Challenge 29: Position Yourself to Love

My sister and I

My sister and I

I praise God that my biological sister is truly my sister. Though I just wrote about her last week, something she did this past weekend is perfect to share for this week’s love challenge.

Sharon and I can always be honest with each other, sometimes bluntly, and when we are, we know that the straight truth comes from a heart of love. So when Sharon told me, “Girl, you know I love you because I’m getting up early to come hear you speak,” I knew she spoke this out of love, though, I must admit, I was taken aback. This was her once-a-month date weekend where her brother- and sister-in-law keep her kids overnight so she and my brother-in-love can spend a kid-free Friday evening and all-day Saturday together. My being a keynote at the Daughters of Deborah (DOD) Women in Ministry Fellowship Prayer Breakfast was cutting into her couple time and she wanted to make sure I knew it. At first, I didn’t know how to take her comment. I know she loves me, but I just chuckled and thought “Am I supposed to feel bad because SHE chose to spend less time with her husband for me? Does she want me to profusely thank her?” Well, she didn’t want me to feel bad, but she DID want me to acknowledge her sacrifice to show her love for me. “I thought you might say something,” she said. When I told her what I was thinking, she understood why I didn’t seem overjoyed that she was supporting me on her date weekend. We both laughed when she realized she sounded like one of our relatives who loooooooooooves people to praise her when she does something special.

The fact is that my sister DID go out of her way to show love to me. God had impressed upon her heart some months ago that we can’t say we love one another and not show that we love one another. This weekend, Sharon got stretched going beyond her words to show me on another level her love for me. And I am so glad she did. Because she loved me greater she positioned herself to love another woman at the prayer breakfast.

A woman requested prayer for her daughter and the DOD leader agreed that we would pray for the daughter, even though that prayer wasn’t on OUR agenda. The leader, who had just met my sister that day and didn’t know she is a prayer warrior, said the Lord told her to have Sharon pray for this daughter. Sharon prayed high in the Spirit, heard from God, spoke words from God and was used to supply comfort and peace to this mother and daughter; they were so grateful and we were all in awe of God and HIS agenda.

Take a Risk Challenge: When you love the way God wants you to love, you just don’t know whether or not He is positioning you to love others who may be in need. Perhaps He will lead you to give money to someone, not knowing that the person needed the money to buy their children some shoes or send a child on a school field trip. This week, sacrifice what you may want to do to show, not just tell, someone that you love them. You may be positioning yourself to show love beyond your target of love.

My One Thousand Gifts List

Nathaniel saying “we are entering the spooky dark” as we descended the basement stairs
Not having to pick up Joshua from school because he was off because of a power outrage
Preparing two kinds of pancakes for the boys and feeling joy in doing it
Talking to Nichole
Being okay with my upside down and sideways days
Playing ‘Red Light, Green Light’ with the boys
Joshua saying he didn’t want my husband and me to give him up for adoption (like that was ever an option)
Rising early to groom my hair
Monday’s blog post given a day early
Listening to two church history lectures

Challenge 28: Celebrate Others

Me with the Revs. Sharon D. Moore and Minetta Hare at the Victorious Vessels Women's Retreat

Me with the Revs. Sharon D. Moore and Minetta Hare at the Victorious Vessels Women’s Retreat

This weekend wore me out physically but lifted me up spiritually. On Saturday, I ministered at the Victorious Vessels Women’s Retreat at Ebenezer AME Church in Detroit alongside some powerful, serious and humble women of God, beginning with the Rev. Sharon D. Moore, convener. I have talked about Rev. Moore before. She is not only my sister in Christ, but she is also my biological sister and my biggest cheerleader outside of my husband. She has always been this way with me and others. She is just an encourager and this weekend she was just that. She invited me and three other ministers—the Rev. Minetta Hare, the Rev. Dr. Velva Burley-Flowers and Minister Jacqui Showers—to teach on prayer and stated that she wanted to read each of our biographies WORD FOR WORD (which she doesn’t usually do) because she wanted “us to celebrate our sisters.” And I celebrated my sisters and felt so loved as the women celebrated what God has been able to do through me.

