Are You Willing?

“And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.”  Mark 1:41 (KJV)

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”  John 5:6 (NIV)

If you’re like me, you’re struggling with some issue or some bad habit that you cannot seem to overcome. It has come up repeatedly and seems to constantly defeat you. If you’re not like me and you’re looking for the perfect Christian representative, I suggest you stop reading now. My life is far from perfect. I am a work in progress. I know we Christians invest an awful lot of energy into appearing perfect, like all is well in our lives. It’s because we have been conditioned to believe that we must be doing something wrong if all is not well. Well, something is wrong but it may not be that we are lying, cheating, stealing or doing something that is obviously wrong. The problem may lie in our mindset. I believe if we can change the way we think, we can change our lives. As Dr. Phil says, “If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.” Or put another way, “Only a fool believes he can continue to do the same thing and get a different result.”

I want to bring your attention to two miracles of Jesus from the Bible. A man with leprosy came to Jesus and begged: “Lord, if you are willing, you can heal me.” Jesus replied, “I am willing.” Many times we petition God in the same manner, leaving the matter up to him. We say, “If you want to, you can help me.” Things may not work out in the way we would like, leaving us angry because we feel he didn’t want to help us. Or we say, “It wasn’t His will.” In the second example, a crippled man waited by a pool that was believed to have miraculous healing power. Jesus asked the man, “Do you want to be healed?” The man answered him with excuses. He skirted the issue by saying, “Well, I would like to but I don’t have anyone to help me into the water.” This was not an answer to the question. Jesus came to help him but was he willing to be healed? I believe the same applies to us today: Are you willing? Are you willing to be stirred from excuses and self pity? To stop assigning blame? To lay all that aside and get to the root of the problem? To dare to do something differently? Do you have the courage to take on the issues of your life and make the necessary changes? It occurred to me that, sometimes, it may be that we are missing that important piece of prayer – our own cooperation. It may be that He IS willing but our progress is hampered because we are not willing (or maybe don’t understand how) to do our own part.

My daughter, typical teenager that she is, frequently thinks her world is coming to an end. Every molehill becomes a mountain. As a result, she has spent a good portion of her teendom in a sulk over this issue or that. Touchy AND moody. But then again, I cannot blame her – I believe she comes by these traits honestly. She gets them from me. And I, even seeing my flaws, was quite content to be that person until I saw those flaws magnified in her. “Whoa!” I thought. I’ve got to get a handle on this. I’ve got to find a better way. Understandably, my daughter was pretty broken up over the divorce. She really loved her daddy. And she loved me, too – I was her hero. There was a period of adjustment when, it seemed, all we did was scream at each other. That was a rough time for us both – and for my son who had to witness it. Bless him. But I refused to give up. I refused to lose my children, too. I looked into my future and saw a daughter who hated me, who never came to visit because our relationship was so strained. I saw a son who refused to be in the same house with us because of our bickering. I did not want THAT to be our future. So one day I told my daughter, “I love you. I don’t want to lose you. I want us to be close. So I’m choosing to relate to you in a different way.”

Well, we’ve had plenty of arguments since that day. But on the whole, our life and relationship is much better. We’ve resolved a lot. We talk a lot. We cry a lot. She made a choice that day, too. She learned that it was ok to still love her father. And I am still her hero (her words, not mine)! Recently, I decided to apply that mentality to some of my present day struggles. I learned from what worked in the past and decided to use it to change my life. Some things I have prayed for years for God to take away from me – things I am ashamed of, things that do not make me a good Christian – I realized that they were but a choice for me. If I choose to live my life differently, I can. Now I say to those desires that used to entrap me, “I don’t want to be that person anymore.” I picture myself wrestling and saying, “I’m reaching for something better, something higher.”

I know that sounds like a lofty goal but so far, it’s working for me. I still struggle but I think this is helping me to keep my future goal in sight. I’m living in the present, with my mind set on who I want to become. Nope – I’m still not perfect. Like most people, I’m doing the best that I can, with what I have, on most days. But now, at least, I have a plan. I am choosing a more excellent way. The question has become, “Do you want to be a better person and live a different life? Would you like to overcome these obstacles that prevent you from doing so?” And my answer to that is, “I am willing.”

