PSA: You don’t have time to waste!

(photo from the movie, “In Time”; I wonder if we knew how much time we had left on this earth would we live and respond to God’s purpose for our lives differently?)

“Your days are numbered, your steps are ordered, you’re on assignment”

This came to me a couple of weeks ago while I was in prayer and I’m absolutely certain it was in regards to the things that God has placed in my heart to do. Since I’m sure it could serve as a reminder and/or eye opener for others, I figured I’d share it with you guys.

1. Your days are numbered 

Translation: You don’t have time to waste

James 4:14 says, “Why, you don’t even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. This is just a reminder that you will not be here forever and you don’t know how much time you have on this earth. I’ve read stories of one-year-olds and even one-month-olds dying so what makes you think you have all the time in the world? This is not to scare you but rather to point out the reality of life. We need to stop acting as if we don’t have an expiration date. I’m sure that there were many people who thought they would wake up this morning but didn’t. Your next minute of life is not promised. Would you be satisfied with what you have done or accomplished thus far to advance God’s kingdom? What has God been urging you to do that you’ve been dragging your feet with? Get a move on!

2. Your steps are ordered 

Translation: I’ve got you

The word ordered means to be neatly or conveniently arranged; well-organized. How cool is it to know that God has our steps neatly arranged and well-organized? It’s so funny how we easily forget that and not realize how heavy that statement is. Having your steps ordered by God should be all the more reason for you to follow and trust His plan for your life. God equips you for everything that He calls you to do. He has everything under control. You just have to trust Him and depend on His word. Spend time with Him and let Him lead you. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

3. You’re on assignment 

Translation: Now do my work

God’s ultimate desire is that He be glorified in all the earth and that people would be saved and reconciled back to Him. (The Great Commission) It is our task/mission as Christians to make this come to pass. We must remember that we are here for a reason. God has you here for a specific purpose and you are to carry it out to completion.  2 Corinthians 5:20 says, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.” God may not have appointed you to be a prophet or a preacher but He certainly has appointed you to do His work.This is a great reminder because knowing and remembering why you’re here helps you to stay focused on the task at hand. And if God has specifically given you something to do or has placed something deeply in your heart to do, don’t make excuses about why you can’t do it. Don’t prolong it. Actively work toward it; usually when God tells you to do something, there is a level of urgency behind it.

We don’t have time to waste and God is probably like…

We’ve got stuff to do! DO WORK!

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Spiritual Osmosis?

(a clip from the movie “Baby Mama” where Barry (Steve Martin) is transferring his success to Kate (Tina Fey) through his mind)

I was one of those people who you would say was “raised in the church.” Both of my parents were ministers so I was  exposed to a Christian lifestyle at a very early age. My parents always had me in church. I would be in church all day on Sundays for Sunday School in addition to all the services that the church had. If there was an evening service, I was there. If we were having a revival, I was present. If my mom had to serve, I stayed at church until she left. My whole family was that way. Both of my grandmothers served in some capacity at their churches and whenever I visited them, I was always there with them. It was a way of life and, as such, everything that I was taught stuck with me as I got older. It wasn’t until I went away to college that I realized that I never developed a relationship with God for myself. Although I had gone to church religiously (no pun intended) for 18 years of my life and knew a lot of scriptures and Bible stories, I realized that I didn’t truly know God. I was believing in a God that was introduced to me at a young age and was living off the relationship my parents and other family members had. It wasn’t until I experienced rough situations where all I had was God that made me realize the reason why my family members believed and served Him the way that they did.

It is important for us as Christians, whether young or old, to get to a place where we develop a real relationship with God for ourselves. We have got to get beyond the idea of knowing God solely through others. You can’t live off of your parents’, your grandmother’s, your friend’s, your sibling’s, your spouse’s, or your boyfriend or girlfriend’s relationship with God. At what point does God become real to you? You have to discover what God means to you and why He means that much to YOU. Living through someone else’s relationship is limited and ultimately useless. It’s like watching somebody else eating and expecting to get nourishment from their meal. Now, I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with someone introducing you to Christ because of course that’s where it begins…but that’s only the beginning. You are responsible for nurturing and deepening the relationship for yourself. Depending on someone else’s relationship will not get you into heaven. I don’t think you can say, “But God…like, you and my mom were really tight! Doesn’t that count for something?” I’m sure that’s when He’d hit the, “Depart from me, I never knew you” speech. LOL.

We must take the active steps in developing a real relationship with God. For me, that meant asking questions that caused me to learn what it was that I believed for myself. Ask yourself:

Why do I believe in God? 

