The Pains of Victory

Impossible

 

I am sure by now there are a number of blogs centered on the Olympic Games. We have watched victory after victory as champions are recognized for their success in a particular event. Doesn’t it amaze you that God will take what we are experiencing now and use it as a platform for a life lesson? When I went to sleep on Friday night the Olympic Games was the farthest thought from my mind.  In the wee hours of the morning I began to see pictures of gymnast practicing and soaring through the air. In my sleep I begin to wonder why was I seeing this. I got a sense that it was not their strengths that made them champions, it was when they took the time to develop their weaknesses so it could compliment their strengths. By developing their weaker muscles it enabled them to out pace their opponents.

 I am sure this was triggered by the documentary I was watching on Martha and Bela Karolyi while sitting in the dentist chair on Thursday.  What caught my attention was Kerri Strug who in the 1996 Olympic Games performed her second vault with an injured ankle. On her first vault attempt it was obvious she injured herself. I could see Bela Karolyi telling her “we need this”. Then I saw her run with unspeakable speed hit the vault land on both feet (in life that’s what we’re all attempting to do), acknowledge the judges and then collapse to her knees. The completed vault guaranteed the US team a gold medal. With teary eyes me, the dental technician, and dentist watched Bela carry Kerri Strug off the platform.  Later, I learned that she had a third-degree lateral sprain and tendon damage.  She sacrificed  any chances of participating in any other gymnast events.

 How did she do it?

What gave her the capacity to continue on when it seemed as if all hope was gone? My mother would have said she dug down into her gut and pulled up this unspeakable strength.

After I had the dream I began to meditate on II Corinthians 12:9 -10.

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

It seems Kerri drew some inner strength from Bela cheering urging her onward. Isn’t that what Christ does for us?  If we were honest with ourselves often we pray for God to move the situation instead of boasting in our infirmities so that the power of Christ may rest upon us. God’s grace is sufficient to take us through all trials that we may face in life. God is right there with us encouraging us to keep pressing forward and our strength is made perfect in our weaknesses.  When I am weak then I am strong.  For in my weakness, more the power of God’s grace can be manifested in my life.  Paul looked beyond his weakness and pain and looked to what God was working in and through him.  Because of his affiliation it forced him to stay close to God so that he might experience God’s strength.  Throughout my life experiences, it is in the trails of life when my roots were deepened.  

roots

 You heard the saying “NO Pain No Gain” so it seems in our spiritual walk.

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Joy and Suffering

We are almost at mid-year and I am excited about the things God is doing in my life.  It has been almost 3 years since I decided to leave my church family of 3o years.  The journey has not been easy and it is demonstrated by the emotion I felt as stood I before God’s people on Sunday, May 15.  We don’t always know the path we will have to take to complete the call that God  has placed on our lives.  However, it is important for us (children of the most high God) to maintain our joy and exemplify Christ in all that we do.   I pray this message blesses you!

Allowing God to Work

I am sure many of you have heard the phrase “Let Go and Let God”.  This morning God laid it on my heart to go and read through one of my journals.  I do this from time to time because it allows me to see God’s handy work in my life.  Within these journals are quotes, poems, and inspiring exhorations from men and women of God.  On August 25, 2004, this poem spoke to me.

Let Go and Let God

As children bring their broke toys with  tears for us to mend. I brought my broken dreams to God because he is my friend.  But then, instead of leaving him in peace to work alone.  I hung around and tried to help with ways that were my own.  At last, I snatched them back  and cried “How can you be so slow?”  My child he said, “What could I do?” you never did let go.

Author unknown

Life is fluid. What I mean by that is that it is subject to change.  Change can be expected or unexpected.  Often, it is unexpected change that brings the most challenges.  For me, it is during those times that I focus on God’s promises and his faithfulness.  As I flip through my journal, I can see he has never failed me.  And I know he will never fail you.

