30 March 2012

$640 Million Dollars of Crazyness

There’s a madness going on across the country as I write this. In 43 states (plus the U.S. Virgin Islands), for the cost of a $1.00 ticket, people are purchasing a chance to win $640 million dollars – or a portion thereof. A CHANCE, not a guarantee to win, a CHANCE. Foolishness, if you ask me. But, tune into the local or national news, log on to Facebook, or turn on your cell phone to check your tweets on Twitter, and the #1 topic of conversation is, “did you buy your ticket?”, “what would you do if you won that much money?”, or the pleas from those who are not buying tickets to be remembered by the friends who are buying tickets – you know, just in case they win.

I call it foolishness because while there is the potential that SOMEONE (or a group of someones who have pooled their money together so that they can have access to a larger number of potential winning tickets) will win the money – the greater reality is that NO ONE will win, and we will start the foolishness all over again, for a larger jackpot, on tomorrow evening. I mean, the jackpot didn’t grow to $640 million with winners along the way – it grew that large because NO ONE has won it in a while. I will make a confession here – when the lottery hits the $200 million dollar mark, I usually buy a ticket or two, but with the full knowledge that my purchase more than likely will be a donation to my state’s education program (the Hope scholarship) as opposed to a life-changing windfall into my personal bank account.

And don’t get it twisted, THAT MUCH MONEY – yeah, it will change your life, your family’s life, your friends’ lives, the people who want to be your new best friends’ lives, and on and on and on. People will look at you differently – “relatives” you never knew about will crawl out from under every rock in your garden – people will want to help you spend, invest, and waste your newfound fortune – and just for the record, you will become your own worst enemy because unfortunately, the reality is: if you don’t know how to handle the few hundreds of dollars that flow through your hands twice a month (if you are blessed to be working), you truly ain’t gonna know how to handle $640 million dollars if it were to come your way. We have all heard the stories of the millionaires who are broke in a year because they didn’t know how to manage the funds they were “blessed” with.

I don’t mean to be a pessimist, but I am a realist. The cold hard facts are that money is not the great equalizer we all seem to think it is – in reality, it can be a curse more than a blessing. I am convinced that one reason God didn’t/hasn’t blessed me with great fame, wealth and fortune is that I might not be able to handle it in a way that adequately represents Him and His character. I am already enough of a “don’t worry, I got this” kind of girl – and that is on a Kool-Aid and soda budget. Can you imagine how off the hook I might become if I had a champagne and caviar kind of budget? Yeah, I am sure that is why God is keeping me humble, and I thank Him for it.

For the record, I am not condemning anyone who buys a ticket for tonight’s drawing. It is my prayer that God’s will be done. If one of my friends wins, I will be happy for them and will strive my best not to treat them any differently than I treat them now. (Which means, if I ain’t never asked you for money to help me pay my rent, don’t expect me to come to you now with hand out asking for help. Not gonna happen.) And if you don’t win, I’ma still love you the same way as I do now.

Thanks and be blessed.

© 2012 Kristina E. Smith

24 March 2012

Jesus is NOT my husband!

Ok, this is a vent for single women of a certain age who have not always been chaste and are now (unwillingly at times) in the throes of a celibate life…yeah, I’m talking about ME. (and from a conversation I had at church today, I am not alone and I may be talking about you as well.)

This week, the study for our church was about LOVE STORIES found in the Bible and how these stories reveal God’s “romantic side.” The facilitator of the program loaded the choir loft (and the first few rows of one side of the church) with couples from the church, and then had a panel discussion with four couples (married for as few as 2, and as many as 27, years) about the love stories in the Bible – as well as their own love stories. Don’t get me wrong: the program was beautifully done and the information shared by the four couples was funny, informative and insightful. BUT, as I sat there, I thought, “don’t none of this apply to me. What about the single women (and men) of the church who are striving (now) to do the right thing and struggling? How are we supposed to relate to God’s examples of romantic love in the Bible?” In venting to one of the panel members after the program, she turned to me and calmly said, “Well, Jesus is your husband.”