Do I even really believe He exists? If so, why do I believe this? 

Am I trying to impress my friends?

Am I going to church just because that’s what I have done since I was little?

Am I trying to keep up a facade?

What about God makes Him real to me?

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking questions because that is what provides better understanding. Maybe through asking yourself these questions you have found that you don’t truly have your own relationship with God (you’re saved but you don’t know God for yourself) I would encourage you to ask God to reveal Himself to you in a deeper way and also read about some people in the Bible who had a true and personal relationship with God such as Abraham (beginning in Chapter 12 through Chapter 25) and David (whose love and dependence on God is expressed throughout the book of Psalms). This may help you see why and how they developed their own relationship with the Lord.

Don’t continue to live off of someone else’s relationship. Only PERSONAL relationship with God will sustain you.

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Secret Identity Crisis

With the recent release of the Man of Steel movie, I started thinking about the concept of super heroes. A super hero is defined as any of various comic strip characters with super human abilities or magical powers, wearing a distinctive costume, and fighting against evil. As far as I know, all super heroes have a secret identity that they hide behind in order to keep their true identity hidden. Having a secret identity allows the person to live a normal life when they are not fighting crime.

As I thought more and more about this concept, I paralleled it with Christians. We have the power to change and save sooo many people in the world through the sharing of Christ but oftentimes, as a whole, we come up short. I believe this is because we let our “secret identity” remain our only identity. We act as though we have to keep who we are hidden all the time, as if no one is supposed to know that we are a Christian. For some reason, we get afraid to let others know about it. We rather fit in than stand out. Instead of going against the world’s standard, we go along with them. Instead of letting our peers know who we serve, we let our Christianity play the background. For the record, your identity in Christ was never supposed to remain a secret. Matthew 5:14-16 says, “You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

So for all of you trying to remain in your secret identity status, it’s time to come of out hiding! When was the last time you’ve seen a fearful and cowardly super hero?

Be unashamed! (Romans 1:16)

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Poetry Corner x Karness Turner

(above is a still shot from his poem, “Coming out of the Closet“)

For those of you who may or may not know, I am a fan of poetry and spoken word. Karness Turner is a Christian spoken word artist and poet of whom I have liked ever since I heard his poem “Does Anybody Know That You’re a Christian?” which he performed a few years ago at a spoken word event called the Lyricist Lounge.  I love how his poetry always has a message that not only causes conviction but also brings about introspection. Look him up on YouTube, you’ll be happy you did.

*For the record: (as quoted from the poet) The poem, “Coming out of the Closet” is NOT advocating a homosexual lifestyle nor is it [my way of] coming out of the closet. It is saying that Christians have taken the place of homosexuals in society and are not as free to express the principles of their faith outside of the walls of church without ridicule or backlash.

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The Flesh Files, Vol. II

This past weekend my friends and family helped me celebrate my 25th birthday with a surprise party. It was awesome! At one point during the party they allowed people to come up and share their acknowledgements and kind words. I was so taken aback by what people had to say about me…things that you would never think they would say. It was very touching.

After the party had ended, me and a few other people decided that we would go to a nearby bar/restaurant to just hang out since we weren’t ready for the night to end. Now, for those of you who know me or have read this post you may be thinking, why did she go to a bar? Wasn’t that a struggle of hers? I know, I know…and yes it was. I honestly had no intention of drinking at all but, for some reason, the fact that the people around me were doing it, it was my birthday, and I didn’t have to pay for it made me want to. The whole time I was there I was having this internal battle thinking about what would happen if I did do drink. What would people think? Would someone see me? What should I do? I even thought about the party that I had just came from and how people had all this good stuff to say about me. I didn’t want to be a let down to them or give them any reason to revoke what was said. Not only that, I didn’t want to be a misrepresentation of God. I didn’t want someone to see me or even the people I was with to see me and think that because Crystal did this, it must be okay to do. The Holy Spirit’s conviction in me was strong but the flesh in me was stronger.

Unfortunately, after about a 15 minute internal struggle, I ended up having two Amaretto sours. They were two baby drinks and I did not get drunk but they were drinks nonetheless; drinks that I drank easily after about three years of not drinking. Afterwards I felt HORRIBLE. I felt like a failure and a hypocrite. I thought to myself, “You just came from a party where people prided you on your faith and your convictions and then you pull this? SERIOUSLY?!” Later on, I cried to one of my friends about it and then cried to God about it. I then wrestled with whether I should even share this or not for fear of being judged or condemned but I feel like it would not only help myself, but help someone else who may be dealing with the same struggle or is just struggling in a particular area in general.

