A Script For The Fall

“‘A Script For The Fall’ is the name of a blog post I’m writing and publishing today.”

“Cheri, write that and send me that today.”

Todaaaay?!

OK, y’all, so. You need some background. I was listening to Coffee With Chrystal this morning; it’s a live broadcast (I don’t know why but I feel antique using the word ‘broadcast’) she produces and in this one, she talked about achieving big goals through baby steps and I learned so much.

When she uttered those words – have a script for the fall – they struck me, so as the aforementioned comment I typed on the thread rolled up into her view, she called me out in front of God and all his mighty angels, and her facial expression here suggests she didn’t believe I was gonna get it done. 😏 Lips pursed and everythang. Hmph.

Anyway. Back to the baby steps. One of the strategies Chrystal listed was having a script for the fall. My brain was half awake (she hosts these convos at O-dark:30 in the morntink) so I panicked and thought, “Fall is over; what about a script for Winter?! That’s the hardest time of year for me. Winter is when I really need to – oh, she means like when I fall down.”

When the saints of old thanked God, I now understand what they meant when they said, “Thank you for being clothed in my right mind.” Once the fog lifted, I honed in on what she was communicating.

I don’t know about y’all, but when I want to start something new, I get excited about. I can see myself in the future and Kurt Carr says and I look better. 🎙 I have done the work in the lab and have written the script that I need to be successful with this new endeavor. It takes twenty or five or ten steps and I have them all outlined with multiple bullet-pointed levels in grand detail.

And that’s good. That’s what I’m supposed to do.

But I don’t have a script for when I fall. When I get distracted. When I get bored with the process (hello, somebody!) and shift my attention from the current goal to a loftier or more exciting one. I am ill-prepared when the unexpected happens. The unexpected happens and will keep happening; I don’t know why I keep being surprised by it, like when my daughter has her umpteenth episode of Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome (Google it; she had one last weekend and as usual, my household came to a halt).

The problem isn’t the fall or the distraction or the boredom or the illness. The problem is that I don’t have a plan to get back on track when they do occur. And that’s what it means to have a script for the fall.

So going forward, at the beginning of my quests, I need to already have an internal or written dialogue, sticky notes, BFF reminder, pigeon with a note tied to it’s claw, something in place to get me back on track when I fall. Because it’s gonna happen, you know? And I don’t know about yours, but my Bible told me that in this world I would have trouble.

2020 has been trouble in this literal world, has it not?

So since we know there will be diversions on our journey, let’s set ourselves up for success by having a plan to stay successful.

And to everybody ob her Live who needs further convincing that Chrystal taught spin class once upon a time, in my Memories on Facebook today, this popped up. I was headed to her class at something crazy like, 4 o’clock in the morning. I was so skinny. Bless it.

Shout out to Charolette

It’s as though Life gets bored with low-action circumstances so to spice things up, it bets against us. It assumes it knows which cards we’re holding – or more importantly, which cards we’re not holding – but all its smack-talking comes to an abrupt halt when either you or your patna (partner) throw down that Two of Spades which cuts its King of Clubs.

You count the books and see that your team collectively has seven books and one of you is the fool that slaps the remaining highest Spade onto her oily forehead 👏🏾 face 👏🏾 up, rubbing your imminent victory and your opponents’ imminent defeat in its face.

Take that, Life. 😆

My sweet girl gets angsty about stuff. She gets that from her momma. It can be the ittiest Math equation or which dress to wear or deciding between two-strand twists and a curly afro, but in these moments, in her mind, the Earth is about to fall off its axis.

My daughter came to me with an anxiety-initiating problem and she expected me to solve it. And though I wanted to, to be empathetic and sugary and to gas her up like I usually do, I simply couldn’t. I didn’t have it in me. It was three hours ‘til bedtime and I was dealt very bad cards. My hand was full of low Diamonds and middle-of-the-pack Hearts. Quite frankly, I didn’t even feel like playing anymore. “You gotta stop being so angsty about stuff!” I encouraged admonished semi-yelled. And she stood there with the tears pouring down her precious baby-girl face that I genuinely believed would dehydrate her if I didn’t something quickly.

