Many of us live in chronic pain. Whether the source of the pain is a mental health disorder or a physical handicap or disease, the results are the same. Chronic means “persisting over a long period of time” and “difficult to eradicate”. That means it is an unrelenting pain that never fades away. At times, we feel excruciatingly debilitating pain. Incapacitating pains that stop us in our tracks and forcing retreat into our bedrooms where we pull down the blinds, yank the covers over our heads and hide.

We may feel incompetent, at times, and struggle to complete tasks that may be second nature and very easy to others. We feel like we are somehow “less” than other people. We may tell ourselves that if only we didn’t have this “one issue” we could be amazing. We would get so much more accomplished and every day would be a joy instead of a struggle.

This comparison to others’ presumably easy life only magnifies our pain and buries us deeper under a fresh layer of guilt and self-pity. Who says another person’s walk is easier just because we casually observe them from the sidelines? We don’t have any idea what another person is going through. Some of us hide our struggles behind a façade of religion or busyness. We push others away and flippantly state “No one understands what it’s like”. Some of us don’t want to burden others with our pain and heartache, so we mask it and put on a brave face. Some of us become a martyr on the throne of our diagnosis and seek pity and attention. However, most of us simply want understanding wrapped up in mercy and compassion.We want to know we are going to be okay even if we are not okay.

I have XLH, a metabolic bone disorder. I don’t talk about my diagnosis much because I don’t want to showcase my infirmity. I don’t want to be looked at as disabled or incapable. The disease affects my kidneys’ ability to absorb phosphorus which lowers the levels of vitamin D that my body can metabolize. The decreased level of vitamin D causes physical fatigue, muscle weakness, and a compromised and softened bone structure.

XLH is a rare disease, affecting only 1 in 20,000. It is a lot of information to explain to people because most people have never even heard of it. I am not hiding it. It is just exhausting to try to explain all the symptoms and the degenerative progression of the disease. It is difficult to explain to people who do not have any physical mobility issues how tired I become after a long day of being on my feet teaching. I find myself frustrated at my own body many days.

Quite honestly, I’m in physical pain every day to varying degrees. Some days after working all day as a teacher, I can hardly even walk. My legs are bowed which puts extra strain on my hips and knees. My hips are stiff because of bone spurs and I am finding it increasing difficult to walk for long periods of time. I have arthritis in my knees, hips, and neck. Sometimes, I stand at the bottom of a flight of steps and take a deep breath, bracing myself for the climb in front of me. I need to pace myself and my physical exertion. If I do too much walking in a day, I will be in excruciating pain the next. If I sit down after being up on my feet for a long period of time, I will have difficulty getting back up or walking as my hips lock up. I often feel like a 41 year old woman trapped in a 70 year old’s body.

I am not saying any of this for pity or attention, but to paint an accurate picture of my daily life. This has always been my “normal”. There have always been things I can’t physically do. I have learned how alleviate and avoid pain and I brace myself for long work day and plan accordingly with some extra Advil.I know many of you may not have XLH, but you have other ailments that limit you in different ways. That is why I am compelled to write this.

Sometimes, people don’t know what they don’t know. Even when they know we have a struggle or disease (Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Muscular Dystrophy, Anxiety, Depression, Bi-Polar, or fill-in-the-blank), people hear the label, but not the heart or the effects of the diagnosis. People may not understand ALL the intricacies of our daily lives. In reality, we can’t expect someone else to truly empathize with us if they have not walked the proverbial mile in our shoes.

Through prayer and firm reliance on the Word of God, I have seen other struggles like my anxiety wane and disappear (a struggle for another blog post). However, even the Word of God and a strong faith in Jesus has not yet healed my XLH. I don’t think it is that my faith is not strong enough or my God is not big enough. I have anointed myself too many times to count and asked multitudes to pray for me, but here I am still living with XLH.

