Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace

Standard

For a child has been born for us,

   a son given to us;

Government rests upon his shoulders;

   and he is named

Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,

   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

His government shall grow continually,

   and there shall be endless peace

for the throne of David and his kingdom

He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness

   from this time onwards and for evermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. Isaiah 9:6-7

This week at work seems to be crazier than the week before Thanksgiving, so I slacked on yesterday’s Advent post. However, the readings in my study are absolutely wonderful. Yesterday’s reading was Micah 5:2-5, and today’s is Isaiah 9:6-7. Both scriptures bring forth the idea of peace through the reign of our everlasting king, Jesus Christ.

I love how the authors prophesy about the coming of Christ in, both, their time, as well as the future. With the rising tensions of political power today, the world, desperately, needs something to hold onto and hope for. Both of the above scriptures are a reminder that we are, still, in waiting for our Beloved King.

I can’t remember a time where I was allowed the luxury of feeling peaceful. I sought for it, but, never, had I truly understood what it would feel like to just be in the moment without some kind of anxiety for the future.

As I studied these two scriptures, I realized that, even if life on earth felt “easy” and peaceful, it would be a false sense of security. We are not given the right to eternity on earth. We gave that away in the very beginning. We do not own these homes, cars, and families like we think we do. These are earthly gifts that do not follow us at the end of our journey. So what, exactly, is the point?

The point is to learn how to love unconditionally in the meantime. The point is to learn how to rest in faith while we wait for our Father.. or as Isaiah says it, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,” to come rescue us from the mess we have gotten ourselves into through sin.

I am struggling with the idea of patience and unconditional love right now. As a mother of boys, adolescence can be somewhat brutal. My household has been in the midst of middle school madness for 2 years now and, boy, is this momma tired.

When it seems that life has finally settled down and I can finally enjoy that unfamiliar peace, my 12 year old decides to wreak havoc on our 7th grade year, as if 6th grade wasn’t difficult enough! He has gotten his self in quite the messes here lately and I can’t seem to catch a break from the phone calls from his teachers or emails from other parents.

After 9 days straight of working, and a heartbreaking phone call from my son’s teacher, all I could do was sink myself into bed, last night, and cry myself to sleep. I am a mom who exhausts the idea of teaching life lessons around every corner. I believe in consequences and discipline. I raise my son in church. I teach him about respect and manners… and, yet, he leaves my hands each day, goes out into his world, and turns into something so out of character in the way he is brought up. The dude is practically on house arrest with no contact to the outside world, at the moment, so I am running out of discipline options, here.

Then, I sit down and read the words of Isaiah this morning. I am reminded that I don’t have to live in fear for Grayson’s future. For whatever reason, his journey through middle school needs to be a hard one. I am not the author of his life. I am only fortunate enough to play a supporting role. I have got to stop battling with my own insecurities over the situation. You see, just because it feels like other’s cannot see how wonderful our children are, doesn’t mean they aren’t destined for a promising future. I mean, some people even thought Jesus was a troublemaker… right??

I don’t want to justify Grayson’s actions. I just want to learn how to love him through his bad decisions, even when they effect my own inner peace. Just as God does for me.

Through my advent study this morning, I was reminded that Jesus Christ is the only Prince of Peace and I need to rest in Him during these trying times with my son. It is only in His name that we find security and stability. Before He was ever born, His name was mighty. I have got to learn to trust God’s plan for my son and remain steadfast in the way I raise him, regardless how painful.

If only they came with instructions.

Lord, bless our future generations and all that they are exposed to. Let the evil in the world fall off of their shoulders and bring them closer to your protection. In your name, I pray. Amen.

Sweet child, live free.

Love, D

Advent: A Lesson in the Importance of Bible Study

Standard

14 So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
Genesis 3:14-15 NIV

 

Lately, I have been trying my hand at Bible interpretation. I read a verse from my Bible, then, compare my interpretation to multiple commentaries to examine its theological context in all its glory. Since the beginning of this practice, I have become more and more astounded at how I misinterpret the text, which inspires me to dig deeper with every verse of scripture I study. It’s a wonder why it takes so long to read..I say this with a happy spirit! It’s a plethora of knowledge. From the very first sip, my thirst has tripled!

