No one could’ve imagined the day the entire world shared the same crisis. With so much variety and custom celebrations around the world it’s easy to lose track of who celebrates what and where? In Canada Thanksgiving is celebrated in October, in Malaysia it’s called Kadazan and Erntendankfest in Germany. Different days different inspirations and histories and no doubt about it different menus. But this year 2020 we are not just sitting down with family to celebrate an historic gathering, we are all experiencing history together as humanity. Some of us surviving some of us striving and some of us thriving after being infected. It is not our appetites that will be the motivation for Thanksgiving this year. It will be our appreciation for every new day we can breathe and not worry. The anticipation for leftovers will not be desired as much as the desire for sleepovers and family reunions as we all wait for the world to get back to normal. Some of us can’t travel or gather this year. And in not doing so it increases our safety which insures our health which leads to something to be much thankful for.
The inspiration behind it was mainly just...people. I had been seeing a lot of believers on Facebook who had been struggling or wrestling with certain things or who have backslidden into sin, and some who have walked away from God completely. My heart hurt for them.
So I wrote the song, first to encourage those that are in the faith that, we're gonna fail. We're gonna mess up. We are human. And that is not to take advantage of God's grace. But no matter what we have done, we can still come back to God and be forgiven and restart.
I wrote it to show that God is a loving God and He would rather us confess our sin, admit we're wrong and ask Him for help, than to continue in our sinful ways because we feel like we're not good enough and will never amount to God's standards.... even though that's not how He sees it.
And secondly, I wrote the song to communicate to the person who may not be in the faith that, just because a person is a Christian doesn't mean they are perfect. I'm never going to have it all together. That's what I need God for. My eternal destination is not based on my performance or how good I am, but solely on what Jesus did for me to ultimately satisfy God's wrath.
I wanted to also communicate that, we can have this type of relationship with God and speak to Him this way and come to Him open and honest and broken. That even when we don't do our part, He still does His.
Return to your first love. Because there was once a time, (for some of you) when how God feels outweighed how you felt. And sometimes we just get off track a little. But the song encourages the listener that it's never too late, as long as you're still breathing... to return to your first love.
The One who loved you first. And the One you used to put first. Priority. First in your heart and living your life in obedience to Him.
While we continue to go in circles, He stands still.
While we try to do things in our own strength, He's patient.
While we try our best to earn His love, He already have us His best.
He gave us all of Himself.
The most wonderful time of the year. Or is it? The National Retail Federation estimates that the average American will spend approximately $700.00 on holiday gifts and goodies this year, totaling more than $465 billion. Wow! That's a lot of money for a few days out of the year.
This could be my opinion but, I think the holidays bring pressure to spend so much money on what you would otherwise not even buy on a regular day. The overly huge store signs and discount labels make us say, "I gotta have that!" But, 'tis the season to give, right? For some, that is the case. For others, not so much. I am not saying giving gifts is bad at all. Read on.
While the holidays are supposed to be the perfect picture mentioned above, for some it's "the most depressing time of the year." Now, that doesn't mean more people are prone to commit suicide around the holidays, but for some it is very stressful. For me, it can be easy to forget the people who are not gathering with family this year because their loved ones have passed on. Or some are not able to afford gifts because mom or dad got laid off or fired. Or won't be carving that great, big turkey because money is tight for the single mother/father. You get the point.
So, these thoughts led me to ask myself a question: Why is the emphasis on gathering as a family only on a few days out of the year? I mean, shouldn't that be happening anyway? We highlight the holidays as "family gathering time" and when that doesn't happen it seems like that hurts a family worse than a casual get together. We know schedules get hectic, some families have two families to choose from to spend the holidays with and some have successfully worked out a system. For some, the holidays are, "Just another day."
Let's not get so lost in tradition that we forget to have the "holiday spirit" all of the other days of the year. It takes more than turkey and pumpkin pie to bring a family together. I am not talking about being in the same room, but rather, knit closer together than that stocking hanging on the fireplace.
