Monday, June 26, 2017

Find Good Friends

"Find good friends." This is what my dear friend said to me as she shared her recent experiences. "Find friends that have your best interest at heart, that will do you no harm, that you can trust. You don't need many, but if you have one good friend, you are blessed." She was practically choked up as she said those words and as we spoke with each other I knew exactly what she meant. Having completed a major move, she had to rely on her friends more than she anticipated but they came through for her.

Real friends, true friends, good friends will do that for you. Perhaps she thought her needs and requests were burdensome, but the friends in her life didn't see it as such. They stepped up to help carry the load,

Good friendships stand the test of time; there are shared memories that are hard to walk away from because of a perceived slight or a real hurt. Because sometimes friends do hurt each other, but not intentionally. If it's intentional, question that friendship. Sometimes in our well-meaningness, we may say or do things that aren't received in the manner we anticipated. My friend explained that she has said things to her friend and the friend would say, "you know you need to apologize to me for what you said." She'd apologize as she never meant to hurt her friend, but she still needed to speak her truth and have her friend receive it. Sometimes truth convicts and hurts - so the apology maybe for the expression but not for the truth. Good friends are able to be truthful with one another but due to closeness, the painfulness of the truth may hurt more. Iron sharpens iron; this is not an entirely pleasant process but a profitable one for both.

Good friends give each other space but they also know when to step in.

Good friendships don't feel draining but rather are refreshing with no fear of judgment.

Good friends nurture each other spiritually, physically and emotionally.

Good friends regularly check on each other.

Good friends really get to know each other through shared life experiences.

Good friends don't try to connect with each other, they just do.


Good friends are people of integrity.

Good friends have unbreakable bonds.


We see vivid examples of friendship in the Bible - David and Jonathan  (1 Samuel 18:1-3) whose souls were knit to each other. There are aspects of friendship in the relationship between Moses and Aaron - brothers who were there for each other (Exodus 17:11-12).  An unlikely friendship occurred between Ruth and Naomi (Ruth 1:16-17), a daughter and mother-in-law. Friendships surprise us and come in all shapes and forms; we never know where a friendship will take us.

I recall Drew and Rob from college. Drew and Rob were good friends in college and have remained so with their bond getting tighter over time. Drew suffered a major health crisis in recent years and Rob was there for him as he spent a significant amount of time with his friend as he recovered. I can hear the love in Drew's voice as he talked about Rob. I think as a culture we are surprised by deep friendships between men, but it happens. It's a given that women will have friends, but gender alone doesn't determine the quality of our friendships.

A friend is one of the masterpieces created by God.  A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of Nature - Ralph Waldo Emerson. We all have the opportunity of being masterpieces by being good friends.



Can two walk together, except they are agreed? Amos 3:3

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. 
Proverbs 27:17

A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. 
Proverbs 18:24


Be a good friend and find good friends. Are you a good friend?

--Nylse

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Thoughts While In a Lingerie Shop

The wedding is approaching and as such, there are different events that go along with a wedding. In my day, I had a bridal shower where I was showered with everything from housewares to lingerie. So I visited a lingerie store and I have questions.


Why are male appendages everywhere?
Why are cake toppers, toys, and assorted gadgets in the shape of the male appendage?
Why are there so many toys made for every crevice in the body?
Why is everything so "in your face?"
In this particular shop, there was a whole section devoted to pornography which left nothing to the imagination. Why?


We were visiting for lingerie but found that and more. Curiosity got the best of me as I wandered around until I just felt soiled and dirty. I knew this wasn't God's design so I mentally checked out until the other parties were done. As I was mentally checked out I was struck by this thought: As Christians, we are called to be different; no part of our lives is exempt from this calling, including our sexuality." Nowadays, sex is over the top and in your face and I can't help but feel that this is not the way its supposed to be. The world has made the sacred into the profane; something special into something sordid. God created man and woman, and when He was done he declared creation very good. Genesis 1:27, 31

