November 30, 2011

Wonder[ful] Belief- What Matthew 6:22-23 Teaches Me

Photo c/o: Anastasia Volkova Photography

(22-23)"Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!"
- Taken from the Message Bible (Matthew 6:22-24)

Matthew 6 is not an easy chapter to swallow, I will admit. However, I'm learning some serious lessons through it and I know that it's been a blessing straight from God to study.
Today, I'll be sharing from a personal experience.
A couple days ago, I shared a vlog entry about being thankful and grateful. I was so excited (and still am) about the message that my pastor shared on Sabbath about being grateful. I took that sermon and applied it to having real joy and haven't looked back. It was funny because not too long after I made that video, I started to get ready for work that afternoon. While I was getting dressed, I remembered that I'd have to pack a lunch/dinner for the amount of time I'd be at the office.  The thought of preparing a lunch/dinner sounded so cumbersome. I really didn't want to spend that time in the kitchen. The night before, I was craving pizza and it was still a craving at that moment. So, I decided that I'd have the pizza. Before you judge, it's actually a small enough pizza for one person's servings for lunch and dinner :) I ordered it and then finished getting ready so that I could pick it up and go to work.

While in the car, I thought about my weight and that I was on my way to get pizza. My weight has been something I've struggled with for so many reasons but to be honest, I've gotten to a place where I really feel "defeated". So I started to think about what I'd do if anyone ever asked me if I was pregnant. I'm on this "be thankful for everything" tip so I really was searching for ways to turn it into a positive. Here's what I came up with:

"Why thank you!!! You think that I look like I could be a giver of life! What an honor!" 

"Thank you for the reminder that my health is my wealth and belly fat is a stepping stone to fatal disease. This was a good reminder! God bless you!"

The more I thought of those comments, I laughed harder and harder at myself. I was so tickled that I was beginning to turn the negatives into positives. I really do need to lose weight but I don't need to get depressed about it. So as I headed into the pizza place, I placed my mind back into the thankful and light-hearted place. I guess it showed on my face because when I walked in, the first guy I laid eyes on smiled back at me and came toward the register to help me. He was so cute too :) So, I pulled out the debit card to pay him and he was having trouble with it. I knew it wasn't me so I didn't even begin to worry. I was mentally reminding myself to not buy Sprite and settle for the water in my car (healthy choices! I am trying!). He then told me that something was wrong with the machine and that it would take 10-15 minutes for them to make my transaction. I was prepared to wait and he then told me that the pizza was free. I was happy to hear that. What would've been $6 and change ended up staying in my pocket. Yay! Since then, there were a couple "negative" issues but because of a change in perspective, those negatives are literally water off a duck's back. This isn't to say that life is easy like Sunday morning but once you're in a position of gratitude with open eyes and open heart to see the world through the lenses of joy, good things present themselves! 
This is how I believe verses 22 and 23 apply to life as I've known it the past couple days. :)

What these verses teach us about life:

Open your eyes in wonder and belief. We don't want any dark cellar-type Christians!

a. Wonder: (This may be too literal but this is what I understand it to mean) I had a friend once challenge me to ask God questions when I'm in tricky situations. One of the main questions I am supposed to ask is, "God, how can you be glorified in this situation?" Then follow-ups could include: "God, I am wondering how to see the positive. I'm wondering how do I see you in the midst of this. I am wondering where to find you. That's wonder, right? haha. Or it could be wonder like awe i.e. "I am in awe of you, God and the opportunities you've created for me to trust you more!" Man, talk about spiritual maturity! Whoooo!!!

b. Belief- This is a chance for you to actively trust God and have faith that He's got you. Instead of           stepping into each moment with fear and anxiety, mentally train yourself to understand that God will not put more on you than you can bear. You're equipped to handle any situation with Him on your side. Know that and believe it!

Let me remind you that we can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens us! Phil. 4.13. 

