Friday, September 27, 2013

What Does Your Face Have to Say About It?

 I’ll never forget the day I learned that my facial expression speaks volumes about my intentions.  I was in the third grade and hadn’t been at my new school very long.  One day, as I walked toward the main office a teacher and another adult stopped me and asked whether I knew where to find a particular classroom.  I searched my mental database and tried unsuccessfully to come up with the answer.  I could have replied with a courteous, “I really wish I could help, but I honestly don’t know.”  Instead I made a face—eyes wide, top lip turned up on the left side, and vehemently shook my head from side to side. 
The teacher’s eyes widened.  “Oh my goodness!  Did you see that face?” she inquired of her comrade.  “I just asked her a simple question and she made that ugly face!”  The other adult agreed that my face had done something to warrant the teacher’s insults.  I was confused.  Hurt.  What face had I made that was abhorrent enough for adults to talk about how unattractive it was right in front of me.  It took everything in me not to cry—especially since I hadn’t meant any harm.
I reenacted the scene in front of the mirror when I got home from school that day and I was surprised by what I saw.  The face I’d made was indeed offensive.  It didn’t at all match my heart’s intention.
I don’t know about you, but when I discover something about myself that I don’t like and have the power to change—I change it.  That day I decided that my face would never betray me again.  Since my facial expression is something I carry with me everywhere I go, I determined to turn it from my enemy to my very best friend.  I began looking in the mirror and smiling at myself, frowning at myself, and laughing at myself.  I observed what I looked like when I was extremely happy, angry, or sad.  I looked in the mirror as I talked on the phone with friends and relatives.  I was on a mission to see what my face said about what I was saying.  When my face was untruthful, I practiced making it match with my intention.  I did this so much that now a situation rarely catches me so off guard that I make a face that isn’t in alignment with what I mean.  There’s no room for misinterpretation.  I prefer it that way. 
As CALI Girls, we want to make sure to marry our facial expressions with our intentions.  I encourage you to find out what your face (and overall body language) has to say about what you’re saying.  It’s as simple as looking in the mirror.  If you don’t like what you see, change it. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

James and the Magic Marker

There was a boy in my social studies class who I’ll call James.  He seemed to wear the same outfit to school three out of five days.  Everyone noticed it…and everyone laughed about it behind his back.  We figured that his clothes had to be dirty.  There was no way he washed that outfit as often as he wore it.  Then I had a “brilliant” idea.  If I tagged his clothes some way, we could solve the mystery.  Did James indeed wear the exact same thing every day or did he just have three of the same outfit?  The latter, if true, would quiet all the hoopla.  The former…well that wouldn’t go over so well at Audubon Middle School in the early 90’s. 

One day, egged on by classmates, I walked by James, undetected, and ran a blue marker across the side thigh of his pants.  If the blue marker was still on his pants the next time he wore them, we would all know that the pants were indeed dirty.

The following day, the marker’s presence was undeniable.  Game over.  When my classmates noticed, the jokes went into full swing.  Instead of people talking about James behind his back, they laughed right in his face.  It was painful to watch.  James didn’t have any comebacks.  Tears fell as he hung his head, embarrassed.  I looked at him and felt horrible.  I had played a huge part in this milieu.  I had acted like an animal—a bully.  And I did it to fit in. 

I can’t honestly say that I did any of the right things next—I didn’t tell my classmates to stop joking, I didn’t apologize to James, nor did I ask God to forgive me.  In fact, I went on living my life and kind of forgot about it.  It wasn’t until many years later when my clothing rotation seemed to come and go a little too frequently and someone pointed out that I wore the same faded black shirt to church every Wednesday night that I even remembered that terrible day in middle school. 

Then memories of my high school transgressions came flooding in—the jokes about the girl with the “Wave” jeans or the girl with the large ashy lips, or the girl who rode the moped, or the guy with the post-nasal drip who mispronounced his own name.  By college, I was still clowning—the girl with the ridiculously high flipped hair or the one who didn’t have any at all.  Or the boy who did flips and talked to himself between classes.  In adulthood, there was a lady at the job with a serious case of body odor.  These were all people I had teamed up with others to laugh at.

