Monday, August 21, 2017

Black and White

Black and white. Black or white. This seems to be the line of demarcation, particularly where we live. There's an unspoken narrative around these colors that goes something like this:
Black - bad; criminal; fighting for equal rights; less than; minority; a problem; burdensome.
White - good; controls all the power structures including the church; responsible for slavery but won't accept the scars from this pain; always assumed to be well-meaning and good.
These associations have crept into every facet of our society including the church. In the 60s we had overt racism and now we have covert racism - where it's systemic and impacts the very fabric of all of our lives.

The very origins of America's racial history are closely tied to the America's church history. Missions were used as a way to rationalize the genocide of the native population and later on justify recruiting them into abusive boarding schools. Missions were used in theology to rationalize the slave trade as some European Christians argued that Cain's curse was a justification to steal humans from West Africa and enslave them in the new world though there is no actual proof of this. The American founding fathers wrote the Constitution within a culturally Christian identity yet most of them, Thomas Jefferson included, dehumanized their African brothers and sisters through enslavement. Looking at the origins of this country it's hard to say that covert racism crept in like a thief in the night. In the Constitution, the founding fathers proclaimed everyone equal under the law, an idea which was quickly contradicted by protecting slavery under the law. The cognitive dissonance it takes to say you love God and yet destroy people made in God's image because you found yourself superior is significant and must be acknowledged as such. It is important to take a critical look at how people can incongruently identify as Christian culturally and yet relationally have distance between the God they claim to serve. 

America said one thing and lived out another and now is wondering why they cannot recognize their own reflection. These associations we have with people groups have a deep history to them and are supported by living institutions. These associations go against how we should treat each other as Christians, believers in Christ, yet culturally this is our normal. We are called to have a different standard, a paradigm shift, since so many cling to these entrenched views and are unaware until something like Charlottesville happens.

In church, we see what we thought was hidden seep out in our interaction with others, in particular, those not like us. We see our churches become homogeneous. There's a danger in sameness - we think everyone thinks the way we do and therefore there's no fear our shame in expressing those thoughts. The fact that so many "ethnic" churches exist is heartbreaking. Therefore, it becomes something to be celebrated when we truly see a multi-ethnic, diverse, united church - because this is not the norm.  

This phenomenon exhibited by churches and others is something called in-group bias: "It's a well-known principle in social psychology that people define themselves in terms of social groupings and are quick to denigrate others who don't fit into those groups. Others who share our particular qualities are our "in-group," and those who do not are our "out-group.""(Source: psychologytoday.com)

In light of the current climate, I am challenged to be known by my fruit: to live differently think differently and act differently. To let my heart and my actions line up. To let my biases not define my life but to love and accept all because like me they are made in God's image. The thing about racism is that it feels the worse when it shows up in churches - where God's love should be evident. If you've suffered racism at work, in a road rage incident, DWB (driving while Black), being followed in a store, or just the gnawing feeling that something isn't right with a particular interaction which you know stems from the skin you're in, then sometimes you expect a safe place where you can just be and when it seems that no safe place exists, it creates a widening gap.

I posit that that safe space is the church, at least it's supposed to be. The church can accept all while at the same time speak out on societal ills. The church can be a place where healing begins. But it requires the hard work of love, faith, and forgiveness in action. I don't turn a blind eye to racism in my personal life and as such I'd like to see the church become more vocal on addressing the ills of racism - not the Black Church or the Evangelical Church or the White Church - just the Church - one body fighting against injustice. Jesus wouldn't have it any other way.



This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another.

If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead. Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them. 

1 John 3:11-15

Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. In every nation, he accepts those who fear him and do what is right.This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 
Acts 10:34-36


Racism and its implications are no longer the elephants in the room; instead, these elephants are roaring demanding attention. "The church needs less lip service and more love accompanied with action. Until we are willing to confront and discipline our brothers and sisters who are knee-deep in this type of sin, and others, we will be villages in valleys, rather than cities on a hill." (Source: desiringgod.org)





Thursday, August 17, 2017

Time for a New Start

All of a sudden, August 14th seems to be the date when most schools resume all over these United States (did you catch the irony in the name of this country? I digress). The Little One started high school on Monday and I am still trying to wrap my brain around it. She is my late in life child, the child of my old age, our surprise blessing. Prior to discovering I was pregnant with her, I was seeing my way across the finish line and looking forward to a respite from childrearing. This time, I'm much closer, and there will be no surprises.

She started High School with all of its promises of new beginnings, experiences, and excitement. As an older parent, I'm there for her but I'm also nudging her to embrace the good that High School has to offer. As I've prayed for all of my children, I'm more cognizant of how to intercede for her in light of what's happening around us.

I pray for peace; I pray that she has a peaceful disposition and that she is a peacemaker.
I pray that she has no anxiety and that when she becomes uneasy, she is reassured that she need not be anxious about anything.
I pray for favor with her teachers, guidance counselors, administration and any position of authority that she interacts with.
I pray that she is surrounded by good friends and that she is a bright light to all; that her light will shine.
I pray for protection from people and things that mean her harm.
I pray for bravery to combat injustice and to speak up as needed.
I pray for wisdom and discernment.
I pray for determination and strength as there will be things that she will just have to persevere through - whether it's dealing with a tough project, making a team or short-sightedness on her part.
I pray for memory to recall God's word that is hidden in her heart; to recall what she has studied.
I pray that she will be a friend to the friendless.I pray that she exudes joy.