WHAT THE HECK?! Without thinking, pausing, considering – I immediately said (with great emphasis and sternness in my voice): “JESUS IS NOT MY HUSBAND! And the very fact that you would say that to me is exactly what is wrong with this picture!” She then looked at me and told me that if He wasn’t my husband, He should be. Ok, maybe because she has been married for 27 years to a wonderful man, and she has never been a “single woman of a certain age”, she just cannot relate to where I am and what I was saying. And while I accept that, I don’t have to like it.

Let’s be honest here – I understand what she was trying to say. We SHOULD have an intimate relationship with God, we SHOULD put Him first in our lives, He SHOULD be the “end all, be all” of our lives – I get that, BUT Jesus is NOT there to snuggle with in the middle of the night when you just want a human touch. Jesus cannot take you out on Valentine’s Day (or any other “couple-mandated” night). Jesus cannot hold your hand as you walk down the street. You cannot show up to the “married lovers retreat” and say, “I’m here with Jesus because He is my husband.” And to be frankly honest, Jesus isn’t there to soothe the raging hormones that may overtake your body in the wee hours of the morning. Again, maybe when you have been married for 27 years, you just don’t remember what it’s like to be single, because surely if you remembered, you wouldn’t say such a thing to your single friend who is struggling.

In talking with my mother about this later, she said to me that it is the same for her as a divorced woman in the church – and then we expanded it to widows and widowers. While our church celebrates marriage and married couples (and they should – marriages are taking a hit everywhere – seeing couples that are committed to each other is a wonderful thing), I just feel the church (and the members thereof) should also recognize and celebrate those of us who are not married – some by choice, some by circumstance. We have just as much to offer and to bring to the table as our married friends and contemporaries.

Ok, that’s my vent. Thanks for listening.

©2012 Kristina E. Smith

22 March 2012

Praising v. Bragging

I find myself in a particularly peculiar place in my life.  That is really not THAT unusual, but it seems so right now.  If you are a regular reader of this blog - or one of my many Facebook friends - you probably know that I recently published a book based on the first three years of writings on this blog.  (SIDENOTE:  The four year anniversary of the first post on this blog is next week!  Can you believe that!?  I cannot.)

It has been an amazing time since the book launched on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and on my personal website last month.  I have several testimonies I could share with anyone willing to listen, BUT I wonder/worry that I might become that person that I abhore - you know the one who ONLY talks about themselves, their accomplishments, their achievements - the person who starts every sentence with the personal pronoun "I".  And while I want to share every step of the amazing journey that God has placed me on, when does "sharing my testimony" become "bragging"?  I find it to be a very thin tightrope that I walk on on a daily basis lately.

When my grandmother was alive, this very subject would often be the topic of our Sunday morning conversations.  She was often the recipient of gifts - often monetary - from loved ones and friends, and she loved to go to church and "testify of the Lord's goodness", but I would sometimes have to caution her that her testimonies sometimes (ok, honestly - more often than not) tended to lean towards bragging about what her granddaughter had done for her - or what her "beloved Arons girls" had sent her in the mail that week (money, flowers, or other gifts).  She often wondered why the fellow members of her church congregation were not as excited to hear her testimony as she was to give it.  Maybe it's because, while people want to be happy for you when you are blessed, sometimes how you tell the story may turn them off.

So, now I find myself in a position of what do I share about what is going on with the book, without being
As I often do, I posed this question to my Facebook family of friends and while I only got a few responses, the responses I got were right in line with what/how I feel about the matter.  My cousin Kim gave a response most in line with my way of thinking.  She said, "Bragging = When the focus is on what YOU are accomplishing instead if what HE Is accomplishing for you and through you. Got to constantly ask yourself 'WHO am I putting the spotlight on, who is receiving the glory with this report?' If it is all about you, the focus has to change."  And my college friend Linda stated, "I believe it's all about your intent. Some people view the entire praise/prayer request as a time to gain attention. I think a good judge of your own intent is simple: When in the quiet of your own home sans audience, are you saying as much or more? If so, it's not bragging!"  So, according to both of these wise women, it all comes down to MOTIVES, which is something I firmly believe, and strive to remember as I go through my days.  

