Stirred Up

” Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God…”
(2 Timothy 1: 6)

I wasn’t sure if I would be participating in  the Christmas program at Broad Street Ministries. I would be coming straight from work, and I wanted to keep on driving until I got home, not wanting to deal with Friday evening traffic, driving around to find a parking space, etc. But I finally decided to go, and participate in the program.

So glad I made the right decision.

When I arrived I saw many familiar faces (like Tony, our music director) along with new ones (student musicians from Curtis Institute of Music). Throughout the collaborative effort, Broad Street group would sing some songs, then Curtis Institute would either sing or play music, and vice versa. When it was time for Curtis Institute to rehearse, I heard Kendra and Sage practice their selections…

OMG!

Their operatic sound was simply amazing. At the same time (knowing I would sing O Holy Night), I immediately experienced an inner roller coaster of pure intimidation, thinking my sound was nothing compared to the quality of their gifts. I thought of how could I even attempt to sing when they were more than capable of singing such a classic Christmas song. My voice felt tight when I practiced; it didn’t seem to open, and I was afraid to attempt the high notes I planned to put in the song. Maybe I shouldn’t have come after all, I thought, coming very close to asking Tony to have someone else sing the song.

The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to Timothy, a young minister who with Paul founded churches in various cities at the time.  The letter was to encourage Timothy in the faith to light up the fire of the endowment God had given him known as the gift. The next verse is a familiar one, which talks of God giving us power, love, and a sound mind, and not the emotion of fear, which seemed to be what I was feeling at the moment.

Before the program began, one of the professors of Curtis Institute came to me and complimented me on my voice…

(another) OMG moment!

But this time, it was a good one, as I was very encouraged by her words. I think it helped me relax a little.

All the participants gathered for prayer, with Tony prompting us to have fun and enjoy it all. I decided that I had my own sound, and while I was concerned about its quality, I asked God for help, after all, my participation was not because of my efforts, but because of His, and I wanted to do my best by singing for Him.

Everyone did great, (I have never seen someone play the trumpet with one hand and play the piano with the other at the same time, but I witnessed it! From the crisp and clear sounds of the trumpet and violin coupled with Tony’s eclectic arrangements to traditional Christmas songs that the Broad Street group sang, all went well. And as for me, after praying the prayer that no one knew about but God, I felt the stirring of the gift (my voice) open up, while being able to unlock my hands that were tightly gripped behind me, and hit the high notes with ease, surprising myself in the process. Feeling the power of the inner gift, fear had left the building as the sound I created was the best I could do for the moment, and I was pleased for a change (instead of being a mental critic as I usually do).

From hearing words from Psalms being beautifully sung, to classic Christmas carols, to a song sang just for fun (Signed, Sealed Delivered by Stevie Wonder led by me), there was much I gleaned from the experience. I need to relax and let things happen, whether it be singing or writing, allowing the stirring to generate the creativity God has already provided from within. When that is allowed, I can experience lovely OMG moments of my own…

Be strengthenized…

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Forgiveness

“Forgiveness is a virtue of the brave.”                                                                                                Indira Ghandhi

“When you forgive,  you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.” Bernard Beltzer

“Forgiveness is about empowering yourself, rather than empowering your past.”                    TD Jakes

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”                                 Lewis B Smedes

“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you;”                          Jesus Christ in Matthew 6:14a

Whether it be watching a Law & Order episode that had forgiveness (or the lack thereof) as part of the plot of the story, to  listening to a sermon online, or listening to a daily devotional, the word of the week for me seemed to be forgiveness. First, this could stem from being hard on myself for not doing things I know I should be doing (like writing, which lately has been shelved). I have been feeling like time is quickly wasting away, thinking God will take the writing gift from me.

Secondly there’s the issue of caring for my mother. Dementia is a disease that has entered my mother’s brain and induced her to believe things her mind conjures up, different from what I tell her actually happened. Her words are hurtful and full of mistrust that I did not cause; yet, it continues. The relationship we have now is strained, the whole process of lessening stress levels has become difficult, the frustration becomes hard to contain, becoming a victim of a disease that lashes out at will. Not wanting to hear the same accusations I have heard for almost a year, I shut down during the one-sided conversation. Before eventually hanging up the phone I say to her “I don’t know what to tell you, Mom” after explaining something that I have told her many a time, with her response being one accusation after another, calling me a liar regarding actions that never occurred.

