I was so excited; a nice hike, much-needed exercise, and new friends to meet. It was a perfect, crisp
Sunday morning activity. In addition to the physical exhilaration this hike would prove, I planned to do some serious soul-searching, the mountain being the perfect venue.
I arrived at the meeting place, connected with all of the hikers and off we went. The hike was 8 miles and I was up for the challenge. As I recall, I had not hiked 8 miles before, and if I had, it certainly was not up a steep mountain.
Two minutes into the hike dashed all of my ambition. I did not truly realize what I was getting myself into. Everyone around me was obviously experienced, me on the other hand, simply saw a great opportunity and jumped right in. Little did I know that there was much more to an intermediate hike than just 'jumping in.' This adventure would teach me more than I expected to learn.
At every plateau, I needed to stop and catch my breath. I needed to rest my feet and calves. I needed to refresh. I felt completely out of my league, but at every step I was being constantly filled with more and more adrenaline.
Luckily, there were hikers present that patiently waited for the inexperienced, wanna-be mountain climber to catch up. I never felt inept, just unskilled to keep up with the pace at which the group was moving. I had this strange sense of determination, however. No matter how long it took, I purposed to finish the trek. Sore, tired, and last were not deterrents for me to turn back. My body wanted to give up. There were moments when I thought I could not take one more step, that every inch of energy had been exhausted, but on I went.
As I was on the trail, I began to think of the journey to heaven. The Lord placed before me the difficulty of the race, but I was determined to continue, no matter what. I thought about those on the mountain who would encourage me along the way. These trackers reminded me of angels. They patiently waited. Their mouths displayed smiles, not frowns, cheers, not censures.
As I ascended the mountain I realized the parallel with the Christian race. Higher and still high, Christ
bids us come. The pilgrims journey is not a flat trail but an incline. Everyday we should see advancements and victories. We should not be rounding the same bend year after year.
It occurred to me that this particular hike I chose afforded one goal and that was to make it to the end which I purpose to do. And so it is with my journey with the Lord. I must not give up. Though rugged the way, though seemingly slow the progress, though the tiredness comes in like a flood, I must keep going.
By the time I finished the hike, every muscle in my body ached and I felt like jello, but I made it! I was only able to express excitement in my heart, for that was the only muscle that did not sting. I could not even express my joy in words, but it certainly filled my soul.
I imagine this is what making it to heaven will feel like, an overwhelming sense of jubilation and elation.
I am reminded of a poem in the well-known allegory by John Bunyan entitled Pilgrim's Progress where Christian pinned words about the Hill of Difficulty that was just before him:
"This hill, though high, I covet to ascend;
The difficulty will not me offend,
For I perceive the way to life lies here:
Come, pluck up, heart, let's neither faint nor fear!
Better, though difficult, the right way to go,
Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe."
And so it is on this pilgrim's journey, tough, steep, strenuous, but oh, so worth it in the end.
Do you know anyone who attends church on Saturday? Do you think this practice to be odd? I do and I did. Many years ago I met a young lady who radiated Christ. At the time I was looking for a church to attend. I had lost my way and had been praying for the Lord to direct me to a Bible-teaching church. The young lady and I were acquainted on a Bay Area commuter train on our way to work, but soon became fast friends.
I had a strong sense she was a Christian and before I knew it, the words spewed out of my mouth, "What church do you go to? I inquired. And I am sure I had a bewildered look on my face when I asked the question. I was personally interested in what church produced such a radiant countenance.
What I did not know at the time was that Seventh-day Adventists attend church on Saturday, the true Sabbath, in which she was. As our friendship developed, I had many questions about this seemly unusual phenomena. All of my questions naturally evolved into me taking Bible studies with her and over the next several months my eyes were opened to truths I never before knew.
The Sabbath originated at creation. In Genesis 2:3 we learn that "...God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made." KJV You see, the Sabbath is a memorial of God's creative work. He alone is God. He made the heaven and the earth, the sea and all that in them is. We also learn from this verse that God sanctified or hallowed the Sabbath day. We read in Isaiah 58 the blessings obtained when we hallow the Sabbath as God did. “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, And call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the Lord has spoken.” NKJV
In other words, the Sabbath is a day we come to spend intimate time with our Creator. We rest in His works. We cease from all earthly duties and secular or worldly talk and thoughts, and reflect on Him and His holiness. Jesus paid it all, all to Him (we) owe.
