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Video MR2.0: Marriage & Relationship Series Intro

This first video for the Marriage & Relationship: Modern Concepts vs. Biblical Principles series is an introduction of me (LaShawnda), my company and the study series. I also begin to explore the importance of naming. Each meeting is focused on one or two Biblical couples. We explore the main theme, elements, issues and lessons of their marriage and dominant relationships. For the longer discussions, the videos will be cut up into parts. Video Part 2.1 is a larger discussion of Abraham/Sarah and Hosea/Gomer. The proposed discussion questions for these couples are posted in Discussion Questions: Marriage & Relationship, Part 2 .

 

Marriage & Relationship: Modern Concepts vs. Biblical Principles Bible Study Series Part 2:

  • Topic: Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah + Hosea and Gomer
  • Text: Genesis 12-13, 15-18, 20-22: Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah
  • Text: Book of Hosea: Hosea and Gomer

Video Part 2.0

  • Series Intro
  • Importance of Naming

We meet bi-weekly. Join the conversation! Subscribe to Harvest-Life-org. Feel free to post comments and questions below.

#bible #biblestudy #discussion #learningwithfriends #adamandeve #manwoman #humanspirit #humanity #spirituality #genesis #harvestlife #harvestlifer #harvestlifeorg

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Terry Ann: Woman. Seed. Fertile Ground. Inspiration.

In the summer of 2018, I began working on a portrait and prose book project about womanhood. That summer I returned to my hometowns Gary and Milwaukee and asked friends, family and old connections to pose and share some words about their womanhood experiences.

When I began sketching out the project my mom was not top of mind. As the project morphed into various incarnations, the hope was to pull others in along the way. But the more women I talked to and the closer I got to women who had been close to her, the more Mom began to dominate my thoughts.

I can’t ask my mother what her womanhood meant to her. She died just as I was coming of age. Oddly enough, I hadn’t considered my own womanhood in the context of the project until I visited my mom’s gravesite in Milwaukee. It was there that I realized I hadn’t really known her as a multi-dimensional person. My perspective was only as a daughter looking up. As a result I began questioning and exploring the layers of my own personhood. Perhaps my Mom became my proxy. I chose to focus my questions on how she was before becoming a mother.

During the visit, I asked relatives: What do you remember about my mom?

I wasn’t prepared for the responses. Such a simple question seeking to learn about personality and character, unleashed stories of actual and imagined trauma and violation. Things she would have shared with me during her lifetime if they were true. It’s interesting how I was able to reject the lies for what they were after holding their words up to the relationship I had with my mom. She was an honest and straight-forward woman. She didn’t wallow in past trauma, hide from it or keep it from me. Her story was her story and she told me what she wanted me know. More importantly, she answered my questions truthfully.

The more I analyzed my urge to ask others about who Terry Ann was before she became my mother, the more I realized I have only to look within. Everything I thought I didn’t know about my mother is actually in me because she remains a part of me. She’s the seed and fertile ground I sprung from and her life is forever my inspiration.

My sister had the only words worth sharing. She said, “I remember everything, but I can’t put words to my memories.”

Truly profound.

Perhaps that was my true dilemma as well. I know what I know, but somehow I can’t speak it all.

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Sermon: Standing In The Gap by Pastor Gary Ham

For those of you who thought the grass was greener on the other side and found that it was not, this message is for you. “The crisis you are facing is not one of money, is not a crisis of relationships, it is a crisis of faith. It is your faith. For with God all things shall be possible. Nothing shall be impossible. Will you open the door? Will you allow Him to come in. Will you allow Him to strengthen the relationship that’s He’s brought you into the world to have?” There have been strongholds that have held you back from stepping into what the Lord has for you. I say in the name of the Lord , those strongholds are broken. Today you are free!

Listen here: Standing In The Gap

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When Truth Destroys

Note: I came across this hand-written message (written by me) last weekend while organizing some of my papers. It’s not dated, which is unusual for my writings, and was written on the back of a travel document. When I read it, I was convinced that it was confirmation of a message I had just heard that morning and of reminders that had been given to me throughout the week. 

Someone once told me that my directness in sharing my truth is courageous. My response was, “I’ve learned that most people can’t handle their truth. My truthfulness has destroyed my relationships; none of the ones I’ve spoken directly in have survived my words.”

