Sunday, December 6, 2015

Lesson Learned from Michigan State Football

As those who know me are aware, I am not a sports fan. Every now and again, though, I get caught up in a game my husband and/or sons are watching.  This fall, I became mildly interested in Michigan State football because my son attends school there and I was happy they earned a spot in the Big Ten Championship game.  I only watched maybe five minutes of the actual game, but I rooted  for them from afar as I worked on my computer and eventually laid myself down to sleep.

After the game ended, my son came to my bedroom and informed me Michigan State had won in the last 30 seconds of the game.  I wanted to see that last play, but sleep won over curiosity.  The next morning, I watched the clip of those final seconds.  What I saw brought tears to my eyes.  Seriously. 

Michigan State, up to those last 30 or so seconds was losing the game.  They needed to score.  The quarterback started the play and handed the ball to the running back, L.J. Scott.  Only a few yards, stood between him and victory.  He ran to the right looking for an opening.  However, as he ran, Iowa defenders blocked his way until eventually they caught him just shy of the goal line.  When it looked to me like he was not going to break through their grip, he spins around with Iowa’s defenders clutching his body and stretches his body and arm with the ball across the goal line.  Touchdown!  Game won! 

At that moment, I had nothing but love and admiration for the freshman running back.  His determination and strength blew me away.  But more than anything, his ability to focus in the midst of being surrounded by numerous Iowa defenders deeply moved me.  My perception was that he was not discouraged or distracted by the blocks in his way or the defenders holding his body.  His focus was on getting that ball across the line and winning the game.  He did not give in.  

What quickly came to mind is how many of us, in our efforts to succeed at whatever endeavor we are pursuing, fall into discouragement or get distracted by the obstacles, hindrances, roadblocks, and/or naysayers.  Some of us are so close.  So close to victory.  So close to winning.  So close to overcoming.  So close to grasping what we have worked so hard for.  Yet, just as in this game, the closer we get, the more intense the enemy gets.  He doesn’t want us to have victory.  He wants us to hold our heads down in defeat. 

Oh that we would be like L. J. Scott and just stay focused on getting across that line.  If only we would not give in to the opposition we are facing, but PRESS through it and do whatever we can to reach the goal. If only we would keep our eyes on the prize and not the obstacles.  We may have to stretch ourselves (i.e. be uncomfortable, do things we wouldn’t normally) to get there, but as this young man has shown us, it can be done.

Lord give us the strength, determination and focus to cross the goal line.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Why God Sometimes Answers No

One of my aunts passed away, and I, my husband (Tim), youngest son (Quentin) and newly married daughter (Kelley) were planning to drive to my hometown for her funeral.  Our family vehicle is a nine-year-old, rusted, gas-guzzling mini-van which needs over a thousand dollars of repairs.  Understandably, my ever-cautious husband preferred to make the trip in my daughter’s brand new compact car.    So about three days before departure, he kindly asked her if we could drive her car to the funeral.  To our disappointment, she politely said, “No.”  My husband then took the van to a mechanic to have some things checked out before we put it on the highway for the 280–mile day trip. 

The day before our scheduled departure, as my family enjoyed cake and ice cream around our dining room table for my birthday, Tim, in a last ditch effort, asked Kelley again if we could use her car.  She replied, “No, I think we should use the van.”  Once again, we felt let down, but respected her decision because, well, it is her car.  She can do whatever she wants with it.

We instructed Kelley to arrive at our house before 9:00 a.m. so we could be on the road by then.  She complained about that being too early, so we suggested she just spend the night with us.  She declined that as well.  We understood.  After all, she does have a husband.

The next morning, as Tim and I were getting ready in our upstairs bedroom, we heard the front door open downstairs and footsteps in the living room.  Of course, that must have been Kelley, and we mumbled that to each other as we rushed around the room preparing for the trip. 

Our bedroom door was open, but I was standing near the back side of the door and could not see anyone approaching or entering the doorway.  I heard a voice from the other side of the door saying, “You all aren’t ready yet?”  I assumed it was Kelley, but the voice did not sound like Kelley’s.  Confused, I turned expecting to see Kelley come in the room, but to my utter surprise, it was not Kelley.  It was my daughter, Christen, who currently lives in New Jersey!  I screamed in shock.  Then I just wrapped my arms around her and cried for a minute.  Christen is the only one of our five children who does live near us, so we don’t get the blessed privilege of seeing her as often as we see our other children.

