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What to Say to Your Baby in the Womb

1400x1400Preparing to meet your baby is an experience like no other so I wanted to write about it while it was happening to me.  You know how quickly we can forget the details of what it felt like and how we responded to it years later.  But one of the most powerful experiences I have had it bonding with my little princess while she was still in the womb.

I want to share with you what I have been doing and helping others do before getting pregnant myself.  If you want to hear my story I believe it will really bring hope to those waiting on God for a miracle.  And if you know someone trying to get pregnant or get a breakthrough in another area of life this may be a good podcast or video to watch.

Here’s the video & I will add a blog later with more Scriptures for you to declare:

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You Don’t Deserve My Time of the Day: How to Honor when there’s been Deep Hurt

Father’s Day has just passed and with it a myriad of varied emotions for many of us. For some the day brought joy and excitement as we reflected on tender moments from childhood with our dads from being twirled around in their arms to seeing them in the audience cheering us on in little league games or recitals.

For others the day was a painful reminder of the absence of shortcomings of our fathers in the past or present, we instead reflected on phone calls not sent and birthdays missed. Still for others it could have been a bittersweet mingling of the two extremes.

The call to “honor our mother and father” might have either been a welcome reminder, or a seemingly overwhelming demand.

This post is for those of us who may have struggled with honoring their father or mother not just on the recent holiday, but in general. It is our prayer that we would receive healing from the pain that can come from negative experiences with our parents, and be empowered through God’s love to honor them.

Many of us know the scripture that instructs us to “Honor your father and mother so that you’ll live a long time in the land that God, your God, is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).  It’s a beautiful concept.

It speaks of a unique promise our Heavenly Father makes to us to give us a long life in a land He’s given us when we honor our parents. Yet it can also seem daunting for those who may have a strained or complicated relationship with their parents.

Honor is defined as “respect given to someone who is admired” (merriam-webster.com) and “to hold in high respect” (dictionary.com).

But where do we begin when we don’t carry that esteem and respect in our hearts due to painful situations instead harboring disappointment, anger, and possibly even unforgiveness?

I submit to you John 15. Jesus tells his followers to “remain in Him” so that they can bear fruit in their lives:

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me” (John 15:4).

We cannot manufacture honor within ourselves, we need the grace and empowering of the Holy Spirit. God wants to pour out His love and honor on you today. He knows that we are frail, we are from dust, and cannot do anything unless we remain in Him.

Here are 7 key things to remember in beginning to honor our parents:

1. Begin with receiving God’s honor for YOU! God esteems and honors you so highly he has seated you in heavenly places and adorns you in “robes of righteousness” and “garments of salvation” (Isaiah 61:10)

2. Know that only God mourns with you for every disappointment or trial you’ve experienced including those your parents may have brought upon you knowingly or unknowingly. He validates your emotions and wants to heal every wound and give you “beauty for your ashes” and “joy for your mourning” (Isaiah 61).

3. God is the only perfect Father, our parents can be used to reflect God’s love for us, but even the most good intentioned parents miss the mark at times because they are only human and are bound to make mistakes sometimes.

4. Our parents need grace just as much as we do. God showers His love on us and even died for us while we were still in our trespasses. His love covers a multitude of sin. Lets extend the same grace to our parents and loved ones. Grace is favor that is undeserved and unmerited. Just as we’ve been given grace beyond our imperfections, let’s show that same favor to our parents through honor.

5. It’s not easy to be a parent. This doesn’t excuse any negative or abusive behavior from any parent, only to help us as children and possible future parents to have more compassion on our parents. Almost no parent purposes to hurt their children. The day their child is born they are ecstatic and filled with love for their child. As the difficulties of life come, demonstrating that love can become harder and harder, but the love is often always still there.

6. Ask for God’s heart for your parents. While we might only be able to see our parents through a lens of hurt, God sees our parents as His children. With the same love He has for us, He has for our parents. Ask Him to give Him His heart for your parents and to show you aspects you can honor in them. Honor begins in the heart, and only God can change our hearts. Ask him to begin a work in yours.

7. It will be a process. Every small step counts. It takes time to build and rebuild relationship but stay encouraged. The call just to say hello or ask for advice, the simple prayer for their life, the card on their birthday, the loving post on their Facebook wall…Every moment of honor is filling a cup of love in their hearts until it will be overflowing. And as you give honor it will be given back to you, “running over.”

We pray this article has inspired you to begin to honor your loved ones, even in difficult situations. Remember God wants to pour into you and doesn’t expect you to be able to honor without first remaining in Him.

He is pouring out His love, His forgiveness, and His grace on you today!

I encourage you to say this prayer with us:

“God thank You for Your unconditional love toward me.Your mercies are new every morning and Your grace is always abounding toward me. I receive Your love and honor and ask You to help me to honor my parents and loved ones today. You know how difficult this is for me, and I know you care about everything I feel and have gone through. I can only do this with Your strength, help me to remain in You. In Jesus name, Amen.”

