Monday, July 21, 2014

Watch Your Thoughts

“Watch your thoughts. They become your words. Watch your words, they become your actions” (unknown). Until recently, I didn’t pay much attention to this quote; however, Heavenly Papa found a way to make sure that I learn this lesson. Each day, life presents an opportunity for my growth and development and I appreciate all of the moments that I am able to acknowledge, learn, and apply my lessons.

A couple of months ago, my Bestie put us on this workout regimen, nothing strenuous; we just had to run at least three miles a day.  To ensure that I got my miles in, I participated in this fitness initiative in which an organization would donate a dollar per mile to the Mt. of Olives church in Haiti’s Raise the Roof fundraiser. This all sounds awesome, right? I’m getting in shape, working on ensuring that I’m taking good care of my temple, while contributing to a greater cause..Perfect! Wrong, to be honest, my thought process was the absolute worst and it would show in my workout.

Proverbs 17:22 reminds me that “a joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Anyone who really knows me can attest to the fact that I detest running. If I had to choose between eating a spoonful or worms and running, (well I’d probably just run…eating things is gross, but you get my drift). So, we started this workout regimen and out of my mouth would come words like, “oh yeah, this is great. I’m about to go get these miles in!” My tone portraying that I’m extremely excited about the task at hand, but in my mind, I’m thinking, “Heavenly Papa, please let it rain so I’d have an excuse not to run today. In other words, my heart was far from joyful, and my thoughts reflected that. It was even more difficult for me to get my runs done because I focused more on how much longer I had to go. I’d be about a quarter mile into the run and about to collapse; however, with time, my endurance got better.

For instance, I was running so often that I could jog up to two miles straight and then an additional mile and a half of walking and running. During the run, you could not tell me I wasn’t Gail Devers, [although I probably looked more like Betty White (Rose from Golden Girls)]. I was in complete beast mode; however, my thoughts prior to my run were still the same. Everything in me still dreaded the idea of running. Heavenly Papa knew it.

When I went home for the 4th of July, I made a pact with myself and one of my friends that I was not going to get out of practice and that we would run together every day while I was in town. That was the game plan, until I broke a bone in my foot three hours after being home. The Dr. told me that I could not run, or bike, (heck, I could barely walk), and that I would have to be in a boot for at least six weeks. I just threw my hands up in the air and said, "Heavenly Papa…I really did it this time. I understand," and I hung my head in shame and began to think.  I haven’t run in over two weeks and this current situation has made me realize that I need to mind my thoughts.

It’s not always good to just do good things for the sake of doing them. You have to wholeheartedly believe in the reason behind your actions or you won’t be doing it to the best of your ability. This is the same when you make the choice to give your life to Christ. One can’t just say, "I believe that Jesus is the savior; I’ve been saved," and continue to live life the way it was when the person was unsaved. Negative thoughts plant negative seeds which impede the production of good fruit. This is a reason why you should be mindful of what you think and be honest in the words that you say. Your thoughts eventually become your actions and even though I was out there running, my runs could have been a lot more productive had I just encompassed a positive attitude. From now on, I’m going to do my best to “let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in [God’s] sight (Psalms 19:14). After all, I don’t need to learn all my lessons the hard way.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Show Me Your Love

1 John 4:12 states that “no one has ever seen God, but if we love one another God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” Any time that I get to go out into the world and recognize Heavenly Papa’s love is a great time for me. This past weekend was perfect. I like to think that all days are perfect because they are created by our Heavenly Papa and even though they may not turn out how I envisioned them in my mind, they each play out exactly how Heavenly Papa designed it. For that, I am grateful.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Heavenly Papa for my perfect Saturday. First, I woke up, which is always a blessing and I had the opportunity to connect with friends and family that I hold dear to my heart. Whenever Heavenly Papa creates unexpected moments of fellowship, I have to take the time to thank him for that. 

During my Saturday escapades, I was able to become one with the Father and identify Heavenly Papa’s love through nature all throughout the day. Upon stepping out of the house, the clouds opened up to let the sun shine through.  The morning sun kissed my skin as I walked along. The cool breeze whispered softly in my ears. I wandered across a field of giant sunflowers, (it was placed there just for me. Sunflowers are my favorite). The morning could not have been more magical. On top of that, I got to spend time with my Godmother who treated me to lunch and I found that I like cashew butter, yumm. All mega bonuses!!

It did not stop there, I went to pick up my laundry and our laundry guy said that we’re one of his most consistent customers. He even made a joke about me not ever picking my clothes up on time, but he would never sell them because he knows I’ll be back. When I offered him a tip, he refused and said that my smile was tip enough. After thanking him kindly and making my exit, I started to think about all the many reasons why Heavenly Papa was making my day so perfect and then it dawned on me that I was to continue to spread the joy, happiness, and love that he was showing me. I became eager and added a little bounce step in my walk as I headed back to my car. I now had a daily mission to spread joy and cheer as I continued throughout the remainder of my day.

This was achieved on many different levels. Most people think that in order to add to someone’s happiness, you have to do something elaborate and specifically tailored to that person. While this is one way of doing so, we must remember that Heavenly Papa took his time to orchestrate the earth, but even in his story of creation…the acts were all simple. He said, “Let there be light,” and there was light and the light was good. By simply speaking things into existence, they became. I decided that this was how I was going to make others happy. Some people thought I was crazy because I went on a greeting spree. I smiled at everyone that walked past me. Said hello to random strangers, and struck up several conversations that turned out to be really inspiring.

