…Griot

They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony
Revelation 12:11

In West Africa, a griots’ responsibility was to carry on the history of their culture through poetry, dancing and singing. In short, griots were storytellers; repository orators securing that the legacy of West Africa and surrounding countries would carry on forever. This hasn’t changed. Storytelling is all around us. From the televisions shows and movies we watch to the music we listen to, be it fiction or nonfiction we are constantly confronted by characters, plot twists and happy–or sometimes–not so happy endings. This is even truer for the Bible, one of the greatest (love) stories ever told.

From Genesis to Revelations, God inspired and empowered men and women with the Holy Spirit to share their stories to carry on the legacy of Christ. My favorite book of the Bible is the Book of Ruth because it is a story I believe many of us women can either relate to or long for. Brace yourselves for “the Bible according to SH”: a woman named Ruth loses her husband and moves to a land she does not know with her mother-in-law. Both Ruth and her mother-in-law are poor and destitute. While working on a farm Ruth meets a man, Boaz. Boaz is very wealthy. He is captured by Ruth. They fall in love and get married. Boaz redeems not only Ruth but her mother-in-law as well. On the surface this seems like the stuff Disney movies are made of. It is a love story. A wealthy man meets a poor girl and marries her. They ride off into the sunset happily ever after. But there is so much more. Boaz’s redemption of Ruth is an allegory for Christ’s redemption of the Church.

Much like Ruth, we all have what seem like “surface level” stories. We’ve met people. They have become characters in the plot of our lives. Things have happened that didn’t always make sense. We feel like a conglomerate of series of events and per chance serendipitous moments. I’ll tell you a secret. These are our stories. More than that, these stories are our testimonies and God wants us to share them. Paul wrote 13 books of the Bible. All of them inspired by his road to Damascus experience where he encountered God for the first time. In 1 Corinthians 15:10 Paul shares this with the church of Corinth:

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them —yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”

This is Paul’s story. He went from persecuting Christians to helping advance the Church; writing more than half of the New Testament. He recognized that interwoven in his story was God’s grace. I love to tell the story of how LJ and I met. Aside from the fact that its pretty mushy, God’s grace, love, faithfulness and redemption are the foundations of our relationship. Our individual stories led us to one another. Together we’re watching a beautiful story unfold. It’s so much greater than us. It is about the power of God and I pray that is what people take away from when we share it. I pray that it will inspire people to believe in love, to trust God even when it seems scary and to never give up after being kicked down. I pray that people see, from our story, is God’s love down to the details of our lives.

Today, I charge you to think about your story. What role did God play? Who will you share it with and what do you want them to take from it? Will your story advance his kingdom, or will you keep the plot to yourself?

Be a griot.

Written by SH. @ Shakirah Adianna

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…Clique

Having predestined us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:5-6 NKJV

I’ve always struggled with the desire to be accepted. And, the craziest part about it is that I didn’t actually realize the pursuit of acceptance was a constant thread in my life, until recently.

From early in my childhood, I never truly felt like I “belonged”. I attended school with almost no one (I mean, no one) that looked like me until I entered middle school. Then, when my family moved to a new area and I began middle school, I really didn’t “belong” anywhere. Everyone else seemed to already know one another from elementary school and I was thrown into a demographic that I wasn’t all that familiar with. Yet, I adjusted and became a part of the crowd and developed my own cliques…throughout high school, and throughout college.

Fast forward to present day, and I realize that I have strived to excel in my education and in my career with the goal to be regarded as intelligent; to be desired and sought after for my skills, gifts and talents; and to be accepted into what I view as “the leaders” or the creme de la creme in my industry.

My heart tugs towards receiving approval and acceptance into something of meaning and importance. He’s created us this way, and He’s made it clear that He allows us to realize our acceptance in Him (Ephesians 1:5-6 NKJV).

In Him, is the only clique that I’m now actively desiring to be and remain a part of. And more than anything, I am thankful to God for the heart for just that.

We are accepted.

SM.

