Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Got Trouble?

Whether I wrote about this particular incident in this blog or not, I don't recall; nevertheless, it is still apropos here. It took some doing to convince me to go to ministerial school, yet after much prayer I believe I was led to the school's office for the application. There were a few tunnels to burrow through and some hills to climb, but I suppose it was a part of the process if really interested in being a minister. After which, there was also an interview with a panel of clergy. This was not an issue but was appreciated understanding that the wheat needed to be separated from the tares (Matthew 13:24-30 KJV). It took some doing and after two tries (reason being, I wasn't as acquainted with the church's ministers as others and didn't think it was necessary to be), I was finally accepted.

During initiation into the school, there was a small skit that the secretaries to the ministers put on to let all of the new students realize that because we were doing as the Lord has led to do, we should now be ready for all sorts of trouble that was about to happen in our lives. The skit was entertaining and I don't think any of us believed that there was going to really be anything so different that we would not be able to handle as we have been doing with the obstacles that many of us face in our ordinary lives. We applauded their talented efforts and was ready to move on to see what was next.

There were a lot of rules. None of which carried a complaint. We all knew better not to do that. We all started to get used to the new routine that was added into our schedule and the classes proceeded according to plan. Then one of the students lost her job because of the downsizing that was occurring within the company she was working for. This same student a few weeks later discovered that her home was going into foreclosure. A young couple in the class was going through turmoil because the wife had fallen ill and was rushed to the hospital for surgery. It was reported to the class that the illness was serious. In the later weeks, I recall there was car trouble for some students, family issues with others, financial matters all around, and many, many requests for prayer.

Personally, out of nowhere I fought with insomnia. Well, maybe not out of nowhere... you see, from the time I saw that skit, crap started to creep around and I didn't pay attention to it. First, being a Director of a Learning Center, I felt secure with my position. My employer, the owner, expressed how pleased he was with my performance and how I have saved him hundreds of dollars. My administrative assistant whispered to me that this pleased employer was interviewing to replace me. I didn't believe her until I saw one of the interviewees. I asked my employer and he concurred with what the administrative assistant said. Meanwhile in the classes, my employees weren't getting along and one in particular had a complaint every time I saw her. If it wasn't in her own home it was the children she was hired to watch. When I decided to pack my personal belongings to leave knowing that brown nosing could have saved my position, I just couldn't do it. At home, my children were being accosted by bullies in the school. I had to come see to it. My daughter defended herself from a boy that slapped her and the teacher claimed she saw the whole thing. So why didn't she stop the boy from slapping my daughter? The teacher's gaping mouth not realizing that she told on herself was all I need to start an physical altercation - but didn't. My son was enjoying being kicked out of school for his comedic antics. The neighborhood children were plotting to attack my other son - just because. I was told, its what children do these days. My ex-husband began calling me 2-3 times a week to let me know that he could be a better parent and that I should sign over physical custody to him. Believing that my sons needed to have that male influence, I allowed for them to be in his custody. Within days, he started the process for child support and then increased it. I was in court so often, it is a wonder they didn't call me by my first name. The Lord blessed me with another job, but it was just enough to pay for tuition for ministerial school and gas money. The car I was using belonged to a family member that needed to be picked up at a certain time. Understanding that I also had to transport my children, using the car wasn't an issue until this family member was assigned to be moved within the company. Her schedule changed and therefore, mine had to also in order for me to keep using the car. I couldn't do it. She asked for her car back. I had to make sure my children could get where they needed to be, I had to be at work and still go to ministerial school. Did I mention the studying and I couldn't miss one sermon because it could be a topic of discussion in class?  Did I mention that my student loans went into default and the debt collector absconded with my payment? The car I was using got broken into by smashing in the window and my identification was stolen. Because of the theft, my savings was depleted from both accounts immediately after the break in. The teller that allowed the transaction was fired and the manager handling my case was fired as well. The new management finally got my balance out of the negative and was about to replace the funds when he was fired too. I began the investigation process all over again with headquarters; believing I was getting through to completion until the head of investigation would no longer take my calls. I think I hadn't slept in about 5-6 days. I forgot how long I stayed on a fast believing that what was happening was because of something I had not done in Christ. No one really noticed that I lost about 4 dress sizes within a few weeks, that my hair was falling out, and at night when the television was off, it seemed like my reflection was coming through the screen. I called  the church for prayer. The minister I spoke to asked if I was on drugs. I suppose I would have thought the same thing if I saw how erratic I was one day during early morning prayer. A few days before that, I had a test. I knew the scripture that was on the test. I recited it just before sitting in class, yet when it came time for me to put on paper, I handed it back to the teacher completely blank. I couldn't think of one word - not one. I understood why but still didn't like seeing that big red "F" on my paper.  That erratic behavior in early morning prayer got me kicked out of ministerial school and I resigned from my job that was affiliated with the church. I didn't fight my sister when she took me to the hospital for a psychological evaluation. She had no idea what I was going through and I would have done the same thing if it were her.

