Have You Not Heard?

It’s not unusual to wake up with a scripture on my mind. Every morning at 1 am, I read my Bible and pray. I then return to sleep until 4 am. So, you would think I would awake with the scriptures I read the night before. So why is this scripture in Isaiah on my mind? I first go back to my Bible to find that scripture and read its full context. It hit me right away; the Lord reminds us to think about who God is; He is our strength when we are weak. He stands ready to give us the stamina we need when we get tired. He will lift us when we fall. The scripture is challenging; have you ever experienced Him? How can you not know? How is it that you have not heard? 

Have you not heard

As I read these scriptures, I realized how limited we are in our way of thinking. I recalled Isaiah 55:8-9, which says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. Then why do we, as humans, think we know what God would think about another person’s decisions? Why do we claim that one person’s way of thinking is better than another? Or do we act as if one group of people is less than human while another is superior? What makes us think that we can judge one minister’s ways of teaching are not of God? How do we take on such a severe and superior role when God is the superior one, not us? We sometimes act as if we know what God will say or do when we do not. I honestly believe when we understand that we cannot be God, maybe we can then exercise the humility needed in this world that will bring each other’s lives more joy.

I have seen the power of the Lord in my life through the miracles He performed. I have seen God’s power through my ability to face my worst fears and survive. I have heard about Him my entire life, but more importantly, I have experienced Him in so many ways that I can begin to tell. I hope you also have. But if you have not, please try to watch for Him. You will find Him.

Review your life and watch for the moments when you know it is God who intervened. Look for Him in small things you know you could not have worked out for yourself and marvel at the big things you know you could not have delivered on your own. You may see these things as coincidences, but they are not. I assure you of that one thing; they are not. Then you will be able to tell another with conviction, do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God!

Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:28-31`

It’s Your Calling. Embrace It!

For many years, I have talked repeatedly and positively about how each of us is uniquely called by God. I have preached that everyone should recognize that and never let anyone take that away. I have even cautioned others not to allow the enemy to convince you that you are less valuable.  

God made you unique

After all the years of saying that to others and myself, I sometimes question my calling. Why is that? Why do the most confident people ask if they have unique talents? I’ll tell you why. It’s because when we do not use it or feel that we fail at whatever we initially thought was that gift, our humanness causes us to question. When we know we heard from God to take a job, to move to another city and start a ministry, to step out and sing, or the thousands of other things I know He has given people, we doubt. Initially, the excitement sets in, and we are rearing to go. However, after the initial exhilaration, we begin to question. That questioning of oneself turns into talking ourselves out of what we know to be true. We talk ourselves out of what we heard. That’s the doubt, which is the enemy’s potent weapon. But remember, when God calls us, He will equip us!

In times past, I have said that each calling looks different. The unique gifts God has given you are for you, and the ones He has given me are for me. Maybe you don’t feel there is anything special about you. You may think God blessed others with unique talents, but not you. I want to gently remind you of the scripture in Romans 11:29, “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable (for He does not withdraw what He has given, nor does He change His mind about those to whom He gives His call”). 

romans 11-29

The next time you feel down or allow someone to put limitations on you, repeat that scripture to yourself. Also, remember Eleanor Roosevelt’s words, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” So please don’t give it to them.

Losing Someone is Hard…

As an adult, I have experienced the loss of people. I’ve shared laughs and sad times or just shared life milestones with them. Yet, to this day, I get overwhelmed with emotion when I lose someone, whether a family member, friend, or acquaintance. It always seems too soon.

psalm34-18

Recently, I experienced a loss, and it caused me to stop and reflect over the last two years. What dawned on me was several of the losses were so unexpected. None of these special people had any significant health issues, and several losses came out of nowhere. One precious friend of 54 years old had a slip and fall, was taken to the doctor, and never returned home. Another sweet young woman, about 30, didn’t wake up one morning. A dear friend, whom I loved like a brother, went into the hospital and never came out. Finally, I was recruited in 2020 by a lovely woman who led me to my current organization. She was a happy and vibrant person, ready to move back East to be with her husband, who had recently relocated due to work. Unfortunately, she too slipped away in her sleep at 50 years old. Fifty may seem old to some, but to me, it’s the prime of life.