I have prayed a variation of these prayers for my children daily as they navigated the halls of learning and will continue to do so. I found these scripture bracelets on Groupon and got her one with her favorite verse on it so she could have a visual reminder of God's promises.

We're all in need of fresh starts. This country is in need of a fresh start, just as the thousands of students who start school annually. In the midst of transition let's not forget the importance of prayer. At the beginning of this school year, let's take a moment to pray for our children, their teachers, their schools, their communities, their homes, their countries. Perhaps the Little Ones, empowered by love from praying parents, can truly initiate the fresh start we all need.

Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.
See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.
Always be joyful. 
Never stop praying. 
1 Thessalonians 5:14-17


It's time for a new start; start with prayer.

--Nylse

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

What Love Feels Like

My husband and daughter
As the father walked his daughter down the aisle, her nervousness was assuaged by his confident reassurance. She had eyes only for her groom while steadily leaning on her Dad. This is love.

The groom looked on with wonder, as a tear fell from his eye; he had eyes for no one else. This is love.

"Who gives this woman to be wed? My wife and I do."  Yet another act of love, parents releasing what was held dear to her groom who will hold her dearly.

Love is more than butterflies in the stomach. It's valuing a person and treating them as you would yourself or better. It's being selfless which typically breeds more selfless love. It's forgiving often. It's not holding on to stuff. It's seeing the good in others - and always expecting the best even when they show otherwise. The element of love makes being patient and kind doable.  When you are loved, you cannot help but love in return. Love removes the rough edges and smooths out your flaws.

Love is knowledge. Love is sure. Love provides comfort like a roof over your head.
"Love knows no reasons, love knows no lies. Love defies all reasons, love has no eyes. But love is not blind, love sees but doesn't mind." — Hemant Kumar

So just love.
"My mother's last word to me clanks inside me like an iron bell that someone beats at dinner time: love, love, love, love, love." — Cheryl Strayed

Love provides a feeling of invincibility and hope.
"I strongly believe that love is the answer and that it can mend even the deepest unseen wounds. Love can heal, love can console, love can strengthen and yes, love can make change." — Somaly Mam
Love is what drives everything.
"There are four questions of value in life: what is sacred? Of what is the spirit made? What is worth living for, and what is worth dying for? The answer to each is the same. Only love." — Johnny Depp

This is why a wedding ceremony is a celebration of love; it encapsulates love in the past leading to an expression of love in the present which is the underlying support for love in the future. This is what love feels like. Simply love.





Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love
1 Corinthians 13:13


--Nylse

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Monday, August 7, 2017

Women of the Word - Tyra Lane-Kingsland

This series has birthed some God ordained divine connections. Tyra is one such connection. As a blogger, I spend significant time online not just writing but reading other blogs. I'm always looking for like minded Christian bloggers online and when I read Inspired To Live fully I knew I was reading a kindred spirit. I reached out and I was blessed with this interview. Even in initially chatting with her, she encouraged me to continue with this series, to do the hard things, especially if God has placed it on my heart. I'm so grateful for her and I know you will be too. Meet this month's Woman of the Word - Tyra Lane-Kingsland.

Tyra Lane-Kingsland

1. As someone who studies the Bible, what are your favorite tools and resources?
TLK: Armed with my journal, pen, iPhone, Blue Letter Bible App and Scofield Study Bible, I am eager and excited to jump into the Word. I do a lot of note taking on my iPhone but at heart, I’m a writer so old fashioned pen and paper work well for me. The Blue Letter Bible App is great because it has built in commentary, concordance, and dictionary.

2. Old Testament, New Testament or both?
TLK: For me both are vital. The Old Testament illustrates so much of God’s character. We see Him as Judge and Creator and we see His unfailing love for mankind. At the same time, the New Testament gives us a very clear picture of how we ought to live our lives today as modeled directly through the life of Jesus.

3. Why do you study the Bible? What was your initial motivation?
TLK: My reasons for studying the Bible are many but two primary reasons are to hear from God and to get guidance for daily living. Just as I enjoy hearing from relatives and friends, I like to hear what God is saying and I can hear directly from Him through His Word. Additionally, life’s many demands and the tug of culture can pull us away from living out the faith we profess. So in order to keep my mind and behavior in alignment with my values, I have to STAY in that Word!

My initial motivation to begin studying the Word started before I was saved. I was reading the Left Behind book series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. In those books, they would mention scriptures so I opened the Bible just to see it in context and I was so intrigued it made me curious to find out more.

4. How does inspiration work for you? How do you know that what you're writing or understanding is as if God is moving the pen and you're just the vehicle? 
TLK: Because I spend so much time listening to the Father, I find that He’s always speaking to me. Often He speaks to me through nature or when reading the Word a single word or phrase will stand out. When He illuminates an image or word I’ll do a word study on it. And I know it's Him because He’ll confirm the word again and again through out the week.

