#bepetty for Jesus

Last week I had the privilege of preaching for the first time.

Now, anyone who knows me personally or who has followed this blog for a while may be saying, “You’ve been preaching for years.”  But last week was the first time I’d been invited to speak…in a church…from a pulpit…with the express purpose of bringing the Word.

I was nervous and exhilarated and humbled that God would choose me for such an awesome and important task.  But the word He gave me for this young adult audience was unique and on-time…just as He is and just as our relationship is.

Gratefully, my dear friend Penny videoed the entire 13-minute sermon.  Take a few minutes, check it out,  and commit to #bepetty for Jesus.

And I have to give credit to the amazing Awesomely Luvvie who is the genius behind all the “petty” names at the end. Pick up her petty T-shirt here!  *And no, she didn’t ask me to endorse this and I’m not being compensated.  Just giving a shout out to something/someone who inspired  me.

Blessings to you!  I hope it inspires you and speaks to your situation.

Dealing With Disappointment

Some of you may remember that last Thursday I finally brought to fruition a God idea nearly a year in the making.

But what no one knows (save my husband and my Mama) is that the day before my big event was bookmarked with disappointment.

The day started with me receiving word that I had not won a Chase Mission Main Street small business grant for my small business.

Disappointed is an understatement for how I felt. I felt abandoned, alone, angry, sad and overwhelmed all at once.

Just like that, the way I thought God was going to move in my life had changed. And I was left with the overwhelming heaviness of the reality of my situation. My goals for my business, the debt my family had amassed supporting my business, they weren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

I cried a lot that morning. I couldn’t sleep I was so grief-stricken. And when I got into the shower, I broke down. The tears and the anger and the hurt all flowed freely. I was overcome.

But somehow, mid-rant, I found myself humming this song: “Lord You are good and your mercy endureth forever. Lord You are good and your mercy endureth forever!…I worship you! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”

Even now, a week later, I remember clearly the puzzled look that crept across my face when I realized the dichotomy of the moment: here I am sobbing into the shower stream on the outside, but my Spirit was praising God.

The reality is that nowhere does God say we won’t be disappointed. Similarly, nowhere does He say we aren’t allowed to feel, to have emotional, human responses to the changes in our lives.

So even as our flesh mourns, if we stay prayed up, our Spirit will minister to us…even without out participation.

In fact, as I reflect now, I smile at the thought of a scripture that the Lord brought me to in my devotion.  It was Job talking, chapter 13, verse 15a: “God may kill me, but I will trust Him…”  That’s how I felt in that shower, ranting about how sad and disappointed I was.  Reminding God of His word and His promises.  (He’d later – much more politely, I might add – remind me that HOW He plans to fulfill the promises of His word is none of my business.  My only responsibility is to believe and expect that He will.)

The corresponding disappointment bookmark came later that Thursday evening. My day ended with my best subcontractor giving me 30 days notice. She’d gotten a job offer for a job that was perfect for her and where she wanted to go. For months, I’d been praying that God would enable me to hire her full-time. But, it wasn’t to be.

But I didn’t take this second spate of news as hard as I’d taken the morning news. And the reason why is because in between the two events I stumbled across the Feels Like Home blog; specifically this entry on 13 Bible Verses and 6 Steps to Deal with Disappointment.

Here’s the part that pulled me out of my pity party and put my day in perspective, directly from the blog:

13 Bible Verses & 6 Steps to Overcome Disappointment

Believe in God’s plan. Our God is a miracle worker. He can part waters, move boulders, heal the dead (not just the sick, remember, the dead), save, destroy, bless, and curse. He can do anything, everything, things beyond our comprehension.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

When I say you have to believe, I mean you have to believe that God has got this thing in His hands. He is looking out for you. He is working out a plan that is bigger than you, and you are going to be better for it in the end.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

Sometimes, it takes a painful disappointment to teach us a skill or strengthen our faith or to put us in the right place at the right time. We don’t know His ways or His thoughts. We just have to believe in His promise.

Grieve. Things have not gone the way you wanted. Your hopes and expectations have been defeated. You need to spend some quiet time being sad, mourning the way you thought things would be.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

Cry. Exercise. Read. Do whatever it is that releases the sadness, the disappointment, the defeat.

