Wildin’

I love the song “Four Five Seconds” by Paul McCartney, Kanye and Rihanna. It talks about having had enough and being really close to cutting loose, or “wildin’.” I love it mainly because y’all know I’m often seen wildin’. One of my fave lyrics is, “Cause all of my kindness is taken for weakness.” How many of you have felt like doormats or even, God forbid, been exploited for your kindness being mistaken for weakness? I know many people who have, and I want to look at this in the context of how we walk out our faith.

Let’s flip the script. Instead of kindness being mistaken for weakness, let’s look at anger being taken for hate. Right now Christians and humanitarian activists for equality are facing the same issue as the kind person in the song: having their true heart misinterpreted. Their zeal and justified anger is being mistaken for “hate.” With this perspective the lyrics would go something like, “Cause all of my wokeness is taken for hatred.”

Friends, on behalf of many people (I won’t speak for all, but certainly include myself) fighting for equality, I fervently apologize when our passion has bent towards anger that catches you off guard. It often catches us off guard as well. Digging deeper, I apologize when we’ve taken it a step too far and have sinned in our anger. (Ephesians 4:26) We are an imperfect people attempting to help the marginalized. We often cross the line in our approach because of the visceral reaction we have to what’s going on. I have seen this in my walk, so I know others have as well.

But regardless of a person’s reaction to the current climate of unrest, what we all must come to terms with is there is unrest and there are sins against humanity on full display. Even on video. I imagine God Himself is quite unhappy with the state of current culture which accepts oppression as the norm. A culture that says, “Fighting oppression is something for someone else to take on,” while we remain in our places of privilege, also known as our “comfort zones.” Based on scripture, the Lord’s heart for the “least of these” is clearly laid out: He despises, even hates, when “the powerful abuse the vulnerable.” (See Old Testament prophets)

People who aren’t familiar with the global movement to lift the oppressed may see friends and family as impassioned zealots, and given time this will pass. They assume these friends are part of a fringe group who consider themselves “woke;” modern day hippies. People are seeing pastors and faith leaders, like Beth Moore, calling for us to open our hearts and minds to the harsh reality that our brothers and sisters face daily oppression. Some people push away their counsel, again thinking these leaders are just an impassioned few rallying around the latest cause. But they are not a minority. They are millions who have been moved by the public display of bigotry and inequality. Pope Francis himself said it is time for the marginalized to be given a voice, to have a place at the table. But he isn’t just saying they use their voice, he’s beckoning us to use ours.

We are the voice that calls for people to awaken to the truth. “How will they know unless they hear?” We are the voice and the strength to come alongside people of different races, cultures, sexual orientations, religions, etc. We are the people who act because those laid low are in need of our love and help. Gone are the days of the oppressed fighting alone; we fight alongside them now. We are using our place and our privilege to come to their sides, because we often have influence they don’t. We can engage people groups and organizations that may reject them. The People’s Pope isn’t alone in this fight, either. Leaders from varying faiths are calling their members to recognize that our place as a believer is in coming alongside the marginalized. Our place is to actively stand up and stand in for the “least of these.”

So, in what ways are we to do this? Does it always have to be with fervor, and “turning over tables” so to speak? No. And I’m realizing that this isn’t the only way to “prove” one is in the fight. I am guilty of doing what this song I love says, “seeing kindness, or meekness, as weakness.” In humility I have recently asked myself, “What different ways am I seeing fellow believers fight? Has my fight been effective, or pushed people away? Has their fight been effective, and in what ways can I learn from it? Where can I toss in more compassion while keeping my God-given zeal?”

These questions led me to remember and embrace that believers across the world are fighting in many ways: Prayer. Fasting. Donating. Learning. Re-learning. Leaving their comfort zones to interact with minority groups. Being more intentional and honest about how they view those different from themselves. Voting for social policies that will benefit those on the outside looking in. The list goes on. Regardless of what one is doing, I believe there is a deeper heart question at hand. It isn’t what we doing but, “Are we heeding the word and reflecting the heart of our Lord in this situation? Are we repulsed, as He is repulsed, when we witness people in power oppressing the weak?” One response to these questions may not look like another. What they do may not look like what you do. And that’s ok! Going beyond that, because each response and action is different we can learn from one another’s response instead of judging one another’s response.

I want to ask those shocked at someone’s public “wokeness ” or zeal to be slow to judge and label it “hate.” I want to ask those shocked by someone’s “silence” or meekness to be slow to judge and label it “weakness.” We are ONE body and we know not all body parts are called to the same action. But each body part and it’s function is needed to fight this most necessary fight. Each of us has been given our own gift and personal journey to do the good work of bringing peace into chaos.

