Virtual reality

Faith
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Welcome to the Jungle Matrix

by Stephanie Rochelle Redd

Chances are my reality is not your reality.

Yes, I see “skies of blue and clouds of white” – especially living in Hawai’i – but, as of late, my wonderful world has drastically diverged into two distinct though directly-linked spheres: Non-physical and physical.

Of course, the two have always existed, well, at least since the non-physical spoke the physical into existence.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” ~Genesis 1:1-3, NKJV

As its eternal guide, the physical can’t help but follow the non-physical’s lead. Therefore, what I see with my two eyes is really a figment of my third eye’s vision.

But vision is tricky, isn’t it?

While – as Habakkuk heralds – vision can be plainly written, it is dang hard and downright exhausting to make vision plain to those who either can’t or won’t see things as you do.

Just ask Moses

and Joseph

and Noah

and me.

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This is how I define a visionary. This is also how I define myself.

I don’t remember when it all started, but I’ve long since felt ‘touched by an angel,’ even before Della Reese and Roma Downey premiered during primetime. Signs have always seemed to speak to me, more than “Merge,” “Stop” and “Yield”; instead, I hear them give more specific directions like:

“Move to Maui!”

“Quit your job!”

“Be a friggin’ BOSS!”

And though I can hear and see these and other signs quite clearly, it’s quite clear to me that not everyone shares my perspective–actually, hardly anyone. (Cue Harry Nilsson.)

Thank God it only takes the power of The One to make non-physical vision physical reality. (Cue Donald Lawrence.)

Nevertheless, a visionary holds a powerful position as well.

As the projector of God’s promise, a visionary is given the harrowing task of walking a fine line between multiple versions of reality. But I guess it’s only “harrowing” in one dimension; if I care more about others’ thoughts of my vision than the vision itself, then it’s a death-defying trip. In another dimension, however, being a visionary is a breeze–as long as I sway in God’s direction.

That’s not to say that seeing through the haze of physical 3-D ‘reality’ is always easy because it ain’t, believe me. But it does help when I attune my sixth sense to the non-physical signs that God sends me. It also helps – a lot – when I surrender my entire self to God, period.

“The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein. For He has founded it upon the seas, And established it upon the waters.” ~Psalm 24:1-2, NKJV

Here’s how I see it: You and I belong to God, whether we acknowledge our relationship with Him or not. In addition to being All and creating all that there is, God created all of us in His Divine image; therefore, we are Divinely His.

Yet, to reap all of the benefits of belonging to God means to acknowledge Him, not just as our Divine Designer, but as our Father and ourselves as His children. Ideally, children obey their fathers and mothers, and show themselves worthy of receiving the gifts of their parents by heeding the instruction of their parents.

Though there does come a time when God’s vision for our lives supersedes our earthly parents’ sight, and we must choose the view in which we will direct our gaze. Even Jesus the Christ, the Son of God and the son of Mary and Joseph, saw the gap between His Father’s and His parents’ lines of vision. And because Jesus is the master visionary, He clearly chose the better view, even at the age of 12.

“And He said to them, ‘Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?’ But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them.” ~Luke 2:49-50, NKJV

Dang. Notwithstanding His parents’ misunderstanding, preteen-Jesus didn’t mince words, did He?

Well, as for 30-something-Stephanie, this is my current version of the vision that the Father gave me:

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No, my Father’s business doesn’t physically look like much, but trust me – and the Father – when I write that there’s more here non-physically than meets the eye.

Of course and understandably, like Mother Mary and Papa Joe, there are loving and caring people in my life who don’t understand the statement that I am making with this business. Unlike preteen-Jesus, however, I am not the Savior. So, I will save my rebuke and, instead, supply God’s reassurance to me and my fellow visionaries, as well as to those who fear for our lives love and care for us dearly:

“Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you as a prophet to the nations.'” ~Jeremiah 1:4-5, NKJV

Dang. Not only does God’s knowledge of who we are pass all others’ understanding, but His non-physical vision of who He called us to be surpasses any and all limitations that we and others can physically perceive.

Therefore, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills” – and the mountains – and set my sights on what God has for me. Further, I will visualize my laptop and cup of tea non-physically as a slingshot and stone that will launch me in the direction of my vision. Finally, I’ll see you when I get there.

 

Facebook-iconthIf you’ve been shown a vision for your life and you’d like some like-minded company and encouragement on your journey there, then click the links to find and follow us on Facebook and Instagram. See ya!

