The Biology of Relationship

    Science, for me, has always pointed to the brilliance of the Creator. Biology, in many ways, mirrors how we function and dysfunction in relation to one another. After have a discussion with my mother about relationships, and the more I thought about it, I began to realize that, all I needed to know or learn about the nature and function and purpose of relationships, I learned in biology. Human relationships are quantified or categorized based on status and value of the relationship, what they contribute to your life journey. Nature categorizes organic interactions in very much the same way. Human interaction is called relationship; organic interaction is called symbiosis.

    Symbiosis is classified based on location (internal or external), connection (together or separate), necessity to survival, and consequence (benefit or detriment). If you think about it, we could define human relationships in very much the same ways, although the labels and adjectives would be a little different. Here’s what I have learned about life relationships through the study of science.

    In symbiosis, the three most common scenarios are mutualism (both organisms benefit), commensalism (one organism benefits without doing great harm to the other), and parasitism (one organism benefits to the detriment of the other). These have parallels in the sphere of human relationship, with slightly different labels but the same understanding. The bottom line to all this is that each and every relationship has and serves a purpose. No encounter or experience is wasted once you understand and embrace that truth. Whether it is intentionally mutualistic, or unintentionally parasitic in nature, there will always be a lesson to be learned – about life, about relationships, about oneself. The purpose and goal of life is to learn from and grow through each and every experience, and then share that knowledge and wisdom with others. Every victory, every defeat, every heartache and heartbreak, every disappointment is an opportunity to grow. Remember this: Defeat is not defeat if you learn something. We were created to live in relationship — with our Creator, with ourselves, and with one another. And, when we neglect or deny that innate part of who we created to be, it causes us great pain and the journey of life becomes much harder. Therefore, it is imperative that we engage our relationships and do all we can to learn as much as we can so that we can get the most out of those relationships. So, with that in mind, what follows are the things that I learned in life that symbiosis has helped me better articulate and share the wisdom that I have gleaned so far.

20160427_234644000_iOS

Advertisements

Light Shine Bright

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”

                A year after Freddie Gray’s death, we are still fighting for freedom. We realize that freedom isn’t free. The cost of freedom is high, really high. The pursuit of freedom will cost you everything in the fight to be “free.” And those who fight for freedom in any area understand this. Immigrants understand that freedom costs you the comfort of home. The slaves of the 1800s understood that freedom cost the lives of their loved ones. Jesus understood that freedom cost both his human life and his connection with God the Father, albeit a temporary separation. And, in spite of all this, there are many souls and voices yet crying out for freedom. So why can’t they seem to find it?

I remember visiting the Statue of Liberty as a child with my mother and brother, not really grasping the weight, and significance of such a monument that continues to stand as a symbol of hope for all those who wish to attain “a better life.” When the monument was first built, America was seen as a land of promise and hope for those who wanted to make more of their lives, and leave a better legacy for their children. The same is true for the Gospel, something we have somehow lost sight of. Listen again, and see if you hear it.

[Matthew 11:28-30 ESV] Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

[Isa 61:1 ESV] The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound…

            Can you hear it? Can you see it? We are all familiar with the excerpt from Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus” that is etched on the pedestal on which Lady Liberty stands, but we are not familiar with the poem in its entirety.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

            Lady Liberty is calling out to the outsiders, the outcasts, “the homeless,” those who are searching for a place to call home, to be free. And so is Christ in Matthew 28.

“Give me your tired, your poor…”

“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden…”

“…He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives…”

You see, just as the Statue of Liberty stands as a monument, a symbol of hope to immigrants traveling to a foreign land in search of freedom and a fresh start, the cross stands as another monument and symbol of hope for those traveling this side of eternity in search of freedom and redemption. Etched in the nail prints in His hands and feet are the words of Matthew 11 and Isaiah 61. I can see in my mind’s eye, a tablet at the foot of the cross on Good Friday, leaned against it, with the words written, “Come and find rest for your souls.” While Emma Lazarus, hundreds of years later, penned the words, I hear the voice of Christ echoed in the words: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” The message of the Cross is hope – hope for freedom; hope for healing and forgiveness and a fresh start; hope for transformation; hope for grace and mercy. The Cross is the spiritual Statue of Liberty. And, as we encounter and embrace and accept all the hope that the Cross offers, we, too, become the manifestation of that hope in a world that is dying and in need of that same hope.

