The F word

Image

Last week I discovered I was a feminist, and updated my Facebook status as such. One friend indicated my discovery seemed like a bad thing. However, another comment was “I told you, so” and another “lol to Ms. Hooks.” Why hadn’t I embraced this term before is what puzzles me. 

After careful analysis, and more to come I’m sure, here’s a few reasons why I didn’t think I was a feminist:

  • I resigned from my job to be a stay-at-home mom for 13 years.
  • I believe that men are better cooks.
  • I like men and all their manliness, not in terms of doggish and abusive behavior.
  • I like men to treat me like a lady: open the door, buy flowers, and pay when we go on a date.
  • I don’t want to be labeled or categorized.
  • I don’t believe all women, even married women, are prostitutes.
  • When women are violated, men should be castrated.
  • I ‘m a human being.
  • I’m a follower of Christ.
  • The pronoun for God doesn’t need to be a she; I’m grounded in he.

Here’s how I discovered I am a feminist:

  • While at home, my title was momprenuer.
  • Men are quite irritating and thoughtless.
  • I took my maiden name back after the divorce.
  • My mother is constantly trying to marry me off, as I tell her: I’m good right now.
  • I write about women who are independent, strong go-getters.
  • Women should have complete control over their body.
  • When women are violated, men should be castrated. (This applies before the discovery.)
  • I believe in equality.
  • Women cannot have it all: work and family.
  • God made us in his image. References to the Holy Spirit, wisdom “she.”
  • Biblical women who followed Christ were strong, independent, go-getters.
  • And when I look back to childhood, I recall being the only girl who did not dream of marriage and children, I wanted to break the glass ceiling and travel around the country.

 

Are you a follower or a fan?

ImageI’m not a fan of most things. I rarely keep up with celebrities, artists, sports teams, or popular books. I’m just now reading Ayana Mathis’s The Twelve Tribes of Hattie that debut last year, with the Oprah’s seal of approval. (I haven’t actually read it, just checked it out at the library.) Sometimes, for days on end, I stay away from Facebook and Twitter. Even though Scandal is one of my favorite nighttime dramas, I record it and watch it on Friday.  Most times, I can live without the television.  A fan is an enthusiastic devotee, a fervent, passionate admirer.

When I become a follower on a social media site, I’m merely just a fan, and not as devoted as I should be. Same with sports, I prefer football to basketball, basketball to golf, and tennis to baseball. (I’m only watching the Williams’s sisters. I’m a fan of them.) I simply prefer not to watch baseball on the screen. Please if I must, take me to the ballgame and give me some peanuts and crackerjacks. I can watch sports while I read a magazine, pay bills, fold laundry, or do something else. I can hang out on social media sights for one or two days, maybe a month or two, then I’m done. I’m an admirer of these things, not totally committed.

However, what I’ve discovered is I’m more than a fan for Jesus, but a follower because he’s my savior, Lord over my life.  Once I was just a fan. I went to church twice a month, rarely if ever cracked opened the Bible at home. I didn’t memorize scripture or even attempt to understand God’s promises. When I sat in the pew, I heard what the preacher said, but I didn’t listen; I didn’t even search the scriptures for more meaning. But I was a fan, enthusiastic about God, an admirer of Jesus.

Along the way, my life transformed from a fan to a follower, from a spectator to a servant, from an admirer to an imitator.

Here are the signs if you’re a follower of Jesus Christ:

  • Followers give Jesus the master key he wants to turn their life upside down.
  • Followers give Him more than an hour a week on Sunday.
  • A follower’s prayers are more than whispered prayers at night in their bed before going to sleep.
  • Followers do not consider God a small box of religion.
  • Followers are not defined by their religious credentials.
  • Followers do not believe their good deeds get them to heaven.
  • Followers have a relationship with Jesus, not simply knowledge but intimacy.
  • Followers love him with all their heart.
  • Followers have unconditional joy and peace that God is in charge despite the circumstances.

How many lives would change if you followed Jesus? When you stand before God will you be judged as a follower or a fan?

What I Learned During 33 Days of Prayer

Image

It’s been more than two weeks since the prayer journey has ended. Those 33 days, whipped, convicted and encouraged me to learn to increase my private prayer and openly prayer for others. It’s humbling, yet an absolute necessity.

