Positive Faith?

The early morning hours, I got up before dawn like I usually do, and just sat and reflected on Thanksgiving.  As is my habit, I got up to read my Bible and began to write in my prayer journal.  “What would I write today?  Don’t I thank God every day for my family, friends, and colleagues? Don’t I take the time each day and thank Him for protecting them? I always thank Him for so many things in my life.”  Yes, I do these things each day, but this time, I sat in deep thought, reflecting on my life.  I thought about the article I write each month for my column, The Power of Positive Faith, and asked myself “what does that mean?”

Many times people who write aren’t writing to sell books or to become popular. They write to share stories that they feel might make some kind of positive impact on the lives of others. At least, that’s what I do and believe others do the same.  When I share my thoughts about the Power of Positive Faith, I try to think of the things that I feel makes my life better because I choose to embrace the attitude of being positive in just about every situation that might frustrate or anger me.  I am not naive, and I recognize that it is hard to do and I think some people may think that when I write about being positive, I am not being realistic.

I have heard comments such as “you can’t always be positive” or “it’s not practical to think that you can maintain a positive attitude in all situations.” That may be true, but that may not be true also. Many people face difficult challenges and great hardships and, yet, are able to force themselves to look for the light in the dark tunnel.  They seek out hope, and they don’t readily give in to disaster.  Some people maintain the faith of Noah; even when they have to face huge uncertainties, they remain steadfast and sure.

What is faith if it isn’t positive? Faith in God is positive. Faith in humanity is positive. Confidence in yourself is positive also.  So, I see faith as being a positive characteristic.  If I look at faith through my religious belief, I also see it as having a positive connotation attached to it.  To me, faith means to hope, to be assured, to trust, and to have confidence. These words trigger positive images for me.  In a more personal context, my Bible relates faith as being positive. For example, a favorite scripture is found in Hebrews 11:1 which states, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Thanksgiving, gratitude, assurances, trust, and hope all come from a place of positivity. There is power in maintaining an attitude that helps us turn our darkest moments into moments of faith that today, tomorrow or next week will be better. For those who do that, tomorrow is better.

When I am Weak…

 

whenI am weakMost days I am happy. I wake up thanking God for another day to be alive. I honestly don’t take my being here for granted. Over the last year, I have experienced close and personal losses and they made me consider my own mortality.  There have been days that I sit back and say to myself, “God is still on the throne. Don’t lose heart.”

Most of you know I run each morning. The other morning I was outside, pushing through my run, when I promise you, I heard the voice in my head say, “When I am weak, You are strong. ” For many of you, I don’t have to explain what was happening.  Anyway, I kept running and I continued to hear that phrase.  At one point, I said it out loud. I knew that I needed to say it to God.

I have thought about why that statement came to me. Perhaps I was supposed to share this with someone else.  Not too long after that spiritual interchange, I spoke with a person who had contacted me and her actions suggested that she desperately needed to speak with me. I was on my way out of town, so I said to the person, “if you need to see me, you have to do it today because I fly out tomorrow.” The person made it a point to get over to see me too.  As we sat down to catch up, all of a sudden in the midst of our conversation, I thought I saw her eyes tearing up.  At first I tried to tell myself that I was imagining things, but after a few seconds, it became apparent that she was tearing up and finally crying. I walked over to her, gave her tissue and wrapped my arms around her. After more than an hour of conversation and her sharing some of her deepest frustrations and fears, we parted ways. As I walked towards her to say goodbye, I wrapped my arms around her again, but this time, I would not let her go without praying for her.

For days, I thought of this young woman. I left for my trip and thought about her on the plane. I got back home and thought of her again.  As I recalled all that had happened between us the day she came to see me, the phrase “When I am weak, YOU are strong” came back to me.

I am strongYou see, even the best of us will encounter days that are frustrating and disappointing. We will encounter people who will count us out, not take us seriously, reject our dreams and goals and even tell us that we will never be something that we have always dreamed of becoming. That’s why we are hesitant to share our hopes and dreams with others; we are afraid of their judgment and rejection as this young lady was. As I said to her that day in my office, I will say the same to you.  If you have dreams, go for them. It does not matter what other people think; it matters what you do.  If you don’t go for it, you are saying that they are right about what they think of you. If you go for it and fail, you don’t have to be embarrassed, trust me, the next time you will do better. One thing is certain, if you don’t pursue what’s important to you, you can count on never getting it.

Don’t let others rob you of what God has placed in your heart and mind.  Don’t let them stop you from being what you want to be. When people say things that hurt you, remember, “when you are weak, He is strong.”  He will carry your burdens and He will lift you up above the negativity, the fear and the doubters.  Let the doubters doubt you, but don’t you dare doubt yourself or Him. He believes in you and so do I!

