Sunday, March 26, 2017

Untitled (Because There Are No Words)

The day after my last blog entry, God began pressing another topic into my heart.  A scripture began looping in my head and at one point it became so overwhelming that I knew I needed to share it. 

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.  I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
~John 10:10 (NKJV)

The word “abundantly” also continued to dominate my thoughts.  What does abundantly or abundance mean?  In my opinion, I would define its meaning as “more than” or “in addition to” or “in excess or surplus.”  Basically, to have abundance, is to not only have what you need, but to have so much more, even enough to be a blessing to others. 

Think about the time when Jesus fed five thousand people with only five loaves of bread and two fish.

I just want to stop and marinate on this for a bit.

The disciples only had FIVE loaves of bread and TWO fish.

And after Jesus blessed the food, giving thanks to God, they were able to feed five THOUSAND people.

Not only that, but they had plenty of food left over.  They had a surplus.  They had more than they needed.  They had abundance!

So they all ate and were filled, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained. Now those who had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
~Matthew 14:20-21

Think about the times when we have prayed and asked God for something.  When He blessed us, did He simply give us the bare minimum? 


When God blesses us, He ALWAYS gives us more than what we can ever ask or think.  Just like Scripture says, God always blesses us in excess:

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,
~Ephesians 3:20

And so when this topic of abundance came to mind, one question persisted above any other:

If Jesus lived and died so we could live more abundantly, why do we continue to enslave ourselves?

God had first posed this question directly to me in order to challenge my current mindset.  If you’ve read my previous blogs, you know God has been preparing me for my next level of blessings….blessings that would be more than what I could ever ask or imagine.  Blessings that would be in abundance.  In this question, God challenged me to really look at my current level of spiritual maturity.  More specifically, He had challenged my level of trust and faith in Him.

You see, God had shown me a glimpse of the magnitude of my blessings and unfortunately, I had unconsciously gravitated back to fear.  But God didn’t want me going backwards, so He quickly posed that very question:

“My daughter, why do you continue to enslave yourself when I brought you salvation through My Son?”

I had to do some serious self-reflection:

Why did I doubt myself (when I have Jesus working in me)?

Why did I revert back to fear (when God didn’t give me a heart of fear)?

Why did I limit myself (which consequently would limit God’s powers working in me through Jesus)?

Why did I continue to enslave myself- remain confined to the limits of this world- when Jesus freed me thousand of years ago?

SN: God really does know how to ask some deep questions  (in the most gentle and loving way J)!

Where God is taking me, He revealed, among other things, I had to also leave fear behind. 

Fear is never from God.  Enslavement is never from God.  He never dwells in places where those things reside.  And so, if I wanted to dwell where God was… if I wanted to go where God was leading me, I had to leave behind the very things not of God.

After I resolved to do just that, He pushed this question even further into my heart. 

Why do we continue to enslave ourselves when Jesus died so that we could live more abundantly?

While this question does apply to non-believers, I really felt pressured to speak to my brothers and sisters who are in Christ.

We have this precious gift of salvation.  This gift gives us freedom.  This gift has broken the very chains the rulers of this world sought to keep us in.  So why do we struggle to embrace this liberty?  Why do we struggle to really live as if we’re free?

In my opinion, Simon, one of the twelve apostles, provided great examples of living as if he was really free through Jesus. Simon was bold and courageous.  In Matthew 16:13-20, Simon was the first to identify Jesus as the Son of God, resulting in Jesus shifting his name from simply being Simon, meaning “he has heard,” to (Simon) Peter, meaning “stone” or “rock.”  Jesus also revealed that He would build His church upon Peter through Peter’s role in the ministry.

In Matthew 14: 28-29, Peter was also the only one trusting enough to ask Jesus to command him to walk on water.

How freeing is that??? 

To do something that earthly had appeared impossible, such as walking on water.  How incredible is that?

After we accepted Jesus into our lives, God gave us that same power:

I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe Him.  This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.
~Ephesians 1:19-20 (NLT)

Here’s the thing, this post isn’t really for baby Christians either- those new to having a relationship with Christ.  This is for experienced Christians- those who have seen God move in their lives over and over and over again.  Those who have witnessed miracles that could only come from God. 

If we know the power of God… if we know we have access to that power source through Jesus Christ, why do we live our lives that indicate otherwise?

Why do we choose- and yes, everything is a choice- to live as if we are powerless?

Jesus was an extraordinary man and His death gave us an extraordinary gift, so why do we choose to live ordinary lives?