I don't recall anyone in class asking for prayer with that much trouble. I suppose crap like that was kept to themselves or they just moved and started a new life elsewhere. Would that I could have turned back the hands of time or even the thought of starting over anywhere else would have been so refreshing, yet it left a bad taste for me to run. Within days, I returned to church and dealt with the finger pointing and the mumbling behind my back. It took a couple of years to get things back to normal. In that time, I was telling a few congregants about that skit that was introduced to the new students at the initiation process of ministerial  school. One of my former classmates was sitting next to me and looking as if she was reading her bible,  interrupted me with a statement that caused those hands of time to be turned back. She said, "the trouble they said we were going to have, I didn't receive it." She went back to reading her bible. I couldn't finish what I was saying. I don't even remember what the message was that day, whether I praised and worshiped as I would normally have, or how I got back home. She didn't receive it?!! We can do that?!!

Got Trouble (part 2)?

In my training of being a "good Christian" I was told to hold the ministers in high esteem. How can you do this and not believe one word that he/she is saying? I kept that training (and even today) thinking that true believers think good things and would not wish any hurt, harm or danger on others because we all serve the same God - He is the entire definition of Love (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 KJV). Even writing that, I sound like the one that jumped off the turnip truck all wet behind the ears. Don't get me wrong, I do believe that God is love and that we are to walk in the Spirit to not fulfill the lust of the flesh; its just that people are not always going to do as you hope. They will not always stay fast to what the Word says even in times of trouble. We all have our days and go through tests. Whether we pass those tests or not is sometimes determined by what the day brings.

Plenty of people are angry because the day didn't bring what they hoped for and instead of assessing what they did, its easier to blame God or whoever is closest to the problem. Trouble is not stirred up from nothing. There has to be an action for the reaction. If you don't weed your garden, you cannot expect a healthy harvest (Proverbs 24:30-34 KJV). If you don't raise your children in the admonition of the Lord, you cannot be surprised when they don't honor their parents (Proverbs 22:6 KJV). If sweets and candy are the foundation of your diet, you cannot expect for God to miraculously rid you of obesity and diabetes (Psalm 141:3-4 KJV). The effort taken to resolve a problem has to be with as much fervor as was taken for the problem to arise.

I have written before about when I was raising my children. I made sure they were dressed well. They ate a hot meal before going to school and had vitamins daily. They attended church regularly and knew to respect their elders. If they ever got a cold, I never coddled them with it. I acted as if there was an intruder looking to steal, kill and destroy. My children stayed healthy. You see the action and my reaction.

In the offering portion of church services, the minister in charge of receiving the offering began with having the congregation to pray for an amount to give beyond the usual giving. He stated, "if you hear two amounts, give the largest one." The congregants laughed knowing the comedic personality of the minister. Though I understand now he knew that there were those who listened and adhered to that instruction simply because of him being a man of God. He doesn't know what other people have to do with that money and giving beyond what they normally give could put them in further problems then they already had. Yet, the general statement used when there is concern, "if you take care of God's house, He will take care of yours." Or there is another statement, "if what you received isn't more then enough, sow it into the church, and watch God do what He does." What does that mean? Where is the scripture for that (2 Corinthians 8:11-14 MSG)?

