Peace Be Still

HOLD ON TO YOUR PEACE. PERIOD. Let no one or nothing impede on the PROMISE of peace that God guarantees His children. It’s so easy to be more protective over our natural possessions than our spiritual possessions. When we get a new car, we don’t want anyone hardly touching it. When we a wearing new shoes, we guard them relentlessly to avoid getting them dirty. When many of us move into a new home, we establish a rule that shoes must be removed at the front door to preserve the floor and maintain its cleanliness. It is important to guard such possessions; however, it is far more important to guard our spiritual lives through our hearts and minds.

When we allow life’s circumstances to rob us of our peace, we are actually acting in disobedience, which is displeasing to God. We are not to worry or dwell in negative emotions. While we are human, we will experience a wide range of emotions, negative and positive; however, we are always to take our concerns, hurts, offenses, worries, etc. to God and by faith, trust that He is just and will answer our prayers. This is so much easier said than done, as is everything in life; however, it is important to remember that we do not draw from our own natural strength – it was never meant for us to. This leads to exhaustion because the carnal mind is not wired to operate in the holiness that God requires, which is only possible through His Spirit. We draw our power and strength from Him through prayer, worship, and the study and application of His word. Period. This is what it means to sleep through the storm.

Guard your heart. Guard your mind. Guard your peace. At all expenses, guard it all! As a wise man once said, get rid of everything that interferes with your peace. While we cannot always control and remove people, situations, outcomes, etc., we can always control ourselves by governing ourselves according to the Spirit, which always produces peace and joy. Tap into that higher power and soar high above the things that try to take your peace. Always.

Want to learn more about the peace available to every Christian by faith? Check out the books of Philippians, Romans, Colossians, Mark, 1 Peter, and 2 Peter (just to name a few). These are a few of my go-to books for reminders on the peace we are promised as God’s children.

Pray up, read, worship and stay connected!

The Perfect Will

Last week, something hit me like a ton of bricks- anything is possible. Literally, anything. I find that when I take this approach to life, my hope elevate and I remain in a place of expectancy and excitement. The sky is no longer the limit because God is limitless and infinite, so there is no limit to possibilities. For example, I’m still pretty young. I already have 2 degrees, but if I wanted to I could return to school and embark upon a brand new career path, from Aerospace to medicine. I mean, I could become an astronaut or a physician well before I turn 40! I can get a job in my field in Los Angeles and start a brand new life in the West Coast. I can even land a job in another country and start a completely new life in a completely new culture. I can get on Christian Mingle and probably be engaged within a year or so. Bottom line, I can do and have just about anything I want. But the keyword here is can, which simply implies the possibility. It is vital for us to understand that just because we can do something does not mean that we should. Just because something is possible doesn’t mean that it aligns with God‘s perfect will

I’ve always been a very strong willed person, wanting things my way on my timing. So, one of the most difficult challenges in my walk with God has been the surrendering of my will. See, I want God to fit all of His infinite, limitless, immeasurable being into my small, finite, tiny box. I would pray about what I wanted and when I wanted it, and I grew upset with God whenever things weren’t moving my way. Such foolishness! I’m so thankful for maturation. One of the most powerful yet simple revelations I’ve had during my development as a Christian is the fact that God‘s will is indeed perfect, it always has been and always will be. Perfection leaves no room for improvement, so it can literally get no better. 

Romans 12:2 is one of my favorite scriptures that I frequently use in my blogs because (in my opinion) it is part of the foundation of living the new life in Christ. The scripture tells us not to partake in the mindset, philosophies, attitudes, etc. of the world but to be changed by renewing our minds so that we can grow to understand the will of God, which is good, pleasing, and perfect. The revelation of God’s perfect will provides me with so much peace about the trajectory of my life. It helps me to let go and fully understand and trust that my plans cannot and will never be as good as God’s plans. With this understanding, I’ve learned the importance and necessity of praying for my desires in alignment with God‘s will.

