A Moment with My Mother

Sometimes God does little miracles just to prove that He is God.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28 (NIV)

Years ago, I had very little relationship with my mother. I loved her intensely as a child but distance, time, and her own personal problems pulled her away.

She dealt with drugs the majority of my life. Due to that, she never really was allowed to come around unless she was sober and by herself. I didn’t really “know” who she was until adulthood. She was my mom but wasn’t “Mom” for years. Grandma Gwen was Mom.

When my grandmother passed in 2015, I spent my first night in my adult life with her. I was filled with apprehension but we talked until I couldn’t hold my eyes up. Since then, we’ve grown significantly. We’ve had long conversations. We’ve talked about relationships, love, and loss. She even sends me occasional gifts that surprise and brighten my day.

Recently, she sent me a letter that reduced me to tears (rightfully so).

Image of the card received and the included photo of Miles & His Mother.
The Flash USA Matching Short Set was peak 90s High Fashion

Dear Miles,

I just wanted to take a minute to tell you I love you. When I sit here with a paper & pen. I can’t think of anything but warmth and love and peace. Because I know you are safe and able to make it in this world. You are strong, you are loved, and you know what family is! Stay strong son.

Love Mom,

Shelia

There’s no way I can truly explain how much this means to me.

I didn’t know how wounded I was when it came to family until recently. The shock and surprise I’ve experienced from people saying they love me in the past showed me how cynical I became. Expectations left me wounded, so I decided to not to have any. Moments I hoped for were often left unfulfilled and I lost hope.

But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.

Genesis 50:20 (NKJV)

God said that it’s time to let go of that hurt, forgive, and move forward. Just receive love so that you can love others.

I feel loved back. I reach out to my mom and she reaches back.

There’s no big revelation or sweeping meaning I have today. I just wanted to share with you all something good in my life. I hoped for a family and God is building it right in front of my eyes.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1 (KJV)

If life has broken you over and over again, trust that it will all work together for your good and keep faith. It makes all the things you hope for real. Keep the faith.

Turn Your Brightness Up!

#BeMagnificentūüĒÜ

Tree Rooted by Living Waters

The day-to-day stress of life can sometimes be enough to crush boulders. Between finances, politics, loved ones, planning for the future, and reflecting on the past, the pressure of daily life is sickening. I know that I’ve had moments where sometimes I threw in the towel and said I’d try again tomorrow. Somewhere in the world, a college student is re-watching the Office with three papers due in the morning.

Continue reading “Tree Rooted by Living Waters”

Eating Good, Seeing God

Food has always been very important to me. Not just because it tastes good (it does) but because it is significant. Great moments in my life have always been shared around a meal. This year, God has been doing something new for me regarding food and how I interact with it within my life.

In January, I participated in a 21-day fast with my church. It wasn’t just about food, it was to remove whatever you deem a distraction from in the way of your relationship with God. It was a truly humbling experience that opened my mind to further interaction with the Holy Spirit. No food, no water from midnight to 6pm was challenging but it smoothed a lot of my metaphorical edges. The denying of self to create space to interact with the Father was really eye-opening. It also made me reflect on my interactions with God.

But He answered and said,¬†‚ÄúIt is written,¬†‚ÄėMan shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.‚Äô¬†‚ÄĚ

Matthew 4:4 (NKJV)

Every time I got hungry, I had to depend on God to bring me past that point. Every time I became irritable, I had to hold on to God’s goodness and continue to be a reflection of Him instead of what I was in that moment. Each day that I spent fasting, taught me not to be swayed by my emotions, feelings, and body, but to focus on the Lord. The 21 days were hard, but when I got to the end, I felt different.

I didn’t crave the same things that I did before. I didn’t go back to secular music. I was mindful of the movies and shows I watched. I held back on social interactions that I wasn’t strong enough to be in. I started to routinely spend time with God. I talked with Him. I read my Bible more. I listened to more gospel. I spent time with Him and my life changed. I couldn’t even go back to the same foods. I cut my portion sizes, lost 20lbs, and felt healthier for it. Around the same time, I walked out on a promise that God had for me.

God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent.
Has He said, and will He not do?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

Numbers 23:19 (NKJV)

On April 1, 2018, on Resurrection Sunday, I was called into the front of the church and delivered from my Seafood allergy. Without going too heavily into it, my allergy was attached to a lie that I broke agreement with that day. The experience was new to me. I’ve never seen deliverance before. I definitely cannot recall experiencing it personally before. I had to believe in what God said was true. I said I believed it, but it wasn’t until a little less than a year later that I decided to put that belief into action.