Be blessed,


On Humility

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”  Romans 12:3

“Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:”  Acts 10:34

Once, while volunteering at preschool, a little boy sat in my lap talking to me and playing. He looked at my face and touched my moles – to some folks they look like raised freckles. To me they look like freckles in 3D but I’ve learned to live with them. I’ve made my peace with my appearance but sometimes, it can be alarming to small children – as was the case with this little man. He looked at my face and frowned. “What’s wrong with your face?” He said, appalled. Used to the question after all these years, I answered, “They’re moles.” And I smiled to let him know it was ok. “Why you got them on your face?” He wanted to know. You should have heard him say “face”, like I was hideously disfigured. He tried to pinch one and pull it off. I could have told him that wouldn’t work – been wishing for that for years. I tried to come up with a way to explain them and make us both feel better – hey, I was starting to feel a little self-conscious. I said, “God gave them to me to make me special.” I realized then it was true. They are part of what makes me, me. He considered that for a moment and then frowned, displeased again. “Why didn’t God make me special, too?” He pouted and touched his face. Suddenly he wanted moles – especially if they were the mark of God’s favor! I laughed and assured him that God made him special, too.

Everybody has a job and a calling and none is more important than the other. Just in case you’re wondering, my gift is not the mighty power of my moles. Into my early adulthood I often wondered and I would ask God – what is my gift? It’s really akin to asking “What is my purpose in life?” I thought if I had a handle on that, everything would fall into place. My life would make sense; it would have meaning. I would know where my place was in this world and in what capacity I could serve. I could know God’s plan for my life. I remember hearing people talk about their “gifts” and not having a clue of what mine was. I mean, Stevie Wonder is a wonder, and Whitney Houston had her voice. Some people magically learn how to play musical instruments by ear. And some have voices that reach to the rafters. It seemed that God had given me nothing that was usable – nothing that made me special. I felt a little cheated.

The problem, I later found, was not that I didn’t have gifts but in how I perceived them. At first, they didn’t seem to be BIG enough for me to do great things. They just seemed to be so-so. Then I read the parable of the talents (see – What will you do with your talent? ) and realized that whatever I have been given, however small in measure, is my responsibility to make grow. Long story, short – I worked with what I had until I was entrusted with more. Soon, I had to tackle another issue – accepting what he’d called me to do. The gift has led to my calling. I was at war with myself, unable to believe that God would endow me with such talent. Like Moses, when God tapped him on the shoulder and called him to service, I thought to myself – “Who, ME?” I finally resolved this by slapping myself upside the head and telling myself, “Get over it! No, it doesn’t make sense that he would call YOU. You’re right – you’re NOT worthy! But you are who you are. This is your gift and this is what you have been called to do.” Having made that determination, I set out to “walk in my gift”.

This presented yet another problem. See, I know that God loves me. Sometimes I feel like his favored child; petted and adored. I look at all the gifts he has given me and all that he does for me as evidence of his love and proof of my standing with him. He loves me. I remember when it wasn’t always so, when I didn’t feel so special. I wasn’t so sure of his love unless I was being particularly good, like he was Santa Claus. Now, I feel that love so acutely that I all but forget that I am not the only one he loves. That’s when pride, arrogance and a sense of entitlement come into play and I begin to believe my own hype. It’s the very absence of all humility. I’ve said things and thought in my own heart, “Their efforts would be nothing without me.” I was convinced that my gift made all the difference. I was rather full of myself.

True, this paints a rather unflattering picture of me but let me say in my defense, extremely low self esteem and thinking very highly of oneself are actually two sides of the same coin. In the past, I have been guilty of both. As a matter of fact, I can jump from one to the other in the course of a day – several times. I tried to combat those feelings of unworthiness with an inflated sense of my own value. Now, I pray “Lord, deliver me from that arrogance.” I remind myself that I am special but so are we all. I love that God has the capacity to love us all that way – to make us all feel loved and cherished, like any good parent. I cannot delude myself into thinking like an only child. Now, the gift (or the absence, thereof) is not so important but the attitude in which I serve is. The challenge has become not letting it go to my head and believing myself more important that anyone else in the scheme of things. Yes, he does love me and I am gifted and I am important. And so are you.