So, I continue on to pray and believe for healing, but I press on each day to walk with my Lord despite my physical limitations. This is my walk and my cross to bear. This reminds me of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12, when he asked the Lord to take away “the thorn in his flesh” that he believed was hindering from ministering efficiently. In verse 9, Paul recounts the Lord’s reply to his prayers, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

Today, I choose to believe that scripture for myself. I believe that the Lord has given me an extra dose of grace to face whatever physical difficulties lay before me. Instead of my infirmity being a hurdle to overcome, it can be built into a platform from which to proclaim Good News and hope to others who may be struggling with chronic pain. The truth is without this struggle, I would not be the same person. The struggle and the pain have helped mold me into who I am today.

It is not the pain itself that can empower you, but what you can do with all of that. How can you glorify God with your life despite this obstacle? Are you going to allow this to hinder, shut down, and silence your testimony? Or is this in fact the strength of your testimony and the power of God in your life?

Only someone who has endured pain truly has the capacity to embrace and encourage the heart of another person who is suffering. Only someone who knows what is like to avoid a party because of anxiety understands why someone else chooses to stay home the night of a social event. Only someone with a chronic disease can fully grasp why some days the pain becomes greater than the ability to do one more thing. We may understand that the desire to do and the physical ability do not always align.

I am not saying it is God’s desire for us to suffer or be in pain. These are the results of a fallen world. We all have struggles, trials, barriers, and hindrances in our lives. We all have areas of weakness and places of strength. We can’t compare ourselves to anyone else, and we can’t blame anyone else for our poor decisions we make in the midst of that trial or disability.

The disciples stumbled upon a blind beggar in John 9. They asked Jesus who sinned, the man or his parents, that the beggar had been born with such a heinous disease. The disciples wrongly concluded that surely someone had broken a law of God to be born in such a terrible condition. Instead, Jesus replies that the man had been born blind so that the “works of God could be displayed in him”. Jesus went on to heal this man and everyone in town marveled because they knew he had been the blind beggar. They knew who he was and they knew his affliction and now they had witnessed a miracle. Perhaps, our miracle won’t be physical restoration or complete emotional healing here on earth. Perhaps, the miracle is when we do not lose our faith in the face of great adversity. Instead, the works of God are made manifest in us when we proclaim the goodness of God, and our faith is not shaken, even when life is a pain sometimes.

You are not “less” of a person.  Do not allow any type of disability define who you are or limit the impact you can make. Instead, embrace it, even on the tough days, and keep the faith.

Seeking, Finding, and Following Jesus. Pray on, dear readers. Pray on.

In a previous post, Scattered and Sifted, I discussed the effects of the arrest of the crucifixion of Christ on the disciples. Jesus warned them at the Last Supper, that all of them would deny Him and be scattered. He quoted Zechariah 13: 7, “Strike the Shepherd, And the sheep will be scattered; Then I will turn My hand against the little ones.” When Jesus was arrested, fear gripped the hearts of the once loyal and devoted disciples. Perhaps, they were so astonished at the strange twist of events that they did not know what would happen next. Their once comfortable and exciting role beside Jesus as He raised the dead, healed the sick, and preached the Gospel, become a lonely vacuum of despair and confusion when He was arrested. After all, Jesus was supposed to be the Messiah. How could this happen to Him? The disciples still did not understand the greater plan of God. They were looking for a Messiah that would deliver them from Roman rule and Jesus was showing them that His Kingdom was not of this world. Say what, Jesus? You mean, this is how the last three years of glory end? In your death? Say it isn’t so, Jesus…

Sometimes, we are blindsided by certain events that happen in our lives. We are praying for healing, and a loved one remains sick. We are planning our future, being good stewards of our finances and a crisis drains our resources and our energy. We are so busy plowing ahead and working diligently that we do not see the collision that is inevitable up ahead. I can imagine this is how the disciples felt when Jesus was arrested and found guilty of blasphemy. The disciples were so caught up in the glory of the moment and the excitement all around them, that they missed Jesus’ predictions about why He was really sent. They missed the whole “dying on the Cross” thing, and the “My Kingdom is not of this world” speech.

