Hero Worship

“…Yet, because you relied on the LORD, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him…” (2 Chronicles 16:8-9 KJV)

This scripture deals with Asa, king of Judah. By the time of his reign, the majority of Israel’s twelve tribes had broken away from Judah and existed as two separate kingdoms. The two kingdoms warred against each other intermittently and Israel laid siege to Judah with the backing of the king of Syria. King Asa sent tribute to Syria, bribing them to turn against Israel and fight on Judah’s behalf instead. The plan worked. Syria attacked the towns of Israel, causing them to abandon the siege to deal with their former ally and newest threat. Judah was saved but at what expense? God delivered Judah before when Asa cried out for help – he would have done it again. The prophet told King Asa that he erred in looking elsewhere for help, instead of to God. In trying to handle the situation in his own power, Asa brought lasting trouble upon his own head.

There are several versions of this scripture, I feel, having two subtly different meanings – one, using the example in the NIV, implies that God will give us strength and back us up in our endeavors. But the King James Version is my favorite, for it implies that God, himself, is waiting for an occasion to BE my strength, to rescue me from whatever calamity. It lets me know I can look to God for help; indeed, he is at the ready, searching for the very opportunity to be my Superman. He’s looking for an excuse – he wants to rescue me.

Sometimes, like King Asa, instead of looking to God, I try to work things out for myself. My mind works overtime, stimulated by some crisis, trying to figure out a solution to my problem, looking for help. In spite of how God has proven himself to me, I still try to do things in my own strength. I devise all kinds of plans to get myself out of the situations I sometimes find myself in. Most times, they actually work so I don’t feel the need to go to God. As long as I feel like I can handle it, I don’t ask. Sometimes, I even fool myself into believing I still have matters under control. But control is an illusion; I am increasingly convinced of this.

This life is not always easy to live. I might make it look easy, LOL – but it’s not. It’s always God at work in me, helping me, leading me. I know this. But I’ve actually deluded myself, at times, into thinking that I’ve done it alone. I said to my daughter once, “When I’m old, I don’t want you to take care of me.” I stubbornly insisted I didn’t need help – not her, not anyone – I am dependent on no one. But I knew it for a lie no sooner than it left my lips. I do nothing without help. Even when I don’t ask, I get plenty. No man is an island. Still, I’ve spent the greater part of my life in denial, always trying to work things out for myself, never ceding control.

When my son was in kindergarten, he had a really nice teacher. We, his dad and I, thought she was the greatest. But one thing nagged me – she didn’t meet him at his level. I’d spent a lot of time and energy preparing him for school. I wanted him to excel and be among the top in his class. I was preparing him for college, for goodness’ sake! But for her, there was no top. All of the children were taught at the same level, regardless of their ability. That was frustrating for me, as a parent.

The following year, we registered my daughter in kindergarten. Despite the previous year’s experience, we wanted her to have the same teacher. I’d resigned myself to kindergarten reality and figured at least, we knew who we were dealing with. But a funny thing happened – my daughter was put with a different teacher. As it turned out, this teacher was actually a better fit for all of us. She had a system in place that allowed her to teach each child at their level. My daughter was allowed and encouraged to excel. And her teacher was nominated for the Golden Apple Award, which I felt she truly deserved. Had I pushed and insisted on controlling that situation by putting my daughter with my son’s teacher, I would have cheated myself. I learned that I don’t always have to control the situation to get what I want or need. I can trust God for a favorable outcome.

A friend recently confided in me that she was in a really difficult place in her life right now. Her life is out of her control. She keeps coming up against road block after road block. She was depressed and entertaining thoughts of suicide. I understand. I’ve been there myself. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Everybody’s life is in shambles at one time or another – truly. The good news is that our troubles are not extraordinary troubles. They are common, or normal – just “life” happening.

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

Summed up in four simple words – you can do it. You can make it. You can take it. When people say this to me, I am comforted and infused with confidence. When God says it, I am imbued with power and purpose because He is expressing confidence in me and what he has put in me. I used to doubt my ability to handle my problems but now, I just roll with it because God says I can deal. I am confident that He will not let us be so overwhelmed that it destroys us.

My daughter will go her senior on prom in little over a week. She graduates soon thereafter. This summer I will be busy getting her ready for college, as I did with my son last year. With all the preparations and subsequent celebrations, I imagine “life” will happen quite a bit. I am already overwhelmed by all that I have to do. I’m sure I will be tempted to try and work things out for myself. But today I remind myself that even when events may seem out of my control, He is still in control. I know he is just looking for an opportunity, so I will trust him to rescue me.