Then, I decided that I was going to reach out to some friends that I hadn’t seen in a while because catching up with good pals always makes a person happy (that one was more so for me, but it also brought great joy to my Bestie, very nostalgic moment having everyone around for her).  That one decision also opened up the opportunity to give praise and thanks to our Heavenly Papa and it made my heart rest easy to know that I’ve picked a good group of people to call my friends.

This post is just a friendly reminder that Heavenly Papa sends us out into the world every day to be its “salt and light.” He shows us he loves us constantly and expects us, "to love one another: just as [he has] loved [us]. By this all people will know that [we] are [his] disciples, if [we] have love for one another" (John 13:34-35).

Even though the world is imperfect, everything in it is perfection because it was created to be exactly what Heavenly Papa wanted it to be. My days are perfect because there is always an instant in which I can see Heavenly Papa’s love, grace, and mercy on display. There is always an opportunity for me to be someone’s bright spot. Small joys are always worth celebrating. The world is a beautiful place and we just have to take the time to notice and remember.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Dormant Demons

One Sunday our Pastor preached about human trafficking through the verse of Acts 16:16-20. There was an enslaved woman who was possessed by a spirit which made her see the future and in turn she made her owners tons of money. Clearly I am not forced into a realm of prostitution, but I do think that we as people have dormant demons that we must deal with. It is only through constant evaluation, prayer, and strong faith that we are able to confront them daily and move on.
An after church discussion brought to mind a conversation about Beyonce and how she claimed that when she’s on stage, she has no idea who that person is. She doesn’t feel like herself. In real life, if she was asked to move the way she does on stage, she would fail miserably; therefore, she created this alter ego to let the spirit that encompassed her exist peacefully. Mentally, we all have these internal struggles in which there are things that we would like to do vs. what we should/could do. The demons are not physical as they would be portrayed in movies, but mental and self-influenced, and in most cases they manifest in our insecurities.
I have a few  dormant demons hanging around in the crevices of my mental, but I’ve learned that in order to deal fully with them I have to first begin to call it them by name. Mommy brought it to my attention that there is power in a name, and as I began to think about it, I concluded that it was true. Think about your relationships and the phases that they move through: with each title/name comes certain guidelines, restrictions, expectations. Even when titling ourselves, we begin to think and act like the name we're given. In order to face our demons and exercise them out of us, we must first be able to honestly and openly admit what they are.
Two demons that I most recently dealt with were superficiality and lust. There have been many instances when dealing with men that I’ve made myself believe that this guy was perfect for me because aesthetically he fit my “Ken” requirements.  I would allow their physical features to blind me to the essence of who they really were (not saying that they were terrible people, they just were not right for me). I had found someone who met all of my physical desires and I lusted for him temporarily. Typically this guy would be tall, dark, easy on the eyes, in shape, great smile, and in my mind we’d make beautiful babies and take amazing wedding photos. We fit the standard for our wedding cake topper. I could wear my heels and he’d still be taller than me, and he would typically be begging me to jump into bed with him so he made me feel desired. Talk about wanting a man for all the wrong reasons.
I had gotten so entangled in my own selfish perversions and ideologies that I was willing to sacrifice my self-respect, self-worth, my time, the respect of the people who have proven on a daily basis how much they love me, and my relationship with our Heavenly Papa for a delusion.
Mark 16:17 states that “In My name, they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues.” It was not until I began having constant conversations with Heavenly Papa, Mommy, and anyone else who was willing to listen that I realized the only way to deal with my convictions is to name them one by one and turn them over to Heavenly Papa. Sounds simple, right. Wrong. It takes a lot of faith and a whole lot of patience to change, but I’m working on it and Heavenly Papa is working on me. When I learn to be most comfortable with him and only him, he will provide for me what my heart desires, which should only be to walk in likeness of him. Until then, I will be calling out my demons one by one, turning them over to my Lord & Savior.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Stepping Stone to Faith

In a world where chaos is the new norm and the people are becoming desensitized to random acts of violence, sexual deviance, and any other example of immorality, one may find themselves asking, “Where’s God?” Proverbs 15:3 states that “the eyes of the Lord are in every place keeping watch over the evil and the good.” Even though the world is full of despicable things, Heavenly Papa sees and knows all, but it is only those “whose hearts are fully committed to him,” that will be truly saved through Jesus’ redemption.

The problem with that is that not everyone knows quite how to allow Jesus in their hearts. To reiterate my previous post, we as people are in a constant state of brokenness. It is only through this state that we can be redeemed because if we lived in a perfect world, there would be no need for Jesus. The issue that arises is that some people are so victimized by their brokenness that instead of seeking God, they begin to resent him and start to lash out in other ways. Think of the child who lost his/her parent to an untimely death and was left to fend for itself in a world that is harsh and cruel to vulnerable people. The girl too afraid to call herself pretty because her mom was too busy working two to three jobs to notice and her father wasn’t around, or the young boy who will never know what it is to be a man because he’s spent his days watching men disrespect his mother, with no Christian male role-model in his life. What about the children who spend hours alone or feeling unloved because their well off parents were too busy traveling the world without them or focused on loving their money? People who’ve been raped, battered, victim of hate crimes, the list goes on. All people find themselves victims at one point or another, but the way to pull you out of the dark place is to find something to believe in. To come to an understanding that Faith & Hope saves lives.

