“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:7-9
I saw a post last week on success. It made me think about what being successful means to me. According to Websters, success is defined as favorable or desired outcome; also : the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence. If you ask me how I define success, I would probably say that its achieving your goals, dreams, and heart’s desires, fulfilling your life’s purpose. I did not begin doing those things until after my transplant. I had goals before then yes, like graduating college and getting married. So you can easily see how I was attacked by discouragement even then: I got sick my junior year of college, threatening my graduation, and I am still not married.
That discouragement was something serious–because I allowed it to be serious. Now, it could not attack me with school, I was determined to finish no matter what. But when it came to getting married, and recently with everything in my life in general, it had me whipped to the point that I would not call on the name of Jesus to be freed from those thoughts. I sat there and had a pity party because things were not happening fast enough for me. Yep…that microwave effect again.
I was more comfortable wallowing in self-pity than shaking it off and getting back in the fight. So I sat that way, for a week recently. Angry. Bitter. Disinterested and discouraged. But I was ashamed of myself for feeling that way. I allowed the thoughts, those voices (again your mind is the battlefield) to influence me; I allowed myself to become discouraged in the pursuit of my dreams. I know I’m not alone here.
Too often nowadays, once a person is faced with some obstacle hindering their progress they give up. Now I will not attribute this lack of perseverance wholly to the microwave effect–because it isn’t just that, but an overall lack of faith. The residual side effect of never having to endure, be obedient or wait for things to manifest is that it creates a poor backbone. Want an example? Let’s look at King Saul.
In 1 Samuel 15, up until this point, Saul was victorious, prosperous and had found favor in the eyes of the Lord–God selected and anointed him to be king over all of Israel out of all the people. But God instructed him to do something very specific in battle against the Amalekites: to destroy all of the people, men, women, and children, their livestock and kill the king. But Saul disobeyed God, which served as a critical turning point in his life; he left the king alive along with the some of the livestock. Here again is that ‘going about things your own way’ attitude instead of following through and enduring. He failed his test which cost him everything. Because of this Saul was stripped of God’s favor, and David was anointed king in his place. Saul, instead of staying in a place of repentance, became vengeful towards David, and eventually died a very cruel death. Saul, who was the king of a united Israel, ended up living the rest of his natural life separate from God. Instead of the kingship continuing with Saul’s family, his rights were transferred to David and his family line. He allowed the evil thoughts in his head to keep him discouraged after his failure, instead of rebuking them and getting back in line. What’s worse, all of the success of his earlier years was overshadowed by the shame that followed.
Don’t be like Saul. Don’t get outside of God’s will and do what you want to appease the world. Don’t allow that setback, whether of your own doing or not, to permanently knock you out of life. Don’t even allow it to take root in your mind. Yes we all go through, whether trials and tribulations or temptation, because that is the nature of life. Don’t believe the person that says we aren’t going to experience difficulties, because we will. Life is seasonal, and just like we have Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring, we have seasons of rain and drought, abundance and difficulty, and storms and sunshine in our own lives. Be like Peter was when he stepped out of the boat–in faith and eyes focused on Jesus. Get back up and stop pouting! Just because a squall rolls up, don’t lose sight of the Lord and His promises. Speak to your storm and call forth your success in faith!
But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, you of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea. And there was a great calm. Matthew 8:26
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. Psalm 37:4-5
I still remember his words to me. In a conversation with my friend’s older brother last Christmas break about my post-law school plans, I told him of my desire to return to Atlanta to practice law and live. His words still ring out in my head: You’ll never get married there. I quickly replied something along the lines that I wasn’t worried about that. And being who I am, I know now and knew then that God will send me my husband at His appointed time. But I was never a patient person, I’ve only gotten better recently, lol baby steps. Fast forward to now, and well a couple of weekends ago, when I had a major epiphany that resulted in this 3-part devotional and videos (to come soon!). Ultimately, its thoughts and words like that, that consume a vast majority of people, ‘You’ll never do this, you’re never gonna make it there’. It is as if they are driven mad by the impatience, so mad that they decide to take matters into their own hands and plan their own futures. This is not contained within dating and marriage, but in every area of our lives. Its the microwave effect, the attitude that we should have what we want now. We live in a society that cannot delay self-gratification–look at the news when a new pair of Jordan’s comes out and see who was attacked or killed to get them. When you want something or someone, you must have it now and you can’t wait, even if waiting will bring along something better. When I realized this, God reminded me of a dream I had 2 years ago.
In the dream, I was at a house gathering with one of my close friends. There was a preacher, and every one in the house was caught up in what he was saying…but me. Every time he said something that did not align with the word of God, I corrected him. When he was done and the crowd had dispersed, I confronted him. Then he did something, and if you saw it, it was like dropping a rock in a still pond, causing ripples to my eyes, like he cast a spell on me. But I kept calling on the name of Jesus, rebuking and binding him, and eventually I defeated him.
At the time, I thought that dream meant I was not ready to go back to Atlanta, because I had been trying to get back since I left. I thought it meant that I wasn’t strong enough and would fall victim to what was happening to the people in the room, to the deception and appealing words of that false prophet. I now realize there was more there. That prophet was spewing lies to believers, and as it applies here, the lie that we are in complete control of our own destinies and don’t need God to get what you want! As a Christian, we are to submit to the divine will of God. That’s not to say that obstacles will not come and cause us to be distracted–on the contrary, these things will happen. I realize that I was the only one in there to see the truth–that he was lying and that I have to be willing to stand up on behalf of my friends and those around me and come against those lies. I ask you, what lies have you been told by the enemy–by the prevailing thoughts of society–that you are believing? Is it that you will be single forever? That you have to be skinny to be healthy? That you have to keep doing what your ancestors and parents did because of man-made traditions? Or specifically for this devotion, that you have to go about finding your own mate, by any means necessary? The lie that predominates all these things is that YOU don’t NEED GOD and that He doesn’t love you or else you would have everything you want. And that is the biggest lie. EVER. The enemy is going really hard nowadays to get us to stop trusting God and to start trusting ourselves…and we are doing it. We do it so much till we mess things up. Then we run back to God (hopefully) to fix it, and when He doesn’t fix it quickly enough or to our liking, we go on trusting ourselves and forcing our own way, like spoiled kids and continuing the cycle, and getting further and further away from the Father. It tells us that patience is pointless and you can have what you want if you go get it. Sometimes, when you get that thing, it does much more damage to you in the long run. So I hope these bless you…here goes.