And Life looked at me with that smirk. 😏

What am I supposed to do, Jesus? I’m empty.

So I did the only thing I knew to do.

I pulled back my bedding so she could join me under the covers, and I whipped out the Big Joka – I Face-timed Nanna.

Reese didn’t want to at first. That’s part of the angst; you know you need help but are some combination of ashamed and embarrassed and terrified to ask for it. I let the phone keep ringing even though my girly-girl had buried her head under the covers and was scooting ever closer to the foot of my bed.

Momma picked up.

“Cheri!”

“Hey, Momma!”

“How are you doing, my precious daughter?”

I skipped the pleasantries because I knew I could:

“Momma, would you tell Reese that it’s going to be OK?”

“Reese. My darling grandgirl. It’s gonna be OK, Baby.”

I asked Mom if I could post this. She answered, “Sure. It looks like I’m talking in cursive.” 😆

She picked up where I left off. She had an excellent hand. My mother told my daughter how precious she is. She told her how she has always been impressed with the mature decisions she makes. Nanna told my first-born to Earth that she makes her laugh, that she’s such a great care-giver to her little cousin, and how much fun they have together when they play in her wigs.

*slaps last highest Spade onto oily forehead*

It worked. It always does. My mom is just outstanding. I like the way I feel after I talk to her. She makes me feel good, and in these COVID days and nights, I hadn’t felt that way in a very long time, but just a lil’ talk with Jesus and my Momma made it right.

That’s all, y’all. Just shouting out my mom.

In what ways has your mom made you feel good? Let me know in the comments!

Is My Pastor A Good Pastor? – A Quick Litmus Test

A few thangs:
As you go about the Father’s business today, be sure to include urgent and believing prayer for your under-shepherd. That man has toiled for at least a week about how to guide a room full of people who love him, hate him, or are indifferent toward him. #LetHimEnjoyHisJob #ItsLiterallyInTheBible #Hebrews13

If your pastor has not shied away from teaching you everything that saith the Lord, remember EVERY sermon he has preached over the years when you’re critiquing this one. We know if every week we heard “in the Greek…” 50-lem times, or if every sermon included every nuance of every word in every Bible verse, you’d be complaining “church is too looong”. #NoLie #ISatThruASermonWhereThePastorPreachedOnTheWordHIM #ItWasAwesome #PastorALPattersonJr (Sidebar: if you’re not committed to any church, are you qualified to critique at all?)

If, after Sunday’s sermon, ain’t NOBODY mad at your pastor — pro/anti-abortionists, pro/anti-immigrants, pro/anti-homosexuality types, Tupac vs. Biggie types — if ain’t NOBODY mad and ready to make him a victim of cancel culture, he didn’t do it right. In the words of the great Dr. Fran Blomberg, “When truth hits the fan, a little of it gets on everybody.”

You will not change Jesus.

You will not change Him.

Jesus will change you.

Your entire being should be wrecked after an encounter with Him. He and His word should disrupt your way of life, to say the very least.

Stop reading the Bible and then saying “But…”

Two. The number of Sears technicians it takes to screw in a lightbulb – November 1, 2020

I wish I were kidding but I am not. The little guy told the big guy,

“…and the bulb goes right into the socket right there.”

“Oh, I see. Like this?”

“Yes.”

Historical and cultural context on how simple this should be: my husband has replaced the bulbs in that thing before. This is to be expected as bulbs burn out. That’s what they do.

Don’t let anybody tell you different, Beloved.

But I have a coupla problems here.

The first is that it took two fully-grown men to get it done who chose this trade and training and presumably carry this job out on a semi-regular basis.

The second is that when my husband replaced these same bulbs before (I didn’t even know he had done it – he just saw they were out, bought new ones, replaced them lickety-split, and I was back in business without ever even knowing I was out of business. This is our routine, by the way), but he had not chosen this trade and training to be a Sears technician, but is in fact, a preacher and pastor called by the Most High God.