So, while the holiday season brings about a certain "cheerful aura," let it not be just that. Let thanksgiving be a lifestyle. Giving thanks always. Not just a holiday or a day off from school or work. Or the prayer at the dinner table that we give a little extra time for once a year. Easier said than done. But hey, you can get started early on your New Year's resolution that way.
Dear reader, remember to be mindful of how blessed you are, not just in the holiday season when the beautiful white snow is falling and the heat is warming your home and you want for no thing. Not just when you're able to give gifts to your family members or go broke doing it, but all the same when you are able to give the gift of your time to someone who needs a listening ear.
Romans 12:15-16 of the Holy Bible states, "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited."
Remember, someone always has it worse than you. And the opposite is true: Someone will always be more well off than you. So, according to the scripture in light of the holidays, I believe we can apply that even in our thoughts toward the homeless or struggling individuals. I know I am learning that more myself.
So, no matter your situation, don't let the holidays stress you out. You don't have to go broke or buy anyone's love. My heart truly goes out right now to all those not celebrating with loved ones who have passed on. If you know someone who will be grieving this season instead of rejoicing or celebrating, reach out to them. Make a difference. If you are blessed, you are blessed to give.
Let us give more than we receive this holiday season.
However, this blog is going to be in no way my opinion on the election and who the president is, who I voted or didn't vote for, etc. That, to me is not important and there isn't anything anyone can do anyway. And I am sure the people have read enough rants and raves about all of that and then some. So, as the saying goes, "No use crying over spilled milk."
In 9th grade, I made an enemy. Not because I mistreated her. Not because I stole her friends or made her look bad or spread rumors about her. Not because I called her names or looked at her funny. I made an enemy simply for being ME. Sounds crazy, right? Every day I asked myself, "What did I do to make this girl hate me SO much?" Nothing. But still, she made it her personal assignment every single day to make sure I had a bad day by bullying me. She even walked with a small crowd who would back up her words against me and laugh at all her jokes about me. How did I react to that? I simply ignored it. And I was kind to her anyway.
Eventually her jokes got worn out, corny and tired and because I didn't respond the way she wanted me to, it made her even more mad, until finally, she gave up. I sustained months of her bullying. And since it was junior high, it wasn't cool to go to the teacher about it. You just had to deal with it. Or fight. But my way of fighting was to be the bigger person and ignore it.
After she realized her words couldn't break me, and she stopped, she eventually apologized and we became acquaintances. I wouldn't say we were friends. But at least the bullying stopped. But the story took a weird turn and she began to receive the same treatment from someone else. And that is when I actually defended her! Why would I do that? Because I felt pity for her. She just wanted attention and acceptance like everyone else. I said that to say this: Just like it was her personal agenda every day to make me have a bad day in front of a bunch of people, I truly believe there are people out there with a personal agenda to make people turn on one another.
Why did I share that story with you? Because it relates exactly to what is happening in America today. The sad thing is, it has always been happening all over the globe. And will continue. People are making enemies by being themselves. By being a certain race. Certain color. Being themselves, which they can't change.
But don't be fooled by the power of social media. People know what content to post to start a riot. Just because you see a certain video with a certain caption does not mean that is what is going on in the video. Social media is so full of lies that it is hard to spot truth anymore. The drama seems more appealing and it is easier to get mad at something false than what is real and probably deserves your anger. It is deception. It is division. And it needs to stop. The sad thing is, it never will. So, check your sources the next time you see a "racist" video being posted in association with Trump being president or whatever the case is. We get carried away by mere words.
"A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand." That is not just a wise saying quoted by Abraham Lincoln, it is actually a scripture in the Bible which he quoted by Jesus Christ in both the books of Matthew and Mark. We take pride in our pledge of allegiance. We proudly say, "...one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all."
