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The Appointed Time

A few years ago, my husband and I, including our cousins, missed our flight to the Dominican Republic. We pleaded with the airline to let us check in s…

Source: The Appointed Time

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A compass and a companion

B-17-Jesus-pilot2014 is coming to a close!

I would be remiss if I did not reflect on the lessons that I have learned this year. If I could sum up the past 12 months in one quote, I would borrow the wise words of Thomas Edison: “I haven’t failed. I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”

I didn’t have any goals or resolutions in January. My resolve was to go with the flow. The problem with my course of action is that it did not include an objective. So I was distracted and consumed by what was going on in everyone’s life and trying to act accordingly (often times falling into various sins such as coveting).

Naturally, I was all over the place. I realize now that when you don’t know where you’re going, you either wander (ramble without a definite purpose or objective) or become stagnant (inactive). I found myself in both positions. Some days I wandered aimlessly, going nowhere fast. And other days, I felt stuck. It was depressing to the say the least.

The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 400 years. God was trying to take them somewhere (to the Promised Land), but they were stuck in the past. They lamented:  “We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted.” In essence, they were praising their hardships (remember they were enslaved to Egypt) instead of glorifying God for their newfound liberty.

As a result, many of them missed out on an opportunity to enter Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey. The generation that was able to inhabit the land became corrupted over time. They forgot about God like their ancestors did and bowed down to other idols. Subsequently, God allowed for King Nebuchadnezzar to deport them to Babylon and hold them captive for 70 years.

In my wilderness experience, I longed for the good old days. King Solomon advised, Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions (Ecclesiastes 7:10).” I get it now. Longing for the past is an indication that you don’t trust God with your future. It also demonstrates your resilience to learn and grow from your downtime. Trust the process of trials because they serve a purpose. 

In my stagnant position, I envied the events going on in my peers’ lives. I was no different from the lame man at the side of the pool. He had been there for 38 years all the while watching others like him get into the water (stirred by an angel from time to time) and become healed from their disabilities.

When Jesus learned that he had been in the same position for such a long time, He asked the man, “Do you want to get well?” If you carefully read the text in John 5:1-9, you will notice that Jesus was not asking the man if he needed help getting into the pool. That’s because Jesus was trying to show him another way to the blessing. Sometimes, what works for others, may not work for you. You have to be open to taking an alternative route, especially if God is leading. Otherwise, you will become stuck in doing the same things over and over, and expecting a different result.

There’s a lesson to be learned in the Israelite’s history. Struggle and Success are one in the same because they can either make you or break you. In the former, you should be humbled by God’s grace. In the latter, you should be humbled by God’s favor. In either case, you should never forget His goodness.

Emotions have a way of robbing us of our memory and leading us astray. They are indeed a bad life compass. In 2015, I am determined to draw near to God when it rains and when the sun shines.

In the final analysis, I will always be in need of His covering; I need shelter from the storm and shade from the heat so that I may always be mindful of His sovereignty. But most importantly, I will always need Him to be my compass and companion on this journey called life.

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You’ve been accepted!

Christian-quotes

I’ve often heard religious leaders repeat the mantra “rejection is simply protection” or “rejection is redirection.”

Every time I hear these expressions, I am immediately reminded of a particular experience when such wise words took on a real meaning for me. Like the time I could not find the funds to cover my tuition at a prestigious private fine arts college in Miami where I aspired to study film. As a result, I ended up enrolling at a community college, transferring to a university (after four years) and graduating with a degree in journalism.

Perhaps that is not the best example since the school did not really reject me. It was my parents who rejected the school and the idea of paying $20,000 plus per year (that did not include books or equipment).

Still, it hurt me until I finally accepted that it was for the best. I saved a lot of money attending a public institution and I learned that I wasn’t as passionate about writing and producing film like I thought I was. I was really attracted to the idea of becoming a successful film writer in Hollywood.

I didn’t deal with much rejection after that. In my former years, things came easy. Whenever I applied to a school, I was accepted. Whenever I applied to a job, I was hired. Whenever I applied for a credit card, I was approved. Easy, peasy.

But these days, things are different. Jobs are competitive, schools are selective, credit cards are manipulative (you have to be very careful and discerning with those) and life is a tougher teacher when you become an adult.

