Day 31 – Finally, Brethren…

Audio: Malik Ewan

Philippians 4:8: Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. 

We conclude this devotional with this charge from Philippians which we all must adopt. We must endeavour to have our minds occupied with purity. Not that we are idolizing purity, but we are keeping out every seed of impurity and unrighteousness from our heart.

This is how we will maintain what we’ve spent so much time getting right – by keeping our minds stayed on good things. Our minds are so programmed that we become and portray anything we meditate on. Therefore, we should fill our thoughts with the Word, spiritual songs and spiritual content. 

We can’t predict what curve balls the devil and this world will through us in this life. We can however decide what we will allow our thoughts to entertain and thereby emulate. 

Sexual purity is possible. You can be restored if you have failed. You can maintain when you are purified in Christ. What’s left is to always abide in Jesus for apart from Him we can do nothing.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are pure, think on these things.

Can Any Thing Good Come from Anxiety?

Audio: Dañielle Wilson

“I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

I have hated the fact that anxiety is a constant struggle. There are days when I imagine packing it up in a bag and leaving it behind. I am ashamed that it is taking this long to just cast all my cares on God. But in the mess of things, God has made me to find beauty in the ashes.

Anxiety is the symptom of unbelief. My intention is not to excuse it but to share a principle. Paul shared in Roman 8. It says, “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called unto His purpose.” ‘All things’, includes the circumstances that reveals my unbelief.

I took that psalms lightly in my earlier Christian walk. Jamaicans seem to have an unhealthy attachment to the book. I grew up hearing persons quoting verses to bash enemies. Sometimes even asking for protection from evil while doing evil. Preachers gave the impression that it is a soft ball book. Saying, “If all you did was read a psalm, you didn’t really spend time with God.” It wasn’t until I got older that I fell in love with them. Me and my million feelings found not only the familiar world wind of unpredictability but the honesty and steadying of God’s hand. The writers of the book of Psalms were instrumental in my pursuit of authenticity with God. Asaph is one of those writers. In chapter 73, he shared an experience I go back to ever so often. Why do ungodly people prosper while godly people suffer? While it mentions nothing of anxiety, he says something at the end that is true of any struggle. He says,

“But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works.” (Verse 28)

He found answers only when He went to the sanctuary. 

He says in essence, it was good not that I doubted but, that my doubts led me to God. Asaph says, “My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Verse 26) 

Every struggle and sin that leads you closer to God is not wasted. Look around you. 

Notice how your roots had no other choice but to grow deeper in God’s truth. Notice how your prayers lost the air of pretense and revealed your heart. Notice how God spoke to the hidden places of your mind. Notice how the light found a way to consume your darkness. Notice God fulfilled his promise of never leaving. Day by day, your faith is growing. So today, maybe it is your first time, maybe it won’t be your last but, thank God for the struggles that pressed you into Him. 

Practical Tip:

Give thanks for how far you have come. 

Make War With Your Anxiety

Audio: Dañielle Wilson

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;(A)
    I will be exalted(B) among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.” (Ps. 46:10 NIV)

At the root of our struggle with anxiety, is unbelief. Jesus said, let not your heart be troubled, let it not be afraid, ye believe in God, believe also in me. So, get this, the solution to your worrying tendencies is simply to believe God.

That is easy to say I know, but harder to do. Hard but not impossible. David led the way, he said, “Though the heathen rage, though the earth be removed….”. Can you imagine that? We certainly can. We are in what the Bible calls perilous times. The news is now a source of deep sorrow. Wars are too many to count; sicknesses are too contagious to ignore and internal conflicts are too unavoidable to drown out. We are going to need a hope that is unshakable even if this earth does.

What has been unshakable throughout time? What has more effect on history than any other person or movement? What has changed millions of lives and left the others at odds with their consciences? What never changes? The gospel! The pulsating, life giving, truth of God. Think about it, what else can we bank our utter security in? Not riches, not health, not knowledge, not even romantic love.

Your faith then is the single most important thing in life. If that is anchored, you have won at life. But like everything that is Godward, it’s a fight. The beautiful thing about faith is that it doesn’t need to be a lot. Jesus explained that all He needs to start with is, a mustard seed size.

If you are in a season where you can’t even find that seed, go where it sells. In the market place of the Word and guess what, the only payment is thirst. If you are thirsty for faith, come find the well of truth and drink freely.

Faith takes the need for a solution or comfort from off your hands and gives it to God. Be still David says. Tell your soul be still and know that God is God. He doesn’t need any help to be God. He doesn’t take consultation from anyone. What could they guide Him in? What could you?

