Challenge 41: Vacate for Others’ Sake

One of the best ways you can empower yourself to radically love others is by taking a break. I’m on vacation for two weeks and looking forward to being refreshed to be my best. I plan to return here in two weeks.

Take a Risk Challenge: Take whatever break you need–coffee break; snack break; an evening walk break; a movie break–this week and next so that you can be empowered to show others radical love.

My One Thousand Gifts List

Talking to Flynn in the wee hours of the morning
Justus’ repetitive ‘Daddy’ and his dancing upon Flynn’s return
Sleeping in and the boys sleeping and even later
A leisure day of cleaning
Painting my toe nails and liking my mint green
The Yarbroughs coming to dinner
Salmon grilled and seasoned to perfection
Playing Dominoes with Flynn and Vince
Alabaster Ministries Bible study “I am Powerful”
Getting a prime parking space at church

Challenge 40: Embrace Trayvon

Trayvon-MartinA few weeks ago my family and I came to a stop at what is usually a busy intersection. There stood a guy with a sign requesting something—money, food, a job, I don’t know; I don’t remember, but I felt compelled to give him some money. This was an unusual encounter, not because the man was white in our mostly black city or even clean-shaven, but because he talked beyond the beg. In the few seconds between lights changing, he asked my husband how he was doing, told him how he had commented to another motorist about that man’s muscles and then told my husband that he likes to engage people in conversations to help him feel “a part of society again.” Right then my heart broke. I imagined that he was a shoe salesman, a family man, a baseball coach, a company man. Perhaps his company down-sized, shut him out, and the pain from not being gainfully employed took a toll on his self worth. Maybe he didn’t want to remain at home, having his family see him in such a rut and their presence reminding him that he could no longer provide the way he had. He figured he would just leave; they would be better without him. So he ended up on the street but quickly realized that people see you differently when you’re on the street.

When you’re on the street with a sign, you’re an outcast, someone not seen as worthy of conversation, of hopes, dreams or taking up space on the earth. You know this by the piercing stares, the closing windows, and, if walking, the clutching purses. Sometimes they pull their children tighter, hold them closer and warn them about “people like that.” We think we need to be saved from people like that. George Zimmerman classified Trayvon Martin among “people like that.” And Trayvon’s sign? He didn’t have one, but when you are “people like that” others give you a sign: “I’m up to no good;” “I’m going to rob you;” “I want to rape you.” And when others see these signs, they see you as dangerous, someone not worthy of life and they many times decide it’s their job to eliminate you. George Zimmerman may have been acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin under the guise of defending himself, but he saw Trayvon—a 17-year-old in a hoodie walking alone with a bag of candy and ice tea—as a threat to him just because of Trayvon’s presence. Zimmerman claimed that he shot Trayvon to defend himself from Trayvon hitting him, but when you target someone who only has a sign—real or imagined—you are the perpetrator no matter what the laws of the land say. And if you are a Christian who has given others signs and sought to eliminate them, you may be okay with manmade laws that say you can stand your ground with a perceived threat, but you are in gross violation of God’s Law when you target and eliminate “people like that.”

For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him” (Romans 10:12—KJV).

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28—KJV).

These verses speak about Christians from all backgrounds being the same in Jesus Christ. We who are believers cannot see another believer who doesn’t have the same skin color, same socioeconomic background, same education, same way of dress, or the like and decide to eliminate that person from being fully integrated into the church—the committee, the outreach ministry, the elder board, the children’s field trip. We may not pull the trigger of a gun, but our lack of hospitality—downright rudeness and meanness in some instances, come from us seeing “people like that” as a threat and is our way of eliminating them. “For the time [is come] that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if [it] first [begin] at us, what shall the end [be] of them that obey not the gospel of God (1 Peter 4:17—KJV)?”

We have to be the church as God instructed us to, first among ourselves and then to the world (Matthew 28:18-20). No longer can we target and eliminate the Trayvons of the world but we must embrace them for God’s sake, for our sake, for the world’s sake.

Take a Risk Challenge: Examine how you have targeted and eliminated others among your Christian circles and do one thing this week to set you on a course to change that forever. Include someone in your social outing. If you have hiring power, seek to hire someone. Maybe those are too much to begin with so start with making eye contact and saying hello to someone. Doing something to embrace the Trayvons of your world indeed is a radical act of love.

