Don’t Downplay Your Blessing!

 

Every-Day-in-Every-WayHave you asked God for a particular thing and He dropped it right into your lap? It just came out of nowhere? Well, that has happened to me on several occasions and there is no doubt that it was God. I love it when I know that it is God who has answered a prayer that no one knew about but me and Him.

One thing that has proven consistent for me has been the Ying and Yang of experiencing a blessing. When I get thrilled and excited about the blessing, something happens; something that tries to affect my joy. I will face some kind of opposition, sometimes passive hostility, from people I thought respected me as much as I respected them.  I don’t know about you, but to me, there is nothing more stressful than to be misunderstood.

I am old enough to know and expect people to talk behind my back, but I abhor finding out what they have said.  Also, I am shocked when the person who said it is someone I respected. Initially, I am really bothered by what I have heard them say; I think about it over and over. Next, I am generally angry but I tend to get over my anger quickly because I refuse to allow anyone to affect my joy. Finally, which should be first actually, I go to my Bible to seek comfort, assurance, guidance, and support.

Recently, I went through this process and when I opened my Bible, I turned to Psalms 2. What jumped out at me was this portion of scripture that read: “You are My Son, Today I have become your Father. Ask Me and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.”  I kept going back to that one part of the scripture, reading what was prior to it and after, but that portion kept speaking to me.  Isn’t it obvious what God was saying? Maybe not to you, but to me God was saying, “You asked, I gave, now go and be blessed, be happy, be effective. You wanted it, you got it.” I felt a sense of release. I told myself, LaSharnda, you are to continue to thank Him and praise Him, only!  I shouldn’t be getting hung up on what others were thinking or saying.  By doing so, I would be ignoring what God had done for me and would be giving more attention to those who had no joy for me at all.  Their silliness would become a huge distraction.

Am I the only one who experiences this? Do you? Has God blessed you with something and instead of celebrating it, you became distracted by the negativity of others. You focused on what they were saying or doing or not saying or doing. Maybe you downplayed your blessing because of them. Please don’t do that.  God has a plan and purpose for you and you already know that. He may fulfill it as He pleases and others may not understand. They may get mad at you for leaving a job they feel you should stay in for longer periods or they may talk about you and not celebrate with you. That’s okay, always remember, ”

God has a plan and purpose for you and you already know that. He may fulfill it as He pleases and others may not understand. They may get mad at you for leaving a job they feel you should have stayed in for a longer period or they may talk about you and not celebrate with you. That’s okay, always remember, “His thoughts are not our thoughts and our ways are not His ways.” (Isaiah 55:8)  His are always greater, better and worth following.  Also remember, if you pray and ask God for something and He gives it to you, whether your friends, family or colleagues like it or not, it’s yours. Don’t be boastful or arrogant; just be thankful, pray for wisdom and if they go low, you take the high road.

When You Are Scared…Trust…

trustI talk so much about how important it is to go for the gold and to never give up. I am especially good at encouraging others to be all that they can be.  I tell you to take your turmoil and turn them into your testimonies of victory. I truly believe in all that I just said to you, but today I want to take a different approach to encouraging you. I want you to just Trust.

Recently, I visited a place near and dear to me. I saw my friends and just loved seeing and interacting with them.  I saw people who make me feel like running the race and never giving up. I saw people who I have known at least 15 years and others I have known less.  One thing that has actually kept me warm inside has been to reflect on these people as I left them behind.  They are still committed to Christ after sicknesses, deaths, hardships and trials; they are still there, serving Him and His people day after day.

What also struck me while I was visiting was the people I met who were going through very difficult struggles in their lives today; struggles with their health and not knowing what to do next. Scared and afraid that life as they had known it would not be the same anymore.  There were those who had family members struggling with personal issues so difficult that it disrupted the entire family structure and there were others who had to juggle several crises at the same time. I can only imagine the desperation they were going through. Losing your good health; being able to move about freely without aid and now you can barely get up from a chair.  Losing a family member, whether to death or to their desire to separate from the family for extended periods;  these are all scary things to deal with.

How can you be positive when you have so much to deal with? How can you stay “up” when everything in you and around you is telling you to stay “down?”  How do you move forward at all when you want to crawl under the covers and never come out? I tell you how, start telling yourself to just take one day at a time and trust God.

