Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Our Struggles, but Christ - The Army Brat

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It was a brisk fall day, but I didn't care because the Bears were playing! I had my big winter coat, my Bears gear, my Chicago hotdog, and my dad. I couldn't ask for more. We screamed and yelled most of the first half and I was enjoying every minute of it. It was halftime and I just had to talk to him about Cici. 
James Smith Jr: Hey dad, how did you know mom was the one? How did you know you were ready to marry her? 
James Smith Sr: I knew this day was coming soon. 
James Smith Jr: You knew what?!  With a slight grin on my face. 
James Smith Sr: My dad smirked. Because I know my son and I know when I am starting to share my son's heart with someone else. 
James Smith Jr: I turned to look at my dad and captured that very moment forever. So how did you know? 
James Smith Sr: Well, son I knew your mother was the one when I could bare my soul to her. I knew I could be any and everything to and with her. Every time while I was with her, I felt like it wasn't enough. When I saw her, I had serenity. Plus, it didn't hurt that she was fine! You think Cici is the one? 
James Smith Jr: I chuckled, turned to my dad, and smiled. I believe Cici...
Beep, beep, beep....I hit the snooze button on the alarm and let out a big sigh. I laid in the bed for 10 minutes while going through a mental battle if I should call him or not. This time could be different. We could actually build a real relationship. I'm going to call him. 
Ring, ring, ring...Hi, you reached James Smith Sr. I am sorry that I cannot come to the phone, but if you could please leave me a voicemail with your name and number I will get back to you as soon as I can. End call...Man, whateva. It is not surprising. He never answers the phone. I don't even know why I even tried to reach out to him. I just don't understand. What father doesn't want a relationship with his own flesh and blood? It never fails. It is just me, my siblings, and my mama. I need to get ready for work. 
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Days later...meeting my friend, John to play some one-on-one 
James sits on the bench to lace up his shoes. He notices that no one else is in the gym. He is actually happy because he wanted to talk to John about a few things. John walks out of the locker room and takes a seat next to James. 
James Smith Jr: How was your week?
John: It was pretty good. Getting ready for the baby and building the house with the Pops. Yours?
James gets up to warm up and takes a couple of shots. John gets up to catch his rebounds. 
James Smith Jr: Decent. Cici and I are having some issues. She is constantly nagging me about opening up and being more emotional. I keep telling her that I'm good and that our relationship is good. I just don't understand why that just can't be enough.   
John: I love you like a brother, but I hate to admit that Cici is right. 
James Smith Jr: Cici is right? 
John: Yeah. You don't let people in. You never tell people how you really feel. You have been seeing Cici for quite some time now and your relationship hasn't been taken to the next level. 
James Smith Jr: Next level? Please explain Dr. Phil. I chuckle. 
John: John chuckles. My dude, I have known you since we've been 6! You can't even be honest with me and I am ya boy. You should be able to tell me anything. How can you be honest with Cici? 
James Smith Jr: I paused and seriously thought about what John was saying. Am I not honest with John? I do tell you things. I am telling you about Cici now. 
John: James you know what I mean. You stop letting me in, your brother in, your sisters in, your mama in, ever since your dad left when you were 11. Ever since then you have been unable to commit to anything. Think about it. You switch jobs more than anyone I know. You can't find a church home because you are always finding something wrong. You hop from relationship to relationship. I am surprised Cici has kept your attention this long. 
James Smith Jr: What are you saying? 
John: I am saying that you have abandonment issues which are linked to your commitment issues. I am saying that you will never be able to give Cici what she deserves if you don't heal the wounds from your dad leaving. Let's be real James, your dad broke your heart.
James Smith Jr: I really don't want to talk about this. I'll just ask about the baby it always changes the subject with John. Maybe. How's the baby? 
John: Don't change the subject James. You have allowed this to control your life for far too long and as your friend I am telling you we need to talk about this. What are you afraid of James? Why can't you let go? 
James stared as John as if he could see through him. 
James Smith Jr: Am I going to really tell John what I think and how I feel about MY DAD?! Was he right? I really don't let people in do I? Here goes nothing...Aight. I'll tell you since you my boy. I don't want to be like my father. I am afraid that I am going to end up just like him. I am afraid if I have kids I will abandon them. I am afraid that Cici is going to be like my father and abandon me. How can I expect someone like Cici to love me when the very person that is genetically wire to love me doesn't? How John? To avoid that feeling of disappointment, I just choose to not commit to anything. It is simple. No commitment, no disappointment, no hurt. 