Indivisible: unable to be divided or separated. Well, that's not the case for America, so why do we say that? While some people may actually live this pledge out, a great percentage of Americans do not. We want to believe we are not divided, but we are. And social media amplifies that to the fullest. A lot of people lost Facebook friends recently over the clash in politics alone. That just shows the strength of the "friendship," but that's another topic.
We are "indivisible" until someone says something we don't like or agree with. We are "indivisible" until we don't get what we want or we're having a bad day so we take it out on an innocent bystander. We're "indivisible" until we find out that our closest friends didn't vote for the same individual we did or share the same point of view. We're "indivisible" until we get just a little more money and fame than our neighbor. And the list goes on. It's little and big things that are dividing our country.
But, dear reader, the key here is that we are dividing ourselves. We are responsible for the downfall of our own nation. It can't be the president or the authorities because the people outnumber all of them by far! So, it starts with you. It starts with me. Are we really going to believe everything we see on social media and get mad at the wrong people instead of those responsible? The ones whose personal assignment it is to make us turn on one another over little things that become amplified. Will you trust your eyes? Or will you look past the jargon and posts designed to stir up anger and hate?
Making America "great again" isn't going to be accomplished by what's done externally. That is temporary. We have to let God make America great by changing the hearts of the people, turning them toward one another rather than away from one another. And only He can do that.
If you live in America, these sayings are not foreign to you. In fact, it is a worldwide state of mind for most.
We dye our hair when it gets gray, we buy younger looking clothes to keep up with the trends of the generation, we buy make up and ageless skin creams... and for what? We have become ashamed of our age. But, why is this desire to be "young" or live forever embedded in the human heart? What is it about aging that is so repulsive? We live in a culture where we put beauty before age. As the saying, "Age before beauty" goes, it means to let the older go before the younger. Although that is just a light hearted expression, age has precedent over beauty when it comes to privilege, but not preference.
You could search the internet for HOURS looking at beauty surveys, make up product popularity, ageless skin care and the list goes on. I will spare you the details of my findings, but one thing I did find interesting to note is that a study in Japan found in 2011 that, for women, the exact age at which beauty begins to fade is 35.09 or 33 days past your 35th birthday! (There are different opinions about which age beauty starts to fade in men.) Crazy, right? By whose standard is this? That's my point.
I am not a big fan of beauty contests, because how can you tell someone that they are not as beautiful as another? And we wonder why we have low self esteem. We have set a FALSE standard for beauty. The reality is, true beauty is found underneath the make up. Now, I am not saying these things are bad or wrong in and of themselves. Of course we all want to look good when going out on a date or hanging out with friends. It is when we begin to resent our age or try to dismiss it, that we end up deceiving ourselves. And no matter what we do, we can't stop ourselves from aging.
Nowadays, I see little girls 10, 11 or 12 years old wearing make up who look older than me! Now, we all know we all go through that innate stage of being a child and wanting to be older. However, it reverses when we finally DO get older, and then we want to be younger. Why? I am writing on this topic because, lately, that has been a theme that keeps popping out on social media and even on advertisements. I went to download an app for photo editing and the sample picture was of a teenage girl with the words, "I'm going to be forever young." Now, that sounds cute, but it's not practical. But I've seen so many go to great lengths to look a certain age. And it's pretty sad.
I am not saying this applies to everyone. There are some who do not feel this way or follow the trends. And that's ok, too.
Okay, maybe your'e reading this and thinking, "This has nothing to do with me. I couldn't care less about cosmetics." And I agree totally with you. Do you remember the question I asked in the beginning of this blog? Let me refresh your memory: "Why is this desire to be young or 'live forever' embedded in the human heart?"
The reason we try to stay young, the reason we try to hold onto life as much as possible, and the reason it hurts when life is lost. The reason you look up at the stars at night or the sky during the day or just look around you and you just know that there has to be more. Where does that come from? And how come everyone knows it? Because you were created to exist forever. The bible says, in Genesis 2:7, "Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being."