Each human is called to stand up for their fellow human. The time is now. It has always been now. The marginalized and vulnerable being laid low has always been something that breaks God’s heart. People in power have been keeping them under their thumb since the dawn of time. But I firmly believe we have more education, resources and momentum now more than ever to bring forth lasting change. Every wrong will never be righted until Heaven comes to Earth. One day the low will be brought high, and the tears of the brokenhearted will be wiped away for good. While we await this day with great anticipation, it doesn’t negate our responsibility to be vessels now to help right wrongs.

So whether you do something as simple as join a book club to better understand race relations, or something as complex as joining a national movement, as long as we are moving toward God’s heart of peace and reconciliation among His children we are doing it right. Let us forgive one another for expecting their fight for justice to be identical to our own. May we realize we are each given a unique personality, gifting and method to serve one another in these trying times. And may we all have abundant grace to one another as we walk out the purposes the Lord has laid before us.

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#cancelnetflix

If “Cuties,” the controversial Netflix show, bothers you, AS IT SHOULD, please take time to read. This is a warning about the vile content of the show, why we should be vocal in opposing it, and also why we can’t allow the “sexualzation” of everyday kids not featured on a Netflix special to continue.

In light of the recent buzz about this immoral show, we are right to respond in a manner that denounces it on a macro-level, meaning how it affects our culture as a whole. Likewise, we are right to open our eyes WIDE to the micro-level effect and how such a “genre” affects children and families individually. We are called be “wise as serpents” continually “searching our hearts for any wicked way in it.” (Matthew 10:16; Psalm 139:24)

This is an open letter to parents regarding “Cuties,” and how I believe the publicity of it has revealed a deeper, more personal heart issue: our battle, as primary influencers in our children’s lives, against inappropriate content and undesirable behavior.

Many of you know my dance history, which is relevant to my stance on appropriate self-expression in fine arts. I was steeped in the art of dance and music for 20 years, guided mainly by my mother and also dozens of wonderful mentors. Because of this life experience I support free-expression through fine arts, specifically dance and music. Art imitates life and is a medium for many people’s stories and ideas to be heard. However, there is NO PLACE for young children to be exploited and call it “art.”

“Cuties” has shown the cultural shift in what’s considered acceptable in exploiting people, in this case children. The writer claims her intent was to “tell her personal story.” However, it seems to me the content of “Cuties”—whether her goal or not—was used at best as a shocking head-turner, and at worst a plunge into a dark agenda.

On a macro-level we are called to strongly oppose such disturbing content from becoming the status-quo. I see many doing this though social media platforms, rightfully shining a light on darkness. We must not turn a blind eye to this blatant attempt to corrupt minds and hearts.

I personally believe our micro-level response is just as important as our macro-level response, maybe even more so. In rejecting “Cuties” with our words and actions, yet ignoring similar behavior seen in our own lives, it has been laid bare many are condoning the very troubling behavior we claim to hate.

Parents, we have the obligation and personal responsibility to protect our children from darkness. The reaction to this show’s content is a wake up call for us to be alert and filter what we allow to influence our kids’ hearts.

We MUST do better monitoring what content, in this scenario music and dance, we allow our children to participate in. Our protection, or lack therefore, will directly impact their hearts and therefore their behavior for a long time to come. Future choices are often directly related to what was permitted in a young person’s life and heart.

Many are choosing to cancel Netflix, a powerful, worldwide company. This personal choice is a justified protest against the company, which requires a monthly fee. Refusing to financially support it any longer makes a bold statement: hit ‘em were it hurts! Likewise, public outcry over “Cuties” and constituents petitioning their representatives has spurred Congress to open an investigation into Netflix. I consider these macro-level responses honorable. Instead of just posting “this is gross, the world is horrible,” people are choosing to use their voice to call for change. These macro-level actions are to be applauded.

Friends, there is no space for children to be allowed to hear, sing and then mimic heart-damaging lyrics, filled with bad language and sexual content. There is no room to allow them access to media content where artists are often robed in scandalous outfits or costumes, performing “sexualized” dance moves. In this broken world immoral activity sneaks up on us. But do they shock us enough to intervene and fulfill our responsibility to protect our kids? Not doing everything we can to turn their sweet eyes from such things is neglecting our role as a parent. Period.

There will be times when your child is confronted head first with content you had no idea was coming. Then you’ll have to do some damage control, explaining what was inappropriate, why it was and how we don’t follow such behavior. We must even explain how this behavior can often lead them into a journey they will one day regret.