There are many means of learning about the word of Christ and how to apply it to the current situation and help you through. The Bible, real life situations and circumstances, other people, nature, music are all means of learning about Christ. All of these useful tools can be found in one place in particular: the church.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 states that “you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you.” For those people who do not know God or have not accepted our Heavenly Papa in their lives, the church can be a stepping stone to allot them to begin thinking about a working relationship with Christ. It is only by accepting Christ as your Lord and Savior that one begins to realize that the body is a temple in which Heavenly Papa dwells.

My Bestie took me to fellowship with her at church and it was through those meetings when I began to acknowledge that there were changes I needed to make in my life and that I wanted to be a warrior for Christ. Since that time, I’ve had a much more peaceful life knowing that I can Hope for a better future by trusting in the Lord.

There is a Mount of Olives church in Saint Louis du Nord, Haiti that is in need of a stronger roof that will withstand the constant tropical storms that plow through the area. The building project is $15,000. So far, the organization has raised $12,520. That leaves only $2,480 left to be raised. If you’re interested in helping to secure a church home that will help bring the brokenhearted closer to Christ, please click on the following link Remember every little bit helps!! We all could use just a little more Jesus.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Roll of Thunder

Today, it’s storming outside. The thunder is roaring louder than lions, jet planes, and trains on tracks combined. It makes me feel at peace, and reminds me of a time of innocence. When it would thunder like this, as a kid, my grandmother would turn off all the lights and the televisions, unplug the phones, and say, “Hush child, that’s God talking.” I would sit still for about fifteen minutes, and then try to ease my way back into conversation about questions that danced around in my head. Each time, she would repeat the phrase, and the cycle would continue until I either fell asleep or the storm ended. I miss those days.

My grandma lives about 8 hours away now, and sometimes during storms, I call her and mention casually that its thundering and lightening outside, just to hear her say, “Hush child. That’s God talking. Get off this phone.” The phrase means something a little different to me now, and I’ve taken it to apply it not just to storms literally, but to problems (storms) that may arise in my everyday life. Any time, there is a storm brewing, I need to take the time to focus on the bigger picture that Heavenly Papa has planned.  

Whatever you want to call that tumultuous period in your life: storms, wilderness, mountains, rock bottom, etc., it is a time that Heavenly Papa is warning you to slow down, seek him, and see the bigger picture. I’m not sure if my grandma knows exactly how her words help to guide me through, but I now know that in the midst of a storm, I need to not focus on external factors that make up the storm, but be sure to hone into God and learn how to benefit from the storm.

I had the opportunity to watch the movie “Focus on the Family: Irreplaceable” in which the overall message was that we as people are all broken and it is through our broken state in which we can be redeemed. Redemption is the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil. The documentary made a valid point when it affirmed that in order to become one with our Heavenly Papa, we have to go through pain and suffering, because if we are not tempted, broken, or in a constant state of loss, then  everything is perfect. In a perfect world, there is no need for redemption.
Storms are not only reminiscent of our struggles that force us to transcend, but they also reflect the relationship that our Heavenly Papa has with humanity. It’s this ongoing cycle; the reason behind our imperfections. Heavenly Papa gave us free will so that only those who truly believe in him and love him will be able to spend eternity with him in Heaven. When he administered that right, he knew that he would be opening himself up to disappointment because he’d expect everyone to follow him willingly, but he knew it would not be the case. I like to think that every time it rains, Heavenly Papa is shedding his frustrations with mankind, just like he did in Genesis 7:1,4 when he recognized that Noah “[was] righteous before [Him] in this generation,” and made the decision to “cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and destroy from the face of the earth all living things that [he had] made.” While he is not sending great floods, thunderstorms reminds us that he is present and we need to seek him. Those who truly believe will “hush and listen.”

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Jesus: Priceless or Nah??

Lenten Season and Easter is one of the most reflective holiday seasons as people sacrifice and attempt to further their walk with Christ in celebration of Heavenly Papa’s ultimate sacrifice for us, his son Jesus. This year, I realized that despite all my efforts to be good, I’m much better at being bad, especially before I came to this point in my walk. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not out doing repulsive things, but some of my actions make me aware that at any given moment, it’s my human nature to reject my Heavenly Papa. The heart is a sinful tool.

A penny for your thoughts, a nickel for your kiss, a dime for your love? All questions posed to show that nowadays there is monetary value placed on everything, but the question asked specifically nowadays, “How much for your soul?” In an economy where trade and bartering reign supreme and the world places more value on a dollar bill than that of morality, one must ask themselves, “what’s Jesus worth to me?”

In the story of Jesus’ time on Earth, his demise and departure cost the Romans 30 pieces of silver. Judas, one of Jesus’ disciples sold him for thirty measly pieces of silver. Some may scoff and think that is the most ridiculous thing that Judas could have done; however, we sell Jesus on a daily basis for a lot less, regardless of what we’d like to tell ourselves.
I had a conversation with my Bestie about the whole concept of no one sin being greater than the other, and how we as people have to take accountability for our actions once we decide to live a saved life and follow Jesus. When living a saved life, this means that as a Christian I must “put off [my] old self, which belongs to [my] former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of [my] mind, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” Ephesians 4:22-24). I know what is right from wrong, and although I do things incorrectly, I must attempt to do things the right way.

