Being Saved, Being Smart, Uncategorized

I have recurring dreams often. The first time I’ll dream from point A to point B. The next time I’ll dream from point A to point D. Then at some point– maybe days, weeks, months, or years later my dream will finally make it to point Z.

And most times– dreams are strange things, you know– I won’t even recall having fragments of the dream until that dream has come close to the point of resolution.

So imagine my surprise this morning, when I woke up replaying a dream in which statues of foreign gods and goddesses were strewn about my home. I was surrounded by them, and they seemed to be mine. Some were small and unassuming like fine home decorations.  Others were tall statues made cast of iron. One in particular had long feathered arms, a round head with a short neck, sharp teeth, and protruding eyes. I thought “Why would I buy something so ugly and violent?” The Lord spoke immediately and said “You didn’t buy it. It was passed down to you.”

I knew that these idols were not only displeasing to God but also detrimental to my spiritual condition.

Then my cousin, a sweet gentle young woman, came to visit and as we talked I found myself putting these things away… in a trash bag to be more exact. And as I tossed demonic heap into the garbage bags, she nodded and smiled in agreement. And that’s the last thing I remember when my alarm went off.

Those who’ve followed my blog long enough know that the Lord just drops Scripture phrases in my mind, and then I’ll go hunt for the reference. Well this is what I heard in my spirit today….

“And I will walk among you, and I will be your God…”

I copied and pasted what I heard into a browser and Leviticus 26:12 popped up as the reference. Nice, right? Or just meh? Yeah, I went for meh. But I know my Lord’s voice so I knew that what He was saying would be found right in that chapter, so up to verse 1 I scrolled.

You shall make for yourselves no idols nor shall you erect a graven image, pillar, or obelisk, nor shall you place any figured stone in your land to which or on which to bow down; for I am the Lord your God.

WELL NOW! Speak, Lord! But for real, Father. There are no graven images, pillars, obelisks, or figured stones in my home. You can come on walk up and through here and I promise you won’t find one! Try me, Lord! It’s not here. There is one massive obelisk just a few miles away from me, but that ain’t mine. And more than likely, Father, my Hindu neighbors have many of the idols I saw in my dream. So why would you give me this dream?

Obviously He wasn’t speaking of my physical home, but my heart. God exposed the generational crap passed down from my ancestors and the trinkets I’ve welcomed on my own. Time for it allll to go!

Selah.

I can honestly pick out two of the many idols that the Lord revealed… unhealthy food and, uhhh, tweeting. Through some prayer and fasting I’ve found myself less controlled by desires for these things. I believe those were the items I put away in my dream.

CLEAN ME OUT, JESUS!

Surely I’m not the only person who has idols erected in my heart. Perhaps you’ve never considered that the benign and seemingly good (read “tasty”) things you’ve invited into your life can become idols. Here’s how you might identify those things that you exalt above Christ. (Idols can be people, objects, ideas, concepts, thought patterns, etc.)

  1. You are unwilling or unable to let go of it.
  2. You feel that you need a certain person or thing to accomplish a goal or feel a sense of satisfaction.
  3. If the Lord showed up in your home, you would hide or trash it right away.
  4. If the Lord told you to give this thing away, you’d refuse or resist.
  5. You don’t feel safe, secure, or loved without this thing.
  6. You feel you’re missing out if you can’t partake in activities with this thing.
  7. You esteem this item or person above God’s statutes.
  8. Your mood changes based on interactions with this person or thing.
  9. You find your thoughts and dreams heavily focused on it.
  10. You defraud or deceive others to have time with this person or thing.
  11. Your time and money are disproportionately spent on this person or thing.

So how many things just ran through your mind? I’ll give you a moment to reflect. Go ahead and read the list again. I’ll wait.

*twiddles thumbs*

*twists locks of hair*

*plucks eyebrows*

Hopefully you heard SOMETHING from the Almighty if you didn’t turn Him off. I’d be remissed to stop writing without telling you HOW to get rid of your idols, so at the risk of writing a super long blog, here goes! (Our freedom is what matters most here!)

  • Consecrate yourself. Spend some time reading your Word and in prayer. Limit your diet for a few days to really allow your fleshly desires to be diminished. The goal here is to strengthen your inner man.
  • Make up in your mind that you want nothing more than you want God. If you don’t, then there’s no need to proceed any further.
  • Invite the Lord into your home and spirit as they are right now. We often feel the need to clean up before He comes, but when He gets there, He’ll show you exactly what to get rid of. He won’t scold you for your mess like your mother will.
  • Yield to His leading. I’ve found that the Lord has made things that I formerly loved very distasteful to me. He has literally changed my desires. And this is a great thing!!!

Now that I’ve told all my business with half the detail, I’m PRAYING that you too can become free of the images and idols that impress upon your being. You are created in the image and likeness of God. Any person or thing that destroys or alters who you are in Christ must be removed for your salvation’s sake.

 

With love, sincerity, and hope for your future,

 

Alana

Photo credit: Mary Harrsch via Compfight

Being Saved, Being Smart, Uncategorized

There is no character in the Bible that leaves me more disappointed and despondent than this smart, eager, ambitious, fahn (I’m using my sanctified imagination here), wealthy young brother we meet in Mark 10:17. Our preachers call him the rich, young ruler. I’ll call him Yuppie BC.

