Being Single, Being Smart, Fine Oil Initiative, Uncategorized

More God in 2013: Five Ways to Make Room for Him

“New year, new rules, new regulations!” that’s what my Grandfather used to say. Every year to his children. So I’ve been told.

I’ve made a list of the things I’d like to accomplish this year, and I noticed one thing. Everything I’m lacking going into 2013 can be resolved if I make more room for the Lord in my life. Think about it. The areas where we struggle most are the areas that we’ve submitted the least to God. What’s more is that it’s NOT His will for us to continue to struggle. But He is limited because we do not grant Him access.

Here’s are five simple ways you can be more successful in achieving your goals whether you start tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day.

  1. Dedicate the first three days of every month or one day a week to fasting. Limit your diet during this time, and focus on feeding your spirit through reading and meditating on the Word. Spend at least 5 minutes in prayer a few times throughout the day. Also turn off social media, television, radio, email, and your phone to the most feasible extent. Your goal is to hear from the Lord during this time. Let Him share what’s on HIS heart.
  2. Take communion daily with family during dinner. Or weekly. You don’t have to wait until the fifth Sunday at church. Matza bread and grape juice are sold on the Kosher aisle of your local grocery store, but you already have bread and water in your kitchen. Communion should be a solemn and worshipful experience. Before coming to the table to partake examine yourself. As you partake of the bread and wine, meditate on how Christ’s death paid the price for every single one of your needs for peace, provision, and health. (Disclaimer: If you’re willingly living in sin, don’t do this. 1 Corinthians 11 tells us why.)
  3. Memorize a new Scripture every week. While you’re memorizing be sure to meditate as well (Joshua 1:8). Choose something relevant to your life experience and make a conscious effort to share it with others in a casual way. Placing sticky notes around the house will help with this. You can also use a dry erase marker to write keywords on your bathroom mirrors.
  4. Give financially OUTSIDE of your church. We tend to give so much of our money to the church we have nothing left for alms. Follow your convictions regarding tithing and such, but purpose in your heart to be a blessing to people you pass who are in need. Help someone pay for their groceries when you’re standing in line. When you’ve come back from Costco, call up someone you know is struggling and offer them some food. God will provide for YOU! It is our duty as a church to provide for the poor.
  5. Master the art of silent prayer. I know many are against the idea of contemplative prayer, but we can’t all shout and say “Lord God” after every three words. I don’t know about you but I face challenges every ten minutes on the eights. Learn to commune with the Lord in your spirit. As believers we should be able to quiet our minds enough to hear from God even in crazy situations. But practice makes perfect.

I know your Facebook friends are telling you that you can lose weight if only you had more discipline, or you can manage your money better if you tithe, but start here. Let the Lord guide your path. Make room for Him and everything else will fall into place.

Selah.

 

With love, sincerity, and hope for your future,

 

Alana

Photo credit: Creative Commons License Christian Holmér 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 Single, Dating & Relationships, Uncategorized

The Swoon Factor: My Most Memorable Kiss

I love random SMS conversations. But today, this one took me by surprise…

Flex: Could you be with someone that you didn’t enjoy kissing? 

Me: Absolutely not! 

Flex: Just making sure I wasn’t crazy.
Me: But I would try a few times to see if it gets better.
Flex: Yeah, I would.  But if I CONSISTENTLY don’t like it…nah lol.
Me: Totally agree… 
Flex: So you wanna kiss me or nah? 
Me: X______X (I didn’t actually text this, but my eyes did cross.)
Flex: I kid I kid lol

That short (hilarious) exchange did two things for me. First, it sent me into a fit of laughter thinking about my friend being poorly kissed by a well-meaning, passionate, but unskilled woman. Can’t you see her closing her eyes, leaning in, tilting her head, and seductively pouting only to smoosh his nose in and chomp down on his lips? Second, it made me think about a few kisses I’ve had over the years. As we all know, 2012 has been relatively dry in the kissing department, so I had to dig deep to really reflect on the matter. (The things I do for you people… psssh…)

Some of ye olde kisses were awkwardly pleasant. Others were forceful and unenjoyable. Some I have to dig deep to even remember though at the time I was having a swoon-fest. But one kiss really stands out in my mind for all the right reasons.

Oh, how I wish I could describe the mechanics of this kiss, but Lord knows you super churchy folk would get all  up tight at the mention of kisses that don’t land on foreheads or cheeks. And this kiss was smack dab on the lips. There was suction. There was swooning. There were no consequential actions that led us into sin or regret. The kiss simply communicated “I care about you. I understand you. I value you as a person. Thank you for being you.”

Outside of the fullness of the fella’s lips– *dodges rebukes*– I can pinpoint three factors that contributed to the swoon factor.

  1. We were incredible friends, and I just didn’t expect it.
  2. He was respectful enough to ask but charming enough to not make it sound like he was asking.
  3. His kiss wasn’t a demonstration of other activities he might have wanted to do with me.

Immediately following this seven-second smooch, I turned my back towards him, crumpled to my knees, and fell flat on my face— in my mind, of course. In real life, I zombie-walked away in complete and utter shock. Once I was alone I smirked and giggled like a fool.