When I blatantly do things that I know Heavenly Papa won’t approve of, I am selling Jesus, and sometimes for a lot less than thirty pieces of silver. I am literally telling Heavenly Papa that I know you sent your son to save me, but ehhh…screw your grace. There was a time when I sold out Jesus for the potential of a relationship with this guy (and guess who didn’t end up in a relationship)? In the beginning, I had expressed to this man that I was not interested in partaking in any sexual endeavors, and he claimed to respect that, but as time moved on, he would try to pressure me into doing things. Even though I was uncomfortable with the situation, and stood firm on the no sex part, I would find myself thinking about complying with other requests that in my mind seemed not be that big of a deal. When it was all said and done, just the thought meant that I was selling Jesus and when I did agree to certain things, well…you get the drift.  

Anytime we make a conscious decision to do things that Heavenly Papa will not approve of, we’re selling Jesus. So anytime you get a little twitch in your twat, or an itch in your hot hand, and you decide that your own personal desire is worth more than what is right, you're selling Jesus. It’s the same concept with drugs, alcohol, unruliness, manipulating people for your own good, loving money before all things, etc.

Luckily for us, Heavenly Papa did send Jesus to be our saving grace and 1 Corinthians 10:13 reminds me that God is faithful, and he will not let [me] be tempted beyond [my] ability, [and] with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, [and I will] be able to endure it.” Regardless of how many times I fail to please our Heavenly Papa, I know that his love is unconditional and he will constantly test me until I get it right. Some lessons take a little longer to learn, but as long as I am consciously making an effort to get it right, I put a smile on his face. I’m reminded of that every time the sun peeks through the clouds in the sky. He wouldn’t test me if he did not know I was able to handle it, and I’m hopeful that the day will come where Jesus will truly be priceless.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Hold That Thought

Every morning my Grand-Uncle sends me a text message with a daily Bible Verse. The goal is to start my day with a positive word from God which helps me focus on doing what the word says and applying it to different aspects of life resulting in me gaining a different outlook. This morning, my Uncle’s text message came in while I was brushing my teeth. My response was to click the button so that the phone would stop vibrating and continue to brush my teeth. As I continued with my routine, the phone vibrated again as a reminder that I had not checked my message. My Bestie told me that it was going off, and I replied to her, “It’s just my Uncle with the daily word.”
After the message sat there for about fifteen minutes, I moved on to fixing my hair and as I was staring in the mirror at the light bouncing off my face creating a shadow in my reflection, it dawned on me: Did I just say it’s no big deal? Did I just decide to put the “word” on pause?
More often than not, this is an action that many of us do. We get caught up in the everyday routine of life and forget to take the time to appreciate what it is that Heavenly Papa is actually doing for us. We also forget to spend time in his word. For instance, it’s almost been a month since my last post. I was too busy to sit and reflect on the words that Heavenly Papa had given me. I read every day, mostly because I have many different streams of the word coming in. I get it via text, email, phone conversations, real life conversations, church, on-the-line, the Bible, etc. You name it, I get it. The word comes to me through many different venues, but a good work spoken means nothing if I don’t take the time to hear it and apply it to my everyday life. Receiving the word had become not a big deal, and I put the word on pause, which may have led to this anxious feeling I’ve been having lately.
There are several instances in life where complacency gets the best of you and you’re not sure what more it is you should be doing, but you know that you should be doing more. You feel like you’re getting too comfortable in your present state, wherever that may be and you begin to feel a certain level of anxiousness, at least for me I do. This period has come to roost for me. Over the past month, my time spent not hearing the word, I’ve been in a constant state of worry.
Romans 10:17 lets us know that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Because I was so preoccupied with things going on in the real world, I allowed my faith to be altered. If I were to continue to hear the word and not just partake in the word, the month would have been a lot better for me. I’ve scheduled 15 minutes in my day before work and 15 minutes bed to reflect on the word that I’ve gotten for the day. In the morning, I figure out how to apply it to my life, and at night I acknowledge whether or not I did it. If I did not accomplish application, then I explore the reasons why and try again the next day.
I don’t like feeling anxious or out of sorts, so I’m going to do my best to make sure I don’t put the word on pause again. After all, when Heavenly Papa is talking to you, it’s always a big deal. If he has seen fit to put someone in my life who will share with me his word on a daily basis, I’d better begin to appreciate it because there are so many in the world who can’t hear or receive the word on any level. Heavenly Papa. Thank you.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Kindness Mends

Have you ever heard the sound of a heart breaking?  Tried to mend the pieces after they’ve been broken? Were you once that person locked in a room of darkness unable to bring yourself to the light? Has your faith been downtrodden and disparaged to the point of what you thought was beyond repair? Brokenness, pain, or anguish, (ROCK BOTTOM) looks different for everyone, but each person who goes through these tough periods need the same things: comfort and assurance that life will get better from here. A faith of this sort is hard to develop and or maintain during tough times; however, there is a way that onlookers can to help the disheartened get better: Practice kindness.