I listened to one of those sermons and to give what was coined as the "destiny seed". It was all I had in my purse to have gas for the next 3 days until my next paycheck. The instruction was to give this seed to the person the Holy Spirit is leading you to give the seed to. There was a woman right behind me that was searching through her purse. I thought she might be looking to get her "destiny seed" and couldn't find anything. I just knew she was the perfect person for me to give her my last $10.00. Now, there I was watching thousands of people giving to everyone else and I was waiting. God knew what was in my gas tank and what wasn't in my wallet. I just allowed faith to do what it does and as it started to calm down and people returned back to their seats, I refused to get discouraged. They must have not seen me sitting way over here. So I waited for church to dismiss and I sat still hoping that God would direct whomever He needed to over towards me. I went to the door to make it easier. It just didn't happen. I stayed so long the parking lot attendants were coming in. There was no one left! No one! Instead of getting angry, I decided to believe it was a seed that needs time to produce.

The following Sunday, the pastor preached about sowing seed into good ground. In it he surmised that sometimes the seed we sow is for the next generation and other times while we are waiting for a tiny bush, God will have us sow seed for a redwood tree. He explained that redwood trees take a while to grow but when they do, they last for hundreds of years. It wasn't one of those sermons that had people excited. They were more then likely thinking the same thing I was, "why didn't you say all of this last week with the destiny seed sermon?" It was sort of rhetorical knowing that if the two sermons were put together, there wouldn't have been the response that there was. That previous week was a tough one and I learned a valuable lesson. During the many services I attended and there was always going to be an offering portion, I already prayed before I got to church. I had my tithes all ready and what my offering would be for the entire week. There wasn't one thing any of those men or women of God could say that would move me from what was already established before I got there. Just as I prayed for the speaker to make sure all that listened would hear the message intended individually, I also prayed for myself and what God would have me to do. I may have been one of the few that didn't run around the church when the prosperity sermons would come up or the prophetic word came about for the New Year, what I did have is the peace that I use to struggle to find in the Word for practical application.

 The 23rd Psalm is one of the first passages that most of us learned in Sunday School. For some of us, it didn't mean anything but a means to make some adults proud that we could memorize and retain so much at our age. Nevertheless, once grown and meditating over each verse, there was one part that caused my brow to furrow. "The Lord prepared a table before me in the presence of mine enemies..." The table preparation is understandable. Its provision. Its giving what is needed for us in times such as these. Its the spiritual food we receive when we attend church services and hear the word that is applicable to enrich our lives even more. Some of it tastes better then other parts but its all nourishing - because it is the Lord that gave it. Him being for our good. Now the other part is the quandary. In the presence of mine enemies? Why are they there? Why would I dine in the presence of enemies? Should I be getting them out of there? Wouldn't the Lord have already done that for me? The Word says what communion hath light with darkness, so why are my enemies at the table (2 Corinthians 6:14 KJV)? Who invited them?

In the ministry I was involved in, there was a 24 hour prayer line where I volunteered 1-2 days out of the week. One of those days there was a supervisor that gave me certain tips in shopping for things. We conversed and seemed to be getting along well. During the Christmas season many congregants get together and donate a basket of homemade products for the volunteers. I didn't know this and neither did the supervisor. A few minutes before shift ending the supervisor went to use the facilities. It was a pretty quiet afternoon with very few calls coming in. I was noticing all of the decorations around the room when the supervisor's replacement came in. He announced that the basket behind the desk was for us. In the basket was all of the goodies that were prepared especially for the holiday season. he said to take as much as we liked. As many of the different things that were on display, I choose a nicely wrapped cellophane bag of spiced pecans. Just then my supervisor who had used the facilities came back. She saw all of the volunteers with the goodies that were placed behind her the entire time she was working. She asked what was going on. Her replacement explained that they were gifts for us. My supervisor sucked her teeth in disgust and looked around at what we all had getting first choice, "I didn't know that. You mean I could have got something. All I wanted was the pecans. Who got the pecans?" She looked around and saw me about to open the bag. "Aww, I wanted them." I suppose I could have given them to her, but the whining was irritating me. Instead I asked, "would you like some?" I held the bag to her and she looked at me with a strange expression, "sure," she replied. She didn't take the bag from me nor did she motion for me to pour the contents in her hand, instead she took her hand and dived into the bag making sure I saw her touch each and every pecan before she retrieve a small handful. She smirked slightly putting one the nuts into her mouth and keeping her eyes fixed on me. I know she was either waiting for me to go off on her or reconcile to give her the entire bag. She just came from the bathroom. The other volunteers saw what she did too. They looked at me for a response. I smiled and gathered my belongings seeing that my shift was over. When she didn't see me respond the way she expected, she looked shocked.

