Thursday, December 27, 2012

Year of Development

As 2012 brings to close another year, I wanted to take some time to reflect on this past year. I must be honest this has been a very difficult year for me in probably every aspect from physically, spiritually, emotionally, health wise, you name it! I believe that this was a year of development for me and let’s just say it was not a very fun process but a very necessary one. I can truly say with every difficulty came a lesson learned and I just wanted to share a few things that I learned in 2012. 

1.       I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
This took on a WHOLE new meaning for me in 2012. It is so easy to say “I can do anything as long as I’ve got King Jesus” when you are not going through anything! Anyone can talk a good game when the game is going good but let that bad boy take a left and it is a whole different tune. I can truly say that I learned that I am a lot stronger than I ever thought I could be in this year alone and it was not because of my own strength but because of the strength of Christ. One the hardest things I dealt with this year was losing my Bishop. I just knew that man would live to be the same age as Moses and Abraham :) and no one could have ever told me that I would lose him this year.  It was like I lost the closest thing I had to a father figure...That was a big change that took place that I honestly wasn’t prepared for and I didn’t really know how to go forward after it.

This year I also had to deal with a lot of personal battles within myself and within my family. I lost a lot, I cried a lot, I was confused a lot but when I look back what I see is that I got through. A lot of the things and people that I thought I needed so much were stripped away from me. I was kind of forced to deal with me and everything that was really dealing with me. Being saved does not exempt me from tests, trials, tribulations, etc. But the perk in it is that I have Jesus constantly walking with me and helping me along the way every single step. When I read Philippians 4:13 now, it takes on a completely new meaning as I truly realize that my help comes from the Lord. How can I give up when I have the One who is willing to be strong for me! I was reminded that I don’t have to carry the cares of this world on my own.  First Peter 5:7 reminds me of this when it says “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (NLT). When I learned that my strength lies in the hands of the Lord, things didn’t seem so heavy anymore and I could rest in His peace regardless of what was going on.

2.       I need God daily.
I can honestly say this has probably been one of my hardest years spiritually. I have never cried so much, prayed so much, studied so much, and gotten frustrated so much lol all at the same time sometimes! Bottom line is I cannot do this thing called life being weak in my spirit. I need to spend time with God daily, no if, ands, or buts about it. Do I spend time with God every single day? NO I have not and that’s exactly how I learned that I needed Him daily! I learned that spending time with God daily is not a “requirement” or a habit but it has to be a desire from within. When you’re hungry you want food and to satisfy your hunger fix you eat. If you go long enough without eating after awhile you’re not really that hungry anymore. It is the exact same thing from a spiritual view; if you don’t spend time with God daily, after awhile you no longer desire Him anymore. I had to learn that I will want what I give my attention to.  I have to feed my spirit daily. God showed me that I have to be intentional about my walk and that I have to desire spending  time with Him from my heart and not simply from a place of obligation.

3.       I am not my skin OR my hair.
Earlier this year I had to have surgery that left me with scars that let’s be honest didn’t leave me feeling the most secure or confident about myself. This was probably the most insecure I've felt in myself. That was a huge reality for me to accept that I’ll be honest I’m still somewhat learning to deal with. Although I hate to admit it, it showed me how vain I was and how focused I was simply on my outward appearance. In 1 Peter 3:3-5 it says:

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.  For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves…” (NIV). 

My outward appearance is not what is of importance point, blank, period.  God doesn’t even care about it; He cares about my inner appearance regarding how my heart reflects His.  Beauty, scars, and everything else will fade away one day, but what will I have to offer God when that is gone? I must say this ties in with learning to spend time with God daily because once I put my focus on Him I had less time to be focused on miniscule things that are not relevant to helping me grow in Him.

Lastly, a change that I made this year was the decision to go natural. I had actually stopped getting perms back in 2011 but I was just flat ironing my hair so I never really wore my hair curly at all until this year. So many people have made comments about my hair, some positive some negative, but at the end of the day it does not define who I am. I am not my hair; my hair is simply a reflection of me.  It taught me to be bold in decisions that I make regardless of those who don’t agree with my choices. It reminds me that I cannot waiver or change my opinion about what I think or believe in simply because someone doesn’t like it or agree with it. My hair is not a fashion statement or a part of a trend, it is simply my choice to be free.

Of course this is not everything that I learned in 2012 but I just wanted to highlight a few things. I’m constantly learning and growing and I hope to continue to do so daily until I’m out of here. Here’s to a blessed 2013!

Monday, December 3, 2012

When the music fades...

There’s something about hearing a song that the words really captures your heart and speaks to you in a way that words can’t really describe. I was listening to Israel Houghton’s song Jesus be the center of it all (great song, highly recommend it!) and there’s a moment where the music is playing and he is just talking and he mentions a song by Matt Redman and he recites the following lyrics from the song, “When the music fades and all is stripped away and I simply come. I’ll bring You more than a song, for a song in itself is not what You have required. You’re looking into my heart. I’m coming back to the heart or worship and it’s all about You. It’s all about You, Jesus.”  So of course I have to go on YouTube to listen to this Matt Redman song and I’ll be honest it’s not really my type of music however when I simply focused on the lyrics alone I could feel a shift in my heart. The irony of this song is that it is talking about what are you going to do when the music stops…it’s like when you don’t have the praise and worship team to push you into worship can you still get into the heart of worship.  When there is no show, no one around, just silence, and all the “stuff” is stripped away are you able to get to the true heart of worship. Can we really praise and worship God with our lives when there is no music, no one around, and we’re left alone with just Him.  

