Thursday, January 28, 2016

It Ain't Over!

"It ain't over until God says over; it ain't over until God says it's done.  Keep fighting until the victory is won."

This song has gotten me through so many runs because when I think of the goodness, power, majesty, mercy of God and all of His other attributes, combined with a catchy melody I am able to run farther and faster. This song combined with other Gospel songs is the reason why I look forward to running - the music literally moves me and I feel like I am worshipping God as I run. I am worshipping God as I run. Running this Christian race will make you better; a better person yielding more spiritual fruit.

I didn't intend to become a runner, but
"Something Happens" to me when I hear the name of Jesus.

As I'm "Encouraging Myself", I reflect on scripture on where I am and where He's brought me from.

As I "Work It Out" physically, I see the correlation spiritually.

These songs are all over 5 minutes and some are as long as 7 minutes; that's a worthwhile goal - completing a mile before 2 songs are over.

Before you know it, you'll find yourself soaring spiritually and physically. Or maybe that's just me.

Here are some of my other favorites from my Pandora station:
  • I Got The Victory - Tye Tribbett
  • Jesus Can Work it out - various gospel artists
  • The Blessing of Abraham - Donald Lawrence and the Tri-City Singers
  • The Presence of The Lord is Here - Byron Cage
  • We Lift Our Hands In the Sanctuary - Kurt Carr
  • Lord, You are Good (live) - Israel Houghton
  • Faithful is our God - Hezekiah Walker
  • I will Bless The Lord (live) - Byron cage. 
  • I'm Grateful (the reprise) - Hezekiah Walker
  • Praise Him In Advance - Marvin Sapp. 
  • I Smile - Kirk Franklin

I know the odds look stacked against you
And it seems there's no way out
I know the issue seems unchangeable
And that there's no reason to shout
But the impossible is God's chance
To work a miracle, a miracle
So just know

It ain't over until God says it's over
It ain't over until God says it's done
It ain't over until God says it's over
Keep fighting until your victory is won

He never said it would be easy
But you're a winner in the end
Jesus defeated all your enemies
Way before the fight began
But the impossible is God's chance
To work a miracle, a miracle
So just know

It ain't over until God says it's over
It ain't over until God says it's done
It ain't over until God says it's over
Keep fighting until your victory is won

When people say you can't, remember
(He can, He will)
When you don't know what you're gonna do,
Please remember
(He has the master plan)
He will free you from your sin
And give you peace within
So you better hold your head up high
You're gonna win
(You're gonna win)

It ain't over until God says it's over
It ain't over until God says it's done
It ain't over until God says it's over
Keep fighting until your victory is won

Keep fighting, keep praying, keep fasting
It ain't over, no
Keep pressing, progressing, keep moving
It ain't over, no
Keep reading, interceding, keep believing
It ain't over, no
Keep trusting, keep trying, keep travailing
It ain't over, no
Keep living, keep giving, keep going
It ain't over, no
Keep fighting until your victory is won

Then I will praise God’s name with singing, and I will honor him with thanksgiving. Psalm 69:30 [NLT]

How does music help you? 

Monday, January 25, 2016

It Takes Two


Surprisingly, I like to read the comics. They make me laugh, keep me young and sometimes reinforce a life lesson. I've been reading Blondie since I could read. (BTW, it's pretty funny how cartoon characters never age). This cartoon today portrayed an important lesson - we're all imperfect. If two people end up in a squabble both of you were wrong. One of you may have been less wrong than the other but you were both wrong because you ended up squabbling and walked away with hurt feelings. Hurt feelings can be the beginning of a permanent split in relationships. I've been on both sides of this equation in my life.

It is surprisingly easy in a squabble to think that you were not wrong. I think we all like to think highly of ourselves. But as humans there's a cause and effect factor - your behavior influences my actions and vice versa. No one squabbles with themselves, and if we are squabbling we are raising our voices, and thinking about how to win. We are not being kind or loving in that instance. So even though your part in the squabble may be minuscule, you played a part and both of you ought to apologize so that restoration can take place.

