where Black history dwindles to a history lesson of Dr. King or for many Blacks who are against Christianity, a history lesson of how the Black community overcame the White man or European Christianity. Athanasius broadens our lexicon of Black history and it is rebuttal against many Black intellects who say Christianity is birthed out of the mind Europeans. No! Athanasius strongly influenced the teachings of Western European Christians. He influenced the devotion of most all Christians: Coptic, Catholic, Orthodox and Protestants etc.

As a Christian of Pan-African descent, a part of the African Diaspora, it is encouraging to know that Africans had a role in the development of our theology and devotional practices, so that the Gospel could be spread with more unity. This is especially true with Athanasius. I encourage more of my people to dig deep or deeper into Church history over 2000 years and not just the last few hundred years to the slave trade. Church history is just not an extension of Western European history. It is God’s people history beginning with the Jewish people and now including all ethnicities, which I am a part of and thankful for. As Paul, the Apostle, a Jewish Christian wrote most of the New Testament, aptly put it, “Christ is all in all [ethnicities and races]”. This a truth to and for those who love Jesus albeit imperfectly irrespective of our race and ethnicity. That is the Church. Athanasius is a jewel that helps reflect the light of ethnic and racial diversity in the Christian faith – mined from Africa. I hope this thought as encouraged you as it did me.

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Just One of Those Days – A Thought about Genesis 1

Genesis 1 is one of the most difficult passages in all Scriptures to wrap our mind. It has been a spot of major contention not only among those who are Believers and not believers of the Scriptures but also among Believers themselves.  Some Believers wrangle that the days are literal 7 days while other vehemently oppose to say that they are figurative days representing epochs of time upward to the millions of years. I see credence on both sides seeing that our modern day calendar is arranged based on 7-day weeks and has always been this way in ancient times including during the era of the old covenant or mosaic covenant. However, when looking at the earth from a scientific perspective, the earth and the cosmos/universe seems to yield an age, which surpasses merely tens of thousands of years. Who is right? Who is wrong? I would like to approach it from a different view, which may harmonize the two conflicting views as a pressing thought for consideration of the nature of our reality we have been given to exist.

I would like to suggest briefly that Genesis 1 is about the uncreated God (which is to say the God who already existed: the I am that I am) who working in uncreated space and time (which is to say and contrast space and time that existed within the life of God, the economic Trinity) in the Spirit to make created time and space as a temple to dwell with his humanity. At the end of his labor, God rested in his uncreated space of rest in the Spirit. This is to say that time and space is a reflection of God’s reality just as humans are a reflection/image of His glory. The idea of uncreated time and space comes from the fact that God is triune. Again, I use uncreated to differentiate or contrast with created only, which then I am not saying that uncreated time and space is intrinsic to the Ontological Trinity (God in being). More so, the term is to say that there is a solid reference point of time and space within the Economic Trinity (God in acting out of being) that God used dynamically to measure out time and space as its copy or likeness in our created reality.

In John 17:20-26, Jesus mentions about the perichoresis that mutual indwelling. This reality will suggest that there is a kind of space, which is more profound and absolute to created space; and a kind of time, which is profound and absolute to created time. I define space as a place to exist or be. I define time as a measurement of change. If God was not triune but monistic and static, there would be no mutual indwelling to create that kind of space and time. However, since God is triune and dynamic, this is possible by the Spirit who provides the space and time for the Father and Son to be (space) in each other and move (time) in each other (and the Spirit the same).

Since in 2 Corinthians 13:14 the Spirit provides fellowship to the Father and the Son, the Spirit himself is the Father and the Son’s space and time. We know that the Spirit means wind, which means energy and motion. When you have motion, you have change. When you have change, you have time. The Spirit is always moving and bringing a fresh “future” for the Father and the Son. As Torrance puts it in his Mediation of Christ, the “I am that I am” can also mean the “I will be that I will be”, which is future.