Remember, John the Baptist?  John the Baptist was the voice of one crying the wilderness, boldly shouting “Prepare ye the way of the Lord”. He was the insightful baptizer who loudly pointed and proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” when he saw Jesus arrive on the river bank. However, after some time has passed and John the Baptist is thrown in jail, perhaps some doubt about Jesus’ identity has surfaced in his heart. He sends two of his disciples to Jesus to ask if He is “the One” they have been waiting for or if there is another who is the Messiah.  Jesus tells the two, ““Go and tell John the things which you hear and see:  The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” (Matthew 11)

Hold on there, Jesus. I love the whole blind seeing, lame walking, lepers cleansed, and dead being raised phenomena. But,  what is the whole “blessed are those who are not offended because of Me” statement. That must have shaken John the Baptist to the core. Maybe Jesus was trying to tell John that He wasn’t coming for him. Yes, John. I am who I said I am. But, I am not coming for you. You will remain in prison. In fact, you will die for me. John, don’t be offended by this. Blessed are those who are not offended by Me.

Application: Don’t be offended by the Lord when things don’t happen the way you think they will. Blessed are you when you continue to follow Jesus anyway. Blessed are you when you see miracles, people healed, and prayers answered all around you, yet God seems silent in your life. Don’t be offended by Jesus. Perhaps. Keep seeking, finding and following the Lord despite the circumstances and in spite of what you see. Keep the faith! Yes, He is who He said He is. Pray on, dear readers. Pray on.

“Sin is not hurtful because it is forbidden, but it is forbidden because it is hurtful”~Benjamin Franklin

Sin has always and will always separate. It separates us from the Lord and it isolates us from each other. You may think you are only hurting yourself when you sin, but you are harming everyone who is close to you. The husband entangled in adultery affects not only his own life, but the welfare of his wife, children, parents, and friends, as they watch a marriage go up in flames. The actions of the teenage boy addicted to meth causes chaos in his entire family who just wants their son back. The co-worker with the gambling problem, distracted by his wasteful spending, is no longer effective at his place of employment. The young mother who gossips about all her neighbors and friends while her children play in the other room, is poorly modeling relationships. Don’t tell me that sin only hurts you.

How many young ladies cannot connect with or trust a man because of the negative, destructive actions of her father? How many young people, raised in Christian homes, leave the church to never return because of the hypocrisy and compromised walks of the so-called Christians around them? Or how many boys grow up without a father and struggle to hold down a job, lacking the skills to become an engaged father themselves. How many people lose friends because of lies, manipulation, anger, or other sinful behaviors? Sin has a ripple effect that touches anyone close to us. How has your life been affected by your sins or the sins and actions of others around you?

Sin. We were born into it, but have been set free from its lure, if we chose to accept what Jesus has accomplished on the Cross. You may think that God is mean and forbids sin because He is just giving us a list of tempting and enjoyable things to avoid. Or, perhaps the Lord wants to make life boring and that being a Christian means you have to live a bland, unadventurous life. Some believe that the sins listed in the Bible are outdated and old-fashioned. Clearly, you reason, if the Bible was written now in this millennium, in modern times, the expectations and guidelines would be different. But, that is not true at all. Unlike other written publications that are revised and updated every few years, the Bible is the final, complete Word of God. And despite electronic devices, like the one you are reading this blog on,  there will not be a “next generation” of the Word of God. This is it. And, God’s Word is enough. Period.

The Lord knows that sin separates us from Him. It pushes us away from Him and drives a wedge between our relationships. The Lord wants us to “be holy, as He is holy” (1 Peter 1:15) because He wants us to remain in intimate relationship with Him. He wants us to know Him and to be known by Him. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. From that moment, the relationship between God and man was severed. Thankfully, from that moment on, God was busy setting in motion the plan that would redeem us and restore that broken relationship. That is why sin is forbidden. It damages our relationships and causes death in our souls.