Loneliness and How It Taints Relationships
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18
I fundamentally do not agree with online dating. Nor am I the aggressive female that will pursue you like a lioness searching for the last pig on the planet (This made me think about Nala from the Lion King). I tried being ‘forward’ in college expressing my interest in a cute guy and failed miserably (let’s disregard the fact that I had a boyfriend at the time, thank GOD for maturity, pruning and preparation–transparency is something else I tell ya). FYI, this devotion does not only apply to online dating, but all relationships. I am not trying to offend anyone, just to shed some light, like that light was cast on me. So at first, I was thinking it was just because of how I was raised…because no matter how it was presented to me, I just don’t like it. But after learning that several of my close friends, many in Atlanta, all date online, I had to really truly pray and seek God about why I felt so opposed to it. I know several who have met guys and were not so successful with it, so that was enough for me to further solidify my disdain. Then it was like all at once, I understood. The scripture above tells us to trust in God. Delight yourself in Him and He will give you the desires of your heart. And a more relevant verse to this area is Proverbs 18:22: He who finds a wife finds a good thing And obtains favor from the LORD. With that said, if you trust in God, delight in Him, spend time getting to know Him–because its in knowing God that you truly begin to know yourself–reading, serving Him, and in singing to, dancing for, praising and worshiping Him, He will give you the desires of your heart. This goes without saying, because in that time of getting to know God, submitting to God, and loving on God by doing His will and seeking His face, you will be prepared to receive that desire.
I will first say, that Romans 8:28 tells that all things work together for the good of those who love God, and are called according to His purpose for them. I believe, and Lord correct me if I am wrong, that ultimately at the end of the day, when we get outside of the will of God, as long as we come back and surrender to Him, seeking His face and staying at His feet, He will ultimately work that thing out for our good. So let’s march on, stepping through scripture.
In Genesis 24, Abraham sent his servant Eliezer to get a wife for Isaac. Before Eliezer did anything, he asked God for favor and to send him the woman to become Isaac’s wife. Before he finished praying, Rebekah came up and did exactly as he had requested in his prayer. Even further back in Genesis 2, God himself took Adam’s rib to create Eve, and presented Eve to Adam as his wife. So I wondered, what made this so attractive to my friends? What was it?? Then I heard a lot. lol.
Primarily, because of our microwave society–fast food, tv dinners–we don’t like to wait for anything. And we as humans are inherently self-centered, which is usually instilled in us from birth by how our parents are supposed to tend to us(all don’t experience this nurturing) which leads us to believe that everything should be about us and that when we cry, we get what we want. This is not so. Isaiah 40:31 says that they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall run and not get weary–wait on God for your spouse, trust Him for him or her and you will truly get the best person for you. And even if your waiting tarries longer, your strength will be renewed to persevere in that season.
So back in August I told God I was not going to wait for my future husband, and that I was going to meet people and date whoever I wanted because I did not want to wait for this man anymore. Of course in my first year here, God did a WHOLLLLLEEEE lot of work on me. I dealt with things that had affected me since childhood and that had hindered me from truly walking in my purpose. It was hard, especially releasing these things while in law school, a whole other challenge in itself. So I was not too interested in dating last year; don’t get me wrong, I would go out, if asked just as a diversion from monotony so to speak. But then I had an epiphany this summer about how I was being double-minded, saying I didn’t want to date, but knowing in my heart I long for my husband and to have a family someday. I had to seek the source of the confusion in my life because I was attracting guys who were just as confused as me. They liked me and enjoyed my company, but didn’t want to settle down. They wanted to hang out with me when I was local, but were not willing to date me because of the distance. So I checked my words and thoughts and got it together. Then I met 3 guys within a few weeks of each other…one I was introduced to, the other two I met in the grocery store parking lot (y’all better go grocery shopping lol!!! JUST kidding). One guy I beat in pool and never heard from again, and the others just were not my cup of tea. But in this process, I told God I was not going to wait for who I felt He had told me would be my husband. I said I was going to pick who I wanted…why…because I was feeling that microwave effect! I let impatience tell me I could do it on my own because I had become who I ideally wanted to attract. I’m guilty of it all the way, talking to guys that I have no desire to get serious with, just for the attention or to numb that ache that the loneliness was causing. In all honesty, I know this is God’s time, but I wanted what I wanted, when I wanted it. But now, today, I am content, in my singleness, because I know and rest in trusting God for who He has for me.
But back to that weekend. I realized that with this attitude, we are cutting God out of the process. By dating online or going rogue like me–or truthfully, hooking up with any person you meet without seeking God, you are basically saying to God, “I don’t need you.” There are plenty of people in unfulfilled relationships and marriages to the WRONG PERSON. They have children, acquire things and assets, and then one day, reality sets in after the lust or strong like wears off, and they are ‘stuck’ with this person for life (or until the divorce papers are signed). In some cases, these people cheat, lie, or do some other damaging behavior to this other person, all because they chose to omit God from their recruitment process and refused to allow God’s work to be completed in them before adding another to the mixture. Like I said, I don’t limit this to online dating, because there are plenty of people that meet a guy on the street, at the club, or in the grocery store like I have, that end up unhappy outside of the will of God. The effects of going outside of God’s will are lasting. Because what’s left behind, is the soul tie and the remnant of that person, the damage they have done to you and you to yourself in the course of the relationship, the baggage they have created, that you carry with you to the next relationship. It ultimately boils down to us being so impatient that we tell God, I got this on my own. Because of free will, we can do that, and what we really end up doing is delaying God’s plan for our lives from fully manifesting with the threat being we leave this life unfulfilled. So, then your decision affects your future, and the lives of others indefinitely. The sad part is that most people don’t even think about the consequences.
