Saturday, April 18, 2009

When God Is Silent

I just finished talking to a loved one who is going through a bad place. They're angry--at God, at life. They expected certain things to have happened in their life that haven't happened yet. They're wondering what more does God want, and why won't he speak to them?

I can certainly relate to what my loved one is going through. Nearly six years ago, the bottom rather unexpectedly fell out in my world. When it happened, I thought I was doing everything God required of me: I was in leadership, I was in church every Sunday, I prayed every day, I read my Bible and spent at least an hour daily in quiet time--I even tithed. And then he allowed devastation into my life. How could he do that after all I was doing?

I went into a tailspin. It was awful. I stopped going to church, stopped reading my Bible, stopped praying. In fact, I stopped doing most things except wallowing in my dark place. One day, I'd had enough. I wanted to know why. Why had this horrible thing happened? Didn't God care about me? Didn't he love me? If he did, he wouldn't let me go through such a heartache. I screamed at him--'Why God? Why?'

He didn't answer. He has actually never answered why I had to endure what I did, but little by little he showed me that he was there through it all. In fact, he brought to mind a dream I'd had about the very trauma 10 years before it happened. He knew it would happen, and he took time to give me a small forewarning--a small measure of grace.

Little by little I began to climb out of my hole. I began to accept that I may never know this side of heaven why my life took that unwelcome detour. I began to have peace. But I learned something: Before, my life was spent with doing. Secretly, I'd been ticking off the 'good' boxes in my life. Paying tithes, check. Reading Bible, check. But really having a relationship with my Lord and Savior, not so much. We were like good work buddies. You know, you spend 40 hours a week with someone, you get to know them, but only on a superficial level.

I've grown more in my relationship now than I ever have. I am learning to really pray, and to really trust God when there's no light, no relief and no immediate answer. I won't say that I don't have my moments of doubt. There are certainly times when I want to question God about other unanswered things in my life, but, as David said:

1 I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry.

2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.

3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put their trust in the LORD.

4 Blessed is the man
who makes the LORD his trust,
who does not look to the proud,
to those who turn aside to false gods. [a]

5 Many, O LORD my God,
are the wonders you have done.
The things you planned for us
no one can recount to you;
were I to speak and tell of them,
they would be too many to declare.

6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but my ears you have pierced [b] , [c] ;
burnt offerings and sin offerings
you did not require.

7 Then I said, "Here I am, I have come—
it is written about me in the scroll. [d]

8 I desire to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart."

9 I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly;
I do not seal my lips,
as you know, O LORD.

10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
I speak of your faithfulness and salvation.
I do not conceal your love and your truth
from the great assembly.

11 Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD;
may your love and your truth always protect me.

12 For troubles without number surround me;
my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails within me.

13 Be pleased, O LORD, to save me;
O LORD, come quickly to help me.

14 May all who seek to take my life
be put to shame and confusion;
may all who desire my ruin
be turned back in disgrace.

15 May those who say to me, "Aha! Aha!"
be appalled at their own shame.

16 But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation always say,
"The LORD be exalted!"

17 Yet I am poor and needy;
may the Lord think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
O my God, do not delay.

I pray that my loved one will learn this psalm, too.

