Tuesday, August 02, 2005
I first encountered my need for peace in my childhood. Although I was shielded from open confrontations, I nevertheless discerned that the structure of relationships in my family was not natural. As an avid reader, I saw what authors divined a family structure should or could be. My family definitely didn’t fit. Where were all the hugs, kisses, and unconditional love?
Instead, I remember an almost frantic desperation to get household chores done and food cooked. Through it all, I tried to make as little noise as possible in order to avoid the detection of my very existence. Detection incurred punishment. The pattern of our lives developed an overly heightened sensitivity in me to the discord in the relationship between my parents, my siblings, and myself.
I remember always trying to escape to somewhere peaceful, be it a place in my imagination, within the pages of a book, the bathroom, or up under the house in a spot so narrow that no one could see or reach me. I was afraid to sleep at night because the night meant struggle for me--fighting demons, spirits, or maybe just an overactive imagination. I can’t clearly tell anymore. I just remember the dread and fear of going to bed at night.
During my teenage years I craved love. I wanted a partner just like I read about in books, like some of the popular kids at school had. I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do with one when I got one. I didn’t think that far ahead. My main focus was the desire to be complete, because surely something was missing. I knew that if I just had someone, like everyone else who walked around holding hands or kissing in the hallways or having their books carried, I’d be complete. (Not that I wanted to kiss in the hallways--that was a bit much, though holding hands was quite an acceptable show of togetherness. Come to think of it, I actually did have my books carried on many an occasion; it’s just that the carrier wasn’t as tall, or as short, as dark or as light, as smart or as funny or as glasses-less as I thought he should have been). I sought perfection in my partner and ultimately in myself and everyone around me. Needless to say, since we’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, I was a frustrated, suicidal teenager.
I graduated from high school at seventeen and moved to New York, where the search for the perfect partner continued. Finally, I met him. He wasn’t too tall; he wasn’t too light or too dark. He was really handsome and, by george, he didn’t wear glasses. His name was Clemente and he was of Hispanic descent. He adored me just as I was and went out of his way to please me. We had several things in common: we were both serious young individuals, with a shared adoration of martial arts movies, long walks in Manhattan, and me.
I invited him over to my house, which was actually a two-bedroom apartment I shared with my elder sister and niece. Aflutter with excitement, I cooked the only dish I was capable of cooking at the time: boiled rice, fried chicken and buttery corn. My sister was not overly enthusiastic about him, but she didn’t give him the cold shoulder. She even invited him to adjourn to the living room to view a family movie, after which she excused herself and my niece. Clemente and I were left to ourselves to cuddle and talk about our goals.
This is when I learned that he expected to have around five children with me! He also felt comfortable enough to let me know that he wished I wouldn’t wear so much makeup or such bright-colored clothing. He also wanted me to eat healthier, etc. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t realize that he had signed his own death warrant. I was blindsided by his intent of multiple impregnations. His controlling attitude scared the life out of me and at the same time stuck in my craw. I had just realized my independence as a young adult, and nobody but nobody was telling me what to do!
My search for the perfect partner continued through a marriage at nineteen, the birth of my one and only daughter, and separation from my husband two years later. After that I met my mate for life (I thought) and commenced a relationship which lasted twelve years.
During those twelve years, we hit many highs and lows. We would be in synch for short periods of time, and then each partner would alternate periods of chasing the other for intimacy. There was love, provision, hand holding, back rubbing, toenail polishing, and scalp greasing, but something was still missing. I had my partner, but no peace; no sense of completion.
That relationship has since dissolved to friendship, and a new relationship has taken its place. I’ve met my Partner for life--and don’t you know He was right there all along, being taken for granted. He was there at my birth when the breath of life was breathed into me and I became a living soul. He was there at my baptism at age seven. He was there in the night through all my nightmares, soothing my brow and making sure that I made it through the night.
He was there when I chose another to be husband, then another to be soul mate for life, entrusting a man with the duties of provider, harbinger of peace, caretaker of my heart, role model and future step-father to my child. His heart was broken over and over when He’d call me and I wouldn’t answer Him because I wasn’t ready to deal, because I wouldn't settle for anything I hadn't chosen. He saw me through my migraines, imparting some of His peace as I lay comatose and traveled outside my body. Those times were my only conscious contact with Him, my iron will and icy wall of denial melting as I cried out to Him from the depths of my soul.
He was my conscience as I daily did a job I detested, while the job He’d created for me laid waste. The epitome of unconditional love, He received me with open arms as I surrendered my all and accepted the commission after three days of lost sanity wherein He showed me what life could really have been like without His presence in my life. Then and there, the missing link clicked into place.
I am still human and I still cringe at my imperfections, which become more glaringly obvious to me the more I learn about my Soul Mate. But instead of looking outside for comfort, I look inward and bask in the peace I find in His presence, in His acceptance of me, His faithful presence throughout my life. He sees the imprint of my DNA, which matches His own and tells Him that I am heir to all His qualities.
I no longer need to seek completion. Peace is not something any human partner can give me, because I already possess it. It became a part of me at age seven, when I said "I do" to my very first Bridegroom. I now realize that peace has been attainable to me at all times. All that was necessary was for me to relinquish my will and rest in the completeness and peace of Jehovah-Shalom.
Copyright (c) 2003, D.S. White, All rights reserved
When you need to find people a fast and easy way is to run a people search without pulling a
whole background check on them!
Thursday, July 28, 2005
I am your Creator. You were in My care even before you were born. ~Isaiah 44:2a
Day 2 of reading The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren.
How many times in life do we rail at the circumstances of our birth? Resent the parents we ended up with? The body parts that don't quite work or fit? Or maybe it's the color of our skin or the part of the world in which we live that we take issue with.
