Wednesday, March 15, 2017

6 Degrees of Separation

On this day, 45 years ago, a teenage White girl gave birth to a bouncing baby girl. I can imagine the mixed emotions this young mother experienced as she lay in that hospital bed. I’m sure she was overwhelmed by the feelings of relief in knowing that her baby was healthy and the joy she experienced entering motherhood, but I can also imagine the great pain and loss she suffered as this baby was taken from her arms and placed into the arms of an adoptive family.  

Thirty miles away, a teenage Black boy was given the news that his college fling with a White girl had resulted in the birth of a baby girl. Her birthday was recorded in a family bible by the boy’s mother, and that would be the only connection the boy had to his baby girl. Attempts to gain custody of his child were thwarted by the girl's racist father. Even though the boy’s family was tightly knit and welcomed a new member, the girl was forced to place the baby for adoption by her parents.

For the next 40 years, the boy often thought about his baby girl. He told his wife and children about her, and periodically allowed them to search for her and her mother as technology advanced and adoption policies changed. All attempts had failed until miraculously, one day there was a knock on the man’s door. Now in his 60’s, sickly and frail, the Black man came face to face with a stranger on his doorstep. The strange man told the sickly Black man that he had married a woman that had placed a baby girl for adoption years ago and that this particular baby girl wanted to meet her birth parents. The sickly man was ecstatic! He could not believe that after all the years of unanswered prayers and failed attempts to locate his daughter that God would literally bring her to his doorstep.

One of the happiest moments of the man’s life was meeting his daughter. “She’s a pretty girl,” he said. “Nice and friendly,” he added. Then he wept, “I’m just glad her mama didn’t abort her. I wanted my child.” The man spoke often with his daughter. They met for lunch and traded stories. Ironically, she had grown up less than 30 miles away from him. She had attended college at the same time and place as his other daughters. They had mutual friends. For over 40 years, there was only 6 degrees of separation between the man and his long lost daughter.

Can you imagine waiting 40 years for something you have deeply longed for? In 2 Kings 4:8-37, the Shunammite woman went through her daily life in deep longing and distress. Many around her did not know because she put up a good front. She was probably well off because she built a guest room on her house for the traveling man of God, Elisha. Friends and family were most likely clueless because even the man of God confessed in verse 27 that “...her soul is in deep distress, and the Lord has hidden it from me, and has not told me.” But the Shunammite woman persevered through life day by day until she no longer wanted to want the thing she so deeply desired. Have you ever waited so long that you stopped wanting to want? Did the frustration of it all dim the vision? Choke out the memory? Weaken the ambition? When the prophet Elisha wanted to show gratitude to the Shunammite woman for her hospitality, I would imagine it was the years of frustration and disappointment that spoke up for her when she declined the prophet’s offer of the very thing she wanted, a son. However, the prophet blessed her in spite of her words.

The woman had a son. And the child grew. Then the child died. Yes, died. Have you ever lost your dream? Failed at something you worked hard for? Been teased with success only to end up broken again? Can you imagine the Shunammite woman hiding her desire for all those years, being blessed by the prophet, only to then have the dream die? Well my friends, this was a woman whose faith did not waiver. She saddled a donkey, put her game face on and sped off, telling all those she met “It is well.” She found Elisha, grabbed him by the feet and ‘demanded’ her blessing. Elisha obliged and raised the child from the dead. (Go read it y'all, it will bless you) So friends, I encourage you to never quit on your dreams. If the vision has faded, renew your desire. If the blessing seems dead, resurrect it. Have faith in God. You are 6 degrees of separation from your victory.

Though the little sickly Black man had given up on his dream to meet his long lost daughter, God blessed him “in spite of.” Within a year, the sickly man passed away. Having reconciled with his past, he was at peace that all of his children had finally found each other. God did that as a grand finale for my dad.

Happy Birthday to my big sister.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Can These Dry Bones Live?