Taste Test: Odwalla Mango Lime Smoothie Refresher

I love Odwalla drinks. They're a little cheaper than Naked but they still taste sooo good! Not too long ago, I saw that there was a miniature line of drinks that I'd never seen before. So, for this taste test, I tried Odwalla's Mango Lime Twist Smoothie refresher. It has 150 calories per bottle. Inside this particular flavor are the juices of an orange, coconut, mango, peach, apple, and lime. There's a ton of Vitamin C in this drink which is good for those who are looking for ways to up the Vitamin C intake. 

Verdict: It's not bad. I will be honest and say that I wouldn't buy it again simply because it's not really my type of flavor. If I'm paying money for a small bottle of juice, it's gotta be one that I'm absolutely in love with (unless I'm reviewing it). I wouldn't buy this one again but it's not nasty at all. It's good. It's just not "fall in love with juice, gotta try and make it at home" good. 

November 29, 2011

It's the Simple Things (Gratitude Photojournal):

In December 2010, I told the Lord about my desire for more travel. By that point, I hadn't been on a vacation in over 5 years. Crazy, uh? Over the years, I figured out different ways to be resourceful and  unwind since I didn't have enough money to go on a dream vacation. For example, sometimes when I've had a long day, I have a YouTube clip of beach waves hitting the shore and it does an excellent job of helping me drift off to la la land. It's not quite the same as actually being on a beach though. 

So, my love for the beach/water is a little apparent in this post :) I like getting messy in the sand (sand scrubs are the BEST exfoliators), relaxing in the water, swimming, pretending I know how to float, etc. The first vacation I went on this year was a group vacation. I think I spent more time in the water than every person on that trip. I just LOVE the water. If I had a waterproof case for my iPod, I think I would've let the ship leave me in one of the ports (ok, not really but you get what I mean). I'm someone who really soaks in my alone time. I actually need it more than the average person. It's not that I don't like people but some people get their energy from being around people all the time. I get my energy from being alone for (what may seem to some) a long time. I'm not quite sure how that will balance out once I'm married with kids but we'll see. So, all of these pictures were taken this year and the pictures include me and a body of water. I had the opportunity to visit Honduras, Belize, Costa Maya & Cozumel, Mexico. God truly blessed and answered a prayer that I had. On top of that, He gave me another special mini-vacation treat. I got to visit friends in Miami, FL two weeks ago and experienced more beach, palm trees, sand, and sunny weather. It was a welcomed treat since Maryland, at the time, had a temperature of 34 degrees the day I left for Miami. Blessings!!

God knows the desires of our hearts and while we need to be sure to share them with Him, don't get caught up in them. Instead of looking at God as tyrant in the sky who constantly wants to punish us and/or  a Santa Claus who is supposed to give us everything we want, look at Him as a really really awesome dad. That's what He is. He'll give correction when necessary but more than anything, He loves us and really wants to see that we get to spend eternity with Him. After all, He's prepared a place so special just for US! God delights in spoiling me. I'm his little princess :) I take joy in that and I also am extremely grateful and thankful! God, you're amazing! Thank you.

November 28, 2011

Vlog #2- Be Thankful!

Hi, guys! I posted this on FB yesterday but figured I should put it on the blog today! Vlog #2! Enjoy!

November 18, 2011

Choosing Your Treasures

Photo c/o: Erin Ever After

Ever since I was a little girl, I've been enamored with music, dance, art, interior decorating, etc. I used to rearrange furniture in my room and pull out different duvet covers to switch it up. I've always been that extra girly/domestic kind of girl. So when I read Matthew 6: 21-22, I wondered how this applied to my love of beautiful things. Is the love of all things beautiful and artsy a sin? Hm....we shall see.

(19-21)"Don't hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust-- or worse!--stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it's safe from moth and rust and burglars. It's obvious, isn't it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being."

