Give Me Your Idols
Psalm 78:58 (NIV) They angered him with their high places;
they aroused his jealousy with their idols.
In 2002, when the show, American Idol, aired for the first time, I remember cringing at the title. Growing up in a house with a Church-going, God-fearing, Song-Leading, Sunday-School teaching mother and grandmother, I was well aware of the commandment that said you should “have no other gods before me.” My mom and grandmom preached about not worshipping idols my whole life. When my grandmother heard about the show, she was livid. How dare they have a show about “Idols”? She fussed and complained about it for weeks.
Idols are not new. Only 40 days after God gave Moses the commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3) the children of Israel, gave Aaron their gold and so that he could make them a golden calf to worship. See here’s the problem, many of us, wouldn’t dare worship a golden calf or a statue of another god like the children of Israel. We wouldn’t dare! That’s almost a no-brainer. However, we fail to realize that idol worship is really anything that takes our time, our attention, our money or our effort and distracts us from worshipping the one true God.
How can you tell what your idols are? Matthew 6:21 says for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Take a look at your bank account. Where does most of your money go besides bills? Is it shopping? I’ve been guilty! Is it new cars, clothes, technology, movies, entertainment? What do you spend most of your time doing? If we tithed our time, would you have 2.4 hours a day dedicated to God? Probably not, honestly me neither. But many of us spend a huge amount of time on the phone, watching TV, on social media, working, or going out.
Have you noticed in the last few months, many of the things that we “idolize” have been taken away? No Monday night football games, no basketball tournaments, March Madness was a no-go this year. Shopping sprees can only take place online now and even Amazon has delayed the benefits of being a “prime” member with “slow shipping”. Some ran to parties or the casino every weekend. Others rushed to get hair and nails done weekly. Many traveled every chance they got. But now, we are forced to stay home. “It’s safer at home.” We don’t have anywhere to drive our cars; we don’t have the distractions of Friday night parties, Saturday morning shopping or sports on Sundays. We can’t travel any farther than our mailboxes unless we are essential workers or unless we have essential needs. My… My… My… how life has changed.
The world is much quieter now. It’s downright silent. Habakkuk 2:20 says “…But the Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silent before him.” Have you noticed that the world – not just the U.S., not just Canada or North America, but the whole world is silent? Our idols have been taken away.
Don’t get me wrong and don’t discount God; He is a GIVER. He GAVE his only son so that you and I may have eternal life (John 3:16). Psalm 37:4 says “delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Matthew 6:33 says “but seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” God delights in giving to His children. Matthew 7:11 says God gives good gifts. He gave the best gift – His son’s life for your salvation. He came that you may have life and life more abundantly (John 10:10). But we have to be careful that we don’t fall in love with the gifts more than the giver.
Today God is saying to you, “Give me your idols – your money, your clothes, your homes, your cars, your movies, your food, your job – everything that you’ve placed above me.” I dare you to give God anything that you’ve idolized and worshipped; anything that you’ve loved, adored or treasured above Him and Repent. God is waiting with unfailing love and open arms. Give up your idols and turn back to God. Live in the Red ~ Loved and Forgiven.
The Best Laid Plans
Proverbs 16:9 In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.
Midnight of December 31, 2019 signaled the end of one year and the beginning of the next year. I was so excited! Vision board complete. Goals for 2020 written. 2020 Planner purchased. This was the beginning of a great year!
But 2020 came in like a whirlwind. Kobe and his baby girl, Gianna and their friends died, a Tornado tore up Nashville and then COVID-19 made her entrance into the United States. In an instant all of our plans for 2020 went out the door. The year that many of us proclaimed to be the best year of our lives; the year of vision; the year of abundance, suddenly turned into the twilight zone as staying at home, distancing ourselves from our loved ones, not touching and hugging, and hoarding food and toilet paper became our new normal.
The scripture today, reminds us that we can make plans, but the Lord determines our steps (Proverbs 16:9). I am a planner. I have a planner that is color-coded for each type of event in my life. Work activities are colored in green. Purple shaded areas are for Birthdays. Anything that is highlighted Pink represents activities for San’s Child, Inc. I have a system. I don’t like not having a plan.
I have been anticipating summer since October. As the young people say, “I was going to live my best life.” The summers are for rest and renewal, while many vacation or staycation, others take the time to replenish their savings accounts or pay off bills by working part time jobs. Whatever we choose, you can bet your bottom dollar that by January, most people are already planning for June and July.
