Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pruned for Greatness! Part III

On the heels of our corporate fast, there is much excitement and anticipation in the air. We except that God will do something spectacular for us individually and as the body of Christ. Some of us have already received blessings (non material) too rich to compare to anything material that God has for us. (Oh, we still want our blessings, don’t judge me… just keeping it real). Fasting and prayer changes your perspective on what really is important and what really matters.

As the fast ends, I want to close the discussion we started at the beginning of the fast…“Pruned for Greatness”. In our first talk, we said that God prunes us for our greatness and for His glory, then we chatted about the reasons God prunes us. In this final post in the series, we discuss WHAT God prunes FROM our lives. (Ouch!!) Yes, it can be very painful to lose the relationships, places, desires, habits, plans, and attitudes (After all, that’s just how he/she is… I am sure you have heard or used this excuse to justify someone’s bad behavior or someone has used it to describe you… behind your back, hmmm) in our lives that WE hold (and hold to) so dear. The truth is what we choose to hold on to may not have a place in the Kingdom and these blessing blockers keep us from living in God’s will. And so…God begins the pruning process. When God prunes one thing, His plan is to replace it with something better, something more useful to you, those you interact with, and the Kingdom.

God prunes our selfishness in exchange for generosity, anger in exchange for kindness, worry in exchange for faith, arrogance in exchange for humility, fear in exchange for Holy Ghost boldness, bitterness in exchange peace and love, and worldly friendships (relationships) in exchange for Godly friendships and relationships that support, sustain, and encourage our spiritual growth…just to name a few.

Friendships and relationships are painful to release when God starts the pruning process, but very important in terms of spiritual growth. We should choose carefully the people we allow in our circle of friends and even more selective with the inner circle. Proverbs 27:17 says “As iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens the wits of another”. (Who are you letting sharpen you and what instrument are they using?) We have to partner with people who challenge our spiritual growth and help us along in the transformation process. Some people that we have connected with have no interest in our God or our salvation. Anyone not actively involved in helping us seek God and His will for our lives, is ultimately against what is most important to us. When we consider our friendships and relationships, we must remember that quality is more important that quantity.

God will use pruning to direct our time. What are we spending our time doing and do these things matter to the Kingdom? God will redirect our time towards Kingdom building and rebuilding our lives. (Lives that I am sure where pretty much in chaos before we turned them over to Him. I’ll speak for myself).

God will also prune away our sense of self-reliance and security and replace it with dependence. God wants us to rely on Him, to do this He may even prune away our earthly positions, possessions (STUFF) and status. Many of us are doers and we like to be in control of every aspect of our lives and the lives of those around us. We find it difficult to relinquish control to a God that we cannot see. (I know what you’re thinking…How do I know that He has it all covered? Maybe He needs MY help! Ah, been there…done that! Relax!) Believe or not, He does have it ALL covered and when He needs our help, He will provide us with clear directions for our part in HIS plans. Our job is to listen THEN obey! We have to learn by faith to believe.

God prunes anything that keeps us from intimacy with Him.
God prunes anything that keeps us from Kingdom living and Kingdom building.
God prunes those attitudes, attributes, behaviors, relationships, and habits that keep us from being healthy and that destroy or compromise our testimony.
God prunes away the things that keep us from keeping God things…or first things first.

You’re probably thinking if God prunes away EVERYTHING that is important to me, what will I have left? What about MY dreams, plans, goals, and desires?

God does want to fulfill our dreams, plans, and desires. Our dreams, plans, and desires, matter to God. WE matter to Him! He loves us with a deep unwavering compassionate commitment. He promised us a future with a HOPE (Jeremiah 29:11). Jesus came so that our lives would be rich, full, and abundant. The dreams that we pursue should be the dreams that God placed deep within us and a relationship with Him causes those dreams, plans, and desires to surface AND line up with His will for our lives.

“True beauty comes from the deep and often painful pruning of OUR hopes, dreams, and desires.”

