Guess what my pastor preached the following day? ENDURE: Running the Race. I included some of my tweets below. It’s one of the ways I like to take sermon notes.
(Sidebar: I love it when God layers His Word. Don’t you? 🤗)
Hebrews 12:1 (NASB) – Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
One of my highlights was Ecclesiastes 4:12 – Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.Essentially, we fight better together. That’s what church services are to me. Yes, we are there to collectively worship God, but I also like to think of it as a pit stop where you can pause and regroup with other runners. Knowing that you’re running in the same direction, having similar experiences along the way, and celebrating our different journeys forge our faith. It strengthens the spiritual muscles.
Running together. What a beautiful, yet simple solution to many of our problems. What do you think?
It began with a tutoring appointment with a former student who is determined not to let anything stop her from graduating, including her English paper. I challenged her and she made me laugh. She stepped outside of her essay-writing comfort zone and I helped her see her thoughts on paper. She left the session equipped and excited to keep going. It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes and made me proud to be an educator.
Next, I had lunch with sweet friend from high school. She and I were in band together and I always thought her hair color and freckles were cool. She had a quiet strength that I admired and we became friends quickly. Now that we’re grown, we had grown-folk conversation and it was lovely. We vented, we cried, we laughed. I was proud to be a friend… and her freckles and hair color still rock.
Then, it was time for my cousin’s baby shower which, might I add, was a night time swag affair. Live music, baby shower games, good food and laughs made this shower worth the cold rainy drive. I’m well acquainted with both parents, so it was great to anticipate my new cousin’s arrival. As I helped clean up, the running theme was clear. I was proud to be family.
Afrer all three settings, the word that stuck out was TOGETHER. My former student’s essay challenge wasn’t so mountainous after we met for tutoring. My friend and I didn’t feel alone in our life lessons after lunch. My family’s shower was better because everyone could share the experience. On that day, life was better together.
Sweethearts, I pray that if you’re feeling lonely and life’s bumps are giving you bruises, that you remember that you are not alone. Lonely and alone are not the same. You can feel lonely in a crowded room. I’ve been there, and wisdom has taught me that you have someone who wants to be better together with you. Be careful, but let her or him in your heart’s circle and watch the healing begin. We were not designed to do life alone. Your problems may not go away quicker, but you’ll be stronger together as the storm passes by.
While actions can be seen, motives can be stealthy like the cloak of invisibility in Harry Potter. Actions are nice, after all, Love is an action word (isn’t that what we say?); however, motives are the legs upon which actions stand. You can tell if someone gives you a gift from the heart. It doesn’t matter how expensive it is or where it was found. It’s the motive, the undercarriage of intent that makes or breaks the transaction. That’s what I have found to be true over the years. The heart of the receiver has to match the heart of the giver for the exchange to be simultaneously priceless.
When God looks at us, He doesn’t weigh the ways; He weighs the motives. That means He puts more weights on the side of my intentions than the deed itself. My reasons behind my ways will be heavier than how much it cost me to do it. Every. Single. Time.
My prayer? Thank you, God, for weighing the heart and Lord, please help my intentions!
Forever is a long time to grow. Are you willing to do it?
I mean it. Are you willing to a make a pact with God that you will grow as long as you live here on Earth? After all, we are the seeds of Adam and Eve and quite frankly, there’s still some growing to do. If plants can do it, why can’t we? Why can’t we do what seeds do – germinate and multiply?
It seems hard to think about, but we are designed to break free from the shell of innocence and yield a life with more seeds to plant. With our words, deeds, and talents, we were created to expand and produce a harvest for others to courageously do the same.
So, when I say “Forever is a long time to grow,” I intend to invoke conviction of every intrapersonal and interpersonal interaction you will have for the rest of your life. I want you to think about the seeds your fruit is producing for others to ingest. I want you to think about forever.
