THE MOUNTAINS AND THE SEA

image_577325847583628In life when faced with seemingly impossible and overwhelming circumstances, God has given us certain principles that will carry us through , coupled with a strong faith in Him and his promises.

The one thing that is certain about the Christian walk is the constant trials that we face. As a newborn believer, I  felt that I could relax and wait for Jesus’s return and in the meantime just coast into heaven for the next sixty or seventy years. I soon realized that this belief is a fallacy: the adversary convinces many Christians that to follow Jesus means to live a life free of suffering or difficulty. Also in our Christian walk we are faced many times with complicated decisions; and sometimes it seems we have no choice.

What we need to realize is that in times of severe distress and sometimes painful moral crisis, God has given us a blueprint of what to do and what not to do.  When I am faced with dilemmas in my Christian walk, I often read the book of Exodus (14:13,14) which is the story of  the Hebrews  leaving Egypt and their pursuit by Pharoah’s armies. The former Hebrew slaves found themselves in what seemed to be a hopeless situation: Pharoah’s army was behind them, the mountains were on either side and the Red Sea stretched in front of them. Sometimes the greater the seemingly hopelessness, the greater the deliverance at hand. Moses, the Hebrews leader who was chosen by God to lead them out of bondage had four main things that he told the people when they were at the edge of the Red Sea that fateful day.

The first thing he told them was to “be not afraid.” There are many things we can do when we are afraid; such as worry, panic, blame others: but the one thing we cannot do when we fear is trust God. Fear and faith can never exist at the same time. Fear cancels out faith and vice versa. So if you are in a seemingly hopeless situation, as tempting as it is to be afraid, don’t give in to it. If you ask God to comfort you, he will. Hebrews 13:5 says, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” The one thing a child fears the most is being left alone, and this is because they can’t make it on their own. A good parent is never at risk of leaving their child intentionally; so it is with God, he will never leave us or abandon us emotionally because his love for us can never permit him to do so. When we worry in painful and stressful circumstances, it is like saying to God, “I don’t trust you to take care of me, or I don’t believe you can.” One thing to remember about the plight of the  Hebrews is that their hopeless situation brought them to their promised land. The path to our destinies is often paved with pain, fear, discouragement, and obstacles. The greater the obstacle, the greater the deliverance and miracle.

The next thing God told Moses to tell the people was to be still. Being physically still in times of crisis is so important. Often we think we are accomplishing something if we are moving; many times all movement achieves is to serve as a distraction. Physical stillness also can give us time to regroup and to think before acting. If every time we encounter stress we immediately act, we run the risk of acting in haste. And as my grandmother used to say, “Haste makes waste.” Stillness also gives our emotions time to “catch up” before we make a physical move. How many times have you known someone to act rashly only to later realize they’d made a mistake. When I’m faced with multiple decisions in my Christian walk, I find I’m not going to make a mistake if I take the time to seek God about what to do, and wait to hear what he says to do. It’s hard to hear the voice of God while in constant movement; especially when that movement has little or nothing to do with his direction for our lives. So when listening for direction from God, it is imperative that we find a place to  be still or not move until we know that it is God saying to move.

The next thing God said to do which goes together with stillness is to watch. We see sometimes only what God allows us to see, and this is hard to accept when we feel we are educated, intelligent, and well-informed. Unfortunately, no matter how intelligent we are our smarts are no match for God. There is physical seeing and there is seeing with understanding. The seeing with understanding is the level of seeing that God is trying to get us to. For we can have physical sight and be spiritually blind. When I pray, I ask God to allow me to see situations the way he sees them, which in turn will increase wisdom. We can never know all that God knows, but we can be in relationship with him closely, so as to act in ways that please him and glorify his will in the earth. Sometimes we can not see,(understand) God’s will until we just observe what he is doing, and we can’t do that unless we ask. Watching involves prayer, but it also involves waiting.

