My Bearded Friend

Recently, I was in the library on my laptop searching, researching, pining for a miracle and so forth. I like the library because I enjoy being around books. I like the smell of them and I like how smart I feel when I gaze through them. As a matter of fact, yes I’m still writing one. As a kid, my mom brought my brothers and me to the library in the summertime and I’m certain that’s when my smell of books fetish began. I wasn’t much of a reader as a child. Always a writer, but reading wasn’t thing I fancied. Not until I became an adult did I appreciate literary works that took me away from a bad day at work or a nasty stranger’s attitude.

I made a new friend at the library. I don’t know his name, never got it. I will call him my bearded friend. I was in a small conference room with all glass walls and door by myself for a while. It was enjoyable. I noticed an older man with a long gray beard walking up to the door. He looked at the paper taped to it and then he walked away. I didn’t think anything of it. A few minutes later, he walks into the room and proceeds to sit with what I thought was a laptop, but later I found out it was his bible. If you know me, you know I don’t meet strangers, so the bearded man and I became acquainted right away.
He said,” Would you mind if we sit here?” He had a bit of a grin that I could see through his beard. I said, “Sure! I don’t mind at all.” Then it dawned on me maybe he reserved the room for his group of friends. I asked him if he reserved the room and he said yes, but I could stay if I wanted. I told him I didn’t mind moving.

As I was gathering my things, we chatted. He told me he belonged to a small Bible study group of three people. He called it Bible study and learning. I assumed he meant they were taking a class about a particular subject. My bearded friend was very proud to tell me about his class. He told me he learned to read about a year and a half ago and got his GED. I didn’t ask him is age, but I’m guessing late 50s, early 60s. He was so proud of himself and rightfully so. The other people in his group are a teacher and another gentleman who also learned to read. The three of them chose the Bible to keep learning to read. An excellent choice I think. I congratulated him. Because of his successes, he is a wonderful testimony to what God can do. He said, “I’m a minister.” I said,” Really?” My bearded friend says, “We’re all ministers.” Oh! Yeah! We are, aren’t we?

My bearded friend said he used to be ashamed of his illiteracy, but he wasn’t bothered by it anymore. I understood his feelings and respectfully I let him disclose his life to me. I am honored he trusted me enough to chat about his journey. In his youth he worked in tobacco fields to help his family so he didn’t get to attend much school. My father told me about people, namely young men and why they didn’t go to school years ago because of their families raised tobacco. My father and his brothers worked in tobacco as well. I’m sure many people from decades ago sacrificed a basic education to help keep a roof over their families’ heads and food on the table. Certainly any teenage boy would rather be fishing or playing baseball instead of sweating in a field for little to no pay. These young souls may not have gotten an education, but they developed character and work ethic that took them places in life just the same, if not better.

My bearded friend didn’t seem to hold on to any resentment about his childhood circumstances. He commented that it’s just the way things were back then. His voice was actually very soothing and calm during our conversation. My assumption is that is his nature as well. We said our goodbyes as his other two friends arrived.

I couldn’t help but think about my bearded friend and his freedom from illiteracy. I take reading for granted, like breathing. Being human, I tend to think about what I can’t do or don’t have. Meeting my bearded friend made me realize I have very few limitations except the ones I’ve given myself. What’s more profound is the thought of people sacrificing a basic education and a youthful life with the idea they may never learn to read or write. Yet, they are blessed many years down the road with the education they so deserve. The bearded man is my hero. He’s so awesome.

The underlying moral to this story is also patience. Sometimes its patience with expectancy. Sometimes its patience for something you can’t see or imagine. Being educated may have always been a dream of my bearded friend that kept him going and gave him hope. He definitely had a fire in him to pursue his dream and when the time came, he made it happen. Now, let’s ask ourselves. Am I the bearded man with a dream or a goal that I’ve been patient for and do I have a fire in me now? One day we’re going be the bearded man and we will have a youthful eye looking at us as we tell our story? Sure, there’s a generation just waiting to be motivated by our experiences.

But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:25
And endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Romans 5:4
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

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Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other. Abraham Lincoln

Honest Abe. Honest Abe Lincoln. President Abraham Lincoln comes to mind to me quite often these days. For those of you who do not know the complete history of Abraham Lincoln, let me give you a crash course.

