God’s Thoughts & Plans: Hope & Destiny

I first discovered this scripture Jeremiah 29:11 at an all night prayer meeting of my former church when the church was just getting started a few months after I graduated from college. I remember with great clarity when the Lord revealed this great promise to me personally, but it was a word for this new ministry barely a year old. We were mostly in our 20s, in college or just out of it and starting our careers. Our prayer ministry was about 20-25 strong on a Friday night, committed to seek Jesus and strengthen our Christian faith and fellowship.

The Pastor had asked me earlier that day to prepare my heart to speak prophetically that night, and that he would let me know when to share. Well, I prayed and prayed all that day, and nothing came to me before prayer started later that night. I had to completely trust God for what He wanted to say to us.

As with most gatherings, the night of prayer started off with praise and worship. Out of that worship, the prayer points and following exhortations began. In one of the quiet times of prayer I literally heard or had a strong impression to read Jeremiah 29:10-15

The words leapt off the page, and I knew that this was the word of the Lord for the church! As I prayed this scripture and meditated on it, the Pastor called me up about 15 min later to share what God had placed in my heart to share to our church members. It was such a great word with following instructions in the next verses.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.”
Jeremiah 29:11-14 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/jer.29.11-14.nkjv

It was so powerful because we were all ready calling upon Him in prayer and this scripture let us know that He was listening! But God goes further- we seek and find Him when we search for Him with our whole heart! God wants our undivided attention.

Ps 86:11 says “Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.
http://bible.com/114/psa.86.11.nkjv

God has to “unite our hearts” so that we can worship and seek Him wholly – with our entire beings. We need His help to us stay focused, to reign in our thoughts, needs, desires and “cast down” those things that seek to exalt themselves over His word and plan for our lives.

Every time I read Jeremiah 29:11 now, even 30 years later, I am reminded of my first time seeing it- how comforting and exhilarating it was to know that we are in God’s thoughts and He has specific plans for a hopeful destiny! Even though we might get confused or unfocused, God is not confused.  HE KNOWS what the plan of action is. Wow! What a word for a young Christian in a young ministry. What a word for me today!

As we grow older, we think we may know the plan or we may confuse our plan with God’s plan, and He has to give us course correction. We have demands of careers, family, community and life events that may pull our attention. He unites our heart and refocuses our attention back to Him.

When we seek him with our whole hearts, we find Him and He unfolds His plans for our lives. He gives instructions on next steps. He gives a word of grace to bring healing and hope so that we can walk in truth and in the destiny we are called to fulfill with great excitement and joy.

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Free yourself

Forgiveness: Free yourself- free others! 
11 The discretion of a man deferreth his anger, and it is his glory to pass over a transgression. Prov. 19:11 

Offenses are rooted in the past. When you fail to forgive you are anchored to somebody else’s transgression or personal issue. It is impossible or quite fatiguing to move forward in your future being anchored “think handcuffed” in the past. Faith looks forward. When you overlook an offense, you are jumping over a hurdle meant to slow you down. Indeed, Heb 12:1 says “let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Be free! 

Don’t give “haters” or “frenemies” a second thought, accept to bless them as flawed vessels in need of grace. Perhaps by overlooking the offense you are freeing them too. In fact, virtue and grace abound in your own life – you are strengthened, amplified in this process (to your glory).  So overlook that offense!  Be free and be blessed today! 

As we walk in the liberating power of forgiveness, we empower others to do the same. Forgetting the past, looking ahead to embrace the high purpose and call on our lives with excellence. 

GraceFULL Demolition 

   I have been watching the demolition of the Washington post building for about 2 weeks. They started from the back and just this week started tearing down the front. It has been a controlled demolition and all the while there has been water being sprayed even as they tear it down and haul it away. I thought “This is my life”. 

 It was deja vu – reminding me of the same thought I had when they tore down the Tenley library in 2007 and there was the water in the midst of the destruction. Back then I asked one of the construction workers why they sprayed the water on the wreckage and he said, “It controls the debris, minimizes dust and fly always and makes the process manageable as we tear down the building. It also compacts things making it easier to haul away and clear the lot.” 

 For the last 10+ years God had been tearing parts of my life down to build something new. The first time it felt like my whole life as I knew it before had changed-that everything that was familiar had been torn down. It was difficult because I felt exposed, broken and there was so much debris I didn’t know how I could ever get out. But slowly and surely God’s grace was there watering what I had built before he took it down to the very foundations. His grace was there as The wreckage was removed. 

Somehow I feel like another building- a special part of me needed to be torn down to make way for something new and yes God’s grace, His amazing grace is here managing this process. As uncomfortable as this is, I yield again to His way if only to experience His grace in my life. #Grace #demolition #water

Things That Matter: People Matter

ppl-matter

People matter.   I was talking with my sister recently about an important issue, and I said to her glibly, “I guess I should be talking to the folks that matter.”  Upon its utterance, I immediately corrected myself saying, “Well, everybody matters! To me, anyway.”  And just then, like Morgan Freeman’s character in “Bruce Almighty”, a man walked by and said with a beautiful big smile, “That’s right! Everybody matters!” He didn’t slow down, but pointed and kept smiling at me in approval.  People matter.

