Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Birthday On A Funeral Day (The God of Cupcakes and Caskets)

Today one of my dearest friends will celebrate her mother's #birthday and will attend her father's #funeral. My heart aches for her and for all that are bookended by joy and sorrow. We all know how that feels. If not, just keep on living. (Join me in praying for all that are hurting and bereaved.) πŸ˜₯😳😞 Have you ever felt like you had to walk through the valley in mountainous seasons in life? Feeling somewhere between one of these. πŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ŠπŸ˜₯πŸ˜œπŸ˜€πŸ˜šπŸ˜«πŸ˜ŠπŸ˜” How is it possible to have a funeral on someone's birthday? To have cupcakes and caskets? It is very possible because celebrations of life are happening constantly. Happiness and sadness can live on the same street. People are being born and people are dying and the world is pausing to celebrate in joy or in tears. Yikes! Is the first thing I thought when I learned of the birthday and funeral date but then it made since because life is just that way. Life has bumps and bruises but does not stop. ****Benedictions are happening but so are invocations! Every day is someone's birthday and death date and every day we are celebrating and suffering. That's real life! It hurts and yet it's hopeful. I recall a day that I witnessed a firing on the way to a birthday party for the one that was fired. Awwww mannn! That was tough but life moves on. We can either be frozen by pain or allow it to propel us to new levels of gratitude and maturity in Christ. I HAVE SEEN THE WORLD FIRE PEOPLE AND THE LORD HIRE PEOPLE. WATCH HIM WORK IN TENDER AND TOUGH MOMENTS. Life is filled with "ouch" and "ahhh" or “ahhhhh” and “awwww” moments. We are all walking, ever changing emojis. πŸ˜€πŸ˜±πŸ˜₯☺πŸ’ƒπŸ˜€πŸ˜¨πŸ˜”πŸ˜‚πŸ˜₯πŸ˜‰πŸ’ƒπŸ˜Š One moment we are happy, then sad or shocked, the next moment we smile, then we laugh or dance and sometimes we repeat that cycle after a good cry and find joy again. One phone call or life circumstance can change the mood of the day. Everyone's journey is different, but we all come face to face with our own mortality and reminders that time is 'filled with swift transition.' We must take time to reflect, remember and take in real moments, good and bad. They are all apart of the human experience. One writer said, “ The struggle is a part of your story.” How true that is! One moment we are blowing up balloons and welcoming guests to a party and one moment we are welcoming guests to a funeral and sprinkling flowers over a grave. LIFE IS PARADOXICAL! We may have a great day at work on Monday and a terrible day on Tuesday or an awesome morning and a terrible afternoon all on the same day. We may get a promotion one month and a pink slip shortly thereafter. You may be popular, sought after and admired one day and ostracized, criticized and bullied the next. Just ask Jesus who was welcomed and called "Hosanna" by the same people who would shout "Crucify him!" Life makes no promises that each day will be perfect, understandable or even comfortable, but God assures us that "He will never leave us nor forsake us." Hebrews 13:5 It is important to fix our eyes on God as life is always changing. He is the author and finisher of our faith and remains our stability in unstable times. We must look to Him and not be shaken. Hebrews 12:2, Psalm 16:8 As our friend watches God sustain her today with one foot in joy and one foot in sorrow, let us watch God sustain each of us as well whenever we are confronted with both joy and sorrow at the same time. God delights in meeting us at our point of need. I believe my lifetime commitment will be to keep telling the world that God celebrates and suffers with us. We cannot assume that we are void of His presence just because He allows suffering. Neither should we denounce opportunities to celebrate. Even so, may we night lose sight in celebration that suffering exists. Dr. E.K. Bailey use to say, "Don't get depressed because the ferris wheel of life will go up again and don't become arrogant because it will go down again." In other words, life is cyclical so keep watching it go round and round and hold on in faith. Are you joyful? Are you sorrowful? Are you experiencing both at the same time? GOD CAN HANDLE OUR BLUES AND OUR BLISS! God knows where you are and He is right there. I will say this again- Life is paradoxical. It isn't always black or white. It doesn't always feel practical, but the Lord is awake