Vision, the ability to close your eyes and imagine a future that not yet exists. It is the ability to see beyond what is in front of you and move towards something beyond your current self.
Take a moment, close your eyes and take a deep breath! How did that feel? What did you see?
2020 has always been thought of as having clear vision. Isn’t that what we hope for with each Eye Exam. I remember when our son was in elementary school, he wanted glasses so bad and crushed when the eye doctor informed us that his vision was PERFECT, 20/20. Well somehow that didn’t last for many more years. One day I received a call from his teacher telling me that she was concerned because he was complaining about seeing the board and it was causing him to have trouble in class. And what to do you know that 20/20 vision had somehow worked itself into a diagnosis of nearsightedness.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it seem like that’s what happened last year. I know for me 2020 started out with visions of doing so much, I was in the midst of planning two conferences, had travel plans to attend two more conferences, countless football games and many other meetups with family and friends. But just like our son’s vision, suddenly all of those plans became blurry.
So instead of 2020 being about conferences, travel and connections, 2020 was about fear, we were thrown into the middle of a global pandemic, racial unrest with the killings of young black men, the protest that followed and the division that ensued in our country and political division due to an unprecedented number of lawsuits that challenged the democracy that we have all come to know
What about you? How did you spend 2020? Were you paralyzed with fear? Were you afraid to venture out? Did you spend your time glued to media coverage of all that was going on around you? Did you find yourself getting pulled into divisive conversations that led to dead ends and lost friendships?
You know, even if you found yourself in one or more of those situations, that’s OK! The beauty about today is that we get to start new. To wipe the slate clean.
Lamentations 3:22-23 tells us that, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning…” Steadfast – to be firmly fixed, not subject to change, immovable. That’s God’s love for me, for you, for all of us. It is never changing. He loves us and as the saying goes, “there’s nothing we can do about it! Mercies, his compassion, his forgiveness towards us, never come to an end; they are new every morning”! That gives me HOPE, did you catch that, not a license to do wrong, but HOPE, in that fact that as an imperfect person, because of God’s mercies, I have the opportunity to begin again EACH and EVERYDAY!
SO NEVER, allow yourself to get caught up into that negative self-talk that so easily takes us captive and pulls us down into a pit so self-imposed misery.
I recently read a quote that went something like, “if you don’t come out of the pandemic with a new product, new book, etc. then it was never in you to begin with.” I don’t actually agree with that. After all, along with 2020 came a lot of emotional and spiritual challenges. Things like, depression, anxiety, abuse (alcohol, drug, emotional and physical) feelings of worthlessness and so on.
I don’t belittle the things that people may have experienced during this time of isolation. I Do however believe that for some of us, 2020 was a time of reflection. God in his infinite wisdom, removed the BIGGEST excuse used by so many of us, “I don’t have the time.” For a lot of us he removed the daily commute to the office, the lunch and shopping outings, the vacations that if we have to be honest lend more to the need for a vacation after the vacation because we don’t Know how to truly sit back and relax. He removed it all, giving us the opportunity to spend more time with him, more time for deeper Bible study, deeper prayer times, deeper inner reflections.
I believe that at some point rather through, prayer, personal fortitude, family and friends or professional help, there comes a time when we have to emerge! We have to come out of whatever may have been holding us back. Now is that time! We are three weeks into a new year, and we have the promise from God that his mercies are new every day, so that means today! Now is the time!
I know, you may be saying well there is still the same ol’ same ol’ going on, and to that I say you are right! We are about to embark on an historic week in our country, a Presidential Inauguration like none we have ever seen or imagined, from COVID protocols to intense security measures, the swearing in of not only the first female Vice President, but the first woman of color to ever hold such an office, a current President who is refusing to follow protocol when it comes to a peaceful transition of power and not to mention the threats of continued riots and unrest across our country. So YES, I get it.
But we are called higher. Romans 12:2 encourages us to, “not conform to this world, but instead to be transformed by the renewing of our minds” and Colossians 3:2 instructs us to, “set our minds on things above and not on the things that are of this earth”.
So yes, I say, now is the time to emerge new! And how do you ask do we emerge new? We start small, little by little and move forward from there.
Identify Your One Thing – That one little “Pet Thing” that seems to always prevent you from moving forward with the goals you have set out to accomplish. You know the thing, social media, TV, a lack of willpower, a lack of belief in yourself. The list goes on and on. Identify it and then take it to GOD!
