The Presence of Presents

Talent

Hey beautiful people!

I looked and realized that I have been on this blog journey for just over two months now…and I’ve been supported in a major way by friends, family, and complete strangers, receiving messages from people saying that a post resonated with them; there have been almost 150 visitors and over 200 views, and I really am humbled by the love. I remember when I first started this site, though, I mentioned that I’d put poetry on here. I haven’t yet, so that will be the next post!

 A little history: I have been writing poetry since the age of 14 (so almost 15 years). It started out with me, a pencil, and a composition book and eventually I got the chance to perform at hometown open mics and still do occasionally. Here’s the thing though: God will show you your gift, and then there is a process of figuring out, at least in my case, how that gift can be used for the glory of God. Because I started writing at a time when I wasn’t particularly close to God, a lot of my earlier work reflected that. There was a lot of lust, a lot of anger, a lot of longing (for various things) and a whoooooooole lot of profanity. I published online and wound up authoring two books of poetry: Far Above Rubies  and The Love Lessons. The second was less gritty than the first, but what they both had in common was that God was making brief appearances rather than being allowed to run the whole show. Eventually, I stopped writing for awhile altogether because people were complimenting my poetry and I had learned the art of cadence so that important thoughts took center stage, but I was being confronted with the enormous responsibility of a platform and was too afraid to say something that wouldn’t make God proud. It was the love of a friend (and a really pretty journal) that brought me back, and now I know that I’m not just writing some stuff on a page for a reaction, but I am walking in my gift. If you have no idea what you were created for, or even if you KNOW that you can write or sing or paint or dance but you think that you are doing it for the wrong reasons, I encourage you to:

Consider your SHAPE: Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church has been quoted as saying that a person’s shape: their Spiritual gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, and Experiences—are the group of things that God has given you that sets you apart. My church has a Spiritual gifts assessment, but in lieu of that, find a trusted, Godly mentor…they have a way of teasing out our destinies when we’ve let life get in the way. Another way that I have heard this stated is once you figure out what bugs you the most about the human condition, you’ve figured out your calling. In my case, my love of writing also branches out into a desire to help people learn to write effectively and passionately…nothing worse than a piece where you can’t get engaged because the message isn’t transmitted clearly.

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Read Gods view on gifts: 1 Corinthians 4:2 NIV says that we are “managers of the gifts that God has given” us…and that “they may be great or small” in our eyes but “they matter to God”. How humbling and cool is that?! The gifts that we have are not really ours. Think of the manager of a store. They may have the keys, they may hire and fire, and they may hold a fair amount of authority, but at the end of the day, that Rite Aid, Radio Shack, or Forever 21 doesn’t belong to them,…however, they were put in authority by a higher power to make sure things stay shipshape, and they are responsible if something goes wrong. You were put in place to steward your gift and you will answer to a higher authority if it isn’t taken care of, but your name is NOT on the deed to that house, honey! You are merely a renter.

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Not be discouraged:  The above verse says that our gifts may be great or small in our eyes. We have a way as humans of being our own worst critics and because of that we act as roadblocks that stick out as God is desperately trying to curate our gifts of be of use to a broken world. Move out of His way….I don’t care if your gift is beatboxing, plate painting, math or making diminutive nativity scenes out of shoeboxes and toothpicks…God can use it somewhere.

Let Him work, y’all. Stand and watch as your muse and your ministry connect and ignite a passion that you didn’t even know you had. I look forward to hearing about your gifts!

Be blessed,

StephTheScribe

HWJD (How Would Jesus Deal?)

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Hello beautiful people!

I hope that this post finds you having had some time to enjoy the warm weather, bask in the sunshine, and enjoy some gorgeous sunsets. But while you are enjoying your pineapple snowball with vanilla ice cream (or maybe that’s projection/wishful thinking), I’m going to talk about my experiences dealing with conflict as a Christian–with friends, with family, and in the workplace.

A lot of people, Christians included, feel that the moment that they accept Christ into their life, drama subsides. Flowers bloom in the meadows of our imagination, bunnies scamper to and fro, and all is right with the world, so when conflict happens, as it inevitably will, we feel taken aback.

Lord! This wasn’t supposed to happen to me…was it?”

It was, though. Sometimes, the way we handle these types of situations says more about our faith than any church service invite, cross necklace, or well placed hallelujah ever could. People are watching to see how we react, how we move forward, and how we resolve the situation.

I recently went through a situation of my own at work…a parent was unhappy about one of the decisions I’d made for his child and decided to let me know–loudly and profanely–outside—in front of other students. Sigh. I wouldn’t be transparent NOR staying true to my goal of honesty always if I didn’t tell you that I saw red and wanted to return the favor and hurt this parent like he hurt me. I can’t promise that the Christian in you won’t want to hop into the backseat and deal with things the worldly way that we know how, just as I can’t promise you that no one will ever make you mad when you start to walk with God, but I can promise you that the Word provides examples of how we as believers ought to behave when the world does us wrong.  I am sure that all of us beyond a certain age bracket remember those catchy, DayGlo colored bracelets that Christian kids and young adults wore back in the day (and by the day, I mean the 90s):

wwjdbraceI had a keychain and a binder and a shirt and a…….

We prided ourselves on carefully considering what Jesus would do before reacting in a given situation (and gleefully reminding others how we prided ourselves on this lol), and so my question, especially these past week or so, has been a modification of this

Not What Would Jesus Do,  but HWJD–How Would Jesus Deal?

What Jesus would do is kind of a no-brainer right? He would forgive. He would overlook offense (Proverbs 19:11). I don’t know about you, but when I am going through things with somebody, I NEED practical, doable steps that will ease my heart and handle the mess without compromising my soul. I need to know how to deal.

Step One: Pray FIRST

A large portion of the time, our first reaction when someone has wronged us is either to find the nearest sympathetic ear and blast it with all of the gory details or else to clam up and simmer low and slow about the indignities that we have suffered. It’s not easy, but before we do anything else of record, our first move should be to go to God in prayer? Why?

  1. Because it is God’s greatest desire to advocate for us
  2. Because left to our own devices, we might do something that wouldn’t honor Him
  3. Because someone prayed for us when we were at our most unloveable.