I know what you’re thinking, its not that serious, right? Yes, it is! And in case you haven’t guessed, this all stems from loneliness. That discontentment you feel, its because you have been pushing God out and then choosing to fill it with some person or activity that causes you to get off track. If you need to warm your bed, get a heating pad! Ladies, keep your legs closed to every Joe Blow you meet and seek God about him. He will make it crystal clear whether He is for you or not. Fellas, everything that glitters ain’t gold, and everything that looks good isn’t right for consumption. Hips WILL lie. Loneliness is a direct product of not spending enough time with God. Yes, we all need human companionship, because like we see above, God said it was not good for us to be alone!! However, God only blessed Adam with Eve after Adam spent much time with God. Adam was operating in his purpose, naming the animals, reigning and ruling over the Earth, and having regular kickbacks with God. He was being who God created him to be. Ask yourself, are your priorities in order? Do you spend time with God? A Max Lucado quote I love is “A woman’s heart should be so hidden in God that man should have to seek Him just to find her.”
Your first solution to loneliness is to make the decision to trust God. James tells us faith without works is dead. Your work is to trust God and have faith that what He has for you, is for you, and those things you desire will come to pass. Next, submit your every care and concern to Him. That is trusting God with everything. Your crazy family, your job, your finances, your hair…everything, even that desire to get married. Lay it at His feet and let Him show you what to do. Third, make it your daily desire to spend time with Him, so that you can get to know you for who you are called to be. Fourth, if it is your desire to be married, ask God to make and teach you to be a spouse. Or, if you just want to have friends–NOT a romantic relationship–ask God to make and teach you to be a friend. Lastly, you have to be patient. You have to trust God and wait. Allow God to make you into the Proverbs 31 ladies, and men, allow God to teach you to love like Christ, to have the heart of David towards your future wife. Your process may take a few weeks, a few months, or a year or more. Allow God to work in you before you bring someone else into your life. One thing I’ve learned from all of my married friends, is that marriage is work. Make sure you are prepared for what that entails. That is not simply knowing yourself, or who you think you are. That means knowing God, so that you understand what it means to turn the other cheek. That means knowing the Father so that you can be submissive (ladies don’t run away from that word, lol). That means trusting that whoever He removes in that process, whoever was holding you back from where He wants you to go.
So whether this changes your mind or not, that is for you to decide. I just wanted to share the truth with you. Trust God for your mate. Let’s be clear here, you have to trust God with everything, your entire life. If you are single, embrace your singleness for this season. Do everything you never did. Travel, go skydiving (coming soon!!), leave your dog at home and just go have fun and enjoy the beauty of being single. Also, work hard and labor for the Lord so that you have established a solid relationship with Him when the time comes for you. Because once it does, you can’t just retreat in defeat. You have to work hard and love even harder to keep your marriage. The enemy is coming for marriages, for families, and for everything God created. Why??? Because he hates us and evidences it by perverting everything God created. So please stop microwaving your life. One thing I’ve learned about microwave cooking, is that the main difference between it and cooking in the oven, is that the aroma, the sweet or savory smelling scent of whatever you’re preparing, it does not last. Seek lasting relationships, mainly the most important one.
You may wonder if I’m even qualified to say this stuff. I’ve read plenty of ‘self-help’ books, and actually some great ones on dating as a Christian but the best advice was prayer and talking to God. I have plenty of eye-witness accounts and first-hand experience of relationships gone bad…mistakes I made, decisions I regret, scenes I wish I could do over. But alas, everything in its season and timing. Cultivate your relationship with God in the interim…because He will make it plain as day who He has for you!
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1
I wrote this almost three weeks ago. I received confirmation to go forward in sharing the next afternoon, and even again that following Sunday. And today after much prayer, I’m ready to share my secret. The thing that caused me so much pain and confusion and heartache. The thing that controlled me for most of my life…but by God’s grace I am healed and delivered from those things. This topic addresses incest and child molestation. It is something that has crippled so many that walk around in private shame. This is for all of the girls and boys like me, whose lives were forever changed by an act influenced by the spirits of perversion, bondage and lust. These spirits have invaded marriages, families, and the Church, and have been so disruptive that people stop believing because people that are to reflect God instead succumb to the enemy’s attacks against their mind. Today, I challenge you to speak out to begin your healing and to forgive. I challenge you to walk in your deliverance. Because Jesus died, you are delivered!!! In surrendering this and all your hurts, cares, and secret pains to Jesus, the final blow to the enemy’s hold on your life has been delivered.
Sorry for the sermon, lol, but please read on…God bless and I hope it blesses you!
"What is your name?" Jesus asked him." Legion," he said–because many demons had entered him. Luke 8:30
I never thought I would see the day that I would be ready to share this. But I never imagined I would be here in this place either. Tonight I went to church. On the first Sunday night, we have our monthly communion service. I think it was fitting that I went today too, because after the last month, I was in need of remembering the blood of Jesus, why He died, and what He has done for me. But God had a word for me there, even with the distraction of my neighbor taking pictures for Facebook and pictures of herself during the service (she had me take two pictures for her too, lol).
I recognized this text that I had long remembered. For the whole text please read Luke 8:22-39. In the past, I used this passage of scripture as my justification of why I do not eat pork (clearly I occasionally but unintentionally eat it now, because I know its not what I put in my body that makes me unclean, but that what comes out that makes me unclean, so eat on pork eaters! lol). Legion means a very large number. And this man in this passage, was possessed by a very large number of demons, so many that he was not in his right mind, and that he ran about naked, and that he had to be chained and fettered, and that he was found near the tombs, near the dead–the lifeless and the hopeless, dead dreams and visions.
