First, I acknowledge the survivors and families affected by the tragedy of September 11, 2001. I also acknowledge the first responders and volunteers that rescued and sacrificed themselves in the name of Love. I appreciate you and remember you forever.
Now, to the message at hand… a very direct one at that. It encouraged me so much Sunday and I pray that it reaches you too.
Between here and heaven, you have an Intercessor (Jesus) and an Interpreter (the Holy Spirit). Liaisons that speak up and out when your silence needs a voice. When your tears are immutable forces flowing from your eyes and a wail is all you’ve got. I wasn’t in a sad space on Sunday, but a sweet surprise from a sister cracked open this hardworking vessel and my grateful heart cried out. This year has been a great lesson on how to throw my cares with a weight of faith tied to the end so it can sink in the bottom of worry. Each month, my throwing arm gets stronger and my Peace grows. All because my Intercessor knows how I feel and my Interpreter makes sense out of my jumbled emotions.
A huge part of my spiritual freedom is that I am not afraid to pray. I am not afraid to say the following:
“Lord, I’m scared.”
“God, this doesn’t make sense.”
“I don’t like this.”
“You are so awesome.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I need your help.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
Those are prayers that I release often into His lap. I am able to do so because I believe that I have an advocate in the middle of my words and eternity. Whether I’m excited or frustrated, I pray with vulnerability and confidence. God knows, Jesus prays, and the Holy Spirit guides. Because of that support, I am never afraid to share my innermost fears and expectations with my Creator. Just start the conversation and listen.
When you’re in the middle of whirlwinds and life events, remember that you have Someone that is in the middle with you. You are not alone. You are not desolate. You are not an island though you may feel like you’re standing on one. I can’t explain why bad things happen in the world other than everyone has volition and we are not robots programmed by God to be good and perfect beings. What I can say is that I have experienced supernatural comfort and intentional acts of kindness. I have felt arms around me when I felt afraid and an inexplicable amount of fortitude in times of need. I have awakened in the nick of time while driving and gotten a hug from a friend that merged my pieces back together. None of which I prayed for immediately prior to receiving… but I had a middle and I encourage you to put your middle to work too. Just like in the above video clip, those hands are on you too.
That’s what I heard for you this week. It is such a loaded and misunderstood directive.
Showing Jesus means toting my bible everywhere, quoting scriptures when someone says “Good Morning,” and barely be tolerable at social functions because of all the judgment seething through my pores, right? Quite the contrary.
Jesus has many faces (just look at all of the colorful faces in the world) and there are opportunities to show these faces in various situations. One of them could appear as a person in need of assistance while walking across the street. Another opportunity could be a co-worker in need of a kind word. We find these moments easily because the needs are relatively visible, but what happens when the need is underneath a layer of pride or anger? I agree– it’s a bit challenging to succumb to a higher level when the low blows are trying to knock you out. Truthfully speaking, this is the perfect opportunity to show His face to someone who may have never seen it or even believe it exists. You may not see the need because his/her words are too loud or they are absent from your life, but believe me, it’s there.
Here are a couple of examples of how I try to show Jesus –
I met an atheist this week and we had an intellectual and humorous conversation (Sidebar: Christians, stop arguing with everybody).
Someone raised her voice at me and I did not return the behavior.
I pick up fallen clothing at the department store on a regular basis.
I’m truthful with my feelings even when I don’t want to be.
I smile at strangers.
I don’t return road rage.
I say thank you to police and military officers.
I pray for people when they ask me to, sometimes at that moment.
I encourage as many people as I can.
Now, I am not a saint. I just try to live my faith in real life and not just at church. It’s not easy, by any means. There are plenty of times when I want to use profanity to prove that I am not a punk, but the truth of the matter is that doesn’t prove anything except a poor vocabulary to express my emotions. There are times when I want to reciprocate negative behavior so the other person can understand that I am very much capable of doing so, but that would only show me contradicting my belief system. I choose daily to show Jesus when I don’t want to do so. Sometimes, it’s a firm stance of Truth and sometimes it’s a warm hug. I make mistakes like other humans, yet I do my best to rectify it as soon as possible. That’s showing Jesus, too.
