Saturday, November 22, 2014

Make The Most Of Time

It was 10:45am. I was in the kitchen hurriedly preparing a late breakfast. The phone rang.

“Hello, C’est Alain, malheureusement……..”

Everything else he had to say didn’t matter. I was elated. “Thank You, Lord,” I muttered under my breath. It was my physiotherapist calling to apologise that he could not make our 11:00am appointment for my Physio walk. Quite honestly, the last thing I wanted to do was go for the 2km walk planned for the day. It was wet, dull and cold outside. And my tummy and lower back were conniving to cause me distress.

I carried my plate of toasted brown bread and cheese sandwich and my cup of pomegranate tea to the dining table, and sat down to eat. I didn't have to rush my food into an already protesting tummy. Another thanks offering went heavenwards.

“So what are you going to spend the one-hour Physiotherapy time doing?” I am sure I had the Holy Spirit whisper to my heart.

I groaned—wasn't thinking about. But I had record keeping, work on the book manuscript, do some beading, call up a sister I needed to talk to, order supplies, and more on my to-do list. The pile of books just received and those pending to be read caught my eyes from the corner of my dining table. Then, I knew what I was going to spend the hour doing—read one of my waiting-to-be-read books. I pulled “True Confessions” out of the pile, studied the sunlit cover with the title embossed in black, opened it and began to read.

I learnt of Bola ‘Salt’ Essien-Nelson, the Author, through our mutual Sista, Bidemi Mark-Mordi. A link from her Facebook page took me to her blog: The Salt Chronicles in 2013. I was intrigued with ‘Salt’ as she calls herself. That is what she aspires to be—Salt of the earth, adding flavour to lives. I found the Salt Yellow Pages very informative. That’s what Salt does; she promotes others. I wanted my autographed copy of the “True Confessions” and longed to meet her in person.

In July, 2014 at the ROTH conference, I got the chance to meet her at last. It was the briefest meeting ever considering the fact that we had both looked forward to the opportunity of finally meeting at the conference. She came to my seat and gave me a huge hug. That hug spoke volumes. She wrote later that she felt if she hugged me long enough, some anointing will be transferred by osmosis! That’s Salt for you. But for me that hug made up for the time we could not share before, during and after the conference. Things didn't just go according to our plans. God’s plans prevailed.

 I spent the next couple of hours, adding my rest time following physiotherapy, reading the Dedication, Thank You, Foreword, Introduction and seven Salt Fables. Then surfed through to the end. This book is not going to be read in a hurry. It is the kind that you take sip, turn around in your mouth, and savour the flavour before swallowing. Published by Verbatim Communications, it bore the evidence of their characteristic good quality job. The pages were vanilla in colour, reminding me of vanilla cream cakes. The black lettering readily jump off the pages—friendly to the eyes.

The Salt Fables was as easy to read as reading Bedtime stories or folklore. Written in a simple language, I felt as if I was reading out to my children. Yet it was full of flavoured nuggets that will make you pause and ponder.

My take-away so far from True Confessions:
-          I wore a Teal-coloured bracelet with Never Give Up inscribed on it every day for three and half years. So the message from Once Upon a Barracuda and a Glass Wall resonated with me.
-          The Ping-Pong match in the name of loving that husbands and wives often play with each other was the message of Once Upon A Circle of Love. “When you fall in love, you cease to wait to be loved. You love instead….Genuine love given freely comes back.”
-          Ewa, Iyanu and Oge, though renowned and accomplished turned out to be empty in the things that matter. I chose to be Imole, the Light that radiate solutions. Because simply put; Beauty, Genus and Knowledge are not enough in themselves if the Light of the glory of God is not radiating through me. That’s the nugget I gleaned from Once Upon A Woman.
-          Effective communication results in vibrant and health relationship between husbands and wives. I ended Once Upon A Discussion praying, “Dear Lord, please reveal anything that would hinder my husband and I from communicating effectively. Do give us the grace to remove such barriers in Jesus name. Amen”
-          Is God your grocery shop or the friend you like to spend time with every morning and all day long? Find out in Once Upon A Friend.
-          Your now and your future is bigger than your past when Jesus comes into your life and give you a turn around. If you don’t believe me, check out the Award-Winning harlot sharing her testimony with the former notorious corrupt Zaki who dined with Jesus, and the hard-hearted murderer who became one of the greatest Apostles, whose letters are still touching lives for good till today.
-          I felt like tearing out Once Upon a Twenty-Seven Year Old Virgin, photocopying and sharing it with all my aburos in the Lord. I will do no such disservice to Salt. Rather I will make sure each of them get a copy this book, and encourage them to read it.