John: You are not your dad. Cici is not your dad. Your future children are not you. If you are like your dad, it will simply be because you chose to be like him. You can't make your dad have a relationship with you either. You can't control the actions of others, but you can control yours. You can choose not to be like him. I know the more he hurts you, the more reluctant you are to open up to anyone. You have to stop allowing this relationship to rule your life and everything in it. You can't define your life by people that hurt you. You have to stop pointing the finger, but you do need to deal with you past in order to be free. The best part is that you don't have to do it by yourself. When God said that He came to heal the brokenhearted, he meant that literally. He came to heal you, James. Psalm 147:3 You have to accept when you say it broke your heart, your heart was really broken.
James Smith Jr: James interrupts. I'm broken?
John: Yes, you are broken hearted. I know because my father has been where you are. It took him until he was almost 50 to admit his father broke his heart. I don't want you to wait that long. We have all buried wounds that need mending. Those wounds are strongholds that keep us away from God. The best part of it all is that we know Jesus Christ! He desires truth for you. In the most hidden parts of your heart, He will bring you wisdom. Psalm 51:6 God can help you conquer your abandonment issues and overcome your fear of commitment. You will be able to be the man you need to be for Cici. Until then you will be here, stuck and never going to the next level in your relationship. 
James Smith Jr: I hate to admit it. I had a broken heart. My heart was so broken because of my father. I love him so deeply from the deepest part of my soul. I just wanted him to love me the same. I just wanted him to be a part of my life so bad...I knew that my relationship with Cici was stagnant because of my fear of commitment and feeling trapped. Is my father the key to mending my heart, overcoming my fear of commitment and abandonment? Is John right? Can God really heal me, my wounds, or my broken heart? You say God huh? You truly believe God can heal me?
John: I know God can do it. He did it for my pops. I know opening up to Cici, trusting me, or forgiving your dad is like jumping out an airplane. I just want you to know that when you jump you will give up control and your heart will change. Your fear of commitment and abandonment will vanish because there will be no room for it. Only faith will remain. You will have made room for Jesus Christ. Room for Him to give you strength Isaiah 41:10, peace John 14:27, power for love 2 Timothy 1:7, and much more. 
James Smith Jr: I pondered on the thought of being free from my broken heart. The thought of giving Cici my best and letting her live in my soul. It felt good to know that I could be free and that I didn't have to do it alone...
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The Army Brat - is someone that has commitment issues due to a broken heart, abandonment, and/or fear. We move from one relationship, job, and city to the next. Always looking for the next new thing or for a quick rush. Those commitment issues have become strongholds in our life. A stronghold is anything that keeps us from the freedom of being in Christ Jesus. Strongholds are anything we've given room to in our lives in an attempt to cover up our wounds from the past; be they from friends, family, coaches, teachers, or even parents. If we do not face the wound, we will fabricate a variety of bandages to dull the pain and thus bury it in our heart. The bandages are the relentless pursuit of money, the quest for fame, the approval of men, drug abuse, illicit sexual relations, even addiction to food. The list can go on forever, but the root cause is the same. We try to forgive those who wound us, but this only deals with the symptoms. The wound remains like a weeds with their tips cut off. They continue to pop up in other situations or relationships in our life like James. Because he didn't deal with the situation with his dad, it affected his relationship with Cici (his girlfriend), John (his friend), etc. Dealing with his dad doesn't mean he needed to talk to him, but it meant forgiving his dad and himself. It meant letting go of the stronghold and pain and allowing God to heal his heart and wounds. We cannot change people, but we can change ourselves by going after the root. We must always go after the root of the weed and remove it completely so there is no opportunity for the stronghold to return. The best part about this is that we have a professional weed wacker (Jesus Christ) that will give us the strengthen and perseverance to go after the root. The Lord desires truth in the innermost being. And in the hidden part He will make us know wisdom. Psalm 51:6 We challenge you to allow God to heal your broken heart and set you free.

