Guest Blogger: God, in the form of a black woman…

Guest Blogger: My Mother


The past few months have been unsettling to me.  As a mom, it’s hard to see your children go through difficult times.  We are ‘fixers’ by nature and it’s no different for me.  But when your child is 30 years old, there isn’t much you do to control their lives or situations.  So … I lay awake at night, feeling helpless.  One really good thing was getting a copy of “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young for Valentines Day.  It has helped me so much to seek Jesus’ presence in my life, and not depend on myself (or others) for my happiness.  

So last week I had my annual physical with Dr. B.  She is a small-framed, Nigerian-American woman.  This is the third year I’ve come to her for my physical and really like her as my doctor.  As I’m waiting to see her, I was asked to fill out the usual forms and explain any conditions or ailments that you have.  One of the questions was “Are you having trouble sleeping”?  “Are you depressed, anxious, etc?”  Even though I answered ‘no’ to every other question, I wondered if I should be totally honest with these two.  So I checked ‘yes’.

Dr. B came in and we began our conversation and exam.  She finally got to my ‘yes’ answers and asked why I wasn’t sleeping.  So I shared with her that my son got a divorce and how I knew the lack of sleep was only temporary.  She asked me a few questions, like how long had they been married, any children, etc.  I shared how easy it is to get a divorce these days and we talked a bit about ‘commitment’.   I told her that my sleepless nights had been good for my prayer life.  She looked into my eyes and nodded, knowingly.  She said God is good.

I told her that the good thing was that my son had come back to the church … joined us every Sunday for worship, was reading his bible, and had joined a men’s bible study.  He had never done that before, so I felt God was a work in him.  I’m not sure why, but then I sort of opened up to her and said that I even questioned God, because, after all, I had prayed almost every day for my son and his wife.  I sensed something wasn’t quite right with them and knew they needed prayer.  I wondered why He hadn’t answered my prayer.

Dr. B listened quietly and then shared that divorce was a sin, but a forgivable sin.  She said maybe God would rather have my son’s soul and the divorce, rather than a good marriage without having them turned toward Him.  What?  I sat there (in my cute little gown) with my mouth open!  Would God really want my son’s soul so badly to have this other bad thing happen?  Or is it just that with God, nothing is truly wasted?  I believe the latter.  

Dr. B also shared a story with me about how when she was married, several years ago, she and her American husband went back to Nigeria to get married.  She shared that her and her husband-to-be only wanted a very simple wedding … no alcohol, no dance … just a simple ceremony.  Her family was enraged and said they were disgracing the family and they must have alcohol, dancing and invite the whole village.  She remembered very clearly that when she was alone and feeling discouraged, God spoke to her and said that she need to concentrate on the ‘marriage’ and not worry about the wedding.  So, she said, her and her husband had a beautiful wedding ceremony; but once they were done cutting the cake, the rest of the wedding belonged to her family.  Cute story.

I sat there and listened to her talk, with her beautiful accent and soft voice.  Then it dawned on me … I was acting like her family!  I was caring more about how this divorce looked on the outside and how it reflected on our ‘perfect’ family!  Dr. B reminded me that God cares most about our souls … and little else.  The tears flowed freely.  

As she was preparing to leave, she asked if she could pray with me.  I said sure.  She took the time and prayed over me, my son, my family, our souls.  It was the most beautiful thing.   Then she said she wished she could stay and do this all day, but she had to get back to work.  And she was gone.  I gathered my things together and left, feeling a peace I hadn’t felt in a long while.  

It wasn’t until the next day, when I was telling my husband about my “physical” that checked my soul, as well as my body, that it dawned on me.  I had had a visit from God, in the form a beautiful black woman … just like in the book “The Shack”!  It made me smile to know that He can really speak to us in the most unlikely places … Thank you, Lord.

“Stay on the path of Life with Me, enjoying My presence.  Choose to trust Me in all circumstances.”


Suicide-A story of hope & intention

It was January 2007 when I got the call.

He died. My dear friend, the one from high school, the one I’d always considered a brother. It was suicide. It was intentional.

