Leaving the Closed Doors

Here’s some Friday food for thought…

STOP FIGHTING CLOSED DOORS!

You’re so busy kicking that closed door that you (1) can’t see the one God’s opened behind you or (2) you’ve lost sight of God’s plan choosing instead to pursue things the way YOU think they are supposed to go. 

Here’s how I know:

“A man’s gift makes room for him, And brings him before great men.”

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭18:16‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
http://bible.com/114/pro.18.16.nkjv

See, the Word of God says your gifts will MAKE ROOM for you; not that you’ll have to fight for them.

So if that door ain’t opening, stop trying, start trusting, and put your focus back on God.

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Face it, We’re Hypocrites

For everyone with a case of the Mondays today. God gave me this this morning to put the J-O-B in perspective — and to call me out for my hypocrisy.

(And as I write this, knowing there are many other ways that Christians are hypocrites, I reserve the right for this to be the first in a series. Anyway…)

HYPOCRITE, STOP WORRYING!

Oh, God’s your source? Then why is it that every time you need something, or it looks like your bank account is getting thin, you start thinking of ways to make ends meet IN YOUR OWN STRENGTH and using YOUR OWN LOGIC?

The Bible says in Prov 10:22 ESV: “The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it.” And, in the footnotes and some other translations it goes further to say of 10:22b, “And no toil/work adds to it.”

See, your job is an assignment, it isn’t your Source. You can’t work your way wealthy. So do what you were sent to do, get what you were sent to get, and give what you were sent to give.

Tithers, we’ve gotta stop panicking every time our money gets a little funny — or looks like it will be. Considering second jobs, taking on unnecessary side hustles, pursuing the wrong clients, and all kinds of things just to get what God has already promised to provide.

As tithers, Malachi tells us we’re covered, and God’s our Source anyway! It’s our birthright. 

Right?

  

June 23 Leap of Faith Prayer Call

Many thanks to everyone who joined our next to last prayer call.  They’re going by so quickly! Next week is our last week already.  I pray this series has been a blessing to you Ladies.  It’s certainly been a blessing to me.

To hear the recording from last night’s call, use the call-in credentials below:

Playback Number: (641) 715-3589
Access Code: 859-866
Reference Number: 4

Below is a transcript of the devotional I shared:

I didn’t prepare a traditional devotional tonight because I really just want to talk to you; to encourage you.

Sometimes, when we stop to think about the enormity of our God, how good He is and how undeserving we are, we can become frozen in our own tracks.  The enemy will begin to lie to us, telling us we have nothing to offer.  Or trying to convince us that we’ll never be able to get our lives together enough to be of service to such a good God.

But my prayer tonight is that in sharing a little bit of my testimony that you’ll be encouraged — not just to tell the devil to go to hell (literally!), but to also keep pursuing God on your walk with him.

I won’t bore you with the details of my birth story or anything quite that long ago.  But what I will tell you is that in late February/early March of this year I felt like God was so far away.  I felt like for all the good I thought I was doing, I wasn’t sure where God was and I wasn’t sure that He was pleased.

In January, I’d done a stint of praying everyday at the same time.  And from that time with God the idea — and the guest — for my first Leap Luncheon Series™ was revealed to me.  But, like I always had, I soon found myself “too tired” to stay up later or to get up earlier.  And, the “habit” quickly became past-tense.

The following month, when I tried to recreate the magic of the first luncheon, I found that I was a day late and a dollar short.  An advisor told me that invites to really notable folks had to go out a month in advance, if not sooner.  And just like that, what was supposed to be a monthly luncheon was on its first hiatus.

I sulked for a little while over why my event seemed so short-lived and what the Holy Spirit revealed to me was that I’d stopped seeking the Source.  I’d become so enamored with the gift, that I’d turned my eyes from the gift giver.

The revelation convicted me and I immediately committed to returning to my 4:45am prayer and meditation times.

Since then, I’ve had five more successful Leap events.  I’ve been blessed to bless others — giving gifts of money and resources to other folks who cross my path.  I’ve been invited to be a guest speaker at a few different events as well.  And the future looks…exciting.