We also know that the Father does everything in the Spirit, because Jesus did everything in the Spirit who does everything like the Father. The Father moves in the Spirit, which we see in Genesis 1 the Spirit of God hovering over the waters. The Father/Elohim moves and creates in the Spirit.

The word “beginning” is reshith in the Hebrew, which means chief, head, source or first fruits. Interesting! We can rephrase “in the beginning” as possibly as “in the first fruits of time and space”. We can see how the Genesis 1 account could be God working in the Spirit, within the first fruits of time and space. God measures out 7 days within that realm of ground and depth in the Spirit by calling out the uncreated light to interpose with the “night”.

Saying all of that, I would therefore put forward the Genesis 1 account as God’s history in poetic form. In other words, it is a genre of its own that spans both sides: prose and poetry, which supersedes our conceptual categories. Moses or the writer’s account seems to blend both history from God/Elohim’s perspective more theo-centric with poetry as mnemonic for an oral culture during ancient times. This is compared or contrasted to Genesis 2 where the creation story is from Adam’s perspective, anthro-centric.

I cannot deny the poetic form as it is structured in the original Hebrew for Genesis 1; but God seemed to refer to the Genesis 1 days quite often in the Exodus book and other books as some kind of literal time for Him beyond human reasoning/experience. I share Exodus 31:17 as an example: “It is a sign for ever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.” This was the Lord speaking to Moses saying to use Genesis 1 as the archetype for work and rest. I suppose it was an experience that God had undergone in His renovation of the Earth to make it as His temple (1). Otherwise, how else would God tell Israel that He worked 6 days and rested for 1 day and they, Israel, should do the same? If the Genesis 1 account was just poetry, how did God draw this logical parallel if it had no basis in reality – probably a more profound reality within God the Spirit? Even in the New Testament, the writer in Hebrews mentioned in 4:3b-4: “…although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.”

Therefore, I think the days in Genesis were experienced from God’s perspective, in eternity time, in the Spirit. The days were sequenced as He saw fit as the Lord God of time. Jesus re-emphasized this fact in the Gospel as being the Lord of the Sabbath. We as humans are made in His image-likeness and are called to mirror God’s work pattern.

But are God-days equivalent to human-days like human years versus dog years? I cannot say that is so, and it’s probably best not to be dogmatic on that part where many Fundamentals like to plant their flag on the literalness of 6 human-day creation. I believe that’s why Peter wrote what he did about one day is thousand years and a thousand years are like a day to the Lord (2 Peter 3:8). We can’t be overly scientific on that point. The point is God created all things out of nothing and worked in sequence to build a temple where He can dwell.

All in all, Genesis 1 is such a profound mystery of divine history of the Economic God/Trinity that is beyond human history. Nevertheless, it is history that is more real than any other history we can ever imagine. Genesis 1 seems to be the Lord’s history of work/rest and not ours. I can only conclude to say that God within His own economic history is the archetype of space and time for the creation we live and move in. We therefore make a categorical mistake in these ways: when we apply God’s time literally to us in a qualitative fashion as to say God’s experience of time is the same as ours; or when we apply God’s time metaphorically to us in a quantitative fashion as to say God’s measurement/units of time is not the same as ours being 7 days.

Foot Note:

(1)  As for the Temple thought, Earth as God’s temple is the place where God would dwell.  (N.T. Wright, leading New Testament scholar has more on this idea.) Not a temple made by Human hands like Solomon or Herod created and was destroyed or other pagan-religions would create as a way to penetrate the Heavens like the Tower of Babel, but the Earth is itself as the temple, which is epitomized or summed in the incarnation of Jesus as the very Holy of Holies of God and the place where God truly tabernacles with humanity as noted in John’s Gospel. (As Paul says to the Colossians in 2:9, Jesus Christ is the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form.) When God finished his abode, His home, the Earth then He rested.

This is significant because of the Sabbath. Israel was taught to create temples for gods in Egypt with no rest. Now God was showing Israel and now us a way of working and resting in a memorable fashion through poetry. Revelation 21 and 22 re-emphasizes this idea of the Earth of being God’s temple. Of course, the work of the cross is Jesus resting from building the human temple of God when He ascended to the Father. We now can enter God’s eternal rest through Jesus’ humanity and look forward a renewed Earth to match.

