'Be anxious for nothing..." ~Philippians 4:6

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

BACKS AND BOOS


Someone had a bright idea
To which they said, “Get outta here!”
Why do some seem to still believe
The best is not what the young need?
What was the payoff for the choice

To have a condescending voice?
Who pocketed the tainted cash
But didn’t think there’d be backlash?
And why expect consent and peace
Ignoring what they all believe,
Then threaten them for being bold;
Refusing to do what they’re told
Refusing to be put upon
As a paid voice droned on and on?


This generation isn’t us
We weren’t allowed to make a fuss
We had to be good and polite
And keep our true thoughts out of sight
Just sit in silence, bow and smile;
Force ire and shame to reconcile
Not making waves was one more way
To make sure we would all be safe
By day-- sing, tap dance, shuffle, kneel
By night-- scream how we really feel
The years of words I could not say
Caused my pride for that class today


These days, the young ones use their minds
They challenge power all the time
Especially when power’s weak
And can’t abide the truth they speak
They can’t be bought; their eyes do see
When elders lack integrity
Think you’ll fool them, if you choose
All you’ll get are backs and boos.


Backs and boos
Backs and boos
The response to a cunning ruse
The answer to a shady deal
A sure way to know how they feel
Go, try to con them if you choose
All you’ll get are backs and boos
 

I imagine the Bethune- Cookman class of 2017 was taught to be critical, independent thinkers; taught to be aware of what was happening on the national and world stage; taught to be aware of, speak, and stand up for their rights while never forgetting the responsibilities that accompany them. Their school is named after a woman who fought injustice, racism, and bigotry. To minimize their years of effort, taint the day, threaten them, and expect them to be quiet, happy, impressed, and polite by blatant insensitivity and poor judgment was a reminder of the days when we were made to feel we had to be the "good ones"; the "acceptable ones"; the "civilized ones". "Don't embarrass your people."

Was no one else available who the students could respect and emulate? Were their choices of commencement speakers not available? Were they even asked who they'd like to hear today? Was there not a beloved professor who could have sufficed? Did no one hear their protests, or did they simply not care? 

One lesson was learned today. Don't expect others to put up with, or fail to call out the BS that your agenda, fear, or lack of integrity forces you to tolerate.

People who demand consent in spite of their questionable actions have no other option than to throw their weight around when those they feel are powerless, refuse to capitulate. 

The Bethune-Cookman class of 2017 was not playing along with the photo-op. I'm sure she's a lovely person, but who...what clueless person thought that having the questionably chosen education secretary speak was a good idea? "Respect the office", you say? Shouldn't the aim be to respect the individual holding the office, and laud their qualifications? Did they not watch and listen to the hearings? Have they not read a newspaper? Did they not see "Saturday Night Live"? Surely, there was a payoff or some political motive, but why use the students' big day to do it, and then criticize and threaten them for protesting? 
There are times when being nice won't do. Looks like today's young people aren't as inclined to sing, dance, grin, shuffle and pick the cotton as some of their elders are--and don't mind at all if the US Postal Service ( that's considering, once again, to increase the cost of stamps) delivers their diplomas.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

#DEW REFRESHMENT CALL: APPETITE


"Appetite" refers to an instinctive physical desire, especially one for food or drink; Appetite can also refer to a strong wish, urge, or demand.

In 2015, I became a full-time caregiver, after having done so periodically since 2005. 
I remember when I used to feel anxious about preparing meals. You usually have an idea of what you have a strong wish or taste for. You know what you like. However, when it comes to the demands of someone else, things can get tricky, especially when health challenges come into play. Unless you're a server in a restaurant, you don't always have a seemingly unending list of choices to offer that ensures that a diner is satisfied. 
For a while, it seemed like every meal was met with a mixture of disinterest, surprise, disdain, and sarcasm. That can be infuriating and discouraging if you're not careful to remember the reality of your situation, as well as the condition and temperament of the person you're dealing with. Imagine every time you present someone with a plate, you hear an icy:

“Oh. I have some food?”
“What is this? Am I on a diet?”
“Ooh, Lord! That’s a whole lotta stuff on this plate!”
“Wait a minute! What time is it? It's not time to eat yet! We need to work out a schedule!"
"What happened to what I had yesterday?"
“I don’t want that! What else you got?” 
Some encounters could really hurt your feelings-- or make you question your culinary skills--if you didn’t know better! There you are presenting something you thought would be pleasing, appropriate, and satisfying, but the recipient was either unimpressed, in a bad mood, or didn't have an appetite at all.

When the meal was over, I’d always ask, “Did you have enough?” There would always be a “That was good, but...”. I could expect a jab about what I should do “next time” and that would knock the wind out of any previous or subsequent “Thank you”. He’d mutter, “Yeah. I had enough.”   
It would be obvious to me. In spite of his snarky comments or objections, I’d always go back and retrieve dishes that had been picked clean!
As I’d pick up the dishes, and head to the doorway, I’d hear, “That would have been perfect if you had just…”
It wasn't long before I stopped sticking around for the finish. By the time he would get to “just” I would be halfway to the kitchen with the dirty dishes. Sometimes, when you know you’re doing your best, your appetite for digs, criticism, ingratitude, impolite behavior, rudeness, and sarcasm will run out. As a caregiver, you have to encourage yourself, nourish yourself, and most of all, feed your own soul with a dose of what God says about you.

Most times, these days, I get a proper "Thank you" --without embellishment.

Every day, I wake up wondering what I'm going to prepare. "It's good to know how to cook. You might not always feel like eating a sandwich”, my late mother would say. As my dad’s appetite began to fluctuate, change, and sometimes, be non-existent, I felt like I’d run out of ideas. I’d stand in front of the open cabinet and refrigerator wondering what he wouldn’t refuse. Many times he seemed annoyed and acted as if I'd asked an extremely hard question when I'd ask, "Are you hungry?". I learned not to take it personally. Something was happening with his appetite and aging and illness were the culprits. I found that if I rattled off what was available, he’d eventually choose something. Sometimes, he’d say he didn’t want anything at all. I knew that he may not have wanted anything, but he needed something. I knew to always have something nourishing available.

It’s hard trying to make an adult do anything he or she doesn’t want to do, but the way you go about a task, your attitude, and your words can motivate even the most stubborn, critical or indecisive person.

Breakfast was never a big issue, and although he’d say he wasn’t hungry and only wanted coffee, he’d respond to a plate of food as if he’d been on a 40-day fast. He’d abruptly abandoned his beloved Raisin Bran, and I was glad because he turned his attention to my favorite, Special K. He said it was softer. Cereal and fruit were perfect, but one day I was perplexed when I heard him tell someone, “All I had was some cereal”. The caller was proudly telling him what they had eaten. Suddenly, what he had requested for himself was lacking. He would lament as if what the caller had to eat wasn't also available to him for the asking. 
I’d scratch my head and ask myself, “Isn’t what I gave him what he said he wanted?”

The French toast and pancakes I’d made regularly when I arrived in 2015 were suddenly deemed “too heavy” on some days. I’d hear that I was giving him “too much bread”, only to hear the very next day, “When are you gonna make some French toast? I see there’s some bread in there!” 
He’d never, however, turn down a pork sausage sandwich, but I was determined that I wouldn’t be blamed for any sudden rise in his blood pressure.  Oatmeal or grits became regulars. They were easy, quick, filling, and I’d serve it in the deepest bowl he owned. One day, he’d finished the oatmeal and then ate the sliced peaches and pineapple I’d given him. When I went to pick up the empty bowl he asked, “Did you put any sugar in this?” I told him I’d added a pat of butter and a little Carnation milk, but since the sugar bowl was right there in front of him on the table, I figured he’d add it himself. He seemed a little flustered that he’d eaten an entire bowl of sugarless oatmeal, but it proved to him that his tastes didn’t demand the sugar after all.  

