A Message from God – a poem by Yolonda Tonette Sanders

 

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“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” — Romans 5:19

“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be understood” — Romans 8:26

“Pray without ceasing” — 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Everyone was born into sin
Because of how Adam behaved
So I sent My Son to die on the cross
So that all might be saved

You often feel that you’re not worthy
Well I can’t argue with that
But I am filled with grace and mercy
So I’ll cut you some slack

Why do you always remind yourself
Of the person in the past
No longer the same, I’ve changed your name
Your sins have been forgiven at last

Remember to pray continuously
It’s important that we communicate
I may not come when you expect Me to
But relax, I’m always on time, I’m never late

Not really sure how or what to pray
Just be genuine and do your best
At times when you’re not sure about what to say
My Holy Spirit will do the rest

Concerned that others will reject the change
And remember what you were
If so, they forget who I am
Because with Me, anything can occur

Others may try to put you down
But My Word is always true
Worry not about what they say
Find comfort in the fact that I anointed you

You may have committed many sins
Others may have committed just a few
But the blood that it took to save them
Is the same blood that it took to save you

(c) Yolonda Tonette Sanders

All I Want is to Love You – a poem by M.S.Lowndes

 

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For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” – Romans 8:38–39, NKJV

Come to my refreshing waters,
Let your fretting cease
Cast your burdens upon me
And I will give you peace

Always know I love you
And won’t leave you alone
So when you face the darkness,
You won’t face it on your own

When you’re in need of a friend
To listen to your cares,
Know that I will be that friend
To hear your desperate prayers

I know just how you’re feeling
Before you kneel to pray
So nothing will surprise me
In what you want to say

And I will not condemn you
When you confess your sins,
I just long for you to come
And let my love come in

I am here to heal you
And protect you from harm,
For all I want is to love you
And hold you in my arms.

(c) M.S.Lowndes

Love = Action

 

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“If you love Me, keep My commandments”

John 14:15, NKJV

Jesus made it plain about how we are to demonstrate love for Him — through our obedience. A similar mandate was given in the Old Testament with the Deuteronomic covenant. (See Deut. 5:10; 6:5–6; 7:9; 10:12–13; 11:13, 22). The bottom line is that those of us who claim to love God, can’t settle for lip service only. We must act according to His Word.

Whenever our words misalign with our actions, people will always believe what we do rather than what we say. For example, if a man or woman claims to love a spouse and yet habitually commits adultery, his or her love will be questioned. If parents love their children, they don’t intentionally mistreat them or put them in harm’s way. If we love Jesus, we won’t purposely misrepresent Him.

As humans, sometimes our words and actions will contradict one another. We have this thing called flesh that gets in the way of us naturally displaying perfect love. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a situation where you have done something for which you felt horrible because your actions did not align with the core of your values and beliefs, but I sure have. I recall a time in December of 2017 when I completely lost my cool about a customer service issue that I’d been waiting to have resolved since October of that same year. When I say that I lost it, that old flesh that had been crucified with Christ (Gal. 5:24) was resurrected, and honey, it was nothing nice. The call ended with me hanging up because I’d said things to which I could not recover.

It would be easy for me to make excuses for my behavior — 2017 was the year I lost both my mom and favorite aunt, became an empty nester, healing from a broken friendship, etc. I was under a lot of stress, no doubt, but none of that justifies wrong actions. I’m sure the woman with whom I had spoken would have been shocked to know that I’m a firm believer who writes and promotes Christ. That bothered me. I was so disturbed by my own behavior that I ultimately let the issue go without seeking further resolution.

Even our best efforts to live right will fall short (Is. 64:6; Rom. 3:23). It doesn’t mean that we should quit trying. Unlike us, God’s actions and words are always congruent. He promises to forgive us when we fall short (1 John 1:9). While our love for God will not be displayed perfectly, it should compel us to desire and strive to live by the fruit of His Spirit rather than our flesh (Gal. 5:19–23). Yep, we will mess up. #Humanity. Remember, God loves us so much that He won’t leave us in our mess. When we love Him back, we won’t want to stay there either.

Consider any areas in your life where you have settled for living contrary to His way. Now, determine if you love Him enough to turn those areas of your life to Him.