As the last of eight children, with a six year difference between the closest sibling and myself, it really wasn't too hard to figure out that I was an unplanned addition to the family tree. That and the fact that I'd heard it mentioned on numerous occasions. Add to that the fact that I was born in the West Indies, and while my family wasn't poor, we were certainly not living large. I recall the restrictive atmosphere and the feeling of not fitting in because we were "Spiritual Baptists" (whatever that meant).
We weren't allowed to socialize outside the family circle. Although my elder siblings tried to be a buffer for me, it was clear that our family was not like everyone else's. But how could they explain, to a seven-year old, the dementia that can result when bi-polar disorder is left untreated, especially when they didn't even know that it existed themselves? All we knew was that Dad just wasn't too right in the head.
In my later research about bi-polar disorder I realized that I wasn't alone. Many famous people and even a former president have suffered from this mental illness. Somehow that information comforted me, validated the fact that I was going to be okay, that the stigma that surrounds mental illness would no longer control how I interacted with the people around me.
Isn't it funny how quick we are to accept and even desire validation and acceptance from the people around us, when the One whose opinion counts the most put His seal of approval on us before we were even born? Yet, we discount His opinion left, right and center.
Although it's hard to break the habits of a lifetime, I have learned to see each day as the gift it is, reveling in the knowledge that my parents were supposed to be my parents. My place of birth was the necessary soil in which my roots could grow and flourish. The color of my skin and the body parts with which I've had issues over the years all serve to add up to the unique package that is Dee.
I'm here to tell you today, that I am no accident...and neither are you!
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Everything has been created through Him and for Him. ~Col 1:16b
“It isn’t? Does Dee know that?” is my usual joking response to the above title.
A co-worker and I began reading Rick Warren’s Purpose-Driven Life today. I read it aloud while she drove, and at the end of the chapter the thought to ponder was--you guessed it--“It’s not about me.” It called for reflection on areas of my life where I’d erected All-About-Dee altars and encouraged me to knock them down.
It brought to mind the fact that after I see my family on Sunday night, I may not see or speak to them again until Friday or Saturday. Interaction and activities with them always take so much of “my time” that I mire in protecting it.
The danger of this is my belief that time is mine to govern. This came home to me on Saturday past, when I watched as my brother-in-law listened to “Dance With My Father” by Luther Vandross and cried as he drove the two hours to New York (a scary proposition even as I prayed and patted him on the shoulder, keeping one eye on the road as we veered over the line). His much-loved dad had passed away suddenly while in Florida last April, on the eve of a surprise birthday celebration. Caught up in protecting “my time,” I had disassociated myself so much that I was desensitized to the fact that three months is not much healing time. I’d moved on and forgotten the call to “bear one another’s burdens.”
Sometimes, thinking about people and praying for them are just not enough. We need to reach out to them by phone or by a show of presence, whether it’s been a long day or not, heat boiling over or not. We need to just do it, in order to demonstrate that we realize our purpose and know that it’s just not always about us!
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn't love others, I would be of no value whatsoever. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. ~1 Corinthians 13:3-5 (NLT)
I just want to thank you for life, health and strength
You've been Provider, Comforter, Visionary, Friend
Your tender mercies just never end
When I act up
Your love is constant
When I give up
Your strength sustains me
When I’m afraid
Your love protects me
When I’m confused
Your mind instructs me
In all my phases
You’re there to bless me
As I go about my daily tasks
Help me to look beyond the masks
Of the hurting, afflicted, oft worn down husks
Lord help me not to betray your trust
Let my steps be in order
My tongue be for praise
My hands be for good works
And my thoughts aligned with yours
When pricked by impatience
Let kindness reign,
Overshadow envy, pride, rudeness, and anger
With your abiding love
This is the prayer I pray today
Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen
Copyright (c) 2005, D.S. White
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
My first instinct, to reach into my purse for two dollars, was curtailed when I remembered that I only had a ten dollar bill. If I gave it away, I’d be left with nothing. The thought quickly followed that I was on my way to pick up my mom’s prescription. I could charge that and get cash back. But…give away a whole ten dollars?
As I neared the man, I gritted my teeth and braced myself to make the final decision--to give or not to give? He didn’t look up, nor did he volunteer a word of supplication. As I sidled past him, a slice of Sunday’s sermon came back to me. Pastor had spoken about us (Christians) being the body of Christ, physically representing Him here on earth. I hesitated, until the sensation that my deodorant was about to expire propelled me across the street into the dollar store to rectify the situation. My change came to seven dollars. I figured five for me and two for him. When I came out of the store, there was no sign of him or his can. I looked up and down the street to see if I could catch a glimpse of him, for I’d only been gone five minutes, really.
Flitting through my guilty mind came the conversation where Jesus said that his followers turned Him away when they did not feed the hungry or give to the needy. Convicted by my thoughts, I repented.
Twenty minutes later, after a quick pickup at the pharmacy and twenty dollars cash back, I was off to catch my bus back to town. As it turned out, there was no bus for another forty minutes. I was stuck in the heat. Spotting the unprepossessing Woody’s Pizza across the street, I decided that pizza for dinner, and more importantly, the air that hopefully came with it, was in order.
I gave my order twice before anyone deigned to acknowledge me. (Not a good starting point in my book, but I let it slide and kept my goal of cool air firmly in focus, because a sistah doesn’t glow, she straight up sweats.) I again ordered a slice of pizza (which, had it been a chicken, would have been considered, really dead) and a Pepsi. Warmed, the pizza looked slightly better. Subscribing to the West Indian motto that a little pepper will fix anything, I added some pepper seeds, garlic, and oregano for good measure. But alas, the culinary creation Woody had the nerve to call Hawaiian pizza was beyond saving. I manfully (or is it womanfully?) crunched my way through the pizza while sipping delicately at my Pepsi.