Lately, I’ve been asking for God to make my desires His desires, and His desires my desires. Yes, He will grant us what we want (Mark 11:24; Psalm 37:4), but always in accordance to His perfect will. Now, we can certainly choose to make our own decisions independent of God’s will (without considering His divine guidance and direction), but the outcome is usually less ideal, sometimes downright horrible. I’m still suffering the consequences of decisions I’ve made independent of God’s guidance. There are thousands of different roads we can take in life, but we must trust and believe that He knows what’s best and He has the absolute best in store for us. 

When I pray for God’s will over my desires and plans, I am ultimately partnering with God to live the best life. Things may not go as I had planned (they rarely do), but I can be certain that all of God’s plans will work out to my benefit (Romans 8:28). Am I disappointed at times? Sure. I’m human. I still want what I want, when I want it; however, I’ve learned to truly trust that God opens doors that no one can close, and He closes doors that no one can open. It’s all for my good. I can tell when God is making things happen in His will because things seem to flow seamlessly, or if there are obstacles, they are removed. Contrarily, when something is not in God’s will, it just doesn’t work out, and there are always signs. I’ve tried to make things happen my way, but it only lead to unnecessary, self-induced hardships. I’ve learned to be grateful for both open and closed doors because it’s God’s way of making sure we take the right steps along the Perfect will He has orchestrated for our lives. Life just goes better when we trust Him, prioritizing His will over our thoughts, understanding, and desires. He will always lead us in the right direction (Proverbs 3:5). 

The Gift That Keeps Giving

Love. It’s the foundation of our faith and salvation. It’s because of love that God sent His one and only son to suffer for our sins, providing the gateway to redemption and salvation (John 3:16). Because of love, God was that eager to restore mankind back into His arms, where we were created to be. Love is the greatest commandment – actually, it’s twofold. The absolute greatest commandment is to love God (Matthew 22:36–38). Then the second greatest commandment follows – to love each other (Matthew 22:39). 

I have always been one to hold grudges. I’ve always been one to take offense quite quickly. I can remember the details of an offense that happened 10 years ago as if it just happened today. I can recall what was  done and said, how it was done and said, etc. Most of all, I can recall the intense anger and hurt it induced. I’ve always been one to internalize, so I wasn’t always good with expressing my thoughts and feelings. Needless to say, rather than working through relational issues, it was far more convenient for me to just cut people off, leaving no room for further hurt or offense. No conversation, no mediation. I just simply disconnected. Of course, rumination kept the cycle of resentment and anger in full motion. When I examined this attitude and behavior through the truth of God’s word, I realized that I was in agreement with darkness through disobedience, and in the great danger of sin. This is greatly displeasing to God, and should in no way ever be taken lightly (Romans 6:23). 

If we don’t forgive others, God will not forgive us (Matthew 6:14–15). Yikes. If we claim to love God but hate someone…well…we actually don’t love God (1 John 4:20–21). Again, yikes. God’s requirement for us to love is nonnegotiable, and I think that’s because God continuously pours out so much of His love on us through His immeasurable grace and mercy. Christ is available to all (no one exempt), and when we except Him into our hearts, He fills us with His Holy Spirit. How sweet! He literally abides in us, helping us to walk in the obedience of His ways. In fact, love is the first stated fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). So, this tells us that love is a choice we are more than capable of making. Simply put, we can make the choice to love and forgive others because God has extended immense love and forgiveness to us. It’s the gift that keeps giving. 

Because I know me, I have to make the daily decision of drawing closer to God through prayer, worship, and His word. He’s the only, and I mean the only way I can walk in the love He has called me to walk in. Again, I have always been one to hold grudges. Letting go and forgiving does not come naturally for me. It just doesn’t. Unfortunately, I am a pro at harboring anger, but this isn’t God’s way. It is quite displeasing to Him. So, I must start my day with prayer and worship and I must make the daily decision to choose what is right and pleasing to Him. Lately during my morning prayer, I have been verbally committing to the Lord, “I choose love. I choose forgiveness. I choose joy. I choose grace.” When I commit myself to these things before God, I’m being proactive. So if someone ticks me off (which will happen throughout life), my heart and mind are already set to choose God’s approach. This not only helps me to treat people better, but it also helps me to feel better. Above all, it pleases God and keeps me focused on Him, which keeps me in peace (Isaiah 26:3).

