Posts Tagged Religion and Spirituality

It’s In There!

“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35) (KJV)

One of my favorite commercials shows a man in the kitchen preparing a spaghetti dinner for his family. His wife is questioning him about each ingredient for the sauce to make sure he has not left anything out, and he replies each time, “It’s in there.”  Honey, all the ingredients are in there! God’s Word is like that — everything we will ever need is already in there. 

If you are in sorrow, read  (John 14)
If men fail you, read (Psalm 27)
When you sin, read (Psalm 51)
When you worry, read (Matthew 6:19-34)
When you are in danger, read (Psalm 91)
If you have the blues, read (Psalm 34)
When God seems far away, read (Psalm 139)
If you are discouraged, read (Isaiah 40)
If you are lonely or afraid, read (Psalm 23)
If you feel down and out, read (Romans 8:39)
When want courage for a task, read (Joshua 1)
When the world seems bigger than God, read (Read Psalm 90)
When you want rest and peace, read (Matthew 11:25-30)
When leaving home for work or travel, read (Psalm 121; 107:23-31)
If you get become bitter or critical, read (I Corinthians 13)
If thinking of investment and returns, read (Mark 10:17-31)
For a great invitation and opportunity, read (Isaiah 55)

Whether we need strength for today or hope for tomorrow — “The Living Word” promises — It’s all in there!!!

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Retire?

“And there were four leprous men at the entering in of the gate: and they said to one another, Why sit we here until we die?”  (2 Kings 7:3)(King James Version)

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” — Edmund Burke

When I moved south after 25 years of ministry, it was to rest, recuperate, and yes, even to retire. At least that’s what I thought, but none of that was an option. In a few short years, I nearly lost everything including my mind. And even though I consider myself a “serious woman of God,” who had comforted many others, I could not understand why certain things were happening to me, but there is always a “Word from the Lord” to make things clear. I believe that’s why Jesus reminded His Disciples, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Matthew 8:20). I forgot, I am merely a steward and not an owner of all I have been allowed. In fact, I was never rich nor may I ever be, in terms of “worldly” capital. The truth is:  I am Blessed and Highly favored with health, strength, a pure heart, and a sound mind. Anything beyond that is a gift.

I now see the benefit of taking the “road less traveled.” Even with all of its detours — it led me straight to the door of God’s will for my life. I understand what the Apostle Paul meant by “being content no matter the circumstances.” I know what it is to “lose in order to gain.” The true rewards of serving the kingdom of God are Love, Peace, and Joy. What better rest, respite, and relief in a chaotic, storm-tossed world? Since my arrival, I have slowed my pace, but I have never grown “weary in my well-doing.” Many times, I grew tired in the work, but I never tired of the work.  God has promised, if I don’t give up, I will reap every seed I have sown. God cannot lie and all God’s promises are consistently “Yes” and “Amen.” So, I thank God for every mountain. I treasure every valley, and relish every step that draws me closer to hearing “Well done.” But most of all, I am eternally grateful to those “four brave men,” who (even in their pain), decided to live victoriously.

One day, Jesus told Peter, “If you love me feed my sheep.” I love the Lord, and have renewed my vow to share the “Bread and Water of Life” with all who hunger and thirst for righteousness. One day, the Lord will not ask me how well-rested, happy, or content I was, but will ask, “What did you do for the least of these?” “How many lost lambs did you help find THE WAY?” “How many hurting hearts did you soothe with my Word?”How much time did you devote to the cause of My Kingdom?Retire? I don’t think so. Retire? Are you kidding?  Retire? No never — the Lord’s Harvest is too plentiful, the laborers too few, time too short, and there’s too much to be done.  Retire? Nay.  Rather, I say to my fellow laborers in the Vineyard:  WAKE UP — GET UP — GET BUSY  because in the economy of GRACE — there is absolutely no such thing as RETIREMENT!!

 

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God Moments

“Is there anything too hard for the Lord?”  Genesis 18:14 (KJV)

button rock of burdenI have been re-reading some of the books that have greatly affected my life. One of my favorite reads is Alan D. Wright’s, God Moments. According to Wright, God moments are moments that sculpt the shape of our destiny. They are moments that transform every other moment in our lives. They can involve matters of life or death, or simply be pivotal moments that move us in a particular direction. Wright urges us to recognize, remember, and record these times because they assure us of the very presence of God in our lives. He prompts us to apprehend these times for what they really are and to harness them for what they really mean, because they are unique moments when we acknowledge that God has spoken and that we have heard.

One day, as I was sitting at my desk trying to figure ways to magically make funds appear in my empty bank account, my daughter stopped by to present me with a beautiful new checkbook cover. At the time, I thought it really a strange gift and found it even more strange that she simply stopped by in the middle of the day. But what really got my attention were the words imprinted on the cover: Proverbs 3:5,6, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not to thine own understanding. Acknowledge Him in all thy ways and He will direct thy path.” Internalizing that message was life-changing and it empowered me to trust in the Lord as never before.

