Israel Houghton – Our God
It’s Friday, and SH and I are officially kicking-off the extended weekend with a jam! May you have the best moments with your family and friends.
Press play…and enjoy!
I have the best of friends, I really do. Some of them I talk to sporadically, and some I speak with during scheduled times each week, while I chat with others (SH being the main culprit) all day, everyday. Technology (truly, the gift & the curse) allows me to connect with my friends in any way that I like, whether via Google Chat (gchat), FaceTime, iChat, Skype, Facebook (if I ever dare log on), email, text messaging or even the tele (mobile) phone. Dialogue between my friends and I is easy. We always have something to talk about; we always have something to share, and more times than not, the topics are severely random and/or TMI. I was actually just gchatting (of course it’s a verb) about whether or not people still make 3-way calls. I mean, do we?
Anyway — this past weekend, I spent a girl’s weekend in NJ. It felt really good to laugh and talk about everything and nothing at the same time. Just a few weeks ago, I had a girl’s night with SH. We talk about every topic under the sun most days, but it was an added joy to sit with her and simply hear her voice. Each day (and afternoon and night), I also have the absolute pleasure of talking my husband’s head off and giggling at his attempts to keep up with me in response. Which, reminds me that I am turning into my mom and grandma more each day. #randomfact
Even with all of the conversations that I have throughout the day, I still find that there is so much more that I can and want talk about. There are things that I want to say and feelings that I want to express and vet — but I just don’t know how to or may not be in a comfortable space to do so. Frankly, there are some things that my husband (even though he’s the greatest thing ever #anotherrandomfact), family and friends may not need to or want to hear; there are some things that they may not be equipped to provide counsel on; there are some things that only God can speak to and absorb in the way that I need.
In this way, He is my confidant. He has made me to desire conversation with Him; He has created me to need intimate relationship with Him.
Prayer is conversing, or exchanging your thoughts in speech, with God. It is sharing the depths of your thoughts, emotions, needs, cares, praises, thanks, dreams, desires, etcetera with Him. Do we not do this all with the people we trust in our lives? Clearly, I do! Then, why do we at times make it so hard for ourselves to do the same with the One who desires to talk to us most? He’s made it very clear, in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 that He wants to hear from us all of the time – “pray without ceasing”; in Philippians 4:6 that He’s willing to talk to us about all things – “...in everything, by prayer and petition…”; and in Jeremiah 33:3 that you can expect Him to answer and answer with clarity – “‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’”
The reality is that our prayers do not have to be an hour-long, or in King James Version or Robin Hood Old English, for God to hear us. He just wants us to talk to Him. And, He’s even made it easy by giving us detailed instructions on how to do so in Matthew 6:5-14. Prayer is you simply talking with God, and Him talking to you. No airs. No fluff. No calculated formulas. No technicalities. Just talking.
Prayer is one of the most intimate moments that we can experience with the Lord. Thus, we should treat it in that way. My better half and I intentionally have a date night (at least) one night each week. We set aside an evening that’s sole purpose is to connect and further grow and strengthen our relationship. Each date night is highly anticipated, and we make certain that it is not compromised or interrupted by the busyness of life. May we all, including me, consider (at least) one date with Him each day?
Let’s choose to be in true relationship with Him, speaking with Him first and most about our lives and our hearts. Let’s be open and as honest with Him, as we can only (and sometimes cannot) be with our dearest and closest friends.
Jesus [wants to] be a confidant to you. He’s already sent you one new gchat invitation (or friend request, for my Facebook lovers), and will continue to do so daily. Are you confirming or ignoring it? The Creator of like the whole universe just wants to talk with you. How cool is that?
Two years ago I learned that I needed glasses. Years of reading during college and grad school diminished my vision. I was prescribed glasses, but only wore them at work and while driving. This was not instructed by my optometrist. Quite frankly, I felt glasses would cramp my style. Hello four eyes!
At the beginning of this year my vision—despite having glasses—deteriorated. I decided to get another eye exam. On the day of my vision test I was greeted by Dr. Bvagar. He escorted me to the examination room. The test was standard. It all seemed familiar yet something was noticeably different. I sat in the exam chair and glimpsed at the eye chart across the room. I could not make out the letters. I squinted and blinked—still nothing was recognizable. Dr. Bvafar instructed me to place the autorefractor (You know that weird gadget that you have to put over your face to see better? Yep–that one.) over each eye.
“Ms. H can you read the top line for me please?”I squinted then responded reluctantly. “ASKFL.” As we went through this several times Dr. Bvagar changed the settings on the autorefractor. With each setting change he asked which was clearer.
“Four or five?”
“Five.” My vision improved by the minute.
“Six or seven?”
“Seven.” Once the exam was over Dr. Bvagar informed me that my eye sight was terrible and I should be wearing my glasses daily. Because of my obvious disdain for specks, he suggested contact lenses. The thought of putting anything near my eye ball made me want to faint. Nonetheless, Dr. Bvagar made the case for why I was an ideal candidate for contacts. I apprehensively made my way to the “fitting room” to get my first pair. It took several false starts, but I managed to get each contact in my eyes. The moment I opened my eyes the world seem so much clearer! It was like watching HDTV for the first time. I was amazed and all the things I could see near and far.