I look back now, seven months into my decision to give God the first hour of my day, and I realize that it wasn’t until I chose to physically and literally seek God first, as we’re admonished in Matthew 6:33 that things started to turn around for me.

I decided to live out the truth that God was and is my Source.  That means not worrying when bank accounts run low – or overdrawn – but choosing to trust God instead.  And He’s proven that He is indeed an on-time God.

I decided to live out the truth to lean not to my own understanding and to commit my ways to Him.  That meant asking God simple things like, What should I put on my to-do list today?, and then prioritizing the things He gave me.  And He’s proven that every detail of my life is important to Him.

What I’ve found was that at that time  when I started this daily prayer time, I felt like I didn’t have anything to give God.  I literally felt like, I have nothing to offer you, God.  But I know you’ve been good enough to warrant me missing a few winks, so here I am.

There have been mornings when I’ve hit snooze one too many times and had to make up my prayer time at the end of the day.  There have been mornings that I’ve been so tired that I’ve fallen asleep intermittently throughout.  And times when I literally wrote in my prayer journal, God, I’ve got nothing to say this morning.  I’ve gone to Him angry and disappointed.  Sad and confused.  I’ve prayed in tongues some mornings, sobbed uncontrollably others, and simply sat in silence for some others.

But in the six or so months since I’ve been really trying to commit to this thing, God’s moved in a mighty way in my life.  He’s grown this luncheon idea to a multi-city brand that one day may make me a little money and give me a national platform.  On May 19th He told me write down some declarations.  One of them described a house in great detail that I, at the time, never thought I could have or afford.  Today, I’m excited to say we’ve placed an offer on the very house He described to me and we’re just waiting for the confirmation that its ours.

I’ve often in the past few months made it a priority to give big gifts, to give when it hurts, or to give when I’m down to my very last dollars as a means to show God I trust Him and/or to sow seeds for the desires He’s placed in my heart.  Just last week a couple gave my husband and I a substantial sum of money to help us get our down payment together for the house God told me was ours.  Just like that.  Out of the blue.

Look, I’m not perfect.  And I don’t share these testimonies with you to brag or to somehow say I’m better than anyone.  I’m a sinner of the worst kind perhaps.

But I share these bits of my story with you to say this:

1.  God sees you.  He knows how you’re sacrificing and sowing in tears and labor.  He sees all that you’re doing and going through and He is faithful to reward your efforts.  I’m a witness to that.

2.  You are all the gift God needs.  Don’t ever think that you have nothing to give God.  If all you give HIm is your time and attention – and it doesn’t have to be all at once or for some long period of time, it can be throughout the day, while you’re sitting in traffic, or even in the shower.  But if you give HIm you, if you choose to seek Him first literally, He’ll bless you for your efforts.

And 3.  You are not alone.  I struggle all the time with figuring out how to get it all done in a day.  Whether you’re juggling a business, a husband, and kids like me, or you’re just trying to figure out where to live, what to do, or who to date, you aren’t alone.  God loves you and He cares about every detail of your life.  If you’d ask His opinion, tell Him, Lord, I’ll do whatever you want me to today, He’s faithful to direct your path.  I’m a witness.

I don’t always get up in the morning.  And I jack up on my walk many times every hour of the day.  But I can say that since I’ve decided to prioritize time with God, my faith has grown, my expectation has grown, and the room that I leave in my life for God to do miracles has grown, too.

The sellers of our new house haven’t accepted our offer yet, but they will.  I don’t yet have all of the money I need for a down payment either.  I don’t know how we’re going to afford the renovations and I’m not sure when we’ll move in.

But of this one thing I am certain: Philippians 4:19 NIV.  God will meet all of my needs.

And He will meet yours too.  Just have faith, have expectation, and trust Him enough to take the LEAP He’s planted in your heart.

…all He really wants in return is you.

Huffington Post Blog: On Being A Dictator

Things not going the way you expected? Stop looking at the HOW and return to the WHO.

For the past few months, the Lord has really been working with me on one simple, yet significant, principle in my walk: trust My promise, don’t worry about My plan.

