Goodbye 2016, Welcome 2017

I do not know if I expect new and wonderful things just because a day shifts and a new year is ushered in.  I like to think that every day will be better than the next.  That does not always happen though…some days are, in fact, worse than the day or days before.

How do we deal with that reality?  How does that fact that we will face disappointment impact our thoughts regarding the new year?  The bible says:

For I’m going to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Don’t you see it? I will make a road through the wilderness of the world for my people to go home, and create rivers for them in the desert!

-Isaiah 43:19

What I am going to try and focus on going forward is the brand new thing that God is creating–not because we are entering a new calendar year, but because He is a good and gracious God, always making provisions for His children because He loves us.

I think I have struggled spiritually this year because I have been praying for some things that have not come to fruition.  I have experienced periods of doubt and periods of drought in terms of my prayer life.  What I want to focus more and more on is the ¨new things¨ that God is creating in my life–terminal degree, love, marriage, children, career advancement, financial peace…  I will not be stifled by what is not yet, but being created.  And so while I do not hinge all of what I think is possible in my life on the coming new year, I will use this opportunity to re-center myself and my thoughts.

I will continue to record next year´s blessings (Watch for our live broadcast as we review what has been recorded in this year´s blessing jar!), set goals, work to achieve those goals, spend time with my family, participate in pursuits that help me grow as a person, and anything else that I feel will contribute to a positive, productive, ¨discipled¨ life but not because it is a new year, but because it is what we are called to do and be–always improving ourselves, growing in God´s word, and sharing the Word with others.

Who I Really Am

 

Man, Silhouette, Time, Amount Of Time

A young man that I know passed away last month at the tender age of 23. I didn’t know him well, yet I mourned his lost. It’s not because I love him or that I’ll miss him. I barely even knew him.

I mourned the loss of what could have been. Not for me. For him. I believe that God knows we want to live long lives. The bible references long life many times.

“I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.” Psalm 91:16

“You shall walk in all the ways that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess.” Deuteronomy 5:33

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Ephesians 6:1-3

Yet, this young man lost his life at 23. I couldn’t really comprehend it. It weighed on me for days, maybe even weeks. I cried for him.

“God, why did you take his life? What about the dreams he had?”

I am such as believer in life. I believe life should be joyful, purposeful, and magical. I believe we should strive to achieve everything in our hearts. I believe we should make the most of life.

As I lay on my couch crying, heartbroken over the loss of what his life could have been I placed my hand over heart and listened for God.

“Charlene, you’re so in love with the experience of life you’ve lost touch with who you really are.”

I was reminded that I AM a spiritual being having a human experience. I am a child of God. I can’t love life more than I love the Creator of life.

“For Those Who Honor Me, I Will Honor”

“For Those Who Honor Me, I Will Honor”
1 Samuel 2:12-36

This pass week my long time army buddy called me to tell me she had plans to move to Texas. She didn’t know what city I lived in, but her plans were taking her to the Dallas area.

We hadn’t shared a long conversation in such a long time. She shared with me her up coming moving plans, and we laughed about the snow that Dallas normally gets. She is from Jacksonville, Florida, a huge difference in weather.

I asked her what she thought about the election. She was reluctant to speak on it, but she did. If fact, she gave some interesting insights. She addressed issues from a biblical prospective. I could understand that, being a Christian myself. One of the topics that came up for decision was Roe vs Wade. She mentioned that she had thought about having an abortion herself many years ago although that admission was not an acknowledgement that it was the right thing to do. I have to admit this conversation got me to thinking, not only about the election but my own life’s decisions.

My thoughts about our conversation lingered on as I lay in bed. The Holy Spirit spoke to me this night, giving me words of encouragements.
I have never shared this with anyone, but as I lay in bed after my conversation with my friend, the Holy Spirit reminded me that I too had contemplated having an abortion.

As I sat in a clinic over 32 years ago, I remember thinking this could be my little girl that I have always wanted. I was given an ultrasound, and I found out that I was pregnant with not one but two babies. I got up from the table, put my clothes on, and walked out. I never looked back. The Holy Spirit spoke to me; I had honored God and He had honored my girls.
God said he had a plan for us. Thirty two years ago, I was a young wife and mother. I had accepted the Lord as my Savior as a young child, but I didn’t know what that meant. As I reflect on God and His goodness, I am reminded that even then God was there.

God had (and has) a plan for my girls, one in which they would prosper and be in good health. As I reflect on the goodness of God and how He is totally in control of our lives, I know that God is not finished blessing them in ways they can’t imagine. When I see my girls, I see God’s handiwork, His master craftsmanship, His splendor and so much more.
As I look at these two young ladies, I am amazed at who they have grown to be. They have accomplished more than I could have imagined at my age. God is working in their lives even when we don’t know it. As I lay on that table 32 years ago, God was working things out. He was ordering the ultrasound, showing me what was inside of me (not the sex of my precious babies. Back in those days, you didn’t find out until the birth day!). God’s hands was all over me that lonely day.