Recently, I applied to several jobs. I was called for interviews for three of them and moved on to the next steps. I prayed, mustered up as much confidence as I could and sold myself to the best of my ability. The hiring managers seemed impressed and assured me that they would be in contact in a week.

After several weeks went by, I had a gut feeling that I would not be hired by neither employers. I was right. I received one disappointing e-mail after another (all in one week): “Thank you for your interest with [insert company name here]. After careful consideration, you have not been selected.” I even received a letter from a school that I attended three years ago but took a break from. I had decided to re-enroll last month so that I could go back and finish the Master of Art program. However, when I tore open the letter, it read: “We regret to inform you that you have not been selected.” Ouch! That hurts! And those aforementioned mantras could offer no sense of relief or hope to me. I felt like I was down for the count.

After all, it was just a few years ago when my husband and I learned that the deal fell through on a house we were trying to purchase. Prior to that, we lost our unborn baby. Surely, rejection letters from a potential employer or school are mild in comparison, but nonetheless, they are some damaging triggers.

Hearing you have not been selected, chosen, picked, favored, etc. every day can remind you of experiences in the past when you felt like a failure, and ultimately take a toll on your confidence.

Thank God, He says otherwise: “But I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit — fruit that will last” (John 15:16).

Did you catch that? God does not want to lead us to a high-paying job where we are likely to become reckless in our spending, arrogant, compromising, and miserable. At the end of our lives, none of that will contribute to our legacies and that’s what God wants to protect us from. Quite simply, He wants to give us a blessing that “brings wealth, without painful toil for it” (Proverbs 10:22).

In the grand scheme of rejection, God truly wants to redirect us to our purpose — that unique assignment that will bring glory to His name, allow us to make our mark on this world and outlive us for many generations to come.

We may not have been selected for that job position or degree program that would have enabled us to build our careers. But rest assured, we were created by a loving God who has written to us 66 letters of acceptance and promises to lead us to our purpose and fulfillment if we will just trust His route. The way of the world will get us lost anyway.

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A life of gratitude is a life well-celebrated

Last week, I was reminded of how faithful God is and how faithless we truly are. I was rushing to work one morning because I overslept and was, subsequently, late. I didn’t get the chance to eat breakfast or stop by the nearest Starbucks for a turkey, egg and cheese muffin. On top of that, I was worrying about some debt that I needed to settle — since my budget was not adding up – and my struggling wardrobe. I couldn’t remember the last time I shopped for some new clothes.

When I arrived to the office, I made a beeline for my desk. I turned on my computer, logged on and began to sort through my e-mail. At some point, I looked up and noticed that one of the editors had walked in. She had a million (or so it seemed) bags in her hands. She placed them on a nearby table and began to unload.

I observed the contents from the bag closely and noticed that there were boxes of donuts, bagels, fruit containers, two tubs of cream cheese, cookies and plastic utensils. Somebody asked her what the occasion was and she simply replied, “A celebration of life.” She called us all over to help ourselves.

My stomach growled as if it were offering a nod of approval. I silently thanked God and rushed over. I grabbed a bagel and some fruit, and thanked this generous colleague of mine. She nodded and said, “I couldn’t have let the day pass without doing something wonderful. Three years ago, on this exact day, I completed my last chemotherapy. I have been cancer-free since.” I was at a loss for words as I looked into her misty eyes. She continued, “God has been generous to me so it’s only right that I be generous to you guys.” “That is really kind of you,” I responded.

Back at my desk, I mused about the beginning of my day. I had been fretting about unimportant things when God has said, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” (Matthew 6:25). How easily do I forget! How easily we forget!

In the Book of Matthew (chapter 14) is a riveting account of Jesus feeding a crowd of 5,000 people. They were hungry, but Jesus saw an opportunity to use their physical need as an illustration of a deeper longing in their souls. He multiplied five loaves of bread and two fishes to cater to the multitude. But first, He gave thanks.

Everyone ate till they were full and there were even left overs! Not only was this seemingly impossible feat a miracle; it was also a testament of what God can do when our resources — time, money, talents, efforts — are limited. The disciples saw the task as a challenge and could not fathom the outcome, but Jesus showed them that anything was possible through Him. He also showed them, unbeknownst to them, that He was indeed the “bread of life,” sufficient enough to fulfill our inner hunger:

“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again.” John 6:35

Hence, life is more than food and clothes. It is valuable, yet fragile. We can be here today and gone tomorrow after one bad accident or diagnosis. But thank God for His grace. Thank God that was not how the story ended for my ever appreciating co-worker. And thank God she was mindful of and grateful for that. Not because she brought food for me to eat, but because I was reminded, yet again, of God’s providence.