Then there will be times you as a parent(s) make the decision to watch a show or listen to music with your child that renders discussion before and/or after. For an example, we decided our kids were allowed to watch Hamilton the musical. Our children love musical theatre and have seen many like Newsies, Mary Poppins, Wicked and Shrek. With Hamilton, we knew the music and and choreography would be different than previous musicals they’ve seen. The story line is forward and powerful, and some lyrics contain colorful language. My children know these are words they are not to use, and they fully understand some content is for adults.

My husband and I decided, however, the benefits outweighed the risks and allowed them to watch. Personal family values should guide us when faced with choices like this. What my family decides is okay may be different than what your family decides. However, I am not speaking to content that can broaden your child’s appreciation of the arts with issues properly addressed. I am speaking to content that will influence them in a way that can lead to devastating outcomes.

Condoning inappropriate expression through dance, or any pastime for that matter, is wrong and misleads a child to believe this behavior is okay, because mom, dad or instructor allows it. Writing it off as “cute” or harmless is ignoring our parental duty . In doing so, we better be ready to own that we are creating our own “cutie” environment which is every bit as damaging to our children, young adults and even adults as the show itself.

If we are denouncing this show publicly, but allowing our children free reign and access to questionable content privately, we are walking in hypocrisy. How can we be vocal about cultural atrocities, yet not address the spiritual and emotional vulnerability we fail to reject in our personal lives? Furthermore, if we allow the “sexualization” of our own kids, we are blatantly ignoring the correlation it has to poor decisions they’ll make in the future based on what was permitted in their young lives.

Trust. Me. On. This. We will be responsible for what our lack of shielding leads to in our children’s hearts and lives. We, not government or networks like Netflix, are commanded by God to guard our kids’ hearts from sin that can lead to spiritual death. No law is going to protect them and their innocence. No bill passed is going to personally lead them to light and truth. It is our responsibility as parents to use God’s word, wisdom, discernment, grace and guidance to do this.

So if we find ourselves publicly canceling Netflix and calling Congress while privately allowing our child to memorize sketchy lyrics and act-out mature, questionable dance moves…we better be willing to recognize this exposure leads down the same road of brokenness we are publicly demanding be banned.

For the sake of our kids, we must be consistent in our call for modesty, innocence and proper expression through the arts. When we see repulsive material sneaking into our children’s world we must speak out just as quickly as we speak out against shows like “Cuties.” It doesn’t matter if it’s in your four walls, or being used to win a dance or music competition; call it out in protest and cancel it from your family’s life.

Our children’s spiritual purity and growth isn’t worth any award or attention gained from family and friends. There is no room for being okay with it; we can’t allow our lack of supervision or lack of awareness to welcome the enemy into our family. We can not embrace passionate macro-level responses while neglecting our micro-level responsibility.

John 10:10 says “the thief, our spiritual enemy, comes only to kill, steal and destroy.” But in God, we are equipped with supernatural power to fight the enemy. By doing so our kids and our families can have life in full. Please heed this word: fight the enemy, not only publicity on social media, but privately in your home and community.

Let’s usher in “full and abundant life” for our children and families. We have “all we need for a life of holiness” (2 Peter 1:3). With God’s grace and guidance, we can win the battles attacking us on every front. Rise up, parents. Rise up.

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Called and Equipped

Have you ever felt led by God to join Him is His redemptive work, but feel you have failed God too many times to be of use? Do you look at your past or current state and think, “I don’t have a right to champion this cause because I have sinned far too much?” Friend, I have amazing news for you! Good News. GREAT news!

In light of our current climate, I want to use standing up for racial equality as an example, because it is near to my heart. Please don’t stop reading now. We all need to hear this, because it relates to whatever arena God has called you into. The Bible says “there are different ways to serve, and they all come from the same Lord.” (1 Corinthians 12:4)

Contrary to the lie the devil is telling you, you don’t have to have a perfect track record on race relations to take a firm stand now. None of us are perfect, and each of us— white, black, brown, “tan,” as my kids call themselves—are sinful by nature, bending toward freshly biases. We’ve all made, and will keep making, choices that go against God’s way. It’s what we do as humans, we rebel and turn from God. Trust me, I can say with zeal, “I am the chief of sinners,” yet God still graciously uses me. (1 Tim 1:15)

BUT GOD has so lovingly given us, through His Holy Spirit, wisdom and discernment so we can ask Him to squash our sinful ways. Praise God! He can use us for His Kingdom regardless of our wretched heart! He can show us our wicked ways (Psalm 139:23-24) so we can slowly but surely become more like Him…and less like us.