Kelley then entered the room and said, “This is why I couldn’t spend the night. I had to pick her up last night at the airport.  This is also why I couldn’t let you use my car.  There wouldn’t have been enough room for all of us.”  Out of that, I learned a very valuable lesson about answers to prayers.

There are times when we pray and ask God for things—things which seem good.  Using our daughter’s brand new car seemed like a better idea than using our old problem-ridden van.  It was probably less risky and certainly less expensive to drive.  Yes, for sure it seemed like a good thing to ask.  But sometimes God says, “No,” just as Kelley did.  And sometimes that "no" is hard to take.  “Why would God say no?” we wonder in disappointment.  Maybe because He doesn’t love me.  Maybe He doesn’t care.  Maybe He just wants me to suffer.   

Kelley loves us and she cares, but she said no because she knew something better was going to happen for us and we would need the space in the van.  She knew when we saw Christen, driving the van would not matter at all.  Our daughter was coming home, and we would do whatever we had to do, even drive the van, to accommodate her.    The same holds true for God.  He does love us.  He does care.  But He knows and sees things that we do not.  He knows what we are asking for is good, but He also knows, something better is on the way.  

And of course, we made it safely to our destination and home again.

God, help us trust You.  Help us have assurance that your thoughts toward us are thoughts of peace and not of evil, and that you want to give us a hope and a future.  Oh for grace to trust Him more.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Should Christians Dance in Social Settings?

I must admit, I love dancing.  Just to be clear, I did NOT say I love partying, clubbing, or secular music (that is, secular music after the 1970s, lol).  But I do love dancing.  It has been part of my life since I was a wee lass.

I am part of a large family, and we all spent lots of time together and were basically each other's closest friends.  Our frequent gatherings always produced lots of fun, laughter and, many times, DANCING.   I have fond memories of dancing with my mom, dad, aunts, cousins, and especially my oldest brother Joe.  He was (and still is) a fantastically cool and smooth dancer.  They taught me how to jitterbug and bop. (Check out the video of my mom and brother dancing last year at a family gathering.)

I had ballet lessons when I was around 6 or 7 years old, and at the end of the semester, my classmates and I competed against one another by performing a choreographed dance.  Guess who won.  I also danced in a couple of my school's talents shows with groups of my girlfriends.  The cheer team I was on in high school often performed dances during half-time at basketball games.  For some of those performances, we danced with flashlights in the dark.  It was very cool.  None of these experiences involved lewd dancing.  For sure, our high school would have not allowed it.  In fact, some popular dance moves (like "the bump") were banned.  What we were allowed to do is a far cry from the dance moves I have seen permitted in our schools today.  Talk about lewd.  Outside of school, however, I did whatever was popular.  

In college, I enrolled in a "Couples, Square and Ballroom Dance."  That class was a blast.  There was only one other black student, a guy, and on the last day of class, to my amusement, the instructor asked me and that guy to perform the jitterbug for the class.  We tore it up!  Just sayin'.  Everyone enjoyed it.  Thanks Mom and Joe.

When I got saved, it took a minute, but I evenutally stopped going to parties and listening to secular music.  I even stopped dancing anywhere outside of the church because I was told it was ungodly.  When my mom married my stepdad about a year after I got saved, I didn't dance with the rest of the family at her wedding.  That was hard for some of them to understand.  But I was saved, sanctified and filled with the Holy Ghost.

As I grew in Christ and began to weigh issues in light of God's Word, I lightened up a bit on the dance issue mainly because most of the arguments against it dealt with its lewdness and the music.  The music issue, I wholeheartedly understood; but the lewdness posed a problem for me.  It's obvious there are lewd, seductive dances and people who dance to seduce.  And certainly, there are Christians who, because of their unsaved past, associate dancing with sensuality and can't see beyond that.  But lewdness and seduction was not, and still is not my point of reference. Most of my dance experience involved my family.

So no, dancing does not take me back to some dark basement party where dancing aroused all kinds of sexual desire.  It doesn't take me back to illicit relationships.  My point of reference for dancing is having fun, bonding with my family, and expressing inner joy.

