An Evening of Jazz, Karaoke and Line Dancing

The hubby and I went out last week to listen to jazz musician Ezra Brown when he passed through Tuscaloosa.  If you haven’t heard him, you must pick up his CD.  I downloaded a copy from itunes before the evening and then got a signed copy of the CD at the event.  He’s really good.  Well worth the money.

After the jazz set was over, there was some line dancing followed by some karaoke.  All in all, a great evening.  Here’s a picture of me with Ezra.

The Prosperity Gospel

I know this is a touchy subject in some circles, but I recently read a blog article on the topic that started me thinking. When it comes to money and prosperity, I think I’m in the Rick Warren, author of the mega-successful Purpose-Driven Life (PDL), camp. He once said:

I don’t think it is a sin to be rich, it’s a sin to die rich. I want people to make as much money as they can as long as they give it away as much as they can.

I understood what he meant. Money is not to have/hoard/acquire but to give/use. He has an interview HERE that you should read. He talks about the decisions he and his wife made after the PDL money started rolling in. He made nine million dollars in royalties in the first three months!

First, we decided we would not change our lifestyle one bit no matter how much money came in. So I still live in the same house I’ve lived in for 15 years and I still drive the same Ford truck, have the same two suits, I don’t have a guest home, I don’t have a yacht, I don’t own a beach house, we just said that we aren’t going to use the money on ourselves.

Second, I stopped taking a salary from the church.

Third, I added up all the church had paid me over the past 25 years and gave it all back. I gave it all back because I didn’t want anyone thinking that I did it for money. And I knew that God was raising me up to a position of prominence. I knew I was going to be under the spotlight and I wanted to live a life beyond reproach. So we gave it all back and the very next week it was either Time or Newsweek came and did an interview of me and the very first question they asked was, “What is your salary?” I was able to say honestly I’ve been able to serve my church free for 25 years. It felt so good to bust that stereotype.

Kay and I became reverse tithers. When we got married 30 years ago, we began tithing 10%. Each year we would raise our tithe 1% to stretch our faith: 11% the first year, 12% the second year, 13% the third year. Every time I give, it breaks the grip of materialism in my life. Every time I give, it makes me more like Jesus. Every time I give, my heart grows bigger. And so now, we give away 90% and we live on 10%. That was actually the easy part, what to do with the money–just give it away, because I’m storing up treasures in heaven.

You’ll have to read the article for the rest of the interview. My question for you is where do you stand on the prosperity gospel? Does it include driving through exclusive neighborhoods claiming houses and cars that will some day be yours? Is it looking to be a funnel that passes on the blessings of God to others? Or is your position some combination of the two?

Gustav – Hit or a miss?

Gustav hit, it just didn’t hit New Orleans.  This time Baton Rouge got most of the damage.  People evacuated New Orleans this time, but it doesn’t mean that they aren’t in trouble.  Ponder these questions:

Where would you go if you had to evacuate, pack up and leave your home?

Would you be able to afford the travel, housing and food costs associated with having to leave home for more than a week?

To be honest, I never really thought about these questions until I spoke with someone from Baton Rouge (hopefully she’ll be blogging about Gustav this week; her Internet service hasn’t been that reliable) and later got an update from someone in New Orleans who pointed me to this article (hopefully she’ll be blogging when she returns home)  — HERE

Just because Gustav wasn’t as devastating to as many people as Katrina was doesn’t mean it wasn’t devastating to those it did affect, including those in the Caribbean.  Let’s do what we can to help.

NOTE: Romance Pioneers will continue on Friday.

Let it Flow with “The Big Let Go”

I borrowed part of this post title from Claudia Mair Burney because I wanted to add my two cents.  Hers is a post well-worth reading so you may want to jump over and take a peek.  I’m going to pull-out just a couple of paragraphs here.  She says near the end:

. . .what I’m hearing is a whisper saying, “Let go.” And you know what, I’m going to do it.

I have no idea what will happen. I have no idea if I will write another book. . .I am tired of fear and desperation. They don’t change a thing. The Big Let Go is about not knowing what will happen. It’s about knowing God. It’s an intimacy thing.

This passage caught me because it describes exactly the way I felt as I was making the transition to Christian fiction back in 1997-98.  Actually, it’s about the way I’ve felt at about every major decision point in my life.  The questions change but the answer is always the same.