Many of us are far too careless with our kisses. For some that may look like kissing too many people or not kissing the one you claim to love enough. For others, we fail to communicate what matters most in such an intimate moment, and that is your respect and admiration for the person of interest.  We can’t be so careless to communicate our demands in hopes that the other party will be moved (coerced– whatever) to fulfill our desires. And selfish kisses are worse than bad breath kisses for one reason, and one reason only.  They’re totally forgettable.

[quote] “The mouth is made for communication, and nothing is more articulate than a kiss.” ― Jarod Kint[/quote]

Next time you want to make someone swoon, remember respect and compassion will help you win the cause, but at the very least, you won’t be forgotten.

With love, sincerity, and pack of Chap Stick,

Alana

 

Photo credit: LicenseAttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by _Zahira_

Being Saved, Being Smart, Uncategorized

4 Ways to Align Your Vision with Your Purpose

Take a journey in your mind back to the first time you saw a rainbow. Maybe it was in the sky after the devil beat his wife. Or maybe it was on an oil slick under your dad’s car. Or maybe at your grandmother’s house when light pierced through a prism in the room and showed its true colors on the wall. Whatever the context, whatever the experience… we’ve all seen a rainbow.

By the time we made it fifth grade, we we served a half-crafted explanation of what caused those colors to emerge from white light, and then again in high school science, and possibly again college depending on your major. How’d we remember it again? Ahhh yes… ROYGBIV– the visible spectrum.

Here’s what your teacher didn’t tell you. The visible spectrum comprises only 0.0035% of all light. That’s 99.9965% of what we know to be light is UNSEEABLE to your eyes! Three (known) classifications of light reside below the visible and three more above visible. In addition we observe light in different ways. We hear radio waves, see visible, and feel infrared as heat.

Rainbow in my handLaurence & Annie via Compfight

Too much science? Ok… I’ll get to the point. Better yet I’ll ask a (non)rhetorical question.

If I can’t see it, that means it doesn’t exist… right?

We tend to look at our life situations in the natural (visible) and perceive them to be reality, and therefore truth. I don’t think we’re even aware of other “lights” that may reveal solutions to our problems, answers to our dilemmas, and guidance for our uncertainties. So consider for a moment the challenge you’re facing– you aren’t seeing everything. In fact, what you see is most likely NOT even a factor in the grand scheme of things. Do you realize how negligible 0.00035% is?!

Take this flower, for instance. In visible light this flower is solid yellow, but through a UV filter we see the flower as more of a target– or BULLS EYE! This is what the hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees see when buzzing about their business. They have one mission in life– to pollinate.

And so their vision is perfectly aligned with their purpose. Is yours?

uv flower

Photo credit: kds315 on Flickr

No? Mine isn’t either. We have Adam to thank for that. Because of our sin nature we have to fill ourselves with the Word just to use our faith enough to pray on a matter. And if we’re using that faith effectively, then we’re praying what we cannot SEE (Hebrews 11:1) but certainly exists!

Proverbs 25:2 say “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing, but the glory of kings is to search out a thing.” Your purpose may be hidden, but it’s time to start seeking. Your purpose may be revealed, but if your vision is limited or clouded (as a British colleague would say), “Get the muck out of your eyes!”

Here are three simple ways to continually align your vision with your purpose.

  1. Acknowledge your limitations. You don’t know everything. Everything you see/feel/think/have an opinion on CAN’T possibly be right. Ask the Lord to show you the blind spots. Instead of becoming defensive when the Word challenges you, yield to it and allow the Lord to change your heart and mind.
  2. Take some time away from social media, and maybe even people. Our world is noisy. You can’t hear from God completely when your mind is occupied with everything BUT Him. Sometimes, maybe even once a month (week), turn off the TV, cell phone, and social media. Just hear from Him. Read your Word, pray, and rest. HE WILL SPEAK! And you will be better positioned to recognize His voice. He may even show you more through dreams and visions. YES! THEY ARE FOR TODAY! You just have to open yourself to receive from Him.
  3. Read a different version of the Bible. I’m partial to Amplified version, but I found that when I’m tired or overly occupied I can’t digest Scripture as well as I’d like. So I got a bright idea… check out The Message. And I did!! I do feel some meat is missing, but if you’re already familiar with the particular Scripture it’s nice to read it in a conversational tone. The Message Bible has GREATLY added to my understanding on those particular chapters in Romans when Paul has my eyes crossing. My little You Version app is highlighted to pieces. 🙂
  4. Sanctify your senses. Light can be measured in a MYRIAD of ways! Scientists have known this for years, but we’ve failed to apply it in a spiritual sense. Hebrews 5:14 says “But solid food is for full-grown men, for those whose senses and mental faculties are trained by practice to discriminate and distinguish between what is morally good and noble and what is evil and contrary either to divine or human law.” Through fasting, prayer, reading the Word, and yielding to the Spirit, you can discern through ALL of your senses!

When our vision is aligned with our God-given purpose, we can see and hit the target He’s set for us.

With love, sincerity, and hope for your future,

 

Alana

 

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