Thursday, January 23, 2014

I've Been Reading A New Book...

I've been reading a new book entitled "Invitation To A Journey" by M. Robert MulHolland Jr. (thanks Min. Marilyn). It is a book about the process of spiritual formation. I was arrested by MulHolland's words near the beginning of the book. I wanted to share them with you today.

When spirituality is viewed as a static possession, 
the way to spiritual wholeness is seen as the acquisition of 
information and techniques that enable us to gain possession
of the desired state of spirituality.

He goes on to discuss how spiritual formation is not like a vending machine that we put our money in and collect our item(s) of choice from the bottom. Rather, spiritual formation is the "the process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others." Spiritual formation is not about our preferences, but about God perfecting God's Will in us that we may look more like Jesus! 


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Soul Detox: Sustain Your Roots

Craig Groeschel, author of Soul Detox, says this about the root of bitterness:

         "All roots, whether those of a giant Redwood or of personal bitterness, sustain themselves by what they absorb and the direction they grow. The roots absorb whatever moisture is nearby into their system to nourish the tree. If the roots absorb clean water, the tree will grow strong and healthy. If the roots absorb contaminated water, the tree becomes diseased and unhealthy. Just like people. The more they dwell on a hurt, the more poison their hearts absorb."

In the new year, may you find yourself planted in the midst of life-sustaining moisture so that your roots can be properly nourished and your life flourish like a cedar tree in Lebanon. Free yourself from contaminated atmospheres and people. Selah.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Time For A "Soul Detox"

It's a new year! People are attempting to live out their New Years resolutions and achieve new life goals. Many people are committing to lose a few pounds, be a little nicer, or make significant steps to climb out of debt. Others, like myself, are embarking on an annual 21 day fast with their local congregations. This year, in addition to corporately fasting with my church, I decided that I would embark on a personal and intense "Soul Detox".

I'd seen Craig Groeschel's book "Soul Detox" on shelves before, but this current season of my life has really prompted me to pause, step back, and empty out every unnecessary and toxic thing. And that is exactly what this book is helping me to do. While I've only made it to the second section of the book, I have already discovered some things about myself that are worth evaluating.

This post is simply a post to invite you to join in on the good read or pick up a good read of your own that will challenge you and make you evaluate where you are. I hope to share some blogs with you from this book, but I'm not making any promises (part of my stepping back has involved taking a mental break which is why I haven't been posting). I hope you'll join me on this Soul Detox (for those who feel they REALLY need it)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Trigger Happy: African Americans and the Problem With "Stand Your Ground" Laws

Here is a post I shared on my Professor's blog on yesterday. Check it out here by clicking the link> Trigger Happy: African Americans and the Problem With "Stand Your Ground" Laws. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Importance of Knowing Your Name

I can remember hearing this phrase growing up, "If you don't know who you are, you'll answer to anything." When I woke up this morning I thought about all of the nomenclatures that were given to me growing up. My mother called me "baby" and she still does today. My uncle called me "chips" (referring to my favorite snack) and he still does today.  My High School friends called me "Stace" and some of them still do today. These were some of the reasonable nicknames that were given to me growing up and essentially became a part of my identity.

But, I have had some negative nomenclatures that I'd rather forget. I've had teachers imply, with their actions and some of their words, that I was illiterate and incapable of learning. I've been called a bully (although this was possibly true in High School; thank God for Jesus and for growing up). And I've been called plenty of other names that will not be mentioned due to the PG-13 rating of this blog :).

As I reflected on all of the things I've been called or all of the nomenclatures that have been assigned to me, I rejoice in knowing who I really am. I am Smart, I am Kind, and I am Important :). No... Really... I thought about what my life would have been like if I'd held on to the negative things people said about me. The truth is, in High School, I was a bully and needed to change. But, I was not illiterate and I was not incapable of learning as my teachers would have thought. If would have believed this about myself, I would not have the privilege to experience the academic success that I enjoy today.

My point is this. It really is important for us to know who we are as people and most importantly to know what God says about us. God calls us friends, beloved, and children. God says that we are more than conquerors, the apple of His eye, a royal priesthood, ambassadors for Christ, the elect of God, a chosen generation, His workmanship, Mt. Zion (the place where God's presence dwelled), servants, the redeemed of the Lord, etc.