One Thousand Gifts List

Nate’s fat thighs
Enjoying being a mother
Chevelle getting Joshua to go to the movies with Joseph and Dwayne
Taking the boys to the playground and library
Joshua telling me unsolicited that he had a great time with me this week
For a partner in parenting
Time watering/gardening alone
My purse still being in the bathroom stall at the library and nothing was taken
One month of vegetarianism
Flynn’s safe return from the RZIM Summer Institute

Challenge 39: Find the Good in the Bad

Audience appreciation and speech appreciation are what speakers and listeners must consider when they are in a speech context. My teachers drilled this into me in school and I drilled this into my students. Speakers must appreciate their audience and tailor their speech to fit that audience. Listeners, on the other hand, should seek to find something they appreciate about the speaker’s message, even when the speaker didn’t tailor the speech to fit the audience. This is training listeners to be objective, to examine more than one aspect of the speech presentation, to sometimes just look for the one good in a bad speech.

Recently I thought about my training as the Lord has challenged me not to dwell on the negative but instead focus on the positive: “… whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things [are] honest, whatsoever things [are] just, whatsoever things [are] pure, whatsoever things [are] lovely, whatsoever things [are] of good report; if [there be] any virtue, and if [there be] any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8-KJV).

After making sure I knew what each of these words meant in the original biblical language, I literally listed aspects in my life that fit under each of these areas. I frequently read these to help me stay positive if I find myself prone to dwelling on circumstances that will make me blue. Some of the points I dwell on are the good that came out of a very challenging change in my life.

I had been in deep fellowship with a sister and over some time we had become close. We shared family struggles, ministry challenges, hopes and fears. We encouraged and rebuked each other, prayed for one another, studied the Bible together and couldn’t wait until the next time we talked. We had begun to work together on some ministry projects. One day we had a disagreement based on something I initially said. She decided we could not go on with a ministry assignment, and I was crushed. We had become extremely close. I wondered how she could misunderstand what I had said. How could she not understand my heart? I accepted the change in our ministry relationship and ultimately our friendship. Was it hard for me to move on? Certainly it was, but what has kept me moving forward is remembering God’s word and dwelling on the fullness of it:

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose” (Romans 8:28-KJV).

This classic verse isn’t one that we should just quote to soothe others or ourselves right after a deep conflict but one that we should fully embrace for its amazing restorative powers. This verse speaks to God’s will for our lives, what He has allowed or what He initiated. If His Holy Spirit didn’t direct us away from a conflict knowing the tough outcome awaiting us, God had a plan for us as a result of that conflict. Remember, God is good so whatever we face will ultimately lead to good for us. This is what the Apostle Paul means when he says “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose.” When we, who are the ones called to fulfill God’s Kingdom on earth, love God He promises we will bring forth fruit (John 15:7-10, 16). So when bad happens in our life—in my case the change of a friendship and ministry assignment—we must continue to love God by loving others, even those who hurt us, thus allowing God’s word to abide in us. We can love the one who hurt us by seeing how the tough situation might work for our good. I was able to see how I had allowed my friendship to become an idol in my life. Now with the shift in my relationship, I focus more on God and less on the blessings that He gives me. Had she remained in my life then, I would have looked to her more for direction than I would have to God. I would not have seen that I was heading down a path of depending on man more than depending on God. I now know that God prompted me to write the email the way I did because He knew what her reaction would be; He knew that our relationship wouldn’t change apart from an act of God. Though our split split my heart, I was able to examine her message and appreciate how it was from God and for my good.

Your situation may be one where someone was just pure evil toward you and we know that didn’t come from God, but the scripture doesn’t lie. Whatever your situation of use or abuse, it will work with other circumstances in your life for your good. Once we see how the tough interaction can work for our good, we can know the person who hurt us may not remain in our lives but the interaction will help us grow in an area for the glory of God. And knowing this can help us treat that person with the love of God.

Take a Risk Challenge: Examine how you have benefited from someone who has hurt you. Show them radical love by sending them a note, calling or visiting them. If interacting with them is dangerous for you, show them radical love by praying for them. Those who have done the most egregious acts are in desperate need of a healed soul and God’s love would have you to even pray for them.

