How to greet a stranger

This week, I have been having some strange encounters of the blessed kind.

Let me explain what I mean.

On Monday morning, I noticed a woman and her daughter walking in the cold rain on my way to get money from the ATM. I turned around to ask them if they would like a ride. However, the mother and daughter refused my offer. It sort of hurt my feelings. I thought perhaps it was the huge afro on my head that scared the little girl.  But it also made me think of the way of the world today. I can’t imagine how anyone could see a mother walking in the rain with a child and not offer to give them a ride. But there were certainly several people that passed her before I did. Perhaps she refused another ride from someone else? Perhaps she was attempting to teach her daughter a lesson about missing the bus? Perhaps she is just another mother trying to prove to the world that she doesn’t need anybody? No matter what the reason, I bid her a good day with my standard, “God Bless You…” It is funny how those three meaningful words can be taken so lightly. It falls on deaf ears. Some people see it as a curse and not a blessing. Therefore, I have begun to follow the words with “…And know that Jesus loves you.” Many times, I get a strange look. The recipient has giggled or laughed at me.  But more often than not, the greeting is returned with a sheepish smile. Rare are the days when I receive a reciprocal blessing or thank you. Just last week, I shared my parting greeting with the woman at the check out in the dental office and the scheduler, who was in the next office over, peaked her head around the corner and stated, “I receive that for me too.” That warmed my heart. I was the one smiling then. I believe the Lord was pleased that day.

This morning, I was leaving the City Building and I had another strange encounter. I had just shared with the clerk at the Water and Sanitation desk, “Have a Blessed Day and know that Jesus Loves You” when I walked out into the hallway and couldn’t find my keys. I stood there near panicking when a retired police officer walked down the hall and noticed my three-year-old with me. He passed us by and then turned around to talk to my son. I thought it interesting that he stopped mid-stride in the other direction to turn around to us. I recognized his face from seeing him several times in the City paper.  He is a well know officer and community servant. He asked my son if he had been a good boy? I explained to Joshua that the man that he was talking to was a police officer so that he would know he was safe.  But what happened next really was a blessed moment.  The retired officer, pulled out his wallet and gave my son a few dollars and told him to buy himself an ice cream for being a good boy. I told him, “Thank you” and “God Bless You”. He smiled and continued in the same fashion he had been before he made the decision to stop to speak to my son. I smiled. A perfect stranger, with a servant’s heart, just rewarded me and my son. Again, I believe the Lord was pleased.

You may be reading this and thinking that it was just a chance encounter.  You may even think that I did something to attract the officer’s attention. I assure you I wasn’t looking fly this morning so that was not the case. But I do think my means of greeting a stranger is paying dividends. When I part my lips to commission a blessing to the strangers that I meet, I truly believe God’s blessings come back to me.

I happened to have accidently left my keys in the Water and Sanitation Office and had to go back for them. The clerk didn’t know the keys were there because they were hidden from her sight behind her console. I believe the hidden keys was a set-up to bless me. It was also an encouragement to continue sharing that God is in the blessing business.

Have a Blessed Day and Know That Jesus Loves You.

How will you greet the next stranger you meet?

Prayer: Blessed Father, you said in your word that they will know that we are yours by the love that we show (John 13:35). Our words may not mean much to some but they are blessings that produce fruit. May we be willing to commission, even strangers, the blessings that are ours to give. May we be mindful of the fruit the will manifest when we are obedient to carry forth your will.  In Jesus Name, Amen.