Abe Lincoln suffered losses as a child and a young man. His little brother Thomas died in infancy, his mother died when he was 9 years old and his sister died when he was 18 years old. Abe Lincoln had no education past the age of 11 years old, but he borrowed books and educated himself while he worked odd jobs to support his family. At the age of 21, Abe moved with his family from Kentucky to Illinois where Abe began the first leg of his political journey with a speech for improving navigation on the Sangamon River. He ran for legislation in the Illinois general assembly and lost. Abe became a business owner, but lost all his money with the death of his business partner. Abe ran for general assembly again and won. Abe studied law. He suffered the loss of his girlfriend Ann Rutledge due to a fever. Abe was re-elected several times to the general assembly and received his license to practice law. Abe married Mary Todd and had three sons, one of which passed away as a toddler. Abe was practicing law, then becoming a Representative for Illinois. He attempted to run for Senator in Illinois, failed twice, but did get nominated for President of the United States and won in 1860. The history of Abraham Lincoln is truly worth the time to research and read.

Adversity was no stranger to Abe Lincoln. From the time he was a boy until his demise. Not many of us would have kept pressing forward with our goals and dreams, however Abe Lincoln faced them with amazing courage and complete faith in God. He did not let his lack of education, money, social status or support from his family keep him from pursing his quest for greatness. Abe Lincoln always remained true to his belief in himself.

Abe Lincoln understood oppression. He understood that bondage on any level is not meant in human existence. His own journey through life kept him humble. His peers named him “Honest Abe” because he could not hold back the truths as he knew them. Honesty, integrity, and humility are definitely the characteristics of a true leader.

As I read Abe Lincoln’s history, I felt empowered by his perseverance and strength. He nothing held him back and he attributed it all to his devotion to the Lord. Surely, Abe was human and at times felt like giving up, but he did. not He took each defeat and failure as an opportunity to grow. His walk in faith paved the way for generations to be free, not just from the oppression of slavery, but from the consciousness of lack and inequality. Abe Lincoln made many speeches speaking to the hearts and minds of his constituents that we are all God’s children.

We live in a time where all that is good and fair is not as important as what is entitled and owed. I am sure Abe Lincoln’s journey in some ways, was no different from our own now. We suffer losses of loved ones, jobs, and relationships. Sometimes we fail as much as we succeed. We question the actions of others that hurt us. Often we shake our heads at what we read, hear and see that at times discourages us from moving forward with our goals and dreams. What matters when all is not right within our own worlds, is our faith in God, and our resolution to succeed.

All these many people who have had faith in God are around us like a cloud. Let us put every thing out of our lives that keeps us from doing what we should. Let us keep running in the race that God has planned for us. Let us keep looking to Jesus. Our faith comes from Him and is the One Who makes it perfect. Hebrews 12:1

Character is like a tree and its reputation is like a shadow. The shadow is what we think if it, the tree is the real thing. Abraham Lincoln

Your memory card is full or is it?

Memories. We have so many of them. Good memories. Bad Memories. Some memories we would like to forget while others get us out the bed in the morning.

As I have gotten older, memories seem to dictate much of my life. Memories will cause me quickly to pick up the phone to dial out or receive or not answer it at all. Yes, that is not always fair, but it is honest (Not directed at any person.) Memories will lift me up when the news is not so great and often make me think twice about decisions I need to make. Perhaps memories are a part of discernment which gets better with time. Being alone in the city, sometimes memories are all I have.

Recently, I went to my high school reunion and also visited my grandmother while I was home for the weekend. A weekend full of memories to be shared and made. My class reunion was great. I enjoyed seeing old friends and missed those not able to attend. My classmates and I mostly asked one another about other classmates and shared some funny times from back in the day. Seeing my classmates reminded me of whom I was then and who I am now. There is not too much difference, but life can sometimes take the personality out of you and give you an identity of its own. That is a constant battle that only the Lord can arm you with His grace and mercy to stay true to yourself. Nevertheless, I missed my classmates and I am sure the feeling was mutual. After so many years, coming home to unconditional love still available from my classmates, friends and family makes me feel like I can conquer the world.

