Baltimore’s Hope

Baltimore, you hurt my soul. The one thing I have learned over these past few months is that it doesn’t cost a thing to make a difference in someone’s life. It doesn’t cost a thing to tell someone you are cheering for them. It doesn’t cost a thing to tell someone you believe in them. It doesn’t cost a thing to tell someone there is hope. It doesn’t cost a thing to tell someone about the love God has for them. It doesn’t cost a thing to pray for or with them. But we don’t.
 
We don’t go out in the inner city and tell those kids we are there for them. We don’t go out and tell those kids who had no choice in the situation they are in to tell them there is hope. We don’t go out and encourage them and show them the love God has for them. We don’t do it. Why?
 
We believe it’s someone else’s job. God appointed special people for it. But let me tell you, do you know how much Baltimore would be different if we put down our pride and took up our cross and followed him into where he cries out? If we laid down our lives to better those around us.
 
There are lost people everywhere, all around us. But my heart breaks for those kids in the city most of them are unaware what they are even going through. Their normal is our nightmare. Yet we expect their outcome to be the same as ours.
 
You have no idea what they go through. I haven’t even gotten past the surface and all I want to do is cry out to God and ask why. There is hope. We are the hope. We are the ones God called to love this city. Love cannot be poured out if it is not poured in. We can make a difference. You can make a difference.
 
I love my church because we have a ministry in East Baltimore. We have the light of Jesus shinning. But they can’t change the city by themselves. They can’t share the gospel with every kid in the city. But He doesn’t just call his church to his kids, he calls you and me to give hope and to show love to these kids. He calls all of us. If we all put the plow to the ground we can give hope and show love to these kids and start to show them a better a future just by taking time out of our schedule, embracing them and encouraging them. 

Sacrifice

The other night in growth group one of the ladies asked “How do you even begin to know what Jesus went through?”

I answered with something our Pastor said awhile ago.

“Love is rooted in sacrifice.” – Pastor Tally Wilgis

God sent his Son, Jesus to be the sacrificial lamb. He sent Jesus to die for us so we didn’t have to.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:23

He sent his Son because he loves us because he wants us to be with him for eternity. We get the free gift of eternal life, but Jesus lived in this world and then voluntarily hung on executioners cross and died for our sins just so all of us can have the gift of eternal life.

Think about that for a moment, Jesus died for you. He voluntarily got up on the cross. He is God in flesh, he could’ve stop it. But he didn’t. He didn’t want to die in Matthew 26:39 Jesus says “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” In another Gospel it says he was so anguished that he was sweating drops of blood. Can you now imagine what he was going through? I still couldn’t.

But I said to them for us to experience even a glimpse of what he went through. Try doing something for someone else when you don’t want to or don’t have the time to. It might be a silly sacrifice but when you had a hard day at work and all you can think about our pjs and your favorite shows and someone you know is hurting or is having a rough day, try switching your plans around to put them first above your own. You’ll get frustrated and you might even get mad because you don’t want to sacrifice the time or energy of your own time.

One of my big things I tell myself is when I don’t want to do something it probably means I should be doing it. Meaning that when I evaluate something by my mere flesh and worldly views my automatic response is I don’t want to. I don’t have time. I don’t have the energy. But when I evaluate through the lens of the spirit I immediately go through it differently. I ask is this purposeful? Does it impact a person? The Kingdom? Is it meaningful? So when I don’t want to do something a lot of times it’s my flesh fighting back because my flesh doesn’t want to put others above me.

One of my pet peeves is when people say they follow Jesus and “live it out” but there is no sacrificing for others and it’s always about them.

God is Love. Love is rooted in sacrifice. And in order for us to show the love of God we have sacrifice time, talent, treasure. We have to be willing to give something even when there is no return.

Receiving Help

I grew up believing receiving help was a sign of weakness and unintelligence. So I never asked for help. I dealt with my problems on my own and never turned to anyone for guidance, from asking for help on an assignment to asking for help in my personal problems or situations. I dealt with them all alone. So it took me down a dark spiral of depression. It was hard to get out of bed, it was hard to put one foot in front of the other, it was hard to even look at other people. It was hard to do life. I would put a mask on and tell everyone I was okay but on the inside I was so broken. I couldn’t tell anyone that I was struggling because that means I’m not perfect and if I’m not perfect then I’m dumb and if I’m dumb I am weak and I can’t be seen as weak because then no one will accept me or love me.
So I buried my feelings, the hurt, the broken pieces of me under a rug. I didn’t want anyone to see me less than perfect. But the more things got shoved inside the more of who I am began to diminish. I started defining myself by my failures and not my accomplishments. I started doubting everything. My personality was jaded by my inability to tell people what was really going on, so I began to just keep my mouth shut, so it wouldn’t slip out. 

