The Least of These

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She was 28 years old. Stabbed multiple times all over. Died alone.

Never once has the pain of ministry hit home as much as it did yesterday.

This weekend we lost a dear sister. Her life was snuffed out by a nameless man in the confines of a room that she worked and slept. Reading her name on the screen of my phone in a news article and knowing who she was took the wind out of me. This woman that was just a fact in a news story was a sister and dear friend.

Precious Woman
She was well known where she worked. All the women we spoke to described her as friendly, outgoing, caring and a smart woman. She helped women plan their finances so they could build homes and even purchased her own car. She was industrious and saw a life outside of the streets. This work was just a necessary means to an end.

She had just asked for us to come visit two weeks ago. Pursued was making plans to get her son gifts for Christmas. Her voice echoes in my mind, “You can come man, just keep on your mask and stand off and pray.” She relayed how the women we serve were asking how we hadn’t been out to pray for them. I remember thinking on it and telling my team but making no real plans to go out. I didn’t want to force anyone to endanger themselves and I knew I couldn’t go out on my own. So I didn’t.

Last night all of that didn’t matter. With a pounding headache and tiny cohort we went. With these few members hugs, and tears flowed freely as we joined in the mourning not as elite bystanders but as fellow human beings united by a common experience. All the fears and logistics that kept us away, melting in the face of real terror, grief, guilt and loss.

Isn’t that what Christ did? He came down in the sickness of our sin and the pain of our sufferings, and joined into our reality and touched us. He mourned with Mary and Martha, he held contagious lepers, ate with tax collectors and looked into the eyes of prostitutes. He turns to us as believers saying, “do the same.” Because whatever you have done for the least of these, you have done for Him.

REAL LIFE REAL PAIN

As we sat, stooped and stood the ever present reality of their pain yet again became evident. I was sitting on the curb as a her close friend cried and shared her pain. Her face showing signs of being far away while replaying the events of the night. Up walked a gentleman, standing right at my side. She looked up excused herself and went to work. I thought about her having to let a man lay on her, touch on her, be intimate with her, use her body for his pleasure with no regard for how she was grieving.

This is their life.

I remembered texting to ask one of our ladies if she was working that night. Her matter of fact statement bolted me to the floor. She told me she was terrified but that she must work, she had to feed her kids. Do you hear that? Do you see what is reality for our sisters?

Have you ever driven down a street and tried to quickly turn your eyes away? Have you laughed and planned a strip club night for your bachelor party? Have you clicked on that porn site to experience self pleasure from a video? Have you seen them as other?

Have you considered that as they stand there on the road, or slide across the stage or perform in a video they had to find a babysitter for their child that night, drug themselves, and compartmentalize their pain so their clients could have a good time? I just want you to consider.

The Work of the Cross

I considered. I not only considered I took again another look at the work of the cross. I wanted so badly for our sisters to see that. I wanted all of the sisters to get it. I wanted to be like “LOOK its this. this is what you need. Jesus is what you need. Please get it.

As this sister walked away I turned and inhaled the potent weed, engulfed in the sad music that blared from the speakers across the street at a vendors stall, and in the dim light of the candles that lined the sidewalk I saw her. I walked over thinking she was a lady I knew. She wasn’t.

Her drugs of choice in hand to numb out the pain I watched her inhale and steady herself as I walked towards her, putting on her mask of “I’m fine”. But there is nothing like a person making themselves present. What started as small talk quickly devolved into tears and pain, questions and heartache. The truth of the gospel message and the charge to go out playing out in real life.

We surrounded her and prayed. We listened and we encouraged. We shared God’s love and made plans to get further help. It was hard to leave that night. We saw the time; the many more girls we hadn’t spoken to, but we had to go. Police had just driven by and we needed to be responsible.