This morning was not one of my best mornings. I woke up late, forgot my wallet at home, and as I was sitting in traffic 15 minutes away already 5 minutes late for work, I began to get this bubbly feeling in my gut. Needless to say, to me, I was having the morning from hell and I wish that I could have just turned my car around, go home and try again tomorrow. By the time I got to work, I was extremely annoyed and my stomach was in knots. The last thing I wanted to do was deal with any parents. While en route to the nearest restroom, a student ran up to me, hugged my legs and said, “Ms. JoJo. I brought you a snack.” It was a half-eaten granola bar, but that one gesture changed my entire mood. Momentarily, I forgot about everything that was weighing so heavily on my mind and the day seemed a lot brighter.

I began to think about how nice the sky looked as the sun broke through the clouds while I was sitting in traffic. I noticed the light airy walk and bright smile of one of my co-workers and it brought great joy to realize that she never seems to be unhappy.  Then I was extremely excited that there was not a line for the bathroom, and even more excited that there was no one waiting when I got out (thank God).  All of these thoughts began because a child decided to share a treat with me. One small act of kindness influenced my entire day.

Typically, I try to be kind to as many people as possible, especially to those people who I know dislike me. In the book of Luke, I am reminded that “it’s easy to love those who love [me]. It’s easy to help those who help [me]…But [Heavenly Papa] says to love your enemies and do good to them (6:32-35). Being kind to people that I know detest my guts has always been a struggle for me. For example, once during monsoon rains, I saw this girl that was always rude to me trudging along in the rain. She was about three and a half miles away from where she needed to be. My first mind told me to stop, so I did, asked her where she was going. I could see the look of elation come over her face when I pulled over to ask, but then it was light a light bulb switched on and I thought to myself, she's never nice to me. So, when she said where she was headed…I was like yeahh…I’m not going that direction and sped off, leaving her there to wilt away as she continued her walk. I’m almost certain that did not make her day any better. Reflecting on that situation, I can say now that she has a reason to dislike me, when before that day I had no idea why she did not like me. The reason why should not have bothered me at all. Instead, I should have been kind to her and perhaps she would have been nicer.  No one ever really knows the reason a person has a hardened heart, but instead of perpetuating their bitterness, sprinkle a little bit of kindness and prayer in hopes that the person will get better.
At the end of our church service on Sundays, we read a covenant in which we agree that "[Heavenly Papa] is sending us into the world to be his salt & light and that we are peacemakers and not agents of confusion." Continuously practicing kindness is one of the ways I try to adhere to my promises to Heavenly Papa. Over the years, I have grown and I know that if I Trust in the LORD with all [my] heart, and do not lean on [my] own understanding. In all [my] ways [if I continue to] acknowledge him, he will make straight [my] paths (Proverbs 3:5-6). Just trusting and believing in God uplifts me in discouraged times, and I am appreciative that he sends kind gestures my way to remind me that he is always with me. It is for that reason alone that I do the best that I can to pay those gestures forward.  So ask yourself, what have I done to touch someone’s heart today? We never know what storm clouds just a simple smile can blow away.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Don't mind the White Jesus

“Son of God” is a pretty entertaining movie and I’d encourage anyone to go see it: believers or nonbelievers. It is interesting to see another person’s interpretation of how the Biblical stories played out. Watching the movie brought about different thoughts about the stereotypes that have been attributed to Jesus over the years. For example, a person could have seen Jesus as a hippie “promoting peace and free love.” Another person could suggest that Jesus was portrayed as a Rock Star appearing to be placed on a pedestal. What I’d like to talk a little bit about is the reason why in most cases Jesus is typically categorized as a white man even though most would argue that visions of Jesus in the Bible portray that “[parts of his body] were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters” (Revelation 1:15), meaning that Jesus was anything but white.
During the movie, my Bestie pointed out that Jesus was the only person in the movie that did not have a hint of color. He was purely white: skin, teeth, clothes, everything about Jesus was white. Part of the reason for this could have simply been because the color white in religion typically symbolizes pureness and well, you can’t get any more pure than Jesus.
With that being said, most people still get irate and find it offensive when they see the images of Jesus as a white man. I used to be one of them until it dawned on me that the portrayal of Jesus is not about his race/ethnicity, but more so what that color represents in its authentic world of colors.
Even though Jesus roamed the Earth, we do not get descriptions of him in the physical sense, but we do know that Jesus “had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him” (Isaiah 53:2) and that “when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is” (I John 3:2). When thinking of this description and the natural essence of colors. White is the only color that can be manipulated to look like other colors. For example, when painting and you’re running low on blue paint, one would just add the blue to the white and the white would then take on characteristics of the blue. Granted, it won’t be the same shade of blue, but it will still be blue nonetheless. In order for Jesus to be a representation of all people, he has to be portrayed as a color that would envelope the characteristics of all people. Because Jesus is portrayed as white and is the light, his presence should be a reflection of who we are as a people. His whiteness is inviting to all those who worship. “The glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Revelation 21:23), there is reason to believe that Jesus should be depicted as illuminating that white light because he is our reason for seeing. He’s only depicted as a man because that is what we humans are: men.
The next time I see an image of white Jesus, as an African American woman, I will not take offense. I will simply smile and place myself in the image because when Jesus returns, he will be like me, and I am formed in Heavenly Papa’s image.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Well Kept Secrets

