Meaningful Living in the Hashtag Age

Posts tagged ‘faith’

He Called Me ‘Momma’ – The Testimony of a Mother in Waiting 

I sat on the edge of my seat during the last church service of the year staring at the oversized cross above the baptism pool. Painstakingly at peace, I’d turned off the hundreds of undone tasks that ran through my mind before entering the sanctuary and hit pause on the demands the world had thrown at my feet. I was present and without distractions. Surrounded by my loving husband and twelve-year-old son, I was ready to be engulfed in the word of God and unusually giddy because no matter the difficult times that came my way during the past year, the cross – the very one Christ carried for my salvation through the streets of Jerusalem  had been my refuge, and I was thankful.

As the packed choir bellowed the second verse of the song, ‘I Got A Testimony’, my son tugged at my blouse sleeve. He asked, “Momma, what is a testimony?” A bit caught off-guard, I sat with his words for a moment before being reminded of all the wonderful things – including my son – God had given me. See, it wasn’t what he asked that made me reminisce; it was what he called me. He called me “Momma,” a title I’d prayed many days to hear, and looking into his beautiful face; I knew it was time to share with the world how God had transformed our lives.

My testimony started when the first of seven doctors told me that I would never give birth to a child; the countless nights I cried when I thought of all the bedtime stories, pillow fights, and Christmas mornings I would never share with my own son or daughter, and when I was forced to accept that I may have to give up on my desire to have a family. I felt rejected, excluded, and pushed aside. Despite my desires and prayers, God had other plans for me, and it wasn’t motherhood.

For a while, this reality severed my faith. I was different and not because I wanted to be, but because God believed I had the strength, patience, and fearlessness to overcome the challenges of infertility. However, I didn’t agree at first. I wasn’t fearless or strong; I was hurt and confused.

Being a mother was important. My mother was wonderful, but God took her too soon, and I was surrounded by caring women who were blessed to raise a generation of children. I wanted to be like them and to experience motherhood. I wanted to give back to this world and I thought becoming a mother was the best way to do it. But when infertility struck, my husband and I had to re-think how we would create our family. And in our darkest moment, someone special in our lives reminded us that it is not the blood that builds a family, it’s the love. 

What I learned during this challenging period was the importance of trusting God and not leaning on my own desires. I also learned that God gives us what we need and creating a family through biological means isn’t the only way to do it. 

God has each of us on a path  the destination is the cross, and the journey to get there is as unique as a fingerprint. Throughout our lives, we often find ourselves at a fork in the road that forces us to decide whether to walk with Christ and let him lead us in the right direction or turn away and go down an opposing path.

For years, I thought I was making all the right moves. I got married to a wonderful man and had a great career. My health was good, and my spiritual walk seemed solid. The next step was to have a child. That was the path the world wanted me to be on, but God had other plans. God selected my family to be an example to other families struggling with infertility, and to remind the world that each of our journeys are stepping stones towards his greater mission to save mankind. His plan for how we created a family was never only about me or my husband. Infertility wasn’t a burden we were cursed to live with nor was childlessness; instead, it was our journey to find and help a beautiful little boy who needed a home. A little boy like thousands of children around the country who are looking for parents to love and care for them. Our son was brought into our lives to give us the meaningful purpose that God wanted us to have.

FINDING PEACE IN THE WAITING ROOM

For eleven years I waited for God to show up in my situation unknowing that he had been there from the start. When I look back, I realize that for eleven years I’d paced the floor of the hospital waiting room anticipating good news from the doctor. While I was waiting for man to give me a positive report, God had already given me the victory. Although I wore down the sole of countless shoes and troubled myself with fear and anxiety over my infertility, it wasn’t until I stopped worrying and started trusting God that things changed.

When I stopped wanting what other people had and started asking God to give me what he desired for my life my journey took a positive turn. I walked out of the waiting room, fell to my knees, and opened my heart to Christ. And what did he do? He delivered, restored and healed.