Eventually it got to a point where I couldn’t handle it. I found coping mechanisms through alcohol. It was that temporary feeling of joy. I was so happy. I partied almost every weekend of college and by my senior year, it was every other day. It was bad but in the moment it felt good.

In 2012 though my life changed for forever. I had started my first full time job, I had my first real boyfriend, I had lost over 100lbs, life was so good. I couldn’t have been more happier. But the broken pieces of me was still inside me. I still cried myself to sleep some nights. But I remember distinctly on a July morning I had closed my tear filled eyes and said these words, “God, if you are real. I need your help. If you are real, why am I feeling this way? Why do I have everything I want but still feel alone.” It was my first prayer I had prayed for myself. It was the first time asking for genuine help. 

That September, God led me to my church home where I met Jesus. He became the One I gave my life to. My life changed the moment I open my mouth and asked for help; the moment I surrendered to the fact I can’t do it by myself. I found true joy. I found true love. And I keep working towards digging up the pieces I buried deep inside to become the woman God designed me to be. 

Asking for help is not weakness, it’s strength because it’s admitting you don’t have life figured out. It’s admitting that you have weaknesses and flaws that you cannot seem to figure out and that’s okay. God has provided not only the profession of counseling for us to go to but he gave us His Son to be our counselor. We all need help. We all need  Jesus because we all are imperfect and we are born into a sin filled world.  

Check out this clip on Jesus being the Wonderful Counselor from Pastor Tally Wilgis at Captivate Church: https://youtu.be/VoYjRfX34Wg

Redeemed Life

We are called to lived a redeemed life not a condemned life. 

Yet so many of us live inside ourselves and in our own little world. We start thinking God forgot about us, that God isn’t for us, that God doesn’t care about us. 

We begin to idolize this world and everything in it including ourselves. We put our needs and wants above others. We begin to think we are more important than everyone around us. We start knowingly sinning again and instead of immediately reprenting and turning away we begin to to tell ourselves “It’s okay, Jesus will forgive me.” It becomes a cycle.

When we do this, we will feel abandoned by God. We will feel like God isn’t for us. We begin to rely on ourselves and our “feelings” to define the relationship with God. We allow our earthly standards define the word “relationship”.

We can’t define it. It is way above our understanding. God has been our sideline since the beginning of time. He has been cheering us on since before our name was ever mentioned. God didn’t leave us. God didn’t abandon us. God is for us and will never be against us. Through every hill and every valley he is there. He is with us every step we take and every breathe breathed. 

So if we sit here and live as if we are of this world than we will live a condemned life. We will live like there is no hope, no light, no freedom. We will live as if Jesus never walked this earth and died for us. We will live for ourselves. 

But God calls us out of bondage, guilt, and shame. He calls us to follow him, so that we live our lives for him not for ourselves. We are to be the light, and tell people about the hope and love found in Jesus. We are to showcase Jesus and put him on display. We are to live a redeemed life because Jesus redeemed us. 

God will never abandon his children, even if you feel as though he has. God will forever love us even more than we can ever love him. Live as though Jesus is alive and active because he is, He lives in us. 

Dwelling in the Past 

20 years ago my life was altered. It was shattered into tiny pieces, some getting lost along the way. My Poppop died 20 years ago after a battle with leukemia.

I remember where I was when I heard the news, alone. I was downstairs trying to hold it together. I swollowed the sadness and held it in, even though I wanted to just run away or even die myself.  My life was ruined. I was only 10 years old. 
You see I walked the journey with him. I held his hand has he fought the cancer. I went to most doctor visits and always was there with him in and out of the hospital. If no one was allowed to go, I was the exception. Yet, I couldn’t save him. I couldn’t fight it for him as much as I wanted to. 

I saw every up when the cancer would go into remission and he acted like himself again. I got so hopeful every time. And every time I would be heartbroken when I saw him getting worse. I remember being so angry at God for not healing him. 

I saw every low when his flesh became so pale, his skin so cold. I remember seeing the look on his face when he knew we would never see each other again. I remember that last hug he gave. I didn’t want to let go. 

Poppop died a few days after I last saw him. We were taken out of town to see other family. Honestly, it probably was on purpose so we didn’t see him die literally before our eyes. 