I’ve learned a few things that I am putting into practice, so that I can become an effective praying solider.

I need to prayer continuously —unbroken, without stopping—all the time, and about everything. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul says to do this. Sometimes my prayers are SOS, sometimes one minute, and other times every hour on the hour.

And when I have this communication with God, I need to let it go and trust Him to fight the battle. This is not always easy, especially for a worrywart like me. I had to fast for five days—no worrying or anxiety. I prayed the familiar scripture: Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns (Philippians 4:6 MSG).

This led me to realize I had fear and doubt about some stuff in my life—as we all do, but fear and doubt stems from the unknown. That got me thinking, if I trusted God, had unwavering faith, and took Him at his word, what did I have to fear.  Then read an unfamiliar verse—Where God’s love is, there is no fear, because God’s perfect love drives out fear. It is punishment that makes a person fear, so love is not made perfect in the person who fears (1 John 4:18,19 NCV).

Now, I’m trying to imitate the disciples and asking the Lord to teach me how to pray.

One more thing, while my daughter was at a ten-day leadership conference, I sent her prayers every morning via text message. And  actually prayed publicly during a Tuesday night prayer circle.

How about you? Is your prayer life effective changing and encouraging you, your family, community, friends and colleagues, the nation?

Today’s prayer

Dear God, Help us to dream big, so we can accomplish a lot more without worry, doubt and fear. Not just commit to our goals, pursue them with intensity and passion and unwavering faith. And don’t let someone tell us that we can’t do something, not even our own self-doubt. Amen.

Hard Pressed But Never Destroyed

January 4 2013BMy best friend and I not only shop together, call and text but we also pray together and share scriptures when needed.
So, today I’ve been praying for a specific need because that was her morning text. This afternoon she called a bit depressed and perplexed. I did what a friend does: I listened, agreed, offered comfort, listened some more, offered a bit more advise. When our silence grew deafening, the only thing I knew to do was pray over the phone for her in her ear.
She’s a praying woman and I know she will find her answer.
Afterwards, I began trolling through a list of things, although I’m supposed to  finish a chapter of my novel and send out two resumes. I was growing weary at the writing, and daunted by the task of job hunting. In my list of things, I found the following devotion that represented the day, ironically, I’m sure my best friend sent it to me on January 12, 2012.

Hard Pressed, But Not Destroyed

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed, We are preserved not pickled! 2 Corinthians 4: 8 to 9 (NIV).

The Message translation of the Bible says this ”We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us in trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us our lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us. While we’re going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best!”

When the sailors of old faced the worst of the storms, they would call out to encourage one another with this statement of faith, “Hold fast”. When the wave buffeted against them and the winds howled and the storm raged, and it seemed like everything was against them, they would call out, “hold fast”.

Ephesians 6:13 – 14  (NIV)  says, “and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then”.

At times we may feel like we are going through the mill, and we are having a hard time. That is the time you need to hear these words “Hold fast! For the storm will not last forever.”

Notice if you will, that no matter what life throws at you, no matter the circumstance, there is a  “But not” from God, but not crushed, but not in despair, but not forsaken, but not destroyed! -Because God is an awesome God. We are preserved not pickled!

Remember the words of the Apostle Paul from 2 Corinthians 4: 8 -9 (NIV)

“We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”

No matter what we face, not matter how difficult the storms of life, it will not last forever, we will be preserved not pickled. Because if God be for us who can stand against us? Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.

Part 1: Making Room for God, From Zone 4 to First Class

inside_white_plains_westchester_airport_1614_400_400_1Last week’s post was about the challenge: Did the Bible live in you, today? This week, my challenge included making room for God when plans go awry. I could only face this test by living the Bible specifically standing on God’s promise, Exodus 14:4: “The Lord will fight for you; you only need be still.

At 6:30 a.m. on Thursday morning, I arrived at Westchester Airport for a 7:30 a.m. two-leg flight. At 7:00 a.m. my cellphone rang, the robotic voice said: Your flight has been delayed until 8:00 a.m. Fifteen minutes later the same number popped up on my cell, again flight scheduled for 8:30 a.m.