5. How do you handle complex topics that may not align with popular views? (Can you give an example?) 
TLK: God has called me to deliver some tough truths so I often find myself having to share that which may be unpopular or uncomfortable. But God reminded me that I’m not here to just make friends or to have people like me but to declare His truth. So I present the truth in love and share my personal stories related to the issue. An example of this would be the charge to honor God by honoring the physical temple. In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 we are reminded that this body is not our own and we are to honor it yet most of us make decisions daily to defile the temple by what we eat. And we see a preponderance of this occurring in the church. It is an uncomfortable issue to tackle but I am committed to sharing the truth in ways that can be easily implemented so people can begin to honor Him with their food choices.

6. When confronted by the truth of scripture, even for difficult topics, how does it re-orient you? 
TLK: The truth keeps me headed True North. And for me, that is continuing to walk in paths of righteousness for His namesake.  I’m not just doing this for myself but I recognize that I’ve got my children and the women I serve observing my walk.

7. Tell us a little bit about yourself, current projects you are working on and where you can be found.
TLK: At my core, I am an encourager so any day I can be found inspiring hearts; from my children to women on the playground, I’m usually sharing some nugget the Holy Spirit sends through my lips. I am an author, blogger, speaker and Women’s Group Leader. I am currently promoting my newly released book, Purposeful Parenting. It is not just for parents but is a story on how adults can transform their hearts so that they can give children the love they need and deserve. You can find the book here http://amzn.to/2unhvRi
I can be found inspiring hearts to live fully mind, body and spirit @ www.inspiredtolivefully.com
And on these Social Media platforms:
www.twitter.com/inspiredfully
www.instagram.com/inspiredfully
www.facebook.com/inspiredfully


8. How do you deal with discouragement and doubt? (Bonus question)
TLK: When doubtful or discouraged I saturate myself in truth. I listen to music that exhorts the truth, I take my eye off whatever the issue is, I take my eye off myself and I place it back on what God said about it. I may even blog about it as a means of ministering to others and to myself. I also have a few women in my circle that provide wise counsel and remind me of things the Lord has previously told me.

--Nylse

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Magical, Mysterious, Miraculous Prayer

Have you ever felt that your life mirrored the spin cycle of a washing machine? Everything has been thrown in and now it's all spinning at the same time? It seems out of control, this spinning, but it's not, because the spinning is for a purpose and the spinning ends, but you don't often know when your spin cycle will end.




Wedding     Surgery     Paperwork     Travel
     Moving     Packing     Merging of families
              Post Surgery Recovery
       Spin Cycle

The best thing to combat the Spin Cycle is to be prayed for and to pray. One of the first instances of actual interceding for someone on their behalf, where the word pray is actually used happens in the Old Testament in 1 Samuel 7:5 where Samuel prays for the Israelites. The Israelites recognized that they were in their own spin cycle - they thought the Lord had abandoned them, which is quite literally how we feel when it seems like everything is thrown at us and we're out of control. Samuel gave them some instructions: "get rid of your foreign gods and your images of Ashtoreth. Turn your hearts to the Lord and obey him alone; then he will rescue you from the Philistines." During the spin cycles of life, we become distracted and our focus shifts from the One who matters. So the Israelites did so and worshipped only the LordThen Samuel told them, “Gather all of Israel to Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.”

The Israelites recognized their need, they changed their ways and Samuel prayed. Once Samuel prayed, the Israelites went on to victory. Prior to Samuel praying they had misplaced confidence but after he prayed, though uncertain, their faith was strengthened and they had success.

Pray is magical, mysterious and miraculous; it is healing, encouraging and an act of love to hear someone petition God on your behalf. It will remove anxiety; it will remind you to be still and propel you to pray. To intercede in prayer means to go before God on another’s behalf.

Lamentations 2:19 encourages us to, "Lift up your hands to Him for the lives of your children." So as the wedding approaches and there's standard pre-wedding jitters and stress in addition to dealing with a major health crisis, I took my daughter aside and prayed aloud for her. If I were focused on her demeanor during prayer, I'm certain I would have noticed relief, surprise, comfort, relaxation which encapsulates what happens when we are bold enough to pray for someone audibly in their time of need.

Sometimes it does not matter what you say - just the very fact that you are praying makes all the difference in the world. You experience a selfless love when you pray. Praying demonstrates a relationship - definitely between you and God, and between you and the person you are praying for. Praying demonstrates hope and faith. Praying says I know Someone who can help. Praying provides wisdom, guidance, and peace.

Prayer is as vital as breathing; I encourage you to do it. Pray from the heart when you're happy or sad; mad or glad. Don't worry what others think, it's your heart and it matters to God. There is absolutely nothing that you cannot bring in prayer to God. Just Pray.

Spin cycles come to an end and usually after all of that turbulence your clothes are clean. In the same vein, I know, just like any bride knows that the spin cycle of wedding planning will come to an end and with God's covering it will be the start of a new thing that God is doing in both of their lives, propelling them on to victory.
For we are not presenting our petitions before You based on our righteous acts, but based on Your abundant compassion. Daniel 9:18,19



We don’t know what to do, so we’re looking to you. 2 Chronicles 20:12


Men ought always to pray and not to faint.  Luke 18:1


If you can center yourself, be still, pray and be prayed for, you'll be able to go through your spin cycle and come out standing. Simply pray.


