Loving Arms

I had an experience today that literally had my heart racing. I was overcome with fear. It was a different feeling than I’d ever felt before in this context.

It was a rainy Monday morning and I wanted to get breakfast. I decided to pull into a place that sold breakfast. I got out of the car. As I tried to avoid stepping in a huge puddle of water, I covered my head from the downpour. I purposely wore my sweatshirt with a hood so I could forgo needing an umbrella. I stepped over the puddle and reached the door. I opened the door to the establishment and as I did, I felt my heart starting to race. My mind was filled with horrible images I’d seen happen to others with my own eyes. Yet, I was now the one in those images. I pictured being shot and killed. I pictured being led away in handcuffs while asking what I did wrong. I pictured being placed in a choke hold on the ground unable to breathe. I pictured holding my hands up and not moving because I was commanded to do so. With those images, I started to return to my car but I went ahead and stepped inside the store. It was just me and the employee. I wondered if I was being videoed by someone who was monitoring the store. Were they dialing 911 because I was wearing a hoodie? Should I pull the hood back to appear friendly. Should I…then I became angry that this was what I felt I needed to consider. “Why should I have to be burdened with this?”, I asked myself as I stared at the menu with my heart still racing. “Hurry up and order”, I said to myself. Reality certainly slapped me in the face. My order was wrong, so I began to explain this to the employee. “Should i just let it go?”, I asked myself. “Will he think I’m being combative?” I told him I wasn’t paying extra for the redo. As I left the store, I was a wreck. I sat in my car and held the wheel. It dawned on me that I wasn’t necessarily safe there. I started my car and pulled off.

I shared my experience this morning on FB and the issue of the two black men being arrested in Starbucks came up. Then, a sweet friend sent me this in response:

How can we help? I mean, I live my daily life and feel like I would be any of those white customers in that SB defending those black men. It crushes me when I read you say “you don’t belong” bc the world I live in (as in my little bubble here in ******* and this small bubble of the world) you DO belong. I know what you mean though based on the insanity that happens to the people that look like you…but you are my people as much as my white people are my people and I don’t know what I can actually do on a very VERY practical note on a daily basis other than pray (which I do) accept (which I do) and not see color (which I don’t). I’m reaching out to you bc I really wanna hear you. My heart breaks. It really does. I was close to living my life as the wife of a black man but that didn’t pan out (that was back in my high school days) and I often do think of how different my life would feel if my hubby and children were POC. It’s on my heart. I’m so glad you share what you’re experiencing. I wanna hear what you would say to me as a white friend. What would YOU want ME to be doing so that I can love you and those you love more devotedly..?

For a few years now, I’ve tried to live out my calling to be a bridge and be a bridge-builder. I want to be a justice seeker and a justice speaker. I cannot and will not be silent about the atrocities that plaque people of color. I desire to have conversations that enlighten and challenge others to think a little differently about issues that affect people of color. If the don’t want to hear I must accept that. It’s not easy but by the grace of God I must be a voice in my own little corner of the world. So blessed to have loving arms comforting me.

The LORD God has told us what is right and what he demands: “See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey your God.” Micah 6:8 CEV

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8 THINGS TO GIVE UP THIS YEAR

I know, I know. Why should we focus on things we shouldn’t do in 2018? Shouldn’t we focus instead on what we want to do? I personally believe that if you commit to NOT doing these next 8 things in 2018, you’ll reap a rich reward. Here we go:

1. Self rejection. Why do you spend so much time rejecting the one who God has made in His image? Dear one, God loved you so much that He sent His One And Only Son to die for you. Find your worth in what He has done, not how you feel about yourself or who the Enemy tells you you are. Because you are an image bearer, stop rejecting yourself. John 3:16 1 John 3:19-20 NIV

2. Negative self talk. Did you know that speaking negatively about yourself causes you to live up to what you’re saying about yourself? You’re basically speaking things into existence. Beloved, God does not condemn you and neither should you. Speak life to yourself. No more negative self talk. Proverbs 18:21 NIV