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Found and Remembered

It is truly a blessing to be loved and cared for, to be wanted and most importantly, to be remembered. Some of us just don’t know how good we have it.

I was recently browsing the Broward Sheriff Office’s website for a community event when I came across the link, “Found and Forgotten.” I clicked on it, opening a page with a list of dead people who had been profiled by BSO and had yet to be identified. Each victim was described by race, hair and eye color, height, estimated age and the clothes they had on. Many of them had been found in canals and wooded areas.

It saddened me to see that they were discovered decades ago, but still unclaimed. I wondered if their families had given up searching for them or failed to even notice that their loved ones were missing. Had these victims been disowned by their families prior to their disappearances?

The mystery surrounding their pasts and causes of death was overwhelming. The fact that they were in their early 20’s was alarming, as well. While we may never know their names and stories, it’s good to know that they mattered to God just as we do.

Ironically, those of us in the faith were once lost and dead (in our sins), but thank God, He found and saved us. Even when we have felt alone on our Christian journeys, “The LORD has remembered us” (Psalm 115:12).

Before Paul became an apostle — at the time he was known as Saul of Tarsus — he sinned against God by persecuting the early Christians and having them put to death. He was relentless in destroying the church. “Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison” (Acts 8:3).

One day, as Saul was on his way to Damascus in search of more Christians, he saw the light, literally. According to Saul, “A bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’” (Acts 22:6-11).

Saul learned that it was Jesus confronting him in a supernatural way, and he was immediately convicted. He repented from his sins and went about his newfound journey preaching salvation to sinners as Apostle Paul.

Paul’s conversion (and name change) from darkness to light is synonymous to the transition from spiritual death to eternal life, earthly gains to heavenly treasure.

The struggles he encountered throughout his ministry should have caused him to doubt God’s presence in his life, but his answered prayers (protection from a snake bite and deliverance from prison) assured him that he was remembered by God.

The same could be said about Apostle Peter. Before the launch of his ministry, he had a physical encounter with Jesus while fishing with his brother. Christ offered Peter an invitation he could not refuse — He called Peter out of darkness and into the light to become a “fisher of men.”

Instead of living his life in a dead-end trade, Peter now had an opportunity to do something meaningful. Jesus had chosen him to evangelize and enrich the lives of people who were lost and hopeless. Peter faced many challenges on his journey, but God remembered him, too.

Like the loving father in the parable of the prodigal son (read Luke 15), the Lord extended his welcoming arms to Paul and Peter, both of whom were part of a rebellious generation which had left God to pursue worldly wealth. Both men had turned from their hopelessness (darkness) after seeing the light. They had been found and made alive again; they had been remembered on earth and in heaven.

Today, God is still looking for the lost and seeking to make a claim on those who are “dead” in this cold and conflicting world. And for those of us who have been found, but are struggling in our faith walk, God hears us. Rest assured, He remembers us.

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Against all Odds

dice“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” 1 John 5:4

On Father’s Day, just a few hours before the big game, NBA player Chris Bosh addressed the media about his team’s 3-1 deficit in the Finals. One reporter asked him what his attitude was going into a game where the odds were heavily stacked against the Miami Heat (no NBA franchise has ever rallied from such a hole to win the Larry O’Brien trophy). His reponse: “Odds are for people who can’t do it.” The Heat’s star Lebron James added, “Why not us? History is made to broken, why not be part of it.”

That’s a lot of confidence, but unfortunately it was not enough for Bosh, James and their teammates. They succombed to the San Antonio Spurs in a game – best-of-seven series – that many sports analysts and basketball fans described as a “jaw-dropping masterpiece.” But that doesn’t mean they haven’t defied the odds before; they are one of four teams in NBA history to have gone to the finals back-to-back four times or more. That says a lot considering how long the NBA has been around and the amount of teams that compete each year. That is why the Miami Heat can afford to be hopeful in the face of adversity…and so can we.