[Matthew 5:14-16 ESV] “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and pit under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

            We are called to be the torch carried by the cross. As we seek to mirror the life and ministry of Christ, we allow Him to shine through us and influence the lives around us. And how do we do that? By acting with compassion and love and grace. That same hope that the cross offers, that is the hope that we must offer to those around us. We are called to be the visible manifestation of the invisible God, through our hands and feet and mouths. We are commissioned to be the ambassadors of His grace and mercy, of the redeeming power of His love active and alive in the life of the one who chooses to trust Him with all they have.

“From her beacon-hand glows worldwide welcome.”

            We are Jesus’ spiritual welcome wagon, greeting people in love and inviting them to participate in and embrace the rest that comes with an intimate relationship with the Creator of the universe. The price for freedom has already been paid. There is nothing more that is required of us but to enter that rest in the presence of a Creator so incredibly enamored with us that He took care of the tab for our freedom for the rest of eternity. And yet we fail time and again, because we somehow have been deceived into believing that we are allowed to determine whether or not someone is “worthy” of God’s rest. This is not the way of the Cross, nor is it the message or the purpose of the cross. It is not our place or within our authority to disperse the infinite grace provided by the cross. It is available to all who believe and embrace it. Our place is to love and embrace all, without a second thought to whether or not they are “worthy.” The truth is that none of us is “worthy,” and yet God sent His Son to die and pay the price for our freedom anyway.

Marianne Williamson said it best:

“We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

            Our purpose is to shine in such a way that it draws out the light that is already in others, to be the glow that beacons the world to draw closer, and catch fire. The things that bring us together are the things that are similar in all of us. Each light is unique, and yet it shines brightly and encourages others to embrace the unique light that lives within their hearts and souls. And when we find the light in one another, we find home and freedom that can only come from the Creator, in Whom we are all one.

SHALOM.

Conversations with the Creator

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the magnitude of people and things that you have to pray for? Felt like there were just not enough hours in the day to spend interceding with the Creator for the people and situations that come to mind when you begin your conversation with God? I have. I sat in silence for half of my evening commute, just talking to God about one situation in particular that I have been asking for guidance, because I just feel like I am missing something – a lesson, something that I should be praying for and am not, something that maybe I should be doing for someone. Or simply not praying enough. And, to be honest, I am still puzzled. But I am also still asking.

But, in the midst of my query with a seemingly silent Creator, I thought about all the people who I care for that, if I took the time to, I would be interceding ad infinitum for them. I recently finished reading Mark Batterson’s book, The Circle Maker, and I have learned a lot about prayer, the nature of prayer, the power of prayer, and the reality of prayer. It has alleviated some of my frustration and encouraged me a ton. Many see prayer as a discipline; others view it as a conversation. The truth is, it is both. Prayer is the practice of engaging in a continuous conversation with the Creator. As Tony Evans describes it, prayer is our way of inviting God into history, giving Him full access and entry to influence history in and through us. The most important and encouraging thing that I have learned about prayer is that our prayers never die. Prayers don’t have an expiration date. So, while it matters to some degree that we pray in the moment that God brings someone or something to our mind, it is also important to remember that, because prayers don’t expire, every time you pray specifically, those prayers accumulate. Think of it as putting money in the bank. Every prayer you breathe in conversation with the Creator is an investment in the lives of the people you pray for. And God honors persistence! But, remember to always check your motives. You can pray all day long for something and it not come to pass because you weren’t praying with the right motivation.

[James 4:3 NLT] And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong–you want only what will give you pleasure.

            The other thing that I learned about prayer is that, even when I am at a loss for words, the Holy Spirit is right there with me, interpreting and interceding for me.

Romans 8:26-28 (The Message) Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked out into something good.

            I love the way the Message interprets that passage. It paints such an amazing picture of how the Holy Spirit “carries the conversation,” so to speak, when we run out of things to say to God, or we really can’t find the words to articulate what we are feeling in the moment. But that is the way He helps us. And because, “He knows us better than we know ourselves,” we can be sure that He can understand the burdens of our hearts and souls. So, what is the bottom line here?

I don’t want prayer to seem like this “pie in the sky” effort from us to God to try to get His attention. We already have His attention because we are His beloved children, and He is sitting, waiting expectantly for us to reach out to Him, to communicate transparently about the things that He knows are on our hearts. Jesus died on the cross in order for us to have a direct line of communication to God the Father. And then He included a Helper for when we are experiencing challenges communicating. I find that to be very comforting.

So, let the conversation begin. It doesn’t have to be eloquent or perfect or elaborate.it just needs to be honest and come from a pure heart, a heart that desires the right things. I promise you this – the more you talk to Him, the easier it gets, and the more you will come to know the sound of His voice. It won’t matter where you are or what you are doing. You will know when He is speaking to you, because the lines of communication will already be open and flowing. You should even expect a response! That’s the way a conversation works. And, eventually, it will become an ongoing conversation, and you will look forward to His response. Just try it and see.