Is it not interesting that the fourth commandment is the only one that instructs us to remember? I believe God cautioned us to remember because He knew we would forget. But how can you remember something that you never before knew? It is impossible. I know that before my Divine train encounter, I had never heard of the Sabbath. But praise the Lord for His mercy and grace. He would not have us ignorant.
Many have heard of the Sabbath but refuse to honor the Bible Sabbath as it is not in line with their traditions, their Pastor's day of worship or their convenience. There are some that say they worship on the first day of the week instead of the seventh in honor of the resurrection. Nowhere in God's Word does it teach such practice. In Luke we read, "And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read." Luke 4:16. There are many who would rather stay in darkness in regards to the ]truth and continue life as usual instead of being open to the fact that maybe what they previously thought was the correct day of worship is not.
The Sabbath ought to be the highlight of every week. A whole 24 hours dedicated to spending uninterrupted time with our Lord. No need for thoughts of work, for Sabbath is a day of rest. We can rest in the Lord and all that He has accomplished on the Cross for you and for me. We find delight in the Sabbath because it is a blessing. God customized a special day that we may bask in His presence.
By now, you may have guessed it. Yes, I am a Seventh-day Adventist. I find great joy in keeping God's holy Sabbath day. It did take me some time to truly appreciate its significance. In my early observance I could not understand why I would always hear, "Happy Sabbath." I often wondered, what was so happy about it? When I was a Sunday worshiper, I never said, "Happy Sunday." In time I discovered the happiness found in such a beautiful command. It is a high time. It is a constant reminder of God's loving care and His beautiful creation, designed with you and me in mind. He made everything perfect and it was good, but we notice that when He made man, it was very good. Can you imagine life without mankind? Without family? Without community? It would be quite lonely. Our Father foreknew what would make us happy and provided all that we could ever need or want.
The Sabbath command is one worth the study. Open your Bible. Ask for the Holy Spirit's guidance as you break open the Words of Life and discover one of the sweetest commandments the Lord gave us to savor and enjoy. It is not a burden but the greatest delight of the week.
"And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD." Isaiah 66:23
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16.
When we look at the character of Christ we will quickly discover that racism cannot exist in God's government. Over and over again in Scripture Christ makes it clear that He is no respecter of persons. Romans 2:11 What makes us any different, for those of us that are called by His name? Isaiah 43:7. He welcomes, "...whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Romans 10:13. This includes every human, does it not?
I often wonder where racism originated? I often wonder how one can hate to such a degree? I often wonder how perpetrators of violence against a race can sleep at night? I often wonder... But then I remember that it all began with sin and I conclude that an enemy has done this. It is just like him to stir up division and more so, to even encourage segregation amongst Christians.
We are fooled if we believe for a moment that this type of mentality is acceptable to God. Are we under the delusion that heaven will be divided into sections? White. Black. Yellow. Red? No, actually we will all be together. We will all love everyone. We will be as one in Christ. There will be no separation, no preference. None superior. How will you fare with that fact? Your neighbor very well may be someone completely different from you. A different color. A different nationality. A difference race.
Heaven will not be made up of a superficial existence between His children. There will be none there that just put up with one another. There will be a genuine love and acceptance. But will those who have a difficult time with other races here on earth be zapped into conformity in order to be fit for heaven? No, earth is the training ground. Earth is where this character trait must be proved. We will not be able to fake it. It must be real; real as real can be.
It will not be until we can embrace every one of God's created children with love and authenticity that we will be fit for heaven. We cannot harbor one inkling of indifference, hate or mere tolerance for races other than our own.
