It's ok for Life to Imitate Art in 2021, Here's How:
In the Greenleaf series finale, I heard much more than an artificial sermon, and I want to share with you what I heard. I heard a message I just can’t seem to shake about “something new”, from Isaiah 43:18,19. When Lady Mae Greenleaf preached the final message of the OWN Series “Greenleaf”, I heard something that reached beyond the script and screen. I heard an admonition for people to plea with God for newness. This is also the precipice upon which we can build our case for requesting newness from God.
Considering the immense losses characterized by the pandemic, it’s a good time to receive newness from God. Almost nothing is the same as it was before last year. Why spend time trying to get back to what may never return? This is the perfect time to pray, “Lord, make me something new.” After surviving the first leg of a global pandemic, if not done already, we all need to ask the Lord for a clean heart. We made it through the worst of times, made worse by an epidemic of abject failure in the white house. For many of us, newness is the gift that remains unopened following the Christmas season.
If you’ve been living beneath your Kingdom privilege, ask for a new mind and heart to receive and process God’s plan for your life. If you’ve been away from the ark of safety, it’s a good time to ask for a new heart pointed to Christ. Maybe greed or other distractions have taken hold of your focus. It’s completely fine to ask for renewed focus.
Whatever you need, God is able and even willing to give. In fact, James tells us that all good and perfect gifts come from God (James 1:17). If you lack wisdom, he tells us to ask God who will graciously give it to us and doesn’t berate or tear us down for asking (James 1:5).
While the show is fictional and loosely based on the lives of a few preachers and their families (the writers kept viewers guessing on that), what “Lady Mae’s character preached in the series finale is very real. As this year closes, let’s close chapters on relationships that aren’t working to serve the best interest. Let’s pack up if needed and follow God’s leading to His place of provision for you. Let’s forge ahead and create new friendships and partnerships that will serve symbiotically and create synergistic wholeness. If 2020 has taught us nothing else, it has taught us that we need each other. Far more than that, we need the right people in our lives and need to make room for others to go and come as directed by destiny.
In the series finale, Bishop Greenleaf was dead, and Lady Mae had been given the reins of the church. If you watched the series, you know just how tumultuous Bishop Greenleaf’s tenure was. You know that it wasn’t without scandal, but you also know how hard he worked to try and serve the church, despite his flaws. Last year, many of our generals in the faith have transitioned leaving the ministries they founded and cultivated without a leader suddenly. In the prayer for the Lord to make us new, there’s also an onus that we must accept in being made someone new. Many of us will have to rise into a posture of leadership, some will find that they have run but not far enough to escape the call of God on their lives.
Many will find themselves in the strange land of servanthood, not knowing when the journey began or how they arrived. This is what 2021 will look like for many others. We are leaving behind so many beloved saints, loved ones and friends in 2020-the year none of us saw coming. It was the year of vision, not because of what we could see, but because of what we couldn’t. For this, the year of vision is now known as the year of clarity. Much of what we now see is clear to us and clearer than it has ever been.
Many marriages have failed, and forlorn lovers now gone their separate ways, never to return. Many have discovered that the jobs and corporations they poured their best selves into see them as expendable and not the irreplaceable asset they thought they were. Many churches have discovered that their building was merely an idol as membership engagement suffered when the ministry was idled by gathering limits of ten or fewer and the advent of weekly streaming for services of each size.
By 2021, we will see much more clearly than we did in January 2020 but what we see will require a newness not everyone has or will be ready for. While some have embraced the need for relationships, some have discovered that it was the people around them who held up their progress. They’ll in turn forge ahead alone and unafraid of the journey. They won’t resemble the person that entered 2020 unsuspecting of the tragedy, trials and triumphs the year brought. In all, it was the perfect setup for the year we are to soon face.