Short story time!

[quote]This young guy rolls up on Jesus and His disciples and says “Jesus, you’re so good. I’m amazed by how good you are. I’m good too. Can I come be good with you?” This fella just knooooows Jesus is about to give Him the same keys to the kingdom that those sinful, raggedy, wretched disciples had. Jesus looks back at the fella and says “Only God is good. Yes, you know the commandments, but you’re missing something.”[/quote]

I would’ve paid a couple day’s wages to see the look on the yuppie’s face when Jesus told him to go and sell all he had. I can only imagine what he thought in that moment. “Isn’t my obedience enough? Why wouldn’t you want my money? If you had it, you all wouldn’t have to live like this? And I’d make a great disciple– probably a better one than these fishermen and tax collectors. Plus my father gave me those things, so I can’t just give them away. I’ll do anything but that.”

The yuppie peaces out down-trodden and defeated. Jesus says to His disciples “With what difficulty will those who possess wealth and keep on holding it enter the kingdom of God!”

And then something phenomenal happens when we read this in church.We. Stop. Reading. And our pastors go on and on about how God wants us to give up our wealthy lifestyles, etc., etc. I can’t even pretend to understand that logic for the simple fact that I kept reading.

Jesus knows His disciples are perplexed by what He’d just spoken, so He clarifies.

“Children, how hard it is for those who trust (place their confidence, their sense of safety)
in riches to enter the kingdom of God!”

TWO TOTALLY DIFFERENT MATTERS! You can own things, but things can’t own YOU!

Another short story!

[quote]I had to go to Cincinnati for business a few weeks ago and my finances were limited. When I returned I was worried about the condition of my car. I knew I needed tires and some other things, but I drove like someone who was afraid of life itself. And I just kept praying and praying, but God told me hush up. Why? Because I was praying out of fear. I was afraid because I didn’t have the money to get the tires I needed and so He showed me that my faith and security rested in the money I didn’t have and not in Him. Oh Selah to the utmost! I repented. [/quote]

So let me ask you, young urban/suburban/rural professional…

  • Do you own things, or do your things own you?
  • Are life’s comfort’s dulling you to the call of ministry?
  • Is there someTHING or someONE that you’ll have to release for the sake of maturing in 2013?
  • Or maybe you think you’re so “good” already?

There is no greater call than the one to serve our Lord Jesus Christ. Don’t let what you have or lack OR what you have or haven’t done keep you from going deeper into Him.

 

With love, sincerity, and hope for your future,

 

Alana

 

 

Being Saved, Being Smart, Family, Uncategorized

How a Seed Meets Your Need: What to Do When You’re Broke

I’m TIRED of not having any money. I work hard. I manage (i.e. work magic with) my finances. I mess up some things unfortunately. But by the 12th of the month when all the requisite bills have been paid, the grocery shopping has been completed, and the gas tank filled, my hair is nappy from the box relaxers I have to buy and the soles of my shoes are wearing thin. There is entirely too much month left and too little money for me to do anything about either of those situations.

Let me paint a picture for you.  I’m a single mom of two growing children with massive appetites. I make too much to receive income assistance from the government, and too little to cover my rent without whispering a prayer every time I make the payment. I’m paid once a month for ten months out of the year, so I’m staring down the business end of a summer with no paychecks. In an effort to not depress you, I trust HIM COMPLETELY! Why? Because there is absolutely NOTHING I can do to fix this problem. That means it’s all on Him!

I can hear all you finance snobs thinking “Well why don’t you just…” Whatever you can imagine, I’ve done or it’s impossible for me to do. Thanks for thinking for me.

I have much to say, so I’m thinking a mini-book may be in order, BUT for now, I’d like to share what God most recently revealed to be concerning the following Scriptures.

[quote]For as the rain and snow come down from the heavens, and return not there again, but water the earth and make it bring forth and sprout, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, So shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth: it shall not return to Me void [without producing any effect, useless], but it shall accomplish that which I please and purpose, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10)[/quote]

And second…

[quote]And God Who provides seed for the sower and bread for eating will also provide and multiply your resources for sowing and increase the fruits of your righteousness which manifests itself in active goodness, kindness, and charity. (2 Corinthians 9:10)[/quote]

Let me ask you a few questions.

Are you a sower?

Do you regularly and freely give of your finances and time to assist others, or are all your givings tied up in the first tenth? Notice 2 Corinthians 9:10 says GOD WILL MULTIPLY YOUR RESOURCES FOR SOWING, but that only applies if you’re already one who freely and joyfully gives. Let me qualify this by saying that in this season of my life I’m not able to give nearly as much as I would like, but the amount is hardly what’s on God’s mind. He looks at the condition of heart. Many times I will ask the Lord to provide a giving opportunity, and He does!

Are you an eater?

ALL of us are eaters. We all need provision for food, clothing, housing, etc. Sometimes we eat our seed thinking it’ll satisfy us, but that is the best way to stay financially strapped. Would you eat a few grains of wheat to satisfy your hunger? Absolutely not! Not only would you still be hungry, but you’d lose your chance to plant the wheat which would yield many more seeds and stalks of wheat and ultimately bread!