On Sunday, I had my first informational session for my business, Soul Delights, at my church, Evangel Ministries in Detroit. Like my sister, my pastor, Christopher Brooks, is an encourager and has always lived what he has preached about helping people, particularly us in his congregation, fulfill their God-given dreams. He, therefore, has purposed to promote church members’ businesses and my using space in the church for my session was the way this weekend that he celebrated what God is doing through me.

I am so grateful for my sister, my pastor, my church members, my family and sister-friends that love me without malice or envy and celebrate me sincerely.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

God says, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35).

Celebrating, appreciating, and congratulating—not hating—is what God calls us to do for one another not just for us but to give Him glory.

Take a Risk Challenge: Love a brother or sister this week by intentionally celebrating, appreciating and congratulating them.

One Thousand Gifts List

My shrimp/pasta/pesto/broccoli dish turning out delicious
Bird watching out the window with Nate
Not knowing what God wanted me to blog about and being okay not posting something until I hear something
Hearing clear messages from God about things to write and taking a seminary class on iTunes University
Looking for butterflies out the window with the boys
Justus coming to get me to dance and Nate dancing with me with the “get down” face—LOL
Killing 10 flies with the boys with Joshua leading us
God delaying giving me my blog post but giving me a powerful lesson about His Lordship
Remembering I hadn’t taken my medicine and deciding to get it only to discover that the cabbage wasn’t put in the refrigerator
Nathaniel shouting “surprise” for no apparent reason

Challenge 27: Expect God’s Grace

God's hand

April is a really busy month of ministry for me. In addition to taking care of my family, home education, my weekly teaching and committee meeting at our home school coop, and my monthly meetings with my discipleship ladies, I have two speaking engagements, an informational session regarding my business and a conference call regarding an international prayer convocation where I am serving in June. These are just the “big” items. By the look of my April life, there seems to be no more room for any other thing. But when the call came to support my friend at her daughter’s rites of passage celebration; to reach back out to talk to and pray for someone who I didn’t have time for the initial time she approached me; and to give advice to an emotionally vulnerable woman with some challenges beyond my experience, I knew I would have the energy and words to love these women because I have recently embraced my philosophy that my head has known for some time: I must expect God’s grace.

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”—2 Corinthians 12:7-10

We often use the Apostle Paul’s example when we are being persecuted, but Paul lists all types of problems that go beyond persecutions, including the catchall “weaknesses,” which he got from God: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” God says. And God’s grace has always been sufficient.

When God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses had a host of reasons why God shouldn’t have chosen him. I am nobody. They won’t believe my authority or what I say. I don’t speak well. But God kept assuring Moses that He would be with him, giving Moses the ability through signs to prove his authority and what he was saying, telling him exactly what to say and eventually telling Moses that He would have Moses’ brother, Aaron, speak on his behalf (Exodus 3:10-4:17).

Whatever our deficiency, whether external like Paul’s or internal like Moses’, we will have the strength—God’s strength, God’s grace—to do what we need to do, including love others who need us when our schedules are full. When we see the awesome work that God was able to do through Paul and Moses, we can rest assured that our same God will use us mightily to love people even when we don’t think we have the capacity to do so. We just have to expect, and accept, His grace.

Take a Risk Challenge: In spite of your deficiency, this week love someone, by giving a call, making a visit, etc., and expect and accept God’s grace to love. Expecting and accepting God’s grace truly helps us perform a radical act of love.

My One Thousand Gifts List

A deep sleep nap
Joshua not complaining today
Catching up on online magazine article reading
Finally finishing One Thousand Gifts
A “sweatbox” time of intercessory prayer
Joshua voluntarily confessing his pleasure of Nate getting a spanking and asking me to pray for him
Praying with Joshua
Sweet time of fellowship with Tabitha where we got to know each other on a deeper level
Christen fellowshipping with our family
Justus running to the door overjoyed (squealing)

