Spiritual Renewal

(The “Our Daily Bread” topic for Tuesday March 23, 2023)

Chinese medicine has practiced pearl powder exfoliation for thousands of years, using ground pearls to scrub away dead cells resting at the top of the skin. In Romania, rejuvenating therapeutic mud has become a widely sought-after exfoliant that’s purported to make skin youthful and glowing. All over the world, people use body care practices they believe will renew even the dullest of skin.

The tools we’ve developed to maintain our physical bodies, however, can only bring us temporary satisfaction. What matters more is that we remain spiritually healthy and strong. As believers in Jesus, we’re given the gift of spiritual renewal through Him. The apostle Paul wrote, “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).

The challenges we face daily can weigh us down when we hold on to things like fear, hurt, and anxiety. Spiritual renewal comes when we “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen” (v. 18). We do this by turning our daily worries over to God and praying for the fruit of the Holy Spirit—including love, joy, and peace—to emerge anew in our lives (Galatians 5:22–23). hen we release our troubles to God and allow His Spirit to radiate through us each day, He restores our souls.

Reflect: How can you ask God to renew your spirit? How does the work of the Holy Spirit encourage you today?

Prayer: Jesus, each day I face obstacles that try to break my spirit. Sometimes I feel defeated, but I know that through You my spirit can be renewed.

Homage to my Hips

(In honor of Women’s History Month)

Lucille Clifton was an American Poet, writer and educator from Buffalo, New York. She was Poet Laureate of Maryland from 1979 to 1985. Clifton was also a finalist twice for the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. She died 2010.

these hips are big hips

they need space to

move around in.

they don’t fit into little

petty places. these hips

are free hips.

they don’t like to be held back.

these hips have never been enslaved,   

they go where they want to go

they do what they want to do.

these hips are mighty hips.

these hips are magic hips.

i have known them

to put a spell on a man and

spin him like a top!

To Love My Children

(2013 Throwback)

From the pages of “The Book”, as His words exit my lips

Every night just before the clock strikes eight

To love my children is to protect them- with the whole armor of God

Positive affirmation, speaking words of encouragement and faith

To love them is to NOT blurt out harsh unkind words

Cutting deep into the soul, once they’ve escaped

To love my children is uplift and soothe them

As the soft lyrics of a spiritual hymn eases their minds

What greater love is there for my children,

Than to share a gift as precious as the Lord and His word

To know Him, is to love them

For there is no greater love

Amen!

The Prayer of Jabez

I’d like to share my first read of the new year! Recently, during my weekly bible studies, I learned about the story of Jabez. Although barely mentioned throughout the bible, Jabez’s prayer itself is insightful especial for those like me who struggle with how to pray. It also answered many questions I’ve had in my life regarding prayer. Many of you may already know, it was my child 6th Generation girl who first taught me about prayer at the age of 4. For some reason, after all these years I’ve always felt as if I wasn’t doing it right. Admittedly, I was the one always secretly praying at the dinner table that I wouldn’t be the one called on to say grace, lol. I sincerely recommend this book for anyone who struggles with prayer. In the meantime, below you will find Four powerful prayers from the book that have aided in my spiritual growth.

Jabez’s Prayer (1 Chronicles 4:10)

Dear God, oh that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil.”

Prayer to keep me from what feels right but is wrong:

“Lord, keep me safe from temptations that pull at my emotions and my physical needs, that call out to my sense of what I deserve, what I have the “right” to feel and enjoy. Because You are the true source of all that is really life direct my steps away from all that is not of You.”

Prayer for protection from Deception

“Lord keep me from making the mistakes I’m most prone to when temptation comes. I confess that what I think is necessary, smart or personally beneficial, is so often only the beautiful wrapping on sin.”

Prayer to be spared from dangerous misjudgments

“Lord, keep me safe from the pain and grief that sin brings. For the dangers that I can’t see, or the ones that I think I can risk because of my experience (pride & carelessness), put up a supernatural barrier. Protect me, Father, by Your power!”

THE WHATEVERS

NOTE: These devotionals that I share are from Our Daily Bread written by various authors. I’ve been reading them daily for over 20 years. Some speak to me and seem to come at the very moments I need understanding or clarity with all life throws at me. I share them here in hopes that it comforts others as it does for myself.