You see, my husband and I have been believing God for some very specific things and I found a few weeks back that what had began, for me, as bold, expectant faith, had somehow morphed into anxious, obsessive lusting after this thing.  So much so that I began trying to orchestrate for God how He could deliver said thing.

Needless to say, my plans never came to fruition.

But even as I continue to learn this lesson – the importance of guarding your focus when you’re waiting in faith – the Lord encouraged me to share it with you all, too.

I pray my latest contribution to The Huffington Post, “On Being a Dictator,” blesses you! (You can also just scroll down and check it out!)

And you can always check out my other posts here.

BeRadical. ExpectMore. ™

Things not going the way you expected? Stop looking at the HOW and return to the WHO.

 

 

Huffington Post: On Being a Dictator

You’re a bit of a dictator. And I am, too.

The Holy Spirit gave me the revelation one day as I lamented why the blessing the Lord said He’d give me wasn’t coming the way I thought it would, or should.

Imagine that: I was trying to tell the Gift Giver how to give the gift.

It happens much more easily than you might think. The Holy Spirit confirms to you that indeed the Lord heard your prayers for a new house, a new car, a way out of debt, peace about that child, or whatever.

Excited, you begin looking at your circumstances trying to figure out how He’s going to do it. And that’s when the enemy slides into the conversation.

Well, Lord, I know you said I’m the lender and not the borrower, but I don’t make enough to pay off all of these credit cards.

My God, you know I need a new car, but with a credit score like this, it’s never going to happen.

I’ve been praying for a new job for weeks, Jesus, but they gave that job to someone else even though I interviewed. What gives?

Just that quickly, your focus has shifted.

Instead of keeping your eyes on the One who is your Source and Provider, you’re looking at what He wants to give. Instead of fixing your gaze on and pursuing the face of God, you’re inexplicably fixated on His hand.

Unavoidably, when what you see in your human life doesn’t look like what God has promised you in the Spirit, you then get downright depressed and indignant.

You question God, you wonder if it was really His voice, and you quickly lose the sense of peaceful and patient expectation you once had.

How did we get here?

God’s word is clear: we are to trust God.

In fact, the Bible says in Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

When we presume to know how God will bless us or deliver our breakthrough, we go from asking of God to demanding of Him. We move to telling Him how to be God, instead of through faith trusting Him to be God.

And there are many risks associated with taking our eyes off of God.

First, we run the risk of making a little-g god of the very thing God intended to be a blessing.

Second, for the God who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we think and imagine, we also run the risk of limiting His move in our lives when we confine Him to blessing us in the way that makes sense to our human logic.

And, third, trying to force God to work within the boundaries of our plan can ultimately cause a delay in us receiving the very thing we so badly want.

It’s a no-win situation. I mean, why would we even allow ourselves to go down this path of trying to play God’s hand for Him?

We know from Isaiah 55:8 that His ways are not our ways, yet we somehow still try to plan exactly how and when He will move in our lives.

Well, as a recovering faith dictator, I share this word of hope: there is a way back.

Simply readjust your focus.

When you find that you’re obsessing about this thing, always trying to guess how and when God will deliver it, actively choose right then and there to offer praise to God for simply being God.

As your praises go up, your focus will be returned to the Gift Giver and away from the gift; and most likely your peace about that thing will also be restored.

That space – inexplicable peace in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds – is where God wants us to stay, to live. He sent His Son to die for us so that we might have eternal life and unlimited access to the peace and joy that comes with not having to worry about anything.

Do you need to check your focus? Are you now consumed with the how of God’s blessing, instead of with God Himself?

If this is you, cut yourself some slack and decide to put your eyes back on God.

And if you aren’t sure if this is you, here’s a quick test: does the idea of how God is going to do that thing for you cause you anxiety? Do you feel like you’re obsessed with getting that thing, and you find it frustrating that the way you thought it would happen didn’t come to pass?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, welcome to FDA (Faith Dictators Anonymous). We’ve saved a chair for you.

Own Your Story

I have purposely tried to not include details about my personal life on this blog.  My thinking has been that all of you have so many of your own challenges that you’re facing; surely, your life is complicated enough without the added details of mine.

