Get Out of Your Way

get-out-of-your-wayChurch was great Sunday. We had a guest who fireside chatted about the socio-politics of victimhood. He argued that society has become so hypersensitive that certain words can’t be used and people cannot handle being disagreed with without gross repercussions. As a result, certain groups become consistently pacified and never really resolve their concerns because, in their minds, they will always be a victim and therefore entitled to not clean up their messes. Disagreement means hate, situations are exaggerated, and basically people make their grievances a lifestyle. I say no bueno.

When talking with a friend today who gave me the green light to write about this topic, I saw the nexus between her situation and the sermon Sunday. We bantered about a need for resolution to a longstanding issue to which I replied, “I wish I had an answer for you. But if I did, it wouldn’t work because the other party will not cooperate with you.” Essentially, all efforts made by one was blocked by the other due to an inability to introspect. You see, it’s hard to solve a problem when you refuse to entertain the fact that you’re it. 

In the aforementioned scenario, the one who feels like the victim has a great need to be  pacified, and as a result blocks all efforts to hear the truth. There has yet to be a realization that after a mountain of years, deep conversations, and prayers, the situation has remained the same. Why? Because when things don’t go their way, a false narrative is always created to explain it away. Any story will do except the one that needs to be told titled, “Maybe It’s Me!”  There are a lot of such narratives created to dress up bad situations such as being tested, suffering for stepping out on faith, the devil, YOU, THEM, etc. etc. However, I think we all can agree that God does not take pleasure in jacking up our lives just so He can brag about having unwavering soldiers in His army. Like Joseph, Job, and a host of others in the annals of biblical history, at some point we should err on the side of love, peace, and joy. It’s not a sin to be happy and have things work out.

But I digress. The real issue is having a victim mentality will blind us to the fact that we’ve been trying to scale that same wall forever.  It can rob us of the crucial fact that precious time has been lost looking outside when had we looked within, well, problem solved. The older I get the more cognizant I become of the value of time to the point where wasting it is not an option. There are just too many people in this world cheating themselves out of a good life because they prefer to live in a house with no mirrors, or as we say in vernacular, “Can’t nobody tell you nothin’!” No one has ever died from gazing into a looking glass, but many have metaphorically expired quite early in life because they didn’t. I generally observe the same traits displayed in situations like that. In addition to an unwillingness to introspect, there’s blaming everyone else, rejecting wise counsel and intervention, not following workable examples, not changing strategies, and a blind need to be right.

So now I’m talking directly to you and I’m in yo’ face. Today…yes, today…stop the blame game for just a moment. Write down a list of everything that frustrates you, keeps falling apart, or is just a plain ol’ thorn in your side. Don’t even think about who did what, but just focus on yourself and how you may have contributed to your own entanglements. It is very scary to admit that you expended all that energy believing God was going to rescue you from the enemy when the whole time the enemy was within. Maybe you should have taken that person’s advice. Maybe it is time to accept what can’t be changed so you must change your attitude. Or maybe it’s just time be more constructive by using your orifice to speak solutions more than you speak problems. That’s the adult thing to do. Hey, I speak from experience so challenge me if you want to. Ha! But seriously, do the grown folk thing and understand that if you always see yourself as a victim you will never become a victor. Let that marinate.

Bless up!


Blessings Purgatory

I had a conversation with my uncle who spews out pearls of wisdom for 99 cents. It comes so natural to him that passing on valuable information at a discount (read free) ain’t no pearls-of-wisdom.jpgthang. We talked about going through times of intense struggle and upon coming out, we still reference ourselves and our lives in light of the old instead of the new. He said to think about a person who has never had much money and finally prospers, only to find that person still lives like one paycheck will make them  antigodlin (Google it), diagonal, askew, to all things orderly. Or, the person who came from another country to make it big in America yet feels guilty for doing well when the people who were left behind are still suffering. Thinking about these things made me wonder how many people don’t embrace their blessings because of fear, guilt, or not wanting to appear to forget where they’ve come from. In short, they are stuck in what I call Blessings Purgatory.

