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It’s Daylight

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Christ chargeth me to believe His daylight at midnight – Samuel Rutherfurd

I am presently in the book of Genesis at the life of Joseph. In chapter 39 we find Joseph purchased by the chief commanding officer to be his slave. At the onset of this chapter following the facts of his destitute situation (slavery and loss of family) we read the statement, “The Lord was with Joseph…” Gen 39:2 (CSB).

One can read this and conclude that this now means great wonderful things will accompany Joseph’s life. The vindication of blessings after mistreatment. The mental mantra we tell ourselves to “self qualify” the hardships we experience.

It would not be a far off assumption because the verse continues with the success Joseph experienced in his labour and efforts while in the household. The evident working of God in Joseph’s life was so visible that a pagan ruler could not only see it but acknowledge it and elevate him because of it.

It is definitely daylight in the life of Joseph – as much as we can call being slavery and betrayed by family daylight. However, accused of wrongdoing with Potiphar’s wife Joseph is imprisoned and loses the ranking, good fortune and good name he had. Wasn’t the Lord supposed to be with Joseph.

…”But the Lord was with Joseph”.. is the next headliner verse at the beginning of the section that speaks on Joseph’s new status in life. As prisoner, wrongly accused and in an even lower place in the natural, the Lord was with Joseph. The Lord was with Joseph and the warden saw and made Joseph a leader.

You know I asked questions. Not necessarily at God but in consideration of what I was seeing to understand what it means that the Lord is with us.

  1. The Lord being with us does not stop mistreatment, loss, or hardships.
  2. The Lord being with us does not mean life won’t get seemingly worse.
  3. The Lord being with us can give us favour in difficult circumstances.
  4. The Lord being with us points others to Him.
  5. The Lord being with us allows us to have daylight in our midnight.

The Lord being with us means that like the psalmist I can say “You are good and You do what is good..”, no matter what. Not because of the evidence of material blessings but because God’s purposes are at play in all experiences, and His promise to be with us is reliable.

I am tempted to make this promise of the Lord being with me be about me and how God works for me. But bigger than my comfort and goodwill, the reality of the Lord being with us is more indicative of His own faithfulness and goodness – His character and His glory. In His mercy and goodness this glory He receives comes with good things for us, sometimes here on earth and other times in the life to come.

We know the rest of the story. Joseph’s gifts were used to help one who forgot him, and then in a turn of events His gifts brought about a change. I rejoice in this and feel hopeful. I am grateful that God’s bigger plan for His people and the individual part that Joseph played in a promise made to his ancestors Abraham years ago, was manifesting in Joseph’s placement as second in command. God’s plans brought joy in his place of affliction. But I am reminded as Joseph said in the end that it wasn’t about Joseph but about God’s bigger will and purpose.

It was Joseph who said, “…Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. Genesis 50:19-20

The Lord was with Joseph. The Lord was with Joseph accomplishing a greater outcome. Because Joseph knew this he was able to grow in obedience, humility and let go of offense. The prayer of our hearts should always be in this place. His will, no matter the outcome. Chinese missionary Betty Scott Sam had a prayer that writer and missionary Elisabeth Elliot wrote in her Bible. Both women experienced loss and heartache. Betty to the point of execution and Elisabeth with the loss of two husbands early in her marriage.

Their prayer of surrender reveals a life submitted and in the submission they can see God’s good in every dark place. It reads as follows and I pray will be the prayer of your own heart –

” Lord I give up all my plans and purposes,
all my desires and hopes
and accept Thy will for my life.
I give myself, my life, my all
utterly to Thee to be Thine forever.
Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit.
Use me as Thou wilt,
Send me where Thou wilt,
And work out Thy whole will in my life
at any cost now and forever.
Amen”

Giving up everything – outcomes, experiences, journeys – allows us to be able to do as we are charged which is to see the evident grace of God, the ever presence of God and His Sovereign will in all we experience, even in the midnight.

If He Said It

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I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
    I will counsel you with my eye upon you

Psalm 32:8

My nephew is a five year old bundle of energy. Smart, funny and constantly moving. One morning I decided to run through some reading material with him before class.

We open the book to this four line paragraph and he slowly goes through these new words that don’t come easy as he is now in a higher grade. We arrive at a a word that is unfamiliar. He is unable to decode the word using the rules he already knows. English is like that sometimes. The rules that apply to one word don’t necessary apply to another. Noticing his challenge I wrote down the word in sections for him.