“That is why I think you’re so courageous,” she continued. “You’re living free as you are, not as other people will have you be. You’re not restricted to their view of you because you are so direct about where you are and what you need.”

Since that conversation I have thought of the many relationships that changed drastically or ended because I exposed myself in truth. Then I thought of how each of those relationships would probably still be as superficially satisfying and emotionally frustrating as ever had I held my tongue and worn the mask of false communion that so many keep in place as if their lives depend on others believing in their shallowness or trusting in their vanity. I mourned each of those relationships for a time and gave thanks for the people and the lessons they taught me.

It was never my desire to come to the end of people, but I’ve come to learn of that when we are able to see the true limitations and weaknesses of human relationships, only then are we truly open to the incomprehensible vastness of possibilities available through our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Through Jesus, God teaches us the true nature and purpose of relationship. When we get that understanding – the understanding of the truth of Jesus Christ – everything that burned up in our life (fell apart), when we first learned to be true to ourselves, ceases to matter. It was all chaff in the wind. See, the fire of truth purifies and refines that which is true and created to endure, but the same fire of truth destroys the falseness and imitations – whatever is rooted in the flesh – in your life.

John answered everyone, “I baptize you with water, but there is one coming who is greater than I am. I am not good enough to untie his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. He will come ready to clean the grain, separating the good grain from the chaff. He will put the good part of the grain into his barn, but he will burn the chaff with a fire that cannot be put out.” And John continued to preach the Good News, saying many other things to encourage the people. ~ Luke 3:16-18

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An Open Letter: Woman to Man

When Jesus came to the area of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His followers, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They answered, “Some say you are John the Baptist. Others say you are Elijah, and still others say you are Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
Then Jesus asked them, “And who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
Jesus answered, “You are blessed, Simon son of Jonah, because no person taught you that. My Father in heaven showed you who I am. So I tell you, you are Peter. On this rock I will build my church, and the power of death will not be able to defeat it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; the things you don’t allow on earth will be the things that God does not allow, and the things you allow on earth will be the things that God allows.”
~ Matthew 16:13-19 (Mark 8:27-30)

Dear Man:
Please note: What others say about you will never trump what I see in you and believe about you.

Though my day to day feelings about you derive in part from your treatment of me, my vision and knowledge of you is God-given. You may think the accolades of others will win me over. You may also think that what you do for others will make you shine brighter in my eyes. You would be wrong on both counts. You can bend over backwards for everyone in the world, but if you aren’t willing to even stand up and face me, why should the opinions of other people matter to me? Your relationships with everyone else in the world do not create space for a relationship with me. Those relationships do not even accommodate an {us}. Your relationship with others is about you and them. They have nothing to do with me. Nothing to do with us. For that reason, I am not impressed by what other people think of you because their experience of you is not representative of my experience of you.

Right now, in this moment, my struggle is seeing everything you are willing to do for others while remembering everything you have been unwilling to do for me. This knowledge continually leads to resentment, bitterness and separation.

Your struggle is admitting you are in error; that you have squandered time and taken love for granted. Pride is the downfall of every man, however, all is not loss. You, my dear Man, are a conqueror. Should you choose to accept your assignment, you can make everything right with just a word.

You love the Word of God, but you won’t speak a word to me.

You enjoy life, but you won’t share yours with me.

You yearn for the light but you keep me in a shadowy pit.

You admire modesty but the way you waste time is the most painful extravagance to witness.

You think you’re humble, but your spirit strives against me in a rage of hurt masculine pride.

You think love and war are synonymous. They aren’t. Love may be confrontational but it is not destructive. War is targeted violence and willful destruction. Creating and maintaining conflict is not an expression of caring.

You go on and on about love and grace, but what love and grace have you shown to me? Where is your mercy? Where is the love of Christ for the woman you would have as wife?
OLDER-COUPLEI do not hold a grudge against you, but I will not fight endlessly with you either. I know what you want; I know what you need, but I can’t force you to receive anything from me.

I have been equipped to nurture, love and honor your life with my being. I have been created to share your breath and expand your life.

I have prepared for you, but I am not willing to be everything I can be to a man who is content to be nothing more than a disconnected observer of my life.

You will not drain me dry and leave me nothing for myself. I won’t allow you to do that. God has shown me too much of Himself in me for me to throw myself away according to your whim.