Being limited in our ability to choose God over self is the just the stark reality of being alive. We are flawed beings who serve a flawless God, and rely solely on his saving grace each moment. It’s why we ask God DAILY to show mercy on us, and forgive us for our trespasses, because we ALL are trespassing against one another in some way. But, this doesn’t mean God can’t equip and use you. He has called you to step out of the darkness and into the light! (1 Peter 2:9) We are to call the devil a liar when he tells us we aren’t good enough for God to use!

It’s never too late do the right thing. I don’t care if you have been a blatant sinner against the very thing God has now called you to. Repent and WALK BOLDLY IN THAT CALL. I say this from personal experience. Never believe the lie that you aren’t equipped to be used for His service. It is not only in large, well-planned, church-organized times God uses His children. It is in the small moments in honest acts of love in action that God makes His biggest impact.

I’m so thankful, and also abhorred, when God shows me my sin and helps me correct course, because that’s not where my story ends. In fact, it’s the only place it can begin.

Be blessed, y’all! ❤️🙏🏾🕯

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Would You Light My Candle?

Marriage. It’s not always easy, y’all. It is a fine balancing act between two completely different people. I’ll give you an example. My husband isn’t a candle person. Like, at all. But every morning I light a candle and enjoy it’s glow against the budding dawn. He still doesn’t love candles, but he’s grown to understand that the sight and smell brings me a sense of peace, like several small things do for him. God often uses small things like a candle, or in my husband’s case a Saturday watching college football, to grow our hearts and build our fortitude for bigger things.

This is applicable not only in marriage, but in all relationships. Many people are taught in counseling about the importance of “compromise” to keep harmony in a relationship. Oftentimes this is true, my husband and I have agreed to compromise on several issues over the past 18 years. I don’t believe, however we should use only compromise–a term meaning one or both parties concedes something they value–for our relationship obstacles.

While looking at my lit candle this morning, God reminded me of a better way to work out differences in beliefs. I believe a lasting union is less about concession and more about laying down our pride while working to see and know another’s heart and motivation. In doing so we are ultimately saying, “Even though it differs from mine, I will honor your belief because this tells of my love for you.”

For a long time I’m sure my husband saw the candle and rolled his eyes. (Maybe he still does!) But over time he grew to understand the sentiment behind my candle. He didn’t ask me to compromise, rather he chose to lay his own agenda aside and see things from another’s perspective. His example causes me to search my own heart. At whom am I rolling my eyes instead of creating space to see know their heart and understand their beliefs?

While the example of a simple candle is minuscule in relation to the broader challenges in our relationships it’s a picture of how small acts of understanding are fundamental to more significant acts of understanding. It is a glowing reminder to examine our hearts, deny ourselves and let love and wisdom guide the difficult conversations.

I’m not sure about you, but my initial response to an alternative belief often stems from from a pride-filled desire to be right. We must recognize our natural bend is toward pride, defensiveness and self-righteouseness. When we acknowledge this fleshly, often embarrassing, truth about ourselves we can then beg God to remove these sinful attitudes from our hearts and minds. Such sins feed off one another, quickly stomping out any chance of unity.

With God’s help we can approach relationship challenges from a place of humility, faith and love. We can pause, listen to understand, and deny pride and arrogance a foothold in the conversation. My husband chose to open his mind and heart to a belief different than his own; this small act of understanding blesses me and increases our unity.

Where in our lives can we do the same, especially where another’s belief helps them on their journey to peace, holiness and wholeness? In every relationship we can practice love and understanding which guides us into deeper, purer, more enduring relationships. Using wisdom and the Holy Spirit as a compass, two or more can live more harmoniously no matter the differences in beliefs. When we choose to “put on love and become a people of perfect unity” we are choosing to live as Christ and be Christ to others.

–Collosians 3:14

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Heavenly Mathematics

This post is dedicated to Harmon Cox who married my grandmother after my biological grandfather, and Harmon’s wife,  passed away. “PaPaw Harmon” always made visiting fun, and I always felt wanted there. He would watch the Braves and cook the most delicous steaks and corn bread you’ve ever tasted. He let me play in his office with his office supplies and big old-timey calculator. He, nor my grandmother, ever wanted to lose their first spouse, their childrens’ parent, at such a young age.

But they allowed God to use his heavenly mathematics

to bless them for many many years. 

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When my step-grandfather died, I wanted to send his children and my cousins something special. I wanted to make it myself and include my favorite picture of him engaged in his famous, full belly-laugh.