Now that I have your attention…

Pastor Andrew Brown, assistant Pastor of Covenant Community Church, shared a revealing word this past Sunday that I will not soon forget.  His text for the sermon was from the well-known story of Moses and the burning bush in the book of Exodus.  “God will use what already has your attention to get your attention”, he said.  Pastor Brown shared how he had questions about the burning bush and how peculiar a choice this “attention grabber” was for God.  Surely, God could have chosen anything.  I thought, “if that already had the attention of Moses then how?”  Sitting among the congregation, I realized it wasn’t so much the bush as it was what had Moses’ attention. The bush just happened to be in the area of Moses’ attention.  Moses had consumed himself with the job of a sheep herder probably thinking he had avoided his past.  In fact, he was wandering carefree in the back of the desert when he stumbled upon this bush.  I would venture to say that God realized it was time to let Moses know he couldn’t avoid HIM any longer.  I believe God used the bush because Moses’ occupation had his attention.  I could relate to Moses in that moment Pastor Brown explained the choice of the bush.  I briefly took a job as a tax preparer when I left the U.S. Navy.  It was okay work.  My husband was deployed, our oldest child was less than two years old and I thought this was a good idea.  I found out that God didn’t think it was a good idea.  For three years in a row, something happened as a result of me taking that job.  It affected me and my family adversely.  The first year I was there, they got rid of all first year tax professionals within the first three weeks of the tax season.  I still went back the next year.  Then, co-workers had accidents that caused me to take longer shifts.  The kicker was when my young son of 8 months got sick at daycare and had to be hospitalized.  He had swallowed a coin and it had to be surgically removed.  I put him in home-based care after the ordeal and that didn’t work out either.  So, I finally left the job.  In my over-occupation with what was not the will of God for my life, my family suffered.  Looking back on it now, I assess that getting my attention wasn’t really my problem.  It was difficult to keep my attention because what I wanted become more important than what God wanted for me.

But God has a way of using things that will keep your attention.

I woke up yesterday morning to learn that the country had elected Donald J. Trump to the office of President and I knew immediately that the President-Elect is “the burning bush” but there is not the voice of God coming out of this one.  This burning bush represents the government of which we have taken such an extreme interest. It reminds me of the story of 1 Samuel 8 when the prophet Samuel went to God on the behalf of the people who asked for a king to rule over them.  Although Samuel had reminded them that, as God’s people, they had God and therefore no need for a king to fight for them.  The people had their eyes on the things of other nations and not the things of God.  They replaced God with worldly occupation.  God gave them exactly what they wanted but he used that very king to keep their attention.  I submit to you that since that day, government has represented the replacement of God with worldly occupation.  No matter how much we put IN GOD WE TRUST on our money or our courthouses.  History has repeatedly proven how people replace the things of God with the things of the world.  Our recent national history repeatedly shows how God uses that very thing you replaced Him with to keep your attention.  It will be with Donald J. Trump.  It has been with Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Barack Obama.  I strongly believe it would have been no different with Al Gore, John McCain, or Mitt Romney.  And yes, it would have been no different with Hillary Clinton.  Sadly though, we haven’t realized it yet.  But thanks to Pastor Brown, I can say I see it now Lord.  I can say this now because I voted in every last one of these past elections and I couldn’t understand how in each one the decision became more and more difficult and less appealing.  But I do now.  You have my attention now God.  In fact, you have the attention of the whole world. The world is watching the United States of America.

Moses asks the question in Exodus 3:3 “How is it that this bush does not burn?”  Moses turned aside toward the bush and then God spoke to Him.  It is time to turn America.  There is a burning bush blazing in a great flame right now.  I recommend we give God our undivided attention.  What is important to God must become important to us.  Be careful that we are not consumed.

Who do you choose to follow?

I have a new like.  It is not a love yet but I am beginning to like it very much.  I like Twitter.

You see I only joined Twitter a few months ago.  I joined the same time that I started this blog.  It seemed like the right thing to do at the time in order to build a following.  I am learning along the way.  Initially, I only had about a dozen individuals and organizations that I follow on Twitter.  And although I had chosen to follow them, I wasn’t really paying attention to their Twitter feeds.  Many of those I chose were selected because “I like them.”  Last week, I joined the Twitter following of a role model of mine and I was skimming her page when I discovered a mystery.  (Let’s see if you can figure out who I am talking about?)  She is one of my most beloved women in leadership.  Her Twitter profile description simply says “Just a girl…with a sword.”   She has over 229K followers on her personal Twitter account and goes beyond with additional followers on her ministry account.  Yet, she only has 60 people that she follows.  As I browsed the people and organizations in her list, it was a very telling experience.  I would assume (though I may be wrong) that she only chose to follow people closest to her for those people in the Covenant 60 listing are family members, like-minded leaders in ministry and her favorite influencers/artists.  I wanted to Tweet her right away and ask “Why only 60?”