3. Criticizing others. Consider that criticizing others comes from an insecure place in your own heart. Criticizing others says more about you than the person you’re criticizing. It’s bullying at its finest. Lift others up. No need to blow someone’s candle out to make your own burn brighter. Stop criticizing others and shine. Romans 12:10

4. Being a people pleaser. Are you a servant of Christ? Then, ask yourself why you care so much about what others think about you? Why do they command such allegiance from you? What do you think will happen if they’re not pleased with you? Consider that God is the only One who deserves such allegiance. Strive to please Him first. Stop trying to please men and strive to please God. Galatians 1:10

5. Fear of failure. Did you know that some of the most successful people “fail” at many things? We are not promised that we will never fail. Failure is not fatal. We are however, promised that God will NEVER fail. With that said, take some risks realizing that no experience is ever wasted. “Failure” is a part of every God story. Its what you learn from your failures that’s redemptive. Stop holding back due to fear of failure. I Corinthians 13:8 Mark 10:27 NIV

6. Procrastination. I’ve always struggled with procrastination, yet I’ve made tremendous strides to tackle my to-do list by setting mini goals to work on along the way. Consider doing that. Procrastination unloads mountains of overwhelmedness at your feet. So much so that you can’t lift your feet to walk through your tasks, right? You get anxious and paralyzed. Procrastination takes up valuable time that you could spend being in the moment. Don’t let tasks be left undone. Handle them quickly and efficiently. Stop procrastinating and conquer that to-do list. Colossians 3:17 NIV

7. Holding on to grudges. Why hold on to grudges? How does it serve you? When we forgive, we release God’s grace in the spiritual realm. That same grace covers you and the one with whom you’re holding the grudge. If you are a recipient of God’s grace then freely give to others that same grace. Unburden your heart. Let go and let God and stop holding on to grudges. 1 Corinthians 13:5 NIV

8. Expecting perfection. Do you consider yourself a perfectionist? Do you demand perfection from others? If so. perhaps you’ve created a standard for yourself and others that God has not. Dear one, you are not the standard. God is. If human perfection exists then Jesus would not have died for our sins, right? Why would He die for perfect people? Here’s some news for you, He didn’t. So, in light of that give up the idea that you and others should be/must be perfect. So thankful that we serve a perfect God. So stop expecting perfection. Aim for excellence. Romans 3:23 NIV 

This year, vow to not drag the old ways of thinking and behaving into a brand new year. Okay? 2 Corinthians 5:17 

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Is God Faithful?

As I reread this post I made a few years ago, I’m grappling with how tough 2017 was. It was a year when I held on for dear life to keep from going under. My spirit was grieved. My heart was heavy. My relationships were challenged. I was often puzzled and confused. I begged God to make sense of the world we live in. My call/purpose felt opaque. Yes, there are/were many, many reasons to rejoice and celebrate (even on tough days) the goodness and faithfulness of God in 2017. If I’m honest, I often struggle to have spiritual eyes to see it. When I think that the highlight of my year could be boiled down to witnessing April the giraffe give birth to her baby boy, Tajiri, that says a lot. It magnifies my struggles. [Let me interject a thought here. I realize that the Social Media ‘highlight reel’ often paints a different picture about life than what we may really struggle with. We choose what we want people to see. AND we see what we want to see. We assume a lot!! Yes, where there’s sunshine, rain is sure to be there, too.] Here’s my original post:

A few days before the end of last year, I turned over in bed and my eyes connected with the ‘at a glance’ flip calendar on my night stand. I noticed all of days that had been ‘flipped’ and stacked on the left side. Everything I need to do that day and the days ahead are on this calendar. Calls I need to make, bills I need to pay, emails I need to send, birthdays I need to remember, people I need to see or pray for, etc. This calendar keeps me sane. Literally. I often tell my family that if they want to know where I am on any given day, just look at this calendar.