The Fight Begins

No matter how many times I directed him to the side note I made, he kept looking at the word in the story trying to decipher it himself. He kept using the wrong principles, though legitimate ones, to help him sort the word. He refused to follow my present direction and instruction to help him figure it out.. He wouldn’t listen to the person who wanted to help him, the person who knew the way to do it and who wanted him to succeed.

Frustrated he finally listened and got the word. I tried highlighting to him how stopping to listen to the one who knew how to help him understand was important, instead of sticking to his way. He nodded in his five year old exuberance, just happy he got it and ready to move on.

Barely holding on to my patience and taking a deep breath I noticed at the bottom of his reading book another word under the heading “Words to Watch For”. Unlike the smaller unfamiliar words, these words were never seen before and were placed by the creator of the book at the bottom of the page to allow the child to learn the new word before he/she bucked it up in the middle of their reading.


I saw the word. I saw it before He did and knew that he needed to learn it before he got to it in the story so that it wouldn’t frustrate him, causing him to quit. I wanted to prepare him so I took him off course – so to speak – and proceeded to teach him the new word.

Fully frustrated with what he thought was me changing the plans he pouted and whined. He wanted to finish. I had already given him a goal and all I was seemingly doing was slowing down him accomplishing the task.


I let out a heavy breath of exasperation. Frustrated at his unwillingness to listen and trust that I knew what I was saying and that I knew he needed to learn this in order to do what I asked of him; it hit me. This is me and God.

I would avoid listening to God because I felt He was not sticking to His word or the task. I thought each stop, detour and delay was him not being consistent. I too would get stuck in doing what my purpose and task was and not allowing the voice of God to direct me.

The Voice

From an early age I had a distinct awareness of the voice of God. Tentatively as a child I would hear God’s voice and share what I heard with others. As a teenager I was nicknamed “the Voice” after a speaker prophesied over my life at a church retreat about my ability to hear God and speak what I heard to youth.

After a very bad experience where self-deception and desire led me astray I began to distrust God’s voice. I never threw out the concept of Him speaking. It was evident in His word. But after experiencing a few disappointments and I had chosen the direction of self preservation to keep from embarrassment, and looking stupid. I packaged my wariness of the revealed word of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit nicely under the virtue of wisdom and testing the spirits.

But what I was was doing was determining warranty and deducing certainty of outcome. I now wanted all the information and assurance before I did anything He may or not have been saying.

I had also stopped saying, “The Holy Spirit said”. That was too much. What if I was wrong.? So I would say, “I felt” or, “something said”. Another insurance policy for safeguarding against not hearing him correctly. I wanted to make sure I never made mistakes.

But as I began to study the book of Acts these past few weeks I couldn’t help but notice how evident the voice of God was in the lives of the early church. Once He landed at Pentecost there was constant direct engagement with Him.

In chapter 1 the disciples seek God on who they should appoint to replace Judas.
There was Annanias’ vision to go to Saul (Acts 9)
Peter and Cornelius both received individual direction from God in a vision that resulted in Peter going to share the gospel to a people that their culture thought to be defiled and unworthy. (Acts 10)
Paul and Barnabas were commissioned by a word from the Holy Spirit after a period of fasting and praying. (Acts 13)

The truth was God’s direction and instruction was everywhere in the scriptures. And for some of these instructions there was no bible verse to run it by, there was no other believer to go and get confirmation from, there was no previous scripture to put n context with. Sometimes the instruction came in direct opposition to religious laws (Peter going to Cornelius, a Gentile), what previously existed (Noah and rain), having a “proper” plan (Abraham) and culture (Joseph going back to Mary, his pregnant fiancee).

And in each cases there was no knowing what would happen. You know I went to the source for a talk.

Journal Entry Sept 24 – The Sit Down

God, my challenge. I want stability. [To know] this is the way God works. I want to know
Then there is no faith.
Of course I have faith. I have faith in your character. I doubt [when I cant assess constant]
Trust. Trusting is different from knowing.
I trust because I know.
Know Me and not what will happen.

The Sure Foundation
The sure foundation was knowing Him. I got to know Him by being in the Word, praying, fasting and worshipping instead of replacing this with the laziness of attending events for a word, or reading tons of articles and blogs and vlogs for people’s stories. As great a resource these things are they shouldn’t replace the direct voice of God.

