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One of today’s leading ministers, Suzan Johnson Cook epitomizes the positive attitudes and self-help spirit that make a profound difference in the way we live. Live Like You’re Blessed illuminates her winning formula in an engaging combination of autobiographical anecdotes and lessons drawn from her pastoral work.
Using the letters in the word “blessed” as her starting point, Cook illustrates the spiritual concepts that will help readers cope with life’s difficult challenges.
B represents balance: maintaining emotional equilibrium and finding the time for work, play, and worship
L stands for love: accepting the love that flows from God and extending it to family, friends, and colleagues
E is for energy: developing the physical stamina that nurtures emotional well-being and our dreams
S is the spirit of God within: finding the inner strength and faith that allow us to serve as His hands on earth
S represents success: achieving financial goals while living in alignment with our convictions and values
E stands for encouragement: sharing the courage and hope at the heart of Jesus’ teachings
D is for devotion to God: exploring difficult questions, rather than accepting pat answers
Filled with simple exercises and helpful suggestions, Live Like You’re Blessed is a realistic and inspirational plan for serving God and living life to the fullest.
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Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook is a senior pastor at the Believers Christian Fellowship in New York City and is the editor of Sister to Sister and the author of Too Blessed to Be Stressed. She was the first woman to be elected president of the Hampton University Ministers’ Conference, which represents all the historically African American denominations, and served as a domestic policy advisor under President Clinton. She lives in New York with her husband, Ronald, and their two sons.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Steadying the Seesaw
I heard a story recently about a woman who was proud that she was able to push herself beyond the limits of endurance. And she did manage to get a lot done in the course of the day. But then again, her "day" didn't really end at sundown, or even close to it. In fact, this graphics designer found herself working until 2:30 one morning, and only stopped when she could no longer hold her eyes open. Wanting to have plenty of time the next morning--there was so much to do--she set her alarm for 4:30 a.m. This way, she could finish the work project, get her son off to school, run errands, and take care of household chores.
Just as she'd planned, she was up two hours later, waking herself with a cool shower and mug of steaming coffee. She read her son's homework and convinced him to redo certain sections, while she made him a special breakfast of pancakes. Soon she was waving goodbye to him at the bus stop. Knowing that two hours of sleep hadn't been nearly enough, she scheduled another two at mid-morning and fell into a deep sleep.
When she awoke, she figured that some kind of gooey mucus or something had dried over her eyes, because her vision was out of focus. When a warm water rinse failed to do the trick, she started panicking, thinking about all the reasons she needed her eyes, wondering for instance, "How will I see what I want to draw for work? How will I see how to get down the street to pick up my son?"
She started praying, begging God to help her get her sight back. "Forgive me for bothering you," she started. "God I know there are people who have it worse than me . . . people who can't see and can't hear. But please, if it's your will, let me see again."
That calmed her down a little bit, and sometime in the next hour, her vision began improving, but still wasn't back to where it had been. She phoned her physician, scheduled an emergency appointment, but almost pulled a no-show, because she began seeing with complete clarity again. Still, puzzled over why the loss of vision had occurred, and terrified that the episode was the first sign of some terrible illness, she kept the appointment and submitted to a complete physical.
After a full exam, her doctor said he couldn't offer any explanation for her loss of eyesight. The doctor told her she was healthy: great blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar. And the temporary loss of vision, he assured her, was not a symptom of degenerating nerves, brain tumors, etc. He added, "I have to admit that I'm stumped."
Grateful and eager to get on with her busy schedule, she thanked the young doctor and was about to say goodbye, when he turned and asked, "By the way, before this occurred were you involved in anything that might have caused you a lot of stress?"
She laughed, and at least that felt good, now that she knew death wasn't imminent. "Doctor, I'm always doing something stressful. Last night, for instance, I was on a deadline, so I only slept for two hours . . . But don't look so surprised. I took another two hours this morning as soon as I sent off the completed job." When he failed to look impressed, she said, "I try to catch up on my sleep on the weekends."
She'd have to do more than that, he told her, if she didn't want to suffer another vision loss. "I think your body was telling you something," he added, and he asked her to sit at a desk and write down everything she'd done in the last twenty-four hours.
After reading over her notes and totaling the number of hours, he shook his head. "If what you're telling me is correct, you worked fourteen and a half of the last twenty-four hours; slept for four; showered, dressed, and made-up in one; four hours were spent running errands and finishing chores, one hour helping your son with homework, and thirty minutes walking here."
