Holy, Holes, Whole~Part II

Given the imperfect nature of life, the process of being poked, prodded and left filled with holes, reconnection with God, and subsequently made whole again is something that occurs during the continuum of a lifetime. Therefore, in my opinion, the goal shouldn’t be to attain a staunch position of holiness, but an ever-growing, ever-evolving posture of seeking to pour out the negative and refill with new vision and insight into the nature of God. Our stance should be one of earnestly seeking to know more of Him, to become more and more like Him daily with a humbly submissive, dependent nature that won’t allow us to become so Biblically elite that we turn away those who need God most.

So how do we do this?

1. Never forget from where you come. Remembering how much you’ve learned and grown over the years will allow you to remain humble, and thus open to learning and growing more. This will allow your spiritual nature to continually evolve.

2. Tell your story. By allowing those who may be struggling alone in the dark stumbling over the same lessons over and over to hear your personal story, it will normalize what they are going through and they can feel more confident knowing they aren’t really alone in their struggles. It will also give you a feeling of accomplishment knowing you were able to help another person begin the process of becoming whole. Sharing is healing.

3. Don’t get caught up in memorizing the text. Regurgitation by definition is a natural release of all that is bad, so why would you merely want to vomit out a scripture given the valuable nature of its content? Take some time to go deeper to understand the meaning and apply the meaning to how you live your life. Everyone who comes in contact with you should come in contact with the Bible through normal everyday interaction, not simply because you are “preaching a sermon.” Actions speak louder.

4. Throw out the notion that you have to be perfect. I’m not certain where this theory came from; perhaps it’s a twisted view of the concept of being Christ-like. While striving for perfection is perfectly okay, remember that the beauty of life rests in our ability to continually develop. Once that halts because of achieving nirvana, we die. In order to truly live, you mustn’t ever stop learning and given that there’s always something to learn; accept that you won’t ever be perfect.

5. Love more, judge less. To my knowledge, God hasn’t died (and remained dead, depending on your beliefs), which means His position isn’t vacant. If you focus more on loving your brothers and sisters as is (the way God loves you), then there will be less time to pick apart their faults. We all come up short at some point in time, so give a little grace and focus on loving the person despite their holes. Besides, how can you judge someone when you aren’t, nor have you ever been, or will ever be perfect? A wise man once told me, “I’m going to do the loving and let God do the judging.”

Through it all we must be thankful for grace and mercy because without it, we would have less bullet points on our list of achievements. The process of spiritual development is one on which many of us long to progress. Progression can be very difficult because rigid belief systems are by nature prohibitive. We must remember to remain open to new perspectives, new experiences, and new insight, as they all have a place at the table of righteousness. Your whole-self will thank you and before you know it you will be surrounded by wholesome people.

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Holy, Holes, Whole~Part I

The Process of Spiritual Development

I’d be willing to bet we all know people who can recite Biblical scriptures as fluidly as they can say their names. Many times these people are also able to eloquently explain their interpretations of those scriptures. The ability to accurately quote scripture is held in high regard by many, as it is the expectation of those who choose to live according to this text to fervently study it daily, with the assumption they will be able to communicate what they’ve learned to others.

If you aren’t as well versed on the Bible, inadequacies can creep in during conversations with the Biblical elite, even when you know the message you’ve verbalized is well thought out, logical, and accurate in terms of the meaning and application of the Word. In some communities the inability to quote scripture is something that is frowned upon, and voice of those unable to do so discredited. There are others who are more concerned with living out the essence of what it means to “treat those the way you want to be treated,” as opposed to merely spewing the words. Of course we know those whose regurgitation raises more hell than heaven, which often times contradicts any good intentions, leaving many disenchanted with all things holy.

The last year of my life has been somewhat of a metamorphosis as I searched to reevaluate and make sense of my purpose and direction. For those who are looking to live a life of meaning, I’ve found we often reach a crossroad where we want to evaluate and reevaluate to make sure our lives continue on the right track and on task with the reason for which we were created. During my self-assessment, one of the most transformative lessons I learned was that God can’t use perfect people. A recent conversation birthed this message to me: “This isn’t for the holy. This is for people with holes who need to be made whole again.”