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Head with the Heart…Not with the Head

Roman statesmen and orator Cicero once said “If you wish to persuade me, you must think my thoughts, feel my feelings, and speak my words”. Believe it or not, as people, we feel much more than we think. Duh… news flash you may say sarcastically. True. But let’s slow down and ‘think’ about the implications. Cicero didn’t say that we can persuade him by proving him deathly wrong by using undeniable facts or by some amazing logic. We can persuade him by simply identifying with him, and feelings are critical element.

When we provide advice and feedback to family and friends, the answers many times they are seeking is not logical per se but more relational. There is an immense feeling component that must be embedded with our advice. We have to meet them at the heart level as well as the head level.  Our answer must be empathetic or else we don’t identify. We move on feelings and not on the other’s facts.

I share an example of death. When someone passes away, we wouldn’t want to say to a grieving person “Oh buck up! I lost someone close to me too you know. You can make it if you do step 1, 2 and 3 of my plan.” Sounds pretty crass right? The best solution for that moment is a hug and a look of sympathy. We know reasonably that the grieving person will eventually move on with life if they take care of themselves. However, a rational answer is not the answer they are looking for at this time. They want a relational answer. Yet we are ever – so – tempted to want to hear ourselves talk and pontificate an answer. This is where we shoot ourselves in the foot and do more damage than good. The grieving may wish we were in the coffin too at that point!

Now the death scenario may not be a routine thing. So let’s make it more practical. Think about the tasks we do at home or at work. I think there is nothing worst when someone comes into my personal space at home or at work and tell me how to do my task better. Granted, they are probably right. I may be doing the tasks ineffectively or at least inefficiently for how many years. However, the fact you criticize my routine leads to my mulish resistance. (The criticism may not be truly critical but that’s how I perceive and feel!) The relational answer is to praise my routine and ask if you can offer suggestion for improvement. I’ll go on to further to say that I prioritize tasks that I feel it’s easier to do. This does not mean it makes sense to do it first. Hardly! But it feels as such, so I do as such. I could care less of the logic but more so the feeling of freedom that I chose the course of travel.

Now I know I’m in good company saying that. (Don’t leave me hanging on this reader.) When I offer my tried-and-true method to some struggling sap (as I think during my regrettable moment of pride), she looks at me as if I have two heads. Dare I tell her how to do her work better she says inwardly! She rather you offer a solution that makes her feel good about herself and not belittle her expertise. This is why in a disagreement or fight, it is not enough to win an argument; but you must win a friendship. The issue is rarely a head but a heart matter.

The late author and personal development coach, Stephen Covey talked about seek first to understand than to be understood.  The classic guru on understanding people, Dale Carnegie mentioned sympathy is what every person desires and needs. Similarly Jesus of Nazareth taught his followers the timeless truth of considering first the feelings of others as a way to love our neighbors. Covey and Carnegie (both influenced by Jesus’ teachings in this area) clearly indicated that the logical answer was not enough. Our advice must be relational. It must be emotional.

Think about all people challenges at home or at work. Think about the issues encountered which seems to persist and possibly getting worse with mom, dad, sister, brother, best friend, boss, coworker or worse everyone. Think about why we are always spinning our wheels and not getting anywhere in many of our relationships. Could it be we have been brainwashed by culture and upbringing to think in terms of arguments and not affection? Could it be that we are bypassing the heart to get to the head? Could it be we are ignoring the true secret to influence? With persuasion, the head follows the heart and not the other way around; I believe this is the essence Cicero was saying.

Remember, people are not just looking for the right answer when we interact with them. They are looking for the right feelings as well. We are not human doings but human beings.  And feelings make up our inner being from that perspective. We indeed move on feelings and not just on facts. If we head in that direction, we will always reach the heart of the matter!  