Immediately, I checked my itinerary for the departure of my connecting flight, 9:50 a.m. in Philadelphia. I shoved my book and trail mix in my knapsack and headed toward the US Airways counter.

I stood waiting, watching, praying and listening as the airline representatives begin rescheduling new flights for passengers. The lady behind me asked. “What’s the status?”

My cellphone rang again. The lady said, “The flight is delayed.”

I pressed the speaker button, turned to her and said. “This flight is cancelled.”

The voice announced: 9:30 departure.

“Something is wrong,” I said. “Did you see the movie “Flight”?” I silently prayed. “Be still God is working this out. Don’t panic.”

The airline representatives rearranged passengers to different airports sixty miles south. The older gentleman in front of me looked distressed. His wife was disabled. The back and forth was not good for her knee.  The lady behind me, Jen, had spent her last dollar taxing to the airport because her friend stood her up.

“Ma’am, “ I said to the representative. “Is the plane here?”

“Yes and the crew, but it’s not leaving this airport. The hydraulic hose is the problem.”

Laguardia-airport-LGAThank you Lord for keeping me off that plane.

Then the rep told the older gentleman they would put him in a car and take he and his wife to LaGuardia airport for a straight flight.

“God is good,” he said.

“The Lord will fight for you, just be still,” I said.

Another woman said, “I don’t need a seat. I didn’t want to go on this trip anyway.”

Finally, it was my turn. US Airways representative asked a Delta representative if there were flights. “Only first class. But she can’t have it.”

I looked at the young man, “I’m not good enough for first class.” I was annoyed, but held my temper.

He looked away.

Then I said to the representative. “This young lady also needs a ride.” I pivoted to Jen standing behind me.

“Thanks for looking out,” she said.

However the representative snapped, “You want to give your seat to her.”

I bit my lip, “Be still,” I whispered to myself. “You’re right, I need to take care of me,” I said to the representative.

After my flight was rebooked, I realized my cousin had planned to meet me in Atlanta at 12:30 p.m. I sent him a text explaining I wouldn’t be in Atlanta until 5:22 p.m.; however I would sleep in a hotel and find my way in the morning.

My final destination was Alabama, a three-hour drive.

He texted back, “Let me see what I can do, I don’t want you staying in Atlanta.”

When I got in the town car, Jen followed. I offered her the front seat.

“You’re polite,” she said.

“God’s working on me; my patience and my politeness. I can be quite rude at times.” Let the Bible live in me was challenging.

One hour later, I walked into LaGuardia airport.  The line was long. “Hey,” a voice called. I was Jen. “Come stand here.”

Jen and I chatted, made our way to security and then to the same gate.

I bought a twenty-three ounce bottle of water, remembering her funds were low. For some reason Matthew 25:35b popped into my head” I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me.”

I got an extra cup. Returned to my seat and poured Jenny a cup.

“You didn’t have to do that.”

Jen had a Bible. Jen carried the Bible for protection only. She stopped attending church, yet she believed in God. She didn’t read the Bible because she couldn’t understand the language. Nevertheless, she didn’t judge.

I explained that church is a place of fellowship, a place where we meet God and his people for worship. Then I suggested she read The Message version for more insight.

She looked puzzled. So, I stopped talking and offered her some trail mix.

I opened my magazine and read the following verse: Exodus 14:4: “The Lord will fight for you; you only need be still.”  I chuckled. God really does have a sense of humor. In another article the writer used The Message version of Psalm 47. I ripped out that section and handed it to Jen.

“This is for you,” I said.

She read. She thanked me. She folded the torn sheet and tucked it in her pants pocket.

Minutes later we walked down the aisle of the aircraft: Zone 4 seat 34, me in C her in F. She said, “This really needs to be first class after all we’ve been through.”

“Let’s nap,” I replied. “The day will be over soon.”

Upon deplaning, we hugged each other in the airport lobby.

On my way to course B in Charlotte, my cousin texted me: We’ll be there thirty minute late.

I pulled my ticket out of my back pocket: Zone 1, Seat 4, First Class.

Reading the words twice, I hurried to the front of the line grateful I made room for God to do what He does, while I remained still.