Life application here… When you find a few straggling dollars in your wallet, move them away from the spending area to a safe place for storing until a sowing opportunity arises.

What’s seed? What’s bread?

The Scripture says that God provides the seed. Should you have a certain amount of money and the offering plate is coming, consider the following to determine if you should give or keep your money. How much do you need to cover that nagging bill? Is what you have in your wallet enough? If the answer is “no”, then you have  a seed. If the answer is “yes”, you have the bread (provision). Keep the bread to pay the bill. The Lord often provides a little seed to accompany the bread. Be faithful to sow it.

In short, seed won’t meet the need, but bread will. Paul CLEARLY states in this same chapter that every man should give as HE PURPOSES IN HIS HEART! Not as the church or social expectations dictate! Giving according to what someone demands, requires, or expects will NOT reap a blessed harvest in and of itself. You must still give it willingly and cheerfully. If you find yourself not wanting to give, it’s best to hold on to that money until God gives you a heart change or a release to do so. There have been many times I was in service and the Lord laid out plainly for me to give NOTHING, or I’d left my wallet at home so that I couldn’t. Not every church is good ground. There have been other times when I needed to give sacrificially and He changed my heart to do so.

Another life application… God wants us to use common sense. Don’t get suckered into giving all of anything to any preacher. The workman is worthy of his wages, but not ALL of yours!

How can I get some bread?

Sometimes the seed isn’t money at all. Perhaps it’s your time or clothes you’ve held on to for years. But when God requests that you give, it will open the doors and windows for provision. Consider that a seed must first be planted to grow. Once it grows it becomes a full stalk of wheat, then the wheat must be harvested, beaten, and milled to produce flour. Once the flour is made, you can mix it with yeast and other ingredients to make the bread. All of these processes take time. So it’s best to sow as often as the Spirit leads so that provision comes in regularly. Having said that, God can and will turn that thing around quickly! He’s done it for me, so I know He’ll do it for you. Just remember we must sow the seed to eat the bread!

 

In the past few months, the Lord has taken care of us. I can’t explain how it’s happened, but He’ll send people to help me here and there or money will show up at just the right time. And all of this happens in tandem with crazy attacks from the enemy. Every time I think I’m sinking, God comes through! I don’t want to stay in this place by any means, but financial hardship is one of the ways God develops character. Notice in that saaame Scripture Paul says that God will provide and multiply your resources for sowing AND increase your fruits of righteousness.

When it gets down to it, this money thing is all about your relationship with Christ. Just like singleness, marriage, education, raising a family, etc. It all begins and ends in Him.

As a final encouragement, I’d like to share with you a message from Bishop Nate Holcomb that has GREATLY impacted my understanding of how to use my faith to trust God in these circumstances. If you’re still hungry for truth and understanding, THIS video is for you!

Thanks for reading my post! Here’s what want you to do next …

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With love, sincerity, and hope for your future,

 

Alana

Image courtesy of  rogiro via Compfight

 

Being Saved, Uncategorized

Warring Against Depression

Fine as you wanna be, dressed to the nines, hair and make-up perfect– inside, empty and aching.

Before you read this please understand that I am not writing this post from a medical, psychological or sociological perspective. Those are not my fields of expertise, or even interests. I’m writing purely from a spiritual and experiential position.

Whatever the cause of depression… hormonal imbalance, grief, loneliness, trauma, life stresses, sin… it eats at the soul and takes up residence in our bodies manifesting itself in sickness and disease. Some of us lie in bed all day sobbing and weeping. Others feel so empty within we can’t even force tears. A few will act out and do everything humanly possible to prove to the world that everything is ok. But can I just say that Jesus is a healer?!

Forty-stripes he bore on his back for our sin and physical ailments. The crown of thorns they placed on his head for mental illnesses, one of which being depression. You don’t have to stay in that place.

I don’t mind telling the gory details of my 5-ish bouts of depression since age 13, but I’d rather tell you how I war against it. Yes, continually… I fight this thing like B&B fight Face Raiders on their Nintendo 3DS’s.

Spiritually speaking, depression is a result of hopelessness.

It’s crazy how one can have faith in God today but lack hope for tomorrow. When we lose sight of or begin to doubt God’s promises for us, we sink into ourselves thinking that life has nothing better to offer. But the Father assures us in Jeremiah 29:11 that He has good thoughts towards us and has a wonderful end in mind. What’s more is that He doesn’t lie and He doesn’t change His mind (Numbers 23:19). God is able and willing to do everything He promised in your life. Let hope in Christ ANCHOR your soul so the waves of depression don’t cause you to drift away (Hebrews 6:19).

When you reach the end of your world, go up!

In Psalm 61, David calls to the Lord from the end of the earth. We often think our life is over when something traumatic happen, but David realized that when He was at the end of Himself He needed to tap into another source. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I! In other words “Lord, I’m a low place and at the end of myself. My life might even be over. But Lord, You are a Rock. You are solid. You are strong. You are unmovable. You are higher than me! Lead me into Your presence!”

Work hard on resting!

