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Gathering of The Griots: A Soulful Chicago Book Fair Affair 06/26 by Host Naimah Latif | Women Podcasts

On June 26, 2018, I joined Naimah (The Female Solution) and Asadah (Soulful Chicago Book Fair) on an episode of Gathering of the Griots to discuss Desert of Solitude and my attendance at the Soulful Chicago Book Fair on July 15. My portion of the interview should be 30-40 minutes into the episode. Take a listen. Leave a comment.

Enjoy – and if you’re near Chicago on July 15th, stop by, say hi and get yourself a copy of Desert of Solitude:Refreshed by Grace. Looking forward to seeing you.⭐️🌟💫✨

It’s that time of year again! The Soulful Chicago Book Fair, now in its third year, has become a Chicago institution, another summer festival that makes this city located in the heart of the nation a grand tourist attraction. Sunday, July 15, 2018, 10am to 8pm, on 61st street in Chicago from King Drive to Cottage Grove, come on out and bring your whole family for this great cultural experience. Asadah, Founder of the Soulful Chicago Book Fair, joins us today to present some outstanding authors on this edition of ‘Gathering of the Griots.’ Gathering of the Griots is a radio show that breathes literary life into the airwaves from writers affiliated with the Soulful Chicago Book Fair. It lends a chance to hear OUR stories, from OUR point of view, for OUR benefit. Listen in to brother and sister authors who were courageious, hard working and tenacious enough to put their power to the pen and share their thoughts through the written word!

Source: Gathering of The Griots: A Soulful Chicago Book Fair Affair 06/26 by Host Naimah Latif | Women Podcasts

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Poem: If, in leaving a place…

If, in leaving a place,
Those you leave behind
Sigh in relief and
Give thanks to God
For your departure
Then you can trust that
You offered no good
Provided nothing of substance
Added no value
To the space you vacated.

If, in leaving a place,
Your absence
Brings relief and praise
Then your presence must
Lend towards darkness.
Hate, malice, venom –
These are choices.
You choose to do wrong.
Plot to go out of your way
To cause harm.
You speak death even as
You’re wrapped in the embrace of life.
I have no sympathy for your wayward travels.
I spoke caution for the danger
You’re rushing towards
Offered respite from the
Consequences of your choices.
Warm shelter and full belly
In the midst of a concrete jungle.
You took what you wanted
Wasted the remainder unnecessarily
Misused, overused and abused my hospitality.
You left with no understanding of the
Safe harbor you cast aside in
Favor of lies and misrepresentations
There was no acknowledgement of grace
No thank you
No gratitude
Not even a: ♫♯ Dear John, by the time
you read this line, I’ll be gone…♭ ♫
No, instead you left a petition
for an order of protection
claiming harassment and abuse.
As if I were the one who
Showed up on your doorstep
Without warning or invitation
You asked for a restraining order
As if I were the one
Sleeping in your home with ill intent
Plotting against your peace
And dreaming of your downfall.

Entitled complaints all.
As if you have a right
To my life.
My property, my income,
My provision, my inheritance
Simply because you showed up
And lusted for the fruit of my
Praise, hard work and perseverance.
My struggle.
I have no curses to hurl at you
There’s no need.
You aren’t worth my frustration.
When I opened my home to you,
I made available to you everything
God has made available to me.
You have no idea how blessed you were
sitting in the shelter of the grace that covers me.
You rejected that when you attacked me.

A character like yours
doesn’t require strong sight to see.
Your stench permeates around you
It turns the edges of the space you inhabit.
You are your own worst enemy,
But you think you’re a boss
Making boss moves.
High-rise self-aggrandizement
In a borrowed Top Ramen reality.
Check yourself.
Check yourself.
Check yourself,
‘Cause you’re
Wr-wr-wr-wreckin’ yourself.

If, in leaving a place,
Those you leave behind
Are filled with satisfaction and joy,
Then your boss move –
Your departure –
Was actually an
Answered prayer.

Thank you for testing
My faith and resolve.
Thank you for dropping in.
Thanks so much more for leaving.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

~Ephesians 6:10-12

LaShawnda Jones
April 29, 2017

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Awareness of Nakedness

For a number of years on my journey, I embraced the pain of honest self-exposure. At that time, I continually made myself vulnerable in my relational interactions. Truthfully, I can’t say that my vulnerability was well-received or treated well. I can’t report that my availability was appreciated or taken advantage of in a positive manner. From my world perspective, it seemed that my quest to love and befriend others should have resulted with me hating all those who spitefully hated and misused me. Fortunately, it’s my position in God’s Kingdom that shapes the perspective I consciously choose to act upon.