Be blessed,


Get Back Up … Again

“For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again …”
(Proverbs 24:16)

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.” Confucius

There’s a well known story in the Bible – the miraculous healing of the woman with the issue of blood. For twelve years she’d been bleeding and had spent all of her money going to doctors, trying to find the cure for her illness. The Bible does not tell us for certain what her life was like, but she very well may have been an outcast because of her condition. I imagine being sick for so long would have taken its toll on her relationships and social life, as well as on her pocketbook. Even though her condition worsened, she persisted in looking for a cure. One day, she heard about Jesus and decided that she would try, yet again, to be healed. She knew that it would be impossible to gain an audience with him because of the crowd, so she thought to herself: “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” And so she did. And so she was. (Mark 5:25-34) It occurred to me today – why didn’t she just give up?

When I was in the throes of divorce, my main concern was – how will I take care of my children? So I came up with a plan to work, work, work. I knew it would be a challenge but I was determined to make it. So I embarked upon this great plan – to become a realtor, then a loan officer and even a tax preparer. Oh, it was a GREAT plan! One calculated to take care of my family and also remove the stain of divorce. By my success, I would be justified. I put a lot of faith in that plan. It had to work. I had to believe it would work. I had to have something for me and my kids to look forward to. It was my silver lining and it would make all well.

It wasn’t long before I became overwhelmed by all I had set out to do. I had obtained my real estate license, was working as a loan processor for a mortgage company and taking classes at night to become a tax preparer. I would come home at the end of a long day, grab the kids and dinner, drop them off at my sister’s house and then go to class. That was on top of using my hour long lunch to drive home every day and pick my kids up from school to ensure they got home safely. Finally, one day it all came crashing down, brought on by – of all things – my son not doing his chores. After yelling at him and completely going off the deep end, I realized I’d overreacted. I collapsed in the chair and (to my shame) began to cry in front of the kids. Who was I kidding? This was not going to work. No way could I possibly do all that I had set out to do. Realizing I needed a break from the hectic pace I set for myself, I allowed myself this breakdown. I told the kids to take off their coats, knowing that I was in no shape to take on the world that day.

After watching me wallow for a few minutes, my daughter calmly said to me, “Mama, get up.” “No.” I said. “Just forget it – we’re not going anywhere!” It was just too hard. I was having a real pity party. She said, “Get up and put your coat on. We have to go. If you don’t get up now, you’ll never get up.” That made me pause. It sounded like something I could have said. And, it was a very real possibility. Then my son added, “Yeah, Mama. It’s just like Pastor Singleton was preaching on Sunday. ‘When there’s much at stake, it’s whatever it takes’. And, Mama – there’s a lot at stake so you gotta do whatever it takes.” My tears dried up as I considered that. For my children’s sake, I got up, washed my face, put on my coat and we walked out the door. I have amazing kids.

If I had to do it all over again, I would still not want to go through that. But I cannot deny that the divorce was actually a good thing for my personal growth. Had I not gotten divorced, I would have never known I had that resilience in me; that ability to get back up again, no matter how many times I was faced with certain defeat. Because of my children, giving up was not an option. I looked back at my life and saw the pattern: I got up after every disappointment, brushed the dust off my backside and moved on. Sometimes able to conquer that very challenge and other times, moving on to something better. My counselor asked me once, “Where does that come from?” I could only answer, “From God”.

It is God who has given us the will to persevere, to survive, to strive, to not give up. I searched for a phrase in my mind that would cover all of these traits and infuse them with meaning and it came to me: the indomitable human spirit. It’s in all of us. It’s that part of us that keeps getting up, keeps trying because we know that to give up is to perish altogether. And we all have a different trigger. Anything, any event or any person can trigger that instinct for survival. For me, it was my kids. I found that while I wouldn’t fight for myself, for them, I would wrestle an angry bear! I don’t know what motivated the woman with the issue of blood but whatever it was, it was powerful enough that she would not give up without a fight.

I try to retain my optimism and belief that good things will eventually come my way. So, while I am given to dark periods of depression as the next person, it cannot last for long. I get back up because I can’t give up. I get up because failure is not an option. I get up because I have no choice. I get up because I am determined to live and declare the works of the Lord. (Psalm 118:17) And I get up with the knowledge that every time I do so, I rise stronger.