The revealed word of God was my stability. Noah had to rely on the word of God when He ventured off into to forest to cut that first tree after hearing about this strange rain that was coming. He had to trust God to get animals on to the ark and trust him to keep him safe as the black mamba (thank you Wild Kratts) slithered by and the majestic lion turned in his direction on Day 29 of 40.

Abraham had to rely on the revealed word of God as he traversed along to location unknown and when he lay on his death bed knowing he did not yet have on the planet offspring that were as innumerable stars.

Joseph, with no way to medically test if Mary was still a virgin went on the revealed word of God and married her.

I believe because of the misuse of this beautiful gift we throw out the principle trying to decode our lives ourselves, not listening for the guidance of God to handle the not so explicit things in the scriptures. Out of fear of getting it wrong, misleading self and others as well as hurt we silence God. But He wants to talk to us. Wants us to trust.

Spend time in the Word and let it renew your thoughts so that you can separate your thoughts to His. Let go of doubt and trust His love for you, allowing Him to lead. Trust.

If you listen you will hear Him…
He is still speaking
He is still declaring…
Creation responds
The wind still obeys
…The voice of God
I’m so glad I hear it

Voice of God – Dante Brown

Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.

Psalm 143:8

When I Thought I Lost Me

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It’s been an interesting five months of recovery from a car accident I was in. New normal for me is less about masks and social distance and more about length of time in a position and type of weights carried.

The first month after the accident I was the hardest patient to have. I didn’t take my injuries to heart as I was under the belief that I was going to bounce back in no time. Its always at the beginning of a struggle that you feel most motivated that this will pass.

Friends, encouragement, prayers, visits, and gifts enveloped me in a shroud of hope and I felt impermeable. I would make plans to go the the beach, worship nights, bowling, meetings, bible study – all of it. Life was the same just take your time and go was how I was treating it. I was undeterred. I was polite to the persons with their recurrent protests to my ideas. “Stacy, you need to rest.” They were so caring.

Rest!

I don’t rest. If I stop I take forever to start back or I don’t start back at all. I was determined that this year I was going to be disciplined, hardworking, consistent. It was my Instagram pre-new years post, and that is a good as a contract, right? Furthermore action is what I do. Action is who I am.

I barely obliged the reminders to rest. No, I didn’t go to the beach. I didn’t go to the worship night… but I still had meetings… WIN: ..Right?.

Covid-19 Blessing?!?

I could do all I could and be all I could be via technology. I set meetings for outreach. I attended meetings for church. I took on virtual speaking engagements. I can do this!

But my body protested and the pain got worse.

False Starts and Hopelessness

I finally began physical therapy as one medical professional braved the first wave of the Covid scare. I aggressively sought out therapies online. I preempted almost every visit with ideas I got from YouTube. Friends offered suggestions and articles made promises. I researched and prayed, and believed and encouraged (myself and others). I changed my diet, began taking supplements and exercised twice a day for strengthening.

Every inch of relief brought hope. I was excited at the prospect of healing. I would always report progress and never setbacks. I didn’t want to let anybody down. They believed so hard. They prayed so consistently. My recurring pain would only cause them doubt. I would bear it myself.

But as the months continued and the pain was still my reality I began to doubt. My hope was faltering. Was I to stop beleiving for healing and start praying for grace to live this reality? The over thinking began.

Dont Take Who I am

What if I can’t do anymore? What if I can’t do the adventurous activities I always planned to do? What if I can’t go back to my daily jogs? What if I can’t dress up and be fabulous in heels? What if I can’t stand or sit at concerts?

Just like Peter on the waves, the gumption to jump out that ship was losing its effects and the water splashes, wave heights and evident distance between me and the finish line began to make me doubt.

Some days I watched dance videos. But with each music video I bemoaned how my once agile body couldn’t event rock from side to side without causing discomfort. The long lost love of dance loomed over my head. I felt ashamed for having delayed on prophecies to get back into it. “What have I done?” I thought. “Is this my consequence for waiting too long?” “God, I’m sorry.” I pleaded. “Please give me another chance.”

Value Plummet

Hope continued to be shaken as other questions loomed in my head. Still the proverbial single Christian girl I analysed my “marketability“. “Who wants to marry the girl who has back problems? What kind of fun would I be?” Rolling on the floor with my kids; a romp in the bed with my husband, all might cause me pain and in the present state seemed improbable. “Who am I with this injury?” My value on the market seemed to plummet in front my eyes.

