Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Igniting Your Relationships with God and Mankind

Nearly every day after leaving my corporate America assignment, I sit in the room with my husband, and for hours, he and I spend time writing entries for the new book that we're releasing this fall. One thing for sure that I can say about Cross-Fire: Igniting Passionate, Purposeful, and Powerful Relationships is that it's truly a labor of love.

Just the thought of the release of this relationship devotional excites me. The feeling of partnering in a literary work alongside the love of my life is beyond amazing. I'm no newbie at this. Cross-Fire will be my 23rd published work, but it will be my husband's very first, and of course, our first book together. People often tease us, saying that we're connected at the hip; always doing things together. It's true! We live together in the same home, work together for the same employer, and pastor together at the same church. I suppose writing together was the natural next step. We're guilty as charged. Our marriage seems to take oneness to a new level, but all of it is God-ordained, so I'm grateful!

Michael and I are very open with our love and affection for one another, and judging from the kissing couple on the front cover of the book, most would probably assume that it's a devotional about romance. That's true to a degree, but Cross-Fire is much, much more. Every human relationship needs God as its foundation. This devotional will cover subject matters on passionate relationships between man and woman, but also passionate relationships between mankind and God. Our relationship with our spouse should be the most passionate, purposeful, and powerful one that we have in the flesh, but our spirit's relationship with the Heavenly Father should be even more so. We should be in love with and on fire for God; seeking to please Him in every way! And we'll find that when our vertical relationship (the one that reaches from us upward to God) is solid, our horizontal relationships (those reaching laterally to connect us with other human beings) will be solid as well. That vertical and horizontal piece come together to form the shape of a cross.

Thus the name... Cross-Fire!

God has truly called and anointed Michael and me to write this ministry tool. When I look at the thought-provoking submissions that my husband turns over to me to include in the layout of the book, and I think of how just a few short months ago, he didn't view himself as a writer, it wows me. His writing is quite amazing. As readers will soon find out, Pastor Michael Holmes is truly a Word scholar and biblical teacher to his heart. Our creative writing styles are vastly different, yet they complement each other perfectly to make Cross-Fire an encouraging page-turner that will be both educational and entertaining.

Stay tuned for soon coming information on how to place advance orders. This book will make its initial debut (a pre-release, of sorts) on September 23rd in Atlanta, Georgia at a couples brunch sponsored by Dope Wives. It is scheduled to officially release, however, at the Christian Book Lovers Retreat in Charlotte, NC on October 28th. For more details about this eye-opening, life-changing "relationship bible" ... click HERE!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Thankful Thursday

Have you ever become overwhelmed at just the thought of God's goodness? I have. And I know I'm not the only one.

It helps tremendously when we redirect our focus. To stop honing in on all of the challenging things that we face on a daily basis (or that we've faced in the past), and instead override those negative thoughts by recounting the innumerable times that we've encountered trials that could and should have destroyed us, but didn't because of the grace of Almighty God.

I had one of those moments this morning. As I took the drive from home to work, a sudden rush of thoughts entered my mind. And I mean the not-so-distant memories seemed to bombard me out of nowhere. There I was... just driving along minding my own business, and all at once, I began recounting all of the people in my life that I thought were my friends whose true colors showed over the past four or five years. Some had been in my life since childhood and others since I was a teen or my earliest adult years. Some were even family. And when one of the greatest storms in my life brewed and the enemy came in like a flood to try and destroy me, those people walked away. Literally. And they not only walked away, but I watched in utter disbelief as they walked away from me and toward the main culprit who was being used of the devil to lie, scheme, betray, and manipulate in an attempt to destroy my family and distort my character.

It was mind-boggling! If they had been close friends all the while, then it wouldn't have been such a shock, but that wasn't the case. In fact, some had sat with me at the inception of the storm and expressed to me how lowdown and devious that foe was being; how they'd always known the dastardly deeds the enemy was capable of. They told me they had my back and would be praying with and for me, but their declaration of support turned out to be counterfeit. They'd never been close to my rivals before; yet in the midst and in the aftermath of the destruction that was attempted toward me, those who once walked, talked, and laughed with me began embracing and supporting my attackers. 

