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Just Be.

(This is the next-to-the-last part of our devotional series “Press – The Musical”.)

Good morning, peeps!

“Just you and me…here in this place” – Place Of Worship by William McDowell

I have a 5 year-old nephew named Christopher.  He is truly one of my great loves.  He is so loving and smart and stubborn.  Just like his auntie.  I am referring to the stubborn part when I say that.  I was babysitting him one time and I don’t know if his mama had given him candy, but he would not be still.   I told him to sit down and when I left the room, I could hear him running around.  So I walked up to him, grabbed him by his shoulders and tried to seat him in the chair.  Do you know that little boy stiff-legged me?? Oooh!  He held his legs straight out and refused to sit down.  Even told me “no”.  So I helped him out: I put my arm behind his knees causing them to bend and made him sit down.  He crossed his arms and pouted, letting me know I was not his best friend anymore.

God is making me sit down.  I’m pouting.

That episode with Christopher came to mind as I listened to this song this morning.  Listen to it.  They sing it so pretty like, “la la la la la, I’m skipping through the lilies”.  All carefree.  Got on my nerves.  I don’t think I’ve ever lived an inch of this life carefree and la-la-la.  Not even in a place of worship.  I sincerely doubt there’s been one second.  I am positive that I squirm in my sleep trying to make sure I stay in right standing with God as I slobber on my pillow.  I’m the Martha of Christianhood: I am so occupied with the way things are instead of just sitting at the feet of Jesus.  I don’t just be.  God is forcing me to do that during this press.  And I’m resisting.

Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. – Psalm 37:4 KJV

So, this morning, I decided to start a fast.  I kinda feel like I’m cheating the system because I do this every day: I eat a light breakfast at 5 a.m. and then my next meal is dinner.  This is not intentional – trust me.  I like food and it likes me.  #BFFoLyfe.  The reason I don’t eat during the day is that I simply do not have the time.  As I sought God for His guidance during this fast, I heard in my heart “What are you fasting for?  Why can’t you just be?”  Don’t get me wrong, there is not a thang wrong with fasting: if God places a time of self-denial on your heart, do it.  This morning’s fast declaration was all me.  God hadn’t told me to do a thing.  I always feel like there’s something I gotta do, especially if I’m not seeing what I want to see happen.  I know.  I need to quit.  I am still working myself out of the…dang.  I just did it again, didn’t I?

Just so you know, this fast was about my desire for yet another confirmation.  Remember blogs ago when I told you that I am the “confirmation queen”?  Honey.  I don’t think I can do that obsession justice with mere words.  It’s a serious problem.  Like, I need a confirmation for the confirmation of a confirmation that someone confirmed while I was seeking a confirmation for something they didn’t know they were confirming.  That’s how bad I am.  I remember two weeks ago I was driving home and I saw an “open house” sign.  It was stuck on a corner with an arrow pointing thataway and the grass around it was dead.  So three blocks later, I’m in my car trying to figure out the spiritual meaning of what I saw.   It was a cardboard sign, y’all.  Are you getting what I’m saying?   Hmm.  That open house sign was stuck in some dead grass…maybe God is saying… Good grief!  I am positive God was rolling His eyes like, “You’ve gotta be kidding me, child!” because I heard in my heart, “Everything ain’t a sign, Deone.  It was just an open house sign and the grass was dead.  Why can’t you just let it be a sign and grass?”

Did you know that being has to be intentional?  I don’t know how to do that.  I told God that this morning and Psalm 37:4 came to me.  To be honest, I only knew the words – the location was a mystery for me.  And guess what?  I fussed at myself about that.  Goodness, Minister!  You should’ve known the exact book, chapter, verse and page number for that scripture!  Ugh!!!

Good grief.  Why can’t I just be?

–d.

 

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Sweetness.

(This is Part 4 of our devotional series “Press – The Musical”.)

Good morning, peeps!