So my prayer for you today is that you may be reminded of the name God has given you and the importance of it. Cling to what God really says about you and don't be overwhelmed by the negative nomenclatures that people seek to attach to you. "If you don't know who you are, you'll answer to anything!"

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Don't Fall Off The Mental Cliff!

Ok. Seriously. This fiscal cliff talk is really starting to get on my nerves. I understand the seriousness of it and the need to be informed, but I also believe that the media is showing it to us every 30 seconds as a scare tactic. However, I am not so much concerned about falling off of the fiscal cliff as I am about falling off of the MENTAL CLIFF. Here's what I mean...As Americans we have been groomed to move at a fast pace. If the red lights take too long, we complain. If McDonald's takes too long to fix the fries, we grumble. If our future doesn't arrive in three days, we feel like we've missed our callings or somehow missed the voice of God.

Listen! Don't allow the enemy (or yourself) to push you off of the mental cliff. Don't take life's awe inspiring moments for granted. Don't be addicted to hurry. I've been there (sometimes I'm still here), but what've I learned is that when you slow down in life long enough to allow your MENTAL to catch up with your PHYSICAL, your productivity goes up. You may not get everything accomplished on your to-do list, but you won't be at risk of falling off of a mental cliff either. Take some time to rest, listen, be, chill, unwind, concentrate, and recharge. You'll be glad that you did.

Monday, December 3, 2012

I'm Back, I Think!

I have been so focused on preparing to graduate seminary and all that comes with that, that I have failed to post frequent blogs. I absolutely love blogging, but I haven't had the time.

I just wanted to drop in and encourage everybody to keep moving towards your goals, keep seeking God, keep seeking godly wisdom, and trust God in the process of it all. It will all work out for our good! That is all for now :)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Small Beginnings Are the Best Beginnings!

Sometimes we can be guilty of looking so far into the future, dreaming about what we’ll become or what we can do, that we miss what’s right in front of us (Yes, guilty party speaking here). In a recent conversation I had with someone, we were talking about trying to make the most of our opportunities. We mentioned how you can’t overlook what is in front of you seeking to get to what you presume is better. How often do we allow our future thoughts to hold captive our present opportunities? By this I mean we often spend time trying to get to “our future” and become what we have set out to be, that we miss the small and seemingly insignificant opportunities that prepare us for our much anticipated future.

            The Bible asks this question, “Who despises the day of small things?” (Zech 4:10) And so I simply come to remind us today not to take for granted the day of small beginnings. While you are rushing to be the CEO/President of your brand new business or organization, remember to be faithful where you are and learn all that you can learn there. When you are planning your next big move thinking it will get you to the place you’ve been dreaming of, remember to thank God for the path that you are already on and thank God for the lessons you’ve already learned. One thing I am certain of: you will need the lessons in your future that you will learn from your small beginnings. So despise not the day of small beginnings because YOUR SMALL BEGINNING COULD BE YOUR BEST BEGINNING.    

Monday, June 18, 2012

Your Morale Can Dictate Your Momentum

Anybody that has ever played on a sports team will tell you that individual and team morale makes a difference. If there is negative energy surrounding the team or the team’s goal, it can have a negative impact on the team’s momentum or outcome. If there is a negative component or obstacle that the team is facing, the team will make every effort to find the problem and get rid of it because they know that in sports momentum is everything. They also understand that morale can, and sometimes will dictate their momentum.

Morale by definition is the emotional or mental condition of a person with respect to their cheerfulness, confidence, or zeal in the face of opposition, hardship, and trials. For the culture we currently live in, it is easy to see how morale dictates the outcome of many. Since morale is heavily based on emotions and feelings, it becomes more apparent as to why many people have no momentum in their endeavors.

For instance, those who are searching for new jobs, careers, or other future ventures must maintain good morale during the process. If their morale is low often times their momentum and sticktoitiveness is diminished as well. Those who are waiting on certain prayers to be answered by God must remain emotionally stable and consistently in prayer lest they lose momentum and grow discouraged. The Apostle Paul put it this way to the Corinthians, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Cor. 4:18).     