I want to believe that my true intention behind sharing the stories about all the amazing things happening in my life now is to point the listener to my Heavenly Father, and to bring honor and glory to HIS name (not mine).  So, I'm gonna keep praising His name and sharing the stories with anyone who will listen.  BUT, I am holding my friends accountable for holding my feet to the fire.  If you ever hear me giving myself the praise and glory - uh, pull a sista up and remind me that it ain't about me, and that nothing I do is worthy of the glory God is bestowing upon me.  I could not do it without Him and His blessings on my life and I am ever mindful of that.  I trust that you will do your part to keep me honest, so I thank you in advance.

Be blessed!
about it?  When does sharing the good news of the seeming success of the book begin to turn the stomachs of my longsuffering friends and family?  Is it really necessary (or even desirable) to share the daily events that make my mouth (literally) drop open in amazement at how God is working out His plan for my life right now?  And while my friends may want to hear it initially, when will they start screening my calls with their Caller IDs because they don't want to hear (AGAIN) about what is going on with the book?  And yet, if I don't praise the Lord for what is happening, aren't I being "ungrateful" for His blessing in my life and on the ministry He has thrust upon me?  I am not trying to have any rocks cry out on my behalf, so I have to offer up the praise that He is worthy of.  Do you see my dilemma?

06 March 2012

I stand amazed...

Writing a book can be a solitary, singular, focused experience.  Now that the book has been published, it has become a public, universal, joint adventure that is just beginning.  There are sooo many things that have happened since I received book in hand on Friday, February 24, 2012.  I want to share my testimonies (of which there are many), but am very aware of the fine line between "testifying" and "bragging".  I don't want to be that person that every time you talk to them, all they do is talk about themselves and what is going on in their lives - good, bad, or indifferent.

But the reality is:  my focus right now is the book.  Every waking moment seems to be consumed with either acknowledging how God has worked so many things out in my favor BEFORE the book became a reality - or the marketing aspects of the book that I was not prepared for - or the learning how to stand quietly and accept the support, praise and accolades of my family, friends and loved ones.  It ain't easy for me to be "in the spotlight" (hard as that is to believe).  I am learning, through this experience, that I am much more a "giver" than a "receiver" and more of a "deflector" when it comes to accolades and praise.  I gotta get better at that, without losing the ability to be humble and gracious in light of God's many blessings.

Having said that, I must admit that I stand in humble amazement at how God is working HIS plan for this book.  I am not a "big picture" girl.  I focus in on the minutiae.  Doing the editing, proofreading, re-editing of the book- yeah, that was "easy".  Hunker down, get 'er done.  All I wanted to do was write a book.  Get it in print.  Check that off my "to-do"/bucket list.  I didn't think about what would happen after the book was in print.  Marketing strategies, book signings, seeing/hearing friends and strangers read my words back to me and comment on it - to my face.  Yeah, I wasn't thinking about all that.  But God was.

And because He was, six months ago, He caused me to be reunited with a college friend, who is now in a position of influence with my alma mater and who is petitioning on my behalf to get me profiled in an alumni magazine that will go out to over 20,000 alumni of the college.  WHAT?!

Because it is within His plan for this book, doors are being opened in unexpected places for book signings, "chats with the author" programs, a potential Sunday morning TV spot, placement of the book on the shelves of the local Christian bookstore in my neighborhood, as well as the DeKalb County public library in their "Local Authors" section of their circulation department.  Can I get another WHAT?!  All of this with little or no legwork by me.  I stand amazed.

Everyone who knows me knows that my favorite Bible text is Jeremiah 29:11, where God talks about having a plan for our lives.  My co-worker pointed out another text to me recently.  Proverbs 18:16 states:  A man's gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.  In other words, God gave me a gift, I used it (to the best of my ability) to bring glory and honor to Him, and now He is putting me "before great men" to bring further glory and honor to Him.  Amen!

I still stand amazed that God would use ME to glorify His Kingdom.  He knows my cracks, flaws and imperfections.  He knows how unworthy I am, but loves me and trusts me anyway.  I solicit your prayers as I move forward along the path He has prepared for me.  Come along for the journey.  I am sure there will be many more things ahead that will cause us to stop in amazement and offer up praise.

Thank you and God bless.