This week, I challenge you to show Jesus to the person that gets on your nerves. Notice that I didn’t say you had to agree with them or be their best friend. Just think of ways your actions can resemble His so that His Love is recognizable through you. It may seem like a small gesture or it may be a great sacrifice on your part, but at least you have made Him visible. At least you’ve provided the proof they’ve been waiting to see.
Peace & Thanks for listening. Have an awesome week!
Hello, Sweethearts! I know it’s Thursday, but this one took some simmering… and you may be wondering where I’m going with those two letters. I’m going exactly where you think I am.
In the world of social sciences, there’s a term called emotional dishonesty. Various definitions exist for it, but in essence, it is when someone does not own up to their feelings or needs, yet s/he holds the other person accountable for the offense. This can manifest itself as passive, aggressive, or passive-aggressive behavior.
When I taught adult education communication courses, we would always engage in authentic and lively dialogue about relationships (platonic, professional, romantic, familial, and social). Every quarter, someone would attribute a lack of intimacy to dysfunctional communication. Every quarter, someone would tell me how lack of trust was the undercurrent in their relationship deterioration. After my first year of teaching, I learned to carve out two days in my lesson plan to discuss the conflict chapter because it always birthed the fruition of self-discovery among my students. The chapter also landed in the middle of the textbook, so by that point in the course, they usually displayed sharpened self-awareness and reframing skills. They were not only able to professionally assess and verbalize the conflict but also express ownership of its escalation which was often via emotional dishonesty. You can bet that made me one happy educator. 🙂
To listen to a man say “I see it now. I’m not helping the situation.” To hear a woman say “Yeah, I don’t really listen to my kids. I need to do that more.” That was what kept the blood flowing in my teaching career. That is what produced life within those four walls and fortified adults to engage in healthy relationships of all kinds.
Speaking of blood flow… let’s talk about that ED.
When a man experiences erectile dysfunction, it can be emotionally crippling. He may not be able to communicate how emasculated he feels and his behavior can be misunderstood and misdirected toward his partner. Multiple factors can cause ED and one of them is decreased blood flow.
How interesting it is that a lack of life in one area can be the cause of death in another? If blood is not allowed to flow and recycle through our bodies, we experience death. Then again, there are two types of death… two organs that are vital comrades in the cessation of life – the brain and the heart. I believe the effects of dysfunctional communication resemble the intimacy breakdown that can occur from ED. Emotional Dishonesty can lead to Emotional Dysfunction. One deters the physical production of life while the other deters the flow of spiritual exchange. In both instances, there’s a broken piece – trust.
And let’s be real… What good is a relationship without trust? How can a relationship survive without the trust that all valves are open… that the flow is free and clear? After all, there are 4 valves in your heart – two for incoming blood and two for outgoing blood, so obviously God knew that circulation and regeneration were vital in keeping you alive in both your head and in your heart. Why don’t we give it a try in the spiritual realm as well? Why not gift that freedom to each other and to ourselves? Be emotionally honest with yourself and with those you love. When you don’t, it hurts yourself because you’re blocking healthy intrapersonal communication, and it hurts the other person because it creates a disconnect from the intimacy you desire from her/him. As I mentioned to some friends this year –I’m in the business of having real conversations with real people that want real relationships.Sweetheart, can you say the same thing?
This doesn’t mean that you need to bleed your heart 24/7 to everyone you meet. As in physiology, that could leave you spiritually drained and unable to function effectively.
Ask God to balance this spiritual flow as you learn to communicate truthfully in HIs Love from one person to another. It can be done; I promise. I have witnessed and experienced it. You may have to be gentle or set some ground rules, but allow truthful communication to flow between your lips. Cherish those in your circle who provide opportunities for that to happen. No matter how messy or how awkward it may be, it is worth the trust structure. Letting communication flow between two hearts creates freedom amidst two people… and that’s the pinnacle of God’s Love toward us and Christ’s sacrifice for us. Freedom in mind, body, and spirit. The kind that can only come from the Prince of Peace and the Author of Love.
For more information about emotional dishonesty, check out this article. It’s one of my favorite classroom references.
