But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 1 Corinthians 2:9 KJV I’ve been really grooving to Marvin Gaye lately. He penned a song back in the day that I’ve recently grown to love, Get to this. The music has me mesmerized. It makes me want to do a little bopping (If you’re from Chicago, you’ll know what that means). I wish I could step, too, but as you might recall, I can’t. I wasn’t gifted with that gene, LOL! As an adult, I can now appreciate the lyrics that flew right over my head as a child. MG’s words are unabashedly sensual (as was his style) and spoke of a much longed for reunion with his lover. But I gleaned a deeper meaning from the words, drawing the sublime from the secular (as is my penchant): The anticipation of greater things to come.
Perhaps we are always on the cusp of … something. Hopefully, right at this moment, we stand on the precipice of a great adventure, just waiting to begin. I find myself looking forward to that next chapter with great expectation. Somehow, it makes me more appreciative of where I am now, instead of being frustrated because I’m not where I hoped to be. I can celebrate this moment as I bop to the music, knowing – anticipating – that this is not all there is. My future calls to me like a distant lover, bidding me to do all I can to get to this!
When a friend celebrated his 40th birthday, he immediately exclaimed: “I’m old!” But I quickly reminded him that Moses’ life didn’t really get started until after 40. According to the Bible, he returned to Egypt at 80 years old and led the Israelites into the desert. They wandered another 40 years which would place Moses at 120 years when his time on earth ended.
So, age has no bearing on what’s in store for us, as Sarah – wife of Abraham – could attest. She was elderly and far beyond childbearing years when she gave birth to Isaac. I imagine her as she must have been, holding her distended belly in expectation of the child she would bring forth. She, who had never been pregnant, now felt life stirring within her. She could relish the moment even as she looked forward to the climax and culmination of the deed.
I guess, that’s how I feel today. I know that God is stirring up something great within me. Mentally, I’m salivating like one of Pavlov’s dogs at the prospect, even as I endeavor to wait patiently for my blessing. But the waiting is not as difficult as it once would have been. I know that my Father has something wonderful in store for me. And for you, too. It’s in our not too distant future, singing to us like MG: Come on, sugar, get to this!
P.S. I’ve partnered with Story Origin’s Key to Richly Fantastic New Worlds to get the word out about the Touched series. You can become a subscriber, receive updates and download the first book and that of many other great authors here!
I’m up. But I don’t want to be. Sigh. A former co-worker once dubbed these early morning hours, “the butt-crack of dawn.” I’m paraphrasing. He didn’t say it quite as nicely. Not that I blame him. 4:00 a.m. is not a good time to be up, especially when I don’t need to be. I have a friend who recently confessed that she always gets 8 hours of sleep. I envy her the accomplishment and told her whatever she’s doing needs to be bottled! Alas, that is not my lot on this here morning. So, what do I do with myself after rising at such an ungodly hour? I write.
Writing is cathartic for me. A form of meditation and therapy, I guess. I catalog my hopes, and dreams, my fears. In most cases, after dialoguing with myself, my fears seem to lessen. I can breathe again. But fear has been an unwelcome companion for a few months now, seemingly rising out of nowhere. I developed a phobia, most notably, about publishing my latest novel. Being a bit of a word smith, I decided to look up phobia just to ensure that word truly encapsulated what I was experiencing.
Phobia: an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something.
Yup, that was me. It was extreme in that sometimes I couldn’t breathe at the thought of taking the next step. Irrational, in that I’ve done this THREE TIMES already. I’ve published three books. I know the process. Fear is for the unknown. Fear is for the unfamiliar. And even then, I’d never let it hinder me before. I’m terrified of my dreams and ambitions most of the time, LOL! That couldn’t have been the reason. I read a quote once: If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough. That has become somewhat of a mantra for me, my personal slogan. It took me four years of editing and waffling to get up the courage to publish my first book. The following novels, less so. Fear of publishing? That just didn’t make sense. Why now, after all this time?