The initial sight of it all took me by complete surprise. It was totally unexpected and the impact it made on me (spiritually, physically, and emotionally) was tremendous. I spent weeks and even months being heartbroken. Sometimes I felt as though I was in mourning; like a physical death had taken place. Even as I recalled it all this morning, water welled in my eyes, and by the time I came to a stop in the parking lot of my job, the tears I had been fighting were beginning to fall. For a brief while, it was like I was reliving the pain all over again.

Oh... but when I think of the goodness of Jesus!!!

In the middle of the devil's attempt to bring misery upon me, I came to myself. In doing so, I began to realign my thinking and fast-forward past the thoughts of the test and began to replay the testimony that resulted.  I remembered how God stepped in and threw every arsenal the enemy used right back in his dirty, deceitful, disgusting face. What was meant for evil, God worked it all for my good. He allowed me to weather the storm with my faithfulness, dignity, and testimony in tact. Everything I thought I'd lost, God restored, and what He restored made my now far, far, far greater than my then. In the end, it was all worth it. I wouldn't take nothing for my journey!!! As I sat in my car, the waterworks of my wounds turned into a fountain of praise. Tears of joy overshadowed those initial tears of sadness. My weeping turned into worship. My pity party turned into a praise party, and I began to hear myself verbally saying, "Lord, I thank you! Lord, I thank you!"

When I finally got myself together, exited my car, and walked into my office space, I'm sure my red, puffy eyes made it look like I was weary or sleep-deprived, but truly my body, soul, mind, and spirit felt refreshed and renewed. Good thing I was the first in my department to arrive. I was able to use eye drops to erase the evidence of my earlier crying, but before I did that or anything else, I sat at my desk, bowed my head, and prayed a prayer of forgiveness and thanksgiving. Why the prayer of forgiveness? Because I felt the need to beg God's pardon for allowing my thoughts to stray so far away from Him and all that He's done for me that the devil was able to sneak in and have a takeover moment. It happens to the best of us. I realize that. But what I know for sure is that the Lord has been way too good to me for me to have given the enemy even an ounce of my time.

God has given all believers authority over the enemy. In Ephesians 6 and beginning at verse 11, we are instructed to put on the whole armor of God so that in those times when the wicked one tries to rile up and present us with adversity, we're fully quipped (from head to toe) to immediately fight the battle and win. Somehow, I was ill-prepared this morning, but thankfully, I was able to identify it as a plot of satan before he could fully overtake me... and in the end I won.

Regardless of where we are in our walk with God--whether we've been saved for thirty minutes or thirty years--the devil isn't going to give up. He's going to try us every chance he gets in hopes of destroying us. He knows the places where we're most vulnerable, and those are the areas toward which he'll aim. If we've been hurt by family and friends, and he knows that the bonds of family and friendship are of the utmost importance to us; then he'll try and magnify the incidents in those areas that have caused us the greatest pain. It's up to us to stay prayed up, armored up, and on guard.

And thanks be to God who always, always, ALWAYS gives us the victory! #POW... take that black-eye devil. You lost again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

This Tree Preached A Message...

There's this tree that sits among many trees in the parking lot of my workplace that has fascinated me for many weeks. There have been days that I've stood at the window behind my desk and just stared out at it. On several occasions, I've said to one of my co-workers, "There's a message in that tree. God is trying to say something." And today, I finally got the message that this tree was preaching.

Right now, we're in the dead of winter. We've seen some pretty harsh temperatures that fell below freezing during this season. We had threats of snowfall and ice cold winds to rip through our city. There are at least two dozen trees planted in our parking lot's landscaping, and most (if not all) of them are the same kind of tree. They all look alike, but there's something peculiar about one of them. When the fall came in, every tree on the grounds went through the leaf-changing process. Leaves turned red... then yellow... then brown... and ultimately fell to the ground. Dead. What has kept me fixated is the fact that every single tree in the parking lot has been completely bare for months... except this one. See the red circle in the picture?