A Fresh Start

 

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“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness”

Lamentations 3:22-23, NKJV

Being honest with ourselves is not an easy thing to do, and yet, it’s a necessary component (in my humble opinion) for growth. I had to admit to myself that I’d been slacking when it came to spending quality time with God. The busyness of school, publishing, writing, etc. had resulted in what I referred to as spiritual quickies. I read the Word each day via a devotion or the Bible app’s daily verse, but it was more of a checklist action. I wasn’t taking the time to meditate on or internalize the Word as I should.

I suspect that one reason this bothered me so was because my top love language is quality time. I demonstrate my love through the investment of my time. Whether it’s simply hanging out and having fun, helping a loved one work through a crisis, or setting aside time to work on projects of my own or others, I do so because I love what I do and those with and for whom I do it. Though 2018 brought new challenges into my life via the doctoral program, I still maintained my relationships. I even talked to God on a regular basis, but I wasn’t consistently taking time to be with Him.

I felt the void and I didn’t like it.

Nope, not one bit!

Yet, it took a while for my behavior to change because I’d gotten accustomed my quick interactions with God. It was as if I would hurry and get my time with God out the way because I had a paper due . . . project deadline . . . business meeting, or whatever else was on my agenda that day.

I wasn’t and still am not focused on the amount of time. Unlike one of the characters I created, I do not wake up every morning and spend three hours praying and studying the Word, feeling like I’m “less saved” if I fall short of that time. I’m not legalistic or robotic about my spiritual walk. Rather, my focus was and is on the value of the time spent, and I knew in my heart that I was not valuing time with God as I should.

Admitting my shortcomings to myself and God is one thing. Admitting them to others is something different. I shared with a few friends who encouraged me as I worked to change my behavior. I had no intentions of sharing publicly. However, as I prayed about what to write this month, I kept feeling like I needed to be transparent about this struggle. One of the reasons it took me so long to write this month is because I really didn’t want to talk about this on the internet! God, really! Do I have to? We’re good now. It’s okay that no one else knows. Or, so I thought. But, this thing called obedience gets me every time and I don’t have peace until I do something I’m supposed to do! (That’s another story for another day!) I can only trust that my sharing will be a blessing to someone else.

If you have been struggling to spend quality time with God, here are a few things I hope you take away from this post.

  1. God is not mad at you. When recently thinking about a not yet answered prayer in my life, I flat out said, “God are You mad at me?” Kid you not, after I asked the question, I saw a t-shirt that read: God is not mad at you, He’s mad about you. I smiled. Message received! God loves you so much (Romans 8:38–39). He’s patiently waiting for you to give Him the space He deserves in your life.
  2. There’s no greater relationship we can have in this world than the one with God. Your spouse, significant other, or BFF may understand you to an extent, but only the Lord can reach into the crevices of those deep places in your heart (Psalm 107:9).
  3. Whether you’ve neglected time with God or have turned away from him altogether, as long as you still have breath in your body, it’s not too late to start again. His mercies are new every day. Today is a new day, so how about getting a fresh start?

I Wonder . . .

“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land,” 2 Chron. 7:14, NIV

I Wonder . . .

I wonder if our government would be stronger if we, particularly Christians stopped acting like God is a republican or democrat and recognize that He is holy.

I wonder how much more effective our prayers would be if we stopped playing the in-group/out-group game, realizing that there is corruption on both sides of the aisle and began praying for politicians, in general, not just the ones we like and want to “win.”

I wonder how many believers spend more time praying for President Trump than criticizing or complaining about him.

Oh, I wonder . . .

I wonder how impactful our churches would be if we didn’t act like our denomination is the only one who has it “right” and realized that God is not Baptist, Pentecostal, Methodist, etc., but once again, He is holy.

I wonder if our places of worship would exude humility if we cared less about titles and more about the ministry. Why isn’t the moniker of brother or sister good enough?

I wonder how many souls would be saved if we stopped focusing on having the “biggest” or the “best” buildings, celebrations, or choirs/praise teams, and instead, concentrated on giving our best efforts to witnessing to others for Christ.

Oh, I wonder . . .

I wonder how much the world would change if we were all others-centered instead of self-centered.

I wonder if our children would grow up and stray less from the Word if we modeled Christ in our homes and not just in public.