I thought that by keeping my story to myself I could best encourage you as you go through.  And up until now that’s worked.  But as I think back on where God took me in my career a few weeks ago – and in my life overall –  the Lord told me plainly that my story is not just for me, but for others as well.

So while I won’t make this a habit, I do want to share a bit more about myself with you; believing God that doing so will help you keep the faith, renew your hope, and restore your expectation.

Currently, I own a boutique media and communications firm in Washington, DC.  I’m a consultant working to get my clients on TV, on the radio, in newspapers, or wherever else they need to be to get their messages out.  I also write for my clients – op-eds, press releases, brochures, etc.  I’m gifted to do it and passionate about giving voice to folks’ visions™.

A few weeks ago, God gave me the awesome opportunity to begin working with A+E on a number of programs as a subcontractor for one of my clients. As a result of my client’s opportunity, I had the chance to do some publicity work for Lifetime TV on its promotion of the movie “A Trip to Bountiful,” the TV adaptation of the award-winning Broadway play.

After lining up a few interviews for the movie’s stars, I was invited to staff those interviews in NYC for the day.  The stars?  THE incomparable Ms. Cicely Tyson, Ms. Vanessa Williams, Mr. Blair Underwood and Ms. KeKe Palmer.

I spent an entire day in their presence; listening to their reflections on the importance of their craft, the significance of Women’s History Month, and all kinds of things.  Just in awe of where God had me and grateful, supremely grateful.

Proverbs 18:16 keep running through my Spirit:

Proverbs 18:16

New International Version (NIV)

16 A gift opens the way
and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.

Certainly, operating in my God-given gifts were the reason why I was there with such great people.  It was God’s will that the gifts He gave me would land me smack dab in the presence of greatness.  I was very clear on that.

In fact, that day was, to date, one of the biggest days of my professional career (followed SUPER CLOSELY by the day the Honorable Elijah E. Cummings allowed me to join his team as his press secretary and the day I resigned from another job to protect my character with nary a back-up plan in sight).

So imagine my excitement when a few days later I found myself on a cross-country flight to California for the first time. Working with another VPI client there, God revealed new talents to me and gave me fresh revelation about some existing strengths.

This is the essence of the God WE serve: He wants to take us to more places, give us greater blessings, and use us in more profound ways than we allow ourselves to dream.

But what God really showed me in New York and California, and what I’ve been reflecting on and reveling in since, is this truth: I could not have experienced such highs without having gone through ALL I’ve come through.

I had to go through to get to where God wanted me.

I didn’t just wake up one day and decide to leave the “security” of a consistent paycheck to hunt-and-gather for clients.  But it took every mistake of my past, every moment of disobedience, and every misstep in my story – and all of the good stuff, too! – to get here.

I spent many years of my career trying to fit into offices; trying to be the right square peg for the right square hole.

I had great jobs, too.  I’ve worked with Judy Smith (the inspiration for Olivia Pope’s character in “Scandal”), Anita Dunn, Members of Congress, Presidential Advisors, and the lightening-rod education reformer Michelle Rhee, to name a few.

But it never failed: I’d always reach a point where I was restless, inexplicably.  And so the search for professional fulfillment began anew.

God’s been faithful, too.  Every time I’ve sought, asked and knocked, He’s opened doors that I never knew existed and certainly never expected to walk through.  Heck, He even gave me jobs that weren’t His will simply because I asked Him for them.

And every time, no matter how great the job or boss (or how terrible), I ended up reaching a place where I felt like I should be on my own, doing my own thing, and applying everything I’d learned to building the dreams God’s given me.

I had to have every bad boss I ever had to know how to be a good one.

I had to be picked over, promoted over, and passed over to know how to validate and value the gifts of others.

I had to endure insecurity and out-right mean-spiritedness in colleagues to know how to strive to walk daily in love and empathy.

I had to make mistakes to know how to groom others through theirs.

And I had to be willing to walk away from the world’s definition of security to become truly secure in my only Source: God.

My life hasn’t been easy.  And I haven’t always been as reflective as I am now.