However, this year most of us were stopped in our tracks as the Coronavirus - COVID-19 marched through the country demanding our attention. And at attention, we stood. For the past few weeks, the world has stopped and life as we know it has changed drastically. One of my summer trips has already been canceled. I am waiting to see what happens with the other ones. I had a few activities planned for, San’s Child, Inc. for March and April. They have been tweaked and adjusted to accommodate our new normal.
A friend of mine had to cancel her March wedding, another friend canceled her move from Jacksonville, FL to Nashville. Graduations have been rescheduled. Vacations have been canceled. Dentist, doctor appointments and surgeries have been delayed. Birthday plans, Dinner plans, parties and get togethers all had to be postponed. So many of our plans have been interrupted by this “virus”.
But honestly, I think we are giving the virus too much credit. You know nothing can happen without God’s permission? Remember when satan wanted to test Job and see if he would denounce God and turn away when all his possessions and family were taken and then his health deteriorated? Remember, that satan had to go to God and ask for permission. God is not surprised by the Coronavirus, nor is He shaken. He still sits on the throne. I can’t help but to wonder if our plans have been adjusted and interrupted on “purpose”. Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” God’s purpose MUST go forth. “God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent: hath He said, and shall He not do it? or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19).
During this period God has adjusted many of our plans. We are truly relying on our “Daily Bread”. We are forced to trust and lean on the ONE who knows tomorrow and holds tomorrow. For us over thinkers and over planners, this time can be quite scary, but this is the time to lean in to God, our Father, all the more.
God is not against planning. The ants planned and stored food (Proverbs 6:6-8). Builders planned (Luke 14:28-30). Joseph planned strategically for the famine in Egypt (Genesis 41). The virtuous woman worked hard, spent wisely and planned (Proverbs 31). God is not against our planning. Planning is a necessity. Proverbs 13:16 says that a wise man thinks ahead. Our fault is that we plan, but we don’t inquire of God what His plans are for us. But if we commit to the Lord whatever we do, He will establish our plans (Proverbs 16:3).
It wasn’t until later in life that I started asking God for His plans for my life. You know Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” So why not ask the one who knows His plans? I encourage you to submit your plans, goals and dreams to God.
2020 is not over yet and God is still on the throne. Plan, Dream, and Write down your plans and then step away and wait for God to adjust them to fit His purpose. One thing I know for sure is that He will WOW you. He will go above and beyond (exceeding, abundantly) your plans. (Ephesians 3:20)
God’s purposes outweigh our plans. Give your plans to God and Live in the Red! ~ Loved and Forgiven.
Who Is This Man?
Mark 4:41 (NLT)... The disciples were terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”
When I was younger, I stood in a line at the airport with a group of people who were traveling to a conference together. As we stood in the boarding area waiting for our flight number to be called, a man approached me and said, “You look like you have Jesus all over you.” I was maybe 17, at the time and had no idea what he was talking about. I remember looking around at my traveling companions and thinking “who is this man?” As I asked others, no one knew who the man was who had spoken so profoundly into my life.
In the passage today, the disciples asked the same question thousands of years before, I asked my question, “Who is this man?” The difference is that the disciples “knew Jesus”. They had walked with Jesus and talked with him for weeks, months, and yet they still didn’t know him. They were amazed that he stopped the winds and waves with just the simple words, “Peace Be Still”.
Earlier in the day, the disciples had seen Jesus minister to a multitude of people (Mark 4:1-34). As the evening drew near, Jesus told his disciples, “let’s go over to the other side” (Mark 4:35). I can’t help but to think that since Jesus was the son of the all-knowing and omnipotent, God - that He knew that this would be a lesson for His disciples.
Elevation, Growth, Promotion are often preceded by a storm. Going over to the other side often means a storm has to come first. But in order to get to it, we have to go through it. During the storm, Jesus slept. He gave no direction, no instructions for navigating the storm in the moment. The lessons had already taken place. This was the test and the teacher was silent. He was asleep. The disciples, forgetting all the previous lessons, woke Jesus in a panic, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38). At that moment, Jesus got up and rebuked the winds and waves and turned to the disciples and asked, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:30-40).
The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir has a song that says, “How many times, must I prove how much I love you? How many ways must my love for you, I show? How many times must I rescue you from trouble for you to know just how much I love you?” Earlier that day before Jesus took the disciples to the other side, he taught and preached all day long using parables. In the chapters prior to chapter 4, example after example was shown of Jesus’ character and nature. In Mark 1: he drove out an impure spirit, healed Simon’s mother-in-law, healed a man with leprosy, healed and drove out demons. Mark 1:33 said that “the whole town gathered at the door” of the house where Jesus was staying. In Mark 2, he healed a paralyzed man whose friends’ faith moved Jesus. They brought him on a bed and cut a hole in the roof to get to Jesus. In Mark 3, Jesus healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath and in Mark 4, the disciples who had seen him teach, preach and perform all of these miracles had the audacity to ask, Who is this man?
