You are not a single story

I would like to share an email I sent to a dear sister in Christ.  It was based on a revelation God gave me and how it related to Women Ministry and being allowed to tell your story; to show your authentic self.  Please as you read think as yourself this question “Do I view people as a single story; What’s their story or stories?”  (Note: I have left out names of particular people and places.)

Good morning _____, I have to share this information because I know God gave me this revelation.  Today my students were part of a presentation that involve recognizing stereotypes.  During this presentation, they viewed a short video which features a woman from a country in Africa.  She spoke on how her college roommate made inaccurate assumptions about her and all people who came from Africa.  The idea: we all do not have a single story, and when we think that we all have a single face then we have no way of getting to know a person for their authentic self.  We never get past that single story.

Here is the revelation.  I thought about all the women at _____.  Do we see each other as having a single story, or do we know the multi-dimension stories of each woman?  This revelation means to me getting to know each other on a whole different level than what we are aware now.  As ______ has presented many times, the expectation that we have of each other can ruin the relationship we are trying to build.  ______, what I am saying is that we see each other as a single story, a Christian Woman and is that all we see.  (Well maybe that is what I see)  We all have many stories, and sometimes we do not want to share those stories or that side because we do not feel safe.  I think that makes the different in the strength of a woman’s ministry.  Do we actually know who we labor among?  Do we care?

 The following is my respond to her respond.

Good afternoon _____ and thank you.  When I said that we see each other as a single, it was the universal you.  Unfortunately, my experience in the church has been a place where you did not feel safe to present your authentic self.  You had one story, and that was all you were allowed to have.  That is where women get lost, and some do not survive.  God is our haven and we or all should be that for each other.  You have the women at _____ in your heart, and our God has given you the capacity to reach out and touch with love.  That is a powerful assignment that will change lives.  I stand with you.

Think about how you view the people you know and meet.  Do you see them as a single story or do you understand more is there than meets your eyes?  Let God open your eyes to the multiple stories of people lives.

 

The Burden of Perfectionism

Ever wanted to be perfect? Ever wanted to be so perfect that everyone would admire and desire to be you? Ever wanted to look in the mirror and ogle over your “perfect” image for hours and hours. Well, now you have crossed the pond to narcissism; trying to maintain that image eventually will become a burden, just have a conversation with someone who has struggled with a food disorder. There are side effects to perfectionism. sometimes dangerous ones that can damage both the body and mind.

For years I strived for perfection so that I could cover up all the inadequacies that I felt about every area of my life. I felted that if I did everything perfectly then no one would notice the inadequacies. However, I failed, time and time again but that did not stop the hunger for perfection. The side effect, eating too much, weight gain, choose wrong companions, self-imposed isolation, pleasing people not God. We are familiar with these side effects of the futile journey to perfection.

The cure; Jesus Christ. He carries our burdens and in exchange, He will give you a lighter burden to carry that does not involve being perfect. You see when we were in an imperfect state He willing took on all of our sins; all our faults we wanted to cover up.  He allowed Himself to be nailed to a crude cross and died that we would not have to carry that burden.  He does not seek that we be perfect, all we have to do is come to Him and he will give us rest from our burdens.  Now here is the awesome part, when we mess up and come to Him confessing what we have done, He will not be angry but will forgive us and cleanse us from all the bad stuff or the unrighteousness.  This will cause us to walk confidently in His Grace.  Confidently we can say goodbye to striving for perfection and forever embrace glorious Grace.

Forgiven

I watched a great movie title “The Shack.” I recommend because of it’ powerful message. At one point in the film, the weary, grieving father confronts his fears and anger and realizes that he must forgive to heal. I am learning the same lesson.  In the movie, he was told that he may have to continue to say, I forgive you over and over again.  Remember forgive your brother 70 x 7 or everytime he asks for forgiveness; a revelation to me.  Through Godly intervention and close evaluation, I learned that I have not forgiven and this was a hard conclusion to accept.

I have been part of a dynamic workshop title “The Christ Centered Woman,” lead by an anointed woman of God, Minister Michelle Johnson.  Within this four week session, one of the session was titled The Condition of the Heart.  I examine my heart and at one point I told God that I did not want to analyze anymore, I did not want to examine my heart because it was too much, in other words, I wanted to hold on to unforgiveness.  There was a blockage.  But you know our God.  He is kind and patient.  He waited because He knows His daughter, He knew I would come around and because of His strength and the truth He placed in me, I had to forgive.  I had to forgive If I wanted to heal and remove the blockage.  I disliked this particular person and felted justified in my decision of unforgiveness.  When I began to give it to God, He showed me that I associated this woman with another woman that I judged to be one of the causes of the demise of another person (unfortunately the person committed suicide).   I judged, really who am I to judge.   I forgave the woman for what I thought she had done or even if she had God has always forgiven me, therefore He forgives.  I forgave the woman who I judged to have caused the demise of another person.  God is the righteous judge, not I.  I do realize that I will have to continue to say I forgive these two women and continue to remember 70 x 7.

