Strength and Dignity

It’s Always My Birthday!

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My birthday was last week. Are you surprised? Did you miss it due to other major historical events? If you weren’t aware that’s shocking, but it was my birthday last week. Now, when I say last week, I mean week. You see I tend to drag out my birthday celebrations for much longer than just a day. I will drag them out as long as possible. This blog post speaks to my attempt to extend the celebration.

I like my birthday. Go ahead and judge me, say that’s prideful, call me a princess; I’m just being honest. It feels good to be celebrated. I love the delight of guilt free desserts such as… birthday cake. My man knows this about me and has gifted me with some HUGE birthday cakes over the years. He can’t quite remember the difference between a sheet cake that would feed 100, verses a quarter sheet cake that would feed 15. There is a difference and it inevitably reveals itself on my waistline, but it’s just one of many things I love about him. Also defining birthday celebrations are the presents, dinners out, and intentional times to gather together with family and friends. I absolutely love it all!

Growing up, I had a 45 record (for the younger folk, kinda like the CD of the 70’s). This particular 45 played a birthday song including my name as a lyric. Pretty sure I played that baby on days other than my birthday! In fact, my parents still call on my birthday and sing me the song from that 45. There were also Holly Hobbie cakes that were bakery beauties and homemade cakes that, although delicious, lacked visual delight. There were family parties as well as friend parties; some standing out more than others.

My 13th birthday marked my first boy/ girl party and included renting a VCR along with the movie Karate Kid from the local gas station.

“It’s Alli…with an “I.” I’m Daniel…with a “D”
“Wax on, wax off”
“Sweep the leg!”
…I digress.

Of course, there was the infamous 16th birthday party, that was nothing less than awkward when my ex-boyfriend showed up with a dozen red roses, only to discover that in just one short week since our break up I had moved on to someone else. Are you judging me again? Come on, seriously. I had to have a date for my 16th birthday party!

I could continue to relive many other birthday memories, but for your benefit I will make a giant leap to my 40th birthday. Along with 4 of my dearest girlfriends and I took a 4-day trip to and all-inclusive resort in Cancun to mark my big birthday milestone. It was truly one of the best birthdays of my life! Each night was marked with a spectacular dinner, followed with girlfriends dancing the night away free from the typical demands of our mama worlds. Our dinners would be accompanied by “happy birthday” wishes and song, with a special birthday dessert to top off the meal.

Being a slower time of year the resort was lightly occupied, and our little party of 5 became easily identified by a good majority of the guests. Among those guests were Giovanni and Jenny; a couple in their mid 70’s made up of a gregarious husband, and a less than gregarious wife. Jenny typically had her nose in a book, and Giovanni a story or joke to share with anyone willing to listen. Due to her level of disinterest, it appeared that over their years Jenny might have heard all of Giovanni’s stories and jokes. Giovanni and Jenny had been vacationing in Cancun for the last 22 years.

It was midnight on my actual birthday; my girlfriends and I were on the dance floor, ringing in the next decade of my life to none other than “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”; thus characterizing a true moms gone wild event for the ages. Giovanni had joined us out on the dance floor, but Jenny was perched at the bar with a book. Wanting to be an includer in the celebration of me, I quickly ran over to grab her, and extended the invitation to join us out on the dance floor. Not even looking up from her book, she abruptly told me “no”. Unwilling to accept the refusal, placing my hand on her shoulder, whining “pleeeease”, and reasoning that it was my birthday. It was at that point sweet Jenny had enough with the birthday girl; she looked me square in the eyes and snapped sarcastically, “It’s always your birthday!” Ouch! Jenny was a bit salty, but that didn’t put a damper on my party. A few more jams on the dance floor, and then us girls retired to our rooms, cackling about the truth of Jenny’s statement. My amazing and devoted girlfriends know this all too well, that truly it is ALWAYS MY BIRTHDAY! I tend to personify the high-maintenance, divalicious girl that can be so annoying to many. All I can say is that I am a work in progress friends, and the first step is awareness.

With all sincerity, I do realize and accept that it’s not always my birthday. Blasted! However I know there is ONE that celebrates me as if it’s always my birthday, and loves me in all my high maintenance divaliciousness. Psalm 139 tells me that He knows everything about me and “gets” me.

O Lord, you have searched me [thoroughly] and have known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up [my entire life, everything I do];
You understand my thought from afar.

Not only that, but He created my birthday!

For You formed my innermost parts;
You knit me [together] in my mother’s womb.