Although I love dancing, I don't dance anywhere, at any time, with just anyone, to any type of music.  I dance by myself around my house.  I dance with my children.  I dance with my husband.  I still dance with my brother when I get the opportunity.  A couple of years ago, I did some line dancing with my family at our Thanksgiving celebration.  I had a blast dancing with my sisters in Christ at a women's fellowship.  We all had fun doing a gospel line dance at my son's wedding, and I am looking foward to celebrating my daughter's wedding in a few weeks as well.  I dance in my Zumba class at the gym.  That class does involve a lot of gyrating, and it may be questionable, but I stick with it because physically I'm getting great results while developing wonderful new relationships, even with other Christians. 

Then there's the issue I often hear of other people being offended by dancing or "hurting one's witness." I've heard plenty Christians confess they love to dance, but are afraid of what other Christians may think. This reminds of when someone who believed women should not wear pants visited our church's Friday night prayer meeting.  I led a prayer dressed in pants, and at first he was appalled.  However, he told me later he couldn't deny he felt the anointing and was blessed by the prayer even though he couldn't understand how God could use someone who wears pants. Eventually he joined our women-wearing-pants church.

I have sought God about social dancing for many years, done research, and listened to all kinds of opinions about it, and what I have written here is where I am at this point.  Jesus is my Lord, the most important person in my life, and I certainly do not want to displease Him.  People are another story, and this blog post will probably rub folks the wrong way.  Nevertheless, I am open to the Lord, and He knows it.  I don't love anything so much that I'm not willing to give it up for Him. After all, He gave His Son, and His Son gave His life for me.  If He says give it up, I will.  But I have yet to hear Him say it.

I would love to hear what you have to say about Christians and social dancing.  For this discussion, we are not talking about dancing to lewd, profanity-filled, demon-inspired music, so no need to rant on that.  But do you think it's okay for Christians to dance in social settings, even to Christian music?

Monday, May 5, 2014

Don't Let Trouble Keep You Out of Church

This past weekend I watched one of my favorite movies, Rocky IV.  Actually, I love Rocky I, II, and III too.  I mention this because in preparing to write this article, it dawned on me how some aspects of life parallel boxing.  It appears the Apostle Paul thought so too.  The Amplified Version of 1 Corinthians 9:26, says, “I do not box like one beating the air and striking without an adversary.”  He uses the boxing metaphor to describe how we fight life’s battles. 

Yes, life has its battles, and they can be downright tough!  In addition to the usual bouts with sickness, death of loved ones, broken relationships, financial straits, unemployment, haters, depression, and other circumstances, there are those extraordinary, I-cannot-believe-this-is-happening occurrences which suddenly appear threatening to knock us out.

Throughout my life, I have had my share of these painful blows.  The force behind the punches sometimes knocked the wind out of me.  At other times, I got pushed against the ropes.  Some hits have knocked me down, and I have even come close to the full count while sprawled on the mat; but the Lord graced me to do a “Rocky Balboa.”  It may have looked like I was down for the count, but I was never knocked out.  I got back up.

Thinking about how Rocky’s much larger and built-Ford-tough opponent, Drago, pummeled him blow after blow, brought to mind similar circumstances that tried to beat me down.  Yet, just like Rocky, I emerged victoriously.   Not easily, but victoriously.  Bearing a few cuts and maybe a black eye, but victorious nonetheless.  I don’t know how Rocky won, but without a doubt, I know the Lord Jesus graced me to be the victor!

I am not unique.   We are all subject to life’s battles.  I Peter 4:12 (NLT) admonishes, “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.”  We should not be surprised when faced with trials.  They are going to come.  BUT, I Corinthians 15:57 (AMP) says, “But thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory [making us conquerors] through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  With Jesus as our Lord, we are also destined to win.   He’s provided us many strategies to overcome, but there is one I want to focus on in this article. 

In my 36 years of being saved, I have witnessed a tactic of the enemy to which many Christians succumb when fighting a battle--they STOP going to church.  I cannot stress this enough:  when going through battles, even the extraordinary-looking kind, it is vital to KEEP GOING TO CHURCH!  This is assuming you attend a church where the Spirit of God moves, and the truth of God’s Word is taught and preached.  If you are not in a church like that, please find one.  

I know “church” is becoming less popular in our culture.  People are resistant to “organized religion” or anything that resembles the norm or how their parents or grandparents worship.  Nevertheless, the church is God’s heart.  The church is not a building; it is a congregation of people. In fact, the word “church” comes from the Greek word “ekklesia” which means “called out assembly.” 