Sin separates us from the Lord and from each other. It can destroy families, cause mistrust, and trap people in a cycle of bondage. It causes guilt and anxiety in our hearts because we know we are far from God. Break free, today! The good news is that you do not need to be held hostage. The Lord has provided a way in His Word. God is faithful through His Holy Spirit to lead you away from the grip of sin.  1 Corinthians 10: 13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

Read also: Ephesians 2, Romans 6, Romans 8, 1 John 1:8-9. Seeking, finding, and following Jesus. Pray on, dear readers. Pray on.

1 Peter 5: 6-9 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

red-flag

If you have ever been to the beach, you know that there are lifeguards who monitor the waters along the shoreline. They are stationed there to keep us safe and ensure an enjoyable sun-baked and salt-watered soaked summer experience. At times, the surf becomes too dangerous for beach goers to enjoy. Sometimes there are strong rip currents beneath the surface, or aggressive predators like sharks that loom nearby. The lifeguards call all swimmers, surfers, and frolicking children out of the crashing waves to the safety of the sandy shore. They may even hoist a red flag in the sand announcing that the ocean is temporarily unfit for human activities.

As followers of Christ, we need to keep our eyes peeled and be aware to what is going on out on the horizon. We cannot close our eyes and be naive to what is going on around us. I Peter 5:8 warns us to be alert or sober-minded. We have an enemy in the devil, who is trying to set a trap for us. Like the dangers that are hidden beneath the waves of the sea, there are dangerous situations and temptations that we may not be aware of, if we are not watchful and prayerful. We may not see trouble coming before it’s too late. But, the Lord has warned us that we have an adversary who is looking for someone to devour. Don’t be easy prey for the enemy of your soul. Pray not to become easy prey.

Be alert. Guard yourself. There may be areas of your life that you are weak. Do not leave yourself exposed, but be prayed up and careful. Sin does not happen in giant leaps. Sometimes, we just start to move toward sin inch by inch. We rationalize our behaviors, attitudes, and our actions. We think we can handle situations or people who have caused us to stumble or fall in the past. Stay away from the lure of sin. Stay away from those things that tempt you and pull you away from the Lord. Know yourself and know your weak points. There are areas in your life that you should have red flags. Red flags to keep you from going into dangerous waters and facing Satan, a soul predator who lurks in the shadows.

Application: If you struggle with an addiction, stay away from people who are using. If you struggle with gossiping, stay away from others who engage in it.  Find new friends. If you struggle with lust, consider who you are alone with, think about the movies you watch, and keep the computer in a family room where others can see the sites you visit. Don’t set yourself up to sin. Keep the red flag up and use wisdom. Stay connected with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Even the animals who are prey in the animal kingdom know there is safety in numbers. The Holy Spirit is your Guide and Helper and will keep you strong.

James 4:7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Stay alert, dear readers. Prayed up, and steadfast. Pray on…

Ironton Rail Trail, PA

Have you ever hopped on your bicycle for an afternoon ride in a nearby park designed by God for the nature enthusiast? Imagine tall maple trees stretching into the sky, reaching for daylight, while squirrels, chipmunks, sparrows, and even a few deer scamper feet from the trail you long to explore. You decide to take a quick ride to clear your mind and embrace the beautiful sun-soaked day. You are motivated, geared up in your best athletic attire, water bottle in hand, sneakers neatly laced, ready to hit the road and conquer the next few miles.

Imagine now it is a smoldering, summer afternoon in August. The mercury is pushing 100 in the shade of a large, magnolia tree. The sun looms overhead in a cloudless sky, staring down from its position on high. As you swing your leg over the rail of your bike and effortlessly leap on, you easily pedal out of your driveway and unto the street. You begin to wind down the road and turn into the entrance of the park, onto the smooth, pristinely manicured, and perfectly paved bicycle trail. It’s a beautiful day for a ride and life is good.

After a few miles, the sun, once a bright beacon of hope cheering you to ride on, now seems to mockingly taunt you as you try to keep pedaling in the midday heat and humidity.  As droplets of sweat begin to bead on your forehead, you notice how tired and tight your legs begin to feel. A sharp pain suddenly radiates from your tail bone, down your right leg, and all the way to your ankle. Man, when did that start to hurt. You wonder to yourself, as you continue along the path toward the hill that lies directly before you.