Psalm 34:17 says that when the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers. What does He deliver, you may ask? The simple act of prayer is calming, first–I can’t tell you how many regrettable things I haven’t said because I closed my eyes and simply said Lord, I can’t. Also, the simple act of going to God in prayer communicates our trust that His reactions are better. Praying first symbolizes that we are receptive to what God wants us to do rather than charging in, guns blazing.

We see evidence in Luke 6 of Jesus even taking the time to pray before making a decision. Jesus prayed all night before choosing His disciples–and these weren’t just his homies, but the men that He poured into, that He taught, healed, and ministered beside, and that eventually honored Him at His lowest. Surely we can then pray for how to proceed with the big and small things then, right?

Step Two: Consult Wise Counsel

Proverbs 10: 13 says that wide words come from the lips of those with understanding!! It is so crucial to have people in your life to talk to when things go awry. Now listen to me, I didn’t say that it was important to have people to gossip to, or even to vent to without the ultimate goal of finding solutions to the problem. That’s why it is sooo important to have some folks around you that not only know and love you, but know and love God first. We have all had that friend in the past ( and some of us may still have them–no shade thrown) whose first way of handling a problem or tell you to handle it IS to fly OFF the handle. While a good old fashioned freak-out might feel fun on the surface temporarily, it won’t feel good to your spirit in the long run. Also, Romans 14:21 says not to do anything that will cause your brother to stumble. We are a reflection of the Most High….and if they (friends, coworkers, family) see you acting impulsively, what kind of representation are we?

With this parent at work, I admit that I was too shaken up to even think straight enough to pray…all I could get out was “God…” before the tears came. But the next best thing happened: a coworker prayed for me! She’d followed me into the bathroom sensing that I’d be hurt, rubbed my back and interceded on my behalf and when I tell you the tears stopped falling, my breathing slowed down and I could reason again. Approaching someone for advice who wasn’t connected to Godly peace would’ve left me with “solutions” that really did no more than exacerbate the problem. Say some of those things back. Call someone to strike fear into his heart. Refuse to even acknowledge his presence. And I can’t even lie and say that my flesh wouldn’t have liked anything more, but I sensed even then that people were watching to see how I’d react. I make no secret of the fact that I love God and try my best to live according to His will for my life. I run around this place with invite cards and spend most mornings blasting worship music as I get ready for my day, so I know that the devil would have liked nothing more than to put me in a situation that tempted me to lose it just to see if I would.

After I got myself together, I knew I had to talk to my mom. She is always my first source of wise counsel, because though I know she loves me to pieces and wants to see me come out of every situation well taken care of, she knows how important my faith is to me and desires to see me live that out.

Step Three: Go With Peace

God confirms his will through His word, His people, and His peace.  Back in the day when I found it my duty to drive my mother crazy in all of my teenaged mouthiness, I would always hear her singing one particular song after I exasperated her to her breaking point and got sent away. The song is by Donnie McClurkin and one lyric in particular says “what do you do when you’ve done all you can and it seems like you can’t make it through? Child, you just stand.” God will give you a word that you can’t ignore and the peace and calm that follows is a sure indication of what to do next. For some situations and people, that might involve a conversation with them that isn’t petty or insulting but that makes it clear that you were hurt. For other situations and people, that may just be God saying to let it ride. Again: you’ll know when it is from God. In my case, I felt God saying that I wasn’t going to get past what happened until I approached this parent myself. Once I made that decision, I literally felt weight lift off of me, and sure enough, talking to that parent in a way that was GOD ORDAINED left me with an apology that surprised everyone around me–and a sense of such joy! I did it! I handled myself in a way that God would be proud off–but the best part is that I didn’t actually do it. God lives in me…and He lives in you too.

Philippians 4:7 says that the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. There is absolutely nothing like the peace of God.

For anyone going through something, I hope this helps. As always, I want my experiences to be your map, and if I’ve forgotten anything that you feel is important, hit me up and let me know. Remember, you ARE made in His image. A little bit of conflict doesn’t change that.

Be blessed,

StephTheScribe

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What God Can Do With A Mason Jar

Before I write anything else, inspiration for this post goes to two special  women: Derricka and Krystal. You remind me daily that my mason jar has purpose.

Hello beautiful people!

It has been quite the weekend! Chilly, but I feel inexplicably warm inside.

Inexplicable? What am I talking about? Of course I can explain why I have been smiling all day long. It’s because, once again, God showed up and showed out and is taking up residence in a human heart.

Yesterday, I went to help at setup for church. My church is portable takes place inside of a high school, so every weekend requires us to build our service experiences from the ground up. Being a part of setup gives you such a deep respect for the care and intentionality that goes into making sure that everything is excellent, by the way. But I digress.

I am positioning pipe-and-drape in one of the classrooms that the Children’s Team uses for Destiny Kidz when I hear my sisterfriend Derricka calling my name. I meet her in the hallway and she hands me a card. “OK, read it now!”, she said, so I pulled it out of the envelope as I headed back towards the classroom. I pull it out of the envelope and I see this:

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Derricka, who has SUCH a way with words (one of the many reasons that I love her), used this image on the front to equate her life to this mason jar: something that at first resembled a castaway and thought to have no worth becoming repurposed by placing both something beautiful and a means to nourish it.  She wrote something along the lines of God using me (me?) as those flowers and us both being not just sustained but relivened and revitalized by the living water that is Jesus.

And I cried. Well, not full on cried, but I definitely teared up and have without fail every time I read back over this card. Which has been about 5 or 6 times since last night. (I really love heartfelt cards, y’all. Is Hallmark/Papyrus/Mahogany/a piece of notebook paper with some lovin’ on it a love language? Somebody call Gary Chapman!)

It’s been somewhere along the lines of three years since I joined my church. I wasn’t outwardly broken into pieces, but inside, I was the perfect storm of reasons why people stray away from God or from the church. Growing up, I can’t honestly say I had any close friends in church…so there is a lack of connection. I didn’t feel like anyone explained the meaning behind some of the things that we just categorically do as Christians, and so I went through the motions…so lack of growth. Finally, generally, I grew up witnessing some meeeean folk in church–no joy, no life, just sarcasm and what seemed like a lot of hurt. The 28 year old me now knows to study people, ask for Holy Spirit guidance and see the why behind their what…but the teenage me was disillusioned, confused, and ready to go.