2 Corinthians 12: 9 says, “…But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

It’s In the Quiet Times…

The_Quiet_Time_-_QT1.jpgLately, I have felt unsettled.  No, I didn’t say that I am not content; I said unsettled. There is a big difference.  For days now I have felt this unsettling in me.  I have been praying for a person for weeks now, so that may be the reason why. I moved last year and just experienced the 1 year anniversary of that, so maybe that’s why. I don’t really know. I just feel that way.

In the rush of everyday life, when we are busy moving here and there, working, socializing, and just living life, the noise of life can be overwhelming. In fact, if we aren’t careful, the sounds can drown out what we should be listening to.

That’s why quiet time is so important. We need to set aside time to contemplate, decompress and live quietly.  At least that’s what I need. I do it each day; usually, early mornings with shorter times. Also, I do a bigger block of time each week just to sit quietly and think. Life can be busy and the important things can be easily missed in our rush to achieve the next thing.  I will admit it, I can’t seem to sit still and be satisfied. If I am not working in my office, I am writing a book or an article or a blog. I do several things at once. I work on several emails to various people while I may be working on establishing some new program or I am setting up some kind of meeting, working some marketing strategy or coordinating some speaking engagement. It’s always something.  I push hard to get things done each day, and I will admit, I don’t have patience with what I perceive as “excuses”  for not doing something. You see, I can’t stop striving.

I have to give myself a break though. I know for a fact, God made me this way. He made me passionate, resilient, persistent and strong. As much as I appreciate the woman God has made me, I also know that I can turn my strengths into weaknesses. The same is true for you too. If you are always working, pushing, striving and achieving, do you have time to stop and enjoy the accomplishment? Do you stop and savor the moment in quiet solitude before you jump to begin again?  These are a couple of the questions I have had to ask myself lately. You see if you have always been the kind of person who believed that doing proves your self-worth, you need to rethink that. You know who proves you are worth something?  God. However, you won’t know it, if you never sit down and take the time to hear from Him.

quiet-the-mind-soul-will-speak-life-quotes-sayings-picturesTurn off the music, turn off the television, put away your computer, put down your phone, sit quietly in His presence and open your heart and your ears. Stop thinking about what you have to do next and be fully present to hear why He has you where you are now.  For the unbeliever, this is foolishness the Bible says, but to you who believe, you know what I am talking about.  1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “But the natural [unbelieving] man does not accept the things [the teachings and revelations] of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness [absurd and illogical] to him; and he is incapable of understanding them, because they are spiritually discerned and appreciated, [and he is unqualified to judge spiritual matters].”

God needs your attention and your time. Not after you are exhausted but He needs to talk to you when you are alert and ready to hear. He may have been trying to get your attention for a while now. Has He?

I Don’t Want To Let It Go!

let goI don’t know how anyone can go through life holding onto bitterness. Do you?  I mean, I get ticked off with people too.  I can understand getting angry, and I even understand not speaking to someone who has hurt you, but not talking to them forever? That’s nuts! You know why?  Because the other person isn’t being affected, you are! At the end of the day, you do not hurt the person you are mad at in the least. Oh, I know you think you do. But you don’t.

Let’s talk about “that person.” You know, the one for which you are holding your grudge. They have moved on. You are stuck.  Why? The person who is holding the grudge (you) is the person hurting. No? Yes, you are. You are the one who continues to recall what the other person did to you. The one who did the hurting tends to forget and move on to the next thing.  If they are narcissists, they are more focused on the attention they can get next rather than stuck watching you. If someone asked them why you don’t speak to them, most times than not, they just don’t care or remember. Hey, but you are the person who got hurt, you didn’t forget, did you? You probably remember the day, the hour of the day, and what you were wearing when it happened!

positive attitudeLet me ask you a question. Do you ever get tired? Tired of recalling those negative experiences? Tired of remembering what someone did to you? I am not saying that you have to be naive and continue to be friends with them. I am saying that you can learn from the experience, move on and be a more positive, productive and happy person.

Do you prefer feeling angry? Do you like thinking dark thoughts? Of course not, those thoughts and feelings are negative and defeatist. When I find myself thinking about what someone has done to me, I tend to over think the situation. I play and replay it over and over in my mind.  I sometimes have to talk myself out of thinking about the situation and that person.  See how much wasted energy these kinds of thoughts bring?  Change your way of thinking when you deal with these kinds of disappointments. Learn to flip that switch. You will feel better when you think positive.