I will give thanks and praise to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was being formed in secret,
And intricately and skillfully formed [as if embroidered with many colors] in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were appointed for me,
When as yet there was not one of them [even taking shape].

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!

If I could count them, they would outnumber the sand.
Psalm 139:13-18a

Beloved, you are the precious one that God celebrates. He celebrates you because He sees the whole picture of who He created you to be from the beginning to the end. You were created according to God’s great plan to redeem what had been stolen by sin. This plan of redemption is inclusive, and we are the includers. We are the invitation to the party!

Redemption is for ALL, like a birthday celebration, available 365 days a year open to all guests. It’s His birthday party and He invites us to the dance floor to celebrate with Him. Our purpose at the party is to then extend that invitation to others. We can so easily lose sight of the “Jenny’s” sitting all around us. We may carry unawareness of their presence because we’ve made the party about us and yet, there they sit. They may be crass, tired, hurting, broken, or annoyed but we who are at the party need to extend the invite.

AND…

Beyond that invitation, be a party they want to attend! This can only happen by way of our relationship with our Creator God, who will create in us a beautiful invite if we allow Him access to our heart.

Search me [thoroughly], O God, and know my heart;
Test me and know my anxious thoughts;

And see if there is any wicked or hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.
Psalm 139:22-23

This week of Thanksgiving will present many opportunities by way of gatherings and shopping to invite others to the dance floor. I pray that you and I offer an invitation that no one can refuse!

the Presidential Election

Conversations and media have been consumed with the upcoming presidential election that will take place tomorrow. Actually, it had been quite refreshing to have all the World Series hype that provided some reprieve from the constant banter whirling around us. In my opinion though, our country has arrived at a pivotal moment in history. No matter the outcome of this presidential election, the drama it carries will most likely continue to play out before us in the days, weeks, and months to come. November 8th will not close the curtain on the theatrics of this whole campaign. The show (story) will go on.

However, voters do find themselves in a place of decision. This place of decision unlike any before, has voters asking questions such as: Whom will I vote for? Will I vote? Does it even matter if I vote?

As a child, my school days consistently began the same way. The bell would ring, prompting the start of the school day; I would stand by my desk, and place my right hand over my heart, casting my gaze toward the small American Flag in the corner of my classroom and then I would speak these words:

“I pledge allegiance to the flag
of the United States of America,
and to the republic for which it stands
one nation ,

UNDER GOD,

indivisible with liberty and justice for all

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School days don’t start this way anymore, because our nation has removed the authority component of its original founding belief system. A nation that is united under the leadership of an all-knowing and all-powerful God places trust in His Sovereignty. Looking to His Word, His Reign, His Rule for guidance. I think most would agree this is not where we currently find ourselves as a country. My question today is this: where do you find yourself as an individual?

Placing oneself under the absolute authority of God creates in us a spirit of unity that is unshaken by circumstances that press in on us and around us. Under His authority, we look to His Word that brings us all truth to actively guide us!

Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is living and active and full of power [making it operative, energizing, and effective]. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as the division of the soul and spirit [the completeness of a person], and of both joints and marrow [the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and judging the very thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Living under God’s authority also opens our eyes to desire freedom and justice for others. God calls this desire and spirit good and He requires it of us.

Micah 6:8
Mankind, He has told you what is good
and what it is the Lord requires of you:
to act justly,
to love faithfulness,
and to walk humbly with your God.

Notice that these requirements of Micah 6 are VERBS! Don’t forget that part, because we are certainly not passive! This is how we seek to live in all areas, conversations and circumstances. Even in those that involve this election. Look at the words in Micah 7 as Micah describes the moral decline of Israel:

Micah 7

How sad for me!
For I am like one who—
when the summer fruit has been gathered
after the gleaning of the grape harvest—
finds no grape cluster to eat,
no early fig, which I crave.
2
Godly people have vanished from the land;
there is no one upright among the people.
All of them wait in ambush to shed blood;
they hunt each other with a net.
3
Both hands are good at accomplishing evil:
the official and the judge demand a bribe;
when the powerful man communicates his evil desire,
they plot it together.
4
The best of them is like a brier;
the most upright is worse than a hedge of thorns.
The day of your watchmen,
the day of your punishment, is coming;
at this time their panic is here.

This could easily paint a picture of where we find ourselves…perplexed with the questions in regard to our vote in this election. Yet, if our thoughts are left here we are discouraged, asking ourselves where the hope is…but read on to verse 7!

But I will look to the Lord;
I will wait for the God of my salvation.
My God will hear me.