I hate to admit this but Claudia’s post also reminded me of the chorus to the old Toni Braxton song, Let it Flow:

Just let go
And let it flow, let it flow, let it flow
Everything’s gonna work out right,
Ya know
Let go, and let it flow, let it flow, let it flow
Just let go

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My Spelman Sisters

Last year about this time I wrote the post, Friends and Time, in which I talked about a summer retreat that I went on in Tennessee each July with some of my college friends.  Well, I didn’t make it this year because of some critical work items that I had to get done.  In fact, four of us didn’t make it this year, meaning that only four of us were present.

I really hated to miss the trip but I didn’t see anyway around it.  As a show of good faith and love, I sent my sisters autographed copies of Up Pops the Devil.  Yes, I admit it, I was trying to soften the blow of my bad news.  Though disappointed, my sisters were gracious.

Do you know what those wonderful women did?  They called me tonight and said they were ready for Book Club meeting.  They each had read Up Pops the Devil and wanted to discuss it with me.  Can you believe that? What a loving thing for them to do.

I wasn’t home when they called and when I called back they didn’t answer.  They were watching Kung Fu Panda, a movie I’m sure I would have vetoed had I been there.  But I digress. 

I called back a bit later and we had a great conversation about the book and our host’s new home.  Our book talk just reinforced how the book is mere tool, just as I am.  As I listened to the insights they got from the book, many times I thought to myself “I wish I had thought of that when I was writing the story.” They found symbolism and meaning in what I had written that I hadn’t even seen myself.  All I could say was, “Go on, God.” 

I’m sorry that I missed our retreat but I’m blessed to have those women in my life.  I pray I’ll be there next year. I can’t wait to see my friend’s new house. She designed it herself and from the description they gave me, it’s perfect for her and for our retreats. 

I cherish my relationship with those women.  I’d love to hear about the special friendships in your life.

UPDATE: I didn’t know when I made this post, but August 1 is National Girlfriends Day. (Thanks, Marilynn!) In celebration of my girlfriends and yours, I want to share this poem that I found on the Redhatters website. 

Happy National Girlfriends Day!

Convention Time: San Antonio

I spent the days leading up to the Fourth in San Antonio, TX for a day-job-related convention. I found pictures of a few of the sites we saw (between conference sessions) in Wikimedia Commons so I thought I’d share them you.

The River Walk

San Antonio is a lovely old city. The thriving River Walk is a major tourist attraction. I’m sure the only locals down there were working. Anyway, from the picture you can see that the River Walk is a below street level, open-air area littered with shops and restaurants. What you can’t see is that it’s about 21 blocks around and is shaped like a horseshoe with a "T" on top.

You can take a barge tour, which we didn’t do, and ride the entire distance. We walked it instead, getting lost a couple of times in the process. You can see more pictures here or read more about the history here .

Tower of the Americas

I guess every major city in the world has something similar to San Antonio’s Tower of the Americas . For about $10/person, you get to see a 4D theatre presentation on the history of San Antonio (3D/4D glasses and

all) and a 750 ft. ride up the elevator to the Observation Deck . For some extra cash, to the tune of about $40/person, you can eat at the Chart House Restaurant a level below the Observation Deck. The Chart House has a revolving floor, so you slowly go around the Tower as you eat. If you want to keep your money in your pocket, you can grab a snack at the snack shop on the Observation Deck or get something light at another snack shop on the ground floor. We tried the one on the lower level and tasted (but chose not to buy) "Dippin’ Dots ," which was called the "ice cream of the future."

Though the trip to San Antonio was more work than play, I did enjoy myself. I’d been there a few times before but never stayed on the River Walk as I did this time. That made the biggest difference since I was able to step out of my hotel and right onto the River Walk and everything that it accesses, including the Convention Center.

New Orleans, three years after Katrina

I was in New Orleans with a friend a couple of days before the Essence festival. Alas, we didn’t attend the Festival. While there, we decided to drive around New Orleans rather than take one of the advertised tours to see the remaining results of Hurricane Katrina.

After we finally found the Ninth Ward, we were sad to see how much devastation remains. It’s one thing to look at the bushes that have overtaken the streets and the homes and think storm; quite another to think that we were seeing the end of people’s dreams.

