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.

 

 

 

WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT SEXUAL ABSTINENCE

First I want to say there is a difference between celibacy and abstaining from sexual relations. Celibacy is usually a lifestyle where people do not engage in sexual relations because of religious reasons and a certain calling on their life to abstain. Abstinence from sexual intercourse can also be for religious reasons, but it generally isn’t because a person feels called to abstain from sex throughout their lives: it usually is because they abstain until they meet and marry the person they feel God has chosen for them to share their lives with.  I want to share what I have learned about abstaining from sexual intercourse because I feel it may help others who struggle with choosing this as a lifestyle until they marry.

  1. God is ever-present with you and knows the difficulty of your choice and is there to comfort you. Sometimes we may feel that because Jesus Christ was God, that he can’t possibly understand what we are feeling. Jesus was all man and all God. It says in Hebrews that he knows our weaknesses and infirmities and understands them all. God created us and he created us with the desire to be with the opposite sex; he understands better than anyone what it feels like and what it means to a man and woman to be united, sexually.
  2. Abstaining from sexual relations until marriage guards and protects our emotions. I know this has been said numerous times, but there is an assurance that we have when our mind, soul, and bodies are in God’s hands and subjection. We have the knowledge that no matter how  relationships go, God is honoring my devotion to him and the entirety of my being is covered. There is a peace that comes from knowing that I’m  not dishonoring my body and God honors that. Hebrews says that “Marriage is honorable..” This means that it is good, whole, righteous, and that the sexual act within marriage is pure, not defiled or dirty.
  3. When you are filled with God’s spirit, a sexual relationship outside of God’s covenant  of marriage is grievous.  I learned this when I was in a sexual relationship and not married. I thought that because we loved each other, and we were faithful to each other that God would somehow overlook the fact that we weren’t married. God never overlooks, sidesteps, or walks around his word and the truth of his word. No matter how much God loves you; he doesn’t love you enough to make any exception for you and your situation. For him to do so, for God to go back on his word in any instance he would cease to be God. Also while in this relationship, I began to feel myself becoming distant from the things of God: this means that I couldn’t listen to someone preaching God’s word, I couldn’t read my Bible or pray. My conscience was being violated, because I was breaking one of God’s principles, and I was in a sinful situation that was causing me to be separated from God.
  4. Even though I tried to justify sexual relations outside of the marriage covenant, the Holy Spirit in me never gave me peace about it: also I didn’t know it at the time, but I was cutting myself off from the blessings of God: in this present life and the eternal ones.  It’s true that those who play house, never get the real house. When we settle for less than God’s plan, we cut ourselves off from the very thing it is that we want. Also, settling for someone who is unwilling to marry you, could be standing in the way of someone who would be willing and able to make a holy committment to you. Abstaining from sexual relations shouldn’t be something you do seeking a reward or a husband; it should be something you do because it is right. The man who I was with wasn’t just unwilling to marry me, he was using me to satisfy his own selfish and self-centered needs, whether he realized it or not. And this fact alone was enough for my heavenly father to want to protect me from such manipulation.
  5. I was sinning against my own body. In twenty-four years of marriage and living with a man who was consistently unfaithful to me, I never contracted any sexually transmitted disease (other than a yeast infection): however, in the span of two years, I contracted a virus  that placed me at risk of developing cancer. Also, in the two years I was sleeping with this man, I was always sick with some type of persistent cold or bronchitis. When I stopped sleeping with him, I still have colds, but the persistence of  sickness  isn’t there.
  6. Sexual immorality in the form of fornication continually opens the door for sexual obsession or even possession by sexual demonic spirits. What most people fail to realize is that sexual sin, is sexual sin. When we knowingly disobey God’s word and sometimes unknowingly, we open the door to a flood of demonic influence from whatever demonic powers that are out there. When we have the power to control our desires and inclinations and choose not to do it, we open ourselves up to things that we don’t have control over. Nothing is worse than feeling you don’t have control over your sexual desires; when something else comes that has power over you. This is where sexual deviation comes from in the form of child molestation, rape, bestiality, homosexuality, and the list goes on.
  7. When you don’t have your sexual desires and feelings under control, there is some element of emotional immaturity. I realized that I desperately wanted love and intimacy with a man, and I did so at the expense of my relationship and peace with God. After traveling through the maze of loss of self-esteem, loss of peace, and a general feeling that I’m doing something wrong, I began to so value the lost elements of my personality that I felt no temporary attention a man could give me was worth losing my self-respect: and my friend, that is personal growth and emotional maturity. I allowed myself to be manipulated as a child, to obtain something that I felt I couldn’t live without. Emotionally mature people are able to delay self-gratification for something much better that is long-term.  There are sixty year-old people who are still immature emotionally. Age has little to do with how mature someone is emotionally.
  8. Lastly, waiting for the commitment you want in marriage is taking the moral high-ground. People who compromise themselves sexually will eventually compromise themselves in other things also. Taking the moral high ground says to yourself, and to others, “I am worth the very best that is available.” It says that even if I have to live the rest of my life alone, it is better than being with someone who de-values me, or gives me less than what I want, need, and deserve.

THE PAIN OF THE EMPTY NEST

My grandmother gave birth to twelve children, and of those twelve she lived to bury three of them. Two died as children, and my father passed away as an adult. Of the remaining nine, all left home, married and settled in various areas of the country. She survived my grandfather by fifty years, which wasn’t uncommon for women in the South over seventy-five years ago. The one child who remained was my mentally challenged uncle, Curtis Quince.