Anyway, I am just trying to say this: You are a better person when you allow yourself to let go.  The best “You” comes through and that “You” not only changes the person you are on the inside, but it also changes those around you too. Well, it may not change the person who wronged you, but Who cares?  When you leave them behind and focus on what’s in front of you, the happy things, life will change.

Forget about things that will hold you down. Forget about people who will cause you to stumble. While you are focused on them, they are busy succeeding, and you are busy getting stuck.  Remember, if you can’t forgive someone for the wrong they have done to you, you can’t expect anyone to forgive you for the wrong you have done either. “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:14-15.

Encourager or Discourager?

EncourageI love being the person who makes another person feel good about themselves. I like speaking words of encouragement to them and then watching them come alive.  I know, probably more than most, just how powerful words can be.

The good thing about a person who likes to encourage is that they do it whether the other person needs it or not. They know how important it is to be sensitive to those with whom they interact.

I am sure I have mentioned before that I people watch. By people watching, I can tell immediately who the Encouragers are and who the Discouragers are.  I want you to think about this. You know just as I do, the value that Encouragers bring. We know the traits they demonstrate; generally, they are happy, optimistic and positive people. We also know the Discouragers; they are just the opposite.  Although they can be negative, pessimistic and unhappy, many times they display more subtle traits than that.  In fact, you may not be able to really point to anything specific; you just feel it.

Discouragers may not ever say one discouraging or disparaging word, but what they can do is not acknowledge any good thing about you.  They may be ones who withhold praise or stay quiet when someone else has something good to say about you. They don’t do or say anything to support you, although they claim to be your friend.

Encourage-1thessaloniansWhich are you? Are you an Encourager or a Discourager?  You may not be comfortable with giving compliments, but you can still encourage others.

I believe one form of encouragement is seen in actions.  We can “love” the way Jesus told us to do when He said to “love one another.” Life is hard and people are facing challenges every day.  People we meet or those we interact with each day are facing things that we know nothing about.  People are facing loss, whether in the form of a divorce or a loss through death. Others are going through the loss of a job, while others may be dealing with grave illnesses, addictions, family problems, work problems, foreclosures, or jail.  These are real life issues and some will share while others will not. You may be the difference in whether they keep going or give up, in whether they succeed or fail.  You don’t have to show sympathy–that’s not encouragement. What you should do is inspire another person with the courage they need to keep on going. No, you may not be comfortable speaking words of affirmation to others, but you can do other things to encourage those around you.

Be careful and watch the words you use with your children and grandchildren no matter how frustrated you might get with them.  If you are upset, always tell them that you love them and then tell them why you may be disappointed.  If you are frustrated with your spouse, do the same.  If you have an obnoxious friend that might drive you nuts, pray for yourself and be intentional in praying for them.  If you have a friend who seems to always achieve & get what they want, to include compliments, don’t begrudge them, encourage them to keep on achieving and thank God for their achievements and blessings.  All of the good that you do in speaking well of and to others, will come back to you.  In the end, God commands us to encourage one another. You want to obey Him, don’t you?

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

(1 Thessalonians 5:11)

 

 

 

Do You Remember?

memorylaneEach morning I rise around 4 am, actually it’s more like 340, to go to my quiet corner of the house to read my Bible, to pray and journal.  Some mornings I feel half asleep and half awake, I pray “Lord, give me the strength” and I crawl out of bed and head to that place, turn on the table lamp and begin my daily ritual. I know, the word ritual, just doesn’t seem right when I write it either. That’s what some would say I do, a ritual. However, I’d like to call it a part of my daily discipline. I want the time I spend with God each day to be a natural part of what I do; you know? Like some just get out of bed and head straight to the coffee pot, I want to head straight to meet Jesus.

I’d like to call it a part of my daily discipline. I want the time I spend with God each day to be a natural part of what I do; you know? Like some just get out of bed and head straight to the coffee pot, I want to head straight to meet Jesus. I won’t lie, some days I read the scriptures and tell God, “I got absolutely nothing out of that” and on other days, like this one, I can’t seem to put my Bible down.

This morning I was continuing my read of Isaiah when I came across a scripture that hit me like a ton of bricks.  It hit me because it was a scripture I had memorized at a young age. The minute I began reading Isaiah 54:6, “We are, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us to our own way, and the Lord has laid upon Him the sins of us all.”  I immediately remembered the scripture and stopped to think about it. Instead of dissecting it, I found myself going back looking for scriptures I learned years ago and seemingly never used them anymore. I went searching and writing them down as I found them. By the time I had finished with this little exercise, I had written down eight scriptures. I found myself mulling over each scripture and saying them to myself, affirming each scripture as I spoke them.

