Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

     Last September my mother passed away. She was our queen and we literally placed a crown on her head as she lay in her casket. She meant the world to us, and we sent her “home” in grand style with a celebration fit for royalty. Mama was the glue that kept the family together. Not only did she model grace and beauty, she also taught us the power of prayer. We rarely prayed together as a family, but I often heard her pray for so many people when I happened to pass her room any time of the day. I remember my pastor say that God had called her to build something through prayer. I never quite knew what that meant, but I imagined He had given her a great assignment which affected many lives.

As I think about her today, an old hymn is playing in my head:  “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” sung by numerous individuals like Randy Travis, Aaron Neville and Johnny Cash, as well as groups like the Staple Singers and Dolly Parton and Friends. I’m not sure what all of these fine singers had in mind, but an earlier version by the Carter family describes an intimate picture of a hearse coming to take the singers’ mother away to a gravesite. One of the singers is deeply affected by the loss of his mother. Knowing she is with the Lord gives him great comfort and challenges the family members to pursue a relationship with the Lord in hopes of seeing her again.

When I think of this song, I think of the power of a legacy of prayer. Is there anyone willing to pick up the mantle of prayer and fight for their family members? When the prophet Nehemiah, cup bearer to the king of Persia, was allowed to return to Jerusalem and oversee the rebuilding of the wall around the city, he understood the importance of strategically placing armed guards behind the lowest parts of the wall in the exposed areas. He said, “I stationed the people to stand guard by families, armed with swords, spears, and bows. Then as I looked over the situation, I called together the nobles and the rest of the people and said to them, “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes ( Neh. 4:13 – 14, NLT}.”

My mother understood her call. She was anointed and appointed to pick up the mantle given to my grandmother, another praying woman. And as my four children and their spouses, and I, led by my son-n-law, call our family’s prayer line on Thursday evenings, I rejoice that the legacy of prayer continues. We have experienced God’s faithfulness manifested through restored relationships, sustained health of my husband and other physical healings, job transfers, and a host of other answered prayers.

Will the circle be unbroken? Yes, Lord, by your grace through faith in the only True and Living God! The circle will not be broken!

 

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Why I Left My Sorority

    A few weeks ago, I entered a time of fasting and was quite taken by surprise when God showed me something I needed to surrender to him. I hadn’t given much thought to this area until last year when I was invited back to my college to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the founding of my local chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. You see, I was one of the ten charter members and my name was “written in stone” for subsequent pledgees to memorize and revere.

I was honored when I got a call from a sister regarding the upcoming celebration. She informed me that the chapter wanted to find members of the charter line and that we would be honored at the event. It just so happened that I would be visiting my family in Maryland at the time. I would be a few miles from the event location. I was thrilled! The anniversary was more than expected. I felt like the queen of the ball, as I was the only charter member there that day. As I sat at the head table and took pictures with so many smiling ladies, I thought, “This is great! I’m so proud to be a part of this wonderful sorority. What could top this day?” I left with several gifts and warm memories.

A few months later I looked at the commemorative items on my dresser and smiled. “Wow! That was a celebration I’ll never forget.” About nine months later I felt God nudging me to start a fast, a time of drawing closer to Him and seeking His will for my life. I decided to spend less time watching TV and being on social media. I chose to get in the word and to watch teachings on YouTube for support. One day I listened to a young lady who talked about why she walked away from Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. Her testimony profoundly affected me. She had my attention. I had teased a couple of church members about their sorority from time to time, and they had joked with me as well. We often ribbed one another about whose sorority was the best and who had made a mistake in choosing her sorority. But this was different. God had my attention. I was captivated and I knew I was entering into a time of research and decision-making.

One of the most noticeable concerns for me were the first and second commandments: 

  1. “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
  2. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image (idol). You shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

I was convicted. I had never looked at my sorority as a god before, but as I desired to walk closer with My God, I knew He was bringing DST to my attention. I was serving another god, and that was a serious problem. Some might say, “It’s not that serious. It’s only a sisterhood. Come on.” But I took a closer look. The young lady I listened to pointed out the symbol on the sorority hat and I looked at my hat on my dresser. The symbol was the Roman goddess Minerva. I googled the history and discovered she was supposedly the goddess of wisdom, war, art, schools, and commerce. It was said that she was in charge of so many things that she was thought to be “the goddess of a thousand works.” She was said to be influenced by the Greek goddess Athena. These false gods were highly revered by ancient peoples. Minerva was celebrated (worshiped) in a variety of festivals in ancient Rome. Although I did not intentionally worship this false goddess, she would no longer have a place of honor in my life. I wanted my family to be blessed, not cursed by my serving a false goddess. 