Peace & Thanks for listening. Have an awesome week and I love you all!
I knew what I was going to post tonight. I had it all planned out; then, I saw Prayers Up for Jussie Smollett in my inbox and everything about my Wednesday Wind Down changed. I simply couldn’t wait. This isn’t about creating a literary bouquet of flowery words on my blog for lament and catharsis. Despite the disgust I experienced, this post is about obedience and attention.
Before I explain, let me share my immediate reaction. My mind kept trying to compute the Essence article because I couldn’t believe what I was reading. The man who stopped to speak to me and my Sorority sister in a Michigan airport had been attacked. The same human being who was on his way to advocate for Flint’s water solution. The same spirit that smiled and said that I looked like someone who knew and wasn’t walking with an entourage. The horror and hurt grew exponentially as I saw the slurs he heard and the pain he felt. My heart cracked in a matter of seconds and I cried inside and out. The worst sting was reading the end of their rationale – “This is MAGA Country.”
I had thought of Jussie Smollett all day yesterday, and not in the way of an admiring fan. I kept being compelled to pray for him, for his heart. Now, I pray for celebrities all of the time because the weight attached to their gifts, talents, and purposes can be too much to carry, but this time was different. Throughout the day, before I knew anything about the hate crime, I prayed for his spirit… that it wouldn’t be downtrodden, that he would be well and not tarnished by evil things around him. I prayed for his peace of mind and his strength. Never once did I pray for his physical health. I wasn’t led to. It was all about the pain that couldn’t be seen and didn’t need to stick to his soul. Then, to run across that article right before I was going to bed, it was gut-wrenching and I couldn’t sleep. The last moment of serendipity was that this photo was taken on January 30, 2016, three years ago today. I was speechless, then I prayed again. Lord, just make it stop.
Jussie, I am so sorry that happened to you. I hate that you were the subject of their spew. My heart is with you and please know that while I can’t explain where God was to prevent the experience, I can truly say that He had you in the spirit of someone miles away from that horrific moment in time. Your spirit can not be broken and what you are doing in life matters in more ways than you can possibly imagine. Apparently, you are breaking boundaries that need to be broken and making demons float to the surface. That’s the only way I can see anyone trying to hurt you in such a repulsive way. Even though you were tired, your heart was brighter than the sun that day at the airport. My Soror and I could feel it well after we left. I had to share how much I appreciate you and that you are covered. My prayers will continually be with you.Sweethearts, we have to do better at spreading Love. We teach those around us by living it out. Every day. No matter what. We have to teach our children, our co-workers, our neighbors that hate is not allowed to multiply near us. To have people physically assault one’s life is an act that should unsettle us all. Regardless of your religious or political affiliation, hate is not a validated battle cry and somehow the current temperament in America has created this warped sense of safety for ignorance to run free. The invisible seething waters of hate are tumultuous enough to reach out and grab us while we’re simply walking down the street. And don’t pretend that you don’t hear it in your cubicles, coffee shops, churches, and around your dining room tables. We do and we look away. We make excuses for it. We say it’s free speech, but is it liberating anyone? We say to just pray for them, but do we actually do it? You do realize that Jesus came so that individuals such as the ones who attacked our brother could not only receive the opportunity to turn from hate and receive Love but to also know that judgment was near, right? This MAGA mantra has nothing to do with Christian values. Stop sewing them together. Be careful to the extent to which you stretch your loyalty. Claim Christ more than your political party, more than your social justice agenda, and more than your generational ideology. We can’t stop hate forever, but we can stop it wherever we are, whenever we hear and see it.
This moment in time has rocked me to my core and taught me that absolutely nothing happens by chance, not even prayer. Be diligent and keep fighting using whatever means you were born with.
Recently, I felt the pain of a woman who’s only desire was to provide the best solution for her children at the expense of what she wished for them. She cried after we prayed together. I bought the items she needed and she agreed to a massage therapy session. I just wanted to help, wanted her to know that I see her. She was the 2nd person for I whom I prayed and to whom I had given. The first person was homeless and when I asked him for a prayer request, his response was to pray for his family. How selfless. These opportunities started hours after I received news that my income would decrease… again. Perfect timing, right? Exactly. That’s what I said too.
