Giving God My Work

The magazine I was writing for felt “important,” so I struggled to present the best possible article I could for the high-ranking editor. Feeling pressure to meet her standards, I kept rewriting my thoughts and ideas. But what was my problem? Was it my challenging topic? Or was my real worry personal: Would the editor approve of me and not just my words?

For answers to our job worries, Paul gives trustworthy instruction. In a letter to the Colossian church, Paul urged believers to work not for approval of people, but for God. As the apostle said, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23–24).

Reflecting on Paul’s wisdom, we can stop struggling to look good in the eyes of our earthly bosses. For certain, we honor them as people and seek to give them our best. But if we work “as for the Lord”—asking Him to lead and anoint our work for Him—He’ll shine a light on our efforts. Our reward? Our job pressures ease and our assignments are completed. Even more, we’ll one day hear Him say, “Well done!

Reflect: On your job, what pressures do you feel to please others or yourself? In what ways would your work improve on every level if you started working “as for the Lord”?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, as I face job pressures, it’s easy to forget that I’m working for You. Redirect my heart and mind, so I put You first in all I do.

This devotion deeply resonated since starting a new job a few months ago that I’ve been working towards and preparing for by becoming familiar with basic technology for nearly a year. I’d been so worried about efficiency, meeting deadlines amongst other aspects all while worrying about what I wouldn’t be able to remember. Thinking I’m moving too slow, making mistakes, not fully understanding certain concepts, even though every continues telling me I’m doing a great job. This is the first actual position I’ve held (working for someone other than myself) in 13 years. I juggle 5 different positions within the organization, 1 which spans throughout 3 various counties, and I love it! I’m aware that I’ve always been my own worst critic even when I try my best not to be. I’m fortunate to work in a field where I not only am able to use my lived experiences to help others but am also supported as well as encouraged to pursue my personal ventures with my writing and as a motivational speaker. Now I simply need to stay mindful that I am working for the Lord (not man) while knowing that I am always putting forth my best effort from a place of passion and empathy. I am thankful to have finally found my purpose and feel extremely blessed with doing what I love.

War Room

It’s rare I turn my television on except to enjoy my music or watch the first 15 minutes of news reports. On the occasions when I’d attempt to watch a movie, it’s nearly impossible to view all the way to the end or not constantly pressing pause because I can’t sit still. However, recently I came across a 2015 film streaming on Tubi titled War Room, directed by Alex Kendrick. Initially I passed it over based on the title, never being a fan of actual war movies, but the title continued to appear in the rotation, so I decided to take a closer look by watching the trailer. To my surprise, it was not directly related to war and the trailer alone had so many powerful messages that stood out for me. Finally, a movie that captured my undivided attention and my only reason to press pause was to take notes. This film was truly inspiring and touched me in such a way that I’d like to share it with all of you while trying not to give too much away in case you choose to watch yourself. Had I watched this years ago, it would not have resonated the same. I wouldn’t have noticed key points and my perspective regarding the roles of the actors likely would have been different.

Back Story: A middle-aged wife comes in contact with an elderly widow of a war veteran who during his service, was in charge of fighting tactics/strategies. The widow also held resentment towards her husband due to feeling as if his job took priority over her. She regrets missing the opportunity to make things right with her husband before he dies in battle.

Basis: The wife grows to resent her husband for several reasons, mainly due to the obvious affect their constant fighting has had on their young daughter. Although both are successful in their careers, the marriage is falling apart. Even though the husband comes home every evening, he is not present mentally nor emotionally.

Plot: The “war room” is simply a safe and private space to pray while establishing a relationship with God. The wife was advised by the widow to pray for her husband. Write down the prayers for every area of her life, as she did along with lining the walls of the “war room” with them. Soon the young daughter noticed her mother had completely cleared out the closet that was previously filled with smelly shoes (a woman giving up closet space, really?). The mom’s new actions were soon mimicked by her daughter.

Messages (that stood out for me):

“To win a battle you need the right strategy and resources because victories don’t come by accident”.