Sharing some of the pictures of the Block Party which ended the Sacred Season of Success. Serving at the Bread of Life.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Pruned for Greatness! Part II

Every spring, the landscaper prunes the overgrown landscaping, beautifies, and refreshes my yard for the new season. One year, in my busyness and frugalness, (hey…settle down there was a recession) I skipped a year and decided I would wait until the following spring. During this time, we had an incredibly rainy spring and fall season so the foliage in the front yard literally looked like...a jungle. The scenery had lost its beauty and splendor, the plants lost their shape, some of the more delicate plantings died from a lack of sunlight, and even some of the larger plantings which once were so healthy showed signs of dis-ease and death (I think you know where I going with this).
Last time we chatted, we talked about God pruning us for our greatness and for His glory. But WHY does God HAVE TO prune us? I’m glad you asked! Can we talk?!

When a gardener prunes a plant or tree pruning is necessary for many reasons. Some of the reason include…to train or direct growth, control size and shape, improve fruit quality (by increasing light penetration), remove diseased or storm damaged branches, and aesthetics or beauty.

God, the Master Gardener (and oh, what a Master He is) prunes us for many of the same reasons. God uses pruning to train and direct our growth. He is concerned about us becoming mature, complete, and lacking nothing (James 1:3-5).

One of the ways that God prunes us to control our size and shape as believers is through humility. God may prune away arrogance and pride from our lives so that humility might grow and in fact abound in its place. When we humble ourselves before the Lord, we live and learn true obedience and He promises to lift us up in due season (1 Peter 5:6).

Fruit quality…this is my favorite reason for pruning! God prunes us to improve the quality of the fruit we bear. Just as the gardener, prunes long hanging branches so the shorter hanging branches can receive more light, God prunes us to increase the Light penetration (Jesus) in our hearts, minds, and spirits so that we might bear good healthy fruit.
“Future fruit is always the result of present obedience.”
Many of us will really love this reason for pruning. God prunes us to remove the dis-ease and storm damaged remnants (past hurts) that haunt us and keep us from moving forward mentally, spiritually, physically, and emotionally. When the storms of life come (and they will come), God can take away all the pain, all the heartache, and dry our tears through the pruning process. (Hallelujah!) The key here is we have to choose to let IT go, so that God can take IT away.

Finally, beloved God prunes us so that we are beautiful to behold. Not beauty in the sense of vanity or debonair good looks (although I know you got it going on) but the beauty that comes from within, from a heart that longs for God and a heart that loves the things and the people of God. We must love what and who God loves! Pruning makes this love and this beauty possible.

When the landscaper finished pruning the landscaping, I walked outside and noticed the beauty again, almost for the first time; I noticed some of the greenery, the various shapes and sizes of the plants, and the fall colors. The same yard that I passed everyday and hardly gave a glance captured my attention and was fresh and new again. We are the same…when we allow God to prune us people look at us differently. They notice our beauty and our fresh new anointing.
In Part III we will talk about WHAT God prunes FROM our lives. Hope to see you later!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pruned For Greatness! Part I

This week our church began our annual corporate fast. We fast each year for the three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. During this time of fasting and prayer, we seek the face of God to build a more intimate relationship with Him and to demonstrate His power in us. God is after something from us too during this time. He wants to prune us. God prunes us for our greatness AND for His glory!

“Some of us are so wrapped up in what we want that we neglect what God wants for us.”

The process of pruning involves cutting off DEAD and living HEALTHY parts of plants or trees. So that means we ALL are pruned…no matter how healthy we are (or think we are) in our relationship with Jesus and no matter where we are on this Christian journey. Pruning is a painful process, but pruning promotes growth. Trust the process.

If we are going to be great, transformed, glorified, and living our best and blessed life on this side of eternity, God has to take us through the pruning process repeatedly at various stages and seasons of our lives. Read John 15:1-11. Jesus is the true Vine and apart from Him we can do nothing.

There is much work to do from the time that WE decide to see our lives and ourselves as God sees us…and becoming those people. (You should see the way He looks at you) Unfortunately, not everyone wants to put in the work (Yes, there is work involved) and not everyone in our inner circle is happy or can celebrate our decision to submit to God for change. Count Satan among those who is very unhappy with this decision.

Satan uses his devices and weapons as obstacles to keep us from living transformed lives in the presence of God and those we love and influence. Make no mistake about it…Satan is NOT more powerful than our God. We must decide to yield to the Lord and submit our will to His, instead of allowing Satan to run rough shot over our lives.

