Obsessed

appleofmyeyeFor the past day or so, I’ve been listening to The Walls Group album “Fast Forward” almost non-stop. (if you haven’t heard it, you should!  It’s awesome!)  And one song has been on repeat in my Spirit — I woke up singing it: “God on My Mind (feat. Brandy).”

Now, I’ll admit, a minuscule part of the reason why the song resonates for me is because it samples Brandy’s “Always on My Mind,” and hers was the first CD I ever owned back in middle school.

But this morning, when I woke up singing the song’s chorus, God gave me a revelation about its lyrics.  They go:

From the mountains to the seas, from the day that we believed to the beginning of time.
I can’t get you off my mind.
From the stars in space, to that empty grave, no matter how hard I try I can’t get God off my mind.
Always on my mind, your always on my mind. Thoughts of you all the time, your always on my mind.

I’ve listened to the song so many times and found myself inspired by the aspirational quality of these words.  I aspire to have God on my mind ALL the time.  In fact, the Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV to “16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  And what more is prayer than thinking of and talking to God?

But this morning, the Holy Spirit gave me this epiphany: “You’re always on God’s mind.  He never stops thinking of you.  He’s obsessed.”

And suddenly, the lyrics had even greater meaning.

“From the mountains to the seas…”– No matter where we are or end up physically, nothing can separate us from the love of God.  He loves us so big and so wide and so deeply, that even when we stray from Him – physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, whatever – He’s still thinking of us.

“…from the day that we believed to the beginning of time..” — The Bible tells us in Jeremiah that before we were even in our mothers’ wombs, God knew us.  Even then, He was thinking of us.  And as we grew up, even before we chose Him, He was thinking about us enough to send his Son to die in our place.  From before our lives started and every moment since, we’ve been on God’s mind.

I can’t get you off my mind.” — The Psalmist tells us in chapter 139 that God’s thoughts on us are so numerous that they outnumber the grains of sand.

From the stars in space, to that empty grave…” — Everything that God has ever done for us, from stringing the stars in the sky to sending His only son to die, has been for us as an act of love because He was thinking about us.

“…no matter how hard I try…” — He keeps track of our sorrows.  He captures our tears in a bottle.  Our names are written on His hand.  He couldn’t get away from thinking of us if He tried or wanted to (don’t worry, He doesn’t try and doesn’t want to!).

Always on my mind, your always on my mind. Thoughts of you all the time, your always on my mind.” — And His obsession with us is consistent.  It’s constant.  He is always thinking about us.  It, like Him, is unchanging.

Isn’t that overwhelming?  To consider that God is always thinking about me.  About you.  Your situation.  Your hardships and trials.  Your joys and successes.  What’s important to you.  What you’re worried about.  What you fear.  What you need.

Every moment of your life, God is thinking of you.  Nothing surprises Him.  No circumstance sneaks up on Him.  He knew.  He knows.  He’s thinking of you.

I don’t know what you’re facing today, but I hope you’ll know this: God is absolutely obsessed with you.  You’re the apple of His eye and, because you’re so important to Him, He’s made you more than a conqueror; He’s defeated your every foe; and He is always working things out to benefit you.  He’s thought about all you’ll ever need and want, and has created a plan to give you hope and a future.  To bless you.

God can’t get you off His mind.

So walk through today in godly confidence that the Creator of the world, the King of all nations, the Alpha and Omega is thinking about you.  Right.  Now.


*YouTube courtesy of Stênio Nóbrega

More Than Thankful

Last week was Thanksgiving and it was a wonderful time.

Surrounded by friends, family – immediate, extended and distant – I was swathed in visual reminders of just how blessed I am.

But I find that today, a full week after the food, festivities and fellowship have ended, I am still meditating on this theme of being thankful.

As I drove to Thanksgiving dinner with my husband and children, the Lord challenged me to move from a place of simple thankfulness to one of appreciation.

You see, the typical definition of thankful is to be pleased.  Whereas, the definition of appreciation is to show gratitude.

I believe that one of milestones in our walks with Christ is to move from a place of simply being pleased and/or relieved by the blessings and favor He showers on us, to being appreciative – grateful for it all and, dare I say, gleaning a lesson from the good, the bad, the indifferent and the downright ugly.

Yes, I am thankful to God for my family and friends.  For every smile of my children and kiss from my husband.  I’m grateful for our home and all of the material blessings God’s afforded us.  I’m grateful for employment, for passion and a vision to fulfill the purpose God has created and is calling me to fulfill.

But I appreciate every disagreement I have with my husband because it challenges me to grow in love.