Please feel free to share your stories of how you have been able to honor those who may have hurt you or how this post has encouraged you. We love hearing from you!

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Healing a Hardened Heart

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

It is very hard to honor our fathers, God, or anyone else when our hearts have been hardened.  But if you are reading this, allow me to encourage you- you must have a desire to forgive and be healed.

This topic reminds me of a Biblical character named Pharaoh.  The Bible says Pharaoh’s heart was hardened against God (the Father).  The missing element in Pharaoh’s life was honor.  

He failed to yield, to give respect, or to honor the God of the Israelites.  Pharaoh eventually gave honor tot he Lord, but it was at his own expense.

When our hearts become hardened due to life’s difficulty or pain, we must remember that honor is a choice.  We don’t have to remain forever calloused.

Multiple times in my own relationship with my father, the Lord has convicted me about three acts of love.  He has asked my hardened heart to express love as I forgive, confess, and restore.

I’ve had to forgive my father, confess that I was wrong for holding anger and resentment against my dad, and then make a commitment to restoring him back to his rightful place in my life.  This process has not always been easy, but in return for my obedience, I’ve seen my father travel for hours just to kneel at my feet, weeping words of godly sorrow.

It was through my place of humility that God brought healing, restoration, and the healthy relationship I desired.  He wants to do the same for each of us as we listen to His leading.

Multiple times in my own relationships ith my father, the Lord has convicted me about three acts of love: Forgiveness, Confession and Restoration. I know God can restore any one of our hearts to sweet gentleness and healing.

Multiple times in my own relationships ith my father, the Lord has convicted me about three acts of love: Forgiveness, Confession and Restoration. I know God can restore any one of our hearts to sweet gentleness and healing.

In fact, He promises to give us a softened, loving heart if we receive by faith, saying, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)

So go and be bold; don’t be afraid to exemplify love, because you will be glad you took a step of faith.  Even if your father (or others) do not respond the way you desire, you will be able to say you have obeyed a very important part of God’s Word, and your heavenly Father will always be there to carry you.

Let’s Practice This Truth Together:

That it may go well with you in the land the LORD your GOD is giving you.  (Deuteronomy 5:16)

Ask the Holy Spirit to prompt you with any needed areas of change in your life.  Ask Him:

  • Is my heart hardened?  Do I need more humility or a new heart from You?  Ezekiel 36:26
  • Is there any forgiveness that You want me to show to my father?
  • Is there anything that I need to confess to You or to my earthly father?  Search me, Lord, and know my heart…(Psalm 139:23)
  • Is there any restoration needed in my relationship with my father?

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the answers, and then make plans to live out anything He reveals.

Talk to others who don’t know Jesus about the transformational power of our heavenly Father.

I hope you had a Happy Father’s Day!

Here’s a pic of me and the hubby on daddy’s day this year.  This was a fun look I achieved through basics in my wardrobe and thrift store finds!

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Get the Look:

Sleeveless Tank- JCPenney ($9.99), Old Navy, Cato ($7.99, many colors), The Limited ($24.90, classic colors, satin- great for dressy outfits).  The key to a dressier look is to buy “seamless” not “ribbed”

Red Flats- Nine West ($69.00)| Forever 21 ($9.99)| JCrew ($135)|Born ($44.51) I found these Talbot shoes for $7.99 at a thrift store!

A Line Midi Skirt- Macys ($24.99)| Zulily ($11.99)| Honor ($240)|Chicwish ($39.02)|ASOS ($40.00)

Purse- Kate Spade ($29.00)|Nordstrom ($33.98)| Humble Chic ($38.00) Really this is a Kate Spade eyeglass case that I used as a purse my dears

Pearl Necklace- JCrew ($26.00)|Banana Republic ($198)

Let’s be beautiful both inside and out with hearts ready to love from the deep place we have been embraced!  Have a sweet blessed week…

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A Father Who Is Always There for You

Father…when you hear that word what do you think, what image comes to mind?  Perhaps you instantly see a heroic figure, a strong loving protective man, or a kind, gentle compassionate presence.  Others of us may see nothing but an empty, loss presence.  Nothing is there but space and neglect.

Oftentimes the image we see of our earthly father is the same image we imagine when we see our heavenly Father.

And this can be problematic for obvious reasons.

I have a mixture of the two images.  I can remember as a little girl waiting to hear the sound of my father’s keys opening the front door of our miniature, three bedroom two bathroom starter home.  We lived in the ‘hood but I did not have a clue that’s where we lived because I always had a sense of shelter, of sweet protection.

It was home.

Walking outside, playing with my dog, with toys, with nature, running through the wooded lots surrounding us…there was not a care in the world.

And I was in private school with middle to upper class children, mostly very different from me, so there was a sense of safety, even at school.

My father would come home, at least in my mind, every day around the same time.  And when he would open the door I remember running up to him waiting for his embrace.  There was a sense of needing approval and attention.  Then he would swing me up in the air.

It was the moment of delight I longed for daily.

And I’m sure it filled his heart with joy just as much as mine.