Weird, right? We pray and fast and sing and dance and spin like a top to get to a new place in life only to constantly remind ourselves not to “smell ourselves”, as my grandmother used to say. That’s old school Southern for not getting too big for one’s britches. But, is embracing our new station in life an act of arrogance or an acceptance that the caterpillar caterpillarhas finally become a butterfly? That point segues into my thoughts about a movie I saw where the protagonist used to be overweight, and in his adulthood finally morphed into a sack of muscles. In one scene he looked in the mirror and what reflected back were the extra pounds he carried in his childhood. However, the lost weight was gained back in his mentality as he did not embrace his new body until the end of the movie. I thought that was such a powerful moment, how he worked hard for years to shed the pounds only to still see himself in his old light. Was it too much to ask for him to look at himself in the mirror and say, “Hey Sunshine! These guns look good-T!” without feeling like he has become conceited?

Showing humility is not about self-deprecation and constant reminders of who we used to be. Having overcome and then some is to be embraced, valued, and strutted with the verve of a runway model. Not forgetting where we come from doesn’t mean we have to regularly replay the days we struggled, but rather allowing its memory to make us thankful for where we are. When I see people go through what I used to my first reaction is to thank God I’m not there anymore, and the second is to see what can I do or say to help them out. Now if I thumbed my nose and said, “I got mine, git y’alls” or “For shame, you still didn’t get what I got”, according to Proverbs 6:17 that haughty look will invite a fall and increase the chances of my perceived one up turning into a minus one.

Let’s enjoy our present while paying respect to the past that got us to a place called Here. But, we must know when to be like the savvy hotel guest and check out before we get billed for another day of allegiance to who we used to be. New wine must go into new wine skins, not old ones (Mark 2:22). My message to you is embrace the new you without the guilt, shame, or fear of no longer being able to fit your ten gallon hat. Truth be told, you probably always had a big head. Ha!Ten gallon hat


Unspectacular Blessings

When I converted to Christianity, I entered a denomination that taught me many things that I hold dear today. Having a strong prayer life, partnering with mature people, and worshipping God for who He is and not what He can do, are staples in my walk with Christ. A by-product of being in a Spirit-filled circle is the understanding that God could do anything at any time. While that is true, it made living in the real world a grand struggle because of the false expectation that God was going to do everything in the spectacular. And often where there is undue expectation, disappointment follows.

As I matured in the faith and understanding of the Bible, I placed a great emphasis on wisdom. While I still have a God-can-do-anything kind of faith, I learned how to live with a greater respect for the simple and plain. I believe not knowing how to do that causes many Christians to become discontent in the faith. If a person is looking for a miracle a day, when it doesn’t quite happen that way it creates unnecessary angst. A barrage of self-deprecating questions often follow: What’s wrong with me? Do I not have enough faith? Is there a hold up in the heavenlies? Is God mad at me?

One of the greatest impediments I’ve seen to what is called the “crazy faith” lifestyle is that people often absolve themselves of the responsibility of doing what they gotta do. Because of the belief that God always has to do everything muy grande, it is very easy to miss the small things that could very well result in the big thing a person is believing God for. I look at my own life and marvel at how my acceptance of a temporary  position way back in 1994 led to full-time status and two tuition-free degrees, and after those a third degree paid for by another entity. I owe my current profession to that humble decision 22 years ago. I thought of the time I forsook all and temporarily downsized, which resulted in the greatest and most productive season of my life to date. If I was looking for God to come on a white horse, I would have missed the donkey that came bearing gifts. 