There actually is a third problem here and though it is written as third, it is the primary one.

The unit is less than three years old and three bulbs of the three-lightbulb housing (if you’re counting, that = all of them), radiation-spilling (more on that later) fast food heater blew out in that amount of time. Sheesh. And my 46-year-old eyes need all the light they can get whilst I’m cooking, including the light that so shines before men. So to have nothing illuming my work on the stove was difficult.

Add to that, the door handle was broken – hence the potential radiation leak – and not through any fault of our own. The little technician clearly and plainly told me, “It’s the heat from your stove. It disintegrates the bop-dee-bops (that’s the industry term, you see) and it just wears down. You’re gonna have to replace this door again. 😐

Bro.

We have what Sears refers to as a “Protection Agreement”, so the repairs were covered. Yay. But upon receiving my phone call in the middle of a work day updating him on all these foolishnesses, you can imagine my husband’s annoyance level was pret-ty high.

“Wait; what?”

“Yep.”

“There are two men there, and one of them does not know how to screw in a bulb?!”

“Yup.”

“Is he a Sears employee?!”

“Actually, Sears has contracted this repair to XYZ Appliance Repair.”

“I’m sorry. I asked the wrong question. Do both men work in this trade, and presumably have been trained to do so?!”

“Mm-hm. That’s what I’m gonna write in my blog post, anyway.”

He sighed. “…You got your Roscoe?”

“On my person.”

“OK. Call me if anything pops off.”

👏🏾 And 👏🏾then.

The door they sent to replace the broken one was used.

Bless it.

Sears sent me a used door, y’all, and expected me to be happy about it.

I did not meet their expectations.

The little tech called this issue in to his boss who ran the numbers and so generously decided that since a new door would cost more than just replacing the whole component, they would do that instead.

After replacing three out of three lightbulb housings, three bulbs, and a door, we netted a new microwave. Thank ya, God. 🙌🏾

I don’t know how to wrap this one up in a neat little bow. Just telling you what happened. 🤷🏾‍♀️

We Regret to Inform You

When the report is good, we lead with it. Hemming and hawing is out of place here. Straight out of the gate the doctor exclaims, “Congratulations!” or the company confirms, “You‘re hired!” or, after a frenzied search I bellow, “I found my size – and it has pockets!” No feather-filled blanket of kind words needs to be laid down to soften the landing of pleasant news. That good message is the evidence of things hoped for so even laid bare, it is well received.

I hastily clicked on the bold font of the unread incoming email. And when I did – not with a plan to read it, but to see how very unnecessarily long the first paragraph was to tell me “Yes!” – I immediately knew. My head and my heart had grown familiar with the shape of the words that rejected me. Maturity has caused a callus to form, but I have not been able to completely heal upon my learning that “other candidates were better suited”, or to find out “(only) eleven people read your blog,” or being asked, “close the window; it’s cold in here!” Also, “it’s just a chemical pregnancy” – these are all painful phrases that to varying degrees have been indelibly woven into the fabric of my life in days recent or decades past.

But at this age, I gotta ask myself some hard questions and be prepared to hear some equally hard answers. Wanting a child or a job or a bedroom that’s set at an optimal 65° for nighttime sleep is one thing, but my hope being anchored in those things is another matter entirely. I have to realize that all of these desires are temporal and finite. None of them fills the void that aches for something that lasts; something that is unconditional; something – nay, someone, who completely satisfies.

I saw this graphic on Instagram recently:

This wrecked me. The writer was kind to use the word “esteem” but in my life, that word is code for “idolize”. As much as I know about God and how he is jealous for my affection, my propensity to be an idol factory remains unchanged. I still find myself seeking satisfaction in stuff, people, and carbs. And every single time, the stuff is not relational, the people are broken, and the carbohydrates leave me with regret of calories gone by.

But God.