This is a beautiful image of father.  Protector.  Friend.  Presence.  Supporter.  Guide.

But we probably all have at least one or two difficult memories of “father.”

Maybe there are days when he does not come home as expected, his countenance is disturbed, he is not the gentle friendly guy you need him to be and you are disappointed.

This is all so real in the heart of a small child.  In fact, it can be magnified.

Both experiences are valid and both are valuable schoolmasters when relating to our Heavenly Father.

What Can We Learn About “Father”?

That dad I described, fun, friendly, kind, playful is a mirror image of our Heavenly Daddy.

He is there, present when we need him, ready to give us sweet gifts.  He wants to give us the gift of His Presence, of joy, peace, patience, happiness, and forgiveness.

Believing in the fact that He will be consistent.  He will never come home in a disappointed manner, He is a safe, secure place to land our hearts.

We can Trust Him because of this unchanging stability.

And we can sit on His lap.  We can talk to Him about anything, our greatest joys, victories, anticipations…our strongest failures, needs and frustrations.

When we see that our Heavenly Father is not a mixture of good and bad, like we humans are…He is All Good, we are finally able to settle our hearts with His good leadership.

He is much like the Prodigal Son’s Father who is there for us no matter what, ready to pour out blessings on our lives.

When we expect him to be the most disappointed, He is not.  Instead, he gives us what we least expect, a huge celebration of the fact that we are Home!

He honors our presence.

We can encounter Jesus around this truth.

GOD Honors my presence.

We have to wonder how others will respond when we show up, but we do not ever have to wonder if our mistakes push GOD away from us, if they cause Him to reject, look down on, or judge us.  He is simply excited that you and I showed up for the party.

A New Way to Encounter Jesus

Have you every went into your prayer time only to feel a heap of guilt like a ton of bricks crashing down on your shoulders?  Then you want to just hide?  And it seems to come out of nowhere.

Am I right with God?  Is He angry with me?  Am I praying right?  I missed my prayer time yesterday.  I am not on my schedule.  I wonder if I’m under His judgment because I haven’t forgiven so and so.  I need to find the right Scripture to focus on.  I need to focus.  I need to spend more time in the Word and put on my Spiritual weapons.  Why am I not consistent?

Ugg…by this point prayer is exhausting.  Because pleasing Him is beyond me.  It is impossible.

I used to think this way all the time and my guess is, so have you.  It is human to base God’s satisfaction with us on who we are, our faulty mentalities about who He is and all the ways we think our prayer life should be.

Yet the reality is that we are way off in thinking God wants all that!  Sometimes he wants a few minutes of us simply accepting that it is okay to vent, to talk to him, to get it off our chest just as we would a friend.  And then to be ourselves, to not feel guilty for the way we prayer.

To stop comparing our prayer lives to others and to know that every little bit counts, is enough and is heard.

When we put down the show and just choose to be, we are starting to go in the right direction.

Let’s encounter Jesus around the Prodigal Son story.

“And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming.  Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)

Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of the story of the prodigal son, but ask Him to refresh your experience of the Father in this well-known story.  Read Luke 15:11-32, where the son demands his inheritance, lives a life of foolish choices, and then out of complete desperation and regret returns home to his father. 

Notice the father’s response.  While the son was a long way off, the father saw him coming.  Imagine the scene of a father who sits on the front porch, scanning the horizon, looking for any sign of his son returning home.

You have a Father like that.  He can’t wait to be with you, can’t wait to run off the front porch and embrace you.

Pause for a moment and imagine the scene of the story, but this time, imagine Jesus running out to meet you.  He is filled with love and compassion.  He runs to you and embraces you because His heart is thrilled to call you His child.

What does it do to your heart to imagine a God who can’t wait to be with you?  Tell the Father about your gratitude:

Heavenly Father, when I imagine that You are scanning the horizon because You can’t wait to be with me, I feel…

When I imagine that You are running to meet me and embrace me with a heart of love and compassion, my heart is moved with gratitude because…

My father would come home and I was in so much anticipation to see him walk through the door, squealing with Joy!  But I hadn’t imagined that he was feeling the same about you.

Could the same be true of our Heavenly Father?  Filled with delight over the thought of seeing your face as He opens the door to meet you!

How has your perspective about your father changed over time?  Maybe you have a God Encounter you want to share to encourage others.  We would love to hear your story in the comments below!

 

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Honoring the Real GOD to Honor your father

JESUS, RESET MY FAMILY LEGACY

Jesus, remind me often of the love You have for me as my heavenly Father.  Let my gratitude for how You love me empower me to strengthen and restore my relationship with my earthly father.

We each have personal images intricately tied to the tender yet powerful word father.  For some, the visualization of father is an always-smiling, ready-to-embrace-you, tender man who instantly promotes feelings of joy and acceptance.  Others remember the massive, outstretched hand that seemed to pull a never-ending supply of candy from his trouser pockets. 

There are also those who hear the word father and conjure up images of a scowling, rumpled brow and disappointed from that seemed to cut the heart of a child desperately longing for expressions of his approval.