We have a lot of odds stacked up against us in our own personal endeavors. Research show and tell us that the ratio of Americans who go on to become billionaires are one in 785,166; one in five marriages will end within five years; the chances of a normal, healthy woman getting pregnant are only 20 to 40 percent; the odds of having identical triplets sans fertility treatments is one in every 2 million; the chances of dying from heart disease is more than one in three if your’re a woman; men have one in two chance of developing cancer; and the chances of living to 100 years of age is one in 1,000.

These statistics, including family history and past experiences (whether personal or interpersonal) cement this idea in our minds that we cannot beat the odds. As a result, when faced with challenges while trying to pursue a seemingly unattainable goal, we shrink back in unbelief, become discouraged and give up.

But a careful look at the lives of the saints in the Bible reveal that perfectly flawed humans who find themselves in compromising situations can defeat the odds as long as they trust God.

When Gideon was given the daunting task of delivering the Israelites from the aggressive Midianites the first thing he did was measure his failures against the enemy’s success. Gideon was the “least in [his] father’s house” and came from a weak clan. On the contrary, the Midianites boasted an army as numerous as the sand on the seashore and they always succeeded in their raids against Israel. How could Gideon not be afraid? An angel of God had to encourage him: “God is with you, you mighty man of valor” (Judges 6:12).

Gideon was still unsure if it was truly God asking him to combat the Midianites. He said, “Show me a sign that it is You who speak with me” (Judges 6:17). More specifically, Gideon asked God to make a piece of wool wet overnight and He did. He also asked God to keep another piece of fleece dry while making the surrounding dirt wet and God complied. Gideon finally obliged.

He assembled a formidable group of Israelite men but God commanded him to downsize lest Gideon and his crew take credit for the victory. If anyone was and is deserving of all the glory, it is God.

Gideon’s shrunk his troupe from 32,000 to 300 and they went on to defeat the Midianites. Their victory was truly an anomaly to those watching from afar because the Israelites did not boast an impressive resume. They clearly lacked the strength and size to conquer their enemy, but they had the favor of God upon them. And that was more than enough.

Like Gideon, we may become fearful in the face of adversity and begin to doubt God. In desperation, we may even seek out other options to guarantee a win. But God will always remind us, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6). He knows our faith is best developed when we have done everything humanely possible only to fall short.

So He does not only use the odds to build our faith; He employs us in our vulnerable state – by His grace – to test our faith and allow us to defeat the odds for His glory.

 

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Courage to Start Over

          starting-over-road

Starting all over, either by force or by choice, is tough for anyone, young and old.

I remember when I had to attend a new elementary school at the age of eight. I was very upset about leaving all of my friends and relatives at Dillard Elementary School where I was a student for three years. I really felt like I belonged because the student body was very diverse and the faculty and staff were culturally conscious. We explored the world around us through lively and interactive presentations in our special classes and at our school assemblies. I didn’t want to leave all of that behind (this affected me a lot emotionally), but I eventually found the courage to adapt to the new faces and curriculum at my new school.

Many years later, when I left home for college at the age of 19, I quickly learned that my past experiences could not prepare me to adjust to my new environment in Tallahassee. Aside from now having to live in a slow-paced (and sometimes too friendly and scary) city, I had to pay my own rent, buy groceries and prepare my meals, nurse myself back to health when I was sick and deal with other issues without the help of my family. When the hurricanes blew through during that period, that was especially hard for me because my dad was not there to make me feel safe.

Reading the Bible, which appears to have a ‘starting over” theme weaved through all of the stories, helped a lot reminding me that I was never alone in life transitions.

After the Jews were taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar II, they spent 70 years as prisoners in Babylon. Prior to their exile, the Jews had already experienced slavery and deliverance in Egypt and made a life for themselves in Jerusalem.Yet, they were distressed because they lost their city, homes, pride, Temple (a symbol of their faith) and most importantly, the Ark of the Covenant. It was hard for them to get comfortable in the homeland of idolatry where the Babylonians bowed down to anyone but God.

When they had served their time – their captivity was the result of their sins and God’s subsequent judgment – King Cyrus of Persia sent a decree allowing the Jews to return to their land with the blessings of the Persian Empire. However, not many of them were willing to leave Babylon because they had already settled. The few that did return to Palestine had to start all over because all they found was rubble in the place they once called home. After many years of opposition, they were able to successfully rebuild the Temple and the walls of Jerusalem. A revival was held in celebration of this feat in which the prophets read books of the Old Testament and gave the Jews a renewed sense of hope.

