Defeat Is Not An Option

faith

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart,” Galatians 6:9, NKJV.

If we look hard enough, we can find lessons in each of life’s challenges. From the “big” problems to the smaller ones that no one seems to care about but us, there is something we can glean from every situation. Such was the case for me when my daughter’s cell phone stopped working.

On a side note, I think companies build cell phones to only last a specific amount of time so we (consumers) are forced to upgrade. Yeah, I know, this makes me sound like a conspiracy theorist, but it seems like the phones in our household start acting up when we are close to the end of our contract date. Just a little something that makes me go, hmm… Anyhow, thanks to the cell phone insurance, we were able to get her phone replaced for free. (We actually needed two replacements, but that’s another story and feeds into my conspiracy beliefs.)

We couldn’t get Tia’s information to transfer to the new phone because the screen on the old phone had stopped responding to touch, which meant she’d lose everything. I wasn’t so concerned about her losing all her selfies as I was her losing all the photos from our Canada trip. Despite our cell phone carrier’s employees saying that there was no way to retrieve the photos and discouraging information I found online about this issue, I refused to give up looking for a solution. It took a micro USB dual adaptor, an external keyboard, and a lot of patience, but about two weeks and ten dollars later, everything on the broken phone had been transferred to the new one.

There was a great sense of satisfaction when all was said and done. My daughter had even lost hope at one time, and we talked about the importance of perseverance. While I thought I was teaching her a lesson, I felt God teaching me one as well. I was convicted. I’d given up on some other things in my life, but I sensed Him telling me that I needed that same level of determination to see those things through as I had with retrieving information from that broken cell phone. Thus, my passion for some goals and dreams have been re-ignited.

What about you? What’s something that you have given up on for whatever reason? What mental obstacles have you allowed to get in the way? Our thoughts play a big role in our actions. The mind reveals the inner workings of the heart. What do your thoughts uncover about the essence of your being . . . your core identity and beliefs? If God has made you a promise, but you have given up on it ever coming to pass, then your heart is saying that God is a liar. However, His word says that He’s incapable of such (Numbers 23:19).

I had to face the ugly truth that I’d lost hope about some things that He had promised. It was a sobering reality because I don’t consciously think God is a liar. But, actions always speak louder than words. My behavior indicated that I didn’t really believe Him. Thanks to my daughter’s broken cell phone, I’m on the move again, taking action on some things that I’d let collect dust. It may take some sweat equity, tears, and prayer, but most of all, it will take faith.

As I re-start my journey, I invite you to travel with me on your own, trusting that God is leading the way.

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Trusting God to Heal

Mended Heart

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds,” Psalm 147:3, NKJV.

Someone recently said to me that difficulties in life tend to reveal the true nature of those around us. When we are going through, we discover who is there for us and who isn’t. Sometimes we are pleasantly surprised by those who step up when we need them most. Other times, we are hurt when someone we counted on lets us down. Depending on the depth of the offense, it can take time to overcome, especially when the person doesn’t seem to understand the damage that his or her actions/words have caused.

My mother’s passing has left me feeling pain that I’ve never before experienced. I appreciate the outpouring of love, prayers, cards, words of encouragement, emails, phone calls, etc. that I’ve received. The fact that so many people have gone out of their way to see about me during this season means more than I can ever express in words. Simultaneously, the behavior of a close friend during this time has deeply wounded me. Her actions seemed selfish and insensitive and as a result, I lashed out. Recently, I met with her in an attempt to explain my outburst. Though our encounter was peaceful, I left the meeting feeling like our relationship may be strained for quite some time.

I know myself. If I’m not careful, my heart can become hardened as I navigate through this grieving process. I don’t want it to be. I’ve learned from past experiences that a hardened heart toward one person can lead to me building walls with others for no other reason besides not wanting to get hurt again. The Lord has shown me that when I build these emotional walls, not only do I keep myself from giving love to others, but I also block myself from being a recipient of their love as well. And so I’ve made a decision . . . no walls.

For real, for real, I’m not putting up emotional barriers. (By the way, when people say “for real” twice, they are serious.) Instead of focusing on the emotional support I didn’t get from that individual, I’ve turned my attention to being grateful to God for all the other human angels He sent to help me through this time. While I’m wounded by my friend’s actions and words, I can either choose to become bitter or I can make a conscious decision to take my hurts to God and let Him heal me. It may take some time, but I choose healing.

