Time for Self-Examination: Are You Camera-Ready?

Self-examination: Are you camera ready?Yesterday, during a women’s ministry event, we participants were instructed to gather into groups based upon our birth months, and then, determine some things we had in common. The leadership team also encouraged us to take group selfies and share them on social media. Most of us went a step beyond and began taking selfies with smaller subsets of women in our groups. We really embraced the idea of getting to know each other.

What a great ice breaker…except I experienced a hitch as I gathered two other women to snap a selfie. I kept repositioning my smart phone but couldn’t fit myself into the picture. Actually, after a couple of seconds, I realized none of us were in the picture. The background I captured was strange, to boot. Obviously, I take selfies so infrequently that I hadn’t remembered to switch to the “selfie camera” mode. The women in my group chuckled and gave me a hard time. It was all in love and fun.

Like me, have you gotten candid photos of unsuspecting bystanders instead of taking the selfie you really intended? Many of us have. Sometimes, we even act like a camera facing in the wrong direction; instead of examining ourselves, we zoom in on others’ faults. Before long, we concoct strange or distorted pictures of those in our midst.

For example, some women berate their friends’ parenting styles, but refuse to acknowledge and correct their own children’s faults. Others complain about a spouse’s obsession with technology—all the while they use their own electronic devices at bedtime, while eating family meals, and even during a night out at the movies. Still, a few ladies complain about how no one listens to them; however, they don’t consider how often they unapologetically interrupt others. When things like this happen, we might as well smile and say, “Cheese,” because it’s time to turn our “cameras” on selfie mode. We need some serious introspection!

If you were to take a snapshot of your life right now, what area might require improvements? What area is “camera-ready?” How does Matthew 7:3 speak to you personally?

2017 Writer Development Conference

YOU Writer Conference Promo 2017

Just sharing a conference announcement for all of my Christian writer friends… I first attended the Writer Development Track at the Black Church Leadership and Family Conference in 2014. I’ve been contracted to write for LifeWay’s YOU curriculum several times since then. Folks who are serious about investing in themselves and their writing careers should consider this amazing opportunity.

A Shift of Focus

A Shift of FocusThe aroma of yeast rolls and fried chicken wafts out from the fellowship hall and travels into the sanctuary. Suddenly, our focus shifts. Instead of feasting on the preached word, we anticipate the mouthwatering spread we’ll soon face. Before we can say amen, we strategically place one foot into the aisle and gather our belongings. We hope to get first dibs on dinner and dessert—a pound cake or peach cobbler, of course.

Okay, this may be an exaggeration, but you get the picture. When we anticipate something good, we can hardly wait to receive it:  a new baby, a gift, a special meal, or maybe a visit from a distant loved one. But what happens when we receive something that leaves us puzzled, and consequently, we don’t know what to expect?

That’s the position I was in a few months ago. I was consistently drawn to two songs, “Safe in His Arms” by Rev. Milton Brunson and the Thompson Community Singers and “He’s Preparing Me” by Daryl Coley. I purchased and downloaded copies of the music. (I still play the songs daily.) Around the same time frame, I kept seeing verses that reminded me God would sustain me. Still, I didn’t understand it all.

Weeks later, though, I experienced a sudden onset of a chronic illness. When I felt like my body was shutting down, those verses gave me strength. Plus, the songs God put in my Spirit encouraged me. He had prepared me in advance for the struggles He knew I’d face. Everything became clear: I was indeed “Safe in His Arms,” and I was comforted in knowing God would sustain me. (Praise report: I’m much better, now!)

In the months that followed, He gave me additional verses to increase my faith. He’s used them to draw me nearer to Him. I’m sharing some of them with you today in hopes that you, too, will gain strength from God’s Word.  Click here to read them.

Dear sister in Christ, you, too may have recently received some news you didn’t expect. Perhaps you anticipated something good, but it hasn’t yet occurred. If so, the stench of doubt and mistrust could easily waft into your personal space and change your focus. That’s why it’s important to have your own arsenal handy: Scriptures that speak to your unique situation. Gather them. Say them aloud. Then, trust God in the meantime, and know that whatever your concern, God is in control. He’s got this. Yes … even this.

Gratefulness: Praise Report Anyone?

praiseWhen a good friend tagged me on Facebook requesting that I share three things daily that I was grateful for over the course of the upcoming week, I complained, “That’s just one more thing to put on my to-do list. Ugh.”

But, I had enjoyed reading others’ posts in this so-called Positivity Challenge. It couldn’t be so horrible, right? After all, it would force me to embrace a mindset of thankfulness.

By day five, I was hooked. Still, I debated whether I’d share what I was really thankful for that day: 20 pieces of chicken I’d cooked for dinner. Why? I didn’t always have food in abundance. I remembered my season as a single parent when funds were low. I could only afford about one meal per day while pregnant with my first child, and my weight had dropped to just over 100 lbs. Conversely, two decades later, as I wrote the Facebook post about it, I realized my situation had reversed completely. For that, I was grateful.Facebook Post on Gratefulness 14 Aug 2014

That Facebook status update  on August 27, 2014, ended up being one of my most popular posts. (See the corresponding image at the right.) And to think, I almost decided not to publish it. I nearly talked myself out of participating in the challenge altogether. I thought I wouldn’t have enough time to ponder which scenarios I’d post. I wondered if anyone would even care.

However, sometime during the challenge, I realized my efforts were worthwhile. Compiling my list of praises became the highlight of my day. Sometimes I had more praises than space to jot them down. And, soon, I realized not only had I encouraged myself, but others were uplifted, as well. My outlook had changed significantly in the course of seven days.

Now, more than ever, I realize we all can make time to be grateful … to remind ourselves how far we’ve come. What are you doing to challenge yourself to show gratitude and make it a priority daily?