I will not support a man who doesn’t support me. That would be energy you take from me without replenishing it. Your confidence should not cost me mine.

I will not attempt to stand beside a man who has no interest in standing beside me. To do so invites heartbreak every hour of every day.

I will not chase anyone who is not pursuing me. I am the good thing you are responsible for shepherding, but I am also responsible for where I choose to go. You lead, I follow. When you stop leading, I stop following. Remember that.

Relationships are built on mutuality and thrive on reciprocity. I cannot build with someone who is constantly attacking me. Passive aggressive behavior is violent in nature. You may “only” be emotionally dismissive, neglectful, and stoic, but each instance is an attack on everything I see in and believe about you. Such behavior attacks everything I understood about us from the vision I was first given.

If you want a woman who will sit at your feet and praise you continuously while you spend your time and energy praising everyone else, then you have my blessing and encouragement to keep looking for her. I am not the woman for you.

If you want a woman who will encourage you, despite your refusal to acknowledge her words, then again I say, I am not the woman for you. Go in peace and live a joyful and bountiful life elsewhere.

But,

If you want a woman who will strive to communicate with understanding and who will use her tongue only to bless and lift you up, then I say I am your woman.

If you want a woman who will walk, run, dance and ride through life with you in all its triumphant glory and devastating tragedy as a partner – hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder with arms linked – I am your woman.

If you want a woman to build with – from scratch or from leveraged land and materials – I am your blessed goodness. I am your wow-factor.

If you want me, you must recognize you are joining with a woman who knows her place in God’s Kingdom. My place is not subordinate to you. My place is one of honor, not disgrace or shame. My place is by your side as co-ruler of all we are blessed to supervise and manage as stewards. My joy in you derives from your recognition of your place in my life.

Be the man you were created to be, Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, breath of my breath, joy of my joy. Be true to God. Be true to yourself. Be true to me.

At night on my bed,
I looked for the one I love;
I looked for him, but I could not find him.
I got up and went around the city,
in the streets and squares,
looking for the one I love.
I looked for him, but I could not find him.
The watchmen found me as they patrolled the city,
so I asked, “Have you seen the one I love?”
As soon as I had left them,
I found the one I love.
I held him and would not let him go
until I brought him to my mother’s house,
to the room where I was born.
~ Song of Solomon 3:1-4

Song: Say You Love Me by Jesse Ware

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The older I get, the less I worry about relationships.

Photo: "Monarch" by Lisa Richelle Fine Photography (2014).
Photo: “Monarch” by Lisa Richelle Fine Photography (2014).

The older I get, the less I worry about relationships. Not because relationships matter less to me as I age, but because I’ve come to realize the relationships that matter most are the relationships in which the other party also values a relationship with me. People who want to be in relationship with you, make sure there is no cause to worry about the relationship. As I’ve come to this realization, I’ve also noticed that I don’t have to weed people out of my life. People remove themselves simply by their lack of care and attention to the relationship. They fade away.

The relationships that matter most to me now are those where my appreciation is reciprocated. Where my admiration, care, concern, and respect are shared. Where there’s a mutual desire to pursue, maintain and grow in relationship with one another. This includes relationships in every area of my life: personal, family, friend, social, work, etc.

Looking back on my life, I see a long trail of one-sided relationships that I was truly dedicated to. But I was also uncertain, agonized, tormented, dissatisfied, and insecure in some way. When I chose to step away from the people who only wanted to take what I had to offer without sharing any of themselves with me, I was able to let go of the negative feelings they instilled in me. I am over being the only vested person in one-sided relationships. I’m done making myself available for people who don’t want to be available for me. I’m no longer seeking out people who persist on hiding and playing in the dark.

By God’s Grace and Light, I am being rebuilt in strength, fullness and beauty. I’m a Child of the Light and I intend to live like it.

As I have matured, I have become more confident with all I have to offer as a human being, as a woman, as a friend, as a worker – and God willing, as a wife, lover and mother. I have grown confident in the fact that I am not missing out on anything at this point in my life. All who are meant to share this time and space with me are doing so. I am blessed and highly favored and I know the blessings and favor upon my life flow from me to those connected to my life. There’s no need for me to chase anybody or anything. God is my supplier. His Light in me attracts what is meant for me and repels that which is not.

I thank God for the harsh scrubs that cleanses another layer of the world from me with each washing.