You take a deep breath, filling your lungs with the steamy, sultry air, and begin to pedal harder, faster, more deliberate than before. You rise up from the comfort of the bike seat to gain more leverage, and more power in each leg pump. As you see the hill coming closer, you become awkwardly aware of your own perspiration, once a mere glisten on your forehead, that has evolved into a steady drip, drip, drip onto the ground beneath you. A mixture of sweat and sunlotion trickles into your eyes and runs down your face. You feel it sting your eyes and taste its salty mixture on your sun-baked lips. You turn your head slightly to the left, raising your shoulder forward, to rub the sweat from your cheek and lips with your t-shirt, and you pedal on.

San Felasco Bike Trail

I should stop and take a break, you rationalize. From a distance, that hill seemed like a slight bump on the horizon. Now, as you pedal closer, the hill has erupted into a monstrous mountain of intensity and brutality. You notice how steep and narrow the trail has become, and the once paved road has turned stony, uneven, and unkempt. Your thoughts drift back to that ankle pain you experienced moments before, but you push on anyway. You are determined to climb the hill.

Keep pedaling. I must build speed and momentum. Your pedaling becomes rythmic, steady, purposeful, yet painfully strained. You ignore the pull of tight muscles in the back of your calves, the ache in your back, and the sweat that has now totally soaked through your shirt. Keep pedaling. Almost there. You want to  stop, but know that quitting is not an option at this point in the ride. You need to build enough momentum to get to the top. If you stop, you’ll need to walk the bike up, or worse yet, turn around and go back the way you came. Keep pedaling, my friend and build momentum. What is the hill you are trying to climb today?

Ironton Rail Trail

Ironton Rail Trail and Ray’s Bike

Momentum. It is what you need to gain before you climb any hill, whether its physical, emotional, spiritual, or hypothetical. Momentum. It what keeps you climbing when you want to stop and it’s what keeps you grounded and secure, when things seem to unravel at the seams, and you feel insecure. Momentum is defined as: the capacity for progressive development: the power to increase or develop at an ever-growing pace, forward movement: the speed or force of forward movement of an object, measure of movement: a quantity that expresses the motion of a body and its resistance to slowing down. It is equal to the product of the body’s mass and velocity.

Momentum helps you move forward once you have started to move forward.  If you would stop on the hill described above, you would not have enough speed to get over the hill. You would have to walk up it instead of ride over it. If you are moving toward any goal of any sort, get started and then don’t stop. Once you start building momentum, and gaining speed, and seeing things change in your life, you will be motivated to continue on. Sometimes, the hardest things to do is just start.I have shared in previous posts about my eight year path to get my bachelor’s degree. (See Dream Big, Start Small) It was not an easy road, but failure was not an option. As I continued to take college courses, I learned good study habits, and built momentum to take more classes.

Pray and seek the Lord. Be encouraged and don’t stop doing what you are doing just because it gets difficult, lonely, or confusing, at times. You may feel stretched to your limits and unsure, but just because something is hard to do, doesn’t mean you should not do it. Keep on praying and moving forward. Read, from the life of Paul:

Philippians 3:12-14 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Don’t let past failures, mistakes, or sin stop you from having faith to try again. Keep seeking, finding, and following Jesus. Press on. Pedal on and pray on, dear readers. Pray on.

“It ain’t about how hard you’re hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward – how much you can take, and keep moving forward!”. In the scene from Rocky Balboa from which this kinetic typography was inspired, Rocky expounds on some of the difficulites his son will face in life, and encourages his son to stop making excuses for his life and start making some changes.

As Christians, we were not promised an easy life, but we were assured we would never be alone. We were guaranteed an eternal life in His Presence. After Jesus was resurrected, He told the disciples that it was good that He (Jesus) is leaving because only then could He send them the Comforter who would dwell with them always. The Holy Spirit would empower them (and us) to continue His mission on Earth. He would be our Helper and our internal witness that we are the sons and daughters of God.