Transformation is costly! Ask yourself…What is a relationship with Jesus going to cost me? I contend that it will cost you everything…your very life. After you have an encounter with God, your life (as you knew it and shaped it) should cease to exist. Your life in exchange for greatness! Any takers?

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

Are you allowing God to prune you for greatness?

Monday, September 14, 2009

From the PALACE to the PIT

A friend/colleague and I had been discussing her leaving one job for another job. I had some inside information about the job she was seeking and shared that information with her. I told her that there would certainly be some challenges associated with her moving into this new position. She said, “I am up for the challenge, I just don’t want to move from the palace to the pit”. From that statement, you can probably deduce that she has a good job. (You might be asking why she is considering leaving) The issue is she cannot move to her next career aspiration by staying in her present job. The “pit” may be the stepping stone to her future.

I started thinking about Joseph. Many of us are accustomed to hearing the story about Joseph moving from the pit to the palace (Genesis Chapters 37-39). However, what many of us may not remember from Joseph’s story was that Joseph’s life prior to being in the pit was NOT glamorous. Though he dreamed of greatness, he came from meager beginnings. He was a shepherd. He was placed in a pit, sold into slavery, lived in the palace as servant, then wrongfully imprisoned before he realized his dreams of greatness BACK to palace living as a ruler…living out his God breathed destiny. This journey for his life was not by happenstance. (Nothing ever is with God).

Many of us have never experienced this type of hardship prior to reaching our place of abundant living. Certainly some of us had (have) some difficulties in our lives. Largely though, we are richer than we have ever been. We drive nice cars, we live in fine houses, we have maids, yardmen, nannies, private schools for our children, and the like. We are college educated and have extraordinary earning potential and our children are college educated. Nonetheless, when things are going well (our palace) and God changes our position we cannot fathom how to get up and go on from that place. We find ourselves in the pit.

If we find ourselves in the pit after “palace living”, we must use this time wisely. God is preparing and equipping us for our future. He could not get us to our future best and blessed place (Kingdom living) from where we were. God wanted to do something in us and with us that could not be accomplished in our palace. The pit is a stepping stone to your greatness. We can use it to our advantage or we can just wallow around in the pit. What a waste! I have heard it said like this “time in the pit is JUST time in the pit” if we do not get everything out of it… learning all the lessons, passing all the tests, growing, and progressing. We should not spend our time wondering why God moved us. This revelation may never come or may be revealed months to years later. We do not have time to spend and waste wondering what if, what did I do wrong, what was God thinking (you get the point). The time in the pit is useful to strengthen our character, increase our faith, and deepen our love for and dependence on God.

In my conversation with my friend, I reminded her that it was in Joseph’s toughest times that he was truly blessed, experiencing the power and favor of the Lord. God used this time in the pit, in the palace, and the prison to prepare and equip him for kingdom living and ultimately for his reign as governor. Joseph remained faithful squeezing all of the lessons out of these difficult times and passing all the tests. God can and He will bless us in our struggles (in the pit). If we are going to realize our dreams of greatness, we have to reconsider how we spend and the value of those times in the pit.
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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Am I My Sister’s Keeper?

For the past month or more, I have been preoccupied with the question, Am I My Sister’s Keeper. As I began thinking about the answer to the question, one my co-workers asked me, after I requested some help from her, “Am I my sister’s keeper?” (That made me laugh) Before I go any further, MY answer to the question is as it was to her that day….an unequivocal and resounding, yes! You have to answer the question for yourself. You may be asking…. Why? Why am I my sister’s keeper? I am glad you asked, let’s talk about it.

This blog could easily be gender neutral, but it was specifically focused at women because I think men do a better job of establishing and upholding the “brotherhood” or “band of brothers” than do their counterparts. Women seem to have a tougher time rallying around one another and supporting one another in a way that parallels most men’s support of one another. I think that is because from a young age we learn to be catty and jealous of one another. We view one another as competition.

All of us have experienced the grace, mercy, and favor of God, but some of us have not capitalized on it. Those of us who have tapped into the power using it to better our lives and to heal our families have a responsibility to those who do not yet understand the measure of God’s power to heal, set free, and deliver. We cannot walk around rich with power, blessings overflowing, and watch our sisters (brothers) struggle through life broke, broke down (powerless), and in the same breath talk about God’s goodness. Is that goodness only reserved for us? Why would you not want another sister to experience and bask in that same goodness? Why would you not want to see a sister progress, prosper, grow, or change?

