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???

Wrong!

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.




Sunday, January 22, 2017

CBT: Spiritual Reframing

Okay, I must admit- I’m pretty excited about this entry’s topic!

First, to recap from last week, I learned that while I had been attacked by the devil through negative thoughts, self-criticism and doubt, I didn’t hear from God immediately because I wasn’t in any danger.  God had been present all along and wanted me to increase my faith in Him and His ability to protect me (also resulting in God answering my prayer to strengthen my faith in Him).

He had revealed that wisdom while I was drafting my last entry on blessings and after I finished my entry, I sat down to really marinate on that bit of information:

1) I had never really been in physical danger.

2) And even though the devil had executed some serious attacks on my cognition, I hadn’t been in any danger mentally.

I hadn’t been in any danger….

I kept focusing on that thought and as I prayed that night, I told God I would be more cognizant of the devil’s schemes as they related to my thoughts.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. ~ Ephesians 6:12

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. ~ 1 Peter 5:8

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.
~ 2 Corinthians 10:3

 Additionally, if I received any new attacks from the devil, I prayed that I would allow God to fight for me.  My part in the battle would only involve calling out the attacks for what they really were (lies and deceit) and replace them with Truth (God’s Holy Word/Scripture).  Afterwards, I was filled with this urgency towards preparation and sure enough, the next morning the Holy Spirit advised me to get even further into Scripture.

Now, I will admit my days were already pretty structured.  Still, I knew the importance of following God’s instruction and was determined to increase my study time.  God immediately blessed me with new organizational skills so I would be able to not only incorporate His new instructions into my day, but also maintain the ability to work and not sacrifice the things I personally enjoyed (like my fiction books!  You all have to read Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard, but I digress 😄).

So, I focused more on Scripture, reading daily from both Old and New Testaments.  I began to come across and even revisit scriptures about thoughts and the dealings of the mind:

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

Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
~ Colossians 3:2

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
~ Romans 12:2

I realized not only did God bless me with wisdom about last week’s struggles, but He also blessed me with the weapon to fight should those attacks resurface (Praise God- He is so awesome 😀)!

And to top it off- and show yet another reason why God is truly great- He directed me to strengthen one of the areas I’m most fond of- the mind!

I love anything and everything dealing with cognition and mental processes.  The mind and its dealings had always fascinated me, and I’d always pondered the mind and how it related to people’s behaviors.  In fact, I loved the relationship between people and cognition so much that I tackled the world of higher education and became a licensed mental health therapist.

Because of my interests, once I became a therapist I naturally gravitated towards the theoretical framework I felt best-explained cognition: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT.  While I’m fond of and have practiced multiple therapies, CBT seems to be at the core of whatever I do.

So what is CBT?

The theory’s founder, Aaron Beck, believed people conducted internal dialogue (conversations carried within ourselves) and believed we possessed “automated thoughts” or thoughts that occur naturally and “automatically” with and without our awareness.  Noting a strong correlation between thoughts and feelings, Beck concluded that we often feel a certain way because of our automated thoughts.  And oftentimes because we experience a certain emotion, our behaviors go on to manifest as evidence of those emotions and thoughts.

So CBT in a nutshell: We have a thought, which influences a feeling, which influences behavior.



(I’m quite proud of my little diagram, hehehe…)

A negative thought will always produce a negative feeling.  A positive thought will always produce a positive feeling.  Make sense?

Now let’s see this theory in real life:

Scenario 1: Sally enters the cafeteria and sees her group of friends talking while sitting at a table.  As soon as Sally approaches the table, her friends stop talking.  What would Sally think?

The most common answer I get is, “Sally thinks they’re talking about her.”

And so I ask, “How would that make Sally feel?”

Typical responses include, “Hurt,” “Angry,” or “Sad.”

Next I ask, “What would Sally do?”

On average, people either say, “Walk away,” or “Confront them.”  (SN: The response to this question typically tells me about that person’s dominant or preferred communication style, but I’ll save that topic for another conversation 😀).

Okay, now let’s go back to the cafeteria with Sally.

Scenario 2: Sally’s birthday is tomorrow.  Sally enters the cafeteria and sees her group of friends talking while sitting at a table.  As soon as Sally approaches the table, her friends stop talking.  What would Sally think?

The most common answer I get is, “Sally thinks they’re planning her birthday party.”

And so I ask, “How would that make Sally feel?”

Typical responses include, “Excited,” “Happy,” or “Amused.”

Next I ask, “What would Sally do?”

On average, people usually say, “Smile and sit down, but say nothing,” or “Ask them what they’re talking about with a big grin.”  (Again, the response to this question sheds light about that person’s dominant or preferred communication style!)

Now, what didn’t change in either scenario: Sally walked into the cafeteria, saw her friends and approached their table; her friends stopped talking.  In fact, the people who answered these questions believed Sally thought her friends were talking about her in both scenarios.