And then, eventually, you have to stop grieving and move on.

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5

Disappointment is not meant to define you, my friend. It is not meant to hold you hostage or weigh you down into the mire of depression. Don’t give it that power.

Pray. You had to know this was coming, right? Spend some time talking to your Heavenly Father. Tell Him your heartache. Tell Him about the plans you had and ask Him to show you why He’s taken them away. I promise you that He has good in this for you, and it’s okay to ask Him what that good is.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28

Talk to Him like you’d talk to your best friend. Your prayer doesn’t have to be pretty or sound like one at your church. It just has to be honest and come from your heart.

Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. Psalm 55:22

You, my friend, are the godly. You are chasing after God, trying to do the right thing, seeking a better understanding of Him. Aren’t you? He’s talking about you.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Listen and wait. Big things happen when we pray. Sometimes, they are blessings beyond our expectations.

But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. Matthew 6:6

Sometimes they happen right away, but usually they happen later when we least expect them. Keep waiting. You’ll know when your prayer has been answered.

Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. Psalms 27:14

Search for the good. This is a miserable time to try to be thankful. I don’t know about you, but all I want to do is wallow in self pity of my dreams deferred (or dreams lost). This is the time when it’s hardest – and most important – to find the good, grab onto it with both hands, and celebrate it. You need to.

This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

In beginning this post in the middle of the night, I came to understand that it wouldn’t have happened if my plans had worked out. I wouldn’t have been sleeping fitfully. I wouldn’t have jumped out of bed to write these words. It was God’s plan for me to write these words. (It has been an incredibly soothing and cathartic process). It is also His plan for you to be reading them right now. I am thankful that He chose me.

Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:19b-20

Believe in yourself. You too are part of God’s great plan. He is preparing you to do His work right now, even in this time of disappointment. No matter what burden comes, know that He will help you stand underneath it, carry it up the hill, and triumph over it in the end.*

Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:28-31

God believes in you. You may not feel equipped to handle this on your own, but He’ll give you what you need to get through it.

For I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

*The triumph doesn’t always happen when we think it should. Sometimes, we only triumph over our struggles as we leave this broken world. A conversation I had with my pastor illustrates this point:

“Tara, God will heal her.”

“I just don’t know that He will. She is so sick. She hardly gets out of bed.”

“He is going to heal her. He might heal her body now, or He might heal her soul in heaven, but you can trust Him to heal her.”

Wow. The simplicity and immensity of that statement left me with many tears but complete peace. We can trust Him to defeat our disappointment, no matter what it is.

Look, I don’t know where your disappointment lies.

Maybe it’s in a relationship that ended, or never took off. A professional opportunity that passed you by. Or a personal dream that has yet to come to fruition.

Whatever it is, I hope these passages encourage you. No matter how disappointed we feel, nothing has changed with God: He’s still just as in love with us; just as dedicated to our success and peace and joy; just as committed to giving us “hope and a future.”

Sometimes, just sometimes, we have to go through the disappointment to get closer to our destiny.

Because sometimes the thing we really wanted wasn’t God’s best for us. And what is yet to come is infinitely better.

Sufficiency

Last year, God gave me an idea. It was a way for me to use what I have to bless others.

Well, tomorrow that GOD idea (way better than good) comes to fruition, but not without some work on my part in the days leading up.

Last Wednesday was my big go day to make this thing happen. I was working on my event, managing my employees’ progress on separate accounts, and doing research for two clients. All while trying to be present with my husband as we worked out at the gym, and with my children as I took them to and from swim lessons.

It was a lot. To say the least. And there were moments throughout the day when I clearly remembered thinking, “I’m doing too much.” I combatted those thoughts and fought back feelings of being overwhelmed by making myself acknowledge how blessed I was to have such freedom, and by reciting that my God is not a God of confusion.

But as I pondered how crazy the day felt later in the evening, I was led to 2 Corinthians 12:

Of course, I am now referring to the wonderful things I saw. One of Satan’s angels was sent to make me suffer terribly, so that I would not feel too proud. Three times I begged the Lord to make this suffering go away. But he replied, “My gift of undeserved grace is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak.” So if Christ keeps giving me his power, I will gladly brag about how weak I am. Yes, I am glad to be weak or insulted or mistreated or to have troubles and sufferings, if it is for Christ. Because when I am weak, I am strong. (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭12‬:‭7-10‬ CEV)

The passage immediately made me smile and say “Yessss!” It was an instantaneous response to my unspoken query of how I’d managed to get everything done.