I could describe for you the pain, the looping roller coaster of grief. A cheap ride I never wanted to go on in the first place and one that took a long, long, long time to get off. But I’m assuming you’ve been acquainted with heart wrenching loss. If you haven’t…someday you will.

So, this is my suicide story. The way it sliced me to the core, bloody and bruised, leaving me vulnerable to the realms of this world and beyond. This is my story of how God courted me during that season. This is my story of how He used all those broken pieces to create something new in me.

God says He is the beginning and end. He who is, who was, and who is yet to come. {Rev.1:8} He is the past, present, and the future. And when I welcomed Him to live and reign in my heart, He promised to never leave me or forsake me. He knew what was to come, and looking back I discover that in a million little ways He was preparing me for that black moment. He always does.

Even still, grief is an unwelcome companion.

In the month’s preceding my friends suicide I had developed a very strong unsettling feeling within my spirit. It was odd. Unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I kept it to myself mostly. I prayed. Then one day, while driving I heard a voice whisper, “Death is near.” Whoa! I shook it off. Yet, it periodically returned. The voice. Those words. Death is near.

And then, the call.

Death is destruction, disaster, and a devastating mixture to our soul. Suicide tosses in additional ingredients. Heaping cups of guilt, pounds of regret, and bitterness served up in bulk. We assume our role. We feel part to blame. We could’ve, we should’ve….

This past week a young college student from my church committed suicide. I didn’t know him but my heart aches for his family and friends. I remember the pain as if it was yesterday. It’s palpable. I hold my journal in my palm, I flip back, and I recoil as I relive that moment.

This grief zone; it’s complicated, dangerously confusing, and life changing.

Are you there? Here are a few things you can do:

1. Record Your Journey. A journal helped me pour out my grief. It was good to help me cope and process the waves that crashed and battered. I quickly discovered that grief measures itself with time. One week, one month, the last time you did this, the anniversary of, words exchanged, all of which become marked by time. In the same way, your grief journey can be measured through words, thoughts, and feelings. As you look back, the million little ways that God was comforting and restoring will slowly be revealed. Not now, not in the fog, but later when you can see a little more clearly. Believe it or not, this journey will be used as a tool. It’s shaping your testimony. Write it out.

Resources: Evernote is an online tablet that you can use to record events or make simple notes. Or consider using Blogger. Opt for private settings if you wish to record for your eyes alone.

2. Guard your heart. Above all else, guard your heart. Imagine your heart as a door, the gateway to your soul. Would you allow a thief in? Never. It’s tempting to want to connect with your loved one. I know. I dabbled. I did not protect myself because I did not understand fully. And because of it I flung open doors to a world that I never intended to enter. But God gave me wisdom and in JESUS NAME I cleaned house and closed doors. I also learned some truths about the Devil. He is a trickster, an impostor, and he masquerades as light. {2 Corinthians 11:14} This means he can disguise himself to look like someone we care deeply for. To masquerade as light means that by all appearances it is good and lovely. Why would Satan do this?  To deceive.

 “Demons are undoubtedly more than willing to masquerade as dead humans if they can deceive tens of millions of people and draw them away from Jesus.” -Ron Rhodes

What’s at stake? When we focus our attention on the spiritual realm or connecting with a loved one rather than fixing our eyes on God, the enemy succeeds. The last thing the Devil wants is for you to gain strength, wisdom, and council from the Lord. This subject is wildly controversial in most circles. I’m stating the biblical truth that has been made known to me. If you wish to have a private conversation about this I’d love to talk. Please message me here.

And pray. He who is in you is greater that he who is in the world.

Resource: The book, The Truth Behind Ghosts, Mediums, & Psychic Phenomena by Ron Rhodes was a huge gift to me. Full of wisdom!

3. Step out of your comfort zone. I know your hurting. Scripture says, “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.”{Psalm 126:5} Stepping forward and wrapping your arm around someone who shares your grief is good for healing. When my friend died, God laid a burden of compassion on my heart for his mother. One week after the funeral, my sweaty hands picked up the phone and called her. We talked and cried together for hours. And that was only the beginning…

The remedy does exist. We discover it in a movie, a novel, or in the lyrics of a song. We see it painted in a rainbow or in one star twinkling brighter than the rest. We read it in the Word. Profound and bold, we’ve never noticed it before. The calm, gentle voice whispers truth while the hot shower beads our tear streaked faces. These are the things that bring out hope. Cling. Write. Live. Hope.

