Have you ever felt like you made a mess out of your life?
I have been there. It is not a pretty place to be.
You wake up one day and ask yourself, ‘How did I get here?’
I think it begins by one bad decision. And then that decision begins a succession of other bad decisions.
And how is each bad decisions born? I think it’s by believing a lie.
If I do this, I’ll be happy. or, If I do that, I’ll be happier still.
And then before you know it, you’re in a not-so-wonderful pickle.
So what’s the best remedy to untangle the web one weaved for herself? I think it’s to trace back each decision and simple learn from it and be careful to do differently going forward. There is no time in the universe to feel shame, pity or disgust. You just need to move forward with the knowledge that these decisions have wrought. Good or bad, forge ahead. You are now equipped to make great decisions. You now have a knowledge that you did not before have, so act on that knowledge. Spin yourself a new web. Create new environments. It may entail dropping old friends and gaining new, healthier ones. Refuse to compromise your morals, your values, and the dictates of your conscience. Make God’s Word your rule of thumb. Vow to please God rather than man. Know that this may mean that you will walk alone at times, but be okay with often traveling solo. Just remember, Jesus was often found alone, even when others were with him physically. Pray often. Be oft on your knees and in God’s holy book. Let nothing keep you from the Bread of Life. Go everyday to that Fountain and receive of it the Living Water that causes one to never thirst again.
Exactly 24 years ago today I stood before an eager crowd and pronounced, "I do." Was I young? Yes. Was I naive? Yes. Did I believe in 'the fairy tale'? Yes. Don't we all? I was not, however, foolish enough to think that perfection was just before me, but I did believe bliss was. My hopes were high. My enthusiasm was mounted. I was filled with glee and jitters all at the same time.
The details of the wedding come to mind from time to time. Like when assuring that I did not appear nervous walking down the aisle, I stuck a piece of gum in my mouth; chewed it throughout the entire ceremony. And when I was conscious of the fact that my dress got caught underneath my shoes. And the fact that the bouquet was quite heavy. And most notably, how handsome the groom was standing up front awaiting his new bride. It was hard to walk gracefully while resisting the urge to stare at him. I remember he had the biggest grin. I could tell he was a bit nervous as well. Thinking back to that long walk forward, I recall forcing myself to smile continually; what a difficult task when I had so many other thoughts whirling around in my head.
As the years have passed, I have found myself often reliving those precious moments. The butterflies that were at a minimum because of the Doublemint. All of our friends and family that made the long journey to be a part of the joyous occasion. The cherished words of the gentle minister and the look of hope in his eyes. The speech my husband gave before we descended the platform; vowing to pledge his undying love. It was all so sweet. It was all so exciting. It seems like so long ago. Much has happened in the years from then until now.
More children. Career changes. Relocations. Health crisis. Graduations. Farewells. Funerals. Joy. Pain. Lessons. It certainly was not what I had planned but through it all, I have learned to lean and trust in an all-loving Savior. He has been more Faithful than I have. When I blow it, He is ready to forgive when I come to Him. He has stuck closer than a brother. He has been a very present Help in trouble. He has bound my wounds. He has been a Balm in Gilead. I am thankful for the grace He has bestowed to me to weather the storms that have crept up unawares.
In the past 24 years, I have become more keen of my great need of Him. I have learned that I cannot make it without Him. I have realized that I do not want to live without Him; there would be no purpose for existence. He sustains me. He fulfills me. He completes me. He is the better part of me. I am thankful that I have yielded my life to His control though I do not do it perfectly every time. In the last 2 1/2 decades, He has been one of the best choices I have made for my life. Thank you Lord.
Where does worry come from? I am not sure but I think it may be fear and a lack of control. What if this happens?What if that happens? What if this doesn’t happen?, etc. We conjure up all sorts of scenarios and reside there. But worry need not take up space in our minds for one moment; and remember, a moment is less than a second. Worry is from the enemy, the wicked one, the liar from the beginning. Worry is a robber of peace, he comes only to steal, kill and destroy-our joy. I say, bolt the door and do not let 'him' in. When worry begins to creep its ugly head, run far away. Do not entertain its vicious lies. We have so many great and precious promises in the Bible from our great High Priest that worry should never have a foothold.
In Luke we learn about two of Lazreth's sisters, Mary and Martha. We soon discover that Martha has a very anxious heart, while Mary spends her time at the feet of Jesus. There is surely a lesson in these two for us, for we are encouraged to 'cast all our cares upon Him, for He cares for us.' What hope!
In Matthew we read about the intense interest that our Heavenly Father takes in the birds and are reminded that we, His children, have even a greater spot in His heart, so it would be safe to say that we have nothing to worry about for our life.
In Philippians we are told what to do with anxiety. When we come to God with our prayers and supplications with thanksgiving, we will experience the peace of God which passes all understanding. He will guard our hearts and mind. Now isn't that what we want anyway, to be at rest in Christ Jesus?
Hebrews confirms that the Lord is our Helper, so because of that, what can man do unto us? Nothing because as we know, greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world.
The Word of God assures us that we have protection, for God is our refuge. We have help, for God is our strength. We have an escape, for God is our deliverer. He have joy, for God is our peace. We have security, for He is our comfort. And besides all that our Father is to us, we are cautioned a myriad of times in His Word also, not to fear, more specifically, we are told 'fear not.' And why are we not to fear? Because He is with us always; we call Him Immanuel. He promises never to leave nor forsake us.
So when worry comes in like a flood, you can rebuke him in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Speak out with boldness one of the precious promises from God's Treasure Chest.
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.