In class on November 15th, we discussed correctional facilities and prison reform. I posed the following question to my students: Are correctional facilities designed to “correct” behavior or character? Most of them said “both,” but some said neither. What do you think?
As we go about our holiday season, I think of those who are unable to have food, family, and fun – at the same time. Needless to say, there are individuals who have committed crimes unthinkable, yet there are some who have not. Are their lives being changed while on the inside of confinement? Are our lives being enhanced while we are captive to our vices? The truth is if we were caught in our everyday violations of malice, greed, and pride, we would be incarcerated right along side of our brothers and sisters.
So, I pose these questions to you… What are you chained to? What mental or emotional prison are you in? Is your “facility” correcting or enabling the behavior that got you there?
When you come to my class, you’ll learn one thing… I love to have fun, but I don’t play. I want students to change the game of their future professions. I don’t train robots; I train thinkers. Critical, comprehensive thinkers. I mentally condition my students to problem-solve, not memorize. It’s a superpower, I guess… to train the mind. So, you could say that Tuesday, November 14th was training day.
The scientific method was on deck for psychology and public issues were on the menu for speech. Their brains were squeezed a little bit, but they left the room with more elasticity than they arrived with.
In both classes, I assisted students in solving problems in their future career field. After all, shouldn’t that be the goal? I don’t want them to graduate and simply fall into the status quo of complaining about everything around them. I want them to think of solutions and be daring enough to try them. That’s how the game changes; that’s how progress is made. It’s made by people saying “What about this?” and “Let’s try it this way.” Enough of sitting down and waiting on someone to magically fix all of our problems in the industries we love. We are the fixers. We are the thinkers.
I call them Birmingham’s Finest every day for a reason – because I truly believe they are. They can do anything the world needs.
The funny thing about tasting something that is bittersweet is you never get the bitter and the sweet at the same time. According to the word, you would think the bitter comes first, but it doesn’t.
On November 13th, I anticipated the bitter. The sweet was there, sprinkled throughout the day, but the closer time moved toward 7:00 PM, bitter’s presence drew near. It was a performance filled with firsts and lasts – first time my performing arts troupe was featured at the Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center by way of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Gospel Choir, first time one of my teammates would sing with the choir, last time I would perform under Director Kevin Turner with the choir, and the last time Monday night would be sacred in this capacity. Being connected to a living thing for 16 years will make you expect the bitter when it ends.
The sweet came in capsules of backstage silliness, team shenanigans, chats with college friends-turned-colleagues, and hugs all around. It was a family reunion, to say the least. Sound check exposed the bones of the operation as we all prepared our respective crafts to be displayed on stage in a few hours. Musicians, dancers, singers, production, lights, ushers… it was all at the ready to provide a great concert for attendants and participants alike.
And that, we did.
The audience enjoyed the set list, artists performances from their hearts, scholarships were awarded, and commemorative speeches were made.
The ASC had been a 2nd home to many UABGC members over the years and the bellows of the building were our training grounds. Now, they were cozy places of professional preparation. Everyone was in their elements, drinking the nectar of memories that would be still swirling around in our cups the next day. Me? I was waiting for the bitter.
It may sound pessimistic, but I was trying to brace myself. I didn’t want to be caught off guard and wail 8 counts before my first step. So, I waited for it… the bitter aftertaste of a such sweet experience. Surprisingly, it came right before the first dance, wisped around my shoulder after the last dance, and walked me to my car after we left the dressing rooms. I didn’t cry. I welcomed it in the car and drove home. It was OK to have the company. I actually smiled at it along the open road because it was even better to have the sweet first. I was one blessed woman.
In one day, I felt loved, supportive, proud, sad, exhausted and grateful. On, Sunday, November 12th, I was full.
My agenda consisted of waking up to a smile from being enveloped with Love from God Himself. I was daughter that felt safe in the arms of her Father. It was good to be alive. It was good to be loved.
