Lately, I have been reminiscing on the early days of me and my husband’s ministry. One of those memories takes me to the Bible Studies & Prayer Meetings in Sunnen Chapel at Washington Metropolitan AME Zion Church (St. Louis, Missouri), led by Rev. Lillie Fenderson, a minister on staff. The studies and prayers were transformational, visibly ushering many to journeys of healing and deliverance. The Holy Spirit would often sweep across the small crowded altar and fill the entire chapel with breakthroughs. One night was as unforgettable as it was the first time I saw my husband wrestling with giving way to the Holy Spirit, releasing control of all he wanted, for what God wanted for him. At one point in the evening, it was as if Rev. Fenderson was only ministering to him. We all felt the rushing wind of the Holy Spirit in that chapel. No one could deny it. We all prayed on one accord for God to break yokes in the room. And God did. There were tears and shouts everywhere. And on the face of my husband with eyes water-filled, evidence of relief. Once we arrived home, he was able to share what we both already knew. His humility of prayer and openness to God’s Way afforded him sweet communion with the Holy Spirit, which continues to show its might in our 20-year ministry.
The world seems to be caught off guard with what is now becoming one trauma after the next. But those who profess Jesus as Lord & Savior and are familiar with the power of the Holy Spirit should not be. We recognize the signs of the times, so we gather together, on one accord, to seek God’s Way in prayer. Our seeking subsequently directs us to turn from our wicked ways. God forgives and heals the land when these prerequisites are met. Until God’s people practice the full scope of humility, the world will continue to suffer the penalties of greed and all the trauma it brings. We can’t fool God.
“If my people who belong to me will humbly pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14
“Make no mistake, God is not mocked. A person will harvest what they plant.” – Galatians 6:7
“I never thought I would live to see the day.” Lately, in our country’s present and not-so-distant past, I find myself repeatedly saying these words. One tragedy after another, one heinous statement after another, one injustice after another, leaves me wounded in these United States of America. Most look to some form of respected leadership for answers and guidance during tumultuous times. Unfortunately, I, as well as others, are finding disappointment in touted leaders whose influence goes no further than a photo-op and witty social media post.
The persistent turmoil in our nation requires much more than what we have offered as a response. It requires a courageous confession, earnest prayer, patience, obedience to God, and openness to a movement that refuses all manner of injustice and embraces peace.
In our most difficult moments when we wrestle with the impossible, we must muster the strength to plead the words of Psalm 5:1-7,
“Hear my words, Lord! Consider my groans! Pay attention to the sound of my cries, my king and my God, because I am praying to you! Lord, in the morning you hear my voice. In the morning I lay it all out before you. Then I wait expectantly. Because you aren’t a God who enjoys wickedness; evil doesn’t live with you. Arrogant people won’t last long in your sight; you hate all evildoers; you destroy liars. The Lord despises people who are violent and dishonest. But me? I will enter your house because of your abundant, faithful love; I will bow down at your holy temple, honoring you.”
Give yourself permission to hang on to hope. Leave room in your heart to trust God no matter what it looks like. A glorious new day is in view where God is lifted high. It is so.
“So what are we going to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” – Romans 8:31
When I was a little girl, I was stung in the head by a bee. It occurred on the day my mother designated as ‘hair washing day.’ My ponytails were undone, my once neatly sectioned parts were untidy, and I was pleasantly free from prim and proper to comfortably carefree. I was playing outside, with my wild hair, near a shed where my father and brothers were working, unaware of bees swarming above me. While carelessly skipping and dancing around in my imaginary world, I heard a buzzing near my head. Soon after, I felt the intense sting of a bee in the middle of my head. The pain sent me screaming and crying with arms flailing into the house, where I sought the safety of my mother. She tended to the sting and allowed me whatever time I needed to cry everything out – the physical pain, the embarrassment, and the ridicule from my brothers. I cried myself to sleep on the living room couch, not awakening until dinner time.
It’s difficult today to live a life unaware of our surroundings. What’s looming in our midst is no longer someone else’s problem. The struggles and complexities of our government, our health care system, our education system, our climate, and our relationship with God all pierce the daily realities of our families and communities intimately. Still, God allows us to find His grace in times of need, to include rest that carries us through the darkest hours. God carries us when we’re weak from the stings of life. We’re safe in His arms.
“Because we don’t have a high priest who can’t sympathize with our weaknesses but instead one who was tempted in every way that we are, except without sin. Finally, let’s draw near to the throne of favor with confidence so that we can receive mercy and find grace when we need help.”– Hebrews 4:15-16
“Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves. My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30
Imagine this. You enter a tattered room scattered with lifeless people. The stench of death is overwhelming and persistent. But so is the pressing of an undeniable force. What is this thing that is trying so desperately to disrupt the circumstance of this room? It’s so vast, you can’t get around it. It’s a sensation called greatness, an average-sized word with a massive appeal.
Greatness breaches cramped spaces where practices of mundane and mediocre suffocate. Much like an athlete who puts in the extra work to help catapult his/her team to record-breaking stats. Or the “techie” who engages in relentless innovation to transform how the world responds in crises. Anyone interested in the beauty and hope of greatness has to deny within themselves every thought and action that sabotages a pursuit to be better and to do better.
Seekers of greatness have target focus, distinct goals, and recognition and reliance on someone more significant than their pursuits. The Almighty God, the great ‘I Am,’ is the giver of greatness. Are we comfortable refusing God’s gift, only to remain lifeless? God’s grace provides space and opportunity for us to grab hold of the greatness He gives. Inviting God into our cramped and dismal experiences makes room for Him to show His might, compelling us to move out of our own way to let God have His way.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” – Revelation 1:8
“I assure you that whoever believes in me will do the works that I do. They will do even greater works than these because I am going to the Father.” – John 14:12
‘It’ came out of nowhere and disrupted your plans. You perceived ‘it’ to be disastrous and described it as horrendous, then suddenly recognized ‘it’ came from God’s hand. Your rush of selfishness almost prevented you from experiencing the move of God miraculously and unexpectedly. The pivotal light bulb moment came when you stopped your complaining, stopped replaying the events and emotions of your disaster, and took a deep breath. You exhaled. It felt so good; you did it again. And as quickly as you released another breath, the intricacies of your ordeal forcibly rushed into the newly liberated corners of your mind. Without hesitation and with specific intent, you exhaled once more. You felt your spirit uncoil from its grimacing state and felt the grace of wings flutter within you warding off what was no longer welcome, allowing God’s voice and warmth to fill every space.
God is clear. He can move through anything and anyone to remind us of His covenant with us. He will do it, not to harm, but to offer us a future and a hope. Therefore, we must give Him our undivided attention. We must step away from those things and people who lure us into frantic behavior and dangerous practices. Settle down. Take a moment to exhale and commune with God to gain a new perspective.
At the beginning of time, the breath of God made all things good. His goodness is available to us in our most uncomfortable moments. Breathe in, breathe out. Allow your gratitude to God to fill you with peace and a new mindset that settles you in a safe space with Him. God is relentless in His love for us, and He is committed to His covenant with us! Give way to God for a rebirth of an unshakeable belief that He is the master of possibilities. Let Him breathe on you. And allow His goodness to awaken a life committed to the will of the Almighty God, a life that offers you peace.
“Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:31-33