I didn’t get the time back that I lost. I didn’t give birth to a child. I didn’t get all the answers I wanted but what I got was a son. He calls me “momma” and he loves me, although I didn’t birth him, or rock him to sleep when he was a toddler. I never saw his first steps or heard his first words. Nevertheless, I’ve now had years to hug, hold and love him. We’ve shared a million good times and expressed our happiness for finding and creating a beautiful family.

So, when he asked, “Momma, what is a testimony?” I hugged him tightly then explained that a testimony was our proof of God’s presence in our life; proof of his unwavering love and sacrifice. It’s our story of victory – we have a story of victory.

Michelle D. Jackson is the author of the inspirational novel, The Heart of a Man. Follow her on Facebook @AuthorMichelleDJackson.

My husband and I would like to thank the Three Rivers Adoption Council for helping us experience parenthood and giving us a beautiful testimony.

To download the Winter 2019 issue of The Mount Magazine, go to https://mt-ararat.org/buy-the-mount..

Path to Peace

#1stMorningthoughts

DISCONNECT

ARTICLE GRAPHIC 8

Click LIKE to show your approval of me.

SCROLL DOWN to learn about my passions, joys and pains.

Become my FOLLOWER, INFLUENCER, SUBSCRIBER OR FRIEND.

Peek into my SCRIPTED LIFE.

Illustrate your acceptance with FUNNY EMOJIS and EDITED GIFS.

Let’s fellowship through WORDS and PICTURES and VALIDATE each other with half-moons that turn into smiling faces.

Let’s solidify our bond with the perfect selfie and SHARE with the world the beauty of our online FRIENDSHIP.

This is what relationship building looks like in the 21st century – this is the online community we live in.

In full disclosure, I am not a critic of social media. I use social platforms daily to connect with friends and family. I click LIKE often. I watch the silly videos and search, like many people do, for the right emoji to illustrate the joy I feel at connecting with people I care about. But as a social media user and a Christian, I often wonder about the spiritual and moral realities of living in a world that expects me to build strong relationships with people by simply clicking LIKE. I also wonder if the desire to be liked on social media is indicative of our fear that God will not accept nor validate what we choose to reveal about ourselves in cyberspace that we try to hide from him during our quiet time?

Social media has changed how we build relationships and, in many ways, how we see ourselves. It is an effective tool with the capability to bring us together in a positive way, although many people misuse its power. God blessed us with the technology to share our lives with the global community, but when we do so, we should check our like-seeking motives at the door and avoid opening ourselves to pride’s destructive influence.

Satan has waged a vicious war against believers. This war is propelled by our need to be accepted and celebrated by man. Satan has tapped into our propensity to be prideful. Social media plays a role in that, but it is not the culprit. As Christians, our desire for approval should be satisfied by our belief in a living God. God expresses his love for us daily. We do not need the approval of man because man will never save us.

To be liked on social media is not the same as being liked, loved or revered by God. It is a symbol of our admiration for one another that carries no power over who we are or what truly makes us great. It is a small pebble tossed in a giant pond.

The need to be accepted is Satan’s way of forcing Christians to move further from the cross. We see it every day, on the news, in our schools and even in our homes. Children are following the misguided directions of their peers and Youtubers, who are eating Tide pods and drinking boiling hot water. Adults are turning away from the church and biblical teachings and turning towards the latest trends. Politicians are using social platforms to garner support for policies that will hurt the poor while the church struggles to maintain its influence over parishioners and to spread the Gospel without fault or distraction. Garnering the strength to move away from temptation has become harder. We are exposed, more now than at any period in my lifetime, to belief systems that contradict what the bible teaches us. We struggle to do and to say what is right, even when the word of God has not changed or ceased to exist in any way.

God teaches us in 1 John 2:16 (ESV) that the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions is not from the Father but is from the world. He also reminds us in Romans 12:2 (ESV): Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

As mature Christians, it is important to be careful about what we are exposed to. We have a responsibility to the younger generation. We should work to protect them from Satan’s tricks and to help them navigate the world of social media, so they can reap the benefits of these tools without falling prey to Satan’s will.

