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1, 2, 3…

“You shall do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD, that it may be well with you and that you may go in and possess the good land which the LORD swore to give your fathers,” Deuteronomy 6:18 NASB

I like to read the Bible before bed. It’s like a spiritual palate cleanser for me after a long day. After reading this verse two days ago (and later the chapter), I turned over in the bed and contemplated the directive and the promise. The instructions seemed so simple, yet intimidating. So, I jotted notes to digest. Hope it helps you too!

Step 1: Because God sees everything, do what is right. I know you may not get “credit” for it, but your character counts in the eyes of the Father. You don’t have to wonder if He’s keeping tabs or forgetting to write something down. He is omnipresent and omniscient.

(I truly try to live this out everyday. Challenges come, but this part doesn’t trip me up.)

Step 2: When you do what is right, your actions and the outcome will be well with you… you will be at peace with what was in your control and what was out of your control.

(I believe that peace makes a mighty fine pillow and I enjoy sleeping on it every night. Knowing that you did everything you could to be in right-standing makes you accept the serenity of not being in control of everything. So, this part doesn’t get me either… but let’s look to the last one…)

Step 3: Then, because you have Peace, you can go possess the land… the good land… the promise.

(OK, so this where we need to talk. Why do I have problems possessing the land, or in today’s case, the dreams and promises God gave me? If I’ve done the steps to get to this point, why am I apprehensive about #3? Is it a fear of not being able to live up to the dream? Am I afraid that the promises are ethereal and not obtainable? What causes me to pause when it’s time to take a step into new territory? Apparently, the land is not new to God because He promised it before I was born. So, why can’t I rest in His confidence in me? Honestly, I’m still chewing on this one. I want to get to the bottom of it. Yes, I know bible verses and songs that say otherwise, but there is still trepidation before I put my weight on the leg that extends into unknown territory.)

Is there anyone else out there that is shaky on the 3rd step? It’s OK to be human enough to answer YES! 

So, I have to remind myself that the promises of God are secure and that even Jesus had to take a step back to get ready for the cross. It was His mission and He knew it was coming, but it didn’t make the step easier to take. So, He prayed… more than once (Matthew 26). I have to believe that His multiple prayers validate my questions and fears just as much as his humanity colliding with his Deity.

Follow the steps according to HIS plan, put your foot down, and walk across the bridge into the unknown. I’m stretching to do the same.

Peace & Thanks for listening!

Photo courtesy of www.earnthis.net

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No Matter What 

Flight Write: ATL -> DCA -> PVD

No matter what, God is good. 

His goodness is not contingent upon my feelings,  reactions, or justifications. He is good. Period. And His mercy endureth forever (Psalm 136:1) – which means whatever I’m going through, whenever I’m going through,  wherever I’m going through it, He is still good. He transcends time and situation. There is nothing too far where God’s mercy can’t reach; He’s already tHEre. There is nothing too hard for Him where His goodness will not reign.Psalm 136.1 YouVersion

I have a list of things that went wrong in the last 7 days, but I also have a list of what went right. They combat each other, and then they balance each other out.

How can you laugh when your license plate was stolen off of your car in broad daylight? You get grateful that your car wasn’t missing too.

How do you not be upset that you have to work on your day off? You become grateful for employment. 

How do you breathe when someone leaves your life? You begin to thank God for the time you had, knowing that s/he could have been born on the other side of the world and you would have missed out on her/his awesomeness.

I’ve grown in this area, this No Matter What territory. Life’s challenges continue to improve my agility. I’d like to think that I came straight from heaven with it, but it was forged in me through my parents and mentors that served as night lights along the way. 

CAUTION: This No Matter What mentality is not for the faint of heart. It comes with distractions sprinkled like glitter on a carpeted floor, luring your focus away from your purpose as you attempt to walk forward. It has splashes of anger as you recall the sacrifices you made while fighting your demons… alone. It requires you to acknowledge the bad stuff, square up, and say that all things work together for the good of those that love the Lord and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28)… and believe it. It means crying tears of courage that leak from your broken heart.

No Matter What takes practice. Expect bruises. Check for sores. They’ll be there, but keep walking, keep praying, and keep fasting from the feast of your fears.

Believe, no matter what.

Give, no matter what.

Go, no matter what.

Love, no matter what.

And while you’re standing there braving the winds or bent over wounded from the blows, remember that Jesus is Immanuel. He is with you… all the time…

no matter what.