Insightful and enriching, it was great fun and relaxing reading True Confessions with the deep truths it conveyed. I strongly recommend the book. Both kindle and paperback editions are available on Amazon.

It was two hours well spent. Well spent because it contributed towards a specific goal. Though, I did have my physical therapy to strengthen my muscles and build my endurance that day, and obviously did not reach my daily goal for number of steps walked but I had a soul therapy, as I was encouraged to do some soul searching.  Subsequently, I exercised my spiritual muscles in prayers.

“Making the most of your time, because the days are evil” 
– Ephesians 5:16 (NASB)

The English Standard Version of this verse encourages us to make the best use of time. I have been pondering a lot recently on the use of my time. I pondered on how the things I spend my time doing contribute towards fulfilling God’s purpose for my life and to taking me in the direction of fulfilling my dreams and desires. It became even more important as I learn day after day that we must live each day ready for the coming of the Lord and to be prepared to fly away empty.


The import of this for me is that I have to be wise in the use of time. You can only make hay when the sun is shining. We have been called to make the most or the best use of every opportunity God has given us to impact lives for good, to make a difference in our spheres of influence and to fulfil our God-ordained purpose.

Believe me when I say, an apple does not fall far from the tree. It was a 20-year old young man who inspired me to start measuring my time in goals and to make time work for me. In his blog post, Time Mastery, Akan Nelson opined that by doing this we think of the long-term in the use of time, and we are enabled to weed out activities that don’t contribute to our long-term goals.

Living each day ready translates to making the most of our time and every opportunity God gives us to make a difference. Today’s blog post has a two-fold mission:
1.       To call our attention to be intentional and purposeful in the use of our time
2.       To spotlight my Sista’s inspiring work, which I promise will truly bless, enrich and inspire you.

Dear Friends, I encourage you to make your time work for you and take you towards living a purposeful life. This way, you will fly away empty having used all the gifts, potentials and skills God endowed you with, and you would have used them for His glory and honour.

Grace and peace be multiplied to you and yours.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Fly Away Empty

This world is not my home I'm just a-passin' through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore

Truly, this world is not my home. Home is in Heaven. A place of indescribable beauty and of luminous light—brilliantly illuminated by the glory of God. A place radiant as pure gold, translucent as glass and clear as crystal where we will walk on streets of gold. All manner of precious gemstones forms its foundation. I can’t imagine what that looks like—all the agate, jasper, carnelian, topaz and amethyst in my beading inventory put together don’t give me a glimpse. Now add sapphire, emerald, onyx, chrysolite, beryl, chrysoprase and jacinth to the mix. What a delightful glow that must give.

There is absolutely nothing on earth that is worth missing heaven for.

Heaven—a place of joy and untold pleasures as we dwell in the presence of God and all tears are wiped away. A place of endless praise and worship with a vast crowd angels, archangels, cherubim and seraphim singing “Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.” And the twenty-four elders cast down their crowns in worship and adoration of God Who sits upon the throne. A glorious place where we will never get tired of gazing at His face.

Holy, holy, holy!  All the saints adore thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
Which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.
(Methodist Hymn Book.  Written by Reginald Heber (1783-1826).