You want me to be completely truthful,
    so teach me wisdom.
Take away my sin, and I will be clean.
    Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Make me hear sounds of joy and gladness;
    let the bones you crushed be happy again.
Turn your face from my sins
    and wipe out all my guilt.

Create in me a pure heart, God,
    and make my spirit right again.
Do not send me away from you
    or take your Holy Spirit away from me.
Give me back the joy of your salvation.
    Keep me strong by giving me a willing spirit.
Then I will teach your ways to those who do wrong,
    and sinners will turn back to you.  ~ Psalms 51:6-13, NCV

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A conversation and a song

Today was a blah day. This whole week I’ve been low on energy. Tonight on my way home, a young homeless man called out to me as I walked past with a classmate, “Can you buy me something to eat?” This is a common question in New York City. I do what I can when I can, and basically keep it moving. I asked him if he knew what he wanted. He said yes. We went into the restaurant. My classmate followed. There was a line; he and I got in it. My classmate had a large bag so she stood off to the side.

I started asking him questions. Are you a student? How long have you been homeless? Where do you normally stay? How long have you lived in New York? How are you doing overall? He answered some of the questions and deflected others, but he was very adamant in telling me what bothered him about the world. “How am I doing,” he repeated. “How should I be doing when so many people hate me? People hate me because I’m gay. They hate me because I sing and they don’t want me too. They don’t want me to be anything and they tell me that. But I’m not going to hate them back. And I’m going to keep singing.”

I looked him in the eye and said, “Can I share something with you that I’ve learned over the last twenty years?”

He looked taken aback. “I shared that with you because I thought you wanted me to be real,” he said cautiously.

“I do. Thank you for sharing. I just want to save you some time and energy. From the last twenty years of my life, I can tell you: people don’t hate you because you’re gay. People hate you because people are hateful. It’s just people being people. Don’t over-complicate it. I can’t tell you how often I asked myself , ‘Why me? Why are people treating me like this or that? What if I was different? What if I did what they wanted me to do? What if I was a better person?’ But you know what? None of that mattered. People hated me because they wanted to. Hate is what people do. I had to learn to appreciate who I am. You need accept who you are. When you accept all the various aspects of yourself, other peoples’ thoughts about you will no longer matter. Learn to appreciate yourself. Learn to love yourself.”

He looked a bit dreamy-eyed and touched his head to my shoulder for a second – I admit I wasn’t expecting that. Then he looked me in the eye and asked if he could sing me a song.

“I’m not one to silence anyone’s voice,” I replied, “please do.” We were still in the middle of a slow-moving line in a restaurant in Union Square. He began singing a beautiful song in his beautiful voice. Halfway through I began lip-syncing along with him. My heart was lifted and I believe he lifted the hearts of several people in the line also.

He sang I Still Believe by Brenda K. Starr; the song was later covered by Mariah Carey.

When he finished, I had more questions for him, as did my classmate and soon we were at the register. He ordered his meal and I asked him his name.

Brandon. His name is Brandon.

A short while later, after leaving the restaurant and parting with my classmate,  I searched online for the song he sang to me. If there’s one spark of hope left in my grasp, I’ll hold it with both hands. It’s worth the risk of burning to have a second chance…If we believe that true love never has to end, then we must know that we will love again.

What Brandon gave me

I was in need of a song. I desperately needed a word. Brandon started his serenade off with “You looked into my eyes….”

Shortly before me and my classmate came into contact with Brandon, my classmate saw someone on campus from another of her classes. She walked up to this woman and said, “Do you see me?” Before we parted company with that woman, my classmate told her, “When you see me, say ‘hi’ and I will do the same.” The woman was taken aback by both statements,  however the first statement she didn’t take literally at first and she asked, “How do you mean, ‘Do I see you’?” However by the end of their conversation she understood it literally and returned to the first question to answer succinctly, “This is the first time I am seeing you and I did speak.”

Brandon gave me clarity.

Photo: Through The Looking Glass by Lisa Richelle
Photo: Through The Looking Glass by Lisa Richelle

I see people for who they are. I hear the things they don’t say. I feel their pain, confusion and their sense of loss. That’s what they willingly reveal to me… until they realize that in understanding their pain, I’m also able to follow them when they withdraw and hide within themselves. I invade their hiding places. I confront them in their fears. All this happens simply through the sharing of conversation.

