Living in appreciation of God’s Forgiveness

On January 10, 2021, I chose to read the “Our Daily Bread” devotional. The title read “Etch a Sketch Forgiveness”. The title caught my attention and as I read it came alive. The devotion is about a young boy who had a sketch toy which he was able to use to draw lines and shapes and to create various designs. The story explains how much the little boy loved the toy but what he loved the most is when he turned his etch (his sketch toy) upside down, shook it a little and turned it right side up. According to him, this is when the magic happened. A blank screen would appear offering him the opportunity to create a new design.

This beautiful story of this little boy was used in a powerful way to remind readers of God’s forgiveness. God’s forgiveness creates a clean canvas for us to start over. Wow! I love the illustration here. This is hope and a chance of a new life with Christ leading the way.

Psalm 103:12 was used as the key verse and it says:

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed His transgressions from us.”

As I continued to read, the writer asked, “How can you thank Him for separating your sins from you?” What a necessary question for me. What a wonderful prompt to help me reflect and regain focus. It is a deep personal question that everyone should seek to answer.

I can never repay God for what He has done for me. I can never compensate or seek to match His work on the cross. But I can live my life in a manner that shows that I am appreciative of His mercy, of the pain and suffering He endured for me. The humiliation and rejection He suffered, the loneliness, the persistent tempting of the Devil, the mockery of those who refused to believe that He truly was who He said He was; he endured it all for you and I.

Jesus Christ endured the unimaginable for us even when we did not care. It is imperative that we ask “How can I thank Him for separating my sins from me.” He paid our debt and today we can live debt free. Does our life reflect how deeply appreciative we are of His sacrifice, or does it reflect that we do not care about what transpired on the cross. Maybe to us, it is a boring historical story that has no bearing on our lives today.

As I think about the question and seek to identify the “how”, I urge you to do the same. Don’t let His pain be in vain.

The “I Am” Poster Series – I am the Bread – Part II

“Figurative and literary language exists in many places in the Bible. From the poetry in the Psalms to the parables of Jesus, imagery and metaphor are a part of how God speaks to the world in His Word. It communicates heavenly concepts that are difficult to put into words, or is a way for the Holy Spirit to speak to the soul, and provides concrete images to help individuals grasp abstract, metaphysical, ideas.”

I found this neat article on christianity.com, written by Bethany Verrett, and decided to quote a portion of it. I felt it was so nicely written as I continued to ponder on John Chapter 6 and the truth behind the powerful statement declared by Jesus, “I am the Bread.”

I love the way Jesus use the literal things around us to communicate truth. Don’t we all know what bread is? At some point in our lives and maybe currently, bread was essential to our diet. We believe it has been the same way in bible times. Today, many of us still cannot see ourselves existing without bread.

Physical bread is needed to satisfy our physical hunger daily. In the scriptures “bread” was used to mean food in general, or specifically, bread or cake made from flour. Spiritually, we cannot attain fulfillment through literal food. Spiritual fulfillment comes only by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the “Bread of Life”. To believe on Jesus we must believe what he says, right? He said quite a lot and He is still speaking, requiring everyone to a higher standard of life. Read his Word and you can discover His teachings.

I have personally struggled with the temptation to get busy the moment I awake, without first acknowledging God’s protection during the night, without first searching the scriptures and spending quality time with Him so my thoughts and actions can be divinely directed. There were too many times when I started my day on a roller coaster because I was too concerned about the amount of work I had outstanding, or what my superiors may think of my inability to deliver or complete the many tasks on my list.

On the other hand there were many times when I got it right. Therefore, I can compare; I know what it is like to decide to spend my first few minutes seeking God and committing my activities into His hands in total dependence of His infinite wisdom and His flawless leadership. I know what it is like to subject those mountains and anxious bouts to his authority. My days are different when I focus on God first. There is clarity of mind, a smooth flow of events and I am usually in a position to create a better impact within my environment and among those whom I encounter on a daily basis.

You see Jesus “the Bread of Life” fills you up spiritually allowing you to experience wholeness in every aspect of your life and when you are whole you act appropriately and your decisions are sound. As a result, real success is experienced.