I am beginning an Advent Bible study this week. I wanted to document the experience and share what I have learned on each day. It is intended to be my way of living the anticipation of Jesus’ birth just like the apostles did in The Old Testament. My biggest desire right now is to learn how to love with compassion, forgiveness, and humility, just like Jesus. So, I decided to take a walk with Him this Christmas season.

I started today off with the above scripture. I used a different study method this morning. Since I am using Love God Greatly’s 2016 Advent study, God With Us, I tried my hand at their acclaimed SOAP study method. The idea of this method is to write the scripture out, make your observation, discuss life application of that scripture, and, then, pray over that lesson. I must say, I really enjoyed it!

I got super excited, though, after comparing my observation to the commentary of my Women’s Evangelical Commentary of The Old Testament. So much so, that I ran into the kitchen to begin writing this blog post and found myself in a discussion about this scripture with my, bright, 12 year old son, Grayson, over breakfast. I read it to him and asked him to tell me his interpretation of the verse. Much to my surprise, he interpreted it similar to its commentary.

We had, recently, watched an incredible  interpretation of the Book of Genesis by Tim Mackie with The Bible Project. (If you have not experienced this caricature inspired commentary, I suggest running to your Bible app and doing so immediately!) It connects the dots in ways that I have never seen, and Grayson subconsciously matched this verse to the video interpretation, without the video stating the exact verse. I was so impressed!

My “aha!” moment came in verse 15, “I will put emnity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers.” I know this sounds so amateur, but I was, first, visualizing the hatching of a snakes egg. Then, it settled on my heart when I realized a modern distinction to this verse. Think of all the Biblical referencing that is being stripped from our society in this day and age. I thought, what if satan’s offspring could very well be a prophecy of the animosity between believers and nonbelievers?

I don’t know about you guys, but I notice the eye rolls and snickers when I passionately speak of my faith. Matter of fact, I have a friend who is nipping at the bit to sit down with me to discredit the Bible. Doesn’t that sound similar to what God predicted? I love him dearly and I would never put him down for his lack of faith, because I don’t have to. I can love him as is, just where he is. The reason is because I am so happily solid in my faith and in what I have found in the arms of God. I don’t want anyone taking that away from me, because, frankly, I choose to live in hope that the life I am working towards is so much greater than anything I have experienced here on earth. I live in hope and I genuinely want to be a living testimony to His grace and mercy.

The second lesson for me was when God issued Satan’s punishment, I couldn’t distinguish who He was talking about with the use of the pronouns, she, then he. My observation was simply that when a believer’s faith is weak, Satan will be “nipping at their heel.” When, in all actuality, God was speaking of Jesus’ coming.When He says, “he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel,”  He is actually pronouncing, as Tim Mackie puts it in his commentary, the prophecy of the wounded victor, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Guys.. this is why I am so on fire with studying the Bible! It is so much more than what we see when we sit down to read it for the first time! The Lord blessed my life the day I started attending women’s conferences and, then, again when I started seminary two months ago. The Word is not a topical book. It is a beautiful study of multiple genre’s of literature all wrapped up in one amazing book about the ultimate Creator of our lives. It is not to be read. It is to be lived.

I hope this study rests on your hearts and I encourage you all to share with me what you are reading during this season! You can go to my Facebook page (link at the bottom of the page) and start a discussion. I would be delighted to participate!!

Facebook Link: Advent: A Lesson in the Importance of Bible Study

Sweet child, live free

Love, D

cropped-wwm1.jpg

My Testimony, His Grace

Standard

A while back, my therapist asked me who my favorite actress was. My response? “Diane Lane.” I think she is the most beautiful, modest, graceful woman, on and off the set. I have thought about that question from time to time and discovered that most women I have admired throughout the course of my life seemed to share one common trait. Grace. Make no mistake, it’s not that I felt like I had anything in common with them. I am the quirky,  messy, loud, artistic type with the ability to lose everything I come in contact with, fall, or spill on myself at the most inappropriate times. I am anything butgraceful. After meeting the puma in Grace In a Glass Case, I felt compelled to dig into more research of this word to explore a deeper reason as to why I become enamored and inspired by anything that exhibits such grace.