This is not a bad report though! I have learned a great deal in my effort to repeatedly submit myself, not to the whim or avarice of people, but to the written will of God. Outwardly, I look the same as I did when I began this journey, but inwardly, I am a completely transformed being!

Afraid and ashamed…so we hid

Then they heard the Lord God walking in the garden during the cool part of the day, and the man and his wife hid from the Lord God among the trees in the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said, “Where are you?”

The man answered, “I heard you walking in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.”  ~ Genesis 3:8-10, NCV

One of my pastors paraphrased during a sermon, “We were afraid and ashamed, so we hid in the fig leaves.” Afraid and ashamed…so we hid. That statement got me to thinking about my emotional state. I hadn’t thought of my own status as a Hider as resulting from fear and shame. I saw myself as a self-preservationist. I was preventing the possibility of hurt. I was being proactive….

ashamed: feeling shame; distressed or embarrassed by feelings of guilt, foolishness, or disgrace; unwilling or restrained because of fear of shame, ridicule, or disapproval

However, despite the spin I gave to my emotional state, when I began to hide from people, I was essentially acting out of shame for over-exposing myself. I came to believe I had been too open; too honest; too forward. So much so that I couldn’t gracefully retreat. I was undone. I was uncovered. I felt foolish. Disgraced. I felt as if I had placed my precious honor before people only to have them trample my priceless, irreplaceable gift. And in the end, it was all my fault for trusting mere humans to handle me with care.

Coming out of the dark

Over the past couple of years, I have been in the trees earnestly trying to camouflage my earlier self-exposure with fig leaves. It’s more effort than I would have imagined to re-emerge from hiding. Learning to embrace myself again is much harder than just being myself was in the first instance. I have had to not only relearn who I am, but also learn to not shy away from the light bursting forth within me.

And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”  ~ John 3:19-21, NLT

Here is the biggest lesson I learned during my season of over-exposure and vulnerability: do not trust people.

Nearly every person I have ever come into contact with has been preoccupied with hiding in their own trees (darkness). I have not understood this consistently throughout my journey, but it’s clear now: a person living in darkness is unable to see another person’s honest sincerity with the same heart. So, while one person stands exposed (without any covering) and sincerely offers love, friendship and hospitality, the intended recipient(s) burrow(s) deeper into the trees (their darkness), seeking the deep cover of leaves over the revealing exposure of honesty. The Hider views such tender offers with deep suspicion. Even though love, friendship and hospitality can only truly be offered from a well-lit heart, a person intent on remaining in their own dark place will refuse to see any light, therefore they will only see a reflection of their own darkness in the offer. Suspicion will lead the Hider to reject the offer of light because they don’t trust it. Or they will ignore the offer of grace because they don’t believe it. Then again, sometimes the Hider will accept the offer of mercy, but abuse it because they don’t know enough to care.

I, like you, have experienced many such responses. After the dismally disappointing responses I received during my season of sincere self-exposure, I found myself entering into a season of hiding. Hiding is painful – more so after you’ve exposed all, because you feel as if everything you naturally are has been rejected, hence the desire to hide away. Prior to my season of hiding, I can’t recall another period in my life where I had the desire to hide myself away so completely. There had been times when I had played small, run away or otherwise avoided confrontations… but even during those times, I accepted my emotions as they were. Those who hide inevitably end up hiding from themselves as well. They lose the ability to honestly assess their own emotional state. When you can’t assess your emotional state, you are also unable to acknowledge who you are and what you want at whatever point you are in life.

Hiding had not been part of my story prior to my self-exposure. I think this is because hiding hadn’t been a necessity until after I realized how incredibly vulnerable I am and how, in contrast, incredibly reckless people are with any exposed vulnerabilities. Being able to not only walk, but also to gain strength through your vulnerabilities require the active presence of God’s Holy Spirit in your life. Unfortunately, in the world, vulnerability is seen as weakness and it’s also reviled as such. So, I entered a season of trying to hide my vulnerability in order to survive in the world. Oxymoron…. I was essentially setting aside my true strength (what I gained through the Holy Spirit’s enabling) for a false positive (a lie I tried to apply to my life).

I didn’t know how this leg of my journey would end. I was rather apprehensive actually thinking it would cripple me emotionally and spiritually, but as I exit on the other side of the battlefield where the fight for my awareness of my nakedness took place, I am beyond grateful for the process of metamorphosis. The fearful caterpillar that entered the cocoon in the shadow of the Most High had no idea how much the shelter of His protective covering would not only transform her, but strengthen her as well.