As I listened to the sermon, I realized so many things. I had been battling with some revelations I had recently, but this one rang out clear for me. It dawned on me, I knew what this man felt like.
I knew what it felt like to be crazy. I knew what it felt like to feel lifeless and that there was no hope. I knew what it felt like to be naked–by being naked, I mean exposed and vulnerable as if all your faults were on display for the world to see. I also know what it feels like to be delivered, and to now sit at the feet of Jesus, healed, delivered, and restored, in my right mind, and clothed–covered by the blood of Jesus. So I know you are wondering, what made me crazy? What possessed me that I had a legion of problems to drive me out of sanity?
We all have our crosses to bear. I think I spent so much time carrying mine and trying to bear the crosses of others that when things fell down and the bottom fell out of my life, I was crushed under the pressure. What made me crazy, was when my daddy died because it seemed to pull the scab off of a seeping wound. What cross was I bearing–the pain of being molested as a little girl, among other things. The pain of never talking about it, the guilt it caused, the shame, and the demons that came with it.
I could have been a very different person, and if you want to know who, just look at your nearest street corner to imagine what could have been my fate. I think about how God saved my life as a little girl at a very young age. And I have my mom to thank for that. She made sure my brothers and me were raised in the church. So I met Jesus at a very young age. It was not until I became an adult, and more recently until my father’s death, that the ‘legion of demons’ were cast away from oppressing and tormenting me.
I realize now I’m being vague. How was I crazy? Well, I thought that God didn’t love me for allowing that to happen to me. I thought that God didn’t love me for taking my daddy and my cousin away from me. I thought that God didn’t love me for allowing me to get sick and keeping me alive. I thought that God didn’t love me because I was alone, and that I felt that no one would ever love me because of all my imperfections. Those demons had me bound; seeking love in meaningless relationships out of lust and perversion–the perversity was simply a twisting of God’s word, that I could make someone else love me by doing whatever they wanted instead of yielding to God who already loved me. That legion were the spirits of lust, perversion, and bondage. Because of it, I had a victim mentality and I was very angry too. Angry that no one noticed, angry that I always had to hide it in shame and I was guilty because I hurt people because of my own hurt, and the even sadder fact was that I was oblivious to it or blocked it out. I hurt my family, friends and myself–like the man possessed by Legion did. He was bound for his own safety, but was he really safe?
And when Legion met Jesus, all that changed. He went from being a captive in every sense of the word, to a free man; free to worship, free to praise, and free to walk in God’s covering.
I was freed after my daddy died. Ironic, right? It took my daddy dying for me to be freed. It took me losing him and my cousin, and almost my life, to truly gain life in Christ. Free, to sit at His feet. Freed from that guilt, that shame, that anger. Free to forgive. And now free to love others, and love them all unconditionally.
We all have a legion we are fighting against everyday. But we can only be freed by meeting Jesus. In meeting and accepting Jesus’s gift of salvation, we are reborn–re-clothed in righteousness, healing, and love. Our minds are renewed through daily surrender to Jesus, in our acceptance of His grace and mercy. I can really say I’m in my right mind today. Of course, I have slip ups if I do not renew my mind and guard it since that is how the enemy can take us captive if we are not on guard. I think about how my life has changed dramatically since I met Jesus, since I truly came to know Him for myself. I like this Marquita a whole lot better than the other one. Yes, I still have much work to do but as long as I surrender to God and remain at His feet–in prayer, praise, and worship–I’ll keep making progress.
I share this song with you. My co-pastor is Bishop Paul S. Morton and this song is on his latest album. As I sang along tonight, it gave me peace. I no longer feel bound by that hurt and the myriad of emotions associated with those things. I encourage you right now, that whatever storms you are facing whether it is that legion of problems that is trying to call you out of your position of faith or those demons that are trying to condemn you, to call on the name of Jesus and He will free you. I just realized that the verses where Jesus stills the storm are in the very first few scriptures before the ones pertaining to the demon-possessed man (verses 22-25 I shared above) and this is so perfect here. Call on Jesus to still the storms of your life and to guide you through them. I will not say that it is going be easy, but the beauty of being in your right mind is that you can see clearly and that you can trust Jesus and the freedom that He gives. One of the things that Bishop pointed out was the nature of that man’s community–how they were accepting of his mental state and inherent possession and that they were afraid when he was delivered. Maybe your friends and family will not appreciate what God is doing in your life right now, but if you will simply sit at Jesus’s feet and rest there, He will give you peace and joy there regardless of the storms that surround you. Like that man–no longer Legion–you will be able to return home and rejoice, testifying of the goodness of God that is evident in your life. And that light that you will bear, will change those around you.
I love you guys!
"Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you." So he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him. Luke 8:39
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"The young lions suffer want and hunger: but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing." Psalm 34:10
I have been having the most difficult struggle with being away from my friends and loved ones. But I finally realized today that it is good for me to be here in this season. Of most importance right now, I have been able to learn to focus on the immediate task. Because the only distractions here in New Orleans for me are my raging thoughts. One thought will have me listening to a song while I am attempting to study and that will lead me to run off and do something else completely unrelated, with me accomplishing nothing or my overall productivity greatly diminished. I have learned to step outside of my comfortable walls and go to a coffee shop so that all the distractions around me somehow quiet my mind so that I am able to get work done.
So, I read this scripture today. I have been reading the 34th Psalm almost daily as a part of this devotion I signed up for. And today as I read it during a work break, this scripture stood out to me as another popped into my head. Then I asked myself, if I am seeking God, and He withholds no good thing from me, maybe it is not good for me to be close to my family and friends right now. And that thought brought tears to my eyes as I would want nothing greater than to be close to home. Today I thought of that as I talked to my brother and my niece. She’s talking, still gibberish but its getting clearer. As my brother told me about her, my heart became heavy because I want nothing more than to spend time with her and be closer to my family. Even this year will be the first year that I will not be going home for Thanksgiving. I’m 28 years old and this will be my first time away from home and my loved ones on Thanksgiving. I asked God what was the purpose in all of this, why I am I being isolated like this. So I assume this scripture was the result of that prayer.