People matter.  Today, we find ourselves categorizing, stratifying, slicing and dicing folks into statistics and numbers, by ability, aptitude,  or mere words:  the 1%, the 99%, the talented 10th, low-mod-mid-high income, race, ethnicity, disabled, urban, suburban, at risk, wealthy, blue-blood, blue collar, white collar, illegals, conservative, liberal, C-Suite, earners, takers and on and on and on. Many corporations/governments/communities  take it a step further and make decisions on allowable percentage of “casualties.”  This language deliberately erases the faces of REAL MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN,  so that they are dehumanized and marginalized – therefore worthy of less treatment, less resources, less of everything;  even life itself.  Consider that the terms abortion and capital punishment sanitize the killing of human beings.   People matter.

People matter.  We matter because we are divinely created by the hand of God.  Psalms 139 tells us how intimately acquainted God is with everything about us, but in verse 14 it says:   “I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well”.   God’s invitation of relationship is extended to ALL of us – not just some.  He gives to EACH of us freely, as we are willing to receive.  We see His great love for us, when He gave everything He had through His son Jesus, so that we have restored and completely reconciled relationship with Him. People matter to God.  People matter.

People matter to me also because I saw that people mattered to my parents.  They extended themselves inconveniently many times to take care of a need, be a listening ear, a hand to hold, give counsel when needed.  People matter.

People matter. Resist the temptation to refer to PEOPLE as a number, statistic, a category, a group, an issue, a label, and instead,  put a fearfully and wonderfully made face on it and remember that EVERYBODY MATTERS.

Things That Matter

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This new blog series was birthed about a year ago when I was driving home and I found myself, once again, with my thoughts swirling about personal issues, political drama, the recent national tragedy, a good book or article etc.  And through the jumble of tumbling ideas, events, appointments, etc, I heard somewhere in my heart, what are the things that matter.  I mean, in the scheme of things, what really matters?   Over the next few months, when confronted with a headline, a tragedy, an occurrence at work/home/church/event, the thought kept reccurring.  I would say, almost out loud – people matter, character matters, integrity matters, relationship with God matters, justice matters, shelter matters, education matters,and the ability to work matters, and so on.  Today, with so many ideas and messages presenting themselves as an urgent priority to command our attention, play on our fears, it helps to cut through the noise by focusing on the THINGS THAT MATTER.   

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Ode to My Mother

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Celebrating my mother on her 81st birthday

Estelle Elayne Butler Bryant was born this day 3/3/33 81 years ago. Many would agree that this world is a much brighter, better, happier place with the 72 1/2 years that she was on this earth. I love this picture because she was ALWAYS ready to dance even if she was just passing through a doorway. She didn’t wait for somebody to ask her to dance – she danced whenever she felt like it. She danced with sheer joy! She is dancing with Aunt Shirley (rt) I think it was the second line with the napkin in her hand. LOL!

I love to dance too because of her.

She was:
ENCOURAGER/GIVER: She was always encouraging sharing grace, a smile, a laugh, a kind word to everyone. In her last weeks in the hospital, she was introducing her nurses, attendants to us, sharing their hopes and dreams and encouraging them. Many at Howard remember the few words she spoke to them when she brought us up in our Freshman year. She was always giving (my Dad too) – She gave freely out of abundance or out of lack. She gave her time, her resources, her wisdom freely.

CREATIVE: My mother was wonderfully creative! She loved to create beautiful decorations and could imagine just about anything. She had wonderful ideas about projects, how to make things more interesting, and fun.

WARRIOR: She was a fighter. She fought for her family, for the disenfranchised, for the least of these. She lent her sword in other’s battles as well. She was relentless. Once she joined the battle with you, she would not let YOU give up. At the same time, she would put down her sword when she felt the battle was over or no longer worth fighting. She had nothing to prove. On the other hand, never a vengeful person you did not want to incur her icy wrath. She was not a yeller (don’t know why I didn’t inherit that trait) but she was very firm. Don’t mess with Layne!

PURPOSEFUL: My mother had a great sense of her purpose. Many did not understand why she endured certain relationships that appeared difficult and challenging. But her sense of destiny and purpose went far beyond her personal feelings about a person or a situation. She literally looked at the intended outcome and let that guide her actions. She was a BRAVE woman and CONFIDENT too.

KIND: My mother was a kind woman. Her kindness is one of the biggest gifts to me. She did not dwell on “haters” or “mean” people. She did not let them alter her opinion of others. She was kind behind the scenes to everyone. She did not need a reason. She extended grace because she was a conduit of grace. how how how I miss her.

FAITHFUL: My mother was faithful. She was a faithful and diligent friend, colleague, Board member, Christian, wife, mother. She was disciplined too. She believed God, she believed the Word of God and did not preach it. She lived it. She shared her faith by the way she lived. She was up at 5 most mornings reading her Bible and sipping her coffee. Another gift was her many notebooks and journals of prayers and notes from her prayer time, bible study and church. I found journals of prayers that she prayed for my future husband and children, for her friends, my Dad, challenging situations. In her Bible were prayers that she prayed and “gave to God” for Him to work out after she prayed. She trusted in the solutions that followed and kept it moving.