I could imagine people working everyday, raising their kids, enjoying their homes and their neighbords. Those days are gone. I hope that many of them are off to better situations in new towns, yet I feel a bit sorry for those who have returned. We saw streets with maybe five or six rehabbed houses and then twelve or eighteen that look like the hurricane happened last week. But what got me the most were the streets themselves. Grass/weeds were growing in the streets (the roads), bushes along the sides of the streets were so tall you couldn’t see around corners.

On a bright spot, we drove around Muscian’s Village, the joint venture between Habitat for Humanity and local musicians. I LOVED the colors of the houses.

So what does it all mean? Well, there seems to be a lot of work being done to rebuild New Orleans but I can’t help but wonder why it’s taking so long. Maybe you all can help me understand.

NOTE: I found the pictures of the Village and the ones of the devastation in Wikimedia Commons , where they have a lot of photos that you can use without paying.

Friends and Time

Maybe I should have titled this post, Making Time for Friends.

I just spent a few days with four ladies (Darlene, Cassandra, Brenda and Linda) who went to undergraduate school with me at Spelman College in Atlanta way back in the day. Three were absent from our gathering this year (Valerie, Marilyn and Shirley), so we were down a bit.

We were all in a dual degree engineering program, where after spending three years at Spelman and two years at Georgia Tech, we were to be awarded bachelor’s degrees from both schools. Things changed from freshman year to senior year, with a couple of us continuing the dual route (five years) and the rest taking advantage of the corporate opportunities available at that time (and they were numerous) for math/science four-year graduates.

Though we all went the corporate route after graduation, none of us are in corporate America now. Four of us are educators, one’s a small business owner, one’s a federal employeee, and one’s a technical consulant. I guess the technical consultant could be considered a corporate worker, but since she’s taking a break from that right now I’m counting her on the other side.

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Content being Content

Okay, I know that’s an odd title for a post but it captures well my thoughts this morning. Can I be content being content? I have a full-time job that I love and a blossoming writing career. I’m happy with both.

BUT. . .Yes, there’s a but.

Because I have a full-time job, my writing life and career differ from that of other writers. Just the other day, I got a notice from a writer friend, Jacquelin Thomas, who’s done an Amazon short. Now I’ve wanted to do one of those for my non-fiction book but I’ve never gotten around to it. Getting Jacqui’s e-mail made me feel badly about not gettting around to it. When I see the innovative and creative promotional activities of other writers, I begin to think that I need to do something. I’m not sure what, but definitely something.

Here’s where we get to “Content being Content.”

I have to live my life. I can’t live Jacqui’s life or the life of any other author. My writing career exists within the broader boundaries of my life, which includes the full-time job that I love. This means that I can’t do all the things that full-time writers do. I can’t do all the conferences, my e-mail responses aren’t as prompt, my blog is not updated as often. Sometimes I get overwelmed thinking about all that I could be doing.

So I have to prioritize how I spend my time. The writing has to come first. I’m learning that I have to delegate many of the non-writing actitivies to others. So I have to hire people to help me with those things that I can’t do personally. I just have to get organized enough to figure out when and where I need help. I would love to have a personal assistant (perfect part-time job for a student), but I need to figure out what the personal assistant would do. You see my problem?

On a more urgent note. . .

The trade paperback of The Amen Sisters releases in November and I know I’ll need help promoting it. I have a great Internet publicist on my short-list but her schedule is pretty packed and she’s not sure she can take on my book, so I need help. If any of you know any publicists who may be able to help me, let me know. I need to make a decision within the next few weeks.

Content being Content. . .That’s going to be my motto. I have to “do me,” as the kids would say, and you have to “do you.” Let’s not forget that.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. -1 Timothy 6:6

Back from England!

No, I didn’t tell you that I was going, but I spent the last couple of weeks in England. Actually, I left a couple of days after my last post. It was an extended work trip that allowed me to get in a bit of sightseeing, but nowhere near as much as I wanted. I’ll post more later. Just wanted to let you know I was back.

How ya’ doing?

I hope things are well with you because they’re pretty well with me. I want to report some progress in the weight loss arena for me. In a way, I don’t like to talk about it since it’s a lifestyle change kind of thing, rather than a diet. Anyway, it’s going well and I’m losing weight. I’m not going to post frequently about it but I will let you know as I hit major milestones. How’s that?