Girl with a sword’s Twitter page reminded me of a teleseminar I attended a little while back with The Christian Mompreneur NetworkTheresa Ceniccola advised the participants of that seminar to narrow your focus.   She said, “if you are listening to too many influencers, delete or unsubscribe.”  That was a key point in her message that day on Promises, Prayers and Practical Steps: How to Build a Business While Raising a Family.  What really struck me is that she offered each listener to “drop her” as an influencer if you didn’t feel that she was resonating with you and who God was using to help.  That was a humble and significant action step I thought Theresa shared that day.  And while I didn’t stick with her advice of only three influencers, I did delete some people and subscriptions out of my inbox that week because I realized that there is truth to “having too many people in our ears.”  Theresa’s advice was so meaningful to me because it helped me realize the intent of following isn’t just about “liking” or “connecting” as it appears in social media.  Social media has made following more about how many tags or rather tag-a-longs we can collect.  We need to reorient the act of following back to its definition and that is to pursue after, come after what or someone who proceeds you; accept the guidance, command, or leadership of.  Following also means to be guided by and move along the path of something or someone gone ahead of you.  The word “pursuit” really speaks to me because I truly believe that you should pursue what you love.  With that in mind, I have adjusted my followership to people, organizations or causes that I love.

I have chosen to apply the Covenant 60 rule to my Twitter page.  I am currently about half-way there.  I invite you to visit my Twitter page today.  As you browse through this small list of people and organizations I follow, you would learn about the music I love, that I am a student of leadership, I am up to date on local news, I advocate and root for family, education and female role models in ministry and I have friends.

As you read this blog post, please know that I am NOT judging your management style or use of Twitter.  Rather, I want you to take to heart the art of your pursuit.  The celebrity world is changing our mindset about followership.  Followership is defined as the reciprocal social process of leadership.  But we need to rid ourselves of the idea that you have to work to grow the number of people in that circle of reciprocity.  It is a covenant ring and you should use wise judgement in who you choose to invite inside the circle.

Are there any tips you have to choosing who to follow?  Share it with us in the comments.

We are approaching a pivotal year.

Heart with our InitialsOn September 3rd, my husband and I will celebrate another anniversary.  This morning when we were praying together before he departed for work, I  felt a need to set my focus on the year ahead rather than on the year we are about to celebrate.  We haven’t done that before.

Anniversaries essentially celebrate that we completed another year.  It is like patting each other on the back and saying “we made it”.  Thinking about it now, I can recall a few of those years back that those pats on the back were accompanied by rolling eyes.  It hasn’t always been a joy to say, “we made it to the end of the year.”  When we made it to a decade, I couldn’t really say I was in the mood for celebrating though that was supposed to be a major milestone.  People put different emphasis on the meaning of the years of a marriage whether it is year 1, 5, 10 or 50.  I rather not dwell on the significance of the meaning of the number itself but rather what that meaning represents in the lives of the couple who are celebrating those years of longevity.  We will commemorate the end of year 11 at the same time we are approaching the beginning of year 12.

As we prayed this morning, I thought about the season that we have been going through.  In one word, I would call it PRESS.  On SEP 3rd, 2015, we celebrated our anniversary with a trip, without the children (Thank you Mom), to the Shenandoah Valley.  We had a great time.   The morning of our anniversary last year, we got up and prayed together.  During that time of prayer, I remember repeating the words of Genesis 1:28.  These words God spoke to Adam and Eve on the day of their wedding, “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”  I declared to my husband on that day that we would hearken to the voice of God and we would multiply and we would both have dominion because Our Father has blessed us to do so.  I understood in that moment that God’s multiplication doesn’t just concern more human seed.  God’s multiplication means “to sow” in the earth and produce.  I have come to understand that such a profound declaration brought about the press but it also brought about fruit.