Friday, March 06, 2009

His Unfailing Love

38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Ten years ago, that scripture?Romans 8:38-39?became like a lifeline of hope for me. I’d heard it many times since I became a Christian at age nine, but I never felt it in my heart until I earnestly began seeking a deeper and closer relationship with Jesus.
I was brought up in church; we went every Sunday, and even several times during the week. I actually accepted Jesus into my heart when I was nine, but I always felt like I wasn’t good enough for Him to love me just as I was.
I always felt like God was angry with me for one reason or another. I imagined that He was in heaven looking down on me with scorn at every bad thing I’d done. Every time I sinned, I felt God would not and could not love me, so I stayed away from Him. My shame kept me from fully coming to Him for forgiveness.
I also felt like I had to do something to win God's favor. I felt I had to be perfect?I tried so hard to be 'perfect' and 'good', but I always failed miserably. My failures would send me into spiraling depression, and further and further from the God who loved me.
All the time, I would feel the Lord wooing me back and telling me how much He really loved me, but I could never fully accept His love. I thought that if I sinned, God turned His back on me and remain angry at me. I wanted so much to feel His love, but I didn't feel I was worthy of it.
One night I had a dream. I was in Heaven and I could literally feel the love of God in every cell of my body. It was unlike anything I'd ever experienced. I felt so loved, and it was so deep that it literally seemed to pour out and into me. I was standing in a field of grass, and every field of grass radiated the love of God. There was a tiny insect on one of the blades of grass, and even that tiny insect was loved. While I was standing there, I heard a voice say, 'Perfect love casts out all fear'. I reflected on that dream for a long time and realized that I was afraid to let God get into the deep, ugly crags of my heart. I felt that it was too ugly for even God to love, but that's what He wanted. He wanted to get into my heart and heal my broken heart.
Soon after, I began attending a women's small group in my church. We did a study on grace. Through that study, I learned that God's grace covers me. At some point during that study, we read Romans 8. When I got to verses 38 and 39, it was as if a light came on in my spirit! I realized that God loves me with such an abiding love. There is nothing that can take His love away from me. There is nothing I can do to make Him love me more, and there's nothing I can do to make Him love me less.
It took awhile, but I began to allow God into my brokenness. It was very hard, but eventually God healed me of the low self esteem that I had. I really understood grace in a way that I'd never understood before. I learned that no matter what, nothing?not hell, not demons, nor men nor even my brokenness could keep me from the love that is in Christ Jesus.


Friday, February 27, 2009

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Very Superstitious

A few weeks ago, my mom told me that a bird flew in the house. For most people, it's no big deal. But for us, it was sort of a big deal. You see, a bird flying in the house is a sign of death. I know, crazy, huh? You see, my entire family is from Louisiana--home of all things superstitious. Growing up, I heard all kinds of superstitions, and of course almost all of them had to do with death. A worm in the house, someone's going to die. A woodpecker pecking on your house? Certain death. Did you ever play beautician with your sisters or your friends or your mom? Well, when we did, we had to make certain that two people did not play in someone's hair because the youngest person would die. If you stepped over someone, you had to step back over them backwards because otherwise you'd die. I used to ask my mom if everything resulted in death. Seems not everything.

You couldn't sew on your bed because someone would tell a lie on you. If you swept over your foot while sweeping the floor, you had to spit on the broom because you were going to jail otherwise. If a baby picked up a broom and started sweeping, that meant company was coming. When my mother used to do my hair, she made sure to the hair in the comb or brush was flushed down the toilet (or sometimes she burned it) because otherwise a bird would take my hair, make a nest of it and I would go crazy. My favorite one was if you dream about fish, somebody's pregnant. Now, that one is true!

At any rate, growing up we sort of half heartedly played along with the superstitions. I'm sure everyone has stepped on a crack to break the devil's back--or not stepped on it to keep your mother from breaking hers. Sometimes it's in fun (like if your left hand itches, you're going to get some money). Once I became a Christian, though, I really thought I put away all those superstitions. Until my mom told me about the bird. Even though she didn't say so, I know we both were thinking, 'Oh, Lord, who's going to die'. She was a little bothered that she couldn't get the bird to go back out the door he came through--if I remember correctly, the bird has to go back out the way he came to keep death away. We are all Christians in my family, so I don't even understand why this is an issue.

Actually, I do. It has to do with two things. One, my lack of total trust in the Sovreign God of the Universe. I'm looking at "signs" to determine my fate or the fate of others. I am the type of person who wants to know what to expect for it happens. I don't like surprises or things coming out of the blue. I want to know what's going to happen, when it'll happen and why. However, God doesn't give us all the answers up front. Sometimes things are going to blindside me. Am I going to trust God when something comes out of left field and knocks me for a loop, or am I going to rely on "signs" and "fate"?

