Why Your Preparation is NOT Enough

prep

I prepared for a year. I did the hard work. I thought that I was ready. I learned the hard way.

You may know the story of how I didn’t date for a year. After a 7-year relationship ended, I decided to focus on inner healing–which is a job within itself–because I was tired of being a victim. Not only was I tired of being a casualty of war, but I was tired of making casualties. I guess it is true when they say that “hurt people, hurt people.” During the year of introspection, I looked back over my past and saw the bodies sprawled behind me. How didn’t I see them before, but saw them while healing?

Healing does that. It puts a magnifying glass up to your life and shows you the TRUTH. Unfortunately, I thought I knew the TRUTH before my year sabbatical. I thought that I was God’s gift to His sons, but I wasn’t. More like an emotional terrorist running in and out of people’s lives as I dropped bombs of tension. I was a broken girl who was trying desperately to walk in a woman’s shoes. I was lost. But, God found me.

This post isn’t to recant those experiences though. In actuality, it is a post to tell you that your preparation is not enough for your next season. Hard reality, right? Let me explain.

Focusing on inner healing is the first step to freedom. It gives you the courage to face yourself, your experiences, and your fears. It allows you to begin the process of moving forward but that’s it. You’re only able to face what you can see, and that’s why it isn’t enough.

Now, this is a bit contrary to what we are taught in church, on webinars, and in small groups. When I realized that Christians were overlooking this very real reality, it shocked me but not without teaching me first-hand just how short-sighted we can be.

Friend, when most people say that they are focusing on healing, they often mean the things that they know they struggle with: low self-esteem, rejection, patience, emotional dysfunctions, anger, loneliness, worry, [insert the 5 things you may have on your list]. And, these things are good to work on, but that’s not it.

If we hope to qualify for the next level. If we hope to get married one day. If we wish to overcome our circumstances then we must allow God to prepare our preparation. Yes, PREPARE OUR PREPARATION. We can prepare all we want, but when it is time for God to deliver on a promise, He is not going to give it to the unqualified. He will not give you passing credit on a test that you didn’t study for. But, you did study…for the wrong test.

Have you ever done that while you were in school? Study for questions that didn’t appear on the exam? How did that make you feel? Unprepared? Like a failure? Nervous about your grade? This is how many people feel when they enter into God’s preparation. His study guide might look foreign to the things we remember going over in our lives. As we stare at His questions, we may wonder…how will I ever pass this test? I need more time.

Indeed. You do. When God starts to prepare you for the next level, He will not always come after the big things in your life–you’ve already done that–but He will shed light on the minor details. You know, those character flaws, that thing you do once a year, your secret thoughts, your subconscious self, your running personality, your simmering attitude. Those are some of the things He starts to mess with.

And, while I know that you may think that since you can handle the “big” issues then the little things won’t matter much to your comfort, that’s not true. The Bible says that it’s the small foxes that ruin the vine (Song of Solomon 2:15). It’s those hangnails that cause the most discomfort. It’s that corn on the little toe that impacts the entire foot. It’s the hair in the eye that disrupts your sight.

God will come after the small things, and you may think that you are going to lose your mind when He starts preparing you, but I encourage you to study the lesson. Go over your notes (life). Look at what He’s showing you.

What might seem small in this season, could ruin you in the next.

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How Tragedy Exposes Commitment

picI had just received news that I’d been waiting for three weeks when I learned of my younger brother’s death. Just an hour before, I was on the mountain top experiencing a feeling that words could never capture. “Joy” was not right. “Excitement” wouldn’t do. “Thankfulness” probably isn’t sufficient ether. I can only explain it this way, I was feeling the emotion that only happens when God shows you that he hasn’t forgotten about you.

After the “happy” phone call,  I walked into an opening session of a conference where I would be presenting the next day. The speaker was talking about the importance of science fiction writer Octavia Butler and her impact on society. I was happy to hear this speech because I, too felt the same way. At the end of the speech, I looked at my phone and saw that my father had called. It was odd because we generally don’t speak in the evenings and his call was out of our normal routine. I missed the call. I called him back when I made it to my car.