The things I went after did not always come with a roaring crowd or confetti thrown into the air. By faith I took the less attractive routes because wisdom allowed me to weigh my pros and cons, and determine that my end goals would be met with or without a brass band playing my song. Mind you, I was not always so resourceful or had the mindset that I had to participate in my blessings beyond praying, fasting, and talking about it. I had to learn how to be about it. Being about it meant making sacrifices, doing some things I didn’t want to do, and starting small so that I could finish big. I could not be like Miss Muffet and sit on my tuffet eating grits and turkey sausage while waiting for God to come through like a tornado. Like Elijah, I learned that God was not always in the wind, earthquake, or fire, but rather a still small voice (I Kings 19:11-13). Ladies and gentlemen, big things often come in small packages. 

What are you asking for that may have you being a little too deep over something so basic? Need a financial blessing? Maybe the answer is simply a second job or cutting back on things you don’t need like all of the cable channels, an expensive cell phone plan, and not being a thrifty shopper. Find yourself too drained to take care of your every day duties? Get a full check up, take a look at your diet, exercise, and try to get to bed earlier. Make it a point to self-evaluate so that you can see what you can do to help yourself while you are waiting for God to help you. You may surprise yourself and find that the solution to the big problem is a small act of faith. Burn that list of things you simply don’t want to do and be open to God doing things however He wants. A blessing called by any other name is still a blessing. Name and claim that!

The Cure for Conceit

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” I was in prayer and asked God to give me something I could meditate on. Immediately II Corinthians 12:7 came to mind. Not having memorized that particular passage, I didn’t quite know what to expect to read. When I found it I said “Aha!” It directly applied to me as I talked to God about some things that seemed like no matter how hard I pray, they don’t budge. We all have areas in our lives we’ve been praying about for God to fix or alleviate. And let’s be honest, some of us may have even begged! They are not necessarily mistakes we’ve made but sometimes they could be areas that make us angry, sad, confused, or frustrated.

I remember one day I was fed up to the nth degree and one thing I do not like is to waste a day being angry about something. Whenever possible I’d rather suck it up and look like a Imperfectionsofty so that my spirit won’t send out invitations for worse things to feel. I didn’t want to call anyone and complain yet I had to let it out somehow. What I did was instead of letting my feelings consume me and undo the blessing of the present, I opted to give God thanks. Why? Because the scripture tells us in Romans 8:28 that ALL things work together for our good, so there was a teachable moment to be had even though it didn’t feel good. When I was done, I had more peace and a better perspective.

So what thorns should we be eternally grateful for?  We should thank God for those areas of our lives that are not healed yet in order to keep us praying and more cognizant of what we must do to protect our temples in spiritual and natural ways. It is paramount to be grateful for the mistakes we’ve made so that we can reflect on how to improve our character and decision making process. Gratitude is also needed when we are lied on, slandered, and rejected so that we will be reminded to value God’s approval and not man’s. When we are betrayed or disappointed, especially by those whom we love and have proven our loyalty, it is a reminder to put no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:3-4). And yes, a thorn in the flesh can be an area where God keeps saying “No” or “Wait”. The lesson is life is not all about getting what we want whenever we want. It would result in being detached from the fact that having a sense of entitlement in an imperfect world is neither realistic nor healthy. We would become perpetually discontent with our present because we would always be waiting on that thing, whatever it isto come to pass.

GraceSo what is the cure for conceit? Imperfection! Like it or not, as long as we live in this world there will be something we will all need to work on, wait for, and be delivered from. It is a gross error to think that as soon as we accept Christian paradigms, we will become these spiritual elitist who have it all together and always get what we want. That kind of thinking discourages people from seeing Christianity as a reachable and relevant faith. Alexander Pope told us that to err is human and the Rolling Stones serenaded us about not always getting what we want. If the greatest Apostle who ever lived had 99 problems, we know we all will have at least 1! And besides, I’d rather be a hot mess who is actively trying to be better than assume a false perfection and be self-deceived. Pride goes before destruction, [and] a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). So in it’s own little and strange way, being imperfect is a blessing. Now that’s something to thank God for!