I believe the enemy wants you confused about so many things. First, if you are a Believer, he wants you to question God.   When you lose faith and start questioning God, it won’t be long before you start blaming God. Once you begin blaming God, it’s impossible to hold onto your faith, believing that God cares for you (yes, little old you). We begin to think that all the things happening to us, does not matter to God.

Second, we start to pity ourselves and wonder why these things are happening to us.  That too creates negative images in our minds; we are not strong; we are not good enough; we are not smart and the list goes on. There are plenty of voices in this world that will try to tell you that you aren’t good enough, but the voice of God always says that you are loved. When you stop hearing Him and listen to what others say, it is easy to become disillusioned and down.

If you are feeling lost or insignificant in this world, I challenge you to turn to the words of God. He will remind you that you are neither lost nor insignificant. He loves you and cares about all those things that are burdensome to you. You do matter to Him and everything that affects you, matters to God.

“For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.”                                                                  (Isaiah 41:13)

Friends and friends…

FriendsI am one to sit quietly so that I can think and reflect.  I generally consider what’s going on in my current life; I think about what I am doing in order to get where I want to go. One thing that I have always made my practice is to take account of those who I allow into my inner circle and how to manage those I don’t let in.  You see some people think that every person they meet is supposed to be a deep and personal friend when that’s just not the case.  It’s just not!

I see friends in certain categories. You may not agree with me, but I will support a couple of my points with scripture for you that think I am being “un-Christian”  or “un-friendly.”

The first level of friendship and is the most important to me is the level I refer to as my Inner Circle.  It goes without saying that my BFF is in this group. Along with that person, these are friends that I have probably (not in all cases) known for a very long time.  Not only have I known them, we have shared values. Those values may be how we look at life in general, how we set goals and pursue them, how we see family and a host of other things. One of the primary reasons they are in my inner circle, however, is because they are TRUSTED.  We have gone through victories and disappointments together and I have watched them support me as I have supported them. They will go through the fire for me and I will walk through flames for them.  Those in my inner circle are closer than family members. No one could convince me that they would betray me and they know that I would never betray them. My inner circle is small and years have been invested in our relationship. These are my most trusted confidants and the people who get to speak into my life and influence it.

innercircleJesus had an inner circle too. They were His disciples, yes but even within the inner circle of His disciples, there were some who were even closer, or rather, he allowed to see things others did not see. These disciples shared in some of Jesus’ joys and sorrows.  Peter, James, and John were the only disciples allowed to accompany Jesus when he raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead (Mark 5:37). These same disciples were the only ones on the mountain when Jesus was transfigured in the presence of Moses and Elijah (Mark 9:2).  Jesus even gave nicknames to these three. I didn’t say that they were His favorite, I am just pointing out that not all of His disciples experienced Him the same.

Then there is another group of friends. They are good friends too, but they will not be the people I will call on in a life crisis because I don’t know them like that. They are casual friends. We have a level of trust and we enjoy being around each other, but generally we do so just for fun. There is no deep relationship yet; we have not experienced life together yet. Casual friendships can develop into stronger, deeper ones. We probably share similar personal and professional goals and certainly share similar values. They are people I like and will spend time with, but we do not have anything concrete to build our relationship on yet. I may share some of my life stories with them, but the deep things of my heart will probably not be shared for a very long time.

Associations are another group of friends. You probably have some things in common with them, maybe your work or some social activity, but you may not have similar professional or personal goals; you just don’t know. You probably only know each other on the surface from some activity you’ve been engaged in. You don’t hang out, you just see each other occasionally. Trust isn’t a real issue because the exchange of personal information probably isn’t an issue.

Acquaintances will be the last group I will talk about.  You have no real relationship with acquaintances, you just see each other or know of each other in loose terms. You will say hi and bye, exchange pleasantries and if they need help, you will help.  Generally, you will not share any personal life stories, even if they decided to share theirs with you.  They may trust you because of your wisdom or some kind of expertise they think you possess. You may share limited information with your acquaintances because you have no idea what you can share.