This incident showed me that although we as Christians strive for perfection, we are an imperfect people. Ultimately, we are human and things happen. Now, I am in no way making light of the situation or condoning the behavior but it is the truth. As much as we would like to, we do not always get it right and it sucks when you don’t. You may feel stupid, regretful, upset, disappointed, sad, mad and a number of other ways (I certainly did) but instead of letting it hinder you, use it as a learning experience. Don’t let it keep you down forever. Here are a few things that I’ve learned from this situation:

1. Conviction, yes…Condemnation, no.

There is a difference between conviction and condemnation. When you feel convicted, it is because you have a strong belief about something and the incident or action that occurred goes against that belief. This is what causes you to feel bad after you have done something that you know was not right. There is nothing wrong with conviction. The issue comes, however, when you condemn yourself for doing something you feel is wrong. I like the definitions they give for condemnation on to pronounce to be guilty, to sentence to punishment, to judge or pronounce to be unfit for use or service. Isn’t that what we do? I know for me, after I had those drinks I felt like I was a no-good filth meister and that the world was over. I thought that God would no longer get the glory from my life and that what everyone had just said about me at my party was no longer valid. This was so not the case and I’m sure that’s what the enemy wanted me to think. There is a difference between feeling bad for what you did and beating yourself up for doing it. Which leads me to my next point…

 2. Give it to God and keep it moving.

I  know that sounds a lot easier to say than to do…and it is. Instead of getting over the sin we committed and continuing on with our lives, we like to dwell on things and replay the incident until we beat ourselves to death with what we did. That is not what God wants for us. In His mind He is probably thinking, “Okay son/daughter, I know this got you down and threw you off track but we can’t stay here. I have more for you to do and you dwelling on this is taking away from what else I have for you.” This is not to make light of what has happened but the reality of the situation is that it happened, you can’t change it, God still loves you and forgives you, now lets progress. There is more for you beyond your mistake/setback and even though it feels tragic it is not the end of the world. When you do sin, go to God in prayer and ask for His forgiveness. First John 1:9 (NIV) says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Give it to Him. If you need to cry (like I did) do so but after you do it, leave it where you left it and move forward. There is life beyond your mistake. Cheer up buttercup :) And lastly…

3. Tell somebody.

After giving it to God be sure to share with somebody what has happened, preferably an accountability partner or someone that you trust who won’t judge you or make you feel worse than you already do. I know a lot of times when we do something that we shouldn’t we want to keep it to ourselves but I highly recommend not doing so. Telling someone is not only freeing but beneficial in that you’re no longer holding in some “deep dark secret” and the person helps to lighten the burden that you are carrying. They don’t condone the behavior but they don’t condemn you either. They can provide good advice, a listening ear, and even pray for you. They are the support you need when you can’t support yourself. (that sounds so cheesy but you know what I mean…LOL)

 Messing up sucks…like, really sucks but it is not the end. Your one mistake doesn’t change who you are nor who you’ve been or who you’re going to be. It doesn’t stop what God can and will do in your life. You’re not useless because you made a mistake. Cry if you need to, give it to God, ask for forgiveness, learn from it and progress.

 Psalm 103:8-12

 The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.


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What about me?

You have this person that you claim that you are best friends with. You love them with all of your heart and just enjoy who they are as a person. You think that they are great. So, because of this friendship that you have with this individual, they try to make time to hang out with you. Nothing serious, just a check-in here and there, maybe an hour hangout, just to see how things are going. Every time this person calls and tries to make plans with you you tell them that you are too busy or you are unable to make it. As time goes by you keep telling yourself, “Man…we really need to hang out. I’ll be sure to make time for them tomorrow or later on this week.” Days go by and the hangout time with your friend keeps getting postponed. All the while, they never get mad at you or stop trying to spend time with you even though they have every reason to do so.

 Isn’t that how we are sometimes with spending time with God? We know that we need to spend time in prayer with Him or that we need to read our Bible or even just sit still in His presence and yet we just keep putting Him on the back burner as if He’s not important. I’ve been a victim of this plenty of times. God is not some pompous holy being that has no regards for His children. He has feelings and emotions and He desires to spend time with you. You think you’re too busy to pray but you make time for everything else under the sun. You’ll spend hours hanging out with your friends but can’t steal away for 15 minutes to spend time in God’s presence. What’s wrong with that picture? I’m not trying to make it sound like you have to spend 20 hours in your room on your knees praying to God every day. I think a lot of times that’s how we view our time with God should be so, in turn, we don’t do it. But it’s really as simple as saying a prayer of thanks when you wake up in the morning or reading and meditating on a scripture or a topic you’ve read in your Bible. You don’t have to start out doing the most but as you make time for God you’ll find that you’ll desire to want to spend more and more time with Him. God is waiting for and expecting your presence..don’t leave Him hanging.