The only difference between the two scenarios is how Sally perceived the assumption that her friends were talking about her.  In the first scenario, Sally negatively perceived her friends’ conversation.  She thought negatively.  In the second scenario, she positively perceived her friends’ conversation- Sally thought positively.

And those thoughts, subsequently, influenced her emotions, and those emotions influenced her decisions and actions.

Okay, let’s be honest with ourselves.  How often do we experience negative (unproductive) emotions about a situation we think or perceive to be costly or unpleasant?  What about events where we can see the benefits?  Do we experience feelings that are positive?

Yes!

If I’m to be honest, I tend to feel negative emotions (sadness, hurt, anger, etc) about situations I deem punitive.  Take last week’s struggles- I was hurt, angry, and confused with God because I thought He had let me down during a period of intense attacks by Satan.  Afterwards, when God blessed me with clarity, I was able to look at those same struggles with joy and happiness.

Now, did those struggles change at any point??  No!  Even now, I can still look back and recall how unpleasant the attacks were.  But what changed was my perception of those struggles.  What I first saw as defeat, I later saw as victory because God used those struggles to my advantage (He increased my faith).

For those in the midst of storms, darkness, or waiting- ask yourself: Are you looking at your situation from a negative standpoint or a positive one?

Do you perceive this period as a time of challenge or a time to be challenged (as in motivated/rise to the occasion)?

Simply put- are you viewing this season through the eyes of a victim or victor?

Personally, whenever I look at my testing as a period of negative challenge and strife I often feel discouraged, unmotivated, and worst- depressed (absence of hope).  Consequently I don’t do anything- there aren’t any fruits to bear evidence of God’s love and grace.

But whenever I perceive my testing as an opportunity to learn, grow, and strengthen myself, I actually become excited!  In fact, in the past, those challenges stopped chasing me- I started chasing them!  I used every challenge as an opportunity to draw closer to God so that our relationship would deepen and His glory would be magnified.

During my church’s last bible study, my pastor commented, “The devil is more afraid of you than you should be of him.”  In truth, the devil is terrified of us because he knows our mighty God has plans for us.  The devil has countless examples of when God showed up and showed out for His people.  Please believe this: The enemy is well aware of God’s power and sovereignty and trembles at the sight of it:

You believe there is one God.  You do well.  Even the demons believe- and tremble! 
~ James 2:19

In order to protect himself, Satan goes into the offense- he attacks.  His defensive strategy serves in attempts to push you back, push you further from God and from your purpose.  The devil is terrified of what will happen when you submit to God’s Will and Plan over your life.  He wallows in complete fear and fury that God will get the glory (and please note: our Heavenly Father will always get the glory).

So the devil’s best defense is offense and how does he attack???

You got it!! Through our minds!  Remember, we wrestle not against flesh, but principalities. 

It’s all in our minds…

Last week during the devil’s attacks, while I had been in the wrestling ring, I never received any physical scars or bruises- it had all taken place in my mind!  I had been in no real danger because I had submitted myself to God and God had been close by (James 4:7-8). 

I do want to note: the battle against Satan is not ours to fight- it belongs to the Lord.  And while this is God’s war against evil, God does use us as His vessels in the war. During my prayer to God, I stated that I would not only be vigilant and aware of the devil’s schemes, I would boldly call out his lies. 

Which brings me to the last part of my prayer to God and my next topic: My role in the fight against the father of all lies (John 8:44). 

In the CBT environment, the therapist walks the individual through exercises that encourage cognitive reframing, the ideal of changing or shifting one’s mindset.  One particular exercise, cognitive restructuring, combats automatic thoughts or processes that can have a negative (unproductive) influence.  These irrational thoughts, or cognitive distortions, appear factual and truthful upon face value, but after closer inspection are determined to be misleading or false. 

Simply put: They’re lies.

The individual must first become cognizant, identify these distortions and then restructure their thoughts in order to strengthen or promote positivity (production).  As a therapist, I encouraged restructuring based solely on truths simply because the more accurate the statements, the more willing my clients were to believe and invest in them.  They were willing to marinate on the truth to the point it became ingrained in their very cognitive framework.

The same concept can be applied for us within our spirituality!

 We must first become cognizant (aware/vigilant), and identify (call out) these distortions (lies).  Relying solely on Truths (Scripture), we must restructure our thoughts in order to promote positivity (God’s love/fruits of the Holy Spirit).  We must be willing to marinate on these Truths until they become ingrained in our very spiritual framework.

Wanna hear some good news???

 If you have an active relationship with Christ, you more than likely have already practiced restructuring on countless times!

Scripture actually promotes the attitude and importance of cognitive restructuring, especially during times of testing.  In fact, I would argue that Scripture gave birth to the concept of restructuring!

