Daily Devotional, Spiritual Walk

Just Wretched.

(This is the final installment of our “Fighting Dirty” devotional series.)

Good morning, peeps!

“I’m saved, but my face isn’t.”

When people say, “Well!  Why don’t you tell me how you really feel??”, my face has already said it.  *sigh*  I don’t have to say a word.  Nope.  It’s already been said.  Every time I see t-shirts with the phrase “I’m saved, but my face isn’t”, I think about filing a lawsuit because that saying has obviously been inspired by someone’s encounter with me and I want my money.  Surely that’s an infringement of some kind.  This face…lawd.  She needs her own “come to Jesus” moment.  Just backslidden.

I think she’d be okay if she didn’t hang around my right eyebrow all of the time.

Sometimes I can rein her in, but then there are times I just give up and put her in timeout: I’ll have a blank expression on my face. This is not a good look and I’m not very good at it either.  I can pull it off sometimes, though.  Let’s take yesterday, for example.  I was in a meeting with my boss and and someone went completely off-subject.  As we were walking out, my boss said, “Deone, I wish you had a ticker on your forehead so I could know what you were thinking because your posture did not match the blank look on your face.”  I said, “Well, in that case, you already know”, but my thought was, “Man!  Now, my body ain’t saved either!”

“I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” – Romans 7:21-24

I am a wretched (wo)man.  I love the Lord, but I am wret-ched.  And I am so wore out from fighting my wretchedness that I don’t have the energy to fight anyone else.  This war with me, myself, and I has been going on for years and these sistas are not backing down.  We go toe-to-toe every day!  Every day it’s a fight to see who will be in control.  And you want me to fight a whole ‘nother enemy, God?  I can’t even win against myself!  I thought about this a few minutes ago, and what came to me was “verse 25”.  Romans 7:25 reads, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” Y’all, I’ve been doing the copy/paste thing on Romans 7:21-24 for this entire series and I never thought to read the last verse.  My bad.  The mind.  Hmm.

In a war, a country is only as strong as its infrastructure.  Our mind is our infrastructure.  If it’s not strong, there’s no way we are going to win this war between our flesh and spirit – a war that will continue on until the day we die.  It’s not going anywhere.  Another law will always be at work in our members.  We just have to be stronger than it.  That’s where the mind comes in: we’ve got to build it up.  This devotional series is really not over.  Part 8 is the segue into a new series that will jump off on Monday called “What Doesn’t Kill You”, using James 1:12 for reference.  This verse is about temptation, but we’ll focus on where that starts: in the mind.  We’ll tackle the who, what, where, when, and how of temptation and learn how we can come out victorious.   We’ve got a war on our hands, peeps, and I look forward to fighting it with you.  Have a great day.

–d.

Blog, Daily Devotional

Hi, Atus.

Good morning, peeps!

One of the annoying things about being someone who teaches is that sometimes you are required to follow your own instructions.

Of all the blogs I’ve written, the “go sit: the art of being” devotional series has really been one that has gotten to me.  I believe God is talking to me more than you all.  I am fond of saying that when I minister, the Word is hitting me first before it comes out of my mouth.  And that hasn’t changed.  God is calling me to sit down and be.  Actually, He’s been yelling it.  I do not know how to do this, as I have said over and over.  Just be??  Let me take that back.  I do know how, but it usually comes with a side of guilt.  Any time I want to step away, I feel bad because I know some of you look forward to reading this blog each weekday.  I look forward to writing them.  I don’t want to let y’all down, but to continue to do this without taking the time to just be is me letting myself down.  It is time to go sit, like I told you Jesus often did.  So I am, and I don’t feel a bit guilty.

Starting today, IJAC is on hiatus and during this time, I hope you read through the other installments of this blog or maybe even go sit yourself.  Until we meet again, refreshed and ready…

–d.

Daily Devotional, Spiritual Walk

Get Clean.

Good morning, peeps!