I am here on assignment. I am here to fulfil a purpose in God’s Kingdom agenda. On a bright morning, perhaps the sun will be shining bright in the sky or maybe it will be in the dead of the night with the moon’s silvery beams lighting the sky, whatever time of day or night, one thing is sure, I will hear the voice of my Maker and Master as He calls me back home. Then I will say, “Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on to the light, lead me home.”


I’ll fly away O Glory I’ll fly
When I die Hallelujah by and by
I’ll fly away O Glory
To the land where joy will never end
I’ll fly away

On that glorious day, I will cross the river. I will fight life’s final war with pain. And then as death gives way to victory, I will see the lights of glory and I will know my Saviour lives (“Because He Lives – Bill Gaither).


Therefore, one thing I must make sure of is that I don’t answer that call and appear before the throne of grace with my hands still full of gifts and talents that I should have given out to impact lives. I must not appear before God without fulfilling His purpose for me. Oh no, that would be the greatest tragedy.

The home-call of Dr. Myles Munroe and his wife Ruth, on Sunday, November 9th, was a wake-up call and a reminder that we know not the day or the time when we will answer that call. It is also sounded a resounding note of warning to everyone who has ears to listen that we must live each day ready.

Knowing the impact that Dr Myles Munroe had on many lives and understanding that we cannot sorrow like them without hope, I praised God for his life and for what God used him to accomplish. I read and listened to some of his messages. Here are some nuggets that ministered to me.

The Christian Character:
The first thing that I recalled was his last trip to Lagos, Nigeria where he spoke on the Christian’s Character. My Sista, Salt Nelson-Essien, shared a summary of his message on her blog, The Salt Chronicles—The Ugly Truth; Many Christians Have No Character and The Ugly Truth Part Two: We Christians Need To Get Some Character. Here's my take-away from the message:
·       Character is the essence of God. He is constant and unchanging. And we are created to reflect the image of God.
·       Character is our commitment to a set of values. It is integrating our word with our actions. Character is integrity
·       We should be like dry cement. Set in our ways. And our ways should be God's ways. 
·       We must stand resolute like a statue on the side of what is right in God's eyes.
·       Can you be counted on to remain “you” wherever you are, no matter who is watching?
·       Lack of character cancels our power to influence. It makes you to compromise. Compromise steals destiny, and robs the nation of leaders who can rule in the fear of God and make a difference.

Character is both developed and revealed by tests, and all life is a test.
 – Rick Warren.

The greatest tragedy is not death but it is life without purpose:
The message below was the second thing that struck me.


This one is going to stay with me for a long time to come. How can anyone created in the image of God live a purposeless life? Yet many live without an understanding of the purpose for which God released them to the earth and without pursuing that purpose.

“The original purpose for a product determines its design, composition, capacity, and potential. Purpose may be defined as “original intent” or “reason for creation.”- Myles Munroe

The only way we can fully understand God’s original intent for each of us is by knowing God. The more of God we know through studying His word and dwelling in His presence, the more we become familiar with His purpose for our lives. Every detail of my life and every experience God takes me through aligns me with His purpose for my life.

“Circumstances and crises are God’s tools to move you into your purpose
and the maximizing of your potential.” – Myles Munroe.


Life Will Go On The Day After:
“The embassy doesn’t shut down because the Ambassador is recalled,” there were the words of my Sista, Bidemi Mark-Mordi, as she reflected on the passing of Dr Myles Munroe. She concluded with a note to  remind her that she is not indispensable.

When I visited the Myles Munroe International Facebook page, this was the message posted there.

We would like to inform you that the Global Leadership Forum will continue. The Forum will be for two and a half days. This is what Dr. Munroe would have wanted.,,,

Twice I organized very important events but on the day of each of these events I was not there. On the morning of the first one in May 2003, I was in an ambulance on medical evacuation from Tamale to Accra in Ghana. On the second occasion in April 2013, I was in a coma in the hospital. The two events went very well and were successful, without me.