Another troublesome issue pointed out was that one of the past presidents of DST edited 1Corinthians 13 to bring prominence to DST, substituting the organizational name for God in the love chapter. For example, the fourth verse goes like this: “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up. The edited version reads, “DST suffers long and is kind; DST does not envy; DST does not parade itself, is not puffed up.” As a born-again Christian, I could no longer align my self with an organization which took liberty to change the holy scriptures for its benefit.

As a result of my newfound revelations, the next thing I did was clean house. Any paraphernalia related to DST had to go: pictures, hat, elephants, or other things representing the sorority. I also contacted my local chapter and asked that my name not be used in any ceremonial events or secret rituals. Deuteronomy 20:29, says “The secret things belong to the Lord our God….” My next step is to contact the national council to publicly renounce my association with the organization.

My heart’s desire is to walk with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in close fellowship or intimacy. That involves dying to myself daily, surrendering anything which stands between me and Him. This is my chosen journey, with God’s help.  I, in no way, wish to condemn anyone who desires to participate in any Greek organizations. Joshua 24: 15 reads, “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

I am a work in process, and so are you. We are all on a journey. God’s not finished with any of us yet. May our goal be to behold Him and pursue Him. May our heart’s desire be to serve Him, and Him alone, all the days of our lives and to bring glory to His Name forevermore! Come, Lord Jesus!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have You Ever Eaten a Maggot?

 

Does anybody remember the show Fear Factor, a reality contest on TV about ten years ago? The worst part about the show was seeing people eat the worst things imaginable–spiders, roaches, crickets, maggots, etc. And all for the chance to win $50,000.00. The truth of the matter is our enemy, the devil, is a master of deception. His tactics are subtle and we must be vigilant if we are to avoid falling for his FEAR FACTORS.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve looked at the qualities of a leader in the Book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah’s mission was to rebuild the ruined walls of Jerusalem. In chapter six, Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem and the rest of his enemies devised another plot to throw Nehemiah off target. Four times they sent a false prophet to intimidate him. Nehemiah refused the bait. Then he was FALSELY ACCUSED of setting himself up as king. Once again, Nehemiah recognized the enemy’s primary tool–FEAR!

You’d think the enemy would quit. Not so! When that didn’t work, the band of naysayers PLANTED AN INFORMER in Nehemiah’s camp. That person told Nehemiah that his enemies were planning to kill him that night and that he should hide in the temple. Now how can a leader accomplish a task if he or she is hiding? Once again, Nehemiah recognized the FEAR FACTOR. He called on God to help him and prayed about his enemies.

Are you facing a tremendous trial? Sickness, unpaid bills, unemployment, bankruptcy, death of loved ones, separation or divorce, or other difficulties? Has the enemy been playing FEAR FACTOR with you? Are you entertaining thoughts like these? Why me? Why now? You’ll never get through this. God doesn’t love you. Why are you wasting your time? Sound familiar? Believe me, I’ve heard them all, and entertained a few.

What can you do when these FLIES are buzzing about your head? RUN TO GOD’S WORD! FAST! FIND A VERSE OR TWO TO HOLD ONTO WITH ALL GOD’S STRENGTH!

We used to sing a line like this: “Whose report shall you believe? We shall believe the report of the Lord.”

MEMORY VERSE: Philippians 4:13- “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Then picture yourself in His arms strengthening you, pouring His love into you, and lifting you up on your feet, with Him in you and behind you. Then thank Him for the victory (every day, every hour, every minute). Sing His Word over yourself!

