Challenge 24: Switch the Spotlight

Spotlight

Some of you know I spiritually mentor seven women who I meet with individually monthly and as a group monthly. Each March, my birthday month, the ladies get a special dinner for me, a cake and a wonderful gift, usually to a spa. While I always LOVE what they do for me, I decided this year I would investigate what was going on around the city and plan an outing for us to attend. In prayer on another matter, I sensed the Lord tell me to cook dinner and have them over my house. He didn’t just stop with that group, though. He had me add women I mentor who are not in my monthly group and my sister clergy from my church. Twenty-three in all came. And we sang and laughed and ate and prayed and cried and testified and rejoiced and hugged and loved one another so fully, God spilling His blessings out on each one of us as I prayed for every. single. woman. I am still spiritually spinning and physically spent but rejoice that God would call me to love women like this on MY birthday.

I served healthy treats: kale salad, broccoli salad, pinto beans w/out meat, greens w/out meat, cabbage w/out meat, spicy lentils, yellow split peas (not pictured) and lentils and rice topped with caramelized onions.

I served healthy treats: kale salad, broccoli salad, pinto beans w/out meat, greens w/out meat, cabbage w/out meat, spicy lentils, yellow split peas (not pictured) and lentils and rice topped with caramelized onions.

I served two meats: curry and baked chicken.

I served two meats: curry and baked chicken.

We had these chocolate velvet brownies with a cream cheese icing and a non-baked (raw) lemon pudding with a pistachio crust (Read about that on my Soul Delights Facebook page).

We had these chocolate velvet brownies with a cream cheese icing and a non-baked (raw) lemon pudding with a pistachio crust (Read about that on my Soul Delights Facebook page).

Serving as such on my birthday may seem odd to some, but a few years ago, as I was lamenting a bit over the normal activities I had to do on my birthday—taking care of the children and having ministry meetings, I sensed this so clear in my spirit: “You must engage in the things that show forth why I had you to be born.” Ouch! So that has become the mindset for my birthday. I engage in activities that exemplify my life calling, why God put me on earth. Instead of expecting a celebration of me, I look for opportunities to celebrate God’s calling on my life, a celebration of God. For my 40th, I had a dinner party where I gave all the guests an award and presented them with a poem I wrote and in other years I have mothered and mentored and ministered in other ways, all of which show forth my calling and give God, not me, glory. This was a new paradigm for me but something I am committed to and think others should consider as we seek to perform radical acts of love.

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Along with these Calla Lillies, guests bought me a silver bracelet, a two-day stay at a bed and breakfast, a designer dress, a silver bangle and money, all totally a surprise and such a blessing!

Along with these Calla Lillies, guests bought me a silver bangle, a two-day stay at a bed and breakfast, a designer dress, and money, all totally a surprise and such a blessing!

Another ‘love another’ link for your consideration.

Take a Risk Challenge: This week love someone else when you believe you deserve to be showered instead. Maybe buy coffee for that co-worker whose turn it is to buy your coffee or allow someone else to speak up in a meeting when you have the answer you know will make you shine in front of the boss. Just do something that takes the spotlight off you and places it on someone else. Yes, that’s a radical act of love.

My One Thousand Gifts List

Note: Though I reached 1,000 gifts last week, I’m continuing to list gifts through when I stopped writing them in my journal, when my thanksgiving became “thanksliving,’ as Ann Voskamp says.

#1001-1010
Chatting with Tabitha and Kamil
Eating Middle Eastern food with Joshua
Visiting with and helping Renee—talking, looking at pictures from her first Paris trip, hearing her nephew be thrilled playing with Joshua, arranging furniture
Cuddling with Nate on the floor and his nestling in my chest and continually turning his face for me to kiss him
Completing my second Kingdom First column, which was one of the hardest articles I’ve ever had to write
Seeing the boys follow one another to make sounds into the fan, each younger one thrilled to mimic the older one right ahead of him
Two Robin birds doing a fleeting dance
Smelling pine cones in the spring
The nutty smell of basmati rice
Perfume coming in through the windows

Challenge 23: Be Your Brother’s Keeper

cain killed abel

The screech on the ice startled and propelled me to go to the window. I saw a yellow cab skidding away on ice. The driver had dropped off my neighbor. I didn’t think it was he, though this guy had sort of a cool pimp of a walk, my neighbor’s signature gait with head slightly down, and he was walking toward my neighbor’s house. But my neighbor was a bit slower, deliberately taking steps to not sidestep his cool. But this guy was jittery, high stepping almost while trying to pimp walk, glancing around but not down to grab hold of his hospital gown that was exposing the rear of his birthday suit. He tried the front door then went around to the side trying to find a way to enter his house. I dropped to my knees, cried out and cried while I prayed for “Jake.”