Why do we do let fear restrict us from enjoying a life filled with fellowship with God?  A fellowship- might I add- that connects us to the Entity that is without restriction. 

Why do we limit ourselves when our Spiritual Father is without limits?

I want to reference to my last blog entry, Part One of “Follow the Yellow Brick Road…” In reference to where I had discussed possible reasons why God doesn’t say anything, I mentioned one reason might be because God trusted our judgment in making the right decision.

In these situations where we have been blessed with peace from God regarding our decision, why do we wait to act on those decisions? 

A follow up question I have to ask:

What are we waiting for???  Another sign?  A burning bush?  A booming voice?  The Rapture???

Seriously, why the hesitation?

Again, although God first delivered this message to me, I know God put this on my heart to share.  Someone reading this entry is hesitating.  You know what you’re supposed to do.  You know the next step.  God has given you the green light.  But you’re waiting.

Is it a business?

A book?

Some type of lifestyle change?

Or maybe it’s about a job or relocation,

You’re hesitating and waiting. 

Ask yourself, “Why?”

Please know, the longer you wait, the longer you allow the door to be open, you permit the devil to step in.  First, it’s one stinky foot- just a little doubt.  Maybe you’re questioning if you really heard from God. 

If you haven’t already experienced this, let me tell you- the devil is NEVER satisfied with just one foot in the door.  Next, he sets another foot in…soon his whole stinky presence, filled with stinky doubt, has entered.  You’re questioning yourself and your ability.  You question your worthiness.  “Is this really for me?” “Do I deserve this?”  “Can I really do this?”  “What if I fail?”  “What will other people think or say?” 

Sounds familiar?  Trust me, I know from personal experience. This has unfortunately been my life for years now. Please don’t let the enemy get even one foot in.  Don’t give room for doubt or fear.

To whoever this message is for, I implore you- please trust God.  He’s saying, “Now is the time.”

I’ll say it again: “Now is the time!”

Jesus died so we could live more abundantly.  Let go of the shackles.  Let go of the chains.  This battle is a mental one- once we truly embrace our freedom in Christ, once we truly hand over our weaknesses to God, our lives will reflect that freedom.

I do want to go back and address the questions I asked above.  It is natural, and I would even say it’s accurate to doubt our own abilities.  We know our past.  And we know we are limited to do anything on our own.  Please understand that once you give yourself over to Christ, you stop living within your own means.  You stop living on your power and strength.  While we, alone, are limited.  We have Christ who dwells in us and He is anything BUT limited!

If God has put something in your heart, a desire or dream or goal, trust it.  Trust Him.  He will not set you up for failure.

 Remember: God created you, so if the Creator thinks you’re worthy, guess what- you’re worthy!

There’s only one “but” though- and this is a big BUT….

You. Have. To. Step. Out. On. Faith.

Faith without works is dead (James 2:17).

Although Jesus can command for the impossible to happen, we have to be like Peter and be willing to step out of the boat.

*** I do want to take a moment to speak on a different, but equally important topic that has also been on my heart ***

If you are new to this fellowship with Christ or if you are contemplating a relationship with Christ, I would like to first say, “Welcome!” 😀

Earlier, I was spending time with God and I became so happy because I absolutely love our moments together.  All of a sudden, I grew emotional because I had this sudden urge to share that happiness with others.  I wanted to share my Father with you because He really is that wonderful!

Although I can sit and talk about how amazing God is until I’m out of breath and energy, I don’t want you to take my faith and make it yours.  My description of God will never do Him justice, so I encourage you not to listen to me.  Don’t take my word on how good God is.  Instead, I implore you…I beg you to please just try Him yourself.

The deeper I get into my relationship with God, the more He reveals Himself to me, and the more I fall in love with Him.

Through God, I’ve become so full, so abundantly overwhelmed with joy and I truly want everyone to have that same joy too.  I want everyone to experience that depth of happiness and love.  I truly feel everyone is worthy of having this precious relationship.

In order to do that, you can’t take your friend’s or spouse’s or mother’s or father’s faith and make it yours.  You gotta have faith of your own.  You have to have a relationship with Christ that you can call your own.

Can I share something?

It’s not a coincidence that you’re reading this blog right now.  It’s not by accident that you’ve been thinking about having a relationship with Christ either.  God put that desire in your heart.  His children know His voice and follow it (John 10:27).

God wants a relationship with you because He loves you so much.  But the choice is yours.

 I implore you, now is the time.

Please seek Him.  It doesn’t matter where you are right now (God will surely come to you)!  You don’t even have to say it out loud right now.  Just in your heart, acknowledge that you want to have a relationship with God. 

