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.

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.

The Power of Positive Faith

power-of-holy-spiritI have always used the phrase “The Power of Positive Faith.” As you know, I write an article monthly in TWJ magazine online and the title of my column is The Power of Positive Faith.

Recently, I was running and that phrase came to me.  I asked myself, what does it really mean?  Faith is supposed to be positive isn’t it?  As I thought more about it, I concluded that yes, faith is supposed to be positive, but so many times I have watched people of faith not act positive at all.  So I ask you the question, why?

Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “Faith is the assurance of what we hope for and the certainty of what we do not see.” So if we say that we believe and if faith is one of the foundational principles of what we believe, why is it that our behaviors can be found lacking?  Why is it that we exhibit doubt, fear, uneasiness, fear, anxiety, fear, stress, fear…? You get the picture?

We have faith, yet, at times, we don’t act like it.  I believe in our humanness, of course we will experience some doubt, fear, uneasiness, anxiety, and stress, but I don’t believe that we are supposed to allow these negatives to reside with us nor control us.  I have faced personal tragedies, financial hardships, marital problems, child problems, work problems,  boss problems, and just about anything you can name. So please don’t think that I have no clue as to what you might be going through.I promise you, I do. I have probably faced way more than you could ever imagine and yet, you might not be able to tell that I have because I refuse to allow life’s challenges to define me or control my future.

standinfaithI am also a woman of faith and have questioned God not just once, but on many occasions. In the end though, I say, “Father, help my doubt. Take away my fear. Help me to stand in the face of uncertainty. Lord help me.”  I am not better than you and I have to constantly remind myself of what the Bible says.

The Bible says that the Holy Spirit will give us Power. Power to stay positive and hopeful in the midst of chaos.

John 14.16-17, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, who will stay with you forever. He is the Spirit. . . he remains with you and is in you.”

Luke 24.49, “ …I myself will send upon you what my Father has promised. But you must wait…until the power from above comes down upon you.”

You see, there will always be trials. There will always be challenges and difficulties. When I have to go through something, I pray and ask God to help me. Do I get frustrated and maybe a little fearful at times? You bet I do. However, I have learned to quickly remind myself that there is someone living inside of me who has given me the power to face, walk through, and overcome.  When I think of the Power of the Holy Spirit living inside of me, those negatives that would have attached themselves to me and caused me to live defeated are quickly swallowed up with phrases that say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ ‘I will not live in fear because “greater is He who lives in me, than he who is in the world.”

If you need a little encouragement today, read the scriptures I have noted below. I needed them recently. When you say them out loud and remind yourself of what the Bible has to say to you about you and your life, these scriptures will help redirect your thinking and hopefully, you will become intentional in being positive in your faith.

Philippians 4:8-9, “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” 

Proverbs 17:22, A cheerful disposition is good for your health;
gloom and doom leave you bone-tired.”

Philippians 4:6-7, “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”

Philippians 4:13, “Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.”

Jeremiah 29:11, “I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.”

Matthew 15:11, “It’s not what you swallow that pollutes your life, but what you vomit up.”

I pray that whatever it is that you are going through; whatever you have to face, you will remain positive and faithful. You got to go through it, but you don’t have to go through it alone.

Embrace the Future!

beach-blue-embrace-future-jetty-favim-com-1820722016 was a tough year; A roller coaster ride may describe it for many of us. In fact, it was probably one of the most passionate and volatile times of my life.

I, like many of you, read the combative and impassioned pleas on social media regarding the elections. I listened to report after report on the news. I heard the warnings of friends and foes just like you. Was it just me or wasn’t there lots of negativity throughout the year? Many times I felt that I should disengage from social media. Social media was not so social throughout the year.

Can you recall any positives?

Think, You see, if we aren’t careful, all we will recall will be all the negatives. Stop. Think. Reflect. Weren’t there some positives? Of course, there were.  You see, again, if we are not careful, all we will do is focus on the negatives. We will allow the negative to drown out the positives.

Yes, that’s what I said, the positives. Didn’t you experience positive things in 2016? Even if you had a challenging year physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually, I bet if you would focus, you will find that you have probably had many positives threaded throughout the year.