I know you’ve been there. Ripping and running with a to-do list as long as your arm. And at random times along the trajectory of your day you think or say or feel like you’re one new email notification from losing it all.

But this passage is an encouragement to each of us every time we experience one of those chaotic days. God’s grace is sufficient.

There is one very well-know definition of grace that we likely all know: God’s unmerited favor. It’s receiving blessings and favor from God that you and I could never earn, don’t deserve, and can never repay.

But in my quiet time I stumbled upon this new definition that is so aptly described here in 2 Corinthians: the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.

Yessss!

It is when it seems all hell is breaking loose around us that God’s grace is sufficient. Not only is the knowledge of a love so deep that it gives without ceasing enough to put things in perspective and give one peace, but then the inner dwelling of God’s divine strength pushing us through the chaos when our own ability is long gone also gives us peace.

It’s like, no matter which definition you use, God’s grace is enough to get you through your hard time.

No matter what you’re feeling, His grace is enough.

No matter what you’ve done, His grace is enough.

No matter where you’ve been or who you are, God’s grace is enough and all you need.

I reflect now on how crazy last Wednesday felt for me and am grateful not just that I made it, but more specifically for God’s grace that pulled me through.

When the children were alternately bickering, crying, and whining…

When my wi-if failed just after I hit send on a critical email…

When I was 15 minutes late leaving the house…

When our car began to act a fool mid-commute…

Each time, having the knowledge of God’s unmerited favor and love in my life kept things in perspective and kept me from losing it.

And each time, His spirit operating in me gave me just a little patience more…a little faith more…a little strength more to accomplish everything He needed me to that day.

And now I’m on the eve of my big GOD event. No, every ticket isn’t sold. And no, I’m not certain that everything will go as I’ve planned. But I know that I’m operating in His will, and as long as I work as in service to Him, His will will be done and His grace will be enough to make it the success HE needs it to be — not me.

I’m so grateful for His grace. I’m so grateful for Jesus. I’m so in awe of God. And truly, His grace is sufficient for every situation I face in life.

What are you facing right now? Have you told yourself that His grace is sufficient?

Measuring Up

I love the Amplified version of James 1:17, the first half in particular. It reads:

“Every good gift and every perfect (free, large, full) gift is from above…”

The expounding upon perfect is the part that really gets me: free, large, and full.

How many times do we pray for a thing and, in our excitement and haste to see/get/have it now, we begin trying to make it happen?

We pray for a mate, so the next time a young man or lady catches our attention and gives us the time of day, we are already thinking forever…even though the signs are there that s/he isn’t the one.

We ask God to get us a new job with more pay, so we begin applying to jobs based on the salaries we want…even though something inside tells us we won’t enjoy the job or the people or the mission of the organization.

Or we ask God to grow our own business with more income, so we start chasing every person or organization with a bank book…even though none of what they do aligns with our gifts or interests or talents or capacities.

But what we find in the first half James 1:17 are some good parameters by which to measure our “blessings” to determine if they are from God, or just an attempt to distract us from God. Are they something we want to further our own plans, or are they a part of God’s plan advancing for us?

Let’s take a few minutes to unpack the parameters laid out for us in this passage of James.

Perfect (verb) – I love this word used here. God is perfect. Jesus is perfect. And God made us perfect in His image to fulfill His purposes for our lives, and then sent his only Son to shed His blood so we could be reconciled back to Him and His perfect will. That means that in Christ every messy, uncomfortable detail of our lives is perfected, because only that which is perfect (the Son) can make perfection out of flawed materials (us).

So no matter how jacked up we think we are or our lives are, they — and we — are made perfect by Christ. This act, this action, of making the flawed as good as it possibly can be is the definition of the VERB perfect. So, literally, God is always WORKING for and through and on us. It’s the nature of who He is and what He does through his Son.

Perfect (noun) – When we look at the definition of “perfect” as a noun, it says: “having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be.”

