I’m hyper aware of my need for grace. I don’t think a day goes by without thinking about grace and praying for grace. Maybe it’s because, as a writer, I hit enough walls trying to figure out where to go next, what word fits just right, how to sync several plot threads . . . Or maybe because I’m quick to get an attitude or react with wrong words. And then there are the thoughts I don’t want to think and feelings I don’t want to feel (don’t you hate when you “feel” offended or slighted or anxious . . . and you really don’t want to?).
In the movie Creed, boxer Adonis Creed takes a brutal punch in the fight of his life, and gets knocked to the ground. He hits the floor hard. The people in his corner are shouting, “Get up! Get up!” His opponent is on the ropes celebrating, thinking it’s over.
But while Creed is out, his mind is scrolling through all he’s been through up until that point, and all the people who love and motivate him. Like a jolt, he’s up before the count of ten — and is back in the fight.
Creed’s boxing life may seem to bear little resemblance to our lives as believers. Though we encounter battles, we don’t train intensely for them, with dedicated professionals to put us through our paces and shore up our weaknesses. We don’t know the time, date, and location of our next bout, such that we can show up prepared. Our battles are spiritual, seemingly upending the comparison.
But as the apostle Paul showed, boxing (like running) provides a vivid metaphor for the Christian life (1 Corinthians 9:26).
You Will Get Hit
We often don’t see it coming. It could be a health crisis, loss of a loved one, an employment shake-up, betrayal, or some form of persecution. Or maybe it’s something we’re aware of, something we thought was mild or temporary, but it “hits” when it morphs from hill to mountain.
The question is not whether we will find ourselves in a battle, but when. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2). Paul likewise says it’s part of our privilege as believers. “It has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Philippians 1:29). We remember vividly the times we have been hit. Many of us are still recovering.
Continue reading over at Desiring God . . .
I am so excited to be able to finally tell you why I’ve been ignoring this blog. ;-) I’ve been working on two book projects, a nonfiction book and a novel. My nonfiction title is shown here, to be released March 2017 by Discovery House Publishers—CLING: Choosing a Lifestyle of Intimacy with God.
Last December, I blogged here about how my agent emailed me and asked if I would consider writing a nonfiction book proposal. He’d seen my YouTube videos, uploaded to a channel I’d almost shut down, but I digress . . . When I prayed about it, the word “cling” came hard and fast to my heart.
There are biblical womanhood passages we hardly blink at. That older women should impart wisdom to younger women is esteemed. That women ought to love their husbands and children is expected, even if challenging at times. And as much as we may give attention to hair and clothing, we understand that in Christ, the inner person deserves our utmost adornment.
But other passages spark something more. Submission can ignite a lively exchange all by itself. Toss in “worker at home” and roles in the church, and you might be ticking towards an explosion. The casualty, however, is often the word of God. As believers, we have an obligation to treat Scripture — even “troublesome” passages — in a Christ-honoring way.
Treat Scripture with Humility
When we encounter hot-button issues in biblical womanhood, we do so armed with our own experiences and opinions. These issues are central to our identity as women and stir convictions that are deeply entrenched. Almost instinctively, we rise to defend them. But in Christ, we have a higher call, to elevate the Lord and his word above all.
Continue reading over at Desiring God . . .
I checked Twitter on Thursday morning, and there it was—another black man shot and killed by the police, the aftermath caught on video. Philando Castile had gotten a haircut for his upcoming birthday, gone to the grocery store, and was on his way home with his girlfriend and four-year-old girl in the car.
But they had a broken taillight.
A cop pulled them over and asked for license and registration, which Castile kept in his pants pocket. According to the girlfriend, as he reached for his registration, he let the officer know he had a firearm, which he was licensed to carry. Seconds later, the officer was firing shots into Castile, who died as a result. The governor of Minnesota, who has asked for a federal investigation, said the incident “probably would have ended differently had Castile been white.”
Stunned and saddened after watching the video, I looked up from my computer and saw my son about to leave the house. Quentin knows the Lord. He knows he is made in the image of God. He knows he is precious in the sight of God and loved eternally by Him. From the time he was young, we have instilled these truths and more into him.
“I want my daddy.”