[Psalm 34:8 ESV] Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Anticipating the Future

            Anticipate the future by embracing the lessons of the past while choosing to fully participate in the present. Both the past and the present are tools to prepare you for the future, for your calling, for your destiny. No one knows what the future holds but the Creator of all things. But life is about the journey. The word journey can be used as a verb or a noun. As a verb, “to journey” means “to travel over or through.” As a noun, “journey” is “travel or passage from one place to another.” Or, in the journey of life, from one season to another. How you digest and respond to each stage of life frames the journey, writes your story.

            The future is made of dreams, visionaries, and legacies, or rather, legacy-minded people. Dreams are the seeds of legacies. But they will only grow if there are visionaries who will fight for those dreams, and work to help them grow and mature into legacies that can be left for the next generation. A dream without work is simply an idea. A dream is defined as “a strongly desired goal or purpose.” There is an anonymous quote that says, “If you can’t stop thinking about it, don’t stop working for it.” Everyone has a dream, because everyone was created and born with a purpose in mind. So, if there are things that you dream about, projects that you keep thinking about, don’t ignore them. They are tied to your purpose, and you have been blessed with a unique set of gifts and talents that make you well-suited to bring those dreams to fruition. Visionaries are people who have clear ideas about what should happen or be done in the future. They are the ones who know definitively that their dreams are no coincidence; they are the manifestation of their purpose and passion. Visionaries are people of action. They write the blueprint, and then they get to work on making those blueprints reality. But visionaries are also people of faith. Often those dreams are so much bigger than one person, and it requires a certain measure of faith in order for those things to come to fruition. Mark Batterson, author of “The Circle Maker,” makes this statement over and over in his book: “Work like it depends on you. Pray like it depends on God.” Big visions and big dreams require faith to provide the increase. But it doesn’t mean that you don’t work hard for those visions and dreams while asking God to open doors and opportunities for you to keep moving forward.

Don’t just sit back and watch your present become your past, and your future become your present. You must decide to become an active participant in how all that plays out. That’s what visionaries do. They learn from their past as they actively engage the present moment, with all the hope and anticipation of influencing the future. They don’t wait for life to happen to them. They partner with the Creator and plan to affect the future in a deep and tangible way. Visionaries see the possibilities of the future, and do all they can to make their dreams and visions a reality. Anticipating the future requires gleaning as much wisdom as you can from the past, while finding joy in the present moment, and then allowing that wisdom and joy to produce an undeniable hope that the future ahead is pregnant with promise.

 20150909_205220000_iOS

Self Affirmation

                I am strong. I am powerful. I am enough. I am resilient. I have survived many storms, and learned many lessons. I have been broken, even shattered. But I made it through, and I am better because of it. I am smarter, wiser, deeper, and clearer because of the pain and struggles I have endured. I am a lotus flower, and I am learning every day how to be at ease in muddy waters. One day I will be able to immerse myself in obstacles and emerge anew, untouched, unbothered, and wiser for the experience. That is the goal, to maintain an inner peace that is rooted in the knowledge of who I am in Christ and that Jesus has already won the victory. My job is to simply walk in obedience.

SELAH

daughter of the kng

Participate in the Present

“Be present.”

“Live in the moment.”

“Never miss an opportunity.”

“You only live once.”

                We are constantly reminded, chided, scolded even, not to waste the present moment. While it is good, wise even, to consider the future, to be cognizant of how our actions and decisions affect the future, it is also important to experience the fullness of the present moment. But what does that mean? Consider the purity of the following encounters: the laughter of a child, a live concert, a conversation with a good friend over coffee, having family dinner, a picnic in the park, sitting in the arms of a loved one. So simple, and yet so beautiful and full of life.

We exist as a part of a beautiful tapestry that is God’s creation. Surrounded by God’s divine brushstrokes in nature and each person that we meet on a daily basis, it is still easy to miss those moments that make life beautiful. Watching a child’s first steps, or your dear friend get married, or sitting on a couch with someone you love, these are the moments in which we ought to do our best to truly be present. Have you ever noticed how some of your best memories are those moments when you stopped to take it all in? Those moments are sacred, and to be savored for all the joy and meaning they hold. Being present is about being thankful, taking note of each and every blessing you are given in that moment, and not taking them for granted.