At the conclusion of the matter, "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:28. Did you know that the Bible says that if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced [or convicted] of the law as transgressors?" James 2:9
Lord, help us to put away all traces of prejudice from our hearts, whether secret or known. With God's grace may we repent of having respector of persons cherished within. May we reflect on our loving Savior's acceptance of all mankind and let this mind be in us which was also in Christ Jesus
What can I say that has not already been penned with ink to paper? Nothing. Racism, it seems, is just something we will have to live with until there is life no more on this earth. What an unfortunate reality. Life, as I look back, has always been somewhat blissful in regards to my interactions with other races. Growing up and even during my early school days, college era, and further into my short-lived career season, the fact is, that my dark tone has not had an impact on the way I have been treated. Not until lately.
Then and now I have never been intimidated if I were the only person that join a company of other people that were not of my tint. As I enter a room I am not looking at myself, so as far as I am concerned, we are all the same. This is how I've always viewed life. I love people, all people. It has never mattered to me what color a person's skin color has been. I love learning about difference cultures, races and backgrounds. I am not scared off by difference, but intrigue. My friends are made up of just about every race I am proud to say.
It is more than disappointing to announce that my adult experience has changed in the past 12 years. I have especially noticed indifference amongst Christians of a fairer hue. Many of my negative experiences have occurred in the Christian arena. I can remember a particular instance at a church in another state that we attended regularly. We would enter the lobby of the church, all 5 kids in tow, and although the Pastor would be in that same lobby, he would never greet us. Unbelievable! you might say. I could not understand it. And the Pastor no less. It was not as though we could not be seen. But I dismissed this slight oversight as there were many other members at that church that were genuinely friendly and loving. Perhaps he really did not see us. Perhaps he did not notice us in the sanctuary either...perhaps.
Another incident, which happens to be church-related as well, was a time I taught Sabbath School. I would arrive early to set-up the classroom. The teacher in the classroom next to mine also had arrived early for the same reason. Before getting to my room I would pass this other room and always greet the other teacher, only to be met with no response. For months, I greeted this person in the same friendly manner, only to receive the same dead silence. I couldn't understand. "Was I at church?" I would ask myself, or, "Maybe the other teacher did not hear me?" There was other times when I would be in the church lobby speaking with someone and this same individual, who was friends with the person I was speaking with, would come up to both of us, and smile, hug and greet the person I was speaking with. When I would try to get in a greeting to this person, again I was completely ignored, as if I did not exist. That happened several times as this individual had many friends in this church that I was also friends with. This snubbing occurred for a couple of years and then finally one day, out of the blue, this person said hello. I was shocked. Perhaps it took a while for this person to feel okay with my presence. I am not sure, but how dreadful to have experienced such coldness from a Christian brethren. We never became good friends, but it was nice that this individual acknowledge me at least once or twice in the 5+ years that we were members at this church.
Perhaps I should not assume this incident is related to racism though this person is not of my race, but what would you think? I have often given my brethren, especially Christian brethren the benefit of the doubt. But at some point it becomes obvious, especially when I am not liked and ignored for no apparent reason by members not of the African American race. This is not to say I have never been unliked or ignored by members of my own race for no apparent reason, but that's for another post.
Since moving to our current state, my deep mocha complexion has provoked in me a heightened sense of awareness; an awareness that has not before been known. I get strange looks when I go into stores. One Sabbath, I was approached by a gentleman at church who came right up to me and said, "You must be Mrs. H---." I looked at him with a friendly smile and agreed that, yes, I was she. I asked how he knew my identity? By the way, it just so happened that he too was housed in a mahogany shell. He informed me that he was told that a new African American family would soon be moving near the school. "Hmmm," I thought. Why would this African American be made aware that another African American family would be arriving? Why? Is that necessary? Would not we have met eventually without this brethren being forewarned?
I have had this uneasy feeling since arriving to our new town; a feeling of oddness. There has been an unsettling silence that speaks volumes. When I am smiled at, I now wonder its authenticity. I find that I am on alert, suspicious. Don't get my wrong, we have met some very genuine, sweet, darling people, but there has also been a sense that some may be uncomfortable with us being here.
Additionally, I realize that mistakes made by us of coffee complexion are more scrutinized than those of the milky pigment, and because of such fact, we as African Americans must strive at a level others will never know.