Those were my daughter Cameron’s words yesterday. We’d gone to the hospital to have an ultrasound done. Her stomach had been aching since Sunday, and her doctor ordered one to see what might be wrong. After the radiologist studied the screen, he showed me what he saw—a swollen appendix with a stone inside.
“You must have a high tolerance for pain,” he told her. “This should be excruciating.”
He quickly left the room with an assistant. Cameron and I thought we’d be heading home, waiting for word from her doctor as to what would happen next. When the radiologist returned, he said we were heading straight for the emergency side of the hospital. He’d spoken with Cameron’s doctor, and Cameron needed to be prepped for surgery. Now.
Jesus would be arrested in mere hours and crucified the following day. Intense agony awaited him, of which he was well aware. Once he had eaten the Passover meal with his disciples, he could have departed to a secluded place alone to pray, as he’d done before.
But Jesus didn’t spend that evening secluded, selfishly focused on the anguish to come. The night before he went to the cross, he focused on relationship. Jesus spent those hours deepening bonds of friendship and intimacy.
Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet
Relationships were strained during the Passover supper. Judas knew he wasn’t one of them. He was betraying Jesus and everything the disciples had believed in for the past three years. Though the disciples sat in the presence of an eternal and mighty God, they had taken to arguing which one of them was greatest.
In the midst of such relational tension, Jesus rose, took off his outer garments, tied a towel around his waist, and poured water into a bowl. The disciples must have thought, “Surely not . . . ” These were the gestures of the lowliest slave, one about to engage in the lowliest of tasks.
Yet, Jesus went to the first disciple, stooped before him, and began washing dirt and grime from his feet. Then he proceeded to the next, and the next, including Judas, his betrayer. Peter expressed the shock of them all. “You shall never wash my feet” (John 13:8). But Jesus let him know there was symbolism in the cleansing. And when he’d reclined again, he instructed them as to what he’d done. He had performed an act of lowest servitude so that they could follow his example. Rather than argue who was greatest, they needed to understand that greatness lay in humility.
Continue reading over at Desiring God . . .
I’m sitting here with my Bible open, thinking, I do the same thing every morning. Make coffee, sit at my kitchen table, study the Word.
It’s uneventful. No glitz. No glam. Hair bunched under a satin scarf, wearing workout clothes from my run on the basement treadmill.
Exactly. I don’t even smell good.
There was a time my mornings were filled with activity. Excitement. Anticipation. Legal briefs were due. A deposition was scheduled of an opposing party. Or a court appearance, maybe in Chicago or San Francisco. Briefcase in hand, pumps on my feet, my life brimmed with energy. I was moving. Doing. It seems a lifetime ago. I left that world in 1999.
I posted last week about God starving my bestseller appetite and thought it interesting that some of the feedback—encouraging to be sure—thanked me for being transparent and honest. It made me wonder if this was unusual to share. I hadn’t written with that in mind. Wasn’t trying to be brave. I had simply prayed for the Lord to show me what to write, and that’s what rose inside.
I was reminded of times I’ve received similar feedback, like the post that mentioned my publishing contract hadn’t been renewed. Or the one that announced my season with Women of Faith had ended—much earlier than anticipated. And the posts over the past six or so years that touch on issues with my mouth, my attitude, my need for more faith and trust, and my desperate need daily for the grace and mercy of Christ.
But isn’t that part of our Christian walk . . . wrestling with flesh, battling disappointment? And acknowledging that we fall short but for Jesus—isn’t that the Gospel?
As I was writing my debut novel, it loomed as the crown jewel—the Essence bestseller’s list. Many of the books published by Walk Worthy Press had achieved that status. And the status—Essence Bestselling Author—was emblazoned in mega-font on the authors’ subsequent covers. That’s what I wanted. That’s what I prayed for.
After Heavenly Places released, I began hearing how books actually made the Essence list. They had to be sold at certain reporting stores. So authors were known to schedule signings at those stores, in hopes of hitting the bestseller threshold. Plus, the founder of Walk Worthy had also started the Glory Girls Book Club, which became the largest African-American book club in the country. With Walk Worthy books featured regularly, they were guaranteed to sell well as thousands of club readers snapped them up.
When my novel released, though, Walk Worthy’s heyday was ending. Books were no longer being distributed by Warner, which itself had been a sales boost. And within a year, the entire operation folded.
Heavenly Places never made the Essence bestseller list.