Then I thought about the times people had made fun of me—the time in middle school when a random boy clowned me for having ears like Spock’s, or when the guy I had a serious crush on joked with his friend that I was so skinny I would look pregnant if I swallowed a sunflower seed, or the time in high school when I wore the bright white “Red Cross” tennis shoes that set the whole quad off in uproarious laughter, or the book dedicated to girls’ thoughts about our school’s football players that had more negativity in it about me than it did the player I dated at the time.  I remembered how I felt each time I was the butt of jokes.  And I was convicted.

As a youngster, it never occurred to me that James could only wear what his parents bought for him and perhaps the one outfit was all they could afford.  I never thought about how James must have felt when he put the same outfit on day after day to go to a school where most of the other kids were doing whatever it took to rock the latest fashions.  Or perhaps the guy who flipped and talked to himself between classes in college battled mental illness.  I didn’t open my mind enough to see the reasons behind anything.  I just laughed.  Had someone done the same thing to me, I would have been devastated.

The bible says that we should treat others the way we want to be treated—and all of us want to be treated with love and respect.  Love and respect don’t equal hurting the feelings of others just for the sake of laughter or popularity.  As Christians, we have a responsibility to be kind to people.  Others should be able to look at us and see the love of God oozing out of us.  Period.   If the motivation behind our words or actions is anything other than love and respect, we need to check ourselves. 

Sadly, 46 percent of children and young people have been bullied at some point in their lives.  I pray the day comes when it ends, but until then, it is important that you see yourself as you are—a child of the Most High.  No matter what anyone else says about you, you are extremely valuable to God.  1 Samuel 16:7b says, "For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”  You may not have the most fashionable clothes, but the One who matters most is more concerned about the condition of your heart than He is with what you wear—make sure your heart is right.

With that said, it’s important to forgive those who have said or done hurtful things to us.  All kinds of physical, spiritual, and emotional ailments are birthed from the pressures anger and un-forgiveness put on our bodies.  You may not be able to tell now, but I promise the effects of what you hold in your heart will manifest on the outside.  Choose to pray for your transgressors and release the pain they have caused you.  Choose to let go of past hurts and love your transgressors with everything you’ve got.  I know it is hard, but with God’s help, you can be completely healed of the pain. 

Finally, my mom used to always say:  “Be careful of the words you speak.  Make them kind and sweet.  You never know from day to day which ones you’ll have to eat.”  Meditate on that.  If nothing else I’ve said convinces you to live by the Golden Rule, the manifestation of this statement most certainly will.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Up in the Booth