By His Mercy, Not My Merit

I thought that if I could learn how to carry myself as the women I admired, I would “look” more graceful. My faith journey is teaching me that there is so much more to grace than what we look like on the outside. It is a gift we must connect with on the inside for it to reflect outward. Through my research, I have learned many things about grace. One is that it’s sole producer is God. It is because of His mercy that we are able to receive grace. I grew up thinking that if I performed good deeds and went to church, God would bless my life. Last Sunday in church, our pastor made it very clear that grace is unmerited. We cannot do anything to earn it. God decides how, when, where, or why we receive it. Why is this important in MY understanding of grace in others? Because, just as I explained sin in What If…., the same applies here. I had to be able to recognize what grace feels like in order for me to appreciate who is responsible for giving it and the effort it takes to reflect it. There are many ways that God sheds grace on my life, but I haven’t always been able to recognize it. Now that I am spiritually mature enough to see grace as it actually is, I feel the need to share what it looked like before and after I was saved.

Damn This Life Of Mine

I truly wanted to believe that somewhere along the way I got the short end of the stick. That somehow, of all the people in the world, God pointed at me and said, “Here! She’s a hot mess, so give her the messy life!” For the entire first half of my life, it seemed I just couldn’t escape drama. Everywhere I turned, there was something happening! If I wasn’t fighting with family, I was fighting with friends. I was the troublemaker. I “stirred the pot,” as some would say. And I won’t deny that! I was always caught up in something I was not supposed to be. Looking back, honestly, that’s all I really knew how to do. I didn’t understand what the word surrender meant because I never had a safe place to practice that skill. I didn’t understand how to be a peacemaker because I grew up in a family that constantly argued. So, as I got older, fighting was a part of natural daily life… with everything and everyone. I have been blessed with many gifts, but if there were a degree in drama, back then, I would’ve been top of my class. Yet, I look back and remember how I longed for peace and quietness. I was starving for softness. Inside, I was dying for a place to submit so I didn’t have to pretend to be so strong anymore. It was catastrophically exhausting. Since I couldn’t find that safe place in my surroundings, I created created my own. It was one that could’ve completely ruined my life.

When I got out of high school, I was desperate for approval. I became involved with a troubled group of people that were quite heavy into the drug scene. With these friends, I experienced things that no young girl should ever. I had every type of drug at my disposal, and, since, I finally felt like I belonged, I happily participated in disposing of it all, almost nightly. I was so naive as to allow heavy amounts of traffic in and out of my apartment on a regular basis. It was normal to have about 10 people hanging out with music blaring, without a care that there were other tenants residing in the same complex. It was all fun and games until one day, I received a knock at my door. When I was expecting the arrival of a group of friends armed with jello shots and the evenings party favors, I was surprised to find a group of undercover agents at my door with guns and a search warrant. The following weeks were a nightmare. Though I was not charged with anything illegal, my “friends” accused me of setting them all up to get out of trouble, which I had not. A few weeks later I was jumped by 3 girls in a nightclub. Grace was present during that time of my life. If it weren’t for the grace of God, my life would not be what it is today. In the pit of deep, dark brokenness, he has continuously shown undeserved mercy on me. He pulled me out of a shame stricken life when I had no idea what he was doing. Little did I know, in those days, grace came in the form of physical and legal protection.

He Who Is In Me Is Bigger Than Anything Formed Against Me

When I started to get my life back together, another part of me began falling apart. You see, I had a child at 17 that, much to my regret, I didn’t raise. I wanted to… more than anything, I just wasn’t allowed. I wanted to speak the truth about my sons father, but it was forbidden. The adults in my life made parenting such a constant fight for 3 years, I didn’t stand a chance. I became so distracted with fighting for my right to be a parent, that I never learned how to be his mom. When I gave up, I met the aforementioned group of friends. I ran so hard from the guilt and shame of circumstance that I couldn’t stand the sight of my own shadow. Things began to change after spending a year away in my early twenties. When I returned and started cosmetology school, my confidence slowly started to resurface. When I met other young girls going to school and raising their children alone, I began feeling like I could do it too. When I mustered up the courage to go for it, I was faced with resistance, again. What I wanted and needed didn’t matter. Taking my son from my parents would turned into an 8 month court battle where I wasnt even allowed to see him. I was reminded almost daily that I could not measure up to what they were to him. And even though I won, the battle never ended. He’s 20 years old, and, still, today, we have not been able to repair what was taken from us. Regardless, God’s grace was always with me. He always believed in the real me. God offered His unconditional love and mercy, even when my earthly parents didn’t know how. When the world may fail us, He is our shelter. Through Him and only Him are we capable of experiencing grace when the world tells us that we are worthless. His grace is the means to our salvation.