(This is a repeat.  A very special man in my life passed away this time of year in 2006 and he’s been on my mind a lot lately.  Like, a lot.  I revisited this post this morning and I thought I’d share it with my friends.  I hope you all have a great weekend.)

–d.

 

This post is inspired by my late stepdad, Curt.  I miss you…

Curt’s denim jacket has been hanging in the laundry room since he died in ’06.  I have looked at it every day, but for some reason I felt particularly drawn to it today.  I took the jacket off of the hanger, running my hand up and down the sleeves, fingering the collar as I remembered how he looked wearing it.  While most of his things had been sent to the professional cleaners, this jacket was washed at home with his jeans and still smelled of Tide and Downy.  I put my nose to it and sniffed – hey, we’ve already established that I am a little weird – and was surprised that I could also smell hints of the cigarettes he used to smoke.

You can stop doing worldly things, spruce yourself up as best you can, even go to church for years, but if you haven’t let God “clean” you, the stench of sin is still in every fiber of your being. You’d be like that jacket: look clean, in a place of cleaning, and still reek. There are some things that only God can do.  Ask Him to cleanse you today.

Daily Devotional, Spiritual Walk

And now…

Good morning, peeps!

AND NOW A WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR…

The word for today is “forgiveness”.  This word has been haunting my dreams lately.  Ugh.  Every night, I am presented with a different scenario involving this one person and every morning when I wake up, God says “You need to forgive them.”  Ain’t.  I want to – I really do – I just don’t know how.  So this morning, God broke it down real easy for me so that I would finally get what happens when I don’t forgive.

I dreamed of a young lady I know who is on the verge of adulthood.  We were in a car on our way to ATL and she was driving.  Somewhere along the way, she got turned around – we were going in the wrong direction.  This is what I mean by “we were going in the wrong direction”.  I don’t mean we were supposed to be headed south and we were going north.  No.  I mean, we were driving north in the southbound lane.  We were going against traffic!  I’m riding shotgun and I’m asking her if she can see the cars coming towards us.  She quietly replied, “Yes.”  I looked upside her head and said “Yes??  What do you mean ‘yes’??!”  She said, “Yes, I can see them.”  Y’all, this girl was so calm, it was freaky.  I’m on my side of the car panicking because semi-trucks and cars are trying desperately to get out of our way as she continues to speed in the wrong direction.  I finally coached her over to the other side and onto the shoulder.  Y’all don’t want to know how I did that.  Everything about this dream was illegal.  Once there, I calmed her down and said, “Okay.  Now you can go.”  She sat there with a terrified look on her face, gripping the steering wheel.  She said, “I’m scared.  I don’t know how to go that way.” Now, I promise you, I was totally confused.  I said, “Okaaay.  Remember how you just went against the flow of the cars on that side?  You will now go with the flow of the cars on this side.”  She said, “Oh.  Okay.”

She turned the car and drove against the flow of traffic.

When you do not forgive, you go against the flow.  I told y’all, I’m a poet!!  You do.  That’s what God was telling me this morning.  My unforgiveness is really making life harder than it should be.  I am going against, well, life.  Even when God gets me turned around and I’m travelling the right direction down Forgiveness Hwy 1, I will stop, turn my own self back around, and go the wrong direction.  How? Well, I attach bad experiences to things that have nothing to do with those and I hold on to the bad things of my past, looking at my future through that dirty lens.  So instead of typing another blog for the devotional series, me and God went back through my life and I forgave.  Yeah, y’all…I forgave.  God brought to the surface stuff that I didn’t even know was still there.  And I forgave.

Try it.

–d.

Daily Devotional, Spiritual Walk

Midnight.

(This is Part 3 of our “go sit: the art of being” devotional series.)

Good morning, peeps!

“Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.” – Acts 16:24-26 KJV

Point #3: being actually positions you for what God wants to do.

This IS the last part of this series. I know sometimes I surprise you and say, “But wait! There’s more!”, but there’s not. This is it, folks, so let’s end this thang with a bang! And that rhymed! I’m a poet and I didn’t even know it! Okay, I’m done. Shall we recap what we’ve learned so far? Let’s.