I came home and read the Luke version of the prostitute Mary washing Christ’s feet with perfume and tears. This time I thought about Mary and how Christ’s love and His compassion must have impacted her. Men had used, abused and broken her, but Christ’s love did such a work in her life that she could make herself so vulnerable before a Man. Are we making it clear to the lowly and exploited that there is a God you can be broken with?

The least of these.
I don’t have a nice closing to this. I am just processing “out loud” so to speak. This is the reality of the pain of the down trodden, the broken and we simply need to keep doing God’s work and showing His love to the least of these.

Distracted

We women seem to killing it in this century. Leadership, business, education and empowerment, it’s all happening. We have made decisions to end toxic relationships, make smart decisions on who we will and will not entertain and do the work to allow the healing.

In this place we feel good, we feel proud, we feel like we have found our rhythm, and then it happens… From the side of our eye we see something. We try to keep running but our interests are peaked and we keep turning ever so slightly while trying to maintain pace.

It’s kinda shiny so the pace slightly slows in order to properly appraise what it is but very quickly we see that it doesn’t qualify. However, now you are aware and now the race feels long, the pace feels tiresome and there is this ever slight tug to keep looking back.

This is where I was. Distracted by what wasn’t even my desired goals. It wasn’t even a form of it. It was a de-form of it.

I was super annoyed with myself. How could I be so fulfilled and sensible and yet was slowing down for a guy who was textbook red flag.

I am not talking about he doesn’t meet my ‘100 musts before I say yes to a date,’ kind of disqualification. No I mean he was the, “I am still searching”, “one day I will”, “look at all these girl options”, “barely spiritual” kind of disqualification.

Yet, I gave him attention. Oh yes. I did. I giggled and laughed, felt the electricity of connection and the warmth of flattery.

It was out of body. It was as if I walked into a portal from Star Trek and couldn’t get out of its force field. Whenever he was gone I would shake myself and assess the damage in disgust. I either shared too much, was too accommodating or just tried too hard. Who was this alien creature and where was the successful, put together, powerhouse woman that I was?

I reached out to my accountability certain that some version of the Kool-Aid had been consumed and I needed someone to slap me out of it. I waited with bated breath for the rebuke and challenge to live according to my God given abilities, to rise above the drudgery of the flesh and walk in holiness and consecration and what she said was, “Stace, its normal to find people attractive. You are human.”

Human, I know I am human…

I am sure she was just saying this to abate my worries and not really tuned in to her godly wisdom, so I went to another accountability person certain they would have more insight and a scripture to use. He said the same, I was normal.

I thought on it for a while. I realized because I felt so accomplished, so strong so focused that being distracted felt like I was out of the race. Me distracted gave me the feeling I was now not ready for the team and should be relegated to the sidelines for rebuke. I wasn’t strong enough.

I laughed to myself, even self-aware, disciplined, God focused women can get diverted. I breathed a little. I was still in the race. I could know better and still see and desire. The issue wasn’t in the distraction but in how hard I was on myself for my lapse.

I still wanted to learn from it. That would be the better thing. So I processed for myself what was it that got me distracted? How I was so susceptible to this?

Hunger

Now I am new to consistently working out and by no means am I an expert on fitness but I get the feeling that when you are racing there must be some fuel in your body for the race ahead. When I barely ate my laps around the field were mostly quick walks and half hearted jogging. But when I ate a balanced meal even some carbs I was able to give more, run longer and have more energy.

I realized I had been consuming too much unhealthy “foods” .I began slipping back into my Hallmark, Love Connection, and all things relationship on social media. It was done absentmindedly I felt strong and I was reading my Bible so ‘eating’ a little junk shouldn’t be that bad.

Wrong. As annoying as it can be, consistency is what keeps the results we have accomplished. Unlike my previous workout routine of excercise for two months (which usually meant January to February) and getting fit then reverting to carbs, laying down all day and eating vegetables intermittently, I had to continuously watch my diet, and stay on my regime.