I’M PRACTICING. Won’t you join me? For Week Eleven, read chapter 7 and use the GROW METHOD (G- God 1st, pray; R- Read; O-Observe key words; W-Write your thoughts) to answer these questions:

1. What appointments did Nehemiah make after the wall was built?

2. What do you think was the purpose of registering the people by genealogy?

Blessings to all! As Always,

Patricia

 

 

Are Your Stakes Being Removed?

I recently picked up a copy of HGTV magazine and read a column entitled “How Bad Is It?” For those unfamiliar with this magazine, the letters stand for Home and Garden Television magazine. A reader asked if it was bad to put stakes around a newly planted tree. The expert, Felicia Feaster, gave an immediate response: “Don’t spring for the extra support. Trees grow best when they can move naturally against the wind.” The bottom line was that a “tethered” or supported tree doesn’t allow the tree to develop a strong root system. The expert further suggested that, if used, stakes should be flexible and short-term, not used “more than a few months.”

I thought about that article and had to admit I don’t like it when God removes my stakes. It’s often uncomfortable, painful and frightening. Some of those stakes might include jobs, health, family, friends, church, reputation, and the like. Nobody wants to admit he or she is depending upon those things like a comfort blanket. Not until we find ourselves hanging by our fingertips do we realize just how much we’ve been holding onto these stakes when we should be holding onto God. While we’re busy pointing out the defects in our sisters’ and brothers’ trunks, branches and leaves, we forget God is pruning us as well.

Have you been experiencing the discomfort of pruning or having your stakes removed, remember God is preparing us for our next season. We can’t go to our next carrying excess baggage. He loves us too much for that. A friend recently told that airport personnel had told informed her that her luggage was five pounds over the maximum fifty pounds. She would have to pay $100.00 for the extra five pounds. She immediately pulled out enough to meet the requirement. God does not want us to suffer the consequences of being over our weight limit. The cost may be more than we’re willing to bear.

John 15:8 declares, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”

Pray with me: Father, help us to live with our hands open, trusting that you know what’s best because you are all-knowing, merciful and loving. We submit to your pruning and trust ourselves to your process of removing the stakes so that we can be strong and fruitful in our next season. Thank you for your faithfulness. Amen.

     Have you recently experienced any stakes being removed? How has God supported you in the process? Your example may be an encouragement to others. I would love to hear from some of you who regularly read my blog or those who may have “stumbled upon” this entry for the first time.

 

Giving Thanks for Family

I am grateful for the gift of family! And I’m thankful that in the midst of pain and joy my family has been there for one another this month. Here are the moments I’m celebrating:

1. Having the opportunity to celebrate my birthday at the Greater Philadelphia Writers Conference.

2. Having my brother Buck and best friend and sister-in-law, Varle, at my house on her birthday and worshipping with them at New Mercies yesterday!

3. Celebrating the birthday of another friend and sister-in-law in Florida and looking forward to her writing! Yah!

4.  Thanking God for His faithfulness as I remember my brother’s birthday.

5. Thanking God for His grace and mercy as my extended family drew together to lay an older cousin and her daughter to rest  in a double funeral and celebrating their glorious entrance into heaven! A couple actually got saved at their funeral! To God be the glory!

6. Celebrating the wedding of our oldest son Duane and his lovely bride Maria and rejoicing in a new beginning for them! I just realized I gained four more grandchildren through the union! Wow!

7. Thanking God as I anticipate the birthday of our oldest daughter Andrea and celebrating her new beginning on a new job!

8. Also worshipping with my daughter Christine, son-in-law, Dameion and the boys at New Mercies yesterday.

For these things, Father, I’m grateful and it’s only August 18th. In the good times, praise His name. In the bad times do the same. In everything, give the King of Kings all the thanks!

Writing about Your Life: Keeping It Real

The Marvelettes in a 1964 promotional photo: (...

The Marvelettes in a 1964 promotional photo: (clockwise from left) Gladys Horton, Katherine Anderson, Georgeanna Tillman, and Wanda Young. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What was the most popular all-girl vocal group ever to perform for Motown Records?  Most of you will probably say The Supremes. If you use record sales as a gauge, you’re probably right.  However, for those of us who were around a little earlier, we cannot forget The Marvelettes, a group of who had their first hit in 1961, followed by a string of memorable hits.  I remember songs like Please Mr. Postman, Beechwood 4-57-89, and Don’t Mess with Bill, to name a few.