“If you ask a question,” as my brother always says, “the answer can’t hide.”
Once I challenged that unreasonable trepidation, my mind readily supplied the answer. Because I let it take hold, not questioning its validity, the phobia grew unchecked. I never stopped to examine it. That was the day, I think, I got tired of being afraid. I reminded myself of all I had already accomplished. Of the bear and lion which I’d already slain. Surely, another giant would be a small thing. I asked myself, where is your faith? Fear cancels out faith, but the reverse is also true. Faith trumps fear, every time. Faith in myself, my abilities, my calling, my God. Nothing can stand against that. After that realization, fear and all the stuffing that supported it lay crumpled in a heap at my feet like a scarecrow without a pole. It was no longer sustainable. Or reasonable.
Fear is normal. It’s what we do with it that determines our outcome. My son, a successful entrepreneur, said to me: “I get negative thoughts all the time. I throw ’em against the wall! Get outta here with that!” He said it so convincingly that I laughed as I pictured that conversation with his fear coming out on the losing end. But that is what I needed to do. I followed his example and took captive the thoughts which were crippling my progress. My debilitating fear needed to be forcefully ejected from my thinking and my life. Get wit’ it or get gone. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
With that being resolved, I’m moving forward with publishing a book that I’ve held onto for too long. The promise I’ve made to myself and to you, my readers, is that it will be published fully by May 30th. Advanced reader copies are available for those who’d like to be part of my review building team. Without further ado, here’s the complete cover reveal and a preview of Pale Rider. Enjoy!
P.S. I’ve partnered with Story Origin to get the word out about my work and that of other authors. Get your free copy of Touched and check out Jennifer Kropf’s Christian fantasy, Harmonies: A Winter Novella.
Sigh. A lot’s going on in America. Again. Black folks are dying. Again. Must be summer. But I’m still exhausted from last summer! I resolved that this time, I would not allow myself to be pulled into the abyss of hopelessness. Yes, I feel – and strongly – about so many things. And I have many thoughts that I will not express except to say, in summary: I feel awful. My brothers and sisters are being used for target practice and it sickens me. I’m not ok, whether the perpetrator is one in authority or a member of the black community. A recent Facebook post screamed: How can we say their names when there are so many? Social unrest, coupled with COVID, threatens to send me into a downward spiral. Emotionally, I’m stretched to my limit at such times and become most unproductive. Definitely not what I need right now. But I read a statement from a young lady, Greta Thunberg, who helped put it in perspective for me. I hope it helps you, too.
“If you feel bad today, so many people are so sad and so depressed but that’s a good thing because that means they still have empathy and they don’t want to live in this world where we have lost empathy,” Thunberg said while fighting back tears. “So many people come up to me and say they believe that there’s something wrong with them because they are feeling like s***. But I think it’s the opposite. It’s the rest who can maintain living in this society where we only care about prestige, and these are shallow things that don’t matter, and being the best and so on. Those are the people who are not normal.”
So very young, she is. And so very right. The rising tide of frustration, despair, anger, and hopelessness – it all makes sense now. I’m supposed to feel this way and anyone with an ounce of humanity remaining should be disturbed, also. So it’s ok to not be ok with what’s going on. From that place of despair can come a strength, either to endure and outlast or outright fight against heinous injustices even if the odds seem insurmountable. And perhaps, as long as we have empathy for the struggles of our fellowman, perhaps the world is not so bad as it can seem.