Key Verse:  Philippians 4:1–9

Every Friday evening, the national news my family views concludes the broadcast by highlighting an uplifting story. In contrast to the rest of the news, it’s always a breath of fresh air. A recent “good” Friday story focused on a reporter who had suffered from COVID-19, fully recovered, and then decided to donate plasma to possibly help others in their fight against the virus. At the time, the jury was still out on how effective antibodies would be. But when many of us felt helpless and even in light of the discomfort of donating plasma (via needle), she felt it “was a small price to pay for the potential payoff.”

After that Friday broadcast, my family and I felt encouraged—dare I say hope-filled. That’s the power of the “whatevers” Paul described in Philippians 4: “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable” (v. 8). Did Paul have in mind plasma donation? Of course not. But did he have in mind sacrificial actions on behalf of someone in need—in other words, Christlike behavior? I’ve no doubt the answer is yes.

But that hopeful news wouldn’t have had its full effect if it hadn’t been broadcast. It’s our privilege as witnesses to God’s goodness to look and listen for the “whatevers” all around us and then share that good news with others that they may be encouraged. By: John Blase

Reflect:  What’s a “whatever” story that’s encouraged you lately? Who might want or need to hear your story?

Prayer: Father, I know that behind whatever is excellent and praiseworthy is You. I love You.

Turning The Bad into Good

(Guest Post)

Though I’m a child of God, a woman, mother & many other things… I am also blessed to be Tammy’s daughter, ❤️6th Generation Girl! I always aim to love and inspire others, sharing eternal truths I believe existed before I was even born. My faith isn’t intellectual, I can’t prove it scientifically. It’s been based off one simple request God answered when I was really young. Alone, In the backseat of a family members car, I sat quietly enjoying the ride. Me and my mom were in a different state at the time visiting family and although I’m not sure why I left her (maybe to just tag along/get out of the house) I remember feeling at ease, content & safe. I didn’t know our destination, but I knew I was in good company so seeing how it was dark outside I remember drifting off looking out the window getting lost in the stars in the sky. I always tell people I was five years old at the time, but my mom assures me I had to be much younger. Either way I was a thinker, I’d get lost in my thoughts dreaming, hoping, imagining the impossible-my thoughts were interrupted when we pulled into a shopping center parking lot. As soon as we parked all of a sudden, I became extremely thirsty. “I’ll be right back sweetie, I’ll only be a minute” My Great Autie ‘sista-bucket’ said shoveling through her purse, seemingly distracted not once looking back at me. You can call me spoiled but I’ve never been a brat. I was spoiled in a sense of: if everything is already given to you, if you’re always thought of & taken care of, you don’t develop the habit of asking for what you want. I wanted to speak up, but I didn’t really know how & being in a new place with a new family member who doesn’t know me, didn’t help. I could tell she loved me, but she couldn’t really know me because we had just met & with a nickname like ‘sista-bucket’ I definitely didn’t know her, so I just sat silently in the backseat as she made sure she didn’t forget anything before shutting the car door. As soon as she started walking around the front of the car I closed my eyes and pleaded inside my head saying, “I’m so thirsty please make her come back & ask me, If she does then I’ll be good” As soon as I open my eyes I see her stop, mid-way through the parking lot she turns around starts walking back towards the car and approaches my window using her hand in a circular motion signaling me to roll it down. I turned the handle as hard as I could (only certain generations will understand) and after it was cracked less than an inch she leaned down into the window and asked, “you want anything from inside” I smiled “something to drink, please”. It was at that very moment I knew God was real because something higher than myself answered that request. I didn’t have the courage to vocalize what I wanted but God spoke for me. That thought in my head I later learned was a prayer that had been answered. A Higher Power, something I couldn’t see or explain knew my thoughts & loved me first unconditionally. As I got older, I had a lot of moments where my faith was tested. Even today I’m faced with troubles that I don’t quite understand but I look back over the course of my life and can testify God has never left my side. The miracles stopped happening because I wasn’t taking any leaps of faith, periods I thought I was stuck, or waiting was actually preparation for something greater. Anytime I get discouraged, I remind myself of that moment when I closed my eyes & prayed earnestly understanding by faith it’s not a matter of if…. it’s when! And God always has a way of bringing the good out of what may feel like a bad situation. Matthew 7:7(NKJV) Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.

