And You Say You Are a Christian…

Disclosure: My blood has been boiling since yesterday afternoon.

Love-unconditionallyFor several months, I’ve been a member of a local writing group. It’s composed of Christians of varying ages and gender. While there are a few Black Americans in the group, lately I’m the one who attends most regularly. Yesterday, an older white gentleman shared a devotion entitled Loving Black Folks. As soon as the devotion was circulated among the group members, the other members shared with me that they had some real concerns about the devotion and told the gentleman that he needed to make some revisions and bring it back to the group before it would be accepted for publication. Then they proceeded to ask me to provide my honest feedback on the devotion because the other black ladies in the group had been non-responsive to their request. So, with an open mind and heart, I read the devotion and tried my best to give it a fair shot. But, can I tell you that I was cussing mad when I finished reading the document! I didn’t cuss, but I certainly shared with the group exactly how I felt. One of the ladies stood up and clapped. I’m not sure that was necessary, but I appreciated it!

You see, my anger with the devotion began with the title…don’t call me folks! Personally, I find the term “folks” to be degrading when referring to a group of people! I wouldn’t say, let me go love those “crackers”, so don’t call me “folks”. My other issue with the title is that as Christians we should focus on loving ALL people, there was absolutely no need to single out a specific group (unless, of course, that’s a group you silently have a problem with). In John 13, Jesus says, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” We are to love all people regardless of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, income level, ability level, and family structure, among other things. We are to love those who are different from us, we are to love those who have not come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior, we are to love those who have done wrong to us, we are to love those who engage in sinful behavior…we are to love all because while all of us are different, we are all valuable in the eyes of God! So, as nicely as I could (it took real effort) I told the gentleman, “This title makes it seem like it’s work for you to love black folks. For the record, I want you to know that I don’t need anyone to feel burdened to love me. I’m alright being loved by those who accept me as I am. Please don’t feel obligated to love people of color!”

But my frustration did not stop with the title, the devotion was five paragraphs and two sentences. Of all the words he wrote, five paragraphs discussed his personal experiences of Black people serving him and his family and two sentences contained a reference to the love Jesus has for all of us! I was blown! I mean, this guy didn’t find anything strange about what he had written, so I proceeded to tell him that his devotion talked nothing about loving people, it talked about his personal experiences with Black people. And honestly, I found nothing loving about the experiences he described. I don’t think it occurred to him that most Blacks who worked in the houses of Whites did not do this because it brought them joy or was the fulfillment of a life goal! NO…they did it because they needed to feed their families and they wanted their children and grandchildren to have an opportunity to pursue the dreams that were left deferred in their own lives! I was personally offended because some of my relatives served Whites but could’ve done so much more if segregation weren’t the law in their day! I was offended because the church where he attends and where the writing group meets is one of the most diverse congregations I’ve visited in my life…the pastoral leadership is diverse, the musicians and singers are diverse, the greeters are diverse…this place is the epitome of what I think a worship environment should look like! And yet, there was THIS experience with a guy who clearly just doesn’t get it! I went and checked out his blog and Facebook page after the meeting (because that’s where people share their real views) and there he made a statement about how individuals in same-sex relationships need to take their problem to God and deal with it by themselves because it’s not his burden. While I respect his views, I swear we are called to love those who live a life that we find offensive. For me the offense doesn’t really matter because I’m certain my Bible tells us that the person without sin should cast the first stone, and the last time I checked all of us have engaged in some type of sinful behavior, so how about we love on each other and help one another strive to honor God completely with our lives!

So, my blood is still boiling because in my book it doesn’t matter how many mission trips one takes or how many souls one leads to Christ or how many sermons one preaches if one forgets that commandment that tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves! If you don’t love ALL people regardless of their stuff, then shame on you and ask yourself the question…am I really a Christian.

Until next time…show love!

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.                1 Corinthians 13:13

Journeying to 101. Global Leadership Summit

Have I ever mentioned just how much I love creating a 101 list! It’s one of the greatest motivators in the world for me. I’ve been working my current list since June 1st and I’ve managed to place a check next to five things so far. Not a bad start in my opinion.

Today, I had the opportunity to attend the Global Leadership Summit. Until a few months ago I’d never heard of this meeting, but I’m so glad I stumbled upon this information. Without a doubt this is the best leadership event I’ve ever attended. At 5:30 pm, I was still wide awake, taking notes, and fully engaged in the final talk of the day! I’m excited about taking things from the training back to my circles in both my professional and personal lives which is far from my norm, but the summit has been just that good! The beauty of this event is that while rooted in Christian values, the speakers are not limited to faith leaders. Yes, there were two pastors that spoke today, but the majority of the speakers were business leaders and everyone focused on leadership lessons, there was nothing “churchy” about the event. I’m definitely looking forward to tomorrow’s sessions.