Depression is nothing short of spiritual warfare. Whenever you’re battling, be sure to get plenty of sleep. Medical studies show… well you already know that. Turn on worshipful music and soak in God’s presence. Commune with Him in your spirit. Sleep. Dream. Wake up. Repeat. Work hard to make time to get in God’s presence and rest. You will win more ground reclining with your pillow and Bible than you will trying to fix the problems yourself (Hebrews 11:4). Pay close attention to your dreams during this time. Often the Lord will reveal the cause of depression and show you how to become free.

Pray a simple prayer.

Of course it’s equally important to read the Word, but it’s hard to really receive the Word when one is in such emotional turmoil. Read something simple and easy to contain. When it comes to prayer, it’s best to whisper a simple “Lord, I trust You.” This might have been the only prayer I prayed regarding my divorce for at least a year. I didn’t have enough faith or understanding in the matter to pray God’s will, so I just said those words. If you just don’t know what to do, just tell the Lord you trust Him. Job said “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” You may not understand the “slaying” but it will be for your good.

Make the trade.

God has a special place in His heart for those who experience deep emotion, but depression and sadness aren’t what He has in mind. Isaiah 61:3 offers a promises for those who mourn. He will give beauty in place of ashes (loss, death, grief), oil of joy for mourning, and a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Even now I can see some of you shouting and dancing! His plan is to establish us as trees of righteousness for HIS Glory. People will stop and notice the difference in you. Beauty, joy, and praise sound pretty good to me right about now. My pastor always says, “If you need joy, leap for it!”

I would be remissed to say these are the ONLY ways to deal with depression. By all means, if you are overwhelmed, cutting, abusing yourself or others, suicidal (been there too), or homicidal, SEEK HELP! Counseling and medication are tools that God gives us to cope, but they will NOT replace the need for Him in our lives. I would also strongly advise seeking a deliverance ministry that can assist in getting you free from any generational curses and demonic strongholds. We try to humanize the issue, but the fact of the matter is that there’s a devil out there who wants you dead, or at the very least, alive and miserable. Let’s put him back in his place!

Finally, I just wanna say… oh wow, how do I say this… that one scripture– He doesn’t give us more than we can bear– that’s not for our trials. That scripture pertains to temptation. Yes, God will allow Satan to kill off your family, destroy your property, give you leprosy, while keeping your big-mouthed spouse in perfect health to nag you. Ask Job. And, yes, God will allow your disobedient behind to be swallowed by a whale and the kelp to wrap around your head while billows wash over you. Ask Jonah. He’ll even allow your sweet, innocent 20-something self to be thrown into a fire for the musings of the wicked. Ask the three Hebrew boys. So there’s that. Trials and tribulations can certainly be too much for us, but His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corithians 2:9).

Then there’s the Scripture about His yoke being easy and His burden being light– I don’t know what to do with that yet. Y’all pray for me.

 

With love, sincerity, and hope for your FREEDOM!!

 

Alana

Photo credit: Creative Commons License Snake3yes via Compfight

 

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Being Saved, Dating & Relationships, Uncategorized

Gossip: The Great Friendship Divider

You remember that episode of Everybody Hates Chris when Tonya hears all the juicy gossip at the hair salon, then repeats it at home? Then on her next visit she’s left alone with the cackling hens who pull just enough family information out of her to start a few rumors about her own family?

Ahhh yes…

Those were the days. My mom and aunts would sit around the table and repeat tales from funny and mundane to supremely intimate and shaming. They would spell out the n-a-u-g-h-t-y words, but my cousins and I were far from clueless. We’d walk right up to our moms, place our little hands on their thighs, and say “You mean she let his a-s-s back in after he did all that?”

I’m not sure if our parents wanted to laugh at our precociousness, or cry at the possibility of our repeating what we’d heard in the presence of the gossipees. We were quickly ushered out of the room and the thigh slapping and hushed voices resumed. Occasionally someone would throw their hands up, head back and squawk out “CHIIIILLLLLEEEEE!” Then we’d laugh.

But like I said, those were the days– when gossip didn’t sting.

I can no longer say the same, I’ve been the butt end of some ugly gossip. Some truths were floating around, but many more were lies. So far I’ve had an affair with a gentleman who was my boss. I’ve told kids their parents were going to hell because they went to a certain church. And I was a lying, controlling she-devil in my marriage. Well part of that is true, but just a little part.

People talk, and as most of us mature, we learn to ignore what the masses say. But when our friend are starting or participating in the conversation…….. you know what that’s like.  Here’s what the Word says about gossiping.