      John 4:23-24 says, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (NIV). We can’t just put on a show for people on Sunday mornings during service. God wants our full hearts and our full service. The chorus of this song says “I’m coming back to the heart of worship and it’s all about You Jesus. I’m sorry Lord for the thing I’ve made it, when it’s all about You.” Awhile ago, I asked God to show me my heart, show me where I fall short, where I am weak and what He revealed to me is that the way I was serving Him had become routine. It was more about doing what was “right” then serving Him from my heart from a place of devoted desire.  I’m going to be honest this got me really discouraged and really frustrated because I’m thinking okay…so what am I suppose to do??? Obviously what I was doing wasn’t working and I thought I was doing something…yeah, no lol. The purpose of God revealing this to me was for me to get back to the true heart of worship where it’s all about Him. Truly all about Him, not about service, works, doing good deeds, but simply all about Him. God so fully desires all the areas of our hearts. He is jealous for us, for those times that we ignore Him and replace Him with idols and neglect Him. He wants our attention and He wants it from a sincere and genuine place, not out of a feeling of obligation or duty. Serving God isn’t a chore; it’s a lifestyle that I will be honest is really hard sometimes but it is even more rewarding than the struggles that we face.   

Israel Houghton says in his song that “it’s not about my pursuit of being the perfect Christian, speaking perfect christianese, logging my time on Sunday mornings. It’s about the privilege, the honor, of standing in Your presence, feeling Your touch, hearing Your voice, leaving changed.” What have we made it? What have we made our walk with Christ to be? God doesn’t want us doing this in vain or because we feel as though this is what we “should” be doing. I found myself thinking of how I would feel when all this is over and I leave this earthly dwelling and I stand before Jesus eagerly waiting to get into heaven to meet my Maker only to hear Jesus say to me “I never knew you, depart from Me.” The thought of that completely breaks my heart. God doesn’t want us doing things in His name, saying that we know Him and that we have a relationship with Him and it is all simply lip service. What about our life service? What good is it to attend church and say we love God and we know Him yet we live like hell the other 5-6 days that we are not in church. We have to get back to the true heart of worship. The world’s motto is fake it until you make it; the Word’s motto is faith it until you make it to the other side. We can’t afford to fake it for anyone and act as though we know God if our relationship is simply for show or to build a good name for ourselves. He wants more than our songs, more than our service, more than our attendance at church. He wants our hearts, our sincere hearts, and our lives that desire to serve Him and follow Him according to His will and not our own.  Live intentionally, continue to work out your salvation.

“I’m coming back to the heart of worship and it’s all about You, it’s all about You Jesus.”

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Give me You. Everything Else Can Wait. #MyTruth...

“Give me You. Everything else can wait. Give me You, I hope I’m not too late. Lord, give me You.”

So I am on fall break from school and I thought “YES! This will be a great time to reconnect with God. Have that wonderful Angel and Jesus quiet time.”  I asked God to show me the errors in my heart and to shape my heart to look like His. I asked Him that He would show my heart to me and pluck away the areas of my heart that are not pleasing to Him. Ask and you shall receive….I came upon this song by Shana Wilson called Give me You and when I first heard it, I thought woah…just listening to the lyrics was like wow. I loved the song and I listened to it a few times earlier today singing along and reciting the lyrics. Then tonight I made a late night run to Wal-Mart and when I pulled back into the parking lot of my apartment I sat in my car and listened to this song one last time before calling it a night…or so I thought.

                The first seven words completely wrecked me this time. “Give me You, everything else can wait.” I began to feel completely broken because it became so clear to me that my attitude was not of the first seven words in this song. “Everything else can wait” means the husband that I desire, the schoolwork that I’ve constantly put before God, the desire for a new job, new friendships, relationships, whatever it may be. None of that matters. Everything else can wait. God revealed to me that my focus was not on Him anymore as my main priority. Another song that is on this cd I made is clear the stage by Jimmy Needham where he states “Anything I put before my God is an idol…” I had created idols in my life that I had no idea about. God reminded me of a time in my life where I was going through this period of wanting to be married and it was on my mind way too much. He reminded me of the day when I was on my knees crying out to Him and the very words I said was “I don’t care if I ever get married God, I just want You.” 

                I was at a place of being so desperate to have a relationship with God that nothing else mattered. Everything else literally could have waited. I didn’t care about anything else, I just wanted God. I was far from being at the place that I wanted to be at that time in Christ but I was really determined to get there. God showed me that although I've grown in my walk with Christ, that my heart is so far from that place of desperation now. I’ve become so focused on trying to finish my master’s, faking contentment in not being married when everyone else around me is doing so, wanting to do something that I love, wanting to do all these things even though I have God in mind concerning these areas, He showed me that my attention and focus had gotten off of Him and to these “things” that mean absolutely nothing. It's amazing how we can center things around God but we don't make Him the center of it all...crazy right?