Irene to self: if you do your job very well, things will go on well without you.

What Really Matters?
Today is God’s gift to you and me. James 4: 13-17 gives us a stern warning when we boast about tomorrow. “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it is here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “if the Lord wants us to, we will life and do this or that”’ (The Message). 

If you know today is your last day, how would you choose to live it?

“Embrace the importance of now, and refuse to allow the lull of comfort, fear, familiarity, and ego to prevent you from taking action on your ambitions (your dreams)… The cost of inaction is vast. Don’t go to your grave with your best work inside of you. Choose to die empty.” 
– Todd Henry (Author, Die Empty)

Bottom-line: Today is the best day to do that task and assignment that you know God has committed to your hands in all the sphere of influence He has given you.

Irene and friends, I challenge you today to live ready. Live aligned to your God-given purpose. Use the gifts God has given you to the fullest. Be prepared to fly away empty. What matters the most is that we hear;

"Well done, thou faithful servant!"

If the Lord permits, I want to look back on the day my body is committed back to earth and see those whose lives my life impacted while on earth giving praise and adoration to God, and celebrating a purposeful life. Oh, I would love to see them all brightly dressed with a touch of gold, carnelian (orange) and amethyst with hands lifted up in worship.

What impact are you making that the echo of which will continue to resonate long after you have gone home? Who are you mentoring? Your greatest and lasting legacy is the people you invested in.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Unchanging Constant In Constant Change

A cold breeze drifted across my face and neck. My hands swung up instinctively to protect my chest. My neck was bare in my purple jersey blouse.  I looked back and longed for the warmth of the Pharmacy I just came out off. The scarves on the display rack by the door beckon to me. The image of scarves in my wardrobe flashed across my mind. “Not a chance,” I muttered under my breath. I looked up the road to see if the bus was round the corner, it was not. I still have five more minutes to wait. So I fastened the top buttons of my jacket, dipped my hands into the pocket and began to pace the front of the Pharmacy.

The Bus came and I climbed into its warm interior. It was the second time that I came out by myself and was riding the bus back home. A feat I could not have dared in the previous eight years. I remembered that warm sunny September afternoon when I rode the bus for the first time after eight year. The joy exuding from my heart was beyond description. A change had taken place in my life and it was a change for good.

Change is taking place around me. By the time I got out of the bus at my stop, the cloud had passed and the sun was out in the white sky. Dry leaves rustle under my “Feet of Grace” as I walked home until I got to the forest. The sun was shut out under the dense canopy of evergreen trees. It was dark and chilly again. The leaves laid dead and rotting along the path still wet from the rain of the previous day. Home was in sight when I emerged into the brightness of the sunlight on the other side. I marvelled at the changes along the path home.

Take the chilly winds. Give me cool blue sky. Take the heat. Give the gentle breeze softly caressing my cheeks. Take the layers-of-onion dressing. Give me the light cotton blown in the wind. The season is changing. Like it or not, I must embrace the change.

Cold chill lured me to snuggle deeper in bed under the warm duvet. I dared not. My list of things-to-do was as long as my arm. I smiled.

You are faithful in every way, O Lord, You are faithful in every way.

I was awed as I recalled that time my agenda was snow-white and I had no-where I needed to be. When I spent the day sitting on my hands and staring out of the window. A change has occurred. My heart gave praise to the unchanging God.

Change is a constant in our lives. God always speak and come through for us in the time of change. We go through different kinds of change at different times in our lives. Change occurs in us, within us and outside of us. Seasons change. Conditions change. Circumstances change. There are changes we welcome and rejoice in. There are changes that causes our hearts to grieve. Change is the constant that we cannot run away from. In the midst of change, there is a constant that we can run to and hold on to. He declared; "I am the Lord, I do not change" (Mal. 3:6).