  1. Gossip separates the closest of friends. Undoubtedly some of us have friends and family we’d lay our lives down to save, but at the same time, we know better than to tell them a hint of our personal struggles. WHY? Because if they’re not judging, they’re repeating. And if they’re not repeating,  they’re constantly bringing up your past wrongs. And if they’re not bringing up past wrongs, they’re telling you how to fix yourself. I shared some personal information with someone I hold dear and could tell by the conversation with a mutual friend that the information had been repeated. I wasn’t surprised because I knew these folk gossiped about others every time they sat around a table, but I was still hurt by her decision to expose something so personal. Now the closeness we had is broken, and though I can share some things, the areas where I need help the most I am essentially uncovered. Whether you’re sharing gossip about your friend or listening in, it will separate you. If your friendships are God-ordained, count the costs before parting your lips.
  2. Trustworthy people conceal a matter. In that same situation I assumed that I was closer to the person than the others she talked about. NO ONE, and I mean no one, is more important to a gossip than him or herself. A person who tells other’s private matters has a need to feel validated and so instead of confessing their faults to a brother in Christ, he confesses someone else’s faults. The old adage is true. “A dog that will bring a bone will carry one.” If you truly love your friend, then your love for them will cover their sins, and they will do the same for you.
  3. Your prayer can fix your friend’s problem. Have you ever noticed that when your friends pray for you things happen more quickly? I’ve got a good friend down in Alabama that asked me to pray about financial increase. I did, and by his next pay period his boss had given him a raise without even telling him first. When I’ve confessed my needs and shortcomings to caring and consistent folk, and they’ve prayed with and for me, things changed (almost immediately in some cases). If the circumstance itself didn’t change, then God gave me grace to withstand the hardship. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous FRIEND avails much for the person in need.

If you’ve been guilty of gossiping apologize to those you hurt. If you’ve been talked about, be willing to forgive but ask the Lord to send you some friends you can trust. Let’s seek to be reconciled in our friendships, close our mouths to gossip, open our mouths to encouragement and prayer, and close the divide…

And next time the gossip bug bites, remember someone knows some dirt on you too…

Selah.

 

With love, sincerity, and hope for your future,

 

Alana

 

 

Photo credit:  Taylor Dawn Fortune via Compfight

Being Saved, Being Single, Dating & Relationships, Fine Oil Initiative

“Mis”-Takes We Make: An Excerpt from Late Nights on the Straight & Narrow

I wanted to share another excerpt from my e-book Late Nights on the Straight & Narrow. This short piece below describes some of the dating “mis”-takes Christians make because of our tendency to be naive.
So he or she wasn’t automatically disqualified. GREAT!!! But if you’re wise, you’ll guard yourself against making some of the same “mis”-takes you’ve made in the past.

  1. “Mis”-taking spiritual gifts and natural gifts or callings for maturity. I have made this error more than any other. We must take our time to discern if a person is operating a spiritual gift out of intimacy with the Lord or simply talent and ability. What’s slightly more confounding is that the presence of God will come in through a soiled preacher because the Word itself has power. Just because the message is good, doesn’t mean the messenger is. If you’re very spiritual but weak emotionally, the enemy will continually set this trap for you.
  2. Failure to notice his or her fixed availability. I was in an ongoing email conversation with a fella for a few days, but I failed to acknowledge that he only emailed me really early in the morning or really late at night. This is a sign that a person is involved and attempting to make you a side piece without your knowing. If you’re put on a schedule, then you’ve been “mis”-taken for someone silly and unintelligent. Most single folks will openly tell you that they’re single. If someone skirts around the issue, beware!
  3. Believing that he or she really is a “private” person. What kind of person would keep your fine, smart self a secret? None other than one who plays the field and hopes to God that you dare not write “Hey boo!” on his or her Facebook wall. There’s a gaping chasm between being hush-hush and being discreet. You really can’t confuse the two. If you feel like a dirty, little secret, you probably are.
  4. Being too available. Set apart some time to talk to your potential, but don’t open your schedule completely to the person. Even when you do chat, measure out your time. End the conversation when it becomes dry, a more pressing need arises, or an hour is approaching…. whichever comes first.
  5. Waiting too long to pray “Thy will be done.” We want so badly to hope that whoever is present is the one because waiting becomes tiresome. But as soon as we’re hooked into conversations about the future, soul ties begin to form and it becomes harder to break away. Before going too far, ask the Lord to remove him or her if their intentions towards you are ungodly. I call this a “right-mind” prayer, and it has saved me LOTS of heartache.
  6. We’re carried away by whims. Or Biblically speaking, drawn away by our own lusts…. Be deliberate about the choices you make. If you decide to go on the date, make sure it serves a purpose other than relieving boredom. It’s far too easy to get swept away by emotion, but make every choice as if the Lord will have you answer for it. Just remember that nobody’s perfect… not even you!

 

This is just a small portion of what the Lord gave me to write. If you’ve read all the dating advice and books, but you’re still left wanting, Late Nights on the Straight and Narrow is for YOU! I’m brutally honest about my own faults, yet I speak to those deep heart issues that manifest themselves in our poor choices. You are not alone in this quest. Let God’s love speak to you from this text.

To purchase a copy of my e-book, simply make a donation of $5 or more via the PayPal option on the right column. I’ll email you a copy ASAP.

 

With love, sincerity, and hope for your future,

 

Alana

 

Being Saved, Being Smart, Dating & Relationships, Fine Oil Initiative, Uncategorized

In school I was a beast… neeeever failed a test. Really I never earned a grade below a B. I’d do my little nerd duties, i.e., pay attention in class, take good notes, tutor my friends, study if I didn’t know it, but for the most part high school was a breeze. I never had to conquer academic failure.

Until I took the driving test… Listen. This is the first time I’m telling this story. And I’m not talking about the actual “driving” test. I’m talking about the multiple choice test you take that cuts you off after you get 3 or so questions wrong. Yeah, I failed it. My little cocky behind read through the book a few times but didn’t learn a THANG! My heart was so heavy that I didn’t test again for another year. I was ashamed. Embarrassed. Humiliated at my little secret. Please don’t tease me. That question about which way to turn the wheels when you’re parked on a hill is confusing. You probably got it wrong too.