I still remember thinking his death was my fault. I took the blame and shame onto myself. “If only I…” just kept repeating in my head even though I knew I couldn’t stop the cancer.

Today I went back to a place where he underwent his cancer treatments. It was a very freeing experience. I wasn’t there for mourning, I wasn’t there to have the memories flood. I was there for a friend. I was there because it’s where God brought her to undergo observation and where God ultimately led me to. It’s no coincidence that God brought me back to where I lost myself over 20 yeas ago.  

God always has a plan, even if the outcome isn’t in our best interest. My Poppop might have died. I might have lost myself in that and defined myself by that, but it makes me no less of the person I am today because of that.  

I wouldn’t be who I am if I never went through the storm. So I can sit here and try to say a part of me died that day but really it was God ultimately using that to define my path and my story.  God’s not done with me. He’s not done with you. 

Design 

A year ago I had no idea what I was doing. I was thrown into an opportunity that I had no formal training in and not getting trained in something for me was hard. I like guidelines, I like bullet points to what I need to achieve to do well in a role or project. But there was no bullet points, no checkboxes. I literally just had to be me. But it was hard because I see so many flaws in myself that the idea of being me was scary. So last year I did my job and interacted when I had to or if they they needed help. It was very hard for me to be me in front of them so I put on a facade and I tried not to let them see the broken me inside because I was afraid they’d find out how I really felt, fake. 
But this year, God moved mountains in my life. I’ve learned to embrace my flaws as who God designed me as. I’m not perfect, I never will be. I have a tendency to tell myself, “If I only talked more maybe people would like more. If I wasn’t so awkward maybe people would invite more to things and I’d have more friends. If I wasn’t so big maybe then I’d win a guy over. If I lost weight maybe then I’ll love myself.” I could go on, the criteria I put on myself to be able to accept myself is not God ordained, it’s pure evil. I could never obtain it. I’m seeking perfection when God says ‘no, you weren’t designed to be perfect. You weren’t designed not to have flaws, you weren’t designed to get everything right the first time. You were designed to love and to care for others. You were designed to teach others about my Son. You were designed to lead the way for young believers. You were designed to be you. But do you trust me enough to let me use the person I designed you to be? Or do you want to try to constantly aim for something you never hit and live a life we’re all you see are failures because the criteria of perfection is too high to be obtained?’

Don’t live a life of failure. Live of life full of grace and love. One of the hardest things for me is allowing myself to have grace, I’m the hardest person on myself, but there’s freedom found in it. Be who God designed you to be and allow him to mold you to be exactly who he made you to be. Trust in him. 

Vulnerability: God Moments

So recently I’ve battled the question, “Where’s God?”. I didn’t feel him. I longed for a glimpse and connection but I didn’t have it. I read the Word of God but the words just felt like words in a book. Sermons were just someone talking. My bible study was just painful rectorial questions asked over and over again. Prayers just seemed empty.

So I pondered if God forsake me even though according to scripture I knew he wouldn’t. I pondered if I could hold on to the daily routine I had that felt worthless and useless. I pondered my faith, my devotion, my life to Christ. I pondered it all. God was so silent.

But the more I dug into what was wrong I realized it was me. I was the problem. I wasn’t vulnerable, I wasn’t letting people in anymore. I closed the doors on myself. I put my walls backup and I checked out mentally and spiritually. I didn’t let people see me struggle, depressed, anxious, or stressed. I showed up and got the job done and left.

The other day I sat down and I wrote out how I was feeling…and then I began a part of where I began to make excuses to just leave Baltimore and start my life over, at that very moment someone walked through the door. And then later as I continued to write, the youth program weighed on my heart.  

Over this past week, I got to witness this teen girl accept Christ into her heart and life. Then on youth night that same girl pull me aside and tell me her life story and her struggles. Where I  opened up abour my story. Then it was lunch with this girl and more in depth conversation about what’s she’s going through and talk about Jesus. 

All this time I see myself in this girl. I see my struggles I went through at her age. I see the struggles I still face today through this girl. 

Late tonight she reached out to me again. She asked if hiding her feelings was okay. I began to tell her the truths of what Jesus says and I told her my testimony in that area. God is present. God is listening. As I wrote out my response to her, God was reminding me of his truths, of His love, of His plans and purpose for my life. He was pouring this on to me so I could pour it out to her.

My purpose in my life is to be a vessel. To show people the love of Jesus, the love of God , to show them a redeemer, a savior. To show them that they are not alone in this life. 

God gave me a story to share. I didn’t go through my life for just my sake. I went through it for moments like I’ve had this past week and for future moments I have yet to see.