Being a “woman of a certain age” I often find myself evaluating my life. Have I done enough? Should I have done more? What’s next? Will my brows grow back? Ha! During one particular evaluation, I decided that I wanted to do more to empower myself and equip those around me with a more excellent way of life. So I went back to school and started a new job.
My new job leans heavily on teamwork. As the team leader, I am ultimately responsible for the overall success of my team. I cannot advance individually and we cannot advance as a team without everyone doing his or her part. While I love the notion of honing my leadership skills and motivating people to excellence, I am both excited and frustrated at the same time. I love watching the success of hard work, the visions and dreams that lead people to a better life, but I am also often frustrated with the complacency in mediocrity that allows others to remain in a daily struggle. Why do we dwell in a hopeless state of mind? Is there any way out?  It reminds me of Ezekiel and the valley of dry bones.

In Ezekiel’s vision, he was in a valley of dry bones. God sat him down right in the midst so that he could see the bones all around him. The bible says that there were “very many of them in the open valley and they were very dry.” God asked Ezekiel if he thought the bones could live. If it were me, I would have shrugged, gave a side eye and neck roll, and said, Psh! Doubt it! (probably why I’m not a prophet, huh?) But Ezekiel left it to God, “O Lord God, you know.” It was at that point that God commanded Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones. I can imagine his frustration in attempting to motivate people that did not want to be motivated, his struggle in trying to speak life to people who wanted to lie down and die, his anguish in striving to move people who were complacent in their current positions.

But God commanded Ezekiel the give the word of the Lord to the dry bones so that they may live.

Ezekiel obeyed God, and the dry bones came to life.

Friends, a lot is going on in our world today. Stress, frustration, disappointments, betrayals, and even the media can overwhelm us and cause us to wind up in a dry place. Toxic relationships and unfulfilled expectations can suck the life out of us and cause us to end up a mere shell of our former selves. Dry bones. In the midst of it all, I admonish you to speak the word of the Lord to the dry places of your life, allow it to saturate those dry bones and bring life.

Don’t give up on God. He has not given up on you. In Ezekiel 37:11-14, God assures Ezekiel that all hope is not lost because his Holy Spirit brings life. “I have opened your graves…..Then you shall know that I, the Lord have spoken it and performed it.”

Speak life.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Day My Daddy Died

My daddy died on Wednesday, April 29, 2015.

I don’t know if there is anything that could have ever prepared me for that phone call. My sister was screaming and crying hysterically. Even though I knew what it meant, my denial of the possibility still wanted to hear the words. “Come home, he’s code blue! Come home now!” I tried to calm her. I tried to be the “adult.” But I just was not prepared for her to say code blue. She hung up. I waited.

As I sat on the side of the bed, confused and alone, I had no one to call. I could only wait. My husband was unreachable, my children were in school. I was 300 miles away. My sister called back, “They revived him, come home.”  A text from my brother. “Come home. It ain’t looking good.” I began to weep. Still in denial, I text my mom, “Do I need to come?” Her response was simple and painful. “Yes.” I was frozen on my bedside with the phone in my hand. My dad had been hospitalized before, they had never told me to come home. My brother called, it was the highly educated, wise, personable, doctor that we had all liked and trusted throughout dad’s illness on the line. I listened intently: “Your father went into full cardiac arrest and we have had to shock him 9 times. We have added a stint and a valve which do not seem to be working. We do not expect him to live the next 30 minutes. Don’t rush to come home. Take your time.” “Okay, thank you,” I replied, and hung up the phone. I fell off my bed onto the floor and wailed. I cried until my head hurt. Then I called my brother back. “Get me in the room!” I demanded. Through modern technology, I was able to see my daddy’s face. I told him I loved him, and it was okay to go if God was calling him to do so.

My daddy did not die that day.

A stellar athlete in his youth, my dad loved the game of baseball. He had taught me all aspects of the game, but the most important was what he taught me about hitting. “Gal, don’t you EVER stand in that box without swinging that bat. You ALWAYS go down swinging!” My daddy went down swinging. He defied the odds of the medical field and baffled his doctor. He was lucid, conscious and talking off and on for 8 days after the doctor gave him 30 minutes to live. I made it to his bedside, and stayed in the hospital with him around the clock his last days on Earth. During that time, everyone that was important to him came to visit and say goodbye. He was weak, and heavily medicated, but he was himself. He made us laugh and ticked off his nurse. Classic daddy. There was a lot of singing and praying, hugs and kisses. He would drift in and out of consciousness, but as a fierce competitor, he would often ask me his condition. I would tell him he was doing good. “I’m doing good?” “Yes, daddy, you’re doing good.” “OK baby.” The day I left, he had been taken off all forms of life support. He was breathing on his own and his heart was beating on its own. As I walked out of the room to go back home, I told him I loved him and was proud of him.  He looked me in my eyes and said, “I love you too baby.” My father died 24 hours later.