Visiting my grandmother took on a somber tone in my heart. She is 93 years old with Alzheimer’s. When I looked at her, I wanted her to say hello to me and give me a hug. I smiled anyway, because I knew she would have if she could. I kissed her on her forehead and tried to get her to speak to me in her own feisty way, but she laid there relaxed and in her own world. I dared not disturb her peace. Instead I sat in the chair next to her and looked at all the pictures in the living room. Carrying on a conversation with her care giver while looking at the pictures, I took in all the memories of times I spent in my grandmother’s house. So many thoughts in so little time. I occasionally looked at my grandmother and felt a smile and a frown battling for space. I do not know who won. Grandma did share her memories for years before and during her illness. Memories are made to be shared.  The best gift she ever gave me was her memories. Well maybe the ability to take no mess, but that honor may belong with all the women in the family.

There is a line in the movie called “The Family that Preys” where Kathy Bates’ character, Charlotte Cartwright says,”Your memory card is full.”   She is sitting on the bed having her own reality check that she has Alzheimer’s disease. She gets upset and Alfre Woodard’s character, Alice doesn’t understand why she is so upset. Before the line in the movie, Charlotte and Alice go on a cross-country trip taking pictures everywhere they go to having the time of their lives.  As the trip ends, the memory card is full. In Charlotte’s mind, this is all that is left. A full memory card. No more memories can be put on it.

The Lord gives His gift of time to experience and enjoy life. He gives us the ability to have and share memories that will last a lifetime. In each moment of time we have, we are making memories happen. Will you look back at your memories and keep your peace knowing you enjoyed so much of your life? Will you hold a private pity party and say I wished things were different?  Will you think about what your memory card holds and decide, is it full or do I still have some memories to create? I already know the answer!

“We cannot change our memories, but we can change their meaning and the power they have over us.” — David Seamands

“God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.”–Matthew Barrie
“But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren. Deuteronomy 4:9

Sometimes there are no words…

To describe a humbling experience. On March 15th I had the pleasure of styling the hair of five amazing women for a fashion show hosted by the AAPD also known as American Association for People with Disabilities. The models wore clothes designed by Norma Kamali. There were 14 models in all and they all had a disability.

I was not sure of what to expect because all I knew was the models had various disabilities and co-workers and myself would be styling their hair. I walked into the room carrying my equipment and the silent uncertain looks from the models turned into approving smiles and nods. I totally felt like a rock star! The mood was very high energy and everyone had a big smile on their face with kinds words to share. I was introduced to Norma Kamali and she was very approachable, warm and hands-on with the preparation of the models. Since she is a fashion icon I made sure I looked Carrie Bradshaw fabulous. I felt I was the one for the job. I did not hold my position based on arrogance, but on the assumption that the Lord’s favor was all over this experience. Not just for me, but for everyone involved.

While we were styling the models’ hair and make-up and as they were putting on their outfits to be modeled, I noticed the banter of the models. Their conversations were as casual as if there was not a fashion show going on. They talked about their jobs, boyfriends, hobbies, etc. They conversed about the gala and how excited they were to participate. They enjoyed the attention. No model seemed to be focused on they disability nor were they focused on anyone that may be staring at them. Laughter and smiles were the order of the day. As each model was finished with hair and/or make-up another model or stylist would compliment them on how beautiful they looked. Cameras were flashing like paparazzi. They were taking pictures of everything. With every humble breath they spoke of gratitude and appreciation.

The fashion show was starting in a few minutes and I had to finish styling one model. She was getting upset because Norma’s assistant kept approaching me to ask me how long I would be. I would say a few minutes each time. I knew the drill based on my years as an educator for Paul Mitchell. I insured my model that she would be on the stage and the assistants do what assistants do for the sake of hurrying things along. Sure enough she was the third model out on the stage.

We watched the models come out on stage. My co-workers who were complaining and nagging after we finished the models suddenly took a proud stance as they watched the models model their outfits. I fought back tears looking at them moving like proud peacocks across the stage. So many thoughts went through my head. God is good! The audience clapped and the photographers snapped pictures of them as they moved about. I felt like I just won the lottery.

When I arrived home after the fashion show, I thought about the models and the people attending the gala which included the fashion show. There are times in our lives which moments can be speechless. This was a moment that the Lord did not speak to me. He showed me. To feel His presence in a room full of women who may have even doubted everything about Him, but they wore His grace and mercy proudly was a moment in my life I will never forget.