Time with God: if you don’t already have a designated time set aside each day to spend with God begin there. If you already have a designated time, ask yourself, are you keeping that appointment time with God? If not, why? If it were a work appointment or a date with that special someone would you not put every effort into keeping that appointment, even preparing in advance and showing up early!
Don’t go it alone – find someone who will challenge you and hold you accountable to being the best you possible. Rather that’s finding a prayer partner, an accountability partner, a friend that you can go to when you are stuck or employing the services of a professional coach, just don’t try to do it on your own. Why, well, how has that worked out for you so far?
So, as we embark on this historical 3rd week of 2021, make the decision now, to make historical changes within yourself, so that as we move forward into this new year, you can fully emerge as the person God designed you to be!
How do you approach life? Do you simply move about aimlessly without a plan on the hope that fortune will find you? Or, are you a planner, chained to your schedule without a moment to spare?
How do you spend your free time? Do you surround yourself with those who can elevate you to the next level? Are you out moving from one great activity to the next? Where does your deepest passion lie? Whose hearts do you impress yourself upon?
With the recent deaths this past Friday of two great Civil Rights Leaders, Rev. C.T. Vivian and Congressman John Lewis I have found myself being very reflective. Asking the age old question, “what really matters”, “what is this life really about” “How do I want to be remembered” “How will I be remembered” But most importantly, am I living a life that is worthy to be remembered
What about you? You see we all, even without, effort leave a legacy behind. The question is what type of legacy will you leave?
I know you may say in today’s society, you don’t have time to worry about a legacy; you need to make sure today is taken care of. I can appreciate this, but my question to you is what about those you interact with on a daily basis, your family, the people you may lead (at work, at church, your kids sporting teams) and those you pass along the way.
I would like to touch upon three areas where we have the opportunity to leave a lasting impression and that’s (1) Family, (2) Work and (3) Mentoring
Family - ~Proverbs 13:22 says…A good person leaves behind an inheritance for their children’s children.
Work - ~Daniel 12:3 reads…Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like stars for ever and ever.
Mentoring - ~ Titus 2:3-5… Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
I encourage you this week to be mindful of how you spend your time, the lives you impact and the legacy you are forming!
The word lie is defined as a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive. When I think of deliberate, I think of something carefully thought out. This leads me to believe that before someone commits the act of lying they have already weighed the option, considered the outcome and deemed
the act of lying more acceptable than the consequences of being honest.
I would like for us to take a moment and consider two scriptures:
~Jeremiah 17:9 says…The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond
cure. Who can understand it?
~Luke 6:45 reads For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
The scriptures say the heart is deceitful, misleading, yet the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Why, did I choose these two scriptures: I was listening to a journalist speak
about an interview Oprah Winfrey conducted with Lance Armstrong, specifically
he was commenting on the point in the interview when Oprah asked Lance
Armstrong if he felt like he cheated and Lance’s response was, NO! No,
although he clearly and consciously went against the guidelines set by his sport
he felt that he had not cheated. However, in his response Lance Armstrong went
on to say that he believes he would not have won those consecutive races had it
not been for the Performance Enhancing Drugs. A clear example of a person
allowing their heart to deceive them; in this we see a man who has been so blinded by
his desire to succeed and the lure to be the best that he in his subconscious
found reasons to tell himself it was OK to take the drugs.
So why do we lie:
~ 2 Peter 1:3 tells us that “His divine power has given us everything we need
for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own
glory and goodness”
When pushed against a wall we as humans are designed to fight. When our security is threatened we tend to kick into survival mood. Often times giving in to the desire to lie our way out of a situation instead of trusting God, owning up to our mistakes and accepting the
consequences of our actions.
~2 Timothy 1:7 says… For the Spirit God has given us does not make us
timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
~Psalm 56:3-4 says…When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose
word I praise- in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do
3. Desire to Please People
Let’s be honest, at some point in our lives we all wanted to be liked. We all wanted to be able to say yeah, I pitched in and helped out in that situation. Then there are times when we just see a need and our desire to help out ways or ability and means.
~Matthew 5:37 reads…All you need to say is simply “Yes” or “No”
Two very simple words, yet at times two of the hardest words in the English language.