He said, “stuff just got funky.” This phrase is something only his children know the meaning of. It means that something terrible happened. I thought he was going to say that someone got into an altercation, or perhaps a car accident, but never what he was going to say. I asked, “what happened?” He said, “your brother is dead!” My brother? I have two: one in Kentucky and the other in Atlanta. “Which one?” Jared.

I couldn’t ask many questions because I think that I was in shock. Jared was only 24. Within a matter of minutes, I went from the mountaintop to the valley. My dad didn’t have much information to share, but told me that he was headed to Kentucky right away. “Ok,” I said and we hung up. I called my mother and cried for a few moments. I was unsure how to feel. It was the best of times and the worst of times at the same time. Literally, a tale of two cities.

On the drive back to where I was staying, I wondered if I should give my talk the next day. I’m sure people would understand if I didn’t. Grief has the power to do that. Yet, this was neither my only responsibility nor commitment. What should I do? I am a feeler. I easily feel and take on the emotions of others if I am not careful. And, knowing my process, I am one who can allow things to completely consume me. But, this was not the time for me to fall apart. I could not afford it, but I could not afford to ignore that fact that one of my younger brothers was now gone. So what should I do?

I kept my commitment for the next day. I delivered the speech  though I can’t say that I was completely focused. I showed up because subconsciously I knew that in life things will always happen that will threaten to make me a liar. I had to push through. I had to do what I said that I would do no matter what. And, this is not to say that I neglected myself and my emotional well-being, but it is a recognition of my destructive emotional patterns and my need to overcome them. This revelation happened in grief.

Not only was I responsible for that talk, but I was also commitment to the members of my book club. I’d promised them a daily email for the book that we were reading and we still had 3 days left for me to fulfill my word. No, I didn’t want to continue reading and sending the email. No, no one would blame me for checking out on the emails. Yes, I would receive the sympathy but would I become strengthened? Perhaps, but I didn’t want to speculate. I HAD to continue. I HAD to keep going. I HAD to be responsible even when I didn’t want to be.

Grief taught me that I was committed to my commitment. Grief showed me that I wanted to keep going even though I wanted to stop. Grief showed me that some commitments are bigger than my emotions. And, while I will take the adequate time to grieve, I cannot drop my commitments and other people while walking through life’s ruins.

UNPLUGGED

IMG_5692I was sitting in Starbucks today working on another chapter of my dissertation. This chapter has taken longer than I like to admit and requires lots of revision. Though I’m a bit frustrated by the process, I know that consistency is key. Before I got started, I plugged my computer into the outlet and connected my headphones into the computer socket. You’ll never guess what happened a short while later.

Yes, I knocked my hot mocha with an extra shot of expresso onto my keyboard. In a panic, I flipped my computer over in an attempt to drain the coffee from the keyboard as I went to grab napkins to clean the mess. When I returned, I repositioned the computer to wipe away the coffee. After I made sure that my keyboard still functioned, I resumed working. A little while later, I get a notification from my laptop alerting me of a low battery. Immediately, I looked at my charging port only to discover that it had become unplugged.  I reconnected my charger to the laptop and it was then that the revelation was made clear.

More times than not, I become unplugged in the middle of a stressful time. It is in these moments when I tend to become stagnate in my walk with God and even lose a bit of fervency. Sometimes I flounder around trying to remember exactly when I became unplugged. Maybe it was that morning that God woke me up at 5a.m to pray but I rolled over ignoring his tug. Perhaps it was that time that the Holy Spirit told me not to watch that tv show but I overruled him because it was popular. Or, it could’ve been that lonely night that I texted that guy who I knew was no good for me. Whatever the case, I have become unplugged often, and it’s not until I’m in danger of dying–one way or another–that I try to quickly plug back into the power source.