The F word

Forgiveness
Forgive

Grapevine Church

by Stephanie Rochelle Redd

Free food.

These are my favorite “F” words. I love them individually and together, though I do prefer the latter.

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See?

I also prefer peace to war, love to hatred, and happiness to sadness. However, living in this world mandates the latter in each ratio if its opposite is to also exist. So, what is this existing neo-flower child to do?

Well, after I finish picketing ‘The Man’ and hugging my fair share of trees, I must then pick the man that hurt me the most and hug him–namely, forgive.

“Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?'”

~Matthew 18:21, NKJV

To live harmoniously in a world of hurt is one hell of a feat. As such, I completely understand Peter tallying the toil others’ hellish behavior had taken on him.

Over the years, I kept my own tally of the injustices others committed against me. My tally-taking, however, was much less forgiving than cut-your-ear-off-Peter’s. (Imagine that.) Rather than seven times, it just took several strikes against me, and you – and your ear – were outta there.

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Boom.

Fortunately, I’m a nice person, overall, so not too many people have experienced the full measure of my displeasure.  Unfortunately, for a small group of people who have witnessed my wrath firsthand – a few dozen students, one or two guys, and one family guy, in particular – let’s just say that Pele, the Hawaiian Goddess of Fire, would’ve been proud.

I’m not proud, though, looking back on those fiery events. Yes, there was a lot of pride involved, but it was of the ego variety. And where there is ego – a lot of ego, in my case – there is also a lot of room for forgiveness, even though it may not feel like it and we may not feel like forgiving.

Admittedly, I didn’t feel like forgiving for much of my life. More accurately, I hated the word “forgive” and any variation of it with a volcanic passion.

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I felt forgiveness was wrong because I thought it made those who hurt me right. Of course, it was perfectly fine for others to forgive me in the very – very – rare cases where I hurt them. (Ahem.)

Clearly, my sense of justice was warped, with the odds of me being the victim almost always being in my favor. But in my defense – You saw that coming, right? – I was actually a victim for a significant period of my life–childhood.

Yes, I hear you:

“Well, who wasn’t traumatized as a child?”

Sadly, that is one question with too many replies. Yet, there is only one answer that I’ve found that has allowed me to triumph over my trauma: Forgiveness.

I know, I know.

“How can someone who once hated the very word now show it so much love?”

Well, when “someone” is increasingly showing herself love, the ease of showing love to other things – and people – increases in kind, even when that “someone” was very unkind to those things – and people – before.

While my glasses are not rose-colored, these days they are tinted with love, particularly of the self variety, which allows me to look back on my past with love as well. That is not to say that I am looking pass my past trauma, but I am seeing it in a way that makes me revere God and respect myself for getting through it.

This is me at 3.

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Isn’t she lovely?

This little girl, like many small children, are often called “resilient”–meaning that they can take a whipping licking and keep on ticking. However, there are only so many of life’s lickings that a person, let alone a child, can take until their heart’s ticking loses momentum and eventually comes to a screeching halt.

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men [and women].”

~Frederick Douglass [and Stephanie Rochelle Redd]

In my past, things were done and words were said that I thought were unforgivable. And in reserving my right to forgive those who trespassed against me, I also restricted my ability to receive forgiveness–from myself. But why would a person, a child, a three-year-old cherub need to forgive him- or herself if they were the victim?

Well, I can’t write for you, but I needed to forgive myself for just being a victim, period–for not having the serenity, courage, wisdom, or wherewithal to see, understand, or stop what the hell was happening around me and to me in the first place. In retrospect, it was that hell that I could not fathom as a child that I fired upon others as an adult. Thankfully, though brutally, I have been brought to a place in my adulthood where I am forced to grow the hell up.

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In the magical land of Actual Adulthood, there is no blame, only mirrors. These mirrors are other people who appear to be different from us, yet are able to magically show us ourselves by the ways we respond to them and they to us. Also in Actual Adulthood, there is nowhere to go but within.

It was only when I began intently searching myself for the panacea to my pain did I find it in love. In other words, self-love helps me accept my past and myself presently. Further, my increased love and acceptance of myself increases my love and acceptance of other people, especially the people who hurt me. (What? That’s the magic of actual adulting and actual love.)