Whenever I come to a crossroad or stand on the brink of making a major decision in my life — direction always comes to assure me of God’s presence. As Wright puts it,“Heaven intercepts humanity.” Yes, there are times of  great uncertainty and sometimes even pain, but always the greater gain is well worth the momentary strain. When I reflect on my life, I see clearly that God graciously “made each moment and every moment made me”  — stronger, wiser and better. God is truly awesome and so worthy to be praised. O Lord, my God when I in awesome wonder!!” Like Abraham’s Sarah I laughed to think that the impossible could be possible, until I recalled all the truly amazing “God Moments” that brought me to this place in my life and reminded me — there is absolutely nothing too hard for the Lord!!!

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The “G” Word

“But by the grace of God I am what I am . . . .”   1 Corinthians 15:10

I was a plain Jane, living on a street the length of one block that was only large enough to be called an “alley.”I am the eldest of four siblings who at the age of 5 was the only one of the children to be rescued by my grandmother from the threat of foster care. I have no delusions about who I am today or about how I got to this place in my life. God has indeed been good to me. I have been “allowed” many amazing accomplishments that can only be credited to what I respectfully call the “G” word the (“Grace” of God)!!

I call it the “G” word because preachers don’t preach about “Grace” anymore. No one speaks about God’s gift of love. No one boasts of God’s unmerited favor towards  fallen human beings. That is why I echo and re-echo it throughout my Blog and have included it in my pseudonym. It is because whenever I revisit those places of growth and pain in my life I am reminded of who and whose I am. And that I am what I am because of Christ. I give honor and credit where they are due. I readily admit that what I have accomplished is not because of how I look, what I have, or my intellect, but because God willed and allowed it to be so. Were it not for the hand of God, I could have suffered a heart attack, stroke, or simply lost everything, at any time. I know whatever I am is not because of any goodness of my own it is all because of God’s Grace.

The thief of our souls came to steal, kill, and destroy, but God’s love and “mercy said no, I will not let them go.”We can never pay for the gift of life, but we can continually praise the Giver throughout our lives. Thank you Father for the Gift of your Son. Thank you for your amazing Grace that saved a wretch like me. I will continue to write, boast, teach and preach about Grace to let the world know that I know I never could have made it without you.

Nothing in this life is by happenstance. Everything is intentional, on purpose, and because of the Grace of almighty God. Were it not for that “G” word — Grace — God’s unmerited favor in the sacrifice of His beloved only Son, where would any of us be? From my grandmother’s knee and all the places in between, I am certain there was an unseen hand that kept me. I know, without a doubt, I am what I am by the THE GRACE OF GOD!!

 

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Be Who You Are

“And God said unto Mo’ses, I AM THAT I AM . . . .”  Exodus 3:14 (KJV)

Be Who You AreI sit at my desk, pondering the single most important lesson I have learned in my years of ministry.  Wondering what to share with you that will help you navigate life’s sometimes tumultuous seas.  I recognize that my message is the same as Oprah Winfrey’s, who, after a quarter of a century and 25 years of tireless service, shared this  inspirational and timeless message of farewell — “Be Who You Are — Right Now.”

As a native of Baltimore, Maryland, I remember the original Oprah, the “authentic Oprah” the Oprah fresh out of Alabama with no perks or props.  The Oprah without pretense or fanfare. So I was particularly inspired as I watched her grace the stage of her life’s work for the last time. I thought again about what I already knew, God truly does use ordinary people to do extraordinary things.  What a great 25 years!!  She looked tastefully elegant in a simple pink dress and someone also realizing her transformation through the years asked her the secret to her new-found beauty and without a second thought and in true Oprah fashion, she replied, “MAKEUP.”  Yes makeup, we all wear it in some form or fashion to cover our imperfections and scars. We also wear masks that hide us behind our professions, our roles, our relationships and even our gifts.

It seems the world has become a stage where we have become chronic “doers,” only measuring our lives in terms of what we do.  But Author Kirk Byron Jones in his book, “Rest in the Storm,” challenges us to emphasize who we are and not what we do. He reminds us that our value to God comes not from what we do for God, but in what we are to God.  Our being–not our doing glorifies God’s Name. I love the way  musical legend, Miles Davis put it, “We are not what we do.  We do what we are.”  Writer Jones calls it owning our “amness.”  Discovering who are we apart from our gifts allows us to find worthiness apart from our works and to see ourselves as God sees us.