In answering the question, who invited the enemies at the prepared table: they were already there. It is written in the last days, there will be many false prophets (1 John 4:1 KJV). The Word doesn't say that there will be many liars. Liars could very well be sinners and what would we care knowing that where that trait comes from (John 8:44 AMP). What we don't expect that the very people that is receiving the same training that we are, have also embraced or not released those old habits that should have passed away a long time ago.

I wrote about a man interested in me before. We had a wonderful first conversation and the second time we were on the phone, he asked what is my favorite sexual position. We attended the same church! His goal was to be a minister! His career was working with children!!! What sort of question was that to ask a Christian woman? I didn't call him or coerce him to call me. He asked me for my number and asked when was the best time to call. My pause spoke volumes and I wouldn't receive another call from him. Can you see what would have happened if I did? Can you see a desperate woman answering that question with him and the trouble happening afterward?

I suppose what I am writing isn't something that is said in any church that I have ever been in. What I am writing to you is for you to trust in God (Isaiah 26:3 KJV). There are many people going through all sorts of things. Just because they have the assignment to be at a pulpit doesn't mean they are always going to give wise instruction. It is why you must read the scriptures for yourself. A single woman, the head of the music department not only leading the choir but also a devotional leader, got pregnant. The congregants struggled on how to treat the matter. I watched them and saw the reaction of the devotional leader. We knew not to be judgmental and also to be kind. There was no need  in ousting her from the assembly by which we stand for love. In time, all seemed to be well again. Now what about all of those other girls that watched this devotional leader and have been influenced by her? What about the young men that wished for a wife just like her? Who encourages them? What trouble will they get into?

There are spots. There are wrinkles. There are stains. There is God, prayer, worship, praise, and love. God is looking for a church without spot or wrinkle (Ephesians 5:27 AMP). Stains come about when old habits are embraced and it isn't recognized. The stain remover has not been applied. Trouble comes when the Word isn't used. Trouble resides when it is not recognized as being what it is. Life has many decisions to be made. God told us that what we have before us is life and death and for us to choose life. Seeing that we have, the decision pressed before us has the same two choices - for anything and everything. Which ever one we decide will keep us on the path of life rather then lack, trouble, anguish, hardship, despair, irritability, aggravation, frustration and the like? We must maintain peace and joy in righteousness to have the abundant life that was promised - not trouble. Choose life for all decisions and be well.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

To Serve Is To Love Him

I was watching Joyce Meyers this morning. Her message was about walking in love and to serve others. She used a wonderful example of washing others feet. She demonstrated how Jesus wrapped the servant's towel around his waist and then proceeded to wash the feet of the disciples. She continued that when He wrapped this towel around His waist how they must have gasped at the sight of the Son of God being a servant to others. Joyce then reminded her listening audience that ministry is just that - serving.