But, what if I always ensure that I’m plugged into God? What if I take those extra moments at night to pray? Perhaps I can even put my phone on “do not disturb” more often to ensure that I’m operating at my highest capacity. Whatever the case, I must do better at paying attention to when I’m on a spiritual decline. I must remember that every moment that I’m not being recharged, I am dying.

So, I want to encourage you to remember to check your battery frequently. Remind yourself daily to take the time to recharge your spirit just as much–if not more–as you charge your electronics. What a shame it would be if we looked for the power source and couldn’t reach it in time.

October’s Booklist

Each month I try to read a spiritual book to further encourage spiritual growth. This month, I was so anxious to read Tim Sheets’ Angel Armies and Matthew Stevenson’s Abba that I couldn’t choose between the two, so I decided to tackle both.

angel armiesSheets’ text enlightens readers about the nature and assignment of angels. It tells about their significance in the earth, why their presence is important to the believer, and how they assist with our purposes. Unfortunately, while several of us know about angels, we don’t necessarily know how to partner with them to help bring the plans of God to the natural realm. In essence, we could be missing out on instructions as well as opportunities to partner with angels. Now, I’ve heard many people talk about seeing angels materialize in church services, or relay instances when they’ve entertained angels unaware, but I’ve never studied them. And, I can admit that Sheet’s book is helping me not only understand the angelic realm, but also the protocols and nature of heaven. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about how angel armies are designed with humankind in mind.

Now this next book is taking me a little longer to work through and for obvious reasons.

Stevenson’s book directly confronts our perception of God. Now, until fairly recently I didn’t have the best relationship with my father because I was raised in a single parent home. However, as God started to mend our relationship, I noticed that there were areas abbaof myself that I reserved as “off limits” for my father. These were the areas in my emotions. In guarding against my natural father, God began to show me how I also guarded my heart from him. Because of my fear of the new relationship with my dad, largely due to our broken past, I transferred those feelings to my interaction with God. Ultimately, I didn’t have the courage to see God as Father, but rather as Lord and King. This broken relationship with my dad seriously impacted my ability to be vulnerable with God even in private. I had trouble seeing him as Father who loved me because I once didn’t believe that my dad did. I was sadly mistaken. As I work through Stevenson’s text, I notice that layers are falling off of my heart. I am aware that my callousness is dissolving, and that I am more willing to try to open my heart to receive both of my Father’s love.

In essence, I believe that it is important that we feed our spiritual selves just as much as we feed our physical bodies. We must continue to educate and stretch our spirits if we ever hope to FULLY become who God created us to be.

-B

Open Heart Surgery

heartI was talking to a friend who revealed to me that someone in her family has to undergo an open heart procedure. As I sat in the living room listening to her explain to me the situation, I couldn’t help hearing the fear in her voice. My only response was, “How are you?” to which she responded “sacred.”

As the conversation drifted from my mind due to the cares of the day, I eventually remembered the fear I heard in her voice as she told me the story. Her fear mirrors mine as I see myself on God’s operating table once again.

The most common type of open heart surgery is coronary artery bypass. During the procedure, a healthy artery or vein is grafted (attached) to the person’s blocked artery. As a result, the attached artery will bypass the blocked one to bring fresh blood to the heart.

This is the process of how God purges our hearts of toxins. While in God’s operating room, he puts us on the table and opens our chest cavity. Afterwards, he attaches his word and spirit to our blockages to allow freedom to flow. Unfortunately, though, we’ve become so acquainted with our blockages that even if the surgery is for the best, it produces fear.

My friend’s emotions mirror my own as God operates on me. While I know that over time I’ve hidden things in the arteries of my heart that have caused love to stop flowing, I don’t remember what openness feels like anymore. What if I am unblocked and I don’t manage the recovery well? What if the stress of the procedure causes me to faint? What if I become better?? More willing to love? To forgive?

Yes I want to be better and experience total freedom but at what cost? Will my freedom require me to lose friends? Acquaintances? My present? Will it further separate me from my peers? Will it demand that I have a spirit of excellence?