That silly, little failure held me down for quite some time. But since high school graduation, I’ve had to grapple with real life struggles and their corresponding failures. While I was busy learning stoichiometry and projectile motion in science classes, I wasn’t learning the velocity (speed and direction) at which I should run when those freaky college football players approached. And while I analyzed poetry and prose for imagery, tone, and literary devices, I wasn’t learning how to communicate my thoughts with respect and kindness for others. And while I sat in my advanced math classes, I wasn’t learning how to manage my money.

Honestly I’d forgotten about the driving test scenario but forgetting and recovering are two totally different things. I discovered a few months back that some of my fellow nerds had the same challenge… *does shouting dance for not being the only book nerd without a learner’s permit at 15* What a joy to find I am not alone!

Wouldn’t it be grand to have life, REAL life, measured on the same scale as those silly objective tests we had in school? No? For me, absolutely. Because, here I am, divorced. Single mom of two. Trying haaard to live for Christ. With a new job. In a new place. Just had a car accident. Money tighter than ever. Looking for a church fam. Praying for new friends.

I. Am. Failing.

I laid on my face a few mornings ago and cried out to God specifically about my struggles. Then I got up to wash my face, and He spoke. (Oh, I love how He lets you get the frustration out, but I’ve learned He woke speak on the matter until we’re settled in our faith to BELIEVE Him. I had to quiet my emotions so I could hear.)

If you can learn to endure failure, you will pass the test.

This was after a gentle reminder about Peter– the brother we judge so harshly for denying Christ. Yet I’m not so sure I could stand in a test like that. But somehow after Peter screwed up he got himself together and was promoted while everyone else remained a disciple (Mark 16:7).

It’s not easy to always do the right thing. Sometimes the right thing isn’t cut and dry. Other times we walk into trouble eyes wide open. But after the fact, what we thought we’d try or might have been okay has left it’s sinful, burdening residue on us. And we feel like trash. Peter had to have felt like premium garbage when the cock crowed. But he didn’t join Judas on the tree…

So I’m learning, not so much the answers to the test, but strategies to pass it. I’ll test a concept here and there, and should I fail, I keep going. Because life doesn’t end after the paycheck runs out. And the week you put on an extra pound, you don’t become unattractive. And should you slide down that slippery slope of sexual desire, God doesn’t change His mind on whether He’ll give you a mate.

I’d like to hear from my readers.
Was there a time or situation in which you kept failing, but eventually came out on top?
Or maybe there’s something you’re struggling with now, but you’ve found a few ways to avoid failure.
How do you overcome after suffering the consequences of a bad choice?

 

 

With love, sincerity, and hope for your future,

 

Alana

 

Being Saved, Being Smart, Uncategorized

I get so annoyed with the “blessed and highly favored” response church folks use to answer to a simple “How are you?” It comes loaded with a sense of self-righteousness, entitlement, snobbery, and a good dose of deceitfulness. Ma’am, just because you’re wearing a suit and hat from the Churchgirl Boutique does not mean you’re favored by God. Same thing goes for you, Mr. Pointy-toe Shoe Wearer. It’s foolish to brag on something that we can’t provide for ourselves. I haven’t always had God’s favor in my life, but I noticed a change two years ago, and again in the last six months. favor has really begun to overtake me.

How do I  know? My prayers are answered almost immediately. Then when I’m out and about, people bless me with things that I specifically ask God for— not with a bunch of stuff they don’t want, but with their time, their help, resources. They don’t know why they’re giving it, but they turn around, look at me, and pass it right on. And I can do nothing but praise Him in that moment!

Here’s I’ve learned about favor through my process of having none to really enjoying its perks.

Favor is a natural response to our obedience to God and His Word.

For many years things were going wrong for me. I seldom received blessings but always prayed for them, so I prayed and asked the Lord to show me why I wasn’t being blessed. Not too long thereafter I drove past a very nice car with a young woman inside. Her license plate read “Obdnt1”. OBEDIENT ONE!!! You’d think I would have been more aware of my heart’s condition, but I had really forgotten about the man I was sleeping with against God’s commands. How deceitful our hearts can be! Jesus said “If you love me, keep my commandments.” The fact of the matter is sin is ugly to God and when we partake in it, we become ugly spiritually and soulishly. Whether we’d like to admit it or not, people respond negatively to this ugliness, and our lives cannot be blessed when our hearts are far away from God.

When you start to favor God just as a child favors his parent, people will favor you.

One of the coolest things about watching a child grow is seeing how their personality and features change over time. Children start to FAVOR one parent and as a result draw the attractions of those who favored that parent. When Little Leroy starts looking like Big Leroy, momma loves on him all the more along with daddy and granny and Big Leroy’s cousins. As I walked through a grocery store one day, the Lord spoke to me softly and said “The reason you have favor on your life is because you favor Me.” In other words, because I’ve started to favor Him, i.e., act like Him and think like Him, His grace and beauty is ON me. People are ALWAYS attracted to God’s beauty whether they know it or not. That’s why I can stand in line behind someone and they pass me a stack of coupons or pay for my entire cart of party food or give me extras without my asking. When you carry the presence of the Lord, or’s become and’s. People are drawn to God ON you and show favor…. even when they don’t want to!