The last thing Moses instructed the people to do was to be quiet. This is hard for most people to do because it involves controlling a small member of our bodies, and that is the tongue. The book of James says, “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things..”(James 3:5) Our speech is the one thing that can build up or tear down. In regards to faith, it is important to always remember that our words have extreme power. That is why we should never confess negativity over our selves by speaking. We should never speak negative things over others unless it is to rebuke, correct, and instruct. The power of our speech is another sermon altogether; however when we are faced with extreme distress, we must keep quiet especially in regards to speaking negatively.  Also when in times of  extreme trials or pain, you can not tell everyone what you are going through; simply because they can not always understand. When facing extreme trials, the primary person you should talk to is God and leave it with God. When we speak without thinking we can never take back what has been said. Hence, it’s important to keep quiet and seek wisdom of what to say or if to speak at all. And always remember if we can control what we say, we can control other aspects of our lives. If in times of crisis you don’t know whether to speak or not, always ask God whether to speak or not; he will let you know. Finally, I can’t stress enough the importance of being quiet when facing life’s trials: because your words have power, they can inflict pain or heal, your words reveal how much control you have over your own spirit and you can literally speak your destiny into existence by saying the right thing or the wrong thing.

Heavenly Father I pray right now for those who are facing difficulties of the kind that only you can deliver them from, I pray for their confidence to be in you, and that they know that you will help them as they put their trust in you. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

 

 

 

The Meaning of Motherhood

If someone asked me what my greatest achievement in life has been, I would have to say it is being a mother. The highest calling in life is to have the privilege of giving someone life and having the opportunity to nurture that life into adulthood. A mother is a child’s first contact with the world, and if that contact is warm, trusting, and nurturing it can make the difference in whether the child reaches their full potential emotionally as well as physically.

I remember when I first realized that raising my children was a calling, and that I would need the grace of God to do it right. I was in church, and the pastor’s wife relayed to me how God had given her wisdom in how to train her children up in the Lord. I went home and looked up every scripture I could find on child training. I then began reading the scriptures to my oldest child at the time. I wanted the children to know that what I was doing had a Biblical base; that I wasn’t just making things up out of my head. The first scripture I recall teaching the children was from the book of Ephesians, “Children obey your parents in the Lord…” I would make a pointed effort to pray where the children could hear me, in addition to praying with them and teaching them to pray on their own.

Motherhood to me meant a responsibility  to help my children reach their God-given potential as well as instilling in them an understanding of who God is. No parent no matter how much they teach and train a child can give them faith; only Jesus Christ can do that. There were many nights I spent singing, reading, and brushing hair before bedtime. There were planet and star stickers that I pasted to the ceiling, and the children and I spent many nights staring at the ceiling trying to count the stars.

There were also the days and nights spent calming a frightened child, breast feeding a newborn, and soothing chicken pox with calamine lotion. The time that Jaynae developed chicken pox I slept with her on the couch in the living room for two weeks. In between all the sickness there were the prayers taped to the bedroom walls to help Ima remember to pray for healing each time she was sick, and help Uyime recite scriptures when she had headaches also. The years of getting physicals for school stand out in my mind, as well as the years of disputing with school officials of my right to refuse vaccinations for my children.

When you give birth to your child, you risk your life, after the child is born your heart is at risk forever. As a mother I was there for each tear they shed in my presence and some of them they shed without my presence. When their hearts broke, my did too, when they were overjoyed, I became ecstatic also. My mind reflects on every dance practice, each dance recital, all the music concerts,(as well as the music practice), and all the violin strings which broke. Oh yes I remember every violin I had to purchase also. By the time the years of teaching them to drive and going to buy prom dresses arrived, I felt that I’d already lived three lifetimes.

I questioned why I was still here after the death of Jaynae, I didn’t want to comprehend my living and her lying in a grave. I was grateful that she’d had a wonderful life. Yet I had difficulty finding the meaning of mundane things in life after her passing. She had taught me so much; even though I was the parent. Even now, when I look at her life, she is still teaching me; she is saying, “Mom keep singing, keep living, keep hoping, I may no longer be with you, but you still have mountains to conquer.”