--Nylse

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Monday, July 31, 2017

Book Review - The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

I didn't want to read this book let alone like the book. But this book was just sitting there begging to be read. I read it in 24 hours; so much for not wanting to read a book. This book is not a how to self-help manual, which was why I had no interest in reading it initially, but rather it's one person's story of how she changed her mindset and what it looked like for her.

Shonda Rhimes is the writer/producer/creator (she has many titles) behind Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal and How To Get Away with Murder. Even if you live under a rock, when you come out ever so often you will hear of one of these shows especially if it's a Thursday night.

This book shares one woman's viewpoint of going from a No to a Yes mentality. A No mentality is: where you're afraid of what a yes will mean so you live safely in your cocoon; where you unintentionally isolate yourself even if you appear successful; where you aren't determining your happiness, you're just existing. This mentality defined the author for most of her life until she made the choice to approach things differently. She shares her transition by letting the reader into her brain so that through the book you can see how she navigated from point A - No to Point B - Yes and the profound impact it had on her.

This book is well written in the author's voice. It's authentic and compelling and a book I reluctantly but heartily recommend.



--Nylse

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

This Is Your Opportunity to Create a Legacy

Sometimes I can't believe the family I have. I can't say that when I was growing up we were a close knit family as is portrayed on screen. We were close because we had no choice. No one was going anywhere and if we did it was done as a unit. As we got older, and life intervened we all went our separate ways. And these days, though I love getting together with my siblings we just don't have a close family dynamic. There are some elephants in the room whenever we're together and we just can't seem to get past them. We keep feeding the elephant when it should be kicked out; elephants don't belong with humans or in rooms.

This is a legacy.

With my husband, I have been able to create a family that makes me genuinely happy. We hang out with each other and we talk, really talk with each other. If there's no one else around I'm quite content to hang out with these people and in my wildest dreams, I never thought this was possible. As the wedding approaches, we find ourselves randomly practicing dance moves for the big day. We find ourselves vetoing another's silliness all in good fun or having our typical family banter via group chat.

My husband has always been more focused on us doing things as a family. That's the phrase he uses, "we're going to do this as a family." I wasn't always keen on this idea, but I went along and now today we just automatically do things as a family, if we can.

This too is a legacy.

He was intentional about creating good experiences, but so was I in a different way. I was big on Family Devotions, Sunday Dinners, Christmas and over time Thanksgiving and any other family holidays. Through a best friend, we started having birthday get togethers where we had a cake and sang Happy Birthday. It might have been just us or it might have included anyone who was over at the time. When we had children, I thought about what would my children think about their family. As much I could control it, I did my part in creating favorable memories. We still talk about the time I burnt my son's birthday cake, or the time my husband took a daughter on a shopping spree for her birthday, or the time another daughter thought she outsmarted me by buying a pair of sneakers.

This is a legacy.

Legacy happens whether you're intentional or not. You and your spouse are leaving an imprint on the next generation. As much as it depends on you, be willing to work with each other, compromise, talk and share to create beautiful moments for the next generation. Part of my legacy is knowing that we were so grounded in God's Word we lived it out and passed it on to our children while going after life with gusto. Whatever your legacy is, I hope it is grounded in love: love of God and love of family.

In Caesarea, there lived a Roman army officer named Cornelius, who was a captain of the Italian Regiment. He was a devout, God-fearing man, as was everyone in his household. He gave generously to the poor and prayed regularly to God. Acts 10:1,2

What's your legacy?



--Nylse

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Your Faith Can Eliminate Worry


Don't worry! We hear it all the time yet it's the first thing we do when faced with any daunting
circumstance. In spite of ourselves, we worry more than we should because it's almost second nature.

We worry about our children in myriad ways - are they OK? will they be damaged? are we raising them right?
We worry about our jobs and our careers - Will I ever get promoted? Did I follow the procedure correctly?
We worry about money - How am I going to pay for this? Where am I going to find the money to pay for this part, this piece, this project?
We worry about other people - Do they like me? Will I like them? Did I say something to upset them?
We worry about our relationships - I wonder what he's thinking? Why didn't she return my call?

Do you notice how our worries seem to take the form of questions? Who are we asking these questions of and who will provide the answers? If we were asking ourselves, we might have the answers.

We worry incessantly and it drives us crazy but we are told not to worry. Not only are we told not to worry we are told we don't need to worry because worrying doesn't solve a problem but creates more anxiety (Matthew 6:25-34). We are told to discard the worry and instead practice and exercise faith (Matthew 11:28-30). Not worrying is the first step of faith because as soon as you realize the futility of worrying you also simultaneously begin to realize the beauty of trusting. It's at this point you make a choice to either continue to worry or to exercise faith

I am not immune to worrying, as a matter of fact, the longer I live the more things they are to potentially consume my thoughts. Among other things, we are in the middle of planning a wedding. But I have learned and am learning that the more faith I exhibit the greater peace which eliminates the need to worry.  When I'm tempted to worry I pray (just like I learned in Sunday School). I pick up my Bible and read any part of it for I remember that faith comes through the Word of God. Romans 10:17 I remember to praise Him with a greater frequency and exhibit a grateful heart. Psalms 119.  I tell myself to stop worrying. All of this happens between my ears sometimes in a split second and sometimes over a longer period of time but I make the choice not to worry.

