Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It Won't Work Unless You Work It: Living the Dream

The thing about success is that it is elusive to most of us. It is a risky thing to work at something for weeks, months or even years before seeing results. In the beginning everyone is your biggest supporter because we all like a hearty success story; more than that, people just like new, including me. That fresh, clean smell of a brand, spanking new project is like euphoria unleashed. The air feels cleaner, the sun seems brighter, your back’s a little straighter and you have a positive word for everyone who crosses your path.
Even if you haven’t quite done anything yet; you’ve thought it through, talked about it, prayed over it, read as much as you could take on it. You’ve inspired yourself into a type of: Tony Robbins/T.D Jakes/Joel Olsteen fit. The numbers have been run, and your parents and mentors and sisters, brothers and closet friends all agree that this is the perfect time to do it.
So there it is. Grinning like a guy in an ad for a Colgate commercial, you give your sleeves the proverbial roll-up, turn from the inspiration to the task it takes to get there and…sigh.
It is then you remember the errand you have to run, that phone call to what’s-his-name that has to be made now because you haven’t spoken to him in forever. You find everything to do but work. I could call this procrastination, but this really wouldn’t be digging deep enough.
It is that fear of not enough that creeps in after the dust clears and all you can see is labor. Let’s face it inspiration doesn’t last forever. It’s like falling in love. At some point in the relationship, your stomach doesn’t do that, ‘thing’ when you see him, down the line you won’t think of him every hour or giggle to yourself when you do. Nope. It’s doesn’t mean that the love is gone. It simply means that you have settled into something more sustainable. The energy of love is still there but it has been redirected to the needful things; sharing the remote, washing his clothes, backing down from an argument because being right is always necessary.
Likewise, with projects the energy of shouting it to the mountaintop has to be redirected to actually developing the business plan, making the cold calls and perhaps hearing a 101 ‘nos’ before you hear a ‘yes’.
There is always the fear that you will invest time and money in this and your project will mock you and then keel over and die. A tiny dark voice will whisper that you are not enough; no one will ever buy, invest or believe in this thing and that they will all stare at you with glazed eyes in the middle of your presentation. There will be that sickly feeling inside that all those who are on board with you will be embarrassed and disappointed by this fantastic dream of yours. And you will have to tell yourself that this will work and it is meant to be. When you stop believing it, will you will have to say it again, and again until you believe it again. Eventually you will have to find that place inside that will sustain you through this task. It is this fine line that separates the winners from those that just like winners; we all do.
Your dream is not for any prize or accolades. No, it’s because something has weld up inside of you and won’t go away until it is realized. It is the God inside of you telling you this is His plan, His will, His way. But it won’t work itself. So…work it.    

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Oh, So, so Grateful

There is an undeniable rush from getting it off of your chest. Complaining gives us a way of putting it out there, getting them told, saying exactly what we feel. It makes us feel alive and relieves pressure and pain, allows us to shake it off. Thing is, an emotional outlet is a temporary high and worst yet, only benefits the person venting. Besides, emotions are capricious, unreliable; we will know one thing, but feel something completely different.  Complaining may feel good at the onset, but will leave us empty and lacking when it's all said. To be grateful is indeed another animal.

To be thankful is not necessarily instinctive. We are by nature selfish beings. And if we don’t train our hearts to be grateful, we will live in a state of perpetual need—or should I say, never ending want. Most of the times our unthankful attitudes stem from the expectation that our blessings should be presented in a certain way, at a certain time, for all the world to see and admire. But many times they come in subtly, unassuming, providing something here, there and over there. They don’t always come through the beautiful or popular people; no trumpets make the announcement, no grandeur (man how we love grandeur) involved. They often come in the form of unpretentious strangers lending a hand or advice, or circumstances that just somehow work out in our favor. You may see them through ideas or creative thoughts in which, if we act upon them gives us exactly what we need. This requires us to take action. Sometimes we are waiting on the wind and the blessing is in the rain. We miss it because we ignore it-- stubborn and ungrateful because it isn’t the way we imagined it.