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The Meaning of Courage

The main characteristic of a leader is courage. Yet, courage isn’t the absence of fear. In the Bible, all the heroes of the faith were confronted with  dilemmas and they didn’t know how they’d be solved. However, they faced conflicts with courage, and let God be their guide, even when they didn’t know the outcome.

The greatest obstacle to being courageous is facing the unknown.Hebrews 13:6 says, “So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.What can man do to me?” Even when we don’t know what people will do, we can be assured in what Jesus will do. Our faith in Christ stands on his word to us; and if our confidence is in God, we don’t have to fear anything that human flesh can release upon us. In other words,” God has our backs.”

The one thing that the heroes of the Bible had in common when it came to exercising courage, was that they faced situations and they didn’t know the outcome. When God told Abraham to leave his relatives and his country, he didn’t even know where he was going; yet he trusted God who assured him that he would lead him to a better country to dwell in. After David was anointed king, he had to wait decades before he could take the throne to rule Israel. While he was waiting his life was threatened many times because King Saul was determined to destroy him before he could become king. When Queen Esther went before King Ahasureus she didn’t know if he would receive her or kill her; yet she was willing to die to obey God and save her people from certain death. And then Mary, the mother of our Lord, was just a teenager and engaged to be married when God’s angel told her that she was going to have a baby, not an ordinary baby, but a baby whose father would be the Holy Spirit. Imagine the courage of that young girl, and the trust that she had in her God that he would take care of her and provide everything that she needed to bring her child safely into the world.

Courage cannot exist without fear; for in order to exercise courage, there has to be something we need extraordinary ability to face. Having courage means thinking outside of the box, and sometimes going against what popular opinions say. Think of all the people who changed things in the world; Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Ghandi, Thomas Edison, The Wright brothers, and the list is endless: none of those people would have changed the world had they been more concerned about staying in their place, and not causing a disturbance. No change has ever taken place without disruption or conflict. The most courageous man who ever lived was Jesus Christ. He came on the world stage and by living out who he was,1379787402609 he split history in half. Here are some characteristics of the courageous:

  1. Courageous people are not conformers.
  2. Courageous people are willing to take chances, even when the odds are against them.
  3. Courageous people speak their opinions when others keep silent.
  4. Courageous people are willing to defend the downtrodden and the helpless.
  5. Courageous people are selfless and greatly sacrifice for others.
  6.  Courageous people are confident of their identity and are not threatened when others challenge them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXCERPT FROM MY BOOK, CRIES OF THE RIGHTEOUS

The only memory I have of my father that is my own was of a conversation he had with me and my older sister, Irma. Irma had a Hershey candy bar and I badly wanted a piece of it. I went to Dad and asked him to make her give me a piece. He said, “Irma, give your sister some candy, always share with your sister.” I was almost four years old when Dad passed away and as a grown woman I wondered why this is the only vivid memory that I have of him. Of the countless words he spoke to me, why did I only remember these words. It occurred to me that anything you vividly remember as a young child has great significance. It was from this memory that I’ve clung to all my life that revealed to me my father’s character, his role in my life and the role he played in the lives of my siblings. This memory showed me that he was a protector, and                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      that he was there to watch my back. This memory showed me that he was there to provide for me what I couldn’t provide for myself; and that he encouraged harmony in a large family that needed tons of love, of which he had so much to provide. This memory was also important because I was able to look back and understand that God’s love is similar to the love of a caring father for his child. It would have been harder to recognize and accept the love of God had I not been acquainted with the love my father had for me and my siblings.