Dagwood and Herbert are lifelong friends, so I'm sure after many attempts at restoration they figured out that dual apologies were in order. In our lifelong friendships and relationships, there's a lot at stake when we both can't say "I'm sorry" with sincerity. Sometimes the one who apologizes first is the one who recognizes their offense, or sometimes they're just trying to be the bigger person, recognizing what's at stake. Either way, it requires a degree of humility to apologize but our relationships are worth it. Let's not let small squabbles turn into generational rifts.

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Philippians 2:3 [KJV]

Is it easier or more difficult to forgive those that you have a close relationship with? Do you always feel you're right in a squabble? Is it possible you're not?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Practical Advice - Unity

Unity - it is something that we all want; it is something that when we see it in action we wish it for ourselves. Beauty contestants wish for world peace - but the beginning of world peace is unity; all of us getting along.

We want unity in our homes, in our marriages, at work, in our friendships.

If you're a mother and you see your children constantly fighting, you wonder if they will ever get along.

When you see a couple who are constantly antagonistic toward each other - it's awkward to watch and makes you wonder.

How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! Psalm 133:1

When I read this verse, it always seems like a balm, a refreshing salve because the writer has also observed the beauty of unity in action and he likens it to oil running down a beard. I've never had a beard but I do have hair and when oil runs down the strands of my hair - it melts it, it makes my hair feel good; I want to keep touching my hair.

Unity in action is acknowledging each other, acquiescing when necessary, yet not losing yourself. Traits of vociferousness, obstreperousness, callousness do not lend themselves to unity. Unity employs basic respect and sincerity. Unity breaks down when we all stop trying.

Let's not give up on unity. As a believer, pray for unity in all of your relationships and the wisdom and courage to do your part. It's hard for us to be the people we want to be in our own strength; only with God's help can we make this work. May our callous hearts be melted by the oil of unity.

 How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!
For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe.
Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion.
And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting. Psalms 133 [NLT]

Monday, January 18, 2016

Book Review - Having Our Say; The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years

I stumbled upon this treasure - Having Our Say, at a local book reseller. Sometimes I just want to read books about African Americans who have lived extraordinary lives; this book fits the bill. The title alone is intriguing - the first 100 years implies that there is a second set of 100 years. That fact alone made me curious to see what was inside, combined with the fact that there were sisters who lived together.

100 years is a couple of lifetimes; 100 years in America for Black people spans many seminal events from slavery to the Civil War, to Jim Crow, and after.  These two women - Sarah and Elizabeth (Bessie) share how their family lived through these events and the wisdom gained along the way.

The Delanys were a family of 10 children from North Carolina; their father was born in slavery yet became the nation's first black Episcopal bishop; their mother could have "passed" for white but chose not to.

The parents shepherded the children so that they were aware of the dangers of the time, yet protecting them while instilling in all the children ambition. Every child had to work to pay his way for college - and all 10 of those children did. For a while, they were all quite prominent in NYC as lawyers, doctors, and educators. Of the 10 children, Sarah and Bessie ended up together - they lived together and worked in NY; Bessie as a dentist and Sadie as a teacher. The family was quite close and looked out for each other professionally and personally. When their father died, their mom lived with Bessie and Sadie and it was not burdensome. The mom got to travel with her daughters and have new experiences.

There's tons of wisdom in this book from these ladies:
Bessie didn't fly and this was her reasoning - "When you're in a train and it breaks down, well there you is. But when you're in a plane and it breaks down, there you ain't."

I thought I could change the world. It took me a hundred years to figure out, I can't change the world, I can only change Bessie, and honey that ain't easy either.

Sadie on dealing with institutionalized racism - you had to decide: Am I going to change the world or am I going to change me? Or maybe change the world a little bit, just by changing me? If I can get ahead, doesn't that help my people?

Life is short and it's up to you to make it sweet.

This book is a goldmine of wisdom from two ladies. If they were alive I know I would enjoy their company, instead, I've read the book.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Feeling Misunderstood

Do you ever feel misunderstood? In particular, do you feel misunderstood in the relationships that really matter to you? Have you noticed, that you never know when a misunderstanding may occur? This is why being misunderstood is so frustrating.

 The basis of being misunderstood is when our intentions don't line up with our actions.  However, usually, we feel misunderstood because our well-intentioned thoughts don't translate to well-meaning actions. I gather there are many scenarios for being misunderstood but the most common would be that you are well-intentioned. 