And I did. As soon as I got old enough, I left that church and never looked back. I tried other denominations and churches, feeling like the Goldilocks of congregation searching: Some were too large and others too small. Some were too loud, some were too quiet, and some felt like they were exactly what I was running from. Eventually, I adopted an “I don’t need church to have God” mentality. I was making my way in the adult world, dealing with father hurt, heartbreak, fake friends and more without the benefit of a church home to shelter, stretch and soothe me. By the time I made it to Destiny Harvest, I was in a holding pattern of defeat and moreover, insanity—doing the same thing and expecting a difference.

But what a difference a few years makes.

DHC has been like the baby bear of church homes–just right. I receive teaching as well as preaching, I have been drawn to heal friendships and familial relationships that were long dormant, I found purpose and friends and pure, “so intense it don’t make sense” kind of love. Best of all, my mason jar–this life of mine that I wasn’t altogether sure what to do with–has had some pretty spectacular flowers place in it. And just when I think that my jar is completely refurbished, some more living water is added, and I see a spot in need of His love…this process in incredible. It’s funny though. You get so busy watching God own and polish your mason jar that you forget how He’s using you to majorly affect other people’s jars as well.

I think about my sister–we aren’t actually related by blood, but she has been in my life since she was a pre-teen through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central MD. They officially dismissed us from the program just over two years ago because she aged out, but I told her long ago that I am here for as long as she wants me to be. Her mason jar has looked a lot like mine. Cracked, discarded, smudged, and more but guess what God can do?

IMG_7874 He can wash it clean and make it new.

Having God repurpose my mason jar and having her around for the process–as I pray first and pursue opportunities, as I ended a relationship with a man that she knew that I wanted to be with for the rest of my life because he didn’t submit to God, as I form and refine life giving friendships with strong, whole people that are also chasing God and whose lives are conspicuously absent of all of the hurt and drama and pain and anger that comes from an uneven yoke, and most recently, as I refuse to let her go, refuse to let her twist in the wind when she does things that don’t make sense–as I do these things, she is learning a little more about God. She is knowing who He is, and better yet, how He can change her life.

My sister got baptized today, y’all. I’ve been so busy asking God what He is going to do with my mason jar that I failed to realize how much He has already done.

So what can God do with YOUR mason jar? He can:

M- Move: God has a knack for showing up in our lives and taking us and our purpose places that we never thought we’d go. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that He has a plan for us to give us hope and a future. Often, that hope takes place in miraculous ways.

A- Answer: He will place people and situations into your mason jar, into your life that answer questions that you had about your purpose, your destiny that you hadn’t even thought to answer yet. Habakkuk 2:3 says that there is a vision–for an appointed time.

S- Save: This seems pretty much like a no-brainer–of course God is mighty to save and offers to make us as clean as driven snow. But you’d be surprised just how much else God has saved or is currently saving us from besides Hell. I’m talking doubt, sadness, fear, insecurity, isolation, lust, anger, chaos, the concept of “luck”, empty relationships, broken hearts, and the list just keeps on going. You’d be unwise to sleep on that good of a Savior. Isaiah 61:3 says that he is trading us an oil of joy for our mourning.

O- Overwhelm: Because of how He moves and How he answers and the extent to which He saves, it is quite easy if you don’t remain in a place of intentional gratitude to take all of what He does for granted. Like, no, homie. This is the God of Zion–the God that brought the persecuted out of persecution. He made science and religion connect–look at the Golden ratio. He made stars–and He made you.  And He sustains you. We SHOULD be overwhelmed. Jeremiah 10:12 says that by His understanding, He stretched out the Heavens. That’s a big God.

N- Nurture: He loves us. And those you love, quite frankly, you love ON. That takes different forms for different people, but the nexus of it all is that it is human nature to spoil the ones that you care about. Why would the same not be true for God? He desires to literally take our breath away and heal us from our broken. He heals us from the cracks and the crevices that come with a life lived searching for something greater. He is definitely a restorer. Joel 2:25-26 promises that God will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.

Darling, I promise you that when you grasp the idea of what He has done with your mason jar, it gives you a much deeper appreciation of what He is planning to do with other people’s. It promises to be amazing

Be blessed,

StephTheScribe

Heart Check

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Hello beautiful people,

I am coming off of one of the most spiritually strenuous periods that I have had in awhile, and I am walking a fine line between 1Peter 4:8 (which encourages us to cover each other–and our lapses in judgment–in love) and Luke 8:39 (where the healed man was told to go home and tell of the great things that the Lord has done)

First, a moment of transparency. One of the things that I have fought the hardest against is the pothole of insecurity. There are some people who have never had second thoughts about what other people think of them or whether their current situation is all their fault, I am not one of those people, and after a lot of prayer and long roads, I can say that I don’t envy those people at all. I embrace the fact that it has taken me a while to learn to love myself warts and all because I believe that within that lies my spiritual gift: seeing other people currently entrenched in that struggle, encouraging them, and walking them through it. I am here on Earth to remind the masses that God loves them, that He has gone before them into every circumstance and that they were created for a purpose. Little did I realize how close to home that those conversations would get.

I have someone in my life who is my family not by blood, but by time. When I met her, she was very young, barely a teenager, but she already had a major distrust of people, and a lot of anger as a result. Flash forward to this past weekend, and she emerged from a volatile situation with an ex-friend angry and distrustful again, and saying that she was better off doing life alone. Initially angry at being pulled into the chaos, I tried to pour into her all the lessons that I have learned about dealing with heartbreak. As I was talking to her, I had the thought that this might be beneficial to someone else, so here we go.