Whew! I can imagine Jesus saying to them, didn't you see me heal the paralyzed man? Did you see the demons that I drove out? Did you even listen to my parable about the mustard seed faith? I wanted to question their faith much like Jesus did (Mark 4:40). But then I remembered that I was much like the disciples. How many miracles had Jesus performed in my life? How many prayers had He answered? How many times had He healed my sick body? How many times had He saved me from myself? And yet when the storms come that will inevitably bless me and take me to the “other side” - to increase, elevation and promotion, I falter as well and cry out to God and ask, “Teacher, Do you care if I perish?!”
Have you ever been convicted, found guilty? As I read this passage my condemnation of the disciples turned into conviction of myself. How could I point one finger at the disciples when I too had questioned the Father and asked him with all my knowledge of Him, with all that I had experienced with him, with all that I had been through with him, “Who is this man”?
I am so glad that He loves me and that He forgives me. Take some time today to reflect on your journey with Christ. If you and I are honest, we’ve all had our “Who is this man” moment? But I am so glad for repentance. Live in the Red today knowing that you are LOVED and FORGIVEN!
What a Friend...
"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends."
In 3rd grade my best friend was Eunice. I loved Eunice. She was smart and funny and had so much personality. She was quite outgoing compared to my shy and introverted self. Eunice was my very best friend, until the day we were assigned to work on a project together and Eunice did not do her part. I was working like crazy trying to do the entire project. And do you know what Eunice had the audacity, the unmitigated gall to do? Honey, she stood in front of that class and that teacher and took every drop of credit for that project.
At that moment I knew I had to re-evaluate my friendships. I was heartbroken and amazed that she would do such a thing to her “best friend.” I didn’t know a lot about emotions or feelings in the 3rd grade but I have forever remembered that time and that feeling, and I never wanted to experience that feeling again. Tragically the feeling came at the hand of a “friend” and that made it worse.
Going forward I was and am very cautious about who I call my friend. I remember hearing my mom sing, “What a friend we have in Jesus; all our sins and griefs to bear, what a privilege to carry EVERYTHING to God in prayer.” I didn’t completely understand the entire meaning, but it sounded good and that was the type of friend I needed; one who would share my burdens with me and who would carry the burdens of my grief. I started looking for friends with these characteristics. And believe it or not I found a few.
Friendship is sacred. If I have called you my friend that means that I would and will literally do just about ANYTHING LEGAL for you. It means that I have a responsibility to you. I am accountable to you. I have your back through thick and thin and the in-between times.
The definition of friendship is personified in Luke 5:17-26. Jesus was in town speaking to a group of people in a house. I imagine this group of friends heard that he was going about town healing the sick and raising the dead and decided they wanted to get their paralyzed friend to him. But when they got to the house to see Jesus, there was no room, no entrance into the house. The house was crowded, full of people taking in the word of God. The group of friends did not allow the crowd to stop them, they climbed onto the roof of the house with a man in a bed, made a hole in the roof in the place where Jesus stood and lowered their friend in the house right in front of Jesus. Can you imagine what Jesus was thinking? Luke 5:20 says when Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
So listen, I have read that story 193 times but when I read it this time, I saw the qualities that I want and NEED in my friends.
I have been sick for the past 3 weeks, feeling rough, in and out of doctor offices, emergency rooms and I have had some friends who had showed up at the ER, purchased my food to make sure that I ate, called me when the spirit lead them, checked on me, prayed for and with me, encouraged me and made sure that I had EVERYTHING I needed. That’s what friends are for!
I have a wonderful friend in Jesus. We all do, but I encourage you to find some wonderful friends on earth. You must have friends that will pour into you, who will be bold and audacious and help you confront your problems. Friends who will have faith when your faith is wavering; friends who are strategic and who will not only pray, but work with you and for you to ensure your healing is manifested.
We were never meant to do life alone. Jesus created friendships. He walked daily with 12 disciples and did life with them.
Today, I encourage you to be friendly and make some friends who will not hesitate to cut a hole in a roof at somebody else’s house to get you to Jesus. Also, don’t forget to live in the RED. You are LOVED and FORGIVEN!
f e a r LESS!
Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
When I was in the 9th grade, my mom and I were robbed on our back porch. The burglar not only took our shopping bags, our house keys, our purses and money, but he also took my courage and confidence. For months, I watched out the window and peeped out the door, afraid that he would come back. I would grab a catnap when I came home from school and then stay up all night. If I heard any noise in or around the house, I would jump up to look out the window. It was terrible! I was horrified! I was irritable and tired and it was all because someone had come in and taken my courage.