Being misunderstood is an opportunity to examine others and yourself. Let's start with others first. Intellectually we know that everyone will not understand us; everyone won't "get" us. There are myriad personalities in this world and even though personality assessments are done that group common characteristics of various personality types into subgroups, even within those subgroups there are huge variations. I have not met my twin - that person that is exactly like me. I watch House Hunters and one thing that I take away from this show is people like what they like and there's no rhyme or reason to it. That's how humans are with their personalities - it's the way we're wired and every facet of one's personality can't be explained or understood. The way we are wired can create misunderstanding. So it's pointless to try to be understood by all, but it grates when the ones closest to us seem to misunderstand us on a regular basis. I think this is when we have to look at the other person's personality and not confuse their personality with their character. Personality is an expression of who you are; it's your temperament; the way you do things; character is foundational and is based on your intrinsic morals and values. The core of who I am does not change but my expression of it may change. It's nuanced - but it may help in thinking about why misunderstandings occur and how to deal with them.

Being misunderstood also requires that we look at ourselves, especially when we are misunderstood by people we care about. So here are some questions to ask ourselves:

  • Are our motives sincere?
  • Is my conscience clear?
  • Am I trying to hide anything?

It's hard being misunderstood because sometimes it seems as if there is no way to clear it up. It seems like a no-win proposition and the answer seems to be "just don't do the thing that caused the misunderstanding in the first place." That's not realistic. For example, if I have a tendency of laughing before I make a point, you may think I'm laughing at you when the reality is my laughter is a reflex that had nothing to do with you. Now I can work this and explain this to you but it doesn't mean it won't ever happen again. My husband and children may know this but they won't always remember this, but as long as they remember that I meant no harm, the misunderstanding is easily resolved. And if I'm really not laughing at them, but it's purely a reflex then we're good. But this is why it's important to examine yourself to ensure that your intentions were well-meaning.

Ultimately, being misunderstood is a facet of life; some of us handle it better than others. Do what you can and know that you're ok especially after you've examined yourself and carry on. But examine yourself; don't rely on this is the way I am and there's nothing I can do to change it.  The essence of you won't change but adjustments can be made - that's life. Being misunderstood recognizes that we will be adjusting until we leave this earth and this is the hard part for all of us. Let's take it one misunderstanding at a time, so that we have the grace to carry on. Don't linger in the misunderstanding, move on.

It has been suggested that when you are misunderstood, you repeat these four sentences:
It’s not about me. It’s not about now. It’s all about God. It’s all about eternity. (Source)
So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. 1 Peter 5:6 [NLT]

How do you handle being misunderstood?

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Real Relationships

In my quiet time this morning my thoughts congealed around relationships - specifically how they fluctuate based on what we put in them.

A relationship won't flourish on its own, but it most certainly will remain stagnant with no input. To me, a relationship is like a plant. It's not the perfect analogy but there are some similarities.

When you take a potted plant or a seed and you place it in the soil, your goal is to see that plant grow and flourish. Therefore, you make every effort to ensure that the plant has everything it needs for growth. The soil needs to be good soil so that the plant can take. Location and climate are also factors - you definitely need the sun and moderate temperatures.

But if you have all of this but you never water or weed or fertilize - guess what happens to your plant? Not much (unless it's a plant that requires minimal intervention), but even then it still won't flourish.  My mother in law loves orchids, so being influenced by this love I recently bought my first orchid. I learned from the vendor that this beauty only needs to be watered once a week. I couldn't believe it, but it has turned out to be true. Even though an orchid is a low maintenance plant, I still need to do my part.

Just like relationships a plant truly thrives when you take the time to nurture it - water it on schedule as needed, trim leaves as needed, remove weeds as needed, and add fertilizer if necessary.
When I did this my plants thrived; when I didn't they were lackluster.

This all reminds me of the Biblical principal of reaping what we sow. In our relationships, we get out proportional to what we put in.

Let's take time to tend the relationships in our lives:
Provide the right climate where they can thrive - initially, determine if you have similar values. You don't have to be at the same place in life but it is helpful if your value systems are in alignment. As an example, when I was younger I had a friend who had an interesting way of thinking about life - nothing mattered. While not being preachy I'm sure I tried to counter her views whenever I can; she was not open to it at that point in time so eventually our paths diverged. In my marriage, my husband and I have very similar values and that has made all the difference in the world.