God knew that worrying is part of human nature, but he also knew that He was the antidote to worry. Wouldn't it be great if exercising our faith was second nature instead of worrying? We can know a calm regardless of our circumstances - "The peace of God, which transcends all understanding” which He has promised will “guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7)

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. Psalms 56:3
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Philippians 4:6



"Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength."- Corrie Ten Boom

--Nylse


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Thursday, July 20, 2017

My Best Marriage Advice

When I got married 28 years ago we went to counseling and as I sit here today I can't remember anything I learned in those sessions. I did a sanity check and asked a friend who also has been married for a long time and she also had the same response. Though premarital counseling was valuable there's nothing that beats experience. So here's what I've learned along the way:

Keep the doors of communication open. By any means necessary, communicate. Sometimes it will be loud, sometimes soft, sometimes nothing will need to be said. Sometimes you may use therapy speak, you know..."I feel this way when you say XYZ ....." but most times you'll be who you are. Sometimes you'll text and sometimes you'll leave notes around the house. The point is to communicate, communicate, communicate even in the mess.

Communication leads to other things - intimacy, knowledge, growth. Sex is a form of communication that is fun and messy and complicated! Enjoy it but just know like everything else, over time it will change. Drives change, bodies change, frequencies change - it's all good.

Hug and laugh often though there will be times when you don't feel like hugging and there's nothing to laugh about. Ride it through.

Grow duck feathers and let each other's offenses roll off your back. If you don't deal with an offense but try to smother it, it will lead to resentment. Resentment can start from the stupidest stuff and it just grows until you wonder why you're so angry with each other. Resentment is the third party that you don't want in your marriage, so learn to forgive without holding a grudge and forgive often. Have a short memory when it comes to offenses.

Learn each other as the person you marry today will change. We all change. Learn and grow together and do nice things for the old person and the new ever evolving person. Do nice things.

All men don't cheat or have a desire to; all women aren't domestic or automatically know how to change a diaper. Don't bring generalizations around marriage and gender roles into your marriage, instead, continue to figure each other out in the context of your marriage and work with what you have.

Most importantly, have the same spiritual foundation. Take divorce out of the equation. You're stuck with each other like peanut butter and jelly so figure it out because peanut butter is so much better with jelly!

Marriage is a wonderful thing. I don't say that lightly or because it's the thing to say. I am the person I am today because of my marriage. Marriage has allowed me to develop and grow in ways  I did not know I was capable of.  The preparation isn't what made it work but rather the commitment to each other and to the marriage. This commitment cemented in love has allowed my marriage to blossom for marriage is love in action.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

What was your premarital counseling experience like? Do you remember any of it? What's the best advice you received prior to getting married? What's the worse?

--Nylse

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Monday, July 17, 2017

How to Deal with SPAM

At first glance, this email looked like any other email. But upon further inspection, it came from an unknown source, with an address similar to one that was familiar, with instructions to click an attachment. This was not productive email, but SPAM - the gateway to foolishness, aggravation, and frustration. The only way to avoid getting caught was to know what the real thing looked like and to be aware that such a thing as SPAM exists.

Have you ever clicked on one of those innocent looking emails thinking it was harmless? I have and here is what happened:

Denial - I couldn't believe I was so foolish! I knew better yet because of curiosity and denial of reality I clicked.

Discovery - Clicking led to a new problem: malware was installed on my computer. Malware is annoying. It takes a special kind of person to write this piece of software. Now every 5 minutes another window opened telling me to click to download. Or a voice started speaking telling me to call a number to have my PC cleaned. And while this was happening, this piece of software was infecting programs on my entire machine. This innocent click produced damaging results that drove me crazy.

Determination - I couldn't solve this problem on my own. Every time I thought I had removed the problem, it showed up somewhere else. I had to call in an expert who had all the tools to remove the problem. In dealing with the expert, I noticed he was calm though I was not. The expert had seen so many people with this problem he was amazed that they still fell for it. Better yet he had become quite efficient at resolving this problem. What took hours for me, seemed to take only 10 minutes for him.

Discernment - At this point, I became more vigilant about SPAM detection. I always check the source, and I delete any email that appears problematic.

The proliferation of spam E-mail mirrors the misinformation we are bombarded with today, some with malicious and insidious intent. For our emails, we are told to create filters, use the SPAM folder, block unwanted senders, and to not open attachments from an unknown source.

We can use these same rules in our lives. Create a filter - set your affections on things above, not on things upon this earth. (Colossians 3:2) Use the SPAM folder - let the Word of God be your guide (Colossians 3:16); seek out wise counsel in everything (Proverbs 12:15, Proverbs 11:14); guard your heart and your thoughts (Proverbs 4:23). Block unwanted senders - don't be unequally yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14-16); know your purpose (Colossians 3:12-18) so that you're not immersed in a lifestyle you had no intentions of being a part of.

The only way to not be duped by SPAM is to know the real thing. The only way to not be duped by the enemy of our souls is to know Jesus. Get to know Him by spending time with Him. He's the expert who has seen it all before.