I’ve often wondered about the thoughts that I have subconsciously. Why do I not realize I’m thinking them? What repressed emotions are there? For instance, there was one time I hung out with this girl and every time we hung out together, I ended up doing something ridiculous which ended up cutting our time together short. Once, I accidentally spilled my drink on the table which got into her lap and she had to go home to change. Another time, I mistakenly gave her the wrong address to the party we were supposed to hang at together. It wasn’t until about our billionth outing that I realized….this girl is not my real friend. Why are you trying to force this friendship? In a nutshell, I just really did not like this girl, and I began to think that subconsciously, all those things I did were intentional.
Earlier this week, Mommy introduced me to ‘Today's Seed,’ a daily bible devotional sent via email, and the passage that was referenced was Isaiah 29:15 -16. It read, “Look at them! They try to hide things from the LORD. They think he will not understand. They do their evil things in darkness. They tell themselves: "No one can see us. No one will know who we are.” In Genesis it states that “every intent of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil continually” (6:5).  Our subconscious is a manifestation of the ill intended thoughts that are created in our hearts. While my mind thinks that I have no intention to be evil and I’d like to only “think good thoughts,” I know that as a human being I have more thoughts like, “I can’t stand that b,” or “If only I could push him down a flight of stairs,” and I have no control over not thinking these things. I do have control over whether or not I act upon them. These are only the thoughts that are brought to my attention. The ones that I’m aware of, so only God truly knows what my mind is capable of, which brings me to think why spend so much time trying to hide who I am, when the only being that matters essentially knows the truth.

On a daily basis, I spend about half of my time lying to myself and others about things that don’t really make much of a difference one way or the other. For instance, truthfully….I love sex. The conscious decision to give it up may have been one of the hardest things to do in life; however, if you ask my friends or anyone I talk to about it they’ll probably tell you that I think it’s easy or I just don’t think about it. In actuality, I think about it more often than not, and sometimes I try to talk myself into getting back on the saddle, knowing that it’s not good for me. “It will feel great,” I say. I would not ever express these things to anyone close to me, but Heavenly Papa knows how I feel. He also knows the feelings of guilt, shame, and failure I’d feel if I ever succumbed to those thoughts.  

He knows it all: What drives my states of depression, my deepest fears, things that make me anxious, things that excite me, amuse me,  EVERYTHING. He knows that I’m going to lie to make a stranger feel better in spite of the truth before I even do it. It literally just happened. This Middle Eastern guy asked me if I thought Middle Eastern men were attractive, and then said me…do you think I’m attractive. I said yes. What else was I supposed to say? Well sir, I’m sure lots of people would find you attractive…I’m just not one of them? It’s so difficult to be honest all the time.
Typically, I have no issue with telling strangers the truth. It’s a lot easier because chances are I’d never see them again. I believe this is what drives most random grocery aisle personal conversations. Ironically, I find that the person it’s most difficult to be honest with constantly is myself.  We as people spend hours worrying about how we’ll be judged by others, but our own worst critic is ourselves; at least I am mine. The rest of the world could care less about what I have going on and even if they did, it doesn’t matter. So I’ve decided that because I can’t hide anything from my Father, I should not continuously hide things from myself, and when trying to figure out my motivations for doing certain things, I’m going to think twice about what’s driving those actions because the saying is true. What you do in the darkness will eventually come to the light, and if it’s something that I have to hide, I probably shouldn’t be doing it anyway.

Friday, February 21, 2014

What's your HAPPY!?

I think it’s pretty interesting the way social media trends spread so rapidly, and the type of trend that spreads. As I stroll through my Instagram feed, the theme of memes that are typically reposted are about sex, celebrity scandals, or jokes at the expense of someone else (Sharkeisha). I was surprised to see that what I would think should be the latest trend, not many people are jumping on board, (at least not in the stream of my followers).

There is a 100 day happiness challenge.  The goal of the challenge is to find something about your day that made you happy. You must do this for 100 days in a row. The purpose is to acknowledge only the good things in your life and not weigh so heavily on the negative ones. While this is something I typically try to do every day, committing to the challenge makes me accountable and regardless of how rough my day gets, I have to realize that there is still something good about it. The challenge affirms that happiness, “the state of being happy,” is a choice, so choose it.

Jeremiah 17: 9-10 states that “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” When thinking with my heart or “feelings” I sometimes overreact to situations or find it difficult to get the answers that I want, especially when it comes to dealing with relationships. There have been times when I allowed myself to become so wrapped up in my emotions that I was no longer operating from a rational place and I just felt crazy, all worked up, for nothing because the behavior did not yield me any results. Reading this verse clicked the “on” switch in my mind because it allowed me to recognize that I am the person in control of what I’m feeling. After reading that, “the LORD search[es] the heart and examine[s] the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct according to what their deeds deserve,” it was affirmed that I needed a reality check.  

Even though we’ve been granted free will, ultimately God knows our heart. When performing our daily deeds, it is important to understand the motives for doing so. For instance, one of the things that I needed to personally work on was needing to feel needed. If you surveyed 25 people and asked them “what do you think about Josephine?” Approximately 23 of those people would respond, “She’s a very nice person.” Overall, this is true, but only recently has my motive for being nice expected no reciprocity. For the longest time, being nice was my means of fitting in, being accepted by my peers.