…Suitor

On Tuesday night, I had an odd, yet extremely vivid dream. At its climax, I woke up and immediately received revelation about the meaning of my dream. Then, I went right back to sleep! When I rose to start my morning routine, I decided to take a moment to journal about (yes, I used “journal” as a verb) my dream and seek more definition in it. Later in the day, I also solicited my discipleship leader’s interpretation. Her discernment revealed so much that made so much sense. The depth of confirmation, motivation and encouragement that was yielded through my dream was dumbfounding.

In the midst of all of that clarity, it warmed my heart to realize that God cares enough about me to speak to me, to encourage me, and to love on me during my REM sleep! He reminded me that He is literally with me 24/7 and is constantly, relentlessly pursuing me in each moment of my life.

By definition, He has proven to be my suitor; the One who is wholeheartedly pursuing an intimate relationship with me. He has made it clear that He has chosen me (John 15:16), and in turn He takes every opportunity and every circumstance (including my rest, my relationships with others, His creation of nature, etc.) to demonstrate His affection and His desire to relate to me.

And He’s so amazing that He pursues each of us with the same passion and fervor. He gave His very best, His son, just to be able to do so — to position Himself as our Suitor.

I dare us to reciprocate this Suitor’s love #swoon

SM.

…An Obsession

Therefore devote yourselves completely to the Lord our God, walking in His statutes and keeping His commandments…1 Kings 8:61

Here, Solomon instructed the Israelites to turn themselves over completely to God, to pursue His will as a way of life and to obey His commands. He desired for them to be constantly thinking of and their hearts be interested in and concerned with, God. King Solomon even prayed and asked that God “turn [their] hearts to Him” (1 Kings 8:58). He pretty much solicited and roused an obsession to live a life absorbed in obedience, worship, devotion and love.

What is your current obsession? What matter is absorbing your thoughts and your actions? To whom or what are you devoted to?

Today, my prayer is that the Holy Spirit reveals our obsessions to us and helps us each devote and entrust more of ourselves to Him — by spending more time with Him in prayer, doing what He tells us to do, reading and studying His Word and loving on His people.

Be obsessed.

SM.

P.S. As a direct result of this post, one of my many future immediate to-dos will be cooperating with the Helper to release my iPhone iron grip during additional moments in my day. #clarity

…100m Dash

Every 4 years at this time, I, along with a sizable portion of this country (and the world for that matter) are completely obsessed with the Summer Olympics. The swimming, the track & field, gymnastics, beach volleyball, canoeing, basketball, soccer — you name it, I’m watching it and I’m talking about it!

My favorite Olympic sport to follow, hands down, is track athletics. And, of all of the track events, I enjoy the 100 meter dash most! In this race, we’re given the opportunity to see “the fastest man and woman in the world” run toward their mark with all of their might and energy. According to Wikipedia, this sprint race is the shortest common outdoor running distance, and is one of the most popular and prestigious events in the sport of athletics.

As I’ve watched Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake (nod to my Jamaican-American bestie, SH), Justin Gatlin, Carmelita Jeter and Allyson Felix, amongst many in the London 2012 Olympic Games, my first inclination (after being totally flabbergasted) has been to wish I could run that fast too. Then in the moments following, I wondered, why would I ever want to run that fast (other than for the fame, a gold medal and a small fortune)??

Then, as I can always count on Him to do, God reminded me that He has actually commanded me to run daily; from anything that stimulates lust, in 2 Timothy 2:22 NLT. Now, that may not necessarily mean that I must flee at the speed or swiftness of the fastest man and woman in the world, but it does mean that I must acknowledge the lusts in my life and purposely turn (or dash/sprint/hop, skip and jump) away from them.

Lust is defined as an emotion or feeling of intense desire. And, according to Richard Lazarus’, Passion and Reason: Making Sense of Our Emotions, “lust is a powerful psychological force producing intense wanting for an object, or circumstance fulfilling the emotion”. All of that appears to indicate that our lusts can be focused on a multitude of things – sexual desires, shopping, food, power, wealth, status, outward appearances, etcetera – and although our lusts may not be the same, we can trust in God in the same way to gain victory over the desires that are evil by simply obeying Him and running that 100m away.