The widow asked the wife how often she prays. Regularly, sometimes or not at all. The wife responds, “sometimes but not often”. To make a point, the widow offers a cup of coffee, and the wife is surprised after taking a sip and it’s luke-warm. The wife was confused until the widow explained with a giggle, “honey, coffee comes hot or cold and I like mine hot” as she relates the temperature of the coffee with consistent prayer.

The wife was then asked if when after fighting/arguing with her husband, has it ever felt like a win? After taking a moment to think, her answer was no. They widow replied that she hasn’t been fighting with the right weapon. This caused me to really think by reflecting on my past and present and how I choose to move forward with conflict in the future.

The husband had a friend who is a paramedic and asked him, how could he stand to do CPR on someone? The friend replied with a spiritual aspect then asked the husband if he would perform CPR on his own wife. The paramedic was ashamed and in awe when the husband responded that all he could do was call 9-1-1 and wait. They parted as the husband says, “I’ll see you in church”. His friend replies, “I’m gone pray that I see the church in you my brother”.

Wrap Up: The husband wasn’t a bad man, perhaps arrogant but his behavior ultimately cost him his job. After noticing his wife had no longer been fighting with him and seemed more patient, it made him nervous. He would sneak and switch their dinner plates thinking implying that she may poison him. The movie mentions that we are not deserving of grace, yet God still gives us his grace regardless of our actions. I appreciated the example of this when the husband returned to his job even after being fired, to make a full confession to his superiors. One, instantly wanted to pursue legally action while the other heard him out and made the decision to not press charges due to recognizing his sincerity and for taking accountability for his action, willing to accept whatever would be decided. It reminded me of the times when I have been shown grace and how often we take things for granted and why I am so thankful to be here today.

How Are You

Charla was dying, and she knew it. While she was lying on her hospital room bed, her surgeon and a group of young interns poured into the room. For the next several minutes, the doctor ignored Charla as he described her terminal condition to the interns. Finally, he turned to her and asked, “And how are you?” Charla weakly smiled and warmly told the group about her hope and peace in Jesus.

Some two thousand years ago, Jesus’ battered, naked body hung in humiliation on a cross before a crowd of onlookers. Would He lash out at His tormentors? No. “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’ ” (Luke 23:34). Though falsely convicted and crucified, He prayed for His enemies. Later, He told another humiliated man, a criminal, that—because of the man’s faith—he would soon be with Him “in paradise” (v. 43). In His pain and shame, Jesus chose to share words of hope and life out of love for others.

As Charla concluded sharing Christ to her listeners, she posed the question back to the doctor. She tenderly looked into his tear-filled eyes and asked, “And how are you?” By Christ’s grace and power, she’d shared words of life—showing love and concern for him and others in the room. In whatever trying situation we face today or in the days ahead, let’s trust God to provide courage to lovingly speak words of life.

REFLECT: What difficult and humbling circumstances are you facing these days? How can you rest on Jesus during this challenging season?


PRAY: 
Jesus, I praise You for Your example of grace and humility. Please help me reflect these qualities in my words.

Full Circle

Soon after I turned 11 years old, my family moved to 9th St. downtown Sacramento, Ca. This was around the time I began to make friends and was happy to play outside as opposed to staying in my room all day drawing, writing and constantly being yelled at while forced to do not only my chores but those of my younger brother’s as well during a time momma suffered from depression. I learned to appreciate nature’s provisions as it allowed me to nourish myself by eating from the blackberry vines and pomegranate trees that grew in our neighborhood which meant not having to go in and out of the house all day. Even though I was well aware of having to face the inevitable wrath of momma at the end of the day from my fingers and clothes stained with juices from the sweet fruits, it would be worth it. There was the occasional pedophile driving up to ask for directions and offering candy we knew not to take; only to discover he was completely exposed from the waist down, we also quickly learned never to approach strange vehicles. Aside from that, back then there weren’t any real dangers to be concerned about. The notorious serial killer Dorothea Puente who lived a few blocks behind us, wasn’t targeting children.