Babylon represented chaos, but the Jews turned to God, who encouraged them to keep calm: “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. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity” (Jeremiah 29:11-14). Zion, the land of Judah, to which the Jews returned represented God’s spiritual kingdom. In retrospect, when the Jews went back home, they also returned to God’s unmerited favor.

In life, we will all experience change (both good and bad) and each one will feel like the first time — like we have been taken out of God’s goodness and held captive in a strange and chaotic environment. If we are not careful, we will settle in our broken places and miss out on our breakthrough. Instead of returning to God and rebuilding our shattered dreams, we will revel in pain, anger and bitterness and become sluggish.

That is not the purpose of God’s judgment or grace. He wants us to grow in the hard places in preparation for a fresh start. And if that seems like a daunting task, we only need to remember His promises to Israel through the prophet Isaiah: “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

 

References: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

“Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord.” Acts 3:20

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What to Expect When One is no Longer Expecting

I have a sensitive spot in my heart for couples dealing with the loss –any loss really — of a baby. It’s just the way I have been wired. And it’s also one of the many ways I can relate because my husband and I have dealt with the same loss.

After nine weeks of pregnancy, all my hopes and dreams for a beautiful, healthy boy and/or girl vanished. The embryo was growing in the wrong place. Instead of implanting itself to the wall of my uterus, the fertilized egg stalled in my fallopian tube and began to develop rapidly. It was the most painful experience ever, physically and emotionally. After my laparascopic procedure, in which they removed the pregnancy and ruptured tube (the left one to be exact), the nurse said to me, “There was a heartbeat. The procedure went well.”

A heartbeat is an indication of life. A pregnancy is a blessing. Giving birth is a miracle. You can’t imagine how it feels for a woman to not receive such a blessing from God, to not be given an opportunity to participate in a miracle and celebrate bringing life into this world. You.really.can’t.imagine.what.it’s.like.to.feel.inadequate!

I will never forget what that nurse said and how it made me feel. I felt like God got lazy when He “knit me together in my mother’s womb.” It was as if He missed the part of creation where He was supposed to fix the signals in my brain that should have instructed the fertilized ovum to leave its comfort zone and seek refuge in the “promised land” that is my womb. As far as I was concerned, the doctors were better at repairing than He was at preventing (don’t judge me for my inaccurate and flawed human reasoning).

miscarriage

In the years following my loss, it was tough being happy for expectant moms, particularly those close to me. But over time, it got easier to genuinely feel happy with them. It was the only way I could truly recover and be myself again if not better.

Even though it is natural to have feelings of resentment while grieving, I refused to be oppressed by my emotions. I was determined to feel without reacting; to heal without re-hatching. I can’t say I didn’t slip up a few times. As much as I tried to “be still and know that He is the Lord” through prayer after prayer, I got tested…a lot.

It angered me when people would come up to me and say things like, “You’re not pregnant yet? What are you waiting for?” Their insensitive probing always prompted me into throwing a mental pity party.

It especially hurt when friends and loved ones would offer unsolicited advice on what I needed to do to get pregnant. And to add insult to injury, some of them had the nerve to blatantly inform me that I was either with the wrong guy or I must have done something to upset God.

I know they were genuinely trying to help (or were they?), but the pressure was unnecessary because all it did was make me feel all the more incompetent. Why couldn’t I get pregnant the way everyone else did? Why must I drink a cup of apple cider vinegar diluted in water or a concoction of herbs brewed as tea? Why must I get weekly massages and acupuncture treatments or take fertility pills hailing all the way from some immaculate science lab in London?

All I needed everyone to do was to treat me the way they did before my loss: NORMAL.

I was tired of wearing the label of “woman who lost her baby,” looking into the eyes of pity and lending an ear to cliches (“it’ll happen when you least expect it”) and divine conspiracy theories (“God has something better for you”). Yeah, I lost a baby and yeah, it hurts. However, I don’t want my name to be synonymous to infertility or cursed or forgotten; I want to be treated as a woman simply standing in the motherhood line waiting to hear the Giver of Life shout “Next!” because He sees me, wants to bless me and let me know He remembered me.