                I found myself wondering when and how did I get to this place?!? What God showed me is, Angel don’t dwell on that part but figure out what you need to do to get back to ME! How great is our God that when we are in the wrong, He loves us and just wants us to get back to being focused on Him. He doesn’t throw it in my face or keep reminding me of it but instead He pretty much says okay, Angel do you see your error? Yes? Good get up and let’s go forward. I’m so grateful for the times of conviction where God reveals my heart to me. The good, the bad, and the ugly…He will do His part but we also must do our part. Above all else we must put God first. Matthew 6:33 says to “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need” (NLT). There is no need for us to be concerned with the things that we desire because God knows our heart; He knows what we want and need but our focus must be on Him always and everything else can wait. 

             God wants our hearts and all of it. I share my truth because I know that I am not perfect and by sharing it holds me accountable. I know that I will make mistakes but I also know that I serve a perfect God who will help me when I’m broken and who can shape me and mold me into His image. When we sin, don’t wallow in it; don’t just stay and throw pity parties for ourselves or even worst just continue to stay in our sin once it has been acknowledged. My favorite quote is “Nothing you confess can make Me love you less. Love, Jesus.” Pour out your heart to Him. Sincerely repent for your sin. Make God not just your number One but your only One. He wants all areas of us and He wants us to be fully committed to Him. He loves us and He wants the best for us. God I’m sorry and I love you Lord for being a faithful and just God who will forgive me when I repent to You. “Give me You, everything else must wait.”  

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sin Separates Us From God

Have you ever felt  disconnected from someone? Someone that you were really close with and then out of nowhere it just seems like you’re very disconnected from that person and you have no idea how you got to that place especially with someone who you once felt so close with. What if that Person was God…I find myself feeling very close with God at times and then other times I’ve found myself feeling like I’m very disconnected and stuck in a sense in trying to reach Him. I find myself wondering well how in the heck did I get to that place when God and I use to be so tight??? What’s the answer? Isaiah 59:2, “But your iniquities have separated you from God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear you ” (NIV). Sin separates us from God. The more time you spend dabbling in sin you find yourself comfortable in it and before you know it you’re so far away from God and you have no idea how you got there. Think about it from the stance of a relationship. Say you’re dating a guy and he is constantly doing things that are wrong, and he knows it won’t make you happy, but he goes out and does it anyways because he knows that you will forgive him because you always have in the past. After awhile the two of you are going to grow apart; you will get fed up with his crap. Before he knows it you no longer want to deal with him because of him constantly hurting you and expecting you to always be there to forgive him after all he has done wrong. So the water has run dry and you’re ready to throw in the towel because you don’t understand how this person can say they love you yet their actions are contrary to everything they say. 

We cannot use God’s  grace and His mercy as an excuse to remain in sin. Yes, God will forgive all who sin and come before Him with a repentant heart but as Jesus was teaching all throughout the new testament, He constantly advised people after their repentance to “go and sin no more.” The beautiful thing about God is that He loves us enough that in spite of our sinful ways He gave us His son Jesus Christ to redeem us back to Him. In spite of me, and all that I’ve done wrong, He loved me enough to allow me another opportunity to be in rightful standing with Him. If sin separates us from God why should we continue to play with it. It’s not enough just to go to church, just to sing, just to quote scripture; God wants our hearts and all of it. He doesn’t want His people playing church anymore. He desires for us to have a real and rightful relationship with Him. He doesn’t care about what you’ve done because He can create a new passage from your past. He wants us to turn from our sinful nature and come into having a rightful relationship with Him. There’s absolutely nothing too heavy for God; He knows all the good, the bad, and the ugly of our lives. He knows about the fornication, the adultery, the lying, the drug use, the alcoholism, the abortion, the stealing, the everything…and it doesn’t matter. He just wants our hearts. We can’t have a real relationship with Him and continue in sin knowing that sin separates us from God. Christ didn’t die in vain. He died on the cross for our sins not to condemn us but to redeem us back to our Heavenly Father.

 Self reflection is so important because it’s pretty difficult to identify the areas of our lives that are keeping us from God when we don’t acknowledge the areas that we struggle with that hinder us in our walk. A few weeks ago I was reading Galatians 5:7, “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?” (NIV). Who or what took you away from running the good race? Some days may be a sprint, some days a jog, other days it may barely be a crawl but keep on in the race as those that endure to the end shall be saved (Matthew 24:13). We can’t continue in sin and believe that God will be okay with it and just keep on playing in the world and coming back to God to forgive us when we need some loving. Remember that just as we get fed up and frustrated in relationships because of people’s actions so does God. We don’t want to keep playing Russian roulette with our lives and thinking “oh God will still be there to forgive me next week.” What if you don’t make it next week, where will that leave your soul…