Because my mother died at 28, I was always fearful that I, too, would die young. However, once I passed a particular milestone, I was so happy. I remember thanking God for the grace of allowing me to live to see 30. Not once did I think that maybe she was an anomaly, especially as I stopped and reflected on how old my grandmother, great grandmother, and great aunt had lived. My grandmother was near 90; I think 86 or 87 years old. However, my great grandmother and great aunt had lived to be 98 and 99, respectively. So even my grandfather had lived a long life.

Nonetheless, I was scared my life would be cut short. Fortunately, I am still going. However, no matter how much I may want to stay on this earth, I will have to close my eyes and breathe my last breath. There will be no more laughter to hear or milestones to share.

I know this; we do not have to be forever sad when we lose someone. One of my coping mechanisms that help today is to reflect on the time I had with that person. If they were Believers, I know they shut their eyes here, but they opened them in the presence of our Lord. So, if you are feeling sad because someone you knew is gone, be sorry for a short time, but then think about how much they made you laugh. Then embrace that warmth, hold onto it, and ask God to help you release and let go of the pain.

Let me share a Biblical perspective that can help. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 73:26 “My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.” Finally, never forget this scripture that promises comfort in your time of mourning. Matthew 5:4 says,  “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”

The pain of loss is hard, but God will help you overcome it all.

Turn Worry into Worship

All my life, I have heard the phrase, “Be kind. You never know what someone might be going through.” I believe people think of a particular type when they use this statement. They do not think of people like me. They do not think that a confident, educated person, and what some see as successful, is going through anything; they don’t think someone like me needs others to be kind. But I do! I do because I, just like you, face attacks.

Confident people try hard to hold life together for themselves and others. Early in life, we are taught that we can handle anything. We have somehow bought into the narrative, “What does not kill you makes you stronger.” We are taught to stand up in the face of controversy and not allow others to get to us. The truth is, I think people like me get tired of standing and fighting our battles in quiet only to be attacked in public. That’s no fun at all.

Lately, I have had to face the cruel reality that sometimes, when people seem to be okay, they are not. I am not a naive person, and I have lived long enough to know that everything and everyone may not be what they present to others, but it is still shocking to the system when you come face-to-face with this reality. To go head-to-head with people you respect is no fun. I found myself in the middle of a war. The situation was so irrational that I honestly did not know how to navigate erratic behavior, disruption, and personal attacks. I wanted to lash out but had to think about professional comportment and spiritual responsibility. Aren’t I suppose to turn the other cheek, am I supposed to fight back?

Jesus told us to turn the other cheek. Matthew 5:38-42 says, “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” Oh wow, that’s pretty clear.

There are so many Bible passages that tell me not to worry because God’s got me covered. He has told me many times not to be a coward but to be courageous and not lose heart. However, when I have to face evil, my spirit faints. I shake at the core, and my anxiety level goes through the roof!
Yet, I have also noticed that those moments when I am scared only last a little while. As soon as I get my footing, I run to the Word for support. The Word of God fuels my faith, and I am ready for the next thing. I tell myself, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I remind myself of Joshua 1:9, which says, ” Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Or Deuteronomy 31:6,8, which says, “Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them because the Lord your God goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.”

You see, there are many scriptures of support in the Word of God. The more I repeat them to myself, the more I can feel my strength rising. I can see my countenance change from anxiety, defeat, and cowardice to one of courage, confidence, and calm, trusting that He is with me whatever I face, and He will defend me.

What battles are you fighting today? What person or situation has you up at night wondering what you will do or how you will handle your next attack? Instead of worrying about the person or thing, turn your worry into worship. Join me as I stop worrying about what someone might say or do to try and hurt me, to thank God for protecting me where He placed me for the time He has called me.

Focus on the Positive

It is springtime! I always love it when we get to this time of the year, especially this year, as we come out of the restrictions imposed in 2020. Like me, I am sure you never thought we would experience a pandemic in our lifetime. However, here we are. Not only is the world dealing with the ramifications of the pandemic, but we have also watched a stabilized nation become destabilized and people who were living everyday lives, all of a sudden, displaced.