Make this your intention.

 

Shine Bright in the Darkness

I awoke this morning while the moon still hung in the black night. I tiptoed onto my porch, careful to keep the quiet. It was dark. I felt my heart quicken. Hurry, I thought as I sucked in a breath, escape the dark and turn on the light. But I couldn’t bring myself to it…an illumination beckoned.

I pressed against the window, my exhale marking my separation from the outside world. The great Walnut stretched her barren limbs casting real life shadows upon the earth. The lonely coo of an owl lilted above the trees.

I looked up as a myriad of stars sparkled in the clear sky. One caught my eye, it was smaller than the others. I stared for a long paused moment. I see you, a whisper came to mind. The star danced. As my eyes fixed on the tiny glimmer I noticed it’s licking tail. How long?, I wondered. How long have you been traveling oh, tiny star? How long have you gone unnoticed?

I see you, a whisper came to mind.

Several years ago I found myself in another dark place. This place where the comforts of certainty and security had been stripped- no, stolen from my hand. I recall going on a long walk that seemed to last for hours. My hand empty. Understanding was muddled in confusion. Why did I have to go through this pain? Not again. I cried out in vain. Don’t you see me?, I prayed.  

“You can’t understand light unless you understand darkness, because that’s where life is most often lived…somewhere between the two. It’s messy and it’s beautiful all at the same time.”- Bebo Norman

I had this silly dream to write. To be a writer. But our life at the time was in major transition and I wasn’t sure how we would make it through. It seemed everything was in flux. On my walk I pleaded in desperation. And then a gentle voice washed over me.

“Do you see the birds?” 

I looked up and noticed a few in flight overhead.

“I take care of them.” 

Oh.

“Don’t you know that I promise to take care of you too?”



I returned home and to my surprise I had an email from a magazine editor looking for a contributing writer. I had been noticed. A small lamp had been lit.

Darkness has a purpose. It is allowed to have its place in our lives. For without darkness, one could not experience light in all its splendor. Have you felt burdened by the weight of your own mess? Do you feel as though you’re laid out in a cold tomb numb and shivering from despair? Is it the lonely or worthlessness that swallows you whole?

Consider the stars, the way they shine bright in the darkness. Look up at the birds of the air, the way they fly with abandon. You’re not alone. Do not be afraid. Wait for it…for every longing you hold in your empty hand is captured. It will come, in perfect time and rare form, it will come. ~

“He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love…” Psalm 107:14-15  


The Heart of a Kinsman Redeemer

Imagine this: You lose your husband, your source of income to provide for yourself, and all hope for the life you had once envisioned.

This is a true story.

Ruth was a young woman when tragedy struck. Her husband had died leaving her lost and alone. The only thing she had to cling to was her mother-in-law, Naomi. A strong woman who also wore the veil of widow-hood. Together, the two of them, left behind everything they owned and traveled back to Naomi’s childhood home. A stack of horrible circumstances pushed these extremely vulnerable women to move back to Naomi’s homeland. A foreign country for Ruth. Literally.

I consider the idea of being placed in the worst possible life situation, such as Ruth and Naomi. What if my only hope for survival was to pack up my belongings and move to a foreign country.

As their journey to this new land unfolds, we witness them wrestling with bitterness and grief. The sinking reality that now they have nothing. They are completely empty.

How will they provide for themselves? How will they survive?

And thats when an unlikely character emerges. His name is Boaz and he is their Kinsman Redeemer.

In Hebrew tradition, a Kinsman Redeemer was a qualified relative, someone who could step into a situation, and assist with restoring property, financial security, and future inheritance. A typical God story where restoration, recovery, and redemption abound.

Boaz is a rich landowner who is leading his working people through the fields during the harvest. He notices this young, foreign woman trailing after his workers picking up scraps of the sheaves. When Boaz asks about her needs he finds in his good heart to give back in complete abundance to these women in need.

