Lent 2018: Behind the Music

Every year since I was old enough to understand its meaning, I have observed the practice of lent. If you’re unfamiliar with it, it’s simply the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday when you choose to fast from something to honor Jesus’ sacrifice of death on the cross. The idea is to give up something that would really be difficult, so that you feel what it must have been like for Jesus to sacrifice himself. Over the years, I’ve given up biting my nails, French Fries, Dr. Pepper and Sweet Tea, eating fast food, etc. But this year I did something different; I gave up listening to music in the car. I knew it would be difficult, the reasons weren’t clear until I actually did it.

Its no secret that music is a huge part of who I am, and it’s been that way for years. I used to take every opportunity to either sing or listen to music.  And those who know me well, know I love to drive. What may not be so well known is the fact that the car has kind of become my happy place. I’ve been known to take impromptu trips, just to escape. So as you can imagine, having to separate my two favorite things was quite the challenge.

Since the car is the place where I feel totally free, it is often the place I do the majority of my thinking. Many of my blog ideas and life revelations begin in the car. So at first, being on a silent car ride was cool; there were hardly any interruptions to my thought process. It was all good until I got upset one day. See, music is usually one of the things that shifts my attitude when it’s in the wrong place, but without music that responsibility was totally mine. I struggled to pull it together because my chain of thoughts sent me on a downward spiral. One day, for example, I drove to Jacksonville in complete silence other than a phone call. By the time I got to Jacksonville, I was exhausted from JUST THINKING. I replayed conversations over in my mind, and even went over hypothetical scenarios, and what I planned to say the next time I saw so-and-so. The sad part is, I can’t even say that I took steps toward trying to bring my mind to a place of peace. It took me a while to fill that silence with prayer and positive vibes. I think I spent the first part of lent just observing the condition of my mind. No matter how much scripture I knew about the mind and one’s thoughts, I didn’t apply them in those moments. I thought it strange that at home, I know to pray, but in the car, it wasn’t a natural reflex for me during a mental crisis. Then I realized how dependent I had become upon music in times prior.

Looking back over those 40 days, I should have documented my progress. But I know for sure that it got better. At some point, instead of just thinking, I decided to pray during the drive. I actually let some of those thoughts out of my mind and told them to God. I followed up by expressing my desired outcome. I didn’t want my anger to become bitterness because it was unexpressed. I asked God to help me identify my true feelings so that I could genuinely express myself when the time presented itself. Finally, I was able to ride with peace of mind and think about better things.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. Philippians 4:6-8

My mind is pretty powerful and if I’m not careful, it will try to rule me. Although I’m not done working, I know for sure that I’ve faced the truth, which is that when I’m upset my thoughts have gotten pretty negative, and I can quickly dig myself into a ditch. I was reminded though, that God desires for me to depend on HIM and nothing else to heal me, guide me and bring me to a positive resolve in conflict.

I’m glad I chose to separate my two loves so that I could see what was hiding behind the music. It was me.

But God, you said!

 

Have you ever heard God say something , and you say okay and be obedient, then a few months or years down the line He’s like, “Don’t do that anymore”, or “That’s no longer the plan”, and you’re looking like this guy?

nick-young-confused-face-300x256_nqlyaa

No, just me? Okay cool…

But I’m sure that’s how the Pharisees and the disciples were looking in Mark 7 when Jesus switched it up and said “There is nothing that enters a man from the outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man.”

You see, back in Leviticus God told the Israelites about all these unclean animals they couldn’t eat; He was really strict about it. So what ended up happening was that the instructions that were given then, became rituals and traditions. But Jesus came for traditions too in the Mark passage. He said “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.” You may see this a lot in the church setting but we have the tendency to do it in our personal lives as well. Not trusting (forgiving) people after they wrong you because it’s what your momma taught you, even thought it’s not supported biblically. Continuing to observe pagan traditions because you’ve been doing it for years despite your recent enlightenment, etc.