I’ve written about the need to trust God and not people before [see How’s Your Heart?], when I was in the thickest part of my battle. After receiving the truths that were revealed during that time of reflection, the remaining struggles in my battle for self-awareness tapered off relatively quickly. Once you acquire the meat of the lesson, all else is easy (relatively speaking) to digest.

The issue of trust can be difficult to navigate in our daily relationships. It’s okay to reveal ourselves to people, but we shouldn’t expose ourselves to such a degree that we are not able to regain our covering after the trauma of rejection.

What do I mean by that?

Well, we sometimes give loved ones such influence in our lives that their slightest displeasure, or lack of support, or disinterest or whatever can send us into an emotional tailspin. When our relationships aren’t right, we usually aren’t right within ourselves either. Recovery in either case is painful and difficult at best, and impossible if you’re in hiding.

When all is said and done, this was a necessary process for me. In addition to learning not to trust people with the essence of who I am, I have learned not to seek darkness to camouflage my pain. I have also learned that hiding or shutting down emotionally is not the cure to over-exposing myself.

Most importantly, I have learned to seek refuge in God always for He willingly, and eagerly, covers His chosen ones.

My heart belongs to God

Lord, I give myself to you; my God, I trust you. Do not let me be disgraced; do not let my enemies laugh at me. No one who trusts you will be disgraced, but those who sin without excuse will be disgraced.

Lord, tell me your ways. Show me how to live. Guide me in your truth, and teach me, my God, my Savior. I trust you all day long. Lord, remember your mercy and love that you have shown since long ago. Do not remember the sins and wrong things I did when I was young. But remember to love me always because you are good, Lord.  ~ Psalm 25:1-7, NCV

A young woman I’ve been helping this year has been seeking to get closer to me. As people are wont to do, she’s been attempting to manipulate me to maximize on the benefits I bring to her life. Because I am aware of her nature, I keep myself guarded. One of my biggest tests to date in this area came through her last week. She was trying to get me to commit my Thanksgiving to her and her daughters. I told her I wasn’t sure if I would even be in the City during Thanksgiving, as I often travel during the holidays. This had been her second time asking and I told her I would let her know closer to the time. She then said this to me, “Ms. Jones, I know you are holding yourself back. I know you’ve been hurt and you don’t want to trust anyone; I promise I will never hurt you. I’m not asking you to trust me with your heart, but you can trust my daughters with your heart – they will never hurt you either.”

I saw her sincerity, but I also heard the lie of her words. Anyone who promises to never hurt you has either lied to you or just told you they don’t plan on being a part of your life. And since she was asking me to be fully emotionally and spiritually available indefinitely to her daughters at the same time she claimed they would never hurt me – well that gave the lie to her words: people hurt people.

I tell you the truth as I know it, whenever I am with her, the Holy Spirit answers her for me. These words came from my mouth, “One thing I’ve learned in recent years is that my heart is not to be entrusted to people. I have given my heart to God – it’s no longer mine to give to you or your daughters. However, through His grace and mercy He will leave my heart open to whomever He sees fit for me to be open to, and for as long as He will have me be open to them.

When I play this conversation back in my mind, it seems as if she was trying to secure a promise and a blessing from me (think Jacob conning Isaac), because even though she claimed to accept my statement she then asked that I just promise to help her daughters and always be there for them as a resource. To which I replied, “I’m here now. I’m helping you now, aren’t I? I can’t do more than God will have me do. He’s made me available to you. It’s for you to step-up and follow-through on the opportunities He’s presenting to you through me.”

Though she continues to try to cover herself and her daughters with me, I know I am not their covering. Another lesson learned in recent years: the quickest way to end a relationship is by attempting to be more than I’ve been called or sent to be.

Ready for Love

“Later when I passed by you and looked at you, I saw that you were old enough for love. So I spread my robe over you and covered your nakedness. I also made a promise to you and entered into an agreement with you so that you became mine,” says the Lord God.  ~ Ezekiel 16:8

God knows that we are naked. He is ever aware of our vulnerabilities – He created us with them. We need to maintain an awareness of our own nakedness and stop trying to cover it up. We also need to accept our nakedness/our weaknesses/our vulnerabilities as opportunities for God’s grace to work in us and through us.