Now, I’m not monetarily rich. I’m not a superstar. I don’t have someone taking sensational photos of me at every turn so I can post them on the ‘gram. And I’m definitely not a selfie girl. I just… listen. I sincerely try to listen to God’s voice everyday and anywhere. That’s how this blog Listening at the Speed of Life was born. So, when those opportunities presented themselves, I had to be obedient. No questions asked.
What have I learned about myself along this journey of obedience?
I hug my students.
I even hug strangers.
I pray for people I don’t know.
I say thank you. A lot.
I love big and I retreat quickly.
I boldly express my care.
I can speak up when I’m scared.
I can ask questions unapologetically.
I seek to understand.
I generally stay to myself, yet I have meaningful relationships.
I am a delicate, and resilient balance of mind, body, and spirit.
My introversion is beautiful, not a defect.
I don’t have to be loud if I don’t want to be.
I don’t have to be in the mix to feel included.
I like breathing and being, and sometimes these come at the cost of being misunderstood. That’s OK with me now. (It wasn’t when I started.)
So, back to the moment. She was grateful. I was humble. We connected.
It’s time that we slow down and feel the heartbeat of one another. We’re all humans trying to navigate through this life, and if you’re a Christian, then you’re trying to adhere to a certain compass as you travel on your path. It’s not easy, and we are all doing it… walking it out, journeying into the next dimension of ourselves, and feeling our way around in the darkness of tomorrow’s challenges.
What would it hurt to wave to the service worker? Speak to the custodian? Give a thank you card to the teacher? Buy an extra meal for the hungry? Or simply hug your friend without it being an obligatory salutation?
What happened to us orbiting together instead of spinning around each other, being afraid to bump into one another’s space?
What happened to running the human race together and checking on others along the way?
I have a short stop newsflash for you – if you’re all about walking in your purpose, you must be willing to be inconvenienced. Doing what you are born to do requires a level of humility unlike any other.
Think about it.
When it’s time to celebrate a big moment, there is usually music and food involved. That means that someone is working while you’re enjoying the fruits of their labor.
In 1 Kings 19:19-21, Elisha was called to be a servant of Elijah, he was plowing oxen.
In the 2nd chapter that bears her name, Ruth was gleaning fields trying to support her mother-in-law when Boaz found her and she became King David’s great-grandmother.
In order for your purposeful journey to flourish, there is a tilling of the ground, a rehearsal that makes your body sore, a recipe that doesn’t work, or a car that breaks down. Purpose does not make you comfortable. It makes you birth something you didn’t know you had. Jesus’ purpose in delivering us from evil through his death, burial, and resurrection was beyond uncomfortable and it definitely wasn’t at a convenient time. He was approximately 33 years old when completed his mission, and He did more in 33 years than some of us do in our entire lifetime.
So, keep this in mind today – your purpose will be fruitful… and especially inconvenient. What a beautiful dichotomy.
Where was the Wednesday Wind Down last week? On the road. To Indianapolis, Indiana. So, you have a bit to catch up on.
On Easter weekend, Upon This Rock (UTR) Productions celebrated 34 years of theatrical passion with a trailblazing rendition of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection that could rival any Broadway play. Hands down, Sweetheart. It was exciting, invigorating, and empowering.
The day before the last rehearsal, I left Alabama with a worn out spirit, waiting to be refreshed. I won’t lie and say that nothing good happened to me leading up to my departure. Actually, God the Father sent distinct reminders after I cried my eyes out the prior week. I don’t cry often, so why the tears, you ask? Because I felt like a wrung out dish rag. Strong will plus a caring spirit, coupled with a loving heart can create opportunities for people to minimize you. Because I am not boisterous, it is sometimes assumed that I am resilient enough to be kicked around like kindergarten ball at recess. If you’ve ever felt this way, you know that at some point, you deflate a bit.