And even now, I’m still learning about the cause for which God’s created me. This is just the beginning! …for me and you!

In the coming weeks and months you’ll see a lot of changes here: the site will be redesigned, some of the content will be changed, and some new information will be added.

As I continue to be groomed by God, through faith, I know that I’ll be used in new and exciting ways to encourage you to own your story, validate your vision, and expect even more from God.™

There are Cicely Tyson moments in your future! There are places God wants to take you, people He wants to introduce you to, and work He wants to do through you.

Don’t be discouraged by your current circumstances: they’re temporary and won’t look like what is really yours in the Spirit.

But decide today that you deserve your dream™, and everything that God has for you.

Stop trying to fit in when God made you to stand out and stand up!

You’ve earned every strip and scar. You’re stronger because of it, wiser and more powerful.

God knows it. And when you accept that about yourself, you’ll begin to see God’s favor and orchestration unfurling in your life in ways you never imagined before.

I’m excited for YOU because there’s so much God has for you this year. ;

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Labor Day

These are the Scriptures that are on my heart this morning:

Deuteronomy 28:8
“The Lord will guarantee a blessing on everything you do and will fill your storehouses with grain. The Lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.

Deuteronomy 28:12a
The Lord will send rain at the proper time from his rich treasury in the heavens and will bless all the work you do.

1 Timothy 4:14
Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.

Proverbs 18:16
Giving a gift can open doors; it gives access to important people!

Although I’ve been blessed to be employed for many Labor Day holidays, this one today feels different.

It’s different because today I celebrate Labor Day as someone who went to God with an explicit, detailed and bold prayer request for a new job more than six months ago and today I am in that job. A job that God, quite literally, created for me to fit the criteria of my bold prayer and bold faith.

So where, quite often in the past, Labor Day was an all too brief but welcomed respite from the drudgery of a 9-to-5, today I have a different perspective because I feel like I’m using my God-given talents in a job that glorifies Him; in a way that glorifies Him; and through a vehicle He ordained to bless me.

You know, there’s nothing logical about my professional progression. I majored in journalism in college. Worked in Higher Ed administration and admissions for a couple of years after college (probably because I just wasn’t ready to let my college years go). I earned my Masters in writing and in that time did all kinds of writing for all kinds of outlets. I followed a passion for people and telling stories and desiring justice for everyone to a communications stint at the Salvation Army and then into (my first) public relations as the spokesperson for DC Public Schools. From there, I continued to wonder what I wanted to do when I grew up…right into the office of Congressman Elijah Cummings as his spokeswoman.

Now in all of that time, I made a ton of mistakes. I learned a lot. Made invaluable connections. But more than anything, I prayed non-stop that God would use me and that He’d close any doors I was not meant to go through. Let’s be clear, I did not and do not deserve anything that I have. And I didn’t always “get it right,” but the one thing I never waivered in was my desire for God’s will for me and my belief that He woudn’t take me anywhere that I wasn’t supposed to be.

I’ve quit jobs because I trusted Him that much. I took jobs that I thought were beyond my ability in positions I thought were too good for me because I trusted Him. And now, today, I sit in a job that He made for me to glorify His name and kingdom because it’s where He lead me and because He knows far better than I what I’m capable of and what gifts He’s put in me.

Don’t be fooled: I’m still scared about a some of the requirements of this new job. There are things I must learn and improve upon — and fast — but the thing about trusting and waiting on God is that He won’t promote you before you’re ready because He wants to see you succeed.

See it blesses God to see you succeed using the gifts He’s given you. It’s a testimony to His greatness when we allow him to bless the work of our hands. He has no desire to see, gets no pleasure out of seeing, us drag ourselves into jobs day in and day out just for the check. Why? Because, first, He’s our Source and provider, and second, because He came to give us life and life more abundantly.

…I guess I say all of this morning to say this: take time today to seek God’s face about where you are in your career or profession. Be honest with Him about how you’re feeling about where He has you placed right now, and then get serious about living and working on purpose!

The Scriptures above are all promises of what God will do with our work when we give it to Him for His glory and are obedient in using our gifts. They are promises available to all His children. They are work realities that can be yours!