Last month, I was sitting next to a friend at a restaurant after church. She was eating salmon. I took that opportunity and tried a tiny bit. I tingled a bit but no reaction. A couple weeks later I tried some fried calamari and a piece of shrimp. No problems at all. A couple weeks after that, I tried an oyster for the first time. I was blown away! For the first time in my life, I ate seafood without breaking out into hives or my mouth and throat swelling up. I praised the Lord!

At the end of March, I came across Acts 10.

About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance.

He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds.

Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”

“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

Acts 10:9-16 (NIV)

All of a sudden, I understood the freedom that God had given me. I even went out of my way and tried Pork for the first time in 15 years. I used to get horrible tension headaches from Pork. This time, no problems at all. God wanted to show me that nothing was unclean if it was from God. I saw the food, but then I read further into Acts.

Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.

Acts 10:28 (NKJV)

This resonated with greatly with me. Peter proceeded to go into detail about God using Israel as His chosen ones to reach the rest of the world. If I looked at my deliverance from food allergies as just the food or something for me, I would be missing the most important part. God’s miracles and works in your life are not just for you, but for others in the world. Peter’s vision opened him up to speaking and saving a whole group of Gentiles. Peter moving beyond his preconceptions to what God designed brought the Gospel to those that would never hear. It changed lives.

Since then, I’ve started to think deeper. My blessings are supposed to be vehicles and windows to God’s goodness in my life. I had to remind myself of that as I re-conceptualized my blessing. I didn’t truly care about eating seafood and pork. I cared about the missed opportunities of community building and relationship development. I want to break bread with more people. When I go to new places, I don’t want to be held back by dietary restrictions. I want to eat, interact, and grow with others in the world. Each interaction I have gives me more opportunities to share God’s light.

It’s not about food. It’s about life and the moments that stick with us. Sharing life with others is a blessing and God knows I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

What blessings are you asking God for? In what ways can those blessings be used to give God glory? Let me know in the comments below.

Turn Your Brightness Up!

#BeMagnificentūüĒÜ

Waiting on Fruit to Grow

When I first TRULY started to give my life over to Christ. I felt like nothing was happening. I would feel great in church on Sunday but Sunday night, I would be tempted again. Monday morning, I would be depressed again. Tuesday morning, anxiety came back from a weekend away. By the following Saturday, I would be begging for the spirit of the Lord and revival on Sunday.

Everything seemed so difficult. The more I crept closer to the Lord, read my Bible, and tried to live life right, the more I felt like I was getting nowhere. Faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26), but we were saved ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,‚Äô (Zechariah 4:6). I didn’t get it. I was working to get closer to the Lord but I still felt the void, empty, dry, and dark.

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

James 1:2-4 (KJV)

We can use God as a drug sometimes. The same mentality we used before we came to Christ, we often use afterward. Before, when you had a rough day, you’d go to the bar, call up a “friend”, or head to your favorite restaurant. Now, you look for that void to be filled by something else. I just need another shot of God and everything will be okay. Sunday comes, you feel refilled, but then it fades away. God told me I was still doing it wrong.

We have to realize that we can’t expect use earthly mindsets to interact with a spiritual God. God doesn’t want us to only use Him like “break in case of emergency” with a Bible in a case. He wants us to interact with Him all the time. Good and bad. Happy and sad. My happiness faded away because it was dependent on what happened in my life. I had to let patience finish her work.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Romans 12:12 (NIV)

Something new happened when I stopped working trying to make things fit and let patience finish her work. Especially since a major theme in this year has been Working the Land, I’ve been reflecting on being the farmer, tree, and the land. What lessons can I get out of all three?

I figured out that I am the farmer when I need to pair work with my faith or hope (1 Corinthians 9:10-11). These are moments where God gives us a dream or vision, and we have to do something with it. We are the land when we are newly interacting with the gospel and deciding to give our lives to the Lord (Matthew 13:3-8; 18-23 ). Then we are the tree after we have decided to trust in God and received the gift of eternal life from Jesus Christ (Jeremiah 17:7-8). We shift between these roles continuously and finally everything clicked.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.

Psalms 1:2-3 (NKJV)

The Bible talks about the Holy Spirit being the “Living Waters” (John 4:1-26) that Jesus would give after He was glorified. We are the tree bringing forth fruit in its season. A tree does not decide to drink water or sunshine occasionally or at a certain time of day, it’s constantly absorbing what it needs to survive. We aren’t supposed to only use God sometimes. He is supposed to become a constant part of our life.