Want some examples?  (Of course you do 😊)

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: ~ Philippians 4:11

If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. 
~ 1 Peter 4:14

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,  
~James 1:2

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made know to God;
~  Philippians 4:6


In each scripture, the writer challenges us to look positively on circumstances that at face value seem unpleasant or negative.  We are challenged to take a closer inspection of our testing- whether they come in the form of storms, darkness, or waiting-and restructure our spiritual thought process.  God wants us to perceive our circumstances through His eyes, the eyes of the Victor, and not through the enemy’s eyes, the eyes of the Defeated.

So as I prayed for Jesus, my Comforter, to walk with me, and the Holy Spirit to guide me through the week, I declared that I would be active in restructuring any distortions the devil attempted to throw my way.  Sure enough, I progressed through the week feeling comforted and at peace.  I was quick to call out any lies that entered my mind and replaced them with Truth.

In addition, this week I decided to play a little defense myself!

In order to stop or cancel any opportunities to complain (which is also part of the devil’s schemes), I challenged myself to restructure my words into praise.  Instead of complaining, I used my voice to give thanks and offer genuine praise to my Heavenly Father.

As I reflect over this week- that was in stark contrast to the previous week- I noted how much fun I had with God!  I talked animatedly to Him about my day and felt tickled- as if I had the privilege of sharing an inside joke with the Almighty God.

There were times when I even teased myself when I almost complained.  And during those moments when I actually slipped and voiced something negative, I quickly repented, offered thanksgiving, and moved on (with a laugh, I might add).  There weren’t any moments filled with intense regret and suffering as before…there weren’t any moments filled with harsh self-criticism.

Because of my reframing (shift in mindset), I migrated from a place of anxiety, fear, and discontent, to a place filled with peace, joy, and thanksgiving. 

And finally- FINALLY- I felt another shift.... I felt the most incredible emotion of all- blessed assurance.

This week, while I didn’t hear God’s voice, per se’, my faith in His continual presence allowed me to experience His peace and security as if He had been standing right in front of me.

In fact, as a result of His security, a particular part of Scripture from Psalm 23 loops constantly in my head:

“And I will dwell in the house of LORD Forever.”  (Amen.)

Can we say, “Winning?” 😊

And so, to encourage you to focus on your own spiritual reframing, I leave you with this scripture:

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy- meditate on these things.
~ Philippians 4:8

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

God bless!


Monday, January 16, 2017

Preparing For The BLESSings...

PART II

So to review,  (1) FAITH was the first concept God revealed that I needed to have in order to prepare for His Blessings.  From Scripture, we can look at another person who struggled with faith.  In Matthew, chapter 14, verses 28- 31, Jesus called Peter (Simon) out of the boat to walk to him.  And while Peter was able to take a few steps onto water, he grew afraid after he focused on the strong wind, and he began to sink.  In other words, because he took his eyes off Jesus, he panicked and began to sink. I did the same exact thing this week!  I panicked when I no longer “saw” (sense/felt) the Holy Spirit and began to sink under the devil’s attacks.  And just like Jesus lovingly chastised Peter for his lack of faith, I received the same loving reprimand this week.  While strengthening my faith, God reminded me not to doubt His presence because He had been there all along.

And so faith called me to trust without seeing:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
                                                                        ~ Hebrews 11:1


The topic of this entry is about preparing for God’s blessings because in this waiting season, God is still preparing me for mine.  Every new level of God’s grace brings forth new blessings, which unfortunately brings forth new devils; it brings forth new attacks.  And in order to persevere, in order to receive the victory Jesus already won for me (John 16:33), I must go deeper in my level of faith in God.  

The bigger the blessings, the more faith we must have in God to accomplish them.

Thus, faith is the foundation of preparation.  Not only are we to exercise this faith by speaking things into existence as if they’re already here, but we’re called to walk in faith as if those blessings have already happened.  Which takes me to the next concept or step needed to prepare for the blessings-

(2) Align yourself with God’s will.  While God wants us to boldly declare our desires and requests and speak life and existence into them, we must make sure those desires are aligned with God’s will for our lives:

Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
                                                            ~ Hebrews 13:20-21

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


In all things, we have to ensure what we desire is also what God desires for us.  We must first submit to His will and pursue His Kingdom in order to be guided towards asking for the blessings that would benefit us most.

3) Focus on the preparation and not the blessing.  You prayed about it, got confirmation that God would answer and deliver.  Now let it go and focus on the work and preparation.

 I’ll be honest- this was something I struggled with on a daily basis until I finally made the conscious decision to focus on the things I needed to learn in order to obtain my blessing.  I realized that whenever I focused on the outcome, I ignored the journey that would get me to those blessings.  In addition, I realized I would miss out on all the lessons I’d learn along the way that would teach me how to maintain those blessings and allow me to receive new ones.