Joining a small town community comes with advantages and unfortunately, disadvantages. The advantages may be obvious, but the disadvantages have a heavier weight. In our case, the town in which we share residence is predominately Caucasian. Aside from a hand-full of students, I have not seen another almond-colored family close by which lends itself to an unspoken pressure; pressure to eradicate the stereotype.
In many ways racial indifference has advanced to a subtle tolerance. Unlike days of old, I can say that perhaps we have proven ourselves to amount to more than 'less than human.' And with the recent election of our past president, who fulfilled two terms no less, I would say we ought to be looked upon with even more favor, but not so.
For some reason the toxicity of superior thinking hinders the beauty of unity that the Bible speaks so distinctly of. Will we ever get there? All of us? I do pray that when the judgment is set and the record is sealed, that we who call ourselves Christians will here the words, "...he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still." Revelation 22:11.
If we expect to meet our God in peace, we must eliminate all hate, insouciance, and disdain for those that look different than ourselves.
Do you not find it interesting that you cannot go anywhere today and not see someone, neck bowed down, arm and elbow in the perfect "L" position with some gadget at its extension? In the grocery store line, post office line, walking down the street, driving in a car. What is the obsession that is found in these little devices that just 20 years ago, were an unnecessary luxury? Don't get me wrong, cell phones, tablets, laptops, Kindle's and mp3s all have their place, but have they replaced true human contact and interaction? Have they replaced our God-given ability for interpersonal communication? I would venture to say an astounding , Yes.
No more are the days of hand-written letters, long phone conversations, physical books, and record players. I am hard-pressed to come across a teen that does not have ear phones permanently pasted in their ears lobes. And let us not speak of social media. This craze has overtaken our currently generation. Hours upon hours are spent following this person and that person on the world's largest social sites. And the sad reality is, many adults have found themselves absorbed in this whirlwind.
We post countless photos of our best selves, places we visit, food we eat, and things we do in order that others may think a certain way about us? Are we a generation starving for attention? It may seem that way even though we would argue different. Were you aware that studies are finding that those who spend long hours on social media are prone to depression? A new psychological phenomenon termed "social comparison" is plaguing many who find themselves glued to the screen spying in on other's open lives.
It would seem to me that we are losing the fine art of proper communication through grammar? When I get a text from someone and they use text language, it is very irksome. How much longer would it have taken that person to spell out the whole word? a second or two? We want it fast, we want it now. Don't make me wait. I would rather be lazy.
Additonally, many sleep with their cell phone near their head so as to not miss out on any 'important' notification. But what about our much-needed rest? Do you know that our cells repair themselves at night while we sleep; that it takes sleep for our bodies to regenerate? Not to speak of the dangers of the constant radiation to our brains.
I have yet to be out to lunch or dinner with a friend of family member when I or they have found it almost impossible not to check or answer the phone. Is it me or does that not seem rude? What about eye to eye contact? Undivided attention? What happened to the days when standing in line was a way to strike up a conversation with a stranger and it not be thought of as odd?
We have become a self-focused age. Selfies is the new buzz word. It has become an obsession for some, some much so that someone came up with the ingenious invention called a selfie-stick. A person can attach their smartphone to the end of the handle which points the camera on the phone to themselves and 'click'. Can it get any worse?
And has this technical world that we have found ourselves in made things any better? Has the creation of numerous social sites assisted this present generation in becoming more responsible, productive adults? Have they become smarter, more compassionate any giving? Has the advancement in technology helped marriages? Families? This is a question we all need to answer for ourselves and if the answer is a negative, we should individually and decisively do all we can to change it.
Please be patient as prayers are being updated and the dates properly arranged. They will be out of order temporarily. I apologize for the inconvenience.
Hello. It has been awhile. I had all the best intentions of blogging more, but life crept in heavily. 'Intentions [it is said], good or bad is not enough.' John Steinbeck. There has been much happening in my life since last I posted. This summer we took a trip east, covering 5 states. While a wedding was the catalyst for the trip, we did a lot of touring. Then last month we moved to another state. That was quite the task. We downsized which is always a challenge, choosing what to let go of and what to hang on to. As I am now becoming more and more settled in our new place, I plan to discipline myself and devote more time for blogging.