 “And he took thereof in his hands, and went on eating, and came to his father and mother, and he gave them, and they did eat: but he told not them that he had taken the honey out of the carcass of the lion.” – Judges 14:9 KJV

 “All things are working for my good ~ ‘Cause He’s intentional ~ Never Failing” – from “Intentional” by Travis Greene

Read Judges 14.  Don’t really have the time this morning?  Okay.  I’ll give you the CliffNotes version. This chapter is about Samson and his wife-gettin’.  He saw a woman in Timnath and thought, “Yeah, now THAT’S what I’m talking about!”  He tells his parents this and they are not one bit pleased because this woman is a Philistine.  If you’ve read Scripture, you know that was a big no-no: they steered clear of those folks.  They were like, “You mean, you can’t even find any of your kind good enough for you that you had to go and get you a Philistine?”  What they didn’t know is that God was using this as a way to get into the Philistine camp so that HE could destroy them and guess what?  Samson didn’t know what God was trying to do, either.  So, Samson tells them this is his boo and on his way to see her, a lion runs up on him and Samson kills it.

Man.  This feels like a bible study.

I looked at the lion and at Samson and thought, “Hmm.  They did what was natural and it ended badly for both of them.”  So, whatever plain Samson was walking in had to be the lion’s territory – his domain.  On any given day, the lion was killing and chomping down on somethin’ there – either out of his need for food or his duty of protecting his territory.  Look at Samson: both the fetchin’ of this woman and killing the lion were also instinct for him.  They responded to life and life wasn’t exactly kind to either of them.  You may look at the story and think, “Well, Samson seemed to come out on top.  It was the lion who died.”  But who wants to be attacked, especially by a lion?  Samson just wanted his woman.

 “And after a time he returned to take her, and he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion…”

Yesterday, I left y’all with “I joined church when I was 4 and have been jacked up ever since: my living water got polluted”.   Probably didn’t give you the boost you were looking for to start your day.  Last night, I told God, “This doesn’t really feel like a devotional series and it really ain’t all that encouraging.  I thought that was the whole point of devotionals: to encourage somebody.  This ain’t.  I feel like You’ve got me telling my life story.”  What was impressed upon my heart was that sometimes you have to give people the ugly past in order for them to appreciate the beautiful present.  When Samson ran up on the lion’s carcass, he met his past head-on.  I’m sure there was an alternate route he could’ve taken, but there he was.  Can you imagine what went through Samson’s mind as he approached it?  I’m sure being a guy he was probably filled with some macho pride, but have you ever thought of the possibility that seeing the carcass also brought back memories of how horrific it was to be attacked?  That he relived what had happened to him?  Who wants to tell someone that?

“…and, behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcass of the lion.”

There’s a song that says “You don’t know my story, so you don’t understand my praise”.  I told y’all before I started this devotional series that I was going to be at my most transparent.  I kinda meant it.  Well, I meant it, but I was still going to try and hold some things back.  We do that don’t we?  We tell God that we want to be used by Him, but hold up a minute…can we not use that?  No, honey (ha).  God uses it all – to free others.  Even the stuff that people try to hold against you for life, the very things that those others try to imprison you with, is there to free them.  I write devotionals five days a week and every single drop of them is gleaned from my past.  That’s what God uses and I truly believe that I went through all of it for someone else.  Nothing in my life has been happenstance.  It’s intentional and God set it in place so that it could help someone.

“Say it again ~ say all things are working for my good ~ yeah ~ ‘cause He’s intentional ~ never failing” 

I was told one time that there is someone out there who is waiting for me to tell my story.  My story is ugly, y’all.  There is a lot of pollution and death in it.  So much so, that I shudder ever time it is presented to me.  There was something God told me this morning, though: honey can still come out of it.  God taps into my testimony – into those areas of pollution and death – and brings forth sweet things that even I on my most creative day couldn’t come up with.  You would not believe how many times I have looked over the day’s post and said, “Wait a minute.  I typed that??”

I did type it, but it didn’t come from me.  Only God can bring honey out of a carcass.

–d.

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Polluted Water.

(This is Part 3 of our devotional series “Press – The Musical”.)

Good morning, peeps!