So, what are my personal action steps from today’s session…there’s so much, but I know I can only do a few things!

  1. I need to determine who I will plant leadership seeds in. People did it for me, now I need to do it for someone else.
  2. I will create a leadership betterment plan that outlines how I will take responsibility for improving my leadership skills over the next year. Everyone wins when I get better!
  3. At the end of each day I will write 3 moments of joy!
  4. I will be more intentional in giving people a chance. Despite how things may seem, I don’t know everyone’s story…I must be mindful of this.
  5. I will stay hopeful and I will be present with those I am trying to lead.
  6. I will choose to be a student, not a critic. I will choose to keep my eyes and mind open. I will choose to replace “How” with “Wow”.

The last goal, replacing “how” with “wow”, is probably the point from the day that resonated the most for me. The lecturer challenged us to “wow” ideas to life rather than “how” them to death. I think this hit me so hard because I see this exact scenario unfold in so many areas of my life all of the time. When presented with a new idea, individuals in my space are quick to respond with questions that ask how we can afford something or how can we find the people to do that or how can find the time to make that work or how do we think this small church can do that. While individuals hearts may be in the right place, I’m so sick of hearing excuses framed as “compassionate questions”. I really just want everyone connected to me to think outside the box and dream bigger!

With that, I’m looking forward to what tomorrow’s sessions will be…

A New 101 in 1,001 List…

Image result for 101 in 1001

A few years back I wrote a 101 in 1,0001 list. I got the idea from my cousin Tiffany, and found that it was really helpful in pushing me to do some things that otherwise may fall off the radar screen. So, for the past month, I’ve been slowly working on my new list. There are some things that I never managed to check off of my old list that I’ve recycled, along with some new things. I’m looking forward to another leg in my life journey….there are lots of great things out there to do, if we’ll just set aside the time to do them!

This journey began on June 1, 2017 and I’m hoping to check everything off the list by February 27, 2020!

Things to Do/Personal Challenges

  1. Finish writing my new 101 list…I don’t think it will be so hard this time! – Completed 7/7/2017
  2. Complete photography CE certificate requirements.
  3. Finish watching Dear White People.
  4. Write 5 letters to 5 people who have had a positive impact on my life. (6/19/2017: 1 of 5 written and sent.)
  5. Organize my computer files.
  6. Organize my iTunes library.
  7. Make a list of my fears and what I can do to face and defeat them.
  8. Complete a 30-day photo challenge.
  9. Make an address book with contact information for family and friends.
  10. Go to Morgan’s Homecoming Gala.
  11. Launch new website. – In Progress…Coming Real Soon!!!
  12. Write and publish a book of devotions.
  13. Write on my blog weekly for 52 consecutive weeks.
  14. Get to work by 8 am every day for an entire month.
  15. Go without watching TV for one week.
  16. Bike round trip from Baltimore to Annapolis.
  17. Go to Top Golf.
  18. Play a round of golf on a course
  19. Plant a garden.
  20. Make a batch of homemade soap.
  21. Make a batch of bath salts.
  22. Attend PlantNite.
  23. Visit the Newseum.
  24. Visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
  25. Host a dinner party for friends.
  26. Host Thanksgiving dinner for family and friends.
  27. Host Family Christmas Party.
  28. Attend the Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival.
  29. Start or participate in a MasterMind Group.

 Personal Growth and Enrichment

  1. Finish reading 10 books I currently own but have not read in their entirety. (6/19/2017: Read 1 of 10)
  2. Write a living will.
  3. Write a letter to open at the end of the 1,001 days challenge.
  4. Write a letter to open when I’m 40.
  5. Write a Personal Mission Statement.
  6. Identify my core/guiding values and display these in my home.
  7. Write in my journal for 30 consecutive days.
  8. Write a letter of forgiveness to those people who have hurt me in my past…won’t send it, but will write it.