As we ourselves enter into this season of harvest, a great time of giving thanks, how can we consider being a Kinsman Redeemer to those in need around us? In the story of Ruth, we find that Boaz has laid out a very simple model for us to follow.

1. Notice. Open your eyes and take a look around you. Who do you see lagging behind? A foreigner, perhaps? Someone who has fallen on hard times? A widow?

2. Clothe with Comfort & Kindness. Sometimes the warmth of a hug or the soft bend of a listening ear is all that one needs. Lavishing someone with intentional kindness often times means that we are the ones who need to step out of our comfort zones. Clothing others with kindness means that we are invested in their pain. Willing to share it with them. When we begin building that kind of relationship with others we will soon discover those needs that might warrant our attention.

3. Give. Go out of your way to give. When Boaz noticed Ruth, first he showed compassion to her by listening to her needs. He made sure she was protected by instructing his workers to look after her. Boaz wanted to make sure that no further harm would come to her. Then, he continually offered her food and drink. He gave her an overflowing measure from his own harvest.

‘Tis the season of the harvest. We gather together and count our blessings. Our lips praise the good things we’ve been given. It’s the abundance. What do we do with the overflow? I encourage you to step out of your space of comfort, stretch out your hand, and bless someone with the heart of a kinsman redeemer.

 

And Now, A Lesson in Death

In case you’re wondering…I’m still writing that dang book. The novel about the girl in Ireland. Yeah, that one. Last week I was hung up on a scene so I decided to break things down. Again. This is my new game plan.

Well, it’s the same game plan just re-written for the 100th time, in a different format, with different colors. I know your wondering. Did it work? You betcha! Unstuck and pressing on.

A few days later my 16 year old daughter was reviewing my colorful set up and asked, “What does die to self mean?”

I stopped writing and looked up at her. That feeling, mothers you know it, the one where you feel the teachable moment coming on. The air becomes thin. A quiet pause is stretched. I imagine magical sprinkles of {invisible} inspiration floating down from the Heavens, prickling the skin as it lands.

I answer, “Die to self? It means sacrificing {to the point of death} your selfish desires. For example, in my story the main character wants this one thing more than anything in the world. Yet, there is this other thing… The stakes are high. She needs to make a choice. Will she choose self? Or will she die to self?”

There are two kinds of death. Physical death, where the soul and spirit depart from the body. This kind is inevitable. It is our future. It is absolute and inescapable. The other kind is Spiritual death, where pesky sin separates our soul from God.

Dying to self is a Spiritual death.

It requires a 180 degree turn around. This is hard to do. Especially when the stakes are high. We want one kind of lifestyle. Yet, the desire to shake the peskiness remains. It’s a longing. For some of us, the separation from God is hard. We wonder why we do what we do…when it’s not really in line with what we want to do. Huh? Am I making sense?

Let me explain. Five years ago I quit drinking. For one reason and one reason alone. I needed to die.

Making the choice to quit drinking has NEVER been for any sort of legalistic reasons. I didn’t do it because I thought it was the good Christian thing to do. I didn’t do it because I think drinking is bad. I didn’t do it because anyone made me or pressured me to stop.

I quit drinking because the pesk was killing me. Spiritually speaking. Having one or two never really worked for me. The truth is that another person emerged in my drunkeness. She was ugly. Selfish. And when my physical body rejoined my Spirit after a hasty night…I didn’t really like her a whole lot.

But the death took time. Layer upon layer. Slowly, in a great span of time God called me out of that pesky entanglement and into something new.

That death. Oh, that death was painful. Yet, my God was faithful to me and never let me go.

“These scars ain’t pretty but there a part of me… These marks tell a story of me down in the valley and how you reached in with your grace and healed me.” -Mandissa

It’s about beauty from ashes. Being reborn into a new creation. Stepping out of old skin and trusting that the new has a perfect purpose for you.

Only YOU in your inmost being know the things being willed of you to lay down and die. It’s a matter of choice. The stakes are high. What will you choose?