It took me a while to realize that the only acceptance I need is that of my Heavenly Papa and that if I’m not being true to myself, then I’m not being good to anyone. So many times, I hear people say, “I just want to be happy,” and they begin to go through different transformations in their quest to find this happiness. Most people who seek happiness in the world never find it because being happy comes from the conscious decision to be happy. When depending external factors to make you happy, the happiness is only temporary; however, when your happiness comes from within, no one can steal your joy. 1 Peter 3:10-11 states that “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days,…Search for peace, and work to maintain it.” My peace is given to me through my choice to believe wholeheartedly in our Heavenly Papa. I choose to be happy.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Beauty of Death

It’s almost time for me to say “Thank you” to Heavenly Papa for allowing me to see another year. Yes, indeedy…it’s almost my birthday!!! Every time I think about this time, it makes me happy that at one point in time Heavenly Papa decided that he needed me on this earth for a purpose. I strive to become closer to finding out what that purpose is on a daily basis, but gratitude and perseverance are not the only things that my birthday reminds me of. I’m also forced to think about all those that I know will not be seeing their birthdays this year, and it softens my heart to be reminded of the beauty of death.
Many people think of death as the worst thing that can happen, but after spending some time in the word, I’ve noticed that great things happen when one dies, and that there are two types of death. The first being a spiritual death in living form, and the second being a physical death when your body returns to its natural state and your renewed spirit goes to rest with our Heavenly Papa.
The first death is to be “in Christ, [to become] a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). In order for us to become one with the Holy Father we must first take part in our living death. This is the shedding of our old self to become closer to God. Essentially, it is our awakening period when we are pushed out of our wilderness. Some may argue that when this happens, you’re not allowed to “have fun.” There is still lots of fun to be had, you’re just now being held accountable for your actions.
In Jay Z’s song, Empire State of Mind, he states, “and Jesus can’t save you, life starts when the church ends,” which to me implies that you are not living unless living in sin. I used to be a part of that world. I would go out every weekend, get wasted with my friends, hang out with random guys, living care free and reckless, not caring too much about myself or how the world perceived me, or how my actions impacted others. Not realizing my choices had consequences. Thinking back, there were plenty of times when the choices I made could have gotten me raped, killed, put in jail, turned me into some type of addict, but they did not and I have to attribute that to being protected by the grace of God. Even though I was rejecting him at the time, he saw fit to save me over and over and over again, and finally, I got it. Then I decided it was time for me to walk upright for the man who “died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:15). When I made this decision, great things began happening for me. I became less anxious and learned to roll with whatever punches life threw my way and I found myself at a greater peace. Also, so called friends that brought great stress began to fade away. Best thing ever. It became easier for me to make decisions to do good and while I’m still fumbling through trying to figure it all out, I’m grateful that  I’m nowhere near where I was. I’m also proud to say that while I am a sinner, I’m doing the best that I can to be prepared for my physical death.
There are also great things to be said about your actual physical death. Although, I clearly have not experienced it, the word tells us, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them” (Revelation 14:13). I believe this to be true because I’ve witnessed it in my waking life. Have you ever attended the memorial service of a righteous person? The atmosphere is completely different from that of a not so righteous one. People are rejoicing and seem much more content because they know that the person they are mourning is now at peace with Heavenly Papa. Those people are also comforted by the Holy Spirit, regardless to whether they know it or not. Matthew 5:4 attests to that. At the other, we have great lament and the mourners appear to have a harder time letting go.
One must also take into account the beauty that surrounds a physical death. The death in itself brings people together. You’re reminded of the innocence of children and are appreciative for their laughter. It is a time of remembrance and the person’s story gets to be told time and time again. Time becomes valued again as the realization that it is limited sinks in and teaches us to value the time we do have and those that we have to share it with. In a nutshell, death brings about community, which is essentially what living is all about.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

We're all Protected

Nostalgia gets the best of me some days. To think of how the times have changed over the span of just a few years is a beautiful thing. Think about it, I am undergoing change as I type the words on the screen, allowing them to flow out of me to create a document that will invoke change in someone else’s life. The reality is that when I began this piece, I’m almost certain the way I pictured it ending in my mind is not the way it’s going to turn out once I’m done, but I have to trust that it will still be awesome. I have to keep that concept in perspective when it comes to dealing with my life. At times, I get so wrapped up in the way I want things to go that I forget my life has never been, currently isn’t, and never will be, ABOUT ME. It’s ultimately about my Heavenly Papa, and making sure that I do everything in my power to constantly spread the love that is Him.
Over the weekend, I was immersed in the company of children, and while I do work in the same space as them, I do not have to engage with them as frequently as one would think; so being with children for an extended period of time is something that I have not been able to do in a while. I’m grateful and really appreciative for that opportunity because in a way it helped me to continue to put my faith where it belongs.
Have you ever sat and watch children play together? They go through this cycle of tumultuous joy, to let’s share everything, to that’s mine, and finally I don’t like you anymore, repeat; all within the span of five minutes. They continue this for hours on end until the fights begin to get more frequent and the adult intervenes to say it’s time to leave. Once “the leave factor” is inserted, they enter a stage of grief and spend the next ten minutes in the most agony you’d think they’d ever feel in life because you’re separating them from their best friend, whom they themselves were just putting out about three seconds ago; it’s all quite fascinating stuff.
During this cycle, two things in particular stood out to me; reminded me of the days when I was a kid. The first, children have no concept of fear when they’re playing. The first stage of tumultuous joy is where they are completely uninhibited and ready to conquer the world with their minds unaware of any dangers that may await them; they’re free. I began to wonder at what age do we grow out of this and it hit me that I should not have grown out of this fearlessness. There is nothing on this earth that I should be fearful of. I should take a page from my inner child and continue to live out my dreams and not be worried about what others have to say or think about me because “anxiety in a (wo)man’s heart weighs [her]him down, but a good word makes [her]him glad”(Proverbs 12:25). As long as I continue to surround myself with positive, uplifting people and continue to keep my faith in Heavenly Papa, there’s no need to be anxious.
The second thing I noticed was that children are extremely resilient. They can get hurt and be back to normal in about three minutes; all a part of their cycle. However, it works for them. I began to think about how children are protected because of their innocence, which allows them to be so fearless and resilient but as they obtain more knowledge about the world and themselves in it, they become more fearful. However, because of the blood of Christ, I should have no worries. The next time my finances get low, or I begin to feel lonely, or a problem arises at work, I’m just going to keep Psalm 118: 6 in my mind “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Birthday Cake