I went to church with my teammate/sorority sister. It was her last Sunday due to a move and I promised that I would attend with her and it was nice to be in her world and nice to see people I knew that attended the same place of worship. I love it when someone finds their fellowship home and I love being supportive.
Next, I drove to my late grandparents’ church for their 85th Church Anniversary Program. My grandmother was a pillar in her community and at her church. One of the members invited me to attend and I was so glad to be able to make it, even for an hour. I sat on the back pew and listened to the guest minister preach with heart and conviction. I kept glancing over the pews in the front right wing seeing my grandmother’s presence sitting proudly at the progress of the church’s history. I was proudright along with her. Proud of her legacy and her investment in me. That was the piano and organ that I learned to play… the choir stand my elementary school friends sang in… the fellowship hall I where I ate with cousins. It made me proud to just be in the building. It made me proud to represent my family.
My father’s hospice service memorial program was the next stop. A sweet friend gave me all the giggles and endorphins I needed before I approached the door where the service was held. The company that helped our family had been more than gracious during the last few weeks of my father’s life and I was happy to support my mother in person. But my mind wasn’t ready to travel down memory lane. My glass of emotions was getting full and I didn’t know it. My mother asked me to light the candle when his name was called, and I felt the loss of his presence. I wanted him, not the sound of his name. It was odd to be in that space, in this sweet mourning society, for someone that seemed so super human. I didn’t feel that being sad was a transparent option at the moment, so I tucked it away and saved it for later.
Next up was dress rehearsal for my Troupe’s performance. Wow. What a change of pace. Music, laughter, people… it was a barrage of sensation and I was in the middle of it. Final touches, band run-throughs, and technical notes were in full effect. I was exhaustedby the end of the night, but I sure was grateful. My team was ready and in sync with each other. I was doing what I loved in the place I wanted to be with the people I wanted to be with – not to mention, it was the Founders’ Day of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. (#EEYIP). Yeah, I was full.
Have you ever had one of those fulldays? I compartmentalize pretty well so the residue doesn’t transfer to the next place, but it doesn’t come without some pause buttons along the way. How do you handle multiple emotional states in a day?
On Wednesday, November 8th, the topic in my communication class was relationships. I always ask my students how they can improve their interpersonal communication. This is one of my favorite topics to discuss because no matter how introverted some students may be, this chapter always gets head nods and contemplative facial responses.
One of the chapter concepts was social exchange theory, which I truly enjoy demonstrating. To introduce it, I use banking as an example. One student has an imaginary balance in her/his account and as the scenario continues, each student has borrowed money from the account holder for various reasons. Somewhere between these transactions, the account holder experiences a couple of “pay days” and receives a direct deposit into their account. We calculate the total of the withdrawals and the deposits – what was lent to friends/family and the balance we could have had if little to no lending took place. Usually, students have voiced their opinions by this point about how the account holder shouldn’t have been so giving and how in “real life,” they would never lend out so much money. Then, I pose the following –
“If we are so careful with our money to monitor what is coming and going, why aren’t we just as careful with our relationships? You can give of your time, energy, and resources, but if that person does something you like, it’s like a pay day and all’s right with the world and you forget about their offenses. What if the deposits and withdrawals don’t balance out relationally? How do we determine whether the cost is worth paying? Before we are offended, how do we communicate our needs to the people we love?”
It’s generally quiet in the room after that spill with a grunt or two. I love it. It means they are thinking.
One of the corollaries of social exchange theory is that if the perceived cost is higher than the perceived reward, we will continue to remain in the relationship. It doesn’t matter if it is familial, platonic, professional, or romantic – we will stay if the cost of leaving seems too high. So, I am asking you, Sweetheart, what are the costs of your relationships? Do you do anything that perpetuates low benefits and high costs? Relationships will never be equitable at all times, but are we monitoring the costs of our exchanges like we monitor our money?
When the cost is worth it, it is called an investment. Let’s try to keep the costs low and the investments high.