Oh the folly of the double-minded woman.

During this time I was still at the helm of my organization. We were in the line-up for a grant and I was working assiduously to put things in place. I had zoom meeting after zoom meeting laying down most of the time trying to be a good patient. I created protocols, set up teams, engaged vendors, outlaying a year long plan, researched things I never knew off, completed paperwork.

But one day I attended a training on trafficking, and it looked like they were doing the same program with the same people. I panicked. I felt the wind leaving me. What was happening? We may be working in vain.

Trudging Along

My strength was there. God was keeping me going and I was being encouraged by community, divine recollection of songs, and quiet comforting words of the Holy Spirit. However, the disappointments wouldn’t stop. Pain was determined to manhandle my heart. I wasn’t prepared for the next section of this mountainous terrain – the worst relapse in pain and the resignation of a valuable team member from Pursued . I was pushing but now barely.

The devotions got dryer. I kept doing it. At least I was present. I knew that it was in the times we least desire to be in the Word that we need it most. But the physical pain kept coming in intermittently and sleep was becoming delayed, days were being missed and I was losing connection. I was there but not there. I couldn’t connect with God and I couldn’t connect with people.

It’s easy to look the other way when confronted with grief or to busy oneself so as to not sit with grief long.”

Jay Wolf (Hope Heals)

I wanted to keep doing but there was nothing left to “do”. No Pursued, no meetings, no socializing (thanks COVID!). One more disappointment came and it was the final straw that broke the camel’s back.. (the irony).

I had no more. No more. I could only just lay there on my bed. I played worship music to soothe my spirit. I couldn’t muster a word. I laid there motionless. In retrospect I can say finally, I suppose. Now I was still.

Journal Entry -August 19th

“I have never not wanted to talk to you, God. I have never lacked motivation. The truths are falling flat on my chest and not sinking in. I am not mad….

I am mad this happened. it never had to. You are Sovereign.”…. .

” I have perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it so that people fear before him. ” Ecclesiastes 3:14

“Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.” Ecclesiastes 4:6

What a response. It was the beginning of me being still and allowing God to process. And what He showed me I needed to see.

Lesson 1: Stopping is Hard

The reason why I couldn’t stop when I got this back issue was because stopping was hard.

Stopping was hard because what I did, my accomplishments all of it became who I was. It was my way of saying, “hey, I don’t have the money like this one, or the looks like that one, but I am doing things for the kingdom”. It became my way of saying to every rejection I have ever experienced that I was worth something. “See, I did it!.”


Not only was it what I used to define me and qualify me, it was also what I used to distract me. With it I could avoid pain. Every accolade and well done was my drug. He didn’t like me, that’s okay, I helped a young girl at school today. I don’t have the house and car, its fine I own an organization. I was addicted to it. It meant more than God. Worse yet I believed it meant God favoured me.

I don’t believe I even knew this. I was too busy doing to see it. I don’t even know if it began this way but that was not important.

My deeper issue of validation and worth was still in need of a Jesus fix. It was just taking a different form. Being still God was able to do His work.

Lesson 2: Boast in the Lord

Journal entry August 28th
Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches,  but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” Jer. 9:23-24

“Boast in me. Boast in knowing me. Not intellect, looks, accomplishments. You know Me. That brings you before Kings, opens doors, validates you. I am ALL you need, babygirl. I love You.” These tender words drew me in to the the one who delights in me. It convicted and encouraged. Like the psalmist I delighted in His discipline.

..perhaps in the breaking of precious things, somethings even more precious than we can imagine might be unleashed. Perhaps in the breaking, we can find the healing we long for.”

Jay Wolf Hope Heals.

I scheduled a week off from the world. No social media, no meetings, no plans. Just me and God, tempted though I was with thoughts in my head of things I could be doing. His kind words began to reverberate in my chest. Repenting, forgiving, processing and healing I surrendered expectations, disappointments, rejection all of it. All of which I don’t think would have happened except in the silence of loss.

Journal Entry August 31st
“We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer. People may be pure in their own eyes but the Lord examines their motives. Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed. The LORD has made everything for His own purposes…” Prov. 16:-1-4.
God, you don’t ask for perfection, You ask for submission. Give me the grace to rest and be in submission., Father

Plans, People, Purpose there is a market to get right, get with and get at all of these things. Good things, some even God things as these gifts are given by the Maker. Some of them being needful and necessary but how quickly they become primary.