A Prayer for 2021
So Lord, make me something new! When I’ve been untrue, make me a truth bearer and not a tale bearer. When I’ve been unfaithful, make me as high fidelity as a Maxwell tape, because ain’t nothing like the real thing! When I’ve been afraid, make me bold like a lion! When I’ve been unsure, give me security in your Word! When I’ve been without, supply my need according to your riches in glory by Christ Jesus. When I’ve been distant, draw me close to you. When I’ve been distracted, give me clear focus, and clear my path. When I’ve been lost, be my compass.
When I’ve been angry, sooth my spirit and give me peace. When I’ve been lonely, comfort me with your presence. When I’ve been hasty, give me patience. When I’ve been haughty and lifted with pride, humble me under your mighty hand. When I’ve been sick, heal me! When I’ve been empty, fill me! When I’ve been in grief, turn my mourning into dancing. When I’ve been without a song, give me a melody for the midnight hour.
Make me something new, it’s my prayer for the new year. If it’s yours, comment below and let’s agree for newness in the new year, together!
This wasn't supposed to be my first post of the new year and that book wasn't supposed to be my first of the new year, but it happened! Yesterday as I was moving about my work space, my eyes caught a book that had become a decoration on my desk. In fact, a cluster of books has become a conglomeration that has served as a base for a printer, book ends for junk mail and remain an aspiration in my quest to read more book or one day even write one of my own.
This morning it happened, I cracked open O.S. Hawkins' "VIP". I'm only into the first section of the book, but with it I made a realization. December 2018 was a month where I let it all hang out! The good, bad and ugly! I closed emotional chapters unapologetically and sought out what was best for me. I also made the decision to become my best self, also unapologetically. I decided that I will do a better job staying in touch but will also let some connections end, as they must.
In December for possibly the first time in my life, I asked: "what about what I think?" What about what I bring to the table?" And, "what about what I want?"
For years, living the life of a believer I tried to do my best at not pleasing everyone but accommodating everyone. I haven't done it successfully, just ask my wife. She's the marker by which I judge the aspiration to be accommodating. I have failed miserably in that area and can finally see myself doing better.
Still, I've gone years making room for everyone else-as most of us do. It felt selfish to finally ask myself what I wanted and put it first for a change. My latest rant was one where I communicated like a grown man was a bit uncomfortable because of the situation. It was a hard conversation but I had to speak up and own what I felt. It felt good, though not reassuring.
The Lord has quite a way of keeping us in check, though! Putting yourself first can be healthy, but as most of us know through history, it is almost always destructive. So here I find myself on the third day of a new year...reading about not my own importance, but my influence!
Did you see the piano falling over on me, like I did?!? God also has a sense of humor! To me, this read is not about how to assert my importance, but how instead leverage my influence! Oh yes, that mirror on the wall isn't telling me how beautiful I am, it's appraising my true obedience to God!
You will never be as important as you think you are if you're never able to influence anyone! I've perused Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People" in search of various leadership methods and to enrich everyday engagement. Hawkins' book however has stung me in the worst way! As a writer, influence is my currency. Much of what I write is from the perspective of influencing people to do what I wrote about (watch a show, listen to a song, purchase a product), or to shape an opinion based on my influence on the reader.
Many of us seek to become influencers. Whether it's achieved is up to you and God! Hawkins shares in his book that God has given all of us something by which we'll achieve or increase our influence (2 Corinthians 10:13.15), it's our job to see to it that we do it! Guess what else I found out...that's what's important to God!
FRUIT! If you want people to eat from your table, you have to extend the invitation. What is the invitation? Is it you proclaiming your importance? NO! I've noticed that people want to see an unseen invitation before they ever acknowledge any level of "importance", perceived or otherwise. Our life speaks, our work speaks and so do our results! Many times, if people have to ask what you do, you're not as important as you think you are! Also, if you're the most "important" person in the room, you need to get out more! If you are regularly in "the room" and are seldom taking notes (written or recorded), you need some new rooms! For most of us, our importance will be derived from our our presence in the room- the fact that we're in the room and influence on those on the outside. The other side of the coin is: SERVICE. Fruit and service...we all want to feel wanted and even needed. I get that. But here's the deal: Your service to the world, should be just that, but it should also be appealing, appetizing even. The fruit of your service will ultimately yield not the importance you desire, but the influence you have been entrusted.