Finally done, I checked my watch. I had twenty more minutes to kill, so I whipped out my pen and rummaged through my bag until I found a scrap of paper and began trying to write my response to “If there is a God…why do bad things happen to good people?"
At the sound of the door opening, I looked up to note two adorable little boys, around ten or eleven, wearing matching basketball outfits. (They’re always adorable when they’re someone else’s, aren’t they?) They sat down and one proceeded to ask the other to buy him a slice and he’d repay him upon receipt of his allowance. My immediate urge was to pull out two dollars to give them, but I bided my time and watched as the first boy pulled a pill bottle out of his bag sack, with what appeared to be quarters only inside. My immediate thought was, “Heck, he doesn’t even have enough for himself, much less for his friend, poor little guy.” The top came off the bottle to unveil two severely folded dollar bills. They began doing the math aloud, figuring out the possible combinations their meager funds would allow. The owner of the pill bottle timidly stated that they didn’t have enough, to which the borrower responded, “Why, what are you having?” “What nerve!” I thought.
I glanced once again at my watch. It was now time to cross the street to get my bus. I reached into my purse, pulled out two dollars, and quietly walked over to the boys' table. Smiling pleasantly in what I hoped was my non-crazy lady face, I asked the borrower if they had enough. He said, "We don’t know yet.” I opened my palm to reveal the two dollar bills I’d placed there and handed it to him.
His face lit up and his eyes opened wide as he said, “God bless you ma’am.” I don’t know when I’d graduated to a ma’am or how I felt about that exactly, but I exited Woody’s Pizza feeling quite a bit better about myself, and resolved to write about it tonight. Then the thought occurred to me--hey, did you give those two dollars just to have something good to write about yourself? Nah…as a former people-pleaser, I’d identified with little Mr. Pill-Bottle. I’d sensed that he was about to cave in to his assertive friend, and I’d given the funds to little Mr. Borrower to spare him the necessity of doing without. Maybe I'd misinterpreted the situation and broken up an opportunity for the little pill-bottle holder to express his selflessness? Somehow, I didn’t think so.
Also at the back of my mind were the many occasions as a teenager when I’d found myself in a fix, wishing a benevolent stranger would show up to magically whisk me away, or to find the lost money, watch, earring, bracelet… (I was always losing stuff). Add to that the thought that you reap what you sow. I have a daughter out there in this big scary world, and I figure that her crop could come in in a needy situation because of the seeds I’ve sown.
My euphoria was cut short when I realized how eager I'd been to share my two dollars with two obviously clean, well-cared-for little boys, yet I’d waffled so stubbornly over the bedraggled man in town that the opportunity to make a difference was lost. I’d even told myself that my little two dollars couldn’t, wouldn’t make a difference anyhow.
Why is it that we are still so caught up in externals? That we still have images in our minds of who is deserving of help? Maybe at the back of my mind was the thought that I didn’t know what was in that can. Alcohol maybe, and I’d just be giving my money away to support his habit. So what? Is it really my place to judge? Heck, if I were living on the streets, I’d probably need some form of escapism as well.
How is it that we forget that we yet live in a state of grace? I began to sing a song, and my eyes pooled with tears as I was reminded anew of my own story. Two years ago, I’d exhausted every financial avenue available to me. To call my mental state shaky would just be a kindness on your part. Yet I continued showing up at church, conducting choir rehearsal, and attending Bible School as my world crumbled around me. My standard answer to "how are you" was still a bright smile and a “Blessed…and you?”
Not only was I financially bankrupt, I also existed in a miasma of confusion. I'd been abstinent for over three years, and my formerly obedient hormones were jumping all over the place. My thoughts were chaotic and raced non-stop. It took what felt like a Herculean effort to pull a coherent thought out of the babble, much less a series of organized thoughts. A simple Bible School paper that would have taken three hours the previous month, now took three weeks to complete or went undone. My business was being challenged by a competitor. It seemed that now that I was doing the right thing, God had turned His back on me. How could He allow all of this stuff to assail me? Wasn’t I His chosen vessel, living holy and upright?
I got mad, really mad (in more ways than one). I was angry and about two steps away from being loony like a toony. I was not sleeping. I became addicted to IMing (counseling sad, lonely, crazy folk, and getting my mack on too…ain’t gonna lie). I paid no bills (not that I had anything to pay them with), I did no laundry, I did even less housecleaning than my usual reluctant contribution. My daughter was away at her first year of college at an Ivy League school and I had not a cent to contribute, when I’d promised that her first year of college would be on me. I was suffering from empty nest syndrome and was scared to pieces about my own mother’s medical and emotional state. She too was exhibiting signs of depression, uncertainty, and bewilderment. She was shaky on her feet and eating less and less. She lost weight, I gained weight. She prayed and read her Bible; I ate and chatted and chatted and ate. We were behind a month-and-a-half in the rent, and I was aware of it; but when our precarious position tried to impinge on my consciousness, I simply turned on the computer and dialed up. I think I hit a wall of reality (or else it fell on me) when the phone company finally cut off the phone and my final means of escape was gone. The phone was followed shortly by the lights…
In the midst of the darkness, I was forced to acknowledge the fact that I’d sunken as low as I could go. Instead of taking care of my mother in her advancing years, I was now little better than a leech. I eagerly anticipated the mail which would herald the arrival of her social security and disability checks to pay our rent, and of course, they weren’t enough…
Then one day my pastor asked me to come by the church to assist him with some administrative work. It was a trick. I was in for a heart-to-heart. Thoughts racing, about ready to jump out of my skin, I was forced to sit still and hear that he was concerned about me. I hadn’t been out of the house all week, to work or even to get some fresh air. He wanted to know what was going on with me really. I tried the old blank stare and dead silence which had worked well for me as a child. But wouldn’t you know it…he stared me down. Not in a menacing or judgmental way--his caring just seeped through and my defenses crumbled. Then the durned floodgates opened.