The red circle marks this one area of this one branch of this one tree that has refused to die. Lifelessness surrounds it, but hasn't phased it. Not only have these leaves not fallen off, but they've never turned brown, orange, or even yellow. The world around them changed, but it didn't change them. The bone-chilling temperatures and the high winds that made every leaf on every branch of all the other trees tremble and eventually fall to the ground haven't done the same to these. Every limb of every branch of every tree in the parking lot is in the same environment, but they aren't all having the same reaction to the environment.

As I stared out the window at this limb filled with green leaves today, I received a spiritual revelation. This limb represents what we, as Christians, should look like in a dying world. We shouldn't look like everybody else. We shouldn't act or react like everyone else. Just because society changes doesn't mean that we should change. People should look at us in awe; wondering how we can remain strong in the face of adversity. They should see that our faith doesn't falter just because everything isn't going the way we want or expect. We should be just as peculiar as this limb of green leaves because although the world changes, the God we serve is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

When the weather changed, so did all of the trees in our lot. Only a small remnant--one limb of one tree--remained steadfast. Despite the shift in the atmosphere, these particular leaves continue to thrive and show life. In like fashion, the climate of our nation changed in recent weeks. A new man and a new mindset took his sworn-in place in the White House, and when it happened, many of us who call ourselves Christians changed. What we began saying and doing and how we began acting didn't reflect Christ. Our Christianity seemed to wither, change, and fall to the ground. It was as though our faith, hope, joy, and peace of mind had been rooted in a great man instead of a Great God, and because that man was no longer in the position of power, we became hopeless and lifeless. We began speaking words filled with hatred, bitterness, and death. Except for a small remnant of believers, Christians began looking like all of the other "deadness" in the world.

That's just one example. All throughout our lives, seasons will change. We will go through times of plenty and times of lack. We will have times of gain and times of loss. We will experience times of happiness and times of sadness. As long as we are on this side of life, there will be seasons of good and seasons where things won't be so good. But no matter what, we have to let our light shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify the Father in heaven (Matthew 5:6). We can't be wishy-washy-- preaching today but cussing tomorrow; talking holy but living hellish; standing in the field, but bearing no fruit-- having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof (II Timothy 3:5).

Sometimes when a man or woman is a person of great faith who is determined to remain that way regardless of what the majority is doing, saying, or thinking, they are made to feel like the leaves on this tree: isolated and perhaps even ostracized. I know that feeling quite well. A "living holy" existence can be a "living lonely" existence. Staunch Christians don't often have a lot of true friends. We don't follow the crowd and the crowd doesn't often follow us.

In spite of that, we must hold on. We must be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord (I Corinthians 15:58). When the climate changes around us, it shouldn't change the Christ within us. With our lives we should always preach the Word; in season and out of season (II Timothy 4:2). Even when we rebuke the sins of the world and voice our disdain about the wrongdoings that are happening in our society, it should be done in a manner that never disconnects from our life source; GOD. Our reflection of Christ should remain in tact. Our "tree" should be planted by rivers of water, and our leaves shouldn't wither (Psalm 1:3) We should never change colors. We should never shrink and shrivel to the level of the world. We should never lower ourselves (fall) to the ground like dead leaves.

This tree preached a message today. Not the bigger part of the tree that changed with the climate; gave up and gave in; but the remnant: the leaves that through it all, refused to fall down and die.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

In 2017, I'm saying... So Long, Bye-Bye to Facebook "Friends"

There are only a few hours left. It's so close that I can already hear the fireworks being blast on the outside. The year 2016 is quickly coming to a close, and 2017 is anxiously awaiting to make its debut. One year closing and another one opening is a bitter-sweet experience for some; often times because it's hard to let go of what has been and embrace the uncertainty of what is to come.

For me, the year 2016 brought many experiences, and thanks be to God that the good far outweighed the bad. The Lord showed Himself strong in my life and in the life of my family. My husband and I were ordained as Elders in the ministry and installed as pastors of Deliverance Revival Church in Macon, Georgia. Royal Pen Network, the weekly radio show that I launched in 2015 celebrated one year of success on the Stellar Award winning Joynet Radio lineup of talk shows. I stood in the labor and delivery room alongside my son-in-luv and witnessed the miracle of childbirth as my baby daughter gave birth to my first biological grandchild. Oh the joy the flooded my soul!