Matthew 5:8 says that only the purpose in heart will see God, and perhaps I’ve blinded myself by the fear of my past that I’ve skewed my perception of wholeness. It’s interesting the ways in which we make allowance for our dysfunction. The way that we make accommodations for behaviors for so long that we struggle to get out of our own cages. How long are we willing to remain there?

The grafting of the Holy Spirit will cost you something. You will have to recover, but not alone. I’m learning as I undergo my spiritual surgical procedure that God puts us on the operating table for a reason. He opens our hearts to allow us to live and live freely. He will remove our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26), but we have to be willing to experience the discomfort of healing.

What Wishing For Comfort Means

IWishing for Comfortn my mind, only twice I’ve wished for comfort. Though the complaints that easily roll off my tongue tell a different story, in my mind I’m not a complainer. I simply voice my discomfort in an attempt to not internally retreat when times get rough. I…think I only wish for comfort in the safety of my mind.

The truth is that every time I say that something happened at an inopportune time, it’s really me silently wishing that the cares of my life would just hold on. Every time that I close my eyes and ask God to make something change, it’s me asking him to put me back into the box that I cried to leave.

I wish for comfort more than I like to admit.

The funny thing about  life is that when we wish for comfort we actually ask to remain the same. People do not grow in comfort. Lives are not changed in comfort. You do not live freely in comfort.

But living outside of it hurts too.

For the first time you may feel the breeze on your back that reminds you that no one is behind you. You may taste the tears that tell you to go forward even though their bitter sweetness give you pause. You may wonder, whether intentionally or not, whether or not you’re worth the sacrifice. See, so many times we are so concerned with letting other people know that they are worth things that we forget to remind ourselves of our worth. Unfortunately, we devalue us more than we like to admit and while we believe that we have chosen correctly, choosing comfort robs us of freedom.

So, when I ask for comfort I’m really asking for the right to remain the same. I’m really attempting to stagnate and sabotage my own progress because it hurts to change and commit to others. I’m really asking to live beneath who I am.

So now I no longer ask for comfort in the same breath that I ask for freedom. Instead, I ask for strength to change my thinking and the courage walk against the wind.

Enduring…

enduringThere are times when I just don’t want to continue doing certain things. You know, those times when you start to feel the pressure of a situation and you’d rather opt out than move forward. I’m speaking about the moments when you realize that you didn’t count the cost of building but started anyway. What do we do, then, when we realize that we are not invincible? How do we continue with the vision when the odds are against us?

Last week was a tough one for me. I am at a crossroad in my life where my next move is crucial. For the first time I feel like I’m playing chess. I have to think a couple of steps ahead. I have to anticipate my opponents next move. I have to be calculated, or at least try. But, my calculations all come up short. The game is down to the last two moves and the pressure is on. Will I go left or right? Should I move forward or stay? Am I too far gone to retreat? These questions and more swarm in the margins of my mind as I struggle to stay focused.

This morning I asked God for strength. I asked him to give me the power and resolve to finish the journey set before me. I asked him to help me endure the process. While at the gym he reminded me of Hebrews 12:2:

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God (KJV).

The scripture reveals that Jesus did not enjoy his journey to the cross. He did not like being there, the feelings it produced, or the shame attached to it. He did not feel comfortable with it. He did not have peace about it and though he wanted to stop he didn’t. But, why not?

Jesus endured the cross because of the promised outcome. He went through the process to receive the ending reward. And, this is the place where we have to find ourselves when we want to give up. While the road to success or destiny might not be pretty, we have to focus on the end . We have to walk through the darkness to get to the light. We have to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus no matter what.

The reason that I became discouraged is because I started looking at the water. I gazed at my surroundings instead of looking to the sky. I started to count the reasons why things can’t work instead of the reasons why they could. I stopped believing that I was enough. I stopped looking…looking for the reward.

It is imperative that you look to God if you hope to endure your season. You cannot get so entangled with the what ifs that you lose your footing. What did God tell you to do? What did he entrust to you?

Think on these things.