These verses aren't easy to swallow. We've been raised in a society that's all about obtaining things and more things. Things give you status. Status gives you friends. Friends give you self-esteem. Self-esteem inflates the ego which makes you think that you need more things and the cycle starts all over again. Trust me, I know. I'm over it too. I was in conversation with a friend who shared that in order to buy a new phone, he had to use his entire paycheck. Mind you, he didn't need this phone. He just wanted it and couldn't wait for his "new every two" deal.  Mind you, he lives paycheck to paycheck, has nothing in savings, and has a ton of student loans to repay. I shared that I believed that was a huge mistake and left it at that. I didn't quite feel the need to scold. At the end of the day, I'm my brother's keeper but I'm no one's mother. Honestly, buying a phone that was way beyond his means stood out to me as a form of idolatry. If you're willing to put yourself in such a tight financial space for a "thing" that isn't a necessity, note that as the green light to take a hard look at your priorities. Why are things so important?
Living within your means is so much better than living in a state of constant lack; not to mention you'll own a whole bunch of stuff that'll be out of style within a year or two. One of my favorite blogs to read is the  Think and Grow Chick blog. Founder and head writer Courtney shares valuable lessons on how to deal with your finances as a young adult. A word of advice that she shares with students is to really evaluate the difference between wants and needs. After doing that (if you're a student), it's best not to make purchases with student loan money and justify the purchases by looking at the post-grad salary potential. Don't work with potential in those situations.
Now, don't get me wrong. I don't think there's anything wrong with saving to buy something you really want. There's also nothing wrong with being able to afford nice things. The very people who walk around mocking the Starbucks-drinking, iPhone-toting, J.Crew-shopping crowd are just as annoying as those who perpetrate/put pressure on others to perpetrate. Some can actually afford those things. Don't hate. There's no sense in mocking someone for enjoying the things they work hard for. Half of the people who mock are actually wishing they could buy the same things. At the end of the day, make sure you're being a good steward of your finances. As the old folk say, "live within your means."

If anything, NOW is the perfect time to work on your character; your character a.k.a that ONE thing you'll get to take to heaven. As we get older, the challenges we face get harder. The challenges make us stronger so don't freak out. Just put in the work. Once you actively seek to develop love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (Galatians 5:22-23), you're set. It's easier said than done and it will always be a work in progress. However, let God lead and be prepared to surrender.

Now, back to my initial question. Is the love of all things artsy and beautiful a sin?

John Ortberg's The Me I Want to be: Becoming God's best version of You is a great perspective changer in terms of how to approach and truly personalize your relationship with God. Chapter 7 is entitled Let Your Desires Lead You to God. I read this and just laughed out loud.

"Do you like money? In Acts 16 we read about Lydia, a businesswoman dealing in textiles, who was the first convert to Christianity in Europe. She had an eye for design and flair for making money. Imagine the passion and drive it would take for a woman to succeed in business in the ancient world. She was good enough at it that she owned her own home, and it was large enough that it became part of her ministry. Lydia's house became the first meeting place of the first church in the history of Europe. Of all the churches built over all the centuries ----Notre Dame, Westminster Abbey, and the Sistine Chapel ---the very first one in Europe was the home of this Phillippian businesswoman named Lydia. 
Maybe you have a flair for money. You enjoy it. You don't admit it to anyone at church, but you do. You love being surrounded by beauty, design and color. That in itself is not a bad thing. God created beauty. God loves beauty.  If these desires choke your generousity, cause you to live in debt, or create chronic dissatisfaction, then it is time to say no. But it is a good thing to put beauty in your environment that speaks to your soul. When you see that beauty, embrace that God-give joy and thank him that he is such a good God. In that moment, you can experience the flow of the Spirit in your life. As the Spirit flows in you, maybe God will give you creative, new ideas about how to share what you have, just as he did with Lydia. "

This excerpt really allowed me to let out a sigh of relief and reminded me to keep everything in perspective. Below is clip of OWN's Visionaries documentary. This clip features designer Tom Ford. I've watched the entire documentary and really appreciate his perspective and his honesty. Listen to what he says about fashion and spirituality. I believe he's on to something.

So, what do YOU think? 