I stopped trying to force it and make everything fall into place. I accepted my powerlessness in the world and somehow that gave me strength. I could plan, pray, and work towards something, and if it didn’t work, I accept that it is God’s will and something better is on the way. School, work, relationships, family, and more just started to line up. I just focused on co-existing with God and if it didn’t align, I didn’t partake. Everything got easier. Even prayer time had less pressure on me. All of a sudden, I was at peace. I was joyful. I didn’t mind waiting. Everything became easy.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering [patience], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23 (NKJV)

What I didn’t realize is that the relief I wanted was the fruit of the Spirit that God promised. The thing about fruit is, it takes time to grow. Faith is like a mustard seed, starts off small but grows into a mighty tree. Joy, love, peace, kindness, etc., all started off small but the more time I spent in the Word, with my Father, and connecting with the Holy Spirit, the more I stopped calculating the pace of change. My fruit was growing right below my nose.

The more I focused on God’s love and the Father’s will in my life, the more my trust grew. The more my trust grew, the more I stopped worrying and stressing. I did my best everyday and things worked themselves out. My depression went away when I stopped blaming myself for the past. My anxiety vanished when I stopped worrying about the outcomes and started trusting God’s will in my life. Self-control became simple when I stopped putting so much weight on the decision and got comfortable with waiting. Waiting isn’t bad, its just another opportunity to see what surprises God can come up with next. All I had to do is let time do what it needed.

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

Galatians 6:9 (NKJV)

The lesson I learned is that fruit takes time to grow and it is always growing. We don’t have to work for the seeds we are earning. Receive and they just grow.

Turn Your Brightness Up!

#BeMagnificentūüĒÜ

Conquering Lust

Sin was noise.

The more I sinned, the louder the noise got in my head. I would be overwhelmed by thoughts going in and out, continuously looping around my brain, day and night. It would get so busy in my mind, that the smallest thought would get lost in a maze never to be seen again. I would be paralyzed by words. Frozen by occurrences. Divided by past, present, and future.

I was doing everything right though. I looked the part. Women loved me. I acted the part. I had a handsome and cool crew of friends that commanded rooms when we entered. I had the prestige. People knew my name. I could hold a conversation with anyone. I could go anywhere and feel comfortable. I was doing all of the right things needed to be known, seen, and leave a mark. By all accounts, I should have been happy.

Even in laughter the heart may sorrow,
And the end of mirth may be grief.

Proverbs 14:13 (NKJV)

In isolation, I would fall into depression. I would go out with friends, drink, meet women, and whether I went home alone or not, would want to be left alone while being deafly afraid of being alone. I’d pick a different girl every night of the week to spend time with but really didn’t want to be with any of them. I would lay awake at night replaying scenes from the day, over and over again, with different decisions and outcomes nonstop. I would rationalize the good and the bad until no option was unscrutinized. Decisions left me anxious in times of action, and depressed in times stillness. Focus evaded me, confidence alluded me, I doubted myself, and at the same time, I didn’t know me at all. I was a bundle of nerves held together by scotch tape with a fancy veneer.

I’ve had numerous moments like this in life. However, three or four years ago, I didn’t want to deal with things the same way I did before; going out until I built a steady stable of women to distract me from myself. I didn’t want to hide in a bottle or beg to be around people that were similarly empty. Yet, I would stay at home watching those going out, faking happiness, but faking happiness together, while I sat at home wondering if there was something I was missing.

There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.

PROVERBS 14:12 (NKJV)

I filled that space with religion, but not God, for a while. I built expectations of church, family, and friends that were unreasonable and got disappointed when they didn’t follow through. I did everything to reach some semblance of peace. I reached towards God, not knowing why or how. My surprise was when He reached back.

I started to hear from God again around that time and in Lukewarm Obedience I decided to push through the things thought were the most difficult to me, Celibacy and giving up my social relationship with Alcohol. The alcohol was the easy part, I haven’t touched a drop in months, but the Celibacy was the hard part.

Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

2 Timothy 2:22

It was more than just the Celibacy that seemed difficult. I hadn’t been having sex but everyday was a challenge not to bow to lust. It was the masturbation when stressed, easy access to porn online, sexual photos on Instagram, shows/movies with long love-making scenes, freaky conversations on Twitter, lustful lyrics in music, and the constant thoughts about relationships. Everything was connected to make me desire personal satisfaction without limit. I was fighting hard, but it was only me fighting.