This was liberating for me because it allowed me to see the purpose in my pain, the value in my voids, and welcoming of my wounds. Sometimes we have to be broken down to absolutely nothing so God can show us how miraculously marvelous He is, all by Himself. When we have so many holes that all guilt, pain, disappointments, unfulfilled promises, closed doors, misunderstandings, abandonment, neglect, abuse, misuse, manipulation, lies, deceit, tears, loneliness, depression, stagnation, unanswered questions, and every toxin that poisoned our body can finally be poured out. After this purification occurs, God refills us with love, forgiveness, resolution, fulfillment, open doors, surplus, honor, integrity, enlightenment, renewal, joy, truth, smiles, laughs, security, forward motion, answers, and healing, thereby making us whole.

Given the imperfect nature of life, this process of being poked, prodded and left filled with holes, reconnection with God, and subsequently made whole again is something that occurs during the continuum of a lifetime. Therefore, in my opinion, the goal shouldn’t be to attain a staunch position of holiness, but an ever-growing, ever-evolving posture of seeking to pour out the negative and refill with new vision and insight into the nature of God. Our stance should be one of earnestly seeking to know more of Him, to become more and more like Him daily with a humbly submissive, dependent nature that won’t allow us to become so Biblically elite that we turn away those who need God most.

holyholeswhole

Christian or Insecure

Quite often I am baffled by those who proclaim to be Christian. In my mind, a Christian is someone who has accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their life. In order for this to happen, one must admit they are nothing without Him and in Him have everything. If this is truly the case, why would anyone who is a Christian portray themselves as better than someone who is not as far along on his or her Christian journey as they are (this is a loaded question in and of itself, as no one can really know the intricate details of the relationship between another person and Christ, however for the purposes of the point I am about to make; let’s assume these Christians are basing their assumptions off of the sins another has committed—I know, I know, but bare with me… ;))? How can you be better when, by your own confession and submission, you are nothing without Christ, meaning you are who you are and have what you have SOLELY because of Him?

(meditate on that for a minute)
Is it human nature to became arrogant and forget the dependent nature of a Christ-led life? Do we get amnesia and begin to believe we have what we have because of our hard work and good decision making? We’ve done the right things and viola, we have a great life! Why does there appear to be a need to put down another, however passive-aggressively, when professing the goodness of God manifested in our lives? Why not just give our testimony without the low-key snubs? What’s that all about?

Are we truly Christians or are we insecure in who we are? Or is it both? Insecurity often brings about unsolicited competition stemming from looking around at others and seeing in them what we wish we possessed. Not that the Christian journey is a perfect one, as there will still be trials; but if our lives are truly submitted on the altar, shouldn’t we always have joy even during our trial periods? We know God is with us right? If we truly have joy why put down another person?

There’s nothing wrong with Godly correction, that’s not what this is about. If I have learned a valuable lesson, it’s then my responsibility to share it with you. However, under no circumstances is it okay for me to address you in a manner that suggests I am higher up on the hierarchy of heaven than you are.

Comparison and competition is running rampant through churches. Sanctuaries aren’t always a sanctuary from the world. Sometimes the toughest battles are fought within God’s house because God’s imperfect people forget we are imperfect. We forget that it’s only through grace and mercy that we have the lives we have in the first place. No person’s decision making is so great that they can avoid all negativity. It’s not that we are good that great things happen for and to us, but that the God we serve is good that He allows His greatness to shine through us by granting to us favor. In turn, we are to give Him the glory.

Let’s try to remember that when we get so caught up in our seemingly perfect lives because in the blink of an eye, your world as you know it can change and you can be living a life you’d never thought you would.

I know this from experience.

Be humble and be honored. (Wash.Rinse.Repeat.)

AUTHOR’S EDIT: This post stemmed from a real-life event, however it would be less than fair not to point out that any situation in which a person has to put down another in a passive-aggressive ploy to somehow compliment themselves is an indication of low self esteem. We can pat ourselves on the back for our accomplishments if we so choose, however we should be able to do so without speaking negatively about anyone. The only competition that exist is within our minds, as each person has a unique purpose. Just because we both deliver pizzas, for example, doesn’t mean I need to speak badly about your business because it’s operated differently from mine. There are people only I can reach and the same in true for you.

God’s blessings are INFINITE ;~)!!!

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The First Delta I’ve Ever Loved

22 Founders of Delta Sigma Theta taken in 1913

22 Founders of Delta Sigma Theta taken in 1913 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course my earliest memory of you is in your kitchen, the place where many of our insightful conversations took place. The place where you told me it was great to be intelligent, but I also needed to know how to cook. The place where I trained and became a chef in my own right. The place where love and nurturing took place for all who passed through the threshold of your home.

Shaped to its Purpose, a fifty year history of...