Be blessed,


Tunnel Vision

“…For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” James 1:6-8

“The main thing to remember is … don’t forget the main thing!” Unknown.

“I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14

Have you ever listened to a sermon or attended a seminar where you heard something or received some knowledge and thought, “Wow! So and so should really be here to hear this! This really applies to them!” Well, the scripture about the “double-minded man” bounced around in my head for a few days and I thought to myself, “Yeah, some people are really double minded.” And then it bopped me on the head like the V-8 commercial – this applied to me.

Hey. I’m human. I make mistakes – all the time. I fall for some of the same tricks that most people fall for. But in order to keep from making the same mistakes, I try to learn from the past so that I can move on and make different mistakes. The trap that has ensnared me for years now is a technique my brother refers to as, pulling me off my square. Think of it as a game of say, chess or checkers, where each piece is supposed to occupy its own colored square. The trick is to get your opponent to commit to a move where you can take advantage of him. If you can get him to respond to what you are doing, instead of working his own strategy – to play your game instead of his own – you have successfully distracted him and in effect, pulled him off his own square. In other words, he got so caught up in what you were doing that he forgot his own purpose.

This trick has worked effectively on me for a few years now. Have you ever started something, some noble cause or ministry, or even something that you just really enjoy, only to be derailed by the efforts of others? I have. In the past, I’ve seen many tricks of the enemy that caused flourishing ministries to crumble, leaving them in ruins. Massive egos run amok (sometimes, my own), leaving destruction in their wake – everyone yielding to their inner “Id” – me, me, me. In the end, everyone loses and the enemy has won, for he has destroyed something that once began with such promise. Talents lay wasted as we go from some great purpose to no real purpose. I’ve watched many a great vision go up in smoke because of petty disagreements. And because we all forgot our main reason for even being there.

Sometimes, it’s not even others who distract us – we allow ourselves to be distracted for our own reasons. For instance, I may have allowed myself to be distracted from dieting and exercise by say, the offer of fast food or sweets from my (ex) husband, who may have wanted to sabotage me. He had his own reasons for wanting to maintain the status quo, even if it meant cheating himself out of a thinner, healthier wife. Maybe he was insecure about what it would mean for our relationship. But he is not to blame. I allowed it to happen for my own reasons – like, maybe hiding behind fat because maybe male attention makes me a little nervous at times. I’m just saying.

It’s a good thing that looking back in the past works both ways – I can remember my failures but I can also remember my successes. I remember being so focused that nothing could hinder me. I was on a mission! I recall moving forward with purpose, letting nothing sidetrack me, not even myself. I remember one summer where I laid out all of my goals and attacked them with a single mindedness that was stunning, even for me. I tackled a layoff, impending divorce and a hard real estate course in the space of a few months. Nothing slacking, nothing lacking. Meanwhile, my mother was in the hospital, recovering from a heart attack. It was a tough time for me, a desperate time, but I didn’t shirk from my responsibilities, nor give up my vision of the future. I saw each obstacle for what it was – merely an attempt to distract me from my true purpose. I felt like my family, our very survival, was at stake. With something so important on the line, I could not afford to let myself go off course so I kept my mind on the tasks at hand. Being able to see the big picture and being totally committed to my purpose bought me success.

I’ve been in the habit of looking back to learn from my mistakes; it’s very human to beat myself up over all the things I’ve done wrong. But now it’s time to learn from my success – to look forward – to take those lessons and apply them. I have found myself distracted for too long, pulled off my square, even more so in the past few years by myself, people and various events. I recently realized that this only happened whenever I forgot my purpose. For me, purpose brought clarity. I asked myself, “What am I really trying to accomplish? What’s really at stake?” At that moment, I knew – I saw the trick for what it was. It was not about the argument or distraction. It never was. It never is. It’s about keeping me from fulfilling my destiny.

Realizing that, I now move forward, putting aside the distractions. Knowing that I can no longer allow myself to be pulled off course and go chasing after them. That way lies destruction and certain failure. As long as I continue in that pattern I will never accomplish my true purpose or attain my goals in life. So I look back now, only to see what I’ve done well and what was successful. I use the past as my example and move forward with purpose now, staying focused and keeping my eye on the prize.