In all of this, all of the self-evaluation all the God-given revelation I know that I have to continue to have a tender heart that first hears God and then continues to forgive.

Unconditional

 

I am overwhelmed with God’s love.  His unconditional love demonstrated in sacrificing His only begotten son blows me away.

 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.  John 3:16

He gave His best and that is why I love Him so.  His unconditional love demonstrates that we can show the same kind of love to others.  As I grow more secure in the love He has for me, then I gain the confidence to show the same love to my family, friends, my brothers, and sister in Christ and yes, my enemies or those that just do not like me.  You see it is easy to love those that love us but what about those that may hate us or use us.  Can we show God’s unconditional love to others even if they misuse us?  It is simple God loves us unconditionally, we love others unconditionally. Period.

Night time Preparation

I love my natural hair.  However, when I made the major decision to go from relaxed hair to natural hair, I needed help. For 20 plus years I weekly and religiously went to my hair stylist(s) for hair care and maintenance.  So now on my own, I researched the internet for the best products and watched many Youtube video relearning how to care for my beautiful natural hair.  I learned lots.  Recently while watching a Youtube video on the night time routine of natural hair car, God placed a thought in my heart.

I viewed a beautiful young lady describing a night time routine for her hair.  She showed how to take care of your hair at night, so during the night, your hair is protected from the stress of movement, (you cover your hair), applying oil to protect against dryness and breakage and then hydrating.  All of these actions will result in maintaining and presenting a healthy head of hair.  Here is the thought that God gave me.

We spend an enormous amount of time grooming ourselves but have we consider our Night Time preparation with God.  Do we spend that amount of time grooming inwardly?  What bedtime routine do we have as we prepare for a night’s rest?  God wakes us but He also puts us to rest at night.  Throughout the night watches our God, Our Father in Heaven protects us. We dwell under the shadow of His wings.  The scripture says,

I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalms 4: 8

Understanding this scripture should put us at peace but most of all cause us to thank our God for caring for us during the day and during the night.

Now I prepare for my rest at night, with the knowledge that God is “tucking me in.” (I feel so special)  I pray, read my word and recently I started to listen to the word, via my iPhone, as I drift off to sleep.  Although not perfect, this night time routine maintains a growing relationship with my Father.  I am grooming inwardly.

 

Speak Courageously

I can imagine what had gone through Joshua’s mind after the death of Moses who lead God’s people through the wilderness and now Joshua was named the successor.  God’s people spent 40 years in the wilderness, and now it was time to cross over to the Promise land. Joshua had the task of leading this great nation.  I can imagine Joshua standing high above the people, taking it all in and saying in his mind, “What have I gotten myself into.  God had an answer for Joshua.  He told him this in Joshua 1: 6 & 7:

Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go.

Sometimes it is hard to be courageous when you face a seemingly humongous task.  Doubt can set in, and your words and body language speak volumes.   Your words have the power to shape your life and the effect the people connected to you. Learn to speak those words that will bring forth positive results.  Speak with confidence Roman 8: 37, which says “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”  Speak with confidence, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13.  Speak with confidence, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds” 2 Corinthians 10:4.

Speak each day courageously, knowing the words you speak do shape your life.  Let the words you speak today shape your life in victory.

Praying for Strangers

I would get so angry at drivers that tailgate my car that I would sometimes curse.  As a Christian, I have to be transparent because  I do have the ability to exercise self-control.  The Holy Spirit dwells, in me and one of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control.  Think about all the incidents of road rage where sometimes the end results are fatal. Unfortunately, self-control was absence.

However, God showed me how to deal with this potentially dangerous problem;  pray. Yes, God directed me to pray for the driver that was tailgating my car.  I must say, my first attempts were not good; I mean I grudgingly prayed for the person and had to repent lots for my half-hearted attempts.  I know that Jesus was not pleased.  I would say “Lord teach them how to drive.” and “Lord let that driver get off the road if they can’t follow the rules of the road.”  I didn’t pray for the person; I prayed that I would not be inconvenienced.