That is all I ask. That is all any woman (or man) dealing with loss wants.

In the Book of Romans, apostle Paul instructed the Christians in Rome to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (vs.12:15). Nowhere in that Scripture does it state to rejoice for or to weep for. Perhaps it is because you can easily make the situation about you if your heart is not in sync with a person. But when you are able to fully relate to someone (not through circumstances but through oneness with Christ), you are demonstrating a unity of mind, sympathy and tender heart.

Anyone can applaud for you even if they are not genuinely happy for you, but not every one can dim their light and celebrate with you. And anyone can give you a sympathy card even if they are not genuinely sad for you, but not every one can put aside their agendas and spend a few hours crying and praying with you.

Therefore, don’t feel sorry for couples dealing with a loss of a baby; feel sorry with them. In other words, put yourself in their shoes — even if it doesn’t fit — and act accordingly.

 

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The Power Struggle

Image  I believe every moment in life is teachable and if you pay close attention, you might learn a great lesson from God.

I went to the beach on Memorial Day with my siblings, cousins and their kids. The oldest of the children wanted to wade in the water, so I took him to the shoreline. He stood in the ocean, a few feet away from the sand and puffed up his chest as if he was Zeus (or maybe a Power Ranger). A small wave came and knocked him down. He got up, clearly upset and embarrassed, and made a fist. He started chastising and punching the water for “attacking” him. I tried not to laugh because I could tell his five-year-old ego had taken a hit. But when the waves knocked him down again, I couldn’t help it. He was not amused. I told him, “Listen, the water is a force to be reckoned with. Why don’t you just enjoy it instead of fighting it?”

He did not care for my words of wisdom so he walked away and went to build a sandcastle with his brother.

I thought about what had just transpired and it occurred to me that I have been where my nephew has been many times. I’ve been knocked down by life and I have gotten back up only to wave my fist at the “Giver of Life.” How dare you embarrass me and not cooperate with my efforts? Each time, I could hear Him cautioning me: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you (1 Peter 5:6).

But sometimes it wasn’t enough to help me overcome my shortcomings. Sometimes I’d walk away (blatantly ignoring God) and preoccupy myself with something I knew I was good at – something that made me feel like I was in control.

Everyone likes control — some to a higher degree than others — even children as young as my nephew. Control makes us feel mighty and powerful, and unfortunately, self-reliant. Control is a symptom of pride and a recipe for destruction.

King Solomon warned, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2). Apostle Peter quipped, “God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble (1 Peter 5:5).

David received favor when he went into battle with Goliath. He did not use his own strength. He relied on God’s power by recognizing that he was nothing without Him.

Jacob had to learn this lesson the hard way. Jacob really thought he was something. He was smart in his own eyes as he earned his keep by scheming people such as his twin brother, Esau. However, when he learned that Esau was out to get him, Jacob fled for his life. He was so afraid to return home that he finally turned to God in prayer.

According to the passage, Jacob struggled all night with an angel, who biblical scholars believe was a manifestation of Christ in angelic form before his incarnation. This “struggle” between Jacob and the angel was an aggressive form of prayer, not a physical act of violence. The angel commanded Jacob to stop holding on to him, but Jacob replied “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Genesis 32:27). It is important to note that this statement was Jacob’s declaration of faith and deep humility.

When the angel saw that Jacob would not let go, he touched Jacob’s thigh removing it out of joint. The pain should have thwarted Jacob, but instead it made him fight (pray) harder. Finally, the angel blessed Jacob and changed his name to Israel.

Jacob’s name meant “supplanter or to hold the heel.” His parents gave him that name because he came out of his mother’s womb holding his twin brother’s heel which metaphorically implied that he would always fall behind in life.

Nevertheless, since Esau was firstborn, it meant that he would receive the birthright, which was a very important and sacred thing in those days. It wasn’t just a transfer of physical assets; it was a spiritual honor. It’s no wonder Jacob schemed his brother into selling his birthright. And he was proud of it.

This did not please God because Jacob did not act according to His will. It was not until Jacob was truly remorseful for tricking his brother and fought hard to be in right standing with God that he was given the desires of his heart; blessings and honor, hence his new name, Israel, which means “who prevails with God.”