“And I want to be like a tree ~ planted by the streams of living water.” – from “Tree” by Justin Rizzo

Unless you have been stuck in a cave for the past three years, you know about the water crisis in Flint, MI. In April 2014, Flint began drawing water from the Flint River for its 100,000 residents instead of relying on water from Detroit. People immediately complained about the smell, taste and appearance of the water, and raise health concerns, reporting rashes, hair loss and other problems. That info right there is what I found on USNEWS’ website and all of this time I thought this – the lead mess – was the way it had been forever and someone just now decided to blow the lid off of the situation. But no. This wasn’t the way things had always been. Something was changed.

“It’s been more than three years since Flint, Michigan switched its water source in an effort to save money, which led to a man-made public health crisis.” – USNEWS

My dad found Jesus when I was a 4-year-old and…yeah. Like I’ve said countless times before, I don’t think Jesus was all that lost in the first place because a lot of other people found Him, too. (You know that was a good one. You may laugh.) This was not the first time I’d heard about Jesus, though. My parents both came from religious backgrounds. Let me just put this out there: most black people do. My dad’s Pops was a well-loved deacon in our city and my mom sung in church choirs as a teen and would sing those songs to me. And, we had the mandatory toddler-sized bible on our coffee table. So you see, my exposure to “living water” had happened before I actually joined a church.

“And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch. It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever: from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever. But the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it: and he shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness.” – Isaiah 34:9-11 KJV

I joined church when I was four and have been jacked up ever since: my water got polluted.

–d.

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Uprooted.

(This is Part 2 of our devotional series “Press – The Musical”.)

Good morning, peeps!

“I wanna be unmovable and unshakable so let my roots go down deep. Unmovable and unshakable in You.” – from “Tree” by Justin Rizzo

“And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” – Psalm 1:3

I joined church when I was 4 and have been jacked up ever since.

I know that first sentence ’bout made you choke on your coffee. Man. Coffee. I miss it. That sentence was the first thing I keyed yesterday morning as I was typing what was to be the first part of this new devotional series. As you can see, I eventually posted something else. That first post was a grand way to start this series and I know it was unexpected. I love it when God does unexpected things. I expect Him to, now. Don’t get it twisted: I totally mean that first sentence. I wasn’t trying to shock you awake this morning. “I joined church when I was 4 and I have been jacked up ever since.”

Ever since.

The image that God brought to mind was the tree that sits in my front yard. I have no idea what type of tree it is and at 4 in the morning, I could care less what type of tree it is so don’t ask me. And I am not googling it when I get done with this post. From the street, it looks like a magnificent beast. Especially now: the top of it is so leafy and green and I can hear the birdies who’ve built nests among its branches chirping as I drink what is not coffee. Such a strong-looking tree. It is massive. The roots of it stretch out over almost half of my front yard.

It is dead.

About seven years ago, we had someone come out and look at it. This was someone who could tell what type of tree it was at first glance – he didn’t need Google. That man acted like he was the spokesperson for Arbor Day (SFAD). Good grief. I just asked him about my tree and he told me about every tree in the neighborhood. “And that’s a____ and that one is a ____ and you see that one over there? It’s a ____.” Dude. I promise you, I don’t care. I know he told me what mine was, but I don’t remember what he said. I didn’t file that bit of information into my mental Rolodex. It was just a tree. And I wanted it gone. So, let me tell you how petty I was with this tree. I didn’t want it gone because it was too close to the house and I was concerned about it falling over during a bad storm and tearing up my stuff. No. I was sick of raking leaves and its little feathered residents kept pooping on everything, including people. Petty. So after SFAD told me what kind of tree I had, he said, “It will cost you $$$$ to remove this tree from your yard.” The devil is a whole funky lie! “You could spend the money and it will be an all-day process, but you need to know something: it is dead. Well, technically halfway dead. The roots are dead.”

But it has green leaves on it…

presstree

Ignore my finger in the corner, but did you notice the bare branches? There are three huge sections of ‘em. I bet you wouldn’t have noticed them had I not pointed them out with my beautifully-drawn yellow circle. Most people see the greenery and think “IT’S ALIVE!!” It’s really not. The roots have already kicked the bucket and the evidence is being shown in the dead branches. And instead of uprooting it, I have let it die slowly. For seven years. And it is starting to affect my entire yard.