This past January hit and during a new 21-day fast, God’s voice became clear. He wanted to see how much I desired to be free from the things that bound me for such a long time. I didn’t just give up food, it was a time to get closer to the Lord. I listened to only Gospel music, gave up hip-hop podcasts, read my Bible twice a day, woke up at 5:30am to pray daily, fasted, and spent more time with my spiritual father. All this time with God started to calm me. The noise quieted. My nerves were eased and it was just better. I woke up every morning happy, and ready to get closer to the Lord.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

Isaiah 26:3

In 2017, I focused on my Celibacy a lot. Every day was a success, I constantly counted days and celebrated each one, but when I stumbled, I stumbled hard. I would beat myself up and that would cycle into me stumbling again. It would start off as reading sexual tweets from women masked as their sexual liberation and fighting against misogyny. Then, it would turn into looking at pictures or 10-second clips of beautiful women. Then, I’d find myself searching porn or looking at old “memories” of my exes. By the end, I’d be a big horny monster, still unfulfilled, but content until the next urge hit a few hours later.

God started off gradual. He didn’t force anything. He just asked me if I wanted to continue like this. He explained to me that overcoming sin is not something I can do on my own. No matter how hard I try, there will always be moments of weakness, but in Him, I am strong. He told me that the reason I fail is because I’m doing it instead of letting the Holy Spirit work in me to change my desires. He explained that the reason I kept going back is because I’m not willing to change my current life. I cannot have two masters: myself & God. I needed to pick one.

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

Matthew 6:24 (NKJV)

God told me to clean my house. I looked around at my apartment and it was like I could finally see for the first time. I saw old artifacts, gifts, and reminders of women, dating back eight years, still taking up room. God told me to make space. While I was cleaning out my dresser, I came across my bag of emergency condoms. I was about to close the drawer when God asked, “Are you planning to fail?” I paused. Felt the truth, and I threw them away. God never yells or condemns me. He just asked a simple question. My answer shocked even myself. I declared to God, “I am celibate until marriage.” My whole body quivered for a second, and then I placed my trash outside for pick-up.

I unfollowed people on social media that lived in ways that I’d be negatively influenced by. My rules regarding women changed, putting space between me and women in relationships or keeping additional numbers of people around so I not alone past a certain time. I deleted ALL of my old “memories” of exes so I wouldn’t have anything to be tempted by. There was even a young lady, from my past that I loved dearly, that I had to let go. I realized I was leaning on her in case of emergency. If I had a bad day or something didn’t work out right, deep down I knew I could call her up, and she would make me feel like I mattered. She was my crutch. God’s words rang true, “Are you planning to fail?”

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 

Matthew 5:27-29 (KJV)

It wasn’t just lust I started to deal with, it was insecurities too. I threw away t-shirts and objects connected to certain times in my life that weighed me down. I let go of people and ideas that seemed to hinder my self-esteem. I looked at my life and removed all the distractions and stumbling blocks I could think of. I just wanted to be free. But, God had to tell me, this alone wouldn’t free me. My pastor said you can get rid of all the objects in your house, live like a monk, and still be bound. God said he was right.

It wasn’t the objects holding me back. It was me. It was the feelings, emotions, and beliefs that had to be broken and came out of agreement with. I held on to those things from so many years ago because I was afraid I wouldn’t get new things, meet new people, or have new experiences. I held on to the hope of meeting them again at another place, in another time, because I didn’t trust that someone could, would, or should love me again. I realized that even the lust wasn’t really about the sex to me, it was about feeling loved. It was about feeling like I mattered to someone enough to share their deepest secrets with. Sex was valuable to me. It was a way for me to prove I mattered and give weight to my existence. Yet, when I went even deeper, it was about my trust in God.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)

I finally got it. Was I still planning to fail? Was I trying so hard to hold on to the past because those were my “best days”? Did I truly believe that was it for me? A handful of nights of spontaneity and liquor, followed by days of trying to retrace my steps, fix what was broken, or hold together until the next chance for letting go? I wanted more for myself. I believe that God wants more for me. Lust lost its luster. It became easy to give up the things I was holding on to because I trust God to give me better. I just have to be patient.