Are you driven by your desire to help (which is not a bad thing) but in your attempt to help you tend to make promises you cannot fulfill?
So what can you do to avoid falling into deceit:
1. Let your yes be your yes
Lies, deceit, deceptions, untruths, they hurt. They hurt those you love, those you
encounter along the way and they hurt YOU!
~James 4:14…What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
If you think of an aerosol can and how at the initial pump mists shots out, very similar to the way infants at birth shot from the womb. That mist, which is like our lives, then spreads out and often lands on objects or people that are in its path. In the same way our life should spread out and leave a lasting impression on those who are in our sphere of influence.
Laker fan or not, Kobe fan or not, you cannot mention the game of basketball without mentioning Kobe Bryant and the impact he had, not only on the court as a dynamic player but also the man he evolved into off the court. Like the mist, Kobe took full advantage of the opportunities he encountered to leave an impression that will live on long after January 26, 2020.
So, as we process the news of the passing of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and the other passengers who were aboard the helicopter, let us pray for the families, shed our tears and then move forward with a determination that will allow us to take the best parts of Kobe the man and embody them within ourselves to enhance our own greatness. Using the talents and skills that we have been gifted with to impact in a positive way the lives of those we encounter. Becoming as 2 Corinthians 2:15 says, “the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing”.
However, if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or saddened by the events surrounding the death of Kobe Bryant and the other passengers or if you are just overwhelmed by life in general keep in mind the acronym P.A.D.S. Pads are defined as a guard worn to shield body parts (in this case your heart and emotions) against impact.
P – Pray
A – Allow yourself to feel and not attempt to suppress your emotions
D – Disconnect from the news and social media
S – Seek help from a trained professional
It’s 1:44 am and I can’t sleep. The words of a devotional I read early keep replaying themselves in my head. It was a passage from Judges 6:23 But the Lord said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.” You are not going to die. Those words jolted me from a place I hadn’t realized I had traveled to. It was like an electric shock shooting straight up my body. Even now some almost 24 hours later I am still feeling that surge of energy that comes with a new enlightenment.
I realize that like Gideon I had become timid, almost afraid to move forward in certain areas of my life. While I love counseling and being able to help those who are hurting, I have often felt God has placed a larger calling on my life. A calling that I have been running from or rather using my counseling practice to escape from. After all, it’s easy to hide behind appointments and meetings. It’s safe!
Safe! So here I sit at almost 2 am coming to grips with the fact that God did not call me to play it safe. 2 Timothy 1 versus 6 – 7 instruct me to fan into flame the Gift of God, which for me is to use my speaking and teaching abilities to reach the multitudes of those who are hurting. Women who like me have battled with feelings of not being good enough, not being pretty enough, not being smart enough. Women who have, out of fear, sat on the sidelines under the guise of being a background player while silently attempting to quench a raging fire bursting to be allowed to expand and roar. It also tells me that God did not give me a spirit of timidity but one of power, love and self-discipline. The power to boldly step forward and embrace the woman he has called me to me. The ability to love beyond limits and meet the needs of those who are hurting and in need of guidance by sharing my experiences, the good, the bad and the in between. Most importantly, he gave me a spirit of self-discipline, which enables me to stand firm in my faith even when things are though and it seems as if there is no way to overcome the confusion, hurt and pain I may be feeling.
Now, here I sit reflecting on my life and the things that I have been through. The loss of two children, one to an ectopic pregnancy and the other to a miscarriage, the deaths of family members and close friends, the loss of friendships and the general ups and downs of life, I ask myself, “did I die?” and the answer is a faint but firm NO! No, I did not die. I am here to tell the story, my story in the hopes that the things that I have experienced throughout this journey I call life will in some way help another along the way.
So, stay tuned. There is more to come!
John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”
What does having life to the full mean to you?
What are some things that you believe cause us to NOT live life to the full?
What about our thoughts, how we view ourselves, others and our world. I believe they play a huge part in our living life to the full.
Think about it:
FIRST: We listen to the lie (told by someone who has influence in our lives or most often it’s the negative self-talk that goes on in our heads that comes from our own faulty thinking)
SECOND: We dwell on the lie (we replay the scenario or the words that were spoken or the assumptions made over and over again in our heads)
THEN: We begin to believe the lie. We allow the seed of negativity to grow. You know the ones, (I’m not good enough, I am not pretty enough, I am not smart enough, and on and on) even though God’s word tells us we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”
LASTLY: (PROVERBS 23:7) KJV says, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…”We act on the lie: What we believe about ourselves begin to manifest itself in our actions, how we treat others and ourselves.