Be blessed,


A Call to Action

“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.” James 2:17-18 (NIV)

I’ve referenced the story before, of the ten lepers who were healed by Jesus. Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priests, which was the custom of that time. According to the Law of Moses, the priest had to examine you and verify that you were cleansed of the disease. So Jesus told them to go present themselves – but they were not immediately cleansed at his words. The Bible says, “They were healed as they went.” It was their obedience, I am convinced, that netted that result.

I remember as I was growing up, every year around Easter time, the major television networks would present a new Jesus movie about his life and crucifixion. He was always portrayed, in my mind, as a bit of a milksop – no emotion, walking around bestowing miracles upon the common folks with this benign, I-am-not-of-this-world look on his face. (All he needed was a fairy wand!) That portrayal, of course, denies his very humanity and the passion behind his actions. His love for us is why he died for us. I know that he had emotions – his very actions prove the depth of his emotions. Neither is God passive, sitting high up on a throne, looking down on us mere mortals as we try to figure it all out. His very name, his personal name, means action. “I am”, is similar to the Hebrew verb or phrase, “to be” – it signifies that he constantly is. In action, that is. In fact, he is so concerned with our lives and so invested in the outcome that he set a plan in motion to save us, even before we knew we needed a savior.

Society, in presenting a very watered down version of Jesus, has done a disservice to us all. Namby-pamby, washed out, bland and one dimensional – who wants to be like that? And Jesus’ image is not the only thing that has suffered. Our concept of faith has also been corrupted. As much as we view Jesus as very passive (as in, “turn the other cheek”), we see faith as something belonging only to religious fanatics. “The name and claim it bunch,” as some refer to them, are given to zealously sprouting scriptures regarding faith in an effort to draw blessings to themselves. But for all the aggressiveness displayed in quoting scripture and calling down blessings “In Jesus’ name!” this too, is passive. True faith doesn’t belong to those who only claim it.

Real faith does. Faith is actually an action – think of it as a verb, rather than a noun. It’s something you do, rather than something you possess. I will show you my faith by what I do and how I live, not just by what I speak. Actions can be very revealing. For instance, if I believe that second hand smoke will kill me as surely as if I were a smoker, you couldn’t pay me to be in the same room with someone who smokes. If I believe chemicals and pesticides are harmful in my food, I would purchase and consume only organic foods. And, if I really thought that sitting too close to the television or reading in the dark would ruin my eyesight or that when I make a gruesome face, it might quite possibly be stuck like that, I wouldn’t do it. My actions are driven by my beliefs.

One of my favorite cable TV shows is Rob & Big on MTV – I am a fan of Rob’s sidekick, “Big,” a huge, black bodyguard. He has a phrase that can encompass all that faith is: “I do work!” As evidenced by the 10 lepers – the blessing is in the doing. It is in our obedience (or sometimes, like Abraham, in just doing something and hoping for direction along the way) that we receive our blessing. The lepers were healed as they went. They were healed as they obeyed. They were blessed as they acted. A simple “I believe” was not enough. They had to put their faith to work.

All evidence, I believe, points to a God who values action because he, himself, is action. I like to say He is a Nike kind of God, putting me in mind of the old commercial and slogan, “Just do it!” I see him as always working, always moving on our behalf. If we are to emulate him, we too, must become people of action. We must believe, we must speak and then we must have the actions that accompany what we believe and say.

As Christians, we are forever being scrutinized. It has been said that people will always remember how you made them feel. I would add to that, they will remember what you do, what you say and also, if your actions line up with your words. People can be quick to assign the “hypocrite” label when they see otherwise. Your life is your testimony, not just your words. The apostles had their testimonies, or written accounts, of their encounters with Jesus and how it changed their lives and the lives of those around them. They wrote letters, especially Paul, detailing their accounts to believers in their times. These letters have survived the test of time and been handed down to us, in the form of the Bible. But our own letters, our own accounts, are still being played out. As living “epistles” or letters (2 Corinthians 3:2-3), our lives are being read here and now. It could be that the greatest letter has yet to be written. And people everywhere are watching and reading us, that they may emulate us. So let’s get to work.

Be blessed,


Uniquely, Incredibly Me!

What am I doin’? What am I doin’?
Oh, yeah, that’s right, I’m doin’ me
I’m doin me – I’m livin’ life right now, mayne
And this what I’ma do ’til it’s over
‘Til it’s over but it’s far from over…. “Over” by Drake

“If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?” 
1 Corinthians 12:17

First off, let’s get one thing straight – I don’t listen to rap or Drake. I’m not that cool. But the kids love him, especially the young girls. He’s cute. One night they were blasting this rap song and nodding their heads to it. I haven’t been able to get the chorus “I’m doin’ me, I’m doin’ me!” out of my head ever since. Picture me shaking my head and waving my hands like Flava Flav back in the day. “You do you – I’ma do me,” has become my mantra over the years. It’s how I encourage folks to chart their own course and find their own success.