Otherwise, life is good. I read an article recently about people who had weight loss surgery who ended up trading one obsession for another. This probably happens most with emotional eaters. Since they can no longer turn to food to manage the obsession, they now turn to drugs, sex, gambling, shopping, anything else to give the “high” or the “relief” that food gave. Here are a couple of links about it:

Other compulsive behaviors replace overeating

Gastric bypass patients trade eating for shopping

Now isn’t that amazing? It is to me because it makes clear that for many of us, food is not the problem; food masks the problem. If you take away the food, we just find something else to mask the problem. And the God that we serve allows no masks. That’s just the way He is.

Have you ever felt like you keep going through the same thing over and over, as though God is trying to teach you something that you don’t seem to be able to grasp? I think it’s like this with those of us who wrestle with eating issues. We must learn the lesson or we’ll continue to wrestle. Forget shortcuts. We’ll still end up back in the same cycle, trying to learn the same thing.

The God of “no shortcuts.” That’s the God we serve. You gotta love it and Him.

Be blessed as you learn the lessons He puts before you. I pray we all learn much faster.

Have a great week!

Another Week of Thanks

redemption Today was another tear-jerker day though I didn’t shed any tears. I just got another chance to see God at work in my life.

Last week was Spring Break for me so school was closed and I had a bit of free time. You know I had to do some reading. And I read Jacqui Thomas’ latest adult novel, Redemption. This book really blessed me. You’ll have to read it yourself to understand. Hint: It’s based on the book of Hosea.

I also started back at CURVES. All I can say is “so far, so good.”

I hope your week is off to a great start and that your eyes can see the hand of God.

Checking In

Ladies, it’s time to reflect on the week. I’m putting this post up but I’ll add my reflections later.

Oh, yes, we need a better heading than Checking In, so let me know what you think it should be.

I can do all things. . .

Okay, I tihnk it’s time to ‘fess up. We did a great thing on this blog when we did the 90 Day Bible challenge. That was a resounding success! We have been less successful with the healthy living/eating challenge and the Purpose Driven Life group reading. I have some ideas on why we were unsuccessful in our last two efforts and I bet you do, too.

So what should we do? How about we take one day a week (or one day a month) and talk about how we gained ground in our walks with the Lord and areas where we need to gain ground? That’s just an idea. That way, we aren’t committed to a specific task. We’re only asked to reflect back on our week with the Lord.

Do you think this is a cop-out? Let me know your thoughts. We can get started in March if anybody’s on board. For those of you still doing healthy eating/living, you can update us on that. For those of you doing PDL, you can update us on that. Or you can update on something else. It’ll be our time to report back on our week (or month) in the Lord.

I want to hear back from you before I start down this road, so holla at a sistah!

Week 6 – Exercise Check-In

Well, ladies, where are you? Have we all dropped off? Or did my missing a posting week throw you off?

I have to confess that the last three weeks have not been good ones for me. I have a heel spur. It started about three weeks ago when I could barely walk without pain. It was awful! Has anyone had one before? I thought I’d broken my foot or something. Things are a bit better now that I’ve stayed off it awhile and starting using heel gel in my shoes. Apparently, this thing takes about six months to heal on its own. YIKES!!!

I don’t plan to be away from CURVES all that time, but I do have to find a way not to irritate my foot again. Geigh, you said you had a bit of a problem, too. I hope all is better. Now how about the rest of you? It’s time to celebrate or ‘fess up.

Week 2 – Exercise Check-In

Sorry for the delay but I lost my Internet access on Sunday and just got it back.

So, how was your first week of the challenge? I hate to tell you this but I’ve missed the CURVES challenge already. I showed up on at 10:55 on Saturday for my third workout for the week and found that they closed at 11 instead of noon. I really felt badly about that. The good news is that I have this really old aerobics tape and I did my third work-out with the tape. So, all in all, I had a successful week and I’m looking forward to the next week. I’m committed.

How was your week?

Week 1 – Exercise Check In

I made it through my first CURVES workout in over a year. I have to tell you, it wasn’t pretty. I refuse to go into details because I’m not going to be embarrassed on my own blog. 🙂 The good news is I went and I exercised. Things should only get better Wednesday and Friday as I make it through Week 1. So let me know how your week starts. Gotta go now. My bed’s calling my name.

I joined CURVES!

I finally moved my CURVES membership to my new home town. On Monday, they’re starting the “3 Times the Charm” challenge and I’m joining in. This means that for six weeks I will exercise three times a week. For every week that I make the goal, they enter me in a contest to win a special charm bracelet. I don’t really care about the bracelet, but I do want to make the 6 week challenge. Anybody want to join me? You don’ t have to join CURVES, just commit to exercising three times a week for the next six weeks. We’ll check-in together every Monday. How does that sound?