I’m Sorry

In my African American Literature class students discussed a poem, “Valentines” by Henry Dumas, where the speaker apologizes to his love for not giving her a Valentine without actually saying the words “I’m sorry”.  We talked about whether or not an apology is sincere if those words are not included. The class had differing views, but overall the consensus was as long as the words used expressed the same sentiment, not saying “I’m sorry” wasn’t a deal breaker.

Conflict resolution is very important and should be handled with much care. This involves the hard task of confrontation, possibly  admitting fault, and apologizing even if no offense was intended. The goal of addressing conflict is for the purpose of making things right, and in order to do so there are some things we must remember going in.

Focus on the Issue-Often when we address issues that are very sensitive, feelings get heightened to the point where one or more parties get extremely deep in their feelings and go off topic. I find that when this happens, one or the other was holding some things in that should have been addressed before and is using the current incident as a means to vent. It catches a person off guard because they find themselves being charged with crimes they didn’t know they committed. As a result, there is the danger of ad hominem attacks that destroy the relationship rather than build.

Be Clear About the Goal-When we seek to discuss a concern, we must be aware of our objective. Sometimes people bring up uncomfortable things to make the other person feel guilty versus actually attempting to come to a resolve. Passive aggressive behavior is a breeding ground for mistrust. If upon self-evaluation we find that we are not truly ready to approach someone in the right spirit with the right goal in mind, then it’s best to resort to more prayer before broaching the issue. Soliciting the mediation of a neutral party is helpful as well.

Hear a Person Out-Sometimes when we are in conflict we are too eager to get our feelings out, forgetting that the other person has them as well. The natural inclination in such situations is to focus so much on how we feel that we spend too much time defending our actions versus genuinely attempting to understand our part in someone’s hurt. This is one of the biggest impediments to conflict resolution because if everyone is so busy making a case for themselves, it defeats the purpose of putting things out in the open.

Don’t Project-Sometimes we project our feelings about another situation onto other people, and as a result there is a little extra “stink” in our conversation. It’s very important to let each person carry their own weight by only making them responsible for what they’ve actually done. It’s unfair to dump all that we failed to address with others onto the first person that opens up the reservoir of hurt.

It’s Okay to Apologize for Wrongdiong-Being wrong is not a weakness; it’s human. Some of us are so fearful of admitting wrongdoing that we would rather damage a relationship for good before we own up to what we’ve done. Mistakes are made in life and it should not equate to a death sentence. Many of us have went off on the deep end thinking we were the one being victimized only to find that we may have invited the maltreatment into our space. It is okay to come to the conclusion that the other person is not always the problem, especially if we find we are the common denominator in certain kinds of conflicts.

Examine our Self-Narrative-Now this is very hard to do but quite necessary. We must be prepared to admit that we did not see things in the right manner and let people off the hook. Some of us have been feeding our minds with false narratives and have shaped how we interact with others based on the story we’ve been telling ourselves. We may think people see us a certain way when in fact it’s just that we’re self-conscious. Maybe we think people have certain motives for dealing with us a certain way when in fact it may be quite the opposite. It is very possible that the problems we have with others is based on false information we failed to test for veracity. I’ve seen many relationships ruined or stunted because of what people think versus what they know.

Forgive and Move On-Once the situation is out on the table and gets properly addressed, let it die and keep it moving. Many of us make the mistake of bringing up the issue over and over, either actually or in our minds, when the other party thought it was resolved.When we choose to forgive, we must do so sincerely. If we struggle with it, then we need to work on ourselves and figure out why we don’t allow people to make mistakes. Have we been hurt a lot? Do we have a fear of rejection or abandonment issues that make us extra sensitive to being hurt? Are we self-righteous or slightly narcissistic in that we think the world revolves around our feelings? Then there’s the other issue of being in a situation where we allow people to make the same mistakes with us over and over, yet we opt to stay in harm’s way and look for change. That’s a whole other orange grove.