“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free…if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” John 8:32, 36.

How do you deal with SPAM?


--Nylse

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Good Partnership

Bryan Brothers
It's your team's turn to serve. Your partner and you go to the baseline, you quickly converse about a strategy, you both assume your positions, you execute. Whether you win or lose the point, you regroup, show some physical contact and do it all over again.

Doubles tennis, though not as popular as singles, is twice as much fun to watch with more energy and more surface area for play. It would seem that two are better than one, but doubles require more coordination, communication, and grace.

As a single, your strategy is your own - it's in your head and no one knows what will happen until you serve. But in doubles, both parties have to be on the same page. Often times you will see teams using surreptitious ways to communicate with each other so that the other side is unaware. They may use the tennis balls to cover their mouths or whisper in each other's ears. The point is, as a team, only they know what they're doing; no one else does. A doubles partnership is beginning to look like a good marriage - no one else needs to know every detail of your marriage; only you and your spouse are privy to that information.

Next, each partner assumes their position. The server stays at the baseline and the other player goes close to the net and crouches while her partner is serving. Once the ball is over the net, she gets up and is prepared to hit any ball that comes her way. The server moves in and covers the back of the court and is also prepared. They may have discussed what shots they were going to use and now they are executing. Some volleys are so long and exciting, the positions may change. Again, as in marriage, each person knows their position and plays, though sometimes each person's position may change based on the circumstance, it's for the betterment of the team.

After a point is played, whether a doubles team won or lost the point, at the end of each point they always hi-fived or touched hands and then re-grouped. Physical contact is important as it says, we're in this together. It's almost as if it didn't matter the outcome of the point, but that you played your part and made the effort. You made the effort. High five, shake it off, strategize, and continue to play the game. Continue to make the effort.

Our marriages require more coordination, communication, and grace. We start together and we're on the same page. We strategize, execute, high five and repeat. We forgive and give grace. We keep putting the effort in and serving up love like a good doubles game until this life is over.

Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction? Amos 3:3

How is your doubles partnership?



--Nylse

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Staying Within The Lines

Before Venus and Serena Williams became well known, their father was watching TV one day and saw the awards ceremony for a Tennis match. As the story goes, at that moment when he saw how much money tennis players made, he decided that his daughters would play tennis.  And play tennis they did as they have continued to reap the rewards of this sport. It was not an easy choice but a worthwhile choice.

In order to play tennis, you have to know the rules. One of the most important rules of the game is to keep the ball within the lines - keep the ball in. Within the lines, you can hit the ball as hard as you want or as soft as you wish, you can be loud or you can be soft, you can have a beautiful backhand or look clumsy making a shot. It doesn't matter as long as the ball remains within the lines. Of course, there are rules that govern behavior - profane or obscene comments immediately incur a point penalty, as does misconduct or unsportsmanlike behavior such as smashing your racket or threatening a linesperson. A tennis court is 78 feet long and  27 feet wide for singles matches; 36 feet for doubles matches. This court is straight and narrow and yet it is worthwhile to make the effort of staying within the lines. Though there are constraints, which are in place for the effectiveness of the game, there is freedom within the lines.

Staying within the lines is so important that the Hawkeye system was created. If a call is questionable, Hawkeye determines if the ball was in or out and the player has to accept Hawkeye's determination. Hawkeye has the final word.

I have never heard a tennis player say, "I wish I could hit the ball outside the lines or anywhere I want." This would be a pointless statement. Playing the game well by the rules gives each player the potential to reap huge rewards.

As Christians God tells us to stay within the lines with our actions, our words, our thoughts. He says it's worth it. He said, you're not constricted as a matter of fact you're free. And the Holy Spirit as He speaks through the Word is our Hawkeye!

You may be tentative about this Christian life or about becoming a Christian. But if you liken the Christian walk to the game of tennis and choose to play, it will be the most rewarding game you have ever played. If you think being a Christian is boring, look at a tennis player - they are anything but bored. They are playing for a worthwhile reward as is a Christian who reaps rewards here on Earth - peace, power, love, abundance, wisdom, assurance (this is a short list), and for eternity. Ephesians 1:3-12

You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it. Matthew 7:13-14


Are you in the game? Are you willing to make the sacrifices for the rewards of the game?

--Nylse

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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Mothers, Daughters and Self-Image

Eating disorders are pervasive in our current culture and there was a time when it seemed to reach epidemic proportions. I wondered what part, if any, does a parent play, in particular, a mother, when it comes to body image disorders such as anorexia and bulimia which overwhelmingly affect females.

Research indicates that there seems to be a correlation between a mother's fixation with her image which may unintentionally send the wrong message to a child especially if she has a different body type. But then there are also cases where a mother didn't send a negative message yet the daughter still ended up with an eating disorder.

For myself, I cannot say that my mother ever made a fuss about her body image or her weight - she had other pressing matters to deal with like keeping house and ensuring her large family was happy. I was a very skinny girl and my mother was not. I distinctly remember having an assignment where we had to create a healthy diet. Working with my mother, we created the following diet: Breakfast - Bacon, Eggs, Bakes (Pancakes) and Orange Juice. Lunch: Rice and Beans, Chicken, Plantains, and Coleslaw. Supper: A Corn Beef Sandwich and Tea.