Click Here to read about forgiveness.

Eph. 4:22-24


Monday, March 18, 2013

Inspirational Mondays - Danielle Edwards

1) Why did you choose Christ?
I chose Christ because I reached a point in my life when my desire for Him was greater than anything else. I was willing to give up anything in order to truly know Him and I can only attribute that desire to the work of the Holy Spirit.

I was raised in the church and always knew of God and even tried to have a "personal relationship" with Him but the problem was that I never really knew Him. I always had a desire to live for God, but I had a desire to live for myself even more. I compared myself to people that seemed worse in sin then me, so I never really saw myself as truly wicked. I read a blog by Heather Lindsey and her perspective on living for Christ and living a life of purity and that's when my heart truly began to change. She exposed the darkness in my own heart and my own selfish desires. I saw myself for who I was and fell on the mercy of the cross. Even though I grew up in the church and people often regarded me as that "church girl" I believe that moment is when I truly met Christ. One thing I have found to be true, is that we must seek after God ourselves. The God I have found to be true according to the scriptures is often portrayed very differently in many churches. We must seek Him and know Him ourselves. We can't come to Him and truly change if we don't understand who He is and the sacrifice He made for us.

2) How did you change?
I can't take any credit for any change that has happened in my life as a result of choosing Christ. When we choose Christ, we become a new creation and the Holy Spirit works through us. For so long I tried to do what I knew was right but I had no power over the sin in my life because I didn't have the Spirit working through me.

Scriptures to consider:
"You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him." Romans 8:9

" have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator" Col 3:9-10

God Bless :)

We hope your were inspired! Love your Monday! Interested in learning more about us?? Click here to learn "Why We Change" and click here to read "How We Change".

Eph. 4:22-24


Monday, March 11, 2013

Inspirational Mondays - Hannah Staggs

1) Why did you choose Christ?
I choose Christ because choosing everything else but him never brought anything but hurt into my life. The happiness was always temporary. Choosing boys over Christ wasn't working. Choosing lust over Christ wasn't working. Choosing popularity over Christ wasn't working. Choosing Hannah's will over God's wasn't working. Chasing everything & anything but God left me empty, angry, & broken. It never satisfied. It took my stubborn self a long time to realize that & to surrender all to the King. I choose Jesus because I KNOW there has to be more in this life. Making money, gettin' married, makin' my name known, & then dyin' sounds pretty dull to me. Is that really all there is? Is that really all I am here for? I was right. There was MORE. More is found ONLY in Christ. I've found MORE than what I need in him. I've found MORE joy in him than I know what to do with. I've found purpose. I've found fulfillment. I've found true identity. I've found love, peace, hope... everything a person longs for I have found in Christ Jesus. I am complete. I was never able to say that before I fell in love with Christ. Choosing Christ was the BEST decision I have ever made. I will never regret it. Oh.. I am so Joyful ^.^ Life is just so beyond amazing with him. I choose Christ because he chose to love me. He chose to die on the cross for me & give me a chance to spend eternity with him.. how could I pass that up? He chooses you too. Will you choose him?

2) How did you change?
Changing is not easy. But it is very possible. It requires God. God changed me. I could not change myself. Only through him was I able to see that I needed to change in the first place. To be honest, I am still in the process of changing & bettering myself for him. This will be a continuous process that I will be in until I die. I will never achieve perfection, but I will become a better woman than the woman I was the day before. I was able to change because I KNEW I could change. I had a positive Godly mindset. I am MORE than a conqueror through Christ. There is nothing I can't overcome with the Lord by my side. I will climb & conquer every mountain through this journey. I am victorious through Christ. I already knew I could change.. I just needed to take that leap of Faith & Surrender.

I left the people who had a very negative impact on my walk with God. I had to get away from the crowd I was hangin' with or I would never be able to truly change. I began to seek God. I asked him to convict my heart & show me the things in me that were ugly to him. (I still pray this) If we are paying attention & if we are listening, God will speak.. he will reply. Change does not always happen over night. You must be patient with yourself. I can't even imagine how patient God is with me. I am so thankful. We are able to change when we give everything to God. When we fall in love with him, our hearts change & desires change. We don't want to do the things that are not pleasing to him anymore. When we are in tune with God we are able to see things on a spiritual level. WE are in a battle. The enemy does not want you to change. He does not want you to turn your back on sin. It's important to stay suited up in the armor of God. Never give up. Keep pressing on. Pray Pray Pray.

God's love & joy changed me. He is breaking me, molding me, & shaping, me into the woman HE wants me to be. This is not always a comfortable process though it is so worth it. I changed when I realized this eternity thing was real. I had to stop playin' games & go hard for God. I've had to make make many sacrifices. I have to say no to a lot of things.. but I am so happy through God's help I do. I stay away from the things that once held me in bondage. I have learned my lesson the hard way. Now I am looking forward & walking along that straight & narrow path.