Lesson One: We Have GOT To Deal With Our Pain.
Many of us are walking around with serious wounds from our pasts. Father/mother drama, assault, abuse, constant strife, and even pervasive and extreme poverty can leave us with scars that can’t be seen but that can definitely be felt. What often happens though, is that we don’t/won’t put in the footwork to see these issues through to complete healing for whatever reason, and instead we do what I described to my sister as a “Shawshank Healing”. If you have ever seen the Shawshank Redemption, then you know that Andy Dufresne escaped from prison by painstakingly digging a hole to the outside and covering it with a pinup poster. Similarly, a lot of us are not truly packing our issues, we are just covering them. It may not be with a poster, but it CAN be with money. Power. Notoriety. Sex. Relationships. Drugs. Just like the warden found the hole when he aimed a rock at the poster and it tore right through, stress or heartache or missed opportunities can expose the yawning hole in our spirits if we aren’t careful. How do we deal with the pain? You know what’s coming!! Revelations 21:5 says “He who was seated on the throne says ‘Behold, I am making all things new. Also He said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'” When we surrender these hurts to God, in its place we are given a freedom beyond compare.

Lesson Two: What We Think, We Create
One of the things that I spoke to my sister about was her desire to never open up to people because people had hurt her in the past. I spoke to her about being angry and resentful in the past; most don’t believe me when I say that I used to have a mouth like a sailor on shore leave. I began cursing my freshman year in high school, and despite many attempts to stop, the habit continued well into my mid-twenties. What this meant was that my love of cussing, fussing, and kicking up dirt made people who also enjoyed these things attractive. We enjoyed being raucous and dramatic–but what I found was that as I came back to Christ, a process called sanctification took place seemingly without my help. Some of the things, people, and places that I used to enjoy began to not only lose their value, but they made me downright uncomfortable. When I wouldn’t release these things and people that weren’t aligned with the changes taking place in my life, often some really upsetting event would take place to leave no doubt in my mind that this person had to GO. The job that was stressing me out would start feeling unbearable or an argument/blowup would start with the person I’d been tiptoeing around and not wanting to formally detach from. However, I started noticing that I wanted to be around genuinely joyful people–in fact, I craved it. There was nothing in me that wanted to spend time around people that did my soul no good. What I told my sister is that life is a process of taking people one interaction at a time, and that the more that her heart heals, the more that she’ll find her self being willing to step out on faith and meet other healed people. 1Peter 3:8 encourages us to be like-minded, sympathetic, compassionate, and humble. What we are, we attract.

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Lesson Three: We Can’t Nourish Others When We Are Starving
One of the final things that we talked about during her refusal to open up was about how important it is to have your own heart in triage and being take care of before you go looking for others to rescue. My sister has burst fully grown into the adult world of job hunting, and she is finding that the process can be difficult. Being a jobless young adult can often mean that your pockets are not at the level that you would want them to be, so I explained this walk of healing as an emotional bank account. A lot of us are walking around with overdrawn emotional bank accounts perpetrating like ballers. We are trying to load other people onto a back that is bruised and broken, and sooner or later, the bough breaks. I asked her “what happens if your account is -1000.00 and you get a check in the mail for $1000.00?” to which she replied,
“if you put it in, the bank is going to take it all!” I said, “that’s true, but what is your balance now?”
Her: “it’s ZERO!!!”

She had this look of confusion on her face, because who wants a bank account with a balance of zero, but what I wanted her to understand is that this is the process of healing. We go from having this abyss of shame and anger and hurt, and then Christ comes in, and with our permission (because Christ won’t change our hearts if we resist Him too hard) He wipes that clean.

She was still looking at me in utter bemusement, so I decided to take it a step further. “Ok”, I said, “so your account is at zero, but what happens if you get a $2000.00 check in the mail now?” She said, after some thought “Now I have $2000.00!”

Exactly love, now you have 2000 dollars. Take away the concreteness of money, and replace it with a spirit and feelings. God has taken away the bad stuff and left us clean so that when we have positive interactions with hope, with peace, with joy, and with salvation, they aren’t eaten alive by the negativity that reigned in our lives for so long. We have MORE now. And how about this: what reigns supreme in your life now is double or MORE what you had to give up and let die.

Final thought: I asked her “what can you do with money that you couldn’t have done before?” Being the recent post-teenager that she is, she excitedly said “SHOP!”…to which I asked “only for yourself?” Off to the races, she said ” nah I can buy stuff for you and Jord–ohhh! I get it!”

Yup, sis. Now you get it. Not only are you filled up, but you have the joy, actually the responsibility, to go spend it on others. Don’t keep all that love to yourself: we serve a God that fills us to overflowing, so we can pour out as we are poured. Psalms 23:6 says that He anoints our heads with oil and our cups run over.

It is never easy to get a heart check, loves, but I promise you that what He reveals in your wilderness season is exactly what someone needs to hear. I learned that all over again this past weekend, and I pray that what I told my sister can also help you.

Be blessed,

StephTheScribe

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What It Really Means To Love

Hello beautiful people!

I have been on a serious vintage Kirk Franklin kick lately…I mean completely bypassing his newer albums for the oldies but goodies. I’m talking about way on back to God’s Property! (GP, y’all, C’MON!) The CD that I have been bumpin’ nonstop since last week is this one:

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This CD has some gems that I still remember: Stomp, My Life Is In Your Hands, and The Storm Is Over Now, but my current favorite is Love.

“Love/a word that comes and goes/but few people really know/what it means to really/love somebody/ohh love/though the tears may fade away/I’m so glad your love will stay/Because I love you/and you show me/Jesus/What it really means to love”

This song has me spending a lot of time thinking about how the word “love” is thrown around like money at the mall. People use it to  denote something that they like even slightly, to show sentiment to people that they wouldn’t honestly miss, and to cover unimportant things like shoes and shows. What this means, though, is that a lot of times, we are moving through this world with heart muscles that aren’t being used to their full potential.

My thoughts on this subject are twofold, but before I get into them, it bears repeating that the prototype for love IS God. I know that there are many who would beg to differ, but I stand firm in the belief that loving/knowing God (and moreover grasping His love for me)has made me more able to love others in every aspect of my life, and more able to see love for what it is. I am a better daughter, a better sister, a better friend and a better teacher because I know God…and in my mind, it has everything to do with intent.