So when Jesus told them that it’s what comes out of a man that defiles him and not what goes in, He was trying to free them. He was trying to liberate them from a tedious lifestyle and get to what’s really important. The law of God is not bondage, but God realized we didn’t have the ability to keep every commandment He had. He wanted to simplify life for us and take the pressure of perfection away from us and He did it through Jesus’s lifestyle and teachings.

Here’s where we get caught up: When you’re set in your ways and not open, you miss new instructions. 

Let’s say I went to the store in 2003 and the most advanced cell phone out was a flip phone, and I bought it. Now time goes on and technology progresses, but in my mind this flip phone is the most advanced phone available (because that’s what I was told when I got it). If someone were to come to me and say “Girl, you know we have touch screen phones with no buttons and all you have to do is tap the screen! “, I would be like “No there isn’t, last I checked, this is the most advanced phone.”

I can’t perceive the new because my mind is dead set on the old, and that’s how some of us are when God tries to advance us into a new place. Jesus said “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” That is to say that having ears doesn’t always mean that you are, attentive and receptive to what God is saying. Jesus ended up having to repeat what He explained to the pharisees, again to the disciples. Despite how closely they walked with Him, they didn’t understand it either.

Is it possible that your ears are shut off and the last word God shared with you is expired? He may have told you to separate from a person a few months ago, but He might be saying it’s time to reconcile now. Can you hear Him? Don’t be so guarded, especially by your negative emotions, that you miss what God is saying in the current moment.

He who has ears to hear, let him hear…for the Kindgom.

References: Mark 7:1-23, Leviticus 11:24-47

 

Here’s Why “I Can’t”.

1527497_1529872213930765_421138948_n

From time to time, I go back and reread my blog posts. It’s always amazing to look back and see what I was thinking. This time around though, something I read sparked a question in my mind. Not long ago I did a post called “I care, but I can’t”, which talked about the lesson I learned about trying to save the world, when that isn’t my assignment. In the post, I said:

“The harsh reality is that you don’t get extra credit for doing things God didn’t lead you to do.”

Although I knew it was harsh when I initially typed it, it was so harsh that it caused me to second guess the validity of the statement. After all, it wasn’t quoted from scripture, but it just seems to me, that a reward is not in order for someone who did something extra, especially depending on the attitude of one’s heart while it was being done. (After all, God told Saul, obedience is better than sacrifice). However, the scripture that came to me as an answer to this question was Hebrews 11:6, particularly the second clause.

“…he must believe that He is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

The key words in this verse are rewarder and diligently. Diligence refers to conscientiousness when doing a task. Then, in the Greek, it happens to be synonymous with the word seek, which translates to investigate or search out.

Rewarder on the other hand, is a person who gives something in return for service, merit or hardship. (I could talk about a reward for enduring hardship in another post…)

So Here’s why “I can’t”.

From these definitions, I’ve learned that God rewards those who investigate a matter and search Him out. To me, that means that my reward is based on what I do with the findings of my investigation. While I am worshipping and praying, I should be asking God what my role is in every situation of life that I find myself in. For instance, If I am to water the soil of a soul at my job, I will do just that and stop when God says so. If I’m just supposed to plant a seed in the homeless man’s life, that’s where it ends and I can expect to see a return on that deed.

By all mean, when your job is done, leave gracefully. Don’t just “cut people off” and try not to burn bridges. But you must be honest and set and KEEP your boundaries. We can’t just be doing good deeds without any directions from God; it’s way too dangerous. The reality is, if you weren’t instructed to do it, there is a chance you could do more harm than good. And worse case scenario, you could possibly undo the work you did do.

So, with this in mind, let’s be careful to acknowledge God in all our ways, because He promises to then direct our paths.

Be mindful; but do good, for the Kingdom.