For I Know The Plans I Have For You

Through it all, God saw something bigger in me. Around the age of 22, I attended a faith renewal weekend retreat with my brother and sister in law. During this retreat, I received my first call. It was during an hour of silence where I sat alone in an empty church and opened up the missalette to find a gospel reading where Jesus told one of the apostles to “be a shepherd to my flock.” He instructed them to go out into the world and teach the word of God to the people. Later that evening, when we broke into our last small group of the day, the exact same scripture had been given to my group leader. Even though I wasn’t obedient, I have always had a special relationship with the Lord. I knew what He was telling me, but I was too broken and ill equipped at the time to follow through. I didn’t know it at the time, but God’s grace was in full swing. He, as He promised, was working it all out for the good. Make no mistake. When it seems like all God’s grace has overlooked you, He is there, like a candle in the night. Whether you believe it or not, He is busy making a way for you.

Last week I had an incredible experience. I attended my first women’s small group at church. For the first time ever, I was in the presence of Godly women who seem to hear God’s messages just like I do. I had always been scared to speak of His messages because I thought people would think I was a lunatic. But these women showed me that there are others, just like me, who experience God’s word on the same level that I do. It is because of God and God alone that I escaped a life of spiritual imprisonment. It is because of God’s grace that I have risen from the ashes of my own hell on earth. It is because of Jesus Christ that I have an image of humility to look up to.

Grace In Its Many Forms

I am learning that grace comes in many forms. It comes to rescue when we are falling off His path. Grace comes in the form of helping human hands. It floods our lives in the most difficult times. God sheds His grace on us when He feels we need it most. I look back and recognize His grace the second my life flipped upside down! He was transforming my life to prepare me to be a completely different person…. a true woman of faith. An imperfect, (still sinful) woman of faith… but one prepared for His plan and humble repentance. He was preparing me to give every distraction up for the sake of His call. He was preparing my future husband. He was preparing our marriage. God’s grace is still grooming our entire household to take on the responsibility of ministry.

We can experience God’s grace every single day. When we are ready to receive it, we begin to resonate the same grace outwardly. We cannot just appear to be graceful. Grace’s only source is God. When we connect with Him, our lives are transformed by it. We appear more graceful when our lives are directly in contact with God and God alone. He is the water of life!

If you are having a hard time recognizing God’s grace, pray this prayer with me:

Dear Heavenly Father,

I come to you today to ask for your forgiveness in sin. I am an imperfect sinner, Lord, but I am ready to be transformed by your grace. Thank you for making the way for me through your son Jesus Christ. I ask for your help in seeing the presence of your grace on my life, Lord. Walk with me and guide me along your path while I study and live out your Word. In Jesus’s name I pray, Amen.

Sweet child, be free.

Love, D

Who Am I? Insecurity vs. Humility

Standard

Have you ever felt a calling on your life so big but thought, “I am nobody. People don’t care what I have to say. Who am I to think my words matter??

I often feel this way. However, when I close my eyes, my hearts home is standing in front of hundreds of women spreading the word of salvation. I never thought I would have the desire to pursue ministry. Truth be told, I never lived the type of life worthy of ministry. When encouraging others, I have often said, “Jesus didn’t sit at the table with the saved. He ate with the broken…the tax collectors and sinners.” Recently, I heard my pastor say, “Jesus looked for people with issues.” I laughed on the inside, because if this was so, He hit a gold mine with me!! So, if Jesus looked for people with issues, why do I find it so hard to believe that He would use someone like me? 

StockSnap_A7J7REI5OMBlessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. John 20:29

I recently learned that when we ask the question, “Who am I?,” we are working from a place of insecurity. When God puts a calling on our lives, the last thing we are supposed to do is question our ability. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “work with a servant’s heart.” Well, when we are told to do something by God, we must imagine that we are standing face to face with him, bow our heads, and reply with, “Yes, my Lord.” My questioning His call on my life does not get me any closer to where I am supposed be to fulfill His plan. It delays my purpose. If I delay my own purpose, I prolong its benefits on my life. It is supposed to come from a place of humility, not insecurity. Humility and insecurity cannot go hand in hand. To understand this more clearly, we must take an in-depth look at the two.