And through it all, I must forgive.

So I thought to start this post with some quotes on the subject. One that is not listed  says the first step to forgiveness is the willingness to do so. Before stepping into the realm of forgiveness one has to want to be there. And, as Indira Ghandhi is quoted as saying, there is bravery when entering into forgiveness. Hopefully the reason to go there is because one has to admit the prison that unforgiveness causes.  The lack of forgiveness is full of negative actions and responses, shrouded in darkness that can cause one to be in an abyss of anger and ill-will towards the person. This is the definition of the prison Smedes speaks of in his quote. How can one experience freedom while covered in the realm of unforgiveness? This kind of atmosphere attaches itself to the thought stream of the mind,  keeping record of past hurts that keeps one hinged to the past without considering the future. Thus the empowerment comes not from the present but from the past that chains hope for a bright and open future.

When one decides to make a change and forgive, the doors of the future are opened. One must decide to no longer be chained to adversarial statements that have been received as hurtful. Here is where the strength and bravery must be adhered to. As long as the disease continues I will continue to hear the same statements over and over from my mother. And every time I must forgive, detaching myself from any negative response regarding me coming to my defense. Tonight during the usual conversation, the thought came to do just that. I decided not to go down that lane anymore, as it does not accomplish anything. It is as Jesus said, I have to turn the other cheek, regardless of what is (in this context) being said to me.

Forgiveness is an action that must be accomplished, though it may take a lifetime to achieve. I hope to release myself out of this prison, gifting myself with the empowerment of the freedom forgiveness provides. If I forgive, God will forgive me. Perhaps you are in a similar situation, a crossroads of what to do next. With the strength from God who is always willing to help, you and I can be brave enough to forgive, checking out of prison, and empowering ourselves to experience the freedom of forgiving ourselves and others.

Be strenthenized…

A New Reality

 

 

“Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.
Behold, I will do a new thing;” Isaiah 43: 18-19a

Recently I was talking to a friend who asked me how things were going. I told him I was frustrated, that I had so many ideas I believed God gives me, yet I don’t know how to bring them into reality. So he asked me a bunch of questions for one of my ideas (recording an original song), next taking me through how I could accomplish that. Then he looked at me and asked, “so what is keeping you from for doing that?”

Frankly, I didn’t have an answer.

He continued to go over what needed to be done, adding, “I have known you for three years, waiting on you to do this; now we are going to do it my way.”

The first part was meeting with a musician who could assist me in getting the music on paper: first listening to the musical concept, recording the song by my singing it, and then meeting with him for another meeting once he has completed the manuscript, and together we would make revisions. After that, I would teach the song to the singers and musicians, with the goal of recording it at my friend’s studio.

Oh my! This is territory I have never set foot on! Something completely new. Years I have created this in my private realm of imagination, but now it is about to spring forth.  Since the conversation I had with my friend, his question kept circling in my mind throughout the week: why hasn’t it happened? (By the way, this song was written ten years ago).

I told him I didn’t know how to go about it, but when we mapped out a plan, it seemed so simple a task to do. Perhaps I was too afraid to step out, discover how to do it, getting out the boat to accomplish it. Past disappointments of things tried and failed have kept me from venturing out. But, God has provided words of encouragement. Forget the past,  reach for those things that are within your grasp and cause them to happen! Remember not the things of old! They are old, they are not new. God is of the new, ensuring it will happen!

Being in the realm of the unknown can be scary. But (thanks to my friend), I am willing with his help to make it happen, and with God steering the way, it will become a new reality.

 

 

Free Indeed

I’m free indeed, In Christ I’m free indeed

No chains are holding me, It’s who I choose to be

Lyrics from Free Indeed, by Timothy Reddick

What does it mean to be free? The word has many definitions to many people. For instance, to a dog who for months has been literally been chained to a post, being free means the ability to run without hindrance. To a person who has been locked up in prison, and is let go, being free involves the ability to walk with no boundaries. To a person who retires from employment after working for decades, being free involves sleeping in, no longer needing to hear the alarm clock go off early in the morning. The dog can now experience freedom of running. Once a prisoner but now free, the experience involves a newness of life, perhaps years in the making that has finally arrived. The retiree looks forward to having the freedom to travel and take long naps in the afternoon, and not feel guilty for doing so.