When I submitted this assignment, I distinctly remember the teacher looking at this 'diet' in disbelief and then giving me the once over and deciding it was OK. I was unbelievably skinny and everything in this diet was meant to fatten me up.  BTW I ate like a horse and still didn't gain weight; I was 99 pounds when I got married at 22 and after the honeymoon had gained a whopping 6 pounds. Finally, I had cleared the 100-pound milestone!!!!

I knew I was skinny because I was teased for it at school but I was never made to feel bad about it at home nor did I ever feel bad because of my weight. My mother was not slim and she carried herself well, so I never thought negatively or rather had any thoughts about her weight. She also didn't make any comments within my hearing regarding her appearance or her weight. But as I had children and heard what other mothers were saying about weight gain etc, I became conscious about weight - mine, and others. My daughters have always known that I prided myself on the way I look, but I wasn't overbearing with it. They've heard me say I feel fat without being anywhere near fat. As a mother, I had to be responsible for my words and actions yet still be a person. As it related to food consumption, I made food choices early on for the family that they didn't have a say in, based on what I thought was best. For example, I never bought sodas, focused on fruits and vegetables, only bought wheat bread. This is what they knew and this was their normal.


I became conscious of how I spoke to my daughters about weight and body image. The older they got, the greater wisdom I had to exercise especially if this was a touchy area. Sometimes I said nothing, and if I said anything it was minimal. I'd seen other parents lose this battle and I learned that I had to pick my battles. Weight gain or weight loss, I still wanted my children to feel accepted and loved. Apparently, I wasn't always successful at this, because to a young child a critique may seem like a deadly blow. My daughter told me many years later that I made her feel insecure because of her weight when she was much younger but somehow it didn't lead to a downward spiral of an eating disorder. Maybe I knew to stop, maybe she knew that she was worthwhile, maybe it was a combination of both. Maybe in all of these maybes, God was in the mix providing wisdom, understanding, discernment, and grace.


There's a balance to how we do this, but even if we do everything right, we still don't know how it will be received by the child. That's the challenge of parenting. Ultimately I had to know that I was worthy, not because of how I looked or felt but because I was loved by God. This love gave me worth and confidence which my children could emulate and which I could pass on. I think this was my mother's secret and it became mine. It can be summed up in this quote by Naomi Wolf,  "A mother who radiates self-love and self-acceptance actually vaccinates her daughter against low self-esteem, with a caveat that the Source of this self-love is very important.

Young minds are particularly susceptible to the lies of the enemy and eating disorders are behaviors controlled by lies that show up in their approach to food. Am I saying that if you are anchored in Christ you are immune from having a daughter that struggles with these issues? No, but what I have seen in my own life is that this makes a huge difference. A mother knowing Whose she is and who she is makes an imperceptible difference to her daughter.

The enemy of our souls won't quit - so he may not get his hooks in to create full-blown eating disorders but he'll keep trying. As Christian mothers, we have a power that can defeat the enemy. We have to believe it, tap into it, and use it. Perhaps with the strength of the scriptures, one less daughter will fall into an eating disorder.

God has not given us the spirit of fear but of love, power and a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Psalms 34:18

People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy. Proverbs 28:13

There's no age limit on any of these verses. In order to deal with anything, you must first acknowledge that it exists. Start there, then reach out to others around you until you have the resources and strength that you need. Please don't believe the lies that lead to an eating disorder; starving the body to control the mind does not provide a balance of health and well-being and doesn't provide the answers that started you down this path. God created you to fulfill His purpose through you, so know that self-inflicted pain is no way to live. God wants you to thrive while you're alive, not live a life of lack because you are trying to control your body. Turn over the controls to Him. 

--Nylse

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Monday, July 3, 2017

Women of The Word - Pastor Andrea Humphrey

"Each person touching someone as we pray," is something Pastor Andrea Humphrey says every time she speaks. Recognizing that some won't experience human connection for any number of reasons and that it is because of God's great love that we can, we are encouraged to connect. She has a heart for people to experience all that God has to offer. Pastor Andrea Humphrey co-pastors Hopes House with her husband. As someone who has read her books and heard her speak on a regular basis, I'd like to introduce you to this month's Woman of the Word. Be encouraged and blessed.

Andrea Humphrey

1. As someone who studies the Bible, what are your favorite tools and resources?
AH: My favorite tools are the Word itself, Logos Bible Software, www.blueletterbible.com and Biblegateway.com

2. Old Testament, New Testament or both?
AH: I love both!


3. Why do you study the Bible? What was your initial motivation? 
AH: I heard the gospel preached as a teenager and was drawn instantly to it. I love its flow, the way it tells stories, the power of the message and the way it grabs you when you think you have heard it all before. I am inspired, challenged, convicted, refreshed and captivated by its completeness and fortified by its grace.

4. How does inspiration work for you? How do you know that what you're writing or understanding is as if God is moving the pen and you're just the vehicle? 
AH: There is a moment when I know God steps in and it is if the pen is writing by itself and I am not a part of the equation. The thoughts are things I would not think, the connections are those that I would not make and the impact is nothing I could manufacture.