As a child I would go to “Mama Lula’s” house with my brother, Patrick; we would sashay into her front door, sit down and talk for a few minutes, then get up and run outside to play. I loved escaping to her house because it was a breath of fresh air from the noise of my seven brothers and sisters. I’m sure the quietness and refuge that I cherished, she had come to hate. There were days I would come by and see her sitting on the porch with a forlorn look on her face: it wasn’t only a look of loneliness and despair, the look said, “no one is going to rescue me from this.” Even as a child, I sensed “Mama Lula’s” relief when Patrick and I would show up, I sensed her thankfulness, and I was equally grateful for the sense of history and peacefulness she had given to me.

It is true that we can spend all our lives as employees, parents, and productive citizens, and one day wake up to realize we are in the house alone. I realized my “nest” was empty after I dropped my youngest daughter off at college. My ex-husband had left a year earlier to build a new nest with a younger, new wife and two other children. I didn’t have time to be bitter; the time that I possessed was spent trying to find a career in post-mid-life and trying to keep two daughters in college.

I joined several meetup.com sites, became an avid hiker, a prolific dancer, and began to explore the singing skills that had lain dormant for a long time. I found the self who had been buried beneath the needs of children and the expectations of a neglectful spouse. I returned to school and acquired a certificate as a drug counselor. I got a job working at something that required skill and thought. It was a great accomplishment. My days were filled. The nights and the weekends became the gaps. I suddenly realized the children had filled the nights and the weekends until now: they had filled the gaps for ten years plus. Overwhelmingly, I began to crave sharing the most insignificant events. A sunset, a cup of coffee, a walk in the park, a walk anywhere; these things became monumental events set against a backdrop of emptiness.

The gaps are here and I refuse to fill them with minutia. I refuse to fill the gaps with things that I’m not passionate about. I spoke with a woman  I met and is in a similar situation with the children and the spouse gone;I said, “It’s amazing how much space another person takes up in your life, and when they are no longer there how much space is left.” So I must fill the gaps with Joan. I must fill the gaps with whom I choose to be with and what I choose to give my time to. Time is the most precious commodity of an “empty nester”; use it wisely, make it work for you and you will see the valuable return of your investment.

 

OVERCOMING A SHATTERED LIFE

I looked around my home at all the memories and wondered how a life that was once whole and complete became shattered. There were so many pieces of a life that no longer existed. I saw the pieces of a twenty-four year marriage that no longer existed. I felt the stab of pain when looking at the pieces of Jaynae’s life that had prematurely ended. I believe the Holy Spirit revealed to me that sometimes lives are shattered in order to build new ones.

In my pondering about the all the loss and brokenness around me, I thought about Job. Job was a God’s servant and he was in love with God. He sought to please God in all that he did. Job even made sacrifices for sins that he thought his children had committed. He was devoted. God even boasted of Job to the Devil. So Satan said to God, paraphrasing, Do you think that Job serves you for nothing? Take away all that he has and he will curse you to your face? So God gave the Devil permission to take away all Job’s possessions, riches, and even his beloved children. What Job said at all this was, The Lord gives, the Lord takes away, and he still blessed God. Then the Devil came again to God and asked permission to afflict Job’s body. Job got sick and his body was covered with sores. His wife then came to him and told him to curse God and die. Job said to his wife, you speak as a foolish woman. Job still did not speak against God or curse him.

I haven’t suffered nearly what Job went through, but sometimes the Devil has come to me and said, why don’t you give up. I am not in the habit of answering the Devil, but my answer to any temptation to give up is that Jesus has already won the battle, the fight isn’t mine; it’s God’s. I read the end of the Bible and Jesus wins.

If God never gave me anything else or never worked another miracle in my life, what he did for me on Calvary would be enough. Yet I know that he will do more for me because his word has promised me so many times all the things that he will do. Psalm 34: 18,19 says, “The Lord in nigh unto them that are of a broken heart and saveth such as be of a contrite,(crushed) spirit.God loves everyone; human beings can not comprehend the depths of God’s love. However, God has a particular affinity to align himself with those whom everyone else has forsaken. Remember the scripture that says, “If God be for us who can be against.” (Romans 8:31) The person who already has family members. a large circle of friends, money or social prominence may not feel the acute need for God as someone who is alone, orphaned, poor or imprisoned. Yet God’s word says that he places the solitary in families, he is a husband to the woman who has none, and that he is a friend that stays closer than a brother. So even if someone is orphaned, poor, or alone, Jesus promised that if we belong to him he will give back what evil has taken away from us: and many times it is ten times over what we lost. When God restored Job, he was given twice what he lost.

Jesus showed me that the rebuilding of a broken and shattered life can be compared to an old edifice that needs restoring. One can not begin construction on a totally new building if the old one is still standing. The old building has to be taken down for the new one to be built.

At least two things are key to overcoming brokenness, one is to forgive and not allow bitterness to grow in your heart. Hatred and bitterness can kill. The second thing is to strive to move forward in life. God put our eyes in front of us which indicates that we shouldn’t spend time looking backward.  Praying, walking in God’s Spirit and meditating on God’s word is extremely helpful in moving forward in life.

Finally, realize that it is humanly impossible for you to pick up all the pieces of a shattered life; allow Jesus Christ to help you in putting together what you can not piece together yourself. He is there and he is willing and able.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,4) who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5) For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. (II Corinthians 1: 3-5)