In Part 1, we talked about how sometimes God allows things to happen just to get you to sit down, just to get you to be. Tell the truth and shame the devil, peeps: for some of us it’s taken a health crisis or loss of a job to get us to be still. Or maybe even heartbreak. That’s the worst. God can get rather creative when He wants to. In our passage, P/S (Paul and Silas) suddenly find themselves locked up. They were just doing what they normally did on a Tuesday. I honestly don’t know what day it was. I’m not THAT bible scholar. You know how it happens: you’ll be in your routine, doing what you normally do and then WHAM! Everything stops and you find your routine halted. And you’re in stocks. Maybe not in actual stocks, but what you’re dealing with is keeping you from moving. You are being forced to be still.

In Part 2, I told you that you have a choice even in that time of being: you can choose to live or to die. You can let the situation conquer you or you can conquer it. I know those dark hours can be paralyzing and sometimes you just give up. I know. I’ve been there plenty of times and slapped a “I’m just surrendering…I’m letting God have His way.” label on it. Are you really? So let’s say you know that God is using a sitch in your life to cause you to sit still. In one of my blogs where I was talking about this battle that we’re fighting, I said that “surrender” and “forfeit” are two different things. If we’re honest, sometimes we just give up – not to God’s Will, but against God’s Will. I’m trying to string my words together to say what I want to say this morning, but it’s not working. I got it: we don’t throw up our hands in surrender, we throw them up and say “I quit.” Look at the P/S sitch. They are in jail. And let’s not forget that they have been beaten like dogs and had their clothes torn off them so their whole bruised behind is sitting on some cold piece of concrete right now.

Please be sure to read this chapter, especially verses 19-22. The accusation, beating, and ripping of their clothes was not done in private. Noooo. That would seem too much like right. This mess was done in front of everybody. They were pulled into the marketplace. This place is huge – imagine the first floor of Mall of America. Well, maybe. So, it’s not small and people are milling about. The accusation was made in front of the impo’tant folks. Ooooooh. The rulers decide that P/S weren’t going to be doin’ any preachin’ and deliverin’ on their block, so now it’s time to punish them. Now. I’d get it if the ones who were beating P/S were the accusers and the rulers. But in verse 22 it says that the multitude rose up together against them. Who are y’all? This has nothing to do with you!! This is an A and B conversation…C your way out! Well, that’s what I would’ve said. P/S probably hadn’t heard of that smart comeback yet. So, they’re beaten, clothes torn and thrown into the inner prison.


Author’s note: God just did it again. So, consider this Part 2.5 because this has just turned into an extension of Part 2 and we are still on Point #2 which was “being does not mean not being”. Don’t look at me. God did this.


“And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” – Acts 16:23-25

So P/S have been beaten, clothes torn and are now thrown in jail. I mean, prison. I keep saying ‘jail’, but this is prison. I know a few people who used to live there – there is a difference. It’s rough and it’s basically were hope goes to die. I was told by one that when he knew he was going to prison, he gave up. Like, literally gave up. The hope of ever living a normal life was not only gone, but the desire to live left, too. The day-to-day of being in prison was enough to drive a grown man insane, but even that didn’t hold a candle to being placed in solitary confinement. Oh my God. Yeah, I said it. The way he described it…I can’t even repeat it. Look at where they put P/S: in the inner prison. In the inner prison. They were away from the other prisoners. It was the same-ish as solitary confinement. So, here we are at midnight and these two bruthas are praying and singing. Where they found the desire to do that, I don’t know. It takes a lot to sing praises unto God when you are hurting. What’s that one scripture say, “a sacrifice of praise”? Honey chile! Let me tell you! Sometimes, it’s taken all I have to praise God.