Gratefulness opens and expands our capacity to see God’s goodness and receive it when it comes. It helps us to forget what hasn’t materialized because we are centered on what is present. It is gratefulness that opens the hand of God. And it also allows us to give because we are so appreciative of what we have until it seems ridiculous not to give back. It takes the focus off of us and puts it on Him. It keeps us loving, hopeful and happy and that is so much more than a little venting could ever do.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Live What You Believe

Every day I hear the sighs in the room, witness the sad smiles. People at work and other places shuffle through the day, discontent because they’re confined to a space they despise. Some think it is some sign of nobleness that they are pressing through despite their unhappiness; it is a token of strength and courage—or is it?

It seems that it is simpler to acquiesce to the authority of them; there’s no accountability for us. All blame and credit belongs to someone else; family, a spouse, ageing parents, children, or even the economy. It is in that world we live out the beliefs of others ignoring our own because we feel it is not possible to do what is best for us.

But I believe that at all times and under all circumstances we should live in truthfulness, never ignoring our God-given urging. It is a necessary and undeniable part of who we are. Live what you believe.

We say we believe we are enough, we have what it takes. We tell others we stand on being out of debt and that we ought to be loved and respected. But then we operate in another belief; we doubt ourselves and back away from challenges afraid we might fail or look foolish. We buy what we cannot afford because we deserve it or we crave the appearance of doing well. We engage in relationships with those who discount our value, and consistently take more than they give; and then we are angry at them for our unhappiness.

Times may be tough, as people say. But it is always the right time to live and be who we are. It is not contingent upon situations or seasons or periods. To live what you believe is to live according to your divine purpose. It is a deliberate choice, a timeless decision. Perhaps everything is not aligned to do everything you need to do but you can still walk in truth. God has given us the ability to do it. We do not need to seek the external to discover what is being produced internally. It would seem to me a strange thing that the Creator would make something without giving it all of its working parts. It is up to us to discover the truth.

Pull from what you know. Pull from deep within and discover you. Strengthen your relationship with your Maker so when falsity arises you will see and you will know. You will shut it down.  You will live what you believe.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

I Will Get There

So I’m winding down for the evening preparing myself for bed and I’m reflecting on my day. I’m a task-oriented person. I tally up what I’ve accomplished for the day and decide whether or not the past 24 hours have been successful. I began my morning in prayer asking God to give me strength for this, help me to be better at that. This particular day I asked for control over my mouth. Teach me Oh Lord how to keep the peace and say only what needs to be said. And Lord, give me patience with my children to give them the attention they need.

I remember this prayer as I’m making the kid’s lunches for the following day.
It is well after 10 at night there’s not much else to be done. It is then I remember the argument I had in the car with Wil; the one I was never gonna have again. He’s packed on the pounds since we’ve moved to the south. For lunch that afternoon he pulled into a McDonald’s and ordered the biggest, juiciest burger they sell—and a side of fries. I sat quietly for a moment remembering my humble prayer; right before I go into a rant about how huge he has become and a treadmill wouldn’t exactly hurt him. He blows me off but I won’t stop because I figured at that point I might as well empty myself. I sigh. Well, I can remove that from my list of things accomplished.

And then as I’m placing lunches in the fridge, I remember my prayer for patience with the kids. In my mind I fast forward to just after school. We were riding home and Jillian goes into a long-winded story about some kid that was being nasty to her. Midway through I’m thinking about what to cook for dinner and how long could this story possibly go on? Ugh. Mommy, you aren’t even listening to me, she asked. I tell her I am. But of course I have no solution to her problem because I only heard half of the story. I roll my eyes up to the ceiling. Geez, that was a bust too.