I cried and cried, while he hugged and rocked me. He asked me how much was owed in rent, bills, etc. When I’d settled down enough to become coherent, I told him I owed about eleven hundred. Not a huge sum by ordinary standards, but as a street vendor, when you’ve seen your income dwindle slowly from five hundred on a good day and two hundred on a bad day to seventy-five on a good day, eleven hundred becomes as attainable as a million dollars.
He told me that he would bring my situation before the church, anonymously of course, and ask them to contribute. With the money situation out of the way, he again asked me what was going on with me…really?
After listening to me, tears began running down his face as well, and then he asked the question of the day: “Why would you suffer in silence and not tell anyone? You of all people?”
“I dunno? Asking just hadn’t occurred to me.”
My pastor broke it down to me that considering myself to be a mucky-muck, spiritually speaking, was the beginning of my entrapment. Because when I present myself as someone who’s got it together and on top of the world spiritually, when I actually do hit a glitch, as I did, I’ve painted myself into a corner with nowhere to go and no one to turn to--and the devil loved that. He also mentioned that part of the relational make up of a congregation is the fellowship and burden-bearing aspect. But come on now…who in the black community really wants to stand up and say, “My name is Dee S. White and I’m bi-polar, broke, and hormonally challenged?” No takers? Didn’t think so.
I finally wrought up the courage to quietly tell him (as though if I whispered God wouldn’t hear me) that I felt betrayed by God, had in fact become angry with Him when a competitor set up her bookstand in the middle of the same block I occupied and immediately cut my profits in half. I just didn’t understand why He would allow that to happen. Pastor pointed out that my sense of entitlement was my first mistake. To consider that God owes me anything is to put God in the place of servant instead of master. Yes, He is Jehovah Jireh, my provider. That promise is true. Any appearances that seem to contradict His promises do not in any way negate, diminish, or dissolve what He has promised me. The key is to hold fast to His promise, which will be fulfilled in His time, and not in my perceived timing. In Abraham’s situation, all that God promised was contrary to Abraham's circumstances at the time the promise was made, but he wavered not.
I was all too ready to waver. In fact, not only did I waver, I crumbled and fell… for a time. But as the phoenix rising from the ashes, I was a humbled, repentant witness to the grace of God as my brothers and sisters in the congregation rallied around the “anonymous” member and raised fourteen hundred dollars within two weeks. This was a sizable amount for a congregation of thirty on a good day. (I don’t know how anonymous I was sitting in the front row blubbering while Pastor reiterated that we fail as a congregation, and we fail God, when one amongst us is in need and we do nothing to aid her. But who knows, since I blubber easily, they might not have figured it out…'cause ever proud, I pulled out my checkbook too and wrote me a check…yes I did.)
How had I so quickly gotten into such a state of complacency that I struggled with giving up ten dollars to someone who needed it, when others had given up more to assist me when I was not even in such dire circumstances as the man on the street? Maybe I’d begun to take credit for the blessings of God, attributing them somehow to an ability of mine. Maybe in the attempt to put the depths of my slide in my past I’d forgotten to hold fast to the lesson learned from the ordeal.
How could I so easily forget that God is spirit but He exists physically in Christians, in you and I, who make up His arms and legs while He controls the thoughts and actions as the head? This truth means that when we’re in distress we are surrounded by people who are ready, willing, and able to assist us. On the other hand, we who aren't in need at the moment can’t live in an isolated world, blind the needs of others. We can’t forget that we ourselves live in a state of grace; that we were delivered into the same because of the compassion of God, who didn’t wait to be asked but acted on our behalf before we were even conceived.
Compassion is a useless emotion if we don’t move past the feeling of empathy and kick into action. The onus will not always be on the person in need of compassionate assistance to ask. We cannot use the silence of others as an opportunity to avoid acting on their behalf.
Let’s not be forgetful or complacent about the needy among us, whether the need be apparent as in the case of the downtrodden man, or hidden as it was in my own life. Let’s listen to the Spirit of God and be cognizant of the fact that when we feed the hungry, clothe the needy, and house the homeless, we’re introducing them to God.
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
What was a ten-year-old to do? Being the youngest of eight, my place in the family hiererchy was set. I should be seen and not heard, when told to jump, the only acceptable response was, "How high?" I had jurisdiction over the backyard chickens, one of the dogs, (can one ever have jurisdiction over a cat?) and my imaginary Indian friends. (Playing Cowboys and Indians was not yet considered politically incorrect)
I felt ill-equipped, rightfully so by the angst of the years that followed, to handle that assertive role. The anticipation of the mispronunciation of my name, became larger than life. In my defense, I do recall timidly correcting an adult or two, but alas my hard fought bravery dissipated, when my brave utterance appeared to fall on deaf ears.
In Junior High School, with the influence of Spanish class, I added an accent so that my name would read as Díane instead of Diane. Little did I realize the difficulties in explaining the job description of an accent during a simple introduction. My next brainstorm occurred in High School. I began writing Deanne on my class papers, until my 11th grade English teacher gently explained the illegality of that to me.
These adventures continued until around age twenty-two. Fresh out of brainstorms and tired of acquiescing outwardly and castigating myself inwardly, I made a decision. I did what any self-respecting, self-confessed coward would do when their back’s against the wall. I resolved to change my name.
Since I felt that a legal name change would be hurtful and maybe even a little disrespectful to my parents, I settled for the derivative, "Dee." That decision coincided with an instance of victimization. As a result, I saw that name change as part of my new "take charge" persona. I took martial arts classes, I pumped iron and I developed a new "attitude." Vic-who-tim? Not I, ever again!
Two years ago, while chatting with a Minister I met online (yes...Minister and online...to be addressed in another post). Things finally came around to the exchange of names and I gave him my legal name, Diane and told him I'd always disliked it and why. He asked me what my name meant and I didn't know. He did a quick search online and within five minutes, I had a new lease on life!