For real, for real. 😊

As you journey through your own challenges in life, remember that people are fallible and hurt isn’t always intentional. Don’t focus on who isn’t with you, rather concentrate on who is. Ultimately, the One you need by your side is Jesus. My friend may not understand the magnitude of the pain I feel about my mom’s death and her subsequent actions, but God does. People will let us down, but He never will. As long as we trust and lean on Him, He will make sure we have everything and everyone we need to help us through tough times.

“The best way to heal a broken heart is to give God all the pieces.”  — unknown

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Unbreakable

Unbreakable

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed,” 2 Corinthians 4:8–9, NKJV.

In 2005, my husband and I were going through a turbulent time in our marriage. It was so bad that we separated twice for a total of about 10 months. Our first separation was right before the release of my first book, Soul Matters, and I found myself having to travel and put on a “happy face” when I was torn about the fate of my marriage. I remember God leading me to the book of Daniel and the three Hebrew boys who had come out of the fire unscathed. Though David and I were in a fire, I was given assurance that we would emerge unharmed.

This is not to say that we haven’t had other rough seasons over the years. (If any married couple states that they never go through strenuous moments, please run . . . fast! No marriage is perfect no matter how good and healthy it is.)  We have certainly had our share of ups and downs. All experiences have worked together to shape who we are as a couple. No matter how tough things got, we learned one important lesson — we’re not built to break.

I don’t only feel that way about my marriage, but also my person. Over the years, I’ve learned that I could survive things that I thought would kill me or, at the least, send me to the loony bin. At this point in my life, I believe I can make it through everything if I remember that I can’t get through anything without God. Ultimately, He’s in control. If I believe that, then I also believe His Word. I don’t understand why He allows certain things to happen and I’m sure I’ll go to my grave not knowing. What I understand for sure is that nothing catches Him by surprise and, if I am determined to trust Him no matter the outcome, I will be okay.

These last two years of my life have been extremely stressful. Some stress is external; some internal. With everything I’m going through, I am constantly reminded that I’m not built to break. God didn’t wire me to crumble. Trials serve a purpose. In James 1:2–4 we learn to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

God is my source of strength. He can be yours as well. Whatever life has you enduring at the moment, remember, like the slogan for Ford, you were “built to last!”

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Out of Control

selfcontrol

“Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls,” Proverbs 25:28

This is the first year in decades that I have made what some would call a New Year’s Resolution. In actuality, I made it around November 30 and started December 1. What was it? I decided to give up cookies, cake, and candy for a year. (Officially, candy wasn’t added until January.) The decision came a few days after my mom’s 73rd birthday celebration. We ordered a full sheet cake and had about a fourth of it left over. It was the best cake ever!  For real, no lie! That cake was good. So good that the leftovers didn’t last long. I don’t remember eating it all by myself, but apparently, I did because no one else in my household had any and they were sure to let me know. (I tried convincing them that I sacrificed myself to save them from all the extra calories, but they didn’t quite buy it!)

Embarrassed by my gluttony, I knew something had to change. Furthermore, I started looking through my workout logs and saw the years of sweat and sometimes tears I had invested in physical fitness. Yet, my problem areas were no less a problem because my workouts had only been helping me break even after filling my body with junk. I knew I had to change my habits and not on a future date like after my birthday . . . after Christmas . . . after the New Year. I decided to make the change immediately.

In 1 Corinthians 6:19, Paul refers to the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit (NKJV). Though he’s speaking against sexual immorality in that passage, it doesn’t change the fact that we must take care of our bodies in every manner.  Now, let me be clear and say that eating cake isn’t a sin. The reason I took this drastic measure is because I can’t handle the responsibility of eating such things at this time in my life. When it comes to sweets, I don’t seem to understand the concept of moderation. If I did, I wouldn’t have eaten all the cake by myself or — and this is really bad — use a knife to scrape the leftover icing from the box and eat that, too, after the cake was gone. (I know . . . sad!)

Each of us has a different threshold for something. I can’t handle sweets, but yours could be something else. For instance, listening to certain music or watching shows that you know don’t sit well with your spirit. Or, for some people, it could be friendships in which you find yourself doing and saying things that you normally wouldn’t do if you weren’t around a particular individual. Only you and God know what you need to say “no” to. Only you can make the decision as to whether or not you will.