His appetite was indeed changing. He used to rave about anything that involved beans, rice and gravy. He used to like tuna with extra mustard. He loved hotdogs, and catfish--fried hard. He would demand gumbo out of the blue, and I made sure to keep the ingredients needed to make even a large bowl of it. I started giving him dessert shortly after dinner so that he wouldn’t crave sweets before bed.  He began leaving any green vegetable on his plate, and complaining that I wasn’t using enough salt. One day he snapped, “I’m tired of eating beans. Maybe tomorrow I can have a salad or something”. I was stunned, but relieved. He’d said he had been tired of trying to chew lettuce and didn’t like tomatoes, so I’d stopped making salads for a while and sneaked greens like kale and spinach into smoothies. I made a mental note of everything he said he liked. I also made a mental note to do like mothers and grandmothers do--stop asking and just plan, cook, plate the food, and serve it.

It’s tricky and even infuriating when what you have to offer is more than sufficient to meet a need, but isn’t what a person wants or craves. They begin longing for what they used to have and enjoy, and it's usually what landed them in the unfortunate situation they’re presently in. You have to decide whether to keep the peace, be the voice of reason, or indulge a person’s wants. You must remember-- what someone else wants or prefers is not about you.
There are so many reasons why a change in anyone’s appetite occurs. Loneliness, depression, a loss of stamina, loss of independence, changing taste buds, stomach problems, side effects from drugs, isolation, a slower metabolism rate due to a sedentary lifestyle, changes in the senses of smell and taste, dental issues, and conditions like lactose intolerance all come into play. The most difficult to navigate, though, is when a person wants something, but simply doesn’t know what that something is.

My grandmother used to say if you’re truly hungry, you’ll eat anything. If you refused what was prepared, you were a hungry little somebody, but you didn’t dare pout or complain, because food was there. You learned how to be grateful, gracious and appreciative. You learned that there was always someone else worse off than you, (usually in Africa), who would be glad to eat what you were turning up your nose at. 

What you need—nourishment—will always eclipse what you want. It’s amazing how so many things lacking in substantial nutrients are so delicious.
Every time mealtime rolls around, I can’t help but think of the account of the children of Israel in the Old Testament book of Numbers. If any group of people should have been extremely grateful it should have been them. They were blessed with God’s very presence, guidance, mercy and grace. He was with them, providing for, protecting and defending them and working amazing miracles, yet they were constantly grumbling, complaining, and looking back. 
The Bible says, “The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!
God heard them and told Moses to “Tell the people: ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat. The Lord heard you when you wailed, “If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!” Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it. You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it—because you have rejected the Lord, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?” 

Our appetites can cause us to murmur, be short-sighted, irritable, and forgetful. They can cause us to fail to see the how blessed we are, long for and indulge in things that simply don’t suit us, and seek out things that would make us sick. 
I hope that we would always discern what’s best for us. I hope that we would never be so consumed with anything frivolous, unhealthy, or dangerous that we forget how God has provided. An appetite is a good thing, but we can’t, like the children of Israel, be so intent to have something that will make us long for days when we were in bondage or confusion. They spoke of meat, but did they forget they had been slaves while they were eating it? They were free people, and in the company of God, feasting off of his perfect meal designed especially for them. All they had to do was receive, consume it, and be satisfied, yet they complained repeatedly.
Let’s be determined that among our strong wishes and urges, is a sense of gratitude, appreciation, and thankfulness to God for all he has done and is doing in our lives. James 4:2-3 warns, “You crave what you do not have. You kill and covet, but are unable to obtain it. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask, and when you do ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may squander it on your pleasures.  