I spent hours in the studio.  Singing.  Rapping.  Writing.  Beat boxing.  You name it, I did it.  And I enjoyed it so much that I didn’t charge a dime for my services.  I was happy to have free time in the booth and I just wanted to be on somebody’s track and bump myself while I cruised down “The Shaw” in my silver Civic.  The homies would hear my recordings and shake their heads at my ridiculousness.  But in my mind, I just knew that one day someone would hear my compilations and sign me to a label.  Maybe I would be a hardcore gangsta rapper or an R&B diva.  Or maybe I wouldn’t have to commit to just one style since I could transition so seamlessly between the two.  Perhaps someone would hear me talking on a joint and ask me to do professional voice-over work.  I didn’t know what it would be, but no doubt, I would be recognized for my musical genius. 
Singing jingles for non-profit organizations turned into me singing and rapping about promiscuous behaviors and imaginary murders I committed.  I even had an online radio segment where I gave “ghetto advice” to troubled imaginary callers.  Bless my heart.
It was all in fun, I reasoned.  Besides, I disguised my voice.  No one would ever know it was me who moaned or cussed on track two.  Church folk would never hear my music anyway.  If they did, they would need to repent just as much as I did.
Looking back, I wonder what my parents thought.  I would be gone to the studio for hours only to return home late with nothing to show them.  I couldn’t let them hear the stuff I recorded because they would surely go into cardiac arrest on the spot.
On Sunday morning, I was right back in the choir stand singing about how God was all over me and keeping me alive.
It’s a shame.  I was a Sunday morning Christian.  We’ve all heard about them.  They do what they want during the week and then on Sunday they’re in the pulpit, in the choir stand, dressed to the nines in the pews, greeting churchgoers—acting like saints.  Sometimes they even make other believers feel inadequate by the judgmental words that come out of their mouths.  They look the part, but underneath it all, they are sin-sick—in need of the Master’s healing touch.  They talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.  They pray that no one sees them while they are out doing their thing.  They haven’t fully given their lives over to the Lord, although they will one day soon, should God be gracious enough to bless them with a little more time.
As Christians, we’ve got to stop claiming to love the Lord while flirting with sin.  Our private lives and public lives should mirror one another.  People should be able to look at us and see that we are unashamedly different—set apart.  We shouldn’t look like the world.  We have to be unwilling to compromise and trust that God will provide a platform for us to use our gifts and talents to glorify Him.
I hear countless people say that their careers and their faith are completely separate.  If you can’t take God with you to your work environment, something’s wrong.  God should be in everything you do.  We have to understand that God is omnipresent.  There’s no getting away from Him.  He’s always there and He sees everything we do—the good and the bad.  Our heart’s desire should be to make Him smile—whether we’re in public or in the privacy of our homes.
Flash forward ten years.  No one ever signed me to a record label.  No one ever asked me to do voice-over work.  I don’t have a single recording of myself that I can bear to listen to.  And I don’t have a single track that I can play for my children.  I put a great deal of time and energy into the studio and I don’t have anything to physically show for it.
I’m okay with that. 
My focus has turned to something with a lasting effect—kingdom building.  I’m still creative and I write constantly.  I’m still “up in the booth,” only instead of equalizers, headphones, and microphones, I use my fingers and a keyboard to capture the melody of my thoughts.  And I write with purpose—hoping to encourage others to sincerely live for Christ—not just some of the time, but ALL the time. 
I’ve learned that only what I do for Christ will last.  Everything else loses significance and passes away.  God blessed me with the gift of writing, and what I write is my gift back to Him.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Remembering My Mother

I wrote this on December 2, 2012:

My mom passed away on November 21, 2012 at 1:30am.  It hit me so much harder than I thought it would.  I mean, I knew her time was drawing near, but I haven’t been able to hold back my tears.  My mom was my first conscious experience of love.  She was my dearest friend.  She was the absolute best mom.  Her passing and my reflection on my life with her and her last days really helped me put things in perspective.  I think I was harder on her at times than I should have been.  My responses were all rooted in love, but in hindsight they were also selfish.

For example, I took approximately eight weeks off from work to care for her earlier this year.  My dad was still alive at the time.  When I came, I would cook for her, clean for her, read to her, play cards with her, and anything else I could do to show her that I cared.  I would fuss at her too.  To me, she seemed somewhat depressed after her chemo and radiation.  That made me angry.  I wanted her to be happy.  After all, she was alive!  God had allowed her to remain in the land of the living.  I tried to remind her of all the things she had to be thankful for—food to eat, financial security, amazing children and grandchildren, a husband who would do anything to make her happy—and yet she seemed ungrateful.  She couldn’t tap into her happiness.  I prayed with her and sang songs to her.  I read scriptures to her.  I even printed out scriptures about healing and faith and rejoicing and fear and taped them up around the house.  I went to a healing service at my church and prayed for her.  I wrote down every scripture they mentioned.  I read them all at my house and highlighted the ones that I thought she needed to hear.  I read them to her the next day.  I preached mini sermons to her about how good God is and how He is able to do anything He wants to do, including heal her and restore her, if only she would believe.

She was haunted by her dreams, but when she woke up I would tell her that to have more peaceful rest she would have to keep her mind on those things that are good, and pure, and uplifting.

I rejected the concept of Alzheimer’s for my mother.

When she complained I told her that I didn’t want to hear it.  I read to her about Job.  He really went through it, and yet he never stopped loving or trusting God.  He refused to complain even when everyone around him complained.  He was restored and blessed exceeding abundantly for his faithfulness.  I wanted my mom to do the same.

The fact that she couldn’t make the religious connections I wanted her to make upset me.  She had been in church longer than me.  Why couldn’t she rejoice in the midst of her suffering?  Why weren’t my prayers being answered?