Be blessed,


The Winds of Change

“…all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.” 
Job 14:14

“It’s been a long time coming but I know my change’s gonna come.” 
Sam Cooke

Most folks who know me and speak to me on a regular basis will soon find that I am a proponent of change. Even before Obama ran for president, my platform was change! Because I have lived through it, I can say that ultimately, CHANGE IS GOOD. It’s scary, but good. I’ve seen its devastating effects but I’ve also watched as new life sprang from the ashes. I listened in on a seminar once as they listed the most stressful events and rated them. Right at the top was death, moving, divorce and childbirth. Now, at least two of these events are good things – moving into a new home and the arrival of a new baby. I didn’t understand then that good things could still be stressful. Death and Divorce, I understood. Both involve letting go of a loved one that you will never see (or, see the same) again. I looked for the common thread throughout all of these events and the one word that came to mind was, change.

Like most people, I used to dread change. Let me stay in my comfy little world, just as it is – freeze this moment in time. I’m happy. I don’t ever want to leave. When Job lost everything (children, property, wealth) and went through his trials he said, “For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me.” (3:25) Job was known to be a devout servant of God but he feared his children were – not so much. He constantly sacrificed on behalf of his children, just in case they did something to offend God and bring judgment on their heads. Job’s offerings were like an insurance policy – he was storing up good works against the day of calamity. The mentality behind his worship may have been like ours today – we pray, “Lord, don’t let trouble come my way. Don’t let me see tragedy! Don’t let calamity even look this way.” What we are actually saying is, “Lord, please don’t let anything change.”

There’s a book called “The Lion Never Sleeps” by Mike Taliaferro. In it, the author makes the argument that we Christians do a grave disservice to each other in teaching (and praying) that hard times will not come to us simply because we are Christian. We think nothing bad is supposed to happen if we are doing all the right things. Following this line of thought, we should never see death or strife or any money related worries, all because we are Christian. The author teaches that while we are praying so hard against it, we are often blindsided when trouble comes because we are ill prepared. It is because we prayed a futile prayer. There is no defense against “life” happening. Trouble comes for us all, sooner or later. Better to spend time fortifying yourself so that you are able to withstand the storm.

When the winds of change sweep through our lives, we often cower in fear: What will I do now? What will happen to me? I gave in to these feelings of despair when I found myself unemployed for the better part of a year. By the time the summer rolled around, I was in full panic mode – looking for a job every single day. I prayed and cried to God, trying hard not to imagine my worst fear come true – unable to pay my bills, me and my kids wind up on the streets or worse yet, forced to return to my ex-husband and admit defeat. That was my very worst fear. So I threw myself into my job hunt with a vengeance thinking, surely something would surface soon. It did. A good job, too. And afterwards, I realized I wasted a perfectly good summer agonizing when I could have been enjoying my time with my kids.

About a year after starting my job, my car broke down, completely. I was already cash strapped, or so I thought. I couldn’t afford to buy a new car. Terror, again, gripped my heart. I was due for a raise but still, I didn’t see how I could make it. When I confessed these fears to my sister, she said, “Loria – how many cars have you paid off?” A little confused by the question, I answered, “Two?” She said, “Well, what makes you think that God won’t help you pay off this car?” Ohhhh. When she put it like that, it took the emphasis off me and put the pressure on God to perform. And it made me feel better. Now, I didn’t immediately go out and buy a car – what I did was sat down and looked at my income versus my expenses and made a budget. I found that I could afford the car, even without my raise. Not to mention, it used less gas. Crisis averted.

After fending off impending doom several times, I realized – my worst fears never actually came to pass. Not once. So I began to see that I couldn’t let myself become paralyzed with fear every time “life” happened. I wasn’t gonna last long if I kept that up. I stopped thinking defeatist thoughts, “It’s so hard!” I ask God now, “Lord, what am I gonna do?” And he gives me the answer. Then, I come up with a plan of action and set about rescuing myself. I know now that God sometimes uses change to shake us out of our comfort zone and to move us on to something better. I’ve learned to weather the storms like trees by bending and becoming more flexible. Being unyielding only gets you torn up by your roots! My mother used to say, “It’s a po’ wind that don’t never change.” I take that to mean change is inevitable. And eventually that wind will turn in my direction, for my good. So I wait for my change to come.

Be blessed,