Let’s never forget God’s promise to supply all of our needs “according to his riches in glory”, not according to our often misguided appetites.  Psalm 37:4 encourages us. “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Let’s not get that twisted. He’s a holy and responsible God. We want him to give us what it is that he wants us to desire. We want him to tell us what it is that we should crave; what should fill us spiritually, mentally and physically. If we’re listening, he’ll tell us.
In our own lives, we want to be wise enough to know the difference between manna and quail, freedom and bondage. We can know that and so much more when we govern our appetites by the wisdom and principles of God's word.   

#DEW4U
#justkeepgoing 
#caregiverdiaries

Thursday, April 27, 2017

#DEW4U REFRESHMENT CALL: PERSEVERANCE



 “Perseverance” suggests that a course of action has been taken in spite of existing trouble or struggle. Perseverance refers to steadfast, zealous and relentless application; doggedness, persistence, tenacity; stick-to-it-iveness, and fortitude. There is however, a difference between perseverance and tolerating foolishness or abuse. No one is suggesting you do that.

Some days I feel as if I'm in the test of my life. Sometimes you realize you're dealing with stuff that originated before you were even born. In addition to your own stuff, you're directly affected by other people's issues and beefs; secrets and lies; failures and indiscretions, but you still have to keep things moving. If you're like me, the test is difficult people. An old friend admonished me to "stop running and confront". I took the advice, found my voice and even at my age, am still learning how to use it. I knew if I didn't, I'd be avoiding difficult people forever, and possibly missing out on God-ordained opportunities, and personal and working relationships. 

That flight spirit is real. It's too easy to say, "I'm out", but sometimes ease seems like the best choice. You adopt that Jonah spirit, and conclude that everything will be alright if you just get off the ship. God, however, has such a marvelous sense of humor. He'll find you a nice big fish that will ferry you right back to where he wants you to be--where he wants you to represent him in ways you never did before, and speak in ways you were too afraid to because it didn't seem ladylike, respectful, or nice. He'll redirect you to the places where you can heal, mature and prosper. You'll find yourself in an unending cycle of the same test, but with different players and scenarios, until you surrender your anxiety and fear to him, and let him help you navigate the difficult spots.
I like the Message Bible translation of Philippians 4:13---
"I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am."  

We are in a marvelous state of grace! We have access to God's forgiveness, mercy and charity. In spite of difficulties, we can steady ourselves and just keep going! We're like super heroes walking around with force-field capability, but we can't allow our energy to be tapped out. We can't leave ourselves vulnerable to attacks.
My faith is not based on whether or not I happily go along with everything that comes my way. It's not based on me being so worried about offending someone that I fail to speak the truth in love, or ignore what no reasonable person should.  When the cause is righteous and just, how can you keep silent when everything in you is yelling "speak up"? 

Having been hurt, even deliberately and repeatedly, doesn't mean you no longer have some fight in you. Other people's experiences, to me, are the best teachers. My parents used to say "Don't just go along just to get along". In this season of identifying everyone who disagrees with us as "haters", are we missing, rejecting, or hesitant about sharing some really good advice and direction?
As I was thinking about perseverance vs. throwing in the towel, I wondered about the conflict between other factors like humility vs. fear, and service vs. selfishness. My Christianity doesn't render me impaired or mute, or a pushover. It demands that I love my neighbor. How can I say I love God, though, but not love His people? Even the seemingly unlovable, abrasive, rude, mean-spirited ones are not exempt. The theologian, Matthew Henry wrote:  "It is essential that the service of God's people be performed with a willing mind. For LOVE is the only genuine principle from whence all acceptable service of God can spring". 