My name meant Divine! Divine! Can you believe it! Suddenly, my whole life began to make sense. Here I'd been repudiating the name that explained me...to me. I'd recently learned in one of my Bible classes that the naming of a child in Biblical times took a bit of thought. Not because of the need for a different sounding name, or a name that would perpetuate the ego of the parent, but a name that would call forth or predict, if you will, the character of the child.
I'd always been a bit out of step, not quite in synch with my peers. I'd always felt I didn't quite fit the mold. Now, I'd come full circle. The same way I'd hated, denigrated, denied and dismissed my name and in essence myself, for my name and myself worth had become synonymous. In the same manner I'd dismissed God's call to service, as imaginary delusions of grandeur.
Why would God want to use me? I was damaged, despoiled goods, wasn't I? In fact my exact words were..."Preach? I sing, that's what I do!" Despite my many attempts to explain to God why He'd really made a mistake this time, upon hearing what my name meant...I figure...God had the last laugh after all.
I was a breech birth baby and apparently a confused one at that. Not only was I facing the wrong direction, I was intent on continuing my journey in the wrong direction, apparently unwilling to experience new birth. Although I'd heard the many recountings of my birth through the power of prayer, firmly set in my pattern of parallelism, the more glimpses of the spiritual realm I perceived, the further I ran.the wonder and awe of the testimony had become buried by the attacks of life. But no matter how far or fast I ran physically, mentally, emotionally and/or spiritually, the fact still remained...I was destined from birth.
At this point, you're probably expecting a triumphant announcement that from that point onward, I've never introduced myself as "Dee" again and proudly embraced my birthname "Diane." Well...this is keeping-it-real-for God blogspot...so I'll just say that while I'm becoming more at ease in my spirit, my calling, and my name...thirty-seven years of self-hatred, is not so easily erased in two years, but it is mitigated by my change in perspective.
That being, that it's not about who man says I am..."Diane"...but about who God says I am..."Divine."
Choosing a name for your baby can be difficult. Many names have indian origin without people realizing it. Various forms of Indian art have integrated into our culture.
Friday, May 27, 2005
Like Moses who felt inadequate to speak to Pharaoh because of his stutter, Abram who was childless, yet God promised to build a nation and a people for Himself out of Abram’s descendants, Saul who was zealous but shooting baskets for the wrong team until he had an encounter with God during a game, and last but not least, Rivers in the Desert Community Church, small in number but charged to do large things for God.
We also heard that, as in the case of Abraham, sometimes the election by God calls us to separate ourselves from family members, family ties, emotional baggage or a train of thought inherited from our ancestors, in order to go where God would have us to go and to accomplish that which He would have us accomplish to His honor and glory. Kinda like Rivers in the Desert, we’ve left some stuff behind, and left a couple of places, to end up in the location we are in today, knowing that with God, timing and location are key.
Which brings us to this week’s topic, “Elected by Grace” and what it means to us as Christians.
I must admit…I searched my head for the perfect “hook” in continuing this series that Pastor so eloquently kicked off. That prideful side of me…the side that pushes me to want to measure up, be just as good as…or even come a little close, was working overtime during what has proven to be a stressful week.
Nevertheless…I came up with one…“Chosen: Now What?” Doesn’t that just grab you right off the bat? But somehow, no matter how I worked it, twitched it and tweaked it…it kept me focused exactly where I didn’t want to go. It kept the emphasis on the work of a Christian, when our topic is firmly about the state of Grace. So sadly…I retired the brilliant (in my opinion) hook…and reverted to the assigned title.
“Elected by Grace”—not splashy, but right on target.
Grace:-Favor or kindness shown without regard to the worth or merit of the one who receives it and in spite of what that person deserves.
The very definition of grace addresses those of us today, who as Christians have gotten into the habit of thinking that our doodoos or gases don’t stink. What do I mean by that? I’m talking about those of us who’ve served a dish or two during fellowship hour, maybe sang a song or two during service, swept a floor ever now and then, typed up a bulletin or two and/or contributed faithfully. Having done one of more of the above, we feel justified enough to look around, decide who’s not working at all, or maybe not working hard enough (in our estimation) and devise tasks in our minds that are perfect for their “gifting.” Some of us may have even been bold enough to address the person(s) directly or broached the topic with the Pastor, as though expecting applause or a medal for our “assistance.”
But this morning, I thank God for Grace. Not only is it humbling, it is also a great equalizer. For it makes us realize that no matter who we are, or what we do, it makes no difference to God, where election is concerned. Grace:-None of us deserve it, yet God chose to extend it…because He loves us.
We in turn, choose God because He calls us. How does He call us? Through the proclamation or preaching of the gospel of Jesus the Christ; through the witnessing of believers to those they interact with on a daily basis, through the scriptures made freely accessible by various organization and believe it or not, through the many hardships and disappointments we experience in our lives. We choose God because He first chose and called us to Himself. In all instances, God is the initiator.
When things are free, there is the tendency to rush to embrace it, then…after a while, it begins to lose value because it cost us nothing. We take it for granted. I want to suggest, or maybe I should say remind us this morning that, that free item, may have cost us nothing, but somewhere, somehow, sometime…someone had to pay a cost to provide us with that free item. In the case of Grace, the someone, was Jesus the Christ and the cost was His life. The book of Isaiah chapter 53 verse 5 tells us that He was wounded for our transgressions (wrongdoings), crushed for our iniquities (sins); upon Him was the punishment that made us whole, and by His bruises we are healed. We, you and I, exist because of His grace; we walk in health because we need not be crippled by emotional, spiritual and/or mental agonies caused by the weight of our sins. Therefore, we dare not be complacent of the gift of Grace that is our very lives.