I go on, checking some things off the list as accomplished, but most others were not. Sometimes it feels like my life is more ebb than flow. Thursday night I’m in bible study and instead of getting into praise and worship I am once again analyzing my failures and weaknesses. I hate this. But I hear His voice say, I will get there. It’s then I realize that we are often harder on ourselves than he could ever be on us. We have lists and rules and so many absolutes we can’t even keep up. But His grace is sufficient. Every day I pray for this or that not realizing that every day he gives me grace to accomplish those things. But I’m not suddenly cured from being impatient or short or unkind. There’s no instant relief or quick fix. Grace is connected with action. As we move and strive he gives us grace, or favor and spiritual strength to do what we need to do. We don't always feel it. It is not through will power or crossing our fingers. His grace is there. We just need to walk in it by faith. Yes, I am moving in an upwardly direction. In time...I will get there.

My daughter walks into the kitchen later that evening after bible study and asks me about the meaning of Easter. It is late. She needs to be in bed. I am tired. I sit her down at the kitchen island and explain it to her…from the beginning. I am getting there.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Go! Look Again!

It’s hard to accept failure or at least what we deem as failure. You have a perfect plan and you’re so pumped about it you can barely stand it. You’ve planned it out, written it down, told some friends and some family (you know the ones who support what you do no matter what). Yep, you know the economy is down. But you are assured that this business venture, this great idea to change or make something happen will come through if no other way but on the wings of pure enthusiasm. I mean you are convinced that it’s God given because it has never been clearer. And then it fails. It fails miserably. You plan an event and no one shows up; not even the ones you practically begged to come. The bank refuses the loan and commences to tell you why your idea is impossible. You start the group, move or program and absolutely nothing goes as intended. You look up to heaven as if God just played a cruel joke you on. You retreat for awhile and contribute it to a minor setback, regroup and try again. The defeat this time is staggering. Not only is this disheartening, it’s downright embarrassing. Surely everyone is either mocking you or pitying you. For me to tell you to try again sounds preposterous. It’s so easy for those resting on the sidelines with no vested interest to push you onward. There are few things more painful than utter letdown. Yet when you know that something is supposed to be it turns over in your heart repeatedly; you feel it tapping, tapping, begging to be given another chance. And you keep wondering what would happen if I try this thing one more time-- just one more time. Remember in scripture where Elijah had prayed and the land was void of rain for three years (I Kings 18:41)? I can only imagine that during the first year of the drought many are hopeful for the rain. It will come, after all, it always does. I can see them looking up toward the sky praying to their god hoping, wishing, knowing. By the third year hopelessness has set in and what they once held hope for seems like a ridiculous notion. Fate seems set. Many die. Many more will. God is against us rain may never come again! Elijah, the prophet comes back to town after three years and tells the King to get ready; there is a sound of abundance of rain. Sometimes the sound of change is inaudible to the naked ear but it is a knowing that cannot be shaken. There is not a clue, not a hint of rain in sight but Elijah tells his servant to go and look up toward the sky. Meanwhile he puts his face to the ground and prays. His servant returns. He sees nothing and hears even less. He tells the servant to go. Look again. Still nothing. And again…nothing. After that sixth time the repetition has become frustrating. But Elijah was still expecting, he’s still praying; remember he’d already heard the sound of abundant rain. It has been six times and nothing has changed. It was the seventh and final time when he saw it—a cloud, the size of a man’s hand. Change was already in place but he would not have seen it if he had not gone one more time. Don’t give up. Keep praying and then go. Look again.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

I Still Believe

The world is changing and nothing seems assured. Over the last several months it seems tragedy has struck on every hand leaving us with mouths wide open. A U.S. soldier is accused of killing Afghan civilians in cold blood—including women and children. It is said he went back to the same village planning to kill more but he was apprehended. Drugs overwhelmed the life of a great voice and no matter how hard we rooted for her comeback Whitney just wouldn’t shake the habit. A dear sister of mine who’d battled cancer died (we love you Natalie) in spite of our prayers. Currently the T.V. is splattered with images of 17-year-old, unarmed Trayvon Martin who was shot and killed just minutes from his home on his way back from the store. His killer has not been arrested. And no matter how hard we wish it did not or what kind of denial we wrap ourselves in, racism still exists. It seems a country built on liberty and justice and freedom has had a mental breakdown of sorts and is hard pressed to recover from its malady. On the other hand it is as though a loving God has left us to our own devices. It often seems he has turned and walked away from our cries and prayers. It leaves many of us wondering if he even hears us anymore.