Kiana

Our Hope: An Answer to What Does Christmas Mean to You.

hope

No matter the window of time I allot between asking God something, and when I think the answer will come, He seems to enjoy answering right before the window closes. A little over a week ago, I wrote a blog about how I came to the conclusion that I have no idea what Christmas means, aside from what I’ve seen, heard or been taught. Well just LAST NIGHT, on Christmas Eve, it came to me, what it all symbolizes for me.

Keeping with the understanding that Christ’s birth is celebrated on Christmas, I went deeper to discover how significant His birth was, and how that significance can be applied to my life every year.

There’s a song called Our Hope by Chandler Moore that I discovered a few days ago. I listened to the live performance of it last night, and this song literally brought the meaning of Christmas to life for me.

Hope is defined as a feeling that what is wanted can be had.

In the song, Chandler describes the feelings that may have been felt when the people found out that Christ was soon to be born.

A part of the song says ‘We can’t wait for you to come, you are our hope.’

The birth of Jesus brought hope because of what He was promised to be for all humanity. He gave them a reason to keep living. Life had been kind of hard in the Old Testament, trying to live according to the law of God. God knew we needed help, but it took a long time for Jesus to come and even still He had to grow up before He could fulfill his purpose for coming.

For me, Christmas is a reminder of God’s faithfulness to His word and promises. The birth of Jesus was the beginning of the manifestation of the greatest thing that happened, which was God’s gift of eternal life and salvation. It’s almost like a second Resurrection celebration. Jesus’s birth restored hope, because as you may know, it’s likely for one to get weary while they wait for something they are expecting to come.

What better time to have hope restored than during the last month of the calendar year. No matter what your year has been like, look for something, if but one thing, that can give you hope going into the next year. Even if it isn’t the entire promise fulfilled, celebrate the happenings that point to a favorable future.

With hope for a future,

Kiana

What Does Christmas Mean to You?

That was the question my principal asked the students as we ended our chapel service. As I heard the students answering, I thought to myself, “I don’t even know what I would say if I were given a chance to speak.” Of course, I know the “right” answer; Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, gathering with family, giving gifts, being happy, thankful, etc. But that’s only what I know about Christmas based on what I’ve heard or been told; that’s not what it means to ME.

You see, although my family has celebrated Christmas as long as I’ve been alive, the only thing that seemed to be consistent was being a part of the Christmas play at church. Of course, I got to open gifts and usually got exactly what I wanted, there were no traditions or special activities associated with the day itself. So for me, as I got older and no longer had the anticipation of opening gifts or being in a play, Christmas wasn’t that special. It sounds unfortunate, but it is true.

I’m sure the passing of my grandmother and father put a damper on things for my mom and I, but we never stopped to realize how it affected us. So now, I go home for Christmas, not really looking forward to anything special that only happens around Christmas. I’m always grateful for time I can spend with my mom but that tends to be the extent of the expectancy, so to speak.

While beginning a tradition sounds like an ideal “remedy”, it’s kind of strange to start one while there are still elders around, having to get them to participate, instead of the other way around. If nothing else, I’ll be thinking about what Christmas means to me, all the way up to the day, and I’m hoping I’ll have figured something out by then.

Peace and Blessings,

Kiana

I Care, But I Can’t

So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 1 Corinthians 3:7-8

There was a time (very recently), when I tried to do it ALL. That’s right, I tried to plant, water and I was taking credit for the growth, if any. My intentions were good, but I had missed a key principle to life: I had not realized that I hadn’t identified my role, therefore, I didn’t know to stop when I had fulfilled it. I got caught up in the fact that it seemed like no one else was working, so I figured I’d pick up the slack, but it was way too much for one person. I found  myself depleted and mad with God. He let me sulk in my frustration just long enough for me to discover the issue. I was upset because what I thought was God’s assignment for me, destroyed me. But I now realize that I took on more than what was on my job description and the harsh reality is, you don’t get extra credit for things God didn’t lead you to do. After all, Obedience is better than sacrifice.