Insecurity says, “I am not equipped to do what you have asked of me.”

StockSnap_82VWIAQ4KDWas Jeremiah equipped for prophetic ministry at the time of God’s call? No. Matter of fact, Jeremiah protested with claims that he was just a child and could not speak. Jeremiah was insecure in his abilities to do God’s work. If God had not touched his lips to put words in his mouth, Jeremiah would have been held back by his own lack of confidence. I am not suggesting that a lack of confidence is bad, but not acting on our purpose because of a lack of confidence can be dangerous. We must learn to persist when confidence is not present. We do not stop because we are feeling insecure, we continue in spite of our insecurities.

 “Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord. Jeremiah 1:17-19

SAMSUNG CSC

I found hope in the life of Jeremiah in a time that I needed it the most. Recently, I had a mentor who encouraged me to put on a seminar, which, I thought, would be an incredible experience. However, I, now, have reasons to believe there were underlying motives with his support and encouragement. To make a long story short, I made a terrible decision by going against my intuition and got romantically involved with him. Though I fought the urge for three months, two weeks in, I realized this was not a healthy situation. Since I could not continue to pursue the relationship, he chose not to mentor me through my seminar. Excitement turned to overwhelming fear and insecurity. The joy I had in this new love of speaking was depleted with disappointment. It felt as though he punished me professionally because I could not be what he wanted on a personal level. Hurt does not describe what I was feeling at the time because this was once a man that I admired and looked up to. The night I realized I would be delivering this message alone, my, then ex fiance, opened my bible and handed it to me. I told myself that whatever page he landed on will be God’s message regarding the future of my seminar. This is where the book of Jeremiah made an impact on, not only my life, but my, now, soon to be husbands. This was the first time Jacques became a witness to God’s messages in my life that I had been speaking of. He stood by as I read the following study of the above passage from my NLT Life Application Study Bible:

Often people struggle with new challenges because they lack self-confidence, feeling that they have have inadequate ability, training, or experience. Jeremiah thought he was “too young” and inexperienced to be God’s prophet to the nations. But God promised to be with him. We should not allow feelings of inadequacy to keep us from obeying God. He will always be with us. If God gives you a job to do, he will provide all you need to do it. 

Two weeks later I delivered my very first seminar without the help of a mentor and I will forever be grateful that God taught me that human hands cannot shape what God creates.

Humility says, “I will rise above my insecurity, use what I’ve got to the best of my ability, without the expectation of reward and recognition.”

The lesson I learned above potentially changed the course of my life. I believe there are many ways to go about pursuing the things we love. However, when it comes to pursuing God’s calling on our lives there is only one way. When I was working on my speaking, I found myself coming from a place IMG_8914of ego. The crazy thing about that is, I am not a person of ego. I am anything but! I am ashamed to admit, though, that I am a person who can be sensitive to my surroundings. If I keep company with people who dispay a certain type of behavior, unfortunately, I feed off of it. I used to think this made me a weak person. There are so many passages in the Bible, however, that reminds me that I am, by default, vulnerable to this, as we all are. So, this does not make me weak, it makes me human. 

Looking back, I feel a sense of clarity, for I believe that God was leading me to the only place that could help me answer His call. He gave me a real life example of what an ego driven purpose looked like verses a faith based. You see, God put this calling on my heart a long time ago. He, obviously, knew that I needed a lesson in humility before releasing me to the hands of His church to fulfill His purpose for my life.

StockSnap_AL0L7WHRQ8

I have slowed down tremendously since all of this has unraveled. I have seen the beauty in waiting on God’s timing, not my own. I will put my trust in Him and Him alone. I am currently working through our church’s Growth Track and will soon be baptized with the love of my life standing right beside me. I know what God is asking of me in terms of ministry, so I have to trust that He will deliver a responsible, Godly mentor to guide me to through that journey.

Are you, or someone you know, struggling with ego while pursuing your faith based purpose? Turn to the one who created you for guidance. He is the way and the truth in all things, especially insecurity and humility.

Sweet child, be free.

Love, D