The one that we prayed to be healed isn’t, the boy who was supposed to live a long live doesn’t, the comeback, the return, the second chance that was supposed to attest that miracles do happen, doesn’t happen at all. And if you sit and ponder it all for too long it can leave your heart sad and sick and wondering if right always wins.

Well, I still believe. I still believe in love and the goodness of mankind. I still believe that justice prevails and that if you want to be free from habits meant for your destruction you can be. I believe that God heals. I am that testimony. I still believe that people are honest and courageous and when we come together nothing is impossible.

I can’t explain away all the tragedies and heartaches and disappointments and disparities between this and that. But my hope is yet in the God who can and he is a just God. The bible says he meets us where our hope is (Ps. 33:22). And because I believe that, I refuse to give in to doubt. When I stop believing, something else sets in; its force rises and sees the good in nothing, it is void of hope, it stands for nothing but fears everything. It eats away at the spirit of man and leaves him confused and staggering.

The spirit of hope is in our midst and we have to grab hold to it. It is out of that spirit that movements were birth and liberties and freedom given to those who were without. It is that hope which propelled individuals to make sacrifices both great and small that changed generations. It is the hope that just won’t die.
No matter how bleak it all looks, the tears we cry and the disappointments we experience, God will come through. Right will prevail. No matter how vast the darkness, I still believe.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

You Were Called for Greatness

When we think of those who demonstrate greatness we usually think of those whose achievements affect generations or millions. Rarely do we consider those who in the small hub of their communities are life changers.

Greatness simply means that which is beyond the ordinary, exceeds normalcy and is unique in comparison to most. We all were born for greatness, to push past the average wave but most of us are quite content with getting by. We are perfectly fine with just enough. Making waves is risky.

We are in awe of those who stand out amongst us; attributing their greatness to some special talent or gift and every now and again we wonder what it would be like to be able to do something like that. But I believe God has placed in all of us something exceptional and significant. It’s that part of us that makes us singular and distinctive from the rest. It is often dormant for a time and for many of us rise up on occasion but never reaches any pinnacle. It’s that part in us that when it is in effect we move effortlessly. When it is working, we lose track of time and place because we are doing what we are born to do. And then it happens, we hit a snag, we have a setback and we renege, settling comfortably back into mediocrity. This thing, this piece that’s innate can be almost anything; the ability to comfort or give. It could be the capacity to encourage or serve like no other. It may be the gift to work with children with disabilities and see only their ability. Maybe it’s working with the elderly or speaking to the masses. It can be almost anything.
To others it may seem a simple thing but to the one on the receiving end of your gift they know that it is much more. They view you as a gift from God, a precious gem, someone they absolutely do not want to do without. They honor and treasure you. And if you were not there for them their lives would not be the same.

Allow your uniqueness to ascend. Let it take root. Don’t be ashamed because it is livelier or more colorful than your surroundings. Don’t mute your gift because others don’t get it or are uncomfortable when you are moving in it (remember God gave this thing to you, for his purpose). Flow in it, embrace it. It is the essence of the greatness in you.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Letter to the Unlovable

To you who just aren’t easy to love (you may or may not know who you are):