ThinkOnTheseThings-600x439-2

 


I don’t know about you, but if I wasn’t so focused on being optimistic about the future, I could find myself in a place of despair. From 2020 until now, I can count the various things that could cause people to want to give up. I want to encourage you to hold on, have faith, trust God, and believe times will change for the better. Is that pie-in-the-sky? Maybe. I intend always to offer hope because my faith demands it.

One of my favorite scriptures encourages just that; to have faith. I know times have been hard. We have been challenged repeatedly over the last two years, but we cannot give up if we want to live full lives again. Do you? I do. As long as I live here on this earth, I intend to live life to the fullest. When there has been a window to travel, I did. When I had the opportunity to go out and eat dinner with friends, I have, and when I could go to a store, spa, or office, I was thrilled to do so. Because we need each other and isolation helps no one. I believe isolation sets up the environment for emotional and mental harm. I love my solitude, but I also recognize the dangers of too much isolation. It is easy to fall into dark spaces when no outside voice is there to remind you of your goodness. Sometimes, we need to be reminded of the possibilities and look forward to a better and brighter tomorrow.

Oprah said, “The future is so bright that it hurts my eyes?” That is what we have had to remember during days of chaos. And we must remind ourselves of the happy days ahead, whether we see them or not, believe they are there. Never forget that we are what we think and what we think begins with what we allow our minds to consume. To ensure our minds are optimistic, we must be selective and intentional. How can we ensure we have the correct thinking? Look to the scriptures. Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on these things.”

I don’t know about you, but I believe the future is so bright, it hurts my eyes!

Be Still & Wait…

Here we are again. Blessed to see another March, and hopefully, springtime will show up shortly. As I readied myself for my morning run, I checked the temperature outside to find it was supposed to be a pleasant 51 degrees—that’s warm weather when you are a runner! So, instead of putting on layers of long-sleeved shirts, I put on what I thought would be suitable for my run— a tank top, thin cotton shirt, and a little jacket. The minute the garage opened, and I was on the other side, I could feel the chilly air. Boy, I thought it would be warmer, I said to myself. However cold I felt, I refused to go back inside to change and just kept to my scheduled run.

Be still

While my feet hit the pavement, I ran up the hill and immediately noticed the flashing lights. The closer I got, I could see a truck was on top of the median facing me, and a tow truck was on the opposite side, blocking the departing traffic and trying to get adjusted in a position to tow the vehicle. 

As I ran down the hill, away from the vehicles, I tried not to look but found myself locking eyes with the distressed vehicle driver and the tow truck driver. I looked away and kept running, yet I noticed only one or two cars waiting for the tow truck to clear the path. When I got down the hill and began my trek back up, as I approached the spot of the truck and tow truck, I noticed that many backed-up cars were waiting and probably trying to get to work.

I wonder what happened? Several times I have seen folks lose control and crash in that median. I have seen people speed on that hill as if they were on a motor speedway. I wonder what was so urgent this particular morning for this man. I would not be honest if I said that I hadn’t done my share of speeding up and down that mountain. But when I see the flashing slow-down sign, I am jolted into realizing just how fast I am going, and I slow down to the posted 45 miles per hour sign.

To see this guy made me think about me and others who are so fast to get where we are going. Today’s society, especially in the western world, is all about getting it done and not wasting time. We say, “Time is money,” or “Don’t waste my time,” or “Lead, follow, or get out of the way!”  We have no time for those who waste it. And yet I think we are correct when we rush to get something done when maybe that’s the opposite of what God wants from us.

Suppose God wants us to stop, listen, and then move once we are sure that what we are rushing to accomplish is aligned with His will for our lives? Just what if we are running in a direction that is opposite from where He wants us to be?

Perhaps, the answer lies in Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Spiritual Disciplines

Spiritual disciplines have always been a massive part of my life. I do not do all of them all the time, but I do most of them all the time. Spiritual disciplines include Church attendance, Bible reading, Prayer, and Fasting. Many Believers participate in the first three but not so much concerning Fasting.Spiritual-disc-fasting

Every year, hundreds, if not thousands of people worldwide participate in the spiritual discipline of Fasting. Fasting is designed to deny yourself and become introspective as you read the Bible and pray. Some think of it as something special, while others think it is weird and outdated. Let’s face it, today, people would say, “Why are you denying yourself? Don’t do that.” However, I recall the generation of my grandparents saying and believing that you move the hand of God when you shove the plate away and pray.