My mom told me to not focus on fear and gave me 2 Timothy 1:7 to read and memorize and recite any time I became fearful. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind”. Eventually, I gained a little more courage. I was able to sleep at night and rest after a few months. But that fear never truly left me. I was always waiting on the burglar to come back to our home. However, he never came back and I wasted so many hours fearing what would come.
In today’s verse, God gave Joshua the charge to move forward and take the Children of Israel into the promised land of Canaan. However, He first told Joshua, “Moses, my servant is dead” (Joshua 1:2). It was now up to Joshua to lead the people. I love that God hits Joshua with the truth, with the reality that Moses is dead, but then gives him a few unwavering promises… “I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses (Joshua 1:3); No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5). Not only did God give Joshua several promises, but He also gave him a command that he repeats several times: Be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:6, 7, 9, 18).
In October of 2000, Bishop Paul Morton came to Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Nashville, TN and preached from this very verse. I remember his booming voice across the pulpit quoting the scripture, “Moses, my servant is dead.” In the moment, God spoke to my spirit and whispered quietly that it was time for Sandra to take her rest. That October my mother flat lined during surgery, but I was like Hezekiah and turned my face to the wall to ask for more time (Isaiah 38:2). I was so fearful, scared and afraid to lose my mom, my best friend, my confidante, and my champion. I wasn’t like Joshua; I could not go on. I was not strong or courageous. I still suffered from anxiety and fear from that burglar who robbed us when I was in middle school 10 years earlier. I was in no way, shape or form strong enough to bury my mom. God granted my prayer request for more time.
God extended grace upon grace and grace (John 1:16) to our family. He granted my mom 5 more months (5 is the number of grace) of life. During those days and months, I never forgot Bishop Morton’s sermon.
In February of 2001, 5 months after the initial scare, the Lord welcomed my mom into Heaven. I could hear God’s voice so clear the day my mom passed away, “Sandra my servant is dead.” But just like He did for Joshua, God spoke to me time and time again to remind me to be strong and courageous. Two things that I had NEVER proclaimed to be – strong or courageous. I recall 2001 for various reasons, my mother died and only a few months later thousands would die at the hand of terrorists during the 9/11 attacks. The same fear that assaulted me when I was robbed on my porch as a child, came over me the day the towers were hit. In those moments, I remembered the scripture that my mom gave to me… God has not given us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7).
My mom was my strength and my courage; but now I was given the charge to be strong and courageous. I learned in those days and months after my mother’s death the true meaning of strength and courage. I would need it as I made funeral arrangements, petitioned the court for custody of my younger sister, endured a custody battle, looked for a new job, started a career, purchased a house and started raising a 10-year-old vibrant little girl.
And just like He promised Joshua, God did not and has not left my side. He made me a promise and He that promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23). Since that day I have relied and rested on Joshua 1:9 so many times. I have learned that courage is not the absence of fear but moving forward in spite of it.
Today, on the 18th anniversary of 9/11 and the 18th year since my mother’s death, I encourage you to be fearLESS and fear LESS because God has got your back. Regardless of what you have faced or are facing, He promises that He will never leave you nor forsake you and that He will be with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:5; 9). Live in the Red and remember that you are loved and forgiven!
The Spoils of War
2 Samuel 3:22 And behold, the servants of David and Joab came from a raid and brought much spoil with them;
If you have looked at the news at all during the last few weeks, it has been like receiving reports from a war zone. Shootings, Mass Murders, 2 people gunned down, 16 people injured, more than 20 people killed. All of my senses are screaming “war”!
Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 says there is a time for EVERYTHING under the sun. A time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to love and a time to hate; a time of war and a time of peace. This certainly feels like a time of war.
I can’t begin to imagine the hurt and pain of losing a loved one on a shopping trip to Walmart. Literally, here one moment and gone the next moment. The families are now left to suffer and rebuild from the ashes of death.
In the Bible during the days of the Children of Israel, God would send armies into wars and many times tell them to bring the spoils back. The spoils of war are the profits – the overflow that comes from the winning the war. In those days it was the livestock, or if allowed the slaves, the gold, silver or whatever precious cargo that the enemy had left after they were annihilated. The victor would take the spoils of war.
The spoils are those things we gain after a battle or a war. When I first heard of this concept in a modern day setting, I was like, ummmm no, I don’t have any spoils from the battles that I have fought. But man, was I wrong. I have so much gold and silver and wisdom and knowledge from the battles.