Ezekiel 16:8 points out that there is an appointed time for us to wallow and wander in our weakness and there is also an appointed time when our weakness will be accepted and covered by love. Being naked – exposed – is not a sin. Opening yourself with sincerity and honesty is not disgraceful. It is in the process of being that we better understand and accept who we are becoming. And it is only in Jesus Christ, by the power of His Spirit, that our weaknesses can become strengths in our lives and that we can receive God’s love covering. The process of time brings our transformation to fruition. Free yourself to live through the processes God puts you through because at the appointed time He will cause you to bear much fruit – all for the purpose of glorifying Him in the world.

Related posts: Our Nakedness, How’s Your Heart?, Are you trustworthy?

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Interview: Matt & Sarah Hammitt on Their Marriage & Song (Lead Me)

Goodness, there’s nothing to add to Matt and Sarah’s words. They discuss elements of their marriage that lead to Matt writing Lead Me for his band, Sanctus Real. Click below to listen.

The Story Behind “Lead Me” – Sanctus Real from BrightBulb Entertainment on Vimeo.

Read more about the song in “A Tale of Two Couples: Lead Me at a Glance”


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Duality of Man: Strength and Vulnerability

From The Process of Asking for, Receiving and Giving Love and Forgiveness (Available January 2011)

And he will stand to lead his flock with the Lords strength, in the majesty (power) of the name of the Lord his God. Then his people will live there undisturbed (securely), for he will be highly honored around the world.   ~ Micah 5:4 (NLT)

The week of Thanksgiving brought several personal revelations to me through the resurfacing of a dormant family relationship. Then over Thanksgiving weekend, I had a series of dreams that expanded on those revelations.

The most vivid dream in the series involved a man (not a relative). In each  scene the man appeared in, he was standing tall with firmly planted feet and a broad welcoming smile. Perched on his left hip, like an attachment, was a big baby boy who looked to be three or four years old. He was a beautiful boy with bright alert eyes – piercing, really – and a much older mischievous expression. Physically, the toddler didn’t resemble the man at all, yet there was an element of sameness and familiarity.

The man greeted me and indicated in the conversation that the toddler was one and a half years old. I commented that the baby boy was more than twice the size of the average toddler his age. Even as I said that, I was reaching over to hug and kiss the baby/toddler. The man’s face was glowing with joy when I stepped back to face him. He then embraced me. End dream sequence.

Upon waking, I was confused about elements of the dream. Primarily, who was the big baby/toddler boy? As I mentally walked back through the dream, I discarded the thought of the boy being the man’s son or other relative, and concluded the baby/toddler was the man himself, representing a part of the man that was less mature in some areas, even though he looked over-developed. Mostly, the baby/toddler seemed to represent a part of the man that was extremely vulnerable, even though he appeared to ooze mischief, knowledge, awareness and confidence.

What happened in the dream to inspire this retelling?

The man presented his vulnerabilities to me and I embraced them (symbolized by me hugging and kissing the baby/toddler). The joy the man received from that acceptance lead to his willingness to accept me (symbolized by him embracing me).

The focus scripture in service this week came from Micah 5:1-6. Verse 4 (He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD) stood out to me for two reasons: 1) The man’s solid stance in my dream brought to mind security and strength 2) I’ve been listening to Santus Real’s song, Lead Me. The lyrics are a beautiful blend of a man’s strength and vulnerability through his multiple roles and responsibilities. The refrain is written from a wife and child’s perspective:

“Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can’t
Don’t leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, what about us?

Show me you’re willing to fight
That I’m still the love of your life
I know we call this our home
But I still feel alone”

The song is a prayer for God to lead the man – the husband, the father – to be the strength of his family – the provider, comforter and defender – through God’s grace and power. It’s a moving prayer of a man laying bare his uncertainties and asking for the strength to love his family through his presence and with the best offerings of his life.

It’s such a vulnerable plea, but there’s so much power in it.

The convergence of all these elements had me analyzing aspects of my life. Specifically, the lack of strong hands in my life and the fact that there has never been anyone (father or other) standing or fighting for me. And I marveled that my hunger for love had turned into such a state of starvation that I’ve ceased to feel. Wonder of wonders… how different would my life be had I been blessed with a father who lead rather than destroyed?

It all rolls up to love. The best expression, the most lasting impression of love that we will receive in this life is through our father, mother, and spouse (husband or wife). If they aren’t led by the spirit of God, His love for us will not be experienced through them and we could remain hungry for love, chasing useless things in a lonely life because we have no idea how to be love or how to receive love.

Fortunately, these sad, lonely low points of neglect and uncertainty puts us in a special space for grace. I thank God for my vulnerabilities and my willingness to accept and embrace them. The more vulnerable I am, the stronger God’s presence in my life becomes.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.   ~ 2 Corinthians 12:8-10