Love doesn't hurt. As much as we say so, neither does the truth. So what's the origin of that weird pain you feel when you're on the verge of throwing up your hands and saying, "You know what God? I don't want to do this anymore."
When you realize you don't really want to love, like, agree, respect, help, work, cooperate, with, cosign, or support a thing or person anymore, it's usually after you feel you've done your very best, and it got served back to you all mangled and misused. The good news is that there's a loving, strong, and capable God whose arms are open to embrace us when we run out of steam.
Psalm 55:22 reminds us:
"Cast your burden on the Lord, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved."
The song, "There Is A King In You" moved me to tears the first time I heard it. It is an arresting song. The words literally snatch your soul out of complacency, and remind your identity in Christ. It stirs something that may have been dying on the inside--some abandoned dream, forgotten idea, or lost plan.  I remember a local pastor saying something about revisiting a heart's desire---going back and dusting off a want or wish that you gave up on because it seemed like, after a long period of waiting, it would never materialize.
Some situations just make you want to go somewhere and sit down for a very long time, because you gave it your best shot and missed. Some things just seem to lose their worth and importance. We tell abused people to flee and never return to the scene of the crime, but what about folk who just feel beaten up by the ordinary stuff life brings? Some things are exhausting, and freeing yourself of them seems like the best idea ever. Sitting down and shutting up and disengaging lulls you into a wonderful, perhaps false sense of ease.

Jerry Savelle said," I was a quitter going somewhere to quit". If there was pressure, his solution was to walk away. He said that his lifestyle was quitting. One day he said he got tired of being a failure. When you finally get to a place in your life when you're fed up, desperate, and done with your present situation, it's up to you to change it.
He said, "Determine that giving up is unacceptable and don’t even give it another thought."
A habit of quitting has to be broken. II Corinthians 4:16 reminds us not to lose heart. If I only excel in the things I like, and am comfortable doing, am I really a warrior? Am I a success? A champion? Am I where I belong? Is the place I go to every day the place where I am supposed to be, or is it just safe?
Is the unrest, or conflict I experience a sign, a warning, or a challenge, or just a distraction?  Who is orchestrating the daily attempts to intimidate and discourage me? Does it go toward some heavenly account every time I stick and stay?  What about people who are itching to push your buttons? Does that ever ease up? If I am always running from a challenge maybe my legs will be stronger, but my mind and heart won’t.  I have to know the difference between God's challenges and the enemy's nonsense. I want to develop long-suffering and perseverance. I want to stand.  

Make it a point to continue. Finish the work, No longer allow your tears to fuel the oppressive, mean spirit that others employ to beat you down and stop your progress. Break barriers. I recall listening to a televangelist who was talking about "developing above circumstances and situations"; breaking free of "people bondage" and trusting God to keep you from wearing out.  

Psalmist, Darwin Hobbs sang the truth:
"God is able to do just what he said he would do.
He's gonna fulfill every promise to you.
Don't give up on God, 'cause He won't give up on you..."

We really are works in progress, emerging from our very comfortable comfort zones wherever they may be, with what we have--and what we have is good enough. Begin shaking off whatever veneer is there that you thought was protecting, obscuring, hiding, and covering you when it was really covering nothing and leaving you vulnerable and exposed.

Remember that your confidence is in Christ, you’re who God created you to be, and that you have been delivered from the inclination to perform. You have nothing to prove; nothing apart from God for which to take credit.
God who comforts and encourages us with these words:  "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye."
The Message Bible translates Psalm 32:8 this way:  “Let me give you some good advice; I’m looking you in the eye and giving it to you straight--don’t be ornery like a horse or mule that needs bit and bridle to stay on track.”

If there is a deficit in my life, God has given me power and authority to speak to every obstacle- not run or from them, or even ask Him to move them for me.
Doing nothing is so comfortable- it's also paralyzing. Watching from the sidelines is okay, but is that where you are supposed to be? Supporting from a distance keeps you out of the line of fire. Cheerleaders serve a purpose, but why not play in the game? The opposition will be there regardless.
Some things will pull and draw on our lives. The enemy has not abandoned his “steal, kill and destroy” mission. We can't be his best assistant or help him to extinguish our own lights.
God intended for us to have a particular kind of life. He wouldn't have put it in the Book if He didn't mean it, and He's never lied. He alone enables us to persevere.

#DEW4U
#JustKeepGoing