When I think about God’s grace, my heart warms. There have been times when I have willfully sinned, and yet received a blessing instead of punishment. Now I need to make a strong disclaimer here!!! I am in no way implying that God rewards sin. He does not!!! I am, however, emphasizing how God has spared me from the wrath and punishment I deserved. His kindness and patience is meant to draw us to repentance (Romans 2:4).  In other words, there’s something heartwarming about being spared from the punishment we deserve, and it makes me want to do better. It brings deep conviction, making me want to turn from any and everything that offends and grieves Him. God deeply loves us, and He wants us to come closer to Him. He wants more than just religious routine. God wants a relationship. So, He lavishes us with so many amazing gifts, like His love, grace, and mercy.  Because we are also called to give, He expects (and helps) us to extend these gifts to one another. They are truly gifts that keep giving.

When someone wrongs me, I remember that I have wronged others in the past. I remember that I also have flaws just like anyone else. I remember that I cannot judge or hold anything against anyone, because God is not holding my sins against me. I think about how God loves me unconditionally, and He gives me the ability to love others because He loves me. His grace spares me from the punishment I deserve, so I can spare others instead of holding their wrongs against them. At the end of the day, we all need room for err. Grace helps me to keep my eye on the beauty in others. Grace helps me to look past flaws. Love drives me to embrace the beauty in others because God embraces the beauty in me. Of course the temptation to steep in anger and resentment arises from time to time. But I am training myself not to yield to it. I choose to reflect upon and extend the gifts that keep giving, which enrich my peace and joy.

Too Quiet

Rejection. I don’t think there is one human being on earth who has never been hurt by it. It comes in many forms, such as being passed over for a job, not getting into your dream college, being shunned by peers, being dumped by a significant other, self-rejection through low self-esteem/perception, etc. The list goes on and on. One way or another, we’ve all experienced it. It’s painful in all of its forms, and when we don’t deal with it appropriately, it manifests through us in toxic attitudes and behaviors that can derail our lives and the lives of others.

I had a blast during my time at Frostburg State University. In fact, I was more focused on fun than academics. More than anything, I was super captivated by greek life. I stumbled in and out of many frat and sorority parties, and I always LOVED the step shows. Above all, I was in love with the idea of being a part of something. I was always inspired by the letters on the jackets that represented initiation into a “family”  where only “certain people”  could make it “in”,  and I wanted to be “in“. The exclusivity of it was thrilling.

During my sophomore year, I don’t recall exactly how, but me and a couple of friends started getting invited to hang out with the guys from a fraternity on campus (no name dropping).  Of course I was like, “Yoooo!  They want us!”.  Now, obviously we (girls) couldn’t join the fraternity, but the fraternity had a sister group that served for the support and uplifting of the brothers.  They weren’t a sorority, but instead they were under the fraternity organization to uphold the mission and values, while supporting the brothers. At that time, I thought it was a privilege and honor to be invited to chill with them, but unfortunately I was a little too chill for their taste. 

Everyone from the fraternity seemed cool. Funny enough, one of the sisters under the fraternity would talk to me about Jesus. This was before I got saved. I remember she would suggest cleaner alternatives to my habitual use of profanity. She definitely had a positive influence on me. I guess she knew there was a calling on my life, but at that time my main focus was fun and getting into the greek life. We hung out with the frat folks quite a bit  – at their basketball games, house parties, and other events they hosted. My friends and I just knew they wanted us, but eventually the invites stopped, at least for me. 

I began noticing that my other two friends started doing things with the frat folks without me. Curious, I asked what was up and they gave really brief, unclear answers. I didn’t really think too much of it at first, but time began to pass and I remained excluded. I kept asking my two friends about us joining and then one of them came out and just told me. The two of them had already begun the initiation process. I still recall her exact words, “Don’t tell anyone we mentioned this to you, but they said you didn’t get in because you didn’t speak to people enough.” “ARE YOU SERIOUS?” was all I could ask. I was surprised. More so, I was hurt.