I joined church when I was 4 and have been jacked up ever since.

When I talked with my friends about this devotional series and what I am presently discovering about myself, they have been quick to give me the pep talk of the century. They are having none of what they think is me selling myself short. “You are great just as you are, Deone! There is nothing wrong with you! Look at all you do for the Kingdom! There’s ____ and there’s that____. And you see that over there?” I appreciate it, I do, but know that it is okay. Now more than ever, I am aware of my present state: you may see leaves that have not withered and fruit coming forth in season, but that’s not what God is working on. That stuff is fine – it’s the patches of dead stuff that He’s concerned about.

I have three.

In order for this pressing to be effective, God had to first get to the root of my sitch, which happens to be my core – what I have wrapped the roots of my life around. That’s what is slowing killing me. I was like, “Hold up. When I started going to church, I was deeply and madly in love with You. I completely trusted You. The rock I wrapped my roots around was You.”
“At first. Something else has taken My place.”

[We will continue this tomorrow. Have a great day.]

–d.

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The Big Picture.

Good morning, peeps!

“Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.” – John 6:26 NIV

This picture has completely captivated me.  Cortana, my Windows’ homegirl from way back, has picked this as the lock screen photo on my laptop for the past two days.  Look at the colors in it!  Aren’t they gorgeous?  Those are my happy colors: green, orange, pink, and yellow.  They just scream life and rainbow sherbet, which is my favorite cold thing to eat.  Besides cheese.  I swear I have the attention span of a gnat.  For about three minutes, I was transfixed by Webster-Merriam’s “The Scoop on Sherbert vs Sherbet – Words At Play” article.  I really don’t care how that word is spelled.  This picture, though.  This picture is so beautiful and I have been staring at it for the past two days. 

I just noticed the hummingbird this morning.

I woke up with one line from Passion’s “Build My Life” on repeat in my head: “Holy, there is no one like You ~ there is none beside You ~ open up my eyes in wonder…”.  I’ve told you plenty of times how this heart of mine has a mind of its own.  On the real, it can be downright rude when it wants to be heard.   It was screaming “open up my eyes in wonder” so loudly that I could barely pray this morning.  You ever tried to speak louder than someone with a microphone and an amp?  It doesn’t work.  You just close your mouth and wait for them to stop talking.  My heart has not stopped talking.  Open up my eyes in wonder…

I just noticed the hummingbird this morning.

My eyes are rarely open in wonder.  I squint.  For me, joy is in the details.  Right there is the wonder.  I can be so anal about life that I will even detail the details. You know the saying “I will break you down like a fraction”?  I’m worse than that.  I will pixelate things that were only meant to be taken in as a whole.  Like this picture.  Once I saw that flower, I was done for and I picked apart every single color in it – from the background to the stem.  I’ve been staring at this picture for two days and I just noticed the hummingbird.

That’s the way I am with God.

Sometimes I need to be reminded to step back and take it all in.  That’s what I got this morning when I thought, “Hmm.  There’s a hummingbird in that picture.  Never noticed that.”  God can be doing something magnificent in my life and because I’m just focused on one part of it, I will miss the whole thing.  I can exhaust the mir out of a miracle.  I told someone recently, “Don’t you let someone cause you to discount what God has done.”  Apparently, that statement was for me too.  Like for real, but I don’t need anyone else’s two cents on whether or not God is moving in my life: I have pennies jingling in my pocket at all times.   Do you think…  But God I don’t see how…  Well, maybe that happened because…  Maybe I didn’t really didn’t feel a lump ’cause the doctor said…  Perhaps I didn’t see what I thought I saw…  And it’s all because I don’t take it all in.

When we get stuck in the details, we miss out on the big picture.  When we get stuck in the details, we cannot fully see what God is doing for us and therefore, we won’t be able to acknowledge that He is moving for us.  Being that way, as my girl Ty said, can cause you to give up when what you’re praying for is just around the corner.  Thankfully, God is loving enough make us step back so that we can see the big picture.  And then ahhh!   Did you see the hummingbird and the flower?  Have a great day.

–d.