We learned something cool in therapeutic massage class about the heart and I underlined it in my book as a reminder to share it with you. I remember learning it in college, but something about this time around was louder.
Did you know that the heart has its own rhythm? As in, every organ is co-dependent except the heart, which can beat (for a short time) outside of the body. It has a natural pacemaker (the sinoatrial or SA node) that initiates the electrical sequence for the heart beat, and that the blood turbulence in the atria and ventricles create your heart sounds. Neat, right?! So the SA node kicks off the rhythm of your heart like a drummer giving the band 4 counts to start a song and your valves keep the sound flowing in the right direction – in, out, up, down, arms, legs, lungs, head… it’s all coordinated with the heart’s rhythm. And if the beat is off, well… that’s not good.
What I extracted from that lesson was God made us with our own rhythm. We walk around with this customized drum set in our chests at all times. Never do we say “Hold on, let me check my pulse. It may have stopped today.” No, we just keep going through life – talking, laughing, living. We trust the rhythm and it keeps the rest of our body on beat. So, what happens when the rhythm changes? Then, my friends, there is arrhythmia. Not all rhythmic changes are fatal, but some warrant close attention.
Some arrhythmias are so brief (for example, a temporary pause or premature beat) that the overall heart rate or rhythm isn’t greatly affected. But if arrhythmias last longer, they may cause the heart rate to be too slow or too fast or the heart rhythm to be erratic – so the heart pumps less effectively. (American Heart Association)
In life, the very same thing happens. We can be on a path that feels so good and then something small can throw us off. On the other hand, that steady pulse of life can be disrupted by something large and it can feel like the entire band needs to walk off stage and go home. Whatever the sound, you’ll feel the rhythm of life change. Maybe it changes your daily routine at home or your financial distribution. Maybe it skews your speech or the way you see someone. I believe we experience spiritual arrhythmia and I am convinced that we either learn to adjust or, like the heart, we simply stop. We wander through life on autopilot and wonder why we don’t feel anything. Maybe it’s because our heart is offbeat and we need a pacemaker to jump it off. Well, God is the ultimate heart regulator. I know this from personal experience. When I felt like the walking dead, he resurrected me to see life through different lenses and I haven’t forgotten that gift, even if my heart skips a beat or two along the way.
You don’t have to die from arrhythmia of the mind, body, or spirit. If you find yourself reading this and you are in need a heart check as you wind down tonight, I am praying with you. Contact me and I’ll pray with you via email. Just don’t live off beat and by all means, don’t stop. You are needed in the symphony.
Want to learn more about the heart? Check out this link from the American Heart Association. It has explanations, videos, and downloadables. A nerd’s dream come true!
Sheila E. photos courtesy of moi at the Sheila E. Concert (epic.) Joy photo courtesy of: NBC News
I have a confession to make. I dance around the house for no reason other than it makes me happy, and sometimes, I do it in heels. My dog looks at me funny from time to time, but I think he’s gotten use to my random bursts of movement.
I step, I salsa, I groove, and I do the running man when it hits me. I’m a dancer, through and through. No, I wasn’t classically trained in ballet. No, I didn’t participate in summer dance intensives. I hear music in my head and I move to it.
Growing up, I listened to jazz, gospel, rock, heavy metal, blues, R&B, hip-hop, country… you name it. Thanks to my family, I was exposed to some good stuff and that goodness would seep beneath my pores and I would be compelled to let it out. Any Man of Mine by Shania Twain would get a mix of hair swinging and stepping. Don’t Worry, Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin would get head bobs and horrible attempts at whistling. Going through my uncle’s cassette drawer was like eating at a musical candy factory. I was in heaven every time I could sneak a listen.
Now the cassette and headphones have been replaced with streaming queues and bluetooth speakers, but I dance just as hard. Music will always be in my DNA no matter how old I get. It makes me feel alive and healthy, running fine on all cylinders – even if but for 3:32. Diving into my audible ocean means everything to me and I always resurface better than before. I think the freedom makes me a better choreographer.
What do you do that gives you unadulterated happiness? Is it bike riding? Rollerskating? Painting? Cooking? Whatever it is, I pray that you get to do it before the year ends and whenever the mood strikes. Get some happy in your life!
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.
My last Monday night rehearsal with UAB Gospel Choir was last week. Due to my work schedule, I couldn’t soak in all of the goodness of the director’s farewell semester, and honestly, I was sad and sentimental about it every Monday night for 3 months.