One of the terms in this two-word phrase is powerful beyond human comprehension. The word “but” tells us that the statement previously made can be stricken because of the words about to come, and in this case, that word is “God”. He knows we are this way. He knows that we are prone to wander – Lord, I feel it! He is not surprised when I go astray; he is not caught off guard when I sin; he is not any less God when I hold these idols in high esteem over Him.

A brilliant pastor said, “God causes lasting change through catastrophe or revival. And sometimes, He uses both.” Ah, yes. To show me what my idols are and how to remove them, why wouldn’t He combine a bit of the bitter with the sweet? For me, it’s an Ebenezer – a stone of remembrance. I need a reminder not only of how low I sunk, but that when I was alone at my absolute lowest in that pit bathing in the filthy cycle of my sin and guilt and shame and sin and guilt and shame, the grace of God had to sink lower than me to scoop me up and pull me out of it. He knows what’s at the end of my having idols and He knows that it’s disastrous. But instead of doling out to me justice, He washes me clean with His finished work on the cross, then showers me with abundant mercy.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. His mercies are new every morning. And I lean into that mercy and shout out and thank Him for his grace. And in the quiet – because the removal of idols reveals that they clang and have clamor built into them – I can finally see who He is and how much He loves me.

Find an illustration more analogous to life than one from the garden. I’ll wait.

I’m smarter now that I learned these truths while gardening today:

1. If you consistently feed a houseplant with nutrients and give it water to drink, it will eventually outgrow its pot and need a bigger one.


2. If you only give a plant water – no nutrients – it may still grow, but it won’t grow to be all it was created to be.


3. Do not presume that what was needed for a plant to thrive in the previous season is all it will need to thrive in the current season.


4. It is possible for two different berries growing on the same bush to appear equally mature on the outside. The difference is the sweetness on the inside.


5. All plants need daily exposure to the sun.

6. While the affects of the sun’s light can be duplicated, they can never be replicated. The bulb in a grow light can burn out, but the sun’s rays are still effective — even on a cloudy day.


7. In the ground is the most ideal location for a plant to grow to maturity. Sunlight is evenly dispersed, nutrients are adequately taken up, and roots can grow down to find a water source in times of drought. Once you put a plant in a pot, all this work is yours.

The Top Five *Philip Bailey voice* Reeeasoooons This Particular Sabbatical is Critical (Warning: Not A Funny Post. Very Serious. I’m Listening to Charlie Cunningham’s “Force of Habit” to Ensure I Don’t Fall Back on my Comedy Career in this Post. It’s A Contemplative Song in My Playlist Titled Contemplative Playlist.)

  1. My phone was open to “Screen Time” accidentally and I discovered that a good chunk of my day is spent online. I guessed that I averaged five-ish hours a day on my phone and while I’m happy to report that the amount of time I spend there is down 19% from last week, 12 hours and 59 minutes is an alarmingly high average for this week and if you’re counting, that’s more than half the hours in the day. Half the hours in the day, I said. Yes, I do my banking, some Bible-ing, some grocery shopping, some school stuff and other tasks that could be considered productive on the internet via my phone but an inordinately large amount of my 24 hours is spent on Twitter, IG, and Facebook and watching Jacob Collier videos on YouTube. That is not good. And while none of those activities is bad, too much of those activities is. So, some major adjustments are due. I really could stop there, but so much more necessitates this time away.
  2. Someone wrote the wrong lyrics to a line in the Oscar Mayer song and I was triggered. And we didn’t even grow up eating b-o-l-o-g-n-a. Too boughie then; still am now. Even though, growing up, we did get that bomb government cheese from our church and I repeat: it was bomb.
  3. Complete strangers keep coming for my loved ones online, the chiefest of these being my husband and I don’t handle that especially well. The hubs recently posted a video that got a bit of traction and he’s gained quite a few new followers across his social medias. Not all of them love him, surprisingly. People keep telling me that I would have to have thick skin to be in ministry full-time and if allowing slights against Brandon to come and go unaddressed serves as evidence of my thick skinned-ness, my recent behavior online is irrefutable proof that, sixteen years in, my skin is still paper thin. Heads up: I plan for that character flaw (strength?) to not change. And if you want it to change, don’t talk to me. Talk to Brandon. You tell him to stop taking such good care of me.
  4. Because my daughter told me that she learns her book smarts from her dad, and her street smarts from me. I don’t know if I’m prouder that she thinks I’m street smart though I’m anything but, or offended that she thinks she gets her book smarts from her dad. And I’m her homeschool teacher.
  5. It’s August. It’s time.