This struggle is as old as Genesis where the perfect gift was in a garden centuries ago. Without warning, without the many present day distractions, hard life experiences or disappointments the recipients of this gift turned their eyes towards the things making the temporal their ultimate delight.

The perfect Gift was never the the garden, its trees, and all its delights. It wasn’t their purpose of being fruitful and multiplying though a God given and blessed ordinance. It wasn’t even each other as divine their alignment and a certain gift from God. The gift was always the Garden Giver. I had lost sight. But God came in the stillness of my life to remind me nothing outside of Him is worthy of being primary.

Nothing is.

Its not so bad to be still.

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

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

Really! What’s Next

written by Stacy-Ann Smith
Republished from Press Service International

Ever feel like God has a flair for the dramatic? Ever feel as if His methods of responding to prayers and teaching of lessons have more twists and turns than a Alfred Hitchcock movie? You trust Him of course but sometimes you wonder why His idea of on time is usually the last possible moment.

“But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.” Matthew 17:27

That was Jesus’ plan to handle an issue with the disciples need to pay taxes, in order to not cause offense. I read that and felt that Jesus was being dramatic. Why couldn’t He just give Peter a coin; just pull one out of His cloak and hand it to him? Both would have been miraculous so why not? Jesus was full of gut wrenching, teeth biting, heart palpating methods.

We often feel that way with our own lives. We know God can do great miracles and that there are much shorter ways to the end goal, so what’s up with the long way? I feel like I would have looked at Jesus as he grabbed my sinking self while walking on the lake (like Peter I would have been frightened by the waves) and say “No disrespect Jesus but isn’t there a less theatrical way to do this?”

How many times have I wanted understanding, provision or protection and I go to Him about it and I get my own version of the fishing expedition. I think of my third year in college when I had my school fees to pay. I knew this year was tight for my parents and the scholarship hadn’t come through, so I prayed.

I prayed the first week when early registration started and I signed up for classes. I prayed during regular registration as I sat in my lecture hall like a stowaway on a ship, hoping that God had something in store. I prayed as I filed hall residents’ eviction notice for students who had not yet paid their fees and noticed my name in the stack.

It felt like that edge of the seat suspense part of a movie. You know the hero is supposed to come soon, but the villain is distracting him, or he is taking forever to find the girl and you are willing him to hurry and catch the damsel before she faces an imminent and terrible death (forgive my archaic hero-save-the-girl reference, I have probably been single too long).

You know it’s just a movie but you are ecstatic when the hero comes bounding over the obstacles, defeating the villain, saving the girl and restoring peace to the city, and all the wait and suspense becomes worth it. The victory is that much sweeter and the outcome even more epic.

Unequivocal dramatic form

Like my true hero, in unequivocal dramatic form my fees were paid. But on the very LAST possible day. The day they flush your classes from the system, call you out in class to go to the front office, and get ready to send you home. Yes on that day is when He sent an anonymous payment of my fees.

He always comes through. He does provide, bless, heal, restore. And as much as I wish He would do so early, and spare me the biting of my fingers, I recognise that that way provides less chance for my faith to grow, which is the point of this whole thing. It is also reassuring to know that I am not the only one living through this movie theater experience.

Even James, the brother of Jesus and en elder in the church had to send out a comforting message to other Christians like me. He says in Chapter 1: 2 (Living Bible):

Is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So, let it grow and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete.

I like a full length movie with twists and turns and edge of the seat suspense. Who wants to go to a movie where the answer is obvious and it ends in no time? Well, welcome to the movie of our lives being played out on earth’s big screen.

In the same way I know in the back of my mind that the star will not die, and good will win out, I carry around in the back of my mind that God is at work behind the scenes, regardless of how desperate my situation looks, or how the world looks or how the future looks.

The Award-winning Director is at work – theatrics and all.

Photo by Annie Gavin on Unsplash

Broken Yet Beautiful

written by Stacy-Ann Smith
Republished from Press Service International

The story is told of an emperor, in a great palace. During the season of royal visits, kings and princes called on one another and admired each others’ choicest possessions, and enjoyed bountiful banquets.

The emperor had an exquisite bowl made just for him, to show off to his friends during the season of royal visits. To his horror he discovered that it was broken apart, and time was too short to start again and make another one. The emperor was dismayed, sad that he could not show off his beautiful bowl, but even sadder that something so beautiful should have broken. What was worse was that the new golden diadem that had been made for his beloved son, along with the broken pieces of the broken bowl were eventually taken.