The purpose of life is to be lived. Not to waste time stuck in the past, or worried about the future (which you can only affect by what you choose to do in the present). Worry is the number one way we waste the present, usually worrying about things we have absolutely no control over. As women, we worry a lot. We worry about our loved ones. We worry about getting things done and needs being met. We worry about our appearance and, sadly, many even worry what others think of us. But, as women of faith, we are commanded not to worry because we are covered the Divine Presence of a Father who already knows what we need and what concerns us the most.

[Luke 12:29-31 ESV] And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.  Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

[Mat 6:27 NLT] Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

 John Lennon said in one of his songs, “Life is what happens when you are making plans.” Or, in today’s culture, while you are checking your email, talking on the phone, checking social media, and all the other things that clamor for our attention, distract us from living in the present moment. Don’t miss the seemingly small but precious moments in life that could be the best memories, the defining moments, of your journey because you are too preoccupied or distracted. That moment may never come around again. Think for a moment and consider all the moments that you have missed because of one thing or another. You overthought it. You were distracted by something that wasn’t really important in that moment. You were afraid of the unknown. The reality is, you don’t know if you will even see tomorrow. We were created with an eternal mindset, but that doesn’t mean that we are to miss the lessons and blessings that come with every new day God gives us. So, make some time today, this week, this month, this year. Make it a part of your mission to make the most of each and every new day that you are blessed to see. Take time to engage each and every moment you are given. Cherish them, and allow them to become a part of the tapestry that will become the story of your life.

Healing for My Soul

This blog was re-purposed almost four months ago when I genuinely felt God leading me to speak to women in a way that would encourage and empower them to live life to the fullest and embrace what it means to be a woman, to be a daughter of the King, and to be sisters who uplift one another, rather than tearing each other down, only to continue to feel bad about themselves. Thus, Loving H.E.R. was born. In the next few posts, I want to share from my heart and from the heart of our Creator what He wants for us, as I dig into expanding the meaning behind the title. I hope and pray that you take something away from here that will help you grow, and hopefully be the beginning of a new beginning for whomever needs that in their life journey. Today we talk about Healing from the Past

Healing is a process with which we are all familiar. But it is something that is often hard to achieve, because either we run from it or we deny that it needs to happen. The human body is a wonder in that it is designed with certain “tools” that work to promote the healing process. The ability to grow new skin cells after a child scrapes their knee, the rush of white blood cells to an area to prevent infection and disease, and a host of other things that happen when we are injured or sick that work to help us recover and restore us to health. To heal is “to make healthy, whole, or sound, or to restore to health.” In other words, the purpose of healing is restoration, and restoration is exactly what many of us need but can’t really obtain for one reason or another.

Many of us are walking around with wounds that have not been healed, whether we want to admit it or not. Broken hearts, broken relationships, disappointments, failures are all sources of wounds that we carry around with us in our “baggage” every day. But, in order to grow and continue to move forward, we need to obtain healing from the things in our past that are holding us back from enjoying and embracing the beauty of the present, while robbing us of joyous anticipation for the future. It is only when we engage in the healing process and are intentionally reaching for wholeness within ourselves, that we are able to put each and every experience in its proper perspective and glean the wisdom that we are able to utilize to fulfill our divine purpose. All your experiences have the potential to provide the motivation for your life’s purpose, but only if you have taken the time to learn from them and are willing to be honest with others about what you have learned. Nothing is worse than a wasted life experience that holds you hostage instead of empowering you to live your best life and be the best possible version of the person God has created you to be.  So, how do we achieve the healing needed in order to be free to move forward and embrace the next step?

The first step in the healing process, and the most important step, is acknowledging that there is a wound that needs to be healed. Dr. Phil always says to his guests, “You cannot change what you don’t acknowledge.” I’m no big Dr. Phil fan, but the statement rings all too true. You cannot achieve healing when you don’t admit that there is something that needs to be healed. Many of us have been suckered into believing that admitting that you have been hurt is a sign of weakness. The reality is that you cannot move on from an experience if you ignore it, or deny that it happened. And, what’s worse is that, the more you try to ignore it, the more discomfort it will cause you. Just like an infection of the body that worsens without treatment, an area that is causing you pain will only become more and more painful when you choose to disregard it. It will oftentimes become toxic, clouding your emotions and impairing your ability to be impartial when dealing with the experiences of others. in short, you will not be in a position to help others when you haven’t dealt with your own baggage. But the only way to begin to deal with your baggage is to first admit that you have a full set of Samsonite following you around in life. This is why having a trusted confidante is so important. Find someone who loves you enough to tell you when you are being irrational and a little crazy, but at the same time, possesses the compassion necessary to listen and encourage and walk with you through the process of healing. The healing process is often a hard thing to do on your own, and it’s not really something that you are supposed to do alone. Healing requires support and unconditional love that helps you learn and grow. So, don’t just admit to yourself that you need to heal from an experience. Find someone who can walk with you through the process and help you to stay positive as you work through it.