Use today to reflect on how God’s gifted you and how you can glorify HIm with it.

I’m a living testimony that it won’t always look right or feel right, but if you trust God to lead you and believe in Him, He will use the seeds He’s planted in you for His glory AND your good.

I’m a believer that this Labor Day is about taking a moment to check the work of our hands to ensure that it’s fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives.

God wants more for you than just a J-O-B. And if you want that, too, take some time today to talk to God about it! Ask Him to give you a plan for getting back in His will OR preparing for His promotion and then get ready, get ready, get ready!

God has a plan JUST FOR YOU and a purpose that ONLY YOU CAN FULFILL.

Your living ain’t in vain. Live on purpose and He’ll promote you. No matter what you do, where you’re gifted, or what you’ve got, give it all to God. He’ll bless it and multiply it just like HIs word says!

Video: Keyondra Frederick YouTube

Making Sense of the Crazy

I remember the day my parents dropped me off at college.  One of the last stops of the day was to the dreaded Bursar’s Office.

I remember walking into the office with my entire family – parents, sisters and brother – all in tow.  Part amazed at the architecture, part taking it all in, and part silent prayer.

When it came time to talk dollars and cents with the Bursar, my mother went into the office, sat very coolly and comfortably into a chair at the Bursar’s desk, and smiled.

The Bursar asked, “Now, how are you all going to be paying for Safiya’s tuition?”

Without missing a beat, and still smiling, my mom replied, “My Father.”

I sat.  Stunned.  My grandfather was not a man of means…at all.  He could barely afford his own upkeep at the time.  So I sat there, sweating somewhat, trying to figure out whom my mother was referring to.

The Bursar continued.

“Oh, ok.  Your father is going to be sending us a check, or…?”

My mom replied, “Yes.  He will be paying the tuition.”

I’ll be honest, I don’t remember any more of the conversation.

I remember panic setting in and me wondering how far in the semester I’d get before I’d be booted.

And I remember wondering what in the world my mom was on, lol.  Was she crazy?!  Clearly, she was crazy!

Well, our Father did pay.  Not just that semester, but He made way after way, semester after semester.  He never failed me.  Through undergrad and grad school, He made a way.

I’m reminded of this conversation for two reasons today.  First because this morning I had a similar conversation with the Director of Financial Aid at the private school my daughter has applied to.

Second because, as our nation sits stunned and still trying to understand the Zimmerman verdict, this episode from my past reminds me of two things: everything always works out and we should never lean to our own understanding.

Everything Always Works Out

The Bible is clear that God is the writer and finisher of each of our fates.  He and He alone knows what will happen to us, when, how and for what purpose.  He asks that we only trust Him and His plan.  And then, as further reassurance, He says in Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

We don’t know the big picture.  We don’t know the how or the why between Trayvon’s death or Zimmerman’s acquittal.  But the God we serve is still the same.  He’s still all-powerful, all-knowing, and sovereign.  And because He is unchanging, His word is as well.  This too will work for good.  Everything will – in His time – be alright.

Lean Not to Our Own Understanding

Look, we just can’t know everything.  Furthermore, we cannot use our feeble, human minds to try to understand how things will come together or how things will work.  It’s not possible.  How can a finite mind understand the workings of an infinite God?  We can’t.  So, to save us the frustration, the anxiety, the heartache and the toil, the Lord tells us clearly in Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”  Stop trying to make sense of the plan.  For starters, you’re only seeing a small snapshot of a grander scheme.  And secondly, even if you could see it all, you could never understand it.  Stop trying to chart your own course or make things happen in your own strength, timing and according to your own plan.  Just trust Him.  He never fails.

I know these aren’t always easy scriptures to accept.  Heck, I know these scriptures but I still don’t know how we’ll afford my daughter’s tuition.  Much like the nation still doesn’t know “what now?” after Trayvon’s death and Zimmerman’s acquittal.

But I take peace in, I meditate on, I cling to the hope that comes with trusting God: to provide, to answer questions, and to take care of everything.

This is what I urge us all to do; today and everyday.