 

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Phew! My Daughter is Married

R.E.C.A.S.T

I am an empty nester for the second time.

The first time was when Keturah moved into her own place after college.

To be honest with you I am not sure how I thought I would feel after the big day, but I can say that the year passed quickly. And let’s not talk about the last two months. There were times when I didn’t know if I was coming or going. I can only imagine the emotions that were stirred in Keturah’s heart.

Can we talk about the people who approached me and asked “What will you do now”? First of all, she got married, she did not move to “Zimbabwe”. These are not my words but this was the analogy from the bride to be. I searched my heart many times this past year and there was no room for sadness because this is what I prayed for.

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Birthday Surprise

Birthday Surprise Audio (select, stop, listen)

DJ, Marilyn, Denise
DJ, Marilyn, Denise

It has been awhile since I’ve written a blog post.  This past month has been filled with love and laughter.  It started with me having an unction to surprise my oldest sister on her “Birthday”.   When we were children we shared everything.  It was not like today.  When parents take their child and friends to “Chuck E Cheese’s” or have a “Bounce” house in their backyard and all their friends would come over.  I was raised during a different era.  Yes, I said era.  Our birthday celebration consisted of my Mom cooking us our favorite dinner and making a huge sheet cake.  Why? Because both of our names had to fit on it.

Happy Birthday

Jocelyn and Marilyn

My sister and I are exactly 2 years and 3 days apart so we shared every one of my birthdays since we were children.  I can only remember twice when we actually went somewhere for our birthday (Sea World and The Indian Reservation). I guess that translated into our adult life because for a number years we traveled to Las Vegas annually.  I still recall that feeling when we both first walked into a casino.  No, it is not what you think.  We went to shows and did all the tourtesy sites.  Okay, maybe we played some Keno.  Oh, and I ate a lot.   Then life became busy, although, we have tried to make each birthday special we had not set aside any special time to celebrate in a long time.

The sad part is as it got closer to that time I began to flip-flop back and forth. Was I really going to drive 4 1/2 hours to share the evening with my sister?  I reasoned that it was a long drive for only a few hours visitation. Then I began to think that I would regret not following my heart if something unexpected happened. So I packed up my car and off I went.  The drive was quiet and I had my favorite person rolling with me, Jesus. I drove thinking how forunate I was that I have two sisters, and although none of us are perfect, we love each other dearly.

I reflected on what my grandparents taught us – that there is nothing like family.  We should always stand by each other inspite of our differences.  My heart was and still is filled with gratitude.  There are some things that are irreplaceable.  Can I say that the expression on my sister’s face was priceless?  I quitely sat in her room (in the dark) with ballons tied to my chair.  I forgot to tell you that my youngest sister was in on the plan.  We had talked to my sister a hundred times that day trying to convenience her to come straight home but as my baby sister would say, “she was being slow on purpose”.  All I could hear her saying was “I thought people are suppose to do what they want to do on their birthday”.  We heard her car pull into the driveway.  I could hear her talking and then she slowly began to open her door.   You know how you are waiting for someone to do something in anticipation but they are taking their time (zzzzzzzzzz). Then she realized there was person in her room.

She saw me but she didn’t see me.

She hesitated and step back then something clicked in her brain.  She said, “What are you doing here?” “How did you get here?”  I must admit I am a good surpriser.  I hid my car across the street at one of her friend’s house.  All she could do was laugh, in fact, she was so discombobulated. She was walking in circles. It was so much fun seeing the joy that we brought her.  She was ready to celebrate!!  We had so much fun I extended my trip for two more days.

This is the kicker, I headed home the day before my birthday.  The next day (my birthday) I sat at the resturant with my family, trying to understand why we were at a table of 8 instead of 6, and guess who strolled in smiling?  My sisters. My oldest saying, “I got cha” and my youngest carrying a bouquet of balloons.

Life would not be the same without them.