We hope your were inspired! Love your Monday! Interested in learning more about us?? Click here to learn "Why We Change" and click here to read "How We Change".

Eph. 4:22-24


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Our Struggles, but Christ - The Bag Carrier

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At one point in time, one of my best friends and I weren't talking. We use to talk every day, share all of our secrets, and do everything together. I got to a point where I was tired of dealing with her lack of understanding, combative attitude, and selfishness. (You know how we do when we are into it with someone...we can pick out everything they have done wrong, right?) Any who, I made a decision that I could not allow her to continue to hurt me. I would put myself out there to try to seek resolution or give her chances to change. I am not saying that I am perfect, but I would change for the betterment of our relationship. She would change for a few weeks, but it would be back to the same song and dance. It was a vicious cycle and frankly I was tired. We didn't talk for months on end and I was cool with it. I would have days where I would think about it and other days that I didn't think about it at all. One day, I was watching TV with Jesus. I was just telling Him about my day and decided to finally tell Him about the situation with my friend. (Mind you, it took me 2-3 months to talk to JC about it! LOL).  

I was flipping through the channels and stumble across a TV show called I Forgive You. I thought this should be good because I use to love Forgive or Forget with Mother Love! I was kind of paying attention until the last story. The story was about a lady named Mary Johnson. Her son, Byrd got into a mindless altercation with Oshea Israel at a local nightclub. Israel pulled a gun on Byrd and shot him four times (three to the chest and one to the head). Israel was unable to pinpoint his reason for even killing Byrd. Of course, my first thought was, "Jesus if anyone ever did that to someone I love...I don't know what I would do..."  I continued to think, "Maybe they end the show with one story of un-forgiveness and this must be it!" Israel was sentenced to 25 years in prison and Mary felt justice. She hated this boy and believed he was an animal that needed to be caged. About 10 years into Oshea's sentence, Mary asked him repeatedly can they meet. I was thinking, "Why in the world would she want to meet him?" Once he finally agreed, Mary met with him and asked him to explain why he killed her son. He explained the alcohol-fueled altercation and how one thing led to another. Right before Mary left, she told Oshea that she forgave him. She actually said, "I want you to know that I forgive you." I thought to myself, "Why would she want to do that?! How is that even possible?! He doesn't deserve forgiveness! He took your son's life for no reason!" Oshea told Mary that he would never hurt her again and asked to hug her. She got up and began to fall and cry. Oshea had to hold her and lift her up. Can you believe that? The very man that murdered her son had to hold her so she wouldn't fall. He had to hold her in her time of need. After she left the prison, the bitterness, anger, and animosity fled from her body. Mary knew at that moment that she truly forgave Oshea. Over the years, Mary and Oshea developed a friendship that grew into being neighbors after Oshea's release. This even led to them sharing their story with the world. They created an organization called From Death to Life to help others heal. Mary and Oshea have grown so much together that they call each other mother and son. After watching that story, I thought to myself "There has to be a God. That type of forgiveness honestly seems humanly impossible....but if she can forgive the murderer of her son, why can't I forgive my friend?" After the show, I actually dropped a few tears because it inspired me. It made me realize that no amount of vengeance would bring back her son or make her life any better. It inspired me to seek after God, which led to a brief discovery...
Image of Courtesy David Castillo Dominici/

Jesus commands us to forgive others as He forgave and continues to forgive me daily. (Ephesians 4:31-32, Matthew 6:14-15 Mark 11:25, Colossians 3:13) When I choose not to forgive, I was holding onto anger and hatred in my heart. This caused my Holy Spirit to grieve. (Ephesians 4:30) I felt convicted. I started to realize that forgiveness is not for her or me, but for my love of Christ. I had to choose to forgive out of remembrance for Christ forgiving me for my sins daily. I had to choose to forgive to relinquish hate from my heart out my love for God. I learned a hard lesson that day. Jesus Christ teaches us that forgiveness does not have a limit or ceiling. I have been commanded to continue to forgive those that hurt me. (Luke 17:3-4) 