Ask Christ Jesus to come into your heart; embrace Jesus as your Lord and Savior and welcome His blessed salvation.

Jesus died so you can live more abundantly.  What are you waiting for? 

The time is now!

If it is God’s will, I will conclude by saying, “Until next time!”

God bless!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Follow the Yellow Brick Road.... Part II

Part Two: Using Discernment When You Don’t Sense God

Now let’s say you’re experiencing one of the reasons I’ve just mentioned in Part One.  Or maybe it’s something else.  Regardless of the reason, though, you can’t sense God and need discernment.  You need help with making decisions- deciding on a new job, a life partner, relocation, removing from/allowing people in your life, etc.  How do you come to a decision?  How do you discern when you don’t sense God (His Direction)?

Now I will be transparent- I’m literally going through this part right as I speak (or type J) and I’m still learning a lot!  The last couple of days have been interesting to say the least…

I’ve found these moments to be extremely challenging.  In fact, it’s usually during these moments I seriously joke with God about being a burning bush (think Moses). 

Ha!  My conversations usually go something like this: “Hey Abba, (laughing) you know I’m just kidding when I say this- but if you really want to do this, I wouldn’t stop you- can you please just tell me what to do.  Like, just print me out an instruction list/manual/”How to Navigate Life” book.  You know, just this one time????”

Or during my more direct conversations:

“God, I really need you to just give me a sign that tells me what I should do about (fill in blank).”

I’m sure our lives would be so much easier if we had burning bushes, gigantic looming clouds, or a booming voice that appears from above to give us life’s answers.  That would be nice, right?

 Well for starters, we wouldn’t mature if those things continually happened for us AND that’s not how God rolls.  That’s not how He designed us to live through the new covenant through Jesus.  God gives us free will.  We’re free to make decisions because He wants us to be free to choose to love Him.  To live for and serve Him is left entirely up to us.

From my personal experience, there are times when God doesn’t say anything because:

1.   He wants me to wait.  During these moments I usually experience a sense of anxiety whenever I attempt to move before the right time.  My desire to act feels rushed as if even internally, I sense my timing isn’t aligned with God’s.  If I do decide to continue, the outcome is undesirable and I create a bigger mess.

      2.  He says, “No.”  Whenever I attempt to move forward during these moments, I usually experience a heavy state of conviction (not punitive, just disciplinary).  My desire to act doesn’t even feel right.  If I do decide to continue, I get no joy from them.  Additionally, I always- I do mean always swiftly receive a negative consequence (it’s like God is saying, “Yeah I saw that and you know you were wrong!”)

      3.   He’s already given me the answer.  Okay, I’m not ashamed to admit that I STRUGGLE with this frequently!  Like, how many burning bushes do I need to see before I know it’s from God???  Hahaha!  Don’t judge me- I’m a work in progress!

      4.   He knows I will make the right decision.  There are times when we don’t hear from God regarding a decision because He knows we will do right by Him (think of Job again).  When we have developed and matured in our character, when we know to immediately go to Scripture and the Holy Spirit for wisdom and discernment about that decision, God will allow us to make it without godly intervention. 

Again, think about that nurturing parent who only intervenes when his child is in danger.   I truly believe God wants us to use our free will in fellowship with Him.  I believe like a loving parent, He delights in watching us learn, develop, and live our lives (in godly righteousness, of course).

So let’s say you don’t hear from God because He knows you will make the right decision.  How do you use spiritual discernment within free will?  How do you decide on the path to take? 

Well, some things I’ve learned to do that help the process:

1.   Pray and fast.  While we may not get a burning bush, we do have the Holy Spirit who serves to guide us and give us wisdom.  Seeking wisdom from the Holy Spirit- while fasting to help remove any earthly or carnal barriers- can help to reach a decision.

2.  Talk to God. Even though you may not be able to sense God, you know you can still talk to Him!  While talking doesn’t necessarily guarantee an answer, it connects you to God, which I personally feel is even more important because you’re connecting yourself to the “Powerhouse” Himself.  And through these interactions, you may find yourself coming to a decision.

For example, have you ever just talked (even vented) to your best friend and your friend simply sat there and listened?  And as the conversation continued, with you tossing out ideas, you felt more secure and confident about what you should do? 

Well, 70% of the time, I’m that person in those types of conversations.  Oftentimes I’m not seeking advice from my friends when I go to them; I’m seeking a listening ear.