Here is what we experienced in the past year from SEP 2015 until NOW as a result of THE PRESS

  • Our backyard garden increased both in the fall and summer crops abundantly so that we were able to share with family and friends (which is what we had prayed).
  • My husband received a pay increase and two occupational recognitions for his service.
  • Our vehicle loan was paid off and we are driving two debt free automobiles.
  • I was blessed with the job I prayed for which increased income into our home.
  • We birthed Notes and Conversation for writing and community building using the resources and gifts we have been blessed with from God.
  • Many more blessings…

Oh but the PRESS also brought warfare, struggle, and pain.  I won’t list those for you.  Just suffice to say that tears have been a constant reminder of the discomfort of the PRESS.

Recently the PRESS has become really intense.  But we have discerned what YEAR 12 means for us.  The breastplate garment for the Hebrew priest represented judgement and decision.  The breastplate was decorated with twelve stones for the 12 tribes of Israel and served as a reminder of the great decisions and responsibility the priests held in serving God before these 12 tribes, the people of God.  I see this coming year is a great year of decision which will bring about transition and opportunity as we serve before the people of God.  I declare, “WE RECEIVE IT”.  From now on, I am looking forward.  We may be celebrating YEAR 11 but my jubilation will be in anticipation of YEAR 12.  Can’t wait to celebrate the halfiversary of YEAR 12 in MAR 2017.  (I learned the word halfiversary from watching the PBS Channel show Odd Squad with the children.) There is a blessing in the pressing!

Anniversary PoemHappy Anniversary to Tyrone and QuaWanna Bannarbie.  Here’s to more celebrations to come!

How about you, what was your last anniversary year like?  Share it with us in the comments.

Are you suffering from Rhythm Loss?

I was having a conversation with a dear friend about balance last night and she said to me, “I don’t use that word” and I laughed loudly.  We laughed together.  Finally, someone else besides me hates to hear the word.  But better than the fact that Natasha doesn’t use the word is that she gave me a replacement that made a whole lot of sense and better explained the present lack in my life.  I was being told that I lacked balance.  But what is actually missing in my life right now is a systematic rhythm.

Imagine that, a black girl from Southern Georgia who has lost her rhythm.

Black Girl Dancing

Hard to believe I know, but it is absolutely true.

Natasha and I talked about several different examples in the Bible such as Moses, Paul and Jesus who don’t display a clear balance structure in their work but we can surely see a rhythm in their lives.  You might be wondering the difference between balance and rhythm.  Some people actually use these terms interchangeably which I think can be a great misfortune of daily living.

Balance is a distribution of load so that steadiness is achieved.  In order to maintain a steady, balanced condition implies that what we carry has to be proportionately equivalent to our capacity to hold it.  This mindset keeps us lying to ourselves saying, “I can manage, I can manage” as we consistently pile more and more on our proverbial plates (or better stated, our scales) rather mismanaging our capacity.  For the balancing act to be methodical and therefore achievable, it has to be strategic.  If we admit it, we don’t think about a method until we have failed at managing the balance.

Rhythm, on the other hand, is systematic from the get go or it can’t be called rhythm.  We rely on patterns and cadence.  The beauty of rhythm is the longer the duration is maintained, the more comfortable you become with it.  Unlike balance where the progression of weight distribution could eventually prove detrimental to us causing us to “tip over”.   Progression of that steady succession of cadence becomes comfortable, regulated, uniform and even routine.  Next thing you know you’re moving to the beat.  You’re dancing and YOU LIKE HOW IT FEELS.

Routine …that is what I am going after.  I don’t believe one can achieve a life’s order or comfortable routine chasing after balance.  In fact, I wish people would stop using the phrase “work-life balance” because work and life will never be equal.  Balance requires equivalence to be achieved.  Now, I can see rhythm as making work, living and rest routine more attainable.  Natasha, a former, competitive sprinter shared with me, when she ran hurdles at the U.S. Naval Academy she had a certain way she attacked that race and she still remembers that method to this day.  In the same way, we learn and must adopt ways to attack our days, every day so that we are comfortable and not feeling the way I do now…offbeat!

So how do you achieve rhythm?  Simply stated, you have to set a cadence, continue in succession and exercise it repeatedly.  Get back to what was working and stick with it.  Sticking is the integral part!

