A life poured out: A daughter from the pool of the blessed working diligently to live according to her Father's plan. Mother, wife, sister, friend, daughter, mentor, example... leaving a lasting legacy of love, kindness and warmth.
We are in the days of deliberate choices. True dedication. Clear focus and commitment. We can no longer be complacent in our pursuit of Him who created the heavens and earth. We must do the work, walk the talk, live lives that speak of Him alone all our remaining days.
I know that is heavy, but it is true.
It is easy to think that when God is walking with us, we should have everything on a silver platter, but have you really looked at scripture? Who had an easy life in the Bible? Who did not have anything to give up or deal with? Who walked in easy and comfort? Do you see anyone? Is there any life that accomplished anything for God that sat on the beach all day or in the shade all their lives doing nothing? No!! Not even one!!! Not even Christ the one who was indeed God sent to the earth to lead men back to God. So who do we think we are that life should be easy?
This weekend this reality hit me in the face and wow, I was floored. I looked back at the life of people around me and no one who had attained even a semblance of the path God has assigned to them has received it free or on a platter. Each one has lost something, given up something, walked away from something, chosen something, lived for something, loved God more than themselves, those around them and things of love.
One of my long-time friends loves saying, ‘Forgiveness is for you.’
As I was thinking tears filled my eyes when God reminded me about how forgiveness had changed my life. My friend and I had a big fight many years ago that kept us away from each other for more than ten years. It was the kind of separation that tears the two parties apart because you assumed that life would always be good, and you would always be close. It was the kind of tear that destroys the balance in life because you were pillars to one another then suddenly a bomb explodes and brings down the whole house. Oh, the pain…no words!!!
For a long time, I would catch feelings and anger would simmer every time I heard his name, saw him or he reached out. Couldn’t he see how much pain he had caused me? Did he just expect me to forgive him and continue talking? Did he think he had the right to disrupt my life and appear at will expecting happy smiles? Who the heck did he think he was? Why did he think he deserved this kind of attention and freedom to be around me without apology?
Didn’t I deserve a heartfelt apology? Of course, I did!!! Or maybe not.
In time I realised he did not carry grudges even when hurt. He did not hold it against me and neither did he give space to things he could not understand. He simply parked them at the foot of the cross for Father to let him know when to deal. I on the other hand, was fuming and assuming he knew how much pain I had suffered. But alas!! I had shut down, hidden the tears and brokenness and I held onto that pain as the identity of this lost friendship, stability and decade.
Imagine my shock when God began to deal with me about holding grudges and projecting my pain onto others. After all, I was party to the split because at the time it was good for all parties, so how could I blame it on the other? How could I determine in my heart he would bear all the blame, yet I too caused him pain, I too said, thought and projected mean things? To blame him was to declare that I was innocent and we both knew that was not true.
Then Papa said…’You need to forgive your brother.’
Did you just say brother? There is no way he could still be my brother. There is no way I would be around him. That was just impossible!!! And I stomped my foot and stalked off, angry with a stiff spine. Oh, how God does not relent. How He makes His point clear and His judgement true. Over the next few months, God and I dealt with every part of that piece of the past. He showed me my part, the pain, the break, the anger and resentment and the barrier it was creating to my successful progression.
How every time a new opportunity came, I judged His sons and daughters with the same harsh position I had taken against one. How every time someone looked like they could hurt me I walked away in advance to protect myself. How I used this broken friendship as the reason not get close to people since people hurt people right? It was shocking to realise how bound I was. Stuck in solitary confinement and I did not even know it. Lost in the middle of the crowd with no hope or way out.
What? You mean being angry was holding me back? Absolutely!!!
So, we begun the path to healing and my oh my, it was ghastly painful. I had to let go of all the pain I was holding in and using as a shield. I had to cry and let the pain out one tear at a time (my gals used to say that to me cry was a matter of national importance). I had to let go of and burn every memory that had become a hindrance to my healing and restoration.
One day, I realised I as different…less angry, more joyful, more hopeful, and eager about life. I found release in the separation from the hurt and pain. I found healing in forgiveness first of myself and then of my brother. Finally, one day we had the big conversation. We talked about life, the destruction of our friendship, the reasons behind it, the years of pain and tears, the weight of sadness we both carried for a long while, the sense of imbalance until God stepped in and the healing we had to walk into. I realised he didn’t understand things the way I did, and I didn’t know exactly how he had felt. There were so many assumptions around everything that caused us more pain and so few words for so long. We couldn’t heal fully until we both forgave each other.
The difference was…he dealt with things faster than me.
It became clear that forgiving my brother was the route back to wholeness and peace. It was the pathway to an easier yoke and lighter burden. It was the pathway to a new move of God in my life. It was the pathway peace and harmony.