Spiritually though, I find whenever I just talk to God, I sense in my gut a direction I should go in.  As I ponder over decisions, I may be filled with peace- which Scripture states peace comes from God:

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
~Philippians 4:7

There are times, however, when I talk to God about certain decisions I’m contemplating and I’m filled with disciplinary conviction:

“However, when He, the Spirit of truth has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.”
~John 16:13

3.  Spiritually challenge your decisions.  Ask yourself the following questions:

-“Would this decision bring me closer to or further from God?”   God wants us with Him.  In all that we do, we should strive to become more intimate with God.

 - "Does this decision glorify God?”  In contrast to dishonor.  God rightfully deserves all the glory!  And He should get it!  Does this decision promote you or earthly things over God?  Who would get the recognition?  You or God? 

- "Is my decision led by the Holy Spirit or by carnal/fleshly desire?” 

Galatians 5:19-21 speaks of the works of the flesh:

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentious, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 5:22-23 speaks of the fruits of the Holy Spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Against such there is no law.

  - “Can my decision be supported by scripture?”  This is where prayer comes in.  Anyone can     interpret the bible, but that doesn’t mean the interpretation is correct.  We are called to rightly divide the word of truth (Timothy 2:15).

After you have asked yourself these questions (or any questions the Holy Spirit imparts on you), pray to God and make your decision.

During these last few weeks I’ve really had to make some tough decisions after I didn’t get an answer from God.  And it was only after I made the decisions that I heard a response from God- I felt peace!  While God had been quiet before I made the decisions, He immediately filled me with peace afterward as confirmation that He was okay with my decisions.

So, if you find yourself lost or uncertain, first seek godly counsel and then make a move.  Jesus died so we could live more abundantly (free from carnal and earthly slavery and oppression), but we must choose to live, which means there may be times that we must make decisions and trust that God will always be present with us.  He may also intervene whenever and however in order to protect us from danger (either as a result of our decisions or other influences).  SN: God always gives a warning before destruction.

We must practice having secured attachment in our relationship with God.  We must learn to step out on faith in order to move toward our final destination, which is our home in heaven.

Think about it like this- if Dorothy never ventured outside her house after the tornado, she would’ve never found her way back home J

If it is God’s will, I will conclude by saying, “Until next time!”

God bless!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Follow the Yellow Brick Road: Using Discernment When You Don't Sense God

When it comes to movies, a family favorite is definitely The Wizard of Oz.  I’ve been watching this movie since I was a little girl and I’m always amused to uncover new lessons or details from each viewing.  If you haven’t heard of this classic- it details Dorothy, a farm girl from Kansas, whose house gets caught in a tornado. The tornado transports the house (with Dorothy and her dog inside) to a different land, and in a nutshell, she spends the rest of the movie trying to get back home.

 One notable detail throughout the movie is the route she must take in order to get home: in the beginning, she’s kindly instructed by the singing-dancing munchkins that she must seek the assistance from the Wizard of Oz in Emerald City.  In order to get to Emerald City, she must “Follow the yellow brick road!”

This bright road was very distinct and could be seen for miles and miles.  Although at some points Dorothy had to make decisions on which direction to take whenever she came to a fork in the road, she knew to “follow the yellow brick road.”

Talk about clear instructions!  Dorothy knew how to discern the path that would ultimately get her home.

But what happens when the path isn’t clearly defined?  What do you do? How do you decide?

The topic of discernment has been weighing on me for the last two weeks, and I’m so excited to finally be able to talk about it!

First, I want to start by defining what discernment is.  Overall, discernment implies the ability to judge well.  From a biblical or spiritual context, we’re taught discernment is the ability to use proper judgment regarding direction or counseling.  In Scripture we’re also taught to use discernment to determine spirits, character and/or fruits of a person, and information (whether it comes from God or the enemy):

Test all things; hold fast what is good.
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:21

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ,
~Philippians 1:9-10

In order to have discernment, we must have wisdom.  The two go hand in hand.  Thus, we should always be in fellowship with God, especially about judging or making decisions, because our wisdom comes from Him:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
~Proverbs 3: 5-6

The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD,
And He delights in his way.
~Psalm 37:23

But what do you do when you don’t sense God’s presence?  How do you know which path to take?

I’ve pondered over these questions over the last few weeks.  With my book in its final stages- and additional things in both my personal and professional life garnering my attention- I’ve received numerous opportunities to make decisions, which required discernment.

As I’ve previously mentioned, I haven’t really sensed God’s physical presence in several weeks.  I haven’t heard His voice.  At first, I contributed this to my transition from a “baby” Christian to an “adult” Christian, where I would rely on the guidance from the Holy Spirit. 