November 14, 2011

Product Review:::Burt's Bees Pore-Refining Mask with French Green Clay:::

Burt's Bees Pore-refining mask w/ French Green Clay- My! What a long name! When I first started more experimentation with products, I knew that I didn't want to do too much with my facial products. There are some areas where I like to keep consistency. My face is one of those places. I'd been looking for a face mask for a quite a few years though. I'd try one for a couple months to a year and then give up for a while. I might have come across done on YouTube for this product but I really do love it. It comes in powder form which is kind of cool. Based on your skin type, you can mix different liquids (like tomato juice or carrot juice) in to work at its' greatest potential for your skin. I really like that. There's a bit of a peppermint/menthol feel to it when it's working. Your skin will feeling tighter and tighter while it's on your face. However, when you take it off, the skin feels so smooth, fresh, and clean. I don't know the science behind facial pores but I do know that mine were smaller afterward.
Verdict: It's a great product! I have NO complaints. I like it a lot! :)

November 11, 2011

Taking Peculiar to the Max

Photo c/o:
Hooray! It's Friday! We've made it to the end of the week! I've thoroughly enjoyed Matthew 6 so far. It's definitely been a blessing. We're going to go straight into Matthew 6: 14-18 today.

"In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can't get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God's part. (16)When you practice some appetite-denying discipline to better concentrate on God, don't make a production out of it. It might turn you into a small-time celebrity but it won't make you a saint. If you 'go into training' inwardly, act normal outwardly. Shampoo and comb your hair, brush your teeth, wash your face. God doesn't require attention-getting devices. He won't overlook what you are doing; he'll reward you well." 

* * *
I find it so interesting that God places that conditional statement there. We always like to think that God will hear our prayers and answer according to blah blah blah. However, there is a condition. This is something I've often forgotten so it's a great reminder to me.  A lot of times, we pray and ask God to forgive us of our sins before we make our other prayer requests known to Him. However, if we haven't forgiven others, we're wasting time. You can't ask for something you're not willing to give. In this case, it's forgiveness. I heard one of my pastors say that forgiveness is for giving. Give forgiveness to others so that God can give to you. It's also indicative of how much peace and freedom God really wants us to have. Holding grudges can really wear on a person. For me, it's especially hard to forgive someone when  I've gone to them and said, "you've hurt me because of such and such and such thing" and the person is unapologetic for whatever reason. It makes me feel like I don't matter so why should I forgive someone who doesn't care about my feelings enough? The reason is because forgiving others is actually about healing those hurt feelings. It means being one step closer to God and letting go of the hurt that was inflicted. I once heard Oprah say that forgiveness is the acknowledgment that the past couldn't have been any different. Once you move with that understanding, it's a little easier to move forward and forgive others.

I saw a clip of Kirk Franklin sharing a message on sexual purity. One of the things he said that stood out most was that sometimes, Christians can just be so weird. I literally laughed out loud. He was explaining how Christians can be so weird that we're pretty much approachable. Why? We're too busy acting holier than thou as if we don't know the struggles that men and women face. Starting at verse 16, the text gives further instruction on how we should act when fasting, meditating on God, etc.  Fasting isn't something you share from the mountaintop. If you're fasting with a church, the pastor has no choice but to shout it from the pulpit but that's different from broadcasting it to your entire social media network. It'd be one thing if you were explaining a testimony about how it was a blessing to you afterward. However, God clearly says to not make a production of it. I also really don't like the "weight loss" motives people use when trying to fast. Fasting is a spiritual process. It's about denying something in search of more Christ than you would normally feast on. I don't agree with the approach of sharing how much weight loss you experienced while on a fast. In my opinion, it's irrelevant to the bigger picture of what fasting is all about.

* * * 
It's sad but I can't say that I don't know a ton of Christians who were a little more than just a "peculiar people". Some Christians want the world to know they're Christians so badly that they end up looking weird. Looking homely doesn't mean you're more spiritual. You can shop at the thrift store and not look as if you've shopped in a 1800s and still be a presentable Christian. The text doesn't say this but even with modesty, you don't have to look strange to be considered a Christian. You can still dress nicely and be on fire for Christ. It's when you make fashion an idol that you run into trouble. Otherwise, Christians, STOP BEING SO WEIRD!!!

Have you ever experienced Christians who were soooo spiritual that they ended up being unapproachable? Have you been that Christian? This is definitely something to really think about. Think about Jesus while he was on this Earth. Think about the fact that his closest friends used to have some serious character flaws. But, meeting Jesus helped change them. Can people say they are changed for the better when they around you? Or do they want nothing to do with Christianity after learning you're a Christian?