Ye,  we are in a war but we don’t fight as though we know not the outcome. We fight confidently because the battle really belongs to God. Tell me, who can beat Him? The lies the enemy has planted? No, not your anxiety, not your emotions, not you. Submit to God, resist your feelings and they will flee.

Practical Tip:

Prepare for the Battle – Search the scriptures for timeless truths to speak to your soul when worry desires to consume you. Bookmark sermons that waters your faith. Create a playlist to still your heart and mind.

Why You Have More Control Over Anxiety Than You Think – Day 5

Audio: Dañielle Wilson

“But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:42

When I was more open about my struggle with anxiety, the person who talked me through it initially asked me one specific question. She asked , “What are the fundamental things that are causing you stress?” Thanks to my over-analyzing tendencies, I knew exactly what to tell her. However, only through a sustained conversation did I truly understand why they were stressing me. A lot of it was because of my people-pleasing tendencies, unfinished projects, fast approaching deadlines and my ‘reputation’ on the line.

According to a medically reviewed article from Healthline, there is a distinction between a stressor and actual stress. A stressor can be a person, place, or situation that is causing you stress. Stress is the actual response to one or a combination of those stressors.

The height of our anxiety is directly correlated to our amount of stressors. To calm it down we reduce it. Think of it this way, if your hand got burned by hot oil, do you thrust towards it or away? Our anxiety functions in the same way, while we may feel effects from the burn, healing can start because you have moved away from the source of worry.

Take an inventory of your life. What things-express what things mean increase your anxiety? Are these burdens God has placed on you? Are they self-imposed or based on external expectations? Maybe these things keep you from the better part of God, His feet. If you have been a Martha, take a step back and ask yourself why you do what you do. I mean all of it.

When you have been prayerful and not just frustrated, let go of the things that show up as not in alignment to where you are on your journey with Christ. It may look like agreeing to take part in a ‘good’ thing, or staying up later to console a friend that has no interest in growing, or taking on other individual’s work, just because you want to be ‘nice’.

If these are God-imposed circumstances, anxiety is not a far-fetched response. There are days the will of God makes me anxious. Yes, I am of little faith, but to grow in it, I must accept it. I gain strength when I admit I am weak. Yes, you are excited for the next chapter but my God, look at all the things that could go wrong. Yes they can, but you have no evidence that it will. And yes, God has carried you this far, He can do it a little while longer, even until eternity. If God brought you to the valley of the shadow of death, He won’t leave you there. The table of blessing and contentment awaits you. I know no better place to surrender than at the altar of prayer. Let him exchange your worry with faith and your doubts with word-fighting truth.

It is human to worry, but Christlike to hope.

Practical Tip:
Make a list of your stressors, pray over it. Let His voice guide you, then eliminate the things that seem urgent but not needful. If any remains, discuss solutions or new perspectives with a friend or mentor. Let them keep you accountable.

What Christian Women Get Wrong About Beauty and Yes, It Matters.

You are altogether beautiful, my darling,
beautiful in every way.

Songs of Solomon 4:7 (NLT)

People who say that physical beauty doesn’t matter are in denial. Studies prove we are nicer to people we classify as beautiful and we expect they are more successful and intelligent. Not only do we admire beauty when we see it, we crave it. We pursue it, that’s why we do everything to get closer to someone we find attractive. That’s why we chase, sunsets and moon rises, discovering coral reefs and playing with a new born. We can’t really explain it but it captivates our hearts and for that moment, time cease to exist. I have a theory I am currently testing, maybe beauty is one of the gateways to the transcendent, to the ‘other world’, to the divine.

Our desire for beauty in others is not to bashed, our uniqueness calls for differential thinking and appeals. The issue with beauty in society is the idea that all of us must find one thing beautiful. That our physical bodies must all look like we came from the same factory.

If you ask a girl who thinks she’s not beautiful the first issue is, there is an ideal that she has been comparing herself to subconsciously or not. Or she is just alright to look at, but if she had this hair texture, this built, this eye, this lash, she would be 10 x more attractive. And she is right in some respect. She would be more attractive to persons who prefer those features. But incorrect if she thinks just as she is, no one loves her present physique.

The second problem she faces is seeking external validation of that beauty in the wrong. I heard so much negatives about validation that I thought it was a bad thing.  But I had been confusing it with affirmation. To validate something means to check of something is acceptable, true, worthy. God has already done that when he made you and called you ‘good.’

Affirmation however, is the action we should healthily desire from others, they would only acknowledge the intrinsic worth you already have. The beauty you already possess. But that can’t happen if you don’t believe that you are firstly worthy of love, pimples and all.