Jesus never has nor will ever be a complacent God. When He said, “It is finished.” from the cross, had He been complacent, He could have stopped there. After all, as the sacrificial lamb, His blood had already been shed, He’d taken on our sins, suffered the anguish of being separated from His Dad in a way He’d never experienced before. The lines of communication were down and all He had was His faith that His Dad still loved Him, while He was away on assignment.
But no…although “It is finished.” seemed a fitting end; in actuality…it had just begun! “It is finished” was the public demonstration of our very election by God before the foundation of the earth. What was finished? The reign of Satan was finished; what was finished? The restoration of the relationship between God and mankind was finished. Jesus committed, entrusted, returned His Spirit to its source of origin, the Father, for safekeeping and went to the pits of hell. There He suffered untold agonies, but He was still on the job, taking back everything the devil stole from us. Our joy, our hope, our love, our ability to trust, our lost family members and He rose triumphant on the third day in all power and glory.
Jesus’ resurrection entailed ramifications that Satan doesn’t want you and I to fully realize. That’s why he’s on the job 24/7, trying to ensure that our focus becomes the disappointments we experience during the week, the heartache we suffer at the hands of our loved ones, (for no one can hurt us like the ones we love) the insecurities that beset us when facing the unknown, the loneliness that attacks us in the wee hours of the morn and on and on just to keep our heads spinning, so we won’t have a moment to stop and think.
‘Cause when you stop and think, you might think of Jesus hanging on the cross, just to pay a debt that you couldn’t pay. A sin debt…the wages of which were clearly death. But through His grace, He chose you and He elected me, not through any actions or deeds of our own, but because He loves us so much.
He loved us so much that He left us an inheritance. What did we inherit? Let’s see:
Salvation – He saved us from our sins
Redemption – He bought back our sin IOU’s
Justification – We now appear blameless before God
Longevity – We can live forever
Grace – Free unmerited favor
Power – To cast down strongholds, to resist temptation, to praise, to forgive, to heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons...yes…all of that…and more
Aside from the six heavies I just mentioned, we also inherited a friend that put His life on the line for us, one who shares all knowledge with us, and the clincher…the ability to do all things in His strength.
Of course, as with anything freely given, there are stipulations. So attached to that inheritance is the responsibility to produce lasting fruit. Fruit? Did someone say fruit? So there’s food involved? Not quite. Fruit here refers to the people in our immediate circle, like our family, friends, (for the single among us) your significant other, co-workers and that person beside you on the bus or train every morning.
Fruit comes in all shapes and sizes and range in taste from sweet to downright tart! Some have prickly outsides some are smooth. Some have seeds that are edible, some not. Some are juicy some are dry. As many variations as there are to fruit, the same applies to the condition and/or state of mind of your average human being alive today. Both have something in common, without proper handling…they won’t last.
Even though some of us may have a hard time sharing our faith, and yes, some folk, like Pastor Ricketts, are gifted at it, the Bible clearly indicates that evangelism is for everyone, in fact it is considered to be a fruit of the spirit! Yes, that means that Pastor Ricketts, Min. Swangin and I, aren’t the only ones with the responsibility to say, Jesus loves you!
It is our responsibility to share the gospel of Jesus the Christ with those we come into contact with daily. A good thing to remember is that our actions and our attitude are as much or even more of a testament to what we say we believe. So we need to be gracious in our everyday dealings with others in the same way that God is gracious to us. Will any of this earn us any more or less grace? No. The fact is that we need only have faith in Jesus Christ to be afforded this Grace. However, since we had to hear…before we believed, our responsibility is to share this news with all who would listen. I know we sometimes have the desire to hug and hoard good things to ourselves, but the good news is: Grace is not like a one day sale at Macy’s where either the merchandise is gonna run out or the day will end…God’s grace is endless!
Someone might be thinking right now…but Sis Dee, that doesn’t seem like much of an inheritance, because I’ve got bills, I can’t seem to pay. To which God says, If you make yourself at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. In other words, your relationship with God and knowledge of His words, directs your prayer success rate. Your relationship with God, defines the “whatever” mentioned here. For example, if you and your earthly parent communicate about everything, you’ll know what they like or dislike as well as their financial circumstances and what they’ll be willing to give you. Same thing with God…closeness with Him (via the Word) enables you to know that praying for the car, the house, the money, doesn’t make sense because they are temporary. Now, if you pray for the help of the Lord, fullness of the Spirit, fullness of joy and/or wisdom and you do so in faith…not only will your prayer success rate improve in leaps and bounds…some of that other stuff will come as well.
But Sis Dee, I’m shy and no one listens to me anyway. To which God says, I did not give you a spirit of cowardice (fear), but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. In other words, don’t underestimate your God given ability to do. When faced with Satan’s projection of your insecurities, be proactive in your thinking. Start out with what you can do…and how many of you know that with God…all things are possible? Amen? Amen.
But Sis. Dee, I don’t know what to say. To which God says, You didn’t choose me, remember I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, He gives you. In other words, the Spirit will help you and three things to remember:
Tell them what those three things have meant in your life and how they too can experience it.
The key thing to remember is that God is the initiator in all things, and as the one who gave the assignment; He’ll also give you the words to say. All you have to do is be willing to open your mouth and trust He’ll be with you.
And there’s always someone literal in the crowd, so for you literal folk who are probably thinking about the fact that fruits are so expensive because they spoil so easily. I’m so glad you thought about that, because that gives me the opportunity to define “lasting fruit” and “fruit that spoils.”
Why? Did you ever notice how you can place two fruits beside each other, one healthy, one spoiled. To date, (and feel free to supply pictures and documentation if you’ve heard something to the contrary), in my almost forty years, I’ve never heard of the good apply rectifying, saving and/or restoring the whole bunch. But I sure did hear and sing that song about “One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch girl!”