Think about that! Man was formed from the dust of the ground (God's stuff)...and GOD breathed into him the breath of life (also God's stuff). God use HIS breath to bring man to life. And if God is eternal, and He said, "Let us make mankind in our image and likeness---" then we are like Him in our being. There is a fine difference (according to Google) of definitions between ETERNAL and IMMORTAL. While they both mean, "to exist forever," only eternal means to have no beginning or end. So, I would say we are more on the immortal side when it comes to the soul. We have a beginning. Man became a living soul.
So, the bottom line is this. You were created to live forever somewhere eternal. Earth is not eternal, so we can't hold onto this life. Death is scary for most, but death is sure when your life is secured in Jesus Christ. Only God gives eternal life to those who believe. So, the next time you hear or see anything about eternity and living forever, know that it's true. But where you spend it is the most important decision you will ever make. Are you ready to live forever?
These are lyrics to a song we released called, "Miracle." Up until a few weeks ago, social media was a pretty pleasant place to hang out and browse. After some racial and other issues died down, I started actually seeing good news! Sadly though, it didn't last long. And why would it? I mean, that would be possible if this were a perfect world. If you look for bad news, it won't take you long to find it.
Racism and police brutality seem to be the most popular topics on social media today. Of course, there are plenty of problems our country suffers daily, but we see only what they want us to see. In all sincerity, my heart goes out to all of the victims of these types of divides, and the families that now have to suffer the painful loss of their loved ones. It is unfortunate how the world has become so engulfed in such hate, adversity, malice and the list goes on.
So, the point I want to get across is this: The next time you see a police brutality video, a racist quote/video/post...whatever the divide happens to be, remember one thing: The issue doesn't lie in the color of skin or the profession of a person; IT IS A HEART ISSUE. IT IS A PERSON ISSUE. Not all police hate blacks. Not all blacks are criminals. And you can fill in the blank for any issue.
So, why did I title this blog, "Open Heart Surgery?" I copied the following article from a Google search. Whether or not it is 100% accurate, the principles are similar to the thoughts I want to share with you. Here is the article:
---How is Open Heart Surgery Performed?
- A person is usually given a general anesthesia to make him or her fall asleep and to make the whole procedure pain-free.
- This is followed by making an 8- to 10-inch incision through the chest.
- The surgeon cuts through all the parts in the chest to get to the heart.
- The patient is then connected to a heart-lung machine once the surgeon gets to the heart.
The machine helps to clear blood from the heart to allow the operation, as stated by the National Institutes of Health's MedlinePlus. A healthy artery or vein is used in creating another path around the clogged artery.
There are several risks associated with this surgery, including blood clots, breathing difficulty, blood loss, irregular heart pulse, infection in the chest, chest pain, kidney or lung failure, memory loss and heart attack. There is early preparation that is required before a person undergoes this operation. It is necessary for one to tell the doctor about their lifestyle and medications they are using.
Since we've established that we have a worldwide heart issue, let's be clear it is the spiritual heart I'm talking about. God is the heart surgeon.
The first step in the actual procedure is for the patient to receive an anesthesia so they can sleep and not feel pain. Spiritually speaking, for God to do heart surgery on a person, He has to put to sleep (death) the old nature of a person. He needs the old you to lay down so He can get to work. As far as the pain, well, it is painless to accept the sacrifice of Jesus laying His life down for you. He already took the pain.
Next, an 8-10- inch incision is made through the chest. I liken the 8-10- inch incision to the 9 inch nails that pierced Christ when the Romans nailed Him to the cross. When you let that thought pierce your heart, it will change your life.
Next, the surgeon cuts through all parts (layers) in the chest to get to the heart. Wow. Spiritually speaking, it is the same with God. Some of us have calloused hearts and layers and layers of hurt built up around our heart. You have shut out any form of help. Hate, bitterness, unforgiveness or whatever has consumed you blocks God from getting to your heart. He has some work to do but He eventually cuts His way through.