What that looks like for me:

Morning Routine (Devotion, Stretching, Water Intake and Breakfast)

Morning Work (Write, Chores, Volunteer and Attack My To-Dos)

Break (Lunch, More Water Intake, Walk and Short Nap)

Afternoon Work (Attack More To-Do List Items and More Water Intake)

Break (Play, Afterschool Time, DIYs and Personal Enjoyment)

Evening Work (Dinner Preparation, Homework and Chores)

Evening Entertainment (Dinner, Socializing, Fellowship and/or TV Time)

Evening Routine (Wind Down, Prayer, Read and Relaxing Music)

Natasha speaks a lot about learning to put into practice your spiritual disciplines.  I am thankful to have had this conversation with her about rhythm.  Because she checked me, I am now able to pass this learning on to you!

No more lost rhythm!  QuaWanna is getting her groove back!

How about you?  How will you attack your day today and tomorrow and the day after?  Please share with us your spiritual disciplines and maybe you can help us get the rhythm.  Let’s Dance.

Let's Dance

 

Will You Be Found Faithful?

As a teenager, I ran for school office.  I always wanted the top positon of president or captain of the group.  Young and ignorant back then, I thought if I allowed someone else to sit in a position above me then it meant that I believed that they could lead better than I or that I was afraid of leading.  But today, I am not as quick to grab the top spot.  I’ve learned what type of leader I am.  I am a Joshua leader.  I often tell those who are over me that if they just do their part as Moses then I can handle the Joshua role with no problem.

Moses, of the Bible’s Exodus story, was God’s mouth piece but Joshua was HIS executor.  Joshua’s responsibility was to hear and pay attention to the instruction and then produce; carrying out the will of God with all his resource and potential.  Joshua Leadership is representative of the words of Luke 16:11-12 which bears witness to a man being faithful to another man’s work so that he too can be given his own.  Demonstration of Joshua’s leadership in bible study or character profiles often references the transition of power after Moses’ succession.  This is mainly because we often see leadership as one head and then several branches in descending order and power.  Yet, Joshua was leading even while Moses was head.  Joshua, an undergird of Moses, empowered Moses’ leadership more than we give credit.

Joshua Leadership can be defined as the executor carrying out the administration of a vision such that production and expected ends are achieved.  Here’s why Joshua’s executor position in leadership is vital to any Moses leading well.

Joshua Leadership Defined

Joshua demonstrated the following:

  • Follow in close proximity – In order to undergird, a Joshua Leader has to be close to the chief leader and you must remain humble. Humility requires that you have close relationship with the Lord because our flesh often wants to compete.  When you are humble, the head doesn’t fear your authority or position in relationship to his/her own.  They welcome your closeness and realize the benefit in having the executor to carry forth the will in its practical sense at the same degree that it was visually imparted to the visionary or mouthpiece as in the case of Moses.
  • Execute with thoughtful precision – A Joshua Leader considers the task carefully without being moved by adverse influence. He or she researches and surveys the environment.  They are wise.  Henry Bergson once stated, “Think like a man of action.  Act like a man of thought”.  This is an accurate description of Joshua.  Joshua’s movements were the results of time of reflection and prayer.  When he did execute, the events followed periods of wait and suspense demonstrating his carefulness in taking action.
  • Exercise your faith – Joshua was close to Moses when he prayed in the tabernacle and he would remain even after Moses departed (Exodus 33:11). This is key because this meant that Joshua had his own relationship and recognized that his positon required more time with God intimately.  A Joshua Leader cannot exercise the will of God without first exercising his faith in Him and doing that means to operate those activities of devotion, meditation, good works and recitation of God’s word outside of the time the leader has instructed or demonstrated.
  • Serve with integrity – A Joshua leader has integrity that serves them well. The head knows the accuracy of his/her actions because he/she has proven dependable in the past and repeatedly demonstrates this level of integrity unwaveringly.

