Hidden Idols

An idol, simply put, is a false god. Although scripture warns us time and time again not to fall prey to idolatrous behavior, it’s one of the most prevalent sins. Over time, the meaning of the word has evolved, allowing its true denotation to be hidden. For instance, in the old testament of the bible, we see the original meaning of the word in action through carved idols, such as Israel’s golden calf. In the new testament, however, we find a world a bit more paralleled to our own where idolatry takes the form of physical pleasures and worldly pursuits. Still, today’s iteration of the word proves itself more cunning through shows like, “American Idol,” where we are encouraged to idolize others for their talents and abilities.

The connotative evolution of the word has made the act of idolization difficult to spot. While the church has gotten comfortable with the lie that idolatry exists only in worldly behavior, satan has weaved this sin into the body of Christ in ways undetected. To be clear, anything we put before God in our life is an idol. This includes, but is not limited to: marriage, spouses, children, careers, obsessions, entertainment that doesn’t glorify God, and… fear. Yes, fear. That’s what I want to talk about.

As I was having QT with God a week or so ago, I was mulling over some ideas He had inspired within me. I tried to tip toe around addressing why I’d been dragging my feet in pursuing them but before I could deflect into more pleasant conversation, God outed me: you have made an idol of fear. It took me a moment to grasp that reality because I’d never thought of negative emotions as idolatry. I viewed them as struggles to overcome, not idols to strike down. But as I pondered God’s revelation, I began to understand that idolatry is not limited. Anything outside of God has the potential to be an idol; anything we place over God IS an idol. Even things of God. Hear me. Marriage, for instance was created by God as something good. However, If I were to obsess over a desire to be married, I would then be worshiping the creation (of marriage in this instance) and not the creator Himself. In my case, God didn’t even create the fear I had, and yet I bowed to it. I allowed it to dictate my decisions, define my abilities, and appraise my worth. I was living in light of my fear, not my faith.

My faith will not be belittled by my fear. I don’t want that for you, I don’t want it for myself, and it’s not what God has for either of us. But it’s important that we keep our spirits alert and our armor fastened tightly about us because satan will enter in through whatever door is open.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

1Peter 5:8

I wanted to shed light on fear as an idol, specifically, because I think Christians accept it too easily. Yet God has called us to war against the spirit of fear through His Word, prayer, and worship. Take heart in knowing that, God has already defeated the enemy, we are simply at war with his lies.

fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

4 Unexpected Lessons from COVID-19

This is such a timely post about what the covid-19 has revealed and brought to light about the true state of our faith. This pandemic is stretching me in areas I thought I was spiritually secure in and forcing me to address true matters concerning my faith. Please, please, please read this post! I pray that you get as much from it as I did! Click the link below!

https://wp.me/p9wPfj-uB

What Stays and What Goes?

In the midst of the urgent call to stay put, I’m moving— literally. Shoes, folded curtains, and notebooks lay strewn about my apartment floor awaiting their temporary cardboard homes. Although exhausting and chaotic, relocating brings about a freedom rarely found in the comfort of familiarity. It’s a fresh start that paves the way for me to decide what stays and what goes.

With packing, comes purging.

Tonight was movie night. I eighty-sixed the popcorn—in my case, kettle corn—and cozy blanket and grabbed a cute cuddly brown box instead. I pulled in a deep breath as I plopped down in front of my t.v. stand. Faux fireplace ablaze, I popped open the entertainment door and grabbed the first handful of DVD’s, of which only a few made it into the box. I didn’t linger on the titles that were placed into the toss pile for fear that I’d lose my nerve to really throw them away. Both my favorite movie and show found themselves among the discards and to be honest, I was pretty sad about it.

As I scanned the covers of my newly departed, a question was breathed into my spirit: Are these movies worth separation from me?

I firmly placed the remainder of the gotta go DVD’s into the pile in which they belonged. I couldn’t trade intimacy with God for a few carnal laughs and a fight in the back of a limousine. Every single day, I pray for God to purge my heart of everything that separates me from Him, and almost everyday, I feel like I’m being told to let go of something else. My eyes are welling as I write this because sometimes, I feel like I’m losing myself to God. With His righteousness living on the inside of me, at times I’m barely recognizable to myself. And on the brink of 30, having to choose a new favorite movie has me a little unglued.