But God wasn't through . . . 

My 22nd published work released, and I quickly began getting amazing feedback from the readers. My husband and I performed our first wedding; that of our niece and new nephew. And most recent of all, in this very month of December, I reached the beautiful milestone of qualifying for the 50's club (and the benefits of AARP) LOL! In a highly entertaining, yet very much Spirit-filled event, I celebrated turning fifty years old during a private event with 50-plus dear friends and family members. We all gathered at Open Door Community Center in Columbus, GA and marked the occasion with praise and worship, gospel singing, liturgical dance, spoken word ministry, Christian comedy, and delicious food. Yes, I welcomed "Chapter Fifty" with Jesus Christ at the forefront. I wouldn't have had it any other way. It was a night that I know I'll remember for the rest of my life.

But as much of a joy as 2016 was for me, I'm looking for greater in 2017. So much GREATER! In my life, the enemy has set many traps for me, but God has allowed me to trample on his filthy head and triumph each and every time. When God is for you, who can be against you? In 2017, I'm going to another level in every aspect of my life. I'm decreeing that God is going to blow my mind. In order to go where I'm believing Him to take me, I can't be afraid to let go of the familiar. Just a couple of days ago, I posted on social media these words: "Sometimes God has to shrink our circle in order to enlarge our territory." Although that posting touched many, it was a word for me.

And so . . . in the words of gospel artist, Jonathan Nelson, "So long, bye-bye." In his song, he was waving goodbye to his pains and sorrow. I'm saying the same to many Facebook "friends" who really aren't friends at all. For some time I've desired to disconnect from some because I've known all along that they are walking closely with others who I know for a fact mean me no good. God tested my patience and obedience. I wanted to cut them off, but God said, "Not yet." And although it was hard, I stood still and vowed not to make a move until He said so. And now, to my delight and relief, He has spoken. 

As this year bows out and the New Year makes its grand entrance, this is the last posting that many of my current Facebook connections will have access to read from me through my social media page (with the exception of a few post along the way that I may mark "public," making them viewable to anyone whether they are my FB connection or not). If you're reading this and you're one of the ones from whom I'm disconnecting my page, please know... I'm in no way angry with you. I promise; I'm not. There is absolutely no hatred, animosity, or even hard feelings. This isn't a personal lashing out. This is simply God shrinking my circle so that He can enlarge my territory. There is zero space in my life for so-called friends. God has released me. I no longer have to remain connected--not even in the name of being the bigger person--to those who partner with and support those who have not only hurt and betrayed me, but also tried to destroy my character and my testimony. 
It matters not if you know me by blood relation or by business or ministry affiliations, if you know the horrible details of the story, and yet you choose to still be friends with and support the person/people who mentally and verbally abused my children, maliciously attempted to destroy my relationships with family and friends, attempted to distort my testimony, and betrayed me and my daughters in the worst way... then certainly you're not for me. Saying you love me and that you're with me means absolutely nothing if your actions don't line up. Sometimes in life, we have to make hard choices in order to stand up for what is right and righteous. If you don't have the backbone to do that, then I'll make the choice easy for you. So it is without remorse that I bid you farewell. In spite of this online detachment, please know that I love you with the love of Christ, and because of that love for you, I leave you with these words of caution that the Lord has placed on my heart for you...

Please be careful. You can't drink poison and not become contaminated. Don't continue to allow yourself to be fooled. You know the truth. The devil can disguise himself to look harmless, but make no mistake about it; he comes but for three reasons: to kill, steal, and destroy. He will use you for as long as he needs you, and when your usefulness is up, his true self will show. See with your spiritual eyes and not with your natural.

And now . . .

Happy New Year to one and all. I truly pray that 2017 will bring you a new mindset, new discernment, and a new revelation in Christ.