You see, for a period time when I wasn’t going to church, Monday was my Sunday. It was my exhale of the week and my musical family reunion ritual. We learned music and history, but most importantly, we learned friendship and camaraderie. Students were treated like professionals in training, not underlings. It was rigorous, but respectful. The Class called UAB Gospel Choir turned from a mere repeatable credit hour to my saving grace and I was missing out on forging the last moments of it.
So, last Monday, I soaked in the truth that for 16 years of my life, I was connected to this choir’s legacy as a student and an alumna. My heart poured there. My tears ran freely. My skills were sharpened. I was made into a better version of myself. That Monday night, I saw people I had not seen in years and laughed until my face hurt. It was beautiful. I guess you can say, I was reunited, although my heart never broke away.
What or who are connected to spiritually that you can’t reach physically? Does the distance hurt? Do you feel inadequate without interaction? It’s OK. I get it.
Set a date and reunite. Feed your soul with the goodness of fellowship. Invite the intimacy of connectivity. I don’t care of it’s a phone date, video chat, or grocery store run… reunite. Whatever the sacrifice, the result is priceless.
Thank you, Bishop Kevin P. Turner, for providing a safe place for us to grow and develop into the purposeful people we were designed to be. The harvest of your academic and musical seeds will multiply forever.
“Anything you can do, I can do better. I can do anything better than you!”
Have you ever heard that song? It’s one of my favorites. I know the feminist undertone makes it an anthem, but my truth is that there are some things that I can not do better than someone else. On the other hand, there are things that I truly can do better… but it doesn’t mean I should.
Here’s a short stop for you before the workweek hits you like a ton of bricks.
Analyze what you can do and whether you do it well. See if there is anything holding you back from doing it better. Seek ways to enhance yourself. Regroup by reading. Sign up for a free class or lecture. Shadow someone you deem an expert and even someone you deem less than perfect. You may think you can do a lot of things better than someone else, but the passenger-seat-syndrome will do that to you. Instead of competing against someone, compete with yourself. You won’t get it all at once, but you will get it.
If I can teach a 65-year-old miner how to use email and he used that skill to change careers, you can get better at something too. Be patient and apply everything within you to beat your last score.
You can do it, Champ. I believe in you. I believe in us. Let’s do this.
After an invigorating dance-in-the-dark party in February, I was all about having my private party on the night before my August 20th birthday. What better way to celebrate my fresh wind of feminism than with other Wonder Women? I hand-picked a few close friends that I thought would appreciate the unique experience and invited them to dance their heart in with me. When the dust settled, seven ladies were confirmed and I was elated to rock with them.
Related Sidebar: I’m an Olympics fanatic. Seriously. I try to watch everything. You know how the U. S. Women’s Gymnastics Team is usually earmarked with a nickname? We’ve witnessed the Magnificent Seven (Atlanta 1996), the Fierce Five (London 2012), and recently in Rio, the Final Five to commemorate the retirement of legendary gymnastics coach Martha Karolyi. Epic.
I decided to jump on board and nickname these seven sisters + our beautiful host Shannon. They were the Exceptional Eightand this new band of supersheroes were about to embark my birthday SOL ship voyage. Sidebar complete.
I’m a thinker, so I reviewed the dynamics. Three of the attendees were my sorority sisters. Two of the eight ladies I knew since grade school. The remaining two women, I met in college. And Shannon? She was a sister on-site. Our kindred spirits kindled a positive energy that burned over emails and spilled over into our face-to-face encounter. I loved how she fit right into our type of crazy. I even had an icebreaker planned just in case my multiple circles needed some communicative coaxing, but as Shannon pointed out, they already had something in common…me. Each one of them represented a part of me that identified with them, so why wouldn’t they blend? I must admit. I was nervous because I wasn’t sure how the session would turnout for them, but it resulted in an explosion of laughter mixed with bursting sounds of pure joy and freedom. I couldn’t have asked for more. It was a beautiful blend.