Though I sometimes feel lost, I know that I am never more found than when I am lost in the savior’s love. This move isn’t just about a physical relocation, God is calling me to a deeper level in Him. But there are things I’m holding onto currently that will have no place in this next phase. So just as I am getting rid of all the items in my home that don’t serve a purpose to the person I am in Christ, God is ridding me of carnal ways that don’t serve a purpose in His kingdom.

Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.

Luke 17:33

Desert Jewels

The year is 1850 and the town is Bucktown, Maryland. After escaping slavery and fleeing to Philadelphia one year earlier, Harriet Tubman returns to Dorchester County to guide her family through the same wilderness that led her to freedom. Both her life and liberty are at stake as she risks being discovered on her trek back into the place that had long imprisoned her freedom. Upon her arrival to Bucktown, Harriet is greeted by a grim reality: Her husband has remarried, is expecting a child, and has no desire to return to Philadelphia with her. In her anguish, Harriet questioned why God would allow her safe passage all the way to Maryland for a husband who no longer wanted her. Her plans shattered and heart bewildered, Harriet beseeched her savior:

Why, Lord, did you bring me all this way to rub mud in my face?

Have you ever ended up in a desert when you thought God was leading you to a promised land?

Desert: Any area in which few forms of life can exist because of lack of water, permanent frost, or absence of soil.

Believe it or not, there are many creatures who have adapted to the desert’s environment and are able to withstand its harsh conditions. According to San Diego Zoo, desert critters rest in burrows during the heat of the day and some creatures get the moisture they need from the foods they eat, so they don’t need to drink much water. How does all this desert mumbo jumbo apply to you and me, and what did it mean for Harriet Tubman at a time when her own plans had come to an abrupt standstill?

Let’s see if we can piece this together.

The total collapse of Harriet’s plans gave way to momentary stillness. It was an opportunity for God to interject and reveal to her his purpose, despite her plans; a way for Him to redirect her course. Sometimes, we become so headstrong in contriving our own paths, that the guidance of the Holy Spirit is muted by our desires. However, Romans 8:28 tells us that all things (even our missteps) work together for good to those who love God and to those who are called according to His purpose. God used the fuel of Harriet’s desires to reposition her onto the course He’d carved out for her. When her husband declined her invitation to return to Philadelphia with her, although heart broken, she instead gathered many other slaves and helped them escape to their freedom. This act (according to the movie, “Harriet.”) was her unofficial inauguration to the underground railroad. And thus, by way of the desert, the heartbreak, the struggle, and the devastation, Harriet stepped into the plan God had predestined for her all along.

So, what about you and me?

As the insect burrows itself beneath the ground during the heat of the day, has God not called His children to take refuge in the shade of His love and protection when our spirits are exhausted? Psalm 46:1 declares that God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble. Likewise, John 4:14 tells us that he who drinks the water given by Christ will never thirst. The desert creature is not at all dependent upon the desert’s conditions for its water, for its thirst is met by the food it eats. As Christians, we must learn not to look to our circumstances to clothe, feed, or provide shelter to us. All that we need will come from the hand of our Father and His bounty is not dependent on our surroundings. In all seasons of life, have faith that God is working on something far more eternal than our temporary discomfort and pain. Even when it doesn’t feel like it.

In writing this post, I did some research on the desert and what benefits (if any) lie in its perceived wastelands. I can’t lie, it took me more than a few google searches to find the desert’s advantageous side, but I was able to gather a little somethin’ somethin’ for us. According to Science.com, “The dry condition of deserts helps promote the formation and concentration of important minerals.” Furthermore, “Minimal vegetation has also made it easier to extract important minerals from desert regions.”

Any particular Bible verse coming to mind?

Okay, there’s a few, but I’m going to go with Romans 5:3-4.

Ya’ll. There are jewels in the desert!!! My lowest moments have produced my greatest faith. My relationship with God has grown far more during my seasons of drought than when I am replete in all my needs. I’m telling you, it’s something about the trenches that extracts the gold. It’s the testing. It’s the stark realization that what we think we are capable of obtaining on our own, will be lost at our hands. It’s the straight up desperation. Stripped of a job, a home, a husband, a wife, or our health, we come to realize that what we are left with is all we need. Don’t worry, that sentence got stuck in my throat too. God, His will, and the fruits of His spirit are all we NEED to survive and receive the crown of a faithful servant. Everything else, and I mean everything else is gravy.

Let’s not circumvent the desert in order to swim in empty seas, because sometimes it’s the desert road we’ll have to take if it’s the promised land we wish to see. And really, an ocean is just a desert in disguise.