This is what God gives us. When He blesses us, His blessings, His gifts, have everything we need (and likely much of what we want!) and there is nothing better that exists. That’s why His will and plan for our lives is perfect: there is no better way. His love for us is perfect: it never changes, covers all of our faults, and is unconditional. Glory to God!

So if the “blessing” you are claiming isn’t in alignment with God’s perfect will or His perfect plan for your life, it doesn’t measure up.

Free – As cliché as it is, Jesus really did pay it all. So when God blesses, the cost has already been paid. There’s nothing you can do to earn it because God blesses us out of the character of who He is not out of what we can do. If this new “blessing” you are claiming requires you to pay in ways that aren’t in alignment with God’s character or His plan for your life, or asks you to do or say things that just plain don’t feel right in your gut, then it isn’t free and it ain’t measuring up.

Large – We serve a big God. He’s bigger than the vastness of space and time that He created. His word tells us in the latter half of Matthew 6 that He guarantees us the necessities of life – food, shelter, clothes, and their trappings. And the Word also tells us that He knows what we need (utility bills, maintenance on the car, tuition for the kids, down payments, etc) in Matthew 6:8 and will in fact supply all those needs as well (Philippians 4:19). So knowing this, and that His plan is to draw everyone unto Himself, if the “blessing” you’re claiming isn’t big enough to give God glory and credit and show Him to others (or just plain show him mighty in your own life), something there ain’t measuring up.

Full – Does this “blessing” you’re claiming require you to add to it, fix it, adjust for it, or otherwise do something to make it complete or to make it fit your need/prayer? If you answer yes, hold on — something isn’t measuring up. Full
means to capacity, no extra room, no free space. God-blessings leave no room (or need!) for us to add to it. Period.

The reality is that yes, it is necessary, that we make sure the “blessings” we claim measure up because we are called to a higher calling, a higher purpose.  If folks of the world are created to, expected to, conform and just take what the world sends their way, how much more do we, the children of the Most High God, have to be diligent to ensure that all that we allow into our lives meets the standards of the God whose delight it is to bless us?

The patience and faith it takes to let something that ain’t for you go can be tremendous.  But the energy it takes – the spiritual, physical, and mental energies – to deal with the consequences of trying to rush or force the Hand of God is far greater.

Let’s decide now this year we will take the time to ensure that every new person and opportunity that crosses our path measures up to what God has promised us.  And then let’s endeavor to support one another in letting some “blessings” keep right on going, because if we err on the side of caution and let something go that God did intended for us, it’s still ours and His word says that as long as we’re acting out of what we believe to be His will, He’ll bless us all the same.

 

Brokenness

glass__lucent_heart_by_raingarden

I had an experience last week that I’ve shared pretty widely on my personal social media channels, but whose impact was/is so profound on me that I wanted to share with you all.

glass__lucent_heart_by_raingardenI have three children, two daughters (5- and almost-4-years-old) and a son who is 2.  Last week, my younger daughter ended up getting glasses quite unexpectedly.  As a result, my husband and I thought it best if we have her older sister checked out, too.  Just to be safe, y’know?

Neither girl had ever complained of eye or head issues.  Teachers never perceived challenges seeing the board or things across the room.  And the girls themselves never mentioned not being able to see or having issues seeing.

So imagine my surprise when my oldest daughter tested with a vision of 130/20 in one of her eyes.  (For comparison’s sake, healthy, non-impaired vision for young children is about 30/20. )  The other eye saw nearly perfectly and has been compensating for this weaker eye for her entire life.

I sat stunned as my daughter’s exam continued.  Even the doctor, assistant, and later the eyeglass provider remarked at how remarkably vast the difference was in her two eyes, and how unbelievable it was that she’d never complained.

My daughter would end the night sporting brand new purple specs.  I would still be thinking about the experience days later.

That stuck with me was this idea that what the world would deem as inoperable, no good, legally blind, or some other trite categorization God had blessed to be perfect.

With the vision my daughter has in her weaker eye, it is truly a miracle that she doesn’t have many more scrapes, bumps, bruises and injuries.  But because of the power of God, to touch an imperfect thing, she’s seeing as close to 20/20 as a child can.