 Relationship-Building

  1. Go on a vacation(maybe a camping trip) with my immediate family.
  2. Have lunch with my Dad.
  3. Take a photography workshop with my brother.
  4. Go on a spa day with my sister-in-law.
  5. Go to tea with my mother.
  6. Spend a day with my oldest nephew.
  7. Go on a movie date with my middle and youngest nephew.
  8. Bake holiday cookies with Kim.
  9. Go to Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse with Pastor Ann.
  10. Go on a weekend ski/snow tubing trip with friends.
  11. Complete a 5K (walking or running) with Ronnie to celebrate her weight loss journey.

 Faith and Spirituality

  1. Read the Bible in its entirety.
  2. Create a prayer and meditation space in my home.
  3. Complete seminary (or get very close).

 Lifelong Learning

  1. Take swimming lessons.
  2. Take a guitar class.
  3. Take a piano class.
  4. Take a cooking class.
  5. Take 3 photography courses.
  6. Learn to hand dance.
  7. Take an Intermediate WordPress course.
  8. Attend Global Leadership Summit.

 Health and Fitness

  1. Complete the Whole Life Challenge.
  2. Run/walk 30 miles in 30 days.
  3. Complete a 10K race.
  4. Lose 25 pounds.
  5. Go rock wall climbing.
  6. Run in the St. Michael’s Running Festival.
  7. Bike a century.
  8. Complete a sprint triathlon.
  9. Complete a 50 push-up challenge.
  10. Complete a plank challenge.
  11. Consume zero cookies for an entire month.
  12. Document my meal choices for 30 consecutive days.

 Things to Own

  1. Upgrade my dSLR.
  2. Buy prime lens.
  3. Buy new lamps for my bedroom and living room.
  4. Buy my first home.
  5. Buy a new laptop.
  6. Buy a new pair of sunglasses. – Completed July 3, 2017

Financial Milestones

  1. Pay off my car.
  2. Save 10% of my annual salary.

 Things to Do at Home 

  1. Organize my filing cabinet.
  2. Create a weekly cleaning schedule.
  3. Finish decorating my bedroom.
  4. Make my bed every day for 30 consecutive days.
  5. Create a functional office space in my home.
  6. Frame and hang my artwork from Nigeria.
  7. Create an art gallery in my home that features my own creative works.

Places to Visit 

  1. Go on a European vacation.
  2. Visit Western Maryland.
  3. Visit Great Falls Park.
  4. Go on a cruise.
  5. Go to New York during the Christmas season and see the Christmas Show at Radio City Music Hall.
  6. Take a trip to Canada.
  7. Take a trip to Albuquerque, NM.
  8. Go to the US Open…I love tennis!
  9. Attend the Martha’s Vineyard African-American Film Festival.
  10. Spend an afternoon in St. Michael’s.
  11. Spend a day in Old Town Alexandria.
  12. Take a trip to Bermuda.
  13. Take a beach vacation.

Giving Back

  1. Organize a scholarship fund to give a book scholarship to at least 1 high school senior annually.
  2. Donate books to a school/organization.

 

Why Not?

This weekend I spent some time flipping through my grandmother’s Bible…it was filled with lots of good things – pictures, wedding announcements, funeral programs, newspaper clippings, etc. One of the things I stumbled upon was a poem written by a local artist entitled, Why Not. It was an amazing piece that I read at the right moment in my life. There have been lots of changes and transitions for me over these past six months…I’d say all of them have been positive…but change certainly is not always easy. I started the year declaring that my theme was to Jump. I was very clear in January that I was committed to dreaming again and pursuing bigger goals, and yet while I was excited about doing new and different things, apprehension and nervousness has crept in as the months have gone by. The beauty is I have not stopped crawling forward (that book that I decided I would write is taking shape ever so slowly and the new website is on the way), but on numerous occasions, I have questioned why I thought these big, crazy, wild dreams that I have were feasible for me. And then I stumbled upon this poem in Mom-Mom’s Bible that let me know that it’s okay to jump out and chase a dream that is one size too big! So, I leave it with you today, as perhaps you question some decisions that you need to make for your own life. Perhaps all of us should refrain from asking why and push ourselves to ask, Why not give it a try?

Why Not
J. Joy Matthews Alford

I knew I’d never do it.
I couldn’t.
I always wanted to,
But didn’t know how.
Didn’t even know where to start.
All my life I’d been told,
“You can’t do that”,
So I never questioned why.
Just accepted that I couldn’t.
“Til one day I asked myself, “Why Not?”

“Nothing beats a failure but a try.”
How often I’ve heard those words recited.
Is that all they are; empty words?
Or could they hold the key?
Ok, so, I can’t do it now.
Does that mean I can never do it?
What part can’t I do?
What part can I do?
Will my ego stop me from trying
Because I fear I might fail?
If I get over this fear,
How far can I go?