Gird your loins, and get to digging, for there are jewels in the desert!

I Choose Purpose (Pt II)

Alright, you’ve convinced me. I’m ready to wake from this dream and step into my purpose! Now what?

Now begins the journey.

The first order of business: surrender.

You’ve accepted God’s invitation to go beyond the borders of your dreams and into the land of Destiny. Don’t be ashamed at your hesitance to call this new place home. Resistance to change is natural and your flesh will make every excuse to send you back to the familiarity of your previous residence. Don’t give in. Strengthen your resolve through prayer and meditation on the infallible truth of God’s word. God is calling you to lay your worries and fears at the foot of His throne and step into the life He has called you to live.

After surrender comes action. You’ve committed to living God’s purpose for your life, but what does that actually look like? As I was praying for direction and insight on what needed to be addressed in part two of this post, God revealed to me three major hurdles people face when choosing to live a life of purpose. I pray that as we cover these three struggles, God would give you peace, direction, and courage of heart to embrace His will for your life.

Let’s get into it!

1. I don’t know what my purpose is.

Don’t panic if you don’t know what your calling is, God knows. A good starting point, however, is to explore your interests: what are you naturally good at that you’re afraid to admit or pursue? Put yourself in an environment (Church is a great option!) that will foster those interests and see where it leads. Discovery may not happen right away. That’s okay, keep at it. I recently read a quote that really stuck with me.

A struggle I still grapple with. What if I’m not good at it? What if people make fun of me or don’t take me seriously? Drop the what ifs and just go for it! So what if people laugh at you. Not one servant of Christ has been called to please people. In fact, Colossians 3:23 says, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” And really, looking stupid comes down to a matter of pride, and you must let that go if it’s purpose you’re after. Above all else, seek the Lord through prayer in regards to His vision for your life. One of my favorite prayers over my own life is asking God to take away any wants or desires I have that don’t align with who He’s purposed me to be. Be patient. The journey is just as much a part of your purpose as the purpose itself. Read it again ya’ll. Delight in inching closer to you’re destiny, not arriving overnight.

2. I have responsibilities preventing me from living my purpose.

If this is you, check your priorities. God has not given you a purpose that you are too busy or tied up to fulfill. A while ago, I read a book called, “Lies Women Believe: And the Truth that Sets them Free,” and it truly changed my outlook on so many things I thought I understood. One of my favorite topics from the book dismantled the idea that we don’t have enough time to do all the things life requires. The truth: we have enough time to do the things God requires.

“The truth is that all I have to do is what God assigns me to do. What a freedom it has been for me to accept that there is time for me to do everything that is on God’s “to do” list for my day, for my week, and for my life.”

If you feel your plate is too full, talk to God about what’s suppose to be on it and what’s not. Now, lean in close for this one: STOP MAKING EXCUSES, STOP MAKING EXCUSES, STOP MAKING EXCUSES. Excuse me—no pun intended—for shouting, but for real, you’re not fooling anyone but yourself hiding behind your why nots.

3. Fear.

The most intimidating four letter word there ever was, fear is written over five hundred times in the Bible. In each verse, we are either being instructed to fear God or incited not to fall prey to it. The verse I remember most comes by way of a worship song I sang in church as a little girl.

“Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10

You have no reason to fear because God goes before you in all things. In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul even goes as far as to say, “I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” As you journey into your purpose, God will call you to places that go far beyond your own abilities. Remember the story of Jesus calling the disciples from the boat to walk on water with Him in the midst of a stormy sea? God will test your faith in the same way and if you fail to step out, you will be giving your fear power over your faith. Steady your sight on the author and finisher of your faith and rest in the knowledge that He has already overcome your fears.

Please understand that living in God’s will for your life will require constant sacrifice. Get ready to be uncomfortable, tested, and pushed to your limit. You will quickly learn the depth of your inadequacies. But God has not a called you to a purpose you are capable of fulfilling on your own. It is solely through Him that you will accomplish the things He has set before you.

Wanna know where I got my inspiration for this two part, “I Choose Purpose,” post?! Be on the lookout for a post about the movie that encouraged me to encourage you to choose purpose!

I Choose Purpose (Part I)

What’s the difference between a dream and a purpose?

Dictionary.com defines the word dream as “An aspiration; goal; aim.” Also, “A wild or vain fancy.” It defines the word purpose as, “The reason for which something exists, or is done, made, used, etc.”