Well, it was fun feeling important! It was fun watching the phone ring and send the calls to voicemail...but back to work I go! Not back to doing what I was doing, but to work doing no, proving the "good and acceptable, and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2) in my life. In this way, through my newfound influence, I can provoke others to good works (Hebrews 10:24)!
If you would like to join me in this very short read, grab a copy of your own. The book is available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Lifeway and other major bookstores.
It's often stated that the older we get, the more aware we are of the times. For others of us, the older we get, the more aware we are of just how uncertain life can be. In the bible, James tells us how to 'make plans'.
Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. - James 4:13-15
I grew up hearing my mother end her conversations "if the Lord say the same" and though I understood why she would say it, I didn't understand its origin. Last November, as I was talking to a friend, it dawned on me how important it is to acknowledge the Lord's plans in ours.
I made plans to be somewhere this March and as I got off the phone, those words rang loudly in my spirit. "If (and only if) the Lord says the same!" That acknowledgment is what I believe will not only save us misdirection and even heartbreak, but will open us up to the clearest path on our way to destiny.
Sure it was only a plan to attend an event, but what if I never filtered that thought and plan through the will of God?
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
"I know the plans" as the Lord says in Jeremiah 29:11 extends beyond the nation of Israel's Babylonian captivity. Even some of our best laid plans are subject to the Lord's approval. I had to grow into a place of trust that caused me to truly seek God with every plan. God knows about the emergencies, the incidentals and dangers seen and unseen that lie in wait of our movement without Him.
He also knows which destiny steps await us at said arrivals. Who we will meet, what we are to say and even where to go once we get there. Never believe that you have reached a place in God that He only ok's your great plans!
Even after you have prayed and feel sufficiently prepared, remain open in prayer and allow the Lord to lead you all the way. As it stands, I have added that event to my calendar with an asterisk next to it. In fact, last week my email was full of press credential denials.
I stopped to think for a moment and immediately reminded myself that the Lord is in charge of my schedule. Has been and will continue to be. As the song "Yes, God is Real" says: "There are some places I cannot go..." I have learned to be okay with that, in this season-whichever it happens to be!
Remember, God knows the plans...He knows where I am to be, who I am to be in contact with and what I'll be doing and when I am to do it! For the first time ever, I'm going into a new year not totally sure what the year will bring! I know what I hope it will bring, but I'm unsure. What I am sure about is that God's plan will be achieved.
There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand. -Proverbs 19:21
We're at another new year but what does that mean? Guess what? It's undefined and waiting on you to fill in the blanks! What will this year mean for you? We're not promised to see the end of the year, but we have today!
That's my new outlook on life. Before I go to bed everyday, I will check my list..."did I accomplish what I set out to once I got out of bed?" Far too many times, my answer was no as I pulled the covers over my head to go to sleep.
Many times, the trials of the day were insurmountable and impervious, obstructing even my strongest desires for progress and accomplishment. This year I have ONE goal and every day will work to help me accomplish it. I am certain of it because I have committed to making it a reality.
Have you set a goal for the year, the month, this week? If not, do so. I don't mean simply jot down something you want to do. It's much more serious than that. What do you need to do? Connect to purpose and work toward your destiny this year. Start this week, you can even start today!
There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand. -Proverbs 19:21
We're not as much in control of our life's outcome as we have been told, but what we can control needs our best effort!
Yep, I Said It!
When I have something to say, I often say it. Many times, I try to find the best way to say it. Other times, there's just no easy way to say a hard thing. My journey in life has made me a person with much to say and the person people least want to hear it from.