There is no doubting that life has a way of impacting our morale and attempting to dictate our momentum. But, Paul’s words to the Corinthians are indicative of how necessary it is to keep our eyes on God and not on our situations. What we see can often be misleading and if we are not careful we will end up being led by our feelings and morale and ultimately losing our momentum. Fix your eyes on what is unseen (God) today and keep your morale positive and your positive morale will yield positive momentum.  
How have you seen morale dictate momentum or the outcome of a situation in your life or in the lives of others?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Your Valley, and Their Bones!

For the last week or so I have been reading and mediating on Ezekiel 37. I’ve read this chapter several times before, but lately when I read it I have a hard time getting past the first verse. It reads, “The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.” However, I recommend that you read the entire chapter when you get a chance. But, the first verse, at least for me, is indicative of seasons that I’ve been in as I’ve walked with God; and I simply want to share some encouraging words that I have gleaned from this text.   

One of the reasons I write, or attempt to write so many encouraging blogs is because people are going through some tough seasons in their lives and honestly writing encouraging things helps me get through my own rough seasons. The Christian journey with God is not linear; rather it goes up and down and as we walk with God we will find ourselves on top of some mountains (seasons where things in our lives tend to prosper) at one point and nestled in some valleys (seasons where we encounter trials) at another, it is simply a part of walking with God. But let’s be clear about one thing, the valleys that God allow us to be in are never intended to destroy us, but only to grow us and strengthen our relationship with God. Likewise, the mountain tops that we experience are not moments for us to relax in our relationship with God, but they are moments to be used to draw others to the foot of the cross. Having said that, for those of us who have been in or are currently in a valley experience I believe we’re in good company.

The prophet Ezekiel is in a valley when God speaks to him and commands him to make the dry bones live. The interesting thing about God’s command to Ezekiel is not that God wants him to speak life to the dry bones, but God wants him to speak life to the dry bones while he’s in the valley. What’s even more interesting is that these bones don’t belong to Ezekiel, they represent the house of Israel (a stubborn people). So not only does God tell Ezekiel to command the dry bones to live in the midst of a valley, but the bones don’t even belong to Ezekiel.

How often have you had to speak life into others in the midst of your own valleys? How many times has God commanded you to do something in the midst of your valley that didn’t make sense, wouldn’t benefit you, and was causing you to be stretched? Truthfully speaking, our valleys can become so dark and dismal that any command from God that is not centered on getting us out of our valleys can seem ridiculous. But, I wish to suggest that these commands from God to tend to someone else’s dry bones are used to minister to us in the midst of our valleys. Sometimes God is simply trying to grow us up. Sometimes our valley experiences are not about us, but about the God we can glorify and the people we can help while we’re in the midst of our valleys. I’ll say to you what my Pastor told me once, “You may want to give up because you’re hurt, but somebody else may be on the verge of dying…so you have to play while you’re hurt.” Keep speaking and tending to someone else’s dry bones in the midst of your valley, and watch God bring you both back to life.

What are some ways you can see your valley experience glorifying God?


Friday, May 25, 2012

What To Expect When You're Expecting Pt. 2

Mother’s who are preparing to give birth to their newborn babies may experience some discomfort and even pain. But they can assure you that there is nothing like holding a squirming baby that has just emerged from their womb. The joy that prevails from laying eyes for the first time on their newborn baby cannot compare to the previous pain that they’d just experienced. Likewise, when we are expecting to give birth to our visions, dreams, and goals, the pain that we possibly experience while trying to give birth to them cannot not compare to the joy we have once those things come to fruition.

In addition to expecting resistance from barriers and obstacles and rebuttal from onlookers and naysayers, we can expect to have variables that work in our favor as well. For Christians, one of the great advantages to achieving our goals and even our callings is that God is always present with us. Therefore, the first thing we can expect when we’re expecting is the PRESENCE OF GOD. While God’s presence may not always seem present or easily detectable, we can rest assured that God is always there.

Second, if what we are expecting to give birth to is a God-given vision, dream, or goal then we can expect that it will not and CANNOT fail. It may not turn out to be what we thought it should be or look like what we thought it should look like, but it CANNOT fail.