But as Christians, we can redefine the standard. What this specifically means is that we don't have to do things the way the world does and we can still have fun which is defined as enjoyment, amusement or lighthearted pleasure; we can still enjoy ourselves. Too many Christians act as if they don't know how to enjoy themselves. The world doesn't get to define what is fun or what is acceptable. If things aren't in line with who we are as believers, we don't have to participate. This may take some courage but it's worth it because there's no internal conflict on our part and there's no obligation; it's freeing. So as a Christian, your bachelor party shouldn't have strippers and debauchery and your bachelorette party doesn't have to display male appendages at every turn. By participating in these activities there's an unspoken assumption that you're missing out. Are you? You're not. One last thought - how are you any different than your non-Christian friends? You may be inadvertently creating a path of confusion for them by your choices.

Perhaps, this was the wrong store for purchasing lingerie, as the lingerie appeared to be an afterthought. This is not my area of weakness, but if it's yours I would recommend finding a different type of lingerie store or purchasing online (google "Christian lingerie," but be careful!) because there's nothing wrong with frilly undergarments that make a girl feel pretty for her intended beloved, or just to feel pretty for herself.

As our minds are transformed, our consciences can be our guide. A transformed mind does not use the standard of the world but the standard of God to determine how to live.


Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2

How do you approach purchasing lingerie? What would you say to a bride to be in this area?

--Nylse

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Reflections on Fatherhood from a Daughter

Yesterday was Father's Day - a time to acknowledge the fathers in our lives and their contributions whether good or bad, physical, mental or spiritual - to our lives; though I do think these days are more an acknowledgment of the good and an ignoring of the bad. Life is never so binary or so simple - there's a whole spectrum between good and bad. As I talked to my father on Father's Day I was grateful that he is a presence in my life and that he's still here. Having lost two close relatives so far, death reminds me to cherish the people in my life even if they don't live up to my standards.

My father is old now and in old age, you become a certain way; some call it stubborn. Though everyone should be understanding of each other regardless of age, it seems that the older you get the understanding is not mutual. As the younger and as the child, I have to extend greater understanding to an old man who is my father.

I believe as a child I was fearful of my father as he and my mother were very strict, so I made it my point to obey and stay out of trouble. But our household was not turbulent in a horrible way; it was lively and noisy. I remember going to the beach every Saturday - all seven of us piled up in the back of a Ford Escort. At the beach, we spread our towels and played in the water. Then two to three hours later we'd spread the towel on the seat and pile back into the car and go home.  I remember the time my dad brought home a puppy which we christened Gilda, named after a hurricane. I remember our first dog Bobby who eventually had to be put to sleep because he got hit by a car. I remember my dad bringing home a box of Julie mangoes which were the sweetest thing I had ever eaten. He was happy as he watched us devour those mangoes. I remember a time when my father seemed to laugh more. I remember him going to work with pride every day and having workers from his company take us to school and then pick us up in the evening.

When we immigrated to America his disposition seemed to change - he was never able to go back to the professional level he had but in this transition, I learned from my father discipline, presence, perseverance, and stability. I got a new appreciation for "life isn't fair but you still have to live it well." Daddy didn't complain, he just did what he had to do for his family.

My father is a man of parables and few words - he says a whole lot while saying little. "You might be smart but you ain't wise" or "Marry in haste repent at leisure" or my personal favorite - "Start late, you finish late." I had to learn discernment through listening to him because everything he said was not applicable to me but his proverbs also required you to think. When I got married, I saw a different side of my dad as he walked me down the aisle. He was happy, proud and relaxed. Even then he was giving me some last bits of advice, "Take it easy, relax!; Hold on to my arm." We'd never been so close until that moment!

My dad's personality is somewhat reflected in me. He was very disciplined with his spiritual walk - every morning he woke up he had a cup of tea and he read the Bible. In the evening, we always had Family Devotions where he and my mother would lead and then we would go around in the circle reading the scripture, then he would pray and we would all kiss him and my mother good night. We did this for many years.