Peace and thanks for listening!

If Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number…

Flight Write: PVD -> BWI

…then family ain’t nothing but a word.

I started this trip a bit frustrated with some people that call themselves family. I had been holding in a tumultuous flow of words for a month. Unfortunately, people think that if you aren’t belligerent with colorful words spewing out of your mouth, that you aren’t capable of being such.

I am happy to inform you that this is a lie.

That quiet worker or positive colleague can be a verbal assassin with plenty of artillery to annihilate your heart, but s/he chooses to smile instead. This was me for a month. The term family almost seemed like a dirty word that left a foul taste in my mouth when I thought of certain people. My circle got smaller and some of it was involuntary. So, needless to say, I was a bit sour.

Then, my sorority sister lent her ear for what was a tsunami of “Why’s,” “That’s just stupid’s,” and “I just don’t get it’s.” My mother and aunt tag-teamed to ensure I caught my twilight bus. A sisterfriend checked for my travel safety. Another sisterfriend of 16 years transported me to bookstores to inquire about book signing opportunities before heading to the airport. One sorority sister extended herself with hospitality that could rival any 4-star hotel and another sorority sister hosted me with patience as I coordinated visits with DMV friends I had not seen in 10+ years. My big brother is always one call away when I’m in town and my mother always seals my travel with prayer.
God brought all of these things back to my remembrance and I am sitting on this plane marveled at how flimsy we view the f-word and how quickly we throw it away.

It doesn’t matter how many genetic or blended relatives you have,
God will give you the 
family to fill the need. 

Maslows-Hierarchy-of-Needs-1024x791Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs indicates that we have a need for connectedness, love, and belonging. I believe that wholeheartedly. After all, God created the ultimate adoption plan through His Son, so we were not designed to “do life” alone. Even a mean senior citizen has a plant, pet, or something they can care for!

You may have a sister you can’t stand or an uncle you don’t like, but for every ounce of foolishness and discord, there is someone spiritually-related for you to do life together.

I am so grateful for my family. I pray that God shines a spotlight on yours so you can see them when life gets dim, too. Don’t think that family just encompasses a group with the same last name. It just requires a circle of people connected by the same heartstrings.

Peace and thanks for listening.

Back To School Rules: 10 Things Every Student Should Know

It’s B2S time and man, do I love the smell of freshly sharpened pencils, the colorful display of dry erase markers, and the inspirational notebook covers. *sigh* I love being an educator and a nerd. It’s such a beautiful combination. *smile* Being in this profession means that I see a lot of preventable mistakes from students and that I’ve made some of my own.
Someone who is like a little sister to me asked for advice as she embarks upon her freshman year of college next week. I thought about my response later and decided to share it #ontheblog to aid others who are transitioning to higher education. Some come from the perspective my teacher’s desk and some from my student experience. Needless to say, I wish I had these reminders when I began, so I hope they help. Feel free to share your own as well!
10 Things Every Student Should Know
  1. “Go in there, get what you need, and get out.” That’s what my grandmother told me when I began my freshman year at the University of Alabama at Birmingham(also known as UAB; #GoBlazers). You literally don’t have time to do anything that isn’t accomplishing that goal.  Have fun, but get your work done.
  2. Enjoy meeting new people and understanding different cultures. College is where life-long friendships can start. Just be selective.
  3. Everyone doesn’t believe in God. Don’t be easily offended. Be firm in what you believe and stay focused. Listen closely to the heart of people and you’ll hear the truth in their voice. See the person, not the religion and love accordingly. We can all learn something from each other. From the Buddhist, I learned how to be still. From the Jehovah’s Witness, I learned determination. From the atheist, I learned how to think critically. From the Muslim, I learned devotion. And I’m still Christian after befriending them all.
  4. Make an appointment with your instructors at least twice during the quarter. Before midterms and after midterms is a good practice. It’s easier to give an F to a student you don’t know. I tell my students the following every quarter: I don’t give grades; I give opportunities. What you make is up to you. Don’t suck up, but make sure s/he knows your name.
  5. Be open to discovering more of who you are. Everyone starts out thinking they know everything. You’ll quickly find out that you don’t. Soak in as much as you can and watch your back along the way.
  6. Your name will be the only name on your transcript, not your friends, “friends,” or family. So, do what you have to do to maintain your character and your grades. If your best effort is usually on point, then a slip up is not detrimental enough to forfeit the instructor’s grace. But it’s hard to ask for mercy when all you have projected is laziness and absences throughout the quarter/semester.
  7. Be in charge of your own learning experience. Don’t wait for the instructor to give you information. Seek it yourself then show them what you’ve found that matches what they taught. This will also help you remember course content long-term instead of just memorizing information for the test.
  8. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask them early. Just be careful what they are because most professors hate repeating themselves. Instructors don’t want to overextend themselves at the end of the semester when you had ample opportunity to gain understanding for months.
  9. Study smartly! Study content weekly instead of cramming. Ask how the tests are constructed (multiple choice, essay, etc.) and if it will be timed. Then practice… just like you would at a rehearsal). This of the test as an opportunity to show off what you know, not a way to crash and burn. It’s just a big worksheet, not the apocalypse. Reframe the way you approach the exam and watch yourself shine!
  10. Count your losses and let them go. I’ve walked out of a class before with the truth of failure tapping me on my shoulder. I’ve turned in a test where most of the questions were unanswered. I’ve lost hours of work due to technological problems and couldn’t reconstruct the masterpiece I wrote in the computer lab. I’ve failed a pop quiz. It’s not the end of the world. Chalk it up to immaturity, poor time and energy management, go get yourself a smoothie, and make a plan. And, keep your old notes for next quarter.