God then gave me a revelation.  This driver is tailgating a child of God, and this is their divine appointment because a child of God will pray for them.  My prayers changed.  I prayed that they would prudently drive so that they would return to their families at the end of the day,  I prayed that God would move in their life and they would give their life to Jesus.  I prayed for their families, for their jobs, for their communities.  I prayed for whatever God placed on my heart.   When I pray I found that the cars did not stay behind me long and I quickly pray before they passed me or turn off.  I have a short time and I have come to place where I want to make the most of it.  It is funny, but now I look forward to praying for the driver behind me.  Please don’t get me wrong I am not making light of the potential danger of tailgating.  What I am focusing on is the opportunity to pray for strangers.  God lead me to do this, and I may never know the impact, but I know God has a plan.  So, I leave you with this simple scripture found in I Thessalonians 5:17:

“Pray without ceasing”

This simple Bible verse challenges us to pray all the time.  Think about it; you are constantly in communication with the Father.  One way to fulfill this scripture is to pray for strangers.  Try it, and you will come to realize that God is using you as a vehicle for change in someone’s life. Someone you don’t know; a stranger.

 

God your loving Father always holds your hand

As a child, I loved the beach.  My father would take our family there often. I remember splashing in the water along the shoreline under the protective watch of a loving father protecting his brood. Under his watch, nothing would happen to his children.  From these memories, I fashion this image of God the loving parent holding your hand as you wade through the waters of life.

Imagine this scene. You are skipping and playing in the water while you hold your Daddy’s hand.  He is constantly smiling enjoying your smiles, laughter, and your Child’s innocents.  However, he remains vigilant holding your hand firmly, so he can intervene if something suddenly happens.  Then He takes you out a little further from the shoreline, all the while holding your hand. You continue to smile, splashing, having no worries, no cares. When the waves begin to reach for your knees, you turn a worried face to your Daddy, and he continues to hold your hand firmly. His peaceful expression reinsures you not to worry; nothing will happen to you while He is there and the way He holds your hand lets you know He will never let it go.  When it is time to return. He guides you back to the shore where the water barely tickles your toes.  Daddy wise and benevolent knows you have had enough for that day.

God Our Father has promised never to leave us or forsake us.  When we are enjoying the safe places in our lives, he holds our hands.  When we launch out into the deep where it is not easy to maintain our balance, he continues to hold our hand.  Whatever we go through in life God is there.

Never forget that He loves us cares for us.  Never forget that walks with us through life’s journey, ever close.  Never forget that He holds us in the palm of His hand.  God our loving Father is always there firmly holding our hand.

We have back-up

Aw, the thunder of applause, The exuberate cheers at the end of a finish line,  the congratulatory notes, the multiple pats on the back, warm smiles and affirming nods of heads.  We all need and desire these acts of support and encouragement. When we reminisce, we find there are times we needed a shoulder to lean on, strength beyond our own. All of us need a “cloud of witnesses,” individuals that have been there; they know the struggle, the fight.  They have overcome, yet sometimes failed. Showing us empathy and willingly holding out a helping hand.  These “clouds of witnesses” through trails and faith in God are qualified to be there for us.  They provide examples of running this race of life and not becoming discouraged. From their place in our life, they unselfishly cheer us through the hard times.

 “… since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”  Hebrew 12:1

This verse says this great “cloud of witnesses” surrounds us.  Surrounded; wow, do we have a back-up.  When we read chapter 11,  the previous chapter in the book of Hebrews, ofter called the Hall of Faith, we read of ordinary people who through faith in God, amazingly obtain incredible feats of victory over insurmountable odds.   Now move forward to the present “cloud of witnesses,” the ones that held your hand and prayed you through the pain of lost.  Reflect on those who over a cup of coffee, listened without judgment.  Think about those that engulfed you in a warm hug of strength and whispered; everything will be alright.   The greatest 0f these being Jesus Christ who loves us all unconditionally, and daily shows us compassion and encouragement.  God does not want any of us to feel alone.   Yes, we have a “cloud of witnesses;”  ones from the past that encourage us through reading their incredible victories, and those in the present that cheer us on to run the race of life with endurance.  So, how can we lose?

When I feel faint

Today I felt faint; not about to physically faint, but tired in my Spirit.  Then God reminded me of the scripture that my Father quoted lots.

Isaiah 40: 28-31 “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary.  His understanding is unsearchable.  He gives power to the faint, And to those who have no might, He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.”

In this, I understanding my Father in Heaven gets us.  He knows we sometimes become tired and want to throw in the towel, yet He is there to renew our strength.  He does this, He alone.  I can lean on Him, and He never lets me down.  I know we have experienced trying to lean on someone, and it just did not work.  We cannot fault them for their inabilities; we just went to the wrong source.  You see once we chose this faith life, we chose a hard path.  However, we have help; God continuously strengthens us for this journey.  So today if you feel faint go to the right source, our Heaven Father.  He lovingly gives us the power to continue our journey so we will not become weary.  He gives power to the faint.