My daddy went down swinging.

I am grateful to the Lord for allowing us those final precious days with my dad. Our family clung to every breath he took. We studied every movement and every gesture. We responded to every word he uttered, whether lucid or not. In those final days, God gave us peace. He comforted us as he slowly transitioned our dad to his new home. I will be forever grateful for those final days.  Even though we will miss him dearly here on Earth, we do not weep as those who have no hope. We know he is with Jesus. We take each day moment, by moment, but our hope lies in the resurrection of Christ. We have a comforter. We have a savior that bore our sins and infirmities so that we can live with him forever. For that, I am thankful. My dad’s confession was that he would live and not die. He now lives forever with Christ.

Monday, November 18, 2013

When the Ministry Becomes the Mistress ~And yes, I'm going there.

The serpent is the most subtle creature....

That’s how it begins. Subtly. A meeting here, a meeting there. An added bible study.   Hospital visits. A wedding. A funeral. A crisis. A need.

The overwhelming responsibility of ministry can throw a personal life out of balance.

A missed practice. A missed recital. Game. Homework assignment. No time for date night. A makeshift birthday or anniversary. Chipped paint. High grass.  No talks. No walks. No prayer.

Just as Eve was enticed by the slithering serpent, the mundane routine of everyday life gives way to the draw of being needed. Worthy causes and legitimate demands subtly slither in, separating the oneness of the flesh like a sultry harlot maneuvering her way into the heart of a married man. And just like that, we sin. The enticing call of ministry can blur even the best of judgement.

Adultery is easily justifiable when the mistress is ministry. We begin to deny the wife of our youth with a well preached sermon. The new worship set captivates us more than her love. The satisfaction of her breasts is not as enticing as a church fellowship because prudence is now enticement...with rubies. She is not as precious.  She is submissive to another husband, committee, class. And just like that, we sin.

But we have to meet the needs of the people, right? Did God not call us to be the salt of the Earth? Preach the Gospel to the nations? Feed the hungry? Take care of the widows and orphans? Yes, and yes. However, he has first called us all to our homes.  

The breakdown of God’s example of the family stems from subtle deceits. Be not deceived friends. Secret desires to be seduced by flattering lips can cost you your life.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

When God Blesses Your Children

Five years ago, I BEGGED my husband to take me home to my dear Tennessee. I was fed up with the whole failed diversity thing and very much over the para (with no) church ministry thing.  We had experienced blatant ignorance and racism in our Christian school, a call away from our church, and parted ways with our job. Like a five year old child, I wanted my mama.

In the midst of my pity party, I asked God for one thing, the protection of my children.

We left our church, our school, and our job. I packed my bags and was ready to go home to my mama. It was then when a funny thing happened; God blessed my children. In the midst of chaos and confusion, and all the animosity and hurt feelings; God saw fit to protect their hearts and minds, and bless them.

When God blesses your children all is right with the world. It feels like the heavens open up and God smiles directly at you. You rest a little better. You breathe a little easier. When God blesses your children, you know that everything is going to be okay.

My children have been thrust into manhood by the hard truths of life, all while being surrounded and protected by a sovereign God. Since that time, 2 of my sons have committed to play college sports, and one is being recruited to do so.  My children have won athletic, music, and art awards. Embraced by a new set of friends, they face life with a certain maturity that most adults don't have. They know about the sufficiency of grace and the sovereignty of an almighty God. Our family was in a free fall, but God saw fit to give them what they needed when they needed it.  

So, if you find yourself wallowing in sorrow about things you cannot control, or throwing a pity party when life doesn't go your way, remember that everything happening around you is not always about you. Don’t be quick to pack up and leave. God may use that situation to bless your children.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Boaz or Dumbaz?