In this new age of constant connectivity, it is important that we disconnect from the world and reconnect with God.

When I disconnect, I am at my best. Consumed with the love of my family and surrounded by my most powerful ally – Christ Jesus. Being liked and popular has its place, but who we are in the quiet moments that we spend with God is essential to the discovery of his true purpose for our lives.

Michelle D. Jackson is the author of the inspirational novel, The Heart of a Man. Follow her on Facebook @AuthorMichelleDJackson.

This article was featured in the March 2018 publication of The Mount Magazine. To order a copy visit, https://www.mt-ararat.org/buy-the-mount.

Finding Your Way Out of the Boat

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I’ve always wanted to be an accomplished writer. From the moment I read Alice Walker’s book Meridian at the age of 13, I wanted to be an author. I love the way words exemplify the human condition so concretely. The way a good story can transport a reader from a mundane existence to another world. I love that when expended into the pages of a good book I could be anyone I chose to be and that writing allows me to dream out-loud and share that dream with readers from every walk of life.

Books are magical. Inspiring. Influential. From the heartfelt stories of a Christian novel to the powerful pages of the Holy Bible, books change lives and good writers are invaluable. At a young age, God showed me that writing was my true calling but to step into the life He pre-destined for me I had to activate my faith.

In preparation to walk into my destiny, I spent many years honing my writing skills. Even though when I look back at that time in my life, I realize I didn’t always trust my talent.  Therefore, I did other things. I worked various jobs, started businesses and wrote for other people. It was safer to do those things then to go after my dreams head-on. I was afraid to be the writer God wanted me to be until 2005, the year I turned 31-years-old and the same year I lost my mother to cancer. Her death changed my life. It brought forth a strong desire within me to live a life of purpose in dedication to her because she loved me unconditionally. To be the writer I wanted to be I needed faith in God’s promises for my life as well as the support of people who inspired me to move towards my dreams.

Many people have the same story. We are passionate about dancing, but we never become a dancer. We are skilled carpenters, but we take jobs sitting behind a desk. We love to sing, but we never join the choir or share that gift with the world. We hear God’s calling on our lives but refuse to accept it because of our fears. We become what I call boat-people, afraid to take a step out of the boat – our comfort zone –  because of our fleeting sense of security and a flawed belief that our God-given talents aren’t good enough to be accepted by the world.

The boat symbolizes the limitations of living in the flesh – an act that’s rocky and unstable yet conventional. Most of us are raised to be boat-people. We are expected to conform to this world and the expectations of man. Stepping away from the boat represents our growing faith in God and finding our true purpose in life. The importance of finding our true purpose is to honor God by fulfilling His Great Commission to spread his teachings to all the nations. When we fail to live a purposeful life and to use our gifts to glorify God’s Kingdom we hinder the spiritual growth within our homes, our communities and the world.

The boat carries many people who believe it’s safer to stay in it than to venture out. But when God has placed in your heart a belief that life has more to offer than sitting in the boat, you experience a powerful pull towards your calling.

In Matthew 14, the Bible illustrates the power of stepping away from the boat and subsequently, fear-stricken boat-people. In these verses, Jesus sends the disciples in a boat to cross a lake and wait for him on the other side. As time progress, Peter and the other disciples find themselves in the boat far from land. The boat had sailed a considerable distance from where Jesus was, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Jesus, who had gone up a mountainside alone to pray, was not with his disciples when the wind and darkness cast fear upon them.