Prioririzing

I spent time thinking on him, making efforts to be around him and arranging my day to pass by him. I knew this wasn’t what I wanted but my actions didn’t line up. I wasn’t being mindful of my thoughts. I wasn’t keeping a healthy distance and I wasn’t guarding my affections.

You see part of mainitining a healthy lifestyle is to avoid the pitfalls. Although Burger King sells salads, if I go in there I am not buying a salad. I am buying a burger. I must prioritize my health and go where that lifestyle choice will be tended and flourish.

My mind can’t be dwelling on pastas, and pizzas. I had to think on healthy options, creative ways to stay that way and the benefits of what I get from it.

Still In the Game

Distraction will always be there. I am can help myself by watching my intake, by prioritizing my goals, forgiving myself and remember distractions don’t disqualify me.

So I relaxed. My game plan was back in order. I re-calibrated, refocused and got back in the game.

Saving Face: The Church’s Response to Sexual Abuse

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She slept the sleep filled with little girl’s dreams, or so she believed. But those dreams were interrupted by his body pressed against her back as he rubbed himself against her. She tried desperately to get lost in dreams but the nightmare of reality clung to her consciousness, rendering her helpless.

So she surrendered, laying still once more as the monster, called protector, scarred her innocence with his pleasure.

She sat in the sanctuary as the congregation applauded and lauded praise on him. As the service ended he walked to her, smiling with congeniality to the congregants he greeted. Frozen stiff with a plastered smile of religious right behavior and overwhelming panic, she was swallowed into him, arms around her with a “church greeting”- the ‘ of his sin laying on her body.

She affixes a smile on her face because she is expected to forgive. The church leadership spoke with him and… he sorry.

The story varies but the experience is real, countless victims laying waste at the mercy of others who overlook their travesty, misunderstanding of the nature of God’s justice alongside repentance and forgiveness.

Rachel Denhollandar made a statement that hit believers to the core. A survivor from the sexual assault travesty caused by US Gymnast team coach and osteopathic physician Lawrence Nassar, she expressed that the church was the worse place for a victim of sexual assault.

As a Christian this statement disturbed me. Is this true I wondered, and if so, how could this happen? All organizations want to pull ranks and cover their own, but I was perplexed that we weren’t different.

Biases and Blind Spots

In the article, Jem Zamzow postulates that there are internal biases operating when the church takes full responsibility in handling allegations of sexual assault amongst their own. Research showed that even when trying to be as accurate as possible, if we’re already on a particular “side” of an issue, our ability to view the situation objectively is hindered.

This bias can also increase the likelihood that we put away the bad behavior. It can permeate the entire evaluation of the situation and the decisions made. “People who have an interest in seeing data in a particular direction have a hard time being objective about a range of judgments and in a variety of contexts.” The greater danger, she posits, is the risk of justification because the accused is doing the “noble task” of working for the “Kingdom of God.”

The Problem of Forgiveness and Repentance

Forgiveness is good, right and true. The gift offered in salvation and eternal life is based in part on the forgiveness offered to us when we place our faith in Jesus. By grace we received forgiveness for our sins and are adopted as co-heirs with Christ. This same measure of grace is required of us, as we are charged with the mandate that we forgive as Christ forgave us.

Repentance is an awareness of the extent of your wrong, and the dishonouring of a holy God. This acknowledgment of wrong, and realization of the the need for God’s grace, should result in subsequent surrender and turning away from the wrong.

I believe victims are freed when they are able to forgive those who have wronged them. Holding on to vengeance, hurt and shame leads to self-destruction. I also believe that the accused needs to come to a place of repentance and seek forgiveness from God and the ones they hurt. The problem with treating this as the be all and end all, however, is that the church runs the risk of abuse of power and the perpetuation of victimization.