This post was inspired by a viral fb post (author unknown) and recent conversations with my girlfriends. The content may be offensive to sensitive ears and delicate spirits. No fear, skip this one. Holy roller post coming soon....

I woke up to long stemed roses today.  No reason. Just because. You see girls, when you marry a Boaz, a hero of sorts, that's what happens. You get roses for no reason. Not only that, but he changes pampers, wakes up at 3am on throw up duty, washes dishes, orders take out, and even knows what a vacuum is.  All while YOU submit to him. It's almost magical.

The problem comes in when women go out looking for Boaz and find posers like Dumbaz, Lazyaz, Brokeaz, or the (worst in my opinion) Stupidaz.

In the words of my friend Marion, "Everything that glitters ain't gold."

How can you tell the difference? Read the book of Ruth.

Does your man live with you or his mama? Is he easily angered when held accountable? Does he struggle with subject/verb agreement?  uh huh....Dumbaz!

Unlike Dumbaz, Boaz knew how to treat a lady.  He gave Ruth provision and protection. He had made name for himself as a businessman. He was successful in his own right.  He was heroic.

Does your man pay? Does he have a legitimate income?  No? He's one of the twins...Lazyaz or Brokeaz.

Unlike Lazyaz and Brokeaz, Boaz worked. He maintained fields with abundant harvests. He was a rich man. So much so that Ruth and Naomi were able to live by gleaning leftovers.

Does your man handle responsibility? Does he do what's right/ required of  him?  If no, he could be Stupidaz!

Unlike Stupidaz, Boaz had a clue. He was sensitive to Ruth and Naomi's needs and stepped up to take responsibility as their kinsman redeemer. He was a man of integrity.

Is there such a man these days? YES, "Boaz" does exist in the 21st century.  He is a man that loves and honors God first and seeks a wife to provide for and protect.

How do you find one?  You don't. He has to find you ( Proverbs 18:22). You seek God first, practice being a "keeper at home" (Titus 2) and let everything else be added to your life (Luke 12:31).

FYI~ Boaz is not interested in your Divaaz

Thursday, July 26, 2012

I Didn't Want to Be a Mom

While pretending to be asleep as my crew makes me a surprise breakfast, I reflect on 2012 and I am eternally grateful. (Sidebar~ really guys? How long does it take to scramble an egg and burn the toast? I've been waiting for like an hour!)   This past month of motherhood has been the greatest one yet.  I have watched my children face adversity head on, go into battle like warriors, and come out unharmed. And to think, 20 years ago, I didn't want children.

Twenty years ago, Oprah Winfrey was my idol. I had been groomed to be an independent Black woman.  I interned with one of the largest banks in the nation and had lunch with the guy whose signature was stamped on the checks.  I was trained in management and had every intention of being the Queen Bee of a Fortune 500 by age 30. I was taught to set goals and do something everyday to accomplish that goal, and I did.  When I was 18, I made more money than my mother.  I wore suits to work everyday and carried a briefcase. A family would only slow me down and ruin my life plan of waking up to the Atlantic Ocean every morning.

But God....

During my planning process of world domination and accumulating stacks and stacks of cash, I noticed that it was never enough.  There was always somebody smarter, more connected, and more driven than me.  It became exhausting and overwhelming.  I wanted fulfillment.

So I married a preacher. Ha!

While I still have lunch with the guy who signs the checks (wink), the Queen Bee thing often backfires and the Fortune 500 sometimes ends up a "Series of UNfortunate Events." To be honest, marriage has been the most challenging thing I've ever done.  Parenting, even worse. But God has given me grace to do them both, sometimes successfully. Sometimes, not so much. I am so thankful God gave me the desires of my heart through parenting even though he had to change my desire to the things he desired for me. Going my own way would have caused me to miss out on the most rewarding part of my life~ raising children. I would take dirty diapers and throw up over a designer suit any day. (FYI~ God can do both!)

 The bonus is that my marriage and family is not in competition with anyone else. I get to run the race set before me (Heb. 12:1,2). I am only in competition with myself and ALL God has called me to do. So I don't give a rip who's smarter, more connected or more driven. I'm not running that race. Embrace who you are and where God has you. Whether you have a full house or are praying fervently for God to fill it, run the race set before YOU. God will give you grace.