I vaguely remember leaning from a bench in church and looking into a casket at the face of a man who appeared to be my father. I recall the emptiness and the desertion that I felt after he was no longer there. Yet this crushing event in my life reminds me of the scripture which says “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

My spirit was crushed after my father’s death. As a child when I went to church I would run to the cemetery and stare at my father’s grave. I would think as I stood there, “why did you leave me?” “Please come back.” But of course he never did. I also frequently had dreams in which Dad would come to the house and talk to me, but I could never touch him. Just when I would almost touch him the dream would end. I felt that it was so unfair that my father had died because he seemed to be the only one who loved and understood me.

My father was in the hospital a long time before he finally passed away from diabetes. He had the disease for years and didn’t know it. By the time he found out his body had already been damaged by kidney failure. Yet while he was in the hospital Mother told me he said to her, “Arlevia, please keep the children in church.” He must have known he was dying because he told this to my mother repeatedly. He also had her read a passage of scripture from the book of Psalms chapter 37. The scripture refers to the blessedness of the righteous man over the wicked. The verse shows that it may seem the wicked are winning, but in the end the righteous man is the one who inherits the land. Psalm 37: 28, 29 states “For the Lord loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved forever; but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.” My father’s death stripped us of the protection we so badly needed from the vicious attacks of Satan. The devil and his demons just moved into our house after my father’s death to try and destroy this righteous man’s children.

The sickness and poverty increased after Dad’s passing. My mother was left with eight children to raise alone; the oldest Margaret was sixteen, the youngest, Patrick, was five months. Patrick almost died as an infant due to various skin infections and asthma. The doctor told Mama that she could let him die in the hospital or take him home to die. My mother of course chose to bring my brother home and she took him to church to have the pastor pray for him. Pastor Ingram prayed for Patrick and said, “ Lord it’s not expected that this baby live, please for his mother’s sake, she’s already lost her husband, please Lord spare this little boy’s life, Amen.”   I often helped Mama bathe Patrick by bringing her towels to dry his skin. It took a long time for his body to heal, but he lived.

Luther, another brother, developed pneumonia and came close to dying. Jerry, my next to oldest brother, suffered from nosebleeds and was perpetually accident prone. My mother cried a lot during this time, and she’d sometimes say while she cried, “The Lord took my husband, it seems Jasper could have done a better job taking care of the children instead.” Spiritually, we needed a lot of direction, but all of Mama’s energy was used up just trying to feed us and keep a roof over our heads.

I believe that because children are innocent, they see things that other people are unable to see; especially things of spiritual significance. As a child, I would see small, black creatures throughout our house; they would always be under a bed or in a closet. I didn’t know what they were and I didn’t know how to tell anyone what I saw. I now realize these were demonic spirits; they were the ones of sickness, confusion, and strife that were so prevalent in our home after Dad’s passing.

The spiritual battle for my father’s children was only beginning. The presence of a Godly father in the home can’t be underestimated; and his absence can have devastating effects on all who dwell there. This is not to say that a God-fearing and praying mother is not able to raise her family in the fear of the Lord, but God has commanded fathers to instruct their household in the fear of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4 states, “And ye fathers provoke not your children to wrath: but rather bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” I am convinced that if a father is unable or unwilling to minister to his household, that God honors the efforts and prayers of a mother or whoever stands as a caregiver in that household.

I was always asking my siblings what my father was like because I had such a limited memory of him. Margaret, my older sister said, “Daddy was something else, I don’t believe he had a child that was like him.” She said that he had the kind of personality that just drew people to him, and that he had a concern for people that few others had. She said he was funny, (had a sense of humor), and he loved singing and being a deacon in the church. She said my father embraced other people and served them, and he did it selflessly.

My mother’s personality was the opposite of my father’s; while my father was accepting and willing to help anyone, my mother was more introverted and seemed to have little trust for anyone. They were both strong individuals, but in characteristically different ways. Both my parents were the product of the culture and era they lived in; and fifty years ago in the South segregation was the law of the land. Women were also expected to be subservient to their husbands rather than equal partners.