Over time, I have learnt a lot from my brother especially unconditional love. The kind of love has no bounds and standards other than God’s. The kind that will see me falling flat on my face in the mud and come to sit with me in the mud so we can figure out why I keep losing my footing. The one that sees me walking into the dark and will light a floodlight and call me out. The kind that sees me in the middle of pain and seeks God diligently for me then walks as close as possible cheering me on to deal or holds me as I cry on the other side.
I have found true brotherly love on the other side of forgiveness.
Indeed…Forgiveness is for me!!!
And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Matthew 7:3
Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. Romans 2:1
We have been working a plan with God for a while now and it was getting easier to execute every day and enjoyable to do. Ha! I should have known…He was about to shift things.
It started when He kept dropping things into my lap, adding things to my plate (not food) and increasing the demand on my time. I kept working and building but in time begun feeling rudderless and like I was drowning. I wanted everything to fit into the pattern I had established and got comfortable with, but alas that wasn’t a possibility.
The unraveling all came together in one day at a single moment.
After a day of walking through meeting after meeting I sat to set up for my weekly broadcast and simple things begun getting off track. The live stream took longer to get going because the device I was using is old, I was online ministering for ten minutes before I realised my device had the volume turned off, I had forgotten to start recording and after all that I still didn’t have content for my blog post. Yes, all this in one day.
It would have been easy to get rattled, and I honestly had begun feeling a rather rattled, but I heard the quiet question, Really? Really what you ask…Would I allow the situation to challenge me or would I look up at God to see His perspective? Would I be frustrated because the process wasn’t as easy as usual or would I look for a lesson or growth in it? For a few moments I tried to wallow but each moment was accompanied by a the same question and an agitation for more clarity wouldn’t allow me to settle there.
My reality shifted to…we cannot box God.
The answer came during the broadcast and it hit hard. Abraham was called to leave everything he knew to go to a land God would show him. Mary found herself pregnant and almost alone in a culture that would kill her for being unvirtuous. Joseph was despised, sold, falsely accused, jailed for many years with only the trust in his God. Hosea was instructed to marry a prostitute with the knowledge that it wouldn’t be smooth sailing. Yet they all complied and walked with God.
He said “Be still child it is me at work, doing what I know best.” “What is that?” I asked. “Keeping you tuned into me no matter what.” He replied.
When you feel stuck, lost, overwhelmed, unprepared, or just not up to scratch; remember your Father has you in His hand. He cannot forget you, will not forget you and will preserve you for His purpose. Yet if He needs to stretch you, break and rebuild or re-calibrate you, He will. His design of our lives and processes is flawless. His timing is perfect. His presence daily. His purpose the best.
Simply trust Him because everything is as planned.
Some things are easier than others for a while then it all switches up.
It has been rather easy to write but as my desk got fuller it became harder to consolidate my thoughts. Oh, how I wanted to just sit and tap out an article, but it isn’t always that way. The vibes around me are stilted because anxiety and loneliness have sneaked in while we were all looking the other way. I will not dwell on anxiety because I have harped on about that for a while and I think you all need a break.
Loneliness…that is another animal all together.
It has come up in so more conversations than I thought possible. It is in homes, relationships, workplaces and anywhere there is a human heart. It has come up now we have had time to sit, think through and process our situations as we are less engaged and more sedentary. It has arisen because we are home and our phones aren’t ringing, we cannot go to the place the usually distract us, many are watching negative news all the time, the WhatsApp chats are disheartening and we are hanging out with little people we are not used to being around for so long. Sigh.
One man who has lost his job talked about no one calling him anymore, not even his siblings. A teenager said he had always felt unimportant and it is getting worse with the school closure. A mother struggling to keep a happy atmosphere at home shared how alone she felt. A father unused to being so sedentary and missing his boys expressed frustration and anger. Yet the thread I found woven into every story was loneliness from the disruption of our usual activities.
We are wired for community, yet it is less than ideal right now.
Many of us are caught up in unsettled feelings that if we took time to assess, we would actually see a deep sense of loneliness within us, grounded in being alone in spaces we are not used to and therefore very sad. We are alone because our usual activities are impossible to carry out as we do not have the ability to do much financially or socially. Many are sad because we cannot be with our tribe or do what makes us happy and this makes me wonder if we are focused on the right things.
I dislike being lonely because it allows my mind to wonder and create scenarios. I find that the more I focus on what I do not have, the less I see what I have and the more miserable I become. It makes me feel broken and that I do not like that. On one of those occasions I was reflecting I came across a podcast by my brother Irewolede Phillips, Broken but Mended. You need to listen to it.