“Flynn, what we gonna do? Flynn what we gonna do?” I asked my husband after he came back into the bedroom. I explained what I had seen: “That’s not Jake. That’s not Jake. Something happened to him. Why would he have on a hospital gown in this weather and not have keys to his own house? We got to do something. We got to do something.” We had to do something because this wasn’t the man we had been used to seeing. He seemed to love his wife and grown children who have all moved away; he had grilled my sons hotdogs and given them treats and would look after our home when we were away. He was even tempered, friendly and full of corny sayings, like “I’m pretty fair to be a square,” but this day something had changed.

We called his wife, but she didn’t answer. Meanwhile Jake had disappeared to the other side of his house. He soon came back with a neighbor who had given him tools to break into his own house. Flynn went out to offer him some pants. He ignored Flynn’s offer, said his wife “was gone” and remained concentrated on trying to break into his house. Sometime later the police came to investigate after he threatened and cussed out real loud in the street the neighbor who gave him tools. Jake got loud with the officers too. I heard and saw all this and the scene grieved my soul. I thought of my pastor’s sermon the previous month that, using the Bible passage about the demoniac, talked about the characteristics of someone who may be under demonic influence. One of those characteristics was not being properly dressed.

In the passage the demoniac didn’t have on any clothes and seemed oblivious to such. My retired neighbor, usually well dressed even when casual, left his belongings at the hospital (we later found out) and was oblivious to his nakedness. Something was wrong with Jake, maybe something demonic, and though he may be possessed, shunned our help and our neighbor’s help and scared off his wife, I know we are still meant to help him in some way. It was no coincidence the day after the incident one of his daughters visited our church, not knowing that we were members of the church that her co-worker (who doesn’t even attend our church) suggested she attend. She confirmed that her father had never acted like that and they were all perplexed. I was able to tell her what we tried to do to help her father and assured her that we would continue to pray and offered that we would do whatever we could to help them. She hugged and thanked me and I knew God was calling us to be our brother’s keeper.

Unlike Cain, we cannot allow our brother’s blood to cry out and we do nothing. If we, like Cain, were the ones who inflicted death (literally or figuratively) on someone, we are obligated to give ourselves up and do whatever is possible to rectify the situation. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper. While we can’t be responsible for their choices we must take responsibility to help them rise above the situation. We can seek to help restore them physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, or mentally. You can pray, yes, but what else can you do to help? Maybe prayer is all you can do for folks like Jake but you won’t know unless you seek God for wisdom.

Take a Risk Challenge: Ask the Lord to show you how you can be your brother’s or sister’s keeper, either one on one or collectively (e.g., helping a special population like the homeless). Without a doubt, helping to keep someone besides yourself and who you are used to keeping indeed is a radical act of love.

My One Thousand Gifts List

#991-1000
Being confined to the basement with family because of an impending storm and finally taking down the Christmas tree staring at me
Flynn helping Nate play a Dora game on the computer
Andrina and Floyd coming by to eat
Special time with Flynn
The boys being excited to go to the water store
Clearly being able to express my feeling about the changing matriarchy and other issues in my family
Seeing my brother
Kamil and Amya coming over for a play date
Seeing Nate cater to Amya
Seeing Amya cater to Nate

Challenge 22: Weep for Kwame Kilpatrick

Ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick outside of federal court after being convicted of several corruption charges.

Ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick outside of federal court after being convicted of several corruption charges.

On Monday, March 11, 2013, ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was convicted on 24 of 30 counts against him for illegal activities while mayor. Most of the charges against him involved abusing his political power to obtain personal gains. His jury concluded that he diverted public funds into his private coffer. And for these charges Kilpatrick became an enemy to many. Those who saw him as an enemy—to politics or the people of Detroit—wanted vengeance. So when the verdicts were announced, many people rejoiced, but I was sad. For those who rejoiced, justice had been served and they were overjoyed that a public servant who swindled money from a trusting public got what he deserved. But the Bible commands us not to rejoice over our enemies’ fall so I was sad not only for Kilpatrick but about those who say they are Christians and celebrated Kilpatrick’s fate:

“Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the LORD see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him. Fret not yourself because of evildoers, and be not envious of the wicked, for the evil man has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out” (Proverbs 24:17-20).

We are COMMANDED not to rejoice when our enemy falls. We are COMMANDED not to be glad when he stumbles. Our rejoicing can effectively nullify whatever punishment God has planned for the evil doer but above that, in my eyes, is that our rejoicing displeases God. And when God is displeased with our attitude, the scripture above says He will turn away his anger from the evil doer, but what else might be our consequences for displeasing God? Our goal should be to please God and to do what He tells us to do. Otherwise, our rejoicing not only can cancel God’s intended punishment for the evil doer but it also makes us akin to an evil doer:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).

