Meaningful Living in the Hashtag Age

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To Die For

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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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Love Thy Neighbor

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Growing up I was fascinated with watching my brother, a self-taught artist and one of the most talented people I’ve ever met, draw human portraits. Meticulously, he had a way of capturing the essence of a person’s unique features and through the slight impressions of his pencil and a strong belief in his creativity, he was blessed with the talent to turn a blank canvas into a masterpiece.

Using an array of art techniques, he would always begin his portraits by sketching an oval face on a white canvas. Next, he would draw a vertical line from forehead to chin, one horizontal line across the center, from ear-to-ear, and two or more horizontal lines toward the bottom of the oval. Each line would be used to place the person’s eyes, nose, and mouth in proper proportion to one another. Each stroke was as mystifying as the next. Nevertheless, like magic, as he focused on building the person’s facial features, a beautiful picture would appear.

While watching him draw portraits, I learned to appreciate the beauty of all mankind. From the color of our skin, the shape of our eyes to our crooked smiles and pointy ears, the variations in our physical appearances are what makes us unique but also the same. We all fill our canvasses with an image in the likeness of God; we are more akin than we are different.

For as long as man has been on this earth, society has suffered due to racial and economic profiling. The color of our skin and the amount of wealth we have determines the level of respect we deserve.  People with dark complexions are more prone to criminal activity, laziness and ignorance. People who live in poverty are unwilling to work and accepting of a second-rate life. That’s what profiling suggests. That’s the misperception that focusing on the flesh instead of the heart creates.

Man’s view of man is consumed with the physical. But what does God see? And if we could see each other the way God sees us would racism, sexism or colorism exist? Would unarmed black men be killed by white police officers at a higher rate than unarmed white men? Would people of color serve longer prison sentences for the same crimes as white people?

If God had to draw an image of you, what would it look like? Would he start off drawing an oval face, perfectly placed features, impeccable hair and flawless skin? Would he use his masterful skills to capture everything that makes you unique and physically beautiful? Or would he focus on something deeper, more meaningful than the color of your eyes or the length of your nose?

I believe God doesn’t see our physical bodies. He sees our heart. He knows us by our righteousness and our obedience to him. He blesses us because of our love of others and our reverence to the holy spirit. As his children, who we are and how we live should resemble him. And we are not to judge each other based on worldly standards but to accept each other and to believe that God has the power to change hearts for the good.

The bible teaches us that there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all (Romans 10:12-13). It also teaches us to treat one another equally and to remain fair and just in our interactions. In Romans 2:11 and James 2:9, it states: For God shows no partiality. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

What racial profiling has created is a false narrative about the responsibility God has placed on each of us to care for and love one another. We are each other’s neighbor no matter where we live on earth. And we are our brother’s keeper, even when our complexions, ideologies, and faiths are different. God gave the final word on the matter when he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth (Acts 17:26).

Racial profiling is the belief that white canvasses should never be marked with beautiful colors. That artists should only use single tones and straight lines. And that every picture should be of the same person with similar features, beliefs, and goals. But diversity and uniqueness bring brilliant light to the universe. Different hues and textures create a collage of people that are symbolic of the world God expects us to live in both peace and harmony.

Mark 12:30-31

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.

Leviticus 19:18

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.

Michelle D. Jackson is author of The Heart of a Man, a Christian novel. Follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMichelleDJackson/.

This article was published in the September issue of The Mount Magazine. To view the publication go to: http://mt-ararat.org/images/Mount-Magazine/The-Mount-Mag-Sept-2016-Spreads.pdf. 

Awesome God, Make Me Whole!

 

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There is a spiritual lesson in the making of a patchwork quilt. An early American pastime, the art of quilting used the imaginative designs crafted by women gathered in a quilting bee. Patchwork blocks made from fabric scraps and salvaged material accumulated from memorable events and treasured possessions are stitched and sewn into individual designs then aggregated into useful pieces. Colorful and oddly shaped fabric is cut, assembled and attached to create a complete work of art with three layers – the patchwork, the insulation and the backing – which is mended into a quilting masterpiece that is often passed done from generation to generation.

When I think of God’s masterful work to make me whole I see my life as a patchwork quilt. Scraps and salvaged parts of a life well-lived but often hard-fought cut, paired, and mended together by the hands of a loving God.  Each patch exemplifies my faith, my character and my capacity to love. Each layer is insulated by the Word and the strength of my salvation.  God is my Potter, my Maker, my Restorer and my Redeemer. Through His craftsmanship He has turned this spoiled vessel into something new. And He has transformed the tattered pieces of my life and restored me into a purposeful and enduring believer.

God has taken the jagged edges of my faith and cut away the doubt and uncertainty. He took the rough and uneven ends of my spirit and smooth away the unmanageable parts. God attacks the obscurity of sin that seeps into my mind and leaves me with the courage, through His salvation, to stay strong and to move forward with confidence.

I am His work of art. Tattered, bruised and weak, I am made strong through the love of an omnipotent God.  Even in my brokenness he can craft me into something whole.  His Word insulates my life and reminds me that the real work to living out my destiny is done inside and not on the peripheral of my flesh. My backing, or my foundation, is God’s love – a sweet but firm fortress of strength that keeps me humble and strong.

A Christian’s life is a work in progress. There is no day that passes that God isn’t cutting, pairing and mending our broken parts to make us whole again. He is the Creator of all things good. Resting in His arms guarantee us that we will be equipped and restored, beautifully packaged and secured through His love.

Jeremiah 18:3-4

Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.

2 Corinthians 4:7

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.

Isaiah 64:8

But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.

Michelle D. Jackson is author of The Heart of a Man, a Christian novel and Founder of The Charity Supper Club, a program designed to raise money to benefit local charities and families in need.

This piece was printed in the March 2015 issue of The Mount Christian Lifestyle Magazine.

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OMG! Obedience. Mercy. Grace.

Check out my article in the Nov. Issue of The Mount Christian Magazine.

Check out my article in the Nov. Issue of The Mount Christian Magazine.

To view the complete November issue of The Mount Christian Magazine, go to
http://mt-ararat.org/images/MtMag_November2014.pdf http://wp.me/p4xDb7-39

Dreamers Only

ManThis blog is for dreamers only. People with an expectation of life much broader than what others can comprehend. The sixty-five year old grandfather who wants to skydive and the twenty-three year old single mom who wants to be president. There are no impossibilities, there are only opportunities.

Living is about making dreams come true, exploring the universe in ways no one knew was possible and taking on the world and all its obstacles.

Working is about turning jobs into careers, organizational leadership and ambition. The focus will be on public sector management, entrepreneurship, social media management and building successful networks.

Inspiring is about faith, religion and spirituality in the 21st century.

1st Morning Thoughts will have contributing writers from all over the world and an insightful dialogue to help you navigate your day.

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