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Power in Community

I think I’ve been doing it all wrong. I’m an independent woman. I try not to inconvenience anyone. I carry my own weight. It’s all good until it’s not.  Sometimes my independence shields me from connection and vulnerability. I’m afraid to trust people to come through for me. Sometimes I limit my life to what I can accomplish rather than open myself up to greater possibilities.

Women I barely know came through for me this weekend. If I remained the independent woman as I hosted a backyard wedding for my daughter it would have looked like a hillbilly affair with lawn chairs and poppin’ open a cold one! Instead, wonderfully talented gals came and created beautiful spaces.  The flowers were prettier than any I’ve ever seen–Anywhere. Sheree, you are an artist! A huge display of pictures of the bride and groom were artfully hung with cute ribbons and hummingbird cutouts and sweet little flowered twine. Anne, I don’t ever want to take it down! A woman from our high school heard that we needed a speaker and mic at the last minute and she drove an hour to deliver it to our house. Who does that?! Chrissy, I’m humbled by your generosity.

Every now and then, the Bible states something so plainly it makes you smile. I could probably write the first three words of this scripture and you would be able to finish it: “Two are better…” Do you know it? “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10) No duh, right?

At first glance this scripture is so basic it makes us smile. But then we realize the foundational beauty of it. People frequently resort to independence and isolation. Yet, at our core, we all understand that two are better than one. We need each other! In the New Testament we are instructed to “bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) Fulfilling the law of Christ means living out His life of love toward others.

Yes, it is humbling to receive help. And yet beautiful and encouraging as well.  How many of us here in Silicon Valley long to know that we are not alone, that someone has our back? Who warms your community, my friend? Are there areas of your life where you would welcome some help? What are ways you can come alongside others?  We are better together. Let’s get off this independent track and love one another!

If creating a culture of honor is important to you right now, go to http://www.MargaretAllen.org to buy my book, Gracious Living: Creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion. Read it on your own or go through it with a group of friends, using the discussion questions at the end of each chapter.

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Sent

It seems like two days ago I was buckling my four precious kiddos into their seats in the tan minivan. This week the oldest is getting married and the youngest is graduating from high school. My sentimental feelings are wildly juxtaposed with feelings of sadness over our country’s systemic racism. Our family conversations have careened from George Floyd’s murder to decorating the wedding cake. And who the hell has time for Coronavirus right now?

My dad worked at M.D. Anderson hospital in the 1960’s. I remember asking him about racism back then. It turns out that M.D. Anderson had segregated bathrooms and water fountains in the ‘60’s. Being from the North, he was not familiar with these practices. My dad said he was reprimanded when he went into the “Black” bathroom or drank from a “colored only” water fountain. He told me, “As scientists, we thought it was ridiculous. We knew that under a microscope everyone’s blood looks the same.” Cautiously, I asked him what he did about it. I’ll never forget his answer: “I was working on my PhD. We were newly married and starting our family. Our life was so busy. I didn’t do anything about it. I was just living my life.” Sigh.

Am I really any different? I read works of black authors, support black businesses, push for diversity in my small circles of influence, but these are small gestures. And they cost me nothing. Again, deep sigh. In the midst of graduations and planning a backyard wedding, a new resolve has awakened in my heart to do better, to be more curious, more thoughtful, more honoring.

We watched the Netflix documentary 13th last night. I recommend it. If you have never heard Bryan Stevenson, check out his insightful Ted talk: “We need to talk about an Injustice” These are great starting points for discussion. We all have much listening and learning to do.

Hope came to me in a surprising way this week. With all these emotions swirling around me, of course I turned to scripture to find some insight. I looked and prayed and looked some more. Nothing stood out until I came across Psalms 127:4 “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.” An arrow only fulfills its purpose when it is SENT. Each one of us as a child of God are sent into the world for a purpose. I have sent my children out as arrows—to fight injustice and oppression and to bring healing and light. Be a SENT one this week my friend. Create a culture of honor, love, compassion, and justice.

Go to MargaretAllen.org to buy my book, Gracious Living, Creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion. If you prefer an E version, go to Amazon or Barnes&Noble.

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Beginnings

Today is a big day for me. Maybe it’s a big day for you as well. June 1 is my day of beginnings. I became a Christ-follower on June 1, 1978. Huge deal. I married Andy Allen on June 1, 1991. Beautiful deal! And I chose that special date because my parent’s wedding anniversary is also June 1. Now, my book Gracious Living, serendipitously launches on June 1. I didn’t plan this availability date but I take it as a wink from God. He who knows the end from the beginning, who sat with me and encouraged me through many hours seated at a computer (not my favorite place), just wanted me to know that He is with me, ahead of me, for me.

God placed a cool story in front of my face this week. It comes from the biblical book of Joshua in chapter 3. God informs Joshua that he is to lead the people across the Jordan river into the promised land. “And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap.” (Joshua 3:13) And sure enough, a few verses later it says, “and as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the whole time of harvest), that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap…” (v. 15-16) The priests, carrying the precious Ark of the Covenant, end up standing on dry ground smack in the middle of the Jordan riverbed until the entire nation could cross over on dry ground.

Come on! Can you imagine what those priests were thinking as they walked up to a rushing river with their precious cargo? The miracle didn’t occur until their feet were in the water. And that’s where God got my attention: the miracle didn’t occur until their feet were in the water!

Is there a rushing river you need to cross today? A dream, a promise, a change to make? We all cling to safety, to guarantees, to smooth sailing. My friend, it takes faith to step into the water. It takes a bold faith in God’s goodness to move toward that dream or promise. I don’t know about you, but I’m facing a rushing river. I just wrote a book and now it’s out there! Am I afraid, vulnerable, uncertain? Yes, I am! I don’t know what is going to happen next or how I am to cross this rushing river in front of me, but I’m steppin’ in!

God will not put a dream in your heart without also empowering you to fulfill it. What obstacles are you facing today? I encourage you to lock eyes with God, get His vision for your life, and step in! Will you be frightened and vulnerable? Probably yes, but there’s a promised land waiting for you on the other side.