I think of my mother’s death as a battle and I would NEVER think there would be a profit from her death. What would be gained by losing my mom, my champion, my best friend? However, because she passed away, I wanted to honor her legacy by creating San’s Child, Inc., I have had the opportunity to mentor so many young ladies, speak at various conferences and women’s retreats and meet some of the most dynamic women in the world. San’s Child, Inc. has been a spoil of war.
In 2002, I met a man and fell head over hills in love with him. We dated for years and then we broke up. He ended up marrying another lady and for a year or two after the relationship ended, I was devastated. I would have never thought that I would ever have a nice word to say about him or ever see him again. But years later when we met again and actually talked and became friends, he introduced me to my new church home. I found so many women in Christ who have led to greater depths and knowledge in the word of God, who have encouraged me to become an active disciple maker, who have pushed me beyond my comfort zone to go out to evangelize to a lost world. I have met new friends that I love like sisters and it was because of a terrible breakup that left me broken. I would have never thought that I would say that a bad relationship led me a greater relationship with the lover of my soul, but yet another spoil of war.
What are your spoils of war? Every battle, heartache, disappointment has led to a greater blessing. How do I know? Because the Bible promises that ALL things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). I pray that the victims of these heinous attacks knew the Lord and are resting in peace and I pray that the families that have lost their loved one know the Prince of Peace. It doesn’t look or feel like it now, but God uses everything for his glory. What the devil meant for bad, God works for our good.
Continue to pray for the families of the victims of the shootings in El Paso, TX, Dayton, OH, and Southaven, MS, and those who have lost their loved ones to senseless murders, cancer and other diseases. May they find comfort and peace in the midst of their mourning and they see the spoils of their war. Take a moment this week to discover your spoils of war. They are there! I promise. Don’t forget to live in the Red ~ Loved, Forgiven.
Saying, Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me: NEVERTHELESS, not my will, but yours be done.
Have you ever despised a job? Like really despised a job, so much that it would become mentally, emotionally and sometimes physically impossible for you to go to work everyday. I had a job that I hated for about 6 months and every day I would pray for a fender bender so that I would have an excuse to miss work. I know, sad but true. Not a major wreck, but a fender bender that would allow me to miss a few days of work, giving me a reprieve.
My boss was a mad woman who hated Christianity and anything associated with it; my subordinates were all very young and stayed in trouble all the time. Every morning, I woke up trying to figure out how I could get out of going to work.
I was miserable. I wanted to be done and over with this job NOW. My aunt called me one day and told me she had a book for me to read. It was called The Prayer of Jesus. She told me that it would literally change my life. Anything that could change my life was welcome! She gave me the book and I remember reading the scripture above. What stood out in the scripture was the word, NEVERTHELESS.
I decided to pray the prayer of Jesus about my job, so my prayer was “Lord, please give me another job; if there is ANYWHERE else that you would rather I would be, send me there, but NEVERTHELESS if this is where you want me to be, give me the strength to be here.” That was it. That was the prayer that I prayed over 17 years ago.
Until I read that book and studied the verse, I really didn’t understand the prayer. Now I realize that the scripture - that prayer, allows us to see the man and the deity of Jesus Christ. The man in him, said “Father please take this cup from me”. I can’t imagine, facing death on a cross and knowing the “why” - It would create salvation, but also knowing that it would be the most painful, humiliating price to pay for sins that you didn’t commit. And yet the deity, the savior, in an instant says, NEVERTHELESS… translated it means… In Spite Of, Yet, Though, In Any Event, Come what may, it’s not my will, but it’s your will.
That’s a place of total surrender. Of being FULLY persuaded that come what may, it is what it is, and I will do whatever I have to do. Do you have a NEVERTHELESS situation in your life? You know where you are in a place or a position that God has called you to, but your carnal man is screaming, please take this cup away from me! Please take this burden away from me! Even though, it’s for the greater good, I just can’t do it.
I am so happy that Jesus was real and transparent in that moment. It has taught me a valuable lesson. We all have struggles and face situations and circumstances that we just want to go away, even Jesus, the lover of our souls struggled for a brief moment with His assignment. However, it’s so significantly important to offer a NEVERTHELESS in that moment. God knows best. In my situation, He gave me another job. Literally two days after praying that prayer, I received a call for an interview and I have never looked back. With his death, Jesus created salvation. All because He offered a NEVERTHELESS prayer.
