THE TRADE OFF


You know, I always knew that there would a price to pay for anything that I really want to accomplish in life. I was prepared to deal with the sweat equity that would be required in order to see a dream or goal manifest and become a reality. What I had not considered was the other costs involved. I did not quite know how to express it until I read an article the other day by John C. Maxwell where he described it as ‘the trade off.’

There is a price or a trade off involved in order to receive anything new into your life, and often it will require you to sacrifice something important to you. Only you can decide whether the cost is something you are willing to do without. Only you can decide if you are willing to give up something you cherish to attain a greater prize. Remember, some things (ie. relationships) are irreplaceable.

Ask yourself this…

Is what you are pursuing worth what you are willing to give up? Is it a fair trade?

SPIRITUAL SUPERMAN


I am the oldest of three boys and I was born and raised in Chicago. I have fond memories with my family, but have many blank spots about my younger years. Kindergarten thru 3rd grade, all I remember are feelings of just existing. I don’t really remember much during that time about school. I didn’t apply myself to much and did a lot of daydreaming. I did not know how to engage people and anything that was outside of the norm of what I was comfortable with was hard for me to process.

I didn’t feel plugged in to anything that defined me. I took everything that was thrown at me, the good and the bad, but did not know how to filter what I was receiving. I did not have a place of origin. I believe some of my behavioral issues stem from my not knowing how to deal with my mom and dad separating before I started school. I am told that I was kicked out of nursery school for being very hyperactive and despondent. The report was that I should have been placed in a special school for kids with learning disabilities.

My self-esteem and confidence was extremely low. I recall many occasions being picked on and teased by classmates and neighborhood kids. Outside the house, everyone and everything seemed bigger than me and I felt like a speck in the universe. At night I comforted myself by sucking my finger and tweeding my hair in knots. My brother was the only real friend that I could depend on that wouldn’t turn his back on me.

When I was about 9 years old I went to live with my Dad. We stayed busy with a variety of sports and the discipline helped me shape a new attitude on life. Basketball was our focus. The practices were long and hard but being a part of a team was great and I was gaining friends. As time passed my skills and confidence grew. It was refreshing to be good a something for a change.

Although my basketball skills were getting better, I still fought bouts of insecurity. I remember at 14 years old winning Most Valuable Player at a summer basketball tournament in Minnesota. Some of the kids protested the decision. I tried so hard to be accepted that their opinion meant more to me than my own thoughts about myself and I began to wonder if I really deserved the trophy or anything that was good.

In school I always applied myself because in order to play ball I had to maintain my grades. The hard work and sacrifice paid off. After high school, I was accepted into Tuskegee University where I received honors as a student athlete, but I still had issues. I still wanted to be accepted as someone who mattered and not only because of my talents.

The summer of my sophomore year in college I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior. It happened at a time when the scholarships, the friends and attention were no longer enough to hit that deep need in my heart for acceptance. The accolades I received were only a temporary bandage on a deeper wound of wanting to be accepted. Many of my relationships ended up in hurt and resentment as I attempted to drown out negative feelings by lashing out in defense, partying or by getting really busy. None of my efforts helped.

My real issue was that I was ashamed of myself and could not accept myself. No matter how much I was affirmed. Family and friends were rooting for me to succeed, but I could not get past the competitive comparisons that I made in my mind. I was always comparing myself to the next person and I never measured up. Consequently, people couldn’t latch on to me because I couldn’t latch on to myself. I made it hard for people to see my worth. Jesus claimed me so that I could love myself and no longer be ashamed of who I was.

My decision to be in relationship with Christ was and still is the greatest choice I have ever made in my life. I spent years wanting to be accepted and now I’m accepted and loved unconditionally by the King of kings. No matter where I am on the scale, Jesus accepts me just the way I am. This truth produced wanders in my life and changed my relationships with people. People became drawn to me because I identified more with my natural self and who God made me to be. I had true inner peace.

I graduated with a Bachelors of Architecture Degree and a year later Andrea and I were married. I worked as a property manager and eventually branched out into my own Kitchen and Bathroom Remodeling business with a trusted friend and mentor. By this time, we had two sons and Drea had left teaching in the school system to home school them.

As the newness of my Christian life began to wane, I allowed my spiritual life to dry out. The old feelings of shame slipped back into my life because I began placing people on the throne of my heart in the place of Jesus. I began to slip into my old way of thinking came back, ‘what people thought about me mattered more than what I thought about myself’. With the responsibilities of family added to the equation, I now needed to step up and once and for all completely squash this fear. It was pecking away at my family and my dreams.