We need the Holy Spirit to give us the power to be witnesses of Jesus’ goodness and grace. We need the Holy Spirit to help us live a holy life in an unholy world. We need the Holy Spirit to encourage us to get back up when we stumble, fall, fail, second guess ourselves, or feel disheartened.

More powerful than a pep talk from Rocky Balboa, is a pep talk and gut check from the Spirit of the Living God. Get up! He tell us. Be of good cheer, dust yourself off and don’t let discouragement become despair. Despair is the dreadful feeling that nothing will ever be better. Despair is like a vice that squeezes all the air out of your lungs, and drains all the hope out of your life. That is not the will of God for your life.

Get back up. Start again. Trust again. If you have sinned and feel far from the Lord, repent. Stop what you are doing, turn around and follow the Lord again. Get up and stop making excuses. Don’t sit there and wallow and feel bad for yourself. Get up and keep moving forward.

Proverbs 3: 5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Strengthen your resolve. Pick up your sword (um, the Bible), and see who the Lord says that you are. Renew your mind. Renew your heart, and renew your faith.

Seeking, Finding, and Following Jesus. Pray on, dear readers. Pray on.

spider web

I was at my sister’s house yesterday, and as the sun began to set over the mountains, we were mesmerized not by the delicate, coral hues dancing across the darkening sky, but instead by an ingenious spider that was weaving a web in between the railing and the roof of my sister’s front deck. We watched in awe, as the spider worked, at a lightning fast speed, scurrying along the edges of the web, framing the perimeter of the masterpiece with silken threads. Then, circling round and round from the inside out, the dutiful spider created perfectly aligned support fibers for his web. The web was intricate, detailed, and almost perfectly symmetrical. It was built by a creature who intrinsically knew how to build the perfect design.

I know someone else who is an even more amazing artist. In Psalms 139, we read about how God, the Creator, has formed us. He sees us. He knows us deeply and loves us unconditionally. And, he knows how to create us, perfectly imperfect.

In Psalm 139:13-16 For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;  Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them. 

NIV version translated verse 13 as, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Wow! What beautiful imagery celebrating how the Lord has lovingly and intentionally created us. Think about this…decades ago, when a woman gave birth to a child, she had to wait until the child was born to discover the gender of the child. Nowadays, we have 3D and even 4D (say, what!?) sonograms that give incredible detail as to not only the child’s gender, but physical characteristics, months before the child is born. Amazing, huh? But, God has us on that one. He saw us at conception. He saw us before the surge of pregnancy hormones even signaled to the mother she was pregnant. He sees us before we are even conceived. And, He loves what He sees!

He loves us and it’s time we loved ourselves and celebrate what the Lord has made. He molds us in the secret place to shine and be seen in out in the public place. You were not created by accident, but on purpose to live with a purpose.

Even if life is not perfect (what is perfect, anyway?) and you have physical, emotional, or other challenges that you are facing, take heart. You have been created by divine design to demonstrate the love of an invisible God to a dying and lost generation. Be His hands and His feet. Live out loud. Love God. Love your neighbor. Love yourself.

Seeking, Finding, Following Jesus. Pray on, dear readers. Pray on.

This is my second post in a series I am writing on our freedom in Christ. My first post, Declaring Independence, was an introduction, and more of a salute to our country’s long road to gaining her independence.

the-cross

As believers, our freedom has already been achieved through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Good News is that we no longer have to strive, fight, perform, or jump through hoops to get our freedom.  When Jesus proclaimed, “It is finished” from the Cross  (John 19:30), our freedom from sin was complete, the debt was paid, and we were reconciled back to the Father. Our relationship with God was restored and we were given an eternal life free from condemnation or the sting of sin. Hebrews 9:15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

However, many of us do not “feel” that we have been set free from the sins we have committed. We still feel guilty or condemned and do not realize that we do not have to continue to live this way. That’s where our faith begins. We erroneously think and feel like we need to do things to earn our freedom, and earn our position in Christ. But, it is by faith that our freedom and our salvation is received and sustained. There is nothing we can do to be good enough and earn what we have been freely given. Ephesians 2: 8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

Conversely, as believers, we need to learn to walk in our freedom each and every day. This freedom we have been given is not the freedom to sin, it the freedom from sin. Galatians 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Freedom from the grip of sin is not a license or free pass to sin intentionally knowing that we can repent later. This freedom should instead empower us to live a victorious life. We could sin, but we do not have to. We can rely on the Holy Spirit to help us and keep us from sinning against the Lord.