My One Thousand Gifts List

Flynn playing tennis consecutive days
Not being stressed out caring for the boys solo
Tabitha and Tanina coming to assist me with housework and the boys
Joshua saying, “Mom, I love you” unsolicited
Joshua asking me to sleep with him “just because”
A yearning to spend time with God despite my being sleepy
Making three types of lasagna and they all turned out good
A rich conversation with Carla where we rejoiced about God’s prophecy manifesting and His opening ministry doors for her
Nichole and Asha visiting and having dinner
Justus purring when I hold him

Challenge 38: View Humans Correctly, Part 3

My new sister Jodie of Liberia and I at the World of Women Praying Convocation

My new sister Jodie of Liberia and me at the World of Women Praying Convocation

She has a name for everyone and a stereotype for some, this woman, a Christian I know. I challenge her when she refers to Koreans and Arabs in a derogatory way or stereotypes the way Caucasians and Asians drive. She’s only beginning to see something wrong with her views and speech, having historically held her positions because some of her observations seem to be true. Unfortunately she is not the only Christian who has these views. We know of all types of horrendous acts Christians have done to other humans and have even tried to justify them in the name of Christianity. We may not realize this, but when we attack others based on their race, nationality or ethnicity, we have gone beyond xenophobia (an intense fear or dislike of foreign people, their customs and culture, or foreign things) and into Jesus hate. But when you remember that an attack on another human being for any reason, especially based on intrinsic factors like skin color, ethnicity or nationality, is an attack on the Lord Jesus Christ, you should quickly seek to lay aside your opinions and dreadful actions and seek to really be like Christ.

I know my calling some of you Jesus haters may seem harsh, but consider some of my favorite scriptures: “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; (n)either is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation. . . .” (Acts 17:24-26).

When we focus on God 1) made all things in the world; 2) gives all life; 3) gives all breath; 4) gives all things to all; 5) made all people from the blood of one man; 6) determined when we would be born; and 7) determined where we would be born, we see that any attack on another is an attack on people God intentionally created. They breathe the same as we do and want the things we want. My sister Jodie from Liberia wants to impart self-esteem in the young girls she works with; my sister Passion from Zimbabwe wants equity for the small churches in her area; my sister Elna wants social justice for all races in South Africa; another sister wants adequate funding for schools in Kenya; a sister from Canada wants to go deeper with the Lord; and a mother from India wants her daughter free from sexual oppression. These are just some of the women I experienced this past weekend at the World of Women Praying Convocation (WOWPC) with sisters from just about every continent, every skin color and every age all loving Jesus. “God has a woman all over the world,” declared WOWPC Founder and Organizer Rev. Dr. Cecilia Williams Bryant to highlight the diversity of Christian women from around the world who love Jesus. And when you love Jesus you love who and what Jesus loves. These women exemplified that by coming together with others who didn’t all look like they looked but all had Jesus in common. They set aside whatever xenophobia they may have had to connect in the spirit to effect change in the natural among nations.

Whether we come into contact with people of other races and nationalities who love Jesus or don’t love Jesus, our mission has to be the same: for God’s Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. This can be done when we view all humans—Jesus loving ones and non-Jesus loving ones—in the light of Christ. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). We, too, must love the world, not willing that they be eternally separated from Jesus. One way we can do that is to change our views about others not like us and think like Christ and our xenophobic talk will fade away. When our thoughts become thoughts of love, our talk becomes talk of love, and actions to bring others to Christ will follow.

Take a Risk Challenge: Examine yourself for xenophobic ways, renounce what you find and seek to display at least one act of love to someone culturally different from you.

One Thousand Gifts List

Being included on a group email though I’m the group newbie
Getting home safely from the movies
Taking the children to the fireworks display
My sister noticing that Caleb was missing and being able to grab him before he walked in the street
The children continuously thanking my sister and me for taking them to see the fireworks display
Avoiding the heavy traffic and big crowds for the fireworks display
Loaning my car for a week to someone in need
Chasing the boys around the house
Flynn and company arriving to Wheaton safely
Flynn enjoying the RZIM conference