It’s through God’s church that we are nourished, nurtured and sustained.  Ps. 92:13 (KJV) states, “Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.”  Getting your roots planted deeply into the house of God helps give you the tenacity, stability and strength necessary to overcome your battles.  You will be like the trees standing after enduring hurricane force winds because of their deep roots.  They don’t blow away with every opposing wind.  In Jeremiah 3:15 the Lord promises to give us pastors according to his heart who will feed us knowledge and understanding.  This feeding makes us grow strong.  It helps us understand who God is and who we are.  It helps us understand why we may be going through.  The worship helps us focus on God instead of our problems.  This results in our flourishing.  When you stop attending, you cut yourself off from the food of God’s Word necessary to live this life and overcome.  You also cut yourself off from the manifest work of the Spirit and the power that comes through corporate worship.  You become weaker in the fight.

Not only that, but Hebrews 10:25 (NLT) states, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”  As the day of Christ’s return gets closer, the Lord knows the warfare will intensify.  Thus, He commands us to gather together (assemble) and encourage one another.  What better place to do this than the church?   

The five-fold ministry gifts are placed in the church to help you overcome.  Ephesians 4:12 says they are given for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.  You are part of the body, so when you expose yourself to these gifts, you are perfected and built up.  The gifts of the Spirit in I Corinthians 12 also operate in the local church to encourage, strengthen, comfort, heal, and deliver.  When you stop attending, you separate yourself from the gifts God has provided to build and strengthen you.

I know it is difficult to press your way when you are facing adversity.  When Child Protective Services attempted to unjustly terminate my son’s and his wife’s parental rights to their children, my grandchildren, my family went through hell.  The fierceness of the battle made it tough just to get out of bed in the morning, let alone go to church.  Nevertheless, every Sunday, every Wednesday, every special event, we pressed our way to the house of God.  Many times, all I could do was sit in the back of the church and cry.  But God met me there.  Every guest speaker who came to our services over a six-month period gave me an encouraging word.  My pastor’s messages spoke to the very feelings and situations I was experiencing at the time.  He fed me knowledge and understanding.  Then there were the hugs, the financial blessings, the kind words, and above all, the prayers of the saints that helped get us through.  God honored our pressing.

The devil wants to isolate you by luring you out of the sheepfold and away from the shepherd so he can weaken and pick you off.   Don’t give in to the temptation to abandon church.  Don’t starve yourself spiritually.  You need the nourishment your assembly provides to get through what you are going through.  Once you get through it, you will discover you grew stronger because you consistently fed your spirit and exercised your faith. 

Countless times in the midst of someone’s trouble, I hear these words, “I feel like giving up.”  I then ask, “What does giving up look like?”  More often than not, giving up means ceasing to pray and attend church.  My next question is, “How is that going to help your situation?  Will giving up make it better?  I would rather continue seeking God and put myself in a position to receive a word or a miracle, than sulk at home with no hope of deliverance.”

So I say to you, keep pressing.  I know it’s hard, but have the determination of Rocky Balboa.  Say to yourself, “I may get hit hard and often, but I am not stepping out of this ring.  Ultimately, through Christ, I win!”  Be planted in the house of God.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Visions and Dreams

Can Married Women Really Relate to Single Women?