Sometimes, we go through periods of isolation. It is often during these periods of isolation that we go through our greatest spiritual growth spurts. I went through one last year, but this one is even harder because I honestly hate being here. I recognize there are a lot of ways about me that still need to be cleaned up, and I think at this point, maybe I have been running away from the things God wants me to do for too long now.
This even made me think about the things I want really bad…like to move back to Atlanta and to get married! I can no longer deny the fact that Mother Nature and her clock has me desiring to have a family of my own…but all I have is Parker. lol. This scripture made me think of this too, and maybe what I want is not good for me, well at least right now. Then I thought a little deeper, have my pursuits of these things, like moving closer to home and applying for jobs, spending time with friends and family, and even desiring to get married (mainly unsuccessful dating attempts since I have been here) kept me from seeking God? Because maybe it is me, my thoughts and the actions that result from them that are keeping me from having what I want. The things I want are good things…but if I meditate and focus on them too much, they can become idols which of course will serve to sever my bond with God. I wouldn’t seek Him as diligently in prayer, I would be neglecting Him.
So this sometimes happens to us in life, God seemingly strips away all those things of value to us, to get us to Himself, so that we can put things in proper perspective. I’ve been going back and forth about being here in New Orleans. I really want to leave, but I do now realize that being here is good for something…for me to draw closer to God and seek Him ever more intently. Maybe the source of the storm has been within me all along…holding on to those things that remind me of who I used to be instead of accepting who I am becoming. In doing that, I have been resisting being here this second year so far, wanting to leave to go back to what was old and comfortable. The truth is, I seriously contemplated transferring from Clark to Clemson…but staying in Atlanta and yielding to God was one of the best decisions I ever made. Perhaps it is God’s will for me to stick it out till I graduate from law school, maybe it isn’t. At any rate, I will seek Him more, so that when I am released from here (prayerfully soon), those things I currently lack will be exactly as He wants them to be when its time for me to receive them.
Yield now and be at peace with Him; Thereby good will come to you. Job 22:21
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6
I regret the day I prayed for patience. I frequently say how much I despise the word. I really do. I would be lying if I said I didn’t. But I say this in honesty because I have learned so many lessons about life and myself. From my dealings with others, to how I view myself, patience has made all the difference.
I was angry today because a pastor I follow was judging women who are saved for how they dress–because they have not quite gotten to where she is. I had a conversation pertaining to this type of judgment a few weeks ago with a pastor about my own experiences with it and how I have learned that it takes time for God’s works to be completed. It was apparent to me that these people forgot that God didn’t deliver them overnight; they told me themselves. The scripture above confirms that! You see, I wasn’t always this way. I was much different and even though I still have a long way to go, I have made progress which directly reflects God’s hand on my life. I still have some very marked flaws but I trust those to God too. That has been one of my struggles lately, wondering how God is going to get me from here, the place I am in mentally, physically, and spiritually to where He wants me to be. And it rang out, patience, trust the process and allow yourself to be prepared. Likewise, people, including clergy, sometimes forget the process that God took them through to get where they are. I was guilty of this when I was a baby Christian. I wanted my boyfriend at the time, my friends, and family to all get to where I felt I was in my walk. But God showed me that I still had more growing to do. So the next time you judge that lady in church for her tight pants and cleavage in church, although distracting if your mind isn’t focused on getting the word, remember she is not where you think you are, and God invites us to come to Him as we are, imperfections and all. Because He is more than patient with us all, right?
Patience is the product of suffering and trials. It teaches us to endure, and endure in faith. It strengthens our faith muscles, much like push-ups and squats build muscles. But you can’t work out once and expect to lift cars! You must be patient–and endure. God has been drilling me in this lesson for the last 4 years. Everything I desire: healing and deliverance from medications, marriage and children, debt freedom, and now to become a judge…I have to patiently endure the process necessary for all of this. While I know I don’t have it 100% mastered, patience has taught me to trust God and cleave to Him to have the faith necessary to keep believing that the things I want in life will manifest.
I think the most beautiful lesson I’ve learned in all of this is that as long I as trust God for what He has shown me, no matter what, I will have those things. And the reward of patience is knowing God more intimately. To endure and persevere for His promises causes you to draw nearer to Him. And its in the drawing nearer to Him that you are transformed and changed. You gain the intimacy of relationship with God and its there in that intimacy that you learn to walk in those things He has promised you–you walk in your healing, you walk in your favor, you walk in your deliverance. You expect your spouse, you await those children, and you can endure in peace and joy. I’m getting there, because it has been tough enduring for me. I have had to overcome myself and the things that have come against what I want. But I see how God has changed me and those around me, and I can rest in knowing that its simply a matter of time before my desires make their appearance.
So the next time you feel judged, remember two things, God isn’t through with you yet and just like they judge you, God will judge them. Let patience have its work in you and your life.
But patience will have a complete work for itself that you would be perfected and complete, and that you would be lacking nothing. James 1:4
So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Galatians 6:9
Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. 1 Peter 2:2-3
I really feel like I have the most non-random, random encounters of God. (There are NO coincidences, haha.) So let me explain.
I was dropping off a friend of my friend after finishing getting my hair done. He is a make-up artist and we talked on the way, about how he came to be in Atlanta, and what is his ultimate goal. At some point in the conversation, he asked me what is my sign. I said huh because I wasn’t totally listening at that very moment, and he repeated it. I replied, "oh, I’m a Cancer." He then told me I have sweet spirit but can be crabby. I burst out laughing because its true. Then I thought about how a lot of stuff astrology and horoscopes have to say about people born around my time of the year are true. Then somewhere in those thoughts and words buzzing around my head, God spoke to me about how religion and spirituality are now flavored or enhanced by these things that are not of God. Growing up, I LOVED to drink chocolate and strawberry milk. So it dawned on me: pure milk is what we need, but chocolate milk is what we want, and subsequently drink.
