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, Uncategorized

Before You Pay Another Bill, Do THIS!

[quote]And taking the five loaves and two fish, He looked up to heaven and, praising God, gave thanks and broke the loaves and kept on giving them to the disciples to set before the people; and He also divided the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied. Mark 6:41-42[/quote]

In my last post I wrote about how bread is for provision, and seed is for sowing. I heard this teaching a few years ago, but really only started implementing it last year, and even then, sporadically. Now that I find myself leaning more heavily on the Lord for provision, I follow these THREE simple steps whenever I sit down to pay my bills.

  1. Acknowledge the Lord’s Presence. We think God is unconcerned with our menial tasks, but in fact, if it matters to us then it matters to Him. He ain’t pouring out blessings all willy nilly just because you lopped off the first tenth and dropped it in the velvet lined offering basket. You can’t write God off! Before you pay another bill, take a moment, look up to Heaven and acknowledge Him. He’s a personal God, not a creditor! And all your money is His anyway, so of course He wants to be involved.
  2. Give Him thanks and praise. No matter how big or small the loaf, thank God you have it! I know those hundreds add up before long, but at least it’s in the bank. Some bills might be left unpaid for now, but thank Him for the needs that are currently being met and for those He WILL meet in time. Looking at the crowd, there was no way five loaves and two fish should have fed them. Surely if God can multiply such a meager meal, He can do so for your bills.
  3. Break the bread, i.e. pay the bill. Not to get goofy, but I really will lift up my bank card or checkbook before I start typing in those sacred digits. I call this an act of faith. No, it’s not a literal piece of bread that I would break and pass to my homies to feed the masses. But my bank card does represent the provision that God has given me, and the total amount to which it is connect will, in essence, be broken down. So one bill after another is paid, and between each, I just take the time to thank Him. He really does love a thankful heart.

I see the difference. At first, I was going solely on faith, but now I’m seeing the difference in our living. By all accounts I should be 6 feet deep in debt, but I can testify that my freezer and fridge are full, my car has gas, and the heat and lights are on in my apartment!

Ayyyeeee, I won’t complain!

 

With love, sincerity, and hope for your financially blessed future,

 

Alana

 

Corey Holms via Compfight

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 …

  • If this article has blessed you in any way, please Re-tweet and Share on Facebook. 
  • Share your comments below.
  • Check out my book Late Nights on the Straight & Narrow via the link.

 

With love, sincerity, and hope for your future,

 

Alana

Image courtesy of  rogiro via Compfight

 

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 Single, Being Smart, Dating & Relationships, Uncategorized

The Right Way to Go Dutch

Last week some time I watched a video where the speaker proposed that women should insist to pay for their own food the first date to test a man’s character. Ultimately, the man’s ego should kick in and he should pay. The speaker then said that if a woman really wanted to make a man want her, she should pay for the first 2 to 3 dates to say “You have to earn the right to pay for my food.”

Interesting, no? While I get his point and subscribe to the general theme of inquiring into a fella’s character, I feel like the tactic suggested is a little too game-y for my personality. Some of you more liberated women might feel comfortable doing this, but I’ll need to find out about his character in other ways. Plus I’m not going back and forth with anybody… Ain’t my cup of tea.

Am I saying I’m unwilling to pay for a date? ABSOLUTELY NOT! But under MY terms. I’m a  little more old school than most women my age. I date for the purposes of finding a potential mate, not so much for fun, but it does have to be fun if I am to continue. And if a fella can’t afford to date me, then he can’t afford to provide for me in marriage. Somebody just called me a gold digger, but it’s the same woman who entertains free-loading men, so ma’am, your opinion doesn’t count here.

So back to going Dutch… let’s look at how this thing could actually work…. or not.

 

“I pay for my order. You pay for yours.”

Between platonic friends, going Dutch is appropriate. But if there’s romantic interest involved, the gentleman pays UNLESS the woman has asked him out (which is another blog in and of itself). If a man wants to spend time with a quality lady then forking over some cash is not too much to ask. He should plan a date within his means (use Groupon & LivingSocial to up the quality) should she agree to go out with him. Why do I think this should happen? Well for one, a man’s money is close to his heart. If he won’t spend money on the her, then he values himself more than the time she’s shared with him. For the fellas– if you plan a date within your means (with her desires in mind, of course) and she is disagreeable, then she’s not a match for you or she’s there for the wrong reason.

This day in age when women are so liberated and men are so— ummm— like women, it might be a good idea to clear the air before you go out. Throw in a little jokey joke… “Oh, I love their grilled Mahi dish? Do I need to bring my own $15.99, or nah?” Fellas, if you believe a woman should pay for herself, then be bad enough to tell her before you go out. Don’t wait until the check arrives.

Might I also add that it doesn’t hurt, ladies, to pick up a portion of the date. After he whips out his Black card for my Mahi dish, I may offer to pay for dessert. Some guys are perfectly content for you to leave the tip. It doesn’t hurt to offer something, but don’t let your offering be misleading. I’m not a liberated woman. You, sir, must pay for my meal.

Split the bill.

The only thing I can imagine more disrespectful than a man asking me to pay for my own meal at the table is his asking me to split the bill evenly. This was on a movie, but I can’t recall the name. The woman ordered a salad, and the man ordered a Porterhouse. He demanded they split the bill 50/50 because it was only “fair”. I would have to put my sweet demeanor away if that ever happened to me. Even if my meal cost more than his, I feel something about it turns me the wrong way though I can’t put my finger on it. A friend of mine once commented that whenever she goes out, she orders according to the amount in her purse. Ladies, until we know a guy’s willing and able to “cover” us, this may be the smart thing to do.