Secondly, I'm coming to realize that while I am a Christian, and I truly love the Lord with all my heart, my mind needs to constantly be renewed. Romans 12:2 says, 'Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.' Whoa. So, this scripture holds the answer to my first issue. See, if I renew my mind, I'm going to know what God's will is. I can rely on that, and not 'fate' or happenstance. I can trust that God has me in the palm of His hand, no matter what comes from left field.

A few weeks ago, I had a dream that I was engaged to a man from my past. This man and I never had a relationship, but we liked each other (just not at the same time). In the dream, I didn't love the man, but since I had made a commitment to marry him, I felt bound and obligated to stay in the marriage. In the background, I could hear a voice saying, 'Don't become engaged to the wrong man'. I knew the dream had something to do with my past tripping me up in my present, but didn't clearly understand until recently. I don't have to remain 'engaged' to my previous way of thinking. It's not just superstitions that tie me up, it's thoughts that I get when I'm feeling down, like 'God doesn't love me' or 'This situation will never change' or 'I'll always....' God wants me--all of us, to change our mind. He wants our minds renewed. He wants us to let go of the past. Put away childish thinking. Disengage from the lies the devil wants to make us believe.

This is a new day for me. No longer will I be fettered by my past, my old mindset, or anything that comes to set itself between me and what God has for me.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Silence is Golden

I didn't realize until just recently how much I love silence. We recently had out of town company stay with us for a few weeks for Thanksgiving. One of my relatives loves TV. The TV is on constantly. She loves the news and she loves crime shows. Now, I do have an affinity for TV. Afterall, I got 49 out of 50 my first go-round of this quiz.

But the thing is, after a while, all that TV is just noise to me. When I turn it off, I hear so much more. I can think. I can be creative. I find that I do more because I don't have some talking head distracting me. I recently went 6 months without watching TV. I picked up crocheting and knitting, and I began a quilt. I learned how to (finally) bake bread from scratch. I didn't miss it.

But then, for one reason or another, I turned it back on. At first it was just whatever was on HGTV or the Food Network. Eventually I meandered over to The Style Network, which led to my occasional forays into VH1. And now I've found myself in this super lazy mode. I've got the TV on until I go to bed. I wake up more tired every day.

Years ago, I went to church with a family that had 6 kids. I worked with the husband, and one day he told me that his family did not have a TV, and that his children had never even seen TV! I seriously thought they were whacked out. I mean, I could not fathom not watching TV. Fifteen years later, I am totally understanding where they were coming from.

It's getting harder and harder as a Christian to find shows that aren't degrading, demoralizing and just downright offensive to me as a believer. The other night, I saw a crime drama about a serial killer who thought he was Jesus. He killed people the way the original 12 disciples were martyred. Of course he was psychotic, but I got the distinct feeling that the writer sorta felt that perhaps all "religious" people are a bit off, and the only people worth their salt are scientists--you know, the ones who believe solely in "logic".

If it's not gratuitous violence, it's gratuitous sex. It seems these days anything goes. I've gotta say, I've had enough. I am seriously considering canceling my cable subscription. Of course, I have people in my household that would have a conniption and probably suffer extreme TV withdrawals. The other problem is that we have one of those bundles where you get cable, high speed Internet and phone service 'for one low price'. The only way to get rid of cable is to get rid of everything else. Unfortunately, I have severe anxiety when I think about canceling Internet service. One step at a time. I will turn off the TV. Maybe in about a year I'll revisit the Internet thing. Who knows, in a year's time I probably will raise goats and learn how to spin yarn. Nah, but I might think about it.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Let Them Eat Cake

Lately, I've been in this baking/cooking mood. People who know me know this is crazy because I'm always complaining that I hate to cook. But, there are moments when I just get in a mood to cook, and I go at it like an ant on meatskin (I love that saying from my mom.)