From a spiritual standpoint, there are many believers who have not experienced such freedom, even though they confessed Christ, and know scriptures that include the word free. The lyrics above are from the song Free Indeed, by Timothy Reddick. It is a simple song with powerful lyrics. Why do Christians struggle with freedom?

Perhaps it is like the song says that believers don’t do. While Jesus provides the freedom, it is our choice not only to accept it, but embrace it. Isn’t that what choice is all about? Choice is a preference, a decision, it’s an action. The act of choosing can be a powerful thing. It extends to the act of faith. When faith is extended beyond a concept of what has been taught, and what we understand, freedom moves from the realm of thought to the sphere of reality. Freedom, then becomes real to the person who chooses to allow themselves to experience it. This is what the lyric in the song means:                                      I choose to be free… and to choose to be free in Christ.

Many choose freedom by their own terms as a way of escape, delving in alcohol, drugs, an extramarital affair, spending beyond financial means, and so on. This type of freedom is temporal, and does not last, and because it doesn’t last, the results of doing these things brings on more troubles. But here is a long-lasting way of being free:

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” John 8:36

If you open the door to allow the Son to gift you with freedom, you will be free indeed. The Greek word for the first word free is eleutheroo, meaning to deliver, set at liberty, and verb tense is without regard of the past present or future time. Jesus can provide the freedom regardless of has happened in either timeframe. That’s a wonderful thing. The Greek word for the second word free is eleutheros, meaning free born, not bound by any law or obligation. The Greek word for indeed is ontos, which means of a truth, in reality, not fictitious, but certainly. So,

             If the Son shall deliver and set you at liberty, you will be of a truth certainly                     not bound but free.

I have a pastor friend who is trying to lose weight. She’s lifting weights, doing cardio, and sweating during the process, but her goal is to be free of the extra weight she knows she should not be carrying. She is choosing to do whatever it takes to lose the weight, which will give her the freedom to set herself at liberty. Being a pastor has her including God in this process, but the key thing is she has made the choice for the Son to deliver her in this regard. The chains of weight are still there, but she is making progress. Would you like to experience chains dropping off your life situations?

Ask Christ to gift freedom to you, and choose to be Free Indeed…He will do the rest.

Free is Good

Though I have been in my new apartment for about three months, I am still not fully unpacked, but I am almost free of boxes.  I noticed I needed something to solve my storage problem. Important papers and other stuff needed to get off the floor and in some type of storage system. So I started on a quest to find what would fit my space and be large enough to fit my needs. Many stores had units on sale, so the price was on point as well as the style. But something was keeping me from making the purchase.

Did I really need it now,  and could I wait a month or two when I had more funds? I went to the store three times, only to stay in my car and drive away. I couldn’t bring myself to buy anything, and perhaps now I know why.

My apartment complex has an area in back where the trash containers are located, and also where furniture is placed by those who are moving and no longer want. Such things are up for grabs for anyone who wants it. A couple of days ago, that space had a lot of furniture people left, and my eye noticed a piece. It was on its side, but after inspecting it looked similar to a bedroom dresser I had, and I knew it was well made, and was an old piece, constructed in a time when furniture makers used their craftsmanship to make dove-tailed drawers, curved drawers. Though it had been outside for a couple of days, it looked to be in pretty good shape.

Today was the day to wheel in my treasure hunt piece and see if it could fit in the space I carved out in my living room. After getting it inside and rearranging the living room, which didn’t take long, the freebie piece not only fit the space, but it had the six drawers of I wanted for storage! All it needed was to give it a good cleaning, some furniture polish, and my storage problem would be solved. And it was free, and my finances didn’t suffer!

Sometimes one needs to heed the inner tugging of not doing something to reap the blessings God has in store. How about you? Have you been feeling perhaps you shouldn’t do something while at the same time not knowing why? Consider this: If you want to do something but you feel an inner tug-of-war going on regarding if you should do it or not, chances are you should put it on hold. When I decided not to make a purchase, the blessing came that was exactly what I needed. Peace replaced the ‘should I or shouldn’t I’ thoughts, and all worked out well.