Lust hasn’t been a problem since. I might have a second here or there where I need to remind myself of God’s promises, but I feel more confident and calm than I have in years. I have no desire to get ahead of my blessings because I believe my Father loves me too much to not have the joy of someone to share my entire self with one day. I’ve tried too long to do it on my own with little to show for it. My Father put too much time and energy into shaping me for me to be giving myself away for such a low price and at such a high cost. Lust is a trick. It is the desire to take something ahead of its time without knowing if its yours or not. Lust is impatience, distrust, and pride rolled into one. Lust is a lot, but it’s not mine anymore.

Hope you all enjoyed this. It was much harder to write than I expected. My perspective has changed and I wanted to share my lessons learned. Do you have stories of confronting Lust? Let me know in the comments below.

Turn Your Brightness Up!

#BeMagnificentūüĒÜ

The Narrow Path

Sometimes you have to do something you’ve never done to get an outcome you’ve never had. What’s not working? What have you been doing? How badly you want things to change? If what you’ve been doing hasn’t improved anything, what does it say about you if you keep continuing down the same road? How badly do you want that future you dream about? Are you willing to change it all?

Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.

Matthew 12:33 (niv)

For years, I was dead on my feet. I was hollow inside because nothing seemed substantial or real. I was so afraid that one day, at any moment, a strong gust of wind would blow me away and no one would know the difference. I held on tight to people that paid me any attention. I dug deep into performance as my only redeemable quality. I clung to the fleeting moments of celebration or congratulatory fodder because that kept my fire burning. I was a dimly glowing ember in the midst of the storm called life. I couldn’t cling on to nothing forever.

I searched for people that valued me. I chased women. I comforted “friends” to make them feel good. I avoided moments of discomfort with hard truths. I numbed my pain with alcohol or whatever other things I could conjure up to make me forget about the void instead of taking a look in the mirror and facing it. I, like many of the people around me, was miserable. Every day was monotonous and listless. The love I sought never filled the whole in my chests. No matter what I tried to fill it with, nothing would change. I tried to feel real, tangible, and permanent did nothing. I continued being terrified of the wind.

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Matthew 7:13-14 (NKJV)

My turning point was looking towards God. For the first time, in as long as I could remember, I felt like I didn’t have to do everything on my own. I either trusted God to make it happen or I didn’t, but I got comfortable accepting the things that were out of my control. What seemed to be even more soothing was shifting God from this All-Powerful Being making rules in the sky, to a Father knowing more than I do, and trusting Him more than myself that He knows what’s best for me. The more I trusted, the more the Father showed me that it was alright trusting Him. The wounds on my heart healed. My desire to prove my existence ceased. The weight lifted.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30 (niv)

As I was shifting from just looking at my Lord to communicating with my Father. He initially started off by giving me relief. I received relief from the anxiety, depression, fear, chaotic thinking, and oppression. Then, patience, clarity, joy, peace, and love started to color how I looked at myself and then the world. I became hungry for more of God because if this is just the beginning, what more could He have in store for me?

But in this hunger came a cost. Every time I would go back to my old ways, I would feel the weigh of my old issues. I would get depressed after nights out drinking. I would feel anxious about interactions with women. I would be fearful for my livelihood looking at the success of others. My mind would run rampant as I shifted between all of these. God was giving me a choice. I could stay where I am and wallow in the emptiness I felt. Or continue to chase this zest and let him teach me about life.

By wisdom a house is built,
    and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled
    with rare and beautiful treasures

Proverbs 24:3-4 (NIV)

My pastor said that he doesn’t believe in the saying about bringing a horse to water and not being able to make him drink. He said that it all depends on how thirsty you are. If you refuse to drink or eat, it’s because you still have or believe you still have choices.

I didn’t know how thirsty I was. This was the first time I had water in a long time and I didn’t want to go back to before. I was standing at a fork in the road. I had two choices. Go deeper and seek out the life that God wants me to have. Or, continue doing it my own way, by my own power, and reap the consequences.

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live

Deuteronomy 30:19 (NIV)

I talked about how Joseph chose to stick close to God and avoided committing the same sins his ancestors committed in Sins of the Father but that leaves us focusing on the negatives of the pasts instead of the Blessings of the Future. The breaking the cycles of the past has relatively little to do with them or you, it has to do with the Father and making a choice. A choice to change and wait for the benefits of the future.

I have so many thoughts about what Jesus meant about the narrow gate but for now I’m going to cut this short before it goes on too long. Next week is going to be a hard share for me but I want to be vulnerable with you all. Next post is about my battle with Lust. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Turn Your Brightness Up!

#BeMagnificentūüĒÜ