I Can’t But God Can

nintendo64

What does it mean to have Faith?  John Piper stated that “Faith is the currency of the kingdom”.  In my last post, we learned how faith comes.

Roman 10:17 says, ” So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

The first time I ever heard the word “faith” was in a little church in the back woods of Louisiana.  I sat on the front pew with my grandmother singing at the top my voice as the choir rocked the church to ” We’ve Come This Far By Faith”.  I had not gone very far because I was only five years old.  It would be years before I recognized what faith looked like and there would be times when I would have to be reminded about exercising my faith.

In the New Strong’s Expanded Dictionary of Bible Words state that, “Pistis (faith in the Greek) is used of belief with the predominate idea of trust (or confidence) whether in God or in Christ, springing from faith in the same. ‘Faith’ means trust, confidence, assurance, and belief” (p. 1315).  When I translate that in my heart it means I am entrusting something or someone over to God to allow Him to change, fix, solve, or transform a situation.

The Bible also defines Pistis in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

It seems I have been meditating on faith a lot and it is probably due to the “Faith Life” sessions that I’ve been studying at church this summer.  I know that faith comes before a prayer is answered by God.  If we have received what we asked for then it is evident that faith is not needed.  One of the  most memorable faith lessons  I learned occurred in December 1996.  It was not a life or death situation.  It was a mother trying to fulfill her daughter’s Christmas wish. I want to paint a picture so let me give you some details.

In September 1996, the Nintendo 64 was released and it was in high demand.  In fact, Time Magazine called the purchasing interest “that rare and glorious middle-class Cabbage Patch-doll frenzy.”   According to Nintendo 64 sales data, the console sold 350,000 of 500,000 available units in the first three days of sale.  If you have every seen the  movie “Jingle All The Way” with Howard (Arnold Schwarzenegger) running around frantically trying to find Turbo-Man for his son Jamie, well, you get the picture.

Here I was running around frantically looking for a Nintendo 64.  I would search the newspaper looking for stores that had shipments coming in, I would leave work during my lunch break and go to various stores and/or on the way home to find this evasive console.  It got to a point where I began to prepare my daughter (Mom Knot Daughter) for the possibility of not getting this particular gift until after Christmas.  Then one Sunday morning, after Sunday morning worship, I leaned over and told my sister that I was going to the altar for prayer to ask God to help me get a Nintendo 64.  The conversation went something like this:

Me: I am going to the altar for prayer and ask God to help me find Keturah a Nintendo 64.

DJ: You are going to pray for a Nintendo 64 (disbelief)

Me: Yes, God knows my heart.  Keturah doesn’t ask for much and just like the Father gives good gifts to us.  I want to give this gift to her.

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! -Matthew 7:11

As small as it might have seemed, I headed to the altar with my petition. If I was going to have any chance at getting this console I had to rely on God.  My Pastor prayed with me and it was settled in my heart.  From that day forward,  I didn’t run around frantically searching for the console.  Christmas was quickly approaching, in fact, it was one day before my company shut down for the Christmas Holiday (my company shut down for two weeks at the end of the year).  There were Christmas spreads (food), gift exchanges, and hugs and happy wishes.  It was almost time from me to go home when someone told me that Bobby (co-worker) was looking for me.  I went in search of Bobby and this is how the conversation went:

Bobby:  Marilyn, Are you still looking for a Nintendo 64?  It was no secret everyone new I was looking for one.  

Me: Yes

Bobby:  OK, this is what happen.  My nephew’s parents bought him a Nintendo 64 and my mother bought him a Nintendo 64 (Chills were running up and down my arms).  If you want it, I can bring it to you tomorrow, she has the receipt and bought a warranty.  Do you want it?

Not only did God answer my prayer but he brought the Nintendo 64 to me; that is the kind of God I serve.

Me: Of course, I want it.  I knew it was GOD!  I was to excited beyond words.  God demonstrated his love for me and my desire to do a good thing for my child.

