Thursday, October 31, 2013

Driving Thoughts - O You Fancy

Source
Imagine this - a young mother of three, works in corporate america, dresses nicely, and apparently does not look like she has three children. The family needs a car, and the husband was able to buy a used Volvo in good condition. Because of that Volvo, her status is now elevated. On top of everything else, folks now think she's fancy, rich and better than them. All of this because she got a used Volvo.

Sounds crazy? Well it happened and it happens and it's not that far fetched.  People make many assumptions based on the car you drive.

I live in the land of status - California, and I have noticed many more luxury vehicles on the road. That phrase "luxury vehicle" has some monetary implications and connotations. According to Wikipedia it means: "The term suggests a vehicle with higher quality equipment, better performance, more precise construction, comfort, higher design, technologically innovative modern, or features that convey an image, brand, status, or prestige, or any other 'discretionary' feature or combination of them. The term is also broad, highly variable and relative. It is a perceptual, conditional and subjective attribute that may be understood differently by different people; "what may be luxury for one may be premium for another.""

I have to caution myself not to get caught up in a person's wallet just because of the car they drive for the outside does not determine what is on the inside.

Remember, just because I drive a Benz or any luxury vehicle does not mean I'm better than you. I don't think that way and neither should you.

Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. Hebrews 13:5

How do you feel when you see others with things that you don't have? 


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Notes From My Daughter - A Testimony on Humility

My Daughter

Occasional notes from my 20 year old daughter. I never know what to expect when she writes, but it's usually a pleasant surprise.  Read on!








Everything God has called me to do in my life I've thought I wasn't good enough to do. So I silently said no, I snickered at God's voice like Hannah, I rebutted like Moses, and I tried to run away like Jeremiah.

But I've finally come to this point where I realized God doesn't choose the good enough people, and I'm honored (not scared) that he trust me to be obedient to him with my whole life.
I applied to USC convinced that I wouldn't get in, a part of it was my dream but at this point I was bitter and believed the dream was too big. My dad told me he wouldn't pay for all of USC’s tuition, but some gut feeling pushed me to give it my all. This application was actually blood, sweat, and tears. I gave my 100% to USC's application and did all other app's halfheartedly. If I had it my way I only would've applied to USC.

But like I said, another part of me thought I wouldn't get in. I saw it as a task too big for me to handle. I applied with hope, but not in faith. A part of me just wanted to apply so I can say I did and then prove myself right when I got denied.
But I was wrong, talk about dying to yourself, I was so wrong. I got in! I was overwhelmed and excited and scared. I was happy I got in, but didn't know if I could actually be a good student at USC. I really thought they made a mistake and anxiously awaited a rescinded letter for months. That conflict of emotions instead of driving me to my knees drove me insane. Up until this moment, I've exhausted myself to what seemed like the point of no return. And it seemed like I had proven myself right; once again I thought "You aren't good enough."

But God showed me I was wrong, the sentence wasn't over. I am not good enough without God. You cannot do the task God calls you to do without God. Mark 10:27 clearly states with man (by himself) it is impossible, but with God all things are possible. In John 15, without the vine you are nothing, but in him you can do all things. Yes God will prune you, and yes circumstances will hurt but God is not malicious and everything He allows He works for the good of those who truly love him. To love Him is to know him, and to love Him back.

Look, I wasn't good enough without God, I am truly nothing without God, but I'm here in Him now. Not even a 20 year history of not trusting him will stop Him from using my life for His glory. I belong on my knees in those moments of misdirection, confusion, and pain. A place where His strength is felt deeply and my soul is filled with His love. I belong in that place where I am broken before Him, instead of stuck without Him. I am changed by God only and only Him do I seek.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Driving Thoughts - Love in Action

We spend a lot of time in our cars, and though I don't have any empirical evidence I would venture to say that mothers in particular spend a significant amount of time behind the wheel. My mother always wanted to drive but somehow she never got her driver's license. I would say that put a real damper in her because my mom is a go getter; she likes to be up and about. I take after my mom in being a go getter, but as you know I got my driver's license and I can't imagine mothering without driving.

I have spent a significant portion of my adulthood driving my children and others to:  babysitters, daycare, school, church, games and other extra curricular activities. There was a time when most of the driving I did was for them and not for me.

At one point, I actually wished that driving was a calorie burning activity, because if you think I'm skinny now, I would be skeletal thanks to driving.


Driving with precious cargo taught me quite a few things.

They were precious so I became extra careful as I drove. When you're handling something special you tend to become very careful. So while I was never reckless, I do like to drive fast, but I often curtailed my speeds with children in the car.