Matthew 22:39 instructs us to love our neighbors as ourselves, but if we are allowing negative self-talk and insecurities to affect how we view ourselves, how can we effectively extend true Godly love to our neighbors?
Matthew 5:14-16 (The Message Bible) Says “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven
Do you consider yourself a light to the world?
Vs. 15 says, "I am putting you on a light stand."
That doesn’t sound like God intends for us shrink back. When I think of a lamp on a stand, I think of something beautiful that you would place in a focal point of the room so that it brightens everything within its reach.
So, what about you, what are some ways that you allow your light to brighten the lives of those you come in contact with?
ZEPHANIAH 3:17 (English Standard Version) – “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing”.
What do you think it means to be quieted by God’s love
For me, When I think about this verse it gives me chills. I think of all the negative thoughts that run through my head at times and then I envision God taking me in his arms the way you would a crying baby and enveloping me with his love and compassion and gently smoothing my hair and softly whispering to me that everything is going to be alright, I am here, I have you!
I encourage you to pause and think about the past 24 hours. What has occupied more space in your thoughts: Your hurts, worries and anxieties or the assurance of God’s love.
Let's chat about. Take a moment and share your thoughts below.
As I sit and look out of my window this morning, it amazes me who quickly things change. Just yesterday it was partly cloudy and warm, the roads were filled with people moving rapidly about there day and school children heading off to start there day. Now, one day later we are a city paralyzed by the thought of snow. Yes! I am writing this blog from my just outside of metro-Atlanta as we prepare for our “big non-snow” snow event. Funny yes, but it brought to mind how the heart behind the decisions to close schools and business while pure may have been hasty and isn’t this how we sometimes respond when we react based on our emotions (our heart) instead of aligning our responses with God’s word.
In Romans 12:3 Paul says, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” Paul encourages us to be self-aware and maintain a sober judgment. A judgment void of excessive or extreme qualities of fancy, emotion or prejudice.
We are also instructed in Proverbs 4:23 to, “guard our hearts above all else, for everything flows from it.” Everything, every thought we have, every decision we make, every response, everything!
Today, I encourage you to take some time to examine your heart as we work through Psalm 139.
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
Question: What does intimate mean to you?
Intimate – defined as closely acquainted, familiar, close
Question: Do you realize that God has an intimate knowledge of your thoughts, fears and dreams?
PAUSE & REFLECT > What do you think God sees when he looks into the depths of your heart?
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me, “even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day for darkness is as light to you.
PAUSE & REFLECT > Ask yourself is there anything in your life that you don’t want revealed to God? Are you running away from God?
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you.
QUESTION: How does it feel to know that everything you are was intricately crafted by God?
QUESTION: Do you accept that where you are at this very moment is exactly where God wants you to be?
If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies. Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.
QUESTION: Do you count as enemies not only those who go against God, but do you hate YOUR actions that go against God?
QUESTION: When was the last time you cried out to God asking him to rid you of the things that take you away from him?
NEXT STEPS: Now that you have taken a glimpse into your heart, take a few minutes to write a personal prayer to God asking him to help you to truly see and gain a conviction about anything in your life that his keeping you away from him?
The Greatest Love of All – Love for Self
For many years I lived a life defined by other’s expectations of me. From a very early age I was told I was smart and I spoke well, so instead of engaging in activates that I longed for in my heart like dance and sports I conformed. I read books, participated in plays and basically said and did all the things that were expected of me. It all looked great on the outside and looking back it was not all bad.
It wasn’t until my junior year of high school when I heard the lyrics to Whitney Houston’s song Greatest Love of All that I paused to think, “what if”. Now mind you, it was only a pause – a momentary interruption in the normal ebb and flow of my teenage life. But that brief pause planted the seed of “what if” that allowed me to begin to think a little differently.