When we don’t love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, we are not being like our heavenly Father. If we are not being like our heavenly Father, then we are being the opposite of Him—an evil doer. The Bible admonishes us to be perfect, which means one who has reached the proper height in virtue and integrity in mind and character” (Blue Letter Bible). So in relating to our enemies, as Christians our morals and reputation should be what the Bible prescribes for us. We are commanded not to rejoice at the downfall of others. In the verses from Proverbs 24 we see that “the evil man has no future.” So even though God says our rejoicing over his fall will nullify God’s anger toward the evil man, they also say the evil man “has no future.” These verses may seem to contradict each other, but let me offer you this: Even though, because of our rejoicing, God may turn His anger away from the evil doer (which may mean he won’t receive the full punishment God had intended), there are still natural consequences for bad choices. For the evil man, there is no future. We cannot determine what that “no future” looks like but, according to Scripture, his “no future” is guaranteed. This is why I believe the Scripture tells us not to fret or be envious of evildoers. They will be punished in time and our rejoicing doesn’t serve to hasten their punishment. Instead, we are told to love, pray and weep for those who weep (Romans 12:15).

And so I weep for Kwame M. Kilpatrick, my former high school classmate, former Leslie St. neighbor, parent of three boys and husband of a sister whose pain I can barely imagine. I weep for Kilpatrick’s losses that are mine: one brilliant mind not contributing to building up my community and society at large and a busted up family with the husband and father now absent. I weep for his “no future” in politics and as a present and contributing member of his family. Yes, these are consequences for Kilpatrick’s poor choices. He chose death and we cannot be surprised that death came to our community and his family as he knows it (Deuteronomy 30:19), but that does not give anyone license to rejoice over His fall. Kilpatrick’s tragedy should propel us all—biblical Christians—to follow God’s word and love, pray and weep for Kilpatrick and his family. We are commanded to do so. Otherwise, we are just evil.

Take a Risk Challenge: Actively love your enemies this week by doing something for them to overcome their evil with good (Romans 12:20-21).

My One Thousand Gifts List

#981-990
Sharing my deliverance from anxiety and my submission testimony with my discipleship group and seeing their in awe of God faces and some that cried
Reading two chapters, one in One Thousand Gifts and one in Living in the Pink
Sharing my ability to breathe again testimony with Renee and Nichole and their both relating to what I said
Climbing in bed when I knew my nerves were more powerful than my will and not being disturbed
Chirping birds
The bubbling sound of water in the fish tank
The warm feeling when reading Living in the Pink
Giving me a Memorial Day blog post about those women who died to their strong black women selves and walked out and exhibited 1 Peter 3:8-14—being troubled for Christ’s sake, not their own sake
Flynn’s grilling
Not being terribly bothered when an usher’s response to my “How are you?” was “Better than you. You got these kids weighing you down,” referring to Justus on my hip and Nate holding my hand

Challenge 21: Love Through an Identity Crisis

My 5-year-old likes to ask me questions that he already thinks he has the answer to. When I tell him the answer to his baited question, he proceeds to deny my response and begins to repeatedly decry my answer and laud his own. He keeps this up, trying to nag me into agreeing with him. In my head I usually scream: What does this boy want from me, asking me, the wiser one, the answers and insisting on following his anyway? He already had his mind made up. Why did he ask me anyway?

Then I remember that he is young, seeking to grow in wisdom, trying to find his way, navigating his identity crisis. And I think about me and my Jesus moments, arguing with Him, though not verbally, but in my mind and actions, showing Him I have the answers already though I bothered to ask Him, the all wise, all-knowing One.

We all know someone like my 5-year-old. We all know someone like me. You may even be ‘the someone’ you know who asks questions and is not really interested in receiving a correct answer from someone else. You may even, like me, do this with God. But God is not like I am with my 5 year old. He waits patiently for us to come to the understanding of who we are in relation to Him. He is all-knowing. We are not. He is perfect. We are not. We need Him. He doesn’t need us. But superior God constantly shows grace to inferior us. We can surely do the same for others, even those in an identity crisis.

Take a Risk Challenge: Extend grace to those who are in an identity crisis. They may not recognize their naïveté or their insecurity or their emotional or mental fragility, but you do. Instead of arguing, rubbing in their wrongs or otherwise belittling them, seek to understand, and if you can’t, try smiling and simply say ‘ok.’ Doing opposite of everything in your being is truly a radical act of love.

My One Thousand Gifts List

#971-980
Finding out that hydrogenated oils are one molecule away from plastic
Flynn being off work and able to get the car fixed and pick Joshua up from school
Giving me a maritime analogy
Sharing God’s word to me on temperance with my discipleship group
A woman’s cozy home and hospitality
A woman freely sharing her testimony
Women freely embracing a woman after she gave her testimony
Justus’ joyful giggle about making me laugh
Nate not whining and being really helpful with Justus
Staying home and in my PJs all day