See y’all next month.

It’s 12:22 PM and My Kids Are Still Asleep and Ain’t Nobody Mad But the Devil and My Husband

My 10-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son assembled a homemade tent to sleep in. The materials included several bed coverings of various sizes, plus my snow-white blanket I had freshly laundered but not yet folded, a curtain rod extension, four flimsy fold-out chairs and one solid one, and a broken-zippered sleeping bag which is now only good as a pallet base. How they pulled this together without their dad or me knowing is a mystery because let me tell ya — its construction was involved.

When they awaken, I have to get their permission to post a pic of the remains of the tent.

Huh? Oh – you wanna know how are they still asleep after 12 noon?

Well, I’m guessing they are still asleep after 12 noon due to their consistently going to bed at an ungodly hour, and I suspect that’s happening because I’ve simply outgrown parenting.

But who’s to say, really?

I can tell that their dad/my husband, AKA the fun parent, is about to put his foot down, though. Each day when he comes home and I boast about how late they slept, he just blank stares me, and then resolutely says to them – not me – “You don’t have any business sleeping until noon unless you got off work at 10 o’clock at night. And the last time I checked my notes, *checks notes again* yes, I pay allllllll the bills around here,” and I just love him for that.

He hasn’t put his food down yet, but while his size 13EEE remains aloft, at 9PM MST, I’ll close my eating window with this bottle of electrolyte water, a keto-friendly treat of nuts, berries, and Monterey Jack cheese chunks, and giggle at Shawn Harrison in Family Matters and his underrated yet hilarious portrayal of Waldo Geraldo Faldo.

I’ll keep you posted on the kids’s bedtime.

These Social Ills

Our nation’s latest tragedy finds me wounded on two fronts – the continued devaluing of black life, and not being able to bring a smile to your face. For my own healing, I want to make you laugh. If I could share the stuff that has come out of Ellis’ mouth over these last few days – whew! – it would surely elicit a cackle. But Ecclesiastes 3 taught me that there is a time to laugh and a time to mourn; now is the time for the latter. And so here we are, grieving for a while, and looking toward the hills from which comes our help.

I follow several white evangelical speakers across my social media platforms because of the impact they’ve had on my spiritual formation. Most of them have decades-long ministries with international impact and influence. I no longer live in the Bible belt where I would previously access them through radio. My family and I now live in Denver, where the culture is significantly less God-friendly, so I am grateful for this medium.

One of these speakers published a video which was in my news feed yesterday morning. I keep the volume of videos muted as I scroll so I did not know the subject on which she was speaking, but she was waving her hands, her eyes were bucked, and if I were to guess based solely on her body language, the topic was one about which she was passionate. I assumed she was up in arms over the murder of George Floyd at the hands of four Minnesota police officers, primarily Officer Derek Chauvin. I thought, as one of the people who claims to serve the God who calls us to seek justice, to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, then surely, surely, she was speaking passionately about these social ills. I clicked the vid to turn on the audio.

Turns out she was carrying on about whether or not to wear a mask during the spread of the Coronavirus.

Listen. We all have a brand; we are all curators of the content of our social media platforms; we use them exactly the way we want to use them. We craft our posts, graphics, memes, texts; we write them and rewrite them to make sure they say just the right thing (and if you’re me, you edit them even after the world has access to them – tweak it just a bit); we record and re-record videos because we neglected to say this phrase or want to emphasize that thing. To be sure, what we say – what all of us say – in this public arena is what we want people to believe is true about us.