Although I highly doubt anyone is going to be banging my door down with a report of an organically grown apple that managed to rectify, save and restore the whole bushel. But continuing the fruit analogy, I do hold in my hand, proof, that such an apple existed. Some call Him Yeshua, some call Him Savior, and this morning I call Him love.
And this morning He says to us:
I, God, am love. Before you existed, I chose you to be my ambassador…so that I can express my love through you.
Will you respond to His call?
"Forgiveness – the act of excusing or pardoning others in spite of their slights, shortcomings, and errors. As a theological term, forgiveness refers to God’s pardon of the sins of human beings."
At some point in our lives we’ve all been in the position of wanting forgiveness or being asked for forgiveness. Sometimes we give it, sometimes we withhold it, sometimes we receive it, and sometimes it is withheld from us.
In fact, I’d even be daring enough to say that one or two of you reading this article has had an act perpetrated against you that you find hard to forgive and just about impossible to forget. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that the perpetrator is probably lucky that the old eye-for-an-eye adage is no longer enforced, or they’d be utilizing a seeing-eye-dog, right about now.
But maybe you’ve been one of the lucky ones who made it through childhood without any major league traumatic experiences, but you just love to hold a grudge. If asked why you weren’t speaking to the grudgee, you probably couldn’t even say, because all you recall, is that somewhere, someway, somehow, and/or at some time, they hurt your feelings.
But for those of us who didn’t escape the trauma, how do you forgive the unforgivable? I mean, how do you forgive someone for taking, by force, that which you didn’t offer? How do you forgive the resultant self-hatred? How do you deal with the fact that the one who was supposed to protect you, instead violated you? How do you forgive the loss of hope? Or muffle the incessant refrain of “Why me…Lord?”
How do you forgive the husband or boyfriend who uses you as a punching bag, because he loves you, and you just keep on doing things to make him mad? How do you forgive the parents who abandoned you to the mercies of the state; The resultant bouncing around from foster home to foster home, where more often than not the foster parents cared more about the paycheck they received than your welfare?
How do you forgive the furtive gropings and invasion of your person you endured while being told it’s because I love you, but don’t tell anyone, because it’s too special to share so it’s our little secret? How do you forgive the best friend who should have had your back, but while you were working overtime to pay the bills, she was working overtime on your man?
How do you deal with these injustices?
May I suggest to you that it is possible to forgive what seems unforgivable? Am I denying the fact that you were hurt? No. Am I negating your pain? Never! But what I want to propose to you today, is that weeping may endure for a night, but joy will come in the morning! I know, beautiful prose! But what does it mean, really? I’m so glad you asked.
It means that your pain has a time limit, a season if you will, and a purpose under heaven. I’ll even go so far as to say that the catalyst for the cessation of pain is directly tied up in forgiveness. In order for you to move on to the next step, which is healing, you need to give the gift of forgiveness to the offender and most importantly, to yourself.
In my struggle to work towards forgiveness, I read and re-read Jesus’ last moments on the cross. I imagined there was some pain but I couldn’t quite empathize. The passion of Christ, I was told, which came out last year around Easter, did an excellent job of portraying His agony. I never did get to see it, because I’m a bit squeamish. But I just couldn’t let it go. After some rooting around on the web, I found this article which delineates the medical complaints of Jesus on the cross:
I don’t know about you but when I’m in pain, I’m short tempered (which means I’m less than my usual tactful self, even a little mean spirited, sort of that "misery loves company" mindset). I want to be alone, by myself. No hovering, no fussing, just thinking about no one else but me. Just a little bit short of a pity party.
After reading the true nature of Jesus’ injuries, and the fact that He refused the combination of gall and myrrh, which would have served to dull His pain, I found His fortitude and lack of vindictiveness uncommon. As I re-read the scriptures describing His last moments on the cross, I marveled at how He took time out to say “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
So, again I pose the question. How do you forgive the unforgivable? Or maybe I should ask. Is it really that hard to forgive? Or are you holding onto your hurt, out of habit? Might you just be holding on, because it’s all you’ve known for five, ten, fifteen or maybe even twenty years?
Has it become like a familiar companion? You know exactly what to expect from it. It won’t ever disappoint you; it’s there when you need it. As a reason not to try something new, or when you need a scapegoat for every thing that has ever gone wrong in your life. It’s there beside you as you watch the world go by, saying “if only”, “when I,” or “I could have.” Stunted, unmoving, crippled by your memories.
How do you forgive the unforgivable?
May I suggest that you follow the example of A God who forgives? One who has and will never ask of us, what He hasn't done Himself, for He was fully God, yet fully man. He experienced every bit of agonizing pain the cross-offered, but still, His love for us superseded that of His pain, while He took time out to see to our forgiveness.
During His ministry, the question was asked, how often should I forgive…7 x 7? The answer was 70 x 7. I’m sure right now someone is thinking, but if I keep forgiving, they’ll keep on doing it! Maybe, but our forgiveness is dependent on our forgiving others. Even as we go to pray, if it comes to mind that we haven’t forgiven someone, we are to stop praying and forgive, in order to avoid any hindrance to our communication with God.
Unforgiveness hinders our communication with God? It most surely does. To remain unforgiving, you have to nurse the hurt, recall it quite frequently, harden your heart. In essence you slowly poison yourself with bitterness. The bitterness acts as a wall between God and us.
Why do we need to forgive?