Every friend I’ve gained through conversation, I have also loss through conversation. People are happy to tell you what they think you want to hear, but they can’t stand to share the truth of themselves. I have no problem with sharing my truth, but I’ve come to learn that my openness is the beginning of the end of my friend and family relationships. People reject openness, honesty, truth and love. After so many endings, I had started to despair that I could ever love people through, and beyond, their rejection of me.

And then during a random encounter with a young man named Brandon, I was briefly pulled out of hiding and heard that I will love again.

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Face-to-Face: Sharing God’s Glory With One Another

I have many things to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to come to you and talk face to face so we can be full of joy.  ~ 2 John 12

I have come to identify myself as a writer. More than that, people now refer to me as a writer. I use words to express myself. I use words to soothe and heal myself. I live off of God’s Word and I grow by applying His Word in my daily life. Yet no amount of writing or being read brings as much joy and contentment in my relationships as speaking to someone face to face.

A pastor once asked me if I used my exuberance to manipulate people. A pretty jaded response to an open heart, but hey, it’s New York City. My response to him exposed my own growing cynicism. After a brief pause, I told him, “No, my joy is genuine when I meet people. It’s in getting to know them that I become disappointed.”

I’ve nursed many disappointments over the years. But as I sit here thinking about my most disappointing interactions with people or my most disappointing relationships, for that matter, I realize that they were all characterized by falseness and hiding. The acquaintances that never grew into friendships and the friendships that crashed in mid-flight are the ones where the other party didn’t see fit to be truthful about who they were or where they were in life or what they wanted from me and our relationship. These were also relationships where I either didn’t feel comfortable being who I am or I simply was not accepted as I am.

I seek to model Christ in all aspects of my life. This desire is a continual manifestation. As I seek to experience, learn and obtain the nature of God, the character of Christ and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, I  apply the results of my search to my physical life. In this area, as I seek God’s presence, and earnestly attempt to walk with Him while speaking to Him face to face as a friend, then I have to adjust my thoughts on friendship in the natural world. If, of all the gazillion elements of creation, God still seeks intimate one-on-one time with me (me, just me! – and just you!) then one-on-one time must be important. Look at 2 John verse 12 again. Talking face-to-face can fill both parties with joy.

I’ve experienced that.

In fact, I experience joy in many of my face-to-face conversations throughout any given day.

For this reason social media has become more and more disenchanting for me. An emoticon 🙂 is nothing like seeing the answering sparkle in a conversation partner’s eye. Or the crinkle of their smile as their laughter first comes upon them or as it recedes. The best online conversations have been with people who know me personally because they will weave their personal knowledge into the virtual interaction, “I can hear your laughter,” they would say, “…. I can picture you now… I know what you’re thinking….” Such active imagery in the absence of one’s physical presence is only possible after personal time has been shared in one another’s presence.

However, even the best-of-the-best online conversations are nothing compared to the most common of face-to-face conversations. It’s an amazing thing to sit in someone’s presence and know you have their full attention and they know they have your full attention in return. They don’t have to envision your smile or tell you they’re sending one – they can simply smile and you know immediately you’ve been gifted with something precious. When you’re sitting in front of someone, you don’t have to access a memory of their laughter – you have the option of giving them a reason to laugh, therefore blessing you with a musical chorus that’s just for you…only you.

My people will be destroyed because they have no knowledge. You have refused to learn, so I will refuse to let you be priests to me.  ~ Hosea 4:6, NCV

Relationships are destroyed from lack of knowledge as well. People don’t take the time or make the effort to get to know each other anymore. They seek shallow intimacies and call everyone friend. What one person knows, all people know – yet no one truly knows anyone and everyone feels the need to hide their true selves. This cycle is easy to maintain with technology, but the strain of maintaining the mask cannot be kept up indefinitely in face-to-face interactions.

I’ve been lamenting the onslaught of technology since I learned to text a few years ago. Technology can indeed be the ruin of interpersonal relationships if people attempt to communicate only via technological devices or mediums. On the other hand, technology has the potential to enhance interpersonal relationships when it’s used as a tool to fill in the gaps that can’t be accessed any other way.

I don’t mean to harp on technology, however I do hope to pound in the importance of face-to-face communication. People have been placed in your life to be a reflection of God’s glory. That reflection may not be immediate or apparent; it may be something that needs a conversation to reveal itself. I can guarantee you that a “God bless you” received via text has a completely different feel than a “God bless you” that’s spoken in the ear in the midst of a warm embrace or handshake.