and aware. We have a present Shepherd that never abandons His sheep. -Psalm 23 We have nothing to fear. He #leads and #lifts. He #guides and #grooms. He #directs and #delivers. He #protects and #provides. He #feeds and #follows. He #humbles and He #helps. He #corrects and #cares. He #gives fresh water and green pastures. He gives a #path and a promise. πŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™Œ May He chase us into His presence. There we may find #rest that is eternal and joy forever more. Are you #happy? Don’t allow anyone to make you feel bad about feeling good. Dance. Sing. Celebrate. πŸ’ƒπŸ’ƒπŸ’ƒπŸ’ƒπŸ’ƒπŸ’ƒπŸ’ƒπŸ’ƒπŸ’ƒπŸ’ƒπŸ’ƒπŸ’ƒπŸ’ƒπŸ’ƒπŸ’ƒ Embrace these sweet moments and cherish them. Are you #weary, #sad or #overwhelmed? It's ok to not be ok. Dr. Robert Smith Jr., in the tragic loss of his dear son who was murdered in the recent years, shared these words. They are piercing and true, "God helps us to make sense out of nonsense." He said at the funeral of his youngest son, Tony Smith, "Job stood over 10 caskets. I only stand over 1." Wow! What a reminder of #grace even when life hurts. God cares at the beginning of life and at the the end of seasons and at the beginning of new paths. If we could ask Job about life between celebration and lamentation, I know he would give us great encouragement. God took his health and family. God #suffered with Him. God blessed Him with better health and more children. God #celebrated with Him. He lived 146 years and God was faithful in wonderful times and in woeful moments. The same is true in our lives as well. God grants Himself in fruitfulness and in famine. He is faithful in sickness and in health. He is there in wealth and in lack, in popularity and in isolation and He meets every need. I know myself because I have seen God in public moments that lifted and in private moments that broke me and in public moments that broke me and in private moments that lifted me. God grants grace when we are confronted or presented with caskets and cupcakes. My good friend ended tonight saying, "Mom had a beautiful birthday and we had a good time. The funeral went well and we are sustained by prayer." How is this possible? Because with #God all things are possible- even birthdays on funeral days. The God of all creation loves and He laments. My bereaved friend can rejoice and so can we because hope lives here. Her dearly departed father has gone from life to better life and was celebrated on the day her mother was born. So her father got a birthday too! Both of them will now know life in new ways because God loves them. One has the grace of a new year on earth and one has the grace of new life in heaven. You and I are recipients of that grace as well. Why? Because we are loved by God. One of my favorite songs reminds me of the love of Christ in all seasons. "Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so....yes Jesus loves me...." Take a moment and encourage yourself with the truth of God's Word. #God and his #word stands #forever. Isaiah 40:8 Will you #trust Him when life is #sweet and #sorrowful? Dear Father, Meet us at our point of need and grant your power and peace. Thank you for your fresh presence and your pursuit in our #celebration and in our #suffering. We love you and thank you for joy that is not circumstantial but sure! In your name. Amen.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Good? Bad? Or Purposed? Have A Purposeful Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day!πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’– Sooooo, tell the truth...we all know that people either really love or really hate Valentine's Day. Right? What does Valentine's day mean to you? Is it just another day? A day of love that feels like magic or a dread? For some it is filled with surprises, laughter,sizzling hot romanceπŸ”₯πŸ’₯πŸ”₯,candy, cards, flowers🌸🌹🌾, dinner with their loving spouse or significant other. For some it is a day of fun or a special time of pampering or of feeling appreciated. For some it is a day that is over rated or forced by advertisers or a day when no one can reach the sky high expectations of the one they love. For some it is a day of single's empowerment and self appreciation or a day to celebrate your own loving, relationships or precious family time shared. For some it is giving notes or candy in class or candy grams on college campuses. For some it is often a lonely day that makes many feel excluded, alone, under celebrated and forgotten. In certain