So I've had the presence of my earthly father all through my life but yet I've not always felt close to him though I love him dearly. I'm grateful that his presence has shaped me in ways that sometimes I don't even understand. I can't say that the void of an earthly father is replaced by a heavenly one because I've had both. But I do know my relationship with my heavenly father supersedes my earthly relationship and there is no comparison. My Heavenly Father is always there, always faithful, keeps his promises, disciplines appropriately, is holy, is a constant provider, forgives without question, and offers true freedom.

Earthly fathers will fail us; some may have abandoned us; some of us may have never known a father. I can't say I know what that feels like but I've known enough people - men and women, to whom the absence of a father has left them incomplete and troubled. And then there are those whose fathers were in their lives and they too don't quite understand their fathers and are troubled by some of their actions. The Bible gives us a picture of a heavenly Father that no human could ever live up to. My Heavenly Father is who I have chosen to anchor my life to - he never disappears, never leaves, and always understands me. I also know that the closer I am to Him, the closer he is to me. I'm grateful for the presence of my Dad and how he has impacted my life but more grateful that I'm a child of the King and that His presence brings a greater joy.

“He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples...... For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’" Acts 17:24-28
How was your Father's Day? What's your relationship like with your father? Is it worthwhile to compare your earthly dad to your Heavenly Father?


--Nylse

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

How Wedding Planning Mirrors Daily Life

Going to the chapel and we're  gonna get married.
Going to the chapel and we're gonna get married
Gee, I really love you and we're going to get married
Going to the chapel of love

We are eagerly looking forward to my daughter's wedding. For us, there's a palpable excitement in the air. We've had long phone calls with the bride and the groom - my future son-in-love, to discuss plans for the day and life after that. We realize that the day itself is a celebration of their love and our love as parents.

But it hasn't been all roses and sunshine. This phase of our lives and theirs has been an opportunity for letting go. For us, as parents, it is recognizing that your children are indeed adults and they're going to be all right. We've all become keenly aware that everyone thinks differently and sometimes it's not right vs. wrong, just different, especially when it comes to wedding traditions. For example, on a very trivial scale - cake or cupcakes. If you're Jamaican, that would be Black cake. The trivial oftentimes leads to a greater understanding of whom each person is. While I appreciate our closeness as a family, boundaries are firmly in place which recognizes the bride and groom as a new emerging unit. In this planning phase, they are establishing patterns for their new life as husband and wife.

There are so many details involved in planning any endeavor and in that regard, a wedding is no different. Colors, cost, location, venue, bridal party, and the biggest detail - how many guests. Sometimes these details threaten to take over the big picture - the start of something new on your wedding day. With a loving fiance at her side, and her family as a sounding board, my daughter has been able to navigate the details. In our day to day lives also, details threaten to override the big picture and we have to take deep breaths, step back, pause, pray and remind ourselves of what's important.

As she plans and we're involved the following lessons are being learned:

Enjoy the journey. For all the details, this is a part of life and enjoyable part at that. Attitude is everything and it's only as stressful as we make it.

Planning forces you to prioritize. Money isn't the only consideration, peace of mind is important also so it's essential to also take care of yourself. Like Esther, this time of planning can be used to nurture your mind body and soul. (Esther 2:12-15)

Life goes on so there will be unexpected bumps along the way which can take many forms - health scares, unexpected costs, difficult people; all have reared their heads.

The planning phase is an opportunity to fall in love with your future spouse over and over again. When he sees how gifted you are at negotiations, this makes his heart swoon. When she sees you quietly taking charge of things she doesn't want to be bothered with, she is reassured again that she made the right choice.

This is an emotional time - sometimes you just need to cry especially if you become overwhelmed with some of the details. Or as you look ahead, you may cry because of the happiness and peace you feel.

Nothing works without having a good support system in place. The happy couple has a built-in support system in each other. In addition, they both can rely on their families and new family members. (Proverbs 11:14, Proverbs 15:22)

The culmination of all of this planning is your marriage but the day still requires some thought and preparation whether it's a big or small wedding, casual or formal, big budget or low budget.