There’s a third thing we experience when we think our beauty to be small or none existent,  it’s fear. Fear that a guy won’t ever find us attractive so we will never get married. Firstly, if the standards of worldly beauty was a criteria for marriage, I have seen so many women fall short and I mean shorrtt and yet they are in a loving relationship. Because most men sincerely desire women who aren’t afraid to be themselves. Women who show up imperfect yet confident. Men love that. Besides, if God is the one in charge of your love life, best believe He’s got you covered, married or unmarried. Or can you not trust Him with that?

Have you ever met a woman that just felt like home? That had the smile that made you fill up with joy? She could even have the skinniest arms but her hugs felt the warmest? Have you ever taken notice of her grace and compassion with which she serves others and receives service? There was a word that didn’t come to your mind, but it was it all along, she was beautiful. Maybe her back bent when she walked or she didn’t have the best clothes. Maybe her home wasn’t the best. Maybe she didn’t bave the perfect body. Oh but what love you experienced!

Abiding beauty is not in a new skin care routine, a waist trainer, our butt enhancer. It’s all temporal any way. Abiding beauty is hidden in between the folds of your heart. It is how you love God, yourself, and your neighbour.  So take care of yourself, if it’s your personal goal to be healthier and a nutritionist thinks losing weight will help, do it. Or if you wish to dress nicely or take care of your blemishes do that. But may our motives never feel that when we ‘fix’ these things we will get the acceptance we desire. Your body is not merely for wandering eyes. It protects you, alerts you, keep you alive. Because you are more than your body. You are more than a standard. You walk around with eternity in your heart. Your flesh carries a unique person and the right person will notice it.

How to Have Hard Conversations About Your Feelings

Audio : Dañielle Wilson

Let us walk honestly, as in the day; 

Romans 13 : 13 (KJV)

Some of my thoughts sound crazy, like seriously, if someone would come to me with them.
I would say, listen, “You are somewhere but not reality, How in the world did you come to that conclusion?!”

But the truth is I already think them, they aren’t going anywhere unless I present myself with new evidence. Often times reading and listening only are insufficient. Because it represents an unfinished cycle. Input is usually relevant because of an output. So to overcome our anxiety we actually have to talk about it. I know, gross stuff.

I shared last time why talking is inportant, today, we will discuss how. Babies identify language by one thing only, repetition mixed with body language. Soon those coos turn into mama and dada because that’s how the parents talk to them. For some of us, difficult things were either swept under the rug, conflict turned into explosions or met with a forceful silence of avoidance.

A part of the reason we have such poor emotional skills is because no one taught us how to have the hard conversations. No one ‘cooed’ how to be vulnerable, angry but not destructive, understanding but not excusing. I am glad children go off to learn other languages at will when desired. We have the choice now to unlearn then learn effective communication. Here are a few starters:

Identify the aim of the conversation.

Is your intention invitation to just be there for you at leaast for a time, seeking advice, desiring to express an action than hurts you and why?
Get settled on the goal.

Decide on a few points you want to highlight

It doesn’t need to be mess free, it doesn’t need to follow a pattern, fam, if you have to rumble until you reach the heart of your worry, do it.
Usually there are major incidents that lead to our conclusions, start there.

Determine how best to get the message across

If you just want to update a friend on the day’s troubles and woes, a text may be just enough.
How about sharing how an experienced with someone made you anxious, hearing your voice may give insight to mood.
Have backed up unspoken things for years? In most cases I recommend face to face but be wise and choose your safety first. Don’t go alone if needs be, especially if it is a past perpitraitor, whether physically or emotionally.

Set Realistic Expectations

Sometimes just sometimes the parent that was neglectful in the past won’t turn on their heel just because you say you feel hurt.
Or maybe the ex won’t decide to take you back or develop a friendship again. Your expectation is not for them to heal you. They cannot.

Your expectation is best aligned to releasing a burden you have been pretending you havent been carryng. Or to clarify the things that cause worry.
It will hurt if they don’t respond favourably, but what if they do? What if they do actually love you and genuinely want to know to help. Things are not always as they seem. And love, you will still find your way even if they aren’t an active traveller on your journey. Sometimes we take the lessons not the people.

Talking about the real stuff is hard but it is 100% worth it.

Practical Tips:

Conversation Starters-

When you did this it made me feel like this

What happened that night painted this picture in my mind that I can’t seem to forget

When you said/ did that I believed this about myself

When I did/ said that, I didn’t forgive myself because

I put pressure on myself to do this because I think that it will lead to

The Reasons You Don’t Talk- Day 3

Audio: Dañielle Wilson

“The reason we hide our faults is because of PRIDE. We want others to think we have everything UNDER CONTROL. We want to look well polished before others. The TRUTH is, whatever you can’t talk about, already has you under control.”