There was a time when praising God was all I had…

Years ago, I was at my lowest place. I have never been so low. I was at the midnight of midnights. I’d been hurt by people whom I put in the place of God and that devastated me so I left the church and ran into a world of sin. I went so far into the world that I didn’t even recognize myself. I’ve told you before that I am a singer, didn’t I? Well, I am and I would sing all of the time. It didn’t matter where I was. I could be at the store, at work, at the gym (that was rare – the gym part) or in my car. There wasn’t a day that I wasn’t singing to God. That was my routine before my midnight. Now, things in my life before weren’t always sunny, but geez. They weren’t midnight-dark. It had gotten so dark that I wanted to die. I remember praying and asking God to kill me in my sleep. This ain’t the prayers P/S were praying. Different type of prayers, folks. Different type of prayers. I did. I asked God to let me die in my sleep. It was just too much. Prior to that, I hadn’t prayed to God in a minute. I’m talking years. And I shol wasn’t singing. God and I hadn’t been on speaking terms for a long, long time. I’m sure God had been speaking to me, but I wasn’t responding. For two reasons. One, I thought He hated me and two, I was too ashamed to respond. So I didn’t. You know what this did? It thrust me farther into the inner part of the prison I was in. At my midnight, I cried out to God, “Please let me die in my sleep!” I even ended my prayers with The Lord’s Prayer, ya know, to make it legit. When I woke up the next morning, I was mad. I was alive and still in prison. Man! I was so mad at God and I told Him every night after that. Sure did. Every night I would complain-pray about how He couldn’t do the simplest thing. I mean, how hard is it to stop a heart from beating? I was still sinning, too. As a matter of fact, I upped it. I was really sinning. Still, God would wake me up every morning. And I would be ticked.

Months later, I was cleaning up and something weird happened. Weird things happen at midnight, folks. I had just resigned to the thought of “this is just how it’s going to be.” I had stopped talking to God again, but He hadn’t stopped talking to me. He was getting on my nerves. The way I saw it, if He wasn’t going to get me out of this prison, we had nothing else to say. Apparently, I did have something to say. If you are wondering why I remember this so vividly, it is because this day changed my life forever. I was cleaning and all of a sudden I heard this:

Something beautiful ~ something good ~ all of my confusion, HE understood ~ and all I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife ~ but He made something, beautiful, out of my life

I stopped in my tracks. I remember it, ooooooh, like it just happened two seconds ago. I stood there, staring at the duster in my hand. What in the world?? Then the song started back up again, but it was louder this time…

Something beautiful ~ something good ~ all of my confusion, HE understood ~ and all I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife ~ but He made something, beautiful, out of my life

This time, I walked over to the mirror on the wall and stared at it. I felt like the Grinch when he said “What is this?? I’m leaking!”, as he discovers tears running down his face. I stared at myself and watched the tears running down my face as my mouth moved. I was singing. I was singing those words. Scared the mess out of me! How do you catch yourself off-guard?? And I sounded good, too. I just stood there – I probably dropped the duster – and belted that song out to the broken woman in the mirror. Over and over, I sang those words.

Something beautiful ~ something good ~ all of my confusion, HE understood ~ and all I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife ~ but He made something, beautiful, out of my life

I was singing…in my prison…at midnight.

–d.

Daily Devotional, Spiritual Walk

#2BeOrNot2Be

(This is Part 2 of our “go sit: the art of being” devotional series.)

Good morning, peeps!

Let us begin with our excerpt from the book of Acts. (Do me a favor. Say that like an old preacher. “Let ahss beginnn with ow-wuh excerp-t frahm the book of Aahctssssuh.”)

Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.” – Acts 16:24-26 KJV

So P/S (Paul and Silas) have been jailed for preaching the Gospel. Please realize that is what’s going on here. They weren’t streaking through the park – they were preaching the Gospel. [Side bar: don’t always assume the worst about folks when they fall on hard times. “Oh. God must be getting them for some kind of sin.” What if they’ve fallen on hard times as a result of doing the right thing? Hmm? Ever thought about that? And besides, streaking isn’t a sin. It’s just…eww.] In Mark 16:15, Jesus said (to them), “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” That’s what P/S were doing. And it landed them in jail. This just wasn’t their day…or was it? This wasn’t bad luck. This wasn’t a “oh well” sitch. Naw. This was a “oh yeah” sitch. It was a divine assignment.