A Time to Speak

NOTE: These devotionals that I share are from Our Daily Bread written by various authors. I’ve been reading them daily for over 20 years. Some speak to me and seem to come at the very moments I need understanding or clarity with all life throws at me. I share them here in hopes that it comforts others as it does for myself.

Key Verse: There is a time for everything . . . a time to be silent and a time to speak. – Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7

For thirty long years, the African American woman worked faithfully for a large global ministry. Yet when she sought to talk with co-workers about racial injustice, she was met with silence. Finally, however, in the spring of 2020—as open discussions about racism expanded around the world—her ministry friends “started having some open dialogue.” With mixed feelings and pain, she was grateful discussions began.

Silence can be a virtue in some situations. As King Solomon wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: . . . a time to be silent and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7).

Silence in the face of bigotry and injustice, however, only enables harm and hurt. Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoeller (jailed in Nazi Germany for speaking out) confessed that in a poem he penned after the war. “First they came for the Communists,” he wrote, “but I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.” He added, “Then they came for” the Jews, the Catholics, and others, “but I didn’t speak up.” Finally, “they came for me—and by that time there was no one left to speak up.”

It takes courage—and love—to speak up against injustice. Seeking God’s help, however, we recognize the time to speak is now. By Patricia Raybon

Reflect: Why is it important not to be silent during discussions about injustice? What hinders your willingness to engage in such dialogue?

Prayer: Dear God, release my tongue and heart from the enemy’s grip. Equip me to see and feel the harm of injustice so that I may speak up for those hurt by this sin.

Running On Empty

“I just don’t think I can do this anymore,” my friend said through her tears as she discussed the overwhelming sense of hopelessness she faced as a nurse in a global health crisis. “I know that God has called me to nursing, but I’m overwhelmed and emotionally drained,” she confessed. Seeing that a cloud of exhaustion had come over her, I responded, “I know you feel helpless right now, but ask God to give you the direction you’re seeking and the strength to persevere.” At that moment, she decided to intentionally seek God through prayer. Soon after, my friend was invigorated with a new sense of purpose. Not only was she emboldened to continue nursing, but God also gave her the strength to serve even more people by traveling to hospitals around the country.

As believers in Jesus, we can always look to God for help and encouragement when we feel overburdened because “He will not grow tired or weary” (Isaiah 40:28). The prophet Isaiah states that our Father in heaven “gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” (v. 29). Though God’s strength is everlasting, He knows that we’ll inevitably have days when we’re physically and emotionally consumed (v. 30). But when we look to God for our strength instead of trying to sprint through life’s challenges alone, He’ll restore and renew us and give us the resolve to press on in faith.

Reflect:
When have you tried to handle overwhelming situations alone? How might you look to God for help?

Prayer: Dear God, thank You for helping me when the challenges of life seem unbearable.

Generations of the Public School System

Recently my ‘G-son’ asked me what programs and activities I missed most during my grade school years. I shared with him my love of dissecting frogs (which he was thankful for not having the privilege) but overall, I enjoyed the freedom! From woodshop, cooking class, to science projects it gave me the opportunity to be creative, especially when required to make our own book covers from brown paper bags. I loved personalizing mine with drawings, expressing myself through images silently on display.

That brief discussion sparked a very interesting conversation between he, myself and my daughter when he asked if I knew who Horace Mann was. Shocked and curious to learn what my g-son knew, the conversation between the three of us regarding how the school system has changed over the years led me to further discuss the one thing that each generation has in common is that the education system was not established to create a nation of free thinkers but intended solely for labor, particularly during the times of our ancestors. Horace Mann (1796-1859) was an American educator, the first advocate of public education. According to britanica.com, “Mann grew up in poverty, hardship & self-denial. He was taught briefly and erratically by comparatively poor teachers but managed to educate himself…”. After attending Brown University, he gained interest as a slavery abolitionist and Whig politician known for his commitment to promoting public education. Once we did some research independently on Mann, we all shared varied opinions as to whether or not we could agree on his role within the school system, but we shifted our focus. Our intent was to share our individual experiences in school and how some changes have drastically occurred over the generations.