Soon, it was lights out and we danced the night away to a perfect mix of my favorite jams (Did I mention perfect?). We ate until our sweet tooths were satisfied. We shared words of love and humor and you could see the strings of sisterhood weaving among us. We were SOL-tied, a band of professional women that had worked hard during the day, but needed the unique forge of fortitude that night. One of my sisters even had to get up for work at 3:00 AM the next day, but was still energized when she woke up. It was that electric. I saw their faces relax and for a moment, we weren’t wives, mothers, students, caregivers…we were an assembly of queens drinking from the pool of cooling strength and being fitted in new armor for the world that awaited us. The shattered stress from our daily roles lie on pieces of pink paper around us and no one walked out in the same manner in which they entered. Everyone returned to the lobby a little taller, brighter, and ready to obliterate any obstacle in her path.
We were walking with sunlight in our pockets and positivity in our hearts.
Our steps had rays of sunshine beaming underneath as we matriculated to our night-kissed cars.
To say that those dance steps charged our feminine energy packs would be an understatement. We may have put on the same shoes, but they didn’t feel the same.
There are few times when I travel backward in my mind and find nuggets of perfect synchronicity in a fraction of a second. Saturday was one of those times, so allow me to walk you through the steps. Bear with the chain link of events below as I bare my soul.
STEP 1: THE PLAN
It all began with an idea to have a fun-filled, let-your-hair-down kinda day for my performing arts troupe, which consists of experienced professionals in various industries. They’re amazing superheroes in their respective fields and on any stage of creativity. A beautiful dichotomy of talent if you ask me. This delicate balance needed a breeze of fellowship, so August 13th was set for Summer Fun Day at Avondale Park. I could hardly wait.
STEP 2: THE CONSIDERATION
One of our members attends graduate school out-of-state and was making the trek to spend time with the team, so I watched the weather closely to ensure that she could travel to us safely. I didn’t see some responses from my crew (which I later discovered was due to a technical glitch), so I considered canceling it altogether. After all, we had received bursts of thunderstorms every day that week and Saturday was going to follow suit. I decided to keep the plan based upon the forecast, and added some extra prayer to the meteorologist’s news. So glad I did. The weather was perfect.
STEP 3: THE IDEA
On the previous evening, we held rehearsal and one of our members brought up the notion of eating at Saw’s Soul Kitchen in Avondale, Alabama. I had never been, so I immediately was intrigued and ready to go. The dance of overcasting clouds and sunshine made for a mean game of volleyball and Uno. We were having fun, exactly what I prayed for. It seemed only fitting that we carry the good vibrations over to the restaurant.
STEP 4: THE GOODNESS
The food was delicious and so was the laughter. We sang along to the old school soul music showering over our cozy little table of five. We were enjoying each other’s company, exactly what I prayed for. Then, enter a smiling stranger who politely asked us if we were about to leave and if he and his family could have our table. If you’ve been to Saw’s in Avondale, you know the severity of this request. There are less than 10 tables in this eatery and the line to obtain one when they open at 11 starts at 10:40 AM at best. I’m ashamed to admit that I shook my head “no.” Thank God for my friend, who apparently was closer to Jesus than I was in that moment, that said yes and my stone-faced look morphed into a smile and a nod. He was kind and respectful, and I was proudly selfish. I’m usually the person that is cognizant of busy hours and needed seats, but on that day, I didn’t want to be considerate. I was marinating in the loveliness of time that our team rarely experiences without the demands of a deadline. I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want it to end…
but it was time.
STEP 5: THE SUGGESTION
After releasing our table, the same friend that suggested Saw’s pointed our attention to a thrift store nearby that she loves to visit. Sozo Trading Company was the destined place. Being the economical giants that we are, we jumped at the chance to embark on another adventure. Like giddy children filled with wonder, we walked inside and immediately felt peace. Dakota greeted us with a smile and noticed our matching shirts. She inquired of our talents and we agreed to perform a human video before we left.
STEP 6: THE CRUX
Remember when I gave you the demographics of the team in THE PLAN? The challenge that comes with our creative make-up is that schedule clashes are inevitable and not everyone learns the same piece at the time it is taught. In this instance, there was also the factor that one of our members had not performed with us in over a year. So, the suggestions started flowing. “What about this?” “Were you here when we did that song?” “I don’t know that one, but I can learn it.” The communication about the business at hand resulted in my spirit being nudged to return to the first song I heard in my soul stereo – How He Loves Usby Jesus Culture featuring Kim Walker-Smith. It fitted the mission of Sozo perfectly, so I shared those thoughts with my team. So, in true Workmanship Incorporated anointing, we quickly forged as a unit and half of our quad learned the piece in the back of the store. The funny part is that no one batted an eye of curiosity or annoyance. They just shopped around us as if our full-bodied belonged in the setting. In less than 45 minutes, we were all caught up and ready to serve.