Being does not mean not being.

In the excerpt, take note of what P/S were doing. Wait. One thing, first: let’s make these two men human, shall we? Paul was the baddest apostle that ever lived. We’re not debating that. The way that man sold out for God…whew! Just amazing. And let’s not forget Silas. He was not a Robin to Paul’s Batman. Silas was an elder that accompanied Paul on several evangelic endeavors and he was doing the same preaching and healing as Paul. I gave you all of that to bring us back to “let’s make these two men human”. Why do we read about great men and women in the faith and totally discount any fears or doubts that they could’ve had? They were human-people. I know that reads crazy, but I thought it was funny. Human-people…hee hee! Yes, yes, yes, Paul did say, “To live is Christ; to die is gain”, but that’s all the way in Philippians. We’re in Acts, at the beginning of his ministry. There are five books between Acts and Philippians. I don’t know how many years passed between this situation and his declaration to the church at Philippi (Philippians 1:21), but do know that it took some years and possibly a few more stints in the slammer to get that mindset.

Okay, they should be good and human now. So we have a couple of humans sitting in jail, knowing full-well that the punishment for going against Roman law ain’t something you’d want to write on a “wish you were here” postcard. They were already beaten and now here they are…sitting…being forced to be still…in jail. Everything hurts and their clothes have been torn and there’s nothing but silence all around them. Their circumstance looks bleak, doesn’t it? I’m sure we’ve all had some bleak situations where we wondered “what’s the point of even being here?” This is where that question comes in: “to be or not to be” or what that expression really means, “is it better to live or to die”? The choice is really left up to you. P/S, in all of this, decided to live.

And at midnight, they start praying and singing.

I’ve always heard that midnight is the darkest hour of the night. I hope you caught that! I am bouncing on this kitchen stool again!! The preacher is coming out of me! “I don’t think you hurrrrd me! I said-duh, “Midnight is the darkest hour of the night! And Paul and Silas are praying and singing!” I don’t know what time of day they were thrown in jail, but it wasn’t at midnight. There was some time that passed – enough time for them to think about their plight, moan and groan from the pain of their beatings, and take in all that their lovely surroundings had to offer. And yet, in the darkest hour of night, as they are being forced to be still, they start praying and singing.

How easy is it to pray and sing when you’re being forced to be still? For me, it’s been hard. And I’m talking real prayer and real praise, not my canned stuff. Let’s keep it all the way 100 this morning. I got you on the praying and singing tip when everything is sunny and bright in my life and I’m moving around doing what I want to do. Call on me – I’m your girl. But when I’m being made to be still, I find it hard to genuinely pray and sing. Don’t even get me started on the darkest hour deal. I won’t be squeaking out one word. You will find me just sitting there, blinking in the dark. But not P/S. After they got over “Oh well. This is where we’re at”, it became “Oh yeah! This is where we’re at!” They decided to be in their being. I’d like to think they had voices like Paul Robeson, deep and robust. Please don’t tell me they sounded like PeeWee Herman. That would totally ruin it for me. So, imagine sitting there next to them in jail, in the dark, and all of a sudden you hear a deep voice praying,

“Oh Heavenly Father, we thank You. You are great and worthy to be praised. Thank you for these stocks. Thank you. It is not what we wanted, but You know we needed to be still for a moment. And I’m not even going to fix my mouth to say ‘I wish it could’ve happened a different way.’ Lord, oh Almighty God, You know all things. And I know that this isn’t just about me. You know that on my own, I wouldn’t have done anything to get myself in this predicament, but this is a divine assignment. I need to be still so that You can minister to me. I needed to be still so that I can just be and even in that being, You still call me deeper. You call me higher because someone needs a visitation from You. And it will be through me. I am blessed to be the one You are going to use. Amen.”

Holy Spirit you are welcome here ~ come flood this place and fill the atmosphere ~ your glory God is what my heart longs for ~ to be overcome by your presence, Lord

Have a great day, peeps.

–d.