I wonder how much more effective our witness would be if we didn’t pretend to be perfect but admitted our struggles and how we get through them with Christ rather than act like we are the holiest of holy.

Oh, I wonder . . .

I wonder how much stronger sermons would be if preachers stopped using the pulpit as a platform to promote their preferences (political, personal, or otherwise) and strictly stuck to the Word.

I wonder how much more people would listen if we stopped lecturing and trying to change them and trusted the Holy Spirit to work in their lives.

I wonder how long it will take for people to get that consistent and sincere prayer is the key to true change.

Oh, I wonder . . .

Christianity and the Development of Character, Scholarship, and Leadership

“We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope,” Rom. 5:4, NKJV

Character. Scholarship. Leadership. Those are fundamental tenants of the doctoral program in which I am enrolled. As I reflect on these principles, I see that they not only apply to my educational journey but also to my spiritual journey.

Character is the core of our being. It’s the thing that determines if a person handles accomplishments with humility or pride. Character reveals if someone is trustworthy, honest, or values loyalty. Character is not who others think we are, but it’s who we are when no one is watching. While we can fool others sometimes, we can never deceive God because He sees our hearts.

In my doctoral program, scholarship refers to the program’s aim to train students how to have informed views (as opposed to believing something without knowing why) and then to appropriately apply what we learn. As I think about scholarship in relation to my spiritual walk, I am drawn to Paul’s instructions to Timothy in 2 Tim. 2:15 (NKJV) to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” As Christians, we must be assiduous about studying Scripture so that we can correctly apply the Word to our lives and share it with others. As we learn and internalize the Word, it will have a profound impact on our character.

Finally, leadership involves having influence and power over others. The Bible shows examples of how leadership was used for good and for evil. For example, when David was king, he used his power for self-serving interests when he took advantage of Bathsheba and subsequently arranged for her husband to be killed (2 Sam. 11). We also see positive examples of David’s leadership throughout Scripture. One instance that stands out to me is how David carefully instructed Solomon about Solomon’s new role before David passed away (1 Kings: 1–9). As king, David had led many others, but at that moment he was leading his son.

Leadership is multi-dimensional. A person doesn’t have to have a title to be a leader. Furthermore, one’s leadership can be passive (1 Pet. 3:1). The bottom line is that we never know who’s watching us and the impact that our behavior will have on others. It is important that leaders be persons of good character. As we see in David’s life, there’s a dichotomy of good and bad that can exist within a single person. Yet, even with his shortcomings, David was still a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22).

Our character is shaped by our life experiences and how we respond to them. I’m not necessarily shouting “Amen” right here because experiences can be painful. It would be great to skip the experiences and get to the end result. (By the way, it would be nice to receive my doctorate by avoiding the tuition payments, long hours of studying, and writing of many papers, but that ain’t gonna happen!) Rom. 5:4 makes it apparent that our character is shaped by our trials. As you go through your character-building experiences, cling to the Word. Not only will you build your own spiritual muscles, but you have no idea how the way you walk through your journey will impact others.

Total Dependency

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“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” Phil. 4:13, NKJV

In January, I embarked on a new venture. It’s one that has been percolating in my spirit for some years, but the timing to begin pursuing this goal didn’t happen until recently. I am now a doctoral student. Even writing it seems crazy because when I finished my master’s program in 2000, continuing my education was the furthest thing from my mind. In fact, school was like a bad word, and now it has worked its way back into my vocabulary and life. Okay, God, I see…You got jokes!

Being a student again has shifted my world. There’s tons of reading, homework, and those tuition payments that serve as a reminder of how costly this endeavor is. (I’m trying to avoid becoming friends with Navient and Sallie Mae at all costs.) When the term began, I was shaking in my boots. I questioned my sanity, kept trying to find an out (e.g., God if this isn’t what I’m supposed to do…), and questioned my ability to complete such a rigorous program.

Managing my school work along with all other hats I wear has been a balancing act. Each day of this new journey re-enforces my need for total dependence on God. Depending on Him not only involved praying my way through difficult assignments, but also listening to Him as I re-aligned my priorities. For a girl who enjoys absolutely everything she does, letting go of some things wasn’t easy.