That’s it.  I don’t want this all academic, but I did want to lay this out before I say what I really want to say.  Watch who you allow into your inner circle. Every person you meet will not be a close personal friend.  Watch what you say and who you say it to.  Just because a person laughs with you, does not mean that they will cry with you.  Just because a person is willing to share their victories with you does not mean that they will share the joy of yours.  At times,  some people maneuver to try to be “friends” with those they think can open doors for them.  Be real, that’s not friendship, it’s called jockeying for one’s own self-interest.  If you behave like this, just know that those who you are trying to get close to see it too

My grandfather used to say, “if you want friends, show yourself friendly.” He was quoting  Proverbs 18:24.  Be a good friend, but also make sure those you allow closest to you are also good friends because they will be the ones who will influence you the most.

Pray First…

i hate waitingI am a high achiever. I am all about achieving one thing and moving on to the next. I get a rush out of being able to check another goal accomplished off my list.  If you are the same, you already know that people like us want things done and they want them done now.  We tend to think that the next thing is waiting to be conquered and we are the ones to conquer.  People like us can be high strung and just can’t sit still. We are BIG Picture people continually developing a strategy for the next thing. Time is money, so don’t we don’t believe in wasting time!

Hold on though!  There is a problem with being like us. We can get easily frustrated; especially if things are moving too slow. When I was young, that meant bad news for those around me. Let’s just say, I wasn’t very patient. Now that I am older, I am a lot better. When frustration sets in, I try not to talk much. Maybe I am this way because of how extreme I behaved in my younger days. Anyway, something happened recently, and I realized just how much I have changed.

If you have read anything I have written in the past, you know that I believe in Jesus. You also know that I think when He said in John 14:16 “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever” that He meant it. I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to “lead and guide us.”  For me, that scripture means He will help when I feel stressed, frustrated, overwhelmed, ticked off,  confused, unsettled or whatever destructive emotion I may experience. God already knows what I need, I just need to give my feelings to Him by releasing them to the Holy Spirit.

prayer-changes-thingsWhen I mention the name, DMV, many of you have the same images come to mind as I do; inefficient, slow, uncaring, paper-pushers, unproductive and the rudest people you can meet!  Maybe that’s why my husband had a problem when he had to deal with them on my behalf.  He was at the DMV all day beginning at 745 that morning. He came home around 3pm. I came home after him, and  when I walked in and said “Hello Darling” and got very little response, I should have guessed something was wrong.  I went to the kitchen to make some food and yelled, “do you want something to eat?” “No,” he replied. I looked and realized I was talking, and he was not talking because he was on the phone.  I sat down at the table and began to eat. When he finally got off the phone, he told me what happened at the DMV. He looked beat! Well, he didn’t get done what I needed. He had all my paperwork and handed it to me and said, “you need to ….”  Well, ok, but I wasn’t happy. After I finished eating, I sat down quietly and began making call after call, from DMV in California to Jaguar USA to Jaguar in Dallas to DMV Headquarters in Sacramento to finally getting the right person that took care of my situation.  Along the way, I heard myself praying and asking the Holy Spirit to keep me calm and patient. He did.  I had finally achieved my goal without blowing up. But it wasn’t over. The next day at the local DMV would be the greatest challenge for the Holy Spirit and me.

Well, he didn’t get done what I needed and deep inside, I was not happy about that. I didn’t say anything though. I saw all my paperwork in his hands and he handed it to me and said, “you need to ….”.  I wasn’t happy. After I finished eating, I sat down quietly and began making call after call, from DMV in California to Jaguar USA to Jaguar in Dallas to DMV Headquarters in Sacramento to finally get the right person on the line who took care of my situation.  Along the way, I heard myself praying and asking the Holy Spirit to keep me calm and patient. He did.  I had finally achieved my goal without blowing up. But it wasn’t over. The next day at the local DMV would be the greatest challenge for the Holy Spirit and me.