We've had many phone calls - where I simply reminded my daughter to not lose sight of what's ahead which is a declaration of your love and commitment to each other. It's a happy time and a celebration; trust me when I tell you no one will care what favors you gave them or if you even gave favors. They will remember the atmosphere of love in the room that the bride and groom exudes. When planning a wedding, as in life, it’s so important to enjoy the journey. So whatever your timeline is, give yourself permission to enjoy each step until the big day. Take deep breaths, step back, pause, and pray as often as you need to until that day when you can finally say "Going to the chapel and we're gonna get married!"


“A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.” Geoge S. Patton

What have you learned from planning?


--Nylse

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Monday, June 12, 2017

What's Your Frequency?

As I was reading Psalm 119, I became fascinated by verse 164, which says "Seven times a day do I praise thee because of thy righteous judgments."

Recall that this is the longest chapter in the Bible with 176 verses, where practically every verse highlights the attributes of God's word all from the very personal perspective of David, Ezra or Daniel since the author is unknown. This chapter demonstrates raw devotion toward God and his Living Word. It affirms not only the character of the Scriptures, but it affirms that God’s Word reflects the very character of God Himself. The format of Psalm 119 is an alphabetic acrostic, meaning that the first letters of each line in Hebrew follow through the alphabet, 8 lines per letter, thus 8 lines x 22 letters in Hebrew = 176 lines. One message of this psalm is that we are to live a lifestyle that demonstrates obedience to the Lord, who is a God of order (hence the acrostic structure), not of chaos. [Source: gotquestions.org

The Word of God can literally save a life: George Wishart was the Bishop of Edinburgh in the 17th century (not to be confused with another Scot by the same name who was martyred a century earlier). Wishart was condemned to death and would have been executed. But when he was on the scaffold he made use of a custom that allowed the condemned person to choose one psalm to be sung, and he chose Psalm 119. Before two-thirds of the psalm was sung, his pardon arrived and his life was spared. [Source: blueletterbible.org]

Back to verse 164 - what makes a person so emphatic in their declaration of praise? Well, one quick answer is already noted in the verse - it's because of God's righteous judgments. He has seen that God has always done right by Him - He's never left or abandon him.

But there's more. The frequency speaks of devotion; it indicates that God is top of mind and that if He's not, he becomes so. He may be using it as a mechanism to allay anxiety and refocus. Praising God so often must elevate his spirit while acknowledging the sovereignty of God. His praise - whether it is a word, a phrase, a thought a song or a lengthy prayer happens with a notable frequency. Regardless of the length of his praise, it his often. It allows him to starve the flesh and feed the spirit. It equips him to handle what is before him or be grateful for what he's just walked through because the writer of this Psalm had seen his share of troubles.
In trying to take this verse literally, I became aware of how often I could praise God throughout the day. I definitely started my day with praise and often did the same at the end of the day. That left five times throughout the remainder of the day and the precise among us may figure that to be every three hours. The more cognizant I became for the opportunity to praise, the more I did so. It was freeing and I lost count. I realize that there are opportunities to praise God throughout a day at every turn - when I wake up because I have life, when I go outside to get the newspaper and absorb the quiet beauty of nature in the morning, the mess my daughter makes in her room leads to praise because she has a room; dirty dishes lead to praise because I have a sink and I have a family; my family with all their quirks. Opportunities for praise abound. Other religions have an obligation to prayer, a certain number of times daily, facing a certain direction. God makes no such requirement of you. You can exceed your seven times within an hour! Seven is not a limit, but a reference as to what the writer noted in his life.

It was in the process of being cognizant and being aware, that praising God with regular frequency became a habit. Like the psalmist, I could now say, "Seven times a day I will praise you because of your righteous judgments." (Psalm 119:164)

And my tongue shall declare Your righteousness And Your praise all day long. Psalm 35:28

Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; For it is pleasant and praise is becoming. Psalm 147:1

Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. 
James 5:13

How often do you praise? Do you have a reason to praise God?

--Nylse

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