A few years ago, I was asked to speak to a singles group.   I cannot recall the exact topic I was to address, but it encompassed what to do while waiting for a spouse.  After my presentation, one of the ladies made this comment (which I am paraphrasing):  “I’m sorry, but I just have to be real.  It is really difficult for me, a single woman who has been waiting a long time to be married, to receive from a woman who has been married a long time.  You have a man.  I don’t think you can relate to what we feel or have to deal with while waiting for a husband.”  Her comment did not catch me off guard because I have heard single women say this before, although not directly to me.  Because of this, I was surprised the singles group leader even invited me to speak. 
I married at the age of 22, so my wait for a spouse was relatively short compared to many of the singles in this particular group.   At the time of this meeting, I had been married a little over 25 years and many of the women there had been waiting that long for a husband.  So her point definitely resonated with me as it relates to living single but wanting to be married.  I understood her frustration.  On the other hand, when she made the comment, a sense of frustration rose in me as well.  Part of this frustration stemmed from the fact it appeared the message God sent to help them was being rejected because of my marital status.    The truth of God’s Word is powerful.  It provides direction, instruction, hope, encouragement, deliverance and healing.  And if we hear and receive it, it will make us free.  We cannot get caught up in the messenger because God will use whoever He wills to get a Word to us.
The bulk of my frustration, however, resulted from the belief I was unable to relate to singles-in-waiting.  This was particularly troublesome in light of the issues I had faced over the years.   To clarify this, allow me to share my response to this comment.
Getting married is not by any means the only goal or dream a woman can have.  Yes, I am married, but I have other God-given goals and dreams which are vitally important to me.  And just like some are still waiting on a spouse, I am still waiting for those dreams to manifest.  They look at me and see I have something they desire--marriage.  Conversely, I look at them and they are doing things I dream of doing and have things God showed me I will have.  I understand they have to fight the difficult temptations of giving in and having sex outside of marriage or compromising on God’s standard for a spouse.  Yet I also have to fight temptations to take shortcuts or compromise or step outside of God’s will to get what I desire.  In addition, we both resist the same spirits of despair, fear, hopeless and doubt because of the seemingly unending wait. 
Single ladies, this article is not about me.  I wrote it because, first, I want you to understand that in some ways (not every way) a married woman can relate to your singleness struggles.   Do not tune out a woman’s counsel just because she is married.  While the specific promises we are waiting on may be different, the struggle is similar.  Not only is the struggle similar, but the principles of overcoming and getting victory in these situations are also similar. We are not on opposing teams. We are all fighting the same enemy with the sole evil purpose of stealing, killing and destroying, and he tends to use the same weapons in our different situations.  The key to our victory is always God’s Word, so have an ear to hear.
Second, everything in life does not fall into place when you say, “I do.”  Once that dream of marriage is fulfilled, there may still be goals or dreams for which you must wait.  It will be necessary to continue to exercise and build upon the principles that got you through extended singleness as you progress through fulfilling God’s purpose and plan for your life. 
Lastly, in summary, I just want to let you know some of us married women really can relate to the wait!  

Anti-Abortion Is Anything But Anti-Women

“'Here we go again. It’s another battle in the war on women,’ said Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California after the House of Representatives on Tuesday voted to impose tighter restrictions on federal payments for abortions."

This excerpt is from a Wall St. Cheat Sheet article entitled, "Obamacare Abortion Coverage Faces Threats from House Republicans."  As usual, the misguided labeling of the battle against abortion in any form as a battle against women has stirred my ire.  I have grown so weary of this mindless, automated response to anything pro-life, I want to scream, "PLEASE, JUST STOP IT!  PLEASE!"

Is there a battle against women?  Absolutely!  No argument there.  However, the sad truth is abortion is a weapon in the battle AGAINST women.  I know it may be difficult to wrap a brain around this, but yes, abortion is designed to destroy women.  This bit of information is not coming from “men in blue suits and red ties determining what women should do”—the people who Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter insinuates are the culprits fighting against women.  No, it is coming from me, a woman through and through who possesses a genuine love for people of my gender and has had an abortion.

What needs to be understood is that the battle lines were drawn against women long ago with the first woman, the mother of all living, Eve.  Genesis 3:15 states, From now on, you and the woman will be enemies, and your offspring and her offspring will be enemies.”  These words were addressed to Satan by God.  And so it began.  As I often say, history (as well as the present) is filled with horrendous acts of violence and oppression against women…and children.  It is obvious abortion is also a fulfillment of this prophetic utterance.  It is a horrific act of violence against women and their children with the sole purpose of destruction. 

Undoubtedly, there are men who hate women, just as there are women who hate men and even women who hate women.  Even so, no one hates us more than Satan.  I have described how abortion hurts women in other blog articles, in my book, Can’t Keep Silent, and in YouTube videos, so I won’t discuss it here.  I just want to give women pause as it relates to this utterly ridiculous notion that any efforts, large or small, to stop abortion, or, in keeping with the article, to block federal funding of abortions, are acts of war against women.  Abortion IS the war against you.  I can’t say every pro-lifer has pure motives in this fight, but I know there are many pro-lifers like myself, men and women, who are fighting FOR women, as well as their unborn children.  It’s a fight against death and destruction, not you.  Don’t buy the lies.  Your real enemy is one you cannot see.