I really had no idea how or why they felt I didn’t talk enough when I socialized like everyone else at all the gatherings and events we were invited to – or at least I thought I did. I liked everyone and I thought they all liked me, but obviously they didn’t like me enough to invite me to join their organization. Looking in retrospect, I get it. Similar to a job opening, candidates are screened to see if their personality, character, etc. are a good fit for the organization.  Of course, the best matches get in. In the case with the fraternity, I just wasn’t a match. At the time I didn’t develop hard feelings toward anyone from the fraternity, but learning that I was basically “too quiet” for them definitely worsened my insecurities.

19-year-old me was far too concerned with what people thought and felt about me. Above all, I hated being labeled as quiet because to me quiet was uncool, lame, weak, etc., and I never wanted to be viewed as such. I also was no stranger to rejection, so this just threw salt in the wound. I wanted to be cool with everyone, and I wanted everyone to be cool with me. So, being rejected by the organization because I was too “quiet” definitely hurt and made me wish I was more “social” in the eyes of others. It was a pretty bad feeling, but one thing I have always loved about me is I don’t fake anything. Never have, never will. I was myself 100% with them. I’d rather be rejected for who I really am, than to be accepted for something that I am not. 

All throughout my 20s, the nasty root of rejection poisoned a lot in my life –  relationships, my ability to grow, etc. I was hurting people around me. Mostly, I was hurting myself. I got to a place where I recognized the poison in my mind and heart, and I knew I needed to really get honest with God by admitting all the hurt I had suppressed (including rejection from the frat organization) and really allow the Holy Spirit to deeply heal and purify me. As always, God is faithful.

As hard as it was at first, I confessed my pain in prayer, elaborating on painful experiences I hadn’t released. I also chose to forgive those who hurt me. I can’t explain the sweetness of God‘s peace and comfort that came over me during those intimate moments of honest confession. The main thing He revealed to me is that I needed to renew my mind (Romans 12:2). This was the only way I could overcome the many lies that plagued my mind and learn the good, pleasing and perfect will of God, which leaves no room for the concern of human opinion.  

I learned that my concern should not be on human praise and acceptance (1 Thessalonians 2:6) but on pleasing God (Colossians 3:1-3). I learned that I was perfectly imperfect, just like any other human being and NO ONE was in the position to appraise my personality, beauty, value, or any other parts of me. I learned that Christ is above EVERY name, power and authority, and if I am in Him, I am also above all those things (Ephesians 1:17-23; 2:6-10). I learned that my value and worth come from God. I learned that God‘s approval was the only approval that I should be concerned with. 

13 years later, I laugh when I think about the fraternity incident. I smile because of how far God has brought me. Reflecting upon his good and faithful healing power brings me overwhelming joy. It doesn’t hurt anymore because I am healed. The sting of rejection no longer has a hold on me. I’m free, and I’ve learned how to stay free. Looking in retrospect, most of the folks who dabbled in greek life were just like me – longing for acceptance and belonging. Funny enough, many of those same people are no longer even active in the organization. Also, I was told that I didn’t miss anything, except unwanted drama.

To clarify, I’m not bashing any fraternity or sorority. I’m sure greek life has been great to some, but the rejection that can come with it (along with any other form of rejection) can create painful wounds that need healing. For those who were too quiet, not cool enough, not cute enough, etc. just know God is extending the offer to the greatest initiation of all time – into the kingdom!  So accept HIS ACCEPTANCE and let him love you into wholeness. You will not regret it. 

Know who you are, and never forget it.

Thoughts and Feelings

I believe that some people are born with the natural tendency to lean more on the positive side, taking on more of an optimistic perspective. Others have to work a little harder to stay on the optimistic side. I am one of those who often have to put in a tad bit more work to see the bright side of things. 100 great things can happen in a day, but all of my attention can tend to shift to the one annoyance – a molehill turned into a mountain. It’s a trait that I legitimately hate.