I really learned to watch my words.  "Lord put a guard over my mouth" became real, as I drove with young impressionable children.

But then there's some things you can't control such as when someone suddenly cuts you off; you just don't know what will fly out of your mouth. Once you ensure everyone is OK, you can explain.

I also found myself, reaching out with my right hand to protect any one that was in the passenger seat when I had to suddenly slam on the brakes; I don't know where that came from or how much protection it offered, but I'll chalk it up to a mother's instinct. And sometimes I just like to hold the hand of whomever is in the passenger seat, savoring the short lived precious time we have.

We've also had some great conversations and dare I say life altering decisions in the confines of my car. Boys wanting to act up and play the fool had an opportunity to talk things out before they got out of my car to face their wild crazy world. Girls wondering if certain boys like them and what did I do when I was that age, were comforted knowing that they're not the first ones walking down that awkward path. I hope some of our conversations made a difference.

Though its not a calorie burner, a driving mother has an opportunity to protect, be tender, and impart wisdom. Even if she doesn't do all of these things and may even mess up a time or two, because she is mothering even as she drives, she's making a difference. She may not feel it when she's driving to another doctor's appointment, or dropping off to a game, but she is making a huge difference.

Love is patient; love is kind. Love is not jealous; is not proud; is not conceited; does not act foolishly; is not selfish; is not easily provoked to anger; keeps no record of wrongs; takes no pleasure in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth; love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. I Corinthians 13:4-7

Do you ever feel like a chauffeur as you transport your precious cargo? Do you wish you didn't have to drive so much? How would your life or your children's life be different if you didn't drive.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Driving Thoughts - Independence

I remember when the idea of driving first was embedded in my brain. It probably was walking to church for the thousandth time, or after running to catch a bus and just missing it. As a teenager driving represented independence, and I wanted that; the ability to get in my car and go anywhere of my choosing without answering to anyone; I was dreaming but this is what I wanted.

Way back then, I went to driving school and even took some lessons with my future husband. Parallel parking posed the biggest challenge so I wanted to make sure that I got that right. Nowadays, parallel parking is not a big deal; here in CA it wasn't a big focus of the test. My, how times have changed, but in Brooklyn we needed to know how to parallel park on the left and right sides of the street. The day of my road test, I was slightly nervous and the rain had  just ended. I remember my instructor appeared a little grumpy; but don't they all seem that way when you're trying to gain your independence? I splashed through a puddle but that was not considered a major infraction, and then I parallel parked - perfectly! I got my license on the first try.

I remember when a girlfriend of mine first got her license. It was a Saturday afternoon in Brooklyn and we had nothing to do, so we thought we'd drive to Flatbush Avenue and peruse some of the stores. She felt lucky in that she had her father's car for the afternoon which was no mean feat for her. She picked me up in her father's jalopy; the car was gray and huge. It was bigger than the two of us combined. Her biggest concern, which soon became mine - where would we ever find a spot to park this monstrosity? It felt good being out and about, driving and talking, but parking the car was always looming. We reached our destination, but every time we thought we saw a parking spot that big old grey jalopy wouldn't fit and Nads could not maneuver the car to get in to the spot. For most spots, I kept insisting it could fit. She would try, I would cheer, but it wouldn't fit. Finally, we found a spot. It wasn't perfect but I definitely thought she could fit.  It appeared to be quite nerve wracking for Nads, as she attempted to remember everything she learned in driving school to park that car, while not hitting anyone or anything. We laughed triumphantly once she parked the car.

We weren't Thelma and Louise but the car was just as big!

Now that I had my independence, I was afraid to use it. When I first started driving, I was deathly afraid of driving on the highway, but I did not have the patience to take local roads everywhere; that was not practical.

I'm going down memory lane again.

I'm a newlywed and we are a one car household. I tried using public transportation in suburbia, but what would normally take 20 minutes driving took 2 hours.  I was pregnant with my first child, and I thought this is for the birds, I have my license, I can drive. So a friend of ours was selling a car but she lived in Queens. At the time we lived in Long Island and we were about an hour's drive away from Queens. The plan was that we would go to her house get the car and I would follow my husband back home on as many local roads as possible. Realistically there was no way to do this, but that was the plan. My poor husband (this is one of the ways I know that he loves me), he drove so slowly that day so that I could keep up with him. And at one point I had to merge and nearly got us killed. I can laugh now but it was very nerve wracking then. One day I told myself something along the lines of, "All of these other people are out there driving and merging and changing lanes, why can't you?" "Don't be nervous, just remember what you learned."  The first time I did it, somebody blew their horn at me. I guess I cut them off. I made a mental note never to do that again, and I've been good ever since.