And I think that’s it. If there’s anyone out there who I’ve offended and owe an apology, you know how to reach me! One thing though–come at me right. LOL!!!

Have a wonderful day!

*Disclaimer-My inspiration for blog posts do not necessarily come from my personal life. I just have an opinion on everything (ha!).

Life at 44

Just yesterday I celebrated my 30th birthday, went to sleep, and woke up 44. Well, at least that’s what it felt like! In my younger years I was told that every seven years or so I would transition in my mentality. The way I saw things at 21, I wouldn’t at 28, 35, and 42. And wouldn’t you know that person was right? It seems that as soon as I passed the 40 mark, my life looked and felt a whole lot different. The energy I used to have I no longer do, things I was casual about became more serious, and vice versa. At first I thought it was just me, but the more I talked to others in my age category and beyond, the more I realized it was all just part of “growing up”.

Below I’d like to share some things that are more important to me now than ever, and some of you 40 somethings and up may see yourselves here.

Live Without Closure-We all love closure probably just as much as we love food, cute babies, and internet memes. In an ideal world we all would have closure on why this or that happened. However, in the real world we may very well have to be prepared to go to our graves asking why. We must learn to be alright with this as some things may be better left unsaid or unknown. If the only reason we need closure is to satisfy our curiosity, then we are truly wasting our time. I can’t tell you the amount of time I used to waste asking God why, then one day during prayer I felt in my spirit that God was saying, “If I told you, you would not take it well.” That was enough for me!

Pick Your Battles-Maturity teaches us that not every situation needs to be addressed. While we know that on a cognitive level at any age, its reality sets in as we mature. There are some words and actions which come into our space that have from very little to absolutely nothing to do with us. We do not have to show up to every fight and sometimes it’s okay to let  people think they’ve won. The Bible teaches us in Proverbs 29:11 that a fool speaks his whole mind. The wise choice is to make a mental note and think about how we are to govern ourselves in that situation in the future. See? No words needed.

Don’t Waste Time-I will not front on this one. I was always the type of person that was very careful with how I spent my time. After experiencing three unexpected deaths this year–two of which were people my age–I realized all the more that I can no longer be apologetic about saying no. After a certain age the mind and body begins to do things it didn’t used to. Therefore, it becomes even more imperative to maximize our time by doing exactly what we want and need to do because we cannot get that time back. I’m sure if we all took inventory of how we spent our days, we may see where we could have made more progress in certain areas had we been better stewards of our time.

Put People in Their Place-No, I’m not talking about telling people off! What I am referring to is managing expectations. We cannot expect the same things from everyone, so it is important to know what we can so that we don’t look for something that’s not really there and wrongly charge the person for it. There may be people we know who are poor listeners, so we would never ask them for advice. However, if we were stranded in the middle of the Everglades, that person would be right there to get us out without any hesitation. There may be others who are not the type we’d hang with for a night on the town, but if we need prayer or ideas that will take us to the next level, those are the people we’d go to. When we learn to accept what people have to offer, it will help us not place undue expectations that result in disappointment or possibly discard a good relationship.

Be Yourself-I began marching to the beat of my own drummer in my early 30s and I cannot begin to tell you the freedom it brings. The older we get and the more we become exposed to difference, we will learn that fitting in is a waste of time. For every person who doesn’t get us, there will be someone who will. For every criticism of who we are, there will be a praise. Some of the negative energy that comes our way on account of being ourselves more often than not has to do with either how people feel about themselves or the agenda they have with us. If no one ever said a word for or against us, our sense of self should be where affirmations are a bonus and not a requirement.

That is all for now. I’m getting tired so I’m going to go somewhere and “set” myself down. I might even take a nap. Hey, I can do that; I’m 44.

God bless!