-Rick Warren, Defeating Temptation

My desire for these past days is to communicate that; 1) Your struggle isn’t unique 2) God understands the struggle and wants to help you through it. But there is a third component to overcoming anxiety that I have only hinted at but never addressed directly and it is the importance of others in our healing journey.

How do the best of friends or couples get to the place where they can almost always accurately guess what the other is thinking in a particular situation? I assume their encounters were more than emojis and stickers but more instances of sustained, deep and honest conversations.

I am troubled that our cries for help find their ways only on our statuses and never into a friend’s dm, or do we even have those? I suspect it’s easier to rant on Whatsapp or Instagram, we have very little accountability on those forums. After all, it has very few impacts on the day to day business of life. But authentic conversation has other hurdles too.

The real reasons we don’t talk usually falls in three categories. First, to express ourselves in absolute vulnerability would mean we’d have to return to the moment when we stopped being true to ourselves. Believe it or not, anxiety started somewhere and more than likely it wasn’t just the past few months that caused it. It may be that our people pleasing tendency is now being interrupted because we are burnt out from trying to do it all these years.

Second, talking about our worries reveals that we are in fact HUMANS, weak, fragile and in need of help. I’ve grown sad for the persons that call themselves strong just because they rose above the haters unbothered. Nah love, you need to confront the issues you had with those people and as much as physically and or emotionally possible, seek reconciliation. The hurt hasn’t gone anywhere if you haven’t healed. It has just been pushed into the subconscious that guides your decision-making process. That reeks of control. The haters still win if you don’t heal.

Thirdly, we will be held accountable for what we say. I dislike telling my friends I start to like a guy because one, they have a good memory and two, they will tease the daylight out of me but ultimately ask me the hard questions. The questions that involve A LOT thinking and praying. Most times we don’t genuinely want help, we want pity and baseless encouragement. Seeking persons who only offer comfort and no challenge to grow. We may refuse to talk because deep down we don’t want to change.

That which is hidden, imprisons and that which is uncovered, recovers. In the authority of a black belt introvert, my advice to you today is simple, talk. Talking makes sense. Talking helps you make sense of the ordeals you are facing. Talking puts the issue into perspective. Talking releases burdens. Talking invites conversation for action plans. Talking fosters intimacy with our loved ones. Talking frees us from pretense. Talking makes sense. Confess your faults one to another so that you might be healed. (James 5:16)

Be very careful who you reach out to however. Friend, a love interest is usually not the answer. Let’s stop expecting romantic love to do all our heavy lifting. Prayerfully seek out meaningful help. Can’t find anyone you trust? While I find that hard to believe there are options, for example talking to a counsellor. I fully recommend Family Life Ministries and Trauma Coach Mrs. Laylor-Bogle. Anxiety is rooted in worry, plausible sometimes but usually irrational. Talking sorts out all the chaos, talking brings healing.

Practical Tip:

Start talking, like today. Don’t delay it any longer. Be random, be unscripted. Or start making a list of the people you trust and are able to help. Schedule to speak with one at the earliest time possible.

Day 2: The Human God

Audio: Dañielle Wilson

Can we follow the Savior far, who have no wound or scar?”

-Amy Carmichael, God’s Missionary

My views of who God is have been constantly challenged over the years. He has changed from the one with superhuman powers, too strict, incomprehensible, too genocidal, unfair, proud, judgmental, and then almost whiplash inducing, wham! I stand face to face with Christ. The image of the invisible God. I had a hard time reconciling the Pillar of Fire Old Testament God, to the Human God of the New.

Most of what I knew of God was secondhand information. I repeated church lingo. Like Ruth, I knew Him as their God before He became my God. That’s why the question Jesus asked his disciples in Matthew 16:15 was so important. When all the curtains are closed, when we are alone, who do we say Christ is? Is He Lord? God? Or mere flesh and bones, disintegrated and forgotten? Perhaps a figment of our imagination? A crutch humanity falls upon because we are hopelessly in need of hope? Who do you believe Christ is?

I could praise Christ’s attributes from now until eternity, but the part of Him that connects with me the most is how he walked around in flesh. Gosh! God really just came down and showed us how to be human. He is the God that bled, worked, got thirsty, felt pain, cried, needed food, was betrayed, had to ensure his breath was fresh and asked for another way out when gruesome death was near. He even got angry, turned over tables that one time. So much for the gentle Jesus, meek and mild.