Something to think about...

November 10, 2011

Product Review: Proclaim Hair Oil Treatment with Argan Oil

I grew up in Maryland but since 2005, I was living in the South. So, after moving back to Md in 2010, my hair, skin, and scalp reacted negatively to the move. It's a battle to keep everything moisturized. On top of being moisturized, I like for my natural hair to have a bit of a shining quality to it. Vain, I know. So, I've been trying different oils for my hair to see if I can get it to have a sheen to it after it faces the elements. When I was little, my hair used to have a pretty sheen to it. I figured it was something in the oils my mom used.  Proclaim's Hair Oil treatment is supposed to provide shine and eliminate frizz. I bought this one at Sally's. I must say this hair oil treatment is actually not half bad. When I first applied it to my hair after I blow-dried it, it smelled nice but felt too thick and synthetic. However, once I twisted my hair and let it sit overnight, my hair felt so soft, light and bouncy in the morning. I decided to use it on one side of my head to see the difference it would make. In the last picture, you can see the difference. One side is full, thick, and shiny. The other side looks a little parched and frizzy. This is probably a product I'll use in the colder months. Overall, I like it! :)

Prayer Pleasing [Part 2]

Photo c/o:  Harmless Monster

It's funny because when I was thinking and praying about what to write, all I could think of was the musical version of "The Lord's Prayer". I've been humming it for half of the evening!
Today, I'll share two versions of the prayer. I'll start with the King James Version and end with the Message Version.

"Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever. Amen."

"Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. Set the world right; Do what's best -- as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You're in charge! You can do anything you want! You're ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes."

* * * 

Now, I must admit that I was a little thrown off by some of the language in the Message. Since when did daily bread turn into three square meals?  In some places, their daily bread is one really great meal...or maybe not so great. Although the language was a tad bit off (at times) for me yet I still appreciate the message. I think of the original King James Version and I'm in awe of how good God is. I'm looking at the prayer totally differently right now. 
For some reason, it's just now hitting me that this prayer is a great summation of  how we should live our lives in relation to God. 

"Our Father"- God wants us to look at Him as "daddy". Whether there is a strong male figure in your life or not, there's is one who is the ultimate father, waiting to love you, spoil you, listen to you, and take good care of you if you let Him. 

"which art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name"- Our dad is in that place that I can only DREAM of and still can't fathom. Anytime we describe something as heavenly, we mean sheer pleasure, pure decadence, amazingness beyond our wildest imagination up to this point. Imagine that we can talk to someone everyday who actually lives there. Hallowed essentially means holy. This reminds me that even though he brought himself down to our level to live life and face the same temptations that we face, let's not forget that He is sooo much more than just a man. He's really a holy God. Respect and honor Him for what He's done in your life. 

"Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven"- Honestly, when I read this, my mind goes straight to the idea that if we just surrender to His will, we don't have to worry about anything. His will. Cast all your cares upon Him and let Him know up front that you're surrendering and giving Him full control. 

"Give us this day our daily bread"- I understand that since there's bread involved in this text, one would automatically think of something edible. I also believe that the daily bread could include the fact that we have jobs, cars to drive, breath in our body to move, breathe, and take of ourselves and one another. When you return a faithful tithe & offering, you're giving it back. So, God has to first give these things to you in order for you to return it. Catch my drift? 

"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors"- It's so easy to ask God to forgive us but when it comes to forgiving others, God knows that's a stumbling block for a lot of people. Grudges kill. Holding onto anger takes so much energy. I remember hearing someone say that they regretted suing another person because it literally drained them of their own energy since they had to stay in that angry, bitter, unforgiving, vengeful state for such a long time to continue the lawsuit. Sometimes, it's just better to forgive, let things go, and pray to God for healing. 