Still- I missed my Father’s voice!

I can still recall the last time I felt God in my room.  It had been frightening, yet comforting.  I knew sovereign power had been there with me in that room and let me tell you- once you’ve been surrounded by God’s loving presence, you want to immediately find your way back to that Presence again, back to Him.

So why can we greatly sense God at times and at times we can’t?

Good question!

Only God truly knows why He reveals His presence during certain moments.  BUT- I truly believe He shows Himself to those who truly and earnestly seek Him:

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
~Jeremiah 29:13

For my blog today, I want to break my entry into two parts.  In the first part I’ll disclose my own personal observations on why it has been challenging to sense God’s presence at times.  In the second part, I’ll talk more in depth about discernment and how to make decisions when you don’t sense God.

So, let’s get started!
 Part One:  Possible Reasons for Not Sensing God’s Presence
  1.    Sin - This is probably the most obvious reason.  God cannot be where sin is.  Genesis, chapters 2 and 3, details how Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden because of sin.  God couldn’t even travel with the people of Israel along their trek to the Promised Land because of their sin (Exodus 33).

God did send Jesus to remove us from our sin so we could have a connection and relationship to Him.  While we have the gift of salvation through Christ, our constant acts of sin serve as barriers to God, and the only way we can reconnect to Him is to repent each and every time we commit sins.

2.  Testing- Simply put, you’re being tested.  Like a teacher tests your competence on a subject, sometimes God allows testing so we can see where we truly stand with Him.  Testing can show our spiritual competence, if you will.  Now on a positive note, by going through these trials and testing, God is able to purge any impurities from our hearts and make us stronger and better.  Personally, I’ve realized I’ve struggled to sense God’s presence during moments of testing,

You know, I’ve always been fascinated with the book of Job, which narrates the story of one particular righteous and good man.  Job garners the attention of Satan after God mentions Job’s strong character.  God, knowing Job’s character, allows Satan to test him.  Though he loses everyone and everything around him (wife, children, status, wealth, and health), Job continues to have faith in God and His sovereignty.   As the testing continues, Job does stumble and sins (he questions God’s righteous execution of His power). In the end, because of God’s great mercy and grace, He blesses Job’s latter part of life more greatly than the first part of life. (Please note: Job did repent and humbled himself).

3.  God is trying to take you higher-  Like testing, God will use moments of discomfort to push you forward.  One of the things I’ve learned over the past few weeks is God has been doing this very thing to me.  He’s been pushing me toward the next level, which includes the next level of blessings.  Because every new level of blessings also comes with a new level of devils, God has to strengthen us.  He has to prepare us.  Because my current level of spiritual competence would not be sufficient in my new level, God challenged me to go deeper in my spirituality.

Think of it like this: let’s say you participate in a 5k race.  Then, let’s say the next race requires you to run 10k.  Would you simply continue training on a 5k level?  No! If you restricted yourself to the training standards for a 5k race, you would not have the stamina to successfully complete the 10k race.

As I reflected over these last few weeks, I found that God had extended the distance to be in His presence so that I would increase my spiritual stamina.  My ways as a “baby” Christian were no longer sufficient now that I matured into an adult.  God required more of me.

Now, let me preface this last one by disclosing this is something I always come back to because God continues to remind me-

4.  He’s never gone-  We are never without God.  If you can, recall the blog where I described the nurturing parent who may let his baby cry because he’s able to discern that the child isn’t in any real danger.  Over the last few weeks, I’ve really started to focus and internalize the fact that my Father is always with me.  Although I may not be able to sense His presence all the time, I know God is with me.

In the world of psychology, this is called secured attachment.  Taken from “The Strange Situation” experiment conducted by Mary Ainsworth (expanded study on John Bowlby’s attachment theory) this concept describes the ability for a child to ultimately play safely and explore an environment because s/he knows their parent is nearby and able to help/protect/guide if needed.

 Spiritually speaking, this type of secured attachment to God (ie TRUST and FAITH) is a clear indicator of one’s spiritual maturity.  I believe God has allowed me to be tested so this very concept could be embraced and internalized.  I can live, and develop, and explore safely because I know my Father is nearby and able to help/protect/guide if needed.  I’ll share a quote given recently by a fellow church member: “You have to know that you know that you know!”  True faith is “seeing” when you don’t see… it’s believing despite what is being shown (Hebrews 11:1). 

Even earlier today, I had to say that quote aloud: “Today, I know that I know that I know God is with me.  I know He is for me.  I know His plans are to prosper me.”