We all have broken places in our lives.  Relationships that left us wounded and scarred.  Bad experiences and past mistakes that have broken our faith, our expectation and motivation.

But God wants to give us peace for our pieces.  He wants to put back together that which the world would say is beyond saving, beyond repairing, beyond earthly good.

God specializes in taking all of our nothingness and making it something.  He is a master at perfecting the imperfect and blessing the unbelievable.

You may think that your situation is too far gone.  The debt is too high.  Your income is too low.  You’ve been hurt too many times; abused too many times.  You’ve made too many bad choices, too many wrong decisions.  You might even believe that now, because of all you’ve been through, you’re no good to anyone.  You’ll never be loved.  You’ll never get promoted.  You’ll never see increase.  You’ll never know peace.  That child will never come home.  That spouse will never act right.

Whatever your never is, I urge you to give it all to God.  The Bible urges us to cast our cares on Him once and for all because He cares for us passionately.

Give all of your broken places and pieces to the one Potter who can put them all together again.

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been walking through life feeling victimized and handicapped.  Perhaps you, like my daughter, have only known one way, one view on life.  You’ve only every known setbacks, let-downs and disappointments.

If you’ll keep walking the path He has for you with joy and gratitude, letting Him have all that you have, He’ll give you perfection.  He’ll give you clarity.  He’ll give you vision.  He’ll give you all the tools you need to walk into a new season with Him and for Him.

You are enough just the way you; broken pieces and all.  And it matter not whether the world sees it or says it.  Heck, it doesn’t even matter whether you see it.  All that matters is that you believe that God sees perfection in you His imperfect being.  And it’s His heart’s desire that you experience abundance – divine perfection and clarity – in every area of your life.

***

My daughter loves her glasses .  She loves the color and how she looks in them.  She doesn’t quite understand why she needed them – she’d always been OK with how she was seeing.  But isn’t just like God to show us better when we can show him that we’re grateful for all we already have?

Seek God for the blessing in your brokenness.  There’s one there, if you’d just give the pieces over to Him.

My Balanced Plate Post: Quitters Win?!

I am so honored to be a part of the great things going on over at My Balanced Plate, a blog curated by my long-time friend, Esther.

My Balanced Plate is for those of us who are trying to figure out life in general: Who we are now, and who we want to be when we “grow up”! We’re working on putting ourselves first by learning to balance our mental and physical health, our careers, our finances, our homes, our social lives, and more. We’re trying new things, and most importantly, we’re moving beyond the fads and into a life that’s full and fulfilling in a healthy way.

Starting this year, I’ve joined as a guest faith contributor and I’m excited to share my inaugural post with you, “Quitters Never Win!

If you’ve been believing God for a breakthrough personally that you just can’t seem to reach, maybe quitting is the key to your success!

You can head on over to My Balanced Plate to read my post, check out the site and subscribe for updates on everything from good food, great fashion and other fun topics!

…or, you can of course, read the entire post below.

Thanks as always for your support.  As I’m sure every pastor who preached on NYE told you, let’s move FORWARD IN 2014!

My Balanced Plate: Quitters Never Win!

I may be the only person you will meet who will say these words to you: be a quitter.

Really. It’s ok.

Just quit.

We’re a few days into 2014 now and I am giving you permission to quit your New Year’s resolutions. (And if you never made any, kudos to you.)

In fact, can we all just commit now to NOT making New Year’s resolutions ever again?

Let’s forego the latest lose weight fast fad. Pass by the “30 seconds to a new/better/slimmer/different you” section at Barnes & Noble. And say “thanks, but no thanks” to yet another “great deal” on a gym membership.

Let’s decide right now that for 2014 we will not look to outside sources for fulfillment, satisfaction, self-validation or self-improvement.

Instead, I propose that we all do this one thing as the New Year picks up steam: let’s accept ourselves just the way we are. Our stories. Our mistakes. Our curves. All of it — the good, the bad and the unbelievable.

No, this isn’t some reverse psychology initiative to get you to look at what lies ahead and forget about all the hell you’ve been through. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.

I’m challenging you to love every test, trial and challenge you’ve come through.

Every level of hell, torment and obstacle that you overcame last year.

Every heartbreak, let down and failure.

Every tragedy of your past.