We all have weaknesses and flaws, so there is no shame at all. The awesome news is Christ gives us a NEW nature (2 Corinthians 5:17). It doesn’t mean all of our issues vanish overnight. That would be too easy, and we would gain very little strength without perseverance. When we have Christ, we have issues, but our issues don’t have us. We may struggle from time to time, but we trust that everything (even our faults and failures) works out for our good in some way according to the perfect will of God (Romans 8:28). We know that we can get through anything with Christ (again, according to His perfect will and plans) because He gives us the strength and He makes us victorious (Philippians 4:13; Romans 8:37). With all this being said, I think it is safe to conclude that deliverance is participatory. God will help us (emphasis on help) but He won’t enable our laziness or passiveness. He does require our participation.

Negative thoughts. We all have them from time to time. Some of us hang on to them WAY longer than we should. Here is the liberating reality – WE DON’T HAVE TO. Sure, negative thoughts will pop up in our minds here and there. We will have encounters and experiences that will induce negative thoughts and emotions BUT we have POWER over them (2 Timothy 1:7). Also, it’s great to know that self-control is a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). We don’t have to sulk in our negative emotions and thoughts. We’re human. We will feel them, and it is healthy to acknowledge and address them, as internalizing is toxic; however, we must be sure not to prolong our occupancy in negative thoughts and emotions. We can’t stay in them. In fact, we’re not supposed to take unresolved anger into the next day (Ephesians 4:26), but thankfully God extends immeasurable grace that spares and empowers us through failures and mistakes. I have slept on anger and awoke to it more times than I care to count.

It’s amazing how our thoughts and emotions effect our physiology. There are numerous scientific studies that show a correlation between anger, resentment, pessimism and various diseases. This is why it is so urgent and important to capture toxic thoughts and emotions, address them, express them in a healthy way, take them to the Lord in prayer, worship to shift our attention from the negative to God, and intentionally think something GOOD and life-producing. In the book of Philippians, Apostle Paul gives us pretty solid instructions for how to think. We’re to trust God with what’s wrong (through prayer and worship) while keeping our minds on things that are true, lovely, and beautiful (Philippians 4:4-8).

God is inviting us into His rest and peace. Peace is also a fruit of the Spirit, so as Spirit-filled sons and daughters of the Most High, we have everlasting access to it. Peace should be our default, and it can be. This is the power of God. This is why Jesus hung on the cross and rose three days later with all victory. This is why He wants us to come to Him with EVERYTHING. He knows every thought and emotion, and we never have to feel ashamed or embarrassed to bring them to him in prayer because He loves us and beckons us into His presence where there is fullness and joy (Psalm 16:11). So, we can overcome our negative thoughts and emotions by dealing with them in a healthy way through open and honest communication, prayer, worship, and intentionally deciding the think something good and live-producing. We must continuously work with the Holy Spirit to renew and cleanse our minds and hearts from day to day. He is there waiting for us. We just have to meet Him. That’s how we continue on in PEACE and JOY. That’s how we live awesome lives.

The Parasite

I refuse to submit to hatred and anger. I refuse. Period. I can’t afford to. It costs me my joy. It cost me my peace. I just can’t do it. Hatred kills- literally. What we all must realize is that hatred is like a parasite looking for a host to latch onto for survival. Without a host, it cannot live. Like hate, parasites are contagious. Like parasites, hate is desperately seeking a host so it can spread and thrive. The challenge is avoiding the infection. 

George Floyd is just one of the many unarmed black males who have suffered brutal deaths at the hands of white officers in America. Was he perfect? No. Did his actions deserve death? No. To say that racism doesn’t exist (as some ignorantly claim) is not only incredibly foolish and callous, It’s a blatant lie. If race didn’t play a part in the officer’s knee on his neck, then what did? Why didn’t he release enough force so the man could at least breathe? When did forgery become a death sentence? Sources claim he resisted arrest. When did that become a death sentence? To believe that the blackness of his skin didn’t play a part in his death is naïve. They didn’t have to kill him. I’ve heard asinine comments such as, “Well the officers were probably afraid. Their lives matter too.”  A lame and failed attempt to downplay the issue at hand. 