In terms of independence, driving has turned out to be everything I thought it would be and then some. As I drove out of the local parking lot, I smiled thinking about how far I've come.

I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free. Psalm 119:32

Do you remember when you got your driver's license? Did you get it on the first try? Why was it important for you to learn to drive? Supposed you had never learn to drive, how different would your life be?



Friday, October 18, 2013

Change your Vision

As I sit here pondering the meaning of life, I realize that sometimes our minds are our own worst enemy.

Within each of us to are two dueling natures, and basically what you feed thrives.

As Christians we are called to be light in the world. A light illuminates, brightens, provides focus and clarity.


33“No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy,you r whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness. 35 See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. 36 Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.” Luke 11:33-36

I've read these verses quite a bit but never focused on the fact that the eye is the lamp/light of the body, therefore when your eyes are healthy your whole body is full of light, and when they're not you're full of darkness.

So what are you feeding your eyes? Do you struggle with spending too much time surfing the net (like I sometimes do)? Or are you sharpening your vision by spending time in God's word, helping others and enjoying camaraderie with like minded Christians? What do you spend your time watching and reading? Do you read (reading is fundamental)? Taking this a step further, are you consumed by angry thoughts that you continue to feed? Do you love a juicy story but all of a sudden find yourself talking more about people instead of praying for them?

I wear glasses and contacts and therefore practice proper eye care to maintain my vision.  As I'm getting older, I'm recognizing how much my vision has changed and what I need to do to maintain it. I'm never content with decreased vision; I always want to see clearly. The same should be true of our spiritual eyes which is the lamp for the whole body. .

Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. Psalms 119:18
How is your eye health? How do you deal with changes in your vision?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Happenstance

I've embarked on a new adventure in my life - I teach Sunday School to 5th and 6th graders. Mind you, I never thought I would become this person, but working with mold-able young people seems to come naturally to me. In addition, I recognize that by teaching I also learn.

quote by Einstein (pretty smart guy)
This year our main theme is God's providence - which is heady stuff even for me. With all of my preparation some times I feel ill equipped to pass on what God has imprinted on my heart (but this is a fleeting sensation).

Yesterday we learned how:

  • All of God's acts are purposeful The Lord works out everything to its proper end— even the wicked for a day of disaster. Proverbs 16:4 (NIV) 
  • All things are ordained by God - The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord. Proverbs 16:33 (NIV)
  • Man makes plans but God establishes man's steps. - In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)


I had my own epiphany as the youngsters were sharing, and it seemed providential. I had struggled for a while with a decision that needed to be made regarding schooling for the Little One; as a matter of fact I was at the point of indecision. The students started sharing about school and their week. It turns out two of the students go to the school that I was considering and one of their teachers attends our church. It provided confirmation that my indecision was not wasted and this was now confirmation that I should go ahead with the application process. I anticipated a daunting application process, but it turned out to be smooth sailing. I attribute all of this to God, his plans and his timing.

Yesterday's lesson re-affirmed that nothing is too random, minute, or insignificant for God. God has the right, power, and wisdom to govern our lives.

Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it? Lamentations 3:37

Is everything a coincidence? Did you ever think something was a coincidence and later realized it was a God thing? How do you deal with the fact that God is in control? Do you throw caution to the wind?


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Book Review - Mom & Me & Mom By Maya Angelou

I've been reading plenty lately; actually I've visited the library quite a few times and have been borrowing and reading books the old fashioned way - o the bliss. I saw reviews for Maya Angelou's Mom & Me & Mom, and they were overwhelmingly positive.

The mother daughter relationship can be one of the more complicated relationships in life; I have experienced its complications with my own mother and sometimes experience it with my daughters.

Maya's mom appears atypical - but at the heart of it all, she was simply a woman trying to do the best with what she was entrusted. Early on when Maya and her brother were 3 and 5 respectively, her mother sent them to her mother to be raised, because she did not know what she was doing. When they were about 13 and 15 they were sent back up north in California to reunite with their mother. I did not know that Maya Angelou's foundation was in Northern California.

Maya was very upfront with mother for being abandoned and her mother accepted it; she apologized. That was the start of the rich display of a mother's love. Her mother supported her in any endeavor she attempted. When she became a mother at 15, her mother was very practical about the whole thing - "Do you love him? No; no use in ruining three lives then." To her mother, this was a slight inconvenience, not an opportunity for scandal.