Every lie told about you and story told on you.

Decide today to accept your story because if it weren’t for the hell in your life, you wouldn’t be who you are right now. And you wouldn’t be capable of accomplishing all that you’re going to this year.

Our downfall is that we focus too much on getting through, getting over, and get past stuff. We just want it to be over.

But, in burying the lessons of our lives we miss out on critical opportunities to grow stronger, better, faster, and smarter.

We actually take longer to be our best selves when we choose to deny parts of who we are.

I know it hasn’t always been roses for you. I know we’ve each had our fair share of trying times. I have personally had more overdrawn bank accounts, underappreciated efforts, gained pounds, and yet un-realized dreams than I’d like to count.

But if we take the bold step to shift our perspective, to say, “I’m better because of what I’ve overcome,” then we may actually be able to change our loves.

The reality is that what you’ve been through would have taken someone else out. Someone else would have lost their minds – literally – but by God you’re still here…and making it look easy.

See, just by changing how we look at our pasts can catapult us from being victims to victors. Only then are we free to love all of ourselves and welcome the love and blessing of others.

Your testimony is far more than a tale of triumph. It’s your key to your next season and is critical to the growth of those around you who have to know that they too can make it, will make it too.

So save your dollars. Don’t go borrowing against your tax refund to finance this year’s “get fabulous”-quick gimmick.

All you’ve got to do is decide that you’re fabulous because of everything you’ve overcome and who you are right now, not in spite of it.

When you stop hiding from your past, other folks lose the power to hold it over you, and you are free to walk boldly and unencumbered into 2014.

You are one of the strongest beings on the face of the planet. There’s nothing you have to do to earn that title, nothing you have to prove; you just are.

So this year I pledge to myself to accept myself, my entire story, and I am committed to encouraging, equipping and amplifying your voice as you do the same with yours.

Ditch your New Year’s resolutions. Resolve to be you, fully, fiercely and without fear.

Safiya Jafari Simmons is a wife and mother of three in Washington, D.C. Her 9-to-5 is Partner at Values Partnerships Inc., a consulting firm, but she curates a blog of Christian encouragement and guest writes for The Huffington Post on the side.

 

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

Favor Ain’t Fair

*Today I share a mini-sermon from two of my Mothers-in-Christ.  This is just to encourage that person who is looking at someone else’s life and wondering, “Why is He doing all that for her/him? What about me?” I hope this blesses you!

I’ve often heard people quote Acts 10:34-35 that God is no respecter of persons. But I think we have been mis-educated about its meaning. My understanding of it had been whatever God does for one person He will do the same for any person. I beg to differ with that interpretation.

Here are the verses:

34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.

The back story on that verse is this is the first time Peter was preaching to Gentiles and he wanted them to know that God saw them the same as the Jewish people with the same entitlements.

So, the question to me then is does God have favorites?

Well, having read about His relationship with Abraham, whom he visited and ate with; Moses, whom He saved to use to free his people; David, who was a king of His heart; Solomon, the re-builder of His temple; Job, whom He knew trusted Him even if He killed him; Peter, James, and John who formed His inner circle while on this earth; and John who we know He just loved the most, I think YES God does have favorites.

I would then ask can anyone be his favorite?  And I believe that answer would also be YES.

And finally, HOW?

God has given us ALL a measure of faith.  Many of us work on a ‘mustard seed’ sample of faith but is that the measure?  No; faith can grow.  We know that faith needs works.  We know that God loves praise and worship.  We know that God wants us to trust Him and not be of a double mind.  God always searches our hearts.  It is our faith that moves the heart and hand of God. And oh, don’t forget predestination.  We can’t leave that out.

So, yes, God is a respecter of person. Be clear though: God is not a respecter of person from outward appearances, but He definitely is based on the condition of the heart.

Bottom line, God may not do to and through you what He is doing for someone else; but, He definitely has plans for you. Plans to prosper you, in your own special way according to His purpose and condition of your heart, and to give you a future (Jer 29:11).

No, favor ain’t fair, but we all thank God for the measure of faith and favor He’s given us each…and for the ability to grow in both!