Mother’s who are expecting to give birth have the great responsibility of making sure they carry their pregnancy correctly. While there are other things at work that can cause complications during the pregnancy, the mother understands her role in having a good pregnancy by keeping stress down, eating the right things, and exercising properly, is half the battle. How we carry our God-given visions, dreams, or goals may determine how and what they’ll be when we deliver them. We cannot spend our pregnancy term (metaphorically speaking) carry stress, unhealthy diets (negativity, doubt, anxiety, etc) coupled with a lack of spiritual exercise (prayer and study). We must commit to doing our part to produce a healthy and productive baby.

This is not at all exhaustive of the things you can expect when you’re expecting so feel free to add to the conversation in the comment section below.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What To Expect When You're Expecting, Pt. 1

You can question any mother or pregnant woman and they would probably tell you that that there are some adjustment to life that they are required to make when they are expecting a baby. They are compelled to change their diets, get more rest, buy new clothes, and even endure the pain and discomfort that comes with pregnancy; these are just things that pregnant women expect when they’re expecting. Much like that which a pregnant woman encounters when she is expecting, when we are expecting something new or big to be delivered (metaphorically speaking) in our lives, on our jobs, in our ministries, etc., there are some things we should expect to happen and take place.

The best of us have dreams and goals that we are seeking to achieve. Whether we are dreaming of owning our own business, attaining a new degree, having children, or starting a new career; the best of us are expecting something great to happen in our lifetime. For those of us are expecting great things in our future, for those of us who are dreaming and striving for goals, for those of us who are expecting to deliver something big (be it an idea, a new ministry, a business, or career change) there are some things we should expect when we’re expecting.

First, we should expect some resistance. Nothing great or “worth its salt” is delivered or accomplished without some resistance. Oftentimes we can allow the resistance we experience to make us give up and we often view its presence as a sign that we are headed in the wrong direction. While resistance can be the result of misdirected paths, I wish suggests that resistance of any kind is simply a part of the delivery process. How do you birth a great idea, a life impacting ministry, or flourishing business without some resistance? Resistance is to be expected when you’re expecting.

Second, we should expect the rebuttal of others. Rebuttal is what one does when they are refuting or in disagreement with a statement or an issue. It’s what the Republicans do to President Obama every time he opens his mouth. Anyway…we can’t expect everyone to understand what we are carrying or about to give birth to. Therefore, people talking against your dreams and future aspirations should be expected when you’re expecting. It’s a cliché and we hear it all of the time, but it’s true “you can’t expect everyone to understand your dreams and visions because it’s not theirs.” This is part of what you should expect when you’re expecting.

How have you handled the resistance and rebuttal that can come with expecting to deliver your dreams, business, ministry, etc.? Does it appear to be worth the struggle?      

Friday, May 18, 2012

Never Underestimate the Power of the Seconds: Pt 2

Many times in life we find ourselves struggling and fighting to do everything right and/or perfect the first time. If it doesn't come out the way we planned, somehow we think we've failed. How often do we appreciate those failures, learn lessons from them, or even consider them just a "trial run"?!
The other day we talked about seconds in terms of time. Now let's talk about seconds in terms of order. Nobody likes to be second; first is usually the goal. Nobody really likes to do things a second time. Nobody wants to take the GRE a second time. Nobody wants to take that drivers test a second time. And surely nobody wants to get married a second time! First is always BETTER!!! Or so we think...
I wish to suggest that some very valuable lessons and experiences come when we are presented with second opportunities. We usually know more the second time because we've learned something from the first failed attempt. We know to put the oven on 350 degrees this time instead of 450 degrees in order to keep from burning our food. We know to stop behind the stop sign instead of in front it because stopping in front of it got us a ticket from the policeman last time. We even know to actually separate the whites from the colors so that our white clothes won't come out pink next time!
The point is this: don't underestimate the power of the "seconds". Those second opportunities enhance our knowledge bank, so to speak. They provide us with information that we may not have known before or just didn't pay much attention to. I'm not suggesting that we don't strive for excellence the first time; however, if our efforts fail, it's not the end of the world. Sometimes that second opportunity is just as important as the first. It's up to you to make the most of it by looking on the positive side and finding a lesson in the midst of your failure. Allow those second opportunities to make you better and not bitter.
How have you handled your "seconds" (as in opportunities)? Will you try to be more positive about them the next time?