Community Columnists

KEEPING THE FAITH | Honoring the first fruits

The Rev. Lewis Macklin
The Rev. Lewis Macklin

Today is the first day of Kwanzaa, which honors the first fruits. Kwanzaa, conceived in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a college professor from Los Angeles, is an African-American holiday celebrated annually at the end of December, and is based on several traditional African holidays and customs. The word Kwanzaa means “first” in the Swahili language and commemorates the time to celebrate the first harvest of crops each year.

The planned community Kwanzaa celebration has been canceled out of an abundance of caution with the community impacted by the COVID-19 surge. While the community will not gather, this becomes an opportunity for members of your household to reflect upon visions, goals and objectives for the upcoming year.

The seven-letter spelling of Kwanzaa symbolizes the seven days of celebration. For each of the seven days of the celebration, a candle is lit which has a special meaning. Biblically, the numeral “seven” represents completion! However, these principles are to be embodied and used daily, especially after the conclusion of the celebration. Although Kwanzaa it is not a religious observance, the principles are aligned with biblical teachings.

UMOJA — UNITY: The first candle, paying tribute to the unity that is the foundation of the family and the community. As a people, we strive for and maintain unity in the family, community and race.

Ephesians 4:2-4: Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.

KUJICHAGULIA — SELF-DETERMINATION: The second candle, honoring our identity, heritage and value. To define ourselves, name ourselves, create ourselves and speak for ourselves, instead of being defined, created and spoken for by others.

Philippians 3:14: I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

UJIMA — COLLECTIVE WORK AND RESPONSIBILITY: The third candle, reaffirming the traditional values of generosity and cooperation, pledging to solve problems together for the good of the community.

St. John 9:4: We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work.

UJAMAA — COOPERATIVE ECONOMICS: The fourth candle, recommitting ourselves to supporting and building our own shops, stores, businesses and enterprises.

Acts 2: 44-45: And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.

NIA — PURPOSE: The fifth candle, rededicating ourselves to preserving and appreciating our proud heritage, passing the same dedication on to future generations.

Romans 8:28: And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

KUUMBA — CREATIVITY: The sixth candle, using our talents, imagination and creativity to bring harmony and beauty to our community.

II Timothy 1:6-7: This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

IMANI — FAITH: The seventh candle, believing we can transcend and transform our difficulties with thoughtful action, sustaining the eternal hope that no matter where we travel, we are never alone.

Hebrews 11:1: Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.

To fully appreciate these experiences, one should be mindful that they were created to fulfill a purpose. Psalms 8 is an amazing expression which recounts the splendor and majestic display of God’s creation in Genesis. Just as God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden as caretakers, we too must commit to being good stewards of our bodies, our community and our environment.

Yahweh as the King of all creation interestingly made dependent humans His royal partners. Specifically, the psalmist noted this spectacular arrangement in Psalm 8:3-6:

When I look at the night sky and see the work of Your fingers — the moon and the stars You set in place — what are mere mortals that You should think about them, human beings that you should care for them? Yet You made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor. You gave them charge of everything You made, putting all things under their authority..

Richard Smallwood, who masterfully creates classic gospel anthems, used his gift to convey the essence of Psalms 8 and the beauty of this message.

Community newsmakers

Our community is experiencing some transitions within the print journalism industry. Clarence Boles recently passed away. Among his many projects and community involvements, he served as the managing editor of the Buckeye Review newspaper. He also served on the Youngstown City Schools Board of Education and Youngstown City Council. Clarence was very passionate and articulate in his advocacy for the community. It is accurate to say he had the roar of a lion as well as the heart. May the memory of Clarence remain eternal.

I extend congratulations and best wishes to Mark Sweetwood, who is retiring as the managing editor of Mahoning Matters. I had no idea when I attended the event that unveiled this project I would become part of this amazing team. Mark had the uncanny ability to motivate, coach and inspire me, especially when pressed for publication deadlines. He allowed me unfettered opportunity to share thoughts weekly, after propositioning me to consider becoming a guest columnist and inspiration writer for the publication. It is my hope that Mark and Mary, his precious bride and soulmate, will enjoy their time together embracing every moment.

I also want to welcome Justin Dennis in his new role as the incoming managing editor of Mahoning Matters. An experienced journalist, Justin was a reporter for The Vindicator Printing Company and Ashtabula’s Star Beacon. Justin, like Mark, has a wonderful temperament and a keen eye for content which assures the creation of a seamless transition for the readership.

Father, we stretch our hands to Thee

A dear friend, Kymberly Johnston-Jones shared a prayer recently that poignantly reflects our dependency upon God’s grace and favor:

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank You for another day, forgive us of our sins. Life passes by like the blink of an eye. There are never enough hours in the day, it seems, except when we are full of grief, anxiety, stress, illness or sadness … then the days seem like they will never end. Please comfort all who are reading this who feel like it is a struggle to get through their days.

Father, teach us how to abide in You. Help us, so resting in You becomes as natural to us as breathing. Help us to count it all joy when we meet trials and adversity. Help us to grow and learn to treasure the things You teach us. May Your promises to us be like a life-preserver thrown to a drowning person. May these promises support and hold us up on days we feel like we are barely able to keep our heads above water.

Father, sustain, encourage and build up everyone who is reading this prayer. Speak to their heart. Help us to have faith when we can’t see Your hand in the darkness. Help us to trust when it doesn’t seem natural to do so. Help us to wear a garment of praise, instead of despair. Teach us how to offer up a sacrifice of praise and help us to learn to seek out the joy and blessings in the midst of our difficult circumstances.

Father, bless everyone reading this prayer in the way they need it most. You see each thing that is hidden away in our hearts. You care about every detail of our lives. You hurt when we hurt. You are full of loving kindness and compassion, but You are also a mighty warrior God who is there protecting us and watching over us. You are our shelter and safe haven. We reach out to touch the hem of Your garment today and we ask to find refreshment in your presence today.

Father, we thank You for all You have done and continue to do on our behalf. As we endeavor to keep the faith, we bow before You in our hearts to give You praise, glory and honor. In the precious name of our Savior Jesus we pray, Amen

The Rev. Lewis W. Macklin II serves as the lead pastor of Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, chaplain for the Youngstown Police Department, president of the Baptist Pastors Council and the local coordinator for the African American Male Wellness Walk of the Mahoning Valley. He resides in Youngstown with Dorothy, his partner in marriage and ministry. They share the love and joy of six children and eight grandchildren and their mischievous canine, Sir Winston.

— All biblical citations are New Living Translation unless noted otherwise.

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