There are so many things in there, but a few things really caught my attention and got me thinking:
Focus on what we have: It is so easy to sit and whine about what we do not have totally forgetting that there are things in life that are good and bring hope. This focus on what we lack, changes our ability to see God at work in us and clouds our perspectives completely. When we learn to look inward and see the blessings we have, however small they seem, and celebrate them our eyes lift from the ground to the mastery of God above.
Know the process is valuable: In the plan of God, nothing goes to waste. John the Apostle was tortured by boiling in hot oil then cast on the island of Patmos to die yet he lived and received a visitation from God that brought forth the book of Revelation. Moses fled into the desert only to meet God in the back side of the desert and get the call to rescue the Israelites. The things they went through made them certain of the call over their lives and the reality that God is in all and above all. How about you? Do you know that where you are is critical to where you are going?
God has allowed everything for His glory: I could be desperately lonely and if I look at the people who I think should be with or near me and see they are happily doing their things and forgetting me, it is possible to be sad and angry. If I rise into the understanding that the place I am in instrumental to the fulfilment of the plan of God, my perspective will change, and my heart will settle. It brings the Garden of Gethsemane to mind with Christ candidly telling God that he would rather not suffer but if it was the only route to the redemption of the people, he was ready to go. He connected to the reality that his trial and death were the most important ingredient and so he aligned with his Father and strength came.
The outcome is God’s beauty: The beauty of God is not born in simple, easy life. It is a product of a process that strips us of our selfishness and connects us to the deeper realities of grace and mercy. This is a place intended for growth and expansion to create the version of us God has seen and needs out in the world. It is established to build a permanent sense of belonging, connection, and joy in the arms of the Father. It is all about growing in our inner man that we may accomplish all that God has set for us in our lives.
Even though many of us feel like we have nothing, we must understand that with our Father in heaven we have all the supply we need. Do you believe things are changing? Do you believe God is in control? Do you believe you are not forgotten? Do you understand that the call on your life is the real deal with its own supply? Do you know that God will never let you down?
Your peace of mind and accomplishment depends on you understanding that God is God just like He said, you are you as He created you and everything you need is available at the right time. In the words of my Papa C, “…to be blessed is to have everything you need to become and accomplish the word of God, including hardship and pain.
It all started with a niggling knowledge in my spirit that I needed to carry a few outfits while going for a work shoot. I was not on the cards that day as it was about the others, yet within me I knew I needed to do something radical in my day. How? I did not know. Why? It was time and though it is hard to explain, excitement filled my heart and spirit as I drove to work that day.
Halfway through the day, I found the courage to quietly set up my appointment with the makeup artist and photographer and sit peacefully running things after that. As we wound up, I almost cancelled on the photographer but since my face was already done, why waste the opportunity and preparation. I settled that this was going to happen no matter what.
I am so glad I did it because I have not laughed that hard in a long time.
Imagine me standing in the middle of the Arboretum with a huge camera lens focused on me. Oh my!!! It was daunting at first, but the jokes and seemingly random questions flowed making all fine and the awkwardness went…, well I was about to say out of the window, but we are already outside.
It was surprising how easy it was to get into the zone once we started. I thought I would struggle with the possibility of posing in public where people could interrupt or just watch but the inner peace in me was the right fuel. Soon I knew what the next step needed to be, how to enhance the next pose, when to light up, when to think and so forth. In time I became one with the shoot and the result was mind blowing and breath-taking.
Then the world tilted on another axis…
You know how a photographer sends you a teaser of two or three photos to keep you guessing? I could not stop staring at the teasers in amazement because I did not believe it was me. In every shot, he captured the essence of me that has been hidden for a long time; a simple girl who loves to talk, laugh, love and think. Every photo had a confident personality but a subtle shyness and coyness. Each one highlighted a deep-seated joy of being one with myself and the Maker. Even now, I keep going back to them, I see different things every time.
I am totally fascinated at how simple things come through when you are not focused on them. Or how a pimple kept in the frame speaks to the realities of life and dealing with fear. Or how a smile changes the face with soft lines and even crow’s feet can be a sign of beauty and elegance.
How many times had I allowed life to determine what looked good?
Finally, I could see what my Papa saw when he said his daughters are the most beautiful in the land. I could see what God saw when He created me. I believed the words of my friend who keeps saying that I am absolutely gorgeous. I understood that though I have a special kind of body type, it perfect for me.
My eyes opened and I begun to understand why things around me happen the way they do. I also watched a deep sense of rest settle and a getting comfortable with who I can be and do me no matter what. It bred insane confidence that bubbled over in the next shoot that had the photographer watching with a smile as my smile got bigger every time the shutter closed and did not fade until after the last shot. I learnt that I could easily turn on a genuine 100watt smile.