seasons we all have wanted to either kiss the day or to fast forward through the day. I recall incredible and terrible Valentine's days. What has been your best Valentine's day? What has been your worst? My best Valentine's days as a single person were in high school participating in candy and song- grams that allowed us to visit classes singing to students who wanted to honor their friends. πŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ’ž Other great memories came in college were receiving candy in the mail from my parents and years later beginning a tradition as a single woman of having lunch with a date or friends, getting surprises through the day or buying myself or buying others candy, picking up balloons or a special gift if I were not dating so I could still enjoy the day of fun. In that process I became addicted to the celebration of life. πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’• πŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œ Life is short. I'm committed to 'turning up' often in expressions of love or with encouragement or celebrations of others because everyday is a gift. 🎁 A gift that is not promised. πŸ’• A trip to the Godiva shop was by far the best tradition that I enjoyed as a single woman and I enjoy keeping that tradition in marriage as well.(No harm in not breaking some traditions). Lol! πŸ˜› πŸ’• The worst Valentine's days for me were the ones where I allowed the lack of gifts or the absence of a date to consume my thought life. This day can make you feel less than and at times, can serve as a megaphone silently screaming to those that feel alone or unloved if they are not "attached" or are not married...or so I thought. πŸ’• It is easy to assume that being with someone is better than not being with anyone. Not true! πŸ’• I recall the heart break one year of being told that "I got you a sweater since you have picked up didn't need any candy." O.M.G. The horror!!!!(Side eye)πŸ‘€πŸ˜±πŸ˜€ The day was based on how other people 'made' me feel. Clearly, being with someone (or perhaps I should say, by just being with anyone) on Valentine's day is not a guarantee on having a great day. Don't settle! πŸ’• I recall determining that my happiness on Valentine's day or any day could not be predicated on the opinions of others, on relationships or my fantasies and neither could it be "fixed" by someone being by my side. It was time for a perspective change! πŸ’–πŸ’‹πŸ’–πŸ’‹πŸ’–πŸ’‹πŸ’–πŸ’‹πŸ’–πŸ’‹πŸ’–πŸ’‹πŸ’–πŸ’‹πŸ’–πŸ’‹πŸ’‹πŸ’–πŸ’‹ I needed an upgrade in my heart, mind, esteem and spirit! Ever been there? Glory for change!πŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™Œ I was fully in control of how I felt and reacted and even in choosing whom I would date or how content I would feel on days like this. I hade to be made over from the inside out and I was. πŸ’• No one had the power to make this day terrible or awesome. God is the only One that could give me inner peace that could not rise and fall based on dates, candy or the presence or absence of a relationship. πŸ’• Although I couldn't control or always predict how life would be each day, I could determine if I would be content and open or resentful, sad and depressed. I could choose if I would have a great day or a self induced pity party. πŸ’• God did something marvelous! He changed the way I saw myself and that changed the way I allowed myself to be treated. πŸ’• You do know that God majors in changing names and natures? Ask Abram. Ask Sarai. Ask Jacob. Ask Saul. πŸ’• Ask me! He has certainly done a new thing in my life and in yours. A new life includes new values and perspectives. My view of Valentine's day changed and so did my view of myself and the world.🌎 If we don't love ourselves, why would we desire anyone else to do the same? πŸ’• Many years before meeting my husband and yet many years after enjoying some great and enduring some not so great Valentine's days, I started finding ways to make the day of love more joyful for others and myself. Little did I know that it would soon become a day that I stopped dreading and became a day that felt like a birthday. A birthday? Yes. Because a new mindset is a beautiful birth- a rebirth! πŸŽˆπŸŽˆπŸ’šπŸ’–πŸ’œπŸŽˆπŸŽˆπŸ’šπŸŽˆπŸ’œπŸ’‹πŸŽˆπŸ’‹ πŸ’–πŸŽˆπŸ’šπŸ’–πŸŽˆπŸ’œπŸ’–πŸŽˆπŸ’šπŸ’–πŸŽˆπŸ’–πŸŽˆπŸ’–πŸŽˆπŸ’šπŸŽˆπŸ’œπŸŽˆπŸ’œπŸ’‹πŸ’š πŸ’• Giving candy to widows, giving treats to children and seniors, rendering acts of kindness to strangers at grocery stores, malls or in my own family made the day more special. πŸ’• Representing our church or ministry in the community also became a sweet part of some of my new Valentine's traditions as well as simply enjoying time alone in blissful contentment doing some of my favorite things or heading to dinner with loved ones or friends. πŸ’• You know what else? It took the focus off of my lofty ideas and diverted from a day of selfishness. It became a day of purpose. Well, with the exception of my consistent desire to have an occasional spa treatment, a Godiva strawberry and some Turtles. 