The problem is, what we don’t say is just as important as what we do say.

To repeatedly suffer hate-filled, senseless, horrific loss of people who look like my husband and my son and my daddy and my brother and my nephews and my uncles and my cousins simply because of the color of the skin they were born in is a difficult way to live. When the hatred that is normally a groundswell erupts and an Eric Garner or a Trayvon Martin or a Philando Castille or an Ahmaud Arbery is killed, my anxiety heightens and I am in absolute terror every time my husband leaves our home. And in times like these, it is wholly heartbreaking for my white evangelical-leader siblings who have international influence and impact to remain silent. They model what my sister-friend, Dr. Sarita Lyons, refers to as “a pattern of silence” (follow her here).

And I mean not one peep.

We see you. We hear you. And we heard what you did not say.

My husband and pastor, Brandon Washington (follow him here and here), posted a video on our church’s YouTube channel to white evangelicals that you can view here – admonishing them for not fulfilling the call to pursue justice that Jesus has been placed on their lives. His parting words were, “If you’re not going to join me, then get out of my way.”

But since you’ve read this far, you still have a chance to join us in this fight.

Here’s what you can do to advance the message of the Gospel of your Jesus across your social media platforms:

  • Rid yourself of the safety of consoling your black friends via a private inbox message, e-mail, or text message. When you use those avenues to communicate, you maintain a degree of safety and privacy from your other friends who won’t see you do that. And when we don’t call you on it, we protect you, too. That ends now. Post that on our wall in public so all your friends know where you stand. If you’ve already done that, great. Keep doing it. If you haven’t, do it now.
  • With their permission, change your profile picture to one of a black person or family that you know and love. Then write a post telling their story. In doing this, you will have created a space to start a conversation that begins to teach people that black people are normal human beings who also hate to fold laundry.
  • And this is the big one – share my husband’s video – it’s right here – to the social media platforms of the white evangelical leaders you follow. Many of them have pages on which you cannot create a post, but you most certainly can hop on an existing post and add it there. Expect to receive backlash; God promised you that would happen. But since your Savior went all the way to Golgotha’s hill, hung, bled, and died, you can handle push back from your grandma. When they rebuke you with, “This is not the time nor the place for this!”, your response should be, “Then, when is it?”

Abandon your brand. Embrace your God. May the things that break God’s heart break yours, and may they move you into action.

Proverbs 31:8 & 9 “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

Untitled

The year was 2006. I was employed at a small consulting firm. The husband-and-wife team of owners was out of the office so one other employee and myself were the only two people in the unassuming two-story office building on a typically cold, January morning in Denver. The other worker, Margaret, and I had little in common. She was in her fifties, I, in my thirties; she had grown children and small grandchildren, I had neither; she is white, I am black. The singular thing we had in common is that we worked for the same company.

As someone who ran from controversy and quite frankly, don’t stand sure-footed when handling it today, I am certain that I did not initiate a sure-to-be controversial conversation about race relations in America, but I was in the middle of a tête-à-tête on that very topic with Margaret. She made a statement, then I made a statement, then she did, and being ill-prepared and too exhausted to continue the dialogue, I made an attempt to end it with,

“Well, racism is definitely still alive and well in America”, to which Margaret replied, “Well, at least there aren’t lynchings anymore.”

The year is 2020. Yesterday, on May 25th, some fifteen years after Margaret assured me that lynchings no longer occur, George Floyd, a black man, was lynched by four white police officers who suspected him of “forgery in progress”, a crime for which the punishment in any of the fifty states in this union is as minimal as a fine and as severe as imprisonment.

In not one of the states in this union is the penalty death, much less death in the street by men who chose an occupation with an oath “to protect and serve”.

What my white friends can do: examine your own heart. Honestly look inward and see how your heart and your mind are at odds with one another. If they do reconcile such evil, ask God to show you how they don’t. He will show you, whether you believe in him or not.