Staying in Your Lane

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Obedience

John 15:5 – “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

It’s exciting, you know? When God gives you a vision and ignites a passion for that vision inside of you. It’s like He’s handed you the ball, and the crowd is roaring, your adrenaline is pumping, you can see the goal post, and all you want to do is take the ball and run for it! This big part of you just wants to dive in head first, do the work, and bring that vision to fruition. I’ve been there…a couple of times… and in my well-meaning haste, I stepped out of my lane, moved to fast, moved ahead of God…outside of His perfect will…and delayed the fulfillment of the vision.

I didn’t realize what was happening in the midst of it all. I just kept pushing…trying to make things happen in the way I thought best. It’s only recently that I realized that when our efforts just don’t seem to be bearing any fruit, it’s usually because we have moved ahead of God and are trying to do things in our own power…in our own way.

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The Word tells us that apart from God, we can accomplish nothing (John 15:5). I believe this verse goes beyond referencing our foundational relationship with God and implores us to approach everything with a God-centered focus—our work, our ministry, our relationships…everything. So when God gives us a vision, before we move, we must give it back to God, seeking His wisdom, guidance, favor, and anointing as we move forward; checking in regularly to make sure that we are on the right path; and heeding His correction when we stray in the wrong direction or move ahead of Him. It is then, I believe, that we start to see our efforts begin to bear real fruit.

I’m not saying that there won’t be struggles along the way; but oftentimes, those struggles are a warning sign, letting us know that we have “drifted out of our lane” or “failed to obey the speed limit” and moved ahead of God. Indeed, those moments of difficulty and discomfort may just be God’s way of giving us a course correction; and it’s in our best interest to take heed, receive his guidance, and open ourselves to be led as God nudges us back onto the path towards fulfilling the vision that He has placed on our hearts.

Safe and Untouched

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Isaiah 43:2 – “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

I love this verse. As amazing as it is, life can be difficult sometimes, and this verse reminds us that no matter what we go through—rising waters or burning flames—when God is with us, we are protected; we will make it through…tried, tested, but ultimately unscathed. With God by our side, guiding us, protecting us, giving us strength, we can endure the storms of this life that rail against us with complete confidence that if we hold to our faith, we will not be consumed. There’s such peace and joy to be found in that knowledge.

Yes, of course, it may be better (we often believe) if God just shielded us from any trials and challenges that may come our way, but the reality is that we often emerge from these seasons of adversity stronger, more centered, and better able to stand firm in our faith when next the winds and waves of life beat against us. We can’t always avoid the storms of life, but it’s so amazing to know that we have a God who walks with us, takes our hand, and even carries us through the tough times to ensure we make it to the other side.

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If you’re going through the storm today, feeling beaten and battered by the winds of life, hold on. God is with you. He is your strong tower, standing tall in the gap to keep you safe…protecting you, keeping you…and you WILL make it through.

Green Pastures and Still Waters

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Rest

Psalm 23:1-3a – “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul…”

As I write, I am sitting beside a vast ocean, and the only sound I hear is the calming waves as they crash and lap against the sandy shore. It’s so peaceful here, and as I enjoy this time away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, I am reminded of the value of rest. It’s not something that I engage in nearly enough, but the Word alludes to its importance several times. God rested on the seventh day in the Creation story (Genesis 2). David speaks of how God lovingly leads him beside still waters…makes him lie down in green pastures to rest and restore (Psalm 23), and even Jesus regularly sought to separate Himself from the crowd to rest, recharge, and reconnect with God (Matthew 13, Mark 1, Mark 3, Luke 5, Luke 6). It’s easy to get so caught up and overwhelmed by the daily demands and responsibilities of our lives that we forget to take a moment to breathe, to regroup, to turn off our brains and recharge our batteries. It’s a vital component of self-love and self-care that enables us to store up the vital spiritual nutrients we need (joy, peace, love, etc.) to go about the business of our lives.

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Life can get a little crazy sometimes, but it’s the moments “by the still waters,” those “walks along green pastures,” that give us the lift we need to face the crazy head on and bring peace and serenity to the soul.

I’m feeling just that right now as I listen to the waves crash and set my eyes upon the vastness of the sea. I feel God’s presence and am in awe of the beauty of this little piece of heaven he has created on earth.

Beach

Please Donate Today!

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CCP Grad Pic

Spring has sprung, and my nonprofit, College and Career Pathways, Inc., has just launched its Spring Campaign for Scholarships and School Supplies to raise funds for our students who hope to begin their first year of college in the fall. CCP serves students from at-risk and low-income populations, and with the rising costs of college (and state and federal budget cuts to education), they may not make it without your help! Please take a moment to visit our Facebook campaign page, or you can make your donation via PAYPAL.

Thanks so much for showing your support for these amazing students! See below for a profile on one of our graduating seniors who will benefit from your help. Please follow us on Twitter @ccpathways!

STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: Digna joined College and Career Pathways, Inc. during her 9th grade year. While she was eager to join the program, she did not really believe that college was an option for her, and she failed to put in the necessary effort during her 9th and 10th grade years. At the end of her sophomore her, we sat down with her to discuss her future and the possibilities that lay before her. With the right encouragement, she began to believe in those possibilities, and during her 11th grade year, she brought up her grades, got involved in extracurricular activities, and became one of the most active members of the CCP program. Digna didn’t really believe that she could go to college, but in the picture below, you will see that she is holding acceptance letters to FIVE COLLEGES, and she will be #BowieBound in the fall!
Digna Reyes

Here are a few more of our seniors who have received their letters of acceptance! They will be attending the University of Virginia, Morgan State University, the Towson University, and Stanford University in the fall!
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Stop and Do a Spirit Check

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Habakkuk 2:2-3 – “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets; that he may run who reads it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.”

Sometimes, I feel like a failure…inadequate for the calling that God has placed upon my life. It’s rare, but it still happens. I’m a planner, and when the plan doesn’t come to fruition, or takes significantly longer to implement than I’d expected, I can be pretty hard on myself. The journey towards the fulfillment of the vision God has given me, despite all of my planning, has truly been a years-long struggle; and sometimes, I just want to throw in the towel and take the easy road…the road of least resistance…abandon the call and do something that’s just not so…HARD.

It’s in those moments that I do a spirit check. Meditating on the Word and praying about whether I truly believe that God has called me to accomplish the task at hand. Did He really choose flawed, unprepared me to fulfill this seemingly huge undertaking?? The answer is always the same—a soul encompassing, resounding YES. I can’t avoid it! Every time, I come to the same conclusion. With this certainty in mind, I pull up my bootstraps and get back to work! Walking away is no longer an option, and I move forward confident in my purpose and knowing that in time, the vision WILL be fulfilled.

Life purpose

Delays, difficulties, and setbacks can easily deter us, and occasionally discourage us, from fulfilling our purpose and the calling on our lives. I think that we often assume that if it’s something God called us to do, it will all come easily and quickly (I’ve definitely heard that opinion several times). And sometimes it does! But other times, the long journey to the fulfillment of the vision helps to prepare us for the role we must ultimately play. Just look at Joseph, who had a vision of his future as a boy, but had to endure betrayal, enslavement, and incarceration before he saw it come to fruition. What about David? He was anointed to be king as a youth, but went from being a renowned hero to a fugitive running for his life before he ascended to the throne. The important thing to remember is that even in the midst of, and despite, these trials, both men maintained their faith in God and in His promises; and in time, they moved into their God-ordained positions.

Has God called you to a certain role, ministry, or form of service? The road to fulfilling that calling may not always be easy; but in those moments of difficulty and doubt, just do a spirit check. If you know the work is something God has called you to do, know also that, in time, the vision He has given you will come to fruition. Learn the lessons along the way; be open to grow and develop; and above all else, trust that God is with you, moving and working in ways we cannot see to ensure the ultimate fulfillment of the vision He has placed upon your heart.

All It Takes Is a Spark

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SELF-CONTROL

Ecclesiastes 7:9 – “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”

Have you ever noticed that the Bible has a LOT to say about anger and wrath? Someone close to me used to have challenges with anger, so I’ve read and meditated on a lot of those scriptures. Ironically, although I was reading them for someone else’s benefit; the words found their way into my Spirit and now come to me in those moments when I feel a spark of anger within me…

“Human anger does not produce righteousness.” (James 1:30)

“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city. (Proverbs 16:32)

Remembering these words of wisdom, particularly the part about being slow to anger, have often kept me from allowing the spark of my anger to fan into a flame. It’s not that I have issues with anger; I actually learned long ago to control my temper, because I discovered at an early age how quickly it can consume you when even an ember of anger is allowed to smolder and grow. The words simply remind me that, just as a real fire feeds on every molecule of oxygen and matter in its path, so too does anger consume our love, our joy, our peace, and our patience until all we can see is our wrath. When I look at it this way, I can really understand why God spent so much time in the Word warning us against giving into anger.

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BE LIKE A DUCK

Despite this wisdom, we all know how easy it is for life to rub us the wrong way and ignite those embers of anger within us. It happens to everyone at one point or another (I still struggle daily with road rage 😳). The key, I think, is making the choice to let our love, joy, peace, and patience extinguish the spark instead of letting that fruit be fodder for the growing flame.

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I know, I know…Sometimes it’s easier said than done; but as I used to tell my 3rd graders, I think the key is training yourself to be like a duck (Yes, I said it…a duck lol). I explained to them that when you act like a duck, you let all of the frustrating and anger-inducing ways of this world just roll off of your back like water rolls off of a duck’s feathers. 🙂

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Refuse to let things faze you. Don’t sweat the small stuff (and all of those other wonderful words of wisdom). The point is that we can actually make this choice! The power is within us to choose peace and patience instead of giving into anger that can lead to strife (Proverbs 30:33), foolish actions (Ecclesiastes 7:9), and sin (James 1:20, Psalm 37:8). And by making this choice, we put ourselves in a position to keep calm, bring peace to those around us, and turn potentially volatile situations into fruitful and productive interactions.

Be a duck!

Proverbs 29:11 – “Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.”

Thoughts, reactions, or testimonies? Leave a comment below. I look forward to hearing from you!