The problem was, with a newborn and recent long-distance move, I was running on fumes. I didn’t have it in me to find my paints and brushes. Honestly, I don’t think I even knew where they were!

Instead, I threw together what I had: my kids’ markers and scrapbook paper, some cheesy office labels I found in a drawer and Dollar Tree frames. This was not going to be my typical “A Little Happy” gift, but it was honestly all I had to give during that season.

papaw harmon

I was a little embarrassed to send these hodgepodge gifts. I mean, I knew I had more potential than markers and stickers. I had seen my work–although amateur–and it was well above these juvenile looking gifts. But what choice did I have? It was what I could give at the time.

This experience reminds me of our daily lives. How often are we just doing the best we can with what we have at the time? How often are we using what resources we have, but still feel like we fall short because it doesn’t measure-up to the standard we and society have set? How often are we embarrassed even though we really were giving it our all?

How loud do I need say this so the people in the back will hear? YOU ARE DOING THE BEST YOU CAN WITH WHAT YOU HAVE AT THE TIME! You won’t always be able to give it your all. There will be days and seasons your “all” will be fabulous mediocrity. Do not carry embarrassment or shame for this. Do not worry about what you could have done better. Smother yourself with grace and move it along. If you are truly doing the best you can with what you have…this is enough.

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I always hated math. Like hated. Ask Mr. Davis, my High School math teacher, how good I was at it. (Spoiler alert, I sucked.) But here’s some math I absolutely adore. Our God is a God of multiplication. He can take your pure-hearted efforts and multipy them into what He wants them to be: a big fat blessing to others.

The Bible doesn’t give us an exact measure of how good our deeds should be in human terms. He simply asks us to do them. He doesn’t command Pinterest-worthy projects and lives. He only asks that we do all things with great love ( 1 Corinthians 16:14), to His glory (Colossians 3:17) and as if doing them for the Lord. (Colossians 3:23)

I hope you find as much freedom in this truth as I do! We can move forward in good deeds and service knowing God can take them straight from our limited human hands to heaven and miraculously multiply them. So cook that meal you’ve been wanting to take to a sick friend. Send that “happy” to a buddy you miss. Host that playdate your kids have been begging for. None of these things need be done perfectly. As long as we are doing the best we can with what we have with great love to His glory and as if doing them for The Lord, He will be faithful to use His heavenly mathematics and multiply it to be enough.

 

 

 

 

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Liar Liar

When I was a little girl, I knew where my Maw Maw kept her Sunday School funds. She was the “treasurer” for her Sunday School class, and a small white faux leather pouch sat in the second drawer down in her dresser. Sometimes she’d let me help her count the funds, and ever so often she’d “borrow” from it when she needed cash and immediately replace it.

We ate with my grandparents almost every Sunday after church, and one particular Sunday she wanted to give me and my brother a dollar before we left. She said, “Macie, you know were the Sunday School money is. Get a dollar and I’ll replace it later.” I opened the drawer and got the pouch. I placed my hand on a dollar bill and right behind it was a ten. I took the dollar and the ten and thanked my grandmother.

On the ride home my daddy said, “Where did you get that ten dollar bill?” I told him Maw Maw had given it to me. He was pretty shocked, ten dollars was a large sum to be given for no reason. When we got home he called Maw Maw and found out she did NOT authorize the removal of a ten, but a one. I was caught red handed.

My daddy put me back into the car and we rode back to Maw Maw’s to return the stolen money. I was mortified that I’d been caught and extremely embarrassed. I was ashamed I had lied, especially to my beloved Maw Maw.

I wish I could say it was the last time I’d lie to my parents, or other people, but it wasn’t. I would in fact proceed to lie about a lot of things in my life. This moment did, however, make an impression on my heart that would take root and last a long time: when faced with telling the truth or a lie, choose truth. No matter the embarrassment or consequence. Choose. Truth.

This story makes me ponder why people lie. We can list many immoral and selfish reasons, but I want to talk about a reason that’s often missed. Sometimes people lie because they are frightened by the wrath that will ensue when their lie is discovered. They have never seen grace displayed, and because of this they are willing to do anything to avoid “punishment.” If a child is shown nothing but wrath and legalistic parenting they will indeed sin more to avoid the pain and shame of disappointing their parents.

In our home we have a saying: “Tell the truth the first time.” We have explained to our children time and time again that the truth is always the best choice even if it means hard consequences. We have also promised them that immediate forgiveness and grace will be given, and quite possibly consequences will be less for “telling the truth the first time.”

