Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Releasing Shame, Embracing Grace

From time to time, I invite others to share their gleaning experiences here at thegleanse.  Welcome back Jeralyn Powell as she eloquently shares the 3rd installment of her yet untitled series. . .

“Disgrace is the opposite of grace. Grace is love that seeks you out even if you have nothing to give in return. Grace is being loved when you are or feel unlovable. Grace has the power to turn despair into hope. Grace listens, lifts up, cures, transforms, and heals.”                          

             I stared over the ledge of the building with the world behind me going at a much faster pace than I even cared to keep up with anymore.  Consciously, I considered this could be it. I could just put myself….and everyone else…out of misery. What seemed like a long way down from where I was standing, had no bearing on how low I felt. I could finally put action behind what people wouldn’t say with words; that nobody in my position, had a right to feel this way. I was so ashamed and unable to do anything else to turn this situation around. I could take the only way out…

             But even as shame pressed me against life’s ledge, God’s grace gently gestured me into His embrace.

             Shame keeps you in bondage; it keeps you from being honest with people about how you really feel. It warrants a place to relive the scenes of life that you wish had never happened. It plants seeds of envy, hatred and manipulation that all lead to self-destruction. Holding on to the shame pushes away one of the most precious gifts from God - His unmerited favor, GRACE. 
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

             Grace is a gift that we choose to accept. Faith is the currency we use to receive it. Nothing we can do justifies the grace God gives. Grace is not a medal we can proudly show off on our chest, knowing that we did well. Instead it’s the badge we wear with a sense of surprise that we were even chosen for such an honor. In the midst of my embarrassment, regrets, and guilt, God reached in and scooped me up into His grace.  

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

             God provided grace to fill in ALL the inadequacies we feel when we aren’t enough. It works its way through the dreadful discussions among friends and the confusing concerns of family. His grace covers our weakness and the weaknesses of those who really just don’t know what to say or do. In my brokenness, God’s power carried me because I no longer had the strength on my own to keep going…

             That day, I still fell….into the arms of grace. Grace welcomed me with open arms and smothered my guilt with warm kisses of reassurance and snug hugs of mercy. In His grace, I found freedom: freedom to accept His unfailing love in spite of my shortfalls, to live out His will regardless of how I felt. God’s grace freed me from the guilt, the disgrace that came along with my state of mind and reminded me that I was His.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Cooling Waters: In Memory of Anthony J. Riley

Oh what a relief it was
When God rescued me, He loose my chains
that had me bound, and then he set me free
it felt like, cooling water. . .

                                     ~ "Cooling Waters" by The Williams Brothers
             I can't remember a time when I didn't know Tony but I didn't really get to know him until we started working together at the Social Security Administration. 

             That first day at SSA, we walked into the building at the same time. He towered about a foot over me with a huge Alabama A&M umbrella covering him. We didn't exchange any words as he held the door open for me but I thought to myself, "That's Janie's boy."

             And a mama's boy he was, at least in my opinion. I tried to say something negative about Tony to Mrs. Janie once and she gave me a look that said, "you better not bad mouth my boy."

             One day during our six month Claims Authorizer training, we had a potluck lunch and I contributed the brownies. I knew they didn't come out right but I took them to work anyway. Tony ate that brownie without saying a word and with no expression on his face while his best friend Eric spit it out. I knew then Tony and I could be friends for life.

             Tony made working at SSA enjoyable. A group of us (including Eric, Jameelah, Camille, Lesha and sometimes Stan) took our morning breaks together for years. In the morning, Tony and I would be the first to get to the table. By the time everyone else arrived, we would be quoting Kanye West lyrics and lines from the movie Idlewild which got on Lesha's nerves.

            He kept us laughing; said me and Eric were the reasons our health insurance premiums kept going up. He predicted that every time I said I didn't have a appetite I was going to end up connected to someone's IV soon after. He was usually right.
             I hosted Bethesda Young Adult Bible Study at my home once a month and I always tried to get Tony to come. He said he was leading our street team by ministering at Platinum of Birmingham on those Friday nights.

             Oh and I always talked to Tony about my man troubles. Once, I called him on his desk phone at work and I said, "Tony, be honest with me. Do I in any way remind you of a frog?" He thought real hard and said no. I said, "I heard one of my ex-boyfriends refer to me as Kermit." Tony burst out laughing before I could even get the whole sentence out of my mouth. He said, "Alison, he is probably talking about your voice."

             In one of our most memorable conversations, Tony told me "A. Mo, if he can't handle you at 50% he doesn't deserve you when you are 100%! Can I get an Amen?

             I could go on forever retelling my fondest memories of Tony including the adventure I had with him as my real estate agent. 

            We didn't talk much that last year and a half of his life. I know I was going through some stuff and I suppose he was too. I couldn't miss the opportunity to speak at his funeral. I tried to incorporate some lyrics of the song quoted above but couldn't figure out how to fit them into my remarks. I don't know why but he loved that song.

             Even two years later, if I hear anyone say, "Hey A. Mo," my natural response is always "Hey T. Riley."

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Do You Trust Me?

             I went on a fantastic cruise to the Bahamas last week. It was my first cruise and I wanted to make sure I had all the documentation I needed to leave America and come back.  Several times a day, I checked to make sure I had my cruise currency (Sail and Sign Card), driver's license, debit card, a little cash and sometimes my birth certificate.
             I am kinda embarrassed to admit this part. After waking up from a nap one night on the cruise, my body craved water.  I didn't trust the tap water so I decided to leave my stateroom to purchase a bottle of water.  I needed my Sail and Sign Card to buy it but I couldn't find it! I looked through my toiletry bag, cosmetic bag, suitcase, the bathroom, around and under my bed-nothing.  My travel buddy felt sorry for me and joined me down on the floor to search for it.

             The whole time I was praying in  my head for the Holy Spirit to lead me to it. It was such a simple prayer- not a prayer of miraculous healing or deliverance from sin but for me to find my card so I could buy a bottle of water and eventually get off that boat! 

             I felt the need to stop completely and pray.  My travel buddy is not the most religious person so I was afraid to visibly pray in front of her just in case the card didn't show up.  So, I'm having this conversation with myself in my head and praying intermittedly. Softly, I heard the Holy Spirit say something like this, "Is this really about her? The question is do you trust me? So what if the card doesn't show up, you don't know how I want to use you in this situation. If you don't trust me during these times, how are you going to trust me in harder times?

I had been told! So humbly I bowed my head and prayed.  When I finished, I reached for my toiletry bag to take another look.  What do you know?  Everything I was looking for was visibly inside that bag in it's plastic sleeve.  Real life doesn't work like that! But God does :-)