I have a question for you, darling. Take a good, hard look at yourself, and ask yourself which of these three categories you fall in: are you nice, are you generous, or do you love sacrificially? This isn’t designed to make people feel bad, but if we are in the world claiming to love and be loved by an enormously good God, and we are made in b’tzelem Elohim (made in the image of God), then we are challenged to live in a way that extends beyond our comfort zone. So which are you? Do you love and do for others only to the very point where it is convenient? Do you go further and lavish others? Or are you willing to love on people to the point where you yourself feel stretched?

I asked my Facebook friends for a good example to further demonstrate these different levels of love, and my good friend Brandi came up with this:

Nice is the coworker that is going to lunch that says “hey, I’m headed to _____. Would you like something?” The gesture was sweet, because they didn’t have to, but trust and believe that if you mentioned being hungry and they weren’t going anywhere, you would’ve gotten no response.

Generous is the coworker that takes it a step further. They are the coworker that goes out to lunch and brings you back something without asking and without waiting on payment. You may offer to pay them back, and they may or may not rebuff the offer, but the gesture of them grabbing something that they know you’d like sticks with you.

Then we have Sacrificial Love. I know that I am not the only person that, despite the best laid plans, has come up short on money at some point. Your “big deals”–rent, car note–are taken care of, but you are scraping bottom, babysitting cups of yogurt and cans of tuna fish. Baby, you are on the struggle bus!

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You found 4 dollars between the car seats and realize that that is just enough to drive on over to McDonalds and scrabble together something that looks like lunch. You get back, ready to tear into your sandwich and fries or McPick Two or whatever they are marketing nowadays and realize that your coworker one cubicle over has even less than you do.They are sitting at their desk making a meal out of Altoids and drinking water. Even though you don’t have anymore money, and even though you were really looking forward to that food, something in you just KNOWS (only you can describe what that knowing feeling is) and you hand over that meal to the person who needs it more than you do.

What is the prototype for this kind of love, you may ask? As with everything I say here, the original model comes straight from His word. Two scriptures:

John 15:13 English Standard Version (ESV)

13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

Heart question: Just how much are you willing to lay down for someone that YOU love? Jesus was willing to give it all, sacrificially. Knowing that He was setting himself up for some serious heartbreak and pain, He still died.

Romans 12:10 English Standard Version (ESV)

10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

Heart question: How are you seeking to outdo in showing honor? Are you doing just enough, or is the way you love stretching the world’s boundaries of what it means to go “all in”.

Looking at Kirk Franklin’s song, the methodology is clear: Few people have the knowledge or inclination to truly, sacrificially love, but luckily there is always an example to show us how.

Friends, I charge you to look at the way you act. The words that come out of your mouth. The gestures you show towards friends and moreover towards those that you have no logical reason to extend yourself for. Let’s show the world what it really and truly means to love.

Be blessed,

StephTheScribe

From Head To Toe…

Hello beautiful people!

I am reporting from home because of yet ANOTHER snow day…which would be fabulous if it weren’t for the fact that it is in the mid-forties right now and there seems to be a gentle breeze blowing outside of my living room window. From what I hear, sidewalks were pretty icy last night and this morning though, so rather than complaining, I’ll just sit here dreaming up new ways to have a barbecue on school property since we’ll be there until late July at this rate. 😉

While looking for something else last night, I came across this prayer technique for parents to use when praying for their children–praying for them from head to toe. This picture or prayer outline or war strategy or whatever you’d like to call it put a new significance on each of 8 body parts and asked for God to move through each one:

IMG_7228 Deep, huh?

(The source is Facebook, yet I don’t know the page. Just know that it isn’t mine and I’m not claiming it as such.)

I am a huge fan of praying over my classroom and over my students. I remember my mother praying over me often, and I often think of it as her own little slice of commending me back into God’s care: She would pray that I show wisdom at school, cover me when my little teenage heart got broken, and hilariously enough, I remember getting in trouble and being sent to my room and listening in sullen silence as she prayed ABOUT me…probably the last thing she knew how to do before going Madea on me. To this day, even at 28 1/2, she is still one for sending me encouraging text messages, notes, and prayers. I don’t know how many of my kindergarteners have someone at home that is contending for their well being and good judgement, so I happily start most days in the quiet of my classroom praying over each of their chairs, praying that they have had enough sleep and were shown love, talking to God about them by name, and praying on specific topics for specific kids as they come to mind, such as dealing with frustration, peace at home for one I know has a rough situation, or treating others with kindness. All in all, the process doesn’t take long but it leads me into the day with a sense of readiness.

Then I got to thinking…the one thing that is hardest for me as an exhorter is praying over myself and encouraging myself the way that I do other people. Surely, God still speaks, right? Surely the God that made the moon and stars with a purpose thought enough of me to give me a purpose too…and as much as not doing life by yourself is vital, you (I) HAVE t be able to speak words of life over ourselves when no one else is able to, or even when they are.

So before I head to class tonight, darling, I figured I’d use the above picture to craft a head to toe prayer of my own. This is for me, for you, for you to pass on to anyone who needs to remember that all things work together for the good of those that love God and are called according to His purpose. That being said, all of these pieces and parts of His creation must work together.

Father God, I come before you realizing that you have already seen today. There is nothing that will cross my path that you aren’t already aware of. I thank you for that security and peace of mind, I thank you for being covered, and I acknowledge and am grateful for your protection. Lord, I know that you know every hair on my head and that you’ve crafted me to do something that is important and that even if I don’t always know what that is, you do.