Maya Angelou has a beautiful economy of words; her sentences are short and to the point, but joined together they tell a rich story. Maya's mom was a dynamo, and with Maya back in her life she remained a dynamo. Her mom, Vivian Baxter was admired by most of San Francisco's black community. If it had not been for her mother's love and total acceptance and respect on both sides, we may have never heard of Maya Angelou.  Her mother told her, you are one of the greatest women I have ever met, and that was not an empty sentiment.
"Baby, I've been thinking and now I'm sure, you are the greatest woman I've ever met. You are very kind and very intelligent and those elements are not always found together. Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, Dr. Mary Mcleod Bethune and my mother - yes you belong in that category. Here give me a kiss." That is just a powerful statement. 

There are many other examples in the book of the mother daughter dance to total acceptance and love for each other.

This book was written to examine some of the ways love heals and helps a person to climb impossible heights and rise from immeasurable depths. I hope I can inspire my children as Maya Angelou's mom did.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Temptation

We act like when we're tempted we have to cave in, but do you know where temptation comes from?
Do you know that you don't have to cave in?

Jesus was tempted and like all of us He was tempted at the point of need. He had just fasted forty days and he was hungry; that's when the devil showed up. Have you noticed that when you are at your lowest point you are more prone to temptation?

The devil tempted Jesus three times and each time Jesus quoted scripture to rebuff Satan. It was enough to quote the scripture because it allowed him to set his mind against Satan; it reinforced that He would not give in to the temptation. This worked for Jesus and it can also work for us. Eve was also tempted by the devil, but she had nothing in her arsenal to resist Him. She did not quote scripture and what Satan said sounded reasonable to her, until she gave in.  And that's the trouble - temptation always seems enticing at first. To presume that God will protect us from the consequences of foolish or disobedient actions or thoughts is a kind of spiritual pride. We test God when we put ourselves into situations outside of his will. Actions such as unhealthy behavior, the edge of sexual immorality, and following your plans and then including God as an after thought.

Temptation is somewhat insidious especially if by caving in, it appears to meet a need.

The only way to avoid temptation is to refuse to compromise; the only way to do so is to feed your mind so that when you are tempted you know how to deal with it.

Life is full of temptations; I find the farther away I am from my base the easier it is to cave, give in and rationalize bad behavior, but when I renewing and transforming my mind I can stare temptation in the face and win.  Each time I win, God sends His angels to minister to me, just like He did with Jesus. Ministering to me is how my needs are truly met.

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7

Do you have what it takes to resist temptation? What if anything is tempting you right now? (Use the verses above as an initial means of not yielding.)


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Book Review - My Next Breath by Terri Whitmire

I came across this book -  My Next Breath by Terri Whitmire through a social media site, and was intrigued. I was not disappointed.

It's written in a way that draws the reader in - it's very hard to put down once you start - and that to me is a sign of a good book.

As a black woman, who is married with children I could relate to the main character though I could not relate to all the circumstances in her life. Her mother is a recovering alcoholic and her alcoholism has had reverberations on the family. This book digs deep to find the cause of the mother's alcoholism and the daughter's ability to forgive and not be hurt again. She leans heavily on her husband but also learns to lean on her mother. Along the way, she discovers many missing pieces about herself including discovering a long lost family member.

There's a secondary plot of sex trafficking that is woven neatly in to the overriding story. The story line is not forced but rather the details painted in location and description of events are realistic.

The ability to pray as a family when going through deep dark times is one of the lessons that you will come away with. Forgiveness is hard but worth it, as the family is mended and made whole; this too is an important lesson.

If you're struggling with forgiveness of a family member, this is a good book to read.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Hope

The Government has shut down; mass killings are on the rise; and we have a truancy epidemic among elementary school students. None of these things make sense. If you put your trust in man you will become even more disillusioned.

But.....

Every valley shall be filled - God will refresh us;
and every mountain and hill shall be brought low - God will give us strength to overcome;
and the crooked shall be made straight - God will provide clarity,
and the rough ways shall be made smooth - God is constantly refining us;
And all flesh shall see the salvation of God - because of what He does in us, if we repent and confess. Luke 3:5-6

Source
Praise God.

This is the fulfillment of scripture (Isa 40:3-5) in the ministry of John, speaking of one greater than himself. Once all of these obstacles were removed, Jesus would come.

So if this world has you feeling parched, weak, disoriented and harsh, remember what God has come to do for you. Repent, Confess, Believe. Jesus came to provide relief.

Has the government shut down got you feeling down?