Dreams are centered around what we want out of life, while purpose seeks what humanity needs out of us. The thorn in the side of human existence has forever been that we are a tragically self-serving race. We get so consumed by our ambitions and dreams that rarely do we stop to consider whether our goals are in alignment with our purpose. It’s not in the genetic construction of our souls to contemplate whether what we want is actually what we were created to be. Our dreams are spun into gold from the ideals, desires, and innate passions that fuel our notion of what it means to be happy. Purpose however, exists outside of what we want; it lives in the space of who God created us to be.

Why choose your purpose over your dream?

Dreams are man-made and temporary. No matter how long they last, we eventually wake up. For example, a successful vocalist may one day realize that her voice can no longer carry notes—smooth and effortless— the way it once had. And if said singer had made this vocal career her entire world and depended upon herself to nurture it, what would remain of her life once she awakened from her dream? Dreams fashioned, pursued, and purposed by human intentions will always have a shorter life expectancy than a God given destiny. As Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 informs us, the entire human experience is fleeting when under self-direction.

10 Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them.
I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure,
For my heart rejoiced in all my labor;
And this was my reward from all my labor.
11 Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done
And on the labor in which I had toiled;
And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind.
There was no profit under the sun.

Another incentive for choosing God’s purpose over our dreams is that we have more freedom in His plan. When we hand over our raw materials to Christ, he can make us into anything in this whole wide world. After all, Moses tells us in Genesis 2:7, that “…The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.” Could we have done more with that dust than God himself? Perhaps we would’ve fancied ourselves cooks and made mud pies or sculptors and created elaborate sand castles. Though, our most feeble nor our greatest hypothetical use of the sand can be acknowledged, because without the breath of life filling a heaping pile of dirt, we don’t exist.

Are our talents worthless?

Absolutely not. God gifts us with all manner of talent and skill and He certainly intends for us to use them. However, it is our choice to decide how we wield these gifts. God created all things to glorify Him: If you sing, sing unto the Lord. If you dance, dance unto the Lord. It took me a long time to admit that I was passionate about writing because I was afraid of loving something I wouldn’t be good at. And even when I finally mustered up the guts to create this blog, I was in it for my own benefit. I wanted to prove to myself that I was good at writing by being validated by others. My pride and need for approval made me overly critical of my writing. It became more of a burden than a joy or gift, and I’d go stretches of weeks, often months without writing a single word. I was misusing my gift by allowing it and not God to define me and eventually, it made me miserable.

I hadn’t realized how deeply I associated my self-worth to my writing until I wrote that last paragraph.

Only up until a few weeks ago did God deliver me from that mindset. He told me to stop thinking that I had to achieve man- made merits and putting undue stress on something He gave me to enjoy. Whatever His will is for my gift will be accomplished through Him, not me. So, I let go. I gave my gift to God and ever since that day, I feel more free than I’ve ever been in regards to my writing. I traded in a gift; a talent; a dream, for a purpose. No, I don’t know the details and my purpose may not bear any resemblance to the dream I thought I needed, but it will be everything I never knew was waiting for me. It may not be bright and shiny, with flashing lights like I had dreamed, but it will be eternally fulfilling, spiritually satisfying, and a life that was hand chosen for me before I ever thought to dream my own dream.

I choose God’s purpose for my life over my dream(s).

Are You Willing to Give up Your Dreams for God’s Purpose?

Stay tuned for part II... 🙂

These are the Good ole Days

‘Tis a shame that tomorrow, I’ll long for today. While today, I long for tomorrow. And yesterday I longed for the day before. Can happiness truly be that elusive? I shudder to think that felicity exists everywhere but here and now. I can’t recall, ever, a time in my young life where I was content with the present beyond brief highs. Bursts of pleasure when surrounded by the warm laughter and company of my loved ones. I’ve known bliss in the moments when I received jobs I desperately wanted— and eventually hated— or when strolling down the magical streets of cities unknown. My contentment has always been dependent on the constant demand of something new. The millennial Y2K of THIRTY, is encroaching and I don’t want to enter it wishing for anymore than the present. In high school, I had grand ideas of what my life is suppose to look like a year from now. In reality, my life couldn’t be farther from what I anticipated. And I’m supremely delighted to be totally okay with it! I’m looking forward to the treasures of the unknown and the beauty of God wrecking my plans. Life is never, ever what we plan but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful. Today, filled with mostly rest, “Designing Women” reruns, absence from church, shortcomings and nothing new except a new day is still, “The good ole days.” ✌🏾