For me, the issue was lack of self-control, which is one of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Experience has taught me that lack of self-control in one area will lead to a lack of self-control in others. While I’m still not a fan of New Year’s Resolutions, I understand why people make them. It’s a way for a fresh start. Personally, I don’t like the idea of waiting until January to make necessary changes in one’s life. Sometimes action needs to be taken immediately. If you have become defenseless to something or someone ruling your spirit, don’t wait until next January 1 to make a change. Start now!

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Trusting God

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly,” Psalm 84:11

Last week there was an opportunity I wanted but didn’t get. A few days before that, I heard the Lord say, “Do you trust Me?” I said, “Yes.” Of course, I interpreted this as Him working out the opportunity in my favor. Well, that’s not quite what happened.

I never asked Him for the opportunity and yet, I was disappointed when I didn’t get it. You may wonder why I never asked Him for it. My answer is simple. I wanted His will, not my own. See, there have been times when I have prayed for specific things because I thought such was in my best interest. I didn’t understand why God didn’t think so, too. Later, I realized that what I thought was best wasn’t and then I was thankful that I didn’t get what I wanted. Have you ever looked back over your life and thought, “God, thank You for not listening to me and giving me (fill in the blank)?” Sometimes it’s only after we see that what we wanted really wasn’t as beneficial to us as we thought it would be that we are thankful for closed doors.

Instead of asking God for the opportunity, I prayed for His will to be done. I trusted in the above Scripture, knowing that He would not withhold any good thing from me. Still, I found myself disappointed when things didn’t work out in my favor. I was left with a choice to thank God and trust in His will or sulk and be upset because my will wasn’t done. The natural tendency is to do the latter. Thus, there was a battle between my natural self and my spiritual self. My flesh wanted to get into a funk, but my spirit was determined to praise. I clung to the words of the psalm, knowing that my God is a “sun and shield.”

My God is a shield . . .

Those words ministered to my spirit. A shield provides protection. When we are covered by the shield, we can’t see everything that comes our way, but we remain unharmed because we are under its shelter. While I don’t know why God closed this door, I trust His sovereignty. I thought the opportunity was good for me, but I was dealing with very limited insight. God sees the panoramic view. Trusting in His word means trusting Him even when things don’t make sense to me. It’s with undeniable faith that I thank Him for the closed door. I thank Him for being my shield.

What about you? What closed door has caused you to be disappointed? Do you trust God’s sovereignty? Are you willing to believe that He will not withhold any good thing from you if you walk uprightly? (We can’t neglect the requirement on our part to live according to His statutes.)

God won’t always make sense to us. In fact, He rarely does! However, despite not understanding Him, we are required to trust Him. Are you willing to do that even when things don’t go your way?

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Loving Hope

“The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love,” Psalm 147:11

It’s apparent that America is hurting as a nation. We’ve had tragedies upon tragedies that have sparked feelings of anger, fear, worry, hatred, and even hopelessness among other things. In only a month, there have been three shootings that gained national attention – two by the police and one act taken against them. Prior to these senseless events, there have been countless other tragedies that have unfairly claimed the lives of loved ones for one reason or another. These things make me angry. The most recent incidents have probably been the hardest for me because they happened back-to-back. Before I could process one, another happened, and then another. I’m careful to take my feelings to the Lord so that I don’t allow anger to take me to a dark place. It’s because of Him that, in the midst of anger, I have hope.

Yes, I’m angry that some police officers and the justice system, in general, don’t value the lives of African Americans, particularly those of black men.

Yes, I’m angry that people have been acquitted of killing innocent black boys and men.

Yes, I’m angry that black men are often given tougher penalties when they commit crimes than others.

Yes, I’m angry that, when a black man is killed, some people ask what he did to warrant such action instead of being sorrowful about the devastation of a life lost.

Yes, I’m angry that I have to instruct my children to play by different rules than the rest of society if they want to live or get ahead in life.

Yes, I’m angry that, no matter how hard I try to instill in my children that everyone has value, there are those who think they don’t nor do others with darker skin.

Yes, I’m angry that someone chose to retaliate against innocent officers because of idiotic ones.

Yes, the many injustices that take place in our society infuriate me! Yet, I have hope!

I am determined that my anger won’t corrupt my spirit. I won’t allow my anger to fill my heart with hatred or bitterness. I won’t allow my anger to cause me to hate an entire race or a certain group of people based on the actions of some. I won’t allow my anger to cause me to sin in word or deed. Instead, I am taking my emotions to the One who created me . . . the One who understands me better than I do myself. It is to Him that I go and it is in Him that I have hope when everything around me suggests that I should be hopeless.

