Holding Out Under God’s Grace

efe-free-photo-bundle-11“Each time, he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Take heart. What was designed to take you out will ultimately make you stronger. Trust how God is bringing you through what you’re going through. (Go ahead and read that again.) God could change things for you in an instant. But if He isn’t working it out that way, be content with knowing that He’s got a reason, and it is good.

God has a reason for taking His time and making you feel every bump and scrape along this leg of your journey. God’s pruning us can seem unfair, tedious, inconvenient, and harsh. You might even think your time of pruning should be over by now. Yet, here you are…here WE are: battle worn, bruised, embarrassed, vulnerable, shaken– and bothered about it.

God gets it. He knows it’s not an easy road. But, he also knows it’s the best road for us because it will lead us to the blessed destination He has reserved for us. God sees what we can’t see. He knows what He has to work out of us so that He can work in us and through us. And He knows how long it will take. There’s a choir song lyric that says, “Lord, help me to hold out…until my change has come.” This is a fitting prayer set to a melody we can have in our hearts as we call on God to help us hold out until our current trial is over.

A Clean Heart

feb-20-lifestyle-pixistock-6-e1588479722804As a young girl, growing up in Dayton, Ohio, God favored me to attend Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, under the leadership of Dr. Charles S. Brown and his lovely wife Mrs. Joan S. Brown. I have many beautiful memories at Bethel. Memories that I cherish to this very day. From time to time I will share them here, along with wonderful memories I made while attending Mt. Calvary Baptist Church and even now at Mt. Zion Church of God in Christ in North Carolina.

Bethel was known for singing soaring anthems, peaceful chants, and contemplative hymns, all with a splash of gospel flavor. Among them is a song composed by Margaret J. Douroux, PhD, entitled “Give Me a Clean Heart.” You can learn more about Dr. Douroux, this song, and her tremendous contributions to sacred music by clicking here.

The smoothest and richest alto voice in the choir at Bethel when I was about 10 years old was from the person of Sis. Wanda Bryant. I cannot hear in my mind another voice leading the chorus and singing the verses to “Give Me a Clean Heart.” The verses from this song highlight verses from Psalm 51 and stands among countless compositions that beckon us set ourselves before the Lord in prayer with a request for Him to do what only He can do to purify our hearts and help us persevere in serving Him.

Before I go on, I’ll share a summary of why Psalm 51 was written. This psalm is one of lament and was composed by King David. After David’s unlawful encounter with Bathsheba and after murdering her husband to cover it all up, Nathan the prophet confronted David about it. You can read about it from the Bible here. David came to grips with the error of his ways and repented. Thus, we have Psalm 51.

This time of the year brings a time of retrospection for most people. We celebrate and are thankful for what went well. We also think about what did not go well and what we want to do to make sure we have a better year.  For a person of faith, this retrospection includes our walk with God. Our lives are affected by many outside variables. Changes in our health, work, relationships, unfulfilled dreams, money concerns, general overwhelm, grief, and more can move us out of step with God. We daily run the risk of becoming cynical to the point where we no longer trust God deeply. We only trust Him in theory. We trust Him on the surface so that we can save Christian face with ourselves and others who know we serve and (gasp!)  lead in ministry.

Whether it’s the end of the year or the beginning of the new year, while the pace is a little slower, take this time to sit before the Lord with Psalm 51. It is one of many psalms of lament in the Bible, but somehow over time this one has stood out when we find ourselves needing to seek God’s forgiveness and cleansing from sinful thoughts, deeds, and motivations. Many of us are not enjoying this life that God has blessed us with because we just haven’t come clean with Him. We haven’t stopped to take stock of our individual life’s direction. We’re just going through the motions hoping God is pleased with us. When God cleanses our hearts and minds, we get renewed joy, peace, vision, wisdom, stability, and strength to live our best lives and enjoy what God has blessed us with while we serve Him.

The Lord knows how to search our hearts for what displeases Him and doesn’t serve us well. Let us let King David’s script be our guide in prayer as we enter the new year (the new decade!) and let the Holy Spirit do the work while we trust God and live.

2020: Looking Ahead

img_0984Fall is comfortably underway. The air is cooler, the leaves are colorful, and harvest-themed porch decorations abound. Football games, homecoming celebrations, and autumn festivals have added highlights to this time of year. Now, as we’ve entered November we are in that sweet little spot before our collective attention turns to the year-end holiday hustle bustle. In the time that leads up to the holiday frenzy, there is an opportunity that can help you have a new year unlike any other.

As we get closer to January 2020, the national conversation will no doubt relate the year 2020 with the measurement for visual clarity: 20/20. We can almost be certain that the year 2020 will be chock full of motivation to help you get on course and stay on course to achieve your goals. If you have not taken the time to get clear about your purpose or areas of your life that are meaningful, now is a great time to do just that.

To boost your efforts, I’d like to share five quick tips to help you prepare well and STICK to your goals in the coming year.

S- Slow Down. Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” If you are not clear on your purpose, it is highly likely that you are moving through life much faster than you should be. Slow down and, if you have to, stop. Take time to catch your breath and organize your thoughts. Make quiet time with the Lord a priority so that you can pray and not only be revived in the presence of the Lord, but also become clear on the next important steps for your life.

T- Think. Think about where you are in life and where you want to be. 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.” Too often we let life take over and we get cheated out of experiencing the abundance God has in store for us. It is never too late to take stock of your life and dig in to making God’s plan and purpose your reality.

I- Investigate. Once you have become clear about your purpose and have taken stock of where you are and where you want to be, it’s a good time to investigate the steps you will need to take to get there. Philippians 4:9 says “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” There is a lot that we can learn from each other. When we are open to learning from others and making changes to succeed, it can certainly go a long way. People who are living their God-ordained purpose in life know the steps to take, the pitfalls to avoid, the resources to use, and the mindset to cultivate when it comes to following God’s unique plan. When we organize these things and take action, the results can be extraordinary.

C- Change your Calendar. This next tip is pretty radical but can have lasting results. In 2014 I was caregiving for my husband who had, by then, been enduring a health challenge for several years. I always enjoy working in the community and serving in my church, but by then, I was so stretched out that I finally had to stop, think, investigate, and ultimately change my calendar. Proverbs 16:3 says “Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established.” After taking time to pray and getting honest with myself, I rotated out of several organizations and responsibilities and made a promise that I would only serve in one community organization and serve where critically needed in church. Not only does this practice keep me from becoming overwhelmed, but it also helps me to be of good service to the organization and responsibilities that I have. I am able to focus and give intentional time to the few causes that I am working with. I can give my best to help the church and community organization do their best work for the people we serve.

K- Keep on Course. Hebrews 10:36 says “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” This encouraging scripture highlights the reward of staying the course when distractions and adversities come. We receive God’s promises. Peace of mind, an abundant life, strength, refreshing…too often, again, we fall for the devil’s tricks and miss out on these things that are available to us.

There you have it. A few tips to act on before the flurry of holiday activity begins. When we settle in to trust God deeply and keep on course with what we have learned, instead of derailing our goals by January 31st, we can greet the year 2020 with clarity and with a prepared heart and mind to STICK to God’s plan the whole year through.