When emotions threaten to consume you, and anxiety seeks to control you, look to the God who knows exactly what that feels like. Remember the Garden of Gethsemane. It would be insufficient to just have a God who understands but is no help. Christ is much more, He is enduringly triumphant. He told Thomas, “Put your finger in my scars.”

Are you bleeding from wounds? Jesus’ response is, “See my scars, touch the jagged skin, I have healed from them.” He boasts, and rightly so, “Take heart, I have overcome the world.” Expressed differently He is saying,  “Hope in me, I have the power to let you overcome too.”

Practical Tip: Write the attributes of God you have experienced for yourself. Answer, Who is Christ to you?

Confessions of an Overanalyzer- Day 1

Audio: Dañielle Wilson
  • When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
    Isaiah 43:2

I woke one night on the verge of a panic attack. It wasn’t a bad dream. My thoughts shook me awake. Endless questions, self-pity, comparison invaded my mind. I pushed them away during the days successfully. My life is busy. To rest or rather sleep, I usually listen to a sermon or music not to let my spirit feed during my shut eye hours but so my spinning mind had something to focus on. That night, I went to bed without one on. I suspect my mind couldn’t carry the worry any more. So, at 1:19 am, I thought I would lose my mind. My heart rate was faster than ever and the moderately spacious room felt so hard to breath in. No matter the affirmations I repeated, “You are not a failure” “Your calling is different” “You are doing your best.” “Pursue progress over perfection.”

I didn’t believe a word of it, so to cope with those thoughts, I did the usual. I got up and scrolled through Instagram until I tapped out at 3:20 am. I think about that morning often, even though I couldn’t feel God, He was with me. I knew too, He could calm my restless heart, I was tired. Thus began my journey to healing.

Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure according to the American Psychological Association.

Maybe you have a bad record at work, or slipped up publicly at church, or failed your courses, or got rejected by the opposite sex again, maybe your attempt to be liked by peers blew up or you battle an ongoing sickness or even concealing a secret you fear will ruin your life. All of which leads to worry and frustration.

I used to expect things to never affect my mood, that being a Christian means having a permanent VIP pass to the front seats of Unspeakable Joy. The Holy Ghost security would stop anxiety and despair (without my effort) so they can’t crash my happy concert. I appreciate now an even grander reality, one that stares down the length of days on the greatest human suffering imaginable and through the lenses of the gospel, find hope. That is what we will be fighting for these 30 Days, HOPE.

Practical tip: Express your worry, I mean the real reason why you feel uneasy. All of it. Tell it to a trusted friend/s, seek professional help, write it down, say it to God. Expect Him to hear. Expect Him to draw near. He already is.

Why Woman?

Audio: Abigail Barrett

We are all a part of God’s grand scheme! No matter the underlying reason for your birth, whether accidentally or purposefully, God thought long and hard and He intentionally chose YOU to be a part of His divine plan.

Why woman?

The simplest way to answer this question is; “because the Lord wanted it to be so” but let us examine the scripture to understand more. 

And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” Genesis 2:18.

The Wonderful in wisdom looked and saw Adam and saw that he needed something else. For a man to be functional and effective, God knew he was lacking something, and so the Creator of all creatives made women. 

Can you imagine a world without any woman? Imagine how dull it would have been. Our fathers would not have the warm tender hugs, no one to jump in the laps or to ride on their backs. Our brothers? Oh, how they will miss our annoyance, our inquisitive nature, always wanting to be a part of the ‘boy’ stuff. Our friends and colleagues, what would they do without our waves of laughter, our opinions on dressing, our advice even when they don’t ask for it, and for always keeping them in the loop? They simply could not survive with us. What about our husbands? It would deprive them of our tender touch and nurturing care.

I know as women they have socialized us to think that we were all created for the same reason; ‘marriage’ we live our lives as hopeless romantics waiting for our prince charming. There is so much to womanhood than that, we may never be wedded, but God’s plan for us to help the men in our lives remains. Our brothers, fathers, and friends still need to be impacted by the gifts in us. 

 God intentionally and purposely created you woman to carry out his plans in this generation, will you accept?

Today’s Challenge: Focus on the men God has placed in your life. Are you impacting them the way you should? Have you deliberately honored God by fulfilling your roles and responsibilities as a godly woman?

Today’s Verse for Meditation Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations woman for this generation(Jeremiah 1:5, KJV. Emphasis and wording mine).

Today’s Affirmation: I accept my role and responsibilities as a woman, and in this season of my life I commit my time, talents, and treasures to purposely assist and impact the males in my life.

Author: Lizzette Crooks