28 February 2011
Decades ago, when I was a freshman in college, I had the privilege of singing in a choral group called Blessed Peace, under the direction of Mervyn Warren and Mark Kibble, now famous for being founding members of the gospel phenomenon known as Take 6. Kibble and I developed a special relationship and years later, when their first album was released, even dated for a while. Kibble taught me almost everything I truly know about music – how to listen to it – eyes closed under headphones, listening for every nuance of the music; introduced me to artists I would otherwise be unfamiliar with (and some, even in person) ; and encouraged me to find (and use) my voice when I was quite content to be just another second soprano/first alto in a group of other voices. I think his biggest disappointment in me was when I stopped singing in venues other than my shower, bedroom and car.
On the flip side, because we spent a lot of our time in the realm of the musical world, I am very tuned in to his musicality and voice. Even after we were no longer dating, and he became the Grammy award winning vocalist, producer, and arranger that he is today – if I bought an album, CD, whatever – not knowing that he had anything to do with it – as I played it and a song came on that he’d touched in any way, I’d go to the liner notes, read them, and upon seeing his name in the credits, smile and say, “I knew I knew that voice (or style)”. And depending on where I was or knew he was, I’d call him and say, “Hey, I just heard your work on the Stephanie Mills/Donnie McClurkin/CeCe Winans project” and then give him my critique. (As if, I was an expert music critic – hahaha) He always listened patiently and sometimes, would even call me and ask my opinion about something he’d done. And I was always honest in my opinions…much to his chagrin. But that kind of knowledge and honesty only comes with relationships that are nurtured and cared for over time. They don’t happen overnight. Today, Mark and I live very different lives and sometimes we go months without speaking with each other. However, if I call him or he calls me, even without caller ID, the recognition of the other’s voice is instantaneous.
There is another voice that I pray I know just as intimately – and that is the voice of my Heavenly Father. The Bible tells us, in the 10th chapter of John, that God’s sheep (or followers) know His voice and follow Him. It has been my experience that God talks to me in various ways – sometimes it is the clear “Kristina, get off your duff and do this”; sometimes it’s the fleeting thought that maybe I should take another route in traffic – or the constant urging to reach out to a long-lost friend. Sometimes, the voice is loud and distinct – other times, a little soft and muffled. But I am learning to listen, learning to act when I hear it. Getting to KNOW that voice. The greatest thing that voice will ever say to me will be: Well done, my good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joys of Thy Lord. Don’t you want to hear him say that to you?
© 2011 Kristina E. Smith
Sunday, February 27, 2011
26 February 2011
Do you have a friend who has a “signature accessory”? You know, that one piece of “umph” that they ALWAYS have to spice up an outfit. One of my girlfriends is known for her shoe collection (ok, I have a LOT of friends who fit into this category); another for her big, blingy jewelry; another for her hats; another who doesn’t step out of her house (not even to go to the gym or grocery store) unless her face is perfectly made up – fake long eyelashes and all. And don’t get it twisted, guys can have signature accessories as well. I had a male friend who was known for his braces (not to be confused with suspenders – I’ll never forget the lecture I received when I once commented “Nice suspenders” – oy vey!) – and several who are now known for their bowties every Sabbath. My brother, for years, did not leave the house without his “Gilligan” cap – you know, Gilligan from Gilligan’s Island…this may be before some of my younger friends’ time, but Gilligan’s Island used to be the show! And my mother, won’t leave the house unless her watch is a match – either in color scheme or whatever else suits her fancy. Brooches, tie pins, hats, watches, wigs – all ways we express ourselves creatively in our dress.
For a while, my “signature” was my locs. Six years of people commenting on my locs – whether they liked them, loved them or hated them – they ALWAYS got comments. Then, for a while, it was my vast shoe collection. Since messing up my knee last October, my shoes have languished in their plastic shoe boxes until such time that I can fully enjoy them again.
Now, it seems, my signature accessories are scarves. I have them in every color, texture, weight, size, length – you pull out an outfit, I probably have a scarf that will complement it. Today, my love of scarves tends to be in the “outerwear” arena – something I can throw on, but just as easily take off. (As opposed to a scarf that is truly a part of an outfit and cannot be removed without changing the whole look and effect of what you are wearing). My love for scarves began years ago because of my admiration of an elder in my church who ALWAYS had a perfectly knotted and tied scarf to accent her suit or dress. There were several Sabbaths when I would show up to church, scarf in hand, and she would hook a sista up! And she never complained about it – just looked at me, looked at the scarf and tied it in an elaborate, beautiful bow that would get me complimented for the rest of the day. Thanks, Elder Ruff!
But there is a much more important accessory that we should strive to carry everywhere we go, and that is the character of Christ. Wouldn’t you like to be known as the person who is ALWAYS magnifying the Lord through words and actions and deeds? That when people came into your presence they would KNOW the love of God through their interaction with you? I searched the Bible for a text that spoke to what I am trying to say EXACTLY without success, but Isaiah 61:10 comes close: I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels. If that is what being clothed by the Father can do, what need do we have of any other accessory?
As you get dressed each day and prepare to meet the world, whether you slap on a Gilligan hat, or tie a scarf around your neck, or make sure that brooch sets off the colors in your clothing…make sure you put on the character of Christ as you face the world. Let THAT be your signature accessory. What do you say?