I’ve written before about my struggle to understand my gifts and my responsibility to use them. It took a while for things to click, for me to just get it. “Not that I have already attained” but I’m getting there. I tend to be the kind of person who overlooks the obvious because it’s too obvious. I pride myself on taking the road less traveled. The original rebel without a clue, I fought against anything that just seemed too easy. So you see how I could sing for years and not understand it was my gift just because it was the obvious choice. And, although I was drawn more and more to my bible, I discounted my ability to recall and retell the stories. I thought anyone could do that. These gifts had no value because they seemed easy enough to come by and common enough. Still, I asked God continuously, “What is my gift?”

Then I thought to myself, what if the obvious choice is a blatant clue? No more scratching my head and asking for direction. What if all along, my natural gifts were being revealed in how easily something came to me? Or in how much I was drawn to it? Or in the way the outcome was blessed? What if I could know my gift in how good I became at certain things? What if the gifts were revealed in just living my life to the best of my ability? In just doing me? Could it be that simple?

When we were young ladies, my sister and I thought about making our own clothes. How cool would that be? And it should be easy enough to learn – our mother was a seamstress. She could make anything. So we went to our mother and got her to teach us. My sister took to it immediately. Me, on the other hand, not so much. I don’t think I ever really wanted to sew as much as I liked the idea of being able to sew. It should have been fun but it wasn’t for me. My mother finally gave up in frustration, “You’ll never learn to sew!” For years, I blamed her. I thought it was because she gave up or because of what she said. But I soon realized that I wasn’t driven enough, I didn’t love it enough to pursue it. My sister went on to become quite creative in sewing and making things for her home – she’s a regular Martha Stewart. I’ve accepted my talents do not lie in that area and just ask her! But I inherited my mother’s talent for cooking and my sister will ask me to make those family favorites that our mother used to make.

It never fails to astound me the number of people who want to follow and emulate others. True, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, still, I am puzzled. Your greatest success can only be in being true to yourself and in realizing your own gifts. I am a firm believer that no one can outdo you, doing you. Michael Jordan used to say that when he was “in the zone”, no one could touch him. Similarly, when you are accepting and using the gifts that God has given you for your life, for your contribution to society, you are untouchable. You are one hundred percent original and no one can copy you. No one will ever be able to “do you”, successfully. At best, they can be but a pale imitation. So why try? The answer lies in the success of the subject being imitated. Whatever they did worked, therefore, it stands to reason that if you do it, it could work for you, too.

But here’s the kicker, they only made it look easy because it is their gift. Some people can whip up an entire meal, effortlessly, while others struggle to boil water. Some folks can plan a wonderful, spectacular event with all the trimmings while someone else cannot plan a simple get together for lunch. Some can stand in front of a crowd, seemingly at ease, while others are crippled with stage fright. And some are charismatic, a pied piper, leading others into great adventures. Their success is in their natural inclinations, their gifts. It is why these things appear easy for them. But all of these people have something in common – they are being true to themselves and just doing what comes naturally. Sometimes we devalue what God has given us. We don’t trust in what he has given us that makes us great. That’s because we don’t see what God sees.

We used to have aquariums in my home. We tried to create the perfect environment for the fish and turtles to live in. Everything they could need – food, oxygen, filtering system – was right there. One day I had an epiphany: That’s exactly what God has done for us! He created this world with everything we could ever need to live and enjoy life. Even our bodies were created to be perfect, each member working in harmony with the whole. The Bible likens us, as individuals, to be parts of the body of Christ – made up of multiple limbs and organs, each having a unique function but all made to work together. And so, the scripture argues that we all are needed, whatever our gift may be. No one person should be envious or covetous of another’s gift because their own is just as important to the success of the entire body. God has made us all to be vital to its function. Whatever he has given you to do is necessary.

Sometimes when we look at our gifts and abilities and our place in the world, all we see is our insignificance – kind of like George in It’s a Wonderful Life. We don’t see our own importance. My father used to say “You should always walk like someone is following.” So even though I can’t always see that my life makes a difference, I try to live my life like it does. There is something to be said for simply being you. And that’s pretty darn terrific.

Be blessed,