If you have ever played the board game Monopoly, you may have been the recipient of a “get of jail free” card. As a holder of this card, you know that if you get in trouble and get sent “to Monopoly jail” you have the ability to get yourself out immediately. You do not need to wait 3 turns, or pray you roll doubles and can continue in the game. You are instantly out. In the same way, salvation in Christ is so much more than a “get out of jail free” card. Yes, we can repent of any sin and the Lord will forgive us. But, that fact does not mean we should pursue sinful desires because we are holding a “grace card”. Instead, Jesus has made the way for us to live free from the power and the stronghold of sin. Sin separates us from the Lord and it separates us from each other. Sin hurts us and it hurts our relationships. The Lord wants us to be free to live fee.

Live free each day, without guilt, without regret, and without condemnation. You can live free from the sins of your past, and live redeemed each day from sinning in the future. You do not have to chase after your freedom, pay for your freedom, or try to earn your freedom. Your freedom in Christ is free, even though it cost Jesus everything.

Seeking, Finding, Following Jesus. Pray on, dear readers. Pray on.

seize the day 2

Carpe Diem. Seize the day. You will never live another twenty-four hour period like the one you are experiencing right now. Sure, the morning sun will break the darkness of night and announce a new day, a new opportunity to get things right, enjoy your life, and serve the Lord. But, each new day is a unique moment, full of promises and challenges. In Matthew 26: 34 , Jesus tells us, “not [to] worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Carpe diem. Seize the day. Many of us, myself included, have not yet mastered the art of living in the moment and embracing daylight. We regret our past and wish we had done things differently. We worry and agonize over our future and pray everything works out okay. We long for better days ahead and miss the days right in front of us. Think about it. When we are kids, we can’t wait to grow up. When we grow up, we fondly recall special memories of childhood and wish we could relive those carefree moments. When we are single, we dream about being married. When we have found our mate, then, we can’t wait to have kids. When the baby is born, we are excited to watch their first steps, hear their first words, and send them off to kindergarten. When we are in college, we look forward to landing our dream job. As soon as we have that job and settle into a career, we long for retirement. Time just keeps on ticking, hour by hour, day by day, year by year, and suddenly a lifetime goes by and we wonder where the time has gone.

We live for tomorrow when we should be living for today. I feel like I have let so much time slip through my fingers while I have been waiting for some amazing, life altering, spectacularly awe-inspiring God moment to happen. I think to myself maybe this is the day when God moves in a powerful way and my life will never be the same. But, God doesn’t show up in the midst of a burning bush, God doesn’t send an angel my way, and a “miracle harvest” doesn’t fall at my feet, or come in my mailbox, allowing me to quit my job and minister without financial burdens. Well, maybe tomorrow is the day, I muse and smile at my own idyllic thought processes.

OK, I am being a bit overly dramatic, but I think you get my point. At times, we all struggle to enjoy daily activities when we are bogged down by unfulfilled dreams, unconfessed sin, unresolved issues, or broken relationships. We can easily allow our mind to keep us stuck and discouraged with things we have no control over. So, our mind is either drifting back to past disappointments or wondering what the future holds. Either direction our mind travels, it is sinful not to trust that the Lord has our future in His loving hands, and that He can handle our past indiscretions, as well.