“His wings are clipped, and his feet are tied, so he opens his throat to sing.” Excerpt from Maya Angelou’s poem, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
From time to time, I get asked this question. It’s usually voiced by someone who doesn’t know me or has never worked near me. To their query, I just shrug. Meh. Yeah, I sing. Most folks have found that I always sing, even when I don’t realize it. I sing as I work and as I play. I may even do so when things aren’t going well, to forcibly inject some gaiety into my day. I’m known for humming tunes in the middle of meetings and at the beginning of my workday. (I even occasionally whistle, though I don’t have a talent for that, to my lasting regret!) Singing is my way of announcing to everyone, Loria is here! Not only have I arrived, but I am focused and ready to work, not just piddle around. It sets the stage for my day and says: I am determined to have a good mindset and be productive. So, singing is kind of what I do, nearly always.
When I was a child, my older brother would call for me. He’d lift me up and set me on a coffee table and have me sing for his friends. Far as I could tell, I put on quite a show back in the day, LOL! But not so much these days. I’ve been on hard times before, certainly worse presented than my current circumstances but through most of it, I’ve kept my voice. In fact, I didn’t really know anything was wrong until it occurred to me one day: I didn’t sing anymore. Nor did I want to. WOW.
Maybe life was heavier than I had allowed myself to believe. Surely, a pandemic of the likes I had never expected to see in my lifetime, riots, shootings, uprisings, and just general mayhem – surely, they can’t have worn me down to a nub. (And stop calling me Shirley, ala Airplane!) The lockdown, a year of working from home – something I’d always longed to do but now has lost its luster – and limited access to my favorite leisure activities began to have a negative effect. Not only had depression set in but anxiety, as well. Staying at home turned out to be exhausting. I tired more easily and only the most beautiful and sunny day could coax me outside. Moreover, a year of doing nothing led to more worries over doing more than nothing. Should I be doing this? Is it safe? Previously I thought, if I and my loved ones survived, if we could just weather this storm, everything would be fine. But as Michelle Obama said recently, “none of us will come out of this unchanged.” I realized, unsurprisingly, I was not OK.
Music – of the portable variety, meaning, just me and my pipes – has been my constant companion for my whole life. Singing has always given me great joy, often allowing me to transcend my situation. But more than that, it’s been somewhat of a temperature gauge. A way of checking in and knowing how I’m doing. Of communicating that mood and passing that joy on to others. If I can sing, things are not so dire that I cannot overcome them. But with my wings clipped and my feet tied, could I find it in me to sing again? Then one day while out doing routine tasks, suddenly and unexpectedly, I found my voice.
I received my first COVID vaccine two weeks ago. Perhaps it was that hope of freedom that loosened my vocal cords. I can potentially see my loved ones, travel, engage in corporate activities, and maybe even one day be unfettered by a mask altogether. It was something, at last, for which to look forward. Winter is gone. Spring has come and life is being renewed. Not just in the plants around us, but in the awakening animals and insects. Better days are ahead. So, I sang of freedom, even though I haven’t realized it yet. I sang for the promise of that one day when I would. I sang though I’m still bound as if I were already free. And I found myself lifted, exalted, above the confines of my prison, on the wings of my voice. Wings that have not been clipped after all. Not as long as I can sing.
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Jesus humbled himself, even unto death … Philippians 2:8
UGH! I wanted to tear out my hair in frustration! Nothing was going right. Or, write. I just couldn’t seem to get it together, my thoughts, my plans, my life. The things I knew I could do, suddenly, I could not. Everything was falling apart. I wanted to scream. Mentally, I did. The layout of my book mocked me, taunting me. I felt defeated. No matter how I came at it, I was no closer to a solution.
After beating myself up for several attempts spread out over many days, I finally asked God for help. Then I wondered why I hadn’t done it before. I knew that He could and would. Please, I prayed, at my wits’ end. Help me. And then the answer presented itself.
“You should try …” the voice began, only I knew it did not belong to me. I gasped as everything fell into place, just as it should. I did it!
Elated over the wonder of my accomplishment, it occurred to me the true reason for my success after failing so many times. Not only did I ask for help, but I was so frustrated that I admitted my helplessness in the face of my problem. I surrendered it to One I knew could help. And this is how I came to realize I’ve never truly surrendered my life to God. With my mouth, I had. But on that day, I truly did. Take it, please! I cried, realizing that I was ultimately helpless. Do with me what you will, Lord! I don’t want to wrestle with my life’s problems any longer.