“God is in the change but He does not change. It is important to know what is not changing when life changes” – Pastor Walter Thomas.

I see God in the splendour of autumn. Beyond my bedroom window, confetti of dry leaves painted yellow, brown and russet floating down to the ground at the command of the wind speaks to me as I gaze on their mesmerizing hues. They announce the change coming upon the trees set aglow by the golden beams when the sun set.

I opened my wardrobe doors, the yellow post-it squares pasted on the inner side of the doors caught my attention. I pasted them at my eye level on the wardrobe doors, my bathroom mirror and on my bed post several years ago. They were to remind me to keep my gaze focussed on the unchanging faithfulness of God in keeping His word in all the seasons of my life. Aged and faded, some hanging bowed like yellow autumn leaves outside my bedroom window, the message they bear remained unchanging and constant—the truth of God’s infallible promises.


The time I spent standing by the wardrobe, reading and meditating on the promises of God with tears in my eyes flashed before my eyes and a song of praise sprung up in my heart.

Mighty God Faithful God oh oh oh
From age to age You're still the same
You never change, You never fail, You never let me down
Take all the glory, take all the honour
I bring to You
I lift my voice to You, Awesome God
I lift my voice to You, Awesome God,
Awesome God, Awesome God.
 (Frank Edwards)

I continued my contemplation of God’s constancy as I lingered in the shower. The rivulets of warm freshness streamed down my body, cascading into a fall beyond my stumps. Then I remembered the many days of bed-bath in the hospital, when I longed so much for a shower until tears trickled down the sides of my face into my ears. I recalled the day my nurse asked me, “Madame Irene, voulez-vous prendre une douche a la salle-de-bain, aujourd’hui?”
“Do I want a shower?” I squealed. My heart leaped for joy.
“Yes! Yes!! Of course, with all pleasure. Merci, merci beaucoup.”

My nurse wheeled me into the high-walled plastic tub, latched its door behind me and released the shower. Warm water gushed out, I was filled with joy like a child dancing in the rain. I cupped the water in my hands and poured it on my face. Never had a shower felt as good as it was that day.

My heart ignited with praise as I pondered on the goodness of God and the amazing changes which have taken place in my life since then. God exalted my horn and lifted me from the dark valley of the shadow of death. He broke off the confinement of afflictions.

I drew back the shower curtains, my bathroom was engulfed with steam and the mirror covered with mist. Through all the seasons of my life, God has remained the same—steadfast, sure and faithful. When the gusty winds of storms whirled around me, He remained constant—a solid rock upon which my hope was anchored. As soon as I finished drying myself, I grabbed my camouflage-green notebook and began to scribble this offering of praise, until the mist cleared and the mirror reflected the image of my face glowing with gladness.

O God, my help in ages past. My hope for years to come.
My shelter in the stormy blast. And my eternal home.
(Paraphrased from the Methodist Hymn Book.)

This, indeed, will be my song of testimony as 2014 fades away in eight weeks’ time and we usher 2015 in. As I reviewed the year passing, I was assured again of the constancy of God’s faithfulness in all our changing circumstances and seasons.

Dear Friends, as you to look back into 2014 and recall God’s abundant goodness in your life, I encourage you to bring an offering of praise to Him. As you look back, perhaps all you see are the undesired changes that have occurred in your life and the dreams yet to be fulfilled, yet I know you can attest to one thing that has remained constant and unchanging—God’s unfading and enduring love for you. For this and more, God deserves your sacrifice of praise.

God loves you in every season
Yet His love is not seasonal
He loves you in every circumstance
Yet His love is not circumstantial
He loves you in every condition
Yet His love is not conditional
(Roy Lessin, meetmeinthemeadows.com)


Acknowledgement:
Celestine Nudanu’s Haiku Poems: Carpet of Blessings and Autumn posted on Reading Pleasure inspired some of the imagery in this post.

