December 17, 2017

Let Go of Control….then the Blessings We Will See (Guest Writer and Poet Entry)

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This intimate poem was given to me by someone very special. She has stood by to encourage my will to persist and self-confidence when down in midst of an island far from home. I believe this poem will touch your heart as it has touched mine.

For the Glory Given Up

I give up
Where’s my life going I have no lead
I give up
My heart is broken; its hope that I need
I give up
I am stuck in the middle of life’s road
I give up
Carrying many of life’s burdens like a heavy load
I give up
I fall on my knees in total surrender and submission
I give up
I give it all up to the One who makes my life’s final decision
I gave up
Now I can see life through a new light
I gave up
There is something great ahead that I am waiting to see with my sight
I gave up
I will praise God no matter the cost
I gave up
Without Him my life’s passion would be lost
I gave up
I thank him for all he has done and will do for me
I gave up
I know there are many more blessings He will soon let me see

-Lisa C., August 27, 2014

At the bottom of this poem given to me, the author wrote the reference for the following Scripture verse. One could say it inspired the poem above about our relationships with God.

Inspired by Jeremiah 29:11

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.

An Encounter of Peace and Joy – The Simple Christmas Message

In 2013, I faced more twists and turns in the plot of my own life journey than I ever foresaw or expected the previous year. I guess that is how God works to build our faith…surprise challenges that often turn into blessings.

Before my recent move to Corpus Christi, Texas to change career paths with a health conscious nonprofit, I lived in Atlanta, Georgia for a year. I participated in many small group Bible studies with different formats, agendas, and communal activities. I felt that one group overcomplicated a relationship with Jesus, constantly preaching to “go deeper” with each other.

The leaders of this outreach group hired a supposed guru to come teach twenty and thirty something working professionals how to encounter the Holy Spirit with different avenues of personality strengths and preferences. It was deep, philosophical, and exploratory for those who participated in the every-other-week exercise.

That tends to become the focus of many church ministries: to perplex something so simple. I do not interpret God to be a secret formula. Personally I tend to encounter God in many ways and many levels with the simple approach to try. My remedy remains simple: I simply ask God to arrive with the blessing of His Presence in Spirit.

When you come to God on humble bended knee, I think that act of visual servitude invites God into our hearts and into our lives.

I grew weary in this specific past Bible study environment of writing essays, taking assessments, and answering short questionnaires that would “bring me closer to God.” God simply wants us. He does not need mathematical formulas for a life-changing encounter. Just come to Him. Just invite Him in. And God will do the rest.

In past times, I have spent countless hours in search of peace and joy, reading books, memorizing quotes, and researching professional academic opinions. At a Christmas service Monday night while home in Birmingham, Alabama, an old friend and pastor reminded me that God brings those gifts into our lives when we live in step and in Spirit with Him.

An encounter with the Holy Spirit no longer remains perplexing because God sent his son in the form of a manger. Jesus paid the price on the crucifix when he died for our sins. From that point in history forward, all we need to do is request his arrival into our lives, at any moment or any time. With the belief that our salvation remains secure, God shows up in an encounter with joy and peace that can only become experienced in His Precious Presence.

Through the delivery of a divine birth, we are saved. And that miracle makes for a very Merry Christmas with a Savior of uncomplicated proportions.

In the midst of a sometimes hectic holiday, this video reminds us to simply smile and enjoy Christmas moments. Church should be fun….a place we laugh….a place we want to go….somewhere we can build relationships without chemical equations. Perhaps we should sing Christmas carols depicted like this. We do not care what others think because we have a peace and joy that surpasses earthly understanding.

Your friends are family! Friends matter! The journey more than the destination…#THREE

John 15:12-15 (MSG)

“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.”

This third of three series sums up our final entry on family, faith communities, and friends that matter, because these relationships are all that matter most in life. You can read the first and then the second entries, before completion of this one if you wish.

Even today, I was reminded of a close friend when I called him to ask for his help on some web projects, specifically with starting my business and volunteering for a nonprofit-geared magazine, Splickety. Without question, he gladly assisted me in the stress of a grind with meetings until late. I love my life, but I also love the friends who back me up….again we see this theme constantly emerging in the past week and a half. We never turn our back on families….never!

Many individuals are not as fortunate as me to have a biological family that supports and constantly spends time with each other. Even today, I spoke with my father for a good while on the phone to inform him of a recent interview. A new friend and I journey to Clemson University, who play Wake Forest, for a Homecoming football game this weekend.