At any rate, I've been on this whole foods kick. I don't want to use artificial ingredients. I think our American diet is killing us and making food conglomerates and doctors rich. I don't want to do that. I want to live a long time and be healthy and rich so that I can buy cute shoes. You can never have too many cute shoes.

Anywho, about two years ago I stumbled on this site that I have fallen in love with: 101 Cookbooks I LOVE this site. It features vegetarian fare, but the recipes combines such exotic ingredients that I feel like I am some world traveler, sampling exotice, world cuisine. The site owner, Heidi Swanson, is also a photographer, and her pictures are wonderful. Definitely check it out. I will say though that some of the recipes use ingredients that are either exotic and hard to get, or pricey. However, with all my cooking knowledge that I've recently amassed, I've learned that you can substitute a lot of that pricey stuff for things that you already have in your kitchen.

For instance, this week's feature recipe was Unfussy Apple Cake. That's the other thing I love about 101 Cookbooks--the absolutely cool titles of the recipes. Back to my point. Since we're smack dab in the middle of fall, and there are apples to abound, I decided to make this cake. I figure, if it's unfussy, that's right down my alley because who wants to spend 3 hours making a cake? Have you ever made one of those Martha Stewart/Bon Appetit/Hoity-Toity cakes? Waaay too much time in the kitchen. By the time I'm finished, I'm covered in flour and clarified butter, and I'm too tired to even enjoy the fruit of my efforts. But not so with this cake. It was so easy.

You can get the recipe here. Now in this recipe, Heidi mentions something about Saigon cinnamon. I assume that I could probably get this at an Asian food market, but the only problem is that our Asian food markets don'tave it. The area we live in is still pretty rural, and it's just not the epicenter of haute cuisine.

At any rate, she describes the Saigon cinnamon as tasting like a red hot. I thought since I didn't have the Saigon cinnamon, why not add a bit of spice of my own? So I did. I know what I'm about to say sounds gross, but it was really, really good. I added nutmeg, black pepper, cloves, cinnamon (regular), garam marsala, anise, and, hold on to your hats, a smidge of chili powder! Yes, chili powder! And you know what, that was a good cake! I topped it with a bit of her caramel sauce, and that cake was gone by morning. It was spicy without being overwhelming. I added walnuts, too (I have to have walnuts in almost every baked good. It's a requirement; like wearing a seatbelt.) Also, if you don't have buttermilk on hand, you can take a cup of milk and mix in about a tablespoon of white vinegar. Let it sit for about 5 minutes, and you have buttermilk. One last thing, Heidi used whole wheat pastry flour. I used freshly ground hard red wheat berries--it was really good. I don't know that this recipe would work with all purpose flour, though. You would probably have to adjust a thing or two. I think the whole wheat flour makes it a little heartier and holds the apples and buttermilk just a little better. But what do I know? I'm new at this :)

My family are my resident guinea pi--, er um, taste testers, and they all said they loved it. They weren't being nice, either. When they don't like something, believe me they let me know.

Well, I'm off to try baking some more things. I have a taste for orange-cardomom scones! Yum!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Is God In Control or Man?

For the past year, I have heard nothing but people in a panic and an uproar over
this election. I've heard lies, hyped up messages and everything else about
both candidates. I am a Christian and I am African American. I have been
bullied, sullied and whatever else into voting for either candidate. I've
been told I'm not a Christian if I vote for Obama. I've been told I'm not
black if I vote for McCain. I've never seen anything like it.