Be the blessing you are called to be and go bless someone with a face-to-face conversation so you both may be filled with joy.

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.  ~ 2 Peter 1:3-4, NLT

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Saved from Nice

nice (ex. make nice)

  1. pleasing; agreeable; delightful
  2. to behave in a friendly, ingratiating, or conciliatory manner

Usage note
The semantic history of “nice”  is quite varied…. If any criticism is valid, it might be that the word is used too often and has become a cliché lacking the qualities of precision and intensity that are embodied in many of its synonyms.

ingratiatingadjective

  1. charming; agreeable; pleasing
  2. deliberately meant to gain favor

I’m something of a blunt speaker. And truthfully, the deeper I go with Christ the bolder my words become. And guess what? I don’t care what you think about it. If you disagree, I simply look forward to the stimulating conversation to follow – that is, if you’re strong enough in your view point to allow discourse.

Before the shift in my spiritual life took place, which was also pre-New York, I was well known as a “nice” girl with a very diplomatic tongue. My diplomacy has since all but disappeared. Which sometimes puts me in uncomfortable situations. As a result, I am now trying to adjust for the lack of diplomacy by only speaking my viewpoint when asked. This year has been a great training in holding my tongue – a much needed lesson in temperance. However, at the same time I have been saved from being “nice”.

“Nice” translates to dishonest to me. Generally, people try to be “nice” and avoid hurting your feelings by misrepresenting their feelings, their thoughts, their ideas. They misrepresent who they are. Because they are being “nice”, you end up interacting with a false representative. They smile at you, laugh with you, offer you assistance and ask about events in your life. Unless you are truly discerning, you don’t realize the smile is insincere, the laugh is hollow, they never intend to follow-through on their offer and they hope you will simply say everything is fine and go on your way.” That’s what nice people do. They want you to think of them in a pleasing way. Honest people want you to see them as they are – the good,  the beautiful, the bad and the ugly and all that lies in between.

“Nice” does not equal genuine.

“Nice” does not equal truthful or honest.

“Nice” does not equal kind.

kind –adjective, -er, -est

  1. of a good or benevolent nature or disposition, as a person
  2. indulgent, considerate, or helpful; humane
  3. mild; gentle; clement; loving; affectionate

I would much rather be known as a kind person.

A couple of months ago, I got into a debate about transparency (i.e. honesty) in communication and relationships. My position: be honest no matter where you are. Good, bad or indifferent.

The couple attacking my position were all for image control. Sharing only what they wanted someone to know about them, as they saw no reason for people to know much of anything about them.

There was another couple present and they were in favor of honesty and transparency in relationships. The woman said this and it’s been sitting with me ever since, “A person with a transparent life would not be able to communicate effectively with a person who is intent on hiding. The one is completely exposed and the other isn’t open to sharing. There’s nowhere to go in that relationship.”

When she said that, it seemed like a key had been revealed regarding my difficulty with people. Many people we interact with are too intent on hiding (their nature, lifestyle, preferences, activities, etc) to be honest about who they are or where they are in life. They don’t want you to know this, that or the other. They don’t want you to judge them lacking, unworthy or unloveable. They don’t want you to reject them, so they close themselves off and present only their public persona. Unfortunately, they’re doing themselves a grave disservice by not allowing for the opportunity to be accepted for who they truly are. Instead, they heap on reasons to avoid contact with them altogether.

Every once in a while, someone suggests to me that being “nice” is Christian. I always reply that “nice” is not mentioned once in the Bible. At which point they always appear shocked. Jesus wasn’t nice. He was honest about who He was, where He was and what His purpose was. When He was angered, the offenders were told immediately, when He was pained He talked and cried it out. He didn’t say one thing and mean another. And people who double-spoke to Him were usually called out for their effort. Yet, He was a kind, loving and compassionate person. We can be that too!

There’s so much freedom in simply being who you truly are. When you are true to your faith, beliefs, feelings – when you are honest about your experiences  – you are implicitly acknowledging the gifts God has graced you with. I am so glad I’ve been saved from being “nice” and have accepted the freedom of being who I am in Christ.

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Forgiveness – You have it. Now What?