Well, since the beginning of the year, there have been significant instances where this assumption occurred, and by late March, I had reached my quota. I recall feeling so low a couple of weeks ago that I pulled over at a parking lot to gather myself on the way home one night because my silent frustration was so loud. There I was, battling the Truth against what was true – 1) that as much as I sincerely give of my time, talent, and treasure, there will always be someone that will disregard it, 2) that I can not control whether someone values my gifts, 3) that at times I feel invisible – trudging along some days just to stay positive and uplifting, 4) that in the midst of invitations to birthday shindigs, bridal showers, baby showers, gender reveals, organizational celebrations, etc. I somehow felt good enough to celebrate with, but not enough to contact otherwise, and lastly 5) that I was God’s Beloved and that I shouldn’t be feeling down in the first place. Ever been there? It’s not a “Woe is me” moment, but a “I’m tired of getting screwed over and fighting for the basics” moment. The vest that was once girding and protecting me was now suffocating me. It needed to come off for a minute. Just for one minute so I could catch my breath from the blows… then, I could strap back on my armor and return to the battlefield. *smh* But, two weeks
My Sister for Life – Producing Actress/ Vocalist/ Comedienne Moneca Reid
ago, I just needed a minute. That minute turned into an hour of outcry over the phone to my sister (with whom I would attend UTR) who understood exactly what I was experiencing. She decoded my tears and congratulated me on giving my frustration a voice.
So, now you see my mindset and spiritual state by the time I had to travel to Indiana. I came with a positive outlook, ready to receive whatever God had to show me. Whatever He had to say, I was beyond all ears. My prayer included the resolve that I was coming to Indianapolis empty-hearted, but would not leave empty-handed. I was spiritually hungry, and everything in me was open and available. My assistant role was clear and I was excited to serve and experience my first UTR Production.
In the midst of working backstage, I was absolutely filled. There were 3 things that I heard from God and three responses I released to Him.
“You do all things well.”
“How dare I accept less than what I am worth?”
“You really do know how I feel.”
Though some loved ones are no longer here, God does all things well.The adversity that we live through brings us closer to the people who need our story. This is the case for Executive Director Sharon L. Hill. Her testimony manifested in the form of Upon This Rock Productions. The smiles you see in that photo are not results of everything being perfect, but of God doing everything well from one point in life to another and another and another…
So how dare I accept anything less than what Jesus paid for my heart when He came with my end in mind? He values me so much that He continues to give His Love in exchange for my tainted version. Friends, Lovers, Family… it doesn’t matter. You can not – hear me clearly – you CAN NOT allow yourself to absorb the value that someone has placed on you. Check yourself for “stickers” that others have put on you and remove them quickly. You may need the Father’s help, but you can do it.
When I saw the actors cast as Jesus experience everything I had cried about just days before, it humbled me… quickly. He truly does know how I feel. Now that I’m back home, I can’t imagine the thought of forgetting that Truth. He knows what it feels like to be me.After all, that was the soul purpose of Jesus coming to Earth, destroying the religious status quo, loving the discarded, and obliterating hell’s power. He had to experience life in my shoes. At times, He retreated to pray and regroup. Sometimes, He was frustrated. He was sad. His authority and identity were questioned. He felt loved. He felt happy. He felt betrayed. He felt forgotten. He felt victorious. He is the perfect example of finishing a mission. He is the perfect depiction of Love.
One thing is for sure — everyone who experienced Jesus then and everyone who experiences His Love now have probably said one or all of those three responses above. As you wind down tonight or get ready to start your day, I pray that you are reminded of God’s Love toward you. I had to get that off my chest before I went to bed, so I hope you feel the virtual hugs through your screen.
Peace, Love, and Thanks for listening, Sweetheart.
I was reading a devotional on YouVersion and Matthew 13:13 jumped out at me. He knows us all too well. Better than we know ourselves.And He know that we need parables, not a dissertation. After reading this scripture, all I could do was shake my head and say “Thank you, Jesus, for speaking my language.” My sentiment was two-fold and I am grateful that Jesus serves as both a bridge and a translator for my life.
#1 – It’s a blessing to have a Bridge!