And finally, there are others who may simply draw a blank when they try to visualize a father.  As empty as a fresh pack of computer paper, no matter how many pages they turn, the landscape is full of empty memories.  No calls, no visits, no talks with dad.

No matter what impression the word father has left upon our heart, we are reminded of its significant presence in the pages of Scripture.  We are lovingly exhorted to honor our Father in heaven and fathers on this earth (Deuteronomy 5:16).  But how do we honor our father?  This question is inevitable when one out of every three American children live in a home where their biological father is not present.

HOW DO WE HONOR OUR FATHER?

Some Ways Include:

~Take him out to dinner

~Thank him verbally for who is he, acknowledging his value

~Giving him a thoughtful Father’s Day gift

~Listening thoughtfully to his advice

~Speaking highly of him publicly

~Conversing in a respectful tone of voice

~Visit him often, give the gift of time

~Say “I love you” frequently

How to honor our father is a loaded question.  Therefore, we must venture back to ask, “Why should we honor our father?” before we can answer the first.  As Christians, we desire to live our life based on the truth of GOD’S Word.  The Bible is our standard and foundation.  When we wonder why we should honor our earthly fathers, we must first return to the Word of GOD and how it describes the perfect, admirable love of our heavenly Father.

Honoring the real God is the first step toward honoring our earthly fathers.  And honoring God is easy when we are freed from any vision of a harsh, “finger-pointing” God and begin to see a gentle, loving, Father. 

Our hearts are enamored by His unconditional love the more our knowledge of who He is increases.  The more we come to know the true character of our heavenly Father, the more freedom we have as we look at our earthly fathers.

LEARN to Encounter Jesus

“And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming.  Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20 NLT)

Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of the story of the prodigal son, but ask Him to refresh your experience of the Father in this well-known story.  Read Luke 15:11-32, where the son demands his inheritance, lives a life of foolish choices, and then out of complete desperation and regret returns home to his father.  Notice the father’s response.  While the son was a long way off, the father saw him coming.  Imagine the scene of a father who sits on the front porch, scanning the horizon, looking for any sign of his son returning home.  You have a Father like that.  He can’t wait to be with you, can’t wait to run off the front porch and embrace you.  Pause for a moment and imagine the scene of the story, but this time, imagine Jesus running our to meet you.  He is filled with love and compassion.  He runs to you and embraces you because His heart is thrilled to call you His child.

What does it do to your heart to imagine a God who can’t wait to be with you?  Tell the Father about your gratitude:

Heavenly Father, when I imagine that You are scanning the horizon because You can’t wait to be with me I feel…

When I imagine that You are running to meet me and embrace me with a heart of love and compassion, my heart is moved with gratitude because…

Today’s Key Takeaway: No Matter What Your Background, you can receive a Fresh Perspective of GOD as a Loving Father.  This will help you embrace His desire for you to honor your father by honoring the Real GOD.

What other ways have you been able to honor your father?  Do you have a testimony or story to share that may bless someone else in the healing process? We can’t wait to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

From the book, Honor Your Father Reset My Family Legacy.  Order Your Copy as a Father’s Gift today!

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Coping with the Unexpected Foe…Infertility

Jade Lee

Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after one year of unexpected intercourse (six months if the woman is over age 35) or the inability to carry a pregnancy to live birth.”

I have been fighting this unexpected foe of infertility knowingly and unknowingly, for over 11 years now.  And it is not an easy battle.  But primarily because of the shock.

You never expect to hear that you are infertile or to not have children.  No, I was not one of those women who sit and think and think and think about having children, how my wedding will be planned, the perfect home…but I did subconsciously assume my life would be #1 Go to College #2 Get Married #3 Run Professionally #4 Live in a Mega Home #5 Have Children #6 Live Happily After.

At first it was not even a shocker that I was not getting pregnant, I was so consumed in my profession- ministry- that I did not think much about it, and I was happy to enjoy the free time of being childless.

But as time went on and on and on, it would be soon that I realized my great desire to mother, after having helped many young women with their birth journey.  I was even helping deliver babies. 

It got harder and harder to not have a “family” of my own.

And then the truth sank in, doctor visits began, reports came back, multiple surgeries came, and I was at a loss for words.  My heart was in shock and shattered to pieces, not because I didn’t have faith but because infertility is a grieving process.

I particularly had a major lack of education on reproductive health and the chances being 1.5 times higher for people of my skin complexion to have children.  Yes, yet another startling statistic regarding the African American community.  Sometimes the question echos through my head, “When will it ever end?” regarding the black plight.

My image of a infertile woman, was a rich, white, maybe celebrity woman walking into a clinic to get an IVF treatment or have a surrogate child.

This is all I had ever seen.  It never even crossed my mind that black women struggled with this issue which is apparently a very strong myth not isolate to my own perspective.

Why do black women face this at a higher rate? 

