Bragging Rights

“Be quiet while God is working,” Mama Bessie.

“Be vewy, vewy quiet,” Elmer Fudd.

“Move like the ‘g’ in lasagna,” my sister.

I’ve grown quiet of late, on social media and real life. My long-time friends may not even recognize me, I daresay, because I am not my usual boisterous self. But I’m just laying low and watching God work.

I recall a conversation I had with a mental health professional regarding a young man. In her assessment, he was arrogant, prolly narcissistic, too. To paraphrase Beyonce – he had a big ego. I defended him, knowing his history. Arrogance, or the belief in one’s own greatness, is often the flip side of low self esteem, where you don’t think much of yourself. When you’re feeling low, you might bolster yourself with thoughts of greatness to get you through. And when you’re on top the world, you pump yourself up even more, recognizing that you can accomplish more with a positive mindset. But to others, it may seem braggadocious.

I grew up not thinking much of myself, so I often spoke in a way to convince myself that the opposite was true. Deep inside, though, I didn’t believe it. But I could talk a good game. In truth, I was a lot like that young man. That’s why I identified so easily with him. Esteem, low and high, were often two sides of the same coin for me. And I could be either, at any given moment.

“You know, she fine, like you,” my brother said one day. He was trying to find words to describe a coworker, also a friend, and that was where he landed. Whatever he said during our conversation after that was lost. My mind went stop-the-presses, full stop. I remained hung up on that one point.

“Wait,” I interrupted him. I had to ask. “I’m FINE?” As in good looking. I’d never been fine, in the estimation of myself or others, as far as I knew. My face must have shown my shock and confusion at his off-hand remark.

“Yeah,” he asserted. “You know that!” He looked at me like I was fishing for compliments, but I was genuinely stymied.

“No,” I said in a small, wonder-filled voice. “I didn’t. I never knew that.”

“Well,” he said with the boastfulness of all men, “you should always believe you are the best thing!”

Men believe this wholeheartedly. They could look like Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble all rolled into one, with ashy feet sticking out the bottom of their vehicle. But you still can’t tell them they ain’t fine. I come from a generation where women were taught to be more humble, and not be so caught up in their looks. But men must believe that they’re the best thing walking, otherwise, how else could they convince us that they are the prize? For a woman to think more of herself was to be vain.

What does that have to do with me being quiet? Well, God has been working, as I said. He’s been leading me and blessing me with so many opportunities that I don’t have a lot to say, no boast to make. Time for that is over. God is showing me who I am to Him. No need to talk myself up any longer. The more He does, the less I say. I’m rendered speechless by the plans he has for me. So, I hear you, Mama Bessie. Turns out, I don’t need to believe I’m the greatest thing. He does.

“My soul shall make her boast in the Lord …” Psalm 34:2 KJV

Be blessed,


A Place for Us

Wear the world like a loose garment, which touches us in a few places and there lightly.” St Francis of Assisi. 

“You ought to wear this world like an overcoat,” Mama Bessie.

This world. Due to my grandmother’s influence, I compare it to an overcoat, meaning, something to be cast off when you reach your destination. It’s no longer needed in your new environment and the protection it affords becomes obsolete. Some folks liken it to moving, perhaps to a new home, where the cares of your previous life were left behind. But the gist is the same. We are to travel light through this world as pilgrims on a journey, as did Abraham and other heroes of faith, until we find the place we can call home.

It’s been often quoted that you don’t want to be so heavenly bound that you are no earthly good. So, yes, it’s good and right to think of heaven as our home and this world as our journey to make it there. But what do we do until then? How do we make our home now?

The need to fit in is great. It presses on us from childhood until we leave this place. We are creatures created for fellowship – made to have at least one other person on this earthly plane we can lean on. We are not designed to be solitary (although, there is much good to be had in that state, too). But many of us strive all our lives to find our tribe, or that one person to whom we can say: You, too?

I am that person who has often gloried in my solitude, but only because sometimes I felt there was no one like me. Friendships have left me disappointed when it was revealed that we were very different in some crucial aspect, sometimes to my horror. But I keep trying. In the interim, I’ve learned to detach myself from pretenders and perpetrators early on. It’s just less messy. If I wait too late it’s usually a bigger deal, with something small being blown way out of proportion because we just weren’t compatible.

I used to be really hurt about these breakups until I saw (sometimes, much later) that we were not on the same page, even from the outset. And now I can view those friendships through a more forgiving lens. I see it clearly now. They were searching for the same thing as me. Only in this effort were we similar and united. A true fellowship may need more.