The Bible states in Matthew 14:25-29 (NIV): Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Over the years, I’ve cherished the teachings of these verses. Jesus walks on water and Peter, a commoner, joins him on the water until his lack of faith causes him to sink. Every time I hear this story, I am drawn to understand better the symbolism of the boat itself and how this story is an example of what happens when God is calling for us to walk in our destiny, but we fail to move closer to him. In my opinion, Peter’s failure didn’t come from his lack of faith once he got on the water, but his lack of faith before he stepped out of the boat. In the boat were the other disciples who I imagined were debating what to do. Should they turn back? Should they cry out? Should they drop the anchor and stop moving? They were afraid. Afraid to go forward, move backward or to leave the boat. They were boat-people struggling to save themselves and convinced the situation before them was too dire to be resolved, even by God.

Peter, engulfed in his own fears and those of the other disciples, had to decide what to do. Peter called out to Jesus in Matthew 14:28, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water. Instead of believing that only Jesus would have the power to walk on water, Peter, a loyal disciple, questioned if it was Jesus at all. He was doubtful before he stepped out of the boat.

When I think about my faith to go after my dreams, I realize that I often operate like a boat-person. Rocking from wave to wave during the most turbulent times of my life, I ignore God as He calls to me to take a step out of my comfort zone and away from people who are stuck believing that life has nothing more to offer than their current situation. God has shown me that hidden in each of our DNA is a strain of greatness that we can only tap into with unwavering faith as minuscule as a mustard seed.  We should step out of the boat even if we periodically find ourselves sinking because we must perfect our faith walk before reaching the pinnacle of our Christian experience.

My desire to be a writer is God’s way of calling me to get out of the boat. He is telling me to trust Him and to have faith. To fight against the challenges and limitations before me and to go after my dreams. What I’ve learned over the years is that getting out of the boat is one thing, but getting out of the boat in faith is something altogether different.

Stepping out of the boat means stepping away from boat-people

Whenever I hear a sermon on Matthew 14, I always wonder why God called Peter out of the boat but left the other disciples behind? I liken this story to so many of us who are listening to God with one ear and listening to earthy influences – or boat-people – with the other ear. God tells us to come and to have faith that he will direct our path. Boat-people, often comprised of our friends and family who harbor doubt and fear, are whispering words of defeat that often overshadow God’s voice. The other disciples did not ask to step out of the boat. They were satisfied waiting for Jesus to come to them, to show himself and prove that he was capable of walking on water. Peter chose to meet him on the water, while the other disciples chose to remain in the storm.

Was Peter stepping out of the boat to get away from people who doubted Jesus more than he doubted Jesus? Was the doubt in his mind the results of being around other negative people who lacked vision? Moving towards God is a faith walk we often do alone. The men Peter left behind in the boat could not see or understand the destiny God had for his life. But to reach that destiny, Peter needed the faith and fortitude to step away from the norm.

This story is a reminder that what God has for you is for you. Our destiny was determined before we came into this world. Our responsibility is to decide whether to remain in the boat and doubt God or to take steps to fulfill our purpose. The people sitting in the storm with you are often there because they don’t trust that God can bring them out.

Peter stepped out of the boat doubting Jesus’ power. He did not complete the journey, but he did show Jesus and the other disciples that he was willing to take the necessary steps to reach his destiny.

Sometimes we all find ourselves sinking. But God will not let us drown. In Matthew 14; 31-33 the story concludes:  Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him [Peter]. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

I encourage you to get out of the boat. Leave the boat-people behind and pursue the life God has prepared before you. Jesus is standing on the water in the middle of the lake with his hands stretched out, waiting for you to come.

Michelle D. Jackson is the author of the inspirational novel, The Heart of a Man. Follow her on Facebook @AuthorMichelleDJackson.

The original article was published in the January 2018 issue of The Mount Christian Magazine. To order an copy visit The Mount website.

 

Hero in Me

super hero girl

So many people are in need of a HERO. So many people are waiting on a SUPERMAN or WONDER WOMAN to descend from the sky and protect them from a struggling world.

But what if, there are no heroes coming to our rescue? What if, God provides us with the strength and courage to change the world, and WE were created to be the heroes of our own lives?

God blesses us with the power to come together and build a world comprised of integrity and goodwill. In these unpredictable times, it’s important that we stop waiting for our heroes to rescue us and start living like the responsibility is ours, and ours alone.