What Does Scripture Say

Sean Taylor, a pastoral intern said this: “The scriptures are filled with passages which call us to protect and rescue the vulnerable in society; those who are weak and voiceless (see Proverbs chapter 31 verse 8). Abuse cases for example, stand out as a great example of people who are weakened and silenced as they are being broken by abusive power. God’s heart for them requires us to pursue such individuals with protection from various forms of domestic abuse and violence. This would involve utilizing the God-given resources of State to care and protect.” (see Romans chapter 13 verse 4)

The biblical stories of Dinah and Tamar are definitely not scattered across the pages of the photo-bible children get at birthdays and baptisms. It’s not the story gravitated toward for Easter or Christmas services. However, the injustice of being victimized for sexual pleasure resulted in civil war. There was an evident response to their injustice. (See Genesis.34 and 2 Samuel 13)

Sean Taylor points out that forgiveness, repentance AND justice are not mutually exclusive. “Victims should forgive the perpetrator and the perpetrator needs to repent. The perpetrator also should submit to the earthly legal justice system or penal code. Where there is no penal code or earthly justice system in place the needs of the oppressed needs to be taken care of by the church.”

He further cautions that these four things should not be “pitted against” each other. They are not mutually exclusive. He explains that we are to pursue all of these simultaneously, trusting that these directions given by the Lord do harmonize and serve to strengthen and protect people. 

Public Relations

Why do we not report? Is it because we are scared of how it will make us – the body of Christ – look? Are we protecting God? Timothy Keller in his book says, “Israel was charged to create a culture of social justice for the poor and vulnerable because it was the way the nation could reveal God’s glory and character to the world.” In discussing Deuteronomy chapter 4 verses 6-8 he highlights that it was Israel’s example that would be what the nations looked at as an example of justice and peace and that this resulted in them being attracted to Israel’s God.

It’s not because we act perfect or look good, that people are drawn to God. Our “perfectness” is not God’s P. R. It’s our response to justice, our love for one another, and our adherence to truth that will point the world to Him. Covering up and hiding does nothing for God, the broken victims or the fallen perpetrators.

republished from Press Service International, received the Basil Sellars Award
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Annie Theby

Deceived by Desire

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired…she took of the fruit thereof…” (Genesis chapter 3, verse 6)

Desires are a normal part of human existence. The problem is sometimes it quickly morphs into demand. Carolyn McCully says that demand is us closing our fist over the desire.

Desire

Desire, she says, “leads to demand, which re labels itself as a “need” and leads to expectation of fulfilment.” We make ourselves, hear things, and see signs, and make decisions that are not led by the Holy Spirit.

Like Eve we sit and stare at the fruit. It looks desirable, good for company, able to make us feel special and will be there for us and, like Eve, we succumb to the deception and take of the fruit. We doubt God’s goodwill for us and lay aside His commands. There is no possible way that what we see in front of us is not from God. Us not stepping out must be fear.

Scarier still is that we hide our desires ever so deftly behind spiritual confabulation. “God said.” “I believe God is leading”. This traps your friends into silence because who wants to be the Pharisee that says you haven’t heard from God.

Deception

I first met him where puppy dog dreams began – youth summer camp. He was outgoing and sporty. I didn’t think he would ever like a girl like me, so I put feelings aside and enjoyed a friendship.

We soon lost touch but somewhere between gumbo and mid year’s, in college we reconnected. Old friends bonded by similar culture and a love for the Lord, we enjoyed our frequent chats on the phone. Separated by state lines our conversations started out infrequent but eventually became staple part of our lives. My friends began to question but we just enjoyed our interactions with no pressures and what-ifs.

I don’t remember why I decided to pray about us. It probably seemed like the natural progression in the whole scheme of things. He was attractive and fit a lot of what I wanted in a mate, so I prayed. In my heart I sensed it clearly “no.” My quick disappointment faded. I was used to hearing God say no, and we were not entangled with romantic gestures, so I continued the normalcy of our friendship.