Favor causes the blessings of the Lord to overtake you.

I received a prophetic word in 2010 saying that blessings would trickle in at first, but over time would rush out and overtake me. I’m beginning to see the overtaking. Not only have I moved and been assigned a job that I love, I’ve also been asked to contribute to an international project, co-author a science skills book, edit a text by a friend, and continued in several other projects. These opportunities are blessings and there are so many (I still want more) that I’m overwhelmed by the impact of them!   God’s Word says Deuteronomy 28:2 “all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God.” All which blessings? Read the rest of Deuteronomy 28 to find out!

The scripture says that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature AND in favor with God and man, and He did so by hearing and obeying the voice of the Father. If we want to be overtaken with God’s blessings– and you should want this– then do the simple things you already know to do. Read your Bible. Pray. Open your heart and mind to receive from Him. Accept the fact that the way you may be doing things is wrong and allow Him to change you from the inside out.

Love God for who He is, and not for the benefits that He gives, and favor will cover and lead your life.

 

With love, sincerity, and hope for your future,

 

Alana

Side note: Just thinking of the many ways we use the word favor… Party favors and wedding favors are given as a “something to remember us by.” When you enter a room does your presence cause those around you to experience or recall what they know of God? You are (or should be) Heaven’s party favor!!! LOL!

Being Saved, Dating & Relationships, Uncategorized

Recovering from Infidelity: Three Myths & Corresponding Truths

It happens. Somewhere along the line someone (or two) stepped out of the bounds of a relationship and made a connection elsewhere. Whether that connection was emotional, physical, or sexual matters very little because trust has been betrayed. The commitment is broken. Faith is lost. Love itself hangs onto the side of a city skyscraper while anger threatens to crush love’s fingers under its steel-toe boots– or pointy stilettos.

I don’t make light of these matters. Having been cheated on and done some cheating myself, I know full well what the consequences entail. In a marriage, infidelity is devastating. To have someone you give your life to step out and betray that bond…. words can’t express. Honestly, it’s what I feared most in life. When it happened, I thought I’d die. But here I am kicking and nearly ready to love again…. Shando!

In courtships and engagements, the consequences are less severe, but the pain is just as real. We wonder if the cheater ever really loved us. We try to figure out where things went wrong. Can we can fix it? Can we cause equal pain in return? Very few of us are resolved to totally walk away if someone cheats. If we do, we didn’t really love that person all that much in the first place which makes for easier recovery. But what if we’ve invested time, energy, money, promises, sex (oops!)? It’s not so easy to let go! Instead we dance the line between forgiving and despising. We want to make things work, but we’re wounded and unable to trust even though we want to.

I guarantee if you’ve been the cheatee, you’ve been told or thought these three things which I call myths. And of course, I tack on a bit of truth.

Myth #1: It’s all the cheater’s fault.

Our best friends and family will often tell us it’s not our fault. No, we can’t make a person be faithful to us, but we must consider if our actions contributed to their desire to step out. Long before infidelity creeps into a relationship a lack of respect and/or dishonesty reared its head. OR something changed in the relationship. Many times young Christian couples will start a relationship in the worst kind of way. Boy and girl are so strongly attracted to each other that sex becomes a regular part of the courtship, but before long one party (usually the woman) feels guilty and wants to do things the right way. By this time the man is used to having sex AND has formed a soul tie, so he can’t figure out why it should end. Trouble ensues. Who’s to blame here? Just the cheater? That’s hardly true or even fair. Yes, the sex should stop if you want a Godly relationship, but we must realize if we’ve contributed to someone else’s bad decision and ask forgiveness from God for ourselves particularly if you knew better. I’ve been in this sinking ship a few times over now.

There are cases, however, where one party does everything in his or her power to take care of their mates needs, yet the person is still unfaithful. In this case, both are still to blame. The truth, at the very foundation, is that the cheatee chose the wrong person. Get out, get healed, and choose better next time. *pops self on hand*

Truth: Both parties play a role in cheating. The cheatee may be guilty of neglect, unkindness, or changing of his/her mind. When issues arise and BEFORE infidelity occurs, each individual needs to decide whether the relationship should be continued with changes or ended. If you want something the person is unwilling to give, then why remain? Show the other party some respect and make the choice that’s right for you. If you love each other and are struggling with sex, then take your butts to the church and inquire about marriage. If you part ways, that’s fine too. Next time around, do what’s right from the beginning.

 

Myth #2: Breaking up is the only option.

When I suffered my first (known) case of infidelity I went to a counselor and she told me to consider staying. I’d just had a baby and was in school full-time, so while I was taking care of my small children and getting a degree there really wasn’t a need to run out the door. What good would it do? Who would it benefit? She counseled me  to stay and to try to win him over to the family lifestyle. I tried. Didn’t work, BUT at least I gave it a shot.