Be reminded that God is in control of our lives whether we think so or not. He is making things to happen or not to happen; we just have to trust the process.

A Christian’s Take on the 2016 Presidential Election

i-prayed-and-i-votedPresidential elections are often challenging for Christians. It can be difficult to know which way to go. A lot of Christians vote Republican due to issues such as Roe vs. Wade and same-sex marriage. I struggle with these issues as I don’t really have a major stake in the ground either way although I do lean pro-choice on both.

This time every four years leads me to question my position. Should I be against pro-choice? Today, as I was reflecting on the results of last night’s election I thought, “I can’t accept Jesus Christ as anyone else’s Lord and Savior on their behalf. They have to do that for themselves. Why should I decide what choices they should and should not be able to make?”

As I reflect further on the election, it is shocking that Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States of America. It is my belief that this win was not because of his policies. It is because of his beliefs. Millions of Americans support Donald Trump because of his beliefs. There were other Republican candidates competing in the primaries with similar positions on policies. There were other candidates who support pro-life and reversing same-sex marriage laws. The hurtful, shocking, discouraging thing is that millions voted for Mr. Trump because they believe in his beliefs. And his beliefs are divisive, exclusive, sexist, and racist.

Two scriptures come to mind:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no Law.…” – Galatians 5:22-23

We should always move in the direction of the Spirit as Christians. We have understanding of the tree by looking at the fruit. Donald Trump does not produce fruit of the Spirit. He produces hate, fear, discord, meanness, harshness, and lack of control.

We are called to live by the Spirit for acts of the flesh include hatred, discord, rivalries, divisions, and factions.  Yet as a nation we’ve decided to move away from the Spirit in favor of making our temporary home here on earth “great again.”

The second scripture that comes to mind for me is:

“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” – Mark 8:36

Even if there is a sincere and honest belief that Donald Trump can “make America great again” what does it matter if we have to exchange our very soul for that greatness? What does it matter if we have to exchange love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control to be great again? Is that even possible? Is it possible to be great without the fruit of the Spirit? Can we be great without inclusion and oneness?

I don’t have all the answers, but I trust the One who does. I pray for Donald Trump. I pray that he leads our country with respect and dignity and in the direction of the Spirit. I pray that he leads in a way we can be proud of. I pray for Hillary Clinton. I pray for her strength. I pray for her future. I pray for all the seeds she has planted that they fall on good ground. I pray for our country. I pray for my fellow Americans.

God, direct us and protect us. Watch over us. Order our steps. Show us which was to go. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Your will be done.

God Bless America.

 

 

 

Message Recieved

Music, Melody, Musical Note

I have, for as long as I can remember, wished I could sing.  Now I’m no Beyonce or Whitney Houston, but I liked to think I could.  Some people had even told me I could sing, but for some reason I never felt confident that I actually sounded good.  Well, that’s not true…I thought I could sing; I just didn’t think others (enough) thought the same.

What I realized is that I can hold a note.  I can match my sound quite lovely when singing along with other altos.  So I sing…a lot!!  I sing in the car.  I sing at church.  I sing in the store.  I just enjoy singing!!

I had been attending this small church near my home for over a year now.  I go, I sing, and I participate in worship, but for some reason I hadn’t joined.  Since my mom, sister, and I have lived in the same city we joined and attended the same church.  For various reasons, we each left that church.  Maybe I was reluctant to join a church absent of my family, but I still really like the church, so I continue to “visit.”

One day, I came in late, so I had to sit near the from (not in my “assigned” seat.  (Y’all know we have assigned seats in church right?! LOL.) Anyway, I sat next to an older lady, and I sang along with the hymns as usual.  After some time, she leaned over and asked me why I wasn’t in the choir.  I bashfully didn’t know.  Before service ended, she said to me again that I really needed to be in the choir.  I politely nodded.

A Sunday or so later, another lady leaned over to me with the same question.  I told her I actually wasn’t even a member of the church.  That didn’t change her urging.

I honestly hadn’t really thought too much more about it.  The next Sunday or so, as I prepared to exit the sanctuary and greet the pastor, he said to me, “I need to talk to you for just a few minutes.  Sit right there and wait for me.”   I did, wondering what in the world does he had to say to me.

As the sanctuary cleared, he came over and said, “My mother-in-law told me that you could really sing.”  “I can hold a note,” I replied with a smile.  He goes on to say that the new music director is working to form a young adult choir, if I would like to join, and do I want to meet him.  I obliged.  The music director was called over.  We spoke very briefly…I’ll be going to choir rehearsal Thursday!!

It’s funny how I’ve said to myself for as long as I can remember, “I wish I could sing,” yet the Lord heard my voice and was pleased.  It feels kind of special to hear from God and respond in accordance.  I would have never joined on my own.  I don’t know anyone.  It’s gonna be awkward.  I would have let these thoughts and feelings keep me from being of service to the Lord in the choir.