There comes a point (which has been in my case) where God says, “All right!  Do you really trust Me?  Don’t say you do- show that you do!”  Like how God encourages us to try or test His goodness so He can prove to us how good He really is (Malachi 3:10), God also wants that same reciprocity.  He wants us to talk the talk and walk the walk:

But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
~James 1:22

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Growing Pains (aka: Pruning Season)...

So, it’s been a few weeks since my last reflection (I apologize for that)- a lot has happened…in fact, a lot is going on right now.

To start, at the end of January I celebrated another birthday (glory to God for a new year!), and spent that time with two of my best friends in England (definitely glory to God for that blessing!).  During that trip, I reflected and communicated with God and had initially planned to blog about that humbling experience; however, the direction of my blog shifted due to some other things I have been preoccupied with.

In the external world, I was introduced to some wonderful people within my professional circles (even professionally, iron still sharpens iron).  I was blessed with opportunities for continual growth and learning development at my job.  AND to top it off, I’d just wrapped up the final publishing details for my young adult book, Mirroring Effect.  So, I can definitely say that things have been busy!

It seems I’ve been silent, though (particularly from my spiritual blog), due to some internal influences- or influences not seen by others.  I must admit- I know I’ve shared how difficult these last few months have been, but these last few weeks…


Let me be frank: if it had been up to me, I would’ve quit back in January. I would’ve just nestled under my covers with my dog and let the days pass by.

 So what happened in January, you ask? 

My church did a 21-day Daniel fast and things got a little “touch and go” near the end.  Remember when I spoke about the devil attacking when you’re obedient to God?  Well, I don’t know what changed in the spiritual realm, but on Day 18, the devil made it clear he had declared war against all God’s people, and I just so happened to be the lucky contestant he called to “come on down.”  With only 3 days left in the fast, it seemed all hell had broken loose!  And it didn’t stop once the fast was over- that would’ve been great.  No, it continued.

In fact, it wasn’t until this past Friday night that I felt a new, positive shift. 

On Saturday, I grabbed my pen and pad; I had no choice but to write about this.

To provide some context: I’m still in my season of waiting, but now I’m feeling even more pressure from all sides.  My level of discomfort continues and my state of weariness grows.  I can only describe this leg of my journey as such:

Imagine trekking across the desert under the sun’s blistering rays.  You’re exhausted from external factors (weather) and internally exhausted too (disposition).  You feel you don’t have the energy to think; you feel you don’t have the energy to talk.  In fact, you almost question your ability to continue.  But you do.  You press on not knowing where the next rest stop will be and you have no idea when you will get there. 

Although you try to just focus on putting one foot in front of the other, step after step, you eventually wonder, “How long?”  Soon, you begin to plead for mercy; you plead for a rest stop.

You plead for a breakthrough.

Now, how’s that for imagery?   Yeah, well the last few weeks have felt exactly like that.

God still blesses me with a new day, which lets me know He isn’t through with me yet.  And at the end of each day, I’m amazed that I even got through the day because I didn’t have any strength of my own to use.  The only reason I got through the day- the only reason I continue to get through each day- is because of God’s strength and wonderful grace.  And so, although the start of the day brings a feeling of weariness, the end of the day brings a feeling of humility.

This happens every day….
Every. Day.

You know, I’m reminded of several scriptures:

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
      ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
~Matthew 11:28-30

So, let’s go back and picture being in the desert again (fun, I know).  But now, picture Jesus leading you while carrying all your baggage.  In fact, I’ll even provide the image for you:

I came across this picture months ago, and recently it resonated with me again. Every day, in order to continue my trek, I handed Jesus my baggage.  Every day, sometimes every hour, I gave Him burden after burden and bag after bag, and no matter the weight, Jesus carried them as He walked with me.

As I mentioned a few paragraphs above, I feel the pressure from all sides.  Make no mistake- it doesn’t feel good, but I’m not destroyed… I’m not distressed.  Although the last few months have been challenging, the “weight” of the months hasn’t been heavy.  And it’s only because of Jesus, my Comforter and Burden Bearer:

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed-
~ 2 Corinthians 4:7-9

Side note: Don’t you just love how scripture supports everything God promises, and God faithfully proves Himself trustworthy???  But I digress.

Now, I want to share some details about myself: I’m naturally inquisitive.  I ask questions and I ask them a lot. I like to ponder; I like to reflect. I’m extremely analytical- definitely to a fault, and it’s definitely a control issue (I’m going to save that for another blog 😃).  So although I realized I was covered by the grace of God during this trying time, I was still left wondering, “Why?” 