The girls spent time playing hopscotch and roller-skating to K Street Mall, which back then was an empty strip of space lined with stores on each side that stretched a couple miles all the way into Old Sacramento, a popular tourist spot. Today K Street is more of a club/restaurant scene with not only rail lines for the city train, but regular traffic as well. My brother’s and I were fortunate to get an allowance from my stepfather on the weekends he visited. My money was spent in Woolworths either on ice cream or nail polish while the boys would spend theirs at the underground arcade in Old Sac. However, on the days we didn’t have money, the boys would wreak havoc in the neighborhood. Between our home and K Street Mall there were several offices and buildings of which I had no clue as to what took place inside. Most days while they were in operation, we were in school. One block over from K Street is our State Capitol building. There were times my brothers and I hung out in there all day. We would sit in the mini theatre and watch short films about the history of Sacramento. We’d explore the secret doors on adventures wondering what they led to which was always something interesting. One day we decided to play on the elevators until we found ourselves stuck inside for what seemed like forever but was only 10-15 minutes. To our surprise when the doors finally opened, it was former Governor George Deukmejian who came to our aid. Certain aspects of the Capitol Building are more of a museum and of course there’s no longer freedom to roam with the transient population and crime being what it is today.

My brothers seemed to enjoy diving in the dumpsters located in the alleyways behind what I eventually discovered to be law offices. They’d find case files from homicides, old polaroid’s taken at the scene of the crime, even boxes of new pens and fresh paper. I was intrigued and often chose to stay inside reading through the cases never realizing that later in my life, I would not only be utilizing the services of an attorney and bail bondsman, but also find myself in the huge courthouse (featured above on left) in one instance testifying, another as a juror and at one point facing 7 years during my own trial. Although as a kid I wasn’t aware that huge building was a courthouse, I knew it was an important place and sensed it was a place I didn’t want to enter even though I admired the design of all these extremely tall structures in our neighborhood, sparking my initial interest of becoming an architect. So, when the boys would wade in the courthouse fountain for loose change, I stayed clear. Sometimes the boys would unscrew the plastic covers from the tires of cars in the parking lots, letting the air escape throughout the day.

My siblings and I laugh whenever we get together now as they tease me for surprisingly being the one out of all of us that not only ended up in the courthouse but also the main jail (featured above on the right). After forty plus years I had my chance to witness first-hand what goes on inside the building I admired as a child. Now after being homeless and recently starting a new job, I can’t help but believe it was God’s plan for me to once again find my way downtown in a new home. Not only am I located in the center of everything, but I’ve also found myself in the last year revisited these places from my childhood memories with a greater purpose. Working in the mental health field for various county affiliates throughout California, a huge part of my job is advocating, educating and raising awareness regarding what many families and peers struggling with mental health face regularly. Visiting the state capitol to discuss and learn about certain programs and funding such as SB1338 and AB 2830-CARE Court. Experiencing firsthand for those 5 days in the county jail if people with MH challenges are receiving proper treatment/medications and what if any resources are offered to them once they are released. Looking back, I have no regrets for those lived experiences. In fact, I feel blessed for paying attention and knowing I wasn’t being punished but more so chosen for a purpose although not realizing at the time my life would come full circle.

Fun Fact: It was my daughter who at the age of 7 taught me how a bill becomes a law by always having her head in that big brown book from a previous post. I never thought that would be something I needed to know, nor did I have much interest at the time, but I listened because she was interested, and I never forgot or imagined I would need to use that information at some point in my life.

The Fruit Sells the Tree

A nursery owner set out to sell peach trees. She considered various approaches. Should she line up leafy saplings in burlap sacks in a beautiful display? Should she create a colorful catalog picturing peach trees in various seasons of growth? At last she realized what really sells a peach tree. It’s the peach it produces: sweet-smelling, deep orange, and fuzzy-skinned. The best way to sell a peach tree is to pluck a ripe peach, cut it open until the juice dribbles down your arm, and hand a slice to a customer. When they taste the fruit, they want the tree.

God reveals Himself in a wrapper of spiritual fruit in His followers: love, joy, peace, forbearance (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22–23). When believers in Jesus exhibit such fruit, others will want that fruit as well, and, therefore, will seek the Source of the fruit that’s so attractive.