So this year, I am determined, no matter how busy I get, no matter how excited I am to begin my day, I must first eat of the “Bread of Life”, I must eat of it as if I am desperate, addicted and dependent. The truth is I love the benefit that comes with being in such a state. It is a state of dependency but not helplessness, It is a state of hope, promise, growing and learning. I am determined to stay dependent on Jesus by spending time with Him first before anything else. I need Him at the point of taking my first breath in the mornings as I wake. I need him more than I need the wealth this world has to offer. I need His influence on my life and on every move I make.

Jesus said “I am the Bread of Life.” I guess, I wouldn’t stop speaking about this statement anytime soon.

It is time to start again.

Today, I reflected on a Women’s Conference organised by Terrieann Charles in 2018. She allowed me the wonderful opportunity of singing a song with my guitar; it was a new song I wrote which I thought was really fitting for the occasion. It was a great event. As I looked at one of the pictures taken at the event, I found myself missing my guitar all over again.

Not too long before that event, I found myself desperately yearning to play my guitar and sing, so much that I thought you know what, I would purchase a cheap guitar and start working on improving my guitar skills until I can obtain a better one. This was after years of thinking, one day, one day I would start again. I struggled with the thought before actually finding a way to buy one. I remember paying just about EC$400.00 for a new guitar. Nothing fancy.

On purchasing my guitar, I started my new project, identified a tutor on YouTube that I connected with and started on my revived journey of improving my skills. This however was short-lived. About eight months after, my guitar fell and broke. To date, I have not been able to have it fixed to the point where it can be effectively used again. I felt terrible, confused and angry. It felt as If I had literally thrown away four hundred dollars.

I had a brief moment of asking myself why as it didn’t make sense that my passion for playing my guitar and singing continued to burn within me and when I finally found a way to do something about it, the rug was heartlessly pulled from under my feet. I felt defeated and discouraged.

Now, mentally there is a slight fear that if I invest in another guitar I may loose it as well; it’s a struggle that feels like a battle between giving up and persevering what seem to be a worthwhile venture, a dream that I can’t let go even if I wanted to.

Over the Christmas holidays, as I continued to long for my guitar I felt inspired by my Mom as she shared her decision to start again. You see my Mom always had an interest in playing the piano. As a young adult she learned to play a little and through-out her life she stopped and started again. Now at 81 she has started again. She has her music sheets and her keyboard and sets out to practice a few minutes every day. I was inspired and said to myself, “Don’t give up”!.

I think it is sad when people give up on their dreams, as small as they may be. I know of great singers who hardly ever sing, individuals who are skillful at playing an instrument and have stopped playing. Many have given up on the opportunity of exploring a God-given gift, a passion or an interest. Sadly, though, they often look back and regret it.

My advice to you is if you are convinced that as you get older you would regret not starting again, you should start again. Put aside 15 minutes every day to practice or to work on developing your skill. It may be singing, sewing, knitting, playing the piano or the trumpet or some other instrument. The fact that the interest and the potential to get better still occupies a place in your heart is reason enough to start again.

As the new year draws closer, I hope that you would resolve to “starting again” as many times as is necessary.

I may not feel or be able to persevere a new guitar at the moment but I am 100% confident that I must! It is just something I have to do! I can tell it is part of my purpose.

I inspire you to start again! You would be happy you never gave up.

Digging deep – Facing the truth at Christmas

There are different kinds of people in this world. Some are people pleasers, they are always ready to help but sometimes to the detriment of their well being. Many times they are not able to tell when someone is taking advantage of their kindness or when their good intentions are not valued but rather seen as an opportunity to capitalize on.

Then there are those who are considerate of others but they are able to discern ensuring that they are available to help when help is genuinely needed but they also seek to empower the needy so they can grow to become less dependent on others. These are people with the “teach a man how to fish” mentality.

The third group consists of individuals who see people as interruptions and inconveniences. Mistrust in the intentions of others plays a big role in their unwillingness to extend a hand of kindness to those who may need it. They are protective of their family and of their wealth and often find excuses not to help.

I am thinking of yet another group. This fourth group extends help only to those within their close circles. They promote cliques excluding all others for selfish reasons.