I had to get up early to go to a meeting.  I dressed and got out on highway 57 to sit in the morning parking lot of traffic. My goodness, I thought everyone would be on vacation; it is the week before Christmas. At least the traffic was moving. I got to my meeting, we finished up around 1115, and I headed over to DMV without an appointment. I got there, and to my amazement, there were very little people outside (that’s a good sign). I went to the “do not have appointment line” that is usually out the door but was short today. I stood behind a guy that was pleasant, and we talked about our experiences. We were three and four in line! Well, it was his time, I wished him luck, and he did the same. I got to the window, no problem, got my waiting ticket and went to sit down. The entire time I sat there waiting, I prayed “Lord, please make my path straight.” When I was called about an hour later, I walked up to the window, explained my situation, gave the man my papers, he processed them and “BOOM!” I was done! No frustration, no confusion, no annoying conversation.

You may say “so what?” I tell you “so what” I felt from the beginning of the frustration before I got on the phone, if I started with prayer, I would approach the situation with a better attitude. I knew that if I believed and relied on the Holy Spirit to guide me, I would not rush and become impatient. I know that prayer changes things, but more importantly, prayer and the Holy Spirit changes us.

Do You Have Heart Issues Like Me?

heartsDo you ever deal with “heart” issues?

I have been dealing with heart issues lately. My heart and my head are working overtime trying to figure out myself and my motives while trying not to worry about the motives of others.

I observe people. I am a people-watcher. More than anything, I listen to people, even when they don’t think I am. I watch for signs of superiority and insincerity. These traits will show up in various ways.  All you need to do is wait.

Anyway, I don’t like the way I have been feeling lately. Like you, I have seen the best of folks and the worst. I told myself that it’s time to stop and reevaluate my surroundings; not my inner circle, they are cool, but some of my associations and occasional acquaintances. If I, or you, are not careful, these associations can become more frequent and more influential in our thought patterns. You see, we sometimes hear from these acquaintances more than from our inner circle and before we know it, their voices are in our heads and spills over into our hearts. This is the time to find our inner circle!

My inner circle is people who are more than just trustworthy; they are authentic!  They are positive, going somewhere people who energize me.  We don’t always agree, but we respect each other.

friendship-starts-in-loving-heartWe value the opinions of each other, and we trust that each one of us is intelligent and bright enough to have an opinion worth hearing. I love my inner circle because we believe in treating others well whether others are like us or not. We don’t insult others or treat people in a nasty way. We are proud and open-minded and we recognize that we don’t have all the answers, nor do we know the mind of God, but we trust God with the answer.

I am reminding myself lately to be careful to check my heart. I don’t want it to become dark and distrusting of others. I ask you to do the same.  With all that is going on in the world, we have to guard our hearts and our attitudes. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn into negativity and pessimism. It’s too easy to do.  One way to ensure that does not happen is to step away from social media (which isn’t so social anymore) and read your Bible.  Stop listening to the crowd for a while, rather, sit, reflect and wait to hear from God.

The Word of God says in Lamentations 3:22-23 that “The steadfast love of the Lord never ends. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning.; great is your faithfulness.”

I know that God loves me. He loves you too, but He also loves the world. The world doesn’t look the same to everyone; I get that. However, the world and all that is in it belongs to God (Psalms 24:1).

I have told myself that instead of being frustrated with what I have seen lately, I will trust God. He has always taken care of me and I trust He will continue to do so. He mends the brokenhearted and He cares about the things that bother us.  I  believe that the God I love is probably a whole lot more tolerant and accepting of those that are not like me. I don’t know, but I do believe that one day I will.

In Due Time, It Will Be Revealed…

God has a planEvery year in May, my husband and I put aside the chaos of life and spend one full week together doing nothing but hanging out. We always go to New York City and spend time walking the streets, eating from the street vendors, going to different kinds of restaurants, going to see a play or two and if family is close enough and have time, we see them. However, the trip is for the two of us to enjoy one another and to decompress.

Recently we attended the play, The Book of Mormon, on Broadway. I generally read reviews before I purchase tickets, but I only heard that it was a good play, so I didn’t read the reviews until a week before leaving for the trip and I had already purchased the tickets.  I have to admit, I enjoyed the play. Of course there were scenes that I felt were obscene and I would not have preferred to see them, but overall I liked the play.

As we were walking back to our hotel, my husband asked me if I was okay with the play and I asked right back, “were you?” He loved it. I asked him how would he have felt had the play turned from a particular group, the Mormons, to the Assemblies of God denomination (our denomination) or any other Christian denomination. He said, “well, I probably would not have liked it so much.” I said to him, “me either.”