You are the difficult one of the group and this seems to be your natural state. You like to argue often. When there’s nothing to argue about you will masterfully create friction. You are moody, temperamental, difficult to get along with and even more difficult to understand. When everyone else is happy and free and laughing about this and that you seek to destroy with your glass-half-empty attitude. Sometimes you build a wall around yourself so that you can privately loll in your fears and discontent blaming the outside world for your misery. You wound, hurt and offend and often it seems you’re oblivious to the mayhem you bring to those around you because, afterall, you are the only one that matters. We’ve tried to include you because you become bitter and hurt when you’re excluded and for various reasons this bothers us. We’ve tried to compliment and build you up because you are easily discouraged and prone to disillusions about what’s going on when you aren’t around. When Jesus says, “love your neighbor as yourself” certainly you must be the exception. If we really focused our thoughts on it, it would be easier to leave you be, watch you wallow in your weighty pool of self-pity, until you step out and realize how wrong you have been. But we don’t.

You are what we call the unlovable; not because you can’t be loved but because you are difficult to love. But we love you anyway. No, we aren't hanging on some delusion that you will become beautiful and kind (you might, but we aren’t holding out for this). But as Christians we are commanded to love. We are even commanded to love you as we love ourselves. Sigh. Also, we realize that loving is freeing; hate binds us to the person being hated. And in your dark world we choose to show you light and keep ourselves free.

We are beings filled with goodness and kindness. We are a reflection of our Father. You will not change that about us. We love because it is greater and more powerful than hate can or ever will be. Hate causes rage and depression and leaves our entire being bitter; not just the part that is busy hating you. We will not be ruled by your temperament and attitude, but by that which lives and rises and is unconquerable-- love.

So, to you, the unlovable, we choose to love you anyway.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Be Relevent

Well, it’s Black History month and it seems that over the years we have gradually settled comfortably into commemorating a compilation of facts; who invented this and who did what to that. Of course we should honor those who have made accomplishments and breakthroughs after all, this is partly what history is all about. We ought to celebrate inventors and innovators; the courageous and risk-takers. It is our duty to pass this knowledge on to our children. But I fear that we hold our heads up high and have become fat with pride in our color and the accomplishments of others; protecting our Blackness and our rights to be without moving forward with selfless intent as those who we celebrate have done.

Today is the day to be headed somewhere. You and I were created at this time and in this skin not by accident but with divine intent and purpose by God. It is not by happenstance that you are an African American born in the 20th or 21st century. Your color is no more of a coincidence than your gender or the parents to whom you were born. You are relevant.

To be relevant means what you do or refuse to do has an effect. You were endowed by God to do, to move, take risks, set goals and complete tasks. What is it that you are doing with this in mind? Does each sunrise just rest on you and you simply bask in its glory without wondering why you were allowed to witness its beauty? Or do you kick off the sheets excited about getting up and out and walking in your calling.
We now have the right to vote, yes, we can say what we want to say and praise our God with liberty. Now what? What will you do today because you are relevant?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Not a Good Day for Throwing Stones

I would like to think that I’m leading a somewhat outstanding life. I’d like to believe that when I look in the mirror in the morning the person staring back at me is honest, loving and above reproach. I’d like to believe this because when I go out on the streets and see those who aren’t, I have something to talk about.

When I witness those who are struggling; can’t pay their bills on time, can’t keep their husband from stepping out, dealing with a child addicted to…anything, I can shake my head. I choose to believe that the way I raise my kids, love my husband and handle my business is solid and right and folks all around me admire me not only for my efforts but envy me for the amazing job I’m doing. It makes it so much easier for me to cock up my feet at night and get on the phone with my girl and give play by play about how you-know-who hasn’t seen her child in days and I don’t know why she stays broke. Yep it’s all so easy to do.

But funny thing, when I take a second look at myself in the mirror I reflect back on some events in my life that I’d tucked safely away in the recesses of my spirit. Stuff I don’t talk about anymore because the memories have faded like something left out in the sun for too long and it doesn’t seem important to bring up anymore; stuff that I’ve exonerated myself for with the excuse that I was young, didn’t know any better or it was somebody else’s fault.

So this morning before I stepped out of the house I left the stones I’d planned on throwing and clothed myself with humility and understanding and realized the world was a much more beautiful place this way.