I know I am only talking about a solution to storage, but this process can be applied to anything you are tussling over. Asking God for help helps, and who knows, maybe you can also be able to say Free is Good…be strengthenized.

Impossible Invisibility

When listening to a sermon by Steven Furtick, he spoke of a conversation he had with a friend who told him while he was aware of God doing something new in his life, he was not aware of the path he was to take. He also said during the sermon that God allows his chosen to be put in what appears to be impossible situation, to prove His presence is with you while you are experiencing it. I am in the realm of the experiential presently.

Some areas of my life seem to be impossible, with no solution in sight. Yet, at the same time, I know God is with me. those areas could be so much worse, yet it appears God is not allowing the worse to happen. I am learning to go to God for the least of requests to (in my mind seem to be) the large with no light at the end of the tunnel, and yet God is still God, and I am still here, and the things I need to continue living life are available to me. Little by little I am making changes, thinking of how things could be done differently, and better. The situations still remain, and I don’t see any solution, and wonder why I have not been given the answer.

This is the time when faith has to step in and rule the mind. This is the time when you can’t develop solutions of your own just to get out the invisibility of it all. It is the time when one is taught patience, maturity, and humble quietness of thought that deters wallowing in worry.

Here’s another thought. Until the invisible becomes visible and the answer comes to the forefront, I have to faithfully stand strong, and be obedient to God. How does one do that? Constant reliance in the Word of God, after all, how can one know how to be obedient, if one does not know what God Word says?

Next, allow God to teach you how to just hang with Him. Psalm 91 speaks of dwelling in the secret place of the Most High. And even those that are not of God seem to be finding their solutions, we are not to be envious, but rather Trust in the Lord, Delight in the Lord, and commit thy way to the Lord, as Psalm 37 says, even if you don’t know where to go. In time, you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free from the invisible and the impossible, for with God all things are possible.

Be strengthenized.

 

 

Doors are Opening…Inwardly

Depending on how a door is hung determines if one is entering or leaving a room. For me life has been perhaps both regarding doors: leaving one atmosphere and entering another. But it is not a physical door. The door is in the areas of my mind, which is why the word inwardly is in the title of this entry.

Last piece I wrote was about saying no to yourself. Once I allowed those words to infiltrate my mind, doors a) started closing and b) began to open. Let me explain.

there is so much inner talk we say to ourselves that is not good. It allows the mind to think that nothing good will come, so why bother. Negative inner talk molds us to being stuck in the same ways of doing things, even though experience has proven it doesn’t work. But what happens when one chooses to do something different, something new? It is what God has told us in Isaiah 43: 19:

“Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.”

If we bring God into the problematic circumstances of our lives, particularly the mental instability of our thinking, the doors of our mind start to open, and newness appears. In the book of James the bible speaks of you have not because you didn’t ask. Old thinking would say, why bother to ask regarding making other arrangements to pay a bill. New thinking involves picking up the phone and asking the question, and viola!  A new payment date has emerged, and the day before it the payment was due! Now the mind has experience a refreshing solution, and doors start opening to doing life in a new way. If that worked out, I thought, why not try something else?

And so I did. From seriously changing how to pay bills, to making drastic changes regarding the caring of my mother (moving in with her when my lease is up, which will be in a couple of months), going to the gym in the am instead of after work. And let me not forget the most important thing that really started the stubborn closed doors of my mind to open to something new.

It is one thing to read the promises of God; it is quite another to actually believe those words will work for you. This may seem obvious, but for me doors opening inwardly meant I had to believe those promises were for me. And so I started to say as a type of agreement with God:

“I believe and trust that You will supply all my needs according to your riches in glory by Christ Jesus. You promise you will do exceeding abundantly above all I ask or think, according to the power that lives with me.”

Then I started meditating on the power that raised Jesus from the grave is in me, and with the help of God I wanted that power to be released in me, so He could do the work that needs to be done.