Isn’t that what we all want at the end of the day? Favor, blessings and a new name (identity) from God? Life will always push us to our own devices when we want things to go our way as opposed to God’s. But when we humble ourselves before the Giver of Life, we can prevail through failures, shame and frustration, and be lifted up.

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Uncommitted to Commitment

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:2-3

My generation is the worst when it comes to commitment! Yes, I said it! And you know what? I am part of the problem too.

We are so relationship challenged and social media is not even to blame.

As a matter of fact, we are great at being social even if it kills us to be genuine while doing so. We do such a good job putting on an act behind our computer screens that pretending comes naturally to us when we see our “friends” face to face.

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But when it comes to maintaining meaningful relationships, we lack effective communication skills, compassion, forgiveness and patience to stay in them for the long haul. We are quick to dismiss those who rub us the wrong way, exclude those who do not measure up to our ideal human standards and end things between people we’ve known for years (since childhood even) over something minuscule.

And lets not get on the topic of marriage! Kim Kardashian is not the only one who holds a record for calling it quits after 72 days of wedded bliss (and disharmony). There are countless others in that age group who have lasted about that long if not less, and who, fortunately for them, do not have to deal with the attentive eyes of the public, media sensationalism and scrutiny.

I don’t know if the fault lies in Disney movies, but what I do know is that we have been conditioned and disillusioned into believing that perfect relationships exist. As a result, we can’t keep friends, spouses, children or parents around us for too long if they don’t march to the beat of our drums.

This zero-tolerance-for-flaws attitude that we have is even affecting the way we do church. I can’t tell you how many times I have literally watched from the back pew as the church fell apart…and away. At one church in particular, we downsized from a 300-member congregation to 50 faithful worshipers in a matter of two days. From what I learned from my mother (she was part of the latter group), the majority of the flock were unhappy because our pastor was not open to the idea of purchasing and remodeling a big abandoned warehouse across town. That’s all it took!

A few years ago, I watched (again) as some of my fellow peers from the young adult ministry jumped ship. I am not sure what their real reasons were, but I knew some of them were unhappy that our senior pastor had released the youth pastor, who was also the head honcho of our group. I remember feeling as if something was wrong with me because I still chose to attend the church. I tried to persuade my husband into leaving and prayed that God would show us to the door and point us to the perfect house of worship, but neither my better half nor my Savior would budge.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that whatever happened between the senior and youth pastors was not my battle. I was not in a committed relationship with them; I am devoted to God. And the church I attend is our divine meeting place until further notice.

I also learned that you can’t follow people toward a path that looks or feels right. People will lead you astray. Since I decided to follow Jesus, I have to trust His way, for better or worse, for narrow or narrower.

He has said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it” (Matthew 7:13). 

Why leave the church over one person (or two)? Why send your spouse “to the left” because he failed to get one thing right? Why yell “no new friends” because your confidante disappointed you that one time? I get that we are human and capable of being hurt. But the people who hurt us are human too and fully capable of getting it wrong (just as we are).

Granted, there are instances when we have constantly forgiven those who have wronged us, but isn’t that what commitment to God is about?

Imagine if God was not committed to us or to His cause (which is to save each and every one of us from the pits of hell)? Imagine if He lacked effective communication skills (the Word), compassion, forgiveness or patience in our relationship with Him? Where would we be?

Oh I’ll tell you…we would have been dismissed, excluded and put to an end! Thank God, He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

We can’t allow the world to be our source of inspiration when it comes to commitment. They’ve got it all wrong anyway! They’ll tell you “to love things and use people instead of use things and love people.”

God created people so that healthy relationships would be formed in love and unity would permeate the earth through peace. It was His way of demonstrating what He desires with us — intimacy and oneness. But we can not accomplish neither of those without commitment. In the final analysis, anyone worth having is worth fighting for. If I am worth it to God, then you are worth it to me. If you are worth it God, then I should be worth it to you.

Because God sees us in completion, He fights for us and is committed to helping us realize our full potential.

And if we say we are committed to God, then we owe it to Him to accept our pastors, flaws and all; to accept our parents, flaws and all; to accept our spouses, flaws and all; to accept our friends, flaws and all; most importantly, to accept ourselves flaws and all. We owe it to God to maintain our relationships (unless He tells us to cut ties with certain people).

Let’s stop nitpicking at the fragments of people’s identities, and start loving them in the wholeness of Christ. Let’s be committed for Christ’s sake.