When the path ahead is unclear.  When there seems to be confusion around you.  And when you can’t make sense of your circumstances.

Cling to your hope in God and believe that everything will be alright, according to His plan and in His time.

When we take our hands off of our problems, our puzzles, our circumstances and situations, God can step in to solve them or to reveal the answer to us.

I am expecting the God of my vision to secure the provision for it to come to pass.

I pray the same peace for you today.

So, how do we make sense of the crazy? How do we understand the seemingly incomprehensible?

We don’t.

We trust the One who wrote the plan.

That’s all we can do.

Don’t be Ungrateful

This week, I was convicted…for being ungrateful.

Here’s the deal.

During the Lenten season, God birthed very specific dreams and prayers in my spirit.  I prayed those prayers – circled them, as my Pastor has taught me – for weeks upon weeks and month after month.

I moved from a place of cautiously accepting that these were God-inspired thoughts, to faithfully expecting these prayers to come to fruition.

To answer my prayers and further His plan for my life, God had to create an opportunity.  Just. For. Me.

The plan that He unfurled before me checked each of the specifications of my prayers to the letter.  It was both exciting and humbling.  Overwhelming and perfect.

Just as His plan was coming to fruition though, I began to question whether it was indeed the path I was supposed to take.

(Despite the fact that He confirmed and reconfirmed that that was indeed my path in many a subsequent prayer.)

Well, I guess He finally got fed up with my double-mindedness.

One morning this week during my prayer and quiet time He said, “I created this opportunity just for you.  It is exactly what you asked for to accomplish exactly what I need for your life.”

And just like that I got the revelation that I was being ungrateful.

Not in the strictly traditional sense of not appreciating a gift given to me, but in a new way of not rejoicing fully in an answered prayer – a gift custom-made for me.

Somehow, this brand felt like a deeper, different kind of ungratefulness and I quickly repented, overjoyed to return to the peace of knowing that I was walking in God’s will and plan for my life.

But man, the memory of knowing that I was ungrateful, that I’d allowed my worldly eyes to discolor the truth of what God said I could do and have.  That still stings.

Here’s what I know now friends: it can be hard to see this flavor of ungratefulness because it doesn’t present itself as the sour-mouthed, plain face one usually recognizes when the gift you’ve just received isn’t quite what you expected.

No this kind of ungratefulness presents itself as, “I just want to be sure it’s you God.”  “Hmm, is it really God’s will or mine?”  Or even, “This is too good to be true; it can’t be for me.”

So, let me share these three quick tips with you so you can avoid being ungrateful when God answers your prayers so well you just can’t believe the blessing is for you:

1. Don’t doubt the power of your own prayers.  Often we ask for and look for and seek prayers from others thinking that if Sister So and So and Brother So and So pray for your situation then surely God will move.  The reality is that yes, there is power in numbers, but each of us has our own individual relationship with God and can go to Him for ourselves thanks to Christ.  I prayed a prayer birthed in my Spirit months ago.  God heard it and immediately began working on my behalf.  Faith in God is critical.  Belief in the power of YOUR prayers is too.  Combined, these things will be the confirmation we need when God shows up and shows out on our behalf.

2. Don’t resent the down time.  I wanted God to answer my prayer when I wanted it; much sooner than God’s timeline.  I became so married to seeing God move according to my schedule that when it didn’t happen I started to question if I was going in the right direction, if the path I was on was in fact where He wanted me to go.  But, I learned early on in this season that promotion before preparation results in poor performance — and sometimes failure.  So I’m contently waiting for God to align things EXACTLY how they need to be for me to succeed and for Him to get ALL the glory.  In the meantime, opportunity after opportunity is being thrown my and my family’s way.  I’ve realized that they aren’t all for us to move on them now — they’re a foretelling of what’s to come and a reminder to soak up this down time.  New seasons often mean increased demand on us (spiritually and in the world) so rest up now because promotion soon comes.