Drea and I struggled, but our commitment to Jesus held us together. Through the many challenges, prayers, talk sessions with mentors and trusted friends, we began to learn how to respect and value each other. We continue to invest in each other daily and have discovered how to pull in the same direction instead of continually living with each other in a tug-of-war. This overflow of intimacy has become an integral part of our relationship. Now, we live to share this intimacy with others.

Sometimes, I feel like I relate to Superman in a lot of ways. As a baby, he was shot across the universe because his planet, Krypton, was in danger of exploding. He was seemingly insignificant in the vast space as he floated around in his capsule, but he would serve a great purpose in the world. In many ways, I floated aimlessly for many years, but God always had a purpose for me.

On earth, Superman was raised by humans who loved and nourished him. However, he could only reach his full potential when he reconnected with his original purpose and was able to learn from his father. I can relate to that. For me, the encouragement that I received from loved ones could not take the place of a relationship with my Heavenly Father. Spending time with Him in my own ‘Fortress of Solitude’ transformed my life. He showed me the full potential of my strengths and made me a ‘Spiritual Superman’. Then I could see my true identity and strength.

Krypton’s explosion had transformed most of the planet’s matter from its original form to a radioactive material, ‘kryptonite’, which was deadly to Superman and rendered him powerless. Every believer has their own ‘kryptonite’. Mine was the shame that came because I did not know how to cope and process the things that were happening around me. Because I felt the effects of this ‘kryptonite’ from such a young age, I did not know that my feelings of helplessness and hopelessness were not meant to be apart of my original plan. I became comfortable being less than average. I am fortunate that I know I was designed me to be so much more.

How have I dealt with my own ‘kryptonite’ of shame and rejection? I remain open and accountable to my Heavenly Father by retreating to my ‘Fortress of Solitude’ daily. I guard my heart from the accusations and offenses that the enemy throws my way. Daily I choose to thank God and celebrate the liberty that I have in Him. Rather than allowing negative experiences from the past to hinder my future, I use my childhood experiences as tools to remind me of God’s overwhelming strength, love and grace in my life.

In STRENGTH… faster than a speeding bullet!

In FAITH… more powerful than a locomotive!

In LOVE… able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!

When we are born again, we become extraordinary… like strange visitors from another world with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men… SPIRITUAL SUPERMEN, who have the power to influence men’s hearts and change the course of the future, as we seek God and build ourselves on bended knee.

We fight a never ending battle for Truth and the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

Eugene Mason III

This Is Me… the REAL ME


For many years, I believed that I did not have a testimony. What is there to tell about growing up in a Christian home with loving parents or going to church every Sunday and throughout the week, like I did? I was, generally, an obedient child with no tales of mischievous exploits. I did not drink, smoke, or experiment with drugs and I was a virgin until I married Gene. Compared to others who have endured abuses and overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles from the past, do I have anything to say? Well, there is always someone who needs to hear your story, so here’s mine.

I am the middle of three girls. I was born and raised in Virginia and lived in the same house all of my childhood. I have dealt with feelings of rejection for most of my life, in one way or another. But then again, who hasn’t. It is one of the enemy’s most popular schemes in his battle for man’s soul. As a child, I experienced being teased. And if I wasn’t being bothered for always having a larger frame than the other girls, then I was being taunted for being ‘mahogany’ complexioned. While I participated in various activities throughout my youth, I masked many of my insecurities by focusing on my academics and singing, the two areas where I knew I could excel.

By many people’s standards, I was very sheltered, but it wasn’t because I tried to be. There were many instances when I would be with my sisters or friends and miss seeing CRAZY things that everyone else in the group saw. If I showed up to a party where there was a lot of ‘stuff’ going on, there was always somebody that would come up to me and tell me that I shouldn’t be there because the atmosphere wasn’t ME. I believe that, God sent those people to challenge me because He knew more about ME than I knew about ME and my potential for sin.

Attending college did wonders for me. At Tuskegee University, Jesus became more than just my Saviour, as He had been since I was a little girl. While I was there, He became my LORD. I was seventeen and I found myself surrounded by other young people that were unashamedly in love with Jesus. There were no parents around to force us to go to church or pray or study God’s word. We did it because we wanted to grow in our relationship with God. We were young, full of zeal and passionate in our pursuit of God.

I met Gene through the gospel choir. We always seemed to run into each other in the Chapel at noon day prayer or studying the Bible in the Little Chapel before dinner, so we hung out sometimes. We became friends and, after a couple of years (a looong story), we were engaged to be married.

He was working in Chicago and I was finishing up my last year of college as I feverously prepared for my wedding day. We had planned to be married on Mother’s Day, which was also the day I graduated from college.