Officers are equipped and trained to handle all types of situations, from robbery and assault to resisted arrest and shootouts. Even more so, the families of these officers have the privilege of welcoming them back home, while the family of George Floyd is preparing to lay him to rest. A pretty silly comparison, right? There is no excuse or justification for this man losing his life under the knee of an officer. Period.

I find it most appropriate to identify the root of racism, which is hate. Hate is sin. Hate is demonic. Those who are filled and consumed with hate are under demonic influence. This is why it is so important to avoid the infection of hatred. Like a parasite, it drains, depletes, and ultimately destroys. Like all sin, it leads to death (Romans 6:23). Racism is extremely sickening and angering. The audacity of delusional individuals to believe that their racial identity makes them superior to others, generating illogical hatred across several generations. What they fail to realize is that the suffering their hatred brings upon their own lives is far greater than any harm they could ever inflict upon others. In a world that is charged with hatred (in various forms), we must guard ourselves from the infection. If we are not careful, we can become victims of harboring toxic hatred.

It is so easy to become consumed with what’s going on all around us. It’s so easy to get angry. George Floyd is not the first unarmed black man to suffer an unjust death at the hands of a white officer. If you simply Google his name, the disturbing photos and video emerge instantly. The officers’ actions were inhumane. The man was pleading for his life and the officer showed no mercy. If that doesn’t stir up some type of emotion in you, I’m not sure what will. I was highly disturbed.

I am a black female with a family full of black males. I wholeheartedly love the males in my family- my father, brother, nephew, uncles and cousins. I couldn’t image losing any of them the way George’s family lost him. I hurt for his family. I am hurt that they are grieving over a death that didn’t have to happen. I am angry that some people consistently choose stupidity and foolishness over truth and knowledge regarding these matters. I am, however, not consumed.

I will not be infected by the parasite of hatred. I make that choice. I take a strong stand against injustice and racism; however, I cannot drink from the cup of hatred and anger. Those who drink from that cup drink self-destructive poison. No. I just can’t. I will not yield to it. The second most important commandment is to love your neighbor as your self (Matthew 22:39). I have not mastered this yet, but I am trying, praying for grace and mercy as I fail along the way. In other words, hate can’t drive out hate. Only love can do that. Martin Luther King, Jr. left us with those great wise words that will always be relevant. We have the right to feel what we feel, but when we make our emotions a permanent dwelling place, we enter into the perpetual cycle of destruction.

The Bible ( Matthew 4:4), prayer, worship, sermons, and healthy conversation. That’s how I get through. That’s how I see the light. That’s how I keep my light shining, avoiding the effects of hatred and darkness. Never be afraid or intimidated by darkness. If you turn on a light in a dark room, does it not cut through darkness with illumination? If you are a Christian, you are a light and the world needs you (Matthew 5:14 16). As tempting as it may be, we cannot hate those who hate us. This is not the way of God.

Matthew 5:44–46 instructs us to love and pray for our enemies. After all, if we only love those who loves us, what makes us different from the unbeliever? Now, I really struggle with the thought of praying for those who’ve unapologetically wronged me. The thought of praying for a murderer is even harder. But the good news is the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17) is a gift that is given to every believer so we can fulfill God‘s purpose on this earth and experience His will done on earth as it is in heaven.

This is a time to really pray –  pray for justice, pray comfort upon the grieving family of George Floyd and others whose lives were unjustly taken, pray over our own families, and above all pray that God‘s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Prayer is powerful. Prayer shifts things (James 5:16). I have experienced the power of prayer first hand. Watch the news and read up on things to stay informed, but don’t get consumed, as it does no one any good. Right now, more than anything, we must guard ourselves against the infection of hatred. Don’t be the parasite’s host. Deny access! Lean on God, not your own logic (Proverbs 3:5).