There aren't that many ministries that I know of that keeps this practice alive. I know of one ministry that I attended for more then 9 years. I never had washed anyone's feet before, but when Joyce had literally wrapped the towel around her waist, I was immediately reminded of my time in that ministry. We all did this as well - only the women were washing the feet of the women and the men of the men. I recall watching what everyone was doing and the elder women in the church directed the others to tell me what I needed to know. I didn't have an issue with it way back then because I was learning. But when I became familiar with it, I cringed at the idea. Well, it was much like when Joyce started talking about family and having to serve them as well. She always makes things seem so comical but if listening there is a lesson behind the humor that can be practically applied. There I was every quarter (every 3 months) knowing that the pantyhose had to be removed and the towels were at the ready to serve. I learned that it is best to be at the beginning of the line then at the end. It's also better to partner up with people that you know or that at least liked you. This was rare that I got at the beginning of the line. I had my children to get ready and make sure that my husband had socks on without holes and his toenails clipped. By the time all my family and I got to church, the towels were already dispersed and the elderly women that could not get down on their knees were waiting to be served. There was one that still could and was usually who I partnered with. She would hurry to wash my feet without changing the water from the other 9 or so people that were before us. The water would look so murky and I didn't want to put my feet in it. I would offer to get clean water for her, but it was always a reason why I couldn't. Too many in the bathroom, she couldn't be on the floor for too long, she got someone else to wash her feet and didn't need me anymore - so I endured the murky water by gritting my teeth as we sung hymns to finish the task. I remember one time washing the feet of someone that I thought liked me. She let me know she hadn't bathed and the warm water would be so welcoming to her skin. I thought she was joking until I came back to her with a clean tub of water and she immersed her feet in. Within seconds, the water looked as if I hadn't emptied it and got clean. She then began instructing me to literally wash her feet, "Oooh yeah, get in between the toes too." I never had an issue with feet until that day. It seemed like forever as I completed each toe and the instruction to dry each toe as well. "I'll empty the water", I exclaimed when I was finished with her bath. She replied, "What for? You just got the water."
Because its filthy. Father, in the name of Jesus, do You see this? Ewwww! 
There was a ring around the wash basin and I watched what was floating in the water swirling in a circle as if waiting for me. 
Before I could take off running, she grabbed my foot and put it in the ick. I screamed inside as it tried to splash around my ankles. She didn't give me anywhere near the treatment I gave her - and I appreciated that between the yelps I was having in my head. After the feet were washed, the women retired to the ladies lounge to put back on the pantyhose and any other under garments. Between the smells of all of the different perfumes, it was all I could do not to sit on the front lawn to put my hose on out there. After washing our hands, we then all got in line to receive communion, listen to the evening service, fellowship, and be headed home. As much as I didn't like going through the whole ordeal, its funny, I never missed one of those services.

Was it because I was some sort of sadist to keep doing that to myself. I am a grown woman! I make my own rules! I didn't have to go to those services. Why did I attend so many of them? Why didn't I just stay home and dealt with whatever came of it. No one can make me do what I don't want to do! 

Nevertheless, I realize now that without humbling myself to do what I did, I couldn't be the person I am. I didn't know what my purpose was in life when I attended those services. I had a family to manage, a marriage, and I knew I had to finish college - I just didn't know what I was going to major in. Before learning about washing feet, I recall having a conversation with one of the women in the ministry. She was married with children and well into her career. She was asking me, what I was planning to do. I didn't know specifically what it was, I just knew I wanted to be in the corporate world. I told her about how I was going to grow within a company and I didn't care how I was going to get there - even if it meant that I had to step on someone else's throat - I was going to get there! She tried not to show her shock, but it was difficult when gritted teeth, a gruff voice highlighted the intention and I even made the motion with my foot. I couldn't tell you why I spoke like that, the realization of those words weighed on me while I thought about how to get them back (with the expression and gesture). I suppose it really was a hard pill to swallow having that conversation in the vestibule of the church right after services. Apparently the message had no affect on me!
However, as I continued to be faithful in that ministry with serving where ever I could, volunteering in other ways, and still going to those foot washing/communion services, I was being changed from the inside.

It took sometime before I knew what I was called to do. Once there, it seemed like a warm blanket waiting for me. I became a better parent, not thinking that I was a bad one before, until I got where God would have me to be. Patience, love, favor, mercy, grace, blessing was waiting for me there as well. I didn't sacrifice what I wanted to do. I could have stayed home and watched television or something that would have been just as unproductive, but it wasn't a thought to do. I attended services like I would brush my teeth or make up my bed - it was a habit. Attending church was something that just had to be done. Because of this, God met me right where I needed for Him to be. It was so simple, once I got past myself and my will.

I never got to the corporate world, and I don't think I ever want to. As you can see in my profile what my career choice has been for the last 20 years. I have been promoted several times without having to push a stiletto into anyone's digestive tract. God is good.