While I know there are people who complete doctoral studies without merely acknowledging God let alone depending on Him, for me, going through this program without Him is not an option. My support system is great. My loved ones cheer me on, listen to me vent, and pray me through these educational hurdles. As grateful as I am for them, I’m most thankful for the relationship I have with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is through Him and because of Him that I can do all things…including get through this doctoral program that is stretching me in ways that I didn’t know I could go.

What challenges do you face? On Whom are you depending? On our own, we don’t have super powers, but with Christ, we have supernatural strength to complete whatever journey lies ahead.

Goodbye and Thank You

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“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything,” James 1: 2-4, NIV.

As many of you know, 2017 was a difficult year for me, but I didn’t have to go through it alone. One of my sister-friends was also going through her own struggles and we were able to encourage (and cry with) each other. She wrote a letter to 2017 that was so inspiring I wanted to share it. May you be encouraged by the following words written by the Poetic Prophetess, Tifani D. Kendrick.  

Dear 2017,

I am grateful to have met you and even more glad to see you go! But I give thanks nonetheless. Thank you for every lesson. I even met a few companions I choose to leave with you:
To the Spirit of heaviness, thank you for helping me value joy more greatly. Your pressure caused pain pressed tears from the surface of my heart, I was drowning in your sorrow. Tonight, I release you. I leave behind every low thought and cast down every imagination that sets itself above the Most High. No longer bearing your weight, I Am Light.
I Speak Life. I say goodbye to every murmur and complaint. Throughout the year, my tongue painted pictures of despair across many of my conversations. I retold negative narratives masked as honesty. But today, I allow God to rewrite my story. May His words speak through me as an overcomer’s testimony.
For a long time, I repeated sorrow’s song like a broken record. My heart was scratched by the sharp edge of grief. I was fragmented forgetting my true identity. Now it is the hand of God that mends me. He pieces my peace back together piece by piece. I am healed by His Love. I am whole. I Am Loved.
So, dear friends when you ask me how I am, and I affirm that I Am Well, it is simply my declaration of healing. The Great Physician has pierced me so deeply that living waters flow from my belly. I shall live and not die. I claim good health and eat to live. I move to breathe. I am free and more alive than I have ever been, and I’m thirty-seven stretching towards thirty-eight.
Standing tall with posture straight, I am strong. I stand on God’s promises and will not grow weary. But even when I am weak, through Christ I can do all things. I am planted by living waters; I am a tree, gaining balance as my roots run deep. My limbs extend toward heaven, preparing to produce much fruit. I ascend toward the Highest Good.
I am postured for purity. I repent of lust, pride and greed. I reclaim this sacred space of my body, His temple. I forgive every thief of my past who attempted to steal God’s best from me, including me. Christ’s death and resurrection is a chance even for the least of these to have life more abundantly.
So, I follow the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I follow the way of Christ. I know the way to Go. I walk by faith and turn away from fear. Jesus has touched my eyes so I can clearly see the path He has set for me. I leave comparison behind because it only brings misery. I embrace my unique identity.
Joy is my portion for 2018, and no heaviness or complaint,
no fear of pain,
no mental illness or disease,
no weakness, lust or greed, or deep sense of insecurity can take the joy of the Lord away from me.

I Am Light.
I Speak Life.
I Am Love(d).
I Am Well.
I Am Strong.
I Am Pure.
I follow Christ; I know the Way to go.
It is with these Truths I say farewell to 2017 and speak nothing but blessings over the years to come. Amen and Ase’ for it is so!

Choosing To Be Thankful

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“Praise the Lord! Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever,Psalm 106:1, NKJV.

Today is the first Thanksgiving I am spending motherless. I’ve heard from others that the first year of losing a loved one is always the hardest. They say things eventually get better. I hope they’re right . . .

Instead of focusing on the void in my life, I’ve decided to concentrate on all that I have and still have. One thing about me is that I am a glass-is-half-full type girl. I’ve learned that gratitude, hope, and just about everything we view in life is a matter of perspective. I could easily have a woe-is-me party. I’m an only child, and the loss of my mother has left me with great feelings of loneliness. There are times when I have to force myself not to think about the “what ifs.” What if my dad passes away as well?