Deceived

Then he called. I can’t recall anything prior to his concerned voice on the other end of the line. As he prayed the Spirit ministered to my heart with such delicacy and fervour that I could not help but become overwhelmed. It was a short to the point call. He ended it after he said amen. I sat in my room in awe of the moment and then it happened.

As I laid in my bed praying the thought “this is the guy for you”, played deftly through the corridors of my mind. It didn’t sit right with me at first, because of the “no” previously impressed on my heart by God. I pushed it out of my mind yet it played again, questioning why God would not give me a good thing. I thought more on it, and although I had my misgivings my desires beckoned louder.

Truth got pushed further away the more I looked at what I desired. He was a godly man, good to me and was able to help me grow in the Lord.

A way out

The Bible explains in James that it is our lusts that draw us away. In order to escape the depravity that is our sinful nature the following principles from Scripture are helpful.

1. Spend more time with God.

Where was Eve as the deception occurred? The more time I spent talking with this guy, talking about this guy, thinking about talking to this guy the more my desire increased. There is this constant training in godliness where we daily let go of our desires and put God in His rightful place as we spend time with Him.

2. Hold your thoughts and desires alongside scriptures

Adam Marby in article How not be led by the Spirit, states “Attempting to follow the Spirit’s leading without the Bible is foolish at best and sinful at worst… It’s entirely possible that someone had a profound spiritual experience that led him or her to no longer trust the Bible. That’s deception. The Spirit himself tells us we’re to expect such deception (2 Corinthians chapter 11 verse 14). The Spirit wrote a book, so being led by him starts there.” If what you believe you are to do does not line up with scripture and its principles, you are being deceived.

3. Get counselling

A sure-fire way to not walk with the Spirit is to try to walk by yourself. The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel. (Proverbs chapter 12, verse 15). Throughout the Scripture we see evidence that in order to live a Spirit-filled life it is important that we are being led into and among his people. “God—at the infinite cost of his life—has given us not just a spiritual relationship with himself, but also with each other.” Adam Marby

As Adam Marby states, “Sin is deceptive, and our desires even more so. So, in order to guard ourselves let us spend time listening to his Word, his people, his wisdom, and his ways.” Doing this will increase the ease of being led by the Spirit. If not, it’s open season for deception

Relationship Advice – Overload

“Happy New….Marriage!”

Having seen about five people get engaged in the space of the two weeks of holiday I am ecstatic. Relationships are a beautiful blessing from God. I scrolled timelines and read posts of congratulations and well- wishes grateful to be a part of this new season in my friends life.  There was another part of this, however, it was the discussions with friends on status and everyone has something to say.

Everybody is a relationship guru! 100 Ways to Determine the Right One. Five Hundred Reasons why you are Still Single. Ten Sure Ways to Develop Yourself as the Proverbs 31 Woman.

Being no stranger to the blogs, vlogs, and maybe a cassette tape or two (I am so old), I can assure you  I had my fill of opinions. From books to panel discussions people stated their claim on what makes a person a possible mate and how to make this possible mate attracted to you.

I first read because I wanted to understand. I wanted insight into how this whole thing worked. I wish I could say, that as a believer, I read only godly input on this thing, but that is sadly not the case. The top ten ways to make a guy melt was mixed right in with the how to be gentle and meek. I wanted to know wow him and work him. It was a sad state.

Then there was reading because I wanted to know what to look for. Christians spoke of getting divorced because they supposedly missed God which had me worried. I didn’t want to miss anything and certainly not the right spouse. So to make sure I didn’t miss God or Mr. Him I again read and asked and patrolled blogs and magazines of all sorts.

To this desire there was no end of advice. Make a list  and check it twice.. (wait that’s for Christmas). Date to get to know what you like – like some how there was a need to try on guys like they were high fashion clothing that I fancied. Fast, consult leaders, know his goals, have a game plan, and those were the “good” things. Meeting and marrying “the one” turned into a stratagem.