Side Note: Think of this experience as the following description: God is the destination, Jesus is the train and tunnel, and the Holy Spirit is the conductor.  While God doesn’t want us to be Him, He wants us to grow in order to become more like Him.  And so, through Jesus Christ, God wants us to travel through this journey, with the Holy Spirit guiding us and making stops along the way, so we can arrive at our highest, most spiritual version of ourselves.  We were made in God’s image, and before sin, there had been no separation.  And now He wants us to evolve to our truer, Christ-like image so we can be reunited.  

Make no mistake- while God delights in giving us earthly blessings (that also serve to enhance our spiritual form) He wants us to eventually get home.  Heaven is our final destination and that is our biggest blessing.

Now let’s go back concept (3).  Ask yourself the following questions:

What do you need in order to successfully maintain God’s blessing and be a steward of it? 

If you were given the blessing today and were at risk of losing it, what do you think would lead to the actual lost?

What are you lacking (in regards to virtue, personality, and/or wisdom)?

Now, it may also be helpful to remember that the devil wants to curse what God wants to bless.  So look at the things you struggle with.  What are they?  Figuring out your weaknesses could serve as good indications of what you need to focus on while you prepare for your blessing.

In fact, let’s talk about certain blessings.  Oftentimes our blessings are connected to our true callings from God.   For example, part of my calling has to do with my mouth- I exhort; I motivate; I encourage.  I work in God’s Kingdom by uplifting His people.  Because I use my mouth as a gift, I had (and still have) to undergo some extensive work by God in order to be used effectively by Him.  Guess what-

He has to do the same for you!

So if you find yourself in a season of waiting because of your calling, know that God is working on your behalf.  God is always working on your behalf so you can fulfill your calling.  Know that while your circumstances may not be changing, God is changing you.  He is preparing you for your blessings.  And while it’s great that you have faith, be a dear and help Him out!  Do your part!

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?  Can faith save him?                                    ~ James 2:14

Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.   ~ James 2:17

Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?                                    ~ James 2:22

Need I continue? 😉  

Okay, let’s go on to the next concept, and I prefaced this one by saying it may be extremely hard to do-

(4) Offer the sacrifice of joy and praise. 

Now, when things are good, it may be easy to thank and praise God.  I’m sure you, like me, are quick to say, “Thank you!”  or “Hallelujah!” after God blesses you.  But what about those times when things are going wrong?  Note I said offer the sacrifice of joy and praise.  Think about those storms, and darkness, and seasons of waiting.  Could you praise Him then? 

Now, I will be honest and admit this has been challenging because it hasn’t always been easy to offer joy and praise to God during those moments.  I only just recently altered my mentality to embrace this concept.  You see, it’s logical to expect gratitude when God does something in your favor.  Anybody would expect that.  But it takes true worship to praise God in the midst of the storm.  Sometimes you gotta do some reaching on this one.  Sometimes you gotta push yourself on this one.  Sometimes you gotta dig deep on this one.  But it’s called sacrifice for a reason.  You’re giving something up (praise) when you don’t want to….when you don’t feel it….when it doesn’t make sense…when it hurts. 

Let’s head to Scripture and take a look at the book of Psalms, one of the most heartfelt, praise-filled books of the Bible, and it was written in parts by David in the midst of strife and tribulation (y’all, he was being chased and persecuted by his own son!):

O LORD, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth, Who have set Your glory above the heavens!                                    ~ Psalm 8:1

I WILL praise You, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works.  I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.
                                                                        ~ Psalm, 9:1-2

I WILL love You, O LORD, my strength, The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from enemies.                                    ~ Psalm, 18: 1-3

Are we willing to be like David, offering the sacrifice of joy and praise to God?  I strive to do just that.  In the midst of my waiting season, I strive to thank God for what He has already done and thank Him for what He will do.  I strive to thank Him for my hardships and heartache, knowing that He will work every cry and tear towards my favor and His good will.

Lastly, (5) Be still and allow God to fight your enemy.

Please let it be known- the enemy will come.  For me, it seems the devil comes and attacks the hardest right before I get my blessing.  It’s as if things become extremely hard for me right before my breakthrough.  Regardless, the blessing is ushered in with perfect timing.  In fact, we tend to get resistance when we force or try to push things to happen (trust me and my impatience- I know from personal experience what happens when we attempt to speed things along).  But when we wait on God and His timing, the blessing comes effortlessly; the doors open without resistance.

So when the enemy attacks, be still and let God fight for you.  Stay in scripture and beat the enemy with the best weapon on Earth- God’s Holy Word (Bible).  Fight Satan, the father of all lies, with God’s Truth.

Here are some Truths I rely on:

I already have the victory through Jesus Christ. (John 16:33)

God wants to bless me because I wait on Him.   (Isaiah 30:18)

I belong to God.  He calls me by name and I am His. (Isaiah 43:1)

God already had a purpose for me before I was even created. (Jeremiah 29:11)

God will always be with me.  He will never leave me. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

I want to end this entry with a quote I found from Pinterest; I’ve been in love with it ever since:

“Don’t be discouraged.  You’re almost there.  What God is giving you requires preparation, focus, commitment, and patience.  Discouragement is the enemy’s favorite tool to use against you.  He knows there is greatness inside you….”