“Why was this journey so challenging now?”

“Why did it seem to continue to get even more difficult as the days passed without any indication of rest?”

And so, I prayed for clarity and understanding.  I prayed and asked God to allow me to see this situation through His eyes, and not through my limited perception. 

On Wednesday, one of my pastors gave a sermon so powerful, so moving, that I knew God had used him to answer my prayer.  That night, my pastor spoke about the stages of Christian life, but specifically as they pertained to discipleship (sharing and spreading God’s word/encouraging people to seek a relationship with God through Christ Jesus).

Now months ago, when I really started to work on my relationship with God, I prayed that He would use me to serve in His kingdom.  I prayed that one day I would be able to encourage people to draw near to Christ and become part of God’s kingdom.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but essentially I had asked God for the opportunity to disciple.  So needless to say, my ears perked right up when the pastor spoke on this very topic.

Okay, these four stages were:
Stage 1: “Come and See” stage: (By a disciple/Calling/Curiosity, etc) You’re introduced to God through church or some form of worship.

Stage 2: “Follow Me” stage: You declare Jesus as your Lord and Savior, receiving the gift of salvation, and thus beginning a spiritual relationship with God through Jesus (i.e. “baby” Christian).

Stage 3: “Fishers of People (Worker)” stage: You make a conscious effort to seek and do God’s will by spending time with Him through Christ, allowing the Holy Spirit to guide you.  You also begin to serve (work) in God’s kingdom by using your spiritual talents.

Stage 4: “Becoming a Friend of God/Bearing Fruit (Disciple)” stage: You become the one to introduce someone to God.  You share about the salvation of Christ, spread the Word to others, and encourage others to draw near to God.

My pastor noted the transition of what you may consider “baby” Christian to “mature” Christian occurs in Stage 3.  This stage determines how serious you are in being obedient to God’s will.  This stage reveals what is truly in your heart and determines whether you progress to Stage 4 or fall back to Stage 2.  Stage 3, my pastor disclosed, is simply the testing stage.  In fact, he called this stage, “Pruning Season.”

In his explanation of this season, my pastor reminded us that a gardener prunes a rosebush in order to help the bush grow.  By cutting both good and bad roses from the bush, the gardener’s goal is that the bush will eventually mature into a healthy and beautiful bush.  The more the gardener skillfully prunes, the more the bush grows, yielding even more roses.

God wanted me to serve in His kingdom- He wants all of us to serve.  Most importantly, He wants us to bear good fruit; He wants us to multiply (Matthew 25: 14-30; Matthew 28: 16-20; John 15:8). 

And so my pastor explained that God becomes the Gardener and allows seasons of pruning to occur in our lives.  While pruning hurts (God’s shears are extremely sharp!) and the pruning seasons are often filled with sorrow and suffering, we must go through these seasons in order to become fruitful.  God wants to prepare us for the harvest season.  And so, He will snip off pieces of ourselves- a little here, a lot there- so that we multiple His fruits (His kingdom).

I can recall a few weeks ago I had read a quote that said God might not be changing the things around you because He’s changing the things within you.  I realized that God had chosen this time as my season of waiting because it was His season of pruning.

And so, after bible study, I spent the next 2 days marinating over what I had learned.  On Friday night, I decided to make a conscious effort not to analyze why Jesus leads me down the paths He does.  In that decision, I relinquished yet another burden, another portion of my need for control.  Instantly, I felt better. 

As I reflected over these last few months through new eyes and understanding, I also discovered that I had unfortunately made a lot of mistakes.  I had spent a lot of time wrestling with God, being stubborn and (incorrectly) overanalyzing everything, instead of just using this season to soak up opportunities to learn and grow spiritually.

If you find yourself in a similar season, I implore you…I encourage you NOT to repeat my mistakes!  Please learn from them.  If you are in a season of waiting and/or in the midst of great sorrow and suffering, know that God is pruning you.  He’s shaping you so that you will become fruitful.

I don’t know how long this particular pruning season will last, but I choose to use the remainder of this season drawing even closer to God.  I pray that you will do the same.

Because if we just continue… if we just push through this season, we will come out of this desert and enter into a land filled with “milk and honey” (Exodus 3:17). 

We will reach Stage 4.  We will bear good fruit.

If it is God’s will, I will not only conclude by saying, “Until next time,” but I will also leave you with the chorus from Erica Campbell’s song, “A Little More Jesus,” as a gentle reminder of the ONLY way we will get through these growing pains (aka pruning season):

I need just a little more Jesus.
(I need just a little more Jesus).
I need just a little more Jesus.
(I need just a little more Jesus).
Hey, I need just a little more Jesus.
(I need just a little more Jesus).
To help me along my way!

