Tag Archive | Love

Defeating Hopelessness

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“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”—1 Corinthians 13:13, NIV

Sometimes I struggle with what to say to others during this COVID-19 crisis. People don’t want to hear “don’t worry” when they’ve lost loved ones due to the virus, may be sick themselves, are unemployed, or quite frankly, scared about all the possibilities. News reports that the worst is yet to come and the ever-increasing number of cases, legitimize people’s cause for concern. And, if you’ve watched the Netflix series Pandemic that eerily foreshadowed the destructive impact of a novel virus outbreak, then you know that the projected loss of lives could be in the millions. Despite all of this, my naturally optimistic nature won’t allow me to panic.

It’s not because I’m trying to be extra deep or that I’ve donned a “Super Christian” cape. Those who know me know that’s not how I roll. It’s not because my loved ones are in a bubble, far removed from the crisis. Nope. Quite the opposite. My husband must still go to work Monday through Friday and interact with others. My son continually reports to the Naval base. My father and uncles are part of the vulnerable population. I have loved ones in nursing homes, with weak immune systems, or other health issues. The business my husband and I own has seen a dramatic shift in revenues because of everything that’s happening. So, nope, I’m not calm because my life is unaffected. I’m calm because I cannot afford to let fear and worry overtake me. My mental and emotional stability rely on me digging my heels into the only thing that has gotten me through tough times—my faith.

In the Hunger Games movie, President Snow is quoted as saying, “Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous. A spark is fine, as long as it’s contained.”

While I don’t have the “right words” to share during this time, I pray that I can encourage each of you not to give up hope. Hope is dangerous, but not in the negative way that President Snow mentioned in the movie. He wanted to contain the people’s hope to keep them in line with the oppressive order that he’d established. Likewise, if we lose hope amid this pandemic, the enemy will keep our minds in bondage and consumed with fear. We’ll lose sleep, the quality of our relationships will diminish, and we’re more likely to become depressed.

Even more powerful than hope is love.

Paul wrote,  “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” 1 Corinthians 13:13

COVID-19 is the perfect opportunity for those of us who know Christ to share His love with others. We can show love in many ways. For example, by sharing our goods with others in need instead of hoarding them, we not only behave differently than those who are fighting in the store over toilet paper, but we would also emulate the behaviors of the very first church members in the book of Acts.

“Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need” (Acts 2:44–45).

I doubt any of us are to the point of being willing to sell everything we have to give to others. Okay, maybe you are, but I’m not. (Stretch your hands my way!) The point is that they gave unselfishly, and their generosity was motivated by their love for Christ and one another. In whatever way you can look out for others during this time, please do it. It can be a phone call, an email, an encouraging word, or helping out with food or supplies. Do it genuinely and with love. Your actions may be the thing that helps someone else believe.

So, while I don’t have the answers to what’s happening, I choose to share with you what I have—faith in a sovereign God, hope that He will produce something good from this outbreak, and a love for Him and others that I hope will be contagious.

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!

Favortism in the Church

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“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors,” James 2:8-9, NKJV.

I’m weird.

For those who also think this about me, I am admitting that I can be a bit abnormal at times, particularly when it comes to my thoughts about salvation, church work, and ministry, in general.

I sometimes struggle with the way that we (the Body of Christ) do things. My concern about the Body of Christ is that we are too divided as a people. Instead of truly embracing the diversity of gifts that the Lord has given to us all and respecting everyone’s gifts, we tend to favor those who are more visible in the operation of their gifts — the pastors and other leaders of the congregation.

That bothers me way more than anyone knows. But, then again, I’m weird, remember? 🙂 It is my belief that the person with the gift of hospitality or exhortation is just as important as the person who has been called to preach. Yet, go to any church and you will find people who almost seem willing to drink the bathwater of the “man of God,” but they wouldn’t even give a cup of water to the custodian. After all, the pastor has a closer relationship with God than anyone else in the congregation, right? (I won’t even go there!)

I know . . . people always say “give honor where honor is due.” Unfortunately, that has led to idolization of pastors, people coveting preaching as the “best” spiritual gift one can have, and other things like total disregard for those who labor faithfully behind the scenes. This is where the weird girl in me begins to show herself because how well someone can light up a pulpit on Sunday morning is not important to me. Neither is having a specific leadership position at church. What matters most to me is that we do what we do, not for self-glorification, but because of our love for God, His Word, and His people. So, those with spiritual gifts that don’t put them in the limelight are as important, in my humble opinion, as those who are front and center. I believe the Word teaches this as well.

“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.  And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all,” 1 Corinthians 12:4–6.

“And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another,” 1 Corinthians 12:23–25.

Some of you may wonder if I’m writing this because I failed to get a leadership position at my local congregation or I’m mad at my pastor. Neither of those things is true. I absolutely adore (not idolize) my pastor, and I do lead a ministry at church. It’s not because my pastor is the pastor that I value him. It’s also not because I agree with how everything runs at the church that I have such admiration for him. I’m drawn to him because of his servant heart. Even when I may disagree with some policy or procedure, I know that we as a local congregation are perfectly imperfect as I am as a person. If this were a perfect church, I wouldn’t be allowed to enter the building! 🙂

The bottom line is that I’m a firm believer that we are all equal under the Cross. It doesn’t mean that everyone is at the same level of spiritual maturity. (That’s a whole different issue in and of itself!) It is dangerous for us to forget that all members of the Body are important. Even as I step into leadership positions in and outside of my congregation, it is my prayer that God keeps this truth at the forefront of my heart. Titles are not important to me. They are so unimportant that I struggle with how titles are used in the church. For me personally, the only title I truly desire is that of a Kingdom servant.

Earlier, I stated that we should do what we do because of “our love for God, His Word, and His people.” Paul says this:

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing,” 1 Corinthians 1–3.

Love will keep us from having self-serving interests. Love will prevent our pride from getting in the way of serving. Love will remind us that whatever gifts we have are not a result of anything special we have done to deserve them, but they have been entrusted to us by God to use for His glory. When love is truly at the center of all we do, then we will value everyone!

With that, I shall say “amen” and finally end this post!