What NOT to Wear

woman-1439909_1920All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Peter 5:5

I listened as the young minister spoke on pride and how important it was to humble ourselves. Pride goeth forth before destruction and all that. But I thought to myself, Loria are you guilty of pride? I had been accused of being humble and had actually begun to believe it. All things considered, folks thought that I could have a bigger ego because of all that’s going on. I could¬†make a list but that would be ego ūüėČ Suffice to say, God is still blessing me.

But as I heard the words of the young preacher, his trial sermon, he read the definition of pride and suddenly I wasn’t so sure that I came down on the right side of the equation. I had prayed before he even got up to speak that God would let me hear a good word, something I could use or take away and apply to my daily life. God delivered just that. It came to me that I had a sense of entitlement about support I expected to receive from others. When I didn’t get it, I was understandably disappointed. But I realized that I shouldn’t have been. Hope that people will be there for me,¬† yes, but that they owe support to me is another thing. That mindset meant¬†I had a right to feel slighted or angry, even, if they didn’t come through. And as the pastor continued with his sermon, I felt more and more convicted. I knew God was answering my prayer for I needed this lesson in humility.

The message continued to minister to me on the way home. I recalled the scripture that said, God hates a proud heart.¬† Oh! That hurt, but in a good way. I realized that God, being a good Father, was chastening me because he loves me. He wants me to do better. And He also knows that I want to position myself so that I can receive His blessings. My pride could interfere with that, He showed me. I began to ask myself the rhetorical question: What can He do with your proud attitude and sense of entitlement?¬†I say rhetorical because the answer was obvious. Nothing. Not one single thing. The man of God quoted the verse, pride goes before the fall and I knew I didn’t want that to be me. I didn’t want to have to take a tumble to my detriment¬†before I realized my folly. Lord, make me humble before events¬†brings me down low. Don’t let me think more of myself than I ought! We are beautiful to our Creator when¬†he views us through a covering of humility.bride-1969100_1920

But He gives grace to the humble, it then occurred to me. And I knew God¬† was¬†fostering my understanding. This¬†was a warning coupled with a correction. I was not past redemption. Grace, I have heard, is God’s unmerited favor. Yeah, I want more of that. So He has been dealing with me, truly humbling me. I saw¬†that my attitude was all wrong. Gratitude, it seems, is a close cousin of humility – at least, in my estimation. When I became more humble, I began to thank God for all he’d done, concluding that I’d taken him and his blessings for granted in the past. With gratitude came a fresh realization that no one owed me anything. I began to be simply grateful that others had even thought of me. In humility, there is no expectation because whatever is done for you is gain. Therefore, there can be no disappointment because there is no sense of dashed hopes. Now hope in God is a good thing per the Bible, but hope in people will get you in trouble, LOL! Man will let you down. Because we are human we often fall short of everything we’d like to do for others, despite our best efforts.

Pride says, I should have this! And it is the I, as the fledgling preacher pointed out, which¬†is the problem. That ego, again. The devil’s own sin started with rebellion: I shall ascend,¬† he said. He sold us on the benefit of this plan and convinced us to follow suit. Eat the fruit, said he, and you shall be like God. Therein lies the problem.We basically say, I don’t want to wait until you bless me, I want to control my own future. I is the root of the problem. Like wayward children who¬†insist on independence when we¬†don’t even know how the world works, we attempt¬†to wrest control from Him because we are not persuaded that he knows best. The I’s have it.

beautiful-1868656_1920But there is no surrender in that,¬†and surrender is important. Only when we give up and give it to him can he do anything with it. Ever heard the phrase, too proud to ask for help? If you don’t ask, though, how shall you receive it? We don’t ask even God because we feel we can and we want to do it on our own. We have problems submitting ourselves, bringing ourselves down low, to man and to God. I thought to myself, if Jesus was lowly and humble, never putting himself above anyone but speaking to sinners who the Pharisees thought beneath them – if Jesus could humble himself and make himself lower than his station – who am I to do less? Humility is the way, folks. The young minister concluded his sermon, “Defeat the enemy with your humility.” Simple.¬†If you want more grace, be more humble. Another minister put it like this:¬†We say we want more of God when really,¬†God wants more of us.¬†That may not mean DOING more.¬†Sometimes that means SURRENDERING more.

Be blessed,

Loria

Brother, Brother …

biden and obama“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Proverbs 17:17

President Obama, in one of his final acts before leaving office, made a touching gesture to his good friend and partner of eight years, VP Joe Biden. Bring on the tissue, sniff, sniff! But what came afterwards was even more of a tear jerker. Biden thanked Obama and said he didn’t deserve the Medal of Freedom (with Distinction). He gave Obama the credit, listing the accolades of his good friend, just as Obama had previously listed his. The story that stuck with me and spoke to me this morning was when Vice President Biden wanted to sell his home to afford care for his son (see, even the VP can experience such issues, none of us are immune!) President Obama urged him not to do that, stating instead that he would give his friend the money. Not loan. Give. But this message isn’t about President Obama’s generosity. I believe at that moment, because he reached out to VP Biden at a time when his family was hurting and reeling emotionally, offering support, at that moment the true friendship was solidified as one for the record books. That was when they moved from being good friends to being brothers in arms, in the struggle, bonded together, forged in fire. Their relationship was elevated to more than just mere friendship. Watching their evolution has been one of the great pleasures of their tenure. They have become an example to us all.