The heart-lung machine the patient is then connected to, once the surgeon gets to the heart is like God connecting you to Himself through Jesus. It is only through Jesus' sacrifice on the cross that we can connect to God. Jesus is the "way" to God. Not religious or good works. Not church. Not grandma. Not a pastor. Not even the Holy Bible itself. The heart-lung connection machine, spiritual speaking connects us to God and breathes LIFE into us, like your lungs need air to breathe. You need the life (breath/spirit) of God to make it through the "open heart surgery."
So, next in the article the risks that are associated with the surgery were listed. I am going to list them side by side with the corresponding risks, spiritually speaking.
|Blood clots||the pure blood of Jesus|
|breathing difficulty||peace to breathe easy|
|blood loss||you may be at odds with family|
|irregular heart pulse||a heart that beats for Jesus|
|infection in the chest||affections for God and people|
|chest pain||a heart that "hurts" for others|
|kidney or lung failure||unfailing love of God|
|memory loss||forgetting your past because you are forgiven|
|heart attack||dying to your selfish desires/lifestyle|
This is what our nation needs.
This is what our city needs.
This is what our family members need.
So, you see, it's not an issue of race, privilege, ethnicity, gender, rights or opinion. It is simply a heart issue. God is waiting.
The last part of the chorus to our song, "Miracle" that I referenced in the beginning says, 'But look around....look around....look around.. you and I are miracles.'
So, though the world gets worse every day, God is performing open heart surgeries around the clock. Are you one of His patients?
Pictures capture the most valuable thing that we can never get back: time. Moments. The moment in this picture will never happen again, no matter how hard I try to re-create it. Pictures are there to remind us of the things our minds may forget. However, you can look at any picture of yourself and remember what you were thinking and feeling in that moment. And that moment may bring you happiness, sorrow, regret.... the list goes on.
I want you to think about something as you read this. Think about your best moment thus far in your life. Have you got one? Now, imagine re-living that moment over and over again for the rest of your life. If that were possible, would you enjoy it? I don't think so. I say that because although it was your best moment thus far, nothing in your life would change from that moment forward. Life would be pretty boring. Right?
Life is made of ups and downs and it's those moments that make us who we are today. Who we are and HOW we are. Now, I want you to think about how you spent your day yesterday, or even the day before. Was it a good one? Every day is never the same. Some are more stressful and frustrating than others. Some are stress-free. We need both. Even if yesterday was a not so good day for you, but you handled it properly, than chances are that you had a better day today. The moments of yesterday made you who you are today. And it's never too late to apologize or correct your mistakes.
Growing up, we had a saying in my house: "Don't go to bed mad." Even if I had just had a heated argument with my sister (s) for hours, we had to resolve it and apologize before going to bed, whether we felt like it or not. It wasn't until years later, I learned that my mother was not just quoting some saying, whether she realized it or not, it is found in the Bible. Ephesians 4:26 says, ...."Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry." Why?? Sometimes you don't feel like solving the issue that day. Sometimes you want to hold onto your anger and your right to be upset. But the Bible is wise.
Whether you read scripture or not, many of you may actually be living this out unaware. Like I did as a child. This is wisdom because, going to bed angry will most likely cause you to wake up with the same issue the next day. Hence, re-living that same moment over again. That is unnecessary misery. I have been there many times. It did not add anything good to my life.
So, my question to you is, "Is it worth it?" Make your moments count. Resolve those issues with those relationships.
Time is made up of moments.
Time is more valuable than money.
Your life is more valuable than both. Remember the good moments. Redeem the bad ones.
This is a lesson I'm still learning.
They say it is better to be humble than to be humiliated. And, if I may add, it will be our pride that humiliates us. That's pretty deep, right? But it is true.
Our pride will cause us to leap before thinking through a situation.
I remember when I was about 6 or 7 years old. I was walking home from the grocery store with my mom and younger sister. My sister and I loved to skip down the sidewalk, walk on the curb and even run downhill. Well, one particular day, we were walking home and we said to each other, "Let's race." My mother's immediate reply was, "Don't run." She must have had a bad feeling about it, but she always tells us not to run. So, because nothing has happened any other time we didn't listen, we decided to run anyway.