Friday, October 31, 2014

An Unusual Instruction

October is my birth month. A few years ago, I resolved to do something different during the month to enhance my relationship with God—devoting more attention to dwelling in the presence of God. A personal retreat—sometimes through extended period of praise and worship or a deeper and extended study of the Bible.

Last September, I started a 100-day Ministering Gratitude to God based on Ps. 119:164. So I assumed this was what God would want me to do during October but on October 3rd, God laid the message below on my heart.

“Write as an offering of praise and thanksgiving to Me.”

This was an unusual instruction. I was at a critical point in writing my book, which has been protracted for a long time. In September, God gave me a renewed resolve to complete this assignment. I was also at a crossroad in deciding how to divide my time between writing, beading (for income-generation) and the other activities demanding my attention. I had also just done a study of Leviticus; I understood from there that the offering we bring to God must be carefully considered and prepared, wholesome, choice and without defect. God deserves the best we can offer. So I needed to understand what God is asking of me.

How do I write as an offering of praise and thanksgiving to God?

I pondered on this question and posed the same to my husband as I sought his help in understanding this instruction. His response was that it is not about the quantity of time I spend writing but it is about my heart and motive. This helped me somewhat to address the conflict in my heart regarding spending time writing, and my desire to generate income by devoting attention to my beading business.

An Offering of Praise and Thanksgiving:
True offering of praise and thanksgiving must be in response to the works of God in our lives, that is, a spontaneous acknowledgement of the benefits we enjoy from God. True offering is expression of thankfulness, in obedience to God’s word, and with reliant prayer—relying on God to provide sufficient for our needs. It is an act of worship—giving to God the honour due to Him.

A sacrifice of praise is the fruit of lips that thankfully acknowledge, confess and glorify God’s name (Hebrews 13:15-16). It is to be offered constantly and at all times, in proclamation of the power and might of God (Ps 68:34), with genuine trust in God, and with joy (Ps 27:6).

An offering of praise cannot be acceptable to God if it is offered with wilful disobedience in our lives (Hosea 14:2), compromise in our relationships, and corruptions in our speech (Leviticus 1:3).

 It has to be purposeful.  Not an empty ritualistic sacrifice. It has to be from the heart with reverence and awe of God. I am not doing God a favour bringing an offering of praise and thanks to Him. He is not dependent on my offering but He demands my heart—my motive must be to please God, to pay homage due to Him and to acknowledge His goodness. Therefore, my offering of praise must  continually spring from a thankful heart. It is confessing who God really is to me. A sacrifice of praise and thanks offered out of a sincere heart is acceptable to God.

We have been called to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God. We are also admonished that in all we do, we must do as unto God. It therefore means that my whole life must be an offering of praise to God. My writing is just an aspect of this.

Writing as an Offering of Praise and Thanksgiving:
I have no inkling of doubt that Writing is a ministry God called me to do. The ability to create with words is a God-given gift, which I am called to use for His glory. In understanding God’s instructions to write as an offering, I came to know that it applies to all my writings—the book and my blog are just channels through which I share the messages in my heart by the leading of the Holy Spirit, to inspire hope and encourage people.

It therefore means that I have to write with the following guiding principles:
-          In obedience to God. Whether in writing the book or writing the messages on the blog, it must be in response to the leading of God.
-          My writing has to be motivated by an appreciation of what God has done in my life. I must write with a grateful heart acknowledging God’s immerse goodness to me.
-          It has to be with compassion and sensitivity, and in response to the suffering of others. Therefore, I cannot write with calluses and hardness in my heart.
-          It will sometimes be at a cost. David said that he will not offer to God that which cost him nothing (2 Sam 24:4).
-          I will have to trust and depend on God to take care of my needs.

The last two posts on the blog “We Call, He Answers And He Reveals" and “Scars, Calluses And Hardness In The Heart" were the two toughest blog posts I have written since I started blogging. The decision to write these posts was very difficult