Even though most of us have outgrown childish lying, we are still daily faced with the choice between the truth and a lie. Whether it’s to avoid something or gain something, the temptation and choice remains. What will you choose?

I made up a song when I was working as a preschool assistant. The lesson was lying versus the truth, and the little ditty stuck and we sang it all year. It went like this, “The truth is better than a lie. Oh the truth is better than a lie. A lie gets in your heart and makes you saaaaaaaad. But a truth gets in your heart and sets you FREE!!!”

It is for FREEDOM Christ has set you and me free.

Be blessed. Be free.

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Help a Brother Out

I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

-Edward Everett Hale, 19th century author and clergyman

 

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The needs of this broken world roll in like waves. Sometimes the tide is low, sometimes it is high, but the waves never stop. The shore longs for stillness, but the waves of needs…they just keep rollin’ in.

I have a friend who teases his family when they are being overly needy. “You have more needs than the children of Ethiopia!” He says this in sarcasm, but seriously there are more needs around us than we can keep up with. (Maybe not more than the children of Ethiopia, but an awful lot.)

I often feel overwhelmed by the waves of needs in the world. Childhood poverty, homelessness, and mental illness to name a few. Then there are “political” needs like protecting our environment, criminal justice reform, and healthcare for the uninsured.

What happens when we are overwhelmed by needs like a child engulfed by waves hitting the shore? Our hearts are tugged as we rightly desire to advocate for our oppressed brothers and sisters, and sometimes we even feel guilty if we are not active in all the things. 

Guilt, however, is not what the Lord wants for His children. While He has given us the command to pour ourselves out for others, he also lovingly gives us the freedom (and discernment) to choose where and how we will do that.

We have a moral responsibility to attend to the needs of our brothers and sisters in our communities. The Lord has called us to be culture-changers so these needs are met, but God never asked you to tend to all the things.

The Edward Hale quote above is wisdom to those wanting to meet “more needs than the children of Ethiopia.” You are one person. And while you are an AMAZING person–chosen, set apart and gifted to tend to others’ needs–you are only one person. Overloading your service calendar will leave you frazzled–and quite frankly exhausted–which is not beneficial to those in need or yourself.

The quote is also wisdom for those who have decided there are too many needs, so they’ll just sit this command out. This is an easy lie to fall prey to, because serving takes time and resources you may think you don’t have. Embrace the areas you know God has asked you to serve, knowing He’ll give you everything you need for it!

We can be more faithful and effective servants–not to mention more joy-filled– when we remember that we can not do everything. Likewise, we can pour ourselves out boldly knowing we are called to do something.

 

reagan quote

 

Are you attempting to pour yourself out into all the things, and ready to discern where you can serve more joyfully? I have learned from wise mentors and personal experience some ways to go about choosing where and when you’ll serve:

  • If you have a family, I believe this is our first responsibility for service. Often we get so busy serving outside the four walls of our home that our family gets left behind. Also, there are plenty of ways for your family to serve together. But if your family is only getting the remnants of you, you may need to rethink how much you are serving outside of the home. Whatever you do, don’t forget those nearest to you have needs, too!
  • What gifts has God given you that you love to share with others? When you use those gifts can you tell it flows naturally? Chariots of fire describes it perfectly: you’ll know you are operating in your gift “when you feel God’s pleasure.”
  • What personal experience has God put in your path that gives you a burning desire to serve for that cause? Are you a teacher in a poverty-stricken area? Have you experienced needless violence first hand? Your personal story makes serving there a natural fit!
  • Will it promote good in a way that honors God…or you? Sometimes we get caught in the tricky trap of self-service. “I’ll do this, then maybe I’ll get that.” A true servant never thinks of their personal gain.
  • Lastly, can you use your occupation itself to serve others? Many jobs, by nature of their duties, meet spiritual, emotional and physical needs. But even if you don’t feel your occupation is a “service” job, there are always ways to sneak in love for your fellow man at your 9 to 5.

Comment with ways you know when and where to serve. I’d love to know!

 

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Starve The Wolf

images-2Politics divides. Maybe that’s why I’ve never been a “political” person, since basically the first step of politics is choosing sides. I find common ground with both sides, which complicates choosing one over the other. But there are times when choosing becomes an unavoidable duty; for many Americans that is never more true than during a presidential election year.

Normally at this point in the race, I’d have slapped a sticker on my van and patiently awaited the results in November. If I’m honest, I’ve always been content knowing regardless of who wins the White House, things in my quiet, obscure, suburban American life will stay relatively the same. Not so this year.