I really didn’t give the play another thought after that until I sat down and began to write my weekly blog. The play was comical at best, but I thought about my stereotypes of different groups and I began to ponder the stereotypes that others have of Christians.  Why are we so weird to some? I have heard the comments “who would believe Jesus is God?” “the stories in the Bible are not believable, they are made up by men” “if there was a God, why would he be racist, sexist or favor one group of people over another?” ‘how can you believe in something that is not logical at all?” and the questions and comments go on and on.

lord teach meFirst off, I don’t claim to know nor understand the mind of God. So, I am not one of those Christians who believes that they have it all figured out. I just don’t. I know some will say, “see, you don’t know, yet you believe. You have simply been brain-washed your entire life.” I didn’t say I was stupid. I only said that I don’t have to understand everything. I believe that in due time, everything will be revealed.

I am not an ignorant person. In fact, I am highly educated. I have an undergraduate degree, two graduate degrees and one post-graduate degree. Oh and no, I have not only experienced life in America; nor been confined to only one area of the country, and I have hung out with people who are not like me. On the contrary, I have lived in two countries and I have traveled to Cuba, India, Sri Lanka, France, Italy, Germany, Israel, Japan, Korea, Guam, the Bahamas, Greece, Turkey, England, Kuwait, Iraq and a host of others. I have been to just about every state in the United States too. I have eaten with my hands, with chopsticks and with utensils. Yes, I am well-traveled, yet I still choose to believe in Jesus.

I have friends from other countries that I can call on by name. They communicate with me and I communicate with them frequently. So I am not a closed-off person. In fact, I like to think of myself as a woman of the world. I don’t force what I believe down anyone’s throats, but I also do not stifle what I believe.

The point is this, if someone wants to make fun of Christians, I say let them.  We won’t make fun of you. I hope that we do not get angry at comedies or parodies of who we are and instead love more and trust God. I pray that in due time, not only will our trust in Him show the world why we trusted Him so much, but that our love will show the world why He is worth trusting.

Listen and trust me. Everything is by design and it will all be revealed in due time.

You’ve Come a Long Way Baby

Come-a-long-wayHave you ever looked back on your life and thought to yourself, “Wow, I have come a long way?” Ever sat around collecting your thoughts and considering the life that’s right before you now and thought to yourself, “What a blessed life?” or “What a crummy life?” Have you ever been so mesmerized with the status of your life that you just could not believe you made it to where you are now or are you terrified by the choices you have made and regret every moment of everyday of being you?

Whether you are living the life that you have always dreamed of or if it is just a mess, I believe that you have come a long way.  Everything that we experience in life has been designed to bring us to where we are right now. All of the choices we have selected and the decisions we have made along the way, have all been a part of the process that makes up who we are right now. Good or bad; it is what it is.

It is always good to evaluate where you are. Even if it’s hard to face. By doing so, you have an opportunity to either continue down the path of success or you can now course-correct; you can make adjustments that can alter that path you are on. Maybe you have made many mistakes or bad choices, but I don’t believe it is ever too late to make your life count.

The totality of who you are and what you want to be all fall into one camp; the decisions you  make.  You want to get on the road of success?  Whether that success is in your personal life, professional life or spiritual life, think differently and act differently.  Start to move into the direction of what you deem as success. Don’t sit around and continue to accept mediocrity, or accept excuses or place blame, just do something and make it productive and positive. Make it something that will move you towards your goal of succeeding.

you've come a long way3You have come a long way baby whether you think you have or not.  You have come a long way whether you have succeeded in attaining your goals or whether you have fallen short. If you are where you want to be, great. If you are not there yet, you still have time to get there. However, you must act. You must make changes and do things differently than you have in the past. You see it is easy to accept the status quo and easier to remain complacent. It’s easy because it is comfortable. Doing the same things the same way won’t get you to where you want to be. Be daring, be a risk taker, use your past experiences to your advantage. What have you learned from them? If you re-evaluate them, you will find you have learned a lot.

Whatever you want, won’t just happen, however. It will happen when you begin to do. So get up and get started. You may not have as far to go as you think!