I can’t say after God answered this prayer that my faith was always on point.  But he showed me and my sister that there is nothing that God can’t do and there is nothing that we can’t ask him for.

Have Faith in God – Mark 11:22

A Heart Change

Let know your thoughts……

Looking Beyond Yesterday

heart

What does it mean to have a heart change?

There is one thing I am sure of, unless, there is a heart change (which only God can do) change will not be manifested in our life.

In Ezekiel 36:26 it says, “moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

The summer I accepted Christ, my grandmother told me that something about me changed. That summer would be like none other. The sheer gratitude that I felt for what Christ did for me filled my heart.  In the past several weeks, I have had friends and family members vent to me about fellow believers behavior.

Here’s the rub – how can a person be a Christian/Believer and treat someone badly or be indifferent to others.

The…

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A Heart Change

heart

What does it mean to have a heart change?

There is one thing I am sure of, unless, there is a heart change (which only God can do) change will not be manifested in our life.

In Ezekiel 36:26 it says, “moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

The summer I accepted Christ, my grandmother told me that something about me changed. That summer would be like none other. The sheer gratitude that I felt for what Christ did for me filled my heart.  In the past several weeks, I have had friends and family members vent to me about fellow believers behavior.

Here’s the rub – how can a person be a Christian/Believer and treat someone badly or be indifferent to others.

The answer.

There’s still some work that needs to be done on their part. The scripture tells us in Philippians 2:12 that we have to work out our salvation with awe and reverence. The Greek verb rendered “work out” means to continually work to bring something to completion or fruition. The “trembling” is the attitude that we should have in pursuing this goal.  When we work to apply the practical applications that God has given us in the scripture then we are working to bring his work to completion in our lives. There are number in things in this life that we place our focus on that has no impact on our eternal destination.

I am not sure why but every time I reread Philippians 2:12 I hear the words “walk it out”. We know that we walk by faith (II Corin. 5:7)and faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). As I’ve grown in Christ (by studying and applying his word) my desire to be more like him becomes more prevalent. It seems that when our loved ones accept Christ we believe all their quirky ways, actions, and thoughts are going to fall away. To let the truth be told when our old man is buried, in Christ we go back and dig him up when things aren’t going according to our liking. There are certain behaviors that we will have to work out, otherwise, we will be saved by grace but living a defeated life.

There are no magic formulas.

“Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.”
― Jonathan Edwards

Don’t get me wrong I am not saying that God can’t do it. I know he is more than able. If he delivered us from every situation, how would we grow. Just meditate on that for a minute.

You know how it is when you gain weight?  It is a gradual process. One day you notice you have gained one pound and the next thing you know you are 15 pounds up. Well, it going to take some effort on your part by beginning with eating right and then exercise. You are going to do whatever it takes to met your goal and bring it to a satifactory conclusion.  Even when I think about blogging, we write, we join blogging groups, social media post, for the ultimate goal of accumalating followers so people can read what’s on our hearts.  We work to build that network of followers. Well, your spiritual life is the same way. One minute you are on cloud nine because of what God as done for you and the next thing you know you are in a different place wondering how you got there.  You have to work out your salvation by appyling the scripture to whatever situation you are facing in your life.  Then we won’t become frustrated and we will walk in love and be kind to one another.

I think what we need to remember is we are imperfect people dealing with imperfect people. Remember, if we could have done it on our own Christ would not have to had die for us. I am so thankful that God loved me so much that he was willing to let his only begotten son die for me. The same compassion Jesus showed us, let’s show that same compassion to others.

‘I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.

Jeremiah 24:7

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Even in MY Discomfort

indexSpiritual discomfort is something we all experience in life.  Discomfort can come with difficulties, trials, tribulation, or some type of hardship. To let the truth be told, for me, it is when I cannot see nor understand what God is doing.  I want to KNOW!   Yet, because of God’s infinite wisdom he knows what is best for me. Although, I want to know, I might not be equipped.