This year, I have an unsettled spirit within me, and I cannot remain blissfully neutral. I see people not just uniting behind a candidate, but fixated with them. I see people ditching lifelong values for the sake of being on a winning team. And most of all, I see a lot of anger, malice and unrest.

There is a place for anger in the Christian walk, specifically when anger is a catalyst to bring about justice for the victimized. Voters are angry–and rightly so–because our government has either ignored or aided in the collapse of traditional American ideals. I find myself angry also, but in Ephesians 4:26 the Lord renounces allowing anger to propel us toward sin.

So this year, instead of slapping a sticker on my van, and patiently awaiting November results, I’m staying engaged in the events of this election. I’m reading articles, listening to commentaries from both sides, and refreshing my memory on American history and civics. I’m also making an effort to pray for those in authority, knowing that God can change hearts and provide wisdom where it is lacking.

Simultaneously, I’m taking steps to guard my heart. I’m asking God to forgive me where I have fallen into sinful anger, and risked dragging others down with me. I’m learning to train my mind against emotional ploys and praying God will guide me to see things in a sensible light. I’m asking God to reveal the lies to me; to show me where arrogance is disguised as strength, where greed is disguised as prosperity, or where division is disguised as protection, not only in a candidate’s heart, but in my own.

Not far into this year’s presidential race, I was reminded of the Cherokee legend of the two wolves. If you haven’t heard it in a while it goes like this:

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An old Cherokee was teaching his grandson about life. “There is a fight going on inside me,” said the grandfather. “It is a terrible fight between two wolves. One is evil-–he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good–he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too.” 

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”  The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

For the fight going on inside me, I choose to starve the first wolf. With God’s help, I will walk away from philosophies that increase human-on-human tension and strife. I will choose to feed the good wolf by filling my mind with truth about God’s promises to all His children, not just some. I will heed the lessons of those who have fought–and are fighting–the good fight.

With God’s help, we as a nation can move towards restoration and be a people of unity, faith and freedom. This year, I choose to do more than buy a sticker or wear a trendy t-shirt. This year, I choose to be a part of that restoration.

 

 

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Miss Hospitality

Hospitality-is-not-about....Hospitality.  A word that’s practically synonymous with the South, and a trait that’s valued here above many others. While I am most definitely a daughter of the South, “Southern Hospitality” is something I’ve often looked on with cynicism.

The word stirs up images of a perfectly set table, a well-thought-out meal, and flawless hosting abilities. Feeding this notion are multitudes of magazines and endless Instagram feeds suggesting hospitality should be paired with the latest entertaining trends to truly make guests feel welcome. Abilities like these take time and planning–and y’all know how I feel about dreadful planning. Hospitality quickly became a goal I was content allowing others to strive for.

But I was reminded of the truth about hospitality when Jake McGlothin shared a message on the topic at Floris United Methodist Church. Jake, a New Orleans native, spent 2 years in The Republic of Armenia with the Peace Corps. Living with a host-family there, he says, shaped much of his understanding of true hospitality.

In Jake’s message, based on Luke 14:1-14, he hones in on what true hospitality is and why true hospitality matters. Hospitality defined is attending to people’s needs, honoring the value of others and giving your best.IMG_7967

Jake states, “When we attend to people’s needs we are acknowledging that they are important to us. Honoring the value of others takes humility on our part.” In regards to giving your best he says, “The lengths to which we go to be hospitable is an outward sign of our love.” 

After describing what hospitality is, Jake continues to explain why hospitality matters.  Very simply stated, true hospitality is an act of love. Throughout his message I kept in mind the motto of my home state, Mississippi–The Hospitality State.

I thought about all the ways I’ve seen people attending to needs, honoring the value and giving their best across the state. People I know fostering children, families I know building playgrounds in urban areas and doctors I know seeing uninsured patients for free. So I jotted down a quick doodle of my home state and eventually it became a tee shirt.

11252720_10153215118189823_5943260800781388838_nIt’s my favorite A Little Happy design because it represents how I feel about Mississippi, a state overflowing with brotherly love. I love the word “stranger” in the verse, because of the multitude of people from around the country–be it regular travelers or celebrities–who’ve shared their beautiful experiences working in and visiting Mississippi.

I also love it because God reminded me that day that hospitality has nothing at all to do with adorable decor, clever table-setting or even the amount of time spent in preparation. Hospitality that the Lord welcomes has little to do with presentation and much to do with motivation. And while nowhere is perfect, I do believe Mississippi is aptly named–The Hospitality State.

 

Tee shirts are available at Mill Town Mall in Wesson, Mississippi. Limited sizes are also available at Etsy.