 

Devotional: Don’t be a victim

I remember growing up I had an aunt who would admonish my cousins (her kids) saying, “Don’t be a victim!” This usually followed some exchange where one of the kids felt wronged by another child while playing. Upon seeking adult intervention, this would undoubtedly be her response.

Don’t be a victim.

Now, as a young person, I never understood what that meant. “Don’t be a victim?” I’d ponder. Man, I remember mulling that thing over each…and….every…time.

I’m a lot older and a little wiser now. So now I have a different perspective on making oneself a victim. And in my “wisdom” I know now that basically what my aunt was telling my cousins was don’t allow other people to make you feel helpless. Don’t let them make you feel weak. Don’t. Be. A victim.

While there are most certainly times when you don’t have a choice in the matter, I am also certain that there are times when we choose to be victims. And we as Christians, let me tell you, we’ve made an art of it.

You see, we sometimes get to a point where we are so religious and so holy that we’re gullible, mealy-mouthed even. Or as the old folks would say, “So heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good.” We cling to old sayings like “hold your mule” or “turn the other cheek” so closely that we sometimes allow ourselves to be treated poorly, to be treated as less than we are, not just to our detriment, but to the detriment of the Kingdom too.

I mean, where in the Bible does it say that following Christ requires you to surrender your spine and resign yourself to being the world’s doormat? Where does it say to ignore the prompting of the Holy Spirit and just allow yourself to be used, looked over, counted out?

The reality is that the same Holy Spirit that imbues us with the power to heal, cast out demons, and even raise the dead, also fills us with boldness and confidence.

Proverbs 28:1 says “The wicked run away when no one is chasing them, but the godly are as bold as lions.” And 2 Corinthians 3:12 says of serving God and following the ways of Jesus, “Since this new way gives us such confidence, we can be very bold.”

I mean, even the God we serve is bold. His Son openly disobeyed laws prohibiting healings and miracles on certain days. And remember when he went into the synagogue and turned over the tables? I mean, he even challenges us when in Malachi 3 he says of tithing, “…I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have room to bring it in! Try it! Put me to the test!”

So in what area of your life are you making yourself a victim?

Is it at work? Are you being disrespected, or, or are you sitting on your ideas for fear of rejection?

Maybe it’s in your relationships? As a single person you’re taking whatever the cat drags in, instead of knowing your worth and setting and sticking to standards. Or you’re married and you’re letting yourself be abused because you think that’s what a submissive wife does or because as head of the household you think she should be strong enough to take it.

Or maybe you’re a victim in your church. You aren’t actively serving or growing because there isn’t a ministry that’s rolling out the red carpet and begging you to join, begging you to give of your time and services. Or because the Pastor didn’t lay hands on you or preach or speak to you directly.

To you, and whatever your situation is, I say, DON’T MAKE YOURSELF A VICTIM! You serve a bold God, who’s given you the same spirit of boldness. So when you’re following His will and doing what He’s telling you, walk with His confidence, authority and audacity. And just know up front that the world will never understand; they won’t get it.

What are you afraid of? Are you afraid that you’ll stand up and someone will say, “Who do you think you are?”

Well, let’s get it out of the way, Who do you think you are?

Actually, the better question that I pose to you this morning is, “Whose do you think you are?”

If you know like I know, and your answer is that you’re a child of the most high God, then you’ve got the authority to be bold, to be confident, to be authoritative and to be assertive as you follow the plan and directives God has for you.

Who do you think you are?

Better yet, who do you think you are NOT to do what God’s called you to do? NOT to start that business, or take that step, or share that idea, or speak up. Who do you think you are to say you know better than God? To say that you shouldn’t stand up for yourself because you’ll be laughed at, ridiculed, embarrassed, rejected, or because that’s not what Christians do?

If they rejected your Savior – who boldly came to a sinful world, told us all to trust and serve a God we’ve never seen, and then defeated death and the grave for each of US – what makes you think that being a shrinking flower will save you?

The reality is that just because you serve the Most High God, you’ve already got a target on your back.

So my prayer for you is not just that you decide to stop being a victim, but that you will tap into the boldness and confidence that God has given you. It’s with this boldness that you should walk everyday, and with this same boldness that you should evangelize and serve our Lord and King.

Be bold in your faith. Be bold in your convictions. Be bold. And don’t make yourself a victim!