~ Denley W. McIntosh

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Mandela: Through Eyes of Faith

These last couple weeks have been a month of reflection for the world as we think about Nelson Mandela’s life.  There has been a plethora of coverage on Mandela’s passing. You cannot seem to turn somewhere whether on television or social media and not run into some biography, video montage or reflection. Many Black pastors are chiming in during their worship services to say their peace in ad nauseam about Mandela. Understandably, this has made some Christians anxious and uneasy. There are some sincere Christians who may be saying “Aren’t we idolizing Nelson Mandela? Why are we talking about him in a church setting? I came to church to hear Jesus not a man!” Questions like these require pastors to demonstrate that their speech and action is grounded in Scriptures. They must prove their rhetoric coheres with the narrative and teachings of Christ and the Apostles. What does the Bible have to say about this concern? If Pastors are not familiar enough with Scripture to give a sound reason, then what else should sincere Christians do – but worry. I hope to allay some of those fears with this short thought for you to build on.

When dealing with these kinds of issues of respect versus reverence, we always run the risk of going from one extreme to another: idolizing Mandela on one hand to ignoring Mandela on the other. Is there a middle ground? I will suggest there is: interpreting Mandela. More accurately – rightly interpreting in light of Scriptures… The Apostle Paul, in Philippians 4:8, has given us something to consider when dealing with these issues. “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” The key terms are honorable and worthy of praise. Both terms in the original Greek of the New Testament carry the similar sense of esteemed, noble and well-respected. St. Paul has encouraged the Philippian church during the 1st Century to think and reflect on these things. Notice that Paul has not qualified his statement by saying the admirable thing, action or person has to come from a Christian. It just has to be right and good. Christians can agree with non-Christians when something is esteemed, noble and well respected. Christians can celebrate non-religiously with non-Christians with the understanding that God has orchestrated this achievement. Whatever that achievement is, if it is honorable and worthy of praise, we can celebrate it. However, to balance our praise, the Apostle Peter reminds us as well to “Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king” (1 Peter 2:17). Considering that fear or better said reverence is a stronger word than respect for esteeming someone, it is clear from St. Peter on whom we should concentrate our praise on – the Lord Jesus. Whether Nelson Mandela was a Follower of Christ or not is not the issue. We can praise the actions of someone if it reflects the Kingdom – the way that God intended society to be fair and just. The Scriptures in Romans 13:1-5  and 1st Timothy 2:1-3 tells us that God appoints leaders (i.e. presidents, prime ministers, kings etc.) to help bring order and peace in the society we live in. This order includes the removal of apartheid and the commencement of reconciliation between Black South Africans and White South Africans. Therefore, we should have no problem saying that God used Nelson Mandela to that providential end. We can rejoice not just for Mandela but the God of justice, peace and reconciliation who made this happen ultimately.

God shows us the embodiment and standard of these virtues through Jesus Christ whom Mandela patterned. By celebrating the work of Mandela, we uphold the Paul’s teaching in Philippians 4:8.  This means we do not ignore. By thanking God for Mandela’s work, we equally uphold Scripture’s teachings. “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior…” (1st Timothy 2:1-3 NLT) This means we do not idolize. Now we are just left to interpret rightly and appropriately.

I encourage us as Followers of Christ to use Nelson Mandela’s actions toward justice, peace and reconciliation as a springboard to the Good News. An opportunity to share our faith! If one man can bring powerful leaders, friends and enemies alike into one palace, in unity with guns and weaponry laid at the altar so to speak, how much more Christ? How much more should we long the day when Christ will be the centre of the world’s attention like Mandela’s memorial service? The day Jesus brings men and women, rich and poor, rulers and commoners, Black and White alike to worship him in speech and song forever within the new world! Let’s use Nelson Mandela’s life as a reminder to us and especially others that Jesus, the Messiah will create a world of justice, peace and reconciliation. The way the world ought to be. So let’s do our part as Mandela did his.