By some miracle, by the time the emperor’s guests had arrived, the bowl was back in the treasure cabinet, whole again, and gleaming with veins of gold in the cracked places. ” Beside it was his son’s crown, which was now a slender band. The name of the emperor’s son was Kintsukuroi.

This son’s name was Kinstukuroi

Kintsukuroi means to repair with gold. It’s a Japanese term that describes the art of repairing with gold or silver with the understanding that this broken thing is more beautiful for having been broken. Reminds me of what God does with the cross.

Brokenness is not something that any of us look forward to. Jesus himself cringed at the thought of the brokenness He would endure on the cross, as our sin separated Him from His Father. His however meant thatwe who were once broken and no longer operating in the beauty of the Image of the Creator, could be reconciled to the Father. The beloved Son came down, humbling himself, giving up His glory in order that by His death a broken world can be restored

The prince’s crown became less so that gold could be taken from it to repair his father’s treasure. In the same way Jesus became less (” Psalm 8:5) to restore us to His Father. According to the story though, the prince’s crown did not look worse than before. There was strength in its simplicity and even greater authority.

His restorative work continues beyond salvation to sanctification. Now I can consider a verse that says count it all joy when I go through trials as the pièce de résistance . The trials break me but He builds and restores me with beauty that through perseverance I am perfect and lacking nothing. The crevices He fills with character that brings a beauty that is breathtaking to behold.

As I ponder the depravity of the world around me and see bitterness from racial oppression, confusion with gender, hunger and starvation, church hurt and misrepresentation I can’t help but imagine my Heavenly Father looking into this cabinet of broken treasure and moan with sorrow. But His hope is certain in the fact that He has provided a way to restore. Because His Son, my Saviour reaches out with His nail pierced hand to each broken piece beckoning to be allowed to make beautiful things out of us.

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.

Let Me Be A Woman

“The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian makes me a different kind of woman.” Elisabeth Elliot

Womanhood – what is it? With over 70 reported options to choose from when defining gender on Facebook what you came out the womb with isn’t enough in defining the amazingness of feminine splendour. With features that change and flounder what is on the outside leaves little to defining what a woman truly is.

The exhaustive list ( or maybe that’s just me ) that influences body image and self worth, can’t be the answer either. After we have “discovered, examined, catalogued and complained about, observed and obsessed over every blemish, wrinkle, fat deposit, and flaw,” we still can’t seem to agree on what a woman is.

What a woman has – is that enough? Is being a woman being able to go through thirty pairs of clothing to figure out what to wear? Is being a woman wishing one had the option of thirty different outfits to choose from and still not being able to decide what to wear. Or, is it just wishing people stopped caring about having thirty pairs of clothing to choose from and be content with the weekly rotate?

Does being emotional make one a woman? Is it the strong pull we have to feel, discern and internalize? Is womanhood defined by having strong emotions that surge when hurt or angered, or is quietly seething with anger that percolates for months?

What is it?

Paul in his letter to Titus said this about women,

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. – Titus chapter 2 verses 3-5

Paul defies the previous definitions of womanhood. More than biology and the external physique womanhood is a beautiful design that covers heart, body and soul. A woman more than just emotions and body image. In these verses Titus beelines past the conundrum of feminine mystique and rolls everything up into the character.

When I look at all of this I know I fall painfully short.While I am busy, I struggle with being busy at home. Gentleness and humility is many times replaced with sarcasm and annoyance. Kindness and reverence get sidelined for record keeping and stone wall defiance. A few earnest prayers, countless times closing my mouth when a zingy line came surging forth and trying to bend over backwards to help everyone only resulted with exhaustion!

If I could barely make the three verse mark of Titus 2 I couldn’t fathom taking on the mammoth task of Proverbs 31 that everyone avidly quotes. I had not attained personal development much less buying and selling commodities on a major market like this super woman.

I have earnestly sought God about what it takes to be a woman and many times all I felt was frustrated, hurt and annoyed. I wasn’t a put together, flawless female, I wasn’t Martha Stewart, I wasn’t even Martha. As I catalogued my life I didn’t meet any standard much less the biblical one.

Truth

The thing to realize is that a woman is one who understands that she falls short of not only the world’s standards but God’s too. A woman realizes she has flaws and knows that God is not perturbed by them.