Shaped to its Purpose, a fifty year history of Delta Sigma Theta by Mary Elizabeth Vroman published in 1965. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Words aren’t adequate enough to express how much I miss you and wish you had lived long enough to see me produce your namesake, however as we celebrate the centennial anniversary of the founding of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated; I can’t help but to reminisce about you.

As I remember the countless times I helped you deliver food to the elderly through the Meals on Wheels program, the countless clothing drives I assisted with at the church, or the times when you proudly strutted up to the voting booths; I never realized you were showing me the prototype of a woman of Delta and for what she stood and represented. I definitely can’t forget the times I would become angry at you when those women came to the house and I wasn’t allowed in the kitchen while you all did what I called the A E O (pronounced phonetically) work. I didn’t know what the heck that funny looking A E O meant, couldn’t figure out who would incorrectly write the alphabet and why they would do something like that, and didn’t even realized the letters weren’t A, E, or O; but I knew I wanted to become one, as these were the women I always saw doing the work in the community.

As I became older, I noticed many of my teachers were A, E, Os. Even a principal who paddled me often was one (back then we were given discipline in schools). I remember seeing a program for an event and learned the name was Delta Sigma Theta (I still couldn’t put together where the letters A E O came from–lol) and listed on the program were names I recognized from various schools, churches, and other businesses. WOW! This was an amazing group of women!

You never answered any of my questions about this group and now I understand why. You showed me who a Delta woman was through your work in the church, home, community, and through your work as a special education teacher. Thank you for letting me visit your classroom and teaching me that all children were beautiful, despite what the world thought of them. Even when the school placed you and the children in the basement because they didn’t think much would come of those children; you created an environment that not only incited learning, but it was a warm, nurturing and exciting place to be–I’ve never seen children so happy to be in a basement! I even wished I had class down there! You taught me creative ways to teach others. Amazing how that all works out.

Thank you for teaching me about Christ. Lord knows there are countless times throughout my life I wouldn’t have made it through without Him.

I feel so honored to have ever been in your presence because you taught through example. As few as they may have been, your words were always powerful, however soft. They also were cryptic, as you wanted me to seek knowledge instead of it being handed to me. You had a quiet passion that could erupt if provoked that let the entire room know you meant business!!! Thanks for showing me the many facets of womanhood. You didn’t let the times in which you grew up hinder you from becoming what God intended for you to be and while Delta was only one part of your life; I appreciate having an example that the mission is bigger than the aesthetic and fun privileges of the organization.

As we celebrate 100 years of Sisterhood, Scholarship, and Service; it is most appropriate I send up a shout out to the first Delta I’ve ever loved!

Thank you for being you!

 

thefirstdeltaieverloved

Transparent

To my former students and anyone who ever looked up to me:

I knew at some point I would have to address this issue, however I wasn’t sure exactly what words to use to convey across the most critical points in a way that accurately explains the points I want to get across. There comes a time in every person’s life when we have to stop making excuses for ourselves and own up to the decisions we have made and now is my time. I am writing this letter to alleviate any confusion or mixed messages sent by the life I live. Of course, I have more life to live, however I am living out a circumstance in which I never thought I would find myself, and I believe in order for me to do justice to my life’s purpose of motivating young people to live their best lives; I need to put words around what I think about where I’ve found myself. I hope renewed strength to continue to make tough choices is the result of this letter. I hope God‘s glory can continue to shine through me as I become as vulnerable as I can at this juncture. I hope someone is set free by my truth. So here it goes.

Countless people were (and still are) surprised by my getting pregnant, given I am not married. Those who know me knows my desire was to get married prior to having children, as it wasn’t something I was secretive about. God is not pleased with sex outside of marriage and while I have not been a virgin for some time, I had taken a vow of celibacy where I promised God I wouldn’t have sex until I was married. Shock waves rattled many opinions of me upon finding out about my unborn child, given I had gone years without having sex. During those years I was fortunate enough to mentor several young ladies who looked up to me and the choices I had made in life. They were able to witness first hand someone who was able graduate high school, college, and build a career despite the hurdle of a less fortunate background. I was able to be a living testimony that it was okay to be beautiful, smart, and abstain from sex. Often times they had the ability to hold steadfast onto their virtue because they had an example that not everyone who is saved is stuffy or living in a holy bubble, detached from the realities of today. I was proud to be that beacon of light for these young ladies.