The Savior Complex

It took me a while but I finally had to admit that I had it. My desire to help had reached the end of the spectrum where it literally hurt me to not help someone I saw struggling. I couldn’t think of any valid reason to not help a person until helping hurt me. It was rough, but God allowed me to invest in a few situations/people that didn’t have the same goal I had in mind. And that’s the thing about over helping, you tend to develop this expected outcome from your own perspective, without considering that the receiver may not be hoping for the same thing. And in many cases, the receiver doesn’t have a plan.

So many scriptures have come to life for me while learning this lesson, including “Do not to cast your pearls to swine.” My idea of swine was so narrow that I actually missed the stench of it when it was before me. I lost a lot of pearls along this recent journey but I have finally realized the value of my pearls. And that’s where the title of this post ties in.

I care, but I can’t.

I can no longer do more than what is being required of me (by God). People can place expectations knowingly and unknowingly and you have to know for yourself what you’re instructed to give in that moment. I’ve realized that just because I have it, doesn’t mean I have to give it. It’s possible that someone else is assigned to care or provide or it may just be a job for God. I had to learn not to intervene between the Shepard and His sheep.

It’s okay and even good to empathize with others as they go through their struggles and trials of life, but you have to know and stick to the role you play in it, if any. Either you plant or water, but ultimately God brings the increase. Never find yourself taking the credit or even being glorified by the one you help. God enables us to do what we do, therefore all credit is due to Him!

Sometimes in the midst of lending a hand we can’t see what the outsiders see, and it’s important to consider the wise counsel of others. (Hopefully, you have someone whose judgment you can trust.) So if they think you might be getting too involved, consider it and reflect, but most of all, Obey God!

For the Kingdom,

Kiana

 

Loud and wrong

I remember in school, there was almost always one student who would shout out answers without raising their hand. Sometimes they’d actually be right, but other times they were wrong and my teacher would say “Look at you, loud and wrong!”. We used to laugh at that student, assuming they were embarrassed for having had so much confidence, only to be wrong. But in actuality, they were in the perfect place to be wrong. The questions asked by the teacher were meant to gauge our understanding, therefore that student’s wrong answer let the teacher know she might need to go back and reteach the skill. That was the best time for the student to attempt to answer the question because it was at that moment that he could receive the help he needed, in order to master the skill being taught.

Spiritually, instead of being like that student who called out without raising his hand, sometimes we are the student who doesn’t really get it but says nothing. We struggle silently, then get to the test and bomb it because we never asked for help. Turns out though, God would rather for us to be loud and wrong.

“For we do not have a high priest who can not sympathize with our weaknesses but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in the time of need.” -Hebrews 4:15-16 NASB

In order to become a teacher, the teacher first had to be a student and learn. Most likely, their academic journey wasn’t easy nor perfect. At some point, they probably gave the wrong answer or didn’t understand what they were learning. They’ve “walked a mile” in student shoes before. Jesus is our teacher, but before he was promoted to that, he had to walk out this life. He had the opportunity to experience all that we would ever face. He is well versed on trial and temptation; He gets it. Since we know He understands,  it should be easier for us to go to Him and ask for help. He has the answer to every problem and test. Not only that, but He has taken all the tests and passed them!

So why loud and wrong?

The thing is, God doesn’t expect us to have it all together or even know it all. In fact, the whole idea is for us to depend on him completely. Because God knows about the temptation and trials we face daily, He’s already calculated that we would mess up, that’s why He went ahead and covered our sins by Jesus’s crucifixion. Knowing the provision that has been made already, we should come to him boldly or with confidence and without shame. Don’t be ashamed that you’re battling something you thought you were delivered from, don’t be ashamed that you fell after you told God you were done, don’t even be ashamed that it took you so long to come to Him.  J U S T  C O M E. The throne of grace is not for your perfect moments. It’s especially designed for your moments of weakness; when you need help.