If you’re like me, you may have fallen for the trap of being strong in the face of the many obstacles that life may send your way. I kept telling myself to push forward. On the other side of that barrier was the very thing I wanted if I was only strong enough to persevere. But as I basked in the afterglow of my victory, I realized I won not because I was strong but because I surrendered. And therein lay my true strength, His strength, made perfect in my weakness. He was just waiting to save me. All I needed to do was surrender my ego, my right to say I overcame in my own power.
Similarly, Jesus humbled Himself to the cross. When the Pharisees came for Jesus, Peter jumped to his master’s defense and cut off the ear of a soldier. But Jesus admonished Peter. “I could have a legion of angels at my beck and call,” he basically said. If he’d wanted. But it was not for Jesus to gain an advantage over his persecutors that day. He couldn’t win in that way. Chess, not checkers. He resisted the human ego that said he must be in charge, that he must triumph, and any urges to display his power. He surrendered to his fate, knowing that there was where the true power laid. He surrendered because of the glory set before him and the promise of deliverance for us all.
P.S. Look for updates in the coming weeks to anticipate the release of book four in the Touched series! New website, new look, new book, COMING SOON! Click the link to access the entire series and get ready for the best sequel EVER! I’m excited and I just know you will love it!
Also, I’ve partnered with Story Origin and other authors to get the word out about Touched. If you’re looking for more good reads, check them out here:
It’s been a while, Wordies! Like most of you, I’ve been bogged down with the cares of this world during a pandemic. However, that hasn’t kept me from writing! I’m so excited about upcoming events and just wanted to share a few updates:
Be on the lookout for a new website, new look, and maybe even a new web address!
I’ve partnered with Story Origin! I’m exploring new marketing opportunities to get the word out about the Touched series. Key links will be posted at the end of the newsletter going forward.
AND … (drum roll, please!) I’ve nearly completed the finishing touches on my upcoming novel, Pale Rider! I can’t wait to share it with you.
Of course, it’s holy week and I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t share a word from scripture with my fans. It continues to be my goal to make God’s word relatable for it is truly needed during troubling times.
“So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”Matthew 7:11
On Good Friday, Rocco, the wonder dog, fell sick like he’s never been before. We (my daughter, his doggie mom, and I) were helpless in the face of his illness. For me, it was reminiscent of the days when my children were small and couldn’t tell me what was wrong. Our playful pup (though he’s eight years old now, he still has boundless energy) was rendered lethargic and wouldn’t eat. Off to the ER he and my daughter went, for that was the only place that would take him on such short notice, and we knew the bill would be hefty. But she couldn’t let cost be a deterrent. We would do whatever was needed to heal our doggie baby.
Thankfully, he’s home now and expected to make a full recovery. Once the immediate danger had passed, I was drawn back to my reflections for this time of year. Of all Christian holidays, this is the most important and always humbles me. That God would do this for me. To save me. He thought I was important enough to die for and that no cost was too great. Immortal God, who cannot die, wrapped himself in flesh so that he could. He paid the penalty in such a complete fashion that he announced, “It is finished.” Forever finalized. No reneging. No take backsies. Done.
Thinking of Rocco and how my daughter would not rest when she saw how sick he was, how she couldn’t stop until she had found a remedy for his situation, I was reminded that she is now a mom, too, if only to a canine. His life is just as important to her as any child she could bear. She thought he was worth anything she could do to save him.
I think it’s important that we relate to Jesus, to put ourselves in his shoes, and understand why he did what he did. He went through a whole lot of trouble to identify with humanity so we could do just that. He became human and lived as one of us, died as one of us, but with an important difference. He rose victorious, with all power, and conquered death, for our sake. So there’s really no mystery why God set a plan for our salvation in motion from the foundation of the world. God is our Father. He loves us, immeasurably. And like earthly parents, He would do anything to save us. And he did, not stopping at sacrificing even his own skin.