The second step in the healing process is forgiveness. This is equally as important as the first, but definitely the hardest part of the entire process. Someone once defined forgiveness as accepting the consequences of another person’s actions. Another way of defining forgiveness is accepting the apology that you will never get. The truth is that, for many, the idea of allowing someone to “get away” with the damage that they caused us seems incredibly unfair. However, the other side of that is that you will continue to walk through life with a chip on your shoulder over someone who is living their life without a second thought to whatever situation has you held hostage emotionally. The underlying purpose of forgiveness is to free you to live your life unencumbered and unhindered. For some, the person who needs to most forgiveness is yourself. We are often our own worst critics. I know that to definitely be true for me. But the thing that I am still learning and practicing is to remember that I am fallible and I am going to make mistakes, and that’s okay, as long as I learn from them and try not to repeat the same mistake over and over again. Compassion for oneself is the biggest part of forgiving yourself. Understand one important thing about forgiveness: It is a process and a choice. Forgiveness, just like healing, doesn’t happen overnight. It is something that requires you waking up daily and deciding that you are going to forgive, whether it is yourself, or someone else, or a situation in general. And you have to be intentional about it, because forgiveness doesn’t come naturally in the human nature, such as it is. Note that forgiveness does not require you to grant re-entrance into your life by the recipient of your forgiveness, including an old personal habit that caused you repeated pain and personal unrest. You wouldn’t allow someone outside of you to continue to do you harm, so why allow your internal self to do the same? That’s why the healing process is so important. It helps you identify damaging and destructive patterns in your own behavior that keeps you from the growth that you desire, along with discovering external behaviors that you repeatedly accept that are not necessarily in your best interest. Forgiveness is for you more than it is for the recipient of your forgiveness. Give yourself the opportunity to be free and live free of the burden of holding on to things that are only causing you more pain and turning you bitter in the process. Bitterness is not healthy, and it is much harder to dig up the roots of bitterness than it is to make a definitive decision to forgive and move on with your life. The upside of forgiveness is that, the more you practice forgiveness, the easier it becomes to do so.

The last step in the healing process is the letting go. Once you have acknowledged that there is some area in your life that needs healing, and you have gone through the process of working through it and forgiving whomever needs to be forgiven, it’s time to let it go. Women have a nasty habit of holding a grudge. I am just going to speak clear truth here. Men are much better about letting things go than us ladies. I will never understand what purpose there is in keeping a Rolodex of the wrongs that have been committed against you in life. It’s a fruitless effort. Instead of enjoying your life and all the things that God has blessed you with, you are sitting in a corner, sour and lonely and bitter because you just can’t seem to let go. Enough is enough! Here’s a little tough love for you: Do the hard work and LET IT GO. There is nothing worse than doing all the work of learning what needs to be learned and going through the process of forgiveness, only to file it away for a later date. That is clear proof that your work is not done and that you need to go back through the first two steps and stay there until you are fully able to let go and not look back. Period. I promise that, once you have really done the work, you will be happy to let it go. A sign that you have not done all the work that needs to be done is a clear inability to release that person or situation completely and move with your life. You want that wound to heal and become a scar. Scars don’t hurt anymore; they are monuments to the growth that you have achieved in life on your journey. As my mom says, if it still hurts, it’s still a wound. Scars are not something to be ashamed of, because they are reminders that you grew as a result of the experiences that you have been through. The result of a completed healing process is a scar. Might be a big one or a small one, but still a scar. In the journey of life, you are going to encounter pain and be wounded. But nothing is more satisfying than the moment you discover that your wound is a scar, and the pain that you once felt has resolved, allowing you to move forward and move on with your journey.  Don’t let those wounds fester and become infected and turn you bitter. Don’t let those wounds rob you of your joy and your peace. Don’t let your wounds be what holds you back from enjoying the present and all the beauty it can bring into your life. Don’t let your wounds hold you hostage in the past and keep you from really living in the moment. Don’t allow your wounds to keep you trapped in death, instead of embracing life. Don’t let your wounds have you walking around like the living dead. Let it go. Do all you can to heal from your past and then let it go. Leave the past in the past, and learn to live in the present. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself, for your loved ones, and for all the people you will encounter in your lifetime, however long or short it may be. Life is short; don’t waste it being a prisoner of the past. Healing is waiting for you.