Nowadays, in many churches, in many homes, and in many of the minds of the masses, there are beliefs that are not biblically based or that are variations of the word of God. From Christian denominational traditions to the mainstream inclusion of astrology, voodoo, witchcraft, and other religions and New Age movements as parts of our everyday life and personal belief systems, there are many things that are flavoring the pure milk. Sure, you may still be getting milk, but at what cost? What are you sacrificing–are you getting whole milk, that full fat, pure milk of the Lord, or are you getting skim milk or 2% milk? What are you adding to it? What has been taken away from it?
I don’t know why that stuck out in my mind. I guess to show how we are easily deceived and make things ‘doctrinal’ that really should not be. Or maybe to show how easily we get caught up in worldly things, flavoring that milk, until there is no longer any milk left, but the damaged caused by the additives. Case in point, when we don’t truly know the word of God, we get confused…and I hope you know that the enemy is the author of confusion, seeking to corrupt us all and damn us to eternity separate from the Father.
We are susceptible to it because of the society we live in. We get caught up in them because they sound better than what the Bible tells us to do: making it wrong to offer correction to a brother or sister in Christ and right to encourage their downfall. Religious freedom and tolerance allow for a variety of belief systems to flourish. As a result, strangely enough, this tolerance promotes religious swirling. By swirling I mean many churches and religious figures add a little bit of this and a little bit of that to get more people through the doors, and the more that happens, the more watered down the Word will be. It is my hope that God corrects that in me, that I always accurately represent Him to the world and I pray you the same!
So I ask you today to ask yourself, are you getting pure milk? Are you taking what you hear at face value because the preacher, or your teacher, or your friends, or your mom said it? Or are you studying the Word for yourself, spending time with God for yourself, and praying, so that you can adequately test those things that come along–because they most surely will–and discerning for yourself through the help of the Holy Spirit, that which is truth? Be careful, be leery, because all it takes is a turn off, a omitted word, or a rearrangement of the words, as the serpent did with Eve, to fall. And if it sounds good and tastes kind of sweet, you might be getting some chocolate powder added to your milk!
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ” 4“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Genesis 3:1-7
The soldiers also twisted together a crown of thorns, put it on His head, and threw a purple robe around Him. John 19:2
So, I guess the only place to start is at the beginning. I hope this blesses and encourages you to keep pushing, even when you get to your breaking point like I did. The last few weeks have been beyond hectic, and the last year has been beyond difficult. All of the frustrations and heartaches for me came to a head the weekend before last. It started with my oversleeping and missing the ride to Atlanta with my church, but I was okay, because I was able to get a bike (score for me…sorta…I later found out I could have gotten the same bike brand new for the price it cost me to get the bike and get a tune up…but oh well.) Then…I needed to get a trim…initially I decided against it. But I knew I was going to get a sew-in this past Saturday and needed a trim before I got it done. (I’m not sure if its showing up, but trim is bolded, lol, pay attention.) So, it bugged me, and to make sure my hair stays healthy while in these protective styles and since I was trying to let it grow out, I went ahead to get a trim. Sigh. Let’s just say my precious hair is 2-3 inches shorter and cut even when that was not my request. I prefer layers, not even hair (*insert angry scowl here*). I was devastated. I got depressed immediately and I am just recovering from the test of my faith that ensued.
Most of you may think I’m crazy, and maybe I am. Sue me. But it was in the midst of that situation that I had several epiphanies that were not so comfortable. I felt like, with valid reason, that every time I got back on my feet and was moving forward, an obstacle would come or some attack would knock me down. And especially with my hair. My journey with growing my hair out has been my tangible example of my faith walk. So I was very down…very low. Over the course of last week, I told God I don’t care, and that I’m not the person for this and that I was angry about all the things I have had to go through with no breaks. I still am not sure whether I am. I asked Him flat out why am I still here if all I do is fight and struggle and be strong for others and suffer and wait. No answer came to me at all that day. I didn’t flat out stop praying, I vowed to pray for others and ignore what I wanted because it seemed like I would never get it. Yet, somehow I knew when I prayed for others it would work. Strange thinking…no stinking thinking. LOL. I had several conversations last week where people attempted to encourage me. I tried listening to a sermon, I tried reading the Bible, and I tried reading devotions but I just wasn’t in the right state of mind.
So last Friday, I woke up early so I could try to get out of New Orleans on time to leave for Atlanta. I prayed the night before and I finally accepted that the hair was gone. (Side note, I went through the stages of grief smh; trims are traumatic for me unless I go to Tamara. From now on until I die, I will suck it up and make that ride to Atlanta from wherever I am…never again will anyone else trim my hair). By the time I got in the car to go to work, I had a text message from one of my linesisters, letting me know that her sister was diagnosed with Lupus.
See many of you don’t know that technically, I was diagnosed with Lupus back in 2006 when my kidney problems were discovered. I went into a deep depression; I was angry with God then too. During junior year, I started having some strange symptoms which led to me having to have a biopsy. Well right there was God’s hand on my life. Because instead of prepping me for the biopsy, the doctor ordered additional labs that morning, which was not the norm, and I waited. I later was admitted to the hospital where I stayed for two weeks during the middle of the second semester of school because had they done the biopsy that day, I would have bled to death. I was poked and prodded like a cow, isolated, depressed, and everything imaginable while I was in there. They could not find out what was wrong with me. I read the bible and I prayed to God that it would not be Lupus. I prayed and I prayed. Some friends, including my college roommate and two of my spiritual sisters, came and prayed for me. My boyfriend’s (at the time) mom and aunt and sister came and prayed for me. Friends came and visited me. At some point during the hospitalization, I tested positive for some of the markers for Lupus. Then, after being treated with all sorts of medicines to get my platelet count up, I had the kidney biopsy. I had been being tested since I was 16 and every time after being in the hospital, the tests were negative.