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Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

I think a common misconception that we as Christians have is the thought that everything is supposed to be smooth sailing once we accept Christ into our hearts. As I continued to grow in my relationship with God I realized that was not the case. I quickly learned that growing deeper in God was uncomfortable and although I wanted to grow spiritually, when it came time to do so I hated the way it felt. I was constantly being stretched and taken out of my comfort zone. I had plenty of those Sweet Brown moments when I told God, “AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FO’ DAT!” I didn’t want to be challenged to do more and that’s where the discomfort came from. I’m sure that you all know that when God begins to stretch you, it is not pleasant at all. It can actually be pretty frustrating at times. But what I have learned is that the discomfort never really goes away. So, as such, here are a few things that you should learn to get comfortable being uncomfortable with as a Christian:

1. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable with the growth process.

You are going to have spiritual growing pains. There are going to be issues and situations that are going to cause you to step out of your comfort zone. As much discomfort that it brings just remember the purpose behind it: to prune and groom you to be more like Christ. You’ll probably have a few, “Why me Lord?” moments and it will suck at times but it is all working out for your good. The process is never going to go away so you may as well learn to deal with it. (It sounds harsh but it’s the truth…sorry LOL)

2. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable around certain people and situations.

This was something that I kind of learned the hard way. After I rededicated my life to Christ I was slowly weaning myself out of my old lifestyle but it took me a while to stop going to bars. I had given up drinking but still went to them to socialize. However, I noticed that when I went there, I felt sooo out of place. The music, the environment, even the people I was around no longer did anything for me. Everything that I used to enjoy felt so weird. It was as if my senses were heightened and I became more aware of my surroundings. I felt like an outsider in those places and as much as I wanted it to feel like old times, it didn’t. Over time, the closer you get to God the more you outgrow your old ways and even the people that you used to hang with. So don’t be surprised if you start to feel weird being around or doing the things that you used to…it should feel uncomfortable. That’s just a sign of your growth and as you continue to do so, your tolerance for things will become less and less.

3. Get comfortable with doing things that you do not want to do.

From past experiences, I’ve learned that God likes to make you do this A LOT. This may include not going somewhere that you want to go or being nice to someone that you are not particularly fond of. It could also pertain to praying or fasting more. For example, there was a time when I didn’t want to pray at all. I knew I needed to do it but I just did not want to. So I would dread having personal devotional time with God but I would keep telling Him that I wanted to know Him better. One day, I finally thought about it and was like, “How do I expect to know Him better if I won’t even talk to Him?” There goes that stepping out of your comfort zone idea again. It was difficult at first but once I got used to doing it, it became easier. But just as God would have it, once I got comfortable with praying privately He then pushed me to start praying publicly in various settings which was another thing that I did NOT want to do. Do you see the cycle? There’s always going to be something that you do not want to do but it’s necessary for your growth.

Now, I’m not trying to scare you and make it seem like you are going to be dealing with excruciatingly painful discomfort every single day. I just want to let you know that growing with God is not a cakewalk and it was never meant to be. Things are going to feel uncomfortable at times but that is normal. So don’t run from it or throw in the towel when you start to feel it. Man up (or woman up? LOL) and embrace it.

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What are you waiting for?

If you’re like me, sometimes you feel as though you need the perfect conditions to make things happen. It has to be 80 degrees and sunny for you to go for a morning run or you need the best camera to start doing photography or you need to wait until you have enough money to start a business. Although having the right conditions are ideal, they don’t always need to be PERFECT. When you become too focused on what you don’t have, you lose sight of what you can with what you already possess. Theodore Roosevelt said it best, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” God didn’t need perfect people, he just needed someone who was available and willing to do what He asked. I’m preaching to myself. We prolong the process when we try to wait for the perfect conditions and we will continue to do so until we end up doing nothing at all. Don’t waste anymore time, the time is now.