To God be the glory!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Ten Days From Fifty...A Testimony

Today, as I walked in to the office building for work, I was stopped by a gentleman who kindly complimented what he referred to as my "classy togetherness." And as I thanked him and headed for the elevators, he added, "You always get here so early, and every time I see you, you look happy. What's the secret?" 

Man!!! God has a way of giving us such amazing impromptu opportunities to be witnesses of His goodness!

Now, I could have taken his words as obvious flirtation (which they very well may have been) and chosen to ignore him or give some sort of smug reply to let him know how unavailable and happily married I am (which I surely am). But that's why it's so important that we keep our ears to God's mouth and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Immediately when he said those words, I saw a door of opportunity open. Instead of admonishing him, I turned to him and said, "It's God." (I know that may sound cliche', but it's the honest-to-goodness truth.)

I went on to tell him that my purpose for arriving early each morning is to get into my work-space in time enough to pray and meditate without interruption. I pray over the atmosphere. I pray for God's protection over the building itself. I pray for the safe arrival of my coworkers. I pray for the success of all of our professional endeavors for the day. And my happiness, I told him, is rooted in the fact that I have Jesus in my heart. I explained to him that God has been too good to me for me to be a complainer or a killjoy. From my family life to my physical health to my faith walk...I'm living my BEST life. God is just so good! 

I've been through hell and high water. The enemy tried to take me out. He tried to make me lose my self-confidence, my hope, my faith, my mind... even my life! satan had a plot, but God had a plan. He set a trap, but God allowed me to trample on it. My personal experiences say that I should have never lived to see 40, but I'm just ten days away from turning 50! I shared with the man that my children should have never lived to become teenagers, but they are adults; grown, married, and have families of their own. We're all healthier and happier than we've ever been, and it's all because of GOD! No one gets the glory except HIM.

By the time I finished talking to the gentleman, I was almost in tears. My heart was overflowing with renewed joy at the remembrance of the extreme FAVOR of the Lord. He was quiet for a minute when I stopped talking. Then he said, "Well when you get to your floor today, will you pray for me too? I've been dealing with some things and maybe I've been telling the wrong people. Maybe God is the one who needs to know." I nodded and said, "He already knows, but I got you." And then I walked away. I don't even know the guy's name, but God does. And when I said my prayer this morning, I prayed for him just like I promised.

We never know who needs to hear our testimony. We never know who needs our prayers. We never know who's watching our life or who needs someone to be a witness of the goodness of the Lord. I'm so thankful that ten days 'til fifty years, God allowed me to be one.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Should I Really Be This Excited?

Today is November 17th and I am exactly one month away from turning fifty years old. Fifty. The big 5-0. A half century. Should I really be this excited?

I know women who just turned thirty this year and they were depressed on their birthdays because they were no longer twenty-something. I spoke to one just last week who is four years away from turning forty, and she said she's already getting sick from the thought of it. Women, in general, are known to be a gender of people who view getting older as some kind of curse. Most men embrace it, while most women avoid it like the plague. Countless of us lie about our age or won't reveal our age; all because society has somehow convinced us that advancing in age is something that we should be ashamed of.

When I was a child, a teenager, and even in my twenties, I thought fifty was ancient. It seemed so very far away that I didn't even try to imagine myself in this place. Now it is upon me. From the time I graduated high school in 1984, time seemed to be placed on fast forward. The second twenty-five years of my life seemed to have passed far more quickly than the first. But somehow I don't view myself as aging or old. I haven't a smidgen of sadness or depression. The last time I was this excited about a pending birthday was when I was turning forty . . . ten years ago.

I LOVE LIFE, and in order to continue to enjoy living, we must get older. The alternative to getting
older is to die. The only way to stop our birthdays is to stop our breathing. If God handed me a choice to go back ten years and be forty again or even rewind twenty years and be thirty again, I wouldn't take it. I'm far happier now. What I went through in my thirties and forties doesn't even come close to being worth revisiting them and redoing it all over again. I look back over my life and realize how BLESSED I truly am. So YES... I am excited!!