And so, if it is God’s will, I will end by saying, “Until next time.”


God bless!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Preparing For The BLESSings...

PART I

Last week I spoke on how God uses the storms, darkness and seasons of waiting to launch miracles and blessings.  After God blessed me with another confirmation of my blessings (through the scripture 1 Samuel 12:16), I happily trotted along my path for a few days.  But then my impatience flared up once again, and worse, because of the length of my wait at this point, it was even mixed with a tinge of doubt (I know! I know!  Even after all His confirmations).  This time it was: “Were we really on the same page about my blessings?”  If so, when would I receive them? So one day I asked God just that, and His response was, “Prepare for your blessings.” 

Now, let me describe the tone of this response...

As a child, can you recall asking your mother or father over and over about something- or as a parent, recall having your child sound exactly like a broken record?  And after hearing the question asked so many times your parent gives you a directive?  Maybe it was:

 “I said we would be there in 10 minutes.  I’m not going to repeat myself again, so sit back and be quiet!”  (Can you guess what question that kid had asked???? 😊) 

Or maybe it was:

“What did I just say?”  (Head nod) “Uh huh, now do as you’re told!”

The tone was never mean or threatening, but firm.  Well, this was the tone I heard from God.  I guess I had become like a broken record to Him and His response was swift and firm, with no room to negotiate. There was no room for:

“But God, when you said that, did you mean…?”

Or

“Well, what about we do this instead...?”

Nope!  God had shut down any opportunities for me to go back and forth with Him!

So, I focused on His response: “Prepare for your blessings.”  And I wondered, “Well, how do I do that?” 

Throughout this week, I faced some struggles and landed on the first major concept I needed in order to prepare for those blessings.  Because of the enormity and importance of this concept, I decided to divide this blog entry into two parts, with the first part dedicated entirely to this concept and the second part detailing the others.

So what’s the most important step?

Alright, Part I is all about… (drum roll)…

FAITH.

I know I’ve spoken on this previously, but I have to go back to it because of this week.  Like I mentioned a few sentences back, this week had its challenges, as well as its strengths.  In fact, literally right before I sat down to write this entry, God blessed with wisdom about a particular struggle I had faced earlier this week.  I want to repeat- this LITERALLY happened- as in JUST. NOW.

Not to digress, but talk about an on-time God.  More to come on His timing later, but for now, let me provide some context:

A while back I was required to attend an 8-week membership orientation in order to join my church.  During one of the classes, my instructor spoke on our new relationship in Christ and how it would relate to the Holy Trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit).  She mentioned that it was common for newly converted or “baby” Christians to experience or feel God’s presence quickly.  Like a baby needing parental guidance and care, God would oftentimes manifest Himself (through presence or quickly answered prayers) in order to strengthen our walk of faith.  As we grew, we would encounter more of Jesus, whose role was compared to that of a “big brother.”  (Picture being a pre-teen or teenager who ran to your “big brother” for help against bullies.)  As we continued in our walk of faith, we would eventually encounter the Holy Spirit who served as a guide and provided wisdom.  From the instructor’s explanation, the Holy Spirit was a sign of maturity and like an adult able to handle responsibility and quiet duty, we would need that maturity in order to seek out the Holy Spirit’s soft, but prominent presence to assist us as our walk grew more challenging.

Sounds exciting to reach the level of the Holy Spirit, right? Well let me tell you, I was shocked and surprised after I realized I had come to this stage in maturity.   And to be frank, I wasn’t all too happy.  You see, I was spoiled- so used to having God show up and show out quickly…so used to Jesus coming to save the day and protect me.  Previously I would pray and He would immediately answer.  But I found this wasn’t the case now, especially in my season of waiting.

Now let’s roll back that beautiful footage of this week:

Because I was thankful of what God has done and would do for me, I continued to seek out His Will and what would please Him.  I even prayed for God to strengthen my faith in Him; I wanted the kind of faith that would please Him:

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
                                                                                    ~ Hebrews 11:6

Because I wanted to be His vessel, I also made the decision to live a life completely dependent on Him.  The request, I knew, was big, because essentially, I declared I no longer wanted to make decisions that simply pleased me- I wanted to please Him and accept the path He wanted me on.  That required a deeper level of trust.  So, I even changed how I prayed- I no longer asked God to allow my day to run smoothly, but instead asked for His will to be done for me throughout that day, allowing whatever obstacles He felt necessary to occur.  I only asked that He remembered His promise: that He would provide me with the necessary tools I would need in order to make it through each day:

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

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.                                    ~ Philippians 4:19

As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue. 
                                                                        ~ 2 Peter 1:3

This prayer was new territory for me because I was allowing myself to face the discomfort of relying completely on someone else- not only that, but I would rely on a Spirit (which I could not see) to assist me.  And so, I continued to accept my season of waiting along with my desire to depend solely on Him.  I was expectant, but still excited.  Of course those fickle feelings changed once I faced this week’s struggle: how to respond when I no longer felt His Presence through the Holy Spirit.