I will never forget the day my mother died. I prayed fervently for God to save my mom and keep her on earth with me and my sister. In the quiet early morning hours of February 25, 2001, God answered, “no”, in His still sweet sovereign voice. I remember initially crying in anguish and pain, but then, like Jesus as He accepted His fate on the cross, the NEVERTHELESS prayer happened… “not my will, but yours be done.” As I sat at my mom’s bedside, I prayed that God would receive my mother’s spirit and give her soul rest. Nevertheless…
I am sure some of you are facing some NEVERTHELESS moments, seasons, circumstances and you are praying that God would remove the cup. I implore you to offer a nevertheless prayer. One thing that I do know is that God loves you. He wants you to trust him with all of your heart and lean not to your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6), and He will direct your paths. Today, lean in, trust, give God your NEVERTHELESS, and remember you are Loved and Forgiven. Live in the Red!
He Prepares a Table… In the Presence of Mine Enemies
Psalm 23:5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
If I can be completely honest and transparent, the last few weeks have been quite difficult for me. If I can be completely honest, I may have decided to just walk away from everything and everyone and start somewhere fresh and brand new. If I can be completely honest, I have been nervous, anxious, rattled and just discombobulated in general and If I can be completely honest, I would say that I have been not really myself lately; as one of my friends told me a few days ago, I have been just down right angry.
So to counteract these emotions, I decided to be like Jesus and get away to a solitary place so that I could rest, pray and find peace. I didn’t want to drive and couldn’t afford the last minute plane ticket, so I booked a seat on the Mega Bus. I have very little experience with the Mega Bus; I have only ridden it one time before yesterday. But the tickets were super cheap and the need for peace and solitude was super high, so I purchased the ticket. Well the first day, I missed the bus because I didn’t feel well.
So I booked another ticket, made sure that I felt better and boarded the bus yesterday morning at 9:45am. I was the third person in line so I was super excited to get to my seat and start the relaxation process. As I am sitting in my “Purchased” seat, an elderly lady and her granddaughter say that I am in their seats. “No ma’am (always polite and respecting my elders), this is my seat. See I have my proof of purchase. They must have booked the seat twice.” Let me digress for just a moment and tell you about the seats on Mega Bus. There is a first come, first serve policy unless you purchase a seat. There are only a few purchased seats - about four on the lower deck at the table and about eight on the upper deck in the nicer seats.
The elderly lady replies, “I’ll just sit here until we can straighten it out”, but not before reading me every word on her ticket; so I in turn read her every word on my ticket and that’s when I realized that I was wrong. My ticket departure date was for Friday (today) and not Thursday (yesterday). I was on the wrong bus. If I were fairer skinned individual, I would have turned a beautiful beet red. I was so embarrassed. So I picked my things up and headed down to the front of the bus to state my case to the driver. By this time, my friend and ride to the bus station had pulled off and the bus was ready to depart. Wait! I had to make my confession; I am on the wrong bus. The driver hurriedly advised me to call customer support. Customer support said they had NO available seats on the bus and I would need to wait until 11:50pm to get a seat on the next bus. I hung up the phone, distraught.
So listen, I have an iPhone 8 plus; it works well, but I can barely hear so I was on speaker phone in front of the bus. I was the only thing standing between the bus’s departure. Everyone was looking at me, most with disdain because, I was holding up the bus. Defeated, I told the bus driver that I needed to remove my suitcase and travel tomorrow. He says, “Go find a seat.” Wait. What? He says hurry don’t worry about customer support; find a seat so we can go. I go upstairs and find a seat all the way in the back of the bus by an aloof young lady. Nevertheless, I had a seat on the bus, so I was content. I sat quietly to process the moment and realized that I truly needed a break. After my nerves calmed down, I drifted off to sleep to be awakened when the bus driver made the announcement that we had 30 minutes at the rest stop.
After grabbing a snack and getting back on the bus, I sat down to wait on the others to board the bus by the allotted time. So if you’ve followed this story this far, you might be thinking what is the point? Well here is where God just hit me in my spiritual throat. As we were about to depart, the bus driver came and said show me your ticket. I showed him the ticket and he said follow me. Remember, I said I was all the way in the back of the bus on the upper deck. As I get up to follow him, I was thinking, Lord, if he puts me out in this little small town, how can I get back home? Did customer support tell him to put me off the bus? My nerves were already shot.
So I followed him all the way through the top half of the bus to the bottom of the bus and he said, here sit in this seat. The driver moved me from the back of the upper level of the bus to the front of the lower level of the bus in the seats that were “reserved” around the "table". The seats at the table cost $8 dollars each. He gave me two seats – one for my luggage. I only paid $2 for my “purchased” seat on the upper level. Can you say, double for my trouble? Can you say cup running over?