The student didn’t know he was wrong until the teacher brought it to his attention. He would have never known if he had kept his mouth closed. You should know that the throne of grace is a safe place for you. Get the help you need and be confident about it.When you do or say something that ends up being wrong, don’t hang your head. Go to your Father and say something like: “I thought this was okay, but I realize it was wrong. I repent God, help me. Show me what I need to do so that I can pass this test.”

There is a place for the righteous. 

Lately I’ve been seeking out more understanding on God’s protection. To be honest, I’ve realized that there have been times when I’ve felt unprotected by God and I didn’t understand why because I know based on His word that one of his many attributes is protection. Today I was reminded of Proverbs  18:10 “The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run in and are safe”. I’ve heard this scripture so many times in  prayer and even in exhortation, but I needed a deeper understanding, so that I could stand on this promise and “know for myself”. Well, in my study I looked up the Hebrew meaning of some of the words and got the revelation I needed.

 First I searched the word name. In Hebrew, one of the definitions was reputation, which got me immediately. Reputation is everything in society and even in the business world. If you have a bad name in the streets and the word gets out, soon, no one will trust you or give you even the slightest chance. But if God’s reputation is a strong tower that means that you can trust in His track record, even if someone has been keeping track.  God has street cred. That part!  

That also means what we tell each other about God is key. Your testimony of God’s protection just may be what someone needs to hear to know they too are being protected by God.

The other word that changed my life is the Hebrew  translation of safe. When I think of safe, the most basic definition is ‘out of harms way’ or protected. But in Hebrew, safe translates to being inaccessibly high! Now if I had used my context clues, I should have been able to figure that, considering that His name is a strong TOWER (and I’ve never seen a short tower before). But knowing now that being safe itself means to be in a high place is so reassuring. And to be inaccessible just puts the cherry on top. Just think about it, you can be in a house with the door locked but that still doesn’t make you inaccessible because there are still ways to reach you. Inaccessibility speaks to the level of protection in the name of God. Abiding in God keeps you safe and inaccessible to the enemy. In other words, the weapon will form but it won’t prosper. Things that would usually take you out won’t even get near you! Blessed assurance! 

These are perilous times, as the old folks say. We are indeed living in the last days, but I encourage you to make sure you are counted among the righteous, for they are the ones who find themselves in the high place of protection. You can’t earn righteousness though, it is afforded to us by Christ’s sacrifice. Believe in His crucifixion and resurrection for you and receive His protection. Repent of your wrong doing and commit to living  a new life in Him! 

I hope to see you in the high place! 

Kiana

Father’s Day Came Early This Year

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Father’s day is this  Sunday June 19th, however on Sunday June 12th, I got a message from God about my father. My father passed in 2009, a week after my high school graduation. We were extremely close, so needless to say, I was devastated. While he was alive, my father had answered the call to ministry and he had been going through the process to become a pastor. Life happened and he was unable to complete the work God had put on his heart. After talking with my friend about it, we concluded that my father hit a glass ceiling because of some requirements of the religious organization he was apart of, which discouraged him and ultimately hindered his ability to fulfill his purpose. So in service on Sunday, God began to lay on my heart how he has been positioning and equipping me to continue my father’s legacy.

I felt that God was telling me to pick up where my father left off. Obviously God has endowed me with a unique set of gifts, but since there is no male nor female in Christ, I believe my inheritance and birthright is the mantle my father once carried. I am commissioned to continue the work and it is a privilege.  We learned about the 7 blessings of passover at my church and one of them was Divine Birthright. Initially, I didn’t think it applied to me because I thought it had to do with the first male child. Since I’m an only child I still wasn’t sure how it worked. Additionally, since my father had passed so long ago, I wasn’t really sure what there was for me to inherit spiritually.

I will admit, God had to change my mind about generational callings. I had heard and seen so many people feel pressured into ministry because of the family legacy, that I had doubted that the calling of God was passed generationally. I still don’t believe that God wants us to feel obligated to do things in His name. He wants us to desire to do it out of our love for Him. You can’t make the exception the rule, so although some people were reluctant to follow in their father’s footsteps, I’ve realized that God indeed moves generationally. Lineage was a big deal in the Bible. Now that I have this understanding, I can better receive what God had been wanting to give me all along.