“Don’t allow your emotions to negate God’s abilities”

Eventually, I began to resent the whole thing. I got tired of the process. For me, and many others all of this was to help distract from the longing. It was a fledgling attempt at trying to make sense of why one was still single. Though in some instances gathering all this information was to hone in on God’s way and will for our lives some of the motives got lost in transit and  we used these words of wisdom and to help us feel better about our state of being and help God along. But God is able to guide us into the best pathway for our lives. (Psalm 32:8)

 Don’t get me wrong I do believe that God has blessed many people with wisdom on topics that will help guide, encourage and restore people. Trust me the irony of advising you to not take on too much advice is not lost on me. What I am attempting to get across here is that in the searching let it become more important to be a woman after God’s heart than getting the right man. Get to the place where the word of God becomes your ‘How to’  for living and loving.

In reading the Bible I realize that just following how to live for Him and how to love like Him answered all the questions for dating, marriage and beyond. I realized I don’t need a panel discussion on why church men take long, to help me realize my wait has nothing to do with guys and everything to do with God’s timing.

Solomon so wisely said,

“The words of the wise are like cattle prods—painful but helpful. Their collected sayings are like a nail-studded stick with which a shepherd drives the sheep.

But, my child, let me give you some further advice: Be careful, for writing books is endless, and much study wears you out.

That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey His commands, for this is everyone’s duty.” Ecclesiastes 12:9 (NLT)

I didn’t need long talks over grape juice (or Martinelli) to determine that it was my desires that sometimes became God. My desire became demand which became expectation which when unmet caused disappointment. It wasn’t mindless men, but wayward wants. I needed to submit again my desires to my Almighty King and rejoice in the blessing of redemption and the beauty of His sacrificial love. I didn’t need to read more I needed to fear God and obey His commandments.

I submit to you ladies that learning to be more like Christ is what we need. Set your mind on things above so that the Lover of your soul is your guide and your contentment is in Him. Happy New..Satisfied Saint.

 

 

Ghosts of Church Boys Past

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You cannot stay where you are and go with God. Henry Blackaby

This morning I went to have my usual morning devotions and I felt led to get out one of my old journals and read. August 2008 was the start date of that journal so I read intrigued as of course here I am in 2016, approximately eight years later in the month of August. I figured it would be interesting but I was not prepared for the rollercoaster ride to epiphany that I was jumping on.

What I read had me go from feeling shocked, to dismayed, to disgusted and then militant. I read and saw how I allowed guy after guy to draw me from my secure place in God straight to despair, low self esteem and second guessing myself. I prayed for God to guide me but when He did I tried to keep them (the guy) and Him at the same time and eventually He was proven as right as the relationship went up in flames as they moved on to some other version of their ideal Christian woman. Then I sank. I sank into a death spiral of self loathing and sadness wanting to know why not me, who was she and what made her better, more beautiful or more qualified. Why did this look like 2016? Had I not learned?

Give your heart to Me

There is a poignant skit used to share the gospel at a street outreach event I was a part of on the east side of Houma Louisiana. In the skit this lighthearted, carefree girl danced and pranced and enjoyed her life. On the stage entered a guy who mimed his affection and eventually asked for her heart. The girl in the skit freely “opened her chest” and handed him her heart. To the audience and the young lady’s dismay he took her heart gave it a precursor once over then… stomped on it. The young lady was left in a crumpled heap crying on the ground as he left the stage all too pleased with his devious and detrimental act. As she lay on the ground wiping her tear streaked face she heard God whisper (from backstage) give Me your heart. She slowly got up and mustered all her strength threw it up to him (remember this was a play for children so it was all imaginary) and He dropped down a new and refreshed heart. Restored and at peace she began to skip happily around the stage her joy intact.