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Trusting God

Throughout our week, we put so much trust in people that we do not know with our lives and personal belongings. If you ride the bus, you trust the bus driver to guard your life and safely get you to your destination. The same goes for cab drivers, air pilots and the like. When you go to a restaurant, you trust some random chef to prepare a meal for you that is properly cooked and that won’t poison you. You trust cashiers and bank tellers with your money and if you have children, you trust school teachers and daycare workers with their livelihood until they return to you. Nine times out of ten, you have never met these people a day in your life. Despite that fact, you still trust them with important duties that potentially, if done incorrectly, could end your life or drastically alter it.

With that said, why is that we can so easily trust complete strangers with our lives, personal belongings, and well being and be okay with it, but when it comes to giving God that same kind of trust, we make it soooo difficult? We say that we believe that He has all this power, yet we don’t want to believe that He can utilize it. We say that we trust Him with our lives and what He is going to do in it, but then we allow worry and doubt to rob God of the trust we say that we have in Him. We are so quick to confidently quote Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” But as soon as something doesn’t go as we planned, our trust diminishes. (It’s okay, I’ve been there plenty of times too) We don’t trust Him to get us through hard and trying situations, we don’t trust that He can make things possible out of impossible situations. But we can put our full trust in a human whom we’ve never met with our well-being and our lives?  Where is the logic in that?

 If we can trust in the behavior of complete strangers for our well-being, how much more should we be willing to trust the Creator of the universe with our lives? Don’t forget who God is and what He is capable of. He’s already mapped out the plans for your life so just rest in the fact that He knows best.

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The Flesh Files, Vol. I

Have you ever had those times when you are just living your life and going hard for God and then, almost out of nowhere, you get tempted with something from your past that tries to throw you off track? Or maybe you’ve experienced times when the bad & sinful version of you is trying to overpower the good & holy version of you. It’s like, your spirit is talking to you but your flesh IS NOT trying to hear it!

That was the case for me about two weeks ago. One Thursday night, out of nowhere, I wanted to buy a bottle of Moscato wine and go in on it! It was the most random thing! Now in my BC [before Christ] days, I really enjoyed drinking…well, I really enjoyed getting drunk. But, once I rededicated my life to Christ, I completely gave it up. It’s been about three years since I have stopped drinking so it wasn’t as if it were in my normal routine to want to drink let alone, drink a whole bottle of wine by myself. I toyed with the idea of going to pick up a bottle after work that evening but by the time I got off all I wanted to do was go home. The following Saturday, the idea popped back into my head. This time it was more intense and I was closer to actually doing it.

That evening, I ordered some sushi and in the same shopping center was a Harris Teeter (which was where I had planned to get the wine from). So, me being curious to see if they even had the Moscato in stock, I moseyed on over there and lo and behold they had it. One last bottle sitting there all lonely, waiting to be taken to someone’s home to be enjoyed. Not only was it the last bottle, but it was on sale! I looked at the bottle for a while and decided to visit the other aisles to think about whether or not I should purchase it. I weighed all the options and possible outcomes.

The bad & sinful version of me was thinking of the reasons why I could get away with it. There was no one around so it would be something that only I knew about. All I had to do was go home, take it in my room and chill. And it was the LAST bottle…it had to be meant for me, right? And it’s on sale? What?! That’s definitely for me! Well, I came very close to buying it when the good & holy version of me thought about why I shouldn’t do it. I’m active enough in my church to the point where I’ve been out-and-about and people that I don’t know say that they’ve seen me in church before. Since that had happened a few times, I got nervous about that happening the one time I decided to buy wine. I kept picturing the cashier saying, “I see her in church serving everywhere and she drinks wine, it must be okay for me then.” So that put a damper on my excitement. Another thing was that I was going to church the next day and I wouldn’t have felt right getting tipsy and then strutting into church like everything was okay. Furthermore, even if no one were to see me and if I were able to “get away with it” I still wouldn’t have felt right mainly because I know what I represent and who I represent. God would have seen me and I know that I have people watching me as well and I would not feel right doing something like that as if it were something that I promoted. So in the end, I decided to just not to go through with it. I had too much to lose from doing so.

We all have those times when we feel our flesh trying to take precedence over our spirit but just know that you don’t have to give in to it. There are ways to get overcome it. Also, don’t think that if you are being put in a tempting situation that you have sinned. The sin is not the temptation itself but rather, the actual act of giving in to that temptation. Stay strong my friends! (I wanted to say, “Stay thirsty” but I think that would have implied the wrong message given the subject matter of this post…ha!)

Note: As a personal preference, I stopped drinking entirely because I always drank with the intention of getting drunk. So, as a result, I do not drink…period. This is not to condemn those of you who do drink wine nor am I condoning it, this is just what works for me.

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