Peace & Thanks for listening! Have an awesome fall quarter/semester!

Got some hardknock lessons you can share with new students? Share the wisdom below!

– Here’s a short stop for your week. God bless! – CJW –

The church is not aWhen God breathed into Adam, the Breath kept going (Genesis 2:7). Think of all the people in the world and how many breaths are taken each second. That’s a lot of breathing.

If we look at the Church as the Body of Christ, then inhaling and exhaling take on a new meaning. Church is not a social club. It’s a place for the Breath to resuscitate the Body so it can leave the building and touch the world. It’s a well for the Body to be refreshed enough to share the Living Water with others. It’s a hospital for the Body to be mended during war so that the battle scars become proof of life.

Don’t hold your Breath. It is literally the Ruach Elohim… the Spirit of God. Exhale His goodness. Exhale His grace. Exhale His Word.

Peace & Thanks for listening.

Small Things Matter

BHM -> DEN -> SEA:

Small things matter, so be excellent.

IMAG3065What if everyone I met (and didn’t meet) wasn’t excellent at their job today? I wouldn’t be on this flight. I may not have even made it out of the parking lot. I bet someone was nervous about the flight information being correct as they typed it into their computer at work. I’m sure someone was tired as they dressed themselves this morning.  Nevertheless, they did it. They made it happen. They pushed aside the weight and picked up responsibility, hoisted it on their shoulder like a backpack, and trudged forward… knowing that someone needed them to be great.  Not good, not average – great. And that someone was me.

Excellence matters.
Regardless of color, creed, origin, excellence speaks and small things matter.

From the parking lot to the cabin, greatness was the only option and the only item on the menu today. Because everyone needs the same thing… to get to the next destination, even if it’s not pleasantly perfect, we all need to get there. The outside signage had to be flawless in order to direct seamless traffic of various types of vehicles. The roads had to be painted correctly and well lit so we could see where we’re going. The check-in process had to be smooth for my presence to be accounted for and for my luggage to travel with me. It’s a chain of processes that have to work together (seemingly) flawlessly in order for me to get where I’m going.

IMAG3588_1

C is for me.

The attendant that met me with a smile and helped me find the quickest check-in for my baggage… the TSA employee who directed me to the nearest checkpoint route (who by the way was standing in line waiting for breakfast and could have easily brushed me off like the Walmart associate did last week who said that she was off the clock and “couldn’t” redirect my question. Sidebar within the sidebar – Yeah, Walmart ass-ociate… I remember you.)The TSA agent that kept the security checkpoint moving (I thank God for her. Please give her extra jewels in her crown, Lord)the TSA agents that checked my boarding pass and ID and monitored the security scans/process (it’s a hassle sometimes, I know, but it keeps us safer than we realize).. the person or machine that regulates the concourse train (can you imagine your legs running like Chicken Little through the maze we call an airport?)… the attendant that was standing there ready at her post as I handed her my boarding pass, out of breath. She could have been lazy or out of place, but she was exactly where she was supposed to be. The seats I’m looking at across the aisle were once a bunch of parts that had to be put together. The engineer that conjured up this design had to have the exact measurements and mathematical prowess to create this vessel.