You might say, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink. That is true. Certainly, some women do not want to change or do not know enough to know they need to change. We (in the natural) do not have the power, patience, wisdom, knowledge, persistence, and the two major keys love and acceptance to change anyone. God may use us as instruments of change (through our walk, testimony or ministry), but ultimately it is He who brings the change and transforms their lives in a meaningful way. You cannot control or change others. In order for people to change they have to want to change, they have to submit themselves by being teachable, and then they have to put action to what they have learned… Doing what they know, instead of just knowing what they know. Our responsibility in the meantime is prayer and understanding, not judgment and condemnation.

A sister may just need a hand, lift, push, or pull to get her act together. If you are doing well in a certain area of your life or you have mastered a particular life challenge, why not help a sister who is struggling in that area. You will be blessed by the encounter and richer for the experience, especially when you see the transformation manifest in her life.

Am I My Sister’s Keeper? Yes indeed… I am! Are you?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Road Less Traveled

Has anyone ever been sharing their newest plan or venture with you and you ended up wondering why they were choosing that specific route, path, or journey? Of course this wondering is based on what you know about them and their personality. In your mind, the plan makes absolutely no sense. (I can hear you are going to do what?!) However, the plan seems to make perfect sense to them.

I have been guilty of making this type of judgment. But since I have been convicted of being judgmental, my eyes have been opened to how our own journey makes us question the journey of others. We see the world through our own lenses and experiences and we make judgements based on the success or failure of those experiences.

We have to learn to live and let live! Everything and everyone has a purpose!! The unique anointing on YOUR life is not going to help me accomplish MY purpose and MY unique anointing is not going to help you accomplish your purpose. Basically, you have to do you, and I have to do me. The journey or path we choose shapes and molds us (hopefully in a positive way). But even when we make bad choices or things do not go as we planned, our missteps and mistakes can bless us and help us grow (if we choose to learn from them and not let them destroy us).

Everyone has to choose their own path. The fact that you did not or would not choose the road or map out the plan that a friend or loved one chooses doesn’t make it a bad or the wrong choice. It is just different and part of THEIR learning, growth, and purpose.

The journey someone else takes may seem unconventional, wasteful, and even useless. It very well may be...for YOU, but not for them. Sometimes the shortest distance between two points is NOT a straight line, in terms of learning and growth, we may have to take a different route to get to the successful end of our journey.

It has been said that the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason. That may or may not be true in every case. Next time you are privileged enough for someone to share with you their hopes and dreams, listen with an open mind and an open heart! The road less traveled often leads to good success!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Quitting is not an option...Are you a Finisher?

By the title of this blog, you know that we are going to talk about quitting or a least NOT quitting. This blog came to me during a night of insomnia. That night I had the whole blog worked out in my head. When I woke up, I could not remember a thing. NOTHING. Two days later, listening to the Bible Experience (a must have by the way) the story of Peter walking on water jolted my memory. We will talk about Peter shortly.

I had been talking to family and friends about my doctoral journey. I said, if I could have seen and anticipated the work, the commitment, and how exhausted I would be at this point I might not have started. Here is a freebie…this is one reason why God does not show us the end or even the middle of a thing at the beginning, because we might not ever start the journey. Although I never said anything about quitting (just venting, you know me) several people immediately said, “You can’t quit”…“you’ve come so far”. Quitting is not an option. In fact, quitting is not in my DNA. However, it did start me to thinking about why people quit particularly when they have asked for and passionately pursued the thing (job, degree, relationship, marriage, and self-improvement) they now want to quit.

When Peter walked on water, it was his request to go to Jesus on the water. He said, “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water”. Peter was walking on water! However, when the wind picked up, Peter became afraid and began to sink, asking Jesus to save him from drowning.

We do the same…We ask God to direct us and show us what we should be doing. We ask for guidance in returning to school, starting a ministry, getting married, quitting a bad habit like drinking or smoking, leaving or getting a new job or career, OR _____. You fill in the blank. At the first sign of trouble (the wind picks up) we are ready to throw in the towel, wanting to be rescued, wanting to quit!