Read Part 2: Making Room for God, From No Reservations to the Lakehouse Inn.

Take the challenge: Did the Bible live in you, today?

December 17 James122This month I have been challenged with this question: Did the Bible live in me today? When I think of an answer, the Bible seems too big to dwell in me.  Although “[a]ll Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of Godmay be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3: 16-17), all 66 books seem just too much for one person to handle.

Therefore, I focused on a few scriptures I had ingested, digested and ruminated on like eating a delectable dessert. For example, one evening my friend and I went to TGI Friday’s for coffee and dessert.  Dessert is my favorite meal. I’m not partial, but I do have my preferences. Often I don’t mind trying something new if the ingredients are palatable.

When the waitress brought the menu, I asked what she recommended. My friend said, if it were chocolate she would eat it. I, on the other hand, needed to look at the offerings first to see what was mouthwatering before digestion.

Sometimes the Bible scriptures we act and reflect upon are similar to how we choose dessert; what is pleasing and makes us feel good.  Such as Jeremiah 29:11, For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” At first I simple ingested these words. But over the years, I’ve digested each word swallowing and absorbing its flavor.

Just as Janet, my friend, knew the brownie made with Ghirardelli chocolate-fudge sauce, topped with caramel, pecans and ice-cream would please her sweet tooth, I know this scripture lives in me because all the good things that happened in my life were by God’s design. My plan to break the corporate glass ceiling, instead for 13 years I was a stay-at-home mom learning the craft of writing. Then I planned to write full-time; however, God put me in the position of teaching. He knew I could do more even when I didn’t. I never dreamed of teaching on the collegiate level, and here I am an adjunct teaching writing and a writer who writes. I know for sure God’s plan for me is better than any plan I have for myself.

Then there’s the verse that seems pleasing, has the right words yet until I read and meditate on it that scripture does not resonant for example, Exodus 14:4 “The Lord will fight for you; you only need be still.”  When I first read this, I said really. One thing I despise is a fight, and if one has to occur I get tense, anxious, and begin making plans A, B, and C. I pray. I call my mother, my prayer partner and ask them to pray. On Sunday morning, I go to the altar and give it to God. But the moment I walk away from the altar, I pick up the battle again. I think about it, I look at the best and the worst scenarios.  And most likely the next Sunday, I take it back to the altar and pick it up again.

Likewise with the New Whiskey Cake on the TGI Friday’s dessert menu. The description read: a sharable portion of warm toffee cake, topped with glazed pecans and vanilla ice cream and served with butterscotch Jack Daniel’s Whiskey sauce.

I never had toffee cake, however pecans and butterscotch were my favorite ingredients. I knew cooking with whiskey would make the flavors savory and sweet. Sharable portion meant Janet could have a piece, too. When the miniature wrought iron skillet arrived, I dipped the tip of my spoon into the sauce. Yum. I scoop a spoonful. “This sauce is delectable,” I said, slicing a little over half. I couldn’t wait for Janet to take her portion so I could scoop the remaining sauce onto my cake.

Despite our smorgasbord of conversation, I sat still, slowly digesting each bite letting flavors burst in my mouth. Although I had a piece of Janet’s brownie, the whiskey cake was more appetizing. I had no doubts or regrets about my chose.

In the same way, I took pleasure in eating that cake bit by bit, I reflected on each word in Exodus 14:4 when I knew I had a fight on my hands. First, I did my part, I confirmed that an agreement had been signed, sealed and delivered. I called and emailed respective parties. When the struggle began, I prayed “Lord you said in your word that you would fight for me and all I needed to do was be still.” At that moment, I did not complain, I did not grumble and I put the problem on the altar and left it believing without a shadow of doubt that God had my back.

And now I’m sharing this scripture and this story because God is big enough and strong enough to satisfy all our needs.

So, when I think about the question: Did the Bible live in you today? And reflect on my answer, realizingDecember 17 BIBLE I can live the Bible, all 66 books, daily. Why? The Bible is Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. And since heaven is on earth, as earth is in heaven I need to search the scriptures for all my answers.

Did the Bible live in you today?