I’m thankful for His example of love during this most holy week. We’ve been through so much with the pandemic and the loss of loved ones during the past twelve months. To be reminded that his love endures is powerful. I see it in my love for my children and my daughter’s love for her furry baby. Rocco, like all of us, is much loved.
P.S. Look for updates in the coming weeks to anticipate the release of book four in the Touched series! New website, new look, new book, COMING SOON! Click the link to access the first novel (FREE!) and get ready for the best sequel EVER! I’m excited and I just know you will love it!
Whew! Cooking the Thanksgiving meal is a big deal! As a cook, you want all your dishes to turn out just right so you can be proud of the dinner you serve. You plan, you shop, preparing for every contingency so that your efforts will be well received. And if you leave out one thing – let me just say that if I turn up without ham and potato salad, there will be an uproar. All these details just for one meal (okay, and yummy leftovers).
I recall a few years ago, I moved into a home that did not have central air. I thought we could deal with it. But summer began early and was in full effect that year. It was so hot, my daughter and I were melting in the heat. My dog, Rocco, walked around the house, his eyes pleading and full of abject misery. Help me, he said with his eyes. His tongue hung out as he panted while trying to cool off. My daughter and I could have probably toughed it out, but my rottweiler? Not so much.
So, I bought window air conditioners only to be stymied at their installation. Some things I’ve just never learned to do, sad to admit, so the prospect of doing it myself was off-putting. The instructions looked intimidating with all their verbiage and pictures. Daunted, I put off their installation, even going so far as to purchase a portable unit that should have been easier to install. An abominable failure, let me tell you. It made the house HOTTER, somehow. But I was still afraid to tackle the challenge of installing the window units. I even tried to hire someone to put them in, without success (the fellow almost laughed at me). Firm in my resolve, I set out to solve my dilemma. My daughter and I successfully installed air conditioners without further preamble and I found that all I really needed was to change my mindset from I can’t to I must. I had no choice. Rocco was depending on me. But I let myself be defeated early on because of my phobia of instruction sheets.
I’ve been listening to the Bible on Audible, lately. (I finally found a version that works for me and my devices and that I like. We fit well together.) It seems that having someone else read the scriptures, dramatically, at that, is breathing new life into them for me. As each reading truly should, LOL! I decided to start, in the beginning, at Genesis and just make my way forward. Sometimes, though, when it veers away from simple tales to specific information it can be hard to digest and my eyes glaze over just a bit. As previously stated, it’s overwhelming for me to take in all of that detailed data. In particular, the dimensions of Noah’s ark, the minute instructions for creating and constructing the tabernacle, and statistical information wreak havoc with my ability to comprehend. But as I drove while listening to Exodus after they crossed the Red Sea and God gave Moses the law, this scripture caught my attention:
“Make pomegranates of blue, purple, and scarlet yarn all the way around the lower hem, with gold bells between them, so that gold bells and pomegranates alternate around the lower hem of the robe.” Exodus 28:33
I thought, Lord, what do you want me to learn from this? Why was it important for the Israelites to know all the details of even Aaron’s outfit? This scripture accounted for the design of his royal, priestly garb, right down to the hem of his robe which alternated pomegranates and bells. Huh? Why be so precise? Unbelievable that even this small detail, seemingly insignificant, would matter to God. It struck me then that God revels in detail. He is a God of order. There is a saying that goes, the devil is in the details but I think we have it rather wrong. God can be found there.