During my last entry, I shared about my battles against the schemes of the enemy due to my obedience to God.  Well, the devil hadn’t stopped this week and so I continued to ask the Holy Spirit to guide and provide me with wisdom in order to face the events throughout each day.  Well, at one point, I was surprised when it seemed the Holy Spirit didn’t answer.  In fact, I spent one day almost entirely in prayer and meditation because it seemed as if the devil was having a party inside my mind.  I experienced a rush of negative thoughts filled with doubt, criticism, and uncertainty that I could not battle.

And so I pleaded with the Holy Spirit to help me; I called on Jesus, and then sought out my Father.  But I only heard silence…

By the end of the day I was exhausted and confused because the devil still progressed.  I didn’t want to believe the lies and fall victim to the attacks; I wanted to remain obedient.  That night while in bed, I cried out to God to make the attacks stop.

He responded immediately and not even a mere second later, the attacks stopped.

At that point though, I experienced a myriad of emotions because I had specifically prayed to be entirely dependent on Him.  That day had been rough and I honestly felt God had let me down.  I was confused- why had it taken Him all day before He had answered?  I was hurt- weren’t my pleas earlier that day enough? And I was angry- didn’t He see my heart and knew I was desperate to please Him?  That I wanted to remain obedient?

The next day I reflected over the previous day’s happenings:

“Had I committed any sin that blocked God from answering?”

“Did I offend Him in anyway?”

I pondered over these questions and came to no conclusion.  Still, I decided to press on and continue through my confusion.  I refused to let the struggles from that day deter me.

Okay, let me take a short detour for a moment and talk about the mechanisms behind my blog.  For this particular blog, my entries are written weekly to detail things that occur throughout each week.  I like to post my entries early Sunday morning.  Now, it’s been that on the following Monday, I get ideas about the next blog and simply jot them down.  As the day passes, I pray for guidance and God typically lets me know the idea He wants me to focus on.  Over the next few days, while He provides a general direction for me, it’s not uncommon for God to actually provide the words and scripture until the end of week, typically right as I’m about to draft my entry.

I already knew the general direction God wanted me to go after the idea of this blog entry came to mind, but I didn’t have the words because He had yet to reveal them. Now, remember when I said earlier that He literally gave me wisdom about the struggle I had faced this week right as I started writing this entry?  Let’s go back to that because this is where everything ties in.

Sure enough, God didn’t give me the words for this entry until I sat down to write it.  And now, LITERALLY, as I write this- I understand why.  His words for this blog entry are the same words He has blessed me with as an explanation to this week’s struggles.

You see, although I don’t receive the words to my blog until the end of the week- again, sometimes I don’t get them until I sit down to write- I don’t panic because I just know He will deliver. I’m certain He will answer in His way and in His timing, which is always perfect. 

And so, the wisdom in all of this- from my struggles this week, to when He responded to my attacks, and to when He delivered the words to my blog- goes back to the one prayer request I had made…

God had only been answering my prayer to strengthen my faith in Him. 

In this week alone, God instantly worked to bring me answers and clarity on multiple levels to my prayer.  He also worked according to His Will for me.  He used this week’s struggles to not only strengthen my faith in Him, but to strengthen my patience (which goes back to His Will and what He has asked of me during this time). 

Ironically, yet brilliantly- He used His timing to do so.

First, God provided me with an example of what trusting in Him- with all struggles- looked like.   Just like I had faith that He would provide the words for my blog in the “nick of time,” God literally- just now- reminded me that I also must have faith that He will help me face whatever obstacles come my way, but also in the “nick of time.” 

You know how a baby sometimes “fake” cries to get his/her parents’ attention?  The parents are always around, always nearby, but let the baby cry because to their discerning ears, the parents recognize the baby is actually fine; there is no real danger present.  Well, I realized I had been that baby this week.  At one point, I had become extremely uncomfortable and wanted the comfort of my parent; I had wanted the comfort of my Father.  And my heavenly Father- who invented discernment, mind you- seeing no real danger, permitted me to cry. 

Although the devil had attacked- I had been in no real danger!

However, I was the one- I had been that baby- who falsely perceived danger when there was none.  And yet, like any good parent, God did come to soothe my cries.  But He waited because He wanted me grow.  He was teaching me how to strengthen myself; He was teaching me how to strengthen my walk of faith… He was simply answering my prayer.