😊😊😊(Gotta love that chocolate, caramel and nut combination of goodness and a good massage and all things Godiva sometimes. Listen, I do believe in self care. Nothing wrong with ministering to ourselves.) πŸ’• But it moved from a day that was only about me and was no longer solely about me or about who gave or didn't give to me, who showed me love or made me feel special, but about the love that I could show to others. πŸ’• The joy of people feeling remembered or surprised by a small gesture, a hug, a few pieces of candy, a note, a flower or a pop up visit or gift humbled me and showed me that love transcends all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities and social statuses. πŸ’• My heart became full watching others enjoy being acknowledged, remembered and appreciated. Who in your life needs to be reminded that they matter? Who is in your family, on your street, in your church, on your job or in your community that you can show love to today? My husband has made Valentine's day special for many years. He is my every day Valentine! I. Love. Me. Some. Him.πŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ˜˜πŸ˜˜πŸ˜˜πŸ˜˜πŸ˜˜πŸ˜˜ He is my closest friend, pastor, potential pusher, accountability partner, love and confidant. πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’• Being married now makes the day sweeter, but I'm so glad I found great Valentine's days long before marriage because no person can give us complete happiness. That has to come from within. When the right one comes along, and when the time is right, they will, they enhance what is already there and yet maximize the joy by adding new love, new traditions and new moments to cherish created together. πŸ’• That makes every day Valentine's day to me. Rev. Tim Robinson is a safe keeper of my heart and we are in it to win it. I love that my hubby knows the candy that makes me smile, the words that make me tear and seeing his own personal touch on the day simply because he knows I Lovvve it melts my heart.πŸ’“πŸ’“πŸ’“πŸ’“πŸ’“πŸ’“πŸ’“πŸ’“πŸ’“πŸ’“πŸ’“πŸ’“πŸ’“πŸ’“πŸ’“πŸ’“πŸ’“πŸ’“ I use more words than he does, but his kindness and daily expressions transcend words and special days. When he speaks- it counts! He is not a 'fru fru' person, but accepts that his wife is. πŸ’• Giving to one another, giving to others individually and together and quality time makes me fulfilled. Making someone else's day makes me even happier. Making his day fuels my soul. πŸ’• I see now that Valentine's day has to be more than a day of fluff for me. In giving to others life and this day have become more purposeful. πŸ’• Some years we could afford big boxes of candy, teddy bears, flower arrangements and an elaborate dinner. Some years we could not. Some years all we could do was to give each other a note or share a small box of candy or even wait until the candy went on sale the next day. Lol! #Real talk! πŸ’• You know what? The best Valentine's days as a married couple were not the times that we spent the most, but the times that we simply enjoyed the peaceful contentment of belonging and of knowing real love with one another and in loving on others. πŸ’• In full disclosure, the most memorable Valentine's day was a day that our car broke down on the way to a romantic dinner and we had to be towed by AAA. Once we were home we walked to a nearby place to have dinner. It was frustrating for a bit but sweet as the night continued and hilarious in reflection. πŸ’• It would have been a disastrous day for some but it was wonderful to me because we were together, we still had a romantic dinner (and walk) πŸ˜‰. πŸ’• The day was filled with adding joy to others at work and seeing God's grace on display in the middle of life happening. πŸ’• Our car tires were flat but our love tank was full. What is on flat in your life? What is on full? Celebrate the fullness in the midst of 'flatness-joy in the midst of pain.' πŸ’• Today, see grace all around! In others, in service and in your life. It's