As time passed, my mind slowly began to suppress the 29 great years we had spent together.  I forgot about all of my school plays and dance recitals she attended.  I forgot about all the ways she had helped me to be a better mother to my oldest daughter by loving her for me when I didn’t know how to.  I forgot about all the movies we had seen together, or all the trips to the thrift shop we had taken together.  I forgot about taking her to see Wicked, or to the Mother’s Day Jazz Festival, or to the company picnic at my job.  I forgot about grocery shopping with her.  I forgot about all the many conversations we had had.  I forgot about playing Trouble, Scrabble, Casino, and Gin Rummy with her.  I forgot about how we baked cakes together.  I forgot about how we laughed together.  I forgot about the many walks we took together.  I forgot about how often we talked on the phone.  I forgot about how special and important she always made me feel.  I forgot about how she had encouraged me to love myself and think myself beautiful no matter what. 

I only focused on what I perceived as her negativity and I was disappointed in her.

I wanted her to be better.  I wanted things to be the way they were.  I didn’t want to accept that they had changed.

I was upset with myself for being unable to process the pain and confusion and frustration that she was must have felt, especially considering she could no longer do all the things she had once loved or taken so much pride in.  How hard that must have been for her.

On November 20th, God blessed me with a gift that I will never forget.  My mom had been home for a day.  She coughed throughout the night.  Oh it pained me to hear it.  I cried and cried and cried some more.  I prayed that God would take away her pain and discomfort.  Each time I helped her to the bathroom on the 20th, she would give me the biggest hugs and kisses.  She said, “I am so happy you’re here.” She told me over and over, “I love you so much” and “Thank you, Lou.”  Oh, the tears I shed!

When she lay down she would raise her arm for me to come to her.  I would lean in and she would hug and kiss me.  I sat on the couch and read while she lay in the bed and she said, “Come here.  I want to tell you something.”  I leaned in and told her I was listening.  Her words were so clear.  She said, “Enjoy life!” 

“Enjoy life?” I asked.

“Yes!  And someone special.”

She started another sentence and nodded off.

I smiled.  It was just like her to get sidetracked.  We’ve always joked about how fickle she is. 

But her message resounded within me.

Something else interesting that I witnessed.  My mom has never been a shouter, but on November 20th, she shouted.  With her arms raised to the heavens she whisper-sang “I Am on the Battlefield” and when she finished she repeated over and over, “Yes, Lord.  Yes, Lord.  Yes, Lord.”  As the day progressed, she said over and over, “Thank you, Lord.  Thank you, Lord.  Thank you, Lord.”

These moments were so special to me.  I know she was in intense pain.  I know she was very uncomfortable, but it was so great for me to see her praising God through it all and it confirmed for me that I will see her again when my life here is over.

Oh how I rejoiced with her through my tears!

What did I learn during my year of tears?  Life is a gift.  It is truly a blessing to live it.  I honor God by enjoying it.  I honor Him by loving my family unconditionally.  I honor Him by using my life to help others.  I honor God by appreciating all that He does for me.  I must not take anything for granted.

My year of tears also confirmed that time on this earth is temporary.  Heaven is real.  I am determined to get there, where I will be reunited with those I love and those who believed.  I must do my best to help as many other people as I can to get there also.  I must do everything I can to tell the world of God’s goodness and mercy and peace that surpasses all understanding.  In him, there is rest.  In Him, there is security.  In Him, there is unconditional love and nothing compares to it.

I thank God for the 31 years I had with my mother.  

RIP Bernice Matilda Watson, January 2, 1939 – November 21, 2012


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Revival of the Soul

Revival of the Soul started off as a short story. I wrote it for a narrative class in college sometime before 2003. After graduation I took a theatre class at West L.A., where the final exam was to perform a short scene. The teacher gave the option of writing a short scene for other students to act out to those who preferred not to perform. I was one of the latter. I decided to turn a portion of Revival of the Soul into a short scene and it was performed by two of my fellow students--who did an amazing job, if I may say so!

At the time I wrote R.O.S., I had never experienced the loss of a parent. Ironically, when both my mother and father passed away during the latter part of last year, the short scene I had written ten years earlier really ministered to me. God knows I loved my mom and dad so much. They accepted me for who I was and loved me unconditionally. It hurt so much to imagine life without them, and yet it hurt even more to see them in pain.