To listen to Jake’s entire sermon, simply click here.

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Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

This was one of my first blog drafts. I’ve gone back-and-forth with finishing it for 3 years because of the obvious–who wants to put their two-cents in regarding anything about race? But I feel I have to publish it. I know I’m not a well-known blogger, only about 100 people will even see this. But for my own heart I want to get this out there.

I have had the pleasure of living near three metropolitan areas, Nashville, TN, Miami, FL and Washington, D.C. If it hadn’t been for these experiences, I probably wouldn’t intimately know many families from other countries. Growing up in a small Deep South town of around 2000 people, you just didn’t interact with other cultures frequently. When you aren’t exposed to something frequently, the natural inclination is fear. That fear often turns to hate.

When I was young I would go to my mom’s dance studio and play an old Kris Kristofferson record. My favorite song was “Jesus Was A Capricorn” and my favorite lyric was “most of us hate anything that we don’t understand.”  I feel like a lot of the racial, social and political tension in the country is continuing because we aren’t willing to take the time to understand each other. 

Every race, religion and creed has a handful of nut-jobs, and when they decide to show-out we’d rather just toss the whole lot. You know what they say, “Throw the baby out with the bath water.” It’s a lot easier than doing the hard work of actually engaging with our fellow man–and not just the ones like us. 

There’s a high percentage of black males incarcerated, therefore all black males you see have a criminal history. There are Mormon fundamentalists who still practice polygamy, therefore all Mormons really wish they could have 5 wives. A small portion of Muslims believe terrorist activity is justified according to their radical views, so all Muslims must be potential terrorists. You know some white people who throw around racial slurs, so all white people are supremicist. You get the idea.

After we label an entire group, the next step is secluding yourself from knowing anything about that group except what you’ve been told, not what you’ve experienced. Look, I’m not that young and naive to think that there aren’t real issues among race groups. I’m not so starry-eyed that I don’t know why stereotypes are cast in the first place. But what I do know is being surrounded by diversity is a blessing, not a curse. Don’t let anyone fool you otherwise.

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I Wish You Had a Muslim Neighbor

I wish you had a Muslim neighbor. A home you can smell long before you arrive–fresh garlic and spices flowing out with the wind. I wish you could taste authentic Pakistani food made by sister-in-laws whose families live together. I wish you could see these women in their beautiful Hijab garments, and giggle when your son says they look like Jesus’ mommy. (And I wish you could see these women also giggle when you tell them what he said.)

I wish you had the chance to give them your heartfelt sympathy when they learn the news that many of their family members were murdered in their sleep in their home country, and this is why they are thankful to be in America. Oh, how I wish you could see the sparkle in five sets of perfectly brown eyes when you brought home another baby boy, a long-awaited new playmate. 

I wish you had the chance to sit under a tree on a cool spring day with an elderly Muslim man and talk about the state of the world and the human condition. And how we wonder if anyone has it right, because everything seems so wrong. I wish you could both agree to disagree on some beliefs and agree to agree on many. I wish you had a Muslim neighbor.

I wish you had a Jamaican neighbor. One who trimmed his hedges with an actual machete and didn’t waste the coconuts that fell from a decorative palm in his yard. I wish you knew the little trick I know, how to “cure” hiccups in an infant. If you had a Jamaican neighbor you’d know how to wet a tiny piece of paper towel, place it on the babies head and watch them settle into sleep, hiccup-free. If you had a Jamaican neighbor you’d know which international grocery stores to avoid and which ones had the cheapest mangos. I wish you had a Jamaican neighbor.

I wish you had a Jewish neighbor. A family who serves you matzah and cheese as a snack and writes to you “MAZEL TOV!” when you graduate high school. I wish every time you saw Mogen David wine you remembered their childrens’ bat mitzvahs and how your dad got to wear a yarmulke, and how people hugged so tight and ate so much amazing food afterword.

I wish when you saw a group of Orthodox Jews walking down the street in your town, you quietly sang “Tradition” from Fiddler On The Roof. And secretly wished your life held that much tradition. I wish you could work for a Jewish family and have the honor of cleaning their home before Passover. Top to bottom, get every last breadcrumb out–tradition. I wish you had a Jewish neighbor.

Now, I wonder. What would any of the above neighbors write from their experiences with me? I hope they’d tell you about a family who didn’t misuse their faith to justify anger and malice. I hope they’d recall a young family who didn’t teach their children to fear people who may dress or talk or worship differently from them. I pray they would say to you, “I wish you had a Christian neighbor.”

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