So how do I reconcile becoming a single mother in the face of my beliefs? I’m certain my excitement over my precious baby girl and the countless public congratulations and words of encouragement and support paints a happy picture that can leave those who have known me for years confused. Make no mistake, I am in love with my daughter and am prepared to create the type of environment in which she can grow to become a better person than I am, however it is equally important for me to publicly acknowledge my disappointment in myself. It is critically vital I say that I know what I’ve done is wrong and I must face the consequences of my decisions, my broken promises to God. Often times we present a one sided picture of life. Either we are making all of the right decisions or we know we are living in sin and we bask in it. We may even gloss over and justify our bad decisions, making them sound “not as bad as they are” in an effort of saving face. Very rarely do we hear the testimony of someone who was living right and fell during their fallen moment. We usually hear the testimony after they’ve gotten back up and are praising God from the hilltops for bringing them out of the valley. In a time where social media is reality to some people, it requires little effort to create an image of ourselves that may not be an accurate depiction. As happy as I am at having a healthy, beautiful baby, I know I am currently in a valley moment of my life. I know, because of the choices I’ve made, there are less than favorable situations ahead in which I will find myself. I am not blind to the fact that my child may even witness these situations.

I think the natural question is, “Are you saying you regret your child?” My resounding answer to that question is NO! While I made a choice that is outside the will of God, God doesn’t make mistakes. Her life has just as much purpose and meaning as the next life and I will always love her unconditionally as she is the innocent party in all of this. What I will say is I regret not living up to my promise. I regret the impending circumstances that could have been avoided had I held on to those promises (obedience is better than sacrifice). I wish I could have brought her into a healthy marriage filled with love, but I don’t regret her and I pray she never feels as if she is to blame~I will work my hardest to ensure she doesn’t. What I’ve learned for myself is God’s ways aren’t like our ways. He doesn’t condemn us to hell for all eternity for falling outside His will. When He says “My grace is sufficient, for my power is made perfect in weakness” it means His grace can withstand all of our dumb decisions. He will forgive us and although bad things may continue to happen, He will keep us through it all IF we go to Him, confess, repent, and ask for forgiveness. Notice I said go to Him, not go to your friends. I think we mess up going to other imperfect people when God desires an individual relationship with us.

Additionally, this blog entry isn’t about me wanting pity. I am not seeking validation of any sort. We have to stop coddling people when they fall short. I am not saying cane them, but I am saying stern correction is in order. Otherwise, how else would we grow? For clarification, I am not saying there should be blanket-statement correction given to every single mother there ever was. I am saying, for those who are directly connected to you, it is your responsibility (for those who are believers) to give them tough love and the intent must be that they become stronger in the Lord~not to make them feel stupid or less than, because honestly; if we were all as willing to highlight our valley moments while they are happening, we wouldn’t have so much confusion as it relates to living a Christian life. We put forth sooo much effort to make things look perfect, we miss many opportunities to bring people to Christ. We quote so many scriptures we forget we too are human and fell short more times than we are willing to admit. It has gotten to the point where we have communicated one must be perfect in order to receive the favor of God. As a result, imperfect people are afraid to come to Christ because they feel as if they are not good enough, when the truth of the matter is there are countless examples in the Bible where the people who were called by God were less than desirable. God can’t use perfect people.

As a woman who preached the abstaining sermon only to get pregnant the first time she had sex after years of celibacy (yes, it really only takes one time), I feel it is my responsibility to tell the other side of the story. The side where I did something wrong, fell short, and still praise God because I know His love for me is unconditional. Even in His disappointment of me, He still loves me. Even when He allows the process of my bad decision making to unfold, He still loves me. At my lowest when I don’t know where to turn, I can still turn to Him. And I will still give Him the glory.

Don’t allow another person make you feel as if you aren’t worthy of forgiveness from God, as it is only through His grace and mercy that any of us are able to sustain and thrive.

There are other things I wanted to discuss in the piece, however I will save them for another time, as this post took a different turn from what I initially intended. As I learn and grow from my mistakes, I submit to additional opportunities to share my experiences in hopes they can help someone else.

Be blessed and be a blessing.

Sincerely,

Shanika

Unwavering Faith

 

Life can be difficult to understand at times, even for those who are believers of Christ. I think this is the case because so much of our belief system is centered on faith~believing the impossible to be possible without any evidence present~what an amazing feat it is to truly believe! I think we all waver at times, but for some it is more difficult to keep believing when you feel as if you’ve done everything you can and yet the circumstances seem to be worse than when you started.