But the meek will inherit the earth and enjoy great peace. Psalms 37:11

All the charm and beauty of a woman may have amounts to nothing if she reflects her Creator and assumes the posture of a graceful servant, she cannot help but command high respect and love.– Jeanne Hendricks

I can sleep when the wind blows

A few years ago, I found an article titled ” Never Give Up” and it happened to be dated on my birthday. When I read the article it didn’t seem to relate to never giving up, but it still had a profound message. The article posed a very good question. Can I accept a greater good when I am in the midst of pain and suffering or negative circumstances? VERY GOOD QUESTION!

The timing of this question was perfect because I was fairly new in my walk with Christ and while I understood basic principles of Christianity, I never thought about the good, the bad and the ugly and what my responsibility is when going gets tough.  I thought since Jesus saves, I’m going to be just fine. We all know scriptures and hymns for moments of despair, however in the darkest hour, it seems we either lose sight of our Heavenly Father or we force out words of affirmation that seems to make sense because some other Christian told us it is the right thing to do. Honestly, sometimes we are at a loss because we are not as prepared as we thought we were.

There is a story mentioned in the same article about a young man looking for work as a farmhand. He told his employer he could sleep when the wind blows. The young man intrigued the farmer and the farmer hired him. Some time later, a storm came through the farm, but the farm sustained no damage. The farmhand had the forethought to prepare for the days ahead not knowing what the days ahead would bring. He prepared for the  unforeseen storm when the skies where blue and the days were sunny. When no threat of rain or wind was in sight, the farmhand had everything in place and when the storms did come, he rested quite peacefully knowing he prepared for rough times.

Preparing for the unpleasant moments of life, especially when day-to-day experiences are normal or perhaps more gratifying than usual seems like the last thing we want to do, but it is so important to fortify our souls with the richness of God’s promise and faithfulness. Spiritual exercises are too important not to include in our daily living. Prayer, reading, meditating, spending time with the Lord insures empowerment and give us the tools we need when the storms stir up. Forgiveness, repentance, praying for others, praying for our enemies, and thankfulness are all wonderful and awesome gifts we give ourselves to use when we may come under attack.

Can you sleep when the wind blows?

The Lord is my rock, and my safe place, and the One Who takes me out of trouble. My God is my rock, in Whom I am safe. He is my safe-covering, my saving strength, and my strong tower. Psalm 18:2

my son(or daughter), do not forget my teaching. Let your heart keep my words. For they add to you many days and years of life and peace. Proverbs 3:1-2

Beauty for Ashes

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory. Isaiah 61:3

Years ago when I began my walk with Christ, I needed to know something. I needed to know it (what ever it was) was going to be OK. I searched for bible verses that would speak to me and give me peace and comfort me when I needed comforting. Isaiah 61:3 found me.

I was watching a television show and the speaker recited Isaiah 61:3. The verse caused me to sit up and listen intently. I smiled. I felt like God just kicked the bully who tried to hurt me. This verse came along at the perfect time in my life and it reappears like my guardian angel when I need to be reminded of God’s omniscience and omnipresence.

He will give a crown of beauty for ashes. When we think about all the times something happened or is happening to us and in the end we became better human beings for the challenge we face, that is a crown of beauty. Our positive attitudes, smiles, words of encouragement, our inner and outer strength, our obvious healing and our successes are big shiny diamonds in the crown. The definition of ash is something what remains after it is burned. In other words, it is finished. Whatever the ash may be, it is done. You have been delivered and given glory for your troubles.

A joyous blessing instead of mourning. Mourning is heavy and does not give light to the darkness we face in our suffering. Mourning is a personal journey and means different  things to different people. Before the ashes became ashes, they were real people, real situations, and real hopes and promises. Most of them we felt were gifts and blessings from God and a sign of his love for us. When they are taken away or we lose them, we think we the worst, which is a human way of thinking. But the Lord did not promise us worldly things. He did promise us he will always be present. A joyous blessing may not even seem like a joyous blessing when we receive it, but the Lord is on time and never goes back on his word. The sooner we seek him in the midst of the trials and tribulations, the sooner his joyous blessing appears.