We have to decide (choose) to stay the course, particularly the courses that we ask God to set us on and bless. If we trust that He knows best and knows us best then we have to trust the course He put us on and we have to learn (through faith) to persevere.

Conversely, we do have to know when something is over. Quitting implies that we are leaving something half done or undone. If we have unfinished emotional, financial, relational, spiritual “business” with something that we are involved in or someone then it may not be time to leave or let go. We have to seek guidance before we decide the time is right to move on. Then we can move forward without having to look back. Don’t quit and you never have to wonder what if.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Power of the Tongue-A Heart Issue

God morning! It's 3 am and for some reason insomnia has crept in on me and invaded my sleep. I know better than to fight only becomes worse if I try to force it. The good news is whenever I am awake, God is either dealing with me personally or He is giving me some nugget to share with others. This time, it is a little of both because it is an issue that I still struggle with...taming the tongue.

This issue only came up AGAIN (seems to keep coming up) because a friend asked the question "The word says that the power of life and death lies in the tongue and we say that the children are our future, then why do 'we' curse our children and talk down on them???"

My response to her was "Because we do not truly understand the impact. And we are repeating what was done to us as children. Doing what we know, instead of doing what we know is right. The words that come out of our mouth are (1) a heart issue and (2) a God issue. We speak these words (words that wound, words spoken in anger, words that are hurtful and ugly) because they are in our hearts. The bible says in Matthew 12:34… that out of the abundance or overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. We need a transplant. The good news is as the old folks say, He is a heart fixer and mind regulator".

I shared this same message in bible study several months ago (I told you, it keeps coming up). To elaborate a little, our hearts or what is in our hearts tells us the words to speak and even what tone to use with a family, friends, and children. In Matthew 12 (Message) the bible tells us that it is our heart that gives meanings to words, not the dictionary.

We have to ask God to search our hearts (Psalms 139.23) and clean them up (Psalm 51:10). We also have to know when to remain silent or when and how to respond Proverbs 15:1 (New Century Version) Proverbs 15 1 A gentle answer will calm a person's anger, but an unkind answer will cause more anger.

If we knew the damage words caused to the spirits of our children, the self esteem of our family, and the confidence of our brothers and sisters, we would be more careful to tame our tongues.

When we are confronted with a situation that can cause us to say something we do not mean or that we will regret, we have two choices. We can either react or respond. Reaction implies that we speak without thinking. Like a spontaneous a volcano. Responding implies that we have taken the time to gather are thoughts and respond intelligently and calmly. When we wound with words, when we have gone too far, we cannot take it back. It is like trying to put toothpaste back into the tube. It is difficult and very messy.

I feel a little sleepiness coming on and I am up in 3 hours. So I am out for now. We will talk more later. If you are struggling with your tongue ask God to search your heart and give you a clean heart so that the words you speak with bless, honor, exalt, and encourage. Night!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Starting A New Blog

I have been thinking about blogging for several months now. Today I decided to go ahead and begin the process. However, I am asking myself is this yet another dissertation distraction. Either way here I am. I hope that I can use the blog to facilitate writing and thoughts that will lead to more writing and flowing thoughts in my dissertation.

I would also like to use the blog to dialogue about (thus Can We Talk?!) overcoming life's challenges and transforming our lives to what we want them to be, instead of settling for what we have created. I anticipate that I will be doing most of the talking, but that is OK. I am used to that (LOL). I do hope to get followers and get specific questions from my followers about how to change situtations, relationships, careers, and directions in their lives. I am up for it all.

If you become a follower, you must know that any feedback I give you is definately supported by and rooted and grounded in the Word of God. I am a believer, a follower, and a servant of Jesus Christ. He teaches us how to live and love. We cannot change unless we are motivated to change and the power of Jesus Christ is our catalyst and sustains us as we attempt to change. His grace envelopes us when we miss the mark. Oh yes, and sometimes we miss the mark.

That's it for today. Just wanted to give you a glimpse of things I will be blogging about in the short run. God only knows how this blog will evolve as I get closer to full time writing and researching for my dissertation.

Sharing a picture of myself and one of my church member's daughter, Anaya.