STEP 7: THE BLESSING
We ministered. Right there inside of the front entrance doors.
If you’ve never performed a human video, it requires all of your muscles to cooperate and be in sync with those around you in order to present the storyline clearly. Two of us were negotiating with our bodies about previous injuries, two of us had learned the piece in minutes, and all of us were in sync. It was beautifully amazing. As usual, we performed for an audience of ONE – the ONE who gives us Life and the ONE who needs it. Dakota recorded and took pictures. When the song was over and we expired all we had, Dakota was teary and patrons were nearby. A man approached us with watery gratefulness in his eyes and hugged us, thanking us for the message of Love. His courage to be touched is what sincerely touched me. An open masculine heart is said to be soft, weak, or feminine by society’s standards unless they’re crying about winning a championship, but at that moment… he felt loved and reminded, and that was all that mattered. Then, it dawned on me. He was my blessing. Dakota was my blessing. Austin and Amanda (fellow Sozo staff) were my blessing. The gentleman at the restaurant was my blessing. Steps 1 through 7 were the blessing that led to the makarios moment… this man hugging people he didn’t know because of a Message that we said silently. We were presented with the opportunity to eulogeó (to speak well of, praise, or bless) God in the presence of His people and it resulted as a makariosexperience for ourselves and others (refers to the believer in Christ who is satisfied and secure in the midst of life’s hardships because of the indwelling fullness of the Spirit).
What did I learn that day?
That your plans are never yours. They always affect someone else, even when you don’t know it. And you’ll be better off letting God lead the choices you make because He always has a two-edged blessing waiting for you. Blessings are always simultaneously designed. They are never unilateral.
To learn more about Greek words related to “blessing/blessed,” click here and here. I hope you enjoy the insight as much as I did.
Peace & Thanks for Listening. (I know it was a long one this time, so really… thank you.)
In response to The Daily Post’s One Word Prompt: Open
When we leave food uncovered, it becomes susceptible to anything surrounding it.
Gnats. Fruit flies. Ants. Bacteria. Grubby little hands. Grown man fingers. Just to name a few.
I’ve noticed that when hearts and minds are open, we experience the same challenges. Good things can come out of us when the walls of our hearts are open enough to let them out. Sometimes a crack is all it takes for a beam of light to shine on a dark situation. Also, the mind can be exposed to great intellectual seeds just waiting to burrow into our soul’s innermost concerns and germinate into solutions for our problems. When our being is open, fruitful results flow out of us and attract others. Like a beautiful cuisine on display, it is pretty to behold and smells deliciously divine, so it draws in the likes of those who wish to partake in its expected excellence.
On the other hand, this can pose an issue when it comes to matters of the heart and the fragility of the mind. Whenever the opportunity arises to expose greatness, there is also opportunity for disgrace and contamination.
We shine in hopes of receiving confirmation that we are authentically exceptional in our strengths and talents.
We spill our gifts and let them run freely to open hands in the audience; however, it comes with a price. The ants come to feast. The hands seek to devour and the bacteria is just along for the ride. Suddenly, the greatness becomes emptiness. The shine is dulled. The once beautiful cuisine appears in the imagination as the eyes see the crumbs. Being open sucks sometimes, and there’s not much we can do to prevent this ravishing to be brave in our openness.
Polish-French Pianist Chopin (Szopen in Polish) had his share of this phenomenon. In addition to his musical brilliance, his performance style wasn’t well received at larger concert spaces in the earlier stages of his career; nevertheless, he continued to pour his passion into his composition and flourished as a well-known as an artist. One fact most do not know about Chopin is that his body is buried in France (his creative home), but his heart was interred in Poland (his birthplace). Interesting.
There’s something to be said about the emphasis we place upon our giving. We can’t afford to mope around, focusing on the empty vessel we could become over time.Somehow the more we give, the more we obtain to give. The mere fact that we’re a vessel at all should be a graceful honor.
The world depends on our open door to greatness, but there’s nothing wrong with a gate to maintain its luster.
We have the opportunity each day to affect the lives of others in a positive magnitude that could send shockwaves into their future. Could you be abused and misused? Possibly… but those boundaries are up to you to uphold. Do what it takes to continue the flow.