3.  Don’t lose sight of your dreams.  For me it was a number.  A number that I felt like came out of nowhere, was too high, and I didn’t deserve.  It was a dream.  A dream that at different times along this journey other paths seemed to promise me.  But it was in those times that I knew I had to stay focused on God’s will, God’s plan, and His path.  Sometimes what looks like “options” are actually just distractions to keep you from getting where God wants you to go.  God knows us, but most importantly, He knows what He’s put in us.  Don’t let viewing your God-given dreams through the lenses of this world cause you to doubt the very things God has said He wants to give to you.  He’ll do it…He never fails.

You know, the word says in Proverbs 3:5-6:

    Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

If we really, truly, deep down believe this scripture then there is no way that we should ever be surprised, overcome/overwhelmed, anxious or fearful to the point of freezing in place when God answers our prayers directly.

I think somewhere along the way religion made us believe that the only way we could ever really get anything good in our lives was to go through hell.  But, I would argue that that is contrary to the word of God which tells us that He orders our steps and makes our paths straight.

So the next time you see the manifestation of some audacious prayer that you’ve prayed, don’t be ungrateful.

Our God is a God of right now, suddenly, and exceedingly and abundantly.  And He loves you enough – SO MUCH in fact – that He delights in blessing you.

So, whoever you are reading this.  I believe God led you here because you’ve been asking Him for confirmation.  You’ve been asking Him to give you a sign that this huge blessing, this too-good-to-be-true blessing is really for you.

Pray once more asking God if this is the sign.  And if afterwards you feel peace about accepting your blessing, know that it was God answering your prayers and believe that He tailor-made that blessing just for you.

And please, don’t be ungrateful.

I’ll leave you with this classic hymn that serves as a reminder to not just be grateful, but that our God is a God of balance.  So no matter how tough your trials have been, know that your blessings will be just that big!

Devotional: Dark Times

A friend of mine sent this to me today.  It’s an excerpt from Sarah Young’s “Jesus Today:”

When you are going through a dark time – a hard time – its easy to project that darkness into the future. The longer you struggle with adverse circumstances, the darker the way before you appears – and the harder it is to imagine yourself walking along bright paths again. The temptation is to just give up and let misery become your companion. So it is crucial at such times to remember that I am your constant Companion. Moreover, because I am Sovereign God, I am able to turn your darkness into Light.

When you feel on the verge of sinking in despair, turn to Me for help. Cling to My hand, and walk by faith through the darkness. Do not focus on the circumstances that are weighing you down. Instead, through eyes of faith, look ahead to brighter times, and praise Me for them. While you worship Me in midst of darkness, I enable you to see the first gleam of dawn on the path before you. Continue walking worshipfully with Me – a walk of faith. As you persevere along this path, the dim light will gradually shine brighter and brighter till the full light of day.

Isaiah 61:1 – 2 Samuel 22:29 – 2 Corinthians 5:7 – Proverbs 4:18

***

We all go through dark times.  Whether it’s the darkness of loss, pain, grief or sadness, or it’s the darkness of not knowing what to do, where to go, or what “the plan” is, I’m sure we’ve all been there.

It can be difficult to keep the big picture in mind at these times.  While folks tell you that the storm won’t last always, all you see around you is darkness, loneliness, and despair.  People tell you that this season is almost over, but you can’t even find the strength to hope for what’s next.

It is in these times that I’ve found it most helpful not to challenge myself or my friends to dig deep or keep trying.  No, in these times all we must – truly, all we CAN do – is look to God.  That’s it: nothing more, nothing less.

When you’re feeling your lowest, call to him.  It doesn’t have to be a fancy, sophisticated prayer.  In fact, if all you do is say the name “Jesus,” while tears fall down your face, you’ve done enough.  He hears you, He feels your pain, and He’s there.

The truth is, no matter how difficult to understand or see, that this dark time will end.  But my prayer for you as you go through is to remember the one who is with you, leading you and protecting you.

Remember, the Word never says you won’t go through the valley of the shadow of death (whatever that looks like for you), all it says is that God is with you through it all, giving you the strength you need to see His plan for you through to the end.

This too shall pass my Brother and my Sister.

Feel free to leave your prayer requests below or at my email address (safiya.simmons@me.com) if you’d like to know that someone is praying with and for your victory.  I’m pleased to do so.