easy to miss when life is great or when we have an unspoken script of what the day should look like. Life lenses change when we are not the only object of our own generosity. πŸ’• Take a breath. Enjoy belonging. Enjoy being. Enjoy blessing. πŸ’• Belonging is possible to married couples, singles, men, women and children. Being loved is as well. Jesus ensured it. He loves each of us so much that He proved it by dying for us. (John 3:16) πŸ’• Did you know that YOU are to die for? And your life matters. Jesus gave His life so that our lives could have abundant life. That's love! Real love. Non-manufactured love. A love that never fails. A love with no shade and no exclusion. πŸ’• Have a day and a life that reminds others that their existence matters. πŸ’• Surprise someone that may feel forgotten. Bring someone out of the margins of society and simply see them. Love them. Remind someone that they belong. πŸ’• Someone who is divorced, has loss a loved one or has become a widow may need your call, card, flowers, understanding, hug or visit today. πŸ’• Rise above superficiality. πŸ’• Revamp the way we see the day if it is only viewed as a 'downer.' πŸ’• Make it a day of 'uppers.' Not a perfect day but a purposed day. Up your joy, up your esteem and up your love capacity. Up your prayer time and contentment. πŸ’•Up the sunshine in the lives of others and up the way you give to others... give yourself away and see yourself the way God sees you. It took me over 25 years to do that but let me tell you- the journey has been worth it. πŸ’• If you enjoy candy, flowers, hearts, notes, all things pink or red- be you! Live it up! πŸ’• If not, don't sweat it! πŸ’• Just don't forget to think outside the box of your experience in loving on others or in having a day of purpose. There, we will always find a whole new world with more significance outside of the self absorbed "me, myself and I" syndrome that can be blinding to us all. πŸ’• Happy Valentine's Day!πŸ’ŒπŸ’ŒπŸ’ŒπŸ’ŒπŸ’Œ Love God. Love others. Love yourself. πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’• Need some help today in showing love? Here are some suggestions, but let your creativity guide you: Carve out time to worship God today for His character.πŸ’• Journal what you are grateful for. Pop into a homeless shelter to drop off treats today.πŸ’• Visit an animal shelter. πŸ’• Adopt a pet. Volunteer in an area that you are passionate. Donate to a food pantry or clothing drive. Check on a friend in the hospital. πŸ’• Spread love at a nursing home or assisted living facility. πŸ’• Prepare or pick up a meal for someone. Take a mental health day. πŸ’• Surprise your boss, your staff, a volunteer team, the people that you admire or a colleague with candy or a kind note. πŸ’• Give out balloons, flowers or gift cards to strangers. Support a hurting family or friend. Give encouragement and support to refugees or immigrants in your city. πŸ’• Share the gospel. Meet someone's need without telling them that you did it. πŸ’• Write out affirmations to remind yourself of God's love for you. Look in the mirror and thank God for creating your life. Embrace your uniqueness, beauty and flaws. πŸ’• πŸ’• Pass out thinking of you notes to friends. Enjoy coffee with a friend. Pay for someone's groceries or medicine. πŸ’• Bless a foster child and family. Treat yourself.πŸ’• Donate to your favorite charity. Tell your spouse and children and or your parents and siblings what they mean to you. Make a homemade gift or card. πŸ’• Enjoy a picnic, pack your favorite lunch. Bless homeless sisters and brothers near you. Give and receive love without apology or shame. Laugh out loud. Sit in quiet contemplation. Snuggle. Smile. Repeat. Love outside of your comfort zone. Discover your purpose and work at it each day. πŸ’• Purpose propels!πŸ‘Š ***Your purpose allows the world's need and your gifts to collide. What better day to live purposefully? Start now. πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’• Thank you Father for your great love. We can never deserve it or can ever fall out of your great grasp. We celebrate you today and thank you for an authentic love-an everlasting love. A love that remains. Teach us how to demonstrate love to others as you demonstrate it to us so freely. Give us purpose filled days and Christ esteem. May our love be evident in each of us. In your name we pray, amen! Amen! #Valentines Day #purpose #love #give #share #remember #faith #hope #love #care #inspire #yourvoicematters #lovewell #loveoften