Jesus knows that we won’t always get it right on the first go ’round… or the second, or third. We mess up, even with instructions in our hands. We screw up, even when we have help readily available. We toil over assignments even after we have been equipped. We have the tools, but sometimes there’s a glitch between the tool and the user. Thank God for a Savior that can speak our language so we can connect the dots! He helps us get the Message. He’s the Bridge. He’s the Link. He’s the Plug. And we have complete access to cross over into a better version of ourselves with His help.
#2 – He’s the Perfect Translator!
I don’t know about you, but I don’t always pray in complete sentences. Sometimes my words are disjunct and dysfunctional. Sometimes I raise my voice and sometimes I sob with muffled sounds. Depending upon where I am, I may pray within my spirit without moving my lips. The best part of it all is that Jesus understands my language! When I can’t connect the dots of my emotions with the words of my soul, Jesus translates for me. He carries my sadness and my joy with Him as we walk together along this journey called life. He hears me and understands me. And I’m so glad about it!
There are certain types of prayer (intercessory, adoration, etc.), but ultimately it should be a lifestyle. Don’t ever be afraid to pray. It’s just a line of communication between you and your Creator, so start talking. You already have the Perfect Translator. *smile*
Merry Christmas, Sweethearts! I know a photo of Serena may not be your thought of Christmas, but allow me to explain why it perfectly fits mine.
I had to protect my Merry yesterday (and for the last couple of weeks, for that matter.) I mean, I fiercely protected it like Serena Williams defending her side of the tennis court. A few people got clap-backs that they inadvertently signed up for. Rude shoppers, irresponsible drivers, and inconsiderate individuals/former friends in my circle could have sucked the happy right out of my bubble, but I swatted them like flies… and I have no remorse.
They didn’t know that I had to fight to gather my Merry.
I searched for its pieces while crawling through the barren forest of my spiritual winter. I scrounged. I foraged. I created little piles of joy around me, forming a 360-degree barrier between me and the world – me and the reality of my bank account, professional transition, and life changes. I replayed fond memories of my father instead of anticipating his absence on yet another holiday. Four months later and I still patch the holes of my heart with thoughts of his smile to protect the cracks of my heart from the cold winds of grief. My piles of Merry were the only boundaries I had to keep the darkness from penetrating my oxygenated peace.
So, you had best believe, that I defended my happy with everything I had yesterday. To keep from crying sporadically in public places, I thought of his spirit dancing and I spoke to him.
“I love you.”
“I miss you.”
“Thanks for everything.”
To keep from royally cussing someone clean out (as we say in the South), I retracted the sporty backhand that was perfectly poised under my tongue and said “Have a blessed day.” Friends that were jolly as long as I supported them have surprisingly fallen away like leaves from trees when reciprocity made sense. I stuffed a little happy there too so the wind couldn’t get in and make me bitter. I let the angels do their jobs. I summoned God the Father to comfort me and the Holy Spirit to keep aerating my Merry with reminders of Truth. I let a harvest of joy grow from seeds of gratefulness. As I stood in front of my heater, I thanked Him for warmth. As my feet hurt from working, I thanked Him for the opportunity. As I drove on lesser gas as I normally do, I thanked Him for my wheels. As I coughed and massaged my face from sinus pain, I thanked Him for life. When I ate leftovers, I thanked Him for provision. Upon receiving random messages from sweet friends, I released the expectation from hearing from certain ones and truly let the peace of God rule and wash the hurt away. These things fortified my Merry and I wasn’t letting anything rob me of it.
Maybe you’re like me. You’re holding onto your Merry with both hands and you’re trying to keep it alive in the midst of hardship, loss, or change. I pray that you protect it with everything you got – that you exhibit the grit needed to keep the light in your spirit on, that you regain the strength and courage to fight for your happy, fight for your joy, and fight for your right to live. Don’t be distracted by what you don’t have. Defend what you have and let God heal the cracks. Let the angels of protection do their jobs. Hold fiercely to the Truth that Jesus was born so you could live.
You are loved.
You are cared for.
You are the reason Christmas exists, and your Christmas is Merry because Merry is a state of mind.
I love you and Merry Christmas, Sweethearts! Peace & Thanks for listening!
Photo of Serena Williams courtesy of Tennis.com
Photo of Christmas tree ornaments courtesy of Lowes.com