Until now, I never believed I could do this.
Never believed in myself enough to try.
What else might I try if I succeed?
What other fears might I conquer?
Even if I fail
Will things be worse than before?
Maybe that’s the key –
That by challenging myself
I can discover new facets of me.
Maybe venturing beyond the safe and charted route,
By striving towards goals once believed unattainable,
I can achieve successes I never dreamed possible.
Successes that I could never have known
Without have tried, or having asked, “Why Not?”

 

Desperate for Lent!

The United Methodist Church describes Lent as a time a “time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter” and a time for “Christians to focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves for others”. I view Lent as a time for me to slow down, be still, sacrifice some of my comforts, and most importantly, be intent in seeking God.

I’ve not always taken this season seriously, but this year, I’m desperate for Lent! I’m desperate for a time to slow my pace…I’m desperate for a time to be still before God…I’m desperate for a time to be intentional in studying God’s word…I’m desperate for a time of fasting and praying…I’m desperate for God – I want to see Him and feel Him and experience Him! I’m taking some huge leaps of faith in this season that are requiring me to trust God more than ever. And, I’m doing what I think is the hard work of focusing on self-care right now. I expect these two things to cause Lent to have a greater impact on my life this year. This year Lent is not so much about what I’ll give up, instead, it’s about trusting God completely and watching Him do amazing and impossible things in my life as I do a bit of walking on water.

How will you honor God during this season of Lent?

Blessings…

Dropping Insanity…Fixing My Diet!

in·san·i·ty: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  Albert Einstein


Can you believe January is rapidly coming to an end?!?!?! It’s amazing to me how quickly time flies these days…it seems like just yesterday I was turning 30, and now…well, I’m closer to 40 than 30 and I’m not sure how I feel about that!

I’ve been really excited about this year…I brought in 2017 with the expectation that things were going to really congeal (that’s an Aunt Marie word right there) in my life! And as life would have it…a mere three weeks into 2017, my first jump came crashing down! The new job offer that I was super excited about was rescinded the day before I was scheduled to report for work! It certainly was not the news I was looking for, and frankly, I was pissed about what happened to me. But, then I decided that anger wasn’t going to get me anywhere, so I returned to my old job, pulled up my sleeves, and got back to work! I decided that repeating the cycle of anger and frustration and being mad with God was pointless and insane, the job fell through for whatever reason and I have to believe that there’s something positive to be found in this situation. It’s really freeing to look at the situation this way!

In general, I’m trying to view life in a more positive light this year. Rather than focus on my challenges and the mistakes I’ve made, I’m trying to think about the positive changes I can incorporate into my weekly routine. I’ve recently been inspired to plan my weekly meals by a friend and old co-worker who just so happens to be a registered dietician. She made the JUMP a couple of years ago to leave her job and pursue her passion of nutrition. She’s now making a difference in the lives of patients and people like me who follow her blog from a distance. Last week, she posted about budget friendly meal planning for families of four. From this post, I was motivated to do some meal planning of my own (time to drop the insanity of getting home and not having a clue about what’s for dinner!)…I went through the whole process of looking at the weekly circulars for my local grocery stores and came up with a meal plan for the week. I’m pretty impressed with myself!

What’s this week’s meal plan look like?

Breakfast: Cereal (Shredded Wheat or Oatmeal), Fruit, and a Protein. I have to pick up fruit and milk, but I have everything else in the house already.

Lunch: I’ll start the week with chicken salad (made with greek yogurt rather than mayo) and end it with turkey burgers. I’m also going to have some veggies and salad with my lunch daily.

Dinner: I’m trying to utilize the chicken and ground turkey fully, so for dinner, I’ll have chicken stir fry for a few days, and finish out the week with thai turkey lettuce wraps. Hopefully this approach will keep me from wasting food. Meal planning for one can end like this far too often!

I’m not sure what my weekend meals will look like just yet, but I’m gonna try to find something quick and easy to fix…maybe some baked fish and veggies, that’s simple enough!

The most exciting part of this meal plan for me is that these meals won’t cost me tons of money and I’ll have a variety of flavors in my meals. With the passing of each year, I’d like to think I become a bit wiser…I at least try to do one thing better than I’ve done in previous years. Hopefully, meal planning will become one of many things I do better this year!

I’m still jumping and still believing great things are ahead of me!