Every bolt, every screw, every stitch had to be done with care in order for me to write this entry on my way to Denver. All the parts had to work together. Just like the plane, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Keep that in mind for later.

IMAG3585
the view

I needed everything to work today, and to work well. There was minimal room for error and whatever error that may have occurred, I didn’t see it. Even when I misheard my dear sisterfriend tell me that we were leaving home at 4:30 AM instead of waking up at that time (BIG difference, but don’t worry. I was ready to roll in 15 minutes. That’s the trust, but verify part of this LATSOL moment.), the lovely people at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport and Southwest Airlines exhibited a level of excellence at each part of my journey. I appreciate that… for real. I needed every last person along the way.

So why can’t the Body of Christ act like that?

I’m still on this “body-kick” and it won’t let me go. Instead of acting like a whole Body with a Head, we act like a body parts – disconnected and dying. Instead of being connected to the Vine, we would rather be scattered like dead branches after a storm. It’s only a matter of time before we shrivel up and return to the dust from whence we came. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. We could complain and blame the fall of man (and woman) for all of our ills, but the truth is that God saved us through the blood of His Son and thus, we are reconnected by our word of faith. Therefore, there are no excuses. Therefore, there is now no condemnation, either (shout out to Romans 8:1). Nothing can keep us apart from each other and nothing can separate us from the love of God, the Vine, the Head. I beg to differ that we can simply coast through life alone, needing no one, touching no one, loving no one. We were designed to a Body, a significant part of a whole that just happens to be contained in this shell called humanity. This Body needs to operate as a whole organism, moving one direction… just like this plane. As long as we stay separated and live recklessly egotistical off our own laced supply of judgment and ignorance, we won’t get anywhere. Instead, we’ll die as broken branches with the Source within our reach.

I may not have met all of the people, but I met their excellence. And it spoke volumes as it helped me get to my destination. Let’s hope that someone meets our excellence everyday.

Southwest pilot photo courtesy of SWA Media
(I always touch the plane too. 🙂

Concourse and sky photos by moi

Kindness Costs

There’s a graciousness in silent kindness.

A simple act of assisting another person can be quickly the perfect rescue in a stressful situation. It can melt tension that stubbornly stands in the way of a peaceful transaction. There may be a cost to this grace – an act misinterpreted, confusion, inconvenience, rebellion – but, I’m here to tell you… it’s worth it.

SCENARIO 1

I watched a man extend himself to me with this gracious, silent kindness during a flight boarding. He was helping me put my bag in the overhead bin. When he adjusted the orientation of the unmarked adjacent bag so mine could fit, the flight attendant aggressively questioned him:

“What are you doing? What are you doing?”

As the man explained that he was helping me, the flight attendant talked over him:

“That is my bag…”

This repeated for about five seconds (which felt like forever as I watched it happen). I knew I had to interject with some cold-watered words.

“He was helping me. We did not know that it was your bag,” I said slowly and firmly, looking directly into his eyes.

The flight attendant calmed down a bit and the kind passenger removed his hands from my bag, then stepped away with his hands up. He apologized to the flight attendant as he took his seat. I agreed with the him that the flight attendant’s reaction was unnecessary as I sat in mine. Then, the flight attendant proceeded to explain himself to us.

“People have tried to take our luggage before. You wouldn’t believe it…”

But his words were floating lifelessly in our ocean of disgust, visible for him to retrieve. The damage had already been done. The transaction was complete, and there was still no apology bobbing around his explanation. I wasn’t interested in any further interaction with him. I prepared my 2nd carry-on bag for the overhead storage across the aisle (after retrieving my notebook and pen, of course). The same gentleman let me know of a quick empty spot and I stored it there.

I thought of how often we mistake kindness as obtrusive and reflected on a previous moment during my trip.

SCENARIO 2

A young boy (about 6-years-old) complimented our hair as he walked by our restaurant table Friday morning  and the woman that walked with him scorned him loudly for “disrupting our breakfast.” When I realized his sweet voice saying “I like your hair” was directed toward us, he had already been accompanied by a relative to their vehicle while another adult woman paid the cashier.

I saw the gap and seized the moment.