Be Who You AreMy true “aha” moment came when I remembered before I was a minister, a pastor, a teacher, a spouse, a parent, a relative, and a friend — I was a child of God, a person whom God never ceased to love unconditionally.  I am more than a role or a relationship.  I was created for a great purpose. Beneath the makeup and beyond the mask is a core “me-ness” — an essence imprinted with God’s unique fingerprint.   I am not that complicated — I am simply a godly woman of God who daily affirms with Apostle Paul, “. . . He which hath  begun a good work in me will perform it until the day of Je’sus Christ”  (Philippians 1:6 (KJV))

Before God calls us to “do,” God calls us to “be.” For me, William Shakespeare’s query, “To Be or not to Be?” is not the question, but the answer to our destinies!  The greatest lesson I have learned is to “Be” authentic and to be genuine. To “Be” honest and true to myself and to the God who made me. “Be” Who You Are called by God’s Grace to “Be.”   For you were fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God.   No more masks — no more makeup — simply “BE” all that you are — to the Glory of God!

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No Excuses

“But Jesus said to him,  A man was once giving a great supper and invited many:  And at the hour for the supper he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, Come,  for all is now ready.  But they all alike began to make excuses . . . .” Luke 14:16-18 (Amplified Bible)

I fully believe, “If we want to do something, we will find a way — and if we do not want to do something, we will find an excuse,” particularly when it comes to honoring our commitments to the Lord.

In this parable, Jesus finds Himself in the house of one of the chief Pharisees (the “religious right” of the day) and uses it as a teaching moment.

One of the guests in the parable asks to be excused from an elaborate party because he has just purchased a piece of property and needed to see it;  another guest asked to be excused because he had purchased some oxen and wanted to test them; a third guest requested to be excused because he had just gotten married.  I fully believe nothing could have prevented any one of them, had they truly desired to accept the invitation.

As a former pastor, I’ve heard a few excuses myself:  “I would get involved, but I don’t believe in organized religion”; “I am an agnostic”; “I’m an atheist”; “I don’t understand the Bible”; “I’m a skeptic”; “I’m too intelligent”; “I’m too busy”; “too many hypocrites in Church”; “I’ve got to sacrifice too much”; “I just can’t deal with suffering”; “my sins are too great”; “I’m just not ready.”  I have heard them all.

But this is not a sermon, I simply want to suggest, whatever you are going to do for God– do it today!  If you’re gonna tell somebody you love them–do it today.  If you’re mad at somebody-Make it right today.  If you are going to give of yourself–give today!  Why today? It is not rocket science, but as my grandma used to say, “the time that knows us now, will soon know us no more.” We have seen too many loved ones slip away, not to believe that.  No, “trouble won’t last always,” but neither will we.  “Life” is only a temporary sojourn. Time” is a gift from God— God has given us 365 days to use for God’s glory.  How much more do you need?

Friends, someone wisely wrote these words:

“I have only just a minute,

Only sixty seconds in it,

Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it,

But it’s up to me to use it,

Give account if I abuse it,

Answer for it if I lose it,

Just a tiny little minute,

But eternity is in it!!

I made my last excuses in 2010, when God revealed to me this phenomenal woman from my hometown — her name is Ernestine Shepherd. She is a 75-year-old athletic coach and bodybuilder.  Check this video out for yourself and you too will resolve — NO MORE EXCUSES!!!!!

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The Discipline of Prayer

Someone I admire once told me that I was not a disciplined person.  This person, I might add, is extremely disciplined.  He rises every morning to the sun; begins the day with quiet prayer or meditation, jogs at least five miles, returns home to a “healthy” breakfast, showers, then finally, as he puts it, “pushes into his day.”  Needless to say, this comment coming from someone I admired and who was so clearly structured and organized, moved me to consider my lack of self-discipline.

I have been a Christian and a minister for some time, but it was not until my friend admonished me about my undisciplined lifestyle that I attempted to better order my days.  As a full-time pastor and seminarian when the demands on my schedule actually were relentless and clearly there was no order to the chaos.  I seemed to find time for everything and everyone but myself.  But then came the “aha” moment.  It was time to become a better steward of my time and of my self.  I needed productivity through a discipline that recognized my limits.  I recalled what my grandmother said to me when I first went into ministry, she said, “always pray because prayer changes things.”  I had always known that, but somehow the reality got lost among the clutter of less important thoughts.  So, with a fresh determination, I began to reorder my days with a new emphasis on prayer.

Praying is not new to me, in fact, it has always been part of my life.  I believe it is the key to all other spiritual disciplines and I have discovered when spiritual things are given their proper consideration in our lives, a natural sense of prioritization follows and everything else just seems to fall into place.

The Discipline of Prayer

I now intentionally begin and end each day with prayer and before attempting any important task, I pray for wisdom and guidance, and upon each task’s completion I utter a prayer of thanksgiving.  I pray again everyday, all day, and everywhere.  It comes as naturally to me as the air I breathe.  It is never formal or structured.  It is simply my communicating sincerely with God and allowing God to speak to me.  This daily regimen of prayer is strengthening my spiritual muscles, lessening my anxieties, and renewing my mind.

Why not get your spirit in the gym and exercise your faith through prayer–it truly does change things.  I totally agree with  Author, Jewel Diamond Taylor, “If you’re too busy for God, you are simply too busy.”

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