When biological family is not present, you lean into your friends, into what I called before a faith family, in the name of Jesus. Some have no other choice, than to lean into friends, because they have no biological family…orphans sometimes for instance.

I challenge you today, to realize that life becomes more fulfilling with our family, friends, and faith communities surrounding us. If not connected outside of your cell phone and social media technology, get out into the real world. Shake some hands. Make some friends. And visit family if you have some. With relationships, make the rest of your life the best of your life! With relationships present, you will find the best of what is to come.

Enjoy Alan Jackson with his classic on why Jesus makes the best friend one could ever have – what a friend indeed.

Re(Engage) with Christ….K(no)w Pain, K(no)w Gain

I think by now in the year if you are anything like me, you might feel a little discouragement because you might be falling short of those New Year’s resolutions (before so fired up about those same resolutions). We often make our resolutions to better ourselves, thus circumventing the person who can make those things for us, Jesus.

When angry, disappointed, and frustrated, I will often give God the cold shoulder, but thankfully in this season, I have pursued with quite the opposite attitude, recently coming to God in devotion, prayer, and even praise. I have tried to re(engage) my relationship with Christ. I do not feel that this would be the same as a “rebirth” or “recommitted relationship.” Sometimes I do not even know what those terms mean because once in a relationship-always in a relationship-tends to be my outlook. God does not take away salvation because you have been a bad boy or bad girl. Quite the opposite, once in the family of God, I believe we are always in the family of God.

I simply mean to realign ourselves with the Grace of God, to refocus, and to come back to Him to where we know we need to be for everyday continuance.

Many times in my life I have felt like the comic above where God sits and listens with no response to my pleadings, busy on Twitter I suppose. I think no matter how we feel, God is there, and we must re(engage) with God even in the down times. Re(engage) with conversation, asking Him to deliver us with whatever may trouble us.

Oddly, enough I have found comfort and motivation in Christian rap, particularly with the song below, “Up Down,” by The Ambassador, with the simple theme that down moments leads to an up moment and an up moment leads to a down moment. If a down moment, the only direction to truly go is up. Eventually the upswing will come again. Listen to the song. Find some comfort and bounce your shoulders a little bit.

I recently bought an overly priced Nike workout shirt that titled, “K(no)w Pain, K(no)w Gain.” I think in those down moments that we realize that with no pain in the discipline of Christ, that there may in fact be no gain. And these moments are where many mature in their faith, K(no)w this truth. We know pain comes before the gain of an up time delivers. It is just a matter that we re(engage) Christ if we gave up our pursuit of Him and realize an up time is bound to come in our faithfulness. We know and believe upwards is coming in our engagement with the relationship we have in Him.

 

We Are Human, and Fear God Only – Holy reminders from a friend.

My friend, Andrew Mannheimer, who I did a special blog series previous this year with his Hip Hop music videos always brings to light the revelation of truth as it pertains to his relationship with God, much like the mirror of his own music expression.

I once asked him about a famous New York Times best-selling author by the name of Donald Miller (author of Blue like Jazz), “How did he write all these books and publish them nationwide?” Andrew’s response remained simple, “He’s just a man, James…human. Whatever he is capable of, you are clearly capable of as well.”

I think we forget, I included, that famous and accomplished people are in fact just human. Some people are famous when they might not even have talent of any sort, maybe because they are pretty, if that is even considered a talent.

A couple of years ago I further spoke with Andrew about my fear of the unknown….perhaps something about the real world after graduate school at Auburn University. Again he stated, “There is nothing to fear but God. When you fear earthly matters, you block God from the light of His glory. I lean into a resource that never reaches depletion: God.”

Andrew is in his mid-twenties, but the truths he expresses are so simple yet amazing. I think Andrew demonstrates that relationships (since he is indeed a great friend), specifically with God, become the most important element in life that matters. We will take our Christian brothers and sisters to heaven, not our stuff.

This past year has been a really weird one. I still remain perplexed at how the end of 2012 fell apart in some ways. God sometimes disguises blessings we do not understand now but later do.

Perhaps 2013 is Our year! It is the year of relationship with God and Cartee! I am not trying to fall into the trap of resolution goals most never follow through, like losing weight for instance. Some go hard for one week and then move on to life as it was before. Sometimes a focus on God is all we need. I feel that Andrew would say something simple like that, a simple truth.

John Piper further reminds the fear of God is the only real fear for the life of a Christian! This is a very short clip…so watch….