This brings me to some exciting news. As you may have noticed, I have added a new section entitled "prayers." Since May I have been texting and emailing daily prayers to family and friends. Recently I have been asked many times to make them more available to others. Hence, I determined this to be the perfect place. I will post a prayer everyday, while at the same time upload the past ones, up until I began in May. It is my hope that you will be blessed and encouraged and find hope as you prepare for the soon coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
I love the verse that reads "A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." Proverbs 17:17. It is so precious and so profound at the same time. I have experienced this over and over again and I feel like this passage was written especially for me. I have had adversity in my life, as have many of us, and having a true friend and "brother," or shall I say sister, to truck alongside in this pilgrimage is without price.
To have a friend that counts it a privilege to stick by me when the going gets rough and no immediate relief seems near is a rare treasure. When life gets embarrassingly ugly and inconsolably painful; when I am hit blind-sided and my life takes a shift for the worse, and I can still say that my friend or friends are as they have always been, then I know they love me in the sunshine as well as in the rain, unlike fair-weather friends that come and go.
A brother being born for adversity heightens friendship to another sphere. When a friend identifies as a brother or in this case sister (from another mother) and actually goes through the fire with me and would have it no other way, then I know they were born for [my] adversity. They realize that the Lord placed them just where they needed to be "for such a time as this" and they have a sense of joy in the furnace.
This brings to mind Someone who this passage fits oh too perfectly. Jesus Christ. He is the ultimate Friend of all friends. He will never leave my side. I will not be forsaken with this Heavenly companion. He is in it until the end. "...and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." Matthew 28:20. He is forever faithful. 2 Timothy 2:13. I never have to guess what He's thinking. His thoughts are just a Word away. He is dependable, readily available and eager to spend time with me. He never gets tired of my company, as a matter of fact, he longs for my company. He listens with attentive ears and always responds with grace.
When life becomes overwhelming, He won't avoid or ignore because He doesn't know what to do or say, but says, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28. "Come, let us reason together..." Isaiah 1:18. Instead of abandoning, He consistently pursues and moreover, He was born to die [for you and for me].
Jesus was born to a virgin by the Holy Ghost for one purpose and one purpose only; to redeem sinful man back to Himself; to restore him back to the fold of God. He suffered cruelty and rejection and heartache for the sake of each of us. He died the worse death any human ever will, for He took on the sin of the whole world and was at one point separated from His father. What a Friend is He.
And though none of my earthly friends have gone to that extent, a hand-full have trod the bitter waters with locked arms. We have such a Heavenly Father to think of all our needs. He provides not only our spiritual and physical needs, but our social needs as well. "For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting; and His truth endureth to all generations" 100:5
Reading is a great love of mine that I find I do not have as much time as I'd like to do and yet when I do find the time, I have hardly been able to finish a book. I know that may be hard to believe, but yes, it's true. I think I get distracted with too many other things and before I know it, I'm on to a new book I either heard about or someone suggested. And so it's gone, for years this has been my plight. I have often wondered how some get through book after book in effortless speed.
Additionally, I notice how I tend to read very slowly. I find that as I'm reading, if something sticks out or strikes me, I pause. Meditate. Absorb. I am enthralled by words and how they are used to express a thought. I become one with books especially when they draw me in. I love being alone with them. It's resembles a relationship. Me and the pages and nothing else matter.
But though that has been my past story, I am happy to announce that as of the last few months, I have finished two books of great length, one of over 500 pages and the other, over 200 pages. How could that possibly happen in only a few weeks when, for my whole life, finishing a book has been of an utmost struggle, requiring much focus, concentration and determination?
It was never a struggle for me to actually read per say. It has always been a struggle to stay with it, to push through to the end, to make it to the finish line of the epilogue. Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 7 starting at verse 8 that finishing is better than starting, which I find to be so true as it relates to books. I look forward to continuing this journey.