Do you recall in II Kings 6:15-17 when Elisha’s servant woke up surrounded by the Arameans King’s army.  That sounds like an uncomfortable situation.  He was at a loss because he had no idea how God was going to work and/or deliver them out of their situation.  He said, “Oh, my Lord! What are we going to do?” Elisha tells him to fear not because there were more of those who are with them than those who were against them.  Elisha then prayed and asked God to open his spiritual eyes.  I am sure it was more comforting knowing that there were chariots of fire that surrounded them versus trusting in his on natural abilities. God eqiups at the appropiate time.

The example that dropped into my spirit around “discomfort’ happened  when I was a little girl (six years old). I recall my teacher choosing me to be “Peter Peter Pumpkin Eaters” wife.  It stressed me out to no end.  Because as a child I was walking into unfamiliar territory.  I didn’t want to be anyone’s wife let alone have my classmates tease me. You might think how does she remember that. It left a mark.   It caused me discomfort because playing that role stretched me.  Yes, I suffered some growing pain. Did I shed some tears? Of course, I did.  I also learned the importance of being flexible and versatile.

IMG_6657

When my daughter and I run we extend the distance each time we hit the track.  Every time the distance is extended, uncertainties surface. Will I be able to go and extra 2 or 3  minutes?  My breathing may become slightly labored but our prior training equips us for the race.  God’s grace is sufficient for me and in my weaknesses he makes me strong (II Corinthians 12:9-11).

When God is stretching us and growing us as Christians he takes us beyond what we have already experienced.  Taking us from what we know to what is possible. If the natural realm mirrors what is happening in the spirit realm then stretching has to happen until what is manifested in the spirit is reflected in the natural. A quote from Oswald Chambers, an early 20th century Baptist and Holiness Movement evangelist, who said:

“Patience is more than endurance. A saint’s life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, and He stretches and strains, and every now and again the saint says, ‘I cannot stand anymore.’ God does not heed, He goes on stretching till His purpose is in sight, then He lets fly.

As I set in the Sunday morning service, not knowing what my next blog post would be these words settled in my spirit.  “Even in my discomfort, I will run to you” .  Discomfort is something that can’t be ignored but it can be overcome.  We (Believers) are overcomers by the blood of the Lamb and by the words of our testimony (Rev. 12:11).  It is in my discomfort when I learned where and who I am in Christ.  It is when my spiritual muscles grow. It is when my spiritual eyes are challenged and my faith in a trusting Father is stretched.  I don’t have to know every aspect of my life.  All I need to do is trust and run to him.

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Testimony Tuesday

The Simple Things

Each day when we wake up is a testment to God’s grace.  Yet, there are times in our lives when we want to see a special move by God.  It is those times that we testify most often concerning his goodness.  My post today is going to be around the simple things in life.  Every Tuesday at our family bible study, I ask everyone “Do you have a testimony”?  There are days when everyone is excited and talking over each other because God has demonstrated his power by answering a prayer or changing a situation in their lives.  Then there are days like last night when I just see eyes staring back at me.  Why? Probably because there was no earth shattering event that had occured that week.  Those are the times I challenge each of us to really look back and see what God has done.  Slowly, one by one everyone will begin to share.  I might hear “he woke me up this morning”.  Yes, he did.  Then I might hear “an unexpected bill came up but I am thankful that I had the money because there was a time when I would not have had the money to take care of it.”  Well, I can’t shine the light on my family if I don’t shine the light on myself.  I was having a moment when it came to writing this post because I kept going over my week but it was just a normal week.  Yet, in my normalcy I don’t want to forget how “AWESOME” God is.   So my testimony this week is:

You woke me up this morning
And You started me on my way
You put food on my table
You brought joy to my day
I’m glad Your love has never changed
And wonderful
And wonderful
And wonderful, wonderful is Your name

Hezekiah Walker

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