© 2011 Kristina E. Smith
Sabbath, 26 February 2011
10 February 2011
I have a confession to make – well, maybe “confession” is not the right word, but here goes: I am a single woman who does not utilize the full length, width and breadth of her queen-sized bed. There, I said it. I am a right side of the bed only type of girl. The other side is usually covered up with books, my e-Reader, papers, magazines and a plethora of other stuff that I fall asleep with. I come by this foolish habit honestly. My mother also only utilizes one side of the bed. And while I accept this “flaw” in myself – every time I see her sleeping on the edge of the bed, it drives me BONKERS! Many a discussion with her about this habit has started with me exclaiming, “Why are you sleeping on the edge of the bed? One wrong turn in the middle of the night and you are gonna hit the floor!” And she always looks at me, scoots over half an inch and goes right on doing whatever she was doing – including sleeping.
What a waste of the rest of the bed! All that room to wiggle around in. I mean, isn’t that one of the inherent blessings of NOT sharing your bed with another human? (And for all you married people reading this blog – THIS AIN’T ABOUT YOU! Without going too much into my personal past history about sharing a bed, I “get” the joys of sharing a bed – but that ain’t where this blog is headed - So, step off!) My point is: there is a blessing I could be taking advantage of EVERY NIGHT if I would just clear the debris off the other side of the bed, position myself in the middle, and hunker down into a good night’s sleep.
But…I don’t do it because (1) I’m comfortable on the right side of my bed. The mattress is contoured perfectly to my body. The pillows sit just right for snuggling down each night; (2) who has time, before going to bed, to go through all the paperwork that is piled up during the day – it can wait until the morning; and (3) the book I’m reading to put me to sleep needs a place to rest as well – might as well be the left side of the bed. Ok, ok – I get that these are all just excuses, but they work for me.
How often to we make the same excuses when it comes to the blessings that the Lord has in store for us? Sometimes by stepping outside our box (or moving to the other side of the bed), we find that there are more blessings waiting for us. By exploring the possibilities of unknown waters, we might find out things about ourselves, and the people around us, that will help us to grow and achieve the things that we say we want to achieve. Maybe by moving to the middle (or even the other side) of the bed, I can find a different kind of sleeping experience that might just be better. One neva knows until one tries – right? Right.
So, I’m going try sleeping in the middle of the bed for a while – let’s see what wonderful things will unfold from the experience.
© 2011 Kristina E. Smith
Thursday, February 10, 2011
02 February 2011
One of my many hobbies is photography. Now, let me back up and emphatically state: I don’t call myself a “photographer”, although I never leave home without my trusty, dusty, I really need a new one, digital camera and a memory card of at least 2GB. (you neva know who (or what) you might see when you are out and about.) I keep my camera with me in order to capture the memories. As I get older, it becomes easier and easier to forget – who I was with, where I’ve been, what I ate – so, if I take a picture, I have something tangible in my hands to look at, hold onto and go “oh yeah, I remember that!”
But, as I have taken more and more pictures, as I “hone my craft” by participating in online contests or just by posting them to my Facebook page or website: I have found myself comparing myself to other “real” photographers. I have several friends who take such wonderfully amazing pictures that I often feel like, “why am I even trying? – I thought I had a good eye, but obviously, I don’t – I should just pack my camera away and never shoot another thing again – EVER!” I expressed this to one of those amazing photographers recently and she responded with the following quote from an ebook she was reading called "Photo NUTS and shots", written by Neil Creek:
"One serious mistake I see many new photographers making is to compare themselves and their photos to other, more experienced photographers, and feel inadequate. Every great photographer was once a beginner, who fumbled with their first camera and made exactly the same mistakes all new photographers make. Do not forget that photography isn’t just about taking jaw-dropping photos, it’s also about capturing memories and emotions. It’s about sharing your experiences with others and your future self."
She then followed this quote with words of encouragement to “keep shooting and keep sharing, Kristina.” Since our conversation, I have taken more pictures and captured more memories and snapshots of my life and for that, I will forever be grateful.
But it got me to thinking, how often do we compare ourselves to others in our Christian walk? How often do we look at a saint in the church and think, “Man, if I had a relationship with Christ like Sister So-and-So does, I’d be straight” – or – “Bro. Man really has his act together. I wish my walk with the Lord was as strong as his.” I know I have been guilty of this. Looking at people when I should have been focusing on Christ. He is the only One Who ever truly had it all together with the Father. The rest of us have just been stumbling along trying to find our way. Behind her leading of the praise team or telling the Children’s Story each week, Sis. So-and-So may be dealing with an abusive husband or with unruly children. And Bro. Man may be struggling with the demons of alcoholism or drug abuse or promiscuous behavior. Don’t let the good suit (or dress) fool ya. Stop comparing yourself to other sinners and look to Jesus Christ, the one and only Example worth comparing yourself (myself) against in your Christian walk.
To wrap this all up, I looked for a Bible text talking about the uniqueness of each child of God. I couldn’t find one that I thought fit “perfectly”, so I offer this passage to you as an encouragement: Matthew 10:29-31, NIV: Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
In other words, God KNOWS you – warts and all – and loves you (in spite of them – or even better, He loves you because of them). He is not expecting you to be anyone other than who you are. And He doesn’t expect you to be anywhere other than where you are right now in your walk with Him. Now, that does not mean that you (I) STAY where you are (I am) right now – we MUST grow in Him – in our relationship with Him, but at the pace He sets for us. And we cannot master that growth if we keep looking around to see what other people are doing. Keep your eyes on Jesus – He is the only One worth comparing yourself to.
© 2011 Kristina E. Smith
Wednesday, February 02, 2011