Fellow: a person in the same position, involved in the same activity, or otherwise associated with another.

Though our paths converged for a short time, and we benefited from that relationship, the fellowship we created was not real. In many other areas we were unequal. Our only common interest was that we were looking for a friend. Sadly, that wasn’t enough to carry us through thin times. After a while, our paths took us in different directions.

“They went out from among us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have surely remained with us …” (1 John 2:19 KJV)

We were not meant to continue together, forever, because we were not the same. They could not go with me on my journey, but neither would God take me on theirs. It’s like no fault insurance. No one is to blame.

We’re meant to keep trying to find our place in this world. At the ripe old age of (mumble, mumble – you didn’t really think I would tell!) I’m still looking. If we believe heaven is our home, it’s only natural for us to seek it here. No, we can’t create everlasting heaven here on earth. But we can create pockets of it and make this our home, for what it’s worth, for a short time. Even as we press towards our main goal, we’ll continue loving folks, and making friends along the way. We must keep searching for our tribe.

Be blessed,


What are your Qualifications?

True story: My sister and I were extras in a movie about the first Black Heisman trophy winner, Ernie Davis, aka The Express. (Other folks were there – her husband, and members of our praise team – but the latter don’t factor into this story.) When we finally saw the movie, we were surprised to see that my sister received a lot of screen time for a mere extra, while some received none. The camera, as they say, loved her.

The day of filming, one Hollywood type kept turning to my sister (she’s a looker – SMH – runs in the family) and demanding the of her: “What are your particulars?”

She would smile faintly, not flirting or encouraging the fellow, but he didn’t seem to need much encouragement. He kept at this until my brother-in-law spoke up and put our fellow actor in check. Yikes! You should’ve seen his face! But I digress. The point of the story is his catch phrase.

I took it to mean that he was asking, who was she? Why was she here? What was her experience, resume, or qualifications? And how could he have missed her if they traveled in the same circles? My sister could pass for Phylicia Rashaad. She’s that beautiful. He felt he should have known about her, met her before that day.

When I attend a new Bible study, I try to keep my mouth shut for a while, at least in the beginning. I can take over things in a hurry, without even trying, so I’m careful not to step on anyone’s toes. But there always comes that moment when I finally speak, illuminating on some point, and one of two things happen. Folks sit up, take notice, and you can visualize the gears turning by the stunned expressions on their faces. Others take offense.

Sometimes, they say it aloud: “Who is she? Who did she come with? Where did she come from?”

All of which have the same root cause as the first story. What are your particulars? They want to know how I came by such information. (No secret – I’ve been reading the Bible since I was a child.) Also, the offended party would want to know: why am I encroaching on their territory?

Folks always wanna know your qualifications. But we shouldn’t be too offended when they ask. We’re in good company. The Pharisees asked the same of Jesus:

“By whose authority do you do these things?”

Again, basically the same reasoning behind the question as when the actor asked my sister. Who are you? How did you get here? What experience do you have? Where is your resume, sir? Really, what they seem to say is: You’ll have to get in line behind those who are more qualified than you. And, like the Pharisees, it’s always the established leaders who are quickly and most often the ones offended.

When the Apostle Paul told the disciple Timothy, let no man despise you because of your age, he really meant don’t let anyone look down on you because you don’t have a lengthy resume. I sometimes modify the scripture mentally to include gender or education. I once knew a pastor who became upset because another pastor was pulling in more members, even though he lacked a degree. He expounded on the subject often as it was a sore spot. What he really meant is – let this fellow pay his dues like I did! He should have to get behind me, go to school, and wait for his turn to be a successful pastor. Oh, did that burn him!

Recently, I watched what has become a cult favorite, Sister Act II, starring Whoopie Goldberg. I once read that she was not the first choice for that role. It was meant for Bette Midler, who turned it down. I’ve watched Whoopie’s star rise ever since the Color Purple. Never in her experience did I recall “singer” listed as one of her accomplishments or attributes. She’s a great actor and has done much but she was unqualified, or at the very least, underqualified. Still, she went for it. She inhabited the role, making it her own so much in the first movie that they made a sequel which was more fun than the first!

I said all that to say, God calls you, then he qualifies you. It may not be in your resume. But when the opportunity comes, you should go for it. As my son (a great salesman) says, make them tell you no! Don’t you be the one to talk yourself out of it. With this lesson in mind, I’m saying yes to a lot more these days. When a door opens, I walk right into it. I don’t worry so much about my particulars. I’m finding that most times I’m called to utilize skills I already have. And, that I am more than qualified.

Be blessed.