The pomegranate may have been merely decorative or a placeholder. But the bell served a specific purpose. Only when Aaron put on these garments could he enter into service and the bell was for his protection. When the bell tinkled as he walked in, the next verse tells us, he would not die. The bells announced his coming and also foretold who he was, his position and God-given authority. It set Aaron apart from the rest of the congregation. Anyone entering without that authorization would die. When I enter into my secure office building, I have a key fob. The door will not open without authenticating who I am and I am meant to be there. Isn’t that amazing? God set up a system of secure identification before computers. Cool.
So God gave Moses a detailed instruction sheet more daunting than my AC unit installation. Predictably, my head swam trying to digest the information. Until I realized that as all of the pieces of my AC unit had a purpose, so did God’s individual pieces. Then God revealed his true reason for taking me to that scripture. He created me and you with just as much detail in mind and when he was done, there were no random, mystery pieces left over that he didn’t know what to do with. He had a specific purpose for creating us and designed us with that in mind. My body is not the result of a random selection of genes from my mother and father. God made me purposely this way. Intentionally.
My sister is a baker of beautifully designed, haute couture cakes. Once, she put together her batter, put it in the oven, only to realize she forgot a crucial ingredient. She later mourned her outcome, saying: I put my good butter in that cake! She always uses good butter, by the way, and premium ingredients to ensure she achieves the desired end result, but I always thought that was funny. With those words, she revealed herself to be our mother’s daughter and a great baker, who would never want to waste good food on a subpar effort.
Our Father is like that, too. He created each of us with premium ingredients, using his “good butter,” too! He knows what he put in our construction and his designs were unique for all of us. He saw this world and decided that it needed one of you to make it better. And when He was done, he saw it was good. What we consider flaws may be part of his plan. For instance, many cakes require baking powder, others need baking soda instead. My sister stumbled upon that fact one day when her red velvet cake would not rise. It was still scrumptious, though! So you and I can be different and still equally delicious, LOL!
The upcoming holiday season often makes us pause and reflect on what makes us thankful. Today, I am thankful for God’s design and plan that created me, and all of us, uniquely. Purposely. Flaws and all. I’m thankful that He put detailed thought into making me. I’m thankful for everything he instilled in me, knowing that it was for a specific purpose. I’m thankful for all those precise instructions that went into the making of Loria, and you, too. And I’m so very glad he used the very best ingredients, including his “good butter.” It was for good and for me to make a difference. Now, it is up to me, and all of us, to use this life and the gifts he put in us. Let’s all choose to be a vessel that is used. It is the very best way to say thank you to our Creator. Happy Thanksgiving!
“You will become pregnant and have a son whose head is never to be touched by a razor because the boy is to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God from the womb.” Judges 13:5
“The woman gave birth to a boy and named him Samson. He grew and the Lord blessed him, and the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him…” Judges 13:24-25
I’ve been thinking about Samson lately. His story has become interwoven into my speech these days and I can’t stop talking about him. Seems like God continues to use the life of the legendary strongman to bring fresh revelation into my own. When the subject originally came to me, it was more of a caution: don’t be like Samson! Many of us can recall the story of Samson and Delilah and how she betrayed him to the Philistines. He, in turn, destroyed a vast number of them with his superior strength. As I dwell on his life now, I see how Sampson contributed to his own downfall, ending with his spectacular death. He took down his enemies with him in a real blaze of glory, worthy of a hero.
But Sampson wasn’t the smartest cookie, plainly, when it came to love as evidenced by his choices. He was gifted with supernatural ability and dedicated to God from the womb. But on the love front, he often made poor decisions. He first chose a girl of the Philistines, enemy and oppressor of Israel. At their wedding, Samson made a foolish bet. If the guests couldn’t answer his riddle, they’d owe him thirty outfits, and vice versa. (I’m thinking he wanted to be sharp, LOL! Then and now, a person’s wealth could be judged on the quantity and quality of clothing.) His wife then sold him out to the angry townspeople to save her own skin. Samson’s ego was damaged when she told her neighbors the answer to his riddle. He had to pay up now. Samson was so upset with them for acquiring the secret of his riddle that he paid the debt grimly by accosting thirty men and stripping them of their clothing.