John 16:33 says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” This is what we as Believers should focus on; not on the problems in the world. The Word of God tells us the He has overcome these things. Do you believe Him? I do!

Regardless of what negatives may have happened over the last year, are you going to trust God? Are you going to choose to believe that He has plans for you? Are you going to focus on him and not on the things other people do or say?

When we let the voices of others overtake the voice of God, fear enters the picture.

f-e-a-rFEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real. When people say things, always remember, they are speaking from their perspective. That perspective is shaped by their life’s experiences, just as my perspective is shaped by mine.  We can mean well, but the truth is, what has happened in our lives will color how we see things. If my environment has painted my mind to look at everything with a critical view, anytime I face something out of what’s familiar, I will experience anxiety. Fear feeds that anxiety, and if the people I listen to only sees the negative, that’s what I will see also.

1 Timothy 1:7 says, “God did not give us the spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

See, He has given us all that we need. We just need to trust Him to work out whatever it is that we have to face. God has your back. He has mine too. He has been dealing with the issues that people have struggled with for centuries; he’s more equipped to handle them than we are.

Love Should Build Bridges…

Is it julove builds bridgesst me or do you have trouble comprehending the anger seen in society today?

Most times I can’t comprehend the anger and hate that some people carry around in their hearts. I often wonder what makes them so bitter. so hateful. At times, the hate extends into pure evil.

Like some of you, I too read posts on social media. Some are filled with such divisiveness and hatred. There is no one group that has the corner on the ugliness either. I see people who  range from everyday folks to those who have huge followings writing things against people we should be praying for. Yet, we wonder why we see people acting out so terribly. They are following their leaders!

Do we ever think that we have a responsibility to speak love and acceptance rather than always focusing on what is so different about each of us? If we sat alone and asked the God that we say we follow if what we do day in and day out really represents Him, do you know what He would say to you?

I have a theory; I can have my own theory.  I am not saying that it is right, but for me, I think it is. My theory is that God is displeased with many of our actions when what we do brings about divisiveness and hate. I just don’t see God sitting back saying “you call them out of their names; that’s good.” Nor do I see Him saying “Kudos to you. Just run that idiot over with your car.” or for goodness sake, I sure don’t see Him saying “just kill them!”

When I wrote that last one, I felt right away that someone would say, “He did tell them to kill in the Old Testament.” I refuse to believe that He is happy with hate-filled actions.  You don’t have to agree.

loveoneanotherI sit here and stare around my office and look at the framed art on the walls. Many relate to Love. If you recall, my last book was titled, You Call That Love?  I think about this topic a lot.  One piece of art says ” LOVE builds bridges where there are none.”  I sat watching this and thinking about what was being said.  I agree love does build bridges. For one thing, when we want to dismiss the opinions of others, love will cause us to stop and rethink their point of view. We are challenged to listen. We don’t have to agree, but we listen out of respect for the other person’s opinion. Love causes us to stop and think about whether what we do or say hurts another person.  Now, I know many don’t give a crap about hurting another person’s feelings; they say, they need their feelings hurt.  I say, that may be true, but I sure would like another person to give me the benefit of the doubt when I may not be at my best. Wouldn’t you?

Whether we disagree politically, religiously,  or socially, we should be able to do so without being outright nasty to each other.  If you don’t like how I grade your paper, that’s okay, I still respect you and ask the same. If I don’t care for how you raise your kids, that’s okay, they are not mine, they are yours and I should respect that you are doing your best. Just as I would want you to think that I am doing my best also. If we don’t agree politically, I won’t trash talk your position and I don’t want you to trash talk me. When we hold different religious views, I promise to respect how you feel and I pray you will respect how I feel.  In the end, when we disagree, let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt. For us that are Believers, remember what the Word of God says…

“…Knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if one loves God, one is known by him”

1 Corinthians 8:1

I know that I am not always right in every single thing I think or do. However, neither are you. Let’s value each other’s differences and seek to see what makes us more alike than different. I think if we do that, we will show LOVE. I believe that’s when the Father of Heaven will be pleased with us.