I am learning to trust in the Lord my God for my contentment. And, part of that includes living in the moment and enjoying the ordinary, simple tasks of the day. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Every day is a gift from God and from the time the sun rises to the time it sets, I will choose to embrace every ounce of daylight and celebrate every moment big and small. I will choose to seize the day. Ephesians 5:15-16 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Do not get caught up in worries, in trouble, in financial burdens, or distress about life issues. Pray without ceasing and trust in the Lord. Seize the day. Even better~Seize the day that the Lord has made and rejoice and be glad in it. Seeking, Finding, and Following Jesus…one day at a time. Pray on, dear readers. Pray on.

We all have dreams and goals. Sometimes, these include basic human desires like getting married, having a family, finding our dream job, and buying a house. At other times, our dreams reach beyond the basic and the ordinary into the realm of the extraordinary. Dreams are God-given visions and ideas that can propel us towards our destiny. God places within each of us talents, skills, and a natural propensity toward certain activities. There are things we intrinsically enjoy doing and there are other things that we cringe at and would rather get a root canal sans Novocaine, than complete. It’s the tasks and activities in the first category that help shed light on our purpose and awaken us to super-sized dreams that have been embedded within us. Any dream planted within us by our Creator will be a super-sized ambition that requires extraordinary stamina and faith.

Chinese philosopher Lao-tsu is noted to have said, A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. This is important to remember because we long to get to the finish line and reach our goals before we have even taken one step in the right direction. We wish, we hope, we pray for things to change, and for our dreams to become a reality. But, we sometimes spend too much time wondering about what could be and not enough time planning an actual strategy to make it happen.

Don’t get me wrong…I know that we need to pray along the way and seek Godly counsel as we move forward. But, there is a time to pray, and a time to plan. I remember when I became completely despondent and depressed with my job and lack of a definitive career path. I was working as a housekeeper at a local hotel. I was working a minimum wage job and I had minimal self-esteem to boot. I was 24 years old and had always wanted to go to college and get a degree. But, my family did not have the money to support me, so I did not go. Now, I was 24 and should have had a degree, been out in the workforce, and settled and ready to take the world by storm. But, I was discouraged and defeated and was not prepared to face anything. I started praying. I started to pray and God started to speak. Finally, after much prayer. fasting and soul-searching, I enrolled in a community college and I took that first step.

Although I was on the road to the goal of becoming a college graduate, it would be another eight years until I crossed the proverbial finish line, diploma in hand. There were many times along that road that I wanted to give up, stop taking classes, settle for a minimum wage job, and stop pushing so hard. I was working two jobs at night, and attending classes during the day. I was sleep deprived, weary, and sick of my empty and quite pathetic social calendar. But, these were but a few of the sacrifices I needed to make so I could obtain my goal. It took eight long years, but step by step, and class by class, paper by paper, and assignment by assignment, I completed eventually obtained my degree, and became certified as a elementary school educator.

What is your dream? Is it a college education? Getting out of debt? Raising Godly children? Or becoming physically fit? Whatever it is, take the first step. Make a plan. Get organized. Gather some friends to be the coaches beside you cheering you on. Some dreams start small and evolve over time. Whatever your dream, aspiration, inclination, or inspiration, hit the ground running today and continue to run and pray until the finish line is within reach.

Start somewhere. Do something. Embrace that God-sized dream and run with it, even if you have to start at the ground floor and rebuild the life you’ve always wanted. Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin. (Zechariah 4:10). As Ezra and the Jewish exiles were returning from Babylonian captivity, the Lord birthed the vision in Zerubbabel to rebuild the Temple that lie in ruins. Progress was slow. The prophet Zechariah was reassured by the Lord that Zerubbabel would indeed finish rebuilding the Temple. Do not despise these small beginnings. Your life can be rebuilt, dreams reborn, and goals reached. Start small, but dream big.

Somewhere in between our first step and the completion of our dream or goal, it may seem like it will never happen or that progress is just too slow (Did I mention it took eight long years to get my Bachelor’s Degree?). I say to you, do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin. Think of Joseph, David, or Moses…even they waited years (decades, in some cases) to see the realization of the promises that God had spoken. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Get moving. Do not be discouraged by what you see. Do not lose heart by the small steps you may take at first. Remember that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1) Have faith and pray on, dear readers. Pray on.