When someone you care about is struggling to believe God still cares, still hears them, and is still in the blessing business; it can be tough explaining that while the situation may look bleak, God is still the same God who loved us SO much He sent His only son to die for us. Or it could be that we should not be doing anything other than sitting still. I am a firm believer that if something is within God’s will, we need but take a single, simple step and big things will happen. Conversely, if we are taking gigantic leaps and bounds, only to hit several brick walls, perhaps this is not what God will have us to do.

But how do you convince a person to do nothing when they are doing what they believe to be right? The toughest lesson to accept is that our actions may not be granting us the results we would like because we are living out consequences of prior decisions. God is forgiving, merciful, and full of grace, however when we act against His commands, we WILL have to face the consequences. The most scary is knowing that even if the consequences are not seen in our lifetime, it can be passed down through our generations.

So with all of that, what is the reason to keep believing God has your back? I can’t speak for others, but when I am analyzing and looking for logic in illogical situations, I keep believing simply because God told me He wouldn’t leave or forsake me. He said He has plans for me, plans to see me prosper and do well. I also understand that during my trials, if I continue to praise Him, I can go through and come out better than before. This has been the story of my life. Many think I have it easy, but the truth of the matter is that when times are most tough, I encourage others more than ever, I smile more, I speak more positive thoughts, I give glory to God. This overcompensation has kept me sane and kept God’s magnificence in the front seat of my life, ultimately making things appear to be perfect. I become so positive it is sickening even to me but I can’t stop. I can’t doubt. I can’t waver. All because I know what God says is true.

But again that’s me and I struggle with explaining my stance to those who are going through the fire. It bothers me that I can’t make it better (even though I know it’s not my job to), however I wish I had the right combinations of words to say to comfort those I care about when they are going through hard times.

So how does one explain to someone that praying about a situation doesn’t mean you’ll get the answer that you want when you want it? How do you explain that a non-answer to your prayers doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care nor does it mean He is unaware?

The Cost of Forgiveness

At what point do you decide when you will forgive a person who has hurt you? How do you decide who is worthy of your forgiveness?

I am amazed at the number of people who consider themselves Christians and yet they have a problem with letting go and forgiving someone who has wronged them. Well, I guess I shouldn’t say I am amazed, as some self-proclaimed Christians consistently engage in behaviors contradictory of their supposed beliefs, but that’s a different post for a different day.

Think about the worst thing a person has ever done to you. The WORST thing. Think about the feelings you felt during that time (and possibly still feel) and let’s assume because of that event or series of events, that person is no longer a part of your life (whether by your choice or not). Fast forward 10 years and this person reaches out to you. Perhaps they send you a message on Facebook or gives your their new contact information through a mutual friend and asks you to give him or her a call.

What do you do? Do you respond or do you continue to ignore them?

Over the years I have deleted several people from my life for a number a reasons. Sometimes it was because I didn’t believe they were the type of friend to me I was to them and as a result they didn’t deserve to be a part of my life. Consequently, they were deleted as an attempt to surround myself with selfless, true friends. In other cases, I deleted people who wanted to confine me to their idea of who they thought I should be. Anyone who truly knows me know I HATE that. I love being free to be who am I, despite what others think so when I am in a situation in which I feel limited by another’s complexes, fears, and/or shortcomings; it’s time for me to move on. The final group of deleted folks are those whom I simply outgrew (or maybe they outgrew me), where no hard feelings existed. It just so happens that we were at different points in our lives and needed to separate in order to fulfill our purpose. These people often have a cyclical presence, as I’ve learned they often show up again at some point. I think this is God‘s way of testing our growth.

At any rate, in the instances where “something happened,” I hold no ill will towards these former “friends” and truly hope they are happy and doing well in life. I have forgiven them and moved on. For me, forgiveness is about the ability to continue to grow and develop into who you were created to be, learning from each and every experience. In situations where we haven’t forgiven, there is a preoccupation which often leads to limitations. Ultimately, you forgive so that you can move on. It’s not about them. When we allow those feelings of hurt and betrayal to take root in our hearts and minds, then we allow the person who hurt us to have way more power over us than they should. You basically become their slave. They are the puppet master and you are the puppet, each move they make directs yours.

Ask yourself where would you be without God’s forgiveness. We have all done things that hurt others, whether intentionally or unintentionally….and yet God still forgives us. To take it a little deeper, we sin against God constantly, which is the ultimate slap in the face, and yet He still forgives us. If someone who is perfect in every way can forgive, who are we in our imperfections to not forgive?

How do you know when you have truly forgiven someone? When any interaction with them elicits none of the feelings you felt when they hurt you.