Forgiveness does not mean that you have to be friends again or even acquaintances. Forgiveness means finding peace. Finding peace is more than that typical "it doesn't bother you anymore". Peace means all of the malice and hatred about that person stored in your heart is no longer there. You can show that person love and not expect anything in return. This is what being a true follower of Christ is all about...putting His love on display. How can we say we love Jesus Christ, but hate our friends, parents, etc.? Jesus asks us, "How can you hate your friend, which you have seen and love Me, which you haven't seen? (1 John 4:20)

Some people will NEVER know or understand the peace that Mary Johnson and Oshea Israel have found. Oshea had to admit his wrongdoings, and then have the courage and humility to accept the forgiveness Mary offered. Mary was given the grace to see and accept his change of heart in order to forgive him. Forgiveness is not an overnight phenomenon! It took these two 12 years to truly forgive, but it did not take Mary 12 years to make the decisionMaking a decision to forgive and going through the process are two different things. Mary had to decide if she would continually allow the death of her son to eat her from the inside out that would ultimately destroy her or start the process of forgiveness. She chose healing.

We are no different than Mary Johnson. As human beings, we are not that unique from one another in this regard. We all have the capacity for love and forgiveness as well as for hate and resentment. It is all about the choices we make and the consequences of those choices. Will you choose misery or will you choose joy? The choice is yours. 
Image Courtesy of bigjom/
The Bag Carrier is someone that struggles with forgiveness. We carry these bag made of up situations and people that we have not forgave. Forgiveness is one of the hardest things for us as humans to do. We must choose to start the process of forgiveness because of the love of God and for His glory. God gets the glory when we choose to forgive others. We are choosing to put His everlasting love on display. Forgiveness is not for us, but for God. We reap the benefits of finding peace in Christ from relinquishing hurt, pain, and anger.   Forgiveness can be more than just forgiving others, but it can be forgiving ourselves. When we don't forgive, it can freeze us in time, cripple our spirit, or even destroy us. We have to accept the fact that someone has hurt us or we have made a mistake. Acceptance is truly taking it for what it is. Not creating our own fantasy of what occurred to make ourselves feel better. This means thinking the worse of something or making excuses for it. We got to accept it for what it is. 
Next, we must seek God for guidance on how to handle the situation and even professional therapy somtimes. When we do things through Christ, He will provide you strength, guidance, and love. Mary Johnson sought after God's own heart to understand that she could not carry those bags any longer. When she sought after God, her life was enriched with joy, happiness, and especially peace. (2 step process was inspired by James 5:16) You may believe this story is rare, but it doesn't have to be for you. Remember we are not meant to carry those bags so cast your cares upon the Lord and forgive others just as Christ forgave you. I challenge you today to reach out to someone that you need to forgive. Forgiveness is not easy, but it is Christ-like and worth it. 

To learn more about Mary Johnson and Oshea Israel story, click here to watch a great video!

Eph. 4:22-24


Monday, March 4, 2013

Inspirational Mondays - Lanre Animashaun


1) Why did you choose Christ? 
Honestly. I chose Christ out of fear. I initially was introduced to Christ in the second grade coming from a muslim background but never really being a practicing muslim; although the religion of islam was constantly reiterated and encouraged by close family members. I accepted Christ at first in the 6th grade at a Christian school I attended and according to my aunt I gravitated easily to the Spirit of God. Long story Short High school and College came and I split from God and after i graduated I came across this website where this girl visited heaven and hell and her recount of her experience scared me into repentance and here I am. The fear of eternal damnation still scares me but as I continue in the faith, I'm learning to realize God's love more.

2) How did you change? 
I truly believe God is the finisher of us all. Simply meaning the things we lack He completes in us so I take that verse "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil.4:13)" literal as well as the verse "...he who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil.1:6)" meaning that where I am not confident, He makes me confident, where I am afraid, He makes me bold, where I lack, He meets my needs, where I'm prideful, He humbles me, where I'm angry, at Him or the world, He calms me, where I'm indecisive , He gives me a way, lol though I may disagree.And according to the Word, He is going to be making me a more complete man in His image till the day of Jesus or the day I die when I meet Jesus because there is a whole lot of gunk to get rid of in my life and a whole lot of new foundations that need to be built up. But I need to have faith that what God has said He will do. "...Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass, I have purposed it; I will also do it. (Isa.46:11c)" God is good simply because He says He is and I just have to trust Him at His Word.

We hope your were inspired! Love your Monday! Interested in learning more about us?? Click here to learn "Why We Change" and click here to read "How We Change".

Eph. 4:22-24