I'm excited because what the devil meant for evil, God worked for my good. I'm excited because the enemy's plot couldn't overtake God's plan. I'm excited because God brought me through the fire without the stench of smoke. I've been deceived and disrespected. I've been abused and misused. I've been lied on and lied to. I've been played and betrayed. The things I've been through could have been the death of me and should have been the death of me. BUT GOD!!! He dried my tears and rewarded my faithfulness with joy unspeakable. While the enemy watched and waited for my demise, God gave me new life and brand new reasons to live it. People wonder why I'm the way I am. Why my life is so purposeful; why my Christian walk is so passionate; why my outlook is so positive. It's all because I know where I am versus where I could be. It's all because I know what is versus what should be. It's all because of Christ. Oh... how I love Jesus!

Where I am now in my spiritual, physical, professional, and emotional life is exceeding abundantly above all that I could have asked or thought. I don't deserve it. It's FAVOR. I'm not a perfect woman, but I'm perfectly designed by HIM. I don't have the perfect life, but it's perfectly orchestrated by HIM. All of my shortcomings. All of my accomplishments. All of my valleys. All of my mountain tops. Every single thing that God allowed me to endure and experience in the past was to bring me to this moment in time. It's my season. I'm in a new chapter... Chapter 50 ... and God has only begun turning the pages to the best parts of my life's story.

As an online ministry sister reminded me a few days ago... My best is not yet to come. It's already here, written by God's pen before the beginning of time. And page-by-page, He is revealing it both to me and to the world. No . . . My best is NOT yet to come. My best is yet to MANIFEST. Should I really be this excited? YES!!! As a matter of fact, I just got more excited than ever!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Fifty Days from Fifty!

Today is Halloween. Although I don't celebrate it, it's always an interesting and fun day on my job because employees are allowed to dress up in costumes to commemorate the occasion. It's quite entertaining to pass them in the hallways or ride with them on the elevators and see their enthusiasm about the characters they've evolved into for the day and taking guesses about which character their fellow co-worker is portraying.

This past Saturday, I celebrated the release of my newest published work; a fictional novel entitled, Blondeva's Boys. As I was in the midst of the book release event that was attended by a hotel conference room full of avid readers and loyal supporters--some of whom have followed my career from its inception in 2002--it dawned on me that I was fifty days from turning fifty years young. What a blessing!

Although I've never celebrated Halloween in my entire life; today, I thought about how similar the holiday is to what I do on a near-daily basis. On this date each year, characters are created and people play entertaining and captivating roles. Some of the costumes depict frightening characters while others are humorous, heroic, or even romantic. As an author, I use pen and paper (or a computer screen and keyboard) to do that very same thing all throughout the year. I create an array of colorful characters and dip them into a storyline that I hope will keep readers excited, engrossed, and guessing what's going to happen next.

A lot of time has passed since I self-published my very first Christian fiction novel at the age of 35. I can still remember the feeling that engulfed me when I tore open my first box of books and held a copy of For Love & Grace in my hands. There were a lot of things that I didn't know at that time. I had no idea that debut novel of mine would become a reader sensation. I had no idea that it would go on to become an award-winning book. Not once did I consider the possibility that a Hollywood producer would contact me to talk about the possibility of turning it into a movie. I didn't even realize that the "feeling" that engulfed me on the day I opened the box was what it felt like to come in contact with divine PURPOSE.

That feeling has never departed. From that April day in 2002 until Saturday, October 29th, when I opened the shipped box of my new hot-off-the-press release; I still get that same feeling. It never gets old. It never wains, Regardless of the level of success or the number of accolades, I don't take a moment of it for granted. Without God, I am nothing, and there is absolutely nothing that compares to walking in divine purpose and knowing without a smidgen of doubt that you are fulfilling the Lord's plan for your life; that very thing for which you were created. God trusted me with a beautiful gift, and in return, I'm giving it back to Him by using it for His glory.

So yes; today is Halloween. And if anyone should need to know who I'm dressed as... I'm dressed as that almost 50 year old girl who is blessed to walk in purpose, sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ from the pulpit and from the pen... who God just allowed to release her 22nd published work. 

To God be the glory...