Fruit is the external result of an internal relationship—the influence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Fruit is the dressing that beckons others to know the God we represent. Like the bright peaches standing out against the green leaves of a tree, the fruit of the Spirit announces to a starving world, “Here is food! Here is life! Come and find a way out of exhaustion and discouragement. Come and meet God!

REFLECT: What first drew you to Jesus? How are you exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit in your life so that others are attracted to its Source, God?

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, I welcome You to continue to grow Your fruit in my life that others might see You and want You in their lives. Learn more about walking by the Spirit.

Mini Get-A-Way

Hello everyone! I’d like to extend my sincerest apologies for my absence. I recently spoke with someone about how our fellow bloggers suddenly disappear without a trace and I always pray for their safety. Over the last few days, I’ve attempted to write a brief explanation for my upcoming get-a-way, but I can’t seem to find the words. Although as a whole, everything is actually good. I think this all boils down to my bi-polar diagnosis. I’ve noticed some changes in myself for months now that I don’t like and have been trying to fight. It seems as though “Big Sexxy” (previous post) has temporarily lost her superpowers, but I’ll be back in a couple of weeks. Until then, this is the best way I can describe my mood as of late. I hope you enjoy this song from one of my all-time girl crushes, lol. It always makes me cry because it’s so deeply felt, but they’re good hopeful tears that drive me to not only keep pushing but also a reminder of all the times I’ve been knocked down and got right back up. Having faith that things always work out as long as I don’t quit!

Witness Marks

This message spoke volumes to me for several reason. The main reason being that I recall a time when people went above and beyond without motive or expectations of being rewarded, but simply out of kindness and consideration. Even the slightest act of kindness at one time was greatly appreciated and those on the receiving end would usually pay it forward. Although this does still happen with some, unfortunately we are currently living in a time where many will only offer the bare minimum be it in service or kindness.

Daily Devotional:

“See that?” The clock repairman pointed his flashlight beam on a small, fine mark roughly engraved inside the old grandfather clock he was working on in our home. “Another repairman could have put that there almost a century ago,” he said. “It’s called a ‘witness mark,’ and it helps me know how to set the mechanism.

Before the age of technical bulletins and repair manuals, “witness marks” were used to help the person making a future repair align moving parts with precision. They were more than just time-saving reminders; they were often left as a simple kindness to the next person doing the work.

The Bible encourages us to leave our own “witness marks” as we work for God by serving others in our broken world. The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome: “Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up” (Romans 15:2). This is the example of our God, “who gives endurance and encouragement” (v. 5). It’s about being a good citizen of both earth and heaven.

Our “witness marks” may seem like small things, but they can make a vital difference in someone’s life. An uplifting word, a financial gift to someone in need, and a listening ear—all are kindnesses that can have a lasting impact. May God help you make a mark for Him in someone’s life today!

Reflect: What “witness marks” have others left in your life to encourage you? What simple kindness can you do for another believer today?

Prayer: Almighty Father, thank You for the loving-kindness You’ve shown me through Your Son, Jesus. Please help me to reflect Your love in even the smallest things I do today.

Hanging Fire

Featured Poetry of Audre Lorde: An American writer, feminist, librarian and civil rights activist. She was self-described “warrior poet, black lesbian and mother who dedicated both her life and creative talents to confronting and addressing injustices of racism, sexism, class and homophobia”(1934-1992).

I am fourteen

and my skin has betrayed me   

the boy I cannot live without   

still sucks his thumb

in secret

how come my knees are

always so ashy

what if I die

before morning

and momma’s in the bedroom   

with the door closed.

I have to learn how to dance   

in time for the next party   

my room is too small for me   

suppose I die before graduation   

they will sing sad melodies   

but finally

tell the truth about me

There is nothing I want to do   

and too much

that has to be done

and momma’s in the bedroom   

with the door closed.

Nobody even stops to think   

about my side of it

I should have been on Math Team   

my marks were better than his   

why do I have to be

the one

wearing braces

I have nothing to wear tomorrow   

will I live long enough

to grow up

and momma’s in the bedroom   

with the door closed.