~Denley W. McIntosh

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Time Is All A Child Hears

In the hustle-and-bustle of the day, shaving time has been critical toward greater work productivity. Manufacturing plants push to reduce their cycle time for producing parts. Call centers push to resolve a customer’s inquiry in the fewest minutes possible. Technology companies push to create the newest craze. New hires are expected to learn their jobs in days instead of months. Athletes are expected to run faster with every game or meet. Parents are expected to cuddle with and read to their children as fast as they can. Wait a minute! That last expectation doesn’t seem right. Parents are expected to do what?  That is right!  Many parents are expected to minimize bonding time with their children in order to meet the demands of the day. We are slavishly saying “YES” to more time with our to-do list and “NO” to our children.

Now there are some of you who will disagree with the assertion about parents are enslaved to their list and must shave time with their children. But do our actions as parents say otherwise? When was the last time we sat with our children and just BE with them, and let the relationship of the moment determine when boding time should finish? (The practice of presence some call it.) Unhurried, unrushed, just purely immersed with each other. How absurd to think that as parents we actively work to reduce the bonding or face-to-face time with our children to satisfy the demands of a piece of paper. The truth is – we do inadvertently.

Many of us believe multi-tasking can overcome everything. However, our children know when our minds are off them and on something else. They know when you are touching, caressing and guarding the smooth and delicate face of a touch screen, masquerading as the new born of the family. Children know when you are out to lunch and the elevator is still on the ground floor figuratively speaking. My son is great at detecting when Daddy is focusing on reading or writing (but not on this article) instead on him.  Although my son is in my presence, he knows it is not genuine time but rushed. I am not truly focusing on him to know him at an emotional level. It reminds me that multi-tasking works well with activity but not well in bonding with people especially our children.

You may reply that doesn’t apply to me, because I take my children to karate, soccer, music, dance etc. We spend a lot of time together in the car and at the dance studio, gymnasium, basketball court, baseball diamond, football field or all the above. I agree that bonding indeed can take place during those car rides or celebrating a 1st place victory. However, let us not confuse this time as truly deep, bonding time with our children. How can it be when we are screaming at them from the bleachers? Or our backs are literally turn to them majority of time while driving? Imagine dating someone who would only want to spend time with you while you are in the backseat as s/he is driving. How long would that relationship last? Not too long I hope. Yet – we expect to build an intimate relationship with our children while performing a shuttle service for them. Sorry! That is not time that digs deep into the hearts of our children. 

Our children do not understand the words “I love you” when you are not actively spending time with them.  Actually, children hear the word “time” louder than the words “I love you”. Time for children is then instinctively translated into the feelings of “I love you”.  Shaving time with our children makes the translation for them tougher to the point of confusion. The more time we shave, the more they translate no-time to “I’m not important”; “I’m not special”; or “I’m not loved”. I know many of us don’t purposely go out making our children feel bad about their selves.  Yet it does not change the fact that time is more a native tongue to them than their mother tongue at home.

If you are discovering that your children are repeatedly acting out, check to see how much time you are shaving off with them.  (The issue of bullying could stem from an absent of emotional time with our children. The bully is looking to control someone at school or online, because they cannot control their parents to listen to them at home.) Remember, children experience time much longer than we do. Time moves a WHOLE lot slower. When we miss them for a day, it feels like a few days to them.  This is why you go on a road trip with them they always ask you, at ad nauseam, “are we there yet.”  It is also tells you why timeouts are so painful for them. Using those examples as negative object lessons should motivate us as parents to speak our children’s native language by giving them the time they need. This is the only way we can truly say we love them and create maximum productivity. 

Is creating more time easy within our already compressed schedules? It is certainly not easy! I struggle as a parent like you to read that bedtime story without tucking myself to bed under my child’s arm as she finishes read her story to me. However, I push to create time nevertheless and maximize it.

 ~ Denley W. McIntosh

P.S. My first test will be finding that gift of time this evening for my son’s birthday (June 26) as he turns 2 years old. To use Dr. Gary Chapman’s terminology from the 5 Love Languages, his love language is time that is all he hears.

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