If you truly love a person and love what you’ve built together, then it’s worth taking a step back and considering whether you should go or remain. The Bible does clearly state that sexual infidelity is grounds for divorce, but it doesn’t say you HAVE to divorce. As far as courtships go… well… how can I put this? If I can’t trust you now, I probably won’t be able to later. Just the same, be Spirit led. One false step does not always indicate a bad person, but there are character issues present. And who doesn’t have those? Chances are God didn’t put you with a person who’s cheating. We make those kinds of choices on our own. Timing is also an issue. Don’t say the words until you’re ready to follow through. Too often we speak out of feeling or from what we want only to realize later that we’re unable to follow through. This goes for breaking up and staying together.

Truth: Whether you choose to stay or go should NOT be an emotional decision. Be quiet and still until God directs, and then obey.

 

Myth #3: They’re indebted to you.

We read stories about how valiant knights would slay the dragons for a princess before even casting his gaze upon her. The long and short of it for 21st century is this… People ain’t about that life anymore! Oh how I’d love a man to vanquish my foes, but alas, I don’t have one that will and if I asked up front, I’d never make a fella mine. Lol. I fight big battles, you understand. Still, ladies and gentlemen, we find ourselves feeling that the other party owes us something when the cheating becomes discovered. And perhaps they do… in marriage they certainly do! But there comes a point where we must choose to forgive, i.e. cancel any real or perceived debt or obligation. And after we forgive, we stay or let go.

At the end of the end of the end of my marriage, I was advised to give my soon-to-be ex-husband some tasks to complete before I would consider reopening my heart to him. I did. You know the end of it, but honestly, he didn’t really need to do any of the things I asked because my mind was already made up. Was it wrong of me to ask? Not really because he insisted on proving his worth… (I’m trying hard not to laugh here.) Outside of a marriage relationship, I strongly feel that it is wrong to make a relationship conditional. “If you do these three things no matter how bad you hate it, we can get back together.” No no no! This creates unnecessary damage. Decide that you’re either going to reconcile and take steps together to move forward (agreed upon conditions) or part ways. If-then ultimatums are manipulative and damaging to both parties. If a person truly loves you, he or she will prove it without your requests or demands.

Truth: Some debts are better left unpaid. Forgiveness is not optional, so start there. Unless you’re married, conditions for reconciliation are NOT the way to go. You’re only hurting yourself more by expecting what someone else may be unwilling or unable to provide. Love is best expressed of its own accord. 1 John 4:18 says “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” If you’re afraid of what will happen, seek God’s love first, then the outcome of the relationship won’t matter.

 

I write this for my friends that I love dearly, and for those of you I don’t know, that I love dearly. We are losing love because we make bad choices from the start and make worse ones during! Einstein says you can’t solve a problem with the same mindset you used to create it. The sooner we let go of these fallacies, the quicker we will find healing.

Selah.

What’s worse than losing love is that we’re damaging each other. Our selfish motives and self-righteous attitudes deepen the scares that both parties feel. If I could go back in time, I probably wouldn’t have done anything differently because of the depth of the hurt, but going forward, being matured in Christ’s love, I know that NOTHING can separate me from Him. It’s time Christian folks put away selfishness, receive the Lord’s love, and pour it out on each other the way He intended.

 

With love, sincerity, and hope for your future,

 

Alana

Photo credit: Creative Commons License dustyrhodes2012 via Compfight

Being Saved, Dating & Relationships, Uncategorized

Climax

There is a point in intimacy that marks the the height of pleasure and the knitting of two souls. The satisfaction of pressing in is granted.

Sometimes in my car. Sometimes at the table. In my bed. In the kitchen. Who knows when the Bridegroom will come and request my expression of love? I’ve waited so long for love like this, I could never deny Him. And so I slip into something more comfortable– my garment of praise.

And I sing to Him. He loves when I sing. He tells me what He desires to hear, and I flow from one tune to another. I used to cry in these moments, but lately I’ve laughed more. He has an incredible sense of humor. The praise becomes worship, and the air around me changes. It smells of fine oil and carries a charge that makes my hair stand on end.

I feel His glory surround me. And fill me. I’m afraid to open my eyes because I cannot become distracted and lose Him. The invisible God is in my space, loving me, wooing me, leading me into a dance.

And I feel His pressure against my chest. And for what seems like too long, I can’t breathe. The hair follicles on my head do a dance. You can’t tell me He’s not playing in my hair (2 Solomon 2:6). And at the same time, He’s reaching the deepest part of my being, my spirit. No man can go that far.

And I tremble. I become rigid and weak in my attempt to catch my breath. I’ve climaxed, and Heaven has worshiped with me. And unlike what we know physically, this climax can last.

And last.

And last.

I can’t stand for the pleasure to end, but life has its demands. And so like a blushing bride, I gather myself so others won’t know I’ve just… you know… made love. And I go back to my daily tasks, still humming the tune that drew Him near, anticipating when I can be alone with Him again.

My beloved is mine and I am his! (Song of Solomon 2:16)

What I’ve recently learned is that every time I worship Him in this way, I leave carrying a seed inside of me. Sometimes it’s a new assignment or a burden of prayer or an endowment of joy or peace. He gives me what I need.

 Like the lily among thorns, so are you, my love, among the daughters. (Song of Solomon 2:2)

How could I not love Him?

Photo credit:  Tony Seneadza via Compfight