Challenge 26: Apologize

Last week a new study came out that made me roll my eyes: Not apologizing makes people feel more empowered than if they did apologize. When you don’t apologize you feel like you have control and you’re not giving that control over to the person who wronged you, the study said. And I rolled my eyes. We don’t need another study to validate our feelings, to give us a reason to be bitter and unforgiving, and to, quite simply, fulfill the lusts of our flesh. I mean, really, how many people do you know who actually desire to quickly apologize for something they did wrong? But we should. Scripture tells us if we know someone has a problem with us, we should approach the person so we can get our issue resolved (Matthew 5:23-24). Settling disputes, which are often ushered by an apology, are necessary so God forgives us and receives our worship (Matthew 6:14-15; Matthew 5:24). Many of us may not think that our apology is connected to how God treats us. We may not think about how our apology might benefit us (Hebrews 12:14-15). Scripture after scripture commands us to reconcile and some of those scriptures require that WE make an apology, but we tend to think that an apology on our part somehow gives the other person an advantage. So we don’t need some study to get us shaking our heads about being disempowered because of an apology. Sometimes that’s all we need, just one person, one study, to keep us from doing what we know is right and we are on our way to a broken relationship, a hard heart, bitterness, unforgiveness, lack of peace and health issues that can come from unchecked emotions. We can likely avoid this if we simply apologize.

Take a Risk Challenge: This week if you know you messed up with somebody, please sincerely apologize without the “If I hurt you, I’m sorry.” You know if you did something wrong and that should not be predicated on whether or not you hurt the person. Apologize for what you did and apologize for your actions being the cause of their pain. And don’t forget to ask for their forgiveness. Apologizing by taking and not transferring ownership for your wrong truly is a radical act of love.

My One Thousand Gifts List

Jax’s birthday party at Gymboree with Nate and Justus having a ball
Resting my body and my headache improving
A bird flying across my porch as I looked out the door
Cooking dinner and cleaning the kitchen after not feeling well all day
Watering my plants
The sound of sparrows dancing on gutters
Walking with the boys across open fields in the sunshine
Justus attempting to approximate Nate’s expression and do it in unison with him
Nate eating watermelon (which he really doesn’t like) because Joshua was eating it
The stealth moves of my husband and me trying to be intimate in the afternoon with my son not wanting to take a nap

Challenge 25: Suffer for Another

I. just. couldn’t. believe. my. weekend, which started Thursday. I got the flu and I don’t remember the last time I got the flu or got sick for that matter but I can just about figure what happened. My lack of rest and raw foods over the past two weeks with an intense ministry schedule caused my downfall. Though this flu wasn’t the worst I have had, my body aches and fever were enough to cause me to have to sacrifice much: tickets to the Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour Thursday; Good Friday Service; a movie date Saturday; and Resurrection Service. I can’t remember the last time I missed church on Easter! Yes, I was bummed that I missed a bunch of what I wanted to do, but I had to sacrifice so that I could receive new life in my body. And guess what, as of Sunday evening my fever and body aches had subsided and I was experiencing new life.

Few people look forward to sacrifice so they might have new life: a new attitude; a new job; a new house; a new mission, but sacrifice is necessary. Most of us want instantaneous change and are more than happy to walk in newness simply handed to us. We know most of life doesn’t work that way, though the greatest life we have did work that way: Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, lived a sinless life but was beaten, spit upon, lied on, mocked, denied and crucified (a criminal’s death) for sinful lives that should have received the punishment. Instead, we received the free gift of new life—eternal life—that Jesus paid with His life for us to have. He did all the hard work, the suffering, the shedding of His blood. All He asks is that we love Him with all our soul, mind and strength and love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40). We may struggle with sacrificing for our own benefit, so sacrificing for the benefit of others may not be a constant on our minds. But if Jesus sacrificed for us and commands we do so for others surely we should be overjoyed to do what He commands however the sacrifice, the suffering, comes to us. Let’s embrace it for the love of Christ.

Take a Risk Challenge: So, in honor of Jesus, and to fulfill our perpetual call of sacrifice to serve others, I’m challenging you this week to not do something that you love—something that you just feel you would suffer if you couldn’t do it—so that someone else might somehow be revived. Look at this similar post for ideas. Sacrificing by suffering on behalf of another ALWAYS is a radical act of love.

My One Thousand Gifts List

Flynn playing basketball with the boys
Flynn surprising me by getting a sitter so I could attend Byron’s lecture without having to take the boys
A call to babysit a precious boy
Talking to my sister without feeling rushed
Byron’s lecture being inspiring and indicting
Tension talking to the mom of the boy I babysat about having to spank him
Family prayer and praise
Day 2 of success of being a vegetarian
An ever present awareness to worship God
Rising at 6 am to spend time with God and work on my EACH articles for almost three hours before anyone else got up