You may say, “so what?” I know, right? I have no idea why I became obsessed with doing that this morning. As I sat to write this blog, I did hear myself say, “do you remember?” Do I remember what? Is the question really, do I remember where God has brought me from? Yes! Do you?  Do you ever sit back and think about where you are right now and where you were five years ago, ten years ago, 20 years ago or even longer than that? I sure do.  I think about how blessed I am today.  When I look back five years, I was recovering from an illness that made life look bleak. When I remember ten years ago, I had just evolved from a work situation that had me questioning my competence and my potential. When I recall 20 years ago, I had gone back to school to complete an MBA.

Do you ever sit back and think about where you are right now and where you were 5 years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago or even longer than that? I sure do.  I think about how blessed I am today.  When I look back 5 years, I was recovering from an illness that made life look bleak. When I remember 10 years ago, I had just evolved from a work situation that had me questioning my competence and my potential. When I recall 20 years ago, I had gone back to school to complete an MBA. Yes, I was shocked to realize that one too!

There is one thing that remained constant over the years, my faith. Through the ups and downs; through the joys and pain; and through the accomplishments and disappointments, the discipline of reading my Bible, remembering scripture, and drawing on it in times of happiness and in times of sadness, has sustained me. The joy of the Lord has truly been my strength.

Today, I have a wonderful life. In fact, when I think of my life in general, I have had a wonderfully blessed and abundant life.  God has been good. I would have never imagined some of the things I have accomplished and lived. Not for a girl like me; that little girl from New York, whose mom died so young.  The girl who was raised by Pentecostal grandparents in Georgia. Or the one who was not at all popular back in the day.  The one who was not counted out, just never considered by anyone other than the people in the little church in Georgia.  Her? Who would have thought this would be my life?

Anyway, don’t let anyone talk you out of living your dreams or doing what God has placed inside of you. That includes you not talking yourself out of it either. Also, you should think about starting the discipline of Bible reading and prayer each day too. I bet you will one day look back, remember, and be glad you did.

I will close with Isaiah 43:19, “See, I am doing a new thing, as it springs up, can you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

Stretch Out Your Hands!

stretching forth your handsI am an animated worshipper of Christ. Sometimes I can be in my car and feel the Spirit of God move on me and I raise my hands in praise. I have to be so careful when I am driving,though.  Some days I can be sitting in my office listening to a praise song and can be overcome with joy!  I feel the Spirit of God so strong at times that my emotions take over and I have to remind myself that I am at work. My eyes fill with tears for nothing more than I am in the presence of God.

I was recently sitting and working, and I kept hearing the words of a song that said “Spirit Move. Come and do what only you can do.” As I mentioned, I was quietly working away but all of a sudden, I felt my hands stretch out towards heaven. I heard my voice say “thank You for Your presence.”  For the longest time, I could do nothing but sit and contemplate.

As I sit here now, I think about all that has happened in my life recently. One was that of loss. The loss of my sister-cousin hit home. She was one year younger than me, and we were raised as sisters by our grandparents.  We both grew up in that Pentecostal home of our grandparents. We were both Believers who ended up still Pentecostals even after we were long gone from that environment. We both went to college and got advanced degrees, both married military men, although her husband of 35+ years was her high school sweetheart. We both had only one child, and both loved God with all of our hearts.

It is hard to swallow that she was taken away too soon. In the middle of my sadness. stretching forth your handThere is one thing I know for certain, she would be the first to stretch out her hands to worship God no matter her circumstances. That is something I can rejoice about and so can her beautiful daughter and granddaughters. Their mom was a warrior, a fighter, and a bold Born-again Believer.  In their sadness, that’s what I want them to remember. I want to think about how passionately she praised. I want them to think about how much she would want them to do the same. She would want us all to miss her, and we do, but she would want us to know that she is with Jesus and she is shouting and praising her way through heaven.

Look, I know there are those who don’t believe in heaven or hell. I do. I even know that there are those who don’t believe in Jesus. That’s ok, that does not stop me from believing in Him. I know some even think that once we are gone, that’s it. Hey, I don’t. I look forward to a day that my cousin and I will see each other again. I look forward to joining her in the presence of God and Jesus with outstretched hands praising Him.   In the meantime, I will stretch out my hands towards heaven in praise. I will stretch out my arms to my niece and my grand nieces and love them like their mother did. I will assure them that they are loved and adored. I will remind them to stretch out their hands too and worship because strength comes through worship. Finally, I will remind them to be “strong and courageous” for the Lord our God will be with them where ever they go. And where they go, their mother, my cousin, will be there with them.

Father, I pray that you will pour out your Spirit on us now. You said you would, and I lift my hands as a means of saying I receive Your Spirit.