5. How do you handle complex topics that may not align with popular views? (Can you give an example?) 
AH: I preach them anyway. The word can stand on its own and God can defend himself so I leave that to Him to worry about and I just move forward with what He gives me to teach.


6. When confronted by the truth of scripture, even for difficult topics, how does it re-orient you? 
AH: I take it in and I ask the Lord to allow it to tear down any religious thoughts or feelings I have in that area. I then ask forgiveness for anything wrong I may have lived out or taught prior to that knowledge of the truth.


7. Tell us a little bit about yourself, current projects you are working on and where you can be found.
AH: I am a lead pastor functioning often as a senior pastor at Hopes House Christian Ministries casting vision and carrying out the mission as God has called our house to fulfill. I just completed my doctorate in Pastoral Leadership and Biblical Studies and that was difficult but extremely rewarding. I am prone to look at the Word in light of both the church and the marketplace as I have an MBA and have worked in corporate America for many years. I believe God wants us to have an impact in the world as well as the church. I am a mother to a 15 and 11-year-old, and my goal is to raise daughters who love Jesus, see a powerful but submitted mom and respect their dad and God in ways that the world has rarely seen. In addition, I am a published author of More Than Just His Wife and Transformed for A Purpose: A Practical Plan to Get Unstuck and Live a Power Filled Life.


8. How do you deal with discouragement and doubt? (Bonus question) 
AH: Honestly I usually pick up the phone and talk to a friend. I know that most would say they go to God first but I usually look to hear an audible voice to jolt me out of whatever funk I am in. Then they usually pray for me and push me toward God and I pray and seek His face for relief. Sometimes I can get there on my own but I wanted to be honest and say I often need a person and a hug or an encouraging word or just an ear.


--Nylse

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Vacuum Cleaner and Hope

I own the Cadillac of vacuum cleaners, or so I was led to believe - a Kirby G5. You see, we bought this vacuum cleaner over 20 years ago as the result of a sales presentation at our house.

Normally, I am resistant to these demos but the salesperson caught us at the right time - our son was just diagnosed with asthma and was having major attacks and when he vacuumed his mattress and showed us what this vacuum cleaner could do, we were sold. (BTW, do you vacuum your mattress?) So we invested and bought this vacuum cleaner.

This vacuum cleaner came with a manual and a video, providing instructions on its maintenance. Over time I became intimidated by the maintenance of the vacuum cleaner; I felt like I could never remember the steps for changing the belt - but thankfully the need for changing the belt was not often. I did use the video to tap into some of the other features of this Cadillac such as shampooing the carpets, but again over time I stopped. It was too much of a hassle (or so I thought).

This vacuum cleaner moved with us to the west coast; initially, it was working and then it stopped. I couldn't find the manual or the video so I left it sitting in the garage for years and in the interim bought two cheaper vacuum cleaners. Both of these ultimately died and both were not as good as my Kirby. In my new location, I discovered that there were two vacuum cleaner repair shops that specialized in Kirbys. Because everything is more expensive in CA or so I was led to believe, I hesitated before finally taking the vacuum in for service. My house was becoming dusty and this was becoming a crisis. I anticipated paying $200.00 to have this vacuum cleaner serviced; imagine my relief when I was told it was 50.00. I was never so excited to spend $50.00. Finally, I had a working vacuum cleaner and my crisis was averted.

Within the past two years, that service store closed so now I was forced to use the other store. Well, the service is different at this store and more costly. I paid, but I decided my trips would be minimal. I asked my husband to vacuum our bedroom recently. While vacuuming, something got in that shouldn't and all of a sudden the place smelt like burning rubber. He thought he'd ruined the vacuum cleaner and with great remorse, called to let me know as I was not home at the time. I told him not to worry, I'd deal with it later. As I assessed the problem I realized the belt was off and installing the belt was always my nemesis. What to do? Somehow the brilliant idea came to me that I could Youtube it. So I had the Little One search for "how to change a belt on the Kirby" and lo and behold we had options. I chose the shortest one - one minute and 32 seconds, watched it a couple of times while pausing as I completed each step until I had successfully changed the belt.

Why did it take me so long to master something so simple?

  • My thoughts got in the way - I thought it was complicated to maintain because of the initial cost.
  • I believed some myths/lies - it's complicated and costly to maintain.
  • Bad timing - it's hard to maintain; I couldn't find the manual or the original video


But this time I was motivated. I knew I could do it. I wanted what every Kirby owner enjoyed - peace of mind and knowledge. I decided to try a new method of grasping the same old information. Youtube did it for me! There are many ways to share information - speaking, writing, texting, blogging, vlogging, youtube. And since we're all different and have different learning styles, none of these methods are right or wrong. As I watched that video, I was grateful that someone chose to make it and I was encouraged to continue sharing information, truth, and encouragement in the medium that works for me because there are those that are receptive to it. I also was glad I was motivated and never gave up and kept trying different methods until I conquered this.

Sometimes it seems as if we praying for a long time to see the truth, or for a particular person. Many prayers have been sent up, but still, we see no change. Like a Youtube video 20 years later, you may finally see the light. Don't give up, remember your motivation, stop believing lies and keep trying.

Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8

Have you ever felt like giving up? What motivates you to keep going?

--Nylse

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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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