I am so thankful to God for walking with me and comforting me during the most difficult time of my short life. I am still learning how to walk by faith, how to trust in Him, how to really turn all my hurt, and pain over to Him, and how to hear Him when He speaks...

I thank God for the things He has revealed to me about life, death, love, His love for me, and my purpose here on earth. I don't know that I would have slowed down nor quieted down long enough to open my eyes and ears to the things He had for me had things happened any differently.  
Check out this link for a copy of my short play Revival of the Soul (in its entirety).  I hope you enjoy.

Monday, March 4, 2013

In Him

As I walk in the garden, I feel a gentle breeze
I kneel down and thank the Lord for supplying all my needs
When surrounded by placidity I always feel so blessed

I’m able to talk with my Father and get everything off my chest

I exhale all my troubles and inhale the peace He gives
I’m honored to share this time with Him because of who He is
He’s my creator, my provider, my rock, my every thing
And I love who I am because of Him

I’m confident in His presence—where I feel His pure affection
He renews my heart and mind and I humbly follow His direction
I’m overjoyed to know that He delights to be with me
And thankful for the opportunity to know Him intimately
I exhale all my insecurities and inhale the assurance He gives
I’m honored to share this time with Him because of who He is
He’s my answer, my restorer, my comforter, my very best friend
And I love who I am in Him

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Important Lessons at a Young Age

Everyone has that story from childhood—the one their parent tells every opportunity she gets—the one the child wishes the parent would just forget because it was so long ago and no one really cares anyway.  One of my mom’s favorite stories about me was the time that I prayed my way out of a whipping. 
“The Lord heard her that day,” she would laugh and say. 
I’m not quite sure what I had done.  All I know is that after church one Sunday my mom took me to my big, big sister’s house between services so that I could collect a whipping I had earned at church.  Her whippings were the worst to me because she was always so nice to me.  When I got one it hurt my feelings more than anything else.  My mom didn’t believe in whipping clothes or eyeballs so she would make us strip down to our underwear, get on our knees, and put our heads on the bed with our eyes covered while she spanked with freshly picked switches. The emotional pain was accentuated by the physical pain and the residual welts served as reminders to keep me in check for at least another few months.
For some reason on this particular Sunday afternoon I asked my mom to give me a moment to pray.  She said ok.  I went into one of my sister’s back bedrooms, where I remained for at least thirty minutes.  I prayed out loud that day like the deacons during devotion at an old school Baptist church.  “Heavenly Father, PLEASE sir don’t let my mom whip me today.  I'm so sorry!  Please, Lord!” I begged.
My mom said that each time she would step to the door of the bedroom, she could hear me wailing and calling on the Lord.
It really tickled her.  She called my sister to come listen to me.  They both cracked up, unbeknownst to me.  I knew it was unlikely that my mom would decide against spanking me, since I had actually done wrong, but I hoped the Lord would grant me this one request.
"Please, Lord, heavenly Father!!  I won't do it again.  I promise.  Ohhhhhhh."
As my prayer dragged on, my mother finally came in the room and told me to get off my knees.  She sternly said she wouldn’t whip me this time as long as I promised not to commit the same offense again.  I promised that I wouldn’t and thanked the Lord because He had spared my behind.  My mom showed mercy--forgave my transgression and withheld the punishment I actually deserved. 
That day I learned that prayer is powerful. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

"I Love You"

“I love you,” I heard You whisper, when I hung my head in shame. 
“What was that?” I asked bewildered, expecting disappointment, condemnation, and blame—anything but love. 
“I love you.  I always have, and I always will.” 
As tears rolled down my cheeks, I grasped the weight of Your words.  In spite of all that I had done to break Your heart, You still loved me.  You never stopped loving me.
“Forgive me, Father,” I cried out.
“You are forgiven.  It is forgotten.”
Your peace immediately filled my spirit.
And from that day to this I have felt Your loving embrace every moment of every season of my life.  Through it all, You are right here with me, loving me. 
Thank you!
I love you, Abba.  Nothing and no one compares to You.  You are love and life is worth living because of You!