I walked outside to their car and asked if the boy was talking to us earlier. The non-scornful woman said yes, and I asked if I could properly accept his compliment and thank him for his sincerity. She agreed. When I opened the door (he was struggling with it a little… lol), there was a mixture of confusion and excitement on his face. He had a visitor! I hugged him so tight that I could feel him breathe and his little heart beat with joy. Then I thanked him for his sweet courage to say his compliment aloud. I encouraged him to keep respecting women and to keep being kind. I blessed him and spoke over his life to uproot the sting of the scorn from the woman paying the cashier. It may have appeared inconvenient or obtrusive to our mealtime, but kindness can be that way sometimes…

THE LESSON

Kindness is an extension of Love – and love is not convenient and obscure. It shows itself in more ways than one and those ways can be expensive. A sacrifice lies in there somewhere. Within every act of gracious kindness – whether loud or silent – there is a cost for it to be manifested. For the flight passenger, it was public conflict. For the boy, it was public shaming. Either way, love was extended and the cost was paid… Just like Jesus’ life. He extended Himself with the biggest cost of all – His blood. (*humming* Oh, what Love He has for me…) So, if you’re ever in a situation where Love opportunities lie in wait, don’t be afraid to pay the cost and accept the receipt. Jump in the gap and let Love flow.

Peace & Thanks for listening.

Transpiration

There have been a lot of deaths around me in the last few weeks. Friends, family, students, and co-workers have lost loved ones unexpectedly. I know that within the silence of poverty and conflict, people die everyday, but in recent news, there have been outbreaks of crime like sporadic wildfire. Random shootings, suicides, and bodies found. When clusters of deaths happen around the same time, I always ask the question “What does this mean? Why now?”

What I got was the message below. It came so fast that my hands could barely keep up as I wrote it on a nearby sticky note. IMAG3365

Transpired is not the same as expired.
We transpire, not expire.
Our lives are transpiration; the transpiration
should be inspiration.

I must admit – I didn’t know transpiration was a word. I figured it had to be because of expiration and inspiration. So, I looked it up. You won’t believe what I found (unless you’re a hydrologist).

“Transpiration is the process by which moisture is carried through plants from roots to small pores on the underside of leaves, where it changes to vapor and is released to the atmosphere. Transpiration is essentially evaporation of water from plant leaves.” (U.S. Department of the Interior/U. S. Geological Survey)

My eyes got so big after reading that definition, and so did my understanding of the words I heard. Check this out.

Since we are the seeds of God and He formed us from the ground, we are essentially spiritual plants on Earth. Have you ever heard of “Bloom where you’re planted?” There you go. Well, when we die, we return to the dirt from whence we came, yet our souls are not expired. They are transpired from our bodies. If you read my post Water Proof, you’ll see where this is headed.

We are made of water and dirt. How appropriate for a seed to transform into a plant. Since we have been planted, at some point, we must be harvested. It’s gruesome to think about. It makes me cringe, but it’s the truth. The fruit of us – the lives we’ve touched, the people we’ve birthed, the service we’ve rendered – lives beyond the harvest. Essentially, we pass from one state of being into another in a form, i.e. spiritual transpiration. We don’t expire when we live in Christ. We don’t choose the manner in which loved ones transpire, but if they have been an ambassador for Christ on Earth, drenched in His living water… I believe we transition in Him as well.

Some believe in reincarnation while some believe there is no eternal home for the soul, and I respect your beliefs with sincerity. The following prayer is mine:

May we all transpire after we have expired all that
we were purposed to inspire on Earth.

Peace & Thanks for listening.

Photo courtesy of picture-perfect-world.tumblr.com

Can You Help A Mother Out?

Good Day, Good People!

So, it’s the day after mother’s day and I intentionally planned to post this message today. Yesterday, I chose to be present in my mother’s presence. No social media, a few quick texts to give my well wishes, and that was it. I absorbed the day with my parents and loved every minute of it.

Well, consider this the morning after Mother’s Day (see what I did there?) and you have a special treat. Below is a link to my free downloadable 3-day devotional called “Can You Help A Mother Out?” I wanted to share words of encouragement based upon the experiences of my friends and family. Hopefully, this eBook will envelope someone in positivity this month – long after the flowers and cards. If you’re not a mother, please share this free eBook with a mother near you (plus three more).

Here’s the link: Can You Help A Mother Out by CJW

Peace & Thanks for listening (and Happy Mother’s Month)!

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