Like a bad rerun, on to the stage enters “boy” again. This time she is watchful of him but he offers her nice things and mimes the right words and asks back for her heart to which she slowly but surely gives it to him. He takes it and proceeds to play basketball with it decimating the young lady, laughing as he saunters of. Again the Lord prods her to give her heart to Him, she does and He lovingly and gently restores. The play continues with this same scenario and time after time her heart got shattered, dirty, and even annihilated (one actor pretended to hurl the heart in the air and shoot it). I remember the children on the street laughing at the goofiness on the stage, as the actors tried to explain the dangers of giving away your heart to others instead of to God .The problem was… and still is that in reality there are so many stomped on, played out hearts on the ground, one of them being mine. I was the girl in the play. I gave my heart away to the charismatic church boy, the silent contemplative leader, and the enthusiastic artist minister and every time God was there whispering give your heart to Me.

I will advise you…

At the beginning of my college career I read Proverbs 4:23-27 and highlighted it as my mantra.

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

Avoid all perverse talk; stay away from corrupt speech.

Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you.

Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path.

Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.

I wish I could look back at my eighteen year old self and say yay girl, you did it… but I can’t. I flung open the hedges of my heart, I looked away from Jesus and made attention and approvals deter me. I got sidetracked over and over again from my purpose and God’s voice because I would rather hear the lulling voice of the young man over the phone than to tell him this is not God’s will I must step away. I got caught in the web of he’s a Christian, he serves, this must be right and got left with empty arms, the cackle of voices saying I was there and they engaged only because they were lonely, and my favorite, “you will be a great girl for someone else one day”. I couldn’t blame God, because as His child and according to His promises, He did advise me and guide me. He did warn and admonish me to let go of each guy I turned to, but my heart was before them placed ever so delicately or shoved so unheedingly into their hands as I fool heartedly ignored His wisdom and relied on man instead.

See, I am doing a new thing

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing.”

It’s interesting a verse to ponder on as I write this. I am reading the book of Deuteronomy and the book opens with Moses relaying to the children of Israel the folly of their forefathers in choosing to not go to their promised land because it looked daunting. He gave them a play by play of the mishaps, wrong turns and warnings they received. Like a coach watching a game lost to a previous team to point out pitfalls and missed plays Moses places before them what they did wrong in order for them to do better.  It was time to enter the land promised, they are now having to fight yes but it was time to move, forget the former things, learn from the past and get on to a new thing.

I can’t help but see the parallel to my own life in this scenario. This reading of my journal from 2008 was my play by play. My re reading of history that is so strikingly similar in some aspects to 2016. I can’t and by God’s grace won’t be that girl anymore.  I have grown in some ways in this area but I know I have much more to growth to experience. I think back to a post on Facebook talking about August being the eighth month and expressing that eight is the number of new beginnings. Well, it’s that time. My journal entries from this August and the Augusts to come will be different. It’s time for me to not only have a new beginning but maintain what God has done. I encourage you women to do the same. Choose to guard your heart. Don’t spend so much time with the guy who hasn’t committed to you. Step away if you feel the prompting of the Holy Spirit even if on paper everything about him looks “right”. Choose to honour God with your heart and your time and let Him guide you safely to what is yours. Return to being in awe of your Creator and not get sidetracked by the shiny and the spiritual.  Learn from me and my trip down the ghost of church boys past. J

Expiry Date

Many things have a set point, or date in which you might not get a valuable, healthy, or all in all good experience of once this set point has past.  For some things once this appointed time has passed you may even loose certain privileges, standings or freedoms.  You know some of these things – bread, milk, cheese – or the latter, a driver’s license or club membership.  Now, since I am approaching a supposed, societal, milestone I began to wonder if I too must check for this said date, based on the talk on the streets.

I mean I want to know if I have reached this date, and if I have I am hoping my date is likened more to a driver’s license or membership card than that of bread or cheese. I hope my access can be renewed and that I can stay viable because otherwise I must join in the frenzy and go along for the panic ride. I don’t want to be naive and think I should continue living life as a well functioning citizen of society. I mean maybe the others who have passed this date and are free from the insane asylum, or Banishment Island have found a glitch in the matrix. To think I am fine could be mere folly on my part, and that I do not support. I too want to be wise and watchful. I must check my expiry date.