A pattern began to emerge. Although Samson is listed as a judge of Israel, he chronically lacked good judgment. His actions were more like those of a spoiled, denied child. You could pretty much preface any display of strength with, in his anger …. Samson was ever re-acting, having tantrums instead of behaving like a great man of God. His epic strength was not accompanied, alas, by wisdom. Still, as my kids would say, God rocked with Samson. God’s gift was not predicated on Samson living a perfect life. The job of the judge was to deliver Israel from their oppressor. Repeatedly, the Bible says the Spirit of the Lord came over Samson, giving him the power to defeat his enemies. Even down to the end, God restored Samson’s strength, which enabled the shackled, defeated judge to destroy more Philistines in death than in life.
So many lessons I’m gleaning from the life of Samson but this morning I saw his life through fresh eyes. Samson was born different. Entered this world to be different. Was never supposed to fit in. Never meant to assimilate. He would always be a big fish in a little pond, ever misunderstood. When your greatness is evident that doesn’t mean you will be revered. Reviled, more likely. It occurred to me, Samson may have reached for a Philistine wife because that may have been his way of trying to find his place in the world. Did he even have a friend? Where did he belong? In one instance, when he left off killing the Philistines, he was found dwelling in a cave. The enemy came a knocking and his own people turned him in, again to save their skin. Samson promptly destroyed more of the enemy. But he had no focus or direction, never a carefully laid out plan, only in response to something done to him. Imagine if that power were channeled and purposely used? Might he have been an even greater champion?
Do you ever question where you are in life? Why are you the way you are? Feel like you don’t fit in? Have you ever felt mistreated because you don’t belong? I know I have. But until recently I didn’t understand why. Samson’s story answered my questions at last. When you’re born to stand out, (to paraphrase my brother) people won’t know what to do with you. Simple as that. Because they don’t understand you, you’ll be rejected. Your differences, your quest to just be true to you will make others uncomfortable. That’s because some folks spend their entire lives trying to be like everyone else and have what others have. You don’t. And that challenges your family, coworkers, and neighbors, even your sisters and brothers at church and makes them wonder if they are doing all they can to live up to their calling. Your life judges them. Your very presence disturbs them. It screams different. And so, people actively do things to disturb you, to shake your peace because they don’t understand your drive to use every gift you have and be everything you can be. Rather than discover that journey for themselves they want to force you to be more like them.
And so, my lesson this morning is still: DON’T BE LIKE SAMSON! LOL! Don’t let your potential die with you, unfulfilled. Sure, he took a lot of people with him but as a judge, he should have led people to more than their deaths. He was supposed to lead a nation. Maybe like David, he could have developed an army, created more fearless warriors like himself and really done some damage. Instead, he died alone, with no wife to mourn him, childless and no legacy for the nation of Israel other than that he died well. Don’t let others cause you to react and live your life on their terms. When you allow other folks to direct your actions, they become your puppet master. Don’t be afraid to be you, unmistakably and undeniably, and let others deal with their own discomfort. Perhaps you will set such an example as to inspire them to live a more authentic life. Perhaps not. Folks won’t make it easy. Just remember the first two syllables in beautiful are your key to a life well lived and full of supernatural feats of your own: Be you. Know that it’s ok to be different. You weren’t designed to fit in.
The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. But Jesus replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Yes, Lord,” she said, “even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Matthew 15:25-27
I recall a conversation I had with my sister some years ago when Puff Daddy (I believe this was before his P Diddy incarnation) was taken to court for child support. Some folks held the opinion that the mother of his children was asking for a lot, far more than she needed. But my sister said, summing up the matter nicely:
“If Puff Daddy rides around in a limousine, so should his children!” In other words, if my father eats caviar (never tasted the stuff, looks unappetizing, LOL!) so will I! That seemed like sound reasoning to me.