God bless!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Mirroring Effect: How God Sees You...

The term “Mirroring” is actually used as a psychological concept to describe when a person subconsciously or unknowingly imitates the behaviors, gestures, mannerisms, or attitude of someone else.

The title of this blog entry is actually taken from my upcoming book, “Mirroring Effect,” which is set to be released near the end of March 2017.  Overall, the book details a teenaged girl who loses her sister to suicide.  While trying to figure out the reasons regarding her sister’s death, she gradually undergoes a shift or change in herself and image.  She begins to mirror what she sees around her and ultimately becomes the very person she previously despised.

I had actually experienced the concept of mirroring, but just didn’t realize it until now.  My blog entries don’t normally post until Sunday, but I had to get this one out now…

Over four months ago God had given me a specific task to fulfill.  God wanted me to love someone. 

Not just anybody- mind you. 

This person, also deeply spiritual, had the most difficult personality I had ever come in contact with.  This person had been the most abrasive, blunt, critical, condescending, and impatient person I had ever met.  Don’t get me wrong, I could tell this person had a genuine love and thirst for God, but I knew this love endeavor would be challenging.  And so I asked God, “How am I supposed to love [this person]?”  And God replied, “I will show you how.”

So I immediately went to work in order to fulfill God’s task of loving this person:
1)   Send positive thoughts (check!)
2)  Send scriptures and words of encouragement (check!)
3)  Actively and enthusiastically listen to the person (check!)
4)  Invite the person to my church/ Attend this person’s visiting church (check and check!!) 
5)  Give gifts without expecting or wanting anything in return (check!)

Y’all, I love a checklist, so I happily marked off everything I thought I was supposed to be doing.  I did everything I could to show love.  And I thought I was doing a good job!  Surely, the fruit of my work would be evidenced and seen within and by this person, right???


It seemed the more I loved, the meaner this person grew.  The harder I prayed, the more difficult the situation with this person became.  The more I gave of myself (becoming selfless), the more the person took (becoming selfish).

I didn’t know what was going on!

But what I did know- this experience was starting to hurt!  Like testing, this experienced became extremely uncomfortable and painful.  Never had I fought for someone that I actually did not like!

At one point, I even grew angry: “Why didn’t this person see or understand what I was doing?”  Why wasn’t this person appreciative of the time, energy, and effort I put into loving this person?

And so, a feeling finally came over me- resolution.

I finally said, “It is finished.”

I prayed to God and then ended communication with this person.

The situation didn’t end with the person having an epiphany.  The person didn’t eventually grow a change of heart toward me.  In fact, at the end of the communication, even as I said “Goodbye,” the person was still harsh, brutal, and condescending to me.  But it was finished…

Afterwards I talked to God.  I had already learned that everything happened for a reason.   I would always have the opportunity to learn from these lessons in life.  I knew God would eventually bless me with clarity about this particular situation; He has always been faithful in the past.  He had given me the task of loving this person for a reason.  There was a reason for the pain I had to endure in order to love this person.

God will eventually explain everything in His timing.  I trust and have faith in Him.

But the wisdom He did share today: This situation had been similar to the mirroring effect.

God showed me an image and in this image it was I, not this person, standing in front of Him.  As if I was standing in front of a mirror, God- in the most gentle and loving way possible- showed me that I acted toward Him as this person acted toward me.

While God tried to love me, I had been stubborn.  I had been impatient. I had been dismissive and critical. I had sought out my thoughts over God’s and yes, I had even been condescending to God.

I had been ungrateful and I had shown disdain when God had only shown love.

But the greatest thing God revealed to me: even though I ended the communication with this person, God would never end communication with me. 

In fact, the only time the words, “It is finished,” had been uttered had been the moment at Calvary when Jesus gave His life for mine.  In that moment when Jesus said, “It is finished!” my salvation for all eternity had been promised.

And so as I looked in the mirror, I saw what I truly looked like.  In the mirror I saw my image: a person so difficult…so challenging…so unlovable and yet God looked at that same image….He looked at me- ME!- and saw someone He would surely love.

Y’all, I’m going to be transparent- as I write this I am consumed with tears right now.  So I will draw to the end of this reflection with this:

Sometimes God puts people and situations in your life so you can see yourself more clearly.

I end with this scripture:
The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying:
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.
~ Jeremiah 31:3

If it is in God’s will, I will conclude by saying, “Until next time.”

God bless.