I serve a couple of organizations today in a Joshua Leader role.  It is not an easy role to carry because the production of the vision takes a great deal of work.  When I am speaking of Leadership LINKS, Inc.(www.leadershiplinksus.org), I like to say that our Board Chairman is the heart of the organization and I am the circulatory system.  If I am not carrying it, the blood doesn’t get to the places where it is needed.  I know that there is much power in the blood stream.  The Blood Never Loses Its PowerTherefore, there is also a great deal of spiritual warfare involved in serving as a Joshua Leader.  The devil has witnessed once before what a team of Moses and Joshua can do and so he wreaks havoc on these relationships today in churches, organizations, school, governments and marriages.  But the key is knowing your role and being determined to be found faithful.  “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2).  Joshua was such a leader.  He proved himself and when succession was necessary, God made him ruler over the same people Moses has led.

I don’t desire the head position like I did as a high school girl and I tell you why.  If I were in the position of Moses, I would want another QuaWanna to undergird me.  So since I can’t serve myself, I would rather be Joshua to someone else.

Are you a faithful Joshua Leader?  Leave a comment about which of the characteristics mentioned above can you attest to that have proven that you are in the right position?

It’s my birthday and these are my life’s lessons

I don’t shy away from telling my age.  I wouldn’t say I am proud of my age but I never want it said that I wasn’t thankful for the life God gave me.  I am thankful for my testistory (pronounced TEST-I-STORY).  I have had tests and it is all part of MY STORY hence the reason the “I” is in the middle. Nikki at the Beach

Today, I can truly say that I have been blessed.  I have learned a few things along the way.

MY LIFE LESSON #1: GOTTA LOVE YOURSELF to LOVE LIVING.

I am so thankful Momma taught me how to love myself.  She used to say that I was the most conceited young woman she knew.  But I tell you for sure, I know my love of Nikki has helped me to stand.  I truly believe that a strong love for who you are and who God made you to be, makes the difference in your attitude and pursuits in life.

MY LIFE LESSON#2: HEALTHY is HIDDEN.

I started gardening six years ago. While producing my own food has been substantially rewarding, it is what I have learned in the garden experience that has truly affected my perspective on life.  We walk around just like seeds that go into the ground.  On the outside, we look good, but what produces from the inside of that seed is really what we care about (or at least we should).  Our spirit is hidden to everyone except our Heavenly Father.  And if our spirit isn’t healthy, neither are we.  Many people today are unhealthy because they are spiritually anemic (a phrase Pastor Harold McPherson uses often).  Health is really a condition of your blood and spirit.  I have learned that even blood relationships can be viciously unhealthy because of years and years of hidden sickness in our families.  Just like those plants that grow from the seeds in my garden, the conditions that may cause them to yield plentiful, good fruit is what I have to work to maintain.   Good nutrition, good sunlight, and water.  A health coach once told me, “you have to watch what you put in you in order to stay fit”.  What is in you is hidden to the world but you need to tend to it.  When you do, you will be healthy.

MY LIFE LESSON#3: LOVE has a LOOK.

Some lessons grow on you and this one matured me this year.  Because the Bible says that love endures (1 Corinthians 13:7), we think that love bears even the unbearable.  Yes, broken hearts can be a part of God’s plan.  But intentional harm is never a part of His plan.   Mistreatment, malice, abuse, and deliberately inflicted wounds were bore on the cross of Calvary so that I DON’T HAVE TO TAKE IT.  When you accept harm as a condition of love, your picture of love is distorted.  The picture of love looks like an embrace, always, always, always.  And love consoles even the broken-hearted.  Embrace

MY LIFE LESSON#4: HISTORY and LIFE are two different things.

I learned to love history during summer school my junior year at the Naval Academy.  For the first time, in my life, I felt connected to the place in which I was born because Mrs. Knutson taught American History to me that summer.  For much of my life, I was thinking about my family’s history as a condition for which I based my decisions about living.  I realize now how flawed I was in that thinking.   History is past and life is present.  If I constantly live my life, looking on the past mistakes of my ancestors, I live in their shadows.  I will never carve out my own path because I am constantly trying to better theirs.  I think that is an unfair weight for anyone to bear.  History is good to know.  But it is just a reference.  It is not the road map.  If you put your history in front of you to direct you, you will never find your way.

These lessons have helped me navigate my journey.  They help me be a better wife, mother, and daughter.  They help me to live my life.  And ultimately in living my life, I pray my Heavenly Father is pleased.

Happy Birthday to Me.

Leave a note and share a life lesson with the birthday girl.