Many of the differences within the school system for me were due to geographical locations. During junior high which for my time consisted of 7th & 8th grade I attended four schools in four different cities as well as four high schools ultimately earning my diploma at Reuben Daniels Lifelong Learning Center in Sainaw, Michigan. Although I excelled in school, it was very challenging trying to keep up with the other kids. During the conversation the first thing that became obvious was the terminology we each used to reference various topics regarding school. For example, AP (Advanced Prep), “Electives”, “Homeroom”, “Home Economics”, and “Vocational classes” to name a few. Home Ec was no longer offered by the time my children began high school and had also changed drastically for me, since my mother’s school age years. I explained a number of subjects taught when I was in school that are no longer part of the curriculum such as Roman numerals, typing, the decimal & metric system. Shop class at some point became “industrial arts”. Latin was useful in helping me learn and breakdown words in preparation for spelling bees. My g-son wished he was able to borrow instruments to take home for music class like me & his mother. This turned into us over talking each-other while yelling out as many instruments as we could remember as fast as we could. With his love of cars, we transitioned into how students looked forward to drivers ed, field trips to local museums, the zoo, and occasionally opportunities to venture out of town for the day. We also noticed how physical education has changed. I was fortunate enough to participate in archery, gymnastics, and jazz dance. Present day it’s frightening to image if I would have had to attend school online, I’m almost certain I wouldn’t have done as well considering my learning style.

The conversation shifted to stories of our ancestors who never learned how to read. “If public school was free…” he asked, my grandson didn’t quite understand how this could be possible, especially since he began reading at the age of three. We explained the politics of the South at the time and how out of 12 of my great grandmother’s children, many of them had to work in the fields all day for sustainability and a few of them, like my grandfather received their education in the Navy/military. It was important for my grandson to understand, while many of his ancestors may not have been “book smart” that didn’t mean they weren’t knowledgeable in many other areas. It takes a lot to live of the land, by the land and for the land. From cultivating to overall sustainability, they were able to survive & thrive despite educational adversities. Those who were able to attend school still faced many challenges, the photos above of my ancestors gave a visual of some of the conditions they endured only to get a minimal education. For a period of time my ancestors and other colored folks gathered in a tiny shack, and many walked for miles in order to learn what they could while they could. As it did me when I first acquired these photos after Big Momma’s passing, it was just as disturbing for my G-son when he noticed some of them in the photo are barefoot. Another factor he noticed when viewing all the photo’s I’ve collected is that the teacher student ratio has drastically changed over the generations. Many factors play in the changes from then until now which I’m sure will turn into another insightful discussion as my grandson continues to read, grow and return with more questions. I’m thankful my G-son is aware he has a V.O.I.C.E and that we were all able to share our perspectives on this subject. In doing so, it allowed us to not only learn from one another but also have these conversations that hopefully will continue on through future generations.

Never Late

As a visitor to a small West African town, my American pastor made sure to arrive on time for a 10 a.m. Sunday service. Inside the humble sanctuary, however, he found the room empty. So he waited. One hour. Two hours. Finally, about 12:30 p.m., when the local pastor arrived after his long walk there—followed by some choir members and a gathering of friendly town people—the service began “in the fullness of time,” as my pastor later said.

“The Spirit welcomed us, and God wasn’t late.” My pastor understood the culture was different here for its own good reasons.

Time seems relative, but God’s perfect, on-time nature is affirmed throughout the Scriptures. Thus, after Lazarus got sick and died, Jesus arrived four days later, with Lazarus’ sisters asking why. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21). We may think the same, wondering why God doesn’t hurry to fix our problems. Better instead to wait by faith for His answers and power.

As theologian Howard Thurman wrote, “We wait, our Father, until at last something of thy strength becomes our strength, something of thy heart becomes our heart, something of thy forgiveness becomes our forgiveness. We wait, O God, we wait.” Then, as with Lazarus, when God responds, we’re miraculously blessed by what wasn’t, after all, a delay.

Reflect: What are you waiting for God to do or provide on your behalf? How can you wait by faith?

Prayer: For You, Father, I wait. Grant me Your strength and faithful hope in my waiting.