A Cry for Help

Carolingian CrossI was in IHOP enjoying my favorite fix of Berry-Berry Brioche French Toast when the waitress approached me and said she was upset that I killed off a character from my novel, Crimson Sky. I expressed that it was not my original intention to do so, but after I began writing I didn’t want to fall into the cliche’ of having characters who, by the end of the story, had everything neatly resolved. There are some instances in real life where people have genuine concerns, don’t feel heard, and as a result take matters into their own hands. I wanted to show the worst case scenario when a person cries out for help and is ignored.

The character lived a rough life in a dysfunctional family, which left her with many unresolved issues. As a result, she laughed to keep from crying because that was one of the only ways she was able to deal with her pain. The people in her life who were supposed to be her foundation and support paid no attention to the person inside. In their eyes she was not a human being but rather someone to take from. Her friends didn’t quite understand her well enough because her experiences were not theirs, and they also were not knowledgeable enough about her pain. Therefore, they were not equipped to fully recognize the kind of help she needed. The incident that led to the character’s death is that she was at the point where she grew tired of feeling used, rejected, and unheard. She held in her pain for so long and when she finally let it out, her feelings were delegitimized. One of the worst things we can do to people who are hurting is nullify the depth of their pain and its cause.

Not hearing another’s story can be due to many reasons, one of which is a lack of empathy. There are many people who do not have the ability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. Sometimes it could be if there is something that they personally are not struggling with, they erroneously believe it should not be a problem for others. This ignores the fact that people are built differently and have unique reactions to various experiences. The truth of the matter is we all have been spared from one thing or another, not because we are so strong and have it all together but because of the grace of God. Remember the great prophet and miracle worker, Elijah, who was under the juniper tree in I Kings 19:3-4 wanting God to take him away like Calgon? And what about when Jesus was in so much anguish that he was in the Mount of Olives praying to the point where his sweat was like drops of blood (Luke 22:44)? If those great examples suffered and needed the help of our Father, we should not count it robbery to lend an ear to someone who is having a hard time.

Another reason people often do not realize the gravity of another’s pain is because it is assumed the person is having a “victim moment”. We live in a society that is soCrimson_Sky_Cover_for_Kindle (2) quick to tell people to “get over it” that for some it is safer to keep their pain to themselves. It is surprising how many people are walking around with horrible attitudes, arrogance, are anti-social, and/or self-medicate because they are dealing with emotional turmoil they are afraid to articulate. They fear being treated in an insensitive manner, labeled as crazy, or accused of being a miserable Debby Downer.  I’m sure we all have either had personal experience with, or read about, people who have committed suicide only for us to say, “I had no idea that person would do something like that!” Then we play back the moments we were approached or saw something awry, but we wrote it off as that person being “special” again. Sometimes listening to understand versus admonish and judge could save a person’s life.

One more area I’d like to discuss is when a person shares what they are going through to the person or people who are responsible for the pain. Pride often gets in the way of us owning what we have done to others because we fully believe in our good intentions. As a result, we tend to skip over the days we are supposed to do an internal audit of our actions and their effect upon others. Like it or not, there are people who are deeply hurt because of what we’ve done to them. Unfortunately, an inability to reflect on how we treat people can blind us to our wrongdoings. It is human to want to defend ourselves, but it is also human to accept when we have made mistakes we have to make right. The first step is to listen to what the person has to say, then try to understand what is being conveyed, and ultimately work towards a resolution. In the novel, this did not happen to the character in question. Instead, the person she confessed to became enraged and downright pedantic. The friend was so busy with her need to be right that a simple, “I’m sorry I didn’t fully acknowledge how you felt all these years. How can I make this right?”, which may have saved the character’s life, didn’t cross her mind until it was too late.

Now if you want to know which character it is and how it all went down, well, you just have to buy the book! It is available on CreatepaceAmazon, and Barnes & NobleCrimson Sky readers please share your thoughts in the comments section about the post, book, who is your favorite character, etc., as that will help me with ideas as I continue working on the next novel.

Thank you for reading and remember; take time to listen, understand, and resolve!

God bless!