I have a question for those of us who call ourselves Christians: Is God in
control or is man? I've heard a lot about evil and how we can't let evil
win. God is ultimately over it all.He has already won. Yes, I know we are to
stand up for what's right, but where is our faith? If Obama wins, is God
still not God? If McCain wins, is God still not God? Is He in control, or is
man? Will God not take care of His children despite who our earthly
"kings/queens" are? Does anything happen that God doesn't know about? Can He
not protect His people? Did He promise us that everything was going to go
our way? Did He say that victory is His? Why are we who are the called of
His name in turmoil and panic? If McCain wins, does that mean evil will
cease? If Obama wins, does that mean evil will abound? These are HUMAN
BEINGS! They are fallible; God is not.

If America becomes a socialist country, does that mean Jesus is not Lord of
all? Does it mean He won't be able to feed or clothe you? Are His arms tied
and He won't rescue His people? Is He blind to not see what's going on in
our world?

Did He not warn us that there will be perilous times ahead? Persecution?
Death? Did we forget this message? Do we not realize that time is short? We
are fed a message about stopping abortion, but yet we have millions of
babies who go to bed hungry every night. We have single mothers who are
paying $250/wk for daycare. Nobody cares about the child who wasn't aborted,
but lives with a single mother in the ghetto. Nobody thinks about them.
Nobody cares about the thousands upon thousands of young black men who have
been killed. The ones who are imprisoned.The church is supposed to care for
widows an orphans, but is the church doing that? No. We have a million and
one seminars on Purpose Driven Living. Praise and Worship. Boundaries. But
are we the Church spreading the Gospel? Not really. People die and go to
hell because the Church is not proclaiming Jesus Christ is Lord. We're
protesting gay marriage, but yet we don't tell gay people that Jesus loves
them. That He died for them so that they don't have to succumb to sin that
is not in His will. Homosexuals need to know Jesus. Children born out of
wedlock need to know Jesus. Liberal Democrats need to know Jesus.
Conservative Republicans need to know Jesus.

I am so tired, people. I have been assaulted with panic, gloom and doom,
mainly from Christians. It is very sad to me that we in American believe
that we can continue on a course where we won't have to suffer. We think
we're entitled to live a life where things are handed to us on a platter. We
have it so easy here in this country. We have food in our bellies, money in
our pockets. Some of have more than one vehicle. No, you may not be a
millionaire, but the average person in the world lives on less than $1/day.
People are living in grass huts and eating mud cakes. I have three Bibles in
my home. There are people in countries that die for even saying that they're
a Christian.

We complain about having to pay more taxes. We complain about crime. We
complain, complain, complain. Jesus told us in this life we will have many
troubles, but take heart because He has overcome the world. He DID NOT
guarantee that our country would not fall away. It hurts me to see the
condition that our country is in. We're in a mess, but you know, I have to
say that if the Church did what it's supposed to do, maybe things would get
better. We think because we elect a man that God is going to reward us for
picking the "right" man, or judge us for picking the wrong one. What does
that have to do with HIS kingdom? His agenda? Who are we living for? The
American way of life or God's way of life?

I know that as an American, God has blessed me to live in a country where I
have a lot of freedom. Many people died so that I could enjoy that freedom.
As an African American, I think I understand that more than a lot of people.
I'm not saying that to be divisive, but it is true. My people weren't even
allowed to vote in this country until just a little over 40 years ago, so I
don't take that freedom lightly. I believe in our political process. I
believe that God ordained this country to be the super power that it is. I
believe He allowed me to be born here so that I could spread His word to
others that don't know Him. My hope is not the American way of life; my hope
is in Jesus Christ.

I am a sixth generation American--actually, some of my ancestors greeted the
Pilgrims. I am an American, but I am a resident alien here because my home
is Heaven. God is my King. He is the ultimate authority. It doesn't matter
who is in office, ultimately God is where the buck stops.

I refuse to succumb to the gloom and doom around me. God is in control. He
knows who's going to win the election. It doesn't change a thing. God is God
today. He will be God tomorrow. Nothing happens without Him allowing it. Put
your trust in Jesus. Not in America, not in the Constitution, not in a man
or woman. Jesus is the answer for the world.