Festive praise instead of despair. The Bible gives numerous verses on praise because praise shakes up the enemy and empowers us to be bigger than our circumstances. I think this is the hardest part of Isaiah 61:3 to understand. Who feels like being festive and giving praise when despair is much more comfortable and wins pity even within ourselves. I can tell you from years of practice, praising when you do feel lead to will work wonders on the soul. This is the part where the Lord wants us to be active in the healing process. He wants us to praise him will help us give praise and thanksgiving when we open ourselves up to doing what it takes to get past the ashes. Praise is showing we know how great our Lord is and how much we believe in his wonder-working power. Despair and praise both require thought, so why not praise? I know you can!

In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory. When we overcome our suffering, we stand tall, not just to the people around us, but also in the eyes of the Lord. Our beauty comes from surviving the ashes in life and emerging with rejoice and full of praise.  Like the great oak tree, we are mighty and respectful and the Lord takes pleasure in seeing His glory in us. It is honorable to be a better and stronger person for having beauty for ashes.

THE VILLAGE PEOPLE

Growing up in a small town and a very close community of families taught me many things about life. As a child, I remember having the same routine for many years and unknowingly felt comfortable because of the routine. No worries would have been my mantra. I could count on dinner on the table by six because Walter Cronkite’s voice on TV meant it was time to eat. I knew when my grandfather shined his shoes, he was going into town the next day and we could watch cartoons, Soul Train and Lawrence Welk because it was Saturday. On Sunday mornings when the God awful organ music on the radio started to play, my grandmother demanded silence as the obituaries were being announced on the radio.  For the longest time things did not change. People around me did not change as well.

As children, my brothers and I enjoyed the pleasures of riding our bikes, creating adventures in the woods, using our imaginations to the fullest and getting into trouble occasionally because we tested adults to see what we could get away with, but usually never did. If we visited a relative or some adult family friends, the fear of God was put into us and the following rules always applied; say yes ma’am and yes sir or no ma’am or no sir, please and thank you. Do not ask for anything and by all means be seen and not heard. Good rules for adults, confining ones for children. Nevertheless, we tried our best of be perfect children when in the presence of adults. When we were not with our parents, the threat of punishment was doubled because any bad conduct did by one of us in the presence of another adult meant twice the reprimand. The adult would correct us and tell on us and in turn our parents would correct us. Usually the first warning was oral i.e., I am telling your mama! The second one was corporal. No need to explain the rest of what happens. Rest assured my brothers and I knew our place in the grown up world. While we knew adults loved us and provided for us, we also knew they were to be respected.

Adults knew their roles in the presence of children as well. I remember sitting in the kitchens of grandmothers, aunties and family friends listening to their stories about random topics like cooking, sewing or the news of the day. They usually labored and conversed at the same time. Preparing a meal or canning vegetables they often gave me a chore to do and I was always glad to do it until I got bigger and the chore as well. They made it a point to explain how things were done. They were very patient, wise and loving. When there was something I was not supposed to hear or know I was sent out of the room. “Go play outside” meant the gossip was getting good. I hated to leave.

The men folk were equally blessed with patience, wisdom and love. They offered advice and a helping hand to us often, but they were more likely to let us learn the hard way. When we did learn the hard way, we paid close attention to our mistakes because grandpas, uncles and family friends weren’t into bailing us out of trouble so much as they were allowing us to learn from our trouble. Tough love with a soft edge.

Adult logic seemed not to make sense to me when I was a child until I became an adult and life experiences warranted some wisdom and understanding I was so thankful I was armed with to help me. I may have acted like I was not listening or I did not care, but back in my head I stored the treasures of conversations, scoldings, and I told you so.

IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO RAISE A CHILD

My network of village people, my parents, my grandparents, my aunties, uncles, cousins, neighbors and family friends all performed their roles to perfection. Leaving a legacy of unconditional love, conventional wisdom and all the tools to survive in this world, they are truly a blessing to me. I hope and  pray I am a blessing to my family and young adults I meet on my path.

You have a responsibility to your village children, whether they are in your own family or youngsters on your path.  Do not be afraid to step up because the fear of not stepping up is even greater! The enemies of innocent youth have had their ways long enough.

1 Timothy4:12- Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. (Please feel free to share this scripture with a young person)