- Matthew 6:14: which states “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you;”
- Romans 6:23 states that “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Which means that no matter how big or small the disobedience, the punishment is death. Right about here, we get comfortable, because we’re confident in the fact that we love God, haven’t murdered, raped, committed adultery, blasphemed against the Holy Spirit, robbed a bank, embezzled funds or run over anyone with our car. Which is all good, but don’t get too comfortable just yet. If you’ve never told a lie, been envious, run a red light, stolen a quarter from your parents, jaywalked, listened to gossip, failed to return a library book, cheated, or disobeyed God in any way; if you’ve done everything you were ever supposed to do every single time…then you have no need to forgive. But for the rest of us, the following are some practical steps towards the process of forgiveness:
- Choice -- Decide you are going to forgive
- Love –Allow love to continue flowing – don’t shut down or close yourself off
- Faith -- Realize that we forgive by faith, not by feeling: Utilizing faith allows us to act as if a thing is so, in order that it may become so. In other words…you may start out faking it, but your genuine desire to act on your faith will connect you to God’s store of faith for you.
- Obedience--We must forgive others if we don’t want to disobey God and break our fellowship with Him. As Christ forgave us without being asked we may need to forgive others who have not nor will ever ask our forgiveness. The forgiveness may be undeserved, but the reward of healing and reconciliation makes it worthwhile.
- Forget --You must be willing to forget past hurts. Forget about it. Stop willfully calling it to mind. Or if it does come to mind consciously replace it with a good memory or find something positive you learned out of the bad memory. You may even want to print out some scriptures dealing with forgiveness like Matt. 6:14, Romans 6:23 on an index card and carry it around with you, to whip out when needed.
- Prayer – Pray for the offender, a biggie, I know
- Turnover -- Give the hurt to God. Resolve to let it go.
I think the hardest thing for me to get about forgiveness is that it wasn’t about me, it’s about obedience to God and in my obedience I reap the reward of being released from the yoke of my hurt. I had to realize that accepting grace meant I had to be responsible enough to show grace myself. I had to remind myself of how I felt when I discovered that no matter what I had done previously, God still loves me. Or if you can’t relate, I reminded myself that no matter what a screwup I was or still am at times, my family loves me.
Forgiveness is about passing on that kind of revelation, to others who have no concept of it themselves.
Maybe you’re on the top of someone’s feces list and you feel the weight of their unforgiveness. Or maybe you’re sitting there feeling the weight of the unforgiveness you have towards yourself, because sometimes we can be our own worst enemy.
No worries, the only sin God will not forgive is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which is giving Satan credit for acts of God, accomplished by the Holy Spirit. This sin is unpardonable, not because God cannot or will not forgive such a sin but because such a hard-hearted person has placed Himself beyond the possibility of repentance and faith.
If you’re one who’s never accepted the forgiveness/salvation/justification/love of God. Trapped in the notion that you’re not worthy of forgiveness, because folks have told you repeatedly that you’re nothing, you’ve been nothing and you’ll never amount to anything and somewhere along the line, you started believing them. Or if you have accepted and got a little sidetracked and feel that you’ve tracked too far to return.
I’m here to assure you today that God is A God who forgives!
He is clear when He states that He came not for those who have their acts together but He came for the screwups, like you and I. His forgiveness is available to all who would choose to receive it.
2) believe it
3) receive it!
He meets you at the point of your need. As you step forward, He’s ready and willing to embrace you to His bosom, He’s the shepherd who will leave the whole flock undone, searching out the one mislaid sheep.
Will you come?
Thursday, May 26, 2005
The Strong Black Woman is Dead! Or is She?
No she's not dead
she's just experienced a rebirth.
Through the memories
of her daughters and granddaughters
who have learned
from her triumphs and failures
that strength is knowing
when to ask for help
when to cry out
when to be silent;
that what she's experienced
does not define or confine her
that pride which prohibits healing
is no longer a banner
but a prison;
that she is a word spoken from God
and as such
return to Him void.
In essence she's come full circle
in realizing that
servitude was not the problem
just the master she served;
that being proactive
is much more effective than being reactive
so she chooses her battles wisely
knowing when to fight
and when to let it go
her choice of weapons being
proper financial planning
and community involvement
to enrich the next generation;
that it rains on the just and the unjust
so she's chosen
not to harbor
a sense of injustice;
that comparisons are self-defeating
so she's chosen
to celebrate her uniqueness
and strive for her personal best;
not giving up on the black man
so she's chosen
to start with her brothers
uncles, cousins, nephews
sons and grandsons
for she knows
the viral power of love;
that submission to her mate
does not equate servitude
so she's chosen
to embrace the peerless system
of checks and balances
as designed by God;
But most of all
she's chosen...to forgive
live in the present
and love...always love.
Copyright © 2005 by D.S. White, All Rights Reserved
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
I'm now dusting off my cobwebs, growing up, joining the adult world and beginning to feel at home in my space.
I recently discovered...(as of last Saturday)...that I can write songs! Lyrics, music and all. Do I play an instrument? No. Can I hear music in my head...surely! I was pushed, pummelled, cajoled, coerced into putting something together for a friend. I started out with..."but I just sing...I don't know how to write songs!" and by the end of the day...I was like..."I can do this!"
All this time...the only one limiting me...was me. In my head, a prerequisite for writing music was the ability to play an instrument...and since I don't...ergo...inability to compose...
Hello... computer software and a creative mind? Well that's my rushed rant... for today.
Monday, May 23, 2005
- He lived
- He died
- He rose
The He to which I refer is my Big Brother, Jesus the Christ. As His younger sibling, my purpose in life is to share with all who would read or listen, what those three things have meant in my life and how you, too, can experience it.
The scripture says that faith comes by hearing the word, and believing in your heart that Jesus is who He says He is and that His blood shed on the cross was the ultimate sacrifice necessary to accomplish forgiveness of all sin. (Past, present and future).
Hearing and believing alone won’t cut it though. It is necessary to demonstrate your faith by acting, making a conscious decision to choose God. A response, if you will, for His generous grace shown towards us.
How do you to this?
- By acknowledging out loud that you have sinned
- Believing in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead; and then
- You will be saved!
I blog because I’m free…lol