Until next time…DW

Just Jump!

impossible-quote-7

It’s finally 2017…I’m excited! I’m skipping resolutions this year, and have decided to embrace a theme for the year. Yearly themes have been described as, “a word or a phrase that you choose to define what the next year of your life is going to be…an idea that should speak to you, and that should guide you to make more of the choices you think will lead you where you want to go in life and in your career. It will be your constant guide that informs your choices as you go about your life this year”.

My theme for the year is Jump.

There’s been lots of talk about jumping lately. Steve Harvey talked about this thought in a monologue following the taping of a Family Feud episode, and just a few weeks ago, he released a book entitled, Jump: Take the Leap of Faith to Achieve Your Life of Abundance! I’ve not picked up the book, but its premise really resonated with me. In his monologue, Steve said, “Eventually, you are going to have to jump. You cannot just exist in this life. You have got to try to live. If you are waking up thinking that there has got to be more to life than it is, man, believe that it is. Believe in your heart of hearts that it is, but to get to that life, you are going to have to jump.” That statement is my life story…I’ve always been driven to play life safely…comfort and security have been a t the top of my list, but this year, I’m challenging myself to chase the God of the impossible. I mean…I say with God all things are possible, but have I ever chased the God of the impossible. Have I ever assessed all of the impossible things in my life and placed them before God for the sole purpose of asking Him to do what His word says He will do? I’ve not…but in this year of jumping, I’m going to do just that! I’m going to write down every single impossibility in my life that enters my mind and ask God to do exceedingly, abundantly more than I could ever think or imagine! There’s no more time in my life to look at my dreams and say, “Impossible”. There’s no more time to look at my visions and say, “Impossible”. No, this is the year that I’ve got to have child-like faith, and truly believe that the sky is the limit in my life! It’s the year I must believe that all things ARE possible! I’m jumping and I hope others will jump too!

And, since there’s no need to delay the jump…my first jump will be in just a few weeks…I’m leaving a job that is comfortable and jumping into new territory. I’m not sure how God is going to bring it all together in the end, but I’m fully convinced that my new job is a part of a larger plan for me! So, here’s to a year where all things are possible for those who are willing to jump!

Failure is an acceptable option!

A failure is not a loss. It’s a gain. You learn. You change. You grow.  – Michael Barata

Last week, I wrote about my challenges with moving on the goals and dreams I have for my life. As one would expect, that challenge still remains true for me today, but I’ve taken some real action steps over the past week to overcome this weakness. At the top of my list of accomplishments for the week…I reached out to a small circle of friends and colleagues about starting a Mastermind group. I wasn’t sure how the response would be, but a few folks expressed an interest in being involved. What a relief…I would’ve felt a little sorry for myself if no one had been interested. Then, in a very unexpected conversation with some buddies from church on Sunday, I heard some awesome stories of people wanting to connect with others to share their dreams and goals and stories of people wanting to take a major jump in their personal and professional lives. There were talks of writing books, producing music, opening group homes, pursuing new career opportunities, and seeking insight about the next steps in life. I thought I was alone in feeling hesitation about putting action to my dreams, but this confirmed that others share my feelings and my desire to start a Mastermind group might not be some outlandish thought that just happened to enter my mind…no, I think God placed this notion on my mind to help me and others in reaching our full potential.

Fast forward to today…I woke up feeling a little blue…life will do that to you sometimes! I was feeling a bit discouraged about the future of my career. I felt like the door on an opportunity that I’ve been very interested in for months was closed on me…it turns out that is likely not the case, but I was thinking the worst. I have a tendency to do this, I’m really hard on myself…it’s definitely not one of my better traits. Anyway, a co-worker stops in to express some concern about me and my mood, and we start talking about the beauty and value of failure! This is significant because for me failure has always been accompanied by a great degree of shame and embarrassment. Failure has never been good in my eyes, but I’m beginning to understand that the act of failing in some things is an acceptable option in life. Failing in a task does not mean I’m a failure in life, it actually means I was willing to get out of the boat and try a new thing or two! If I’m honest, in that moment where I’m sinking, it rarely feels good, but I’m starting to view my failures along life’s journey as real learning moments. If I can manage to avoid drowning while I’m sinking, it’s quite likely that the next time I risk walking on water, I’ll do a little better (or I’ll at least think about carrying a life jacket with me!). So, taking intentional risks will be among my list of goals for 2017, because even if I encounter some failures along the way, I will have tried, and that’s better than always playing it safe.

I’m looking for more in 2017!