I had the moon pie face and I hated taking pictures. I refused to be in the front of a picture. And then I got bigger than this!
You can see here that I was just getting the stria on my arms (they were still red so my skin was still ripping from the weight gain)
When I got out of the hospital, my life changed completely. I went from eating and drinking whatever I wanted to a strict diet and a new additive: prednisone. I gained about 30 lbs in less than 2 months. People asked me what was wrong; it hurt to walk and I was easily fatigued. Some people asked if I had a baby… So last Friday morning when I got her message, I suddenly understood why I was still here as those memories rushed back.
I had a vision after reading the message from my linesister. I saw an image of Jesus with the crown of thorns around His head. I saw the scratches they caused and the blood that dripped from them and I thought of the pain, His shed blood for our lives. Then I thought of Paul and the thorn in his flesh. Both had thorns, but it was how they looked at them that was different. So I now have a new understanding of 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Paul was tormented by a messenger of satan. This thorn he had, much like my thorn, can be equated to those negative thoughts. That messenger of satan will torment you and cause you to get depressed and discouraged, either by haunting you with thoughts of your current suffering and the things you have faced in life. It was in realizing God’s grace, God’s love, God’s gift to him–Jesus’ life, death and resurrection–that Paul was able to rejoice because God used those situations in Paul’s life to bring victory, to save souls and to spread the Good News to the world. It was in looking at the thorn in his side as Jesus did, necessary to bring about God’s intended purpose, that Paul was able to walk in God’s grace through it.
And now I can do the same. I had thought of thorns in my mind, how instead of victories, the things that I had gone through were like the notches in a tree that was being chopped down. They were thorns, embedded in my mind and heart, serving as a constant reminder of what happened and I was allowing them to still cause me pain. I have the physical reminders of what I went through, the stretch marks, the transplant scar, the biopsy scars (I had a bone marrow biopsy and a kidney biopsy before I was diagnosed, and a thyroid biopsy after my surgery). I have the little stubborn pooch that seems like it will never go away (ugh lol) from my daily prednisone. These thorns have been areas of torment for me instead of access points for the victory. I was reminded of the thorns because these thorns, these uncomfortable situations, are preparing me for my eternal crown. Because for every thorn I have, God has a way in the making for me to rejoice in spite of that thing. And while encounters with thorns sometimes leave scars, those scars fade. I went through what I went through so that I could testify of what faith can do. God healed me. Even though I had to have a transplant, I am healed. Even though I take medicines, I am healed. I live and come and go as I please. I remember that He died and rose. He bore the thorns so that I can wear a crown.
I’m a living testimony of the power of faith. I have had several other diagnoses that I no longer have. The things that happened to me this last year, for a moment were like a prison. I was imprisoned by the burdens, by those thorns in my mind. And even though my diagnosis still says Lupus, the tests they have given me since then say that I’m negative. Why? Because I chose to look at that ‘thorn’ through the eyes of faith and I chose to focus on God’s truth and His grace He extended to me. So I encourage you, that in whatever situation you may be in today, to have faith and get back up. Rise again. Shake off the depression and discouragement; look at your thorns the way that Jesus did. Look at those situations as preparation for the crown of glory God will give you. Don’t focus on the pain, focus on the purpose. Remember in spite of what you’ve gone through and may be going through, God loves you and His grace is sufficient. Remember His power is greater than anything you may ever face and that your crown awaits!
This is two weeks ago, the week of that dang trim! Ugh! lol! Argghhhh lol.
He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness; you have been healed by His wounds. 1 Peter 2:24
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. James 5:16 NASB
Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken. Psalms 55:22 NASB
Sunday before this past one, I went to church with my mentor. The sermon she gave was great and reminded me of the importance of being covered in your armor. However, what I’m going to share was the sermon outside of the sermon, the importance of surrendering a thing to God.
At the church we visited, it was Women’s Day. There was an older woman who was the Women’s Day committee chair. Unknown to her, the women of the church, including the First Lady, decided to honor her and had her granddaughter dance, and 4 of her daughters were there in attendance. The love the church had for this woman and the love and honor the daughters displayed for her was beautiful. But what stuck out to me was when she got up to speak. She testified of God’s goodness, but what spoke to my heart was how she prayed for her children, raised them in the church, and left them to God. And as a result, 6 of her 7 children are saved. Even now, she is still praying for the last child to turn to God. It brings to mind Luke 15–the parable of the Lost Sheep and the parable of the Lost Coin.
She loves her children, as all parents do; as God loves all of us. Even when we fall short, even when we want to quit, even when we want to turn our backs on Him and even when we do, He still loves us. As I write this, I am reminded of the Prodigal Son. I felt like that this week, wanting to quit and drop all these burdens that have been placed on me and go about life my own way. And God being God, He will let you go, should you desire to go your own way. But His word will still be in your heart, His promises still on your mind. And hopefully, one day you will wake up and remember who you are, like the Prodigal son, and return to Him to be reunited to Him. Now this is not a message to encourage you to stray, but if you have already strayed or are interceding for someone else, leave them to God. Leave that person that is tugging on your heart strings to God, and like that mother, they will return to Him, because even when it doesn’t seem like it, God answer our prayers.
The beauty of both of these situations was how the love of God was apparent. That mother at the church loved her children and wanted to see them all saved and that father in the parable rejoiced at seeing his wayward son come home; both are evidence of God’s never-ending love for us. So whatever is weighing you down, a relationship, desires of marriage, family, or friendships, let it go. Let go to God, and trust, in due time, it will return to you, better than before. Maybe with a different person for a relationship, or a new friendship, but trust God loves you so much that He will give you exactly what you need.