Well, that was the day my pride humiliated me. I ran so fast that I tripped on the crack in the sidewalk and fell on my face, sliding downhill. Ouch. I literally slid on my face! In a moment of being disobedient to my mother's instruction, my face was bruised so bad that I wanted to hide from the whole world. And that was just the beginning.
Once the initial impact was over and a few days went by, my face started to look A LOT worse.
It was so bad that I didn't want to go to school. I didn't want to be seen by ANYONE. I said to my mother, "I look like something out of a horror movie!!!"
But, it was my fault, so I had to go anyway. I had a favorite stuffed animal I used to sleep with: A mommy panda with her panda cub attached. I remember waking up one morning and the fur from it was stuck to my bruises and I had to pull pieces of it off. Talk about agony!! I learned my lesson that day.
One cannot become humble overnight, or a few weeks, even months. True humility should be a lifetime goal. If you think you are humble, there will be many situations to test and prove that. Don't let your pride humiliate you. Learn from your mistakes. I could have saved myself so much embarrassment and low self esteem if I had just listened. But, I couldn't change what happened. I could only do my best to not let it happen again. By LISTENING.
That is just ONE example. There are many. But sometimes we just need to listen. We need to realize that we don't always know, and sometimes the things we are told not to do, is really for our own good. The Bible says in Proverbs that, "A wise person receives instruction..." and that a "fool despises wisdom." I was a fool that day.
But, I was quickly reminded that anything can happen in an instant. That day, it was my face. One day, it could be your life. Don't be the fool.
Now, I grew up watching the VMA's at home with my mom and my three sisters. They always had performances on there where the artists gave 100%. The flashing lights, costumes, dance moves and talented singing and catchy music was what I looked forward to the most. There was nothing like seeing a celebrity whom I idolized perform.
I am now 30 and I have no desire to watch the VMA's anymore, because of what it has become. Not just the award shows, but T.V. in general.
As a singer/songwriter/musician, I was appalled by Beyonce's performance. As a woman, I was embarrassed. As a mom, I was grieved seeing the other young moms in the audience with their young daughters and their hands in the air.
"What did I just watch??!" was my exact thought after seeing this performance through a sponsored MTV ad on Facebook. What was I supposed to take away from her performance? It was nothing more than TrashTV. The world is immune to the sexuality that we chalk up as "entertainment."
We can even remove the fact that I am a Christian. Any person with decent morals would not be entertained by the amount of nudity and exploitation of body parts, not to mention the lyrical content. There was nothing positive about the messages in Beyonce's songs. And what's worse: There was no real solution to offer. It's okay to sing about real life situations, but the license to do whatever makes you happy is the wrong advice to give, especially for a woman of her caliber.
In my opinion, the entire performance was nothing more than unnecessary dramatization and poison. Especially for the young girls. This is what it's become. Gain a platform, perform half dressed and shake your rear end and use profanity. Wow. What an inspiration! Not. What a waste of expensive stage lighting, choreography, time and talent.
I had only one thought as the video finished: "Lord, I pray to never use my platform to lead young girls or anyone astray."
Whether they like it or not, celebrities have our future generations looking up to them. Why wouldn't they offer them life and hope in their music? They will say all day that their music isn't for kids; it's for adults. While that is true, that is how the children get to the music most times. It starts in the home.
We used to be able to turn on the radio and not worry about hearing some explicit message or simple (PG-13) cuss word. Man, have things changed! I am not impressed with today's music at all. I have a renewed mind because of Jesus Christ and I refuse to listen to "adult content" just because I am an adult. And I refuse to spread it to my children.
If we really stepped back and examined what we are listening to, we might see how infectious it is to the mind, which then shapes how we live. My goal is to make music that speaks and gives LIFE. LlifeMusic= Music that is life giving and life changing. Together, we can change our children's future by changing what they listen to.