I don’t know where you fit in best but I am thinking of Christmas and Christ and reflecting a bit on who He was while He lived among men and who He is today as He intercedes for us continuously. I conclude that he is certainly not any of the following:

  • Someone who is suspicious of us to the extent that he questions our plea for help and withholds it.
  • Someone who ignores our sins and weaknesses and has no interest in seeing us overcome these areas and grow.
  • Someone who is unwilling to serve others without conditions.
  • Someone who is too busy with his own affairs to think of the man or woman who is desperately in need of his love and his attention.
  • Someone who thinks that his resources are for his benefit only and not for the benefit of others.

I urge us to be honest with ourselves and search our hearts deeply. When it comes to how we treat each other, are we really doing it the Jesus way?

I often find myself being caught off guard. I would meet someone and then after leaving their presence I would wonder if I should’ve reached out. Sometimes I think it is a missed opportunity. Yes! I have been burnt before, but I must find a way not to let these few instances dominate how I think about those who are in need. I must always remember that my needs are taken care of by my heavenly father who enables me to share with others. He gives freely to us, all we have to do is ask.

As we embrace the Christmas Season and a new year, may we experience the freedom of sharing not being too concerned about whether or not the person is genuinely in need. Let’s act more like Jesus and give freely.

Memories

“We worship and adore you. Bowing down before you. Songs of praises singing, hallelujah’s ringing. Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Amen!”

Memories of worship sessions at church singing this song illuminated my morning as I laid on my bed around 6:00 a.m. with my bible open wondering what I should read. While trying to figure that out the memory of this beautiful worship song flood my mind and I was grateful for healthy memories.

Immediately, I took that thought deeper linking it to purpose and I wondered, do we treasure healthy memories enough to invest in them daily? If life is about service to others, do we have memories of times when we were of service to others and are we seeking to create new memories helping others and making a difference in their lives?

Maybe your bad memories are overpowering the good ones. If you are in such a position it is a great time to embrace it as a motivation to be proactive about building good ones. It starts with you. There are a million ideas already tried and another million waiting to be explored.

Be grateful for the sweet memories you have with you and never take new opportunities for creating even better memories for granted.

It’s the Christmas Season and usually around this time family, friends and even those who may see themselves as your enemies, are generally more accommodating of your kindness. Take advantage of this Season and build great memories.

Here are some ideas I love for creating healthy memories:

  • Find out from your household what they would like the Christmas Menu to be like and get everyone involved in its preparation (breakfast, lunch, desert and dinner).
  • Re-arrange your bed room, put on new sheets, put up new curtains and invite all your kids in. Choose a fun activity to enjoy together. The idea here is to make your bedroom feel new and fresh; make sure it smells nice too.
  • Provide support to a family or friend or maybe just an acquaintance by helping them with a project that means the world to them. E.g. Cooking for homeless individuals, hosting a Christmas Party for less fortunate kids, reading the bible for the elderly men and women who may be shut-in or confined to their beds or homes.
  • Plan a picnic; choose the location carefully. I believe the highlight of a memorable picnic is the location.
  • .Take family pictures with family members dressing alike.
  • Plan an end-of-year or new-year reunion of school friends. A virtual event is encouraged.
  • Invite some friends to the beach, cook your favorite dish and play cricket or some other sport that is popular in your country.
  • For spouses: Work-out together or go jogging/walking/swimming/hiking. Have fun getting physical together but ensure it is sufficiently challenging by setting a goal. This would require you to support and encourage each other to persevere and achieve something together.

Well friends, I’ve given you enough to consider! Go build those healthy memories! I am planning to do so myself this weekend, and the next, and more so for “2022”.

My Companion, Immanuel.

I am basking in a comforting thought today and it has served me a tray filed with excitement garnished with confidence.

After reading the daily bread devotions, focusing on Isaiah 7:14, the comforting thought of living daily with a trusted companion overflowed my heart and I felt an overwhelming desire to share my thoughts.

Isaiah 7:14 says “The Lord himself will give you a sign; the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” In the devotional, readers are reminded of the meaning of “Immanuel”, which is “God with us!” What comfort to know that there is always someone there.

As I pondered on the thought “God with us”, I considered my to-do list which consisted of some tasks I am happy to achieve and others I wish to evade. There are uncertainties and doubts, fears and hesitancies; questions to be answered as I go along. I am embarking on various projects a bit obsessed with the need to remain inline with God’s will. I can easily become anxious, and worry can consume me. However, today, I am reminded of Immanuel, God with us.