I pray for calmness and soundness of mind. Your Word says that one of the fruits of the Spirit is self control, and I know that others can see Christ resting on me in how I react to people. I ask that you help me to think before I react.
I pray for eyes that can see purpose in the everyday–that notice those interactions or opportunities that you have set before me and never brush those off as being random occurrences.
I pray for ears that hear as much of what people DON’T say as what they do–that can excise a hurt spirit from behind anger and irritation and sadness or regret from behind callous words. Please let me never take people for granted and assume that all of what I can hear is all of what there is.
I pray for a mouth that consistently looks to uplift and encourage people: students, coworkers, friends, family, and myself. The gift of speech is too precious, and let me never dirty that gift by gossiping, complaining without the goal of a solution to the problem, tearing a person down or breaking their spirit.
I pray for a heart that emotionally does its job the same as it does biologically: I pray for all of the dirt and the toxins that run through me as I get overwhelmed or just from exposure to this cruel world that we live in. I pray that what goes back out is fresh, is clean, and provides edification.
I pray for the strength to stand upright in what I believe in…that I not give into the temptation to shy away from what I know to be the truth in order to make other’s comfortable. I pray for the courage to stand erect in the face of social poison, political warfare, and  worldwide injustice based solely on the color of my skin.
I pray for hands that hug, that comfort, that heal, that high five, that hold tight, that clasp in prayer and that are simultaneously able to quickly and cleanly let go of people and situations that are not for my betterment. It is never fun to make those decisions, yet the end is worth the means.
And I pray that you always, ALWAYS order my steps, that you carry me towards people that  so urgently need to hear a word from you OR that I need to hear a word from. I pray that I am aligned with iron so that we may chase You and our purposes together and never suffer from worldly negative feelings of envy or regret. Allow me to walk beside people who don’t have a heart of competition, who genuinely want us ALL to win, and who cheer just as hard for my successes as they do for their own. Lord help me to be that person for the people that you place in my life and never disrespect my blessing.

Thank you and AMEN.

Be blessed,
StephTheScribe

When Your Blessing Is Packaged Differently

Hello beautiful people!

A few weeks ago, my aunt ordered a textbook that I needed for this semester (that cost an arm and three legs, but I digress…) off on Amazon. Attempting to save a few bucks, she didn’t order a new copy with Prime availability, choosing instead to use one of their authorized resellers and purchase a “like new” copy.

I waited for that textbook…and I waited…a week passed and then two, I had already had the first session of the class, and right as I sent my aunt an email saying “this book never showed up”, there it was…waiting on me at the do’.

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about endurance.

This could be for many different reasons. One, because my night classes started this week after being postponed due to the weather. Not thinking about the fact that these teachers had to make up for lost time just like we did in the classroom, I expected a run of the mill easy first week in all of my classes. I figured we’d introduce ourselves, go through the familiar litany of name-major-life goals, have the syllabus that was already posted online read to us in minute detail (grrr), and that would be it! Right?

Nope.    ruff

These teachers meant business. I walked out of all of my classes with reading assignments, discussion posts, and prompts for papers. Sigh…endurance definitely needed there.

But I am also thinking about endurance because I am beginning to see the manifestation of some things that I’ve been praying for during and after this fast season that I went through. Fasting is a time where we consciously take a step back from all the things that we let distract us and take up time that we could be using to get closer to God; basically saying that our flesh and impulsivity doesn’t rule us. We use that time to pray, to study, to worship, and miracles happen when we pursue God with that single-mindedness.

Sometimes, the things that we pray for with that intensity show up almost instantly. We see God move and it provides this charge like “You do see me…You hear me!” but sometimes we pray…and we wait…and we wait. Then, we wait some more.waiting

I’m not ashamed to say that I have become frustrated with waiting, y’all—for that man, for that job opportunity, for that “whatever it is” that I have prayed for. And I have also been guilty of saying “forget it!” and attempting to bring about what I asked God for under my own strength, and without fail, one of two things happens:

  1. I mess it up.
  2. I spend precious time and energy stressing and worrying over something that wasn’t mine to shoulder.

There are something like 53 different scriptures in the Bible that talk about God’s timing, but one of my favorite comes from Habakkuk 2:3:

For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

There is so much GOODNESS in that verse, man! There is the fact that the vision–that move from God, that situation that you have been praying on is waiting–it is there! There is a reassurance for if it seems slow to come…God already knew we’d wonder what the holdup was. There is even the reinforcement of “surely”. God is like I said it and I MEANT it.

I prayed during the fast for several things, some of which I have seen come to pass. The school I work for had it’s contract renewed, and family members who were dealing with various health issues are seeing lights at the end of the tunnel. But there are things that I have been praying for since long before the fast that haven’t shown any sign of changing. The temptation is there for me to go out and solve these things myself. The difference (after learning the hard way sometimes) is that I know enough about the God I serve to wait for Him to move–knowing that what He brings to pass will be for my good in a way that nothing that I engineered on my own could be.

Try your best to endure…know that you are loved by a God that imbues everything and everyone with a purpose and seeks to align our lives so that that purpose is made clear.

He has made everything beautiful in it’s time…Ecclesiastes 3:11

A Comprehensive Insurance Plan

lovescrabble

Hello, beautiful people,

I thought that I was finished posting for the week. Honestly I did. I was already thinking forward to possible ideas for next week, thinking about future entries, having fellow Christian writer friends guest post…and then I did it:

Baby, I beat a dead horse.

I think that it is universal to the human experience to have friendships that don’t work out. I remember studying the plot pyramid in school– exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, denouement–and thinking of relationships that have followed this pattern. Everything was sweet, and then there was a defining moment, and then…it just wasn’t. But then those friendships come along and they end without following that script and those are often the hardest of all. There were no fights, there were no misunderstandings, at least no perceptible ones. There was just silence and limbo.

I had a friend that honestly was closer than a sister, I felt. We spent large amounts of time together and we existed in this really cool space where we were able to learn from each other: I learned more about a new culture and about her life’s work in the sciences and I was able to teach her about my culture and the lessons I’d learned working with my students in the communities I’ve been blessed to be apart of.  She is a Christian, so we connected on that level: we went to concerts and prayed together often, sat with each other in worship nights and called each other after they were over to exclaim just how much we felt God move. It was excellent. There were no issues that I knew of.

And then….nothing.

Suddenly I couldn’t reach her. Calls went unanswered, texts did too. I don’t see her anymore, and it felt like there was this gaping hole where she used to be. Life is better than awesome, and it didn’t happen often, but occasionally I would count the weeks since we’d spoken and get a little…wistful. And, like clockwork, those frustratingly familiar feelings of inadequacy that I war against all the time try to gain footing:

Did I do something to make her leave?”
“Was it something I said?”
“Let’s go back and pick apart every moment of your last interaction…”
“Maybe we’ll find something.”
“Maybe then, I’ll understand!”