"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil"- Imagine if every human being on this Earth prayed this one line. Imagine if all the politicians prayed this one line. What if every church member was on one accord and prayed this prayer? This isn't to say that the temptation wouldn't come. However, we need to have on the whole armor of God and know that God is in front of us delivering us from every attack of the enemy. It's not easy. It takes a disciplined and strong mind to rise above temptation but Jesus walked this earth and sinned not. It is possible to triumph over temptation. 

"For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever"- Saying this line to God reaffirms in our minds how perfect God is and how much we surrender to Him. The kingdom, power, glory- it all belongs to God. Understanding that shift in power helps us to move in such a way that acknowledges that it's not our battle to win. We are free to be victorious because His will WILL be done. 

So be it. 

November 9, 2011

Taste Test: Mamma Chia Raspberry Passion

Chia seeds are new to me. Apparently, chia seeds are very good for you and are a great source of Omega 3. That's pretty cool. I've already incorporated flax seed into my regular diet and I like that. So when I saw this Chia drink, it seemed a little ugly but I figured that hopefully, I'd like it too.
FYI: this was another one of my Whole Foods finds.

Verdict: Gross! Gross!! Gross!!! I couldn't believe how much I hated it. To be honest, the taste isn't even that bad. It's the consistency that drove me nuts. It's clearly incredibly seedy but it also has a gel-like consistency. It feels like you're drinking seedy jello. I even tried to use my teeth to sift through the seeds and just get the flavor. My efforts were in vain.  Yeah, I'll have to get my Omega 3 or my chia seeds in another form. Kudos to Mamma Chia for attempting to get us to have more chia seeds in our diet but there's gotta be another way!!!

Prayer Pleasing [Part 1]

There's a clip on YouTube of Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) sharing how her creative process goes. Essentially, she has to make sure the chaos is blocked off so that she can work in quiet and allow creativity to flow. She also wakes up early in the morning. Now, let me tell you! I've longed to become a morning person since college. Whenever I wake up and do an early devotion, I feel so at peace and more prepared to take on the world. My thoughts flow so much better. It's as if the world is still sleeping while God and I have our quiet time. It's beautiful. However, the early morning sessions don't happen nearly as much as I wish they would.

* * *
In the second installation of the Matthew 6 series (check out the first one here), let's take a closer look at prayer. Matthew 6:5-13 show how God feels about our prayers to Him (pt.1) and He also teaches us how to pray (pt. 2 that I'll share tomorrow). Prayer is the direct connection to God, allowing us to share cares and concerns with Him. You don't have to be prostrate or in a kneeling position to pray either. There are many times when I'm driving, sitting at my desk at work, or laying in bed while in communication with God. Prayer is simply a conversation. 
I have a friend who once shared that God helps her pick out clothes sometimes. I looked at her as if she'd lost her mind. She proceeded to explain an instance where she literally didn't know what to wear. She felt God showing her the right outfit but she kept trying on other stuff and feeling unsatisfied. Eventually, she went back to what she heard God telling her to wear. As she headed out the door, she felt the Lord tell her to grab a sweater. She thought that was a bit extra but grabbed the sweater  anyway and headed out the door. Come to find out, she ended up needing the sweater and wouldn't have thought to bring it if God hadn't told her. God speaks to us in different ways but we need to have the channel of communication - prayer- constantly open. Here's what Matthew 6: 5-13 (The Message Version) has to say about prayer: 

"And when you come before God, don't turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat? Here's what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. (7) The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They're full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don't fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. "

Prayers in corporate worship can be very interesting. Some people pray with words so big that it's honestly difficult to say amen at the end because I have no idea what the prayer was for!!  It's almost as if some Christians are at higher rankings than others based on how many oversized words can fit in their vernacular. Expand your vocabulary. It's a beautiful skill. However, it's important to remember who we are truly speaking and as learned in verses 1-4, He is not fooled by our show. It's not about how much you say "Father God" in one sentence of your public prayer. How often do you commune with the Father God when you're in private?
My mother used to wake up early and go into the laundry room for devotion. She loved heat and the laundry room was the warmest place in the house. It also had a nice couch for her to be comfortable. It was that early morning time which she used in order to pray and be alone with God for a couple hours. You don't have to wake up and commune with God for hours on end. If what you have is 15 minutes to pray and meditate on a verse, be faithful with that. As your relationship grows, you'll yearn to make more time to spend with Him. But God says keep it simple. 