The story of God clothing himself in human flesh as Jesus, the Son of God, is such an amazing story of hope and possibilities. Jesus was obedient to his Father, lived among men and became our ultimate sacrifice and because of His amazing courage, we who believe can enjoy “extreme” companionship. Companionship that is for everyday and everywhere. I mean it is clearly extreme, His capabilities has no limits; after all He is All-knowing, All-seeing, Almighty!

God with man, is the success we experience while on Earth that has everlasting implications. It is the investment made into someone’s life today that opens a door to salvation tomorrow. It is about forgiving when it hurts and seeing amazing transformations that proves that God is still at work in our daily lives. It is about marriage restoration, true repentance and love in action. It is about making a difference, creating a lasting presence that others would have no choice but see Jesus.

With Immanuel, we can face anything boldly. He loves to keep us company. His presence says, “It’s all right, you are never alone.”

May this Christmas Season connect us to the Companion worth knowing and loving, the best life coach ever. The one who is still with us in the person of the Holy Spirit, seeking to guide us daily. His desire is to unfold his plan for our lives as we submit to His minute by minute coaching. It is a companionship like no other. He is no longer with us as a babe but as our resurrected King. This Christmas He desires intimacy with every individual alive on planet Earth.

Seasons Greetings to all!

When something appears to be wrong and you cannot put your finger on it.

Have you ever had the opportunity to associate with a group of people for a while, whether at church, at university, your sports club or at work and you begin to feel uncomfortable within that environment? Sometimes, it is observed the moment the association begins, other times the longer you stick around the more you begin to realise that something does not fit right. It may be stifling your growth and creativity, eating away at your health and mental well being or it may be stirring you towards strife and mistrust.

Many times it is evident when you are contributing or offering a suggestion or recommendation; it may be ignored or suppressed. Then there are other outward indications that all efforts are being made to avoid connecting with you. You are unable to clearly identify what it is but you know something is up.

That gut feeling that all is not well because others are avoiding you can really disrupt your peace of mind and progress if you are not careful. Where it is blatantly evident, biblical advice urges us to go to such individuals and enquire whether you have offended them in any way or simply whether something is wrong. You see, initiating such a conversation can often open doors allowing you to mend bridges, correct inaccurate perceptions and even building beautiful relationships.

On the other hand I believe the Holy Spirit can guide us otherwise at times; not everyone should be approached. Sometimes the environment described above is just one to get out of. Any efforts to address the negativity you have been experiencing over weeks or months may be scorned or rejected. Sometimes all we need is an honest acknowledgement of what we have experienced. It is an unhealthy environment that does not sincerely support the purpose God has ordained for you. It is not conducive to your growth and furtherance of your general well being. It is therefore time to split.

Here are some quick ways to help us identify toxic environments:

So while we must be careful not to judge others wrongly, sometimes the signs are too consistent to question whether or not you are in the right company.

  • Individuals appear to be just tolerant of your presence.
  • Your contributions are never noticed.
  • There is an effort made to avoid quality discussions with you or directly answering questions asked.
  • Objective conversations are difficult to have.
  • Commitments made are not taken seriously
  • You are often interrupted (rudely) when speaking
  • You often feel demotivated and stripped when associating with such individuals.
  • You are being abused and it is slighted by others in the same group.

On the other hand, here are some suggestions that the environment is healthy for you. It is actually the opposite of those above.

  • Individuals are usually happy to see you.
  • Your contributions are acknowledged and valued.
  • You notice the efforts of others to be upfront or honest with you.
  • It is easy to converse with others in the group, no matter the differences that exist.
  • Commitments made with you are taken seriously.
  • You are not usually interrupted (rudely) when speaking.
  • Your well being is of interest to most or everyone.

Do a quick assessment of the environments you spend most of your time in and see what your conclusions are.

The reality for some is that the source of their lack of achievement or progress lies within their environment. Pursue a healthy environment where you can exhale freely, breathe in fresh air and walk within your purpose.

Just a little word

As you seek to live life meaningfully, it may require you cutting out some monthly and annual subscriptions. These days it seems like everything requires a subscription. If we want to manage our finances well, we must carefully review our subscriptions asking ourselves the following:

Do they add value to my life?

Am I gaining useful knowledge that would make me more marketable?

It is a worthwhile investment, would it bring me returns?

Wants can easily be confused as needs when the truth is you can easily live without them. Try imagining life without some of the things you currently think you are desperately in need of.