We must focus on God…who is JUST

We must wait for God…who is MERCIFUL and will save us

We must pray to God…who is HUMBLE enough to hear us

Placing ourselves completely under His authority and trust His Sovereign control over ALL THINGS!

This doesn’t mean that we are free from consequence as a nation. His Sovereignty does not change the reality that our nation has gone it’s own way, and that the heart of our nation is far from God. What His Sovereignty does provide is the ability to look beyond our current circumstance and rest in knowing that He is the ultimate Victor over sin and death. It’s not that He WILL reign…It’s that He DOES reign that we have hope!

I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.]
John 16:33

When you step into that polling booth, PRAY, place yourself under HIS authority and He will guide then, take heart my friends! Rest in this truth…

HE HAS OVERCOME THE WORLD!

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The Greatest Rain Delay of All Time

Some moments in life seem to unfold in slow motion. These are some of the same moments that can cause us to hit the replay button over and over again due to the sheer amazement of its power. Last night I lived through many of those kinds of moments. Possibly the most epic game in baseball history was played last night. The 2016 World Series will go down in Major League history, leaving its mark unlike any other. As the Indians and Cubs battled it out at the plate, their fans anticipated each swing, hoping it would deliver the runs that would carry them to victory. It was the 10th inning that revealed the champion, and I watched in amazement as my Cubbies took ownership of the title 2016 World Series Champions.

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The Chicago Cubs celebrate after Game 7 of the Major League Baseball World Series against the Cleveland Indians Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016, in Cleveland. The Cubs won 8-7 in 10 innings to win the series 4-3.Gene J. Puskar, The Associated Press
The Chicago Cubs celebrate after Game 7 of the Major League Baseball World Series against the Cleveland Indians Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016, in Cleveland. The Cubs won 8-7 in 10 innings to win the series 4-3.Gene J. Puskar, The Associated Press

Many will agree that this game carried us through countless moments filled with emotion. Moments full of fear, anticipation, hope, exuberance, confusion, nausea… and everything in between! Some moments are forever etched in my memory.

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As the final out of the game unfolded, there was Bryant’s boyish smirk that grew into sheer exuberance as he released the throw to Rizzo. It was the throw that would deliver that final out, sealing the victory for his team. Then there was Rizzo,

hqdefaultwith mouth gaping wide open as he catches the throw by Bryant only then to cram that game winning ball into his back pocket, much like he had done just weeks prior in the game that clinched their division. Some of my favorite moments though, took place after that last out of the game.As celebrating broke out on the field and reporters began snagging players for interviews, the behind the scene stories began to unfold and we all gained a clearer understanding of what had actually taken place within that Cubs “band of brothers” during a 17-mintue rain delay.

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In the bottom of the 9th the Indians had tied the game at 6-6. A storm front blew in, and settled on Progressive Field resulting in a 17-minute rain delay. For the Cubs players those rain delay moments would go down as the ones that carried them into and out of the 10th inning as World Series Champions. Apparently during the delay Jason Heyward, Cubs right fielder, gathered his teammates in the weight room for a team meeting. In the words of Chris Bryant to Fox:

“It was the best thing for us, We all got together in the weight room. We all supported each other….talking us up, gettin’ us ready”

“…in that moment, saying those things that needed to be said. That’s an ultimate leader right there.” Ben Zobrist

“It was a great message,” David Ross said

“It was,” Rizzo said, “the best rain delay of all time. It kind of settled us down, got us regrouped.”

So what in the world did the quiet, gentle giant, Jason Heyward say to his teammates?jason-heyward-jpg

When asked about the team meeting, Heyward told Fox:
“I just had to remind them of who they were. I just had to remind everybody who we are. … Win or lose, we were never worried about that… The beginning of every day, we never worry about wins or losses, we just worry about how we’re gonna go out there, have fun, compete, be right there for the guys next to us, and not take the situation for granted.”

Later Heyward said, “I let them know that I loved them.”

Maybe not in this particular moment, but some moments in life need a Divine rain delay. A moment to stop the game to be reminded of who we are, that we aren’t playing the game alone, and we are loved. Whatever the case may be, the power of a moment like that sends us back into the game, ready, and confident that we will be victorious, because we play for the winning team! Be looking for the Heyward moments. I guarantee that it’s raining hard somewhere and a meeting needs to be called. You could be the encouragement that pulls the tarps off the field for someone and sends them back into the last inning to claim victory

“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors and gain an overwhelming victory through Him who loved us [so much that He died for us].”
Romans 8:37 (AMP)