Three months before the most anticipated, incredible day of my life, my momma died… suddenly. That was definitely not a part of my plans, but I was blessed to be surrounded by family and friends in college that supported me by traveling home with me and assisting me during that time preceding my wedding day. Physically, I was in need of nothing that God did not supply through someone. Emotionally, I was preoccupied with finishing my last semester of college and was having to deal with the fact that I would not have my mom to make my dress and prepare me for my wedding as we had always planned.

Gene and I were married, in the chapel where we met at Tuskegee, on Mother’s Day surrounded by family and friends. The next day after we headed for Chicago. By our first year’s anniversary, we had our first son. I taught high school for a few years, earned a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education and then came home to be with our children. We were also very active in ministry. Gene learned to play the keyboard during this time and we were beginning to write music.

We had to work through the same challenges that other couples do. And like many young ladies growing up today who are taught to be independent and strong, it took me a while to grasp the concept of submission, especially when, at the time, I believed that I could do a better job leading the family than Gene could!

In college, we had dreamed of all the wonderful things that we could do together, but those dreams had faded in our minds with the busyness and mundaneness of life. Although most people did not know it, we griped and complained about most things… most of the time. We loved each other and loved being married, but we were not fulfilled in our lives. Like the children of Israel in the wilderness, we went around and around the same mountain for years. We were moving, but not really going anywhere. Eventually, we made a decision to change. We began to seek ways to enhance our spiritual lives, together, as well as, individually. During this time, God began to remind me of how good He had been to me and all the things He hadn’t allowed to be part of my testimony.

He whispered to me one night as I lay in bed: “It didn’t have to be this way…” I did not understand what He was saying to me. He began to bring back memories. He reminded me how when I was eleven He had allowed me to get out of an unsafe situation with an older guy in my neighborhood that had made inappropriate advances toward me. He reminded me how naïve I was as I visited college campuses during the summers and how it was only His mercy that did not allow me to become like the company that I was keeping at the time. He replayed so many of the unwise decisions that I had made as a young adult and presented me with a rhetorical question: “What if things are not what they seem? What if I sheltered you and kept you from so many things because you were really the one that may have never come back to Me if you went out into the world? What if you were really the wildest one of the bunch and I showed my love for you by keeping you away from temptations that you would not have been able to overcome?”

I wept that night as I considered how prideful I had become towards people whose testimonies had been much more colorful than mine. I had considered myself better than them because I had not been ‘tainted’ by the world. But truthfully, once we are born into human bodies we are already tainted, smeared and smudged. I was humbled as God showed me that He had saved me from ME.

Over the years God continued to deal with me about things in my life that I really did not want to deal with, like being a people-pleaser. He showed me how I had placed people on the throne of my heart and desired to please them more than Him. I believed if I served a purpose in their lives then they would want to keep me. I was wrong. He showed how I fought the fear of being rejected by trying to become indispensable to people and overcompensating to conceal who I really was.

As God lovingly maneuvered me through these emotionally tumultuous places, he showed me a common thread of many of my insecurities – I had a strong desire for relationships and family. I had not understood how my mother’s death earlier in my life and distance from my family could affect me many years later. Only in recent years have I actually grieved my mother not being here. No one told me that, in my thirties, I could still long for my mother and, as a grown woman with my own children cuddled in my arms, I could still want to be held by her. I did not understand the importance of maintaining relationships, not knowing that my husband could never be ‘everything I ever needed’.

I had learned to be as self-sufficient as possible and always have ‘the answers’, which was often interpreted by others as being a know-it-all… which often isolated me. I also learned how to fake it and pretend I didn’t need anyone, but I wasn’t very good at it. And time usually unveiled my true insecurities. Then when people got close to me they were able to see the REAL ME…

But… GOD IS GOOD and works with us perpetually to restore us and help us see ourselves the way He sees us. Looking back, I can see how God had set me apart, at an early age, for His purpose. I see the REAL ME in a different way now…

The REAL ME was hand-crafted by God to serve a specific purpose in His kingdom and meet a need that no one else can fulfill like I can.

The REAL ME embraces my unique peculiarities because I know that I am fearfully and wonderfully made; and that each of my personal attributes was designed by the Creator.

The REAL ME desires the love of others and wants to love people, as well. It is not weakness. It is a characteristic I share with my Heavenly Father.

The REAL ME is not ashamed to experience and enjoy God with abandon. Who the Son sets free is free indeed and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty!

The REAL ME is not afraid of ME anymore.

I once believed that I did not have a testimony. I understand life a little better now. I am certain that the enemy has not given any of us a free pass on our journey. We all have a story to tell and we all have an audience that needs to hear it.

This is how we overcome.

Andrea Little Mason