Be sure to check in Monday if you’re going to take the challenge.

First Place – Day 1

FirstPlaceI haven’t forgotten that we start First Place today. I’m going to put this placeholder here and update it when I finish today’s study some time later tonight. If you are joining the journey and want to post your starting comments, please do so. Also, don’t forget to read the last Bible in 90 Days entry, right below this one. I think the scriptures there really apply to this new challenge we’re taking.

UPDATE: I had a midnight deadline on a work project so I had to crash afterwards. Check this page tomorrow night for another update. I may have one by morning by I can’t guarantee it since my brain is now officially mush. 🙂 And this is after vegging out for an hour.

UPDATE2: Okay, I’m back on track. Well, sort of. I hope you all have had a good start to our healthy living challenge, or whatever you’re calling it. I had my first Bible Study in the First Place book today. I have to admit it was a bit hard bouncing around from book to book, OT to NT, after going through 90 days of reading the books in context. After I got over my reluctance, I enjoyed the study. It began with Deut. 30:11.

“This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you to understand or perform. It is not up in heaven, so distant that you must ask, `Who will go to heaven and bring it down so we can hear and obey it?’ It is not beyond the sea, so far away that you must ask, `Who will cross the sea to bring it to us so we can hear and obey it?’ The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it. –Deut. 30.11-14

As you can see, I couldn’t help but put it in a bit of context. Anyway, I think that’s a powerful scripture to begin our journey. Nothing God asks of us is to difficult for us to understand or do. Now what does He ask of us? Try Romans 12:1. Again, I had to add a verse for context, but I did resist the urge to use the King James Version.

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice–the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is. –Rom. 12:1-2

You remember from our OT readings that sacrifices had to be without blemish; they had to be the chosen of the lot. That we’re called to be living sacrifices means we’re that to God, or He wouldn’t want us. This verse calls me to total acceptance of myself as I am now, not as I want to be in the future. There have been times when I’ve thought, as soon as I do this or do that (be it lose weight or get the last kid out of the house or fill in the blank), then I’ll be ready to be used by God. Then I can be a great witness for Him. How wrong that thinking is! Today is the day He is calling and today is the day we must answer.

Something happened recently in my life that made me realize fully how important it is to cherish the person I am and the life I’ve lived. The same goes for you. The things we have endured and experienced are all part of who we are today. Like Jesus, because of the things we’ve suffered, we can have compassion on others who suffer; becuase of joy we’ve experienced, we can rejoice with others. Thank God for those experiences, for the life that we have and will have.

So we move forward this week knowing that we are empowered to live lives dedicated to God. The healthy living challenge is an exercise in obedience from which we’ll learn a lot about ourselves and our Lord. I’m a bit anxious, I admit, but I’m also expectant. Let’s enjoy the journey.

First Place

FirstPlaceDo any of you struggle with healthy eating or maintaining an exercise program? Well, I do. I’ll do well for a while and then I’ll get lax and fall apart. This happens over and over and over.

Anyway, I found this Bible-based health program, FirstPlace, that I’ve going to try. I bought the materials a while back but never really got into them. So, starting Monday, April 10, I’m starting FirstPlace.

If you’re interested in joining me in this 1o-week journey, let me know. The Bible study books are structured for daily study, and require much less time each day than what we’ve been spending with the 90 Day Plan. I’ll post each week on my progress, so you’ll have a chance to keep me encouraged. I’m starting with the Everyday Victory for Everyday People study. You can probably get a copy from your local Christian bookstore or you can order it from

You’ll notice that I haven’t used the terms “weight” or “weight loss” and that’s intentional. We’re not going to focus on weight; we’re going to focus on meeting our weekly exercise and eating goals. Let me know if you want to join me. Also, feel free to join in even if you’re using another plan. We can still encourage each other. Ready?

Helping a Friend After the Trauma of an Abusive Church

The Amen SistersThis summer Precious Times Magazine published an article that I started writing in the summer of 1993, Helping a Friend After the Trauma of an Abusive Church. The article is a complement to The Amen Sisters. I wrote it hoping that it would help people who have friends and family involved in abusive church situations. So I share this article with you, hoping that you will share it with the people in your life that you think might be helped by reading it. Select the link below to read the article. God bless you.

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