A woman understands that she is under grace and rests in the power of her Maker to transform her by His redeeming power.

A godly woman recognizes that her sinful nature makes her a prime candidate for the merciful Saviour who lovingly takes all that she is and replaces it with all that He is.

Image Bearer

A true woman holds and reflects the beauty of God as His image bearer. When she meditates on her Maker’s beauty and allows him to complete His restorative work in her life, every defining characteristic works in perfect harmony as she exudes Him in her appearance and character.

When answering the question of what it means to be a woman it many times makes us see what we are not. Truthfully, being a woman may feel like it takes a lot of effort. There are days when I want to take a vacation from all the silly things that confuse me about being a woman (I have sweat pants and a cap for those days).

But what’s best, what truly makes you and I a woman, is the ability to own all that God has made us and confidently rest in all that we lack as He makes us the best woman we can be.

“We are women, and my plea is me to let me be a woman, holy through and through, asking for nothing but what God wants to give me, receiving with both hands and with all my heart whatever that is.” ― Elisabeth Elliot

Pride and Prejudice

One of my favorite movies in the world is Pride and Prejudice. To me it’s a beautiful story of how first impressions aren’t always right and that pride holds us back. I love when Jane sits with her sister discussing their first encounter with the two bachelors that came to their quiet town.

Jane had overheard Mr. Darcy, the more reserved of the two make a statement that would make any woman boil and relayed a statement that was to paint her posture towards him. “I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine” Jane Eyre Pride and Prejudice

Oh, Pride

Pride – it makes you compare, critique and judge. Pride is the source of unforgiveness and feelings of superiority and inferiority. Pride also leads to unconfessed sin. You don’t want persons to know about your struggles with sin, so you keep it hidden avoiding persons who will keep you accountable. Sometimes pride keeps you in your sins because your too ashamed of what you have done and telling others might cause them to think less of you.

Other times we just don’t want to admit that what we are doing is wrong because we must change, and honestly the sin we do, we do it because we enjoy it.

Pride also requires others to change while we sit comfortably in our own ways. While here on missions I struggled with a racial pride. I was constantly comparing my country to this one. I wanted them to change for me, or I just got impatient and irritable with the culture. My people cooked this way, acted this way, spoke this way – I struggled with accepting and being open to a different way of doing things.

I also struggled with pride when it came to letting go of my right to be right. Or if I go and confess any wrong I would be vulnerable and they win. It was this last point that I was processing this past week when our speaker said something that hit me such a fervency I thought I needed to excuse myself to see if I had a black eye. She said “pride makes you distance yourself, but humility makes you draw closer.”

I looked at this woman with incredible dismay. I thought to myself, “You are saying to me you want me to draw closer to these people that I feel hurt by?” I almost fell out my chair.

No, she wasn’t talking about the abusive relationship or the toxic family member. This was the friendship that went south, the church mother that spoke stern about the length of your dress, the co-worker that said that irritating thing, or the mentee that won’t take correction.

Pride is sin

It’s easy to overlook that point or rationalize it away. The same speaker asked us to give a rating to different sins. We know all sins are equal before God but we were rating it on a human, “how we treat its level.” We placed murder, rape, immorality at the extreme end. Those were obviously ‘bad’. But where was pride? Some said one or two, some jokingly said it’s not even on the scale.

Then we read Proverbs 8 verse 13, “God hates pride”. He hates it! There are few things listed in the Bible that God hates and murder and rape wasn’t one of them, instead it was pride.

We have a decision. Will we submit our hardened, stubborn, prideful hearts and forgive, apologize, repent, love, and be patient with others? Will we surrender our rights and prejudices to Christ and allow ourselves to represent Him in our selfless actions? Can we be happy for the person that does better than us or be patient with the person who struggles to get it right?

Christ’s humility

John 17 is a prayer that Jesus prays at the Last Supper with His disciples. In it He eloquently and fervently lays down the unity of His communion with the Father. All He had, came from the Father. All He had, He gave to the Father. Their unity, and His humble submission to the work of the Father even though it meant laying down His life brought glory to the Father.

Christ wanted us to exemplify that humility and unity to others. That would be what brought unbelievers to the Lord. It wasn’t the great signs or flashing fire from the sky, it was our unity from a humble heart.

Pride destroys relationships and kingdoms. Pride keeps you burdened and out of the reach of help and restoration. Pride holds us back from God’s grace. As St Augustine said, “It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.”

republished from Press Service International

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