Water and nurture  - implies that you put in effort on a regular basis. Therefore, always be ready to listen; be there as much as humanly possible; disagree amicably; and be kind to each other.

Remove weeds - sometimes differences occur; don't nurse hurts but do your best to address and deal with it. In the best of relationships, there will be disagreements and hurt feelings because we are humans and not immune to bad behavior.

Fertilize  - enjoy each other's company; do things "just because", laugh and hug and always listen; don't betray a confidence.

Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. 2 Corinthians 9:6 [NLT]

Those who plant injustice will harvest disaster, and their reign of terror will come to an end. Proverbs 22:8 [NLT]

7 Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. 8 Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. 9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Galatians 6:7-9 [NLT]

Plant your relationships in the soil of love and respect and be intentional about nurturing the relationships in your life. Some of us are like orchids and some of us need daily attention like roses; may the people in our lives give us the attention we need and may we do the same for the relationships in our lives.

Are you nurturing your relationships?

Friday, January 1, 2016

Book Review - Climbing With Abraham

Sharing your thoughts with others can have wonderful results - but you've got to share first. As a result of my writing in this sphere, David Ramos approached me to review his Climbing With Abraham on Abraham.

In his initial email, he said, "My name is David Ramos. I am searching for reviewers who might be interested in reading a Christian devotional based on the life of Abraham and came across your blog because you have a similar approach to studying Scripture."

Flattered was an understatement. He read my blog, liked my style and saw that I wrote about things similar to what he captured in his book. So I eagerly embarked on this journey.

Since Climbing with Abraham is a 30-day devotional - I read and meditated on it during the month of December. As a reader and a writer, his writing styled resonated with me - it was simple, yet profound. More importantly, I got a new appreciation for the life of Abraham.

Some of my most compelling takeaways from this book were:

Abraham had a beginning - at the beginning of the story of Abraham, the Bible lists his descendants. Before we were, we came from somewhere. Our beginnings impact who we can become and our story begins long before we do. Our story is part of something infinitely larger.

Abraham made mistakes - God's patience and sovereignty are more powerful than our stumbles.

Abraham chose to believe - Therefore his faith impacted the faith of others he interacted with. The consequences of our faith do not just fall on us, but also onto our mates, our children, or our employees. Abraham, throughout his story, acted on what he believed.

Abraham's wife, Sarah was his constant companion - by our accounts, it would not appear that it was a perfect marriage; twice Abraham was willing to give Sarah away, and Sarah let her maid sleep with Abraham. As a couple they made mistakes but they were faithful to God and faithful to each other. Their blessings superseded their mistakes. In her death, he honored her for being there with him through thick and thin.

God's timing can baffle us - the story of Abraham reminds us that God’s plans are always incomprehensibly larger than our own. Abraham was frustrated along the way but held out hope on what was promised to him. Humans get frustrated because we don't understand God's ways.

Physical reminders - It’s okay to ask God, How can I know? Faith doesn’t always have to be

Nothing is too difficult for God - In Abraham's life, Sarah gave birth to Isaac at 90. In my life, I've seen it and some of it I've shared here on this blog, my late in life child (she was an answer to pray of one of her siblings), and my lost and found stories - to name a few.

Finally, an excerpt from the author: "Sometimes following God’s will looks exactly like normal life. Making choices without knowing which one is correct, dealing with personalities and circumstances to find a suitable outcome, and just trying and praying and letting things fall where they will.
The Christian life is, for the most part, not supernatural. What Christ and the Holy Spirit did and do is certainly beyond this world. But on our part, most of what we do will be classified as normal. Normal prayers, normal errands, normal difficulties and frustrations, and normal successes. It’s God who takes the normal and turns it into supernatural."

Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son. Genesis 18:14 [NLT]

As you start another year, take some time to meditate on Who controls your life. If you don't know, a devotional like this may be a good place to start. If you've become stagnant in your Christian walk, re-read the story of Abraham, a mere man who chose to believe the promises of God. Perhaps his life will help you to change your perspective also.