According to Resolve, the National Infertility Association, “Many of the factors leading to this higher incidence is our hesitance to visit the doctor, as well as higher rates of conditions such as fibroids.  One way to squash this myth is to start talking.  By opening an honest and guilt-free dialogue,w e can step towards removing the stigmas that holds so many of us hostage.”

This is why sharing our stories is so important as we find the grace to do so, and why I so openly am sharing my own faith journey through this sometimes grueling process.

This battle is occurring not only on a first time basis, but secondary infertility grips the wombs of many women unexpectedly.

This simply means a woman has already experienced a full term birth, yet cannot seem to get pregnant sometimes for years after having a child.

This can be as hard or even harder for women because of how shocking it is to go through this difficulty, according to Marlo Schalesky, author of Empty Womb, Aching Heart.

Here are a few facts about infertility that will help you cope with this very painful reality for every 1 in 8 women:

  • Do not allow guilt to become your guide or friend.  When facing this sickness, it is easy, especially in a Christian context to believe you have received the judgment of Michal.  Maybe GOD is punishing me!  Then the thoughts begin to go on to all the wrongs, the sexual immorality of your past, a man of GOD you may have offended.  Resist this urge knowing that GOD loves you unconditionally and although there are consequences for our actions, the finish work of the cross redeems our sins.  He forgives, loves and the majority of infertile women are not being condemned due to sin.
  • Self blame or the blame of your spouse is not healthy nor valid.  When we face a situation that is beyond our control it is really hard not to search for the object of blame.  Starting with GOD, we want to know WHY?  And, WHY ME?  Why do I have to go through this?  Why are all these other women getting pregnant and I can’t seem to get pregnant?  Why isn’t my body cooperating?  What is wrong with ME?  Why does GOD not love me?  Why is my spouse’s body broke? As this storm of questions rage in a woman’s mind, it is important to remind yourself of the love HE has for you even in a plan that is nowhere near what you expected.  At the end of the story, in the midst of the conflict, we will find peace and a plan beyond what we could see.  Instead of blaming our spouse, let’s work together to find the healing we need.
  • Finding the joy of the LORD is an active and sometimes daily pursuit needed in this walk.  We have to press into His joy when we want to give up, wallow in the very real situation of hours of medical situations, hospital bills and challenges.  I came to a point where I had to let it all go, forget about it and get Determined to Enjoy the moments of life I had; I would not allow infertility to steal my life away.  Focus on the blessings in front of you to find a joy beyond your situation.
  • Find a support group.  This may start with your husband, a doctor, even just one friend or an infertility group in your area.  This is going to be needed in a journey that seems to be inconsistent day by day.  We all have our good days and then the really dire ones where we need an understanding, listening ear.
  • Don’t feel guilty to say No.  If you can’t seem to get through baby showers, Mother’s Day, or women’s church groups full of expecting young mothers, it’s okay to say no.  It’s okay to take a leave of absence and do something that will get your mind off of what you do not have because of something beyond your control.
  • Know when to let go of the battle if it gets too much.  One of the most freeing moments in the fight has been letting go but not after a lot of wrestling.  One day I simply decided that I had to give this over to the LORD.  I had to trust Him because ultimately He is the Only One who can cause my womb to be filled.  And I refocused on what He had for me to give to others right now. 
  • If needed, get counseling.  From what I have read and heard, most couples facing infertility will fight depression.  Sometimes this gets overwhelming to a point of needed professional help in knowing how to continue living your life in a world full of new parents, baby aisles (Target, the grocery store) and daily reminders of how your life should be…if not for this frustrating issue.  Many couples benefit from a season of having a listening ear that knows what to say in such a sensitive area (most people do not know what to say at all and say all the wrong things).

There are many more tips I could give you in fighting through this battle but all in all, I am praying for you, standing with you and willing to listen to you.  You are not alone.

If you know someone struggling with infertility or may be going through this yourself, please share this message with them; maybe it will be just the hope they need to press on through One More Day of Faith.

Blessings!

Jade Lee

 

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Discovering A Lost Identity in Africa

Upon leaving the coast of South Africa my heart was full to overflowing. I wept many tears and cried everyday in Africa.  

The tears I cried were an expression of Christ’s heart for a people that has been oppressed, forsaken and forgotten for hundreds of years.  This people is all around the world, identified as the African diaspora.  His heart deeply cares for her wounding and neediness.

I’ve been to Kenya twice and this was my third trip to the continent of Africa. But this particular experience was so deep and rich for me.

It is even more intensified as I am in the middle of in depth research of the history of America’s national racial wounding.  Going back to Africa this time meant more to me than ever before; I soon would realize I was crying tears for an entire people group.

I was in pain over the needs I knew the African American community had and how we were suffering due to generations of mistreatment.  Sure we can forgive and have forgiven much, yet there is oftentimes a lack of understanding of the need for comforting the pain we have experienced.

We had a 17 hour flight to Africa! It was nothing but the grace of GOD that helped us and we made it through jet lag still able to gain

We had a 17 hour flight to Africa! It was nothing but the grace of GOD that helped us and we made it through jet lag still able to gain.