Later as a young adult, I can recall sitting in my bedroom miles away from everything familiar on a cold, rainy and just plain dreary day, again listening, a little deeper this time, to the lyrics of Greatest Love of All. I was 21-years old and had made the very grown up decision to relocate 1,025.7 miles (15 hours and 21 minutes) from everything I held dear. And again, living a good life but just not fully the life I wanted. This time however, a second song immediately followed. It was Stephanie Mills’ “Home”. Now I know what you’re thinking, “God does not speak through R&B music”. Well, I am here to tell you that on that faithful morning God used the morning DJ on a Milwaukee radio station to play just the right songs at just the right time and in just the right order to get this girl’s attention!
The lyrics that struck a chord in me where:
I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone's shadows
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I'll live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can't take away my dignity……
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all
(Whitney Houston, Greatest Love of All)
Maybe there's a chance for me to go back
Now that I have some direction
(Maybe there's a chance I'll get home)
It sure would be nice to be back at home
Where there's love and affection
And just maybe I can convince time to slow up
Givin me enough time, ooh, in my life to grow up
Time be my friend
And let me start again
(Stephanie Mills, Home)
I won’t say that everything changed overnight, and I immediately began to make decisions without giving a second thought to what others believed. I will say that this revelation started me on a journey of self-discovery. One that has had it’s ups and downs and wins and losses, but a journey that I will never regret, because it has led me to discover the fearfully and wonderfully made woman God designed me to be!
What I have learned and strive every day to pass along to those I encounter and engage with, is that living authentically begins with accepting ourselves as we are, flaws and all. It is living a life where our daily actions align with our beliefs and values. It is being true to ourselves and boldly embracing the amazing person that God has designed us to be!
I have also learned that I do not have to be the smartest person in the room. God has generously gifted many amazing people with the ability to encourage and teach others. So, with that I encourage you to take a listen to the 4-minute video below featuring Brene` Brown and Oprah Winfrey discussing Faking it, Perfectionism and Living Wholeheartedly.
As a young child I enjoyed dressing up in my moms high heeled shoes, jewelry and any piece of fancy clothing that I could get my hands on. It was like being transported to a magical land of make believe. I would spend hours pretending to be a fairy princess or a celebrity! It was great, but at some point, the make believe would end, the clothes, shoes and jewelry would go back in their proper places and I would once again go back to being Crystal. The little girl that lived on West 6th Street.
Even as a teenager and young adult I would spend hours getting lost between the pages of a romance novel. I would spend hours reading about and dreaming about love everlasting, moonlight kisses and magical romances. Again, this was enjoyable, but there would yet again come a time when I had to return to reality and embrace my life for what is was. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, but most of all tangible and real!
Even today as a wife, mother and mental health clinician I still find myself getting lost from time to time in a great day dream. The key word however is dream and the reality that it is just that a series of thoughts, images and sensations that are occurring in my mind, not in my reality.
So often, however, it is hard for many to accept the everyday realities of life. This leads them to hide behind their titles, careers, money, marital status and so on. Many of us on the outside looking in buy into the mask, engage in the superficial conversation and walk away with the belief that because everything looks good it is good. This is so far from the truth!
With the tragic deaths this week of Fashion Designer, Kate Spade and Celebrity Chef and TV Personality, Anthony Bourdain, it has become all to clear that we must pause as a society and take the time to look behind the façade that so many put forth. We must begin today to ask the uncomfortable questions of those we love and often of those we have chance encounters with. Questions like:
We can no longer accept the standard polite “I am good” or “things are fine” responses. If we claim to love someone we must be OK with maintaining eye contact during those few moments of awkward silence that often come when we ask the tough stuff.
We must begin to look past materialism and titles when we feel in our gut that something is just not right. Feelings of hopelessness are real. People are hurting. People are dying because of the stigma associated with Mental Illness. We no longer have the luxury of keeping it safely tucked away in the shadows only to be discussed in secret discreet whispers during family gatherings.
According to a 2016 Center for Disease Control Report, suicide claimed the lives of nearly 45,000 people and was listed as the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States. However, suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34 and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 54. In 2016 there were twice as many suicides (44,965) in the United States as there were homicides (19,362).
When you feel something is not right 9 times out of 10 something is not right. Below are a few warning signs that someone may be having suicidal thoughts:
Proverbs 20:5 says “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out”. We must start today to be that man/woman that will take the time to draw out what is really going on within a person.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255). It’s always open, and you can speak to a trained counselor.