It is so cool to be about my Father’s business in relation to my earthly father. It’s touching to have a lasting memory of him, remembering his love for God and people. Instead of buying a gift for my father on Father’s day, God gave me a gift in the form of a reminder that I carry my father’s legacy of service and ministry.

The Dragonfly Experience

Originally composed April 14, 2015

Today I talked to the 9&10 grade girl students about small things that escalate to big problems and conflicts. One girl shared that she hates when people are attention seeking; When they tell all their business on Facebook and such, but then get upset when someone responds in a manner they weren’t expecting. I asked the girls why they think people seek out attention in that way. What I shared with them is that sometimes people lack attention in key relationships and they’re looking for it from someone else. But my question was “What else is going on inside?” Well later on today, I got the answer to my question in what I’ll call the Dragonfly Experience.

While I was finishing up some work in the portable, I kept hearing a buzzing noise. The first couple times I looked, I didn’t see anything in the area where the noise was coming from. A few minutes later, I discovered a baby dragonfly. After hearing him buzz for a few more minutes, but noticing that he hadn’t moved from that spot, I then realized that he is probably having a hard time flying. Nonetheless, once I identified the problem, I didn’t decide to do anything to help the dragonfly.

It’s easy to assume that the dragonfly just wanted attention because on the surface, he was just sitting over there, not moving and making a bunch of noise. We can easily get aggravated without first viewing the situation from the other party’s point of view. We usually don’t ask questions and try to figure things out. We take a selfish approach by just feeling like or thinking that the other person is just trying to make our life inconvenient when truthfully, they are dealing with an inconvenience themselves.

I thought to myself “I mean, it’s just a dragonfly.”  In other situations, we think to ourselves, “She’s just pregnant”, “It’s just a nude picture”, “Everyone struggles at some point” or “I’m glad its not me”. It is so insensitive to minimize other’s struggles just because we know of, or are dealing with something much bigger. Many times, we send the wrong message, especially when we claim to represent Jesus, when we make it seem like only large situations require attention and we assume or expect that smaller situations will just “work themselves out.” But much like I did with the dragonfly, we refuse to or choose not to help.

After observing for some time, I realized the dragonfly didn’t have a problem flying, he was just trying to get out of the room, but he didn’t understand that the window was between where he was and where he was trying to be. He didn’t know he had to go through something open, like the door, which happened to be on the other side of the classroom.  Have you ever considered that those who are struggling haven’t even identified their problem and it could be you, on the outside looking in, that could help them see it? We have to take a break from judgment to help others see where they’re going. It’s easy to see where you want to be but it isn’t always as easy to devise a plan to get there.

I used a piece of paper to move the dragonfly away from the window hoping he would finally be able to identify the way out of the room. But instead of him flying around the room and finding the door, he went toward the light, then back to the window. My initial thought was “Ugh, I give up.” But why? Obviously he was unable to find his solution from the beginning. So why is it that all of a sudden I expected him to be able to do it? Unfortunately, some matters take more than one conversation, prayer or counseling session to fix. After something is addressed a solution must be presented and most times guidance is still necessary even thereafter. I’m not sure how the story ended with the dragonfly. I didn’t see him finally get where he wanted to be, which perhaps is a lesson in itself. My carelessness could be the reason he died in the classroom, hoping and wishing to return to his original habitat. And while this is a seemingly insignificant circumstance because this encounter was with a bug, it is a fable, if you will, revealing the necessity to be compassionate to all.

There are several morals to this story.

-Don’t misinterpret attention – seeking behavior.

-Don’t be selfish or self absorbed.

-Help, don’t judge.

-Follow through, all situations are not solved overnight

-Don’t give up on people or situations.

-Have hope.