This occurs as we weep with those who weep.  Romans 12:15

I sat with hundreds then with a small group of college aged young adults ready to approach life.  They were at a crossroads without much, no parents, these children were orphans now become adults.

What would they do next?  How would they become successful leaders in their nation?  How would they regain the control of their economy?

Understanding the history of Africa is vital.  Understanding the history of Africa is healing. Understanding the history of Africa is to know the missing pieces of the black community.

And I picked up a few pieces to that lost puzzle, but it was a painful experience.

One specific moment really grabbed my heart and opened my eyes to reality.  I sat in a small room with these recent high school graduates as they shared their viewpoint of GOD.

We split into small groups sharing inspiring stories and helping them move forward in finding purpose (akin to what most young adults their age need).

But as we began to share the African American storyline their eyes lit with interest.  This was foreign information; the shock and deep concern displayed on their young faces gripped my heart and wrung it out until the tears later escaped my eyes.

Our roots run deep into the soil of Africa, a long, lost land that we must reconnect to if we want to fully heal. There are blessings we as African Americans can both give and receive from Africa.

Our roots run deep into the soil of Africa, a long, lost land that we must reconnect to if we want to fully heal. There are blessings we as African Americans can both give and receive from Africa.

They had never heard of a people who were considered and treated as less than humans.  It was heartbreaking to find our distant cousins and tell our story.

Knowing them was like a mirror, we could more clearly see ourselves.  We could see what has been taken from us, in a way, unknowingly.  We were able to see our blessings in America, yet see the little treasures that had been stripped from our identity:

We are just now approaching the age of African American natural hair care discoveries.  We are indulging in shea butter, argan oil, twist outs, coconut oil and lots of hair moisture.  For years, we have had to ReLearn the Basics because we were in survival mode.

How do you focus on hair care, oral tradition, body care and the like when you are traumatized by the rape of a loved one you cannot help, the violent beating of a son you cannot stop, the ripping of a daughter from your very hands, the laws that dehumanize and separate you from the remainder of this foreign land or the covert prejudice that surrounds you in the workplace?

As we heal, we must go back.  There are stories, information that has been casually and naturally passed down from generation to generation in Africa.  It may or may not even be recognized as especially significant until you go and see the differences with your own eyes.

For me it was a different experience.  It was glaringly different than the white Americans who traveled with me.  

And I was marked.

Black women all over the world are beautiful, we shared the graceful message that the gospel brings with these young adult women who just graduated from High School. These women would now receive the identity needed to give hope to those they are called to influence.

Black women all over the world are beautiful, we shared the graceful message that the gospel brings with these young adult women who just graduated from High School. These women would now receive the identity needed to give hope to those they are called to influence.

I was marked with a burden, a blessing, a deep longing to see use healed.  Self discovery gripped my heart as I longed to bring back the lost treasures engulfed by the Middle Passage.  

And this provided HOPE.

The songs of these young adults, the strength I felt encouraged me.  I thought of the strength I have seen many times in the African American Episcopal, Baptists and other black congregations.  The power that only a slave spiritual brings as you hear it sung was identical to the power I felt behind these songs.

The force I felt when only a gospel song is sung was the same force I felt behind these songs.

The strength behind a beat a staccato like war sounds was the same strength I felt behind these songs.

At that moment, we were one.

They were not African and I was not African American.  There was a connection beyond our time that was connected through the fact that we had the same ancestors.  And I was experiencing what I would call HOME.

I felt a sense of belonging that I have yet to feel in the states.

While all the while I knew I was American to the core.

This connection…will be valued forever and the identity I have experienced will heal many as together we discover all the MISSING PIECES it is now to time to collect.  It is time to ReGather.

And through this journey.  We will now heal.

Africa is so gorgeous, the people, the food, the entire experience. As we flew back home, over the Atlantic Ocean my heart was immersed with love, remembering years past...how my ancestors were lost, dispersed on the Middle Passage over this same ocean. And I saw renewal, refreshing, a restoration of a people ready to now Go and Reach the World.

Africa is so gorgeous, the people, the food, the entire experience. As we flew back home, over the Atlantic Ocean my heart was immersed with love, remembering years past…how my ancestors were lost, dispersed on the Middle Passage over this same ocean. And I saw renewal, refreshing, a restoration of a people ready to now Go and Reach the World.

 

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From Ferguson to Flint: Is there any Hope?

Paige Smith

“And they shall rebuild the old ruins, They shall raise up the former desolations, And they shall repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭61:4‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Flint, Michigan was once a booming motor town that has now gone nearly bankrupt. It has become as one commentator said “forgotten by America”. Forgotten until a terrible water crisis brought this city to the limelight of the nation.

What happened in Flint?

Crippled by a 30 million dollar deficit, in an hasty attempt to cut costs in the city, the city officials also decided to cut corners in an area so vital to each of its residents, its water system.

The water which was previously funneled to the city through Detroit, switched to The Flint River, a much dirtier source than the famous Great Lakes.