If I allow that thought to linger, I will begin to feel anxious and fearful about losing another parent and truly being the only one of my immediate family left. My dad is 78; he ain’t no spring chicken! I have to make a conscience choice not to give in to worry and fear, but to be grateful for each day that he is alive and well. Besides, my daddy is an extremely active 78-year-old in good health. He’s on the go so much I can hardly keep up with him!

I know there will be a day when I’ll once again sit on the front pew, but there’s no reason to dwell on and react emotionally to something that has not occurred. I choose to be thankful in this moment, even with the losses that have occurred this year because I can. I refuse to grumble. Yes, I very much feel the impact of my mother not being here, but the truth of the matter is that I am abundantly blessed. Among many other things, I give thanks for:

The wonderful memories I have of my mom to cherish.
The values that were instilled in me during childhood.
My father living in Columbus and being independent.
My hubby and children who have been blessings in so many ways.
My puppy who came into our lives at just the right moment.
My friends who have navigated through this journey of grief with me.
My extended family who checks in with me from time-to-time.
My parents-in-law with whom I have a great relationship.

This list isn’t exhaustive by any means. I could go on, but then neither of us would ever get to that delicious Thanksgiving meal. I am a firm believer that feelings aren’t always true despite how real they are in the moment. Yes, my feelings of loneliness are very real, but they are not true. I’m not alone. God is love and He has surrounded me with people who are extensions of His love. Today, I get to be with some of them.

There will be no pouting today, only praise. I’ve made a choice to be thankful. Will you join me in thanking God for all that is instead of focusing on what isn’t? He’s too good for us not to!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Beauty in All Creation

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“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end,” Ecclesiastes 3:11, NKJV.

Ever since I met my husband in 1996, he has shown great care and concern for animals. From the cats his mother used to have, to the three pit bulls we previously owned, to the squirrels he throws peanuts to in the morning, to our current paw child, David’s soft spot for animals has been evident.

He seems to have a soft spot for bugs, too. If he sees a spider (or hears me scream for him because I see one), he’ll do his best to remove it and take it outside to continue its life. I’m not as understanding of bugs inside our dwelling. If I see one outside, I’ll leave it be because that’s its natural habitat. But, if it’s inside of my home and I have to encounter it because David isn’t around, well let’s just say that it’s self-defense in my book.

When it comes to animals, I’m selective. I’m not fond of cats in the lease bit, and the squirrels have only gotten peanuts from me when David forgets and asks me to throw some outside. The one animal I do find myself having a soft spot for are dogs. If you’ve been around me for any length of time in the past few months, then you know this miniature pinscher we call Paco has us wrapped around his paw.

I will spare you the details about how Paco takes up half of our queen-sized bed and literally has us on the edge, or how we travel with a collapsible water bowl and a bottle of water when he’s with us in case he gets thirsty. It’s sickening. I know. Though it seems like David and I have lost our minds when it comes to Paco, I assure you that we have retained some of our sanity. You won’t see us letting Paco “kiss” us in the mouth! Though I’m very much aware that Paco is a four-legged creature, our little dude has been the perfect comforter during this season of grief.

My life literally went to caring for my mom and traveling with Tia for volleyball to having no one to care for and no more volleyball tournaments to attend all within a matter of weeks. It was a jolt to my system, a drastic change from what I’d been doing for the past six years. We got Paco about a month before my mom passed. Perhaps subconsciously, I was preparing myself to still look after another being. Whatever the case, he captured my heart with his little acts of kindness such as the times he’d cuddle up next to me when he observed me crying. To me, it felt like God was giving me a hug through Paco and saying, “I’m here.”

Sometimes I stand outside and watch the squirrels interact (without feeling compelled to give them unsalted peanuts), or I see ants traveling in a line along the sidewalk and I think, “God, You’re awesome.” It’s nothing short of amazing to me that animals communicate with one another and do what they are supposed to do. There’s a purpose for every one of God’s creatures. I may not understand why He saw fit to craft some animals like cats (I’m just saying), but it’s not for me to know. If I look hard enough, I can find beauty in all the work of God’s hands. This isn’t only true for animals, but for people as well.

If you are having a hard time seeing the purpose of an animal or the good in another person, ask God to help you see through His eyes. He made everything, and everything He made is beautiful!