I’ve made a habit of keeping every calendar from past years. The calendars represent the chapters of my life. As I looked at the calendar, a peace came over me, His peace. I wasn’t expecting that. I had been fretting a lot that week about all sorts of things. About my own stuff and other people’s stuff. I am sure you can relate to that. I spent many days thinking I could not imagine beginning a new year in the same way that the old one seemed to be ending. Full of uncertainty, trials and tribulations. I was weary, worn and sad at the thought of doing just that. Then, it was like God’s eyes met mine and He said to me, “Kathy, my child, look at all the days you have flipped over on your calendar. Days you never thought you would make it through. Are they not a reminder of My faithfulness to you? By my providential hand, you have almost completed another year and you’ve fretted most of those days!! See, I have brought you through. Rejoice!” With that, I agreed and smiled and turned over. God was right! How many days had I been fearful or anxious about something so much that I could not even see how I was going to get through the day? Many. There where many days where I did not want to see another day if it was going to be a repeat of that day or of previous days. Obviously, I’ve gotten through that day and other days since. God did not take me home as I asked (and even begged and demanded at times). He brought me through because HE is faithful and because there is no testimony without a test. There is a message in the mess. I declare, He’s keeping me here for a reason. You, too!

Dear one, are you grappling with believing in the faithfulness of God today? Have you lost hope that the new year will bring peace and joy? Are you not convinced that He can keep you in the midst of your circumstances? Well? He can. Remember that as you begin a new calendar year and a new season that the last 365+ days are a marker of His faithfulness. HE brought you through every one of those days. The easy days and the challenging ones. Start this year off right. Trust Him. He is Faithful. He will see you through. His Word tells us so.
Kathy✝

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CONVERSATIONS THAT MAKE A DIFFERENCE 

conversations-that-make-a-difference

There’s one thing that Jesus and I have in common. Actually, I have many things in common with my Savior but I’ll highlight just one today. Jesus loved having and engaging in conversations with people. All people. In his 3 years of public ministry, the Bible records more than 120 conversations that He had with people from every walk of life. He had conversations that others would never have had. More than 1/2 of those conversations took place in the workplace and in homes. Very few took place in religious settings. I find that quite interesting. Think about that. You know Jesus seldom pressed for ‘closure’. His conversations often included questions. Some of His conversations were with:

A. The Samaritan Woman–John 4:7-42

B. The Crippled Beggar–John 5:1-15

C. The Rich Young Ruler–Matthew 19:16-30

D. The Hemorrhaging Woman Mark 5:24-34

Jesus Christ had the ability to hear the heart of what people were thinking and feeling and engage with them on common ground. Do you have that same ability?

I love family time. As one who loves good conversation, whenever I know the family is getting together, I get very excited. I even save certain topics to talk about with them because I want to engage with them. I love to hear their heart, thoughts and opinions. I try to appreciate each one for the wisdom they bring to the table. More times than not, I learn something I didn’t previously know or I gain an entirely different understanding than I had.

Conversations are valuable to me. I call our family conversations “kitchen table conversations”. These conversations are transparent, real, raw, safe and often contain some element of passion and emotion. Kitchen table conversations often reveal the state of our hearts. If the state of our hearts doesn’t reflect Christ, you’re challenged to realign with Christ’s heart. We all hold each other accountable.

Late last year, I sensed the LORD directing my heart to invite others to come to my kitchen table to engage in conversations a few times a year. After much prayer and seeking wisdom from others, I knew I needed to move forward. Thus, Kitchen Table Conversations with Kathy was conceived. These conversations will cover various topics and give opportunities to engage with one another in a safe environment. My goal is to be a bridge-builder in a world where division is at an all-time high. Sitting at the table with others who are different than me, in my opinion, supports this goal. As I prepare to give birth to this new endeavor, I covet your prayers.

In future posts, I’ll share more of what this looks like.  In the meantime:

Have you ever hosted conversation around your kitchen table?  If so, leave me a comment and tell me what that looks like!

 

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MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM THE LOOKING GLASS BY KATHY

Sending God’s richest blessings to you and yours for a blessed Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. 

Kathy Bruce ✝

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