I came across a card from her in my keepsake box this morning, and before that litany could start up again, I reached out to a trusted covenant friend. One thing that I know about myself is that when difficult circumstances or decisions arise, the answer has already been made clear…I just like to talk it out with someone else. Since I don’t have siblings and don’t want to make a habit of carrying on conversations with myself (at least not in public haha), I often reach out to very patient girlfriends of mine and off we go.

So I am talking to a stalwart member of the tribe, and she says “that’s tough…but I think it’s one of those things where you pray and give it to God and ask for His will. He knows what both of you need.”

Just like that, I was taken back to a text message that I’d gotten about a week ago from SHINE-FM. It was a quote from Elisabeth Elliot, an awesome author and all around wise Christian lady who passed last year:

eequote

I thought that this quote was so simple, yet so powerful…I actually made it the wallpaper on my iPhone. This quote of course led me to Philippians 4:19, which says “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

And I started thinking of car insurance. (You should already know by now that my mind works in some odd ways)

I don’t know the ins and outs of auto insurance, but I do know that when you go to buy some, you can purchase two main categories:

At very minimum, you have to have limited liability coverage. This basically means that if you inflict damage on someone else’s car, your insurance will pay for their repairs and not much else.

You can go on and get collision coverage, or property coverage, or you can go with the whole shebang and get comprehensive and collision coverage. This basically protects your car from fire, flood, people, accidents, leprechauns, and anything short of an act of God (in which case, why would you need the car to be fixed? Forget this Honda…I’m going to Heaven!) It costs more, but it carries with it the confidence that you are totally protected.

When things like this happen, when people disappear, when I don’t understand exactly why things are happening, I reflect on Philippians and it becomes clear that we serve a comprehensive God, not a limited one.

and my God will supply all your needs…”

All. ALL.comprehensive

Our God is NOT  a God of limits.
Screenshot (1)

We serve a thorough God. A complete God, and like I stated in my last post, a God who is not the author of confusion. He is our comprehensive plan, not just taking care of the things around us and leaving us broken and in pieces to sort it out ourselves. He is taking care of us too–sweetly, perfectly, and miraculously.

Do you remember those  “if-then” logic statements from when we were in school?

“If fish live in water
and if trout are fish
then trout must ______”….the answer being live in water, right?

I am learning that these kind of statements apply to God…ergo, Ms. Elliot’s profound statement:

“If God promises to supply all of our needs
and if you don’t have something (even if you may want it or THINK you need it)
YOU. DON’T. NEED. IT.

It’s not the easiest pill to swallow: I don’t need her. She doesn’t need me either. This reminds me of one of my mother’s tidbits: “everything that is good to you isn’t always good for you.” Darling, the same goes for every friend, every man (or woman, if there are any guys reading this haha), every job, and every so-called missed opportunity that you thought passed you by and that threatened to drag you into the quicksand of “why me?”

You didn’t need it. It wasn’t (or isn’t) what God has for you right now. But trust that comprehensive God that loves you madly when He says that He will supply. What is coming is greater then what was lost, and He delights in blowing your mind.

Preaching to the choir loft on this one here.

Be blessed,

StephTheScribe

 

 

 

Ask, Seek, Knock, and Try

Hello beautiful people!

It’s Friday morning, and since the city is still working to clear the snow from main roads and side streets, I have yet another work day all to myself. I have become spoiled, and when everything is cleaned up, I am going to miss my uninterrupted morning time with Jesus where I get to sip coffee, listen to music, read my word and devotionals…and of course, write to you, beautiful.

For the past few days, I have been thinking about a pirate’s treasure chest. Odd, I know, right? But we have this historical vision from Hollywood of there having to be this convoluted process to get to the good stuff inside of the chest:

  • You have to know that a chest is in existence…
  • Then you have to go on a quest to get to the treasure chest, which usually involves battling some kind  of creature from the black lagoon:
moviecreature Terrifying. That alone might make me stay home.
  • Then once you get to the place where the treasure is, you have to dig it up…
  • You have to figure out where the key is, etc, etc…

There is never anything as simple as the treasure chest being right there in the movies, because that removes all of the suspense, drama, and 90 minutes of the running time from the equation.
Hold on to this pirate analogy…I’ll be back to it. Promise.

I was in a car supply store a couple of days ago, because Winter Storm Jonas flippantly decided that making the roads impassable and closing my job wasn’t enough–he had to break my windshield wipers as well. There is this giant book in the car store where you can look up the make and model of your car to see what wipers you need to attach to your car. While looking through this manual the size of my head and wondering to myself whether my Civic actually had other letters that I didn’t know about (news flash: it did!), my aunt helpfully said, ” you know, you can just ask one of the staff to put it in the computer and what you need will pop up.” I thought, “well, that’s much faster!”, and off we went.

While we were waiting in line, I heard a cashier complain to a coworker about a customer who apparently asked her a question and gave her major flak for not being able to point him in the right direction. Then, I heard those fateful words:

” I mean, I don‘t know nothing about cars, I just work here for real…”

I couldn’t believe that here this woman was, literally surrounded on all sides by tires, batteries, and car paraphernalia–and people who lived and BREATHED tires, batteries, and car paraphernalia, and she ADMITTED to knowing nothing as if that were an excuse.
I asked my aunt, “if she worked in Foot Locker and I had a question about whether this sneaker was good for running, would she tell me she didn’t know…she just WORKS around shoes?!”

But I have a question: How many of us “work around” Christ, but don’t really know Him?

Ouch, right? And thank you for being patient, babies, because this is where the pirate analogy comes back in. Remember how I said that in the movies, finding the treasure is always portrayed as this exhaustive process full of plot twists? My guess is that a lot of people think that knowing God and understanding His word is the same way. They think that to know God and to be “His” is this mystical process, inaccessible and impossible, and they would just rather not try.

superconfused Actually, the treasure is RIGHT THERE.