In A Place of Cheap or Free Grace

ImageMy grace is sufficient for you…” is a powerful verse. Although easily said, it’s tough living the scripture when life doesn’t seem smooth or when our preference is not God’s provision until one truly understands grace. When God blesses us, despite the fact that we do not deserve it; that’s grace.  When good things happen to the unworthy, that’s grace. And it’s free. Free to those who believe in Jesus Christ. Hence God’s daily bread for our life is ample.

Imagine a moment when you were in a place of free grace? Scriptures illustrate these characteristics of those blessed by God’s grace: fruitful and grow, Genesis 1:22, happiness and prosperity, Genesis 22:16-18, build you up and give you an inheritance, Acts 20:32.

However these blessings come only with obedience to God’s commands. Repeatedly from Old Testament to New there are if then clauses: If God’s people obey, change, seek, love…, then He will provide, increase, protect…you get the picture.

So why would one want cheap grace? In Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book The Cost of Discipleship, cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance. Baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, the cross, and without Jesus Christ, living and personified.

And living with cheap grace gives us unholy rest.

I don’t know about you, but I want free grace. I don’t want to claim to follow Christ, yet live my life my way: no rules, no discipline, no structure, no Bible, no prayer, no  church, wanton and crazy. I’ve done that, too.

Are you in the place of free or cheap grace?

Are You in a Place Where Jesus Can Find You?

Jesus finds woman at the well.

Twenty years ago, I found Jesus and my life changed. And years later, I continued to believe I found Jesus, until the pastor said at Tuesday Night Bible Study, “We don’t find Jesus, Jesus finds us. He’s not lost.”

I winced at those words. I heard the message, yet did not comprehend; still stuck in the notion that I had found Jesus. The days that followed, I read the gospels Mark and John debunking my belief.

First, Jesus chooses his disciples. Jesus walks beside the Sea of Galilee, spots “Simon and Andrew casting a net into the lake,” and then James and John preparing their nets.  When he says, “Come, follow me,” they immediately stop and follow (Mark 1: 16-18). They are in a place of obedience and trust.

By the lake, Jesus selects Levi, a tax collector (Mark 2:18). Levi, otherwise known as Matthew, leaves his place of business and follows.

On the mountainside, Jesus appoints his twelve disciples because he sees something special in them despite their flaws. Judas is a trader. Peter is hot-tempered. James and John overambitious. These brothers had their mother ask Jesus for a position. Ironically, after miracles, healings, and teaching when the storm hits, the disciples have little faith and hardened hearts.

How many times has my faith wavered despite miracles in my life? And when life doesn’t seem to go my way bitterness and hardened heart evident.

When Jesus set his sights on Nathanael, he says “an Israelite not a false bone in his body.” Nathanael asks, “How do you know me?” Jesus answers, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree” ( John 1:43-48). In the Bible the fig tree is a symbol of prosperity and judgment.

It doesn’t matter if our life is successful or we are under scrutiny, Jesus knows when were wearing a mask, and we should too. We have to be real.

Just as tax collectors were not the crème de la crème, neither were women or Samaritans, yet Jesus takes a detour into Samaria stopping by the well waiting for the Samaritan woman (John 4: 1-26).  She comes to the well thirsty for knowledge and truth. There he reveals her secrets, he knows her as he knew Nathanael.

No wonder Jesus found me, I’ve been bitter with a harden heart, thought I was all that and a bag of chips, full of doubt, afraid, broken, helpless, and discouraged.

However he choses us when we are: strong enough to be weak and trust Him, ready to be a servant, fall down in prayer, stop judging, ready to say not my will but your will be done and we can trusted with the things in life no matter how small.

When Jesus finds you, eventually you come running to him. And once you are with him, Jesus takes hold and doesn’t let go.

Are you in a place that Jesus can find you?

33 Days of Prayer Journey: Day 17

Dear God, I believe in miracles; in the Bible people were amazed and awed at the miracles performed from the Old Testament to the New. I’m just wondering when will you create a miracle in my life. I’ve heard so many believers rejoice of your goodness, the sticky situations you delivered them from: financially, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I’m waiting for you to rescue me. I want to relax in your presence, but I’m busy thinking and doing things simply to make life work. I need you to show up today. Amen.