Also like a good parent, my Father reminded me that He had been, and would always be, present.  He reminded me that His promise still held true: He would never leave me, nor forsake me:

“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD, your God, He is the One who goes with you.  He will not leave you nor forsake you.”
                                                                                    ~ Deuteronomy 31:6


In end, I learned that I exercise true faith when I know God is present although I may not be able to feel Him or sense His Holy Spirit.  I show true faith when, although I feel blind and severely uncomfortable, I continue to press through the discomfort, trusting He is always near and available. While God always shows up whenever I truly need Him, I must mature if I’m to do what He has called me to do.  Like a baby who is first given milk before he can take on solid food (1 Corinthians 3:2), I must mature in my walk of faith in order to maintain my blessings and be a good steward of them.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

All For His Glory!

First, I want to preface to whom this specific blog entry is for.  I wrote this for those who are lost in darkness and cannot find the light…for those who are in the midst of a storm and cannot see a way out.  This specific entry is for those individuals who have tried to stand strong for as long as they could, only to be left with just enough strength to kneel or fully lay down on the floor.  I wrote this entry for that person who is in a season of waiting…

I wrote this entry for me.

Can I give you some context behind this particular entry?  The last couple of weeks have been trying on a personal level, so trying that last Saturday I had no energy, no strength; I could only kneel onto my floor.  You see, I’m in a period of waiting.  While I’ve been blessed by God to know that wisdom, I’ve also come to the conclusion that waiting while blind or unsure of what the outcome is or how the story will end isn’t the most challenging to face- at least not for me.  Quite the contrary, waiting while knowing what I will receive is the most challenging.  You see, God blessed me with two dreams and a vision detailing His blessings, but it came with a condition: I had to wait in order to receive them.  Now, this may sound like a small task for some, but I’ll disclose a detail about myself- I’m extremely impatient (hence, why God requires that I wait…).

Can anyone else relate?  Yeah, I thought so. 

Unfortunately, impatience is something our culture suffers from- fast-pace, quick results, “Give it to me now!” (Think Veruca Salt from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory).   I’m guilty of this very thing.  I’m a natural go-getter.  I like results; I like to get them fast and waiting has definitely been hard for someone like me.

And so I begrudgingly accepted my period of waiting.  Little by little, I became more comfortable with my season, but in my sense of comfort I forgot one thing- God always encourages us to grow and oftentimes we only grow out of discomfort.  So no matter how comfortable I was in my season of waiting, I would never make the most out of it; I would never fully learn from it.   If waiting became predictable, I wouldn’t grow from it because I would face the risk of trusting in my own strength.

Let me stop and ask a question: Do you ever feel you get challenged the most when you’re trying to do right???

Yeah, I feel the same.  In fact, that’s exactly what has been happening to me.

I realized I was facing attacks because of my obedience- MY OBEDIENCE!!!  Because I had been obediently waiting on God, the devil was giving me the “stank eye.”  Several days ago, I came across a quote Vicki Yohe had shared on Facebook: “The devil won’t bother you while you’re living in sin, he’ll bother you when you’re trying to get out.”

The devil knew what God was preparing for me and he wanted me to step out of God’s will (i.e. Be disobedient) to prevent my blessing from occurring.  And so he stirred up drama and heartache to tempt me to grow impatient.  The devil used everyday factors and interactions, like relationships and friendships, to attack me.  And God allowed him to do so because He wanted me to grow.  Please remember the scripture from last week’s blog entry:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
                                                                        ~ Romans 8:28

God used the very things the devil meant for bad for my good.  And most importantly, He used those things for His glory.  As I mentioned last week, I’ve learned that I needed God and that need is continual and on a daily basis. I couldn’t handle those fiery attacks on my own; I would never be able to (with)stand on my own.   Which is why I can fast-forward (or back) to Saturday (in the midst of my waiting season) when I found myself kneeling before God to recognize and ask for His strength and to thank Him- all for His glory!

Now let’s go to Scripture and look at other people who also had to endure through a waiting season.  From the Old Testament, in Exodus, we see the people of Israel who were in the midst of the biggest hardship imaginable- they were enslaved and oppressed.  God sent Moses to free His people, but Moses had to face a stern and obstinate Pharaoh.  In fact, Scripture shows where God intentionally hardens Pharaoh’s heart:

And the LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh which I have put in your hand.  But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.
                                                                        ~ Exodus 4:21

And so each time Moses worked a miracle through God’s power, Pharaoh hardened his heart.  Why?  I believe we can find the answer in Exodus 6:2:

And God spoke to Moses and said to him: “I am the Lord.

God wanted everyone- the people of Israel and the Egyptians- to bear witness to the sheer omnipotence and wonder that is God and God alone.