I am just so so full today and I could go on and on about my dearest Mother. So thankful to celebrate all that she was and still is to so many! Happy Birthday Mom!

Lifetime love

Lifetime love

They were married almost 62 years, and as she fell ill, she told him “thank you for giving me such a wonderful life” and he said “thank you for making my life wonderful.” 

I was thinking about commitment and remembered a note I wrote on Facebook after interviewing two octogenarians for an oral history project I was working on.  I was moved to tears many times hearing them tell their stories even though the topic was unrelated. I thought I’d share a glimpse of what REAL commitment looks like, sounds like, talks like.  What “til death do us part” means….

I am so grateful for the journey that led me to this particular life event. 

(the link to the original note is in red above, but is posted below)

Lifetime Love

March 22, 2009 at 3:50pm

I’m learning about lifetime love -I’m talking about love between married couples that starts before “I do” and literally lasts until “Death do us part.” This lesson started to unfold just in the last month or so, as I started a new project documenting a black banking legacy, conducting oral histories of folks who are in their late 70’s, 80’s and yes, 90’s. It is amazing how God works in the strangest ways, and certainly at the start of this venture I didn’t think that “lifetime Love” was on the agenda. I’m learning more and more that love is always on God’s mind, you can find it anywhere, everywhere because it is the essence of who He is. 

2 different stories have anchored themselves in my memory- one from an 89 yr old gentleman and the other from a lovely reserved woman in her mid 80’s. Both had lost their spouses recently, in 2008, and in both instances, as they shared their stories about their banking experiences their relationship with the spouse came up with all the love and longing, as if it were yesterday. 

The gentleman said when he first saw, met his wife, he proposed on the first day – He was newly arrived in Washington DC to participate in the GI’s promise of college education at Howard – Howard was full so he went to American University instead even tho’ he still lived in Howard’s dorms.  He went to get a bite to eat and said he knew when he saw her over 60 yrs ago that she was his wife and so he told her so. She brushed him off time and time again, as he would frequent where she worked as a waitress, hostess. At one point, she told him to leave her alone which he did for about 2-3 weeks. Then he got a call from her inviting him to Thanksgiving dinner at her parents house. He gladly accepted and when he went over there he proposed to her again, asked her father and they were married several months later.   All of this happened in a period of months! They were married almost 62 years, and as she fell ill, she told him “thank you for giving me such a wonderful life” and he said “thank you for making my life wonderful.” Upon hearing those words spoken so tenderly and lovingly, my heart swelled and I was speechless. This was a lifetime love story. When I asked how he knew she was the one – he just replied, I knew. The decision was made and that was that. 

The woman I interviewed had a similar story. She met her husband because he just happened to ride down (from Wash DC ) to North Carolina with a friend who was smitten with her sister. Upon seeing her, he was also taken and asked her if he could come down to visit her. She sort of brushed him off too, but he kept visiting her since his friend kept making that drive down to North Carolina. He was persistent and almost made the drive every weekend. He started coming by himself. He was on a mission one weekend, because even Hurricane Camille and the flooding that ensued could not keep him away. He proposed that weekend and they were married a few months later on New Years Day 1955. She followed him to Washington DC where they made a life together for over 52 years. The faith, the love, the mutual respect was so evident in her voice. 

I learned that things were not perfect, but in both instances, their commitment to each other and mutual respect and love endured the imperfections. The honor and pride that they took in their respective spouses and celebrating the decision & commitment itself made so long ago was at the heart of these lifetime love stories. They took seriously (held sacred) the covenant and the vows they made to each other before witnesses and before God. 

So many times we get stuck in “what have you done for me lately” syndrome. This works/performance-based “love” is doomed to failure if one’s performance slips. What is implied is, ” I’m with you” for better, richer, and in health. If perchance, things gets worse, poorer and in sickness then I’m not so sure how that is going to work for me. 

This culture shuns commitment, makes light of marriage vows — it welcomes those contingency clauses that help us wiggle out of commitment – to limit exposure. Tell me this… How do limit exposure on a life time commitment??? Breaking a lifetime covenant should be costly… it should be punitive, and it should make us think twice (or 70 x 70) before rendering void a sacred commitment. 

But these beautiful stories so poignantly illustrate that, lifetime love is a decision you make. It is built on foundational principals of respect, honor, humility, gentleness, hard work, humor and resolute commitment to honor your word. This is why we love to see Obama’s – we see the mutual respect, the honor, the gentleness, that commitment, and yes the LOVE. It’s empowering to see people really love each other, and honor and respect they have for one another. 

We have all seen the tumultuous winds of changing circumstances, changing personalities, broken promises, and so forth try to tear down or weaken the vows we made to each other. There will be other trials ahead of us, but God has shown me thru the lives of these two wonderful people what lifetime love looks like — and that is what I want! Lifetime love also means lifetime learning and so, I’m really hoping that I learn the lesson that their lives are teaching.