The Glamorous Life

I have a confession to make. I’m regular. Sure, I’ve done amazing things of which I’m proud. Performed with great choirs, been their lead soloist and director, appeared in a movie and a live concert video, and taken part in recording an album. I’ve recently completed a stint in the studio and now have another credit to my name: vocal coach for a movie. I feel accomplished and grateful for all these opportunities, but God is not done with me. There’s so much more that I want to do, and I plan to keep using all the gifts he has given me until he takes me from this place. But really, I’m just a BBW entering middle age and a working stiff, just like many of you.

It used to be my dream to become a great gospel singer. As I sat in the audience of a megachurch one Sunday, I listened to the testimony of one of my favorite gospel singers just before she was about to perform. She spoke about how she had to make a choice between something in her life and her job. And I thought, job? What is this you say? You – gulp – work for a living? Gasp (while clutching my pearls)! Surely a venerated vocalist like herself must have hit the big time long ago, and would never have to work again, I thought. She quickly put that assumption to rest. Her story, however, is not unique. There are gospel music giants who travel the world, sing their faces off at great venues, perform in concerts, and attend award ceremonies only to come home to a day job which supports their efforts.

I once read an article about the late Darryl Coley, another phenomenal gospel singer and one of my all-time heroes, where he gave details of his struggle. Lights cut off and homeless, he could do nothing but trust God. His testimony was encouraging, and I was so thankful that he shared. He could have gone to his grave with that truth and the world would be none the wiser. It forced me, however, to face a dismal fact. Gospel singers of his caliber often live normal lives and not the glamorous existence I supposed.

Gospel singers are not the only celebrities who live dual lives. A minor scandal broke out when rapper Bow Wow (no longer called “Lil”) gave the false impression on social media that he flew first class. Then social media dragged him when he was caught on a budget flight, instead. Like so many on social media, he fostered a lie to uphold his image. Here’s my point: how we, the onlooker, perceive things may not be true.

But I get it. My private life is not for public consumption, though I live it out in a public arena. It’s a delicate balancing act. While I would never put my business (financial or otherwise) out there for all to see, I don’t wish to mislead people and still struggle with how much to reveal. However, my silence leaves things open for people to fill in the blanks and interpret in whatever manner they like.

Since becoming an author, folks invariably think I have money. Boo-hoo! Poor me! IKR? But seriously, whenever I release a new book, relatives and even strangers hit me up for money soon after. It never fails. Somebody needs this or that. It’s flattering in a way, it truly is. They believe I’m a celebrity and they have access to me. And I don’t even need to be a celebrity for that to happen. All people need to believe is that you are doing well because of the house you live in, the car you drive and clothes you wear, or the job that employs you. I still remember the time that a relative (through marriage) called me and insisted:

“You and your husband gon’ buy me a new car. I know you got it!”

Unbelievable. And a true story. Look, I try to never “poor mouth” my situation. You know – talk like I’m broke. The more you confess what you don’t have, the more likely it is to become true. I don’t brag about riches, either. But I do believe you will have what you say (Mark 11:23). Proponents of “The Secret,” and self-help gurus Tony Robbins and Wayne Dyer also teach that prosperity begins with your mouth. Our daily speech habits can impact our world. If you want to improve your life, they say, first start with what you say. It will transform the way you think and alter your outcomes.

That’s a good rule to live by, I think. Since I became aware of how words create our reality, you’ll never hear me confess how broke I am, no matter how close to the truth that may be, LOL! But because I won’t say it, people assume I’m rich! And while I wish very much for that to be true, it hasn’t happened… yet! A friend and I recently shared a meal, and he posed this question:

“Loria, do you see your books being made into a movie?”

Stunned into silence for moment, my first thought was to be humble and aw shucks him. But then I quickly reminded myself of another friend’s favorite adage: closed mouths don’t get fed! So, I said what I wanted to happen. Boldly, I put my answer out there for the universe to hear.

“Of course!”

“Well,” he continued, “it’s all in who you know. That’s how these things work. Do you know anyone that could make your books into a movie?”

“No,” I answered, soberly but quickly gained confidence. “Not yet.” And I knew I had spoken something wonderful into reality, calling it out of the ether into this plane of existence. It’s coming. But it’s not here yet.

Until that day comes, people might as well refrain from asking me for my as-of-now-unrealized riches! They will not make me say, “I ain’t got it!” just to get them off my back. That’s not ever going to be my confession. I will always lay claim to great things because I serve a great God. One day I will attain that glorious state of existence – celebrity plus riches. But I suspect that even once I have achieved it, I will still be “just regular”.

Be blessed,