But the LORD said to Moses, “Pharaoh will not heed you, so that My wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.”
                                                            ~Exodus 11:9

God worked, using even evilness (Pharaoh’s tyranny and obstinacy) for the good of His people.  And the more evil, the more hardened, Pharaoh grew, the more God worked on behalf of His people.  In other words, the darker the days seemed to the people of Israel, the brighter God’s light was able to shine so that ultimately, God performed a miracle on behalf of His people- He freed them:

So the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.  Thus Israel saw the great work which the LORD had done in Egypt; so the people feared the LORD, and believe the LORD and His servant Moses.
                                                            ~ Exodus 14:30-31

Sometimes God purposefully allows for situations and people (yes, even loved ones) to harden.  God can and will use even your enemies, so in the end, you- as well as they- will know without a shadow of doubt that it is by the power of God that you overcome and persevere.  That it is by the love from God that you are blessed.  And because of who God is, God can and will perform miracles on your behalf.  All for His Glory!

Can I give another example?  Okay, now let’s head over to the New Testament and look at the story of Lazarus in John, chapter 11.  Lazarus, who was ill, was the brother of Martha and Mary.  Scripture shares that Jesus loved Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, but when a message was sent to Jesus regarding Lazarus’s illness, Jesus decided to remain where He was for two more days (John 11:4-6).

Let me just stop on that because I need to let that one marinate for a bit- Jesus loved them and yet waited (Two. More. Days)!  In fact, in verses 11-14, Jesus knew that Lazarus had died.  So why did He wait?  I believe that answer begins in verse 15:

“And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe.  Nevertheless let us go to him.”

When Jesus finally went to Martha and Mary, He asked Martha if she believed that Jesus was “the resurrection and the life” and stated whoever lived and believed in Jesus would “never die” (verse 25).  And so Martha confessed to that belief and Jesus proceeded to go to Lazarus, who, at that point, had been dead in a tomb for four days.  Once there, He turned to Martha again:

Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”

And so after giving thanks to God, Jesus called Lazarus to come forth from the tomb- He resurrected Lazarus from the dead.

Just like Jesus (Son of God/God in man form) loved Lazarus, Martha, and Mary yet waited two days to return to see them, God sometimes calls us to wait because He loves us so much.  Sounds odd, right?  Well there’s a saying I tell myself to remind me of how God answers prayers: He says, “Yes,” and gives us what we want, or says, “No,” and gives us something better, or says, “Wait,” and gives us the best.  Not only did Jesus choose to wait to bring Lazarus from the dead in order to make new believers, He also waited so that Martha’s faith could be tested and perfected so she could bear witness to the glory of God.

There are times when God puts us in a season of waiting so He can perform a miracle.  And oftentimes, during that period of waiting, we must bear discomfort and testing so that our faith in God-which pleases Him and sets our blessings into motion- is strengthened.

James 1: 2-4 says: My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

Not only does God want to bless us, He wants us to be mature enough (perfect and complete) to manage the blessing and be a steward of it.  So again, to flash back to me kneeling on that floor due to the weight of my current season and its trials, I decided I was in the perfect position to praise Him.

And so I did….

I thanked Him for every hardship, strife, and hurdle.  I thanked Him for every uncomfortable minute in my season of waiting because I knew He would use this season to bless me.  He would use the very things meant for evil against me for my good (Genesis 50:20).

Sure enough, while on the floor, God confirmed my faith in Him and this process with the following scripture:

“Now therefore, stand and see this great thing which the LORD will do before your eyes:
                                    ~ 1 Samuel 12:16

And so I stood, this time stronger, with more faith in God and receiving more power from Him than I had before I had kneeled.

So to those too weak to stand- I say, “Don’t.”  Don’t stand…kneel.  Because by kneeling you put yourself in perfect position to connect to God... to draw on the strength you need from Him (Isaiah 40:29).   Kneeling puts you in the perfect position to stand so you can witness the great thing God will do before your very eyes.

To those in the midst of the storm, to those caught in the darkness, and to those in a season of immobility- wait on the LORD.  And even count it all joy because the longer you wait, the mightier God will work in your favor.  And the mightier God works in your favor, the more miraculous your blessing will be.  And in the end, you will recognize His power and greatness, and He will receive the glory-

All for His glory!

I want to end this entry with a list of scriptures I’ve found incredibly strengthening and encouraging during this season of waiting.  I hope you find them just as motivating.  If it is God’s will, I shall conclude by saying, “Until next time.”

God bless!

Scriptures

Isaiah 40:31- But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary; They shall walk and not faint.

Psalm 27:14- Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!

Psalm 33: 20-22- Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield, For our heart shall rejoice in Him, Because we have trusted in His holy name.  Let your mercy, O LORD, be upon us, Just as we hope in You.

Psalm 37:7- Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.

Psalm 46:5- God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.

Psalm 46:10- Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

Hebrews 11:1- Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:6- But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Romans 12:12- rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer

Ephesians 6:16- above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.

Galatians 3:5- Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?-

Jeremiah 29:11- For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Joshua 3:5- And Joshua said to the people, “Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.”

Philippians 4:11- Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:

Hebrews 12:1-2- Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us,  and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Lamentations 3:25-26- The LORD is good to those who wait on Him, To the soul who seeks Him.

Exodus 14:14- “The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”

Isaiah 40:29- He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength.

Hebrews 6:15- And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.