A positive way to split the bill, however,  might involve planning in advance. I’ll pay for dinner, and you pay for the movies. You buy the groceries, and I’ll cook. Or you pay for this movie, and I’ll pay for the next one. A beautiful partnership can develop between two people when this approach is taken. It’s kinda like saying “I’m interested in spending time with you, and I’m perfectly capable and willing to share the cost to build this relationship.” I like this method for splitting the bill, but ONLY after I know a little about his character, and I actually LIKE him.

One out of four.

Ladies, if you’re continuing to see a person and things are blooming, then it’s a good idea to pay for a date every so often. You can either surprise him at the end of a meal, or ask him out after 2 or 3 successful dates. Tell him it’s your treat. Stay within your means and plan something you’ll both enjoy. If you’re a woman inclined to giving too much, then limit yourself on purpose. Mr. Ford was right. Once a fella knows you’re wrapped around his finger, you lose! Might I add, if you’re a great cook, then it might be a good time to show that off a little.

 

If you find dating burdensome financially or otherwise, then you might join me in sitting at home on Friday nights watching Netflix and tweeting til exhaustion sets in. Dating should be an expression of your freedom and maturity as an adult, not an activity that demands others to pass a test to keep moving forward. We all have our preferences, but there’s no sense in gaming and inciting a response when everything you need to know God will reveal.

Our methods for finding a match have become far too convoluted and messy. If we could just look back a few generations when love and marriages stood the test of time and find out WHY they did things a certain way, then we may be better off for it. Be transparent. Be truthful. Be respectful. Be Christlike.

What kind of love story would you want to tell your kids?  Think about that.

 

With love, sincerity, and hope for you future,

 

Alana

Featured photo by Creative Commons License Dan4th Nicholas via Compfight

Being Saved, Fine Oil Initiative, Uncategorized

Ninety Down: Flies in the Ointment

[dropcap style=”font-size: 45px; color: #55cfbb;”]I[/dropcap] hate flies.

They’re filthy, disgusting, annoying, and aggressive. Maybe it’s just where I live, but the flies in the burbs of Richmond will roll up on you, light up a cig, and blow the smoke in your face without thinking twice. And these nasty creatures–I’m not sure why God created them– were gathering at my back door.

Over 30 of these minuscule beasts were pressed against the glass panes buzzing “Give us us free.” They must’ve known I was coming for them because they hid in the blinds and soared around my apartment whenever I approached. And for an hour or so, the children and I took turns until every single fly revisited that window and disappeared into the swirling suction of my lavender vacuum cleaner hose.

Like any person with common sense, I looked for the source of the problem. There were no maggots in the trash can. (Thank goodness!) No gaps in the door. No gaps in the windows. I was at a loss…

…Until last week when I cleaned out the old clothes and toys from my daughter’s room. A foot to the left of her bed on the ceiling is a vent. Directly below the vent on the carpet– dead flies.

Nasty, filthy, stinking flies crept in unaware through an area that I had not considered because it was out of my reach. And because of my ignorance, a small swarm of flith-laden creatures had defiled our living spaces. (I thank God for the makers of Lysol and Clorox Anywhere Spray.)

And the old phrase, incomplete as it may seem, came to me…. “A fly in the ointment.”

Flies are attracted to anything with fragrance. They buzz around looking for the juiciest piece of fruit, hottest piece of chicken, or your finely-fragranced body butter. If we are diligent, we cover our wares and swat the flies away. But if we turn our backs for a moment, they contaminate, and something that was good just moments before ultimately gets tossed into the garbage.

And so it is with us, when we take on the lifestyle of a Christ-follower. We. Smell. Good. And the enemy knows he cannot get us to turn back to our life of sin, so he sends in the flies.

He sends in the annoying, the nit-picky, the continual harassment from people and circumstances. There’s a buzzing of my bank account on low, the texts from the guy who won’t kick rocks like I’ve asked him so many times, the forwarded emails with Tweety bird at the end!!! They all aggravate me to the point where I meditate on the wrong things, leaving my fragrance uncovered. Then the flies settle in making whatever beauty and grace I had completely distasteful and repulsive.

Aggravated. Frustrated. Exhausted.

 

[quote]Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour . (Ecclesiastes 10:1)[/quote]

 

A few flies have crept in over the past ninety days… By God’s grace I’ve found the sources and closed some of them. I’m cleaning out the remnants of disappointment and bitterness as I type. And I’ve managed to hide myself enough to discourage them from landing anywhere near me and mine. I’m guarding my heart and my mouth to no end.

So the bank account matter… I trust Him. The texts… Google Spam works wonders. The Tweety Bird forwards… Headed to the trash before they even seen my inbox. I’ve closed the vents.

Because what good is it for me to have suffered what I’ve suffered and lost what I’ve lost and gained what I’ve gained all unto God’s glory yet I bear a bad attitude and lack discretion? Why would I allow my precious relationship with Christ to become anything but by allowing small, nagging situations to enter and remain unchecked. We all have those rough days and weeks, but we cannot continually allow these matters to settle in our heart because they take away from the beautiful fragrance that God places on his people.

After all, flies aren’t the only ones attracted to us. So are the lost and the hurting. Who will embrace them if we don’t? And what hurting person ever seeks comfort from one who bears a bad attitude?

What negativity has been buzzing around you lately?
How can you be free close the vents even in situations where you have little control? 

 

With love, sincerity, and hope for your future,

 

Alana

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net