Ask yourself: Am I up for the task? Am I warrior-ready? Can I be a hero in my community? What will it take to change the world around me?

Learn to be your own HERO and watch your life soar.

#HeroInME #GrowingBOLD #FaithFUELED

 

To Die For

Slide1

The praise team approached the microphone stands behind the pulpit one warm Sunday morning. Called by God to inspire a congregation of worshippers, they gathered on the stage to give back and I, like many others in the church pews, was willfully ready to receive. The tempered playing of the keyboard was accompanied by the guitarist’s spasmed sound and the chest pounding thump of the drums. Each singer rocked from side to side in an uncoordinated dance; joyous, I imagined, for being blessed to see another day.

The song began with words I’ve longed to hear all week. Words that took me to a place of peace and joy. Words that encapsulated the heartbreak and uncertainty of living in a struggling world that desperately needed God’s salvation.

The choir sung with such perfection, “You thought I was worth saving. So, you came and changed my life. You thought I was worth keeping. So, you cleaned me up inside. You thought I was to die for.” With every verse, I was reminded of God’s faith in me. Regardless of the countless mistakes I’d made, the sins I repeated even when I knew better and the times I refused to do what he sacrificed on the cross for me to do, I was still worth saving – I was worth God sacrificing the life of his only begotten son.

Jesus died on the cross for our sins. He paid a debt we could never repay. We were worth dying for; we were bought with a price. What an honor to be loved so completely.

In every corner of the church, congregants sprung to their feet lifting their hands in praise. Together, we were transported to the ultimate place of worship. A place void of pain and filled with love. We were seated at the foot of Christ; worshipping him in unison. We were embodying what the praise team was called to do. Our faith – a blessing to God – was music to his ears.

My tears overwhelmed me. They were a testament to a life so filled with God’s love that I unequivocally could not take another breath without giving him praise. And while I praised him, the Holy Spirit revealed in me a path to a better understanding of my purpose on earth. I asked myself: If God thought I was worth dying for, how do I justify living a frivolous life? How can I refuse to follow God’s word?

God gives us what we don’t deserve. He redeems us. Sets us free. He took our place on the cross. He never asked for much from any of us; but he gave in abundance.

Knowing how unconditional his love is, gives me the strength to set my goals high and to see my life as a conduit to spreading God’s word. As a child of a living God, I cannot justify a meager life. My dreams must be bigger than the sky; my purpose filled with giving back and helping others. I am not here on earth to do my will, but to do God’s will and to show him that the life Christ died on the cross to save is working to be a blessing to those in need.

What are you willing to die for?

Our Christian walk is one of purpose. How we live our life and how we realize our dreams were set in motion during the long and torturous walk Christ made to the cross. His work on earth is done; he is now with God steering us in the right direction from his throne in heaven. Now, it is for us to complete the rest of the journey with God’s strength and faith beckoning us towards living a life of purpose.

But living a purposeful life is often hard to do. Knowing what’s worth sacrificing our life for is difficult to explain. That’s why I’m so happy God had no reservations about me. He didn’t look over the totality of my life, or considered my failures and sins before determining if I was worth sacrificing his only son for. He simply knew my heart and loved me despite my transgressions.

As the praise team continued, I recognized why the sweetness of their words brought me to tears. Again, in perfect unison they sang: “You thought I was to die for. So, you sacrificed your life. So, I could be free. So, I could be whole. So, I could tell everyone I know.”

I pray that on this journey we clutch hold to things worth dying for and we live our lives with principle and courage so we can do as the song writers says – be free and be whole.

Michelle D. Jackson is author of the inspirational novel, The Heart of a Man. Follow her on Facebook @AuthorMichelleDJackson. The original article was published in the October 2017 issue of The Mount Magazine.

The song referenced in this article is “Worth” by Gospel Singer Anthony Brown and group therAPy

 

 

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