I must know why the lady who I sit with for dinner is appalled that I want to put off on my PhD studies for later and enjoy my job now. I want to access her keen percipience that states that doing this would only delay my procurement. I must check my dates because the relatives are beginning to whisper and goodness if I don’t renew quickly my benefits will significantly diminish and I will be excommunicated from the club. But most importantly I must check these dates because even louder than the talk on the streets is the comical banter of my wit that seeks to provoke ridiculous thoughts of set times and deadlines that have no scope on this juncture of my life.

Because if these dates, these expiry dates, these best before deadlines do exist then my faith is a farce and my God has failed me.  Trusting in Him as the author of time was futile and I had no business believing  that …He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent[1] I should just phone in and ask for a recall.

Or….maybe….maybe I shouldn’t check, but keep in check every futile thought that sets itself up against the knowledge of God[2].  I should banish these suppositions because he checks every pretext and His dates are all in order. Which means I can say goodbye to worry, and farewell to these other date-checkers, because my God’s plans for me are set, and I haven’t expired yet.

[1] Colossians 1:17-18

[2] 2 Corinthians 10:5

Wooden Plank

I scrolled through the names of my Whatsapp account and came across the contact of a person that caused me to initially want to cringe. Immediately before the thought could form its dastardly self into the recesses of my mind, it was almost bulldozed back to whence it came with the simple nudging of the Holy Spirit (you know He has the best counter arguments). “Take the plank out of your eye before you mess with the dust is someone else’s.” Now that may not be the way the Holy Spirit speaks to you, and it may sound like a crude version of the fluent admonition from Scripture in Matthew 7:3. However, the moment impacted me so tremendously that I opened up this, my first blog post and decided to write.

This information isn’t new, and it certainly isn’t the most profound.But I kept on thinking,how many of us, take the time to pull back from postulating a theory about someone and what they should or should not be like, all the while totally disregarding all the personality defects, wrongdoings, and altogether messed up ways that we engage in daily? I also kept thinking about how quick we are to be disgusted by another’s acts forgetting our need for yet another chance. It seems we are so quick to offer an explanation for why we do the wrong we do and yet jump heavily on others, pounding their efforts for an appeal for mercy and dashing any attempts on our part to walk in grace. What kind of world would we live in if we tried to take a moment to offer grace, to forgive when wronged, to take a massive swallow of our inflated egos and pride and say I’m sorry?

I think of persons who I have de-friended, blocked, hung up on, and altogether disregarded all in an effort to salvage my heart and build myself up, all the while forgetting the cross in the process. I forgot my appeals to God for grace and the mercy He showed me time and time again. I turned completely away from the mercy of the cross when my Savior hung there and instead focused on others wrongdoing, seeing it as was way too much for me to forgive. I forgot my Lord and Savior who hung bleeding on the cross for my bastardy behavior. If there ever was one to point a finger, then my perfect Savior could. He who knew no sin… Yes, He who never betrayed, never acted selfishly, never disregarded our feelings, NEVER DID A THING WRONG didn’t think anything of it to sacrifice. What love!  So tell me why? Why can’t I spend less time highlighting the minute (or sometimes major.. let’s be real) dust shavings in other people’s lives knowing full well that I have my own.

I am not saying this from an accomplished “dealing with my own wooden plank” standpoint. I say these things as charge to myself. I don’t even know if anyone will hear, read or agree with what I have to say. But what if people did? What if we did more self-reflection and sizing up? What if we realized that just as how you thought you had a reason for the inconsiderate, self-advancing, selfish thing you did, then that maybe, just maybe even though we won’t excuse behaviors, we may be able to forgive and give them another chance.

Let the Holy Spirit search your heart like the psalmist David said and have Him remove that plank.. Maybe then we will see better.