"And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ "But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate. Luke 15:21-24
"The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:40
This week has been interesting to say the least. God has done several things for me: in my oversleeping today thanks to all this lovely rain, I missed my ride to Atlanta for fellowship with our baby church, but I took the opportunity to go get a bike from the bike auction at school for $65 (altogether $135 for a new inner-tube and a major tune-up, I’m so excited!!). Before that though, He has clearly shown me in 3 dating scenarios that I don’t want to date here in New Orleans and that its best for me to keep waiting as He told me to (be obedient, and WAIT on the man He has for me…-_-) lol. He also showed me the importance of being covered in the armor of the Spirit because we are battling greater things than we see in the news…and that is a whole separate writing within itself. But probably the most painful lesson I learned, and it didn’t even involve me, was that we have to truly learn to reflect Christ. I know we are all not perfect, not exactly where He wants us to be, but the world is watching us.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t take every opportunity that crosses my way as an opportunity for ministry. Plenty of times, and it hurts me greatly, I don’t give to the poor because I don’t have time to stop or I don’t have to give. I don’t always smile at everyone I see. I don’t always speak. And don’t let me get on my negligence of some of my family members…hahaha. I don’t call, I don’t text, and I don’t do what I should. I recognize now that in many situations I don’t reflect Christ. When I go out and party now, I am a lot more reserved because ultimately I know that everything I do is being watched and being scrutinized. I very fondly remember a conversation from when I lived in Charleston at how my going out with my friends could be seen as hypocritical. (Now that is another devotion, one I already wrote about, that has two sides…)
But anyway, in this situation this week, I was asked legal questions, which I legally and ethically cannot answer and told this lady that cornered me in the restroom at work those very words. Her situation was with a tenant that had somewhat suspiciously tried to break her lease. The tenant claimed that the house had been broken into, and decided to move out and wanted to reclaim her $1200 deposit; ironically enough, she moved out prior to the lights being turned out (which under the leasing terms would end her voucher support from HUD). This woman at work mentioned something in her description of this tenant that unnerved me. ‘She claimed to be a Christian.’
This evoked several ill feelings within me. First and foremost, we as Christians do not recognize the eyes that watch us. There are many, believer, nonbeliever, and unbeliever alike, that are searching for a witness in you. They are searching for a reason to believe in God, when in a Godless world it seems pointless to believe. They are seeking that same source of joy and peace that is promised to us and sadly, we don’t even recognize it. Our actions and our behaviors reflect the world and not God. They can influence others to think that our God is not worth the energy and that it may be easier to believe in Allah, Buddha, or themselves because Christians don’t even have it together.
However, the even sadder part of this situation is that the world judges us just as the Pharisees of Jesus’s time judged him and his associates. They don’t realize that God’s works within us is a process and for some the changes take more time. And sadly, many of us ‘Christians’ are still hurting, still wounded, and still recovering from our own hurts, inflicted upon us by life, our family, other Christians and ourselves. So we continue the cycle and never get that true experience from God. We never get that touch from Him that we need. And who ends up losing out? The very people that we are called to bear witness to. Those that need His touch just as much as we do.
How do we fix this? How can we reflect Jesus and His love to a dying, hurting, loveless world? First we submit to Him. We let Him transform us. We let Him open our eyes and show us the ugly parts of ourselves. We let Him unload the baggage, leaving the burdens we’ve brought at His feet. And we forgive. We apologize. We walk in love, knowing that hurt people only hurt other people. And then we embrace them. We testify of God’s goodness and mercy in our lives. And we keep moving forward, closer to Him, so that our mirrors reflect Him and not our hang ups and hurts.
After hearing this woman describe another member of our race as ‘those people’ and someone who claims to be a ‘Christian’, I prayed. I prayed for myself, that God forgives my transgressions and missed opportunities at truly reflecting Him to others. I prayed for that woman, and I prayed for the lady at my job. I made a mental note to keep my mouth shut about being in law school forever, lol, but I made it my desire to submit to God and allow Him to keep working on me. If that means I am unrecognizable to my friends and loved ones soon, its worth it. Because it isn’t me that should be seen, its Jesus. Well, I love you guys…hope this blesses you. I’m praying for you too, and I love you.
"Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ "They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ "He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Matthew 25:41-45
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
Wait. As I looked at this scripture I saw wait instead written as trust in the Lord or hope in the Lord. My thoughts are heavy with this. Why do we not like waiting? What is it about waiting that seems unbearable?
As I go forward to answer my own question, its the uncertainty of the length of time in that waiting process. Its the lack of definition of waiting. Its not knowing what will happen or transpire in that process of waiting. The key word here is that waiting is a process within itself. Waiting forces you to not instantly gratify yourself with a cheap imitation instead of waiting and staying in faith. For example, its like waiting to see your progress when you begin working out. Waiting seems to give us no benefit, at least not immediate, and because of this, we rather not do it! We live our lives like microwaves, zapping things into the now instead of appreciating the virtues that manifest as a result of waiting, like patience. I’m really talking about myself, I want what I want right when I want it! Haha
I had a problem with waiting that I have given to God to fix. I told God I wasn’t going to wait anymore in a particular situation. I was not going to wait on what He told me, the promise He had given me because I was tired of waiting. I was tired and I wanted to take my life into my own hands. Then I heard almost immediately God say, "Will you wait for Me?" Even as I type this, I tear up because I now think about this scripture. In waiting on God, trusting in Him, and hoping in Him, my strength is renewed. I can keep running the race. I can keep walking forward along this journey. Even when friends don’t agree or understand or they simply cannot relate, I can wait on Him because regardless of what happens or how or when, God is still God and He has everything concerning me and you already taken care of. Even if I end up completely alone in this process, I can wait on Him.
You have too much to lose to not wait on God. We have so much tied up in our purpose, taking a detour or getting ahead of God can cause a lot of heartache. Don’t abort your purpose by choosing self instead of choosing Him.
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. Galatians 6:9 KJV