I appreciate every tear and tantrum from my children because it demands I walk in patience.

I appreciate every time my bank account was empty or even (dare I be real?) overdrawn, because it forced me to learn better stewardship and reminded me of my true Source.

I appreciate every person who told me I wasn’t good enough, because it demanded that I return to what God told me to do.

I appreciate every setback, every hurry-up-and-wait on the road to this season in my career, because it taught to me to trust God’s plan.

I appreciate every negative word spoken about me and/or to me, because it meant I had to rely on who God says I am.

I appreciate every phone call I made that went unanswered, because it challenged me to call on the Lord.

I appreciate every difficult decision and mistake that I’ve made, because they forced me to seek God and His plan for me.

Why, you ask?  How is that so?  How can I be equally grateful for the “good” and the “bad”?

Well, because for me, this time, living in this season of thankful appreciation, is a confirmation of what the word says in Roman 8:28 (NIV):

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.

Know this.  I can’t speak for you.  And I am by no means knocking your thankfulness but I am challenging you to look thank about being thankful in a broader sense.

Aggressively find your silver lining.  Proactively seek out the blessing in your mess.

Not simply because it’s a good habit or because it will grow your faith, but because I believe this is how God has called us to live; this is how we exemplify that we are in this world but not of it.  Through out outlook, our perspective.

As the holiday season continues, I pray that you will continue to be shown reasons to be both thankful and appreciative, and that you bless God for them both.

Meditate on this…

YouTube video courtesy of Gregory Slack

It’s Turning Around

Being a Christian requires a special kind of vision.

Like a Spidey Sense, only different.

Because being a Christian requires that we see things in the spiritual before we see them in the physical.  I mean, it’s literally the definition of faith (Hebrews 11:1):  the substance of things hoped for, evidence of things not seen.

It requires that we see things through the lens of faith – believing that things are already done before we can see, taste, touch or feel them.

This morning I woke up with VaShawn Mitchell’s song, “Turning Around For Me,” in my spirit and on my mind.

The song goes like this: (courtesy of VaShawn Mitchell YouTube)

As I’ve hummed this song to myself this morning, the lyrics have transformed from a word of encouragement to a promise to a declaration.  It moves you from a place of pleading for relief from whatever your circumstances are to shouting in victory and thanks to God that, yes, it’s turning around.

See, the first time you sing this song you’re encouraged because you’re compelled to look at all of the stuff you’ve got going on in your life, around you, at home, at work, in your head and your heart — all of it — and tell yourself, “Yeah.  It won’t always be like this.  It’ll get better.”

Then, as the words start to ruminate in your mind and your heart, it starts to sound like your own cheering section: “Sooner or later,  It’s turning around.  Sooner or later.”  You’re getting worked up now, and thinking, “Yeah, I may not see it, but it’s turning around.  It may not look like it, but it’s turning around.  It may not feel like it, but He’s working on my behalf.  I may not understand it, but it’ll all work to my good.  I may not know how, but I always win.  Yeah, sooner or later.”

And then, before you know it — or hours later, as is the case for me this morning – you realize that the lyrics aren’t encouraging you to believe — they’re practically shouting the command at you: “Hey, you may not see it but THE I AM is telling you it’s turning around right now.  It’s working in your favor. ” Translation: IT. IS. DONE.

That husband or wife that walked out.

Turning around.

That son or daughter that left.

Turning around.

That bank account that never seems to be enough.

Turning around.

That relationship that failed.

Turning around.

That dead-end job.

Turning around.

Your low self-esteem.

Turning around.

The tears you cry at night, when no one is around.

Turning around.

The emptiness you can’t seem to fill.

Turning around.

The loneliness you battle.

Turning around.

The bills piling up.

Turning around.

It’s turning around.

It’s ALL turning around.

Look, you may not see it.  You may  not understand how you’ll win this.  How you’ll overcome this.  How you’ll bounce back from this. 

But the Word is clear and God cannot lie:

Romans 8:28 NIV

 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.

Tap into your Holy Spirit vision.  Remember the promises God’s told you about who you are, what you can do, what He wants for you.

Remember His promise in Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

And then look at your circumstances, your situations, your momentary setbacks through the lens of those promises.

Can you see it now?

Can you feel it now?

It’s turning around for you.

It’s turning around FOR YOU.

Look, I don’t know what brought you here today.

I don’t know what heaviness you’ve carried in your heart and in your mind.

I don’t know your demons or your battles.

But I know that our God is bigger than any demon in hell; any problem on earth; and has already overcome and defeated every thing in this world.