I’m glad that God knows what I had always wished, and He created an opportunity for me serve Him doing something I enjoy doing.  There is also a message here about the spirit of telling yourself no.

Let us all incline our ears to the Lord and speak life into our hopes, dreams, and desires.

Protected From Fire by God

fire-flames-1

If you throw me into the hot furnace, the God I serve can save me. And if he wants to, he can save me from your power. Daniel 3 (ERV)

I had a dream two years ago. In my dream my car that sat in the carport was on fire, deliberately started by someone. I remembered just standing there as the fire grew; I was looking, not saying a word, watching the car burn.
Like most dreams I didn’t give much thought about it until my door bell rung, the same day, and six or seven firefighters stood on my porch. This is the first time I had ever encounter firefighters; they stood there eager and expecting to put out a fire. However, there was no fire to put out. I explained to them I did not call the fire department, in fact I was on the phone when I opened the door. In their minds, they had been called and they needed to find the fire and quickly. Fires are a big deal and getting them put out as quickly as possible is paramount; I understood that. There was one who spoke to me in a harsh voice; he was frustrated because he needed to put this fire out. Sorry Sir, but there is no fire here and I didn’t call the fire department was all I could say.
I have pondered on this dream and the the firefighters visit ever since. Dreams have meaning and I knew mine did too. During a bible study, I took this past summer, I learned that God, in facts, speaks through dreams.
As I was got ready for work this morning, two years later, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came to my mind. I was reminded of them being thrown inside of the furnace. Oh, there was a fire at my house that day and God showed up in the form of six or seven firefighters to tell me that it won’t consume me nor will I get burned.
Tamela Mann said it so perfectly in “This Place”, “There’s a place in God where we can all be free. A place where God can get the best out of me, there’s a secret place in God where He covers me”. I can say for the first time in a long time I’m in a good place. God has showed me I can trust Him, it’s all up to me now.

Have You Seen Jesus Today??

cross-66700_1920When Charlene was in Haiti, her group would ask one another each day where they had seen Jesus.  When she came home, she told us about it, and while we don’t share an experience everyday, here are some things we have shared about seeing Jesus:

  • I saw Jesus today! Maurice shared a post from someone who mentioned God.  Praise the Lord!
  • I saw Jesus when I was driving down a road I rarely take to work and a car jetted from a side street, turning right without stopping.  If the timing would have been different, I would have hit her.  My light was green, and I was going straight.
  • Wow! I almost hit someone today.  They were stopped for an unknown reason and at the same time the car in the lane next to me went by and splashed water on my windshield.  I barely saw to stop!
  • I thought today was going to start like last year: no lunch.  I took my break from 10 to 10:30, and the lady came at 11:30 to relieve me for lunch.  I told her I had just came from my break, so I wasn’t ready for lunch.  I’m scheduled for 1:45, so I went and got my lunch and was just going to eat in the classroom, but my regular relief came, so I saw Jesus too!
  • I was just walking the halls and I stopped by this teacher’s room.  I asked her how she was doing, did she have a good weekend.  Today is the anniversary of her dad’s death…1 year.  So we just talked and encouraged one another and talked about Jesus and God and going to Haiti.  He dad died her first year of teaching on a Sunday night.  My granny died my first year as an AP on a Sunday night…

Mom says:  Jesus is all around us!!

If you look for Jesus you will find Him.  Why don’t you start sharing with family and friends or in your diary or journal how you have seen Jesus each day!!

 

Encouraged by Daughter

1 Thessalonians 5:11–New International Version (NIV)
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

My daughter, Marlene, and I went to a speaking engagement where my younger daughter, Charlene, was the guest speaker.

As I listened to her, she was speaking my life. Every word that she spoke, I have felt a one point in my life. I had lost me because of the many hats that I worn at one time or another through the years. I was a daughter, a sister, a mother and a wife. These roles along with life hurts and pains have shaped me and in the process have buried me. I love each of the roles and would never in a million years give them up. However, as I navigate through each of these identities I wondered where the real Juanita is.
God is amazing! I went on our monthly visit to the prison with the Prison Ministry this past Saturday. Lula, another member, also went on this trip. We attend Sunday bible study together as well. We began to talk about our lesson and our lives. I mentioned to her that people used to call me stuck up when I was growing up and even now. I told her I didn’t do the things others did. She replied, “God called you at an early age.”

I have been pondering on my daughter’s speech every since I heard it. Now Lula gave me something more to ponder on. As I look back on the different stages of my life, I can see God’s hands. Although I have to admit, I didn’t always see it or recognize. There are many facets of Juanita, and one is in Christ. That’s who I am. I am a Christian mother who enjoys being creative. Over the next few months, it will be my prayer that every part of me is blossoms so I too can live the authentic life Christ died for. I can be a mother, sister, wife and daughter without compromising my true identify.

Each of my children leaves a different print on my heart. Both of my daughters are encouragers. However, Charlene, thank you for planting the seed for me well as other women so we too can be butterflies.