Because of this, old ways of thinking are changing. While I am still going through difficult circumstances, I am encouraged not to worry, because God has me in the palm of His hand, and nothing or no one is able to take me from that spot. God is more than enough, as I learn to allow myself to open up inwardly…

 

Say No to Yourself

When you are going through a challenging time, there is a learning element to it. For example, I have learned to tell myself I will not do this, and I can’t have that. Yes, I want to go shopping, and yes that means spending money. In the past, I have spent money I did not have, which put me in a financial bind. Now I am learning what it means to say no, actually mean it, and discovering perhaps saying no isn’t all that bad after all.

I am not saying there is also a learning curve to saying no. Just like anything else, when there is a new way of doing things, one has to learn how to implement it in his or her life. Such is the case with me. At first, it was not the best of times; it was definitely the worst of times. So today as I had to make a decision to go to the gym (and really not wanting to go) I purposed in myself to say no to just laying around and instead go and get the exercising done. It did not take long, and I looked forward to going home and enjoying a nice hot shower. It was on my way home that I realized that when thoughts come into my mind the answer does not always have to be yes, with my action succumbing to the thought. I can do a Nancy Reagan response: Just say no.

So I realized something today: I can say no to myself and the reaction follow that demand of saying no. I  hope this continues, and that I can instill in myself with the help of God who makes a statement that with Him all things are possible, perhaps having the power to say no to myself is doable after all. So far, so good.

Is God Waiting on You to Move?

Today was a day full of ‘nuggets’. By that I mean listening to sermons that had within it a sentence that stuck with me. From listening to them I realized some things:

  • You say you are waiting on God, but in actuality God is waiting on you. I thought of things I wanted to do, saying I am waiting for God to say when to go. In the Old Testament, oftentimes God said to go and then he would give further instructions. For example, in the book of Genesis God told Abraham (his name was Abram at the time) to move and go to a land where He will show him. Abram did not know where to go, but he gathered his family and belongings and started the journey. He moved.
  • God would have us serve. That can’t happen if you continue to sit in the pew. If we are called to do something, gifted to serve, God has given us the tools we need to get started with the serving. He has provided his children with gifts to use in the kingdom, and to those that need to be in the kingdom.
  • Answer your own prayers. I never thought about things in this manner. We pray for God to act in certain ways, when in fact we should delve out and get started. He has already provided the gifts. If we would just venture out, God will provide the direction, but we must take a leap of faith and launch out.
  • Fire over Fear. We may be nervous about doing something, but do you want to be stuck in fear, which keeps us from moving forward, or do we want to experience God’s fire so much that we are willing to step over the fear? The choice is ours; as said before, oftentimes God is waiting for us.

If nothing else, what I heard others say today encouraged me tremendously. We can stay in the land of doubt, fear, and all the negative emotions that come with that, or we can exercise and increase our faith by packing up and moving to a city of commitment, obedience, and action.

We say we waiting on God, but is God waiting on YOU?

Knowing He has begun when you can’t begin…

Earlier this year Planet Fitness started and completed construction on their latest gym which opened for business later in the month. I thought to myself that now I have no excuse not to go to the gym because there was one within walking distance to my home, one that had all the machines needed to get in shape. It took me until April to finally go online and open an account.

Now all I needed to do was to go. Days turned into weeks as I passed by it, never even going in to see what it looked like.

Today is Mothers Day. Today I went to the gym this morning. It had all the machines I was familiar with, and I actually stayed over an hour working out. I felt good having done it, and  I wondered why it took me so long to even begin.

I suppose that is the issue, just beginning. Countless times I wondered why even bother, thinking it would not work, though it worked for others I knew and read about. I noticed how they started and continued. There may have been times when they faltered, but it did not deter them from continuing on in their quest to lose weight and get healthy. Being a caregiver for my mother gave me even more incentive to go to the gym as a way of distressing myself. But still, I did not go.

I was reminded of a scripture I heard on a program this morning:

“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:”  Philippians 1:6

Once God begins He never quits. He considers the work that has begun is a good one, worthy of completion. And that means He will see it to the end. It further means that when you are willing to accept and receive that good work, life will be much easier to live, because you are allowing him to do the work in you.

And so I hope to got to the gym tomorrow, hoping to keep a commitment to work out for the next five days, and to be open to the good work being performed of being on the road to getting healthy, and being like those who have 100+ pounds.

With God, all things are possible.