I have participated in Fasting for many years. Each time I would enter that time with the hope that God would show me what He wanted me to do in the new year. This year was no different; I entered the year being excited, focused, and intense about seeking the Lord. I will be the first to admit that I sometimes approach spiritual disciplines expecting God to show up in a loud and active way, but that’s not been His practice with me over the years. This year was no different.

What did happen was something very practical for my life and done in the most subtle and gentle way. God showed me that I need to relax and not be so high-strung. I need to pull back when I feel my anxiety rising, and I need to watch how I work with others so that I do not drive them so hard that they feel fearful or exhausted. I honestly think that is the purpose of Fasting—getting quiet and allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal our areas of deficiencies so that we can be better. These revelations are not designed for us to feel condemnation, guilt, or self-loathing. Instead, revelations help us face who we are and understand our need for Jesus.

My grandparents taught me that Fasting was not public and showy; it is a private matter, a commitment to spend time in God’s presence. I mention Fasting because I think it has become more of a fad or ritual for some, rather than the act of really seeking God’s face. I noticed this year I repeatedly said to others that I was Fasting and immediately felt condemned because I did not want them to think I was boasting. As a result, I found myself evaluating my thoughts and motives. See, self-evaluating is always a good thing. That’s why I love the scriptures. It tells us that God loves us, but He also knows our hearts and tests our anxious thoughts.

Embrace Today…

If you are like me and can look back over the last two years and say you are still happy & peaceful, I do not think we should only say we are grateful, but we must live our lives like we are. I have always been a hopeful person, but more than ever, I feel the need to live today because God has blessed me with it.

make-today-great-inspirational-quote-written-wooden-box-78978859

The older I get, the more aware I am of how much time I might have left on this earth. However, the last two years brought it home. Not only did we live in isolation the first year, thinking by the end of the year we would emerge happy and healthy, but we also entered a second year with the same challenges that kept us guarded and somewhat isolated as the year before. Then, just when we thought we were coming out of a pandemic, variations of a virus, we all came to know as COVID-19 began to show up in the form of Delta and Omicron. Our lives started to unravel again as we had to go back to measures that had already exhausted us.


In addition to the pandemic, we had to deal with other issues of life that could have quickly taken away our hope. For me, the last year brought about traumatic matters to my life. Friends who I loved and cared about deeply, without any warning, were no longer here. How could that be? Angel was only 28; Melanie was not even 50! Mike was still playing music and maybe 60! The loss of these precious friends and unique relationships caused the realness of how uncertain our time here is to set in. I still don’t think I have recovered yet. Anytime I experience a series of losses, I start to reflect on my mortality. I wonder if you also do. Mortality is hard to face, yet we all must meet it someday.

grateful for today

As we enter this New Year, I do not want to do so with a sad and depressing message. Instead, I want to offer hope. I want to remind you that today is yours if you are blessed to see it. Tomorrow is not promised, and we never know when it may be our last. And no matter what tomorrow holds, just be assured that God has tomorrow. He also offers hope. Despite all that happened during the previous two years, what I remember most are the beautiful things that happened in my life. I got a new job, another degree, a new home, and new friends. See? Even when we go through stuff that makes us feel helpless, we have to look for the other things God sends along the way. I bet you will find that you experienced as many beautiful things as you did of the other.


Whenever you need to lift yourself out of a funk in the new year, turn to the one source that offers hope to the hopeless, peace to the unsettled, and joy amid sadness. Do not look to your surroundings to be joyful; you will be lost. Look to God. Psalm 42:5-6 reads, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.” The Psalmist is saying, “I don’t care what state I find myself in, and right now it is in total despair; God is still my hope.”


For any challenges you face in the New Year, hold on to scripture that gives you hope. Tell yourself today is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad. Be intentional in the way you embrace the day. Someone may need you to lift them. May our God of peace fill your heart with love, joy, peace, and confidence that today is a day you choose to bless Him and others.