Over the next few weeks I struggled with getting my contacts in. It was a frustrating process and there were moments I thought I should give up. Yet each time I succeeded in placing them in my eyes and saw how beautiful the world was around me, I knew I couldn’t turn back.
This experience with my contacts made me think about how we view the world before we come in relationship with Christ and the way we see it after we begin to walk with Him. Much like not wearing my contacts hinders my ability to see, when I am not closely aligned with Christ my spiritual vantage point is blocked. My perspective becomes limited. My world is blurry.
In the famous Christian hymn “Amazing Grace“, John Newton writes:
“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me….
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.“
Not walking with Christ creates spiritual blindness. We lack the perspective that God desires us to have in order to make it to eternity. There are things that I do not do anymore because my spiritual eyes are sensitive to the world around me. I am able to see into the hearts of people who have wronged me. Rather than harbor bitterness or anger, I am able to extend grace because I know we’re all sinners, we all fall short. More than that I can see myself differently. I know that I am not just SH. I am a child of the King. I have an inheritance. There is much more than this life and to this life.
This isn’t to say that it was easy to see the world through the eyes of Christ. It was frustrating. I felt more accountable for my actions. There were moments I wanted to quit, but when my eyes were opened to how much God loves me I knew there was no turning back.
“Open my eyes that I may see the wonderful things in your law.” Psalm 119:18
Written by SH. @ StyleAtelier
Over the last few months, SH and I constantly proclaimed “bring the spring”! Now, the summer is quickly approaching and I am thrilled. My vacations plans are (mostly) confirmed, and all I can think about is getting out on that beach. As I daydream about my upcoming fun in the sun, I instantly picture myself in a bathing suit and SMH! “How did I get here again?” I ask myself.
And, now ‘Operation 6 Pack’ has officially begun. I am buying organic food, eating smaller portions, drinking gallons of water and even exercising. I am determined; I am diligent; and I am pretty darn passionate about my goal! As I prepped my upcoming meals on Sunday evening, I realized that I was putting in a whole lot of effort (and money) into this. Then I wondered, “Am I as engulfed with my spiritual diet as I am my physical diet?”.
Conviction set in immediately. I realized that I have recently been a part of more conversations about weight than I care to count. “Eat healthier!, “Exercise more!” and “Be consistent!” is the theme of the dieting advice given during these discussions. Now, I ponder on whether or not anyone is conversing about and seeking/giving advice on how to better feed and strengthen their spirit.
Through His Word, God has given us a clear dietary and exercise regimen. His people have even provided their testimonials in His Word!
Peter 2:2-3 advises us to crave and digest spiritual milk: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
We are even assured the treat of finer cuisine as we grow in Hebrews 5:14: “…solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”
In Matthew 4:4, Jesus tells us that we need more than bread to survive: “…It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’.”
Joshua 1:8 commands consistent exercise and promises a reward for our dedication: “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”
Also, an anonymous submission in Psalm 111:103 attests to how enjoyable the diet is: “How sweet are your words to my taste. Sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
Feeding on and exercising what we learn from the Word is absolutely necessary to grow and mature righteously. Through consistency and dedication in reading and studying God’s Word, our faith will become stronger, we will grow wiser and our love and passion will extend wider. What benefits!
Together, let’s declare and prioritize that ‘Jesus be a diet!’. This plan will positively impact every area of our lives, not just the physical.
‘Operation Eat the Bible’ is now in full effect. What will your daily diet entail? How will you feed yourself today?
God is often likened to being a father. He provides and protects like any good father would. His love is unconditional. We can ask anything of Him and be assured that He will respond with love and diligence. There is comfort and security in seeing God in this way. But, like any parent-child relationship, there are times when we can take our Father for granted. That’s a hard truth. It’s not that we don’t have the right intentions. It’s that we grow accustomed to God being there that His presence, love and provision become expected. Sometimes we can make the grave mistake of forgetting God doesn’t have to do the things He does.
Last week I received amazing news. I have literally found myself in the middle of God’s blessings. While telling SM about my recent news I exclaimed how in awe of God I am and that I don’t know what to say. SM aptly responded, “How about thank you.” So wise that SM is. Thank you—two words we all long to hear.
As much as God loves us, He wants our love in return. Here’s another hard truth—our love will never measure up to God’s love, but one way we can express our love to God is through gratitude.
Psalm 107:1 reminds us to be in a spirit of thanksgiving.
…give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!
One of the things that I have learned about why gratitude and thanksgiving are important is that they shift our perspective. We live in a world laden with negativity. When we take time to thank God for all He’s done our hearts become more sensitive to Him. We see the beauty and joy in everything around us. We move from negative thinking to renewed and hopeful minds. We make room for the Spirit of God to work in and through our praises. Walking in gratitude also helps us to live in victory against Satan and his strongholds. Thanksgiving increases the proximity of God in our lives.
Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.-Hebrews 13:15
I once read a quote that says, “Don’t tell God how big your problems are, tell your problems how big your God is.” When we thank God for things big and small we’re reminding Him that we know how great He is in our lives. We show him that we have complete and audacious faith in Him.
As I write this, there are numerous things for me to be grateful for:
These don’t even begin to scratch the surface of the insanely long list of things I can thank Him for.
What would your thank you note to God say? What are you grateful for today?
Written by SH. @ StyleAtelier