Not only did the city officials decide to switch to a dirtier water source they also circumvented the process of purifying the water properly by making sure the water didn’t become corrosive in order to save money.

The result was catastrophic. As the river water passed through old lead pipes into the city, the lead began to lace into the water, poisoning it more and more.

By the time the water reached Flint homes, it was already toxic. A researcher tested the water in one Flint home and found it would be considered toxic waste in a lab.

When residents demanded clean water at multiple town hearings they were dismissed and told the water was safe, and to simply boil the water.

Flint has a population of 102,434 residents. That is 102,434 people that were exposed to lead poisoning (suburbanstats.org).

What’s so bad about lead?

Lead is 100% toxic. It can lead to miscarriage in pregnant women, abnormal development of sperm in men, high blood pressure, memory loss in adults, and developmental delays, constipation, and vomiting in children (mayoclinic.org).

The effects of lead are irreversible and permeate every part of the body, the brain, the lungs, even one’s DNA (CNN).

In 2016 it is tragic to know the Flint water crisis can happen, that those in power can decide the fate of an entire community.

Many have wondered would the decision have been the same if Flint wasn’t a majority Black impoverished city?

It has been said America has transitioned to a post racial society, yet incidents like the Flint Water Crisis, in a city with a population of 57% Black residents, reveal racism isn’t a bygone of the past but still a very present threat to our society.

Ferguson, Missouri, yet another city with a majority Black population of 67% Black residents also experienced a crisis the nation still feels the wounds from today (census.gov).

As Michael Brown was shot to death by a white police officer the city went in an uproar, and an all out war between residents and officers ensued, with images of race riots paralleling those of the King years. Another city reeling with the pain of another slain Black youth at the hands of police brutality.

In the light of the painful realities of cities like Ferguson and Flint, one begins to ask, Where is the hope for Black America?

Where is the security for those who have experienced or seen their brothers and sisters terrorized and killed by the same law enforcement meant to protect them?

Where is the comfort for those who watched thousands of New Orleans residents with their same skin color drown in flooded waters or die on rooftops waiting in vain for their government to come to their aid?

Where is the hope for those who watch appalled as a whole community is poisoned and ignored for two years while their children slowly get more and more ill?

Is it in a presidential candidate? Is it in a student rally? It is in a bill or speech or sermon?

The good news is there is a God who cares about those who are poor, those who are oppressed, and those who mourn, even if those currently in power do not.

There is no greater social justice advocate than Jesus. When He came to earth He came to bring good news to the poor, to free prisoners, to heal the brokenhearted, to comfort all who mourn (Isaiah 61) and He is raising up a generation of those who will walk in that same heart and Spirit.

Those who will not use their power to tear down cities like Flint, but instead will “repair the ruined cities” and “rebuild the old ruins” (Isaiah 61: 4).

I saw a shining glimmer of the hope for Black America last week when I witnessed a nearly all white group of all ages willingly sit down and learn about grueling racial atrocities in our history and learn about how to truly go about racial reconciliation. They listened intently as a powerful Black woman spoke to them of the deep racial wounds of our nation in truth and in love.

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” And they shall rebuild the old ruins, They shall raise up the former desolations, And they shall repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭61:1-4‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Hope is not found in one act or candidate but in every single one of us. It is in me, it is in you. It is in us deciding to be the hands and feet of Jesus. To approach our nation, in many ways a place of racial desolation, and raise it up in love, in unity, and in reconciliation. Only then will we see beauty for our ashes.

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You Are Loved Beyond Performance

Paige Smith

Have you ever needed to know you are loved just for who you are, apart from anything you do or accomplish?

This need is one we all can relate to on some level, it is the need for approval.

Approval is when we are shown love, value, and blessing simply for who we are.

We all need to be reminded at times of just how wonderful we are in the eyes of our Heavenly Father irregardless of anything we do.

It can be so easy to believe that love must be worked for, earned, and achieved. But true love is not a reward for good performance; true love is unconditional and loves just because.

True love has no conditions, no limitations, no boundaries.

Real love doesn’t love with conditional if statements attached to it. Unconditional love is just that; it loves despite the ever changing “ifs” of life.

That is the kind of love God pours out on us and the kind of love He empowers us to give to one another. A love that is given whether or not the person is rich, successful, tall, short, popular, healthy, etc. It’s the kind of love we base our marriages upon. It is “for richer or poorer, ’til death do us part.”

That is approval.

Approval has nothing to do with what a person does, but everything to do with who they are and celebrating that identity to the utmost.

Do you know that God celebrates who you are?

Even before you were able to do anything, in your mothers womb, God had chosen you and given you identity (Jeremiah 1:1). He celebrates the unique personality only you have!

It can be discouraging seeking out approval with man because people aren’t always able to see our worth. Many times the very ones we long for approval from are the most critical in our lives.

Yet we can take heart in the fact that our creator, the God of the universe, the one who makes the planets orbit, paints the sunset, and holds galaxies in His hands, approves of us as His beloved children.