My pastor did an illustration some time ago. He called someone up from the congregation and told the man to ask for his Bible. The man asked the pastor for his Bible. The pastor gave the man his Bible. Then the pastor said, “Keep asking for my Bible.” The man kept asking for the Bible even as he held it in his hands. The pastor turned to the congregation and said, “How foolish does he look? He has what he asked for. He received it the first time he asked. Now, what is he going to do with it?”

Forgive (v.): to pardon an offense or an offender (dictionary.com)

Forgiveness (n): act of forgiving; state of being forgiven; disposition or willingness to forgive (dictionary.com)

Forgiveness is rather simple. It’s a matter of letting things go. Not holding on to hurts and infractions. No longer resenting the person who caused offense. It’s about moving on from where you were. Those are all pluses for the forgiver.

Not so simple is what comes after. From my recent experiences, the offenders/transgressors remain in the same spot. Waiting for you to return and participate in the same habits that led to the offense. They don’t want things to change. They’re free to offend and happy to receive forgiveness in a continual cycle. They’re just being themselves, after all, and if you love them you’ll accept them as they are. Repeat offenders are master manipulators. They aren’t interested in experiencing the consequences of their actions. According to them, there shouldn’t be any! Receiving forgiveness does not absolve you from the consequences for your behavior (i.e. reaping what you’ve sown). Every action has a reaction. Every cause has an effect. Each step is followed by another step. We are never in the same position twice. Even when we move backwards we are aware of what’s coming towards us because we’ve been there before.

The consequence of treating someone badly is that the relationship will not be what it was before the ill-treatment, even after forgiveness has been given. That doesn’t have to be a negative. Success usually comes after many failures. For me, personally, the relationship is either better and stronger or nothing. Either way, I’m going to keep moving. Keep learning and keep growing. My hope is that the other party is moving with me, because I refuse to allow myself to remain in any situation I feel I am continually being taken advantage of. 

Jemini Effect

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.  ~ Prov 15:1, 4

My friend Jemini was mentioned several times in my book, My God and Me: Listening, Learning and Growing on My Journey. Every time I wrote anything about her, I told her about it and asked if she wanted to read it. When I completed the manuscript I asked her if she would review it and provide feedback. She wasn’t interested. A month before I published she read a snippet of a Dichotomy of Jemini (a piece about relationship-changing verbal attacks she made against me). I later confirmed she didn’t read the whole piece. She took offense at a couple of sentences and stopped speaking to me. From the moment her treatment of me changed I knew she had read something. [Dichotomy of Jemini causes the most commotion at my readings, so I understand there’s some uneasy controversy in it. However, I am not remorseful for publishing it. It speaks of a lesson I learned as does the rest of the book of personal essays.]

Dichotomy of Jemini outlines a relationship I put much more value on than the other party. It touches on remarks Jemini made that wounded me. It goes on to discuss how I brought the issue to her attention and she told me I misunderstood her words, then she made excuses and eventually she avoided the issue altogether. She never acknowledged that she hurt me (rather she intended to or not). She never took responsibility. She never apologized. She wanted to forget that we had a disagreement and act like we did before the “episode”.

But I had already changed. Her words had already been spoken. You can’t take back what’s already been done but you can make amends for it. So, more months passed and I was promoting my book. (As I said, I keep moving.) When Jemini decided she wanted to be “friends” again, she staged a “make-up” call, during which she blew the piece up in a way to make herself out as the victim. I was wrong and unfair; and worse I wasn’t seeking to heal the breach. How can she forget the “episode” if everyone was reading about it?

I decided to sit back and do nothing during this second act. Jemini trailed a long line of people who took me and my friendship for granted. I had never asked her for anything, except her sincere and honest friendship. Then the time came when I asked her for an apology and expalnation for her behavior towards me.

She didn’t have any sincere honesty for me. More avoidance, deflecting and excuses.  

Woo Effect

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.   ~ Prov 16:24

I had to sit back and think about how so many people have been comfortable treating me so cavalierly and then setting me aside. The answer I came to: I forgave when they asked and forgot their transgressions without requiring anything from them. No expression of repentance, no sincere/specific apology and no attempt to make amends. I was always giving of myself and going home empty.

Now, I’m asking for something in my relationships. I want to be wooed. I want to know you’re not just after a comfortable foot stool or a quiet ear. I need to know you’re interested in contributing to and sustaining a relationship with me. I need to know I’m not in it alone.