Friendship is a great thing – mutual admiration of each other, enjoyment of one another’s company, a buddy to attend events with or a confidante to share your secrets – that’s all good. But there is a defining point in a relationship where you can say, “This person is FOR me. They love me.” That‚Äôs the next level. The day you realize your friend is pro-YOU is a wonderful day. They are on your side, demonstrably, no matter what. That day came for me recently when my good friend came to a book event with me. I can’t even begin to describe all the ways she helped me at that time. From talking to people while I was otherwise engaged, to taking money (cuz the sales were coming fast and furious, thank God!), making her own sales, running errands – she was simply indispensable. I could not have had the measure of success enjoyed that day without her help. She became an extension of me. I trusted her to speak for me. I loved her before but I loved and appreciated her so much more after that. An occasion such as this will cause you to know who is more than just a mere friend. I was then, and am now, ever grateful for the people God has placed in my circle. He is¬†always¬†showing me the gifts he has placed around me.Viola Davis

Then there was¬†the time¬†another¬†friend offered me a wonderful opportunity to sing before an audience where the incomparable Viola Davis was to be the keynote speaker. He trusted me to be his go-to person. Or, the time¬†a¬†friend went to¬†toe to toe with a supervisor¬†for me (in my absence) so hard that the next day, said supervisor was mad at me! That’s still funny because I hadn’t actually done anything to her. She just picked the wrong person to talk about me in front of, LOL!¬†Those are¬†the¬†moments when you realized that someone outside of your family was undeniably FOR you. They have proven to be more than just friends. They become accepted as family, and are accorded as such.

So, there are stages to relationships. The Bible refers to us as His servants, then friends and lastly, adopted children who are grafted into the family with full rights and privileges of one naturally born. Abraham began as servant but was elevated to friend (Isaiah 41:8), as was Moses (Exodus 33:11). But Jesus went to the highest level. He declared the disciples to be more than servants and his friends but He also referred to God as “Our Father” meaning, they (and thus, we) had become family. My brother¬†has said to me often, regarding my walk:¬†“You reach a point¬†where¬†you move from servant to daughter.” That is my goal. God is calling us to higher relationship with Him. As we grow in love and grace and wisdom and His Word, that’s kind of the point. There are different levels to each position. A servant is not actually a bad thing, it’s just not the highest level. A good and faithful servant can be trusted with the things that are important to His Master. Friendship can be a fickle thing at times, depending on how you feel. Even Jesus found that out in the Garden of Gethsemane. Although they were his friends, self-preservation kicked in and they ran. The Apostle John was more than servant, more than friend. He stayed and saw things through until the end. Jesus even entrusted John with the care of Mary. John had proven that no matter what happened, he was pro-Jesus.

meet the fockers

Family is something altogether different from even the highest phase of friendship. Family doesn’t run. They stand by you even if that’s all they can do. To be associated¬†most intimately with God is the level for which we’re striving. My family helps me in my endeavor to build my business (and I, them), not only because they believe in me but because they love me and want to see me prosper. Family can be counted on to not talk about you when your house is dirty; they’ll even help you clean it! It is the highest level, like that “circle of trust”¬†in¬†Meet the¬†Fockers.¬†May we all be counted worthy to enter in.

” … but there is a friend who¬†sticks closer than a brother.”¬† Proverbs 18:24

Be blessed,

Loria

 

Dream Girl

97783352d77225c4b0e06ce8b98c0fdd“I am chan-yang-yang-yanging!” Effie White, Dream Girls

“…be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2

“It’s time for that new year, new you, B.S.,” said my coworker with a cynical sneer. It was the assertion of someone who had tried and likely, failed in her various efforts. How sad, thought the eternal optimist in me. While a new year cannot magically give you the impetus to suddenly leave off doing certainly behaviors, it certainly is a great place to be inspired enough to try.

I found encouragement this morning in a song from Dream Girls,¬†I Am Changing. I’m of an age where I can recall the original version, but both Jennifers did it justice. Usually, the resolution that most people make at this time of year is to lose weight. I find it noteworthy that these women were able to make a huge change in their dietary habits to become the person they’ve always dreamed of becoming. They started out as big girls and then empowered themselves to change. They are shining examples of what we can do, with our weight and otherwise, if we just persevere. We can do it! This is our year! We can go the distance! If this song doesn’t motivate you, I don’t know what will. For me, it did the trick.

dreamgirls3

I am changing, trying every way I can.
I am changing, I’ll be better than I am.
I’m trying to find a way to understand.
But I need you, I need you, I need a hand.
I am changing, seeing everything so clear.
I am changing, I’m gonna start right now, right here.
I’m hoping to work it out and I know that I can.
But I need you, I need a hand.
All of my life, I’ve been a fool.
Who said I can do it all alone?
How many good friends have I already lost?
And how many dark nights have I known?
Walking down that wrong road, there was nothing I could find.
All those years of darkness can make a person blind.
But now I can see…
I am changing, trying every way I can.
I am changing, I’ll be better than I am.
But I need a friend, to help me start all over again.
Oh, That would be just fine.
I know it’s gonna work out this time.
Cuz this time I am, this time…I…am

jennifer-hudson_0

I am changing, I’ll get my life together now.
I am changing, yes, I know how.
I’m gonna start again.
I’m gonna leave my past behind.
I’ll change my life.
I’ll make a vow.
Nothings gonna stop me now…

Let this song inspire you, as it did me, to become that person of our dreams and¬†the best version of ourselves. Let it become our anthem when we suffer setbacks and disappointments. Let it become a constant source of encouragement when a voice tries to tell us differently. Let us shout it with a deafening roar, if we must, and drown out the voices that would remind us of the times we’ve failed because it only takes ONE TIME to succeed. Let us drill it into our minds until we instill it in our hearts and this new year is a great place to start. Now is as good a time as any other. Lord, renew our minds with purpose, help us to recommit and rededicate ourselves to our cause. Let us open wide our mouths and sing loud with our tonsils showing: I AM CHANGING!
Be blessed,
Loria