This “magic” has also transformed my idea of forgiveness. Rather than seeing it as a “Get Out of Jail Free” card for my persecutors, I now understand forgiveness as the freedom for which I am given. Forgiveness frees me from the weighty job of passing judgement on myself and others, and gives that responsibility to whom it rightly belongs: God.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.'”

~Matthew 18:22, NKJV

No, Jesus did not want Peter to keep a tally of the 490 times his brother mistreated him, neither does Jesus want us to count our brothers’ and sisters’ wrongs against them. Instead, He wants us to count on God the Father to mete out justice as He sees fit, trusting that God’s rulership in our lives means fair rulings for us as well as others.

Now that I am armed with my new definition of forgiveness and deeper faith in God, I willingly surrender my victimhood – and my addiction to it – to His Higher Power in exchange for a victorious life for me and for generations to come. I am also willing to make room on my “Favorite ‘F’ Words” list for at least two more.

robert

 

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(See what I did there?)

Powered by love

Love
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Pexel

by Stephanie Rochelle Redd

“I was a victim of my foolish thinking/
Carelessly I’ve risked my love and my life/
There’s no self-pity, I admit I obliged/
Overpowered by love, I pretended to be blind…”
~ Stephanie Mills, I’ve Learned to Respect the Power of Love

A couple of months ago, a member of the Head-Smart/Heart-Dumb Girl Facebook page sent me a message with just one question:

“What is love?”

My eyeballs immediately rolled up toward the ceiling.

“Chiiiiiiiiiiiiiiile’…” I typed.

But after about the 10th “i”, I realized that neither the question nor its answer was as abstract – or as exasperating – as I first believed. So, after grudgingly deleting my initial response, I took a deep breath.

I then replied with a basic outline of the self-love tenets that I describe in my book. Yet, I was not satisfied with that response either.

Yes, acceptance, compassion, knowledge, approval, and respect are all aspects (i.e. powers) of love. And when all of these powers combine, yes, they do activate love to the highest power. But what, exactly, is this thing called “love” that is activated? Furthermore, if love is indeed the superpower, then who is its superhero? Who is the ‘Captain Planet‘ of love?

I took another deep breath. Per my M.O., I had multiplied one question into more questions. As I sat there, deep-breathing and staring deeply at the words on my screen, I waited.

Waited for what, you ask?

A thunderbolt, a light bulb, a pep talk from Wile E. Coyote, something that would give me peace of mind to soothe the inner conflict that my questions raised, and give me the frame of mind with which to solve the question that was originally posed to me. And then it happened.

If God is love, I thought, then love is God.

I sighed with relief. Not only had I solved the mystery of love in a matter of minutes, but I had also calmed my aching brain. However, my brain’s relief was short-lived as it eventually dawned on me that I had “solved” one mystery with another mystery.

Wait! Do I now have to explain God? (Oh my God, indeed.)

I was digging myself deeper into a hole of increasing ignorance, and I wanted out–fast. So, from my book I turned to another, known for its revelation of the mysterious nature of God and love: the Word.

“And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:2, NKJV

Well then.

Coupled with my love analysis, I then added the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians to my answer, which gives a definitive look into what love is and what it is not. Ah, it feels good to have the answers to challenging questions at your fingertips.

But what about the questionable situations that we often find ourselves in that seem to challenge our very being? What about the consequences we face that result from our foolish thinking, careless risks, and willful pretenses? Where are the solutions to the mysteries that are us? Oh, there I go with more questions.

Thankfully, though my questions multiply, the answer to them remains undivided: the Word.

The Word not only provides a wealth of information, but it also serves as a platform for illumination. While there are other resources – *clears throat* – that can help us clarify our understanding of ourselves, only Source can give us answers about us straight from the One who created us.

So, when I feel undone by my own doing, I cry and mope, and read and meditate on the Word. When I feel victimized by the viciousness of others, I cry and cope, and read and meditate on the Word. When I feel overpowered by the very thing that is meant to empower me, I cry and hope, and read and meditate on the Word.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” ~ John 1:1, NKJV

As the Word was – and is – God, and God was – and is – love, then my reading of and meditation on the Word was – and is – my reading of and meditation on love.

Eureka!

No wonder I was able to point that Facebook group member’s inquiring mind in God’s direction. I have been so immersed in better loving myself that, by default, I have also immersed myself in better knowing God. After all, how can we embrace One without embracing the other? (Okay, that’s enough questions–for now.)

 

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