Jemini isn’t coping well with LaShawnda version 2010. Apparently, I spoil people with the full force of my personality and affection when they’re in my good graces. The other day, Jemini told me I was difficult to figure out. I wasn’t returning her calls like I used to. I didn’t come by and lounge with her and her family on lazy Sunday afternoons anymore. Her husband had told me earlier in the week that she and the kids missed me and I should stop by. I told him my bell worked just as well as theirs did and my phone was functioning too.

He looked taken aback. I had never been so abrupt with them. I’ve become so fed up with putting out so much on the front end that the other person doesn’t know how to hold up the back end. Meaning, if my effort is driving the relationship, it’s all going to fall apart when I stop, let go, sit back. Who wants a relationship like that? A relationship that only functions when you function? I don’t. I now take issue with making all the outward effort. If you want to see me, but you can wait until I come to you (like you always do), well, keep on waiting. You want to hang out, but only in your house, with your kids, talking about your life, fine, hang out. I have stuff I need to do, I’ll see you later. You want to do this or that because it’s convenient for you, go ahead, I’m not interested in tagging along. 

I’m done setting myself aside too. I’m not saying everything should be about me. I am saying relationships should be balanced. They should blend the personalities and lives of the involved parties.         

Back to Jemini…. My response to Jemini’s comment that I’m difficult to figure out was, “I’m very simple.”

She gave a disbelieving roll of the eyes and said, “I’m gonna write a book to help your husband out, ‘cause he’s gonna have some problems.”

I looked over at her children and thought about sharing the non-secret key. I had done so previously and she had even commented on it in nearly each of our conversations. Your fans miss you. Your groupies want to see you. She calls her children my fans and groupies because they shower me with affection. Simple, sincere, honest affection that’s seeking after its own kind. The kids don’t care who’s in a bad mood, who doesn’t want to be bothered, who’s angry at whom – each visit begins and ends with a kiss and hug from each of them. Exuberant, cheerful, excited, loving, raucous, uninhibited. They chant my name before they see me, they jump up and down to open the door (it’s rare that I cross the threshold without someone jumping into my arms first). Their smiles remove every drop of gloom or sadness in my heart from the moment I see them, no matter how difficult my day may have been. The children aren’t hiding their affection. They’re overt and shameless. And guess what? So am I. I chase after them. I toss them in the air and swing them in circles. I hug them tight and kiss their cheeks. I ask about their day, their new friends and listen to whatever else they want to tell me. It’s a mutual pursuit.       

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he (Jesus) took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.  ~ Mark 10:13-16

Don’t miss this! You have to receive the kingdom of God like a little child or you will never enter it! Children aren’t trying to save face. They’re not concerned with having the upper hand and never admitting to a wrong. God has gifts for us. Many of His blessings can be found in our relationships. If you’re not open and exuberant about the people in your life, then you can’t be alarmed when they gravitate towards people who are. If you treat your friends as if you can take them or leave them, chances are they’ll leave.

Children don’t remember wrongs, hurts, or anger. They’re quick to love and quick to forgive. The world teaches us differently as we age. We “grow” out of such child-like behavior and “mature” into being suspicious of everyone, not needing anyone, telling little lies and omitting whole truths.

An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.  ~ Prov 24:26 NIV

Being emotionally honest may sound too simple to be effective when looking back from a heart that’s been bruised, scared and broken. In adulthood our emotional honesty may have ended painfully with us vowing never to open ourselves again; never to reveal the truth of our feelings; to keep our love to ourselves; to get what we can out of others without exposing our need for so much more. If you’re hiding, camouflaging, fronting, popping your collar and slapping hi-fives to the boys and shouting you-go-girl’s to the girls then you’re not being honest about where you are. You’re putting on a show. There’s no sincerity in your approach. No honor in your staying around.

At some point you have to accept responsibility for the damage you made to a relationship. Even if you’ve already been forgiven, just confessing your error goes a long way to eliminating resistance to interacting with you.

I’m not too proud to say, I need love. Affection goes a long way to improving a person’s disposition. Like anyone else, I flower when you pour the love on. A hug and a soft word can bring an end to battles. If a relationship has gotten to a point that I fold up my petals, it’s not because I want it that way, I simply need to be wooed into unfurling.

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!  ~ Psalm 119:103