Now look at this! The very people who looked at me with disdain and laughed when I was holding up the bus while on the phone with customer service, were right there facing me. Listen, I was the only person facing towards the back of the bus. Everyone else was facing forward. They all had to look at me as the driver sat me in the front of the bus at the table facing all of them. Psalm 23:5 immediately popped in my head. I was trying not to cry as he walked away because I was so overcome with emotion.
Just two hours ago, I was embarrassed and defeated, but the driver came and “found” me to put me at the “table” in front of the very people who’d huffed and puffed and rolled their eyes when I held up the bus. Listen, I don’t know what you are going through or have been through. The last few months have been tough, but God said, I am preparing a table for you in the presence of the very ones who mocked you, who scorned you, who criticized, ridiculed and talked about you. He said I will find you in your mess and your mistakes and still put you at the table. I am going to sit you in places that you didn’t even have to purchase or pay for and then when you get there, I am going to anoint you and your cup will run over.
I just really want to encourage you to stay the course. I boarded the bus to get away and the enemy immediately wanted me defeated, but God said, just be quiet and stand still and I will fight your battle. Be encouraged today. God is preparing a table right now in the midst of your brokenness, heartache and defeat; right in front of the ones who gloated when you were down. Get Ready! Live in the Red. ~Loved and Forgiven!
#Sitting at the Table
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death … Revelation 12:11
A friend of mine became seriously ill about a month ago and had to take off of work for three weeks. During those three weeks, she spent countless nights at the hospital, her husband filed for divorce and one of her children started on a journey of drug use. She was broken, battered and bruised in so many ways.
A few nights ago, as she prepared to return to her job, after this long break, she asked me what she was going to say to her coworkers if they asked her why she had been out. She also expressed that her anxiety was so high that she felt that she was in the midst of an anxiety attack. I paused for a minute trying to answer, but of course, I needed more information before I could answer. So my questions were, “Why are you anxious? Because you are embarrassed? Because of what people will say? Because your ego is bruised?”
She finally admitted that she was embarrassed. Her life has taken a turn that she was not expecting and that with all of her strength and resilience, she was faltering. Well that made me happy. Why? You may ask. Because God says His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). When we decide to let go of EVERYTHING – God is free to take control. And honestly, we are not in control of anything, anyway!
A few days later, my friend returned to work. She called me on the way and asked me to pray for her. Once again, she asked me what she should say to her coworkers. I paused again, and said have you thought about telling the truth? She remained silent for it seems like a full minute. “She said you really think I should tell these people the truth? They will probably love to see how much life has beaten me down and laugh at me during this time." She went on to say that she was well liked at her job, a leader and that her coworkers looked up to her. "How can I admit that I am at my lowest point – my health is failing, my husband is leaving me and my baby boy is on drugs?” I said, how can you not admit it. You are the perfect candidate to tell your story. Of course, her next question was WHY?
I am so glad she asked. You may be wondering the same thing. The reason lies in Revelation 12:11, we are overcome by the word of our testimony. Plainly stated, when we share our tests and trials, someone who may be experiencing the same thing, can go through it with confidence that you if can handle it, he or she can too. As a little girl, I remember being in church and people would stand up and talk about their problems and then everyone would shout, clap, and cry and then someone else would do the same. I thought it was the weirdest thing. Until I got older, experienced life and took the opportunity to stand in front of the church a few times telling people how good God has been to me.
Many of us have been blessed tremendously – we have good health, healthy children, wonderful marriages, money in the bank, great careers and the list goes on, but if we are honest, for every wonderful marriage, there have been hard days and times that you may have looked to divorce as the answer, but inevitability went through the test and came out better. For every great car, there is someone who remembers taking public transportation to work and from work for months or years; for every beautiful home, there are stories of foreclosures or bad credit that was fixed before the beautiful home could be purchased. The point is, we ALL have a story.
Life has not been without challenges for any of us. Here’s the problem, many of us, “make it” and forget to tell others about the rough patches. I get it. Who wants to remember when there was more month than there was money? Who wants to recall taking buses to work every day? However, think about how the person on the bus stop will feel if you encourage them by saying, “It won’t always be like this”. It could literally brighten a day, change someone’s perspective and ultimately encourage him/her life to keep going.
My friend pulled up to her job and said she wasn’t ready to tell her truth. No judgment here! She asked me again what she should say, I said just tell them about the parts you are comfortable with – just tell them you’ve been in the hospital, but you’re ok. She said, she would go with that. We ended the conversation with a prayer.