With the instruction to flee, for our benefit, we have also been graciously advised to join a team of those who are in honest and serious prayer before God (2 Timothy 2:22 MSG). Just as our favorite Olympians are motivated and encouraged to work harder and run faster by their trainers, their country and common goal to win a medal, our friends can be the team we choose to motivate, encourage, cover us and hold us accountable in our desire to run away (quickly and powerfully) from those things that so easily entangle us and in turn, run toward the mark (Hebrews 12:1).

Today, my prayer is that He plainly reveals to us any desires in our hearts that are not aligned with His Lordship; that He gives us the boldness and desire to flee; and blesses us abundantly with friends and counsel to walk this life out with.

In which direction are you sprinting? With whom are you running with?

SM.

…Nutritionist

Last weekend I felt gross. My stomach was bloated. My face unexpectedly broke out. My skin looked dull and I realized I’ve been overly fatigued and emotionally drained. These things aren’t uncommon. They’re usually a monthly occurrence as a result of being a woman. All the ladies get my drift. But, this was different. My hormones had re-stabilized. I was getting enough rest after eliminating extraneous projects from plate. I should have looked and felt phenomenal. Yet I didn’t. After sitting down with LJ and analyzing the damage done to my face (LJ assured me that three pimples could not constitute “damage”). We talked about the possibilities of why I was feeling–for the lack of a better term–funky. That’s when it hit me. After gazing over the bag of Lay’s ruffled potato chips that I previously devoured I realized I haven’t been taking care of my body from the inside out.

Shame on me.

Growing up in a West Indian household afforded me the opportunity to always have organic home cooked meals. I cannot recall one time during my childhood that I ate processed foods. We never stepped foot inside a McDonald’s. I admittedly, did not have McDonald’s until college. It made me ridiculously ill. To this day the smell of McDonald’s makes my stomach turn. As I entered womanhood I carried my mother’s affinity for making the most healthy and delicious meals into my own household. I had a great run of this. The mark of my stability was nestled in my care of what items I allowed to house themselves in my refrigerator. All wheat grain. No starch. Olive and Sunflower oil. No vegetable oil. Everything was thoughtfully considered.

Not only were my eating habits up-to-par but I spent time working out regularly by running and hitting my yoga mat. Downward dog anyone? Lately, the demands of my new job, current housing transition and downright laziness have put a chink in my healthy-armor. In a post not too long ago, SM eloquently wrote about the importance of maintaining a healthy spiritual diet. I loved this because it reminded us all how important it is to take care of our Spirit. Having a well-fed Spirit is essential to thriving as Christians.

I would like to offer that is equally important to take care of our bodies in the natural. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 reminds us that our bodies and the way we treat them should honor God:

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

America is big on health and wellness, but for all the wrong reasons. Much our time spent in the gym and salon is for the sake of vanity. Magazine covers offer quick tips for getting trim in five days. It’s all narcissistic Even when we work out to feel good, we do it to feel good about ourselves. Then there are those of us who don’t work out at all; who load ourselves with junk food and unhealthy vices that can send us to a premature grave. That leaves many of us feeling unhappy about ourselves and thrown into a self-loathing pity party. Grab your gift bags on the way out.

We should take care of our bodies in honor of God. This means being intentional with the things we feed ourselves and the way we treat ourselves. Are we eating appropriately (not over or under eating)? Are we getting adequate rest? Are we getting regular check ups? God made us in His image. It must hurt our creator when we devalue his creation by not treating it with care.

When we couple a healthy spiritual diet with a balanced natural diet and wellness plan, we can experience the freedom of Christ with a clean and pure heart. Today I challenge you to think about whether or not you’ve been taking care of yourself. If you haven’t what are some ways that you can change that? Feel free to share with us. We love hearing from you all.

Written by SH. @ Shakirah Adianna