As we lift our hearts and hands to Him He will heal the broken recesses of our hearts where we haven’t received the approval we needed in life from others.

We may have thought the only way to be loved is to perform but He loves us just for who we are and just the way we are.

I think of when my son Elijah was born a little over a year ago. His birth and his life has become one of the most joyous moments of my life! I remember holding him for the first time and his little hand squeezing my finger, his pure eyes searching out mine. I was full of love for him.

He hadn’t done anything, in fact he needed help to do anything from eating to cleaning himself. Yet I and so many others loved him just because of who he was. We passed around photos of him, delighting in his smile, the way he grinned in his sleep, his toes, the curls of his hair, even his cry.

If this is how I felt about my son as an imperfect person, just imagine how your Heavenly Father feels about you!

He delights in you and He blesses you just for who you are!

He declares you are fearfully and wonderfully made!
He has good thoughts towards you!
He rejoices over you!
You are lovely to him!
Your face is beautiful to him!
He loves to hear your voice!

And the best part is:

Nothing can separate you from His love.

It is unconditional. It is the love of a Perfect Father for His child.

Believe that you already have His approval and blessing, it doesn’t come with any stipulations, any check list, it is freely given. Now breathe deeply, let go of the pressure to perform and produce, and freely recieve God’s approval of you!

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Why Can’t I Get Relationships Right?

Jade Lee

This concept of Old Wounds, New Relationships has been permeating through my heart throughout this week.  The fact is there are times we can’t seem to get through long term, deep relationships or even build healthy friendships because of these pains that we may not realize are stemming from the past. 

When we enter into a friendship, marriage, or covenant relationship that we take seriously it can be easy to find ourselves starting out excited.  We know GOD has led us to this person, career, ministry or commitment.  But as time goes on, it is virtually impossible not to face problems in the relationship.

We begin to realize the imperfections of others and although we already know no one is flawless, we may still find reality shocking. 

But something is just NOT adding up.

Why am I so angry?  Why am I so hurt?  Why am I devastated?

When they only said something in a way I would not prefer, or they misunderstood me, or they didn’t call me, pay attention to me…?  Have you ever thought to yourself, Something is just not adding up here?  I should be able to shake this much easier.

I have definitely been in this type of dilemma a time or two in my own life.  I knew in my head the person’s heart, but my heart didn’t seem to be believing the truth.

This could simply be, not that you nor I have lost it, but that we could be misappropriating the anger, frustration, fear and pain of our past hurts onto a current situation. 

Recently, I was driving into my drive way and my husband was walking towards me with our 10 month old puppy.  She began to get really excited, jumping and running.  In the midst of this exhilarated welcome she ran around me in a circle, but there was a chain still tied around her neck.  Not only did she wrap around me but that chain dug into the back of my legs.

My mind saw it all coming, but it was so fast that I did not have the time to respond.  Instead of reacting, I walked away in the dark, not knowing if I was cut or how badly I was hurt.

When I got inside, into the light, it was not long before I realized that this chain had done some damage to my legs.  They were cut up pretty bad and bleeding.

When my husband returned from the store with bandages, what moments ago seemed painless, began to make me squelch in responsiveness as he began to wrap my legs.  If I did not realize what was wrong, I would have blamed him for the pain, gotten angry with him when all he was trying to do was to wrap my legs in help.

In fact, I did blame him in my heart for the entire incident then felt the conviction settle in that it was not his fault at all- I had judged the situation prematurely.  After realizing that he could not see where I was or the chain because it was dark outside, my heart was humbled.

So often I have found myself blaming him for helping because I did not understand the source of the pain was not him; it was from a previous or another root.

We can do the same in our relationships.  We can begin the blame game very easily when in pain because we want to have a reasoning for our current feelings.  We start to blame friends, family, pastors, teachers, ourselves and whoever we can find in order to resolve the confusion of our mind.

We want to get out of the pain so we panic.

It is so important that during these times I stop, wait and then respond when I am less emotional.  Before I put my foot in my mouth…Again.

Usually, when I take the matter into my own hands more pain is caused and I hinder my own help.  But when I slow down, breath, think through my situation and ask GOD to help me see truth, I am that considerate, sweet woman living in appropriate gratitude for the man wrapping my legs, driving to the store to help me!

Is there some way that you have realized you have reacted in pain, misjudged the source of your pain or failed to give appropriate gratitude for those trying to help you because they have Touched a Past Wound?

I encourage you today to do what I must confess the LORD led me to do this very week, go to the one you hurt, ask for forgiveness and express gratitude for their help.  Then begin the healing process of the aching wounds of your heart.

Scripture for Meditation:

Psalm 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

When GOD sends others to minister to you or help you, like my valiant husband, how can you gracefully receive their aid in excitement- even if they touch the wounded spot?  Have you ever responded in your flesh to an aching wound then noticed you should not have reacted so quickly?  GOD can help us remain in the Spirit, even through hardship and difficulty as we grow in Him together.

Love & Blessings!