Be wise! There is always someone with a product or service ready to convince you that you are in need of it. Their goal is to sell! Your goas should be to purchase ONLY when it would add value to your life or to the life of your family or those you are seeking to influence.

Life is simple

This is a statement many may disagree with. Because of all the difficulties and challenges we face as we journey through our lives, we are often left scarred, weary, worn and beaten to the point where we feel like there is no more energy to fight. Many times the circumstances and factors contributing to your battles are from external sources, situations completely out of our control. Some battles we lose others we win. As a result of experiencing some battles we develop mistrust, bitterness and many times we damn the bridges we once crossed and may need to cross again.

We struggle with poverty, disappointments, rejections and setbacks. We go through serious tough times, right, we see hell.

But, just stop a minute, doesn’t the first two paragraphs also sound like the story of the “VICTIM”, groaning and moaning, hopeless and destitute? There is the flip side to all this, the flip side that life is not as complicated as it may seem. This truth is realised when we choose to respond to our problems with a winning, “I can” mindset.

First of all, there are consequences to our actions, so don’t think you can make poor decision and live to rejoice about it. The reality is you would experience negative consequences as a result. If you decide not to save or invest your money, in hard times you will be begging. If you decide not to choose your friends wisely, your support system would be one that drags you lower or keeps you stagnant. If you choose to rebel against godly principles, you obviously would be of poor character and seriously lack values.

In other words, let’s own-up where it is necessary. Where we have lapsed, failed, or simply played the fool, let’s admit it. It is critical if we must grow up. Educate yourself on the principles necessary for success and follow through so you can reap those benefits later. Embrace challenges with a grateful heart and watch yourself glow as you are tried by fire to become gold.

Here as some quick tips to keeping life simple:

  1. Be sure to save monthly and do not touch it unless it is totally necessary.
  2. Invest long-term by purchasing shares or buying insurance that could benefit you while you live and your family when you die.
  3. Treat every individual you encounter with dignity, many times they are the ones to bless you later in life when it is really needed.
  4. Focus on the positives, do not waste time on empty arguments and conflicts that would not lead to growth.
  5. Ensure you invest more into your family relationships than any other relationship.
  6. Be honest; be sincere.
  7. Treat others kindly at all times, the way you would like to be treated.
  8. Be careful with how you use your time. You should be able to look back and be pleased with yourself.
  9. Stay humble and keep learning something new.
  10. Take care of your body.
  11. Embrace every challenge with a grateful heart.

Don’t you see how life could be simple?

Cherishing the moments

I am extremely grateful to be at a juncture in my life where I can choose how I wish to spend the precious hours of the day as God permits. It is a new season and it feels like freedom. With this new blessing comes the opportunity to cherish the moments or rather “THE” moments. In other words, the opportunity to cherish the moments that really matters is now here.

I have too many memories of times when I was too busy, too tired, too distracted and too stressed to direct the required energy and time towards my children’s emotional and social development. While I can probably give myself a fair rating for my parental skills, I know in my earlier days of motherhood, my job and my involvement in church activities were given priority too often.

Today, it is different, I am now in a wonderful space of independence. This space allows me to make decisions that would promote a work-life balance. This space allows me to have control of my calendar and my clock, as God permits of course. This wonderful space allows me to slow down and become a better listener. This valuable space presents opportunities to nourish and support my family in every way possible. This valuable space presents opportunities to practice better self care and to invest into the lives of others.

I fully anticipate the working of the Holy Spirit during this season because I know he has a plan and I know his plan for me is perfect.

Today, I inspire you to work towards creating that lifestyle of balance. You may not be able to achieve it in one or two months, it may take a year, but it is worth your efforts to try and create boundaries.

Here are some possible boundaries you can create to keep you in check:

Avoid working on weekends unless it is totally necessary in which case do not work two weekends in a row.

Take a lunch break and seek to have lunch the same time every day.

Plan a family outing or outdoor adventure at least every other month.

Go out on dates with your spouse.

Have mother-daughter days or father-son days, etc.

Create realistic time slots during the day for every task and be disciplined about keeping the time limits.

Invest in programmes or projects geared towards helping others to develop.

These are just some suggestions for maintaining a lifestyle of balance. Feel free to share your tips as well in our comments section.