And He’s faithful to bless you and to keep you because He declared that NO WEAPON – no bill, no collector, no person, no relationship, no sin, no mistake or misstep, no past, no NOTHING – shall prosper.

You win.

You’ve won.

All you have to do now is see it to receive it.

I won’t lie to you: this devotional, this entry today, is as much a pep talk for myself as it is intended to be for you.  I’m on the cusp of so many blessings and so much favor and so many new seasons that I felt a little overwhelmed when I first sat down to write this.

But I’m smiling now – exhaling the heavy and inhaling the peace of the Holy Spirit – because I know it’s turning around.

Here are the lyrics to Mr. Mitchell’s song (courtesy of Song Lyrics dot com).  If you can’t remember a single scripture, if you can’t remember a single sermon, let this hymn minister to your Spirit.

RIGHT HERE.  RIGHT NOW.  IT’S ALL TURNING AROUND FOR YOU.

Sometimes discouraged, but not defeated
Cast down, but not destroyed

There are times I don’t understand
But, I believe it’s turning around for me

I’ve had struggles and disappointments
There are times I felt so alone
Some of my friends they let me down
But, I still believe it’s turning around for me

Around for me
Around for me
Around for me
It’s turning around for me

Around for me
Around for me
Around for me
It’s turning around for me

I can see the breaking of day
God is making a way
A change is coming for me
If I stand strong and believe
There’s no reason to doubt
I know He’s working it out
And it’s turning around for me

And it won’t always be like this
He will perfect that concerning me
And sooner or later it will turn in my favor
It’s turning around for me

It won’t always be like this
The Lord will perfect that concerning me
Sooner or later turn in my favor
Sooner or later turn in my faovr
It’s turning around for me

Around for me
Around for me
Around for me
It’s turning around for me

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.

Inspiration from the Ministry of John Legend

Can I be honest for a moment?

I can be needy.

Not just like “in a relationship” clingy, but Spiritually, when it comes to my Heavenly Father, I can be really needy.

If I don’t check my faith, I can find myself in moments wanting a sign to know He’s there.  I want to hear from Him or feel Him or see Him.

I want something that will say to me, “Yup, I’m still here.”

I’m not like this all the time.  No, I’m grateful for the growing measure of faith God continues to develop in me.

That faith keeps me from panic-stricken fits of worry that somehow the omnipresent Lord is not present with me or aware of me in any given moment.

But, if I’m honest, I find my neediness revs up a notch in my seasons of waiting.

You know what I mean.

It’s after your storm: so you’ve prayed and cried and fasted and prayed to get through.  The Lord has answered those prayers, He’s revealed my next steps, a little bit more of the path He has for me.  And then it feels like all progress comes to a screeching halt.

And there. I. Sit.

Waiting.

In that season of waiting (which is more accurately not waiting but divine preparation) it can feel like God’s checked you off of His Holy to-do list to focus on someone else, some other issue for a time.

But today, I want to remind you and I that God never leaves us.

I know this because, well, He said it in a number of scriptures:

Joshua 1:9 ESV

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Matthew 28:20 ESV

Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Hebrews 13:5 ESV

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Romans 8:38-39 ESV

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Now…

If you’re anything like me, sometimes a song really helps to drive home the point.  And, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you know I find divine inspiration in all kinds of things.

So…

If you’re in a season where the enemy is trying to get you to believe that God’s moved on, He’s forgotten about you, and that your “next” is delayed or may never come, hum a few bars from the hymnal of John Legend.  The selection is “Stay With You”:

We’ve been together for a while now we’re growing stronger everyday now

It feels so good and there is no doubt I will stay with you

As each morning brings sunrise and the flowers bloom in springtime

On my lovin’ you can rely and I’ll stay with you

Oh I’ll stay with you through the ups and the downs

Oh I’ll stay with you when no one else is around

When the dark clouds arrive I will stay by your side

I know we’ll be alright

I will stay with you

Though relationships can get old and have a tendency to grow cold

We have something like miracle yeah, and I’ll stay with you

Oh I’ll stay with you through the ups and the downs

Yes I’ll stay with you when no one else is around

When the dark clouds arrive I will stay by your side

I know we’ll be alright

I will stay with you

There will be heartaches and pains

Yes it will but through it all, we will remain, hey

In this life, we all know friends may come, and they may go

Through the years I know I will stay

In the end I know that we’ll find love so beautiful and divine

And we’ll be lovers for lifetime, yeah and I’ll stay with you

Oh I will stay with you through the ups and the downs

Oh I’ll stay with you when no one else is around

And when the dark clouds arrive I will stay by your side

I know we’ll be alright I will stay with you

Yeah everything will be fine yeah and I will stay with you

Through the end of time I will stay with you

Lyrics Courtesy of Metro Lyrics

Video courtesy of jarapara/YouTube

GOD PROMISES THAT HE WILL STAY WITH YOU!