I worked at the Jewish Community Center for about 5 years, and while there, I learned so much about Judaism and the ritual/religious aspects of it. I went from knowing nothing before I started to being able to independently lead prayers and answer questions by the time I left, and while a lot of that was because I read information on my own, a lot of it was because I chased people down and asked until I understood.

It would have been a tragedy to leave there after 5 years knowing nothing (and being ok with that) when I had so many resources around me. Likewise, it is a tragedy for people to know NOTHING about God and how He loves them when every tool is already provided.

Ask, seek, knock, and try. God’s word (and His goodness) aren’t these far off, mystical  entities that we have no hope of understanding. Two scriptures:

Acts 17:27 NLT- “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him–though He is not far from any one of us. For in Him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are His offspring’. And since this is true, we shouldn’t think of God as an idol designed by craftsmen in gold or silver or stone”.

1 Corinthians 14:33 NLT- “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace, as in all the meetings of God’s holy people.”

God has said in His word that His promises and new mercies aren’t like that far off treasure chest packed in under hard earth…rather, that treasure is sitting in front of you with the key taped to the bottom of the chest and an instruction manual in front.

In order to know where that key is, you have to look in the instruction manual and it plainly tells you to grab the key and unlock the box. But if you refuse to read, you are literally [thisclose] to all that God has for you, staring at a closed chest. How to get in, you say?

Ask– Surround yourself with people that are already in the process of unlocking the chest and go get you some mentors in the faith.
Seek– When they tell you to read the manual (as they inevitably will), actually read it. Read it with them. Read it on your own. Like I tell my students, the best way to be a better reader is to read.
Knock– Once you see what the key is, where it is, etc, open up that treasure chest. Inside lies salvation, first and foremost. Beyond that, there lies grace, joy, peace, love, patience, knowledge, wisdom, vision, covenant friendship, servanthood–this is a pretty big chest. It is truly the gift that keeps on giving.
and finally, Try– One thing that you will probably hear me say more than anything else on this blog is that beautiful, God rewards pursuit. Press into Him. Don’t open up the chest and see all that is available and content yourself with knowing that you found the jewels and precious robes, man! Dig in there and you will see that everything in there is just your size.

Please, dear heart, don’t let your legacy be that you got close enough to the throne of grace to touch it, but you never took that integral step. Don’t be that girl in the auto supply store, positively surrounded by everything she needed to be excellent at what she did and never having the inclination to find out. There is so much here for you if only you want it.

Be blessed,

StephTheScribe

Snow, Shoveling, and Look How Far We’ve Come…

Hello, beautiful people!

As I mentioned in my welcome post, Baltimore has been visited by Winter Storm Jonas. And when I say visited, this was not a cute little visit from a friend dropping off some pie or something. Ohhh no. It was clearly apparent that the meteorologists were right and Jonas was THAT friend–you know, the one that you said could crash overnight and you looked up two weeks later…lo and behold, Jonas is still in YOUR domain, feet on YOUR couch, hogging YOUR Netflix.  The storm is over, but in his wake, he left 2+ feet of snow, and our cars looking like this:

IMG_6584 Thanks, Jonas….just, thanks.

Anyway, I called myself coming up with an expert shoveling strategy. Instead of waiting until the storm ended, I would periodically go out in the thick of it and shovel so that I wouldn’t have that big job all at once. That worked for a while:

FullSizeRender (5) See? Progress.

But then, I went to bed after two nighttime shovels, coincidentally the time of night when Jonas REALLY decided to show off, and instead of the progress I thought I’d made, I woke up to this:

FullSizeRender (4) Well, alrighty then.

I walked outside late this morning planning to dig out my car and was almost immediately discouraged. How was I, just one person, supposed to tackle all that snow? I only have one small shovel, and no real place to put the snow either? I found myself enviously looking at people who were outside with their children or significant others working as a team. I found myself getting distracted and shuffling through the songs on Lecrae’s Church Clothes 3 instead of doing work. And I lost a lot of the drive I had when I left my apartment.

So what was the problem here? Besides the ignorant amount of snow outside, I mean?

I let what I perceived to be my deficits distract me from my purpose.

I don’t have a cohort out here helping me!
My shovel is too small!
I barely got anything done and it’s been an hour!
I can’t do this!

Eventually, an hour and twenty minutes later, I stepped back and saw what I couldn’t see while in the thick of it:

IMG_6602

Am I finished? Not even close.
But did I make progress? Absolutely.

I find that so often, in our Christian walk, we get in so deep into worshipping, serving, praying and generally being made new that we forget what hot messes we were when God saved us. I can’t speak for any of you, but I KNOW who I was: profane, depressed, stuck, irrationally angry, closed-off, and not nearly as joyful. We look around and we know where we are and we think we know where God is taking us, but it can seem so far off:

God, you gave me this idea for a business…but I can’t even figure out where to start…
God, this degree is going to allow me to work for Your glory..now can a sista get a full schedule?!
God, I feel like you have called me to be a wife, but I haven’t had a date since Obama campaigned the first time…
God, all of my friends seem so close to You…do you love me like You love them?

And we get so caught up in where we aren’t yet that we forget where we WERE. How our souls felt that first time God manifested Himself and we NOTICED. How He took this ragtag, barely beating heart and transformed the mess out of it. How we have relationships with family members that we despised this time a year ago. How we pray first instead of picking up the nearest thing to throw (I can’t be the only one…right?)

Make it your mission to TAKE A STEP BACK. Ask a friend who has known you since pacifiers and Pampers (or as close as you can get) for an honest assessment of your life. Pray for vision and compassion…not just towards others, but towards yourself. And if nothing else, let me assure you that YOU. ARE. DOING. FINE. God rewards pursuit. As long as you are praying and trying everyday to be a bit more Christlike than you were the day before, God is so, so proud of you.

So yeah, Jonas Elsa and Olaf’ed all over the Eastern seaboard. And it’s a mess…but we will dig out and drive to and fro and life will speed back up eventually. Eventually as well, you will see the fortification of all that God plans to do with your life. You may only be able to see the footpath that you’ve made for right now, but trust me when I say that God can see the whole lot. You’re doing fine.

Be blessed,

StephTheScribe