Later that afternoon, she called me so excited, she said she had her story all ready to go and she was just going to say she’d had some tests run and she was fine, but she said when one of her coworkers asked, she just started talking about everything. She said she felt like she had diarrhea of the mouth; she was so afraid, but the words just kept coming and she felt free. At the end of the day, several people thanked her for sharing her journey.
I was elated for her. She saw the power of testifying! She saw the impact on others when she told her truth. And regardless of how she thought her coworkers would react, they still loved her. When it’s time and the Lord, lays it on your heart, I encourage you to testify, to “speak your truth, even if your voice shakes.” Remember you are loved and forgiven!
A Covenant in Crisis!
Genesis 16: 8 … “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.
Have you ever been in a crisis - I mean a life or death crisis where everything was on the line? You had to make some tough decisions. You knew that one decision made or not made and your world would likely change forever. I feel like that’s the story of my life. I read a quote that said “We are all one decision away from a different life.” One choice can forever change the course of our lives.
In Genesis Chapter 16, Hagar, the slave of Sarai, was running. She was running from a decision that she made, but the consequence was unbearable, so she ran. She ran to get away from the known – seeking the unknown. She ran!
She was in crisis. She was hurt, disappointed and ready for her new unknown life. But as she was running she ran right into an angel of the Lord, who told her to go back and submit to her mistress. Wait? What? No… I imagine Hagar asking, “you see that I have been mistreated and you want me to go back to the very place that I have been mistreated, stay there and be content with the foolishness that made me want to run away?” And God answers… “Why yes, my child, that is what I want you to do.”
You see God had promised Sarai and Abram a child and not only that, but that their offspring would dominant the earth. However, Sarai was tired of waiting on God (that’s a“whole”nother blog post) and took matters into her own hands. She decided to have Hagar sleep with her husband, Abram, in order to conceive a child – the child of promise. The plan worked and Hagar became pregnant but she began to taunt Sarai because she was infertile. Long story, short, Sarai was upset and told Abram it was his fault. He placed Hagar in her hands and Sarai dealt with her harshly, so Hagar ran away.
Could Hagar have said no to Sarai? I’m sure. Could she just have run away when asked to sleep with another woman’s husband? I’m positive. But she stayed and complied and then when things got too far out of hand, she ran! Sounds like us, huh? Well let me make it personal. It sounds like me! Now this is the part where God’s grace can supersede any problem, situation, circumstance that we have gotten ourselves into. Aren’t you glad God can bless y(our) mess!? God, our loving father, meets Hagar in her place of wilderness. He asks her questions that He already knows the answers to; Where have you come from and Where are you going? (Genesis 16:8). Hagar replies… I am running.
Listen! I love her honesty! I love that she tells the angel of the Lord, I am running. We need to rest in our truths - rest in the place that we find ourselves in and become honest about how we came to that place. Hagar was running! Sis, are you running? Maybe from a different scenario, but running nonetheless. Perhaps you are running from your past, your grief, a husband, a job, a child. Confess to God like Hagar did that you are running. Many of us, yes I said, US, don’t want to confess because we don’t want to hear God’s answer. I was a little taken aback by the answer too. Go back! What? Wait? Huh? To that husband that I am trying to divorce; to that job that I hate? To that situation that is harsh and hard? And not only go back, but be obedient when you go back - submit. Say what? What you talking about, Willis? No sir! No ma’am! So many of us continue to run, because we don’t want to hear or obey God’s instruction.
But see God didn’t just send her back to that same place in the same way. He sends her back with covenant – with a promise that He gives directly to her, not from a prophet or medium, but from God’s mouth to her ears - the ears of a slave girl, Abram’s concubine. He says, I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count (Genesis 16:10). Have you heard that before? That is similar to the covenant that God made with Abraham (Genesis 15:5). I am so excited that in the midst of my crisis God creates covenant with me. God created covenant with a slave girl who had slept with a married man. God had a conversation with her, Himself. Are you shouting yet? Your situation is NEVER too bad, too impossible, too insurmountable for God! Take about 15 seconds to just shout right here!!!
We often try to hide from God when we have done some things that are wrong or against His will, but in Genesis 16:13, Hagar says you are the God that sees me (El roi) and she goes on to say, I have seen the one who sees me. Wow! Have you seen the one who sees you? Have you experienced the one who sees you? Do you know the one who sees you and yet still loves you? Sis, God sees that situation, that circumstance, that crisis. You don’t have to hide from Him. You can’t hide from Him! He sees you and yet just like He did with Hagar, He wants to come into covenant with you. He hasn’t forgotten you or any of the promises He’s made to you! Stop running from your problem and run to God. He’s waiting – arms wide open. Remember to Live in the RED! ~ Loved and Forgiven.