Devotional: You Made It!

Have you guys ever heard the song “I Made it Through” by Tye Tribbett and G.A.

It is one of my favorite songs of his.  It really connects with me because I’ve thought so many of the  lyrics before.

The first part of the song goes like this:


I thought that I would not survive
I came this close to losing my mind
Sometimes you go through things in life
That makes you say, “Lord why me this time? “

He’s so faithful
He keeps making ways
Out of no way
Just when I thought that I could
Take no more
I made it through

Now I KNOW I’ve got someone reading this who can relate.  You  know, when you reach that point that you think, “If one more thing happens to me, I just might lose it.  If one more person comes at me the wrong way.  If one more person looks at me the wrong way.  If my boss says one more thing to me.  If one more person cuts me off in traffic.  Just one more…”

We’ve all been there.  But you know where I think we go wrong?  You know where I think we end up getting off track?  It’s because we get caught up looking at and focusing on all the things going wrong.  So much so that we lose sight of how much we’ve already overcome.

I mean truly, sometimes we feel like we’re going through hell.  One storm after another.  One trial after another.  But guess what, in order to go through a new one, you had to overcome the last one.

I need someone who can get in their spirit right now that yeah, you may be going through, but you can only go through because you’ve come through something else.

You don’t get to fight new foes without beating previous opponents.  You can’t face new challenges without beating the older ones.  The devil can’t come back if you hadn’t defeated and dismissed him before.

I don’t have to spell it out for you.  You can think back over your life and probably point out by name the challneges, the storms, the fights you’ve overcome.  But guess what: you’re still here.

The devil thought he had you.  He thought he’d thrown his best at you.  He thought you were down for the count.  He thought you didn’t have any strength left or faith left or fight left.

BUT GOD…

Yeah, yeah.  The devil was smug with it, proud of what he thought he’d accomplished.  He wasn’t expecting you to come through it, he wasn’t expecting you to make it.  He wants to take you out of here and rob you of the future and the promise God’s placed in you.  He wants to steal your joy, kill you faith, and destroy your future.

BUT GOD…

BUT, because of the strength and power and faithfulness of God, you made it through.

You made it through.

You made it through.

YOU MADE IT.

And it shouldn’t come as a surprise either!  Romans chapter 8 verses 35-37 tell us that we should expect to overcome.  It says:
Romans 8:35-37

New International Version (NIV)

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[a]

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

BABY, YOU MADE IT!  It doesn’t matter what it looked like.  It doesn’t matter what should have happened.  It doesn’t matter what could have happened.  The bottom line is that you made it.

Listen to the second half of that Tye Tribbett song I was telling you about:


So many nights I had to cry
So many storm clouds I lost sight
I felt like giving up the fight
Never thought I would see daylight

He’s so faithful
He keeps making ways
Out of no way

He’s so faithful
Just when I thought that I could
Take no more
I made it

I made it through

 

Look, I don’t care what you’re going through.  I don’t care what you’re facing or what you’re just coming out of, get this: it doesn’t matter whether you ran across the finish line, you jogged, you walked, you crawled, you dragged yourself, had a friend pull you across, or whatever.  The bottom line – the most important part of the journey – is that you made it.

Plain and simple.

Now I know you all don’t speak the same language of music that I do, so I’ll leave you with this.

In one of my favorite movies of all time, “The Color Puprle,” Miss Celie finally works up the courage and the strength to leave Mister.  And after Mister confronts her and threatens her, the camera follows her in the back of the car driving down the driveway.  And she shouts these words back to her abusive, oppressive, disrespectful husband:


I’m poor, black, I might even be ugly, but dear God, I’m here. I’m here.

YOU’RE HERE!  In spite of it all, you made it and you’re here.

The Church Mothers used to sing, “When I look back over my life/And I think things over/I can truly say that I’ve been blessed/I’ve got a testimony.”

Baby, you can’t have a testimony without a test.  Don’t downplay your journey.  Don’t undermine your overcoming.  Don’t rob God of the glory He’s due for bringing you through.

With the Lord leading you and on your side, you’ve beat the devil many times before and you’ll do it again.

You made it.  You will make it.  YOU CANNOT LOSE!

Someone oughta bless God for that!  Hallelujah Lord, I thank you that I’m here!