An Influential Poet

In honor of National Poetry Month, I’d like to introduce those of you who aren’t familiar, to a poet I greatly admire and who has in many ways influenced my writing.

Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1950, poet, teacher and activist Carolyn Forché has witnessed, thought about, and put into poetry some of the most devastating events of twentieth-century world history. An articulate defender of her own aims as well as the larger goals of poetry, Forché is perhaps best-known for coining the term “poetry of witness.” In her ground-breaking anthology, Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness (1993). In 1998 in Stockholm, she received the Edita and Ira Morris Hiroshima Foundation for Peace and Culture Award for her human rights advocacy and the preservation of memory and culture.

In 2015 I was fortunate in having the opportunity to not only meet but also learn from such an inspirational poet. While attending her workshops and listening as she spoke about what she’d witnessed while spending two years (1978-1980) in El Salvador investigating how human rights were being abused, left me in awe. I was intrigued by her story telling of the events she witnessed which is in part what has influenced me to write mainly about what I know, by sharing my lived experiences. (Featured in the photo below: Me, author/musician Christian Kiefer and Carolyn Forche).

The following is a brief preview and analysis of Against Forgetting according to “poets.org”.

Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness collects poetry by over 140 poets who, according to the anthology’s editor Carolyn Forché, “endured conditions of historical and social extremity during the twentieth century—through exile, state censorship, political persecution, house arrest, torture, imprisonment, military occupation, warfare, and assassination.” By gathering work that she defines as, “poetic witness to the dark times in which they [the authors] lived,” Forché intended Against Forgetting to reveal the ways in which tragic events leave marks upon the imagination. Even in poems that do not explicitly take historical events as their subject matter, tragedy’s after-image floats beneath the surface of the language.

Against Forgetting is organized according to historical tragedy, starting with the Armenian Genocide and proceeding through the twentieth century to the pro-democratic demonstrations in China. Each section is preceded by a short statement that gives historical background for the events in order to place the poems in a proper context. Within the sections, the poets are organized chronologically according to their year of birth and Forché presents a brief biographical note elucidating the poet’s personal experiences with the historical situation.

Quotes regarding her work:

In the dark times, will there also be singing?
Yes, there will be singing.
About the dark times.
—Bertolt Brecht

Ecclesiastes 5:2

Do not be rash with your mouth…

My spirits have been somewhat broken this week. Something I’ve noticed about myself in the last year are so that for some reason I’ve allowed certain things to get to me in such away they didn’t before, even though what I continue to witness is nothing new. I’ve had my share of talks with young mothers over the years regarding what not they say to their children, but also how they say things. These have been women who were neighbors, or at least we knew each other to some extent one way or another. Earlier this week I witnessed a woman spewing the most horrible vile comments to her child who couldn’t have been no more than 4 or 5 years old. Aside from repeatedly telling him how stupid he is, she went on with expressing to him that she wished he was never born. I desperately wanted to intervene, however my instincts told me that was not a good idea. Perhaps that’s one reason why it’s bothering me so much and I can’t stop thinking about it because I did nothing about it. I told myself that it was none of my business when actually I feel it is my business. If that child continues to endure that type of abuse what will his role be in society late in life? Will I cross paths with him again if by chance he grows to be an angry adult? It reminded me of a passage from long ago that I keep written in my bible on an index card. I’m not certain where I first came across it, but I have shared it with others from time to time when I saw fit.

” Whenever we speak out of fear, anger, ignorance or pride-even if what we say is true-Those who listen will hear more than our words, they’ll hear emotion. They don’t know whether emotion comes from love and concern or disdain and disrespect, risking misunderstanding”.

This passage doesn’t necessarily apply to this particular situation, but when it comes to what you say to a child, those words stay with them and it’s no different than physically beating them down. The scars are still there. Regardless of who I’m communicating with, friends, my children, co-workers, I do my best to stay mindful of this passage. I don’t know what that mother this week may be dealing with or if that is a normal behavior for her, it isn’t my place to judge so instead I simply said a prayer for her and her son.