* * * 
I knew someone who used to memorize verses in her devotion so that she could brag about all the verses she knew. She really believed she was a prayer warrior. Talk about TOTALLY missing the point! Prayer time should be exactly that: prayer time.  It's not the time for you to cram for a bragging session of "Who knows the Bible better than me?" It's about building the relationship. You can't "one up" your peers on how much you know God better. Every person's walk is totally different. Focus on you and God and be vulnerable with Him. Holy water, prosperity songs, a selfish spirit: those are all gimmicks that God deplores. You wouldn't say, "Hey God! I want to pretend like I'm at least associated with you and your power to other Christians so I'm gonna use our hangout time to practice my lines that I'll use when I meet people in the streets." The gimmicks will get you nowhere. The wrong spirit will get you nowhere. There's nothing better than being authentic in your devotion time with God. Be real with God. There are times when I'm on shaky ground and am totally confused as to what God is doing. There are times when I'm furious with God. I tell Him. He knows my heart and he knows that I'm not trying to be disrespectful. Even though I'm feeling hurt by Him, I still would like to keep the line of communication open. Some Christians might disagree with that approach but God says to come as you are.  So I do *shrug*. 

So, remember: 
1. Stop the theatrics and gimmicks. They're a huge turn-off to God. 
2. Find time to be alone with Him.
3. Even when you're not alone, you can still keep the line open. Pray without ceasing. 
4. Be authentic and vulnerable within the relationship. 
Pt. 2 of this lesson will pick up tomorrow with the Lord's prayer. The Lord's Prayer needs it's own post :)

When do you communicate with God the most? Do you have a certain time of day when you prefer to have alone time with Him? 

November 7, 2011

Philanthropize. Don't publicize!

Photo c/o: Calma

Upon getting to know me, you'll learn that part of me is an old soul. Drinking tea is a daily ritual (whether it's July or November) and before you ask, the answer is "yes! I am a West-Indian".  I enjoy expensive scented candles and listening to my "David Carnes" Pandora station (It's a lovely mix of hymns on the piano. Don't knock it till you've tried it :) I enjoy reading devotionals, biographies, and articles that broaden my understanding of how to be a better person in the world. I'd much rather a good movie with a warm blanket than a night at the club. Don't get me wrong. I like a good night out. I love the arts. I love a good game night. I love to dance. Yet I realize that my typical type of fun isn't necessarily the same as the 25 year old next door.  One of the reasons I started this blog was to really explore my creative side. I love to cook. I like fashion. I'm a product junkie. I adore DIY projects. I love interior decorating.  All that is fun. However, my old soul really loves to write and learn about God. I've loved reading and writing since I was a little girl. For the past few months,  I've featured more creative projects with pictures. I'll still do that but writing is my first love and I've been neglecting it. Admittedly, writer's block coupled with the fear of rejection have made a dangerous cocktail. I've felt myself languishing in my writing because of fear that I'd disrespect the craft that I respect so much. However, the only way to get better is to practice. So whether I have no readers or 100 readers, I need to go back to the basics and what is true and natural to me. This isn't to say that I won't be still doing the other projects that I love. There will just be a lot more writing now. 

Now that the "pre-speech" is out of the way, I've been feeling the Lord pulling me to Matthew 6. I'm actively seeking God out through His Word and my aim is to really get to know Him. Sometimes, we say we love God but we don't really know Him. But, why am I starting at Matthew 6? So, Matthew 6 is a pretty popular chapter. Most times, Christians quote the verses 19-21 about storing up treasure in the right places. I just want to go a little deeper though. On my computer, I have a million bookmarks in their rightful folders. One of the bookmark folders is called "Jesus, God, Lover of my Soul" (I know I'm dramatic).That folder contains ALL of the articles, devotional thoughts, youtube & vimeo videos that have stimulated me spiritually. They've stimulated me so much to the point that I felt impressed to bookmark it for further study. When praying about where to start my study, I kept hearing people talk about Matthew 6. FB, conversations with friends, and sermons kept mentioning it. When I went to my "Jesus, God, Lover of my Soul" folder (you must say the entire name for the full effect!!), lo and behold, bookmarked at the very top was Matthew 6, the Message version. Okay, God! I got the hint. So let's break it up. Starting with Matthew 6: 1-4 for today. 

"Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don't make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won't be applauding. When you do something for someone else, don't call attention to yourself. You've seen them in action, I'm sure -play actors' I call them-- treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that's all they get. When you help someone out, don't think about how it looks. Just do it -- quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes helps you out." 

Don't you just LOVE how the Message version makes things extra plain? Now, some may not agree with me on my references and analogies but's my blog :)  Here we go! Now, I am not the biggest Beyonce fan. As a lover of music, I do appreciate the musical references she's including in her latest album. Her creativity is appreciated. Her work ethic is matchless and her talent is incredible. She's beautiful and one of the greatest entertainers of our time. With that said, you won't see me at a Beyonce concert. You just won't. I feel that a woman with that much talent, creativity and drive has no need for such overtly sexual marketing strategies that are consistently woven through her career's timeline. However, one of the things I deeply admire is her humility within her generosity. I remember being in conversation with someone who was bashing Beyonce because she "doesn't give". I was a fan of Destiny's Child and so I had a hard time believing that anyone from Destiny's Child wasn't giving back in some way simply because of their upbringing. I was right. Come to find out, Beyonce has donated millions to her home church and countless charities. The only way I knew that was because I did the research. When I read the aforementioned verses, I thought "Hmm. I wonder if Beyonce has read this and taken note". She actually applies this to her giving. Kudos! Some celebrities feel the need to share every charitable deed they perform and they also make sure a band of photographers and reporters are on hand to document the good they've done. According to God, that's the worst way to go about doing good deeds.  

Let's take it a step further and talk about consistency as well. Have you ever seen someone in church or school that was in a role where they were constantly seen? Maybe they were a pastor, singer, student leader, etc. When in front of everyone, they presented themselves as wonderful citizens of the world who were kind...or spirit-filled...or passionate...or genuinely concerned about other people? Yet when you meet them face to face, you wish you hadn't because they're so mean? When the spectators are gone, what's that person really like?  Consistency is so effective when it comes to being a Christian. 

Okay. What about you? In public, you're the loveliest person. Your personality says to others that you are a do-gooder. You put on an amazing performance at the job, at church, on Facebook and Twitter, but when you're at home, you're vengeful, spiteful, grouchy and you could care less. Newsflash!! Doing good is not a spectator sport.  

I think we all, at one time or another, can attest to fitting into one of these categories; some cases more extreme than others. Now, the goal is not to fit in to one of these scenarios and yes, it is an attainable goal. At the end of the day, I believe the keys are consistency and humility.  People can have a tendency to be one way in public and another way at home. That doesn't have to be the case. A former roommate of mine was the same crazy, loving, giggly spirit in public as she was at home. I always joke that the only difference was that at home, she had less clothes on. Be the beautiful spirit that you know, deep down, you should be. Don't make a show of it though. Be humble. If God calls you to feed the homeless, feed the homeless. Don't brag about it and then treat others as if you're better because you've done this great deed. If God calls you to send an encouraging word to a co-worker or a church member, do that. But, be consistent and do the same at home. Give an encouraging word to a roommate or a family member. At the end of the day, the One we should be aiming to please can see all. He knows your heart and unlike us, He can actually judge. Rewind to what I said about Beyonce. The way I knew about her philanthropic ways was because I knew about her former charitable endeavors with Destiny's Child and because I did the research. God knows the deal with us. He knows our upbringing and our propensities do certain things naturally. He's done the research. 
The jig is up.  

My "out of the box" (but contextual) example was Beyonce. 
Who or what comes to mind as an example of Matthew 6:1-4???? 

By the way, for those who didn't know, philanthropize is a word. 

philanthropize (verb):
promoting the welfare of others by the generous donation of money to good causes.