He paused, and looked at the woman with a puzzled expression. "Your life is completely out of balance. You'll have to make changes immediately. Your body just told you that, and I don't think it's in the mood to negotiate."
She left, promising him and herself that she'd change her schedule right that moment, that there was nothing that was worth the loss of her eyesight. Walking home, she noticed the trees and people around her. It was late spring in New York City, the rains appeared to be over, and all around her trees were sporting their new warm-weather outfits, bursting with green new life. She even appreciated the people rushing around her, because only hours ago, she'd experienced what it would be like to not see them.
So she thanked God for her vision, and kept taking in the sights, speaking in her head to God, promising that this renewed vision was enough and that she'd never again take her life for granted. "This was gift enough," she finished the prayer. "Lord, I'm not going to ask for another thing, not anytime soon anyway."
With that said, she stepped into the bank to use the automated teller, wanting to buy flowers from the vendor on the corner. But lo and behold, she discovered that her bank balance was zero. What had happened? Had someone gotten into her account and ripped her off? She got out her cell phone and called the bank operator, but got no relief there. It was no mistake, the operator told her. A big check had just cleared, and she gave the woman the number. Yes, she remembered writing that one, but she'd thought she had enough left over to meet her needs. The bank operator advised: "Go home and check your deposits and withdrawals and call us back if you need to. We're here for you twenty-four hours a day."
The woman's steps dragged on the way home, and she certainly didn't feel any better after looking through her bank records, because she couldn't come up with any answer about why the balance she thought was supposed to be there wasn't. "All the other checks I've written will bounce," she thought, and her mind began to fill with ominous thoughts about how maybe this would never be cleared up and how it could be turned into a financial catastrophe . . . The mind works overtime in these situations.
Suddenly, she made a connection: out of balance. Hadn't the doctor used similar words, about being out of balance? This time when she prayed, she dropped her to knees. "God, I just finished saying I wasn't going to ask for anything else, so I'm sorry about panicking like this, but please help me work this out. I can't figure out the message, but I know it's got something to do with balance."
She didn't hear any divine words in her ear, and hadn't expected to, but taking a few deep breaths, she phoned the bank again, and this time she wound up with a bank employee who went out of her way to help. The two of them discovered the problem together. During one of her errands, when this woman was rushing through her busy day, she'd hit the wrong buttons in making a deposit. Rather than $2,400, she'd left off a zero, and credited her account with only $240. The situation was rectified; money was transferred from her savings account to cover today's incoming checks, and she was told that within the next twenty-four hours, the correct balance would show.
Rather than feeling relieved this time, the woman held a finger to her lips, striking a pose of deep concentration as she wondered about the day's theme and what God expected her to learn from it. Twenty-four hours and out of balance: The words had repeatedly popped up.
"God," she prayed again, "I'm going to figure it out, I promise." Her prayer was interrupted by a call from her daughter, who was attending an expensive private school out in California. The young woman's voice seemed hoarse. "Mom, I'm afraid I have some bad news. I've been in bed for the last few days with a terrible cold. And you know I'm like you, I never get sick. But . . . and don't say I told you so. I've been playing Frisbee. I know you told me I needed to spend any spare time earning good grades, and not waste it with something silly like Frisbee, but I did. And there's this girl on my Frisbee team who always forgets to bring her water bottle, so I've been letting her drink out of mine . . . Yesterday, she told me that she wasn't going to be able to take the finals at the end the quarter, because she has a bad case of mononucleosis: She's exhausted from severe cold symptoms. The upshot is that I think I have mono too, and that means my whole semester may be wasted."
She sounded as if she was waiting for her mother to fly into a rage, but the woman didn't. True, her heart was beating faster at the prospect of her daughter suffering through a long-term illness and falling behind in school. But what she said to her daughter didn't reflect that concern. She said, "I don't blame you for offering your teammate a drink of water after a workout. And if you haven't gone to the doctor yet, you have no way of knowing if you're really sick. If it is mono, we'll deal with it. Now, call me back as soon as you're finished at the infirmary."
While the woman waited for the phone to ring again, she considered calling a client to tell her that she wouldn't be able to make tomorrow's agreed-upon impossible deadline, but she didn't do it, not that moment anyway.
She got back down on her knees and she spoke to God. "I get the message, Lord. I'm not going to start out by apologizing for turning to you. I'm not going to allow myself to feel ashamed for being needy. Things happen in the course of a day and you aren't an eight-hour God, you're there always and at all times. And you're a lot better than a twenty-four-hour teller, because you have my best interests at heart. I'm going to keep coming back to talk to you, praising you for being with me and I'll trust that you'll help ...
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