Then I looked at my Father in heaven with a smile…
13 For You formed my inward parts; You [a]covered me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will praise You, for [b]I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. 15 My [c]frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.
Psalm 139:13-16 (NKJV)
I can no longer contest or contend with God that I am who He said I am, placed where He needs me to be, doing what He has called me to do, well able to colonise and dominate that space.
I do not need to know the full picture as I am now content to live by a daily word from His heart.
I am willing and able to walk in trust because every day He has led me on the way of life that is rich and deep.
I will follow this path because it is pre-designed, and I am predestined to rise and present the fullness of an aspect of Him that has never been seen.
Do you believe His plan for you is perfect? Let Him show you just how on point He is, & life is.
This week’s conversations have stopped me in my tracks because of the life’s reality.
First an acquaintance shared how they have not been paid for over six months and the approved budget from head office has an allocation for the coming months but nothing for the past ones. How now? Chatting with one of my young people I learnt that their parents have been downsized or have reduced hours and the family of five is trying to live less than I spend of vegetables. The final conversation was with someone who still has regular hours but has had a thirty five percent cut in their regular pay.
Question: how do these families afford to live? I do not know!!
Our current interventions are focused more on the adults, but the youth and children are in the middle of the fight of their life. Many of our younger folk have fewer skills for this season than the adults. Many adults have had to change direction and adjust but most of the young ones have never had to. We have trained them to expect a set action produces set outcomes from life, specific responses to set actions, yet now that isn’t working.
I finally paid attention when I heard one of my young ones ask how they would get something to eat every day. He was asking about the whole family, not just himself. He also mentioned seeing many of his peers become atheists because God has ‘failed’ them.
There was young girl on BBC the other day, talking about how life has changed. They still try to study together to keep on track but it is hard without the input of teachers and access to enough books. It is also hard to study because of the amount of housework they need to do every day. Another one said the pressure to keep reading at full steam even though their exams are moved to next year is tiring.
It is harder for the young ones than we think.
Could we do better to help them deal with the current situation and life in general? Have we sat together to talk about life in true colour? Have we shared the challenges we go through daily? Have we shown them how to adjust to the unexpected or to deepen their walk using meditation and processing? Have we taught them to think deeply and find solutions or are they waiting for directions from us?
On the other hand, could it be that many adults don’t even know how to adjust for changes or even prepare for the unexpected? Maybe we are the ones who need to re-calibrate first before our children and young people can learn to re-calibrate. I challenge you to dig deep and ask questions like, What is your strategy? What is your pattern of responding to life? Do you panic and pretend to be more than you are? Are you able to honestly say what is going on? Are you driven to hide the struggle by shame? Are you confident in God to make a way or are you doing it on your own?
The starting point is provided for us in Deuteronomy 11:18-20
18 “Therefore you shall [a]lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 19 You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 20 And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates,
This is an echo of Joshua 1:8-9…
8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you[a] shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
We cannot teach something we are not.
God calls us to trust Him no matter the circumstance and to believe that everything will work out no matter what. Indeed, it was easier before, but God still remains the only hope and He will get us all through no matter how it looks.
If we haven’t learnt to lean into God, how do we teach our children to do the same? If I don’t believe He can move the mountain and walk with us, can I teach the children? How do I expect them to believe if my life is not proof of my walk with God? The proof is in the pudding, and the pudding in this case is the reality of walking with God in my life. It is in a shift in my behaviour, attitude, beliefs, responses. It is the clarity of how I deal with them and lead them into deep relationship with God as I make a difference in the marketplace where I am positioned.
Unless they see me live out the word with confidence, they won’t believe it is possible or even possible. If I do not teach and showcase meditation on the word and application, I cannot expect them to do the same. If we do not meditate and keep the word in sight, how can we be strong and of good courage? How are we unafraid or not dismayed if our hope is not grounded in God?
Lip service does not work with our children.
It is no longer enough to say you love God and follow Him. It is no longer enough to live a wishy-washy life. It is no longer possible to fake your faith as you stay with your children in close quarters. They see your reality. They see your faith or lack thereof. They understand the truth of who you are and will question it. They will see how you deal with people and follow suit. They will understand the truth of your life and work or the lack thereof.
This season is about deliberate action, deliberate connection, deliberate devotion and commitment. It is about living out our beliefs and values. It is about honest conversations and examples. Stop and have that conversation with the children and young people in your home and around you. Take time to share your life’s truth and the things that keep you on track.
It is time to be bare and brutal with the truth of life, that will allow them to thrive from today onwards.