We all should be completely wound down from the Holiday Season, and all revved & geared up to kick the New Year into shape. New routines have fallen into place by this point and life in 2014 should be pretty acclimated. As we push forward with all the months of this year still ahead of us, we must remember to take the time to appreciate the present.
Recently, I had a conversation with my Mommy and she told me about an experience she had while indulging in breakfast at IHOP. At the table next to her was an old man, approximately late 70’s, and at the table across from her was a family with a child around the age of four. The two people she observed experienced a moment that solicited the same response, but for very different reasons. In the background, there was someone celebrating a birthday, and it had come to the point where the serving staff was bringing out the birthday cake and beginning to sing happy birthday. The child’s face lit up brighter than the 4th of July fireworks show and she began to bounce up and down in the seat for joy, uber excited. The old man witnessed the same scene and a big grin spread across his face. His body became more relaxed and he appeared to be in a calming state. He too was happy. It was at this moment that Mommy realized that the two were happy for different reasons; the young girl excited about birthdays to come, and the old man reflective about birthdays past. This made me think about what life looks like in the middle, and how wonderful it is that God created this time for growth, development, and the opportunity to choose him.
A friend of mine asked me if God already has your life mapped out and knows everything you’re going to decide, then why pray. The conclusion I’ve come to is because of free will. While God implemented the ultimate design, we as people still have the right to choose, and there are people in life that God knows will never choose him, for example great leaders in their capacity like Mahatma Ghandi who was Hindu or Philip Randolph whom identified as atheist never chose God; however, it is written that “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.” (Proverbs 19:17)  I’m sure their kind acts did not go unnoticed and that even though they didn’t pray to the God we Christians pray to, they reflected, meditated, prayed about their issues to something. Prayer/meditation serves as the medium by which communication to the higher power is transmitted. Prayer is God’s telephone.
Overall, Prayer helps keep me grounded and focused on the bigger picture. It gives me a reason to hope in a world which at times seems desolate and degenerate.  Most of the time, I spend my days fretting about work, the mistakes I've made in the past, or apprehensive about the future. It is through prayer that I feel closest to God and I am reassured that no matter how bad things may seem, everything will be okie dokie artichokie. It is during times of prayer when I feel truly at peace, when I indulge in my own slice of birthday cake.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What's this....Love??

     Miguel asks Dooooo youuuu stillll believe in love!? Looking at today’s generation, the simplest answer would appear to be no; however, I would have to answer yes. In a time where relationships are frequented as much as drive-throughs and a significant other is only this month’s featured film, I still believe in the notion of love. How or why? Simple, because Jesus existed, and God is love.
     I Corinthians 13:4-7 defines love as being "patient and kind; it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." This is the type of love God has sent into the world and this is the kind of love I try to demonstrate. Many people ask why I'm single and it's simply because I have not found a man who loves the way God intended us to. Unconditionally.
     Both sets of my parents have been married for over twenty years and although I’m certain they’ve wanted to kill each other more than they’ve wanted to share the same bed, they’ve been able to tough it out because of love. I’m not talking about the overtly romanticized love that one sees in the movies. Their love for God allows them to express wholly their love for one another and their love for their family. Because of this love, they understand what it means to be committed to their union. Because of their love, I understand what it means to be committed to Heavenly Papa and myself.
     For me being committed to Heavenly Papa and myself is to continuously try to spread love throughout the world because one never knows the impact a kind act may have on someone else’s life. It means to live a life without fear because “Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” (1 John 4:18 NLT)  It means to live in continuous faith because knowing that I serve an awesome Heavenly Papa, at the end of all my days, everything will be okay. Regardless of any hardships, all of my unions will be blessed and the love I put into the earth will be reciprocated. It means that I must be kind to those who have no interest in being kind to me. It means I must have a heart like Martin, or better yet…Jesus.
     This transformation has been essential to my well-being. Without this type of love, I’d be stressed out, worn out, twerked out, and potentially strung out on worldly possessions. I’d be chasing the wrong type of love, manipulating situations to create a temporary presence in my mind that this is what love is. I’d love money, bags, cars, clothes, and any man that could pipe me down and give me those things.  I’d be another guppy in the wave of life waiting to be consumed by the next big fish, ending up someone’s breakfast, never reaching my full potential.