In the midst of turmoil, it’s natural to wonder where God is? Why did He allow these things to happen? How long is He going to let the world suffer? Why doesn’t He simply end it all and take His children to their heavenly home? Maybe it’s presumptuous of me to assume that you have had these same questions. Perhaps it’s just me. There are times when things happen that don’t make sense. Yet, I have hope!

My hope is not in the laws of the land, the justice system, or others. My hope is in God. I don’t see how people make it in this world without Him. I would literally lose my mind because of all the devastation that takes place. Even with external chaos, I have internal peace. It’s a peace that passes all understanding, including my own. My anger has caused me to dig deeper in the Word. It has propelled me to pray for more people and to pray more specifically. As Benjamin Watson said in a post last fall, the problem is sin, not skin. We live in a fallen world. What we see happening are the ramifications of such.

As angry as we are about the current happenings and the years of injustices that have taken place, we, as Christians, can’t render evil for evil. We can’t allow words of hatred to spew from our mouths. We can’t allow ill will to enter our hearts. We are to speak life and we are to love when loving seems impossible. The Bible says that love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8). I’ve seen this truth operated in personal relationships in my life that seemed beyond repair. I know for a fact that the Word works. We have to apply it.

Make a determination that God’s love and light will shine through you no matter what. Filter your words, thoughts, and actions through the Father. He can handle anything you bring His way. He will also give you comfort through His Word so you, too, can see that there is hope. Change can’t be legislated. If it could, injustices would not still prevail considering that Jim Crow laws and segregation were abolished years ago. Laws changed, but hearts did not. Christians can be the agents of change through our words (speaking the truth in love and speaking words that bring life and healing instead of pain), our will (being determined to follow Christ), our walk (showing the world what it means to be His disciple), and our work (doing all things to His glory and not our own).

May the love God has for you lead you to show that love to others. It’s because of His love that there is still hope! 

Do you still believe?

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The Faith Struggle

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“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4 NKJV

Lately, I’ve been evaluating my faith. I don’t question God’s ability to do anything. As a matter of fact, I sincerely believe that there’s nothing He can’t do or any person He can’t reach. My concern has more to do with His desire. I know He can, but will He?

I don’t think I’m the only one who’s ever wondered if God would do something? Many people struggle in their faith for one reason or another — the wife who has seen God save her friends’ husbands, but her husband still resists Him; the mother who’s witnessed God heal people of cancer wonders if He’ll heal her as well so she doesn’t leave her children prematurely; the father who’s been encouraged by stories of miraculous provision wonders if new job opportunities will open for him so their home doesn’t go into foreclosure. All of these scenarios have something in common — they are people who know God has the ability to change their situations and yet struggle with understanding why He has not.

It can be encouraging to hear about the wonderful things God is doing and has done in the lives of others. If we aren’t careful, hearing such testimonies can create feelings of inferiority or despair and cause us to wonder what’s wrong with us since God hasn’t worked this particular miracle in our situation. The enemy loves to see us discouraged. Discouragement opens the door for him to speak loudly to us. He’ll begin to say things like, “Why isn’t God doing this for you?” Or, “There’s no need of praying about this any longer, God obviously does not intend for this to change.” Statements like these can erode our hope.

I wish I had an answer as to why God moves quicker in some situations than He does in others. I would love to tell you that He will work out a circumstance in a specific way. The truth is, I can’t. No one can. What I can say is that giving up on Him to work cannot be an option. We must trust His sovereignty even though His ways don’t always make sense to us. Furthermore, we must place our faith in Him, not a particular outcome.

In the Bible, Jesus healed some by speaking (paralyzed man in Mark 2:11), others had to jump through what seemed like hoops before healing came (blind man in John 9). The end result was the same — the people were healed despite varying methods.

In my own life and from what I’ve learned from others, I believe misplaced faith is where we often go wrong. We’re so convinced that God will do it our way (or the way so-and-so said He did for her), that we are disappointed when He doesn’t. It is true that God is no respector of persons (Romans 2:11). It’s equally true that He is sovereign (Psalm 135:6). Where ever you find yourself struggling in your faith, ask God to help you to re-focus on Him and what He’s doing in you in the midst of your situation. In the end, you will be “perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

Let’s talk. In what areas of your life has your faith wavered?