     A few days ago, I watched the story of the Marvelettes on Unsung, a weekly TV series showcasing musical talent who never got the full recognition they deserved when they performed.  One of the major reasons was because there were no shows like American Bandstand or Soul Train to bring them into our homes.  In fact, I also learned through Unsung that black faces were not allowed on album covers during the time The Marvelettes sang.

While I admired the talents of these soulful sisters, I had no idea that they had so many personal struggles along the way. The group began with five singers, then four, the three, then to two, and finally to one, who tried to carry on the legacy when their season was over. An early lead singer had to leave the group when the demands of road life, coupled with sickle-cell anemia and lupus threatened her life. Another lead singer became a drug addict and could not fulfill many of her engagements.  When the group finally disbanded, copycat groups tried to capitalize off their notoriety.  In fact, the remaining true singer was sued for trying to use her own trade name. What a story!

You might ask, “What does their story have to do with writing about my life?”  The answer is everything! When you tell your story, it would be very easy to leave out certain events that aren’t easy to talk about. But that would not be your true story. If you’re writing about one key event in your life and you decide to omit a difficult part of that event, your story will not be complete. If you’re writing about a sequence of events over a longer period of time and you purposely leave out a significant part of your story, your memoir is incomplete.  Often the events which you’d rather not disclose are those which touch the issues of readers.

When I discovered the  painful past of the members of one of my all-time favorite singing groups, I gained a new appreciation for them. I understood that success has an underlying story. And that story is not complete until the rug is turned over. That’s when we can see and appreciate all the knots and frayed edges which make up a priceless  heirloom. If you’ve ventured out into deep water in your writing, fear will come from time to time. That’s inevitable. Just remember that God will not take you somewhere He cannot sustain you.

Spending time in prayer while writing your story will take you to new places in Him! And isn’t that a wonderful fringe benefit! Keep going! You’re almost there!

Writing about Your Life: Another Way to Skin a Cat

journal keeper

journal keeper (Photo credit: normanack)

In 1972, after our third and last child was born, we moved from a small frame house in Washington, D.C., into a gigantic frame house farther toward the edge of town. It was the house of my dreams, with seven bedrooms… , a cozy kitchen, and a front window that looked out onto a 1950’s-era neighborhood full of big trees and little children sucking popsicles as they whizzed down the street on their bicycles. As I stood in the front hall and mentally plugged in the Christmas tree, I knew I could spend the rest of my life there. What I didn’t know was that “the rest of my life” was about to end.

     When I picked up Phyllis Theroux’s memoir, The Journal Keeper, I was hooked! I wanted to know more about that seven bedroom house of her dreams. I wanted to look out that front window and peer down that tree-lined street and see little kids slurping popsicles while riding their bikes. Although I never enjoyed riding a bicycle, for a moment I sat on the seat and whizzed down the street with the other kids. I was caught up in the moment and wanted more.

      I experienced Phyllis’ desire to stay in that moment forever. And then it happened…The writer threw a curve ball. She wrote one sentence which utterly changed the mood. Something unexpected happened and I wanted to know the details. What could happen in my warm, cozy house? Yes, by this time, her house had become mine. I had to find out what happened to disappoint the writer.  And so I read on, my appetite now awakened.

     Describing a scene which pulls the reader into her story, then shifting the mood through a contrasting statement is one of the magical techniques Phyllis Theroux uses at the beginning of her memoir. I was absolutely hooked and couldn’t wait to follow her journey. And I was not disappointed. Theroux shares her innermost feelings in her memoir, which contains glimpses into her day-to-day life. It is set up like a journal, with events capturing the writer’s attention on a particular day. For those of you who have faithfully kept journal entries over the years and were afraid you didn’t have the skills to transpose them into a long narrative, this memoir serves as an alternative model.

     I’m learning that “there’s more than one way to skin a cat!” Yeah, I know that’s a pretty overworked expression, but in some cases, it’s the best way to describe options. So if you were thinking that writing a book about your life was outside your comfort zone, then stay inside. The fire is lit just for you! The best way to learn a craft, as I mentioned before, is to read what others have written. It’s your time to share what God has done for you! Somebody needs to hear your story.