When my siblings and I were young, we went through what most children did of our time. You ate what mom cooked. Much of the time, MaDear indulged us and cooked what we wanted, our short order cook and waitress all in one. But I still remember the standoff she and I had over greens – I didn’t want ’em and she was determined I would try them. They were a cold congealed mess when I finally touched the fork to my lips, but try them, I did. I admitted they weren’t bad and I’ve eaten them ever since.
And then there was the showdown between MaDear and my little sister over chicken. (It was epic, on the scale of the Everybody hates Chris episode when Tanya refused to eat the surplus sausage.) The youngest, being the baby, could normally get away with murder although she never did perform anything so heinous. But our MaDear clearly wasn’t having it that day. She stood her ground and informed her baby that she would sit there until she finished that fried chicken leg. My sister wailed and insisted she couldn’t because of a phenomenon we’ve all experienced at one point or another. You know – when you bite into the drumstick and see that ugly red vein protruding – ugh. Even I, whose stomach is not so tender, must admit its appearance can be off-putting.
You will eat it, MaDear insisted, even if you have to sit here all night!
But my sister couldn’t. Unlike with me, our mother relented when she saw her daughter was genuinely repulsed by that particular cut of meat. For years afterward, she would only eat only the breast, as it contained no obviously offending veins. This brings me to the next well-known tradition in many households, also ala EHC – Daddy gets the biggest piece of meat! The breast belongs to him! But, notice, we ALL ate chicken. If he received steak and gravy, concurrently, so did we all. And my father was a big fan of this notion. It was his habit to purchase gallon sizes containers of ice cream daily during the summer and personally see to it that we joined him in polishing it off. Sometimes I was cajoled into partaking in one of his down-home delicacies, say cornbread and buttermilk (yucky, btw) because he insisted that we eat what he ate. To feed us from his plate was his delight.
Recently, it occurred to me that this analogy held true with the children’s bread. See, my rambunctious Rottweiler Rocco, could not, nor should he, receive everything I eat. (Some of it he wouldn’t even appreciate, being a dog.) But my daughter can. And never does she have to qualify for the privilege or prove her worthiness. She eats what I eat, simply because she is my daughter. I offer it up freely; it is my pleasure. To care for her, even though she is grown, brings me joy.
Today, I thank God for this revelation because I’ve struggled most of my life with whether or not I deserved my blessings. Could I ever earn such a thing, or would I ever be good enough? My life has been a series of failed experiences in proving my value to the world. I’ve spent a good portion of my time creating accomplishments to justify my worth to man. This has been an unsuccessful effort because, mainly, the problem lay with me. I didn’t believe myself worthy. But now I know, my blessings have nothing to do with my worthiness. He is my Father. My value lies in the fact that I am His child. I get what He gets, have access to the things He has access to and I eat what He eats. Maybe He still gets the big piece of chicken, LOL! But in true Father fashion, I am allowed to eat from His plate, sup from His bowl, simply because He wants me to enjoy what He has. I don’t have to do a thing to deserve it, other than be His. Can you imagine a baby deserving a meal? Crazy, right? Think about it – a mother’s breast will excrete milk in response to her baby’s cry. We are hard wired and designed to give to our children, provide for, and respond to their need.
It has been said by some that healing, based on the context of our scripture, is the children’s bread. But I say, let us not stop there. It’s all ours! Everything God has belongs to us. Consider this: Would any of us withhold provision of ANY sort from our children? Is there any advantage we wouldn’t want to give them? And if they asked, or we saw their need, who among us wouldn’t give MORE than enough according to our ability? My children are welcome to anything and everything I have because they are mine. And so it is with God. I’m walking into this new year secure in the knowledge that my Father’s bread, is MY bread. Whatever He has belongs to me. Yes, all the cattle on a thousand hills and more are MINE.
“If you then, imperfect as you are, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Matthew 7:11