Reflect Lately?

I was out running one morning recently, and as my feet pounded the pavement in the early morningsunset hours, I noticed the sky was a beautiful red and blue color. I didn’t stop; I kept running, trying to get my workout done. However, I felt as though the red was getting redder and the blues bluer as I ran. I still would not stop (I needed to get done). At some point, though, I felt God had been trying to get my attention gently, but because I didn’t listen, it felt as though He yelled, “Stop and look!” So, I did. I stopped and looked at the sky with amazement. I then took out my iPhone and began taking pictures. I posted those pictures to social media, and apparently, more than 100 people felt the same about how beautiful they were. As I viewed those pictures, I was able to reflect on God’s goodness. What a wonderful life I have lived. I thank God every day for blessing my life as He has done, and I want to be and do all that God has called me to be and do.

Like many of you, the last year has caused me to reflect a lot. Not just because of the pandemic, but as you grow older, I think one tends to look at life and wonder if you left the earth today, would you have made a difference. I am not saying that we must make some vast world-changing impact, but I wonder who will miss me when I am not here anymore. I realize initially, people are sad that we are no longer around, but after a while, even they settle into their own lives, and those they have lost may slowly fade into the background. Anyway, as I reflect on my life, I quickly recognize that I have more years behind me than in front.

What about you? Have you reflected lately? Have you thought about how each day you make a ripple effect into the lives of others? I have. Recently a person told me that I made a significant difference in her life years ago. She said that although college was accessible to her, it was just not something she had thought of pursuing until she met me. Today, she holds advanced degrees. As such, I began to think about several people I had encouraged to go to school so that they would have opportunities that may have evaded them otherwise. They did, and those doors opened. They don’t have to give me any credit; that’s not what I am looking for at all. But I will say it makes me feel good that this one person didn’t wait until it was time for my eulogy to let me see that I made a difference.

Person sitting quietly on the edge of a dock watching the sunset

Today, think about how you can impact others in significant ways. As much as people can frustrate, disappoint, and anger us, God calls us to think of others. I know it is hard, but God will make sure to reward you for your acts of selflessness. Remember, we don’t need recognition here on earth; although it is nice, we need to do what God has called us to do and let Him handle the rest. I am confident in saying that I guarantee He will.

Why Gratitude?

It should come as no surprise that during this time of year, I would focus on Gratitude. So, before I sat down to write my column this month, I stopped and reflected on the word. I don’t want to go through the same old sentiments you hear year after year. Because quite frankly, Gratitude is something I believe we take for granted. Do you know what I mean

gratitude

What I mean is that it feels kind of superficial to say this is the season to be thankful, when to me, every single day that we are alive is a day to be grateful. I mean, look at the last several years, not only in the United States but throughout the world. Racial tensions, divisiveness, increased anger and violence, and a pandemic. If we survived getting some fatal disease, we should be grateful. If we could overcome the loud voices spewing violence and hatred without losing our true north, be thankful. If we still have our homes, jobs, family members, and even relationships with old friends, that’s reason to be grateful.

What is Gratitude, and why do we need to have it? I think there are two kinds of Gratitude —both important, but I want to focus on biblical Gratitude. One author wrote that biblical Gratitude means to give goodness and grace to others, as we have received from God. It means to extend the joy of receiving to others and God through gestures of kindness and goodness. It is what Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

I trust when we extend these gifts to others, we get them in return. I also believe that the only way we can genuinely exercise these fruits is to start by recognizing that all of these are extended to us by the grace of God. As such, we should be thankful that He thought enough of us to extend them. Some might ask, “How did He do that?” Through His Son, Jesus. John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son. Whoever will believe in Him will not perish but have life.” You might not be able to wrap your mind around these scriptures, and I can understand that. People have asked me how I can believe them. Well, I tell you how, through faith. Faith that when I give, I will receive. When I forgive, others will forgive me, and when I show grace to others, people will extend that same grace to me. For that, I am grateful.

I honestly believe that. Gratitude tends to eliminate cynicism, sarcasm, and mistrust. A thankful heart creates optimism rather than pessimism. And, it causes us to give others the benefit of the doubt. You know, the same we ask others to do for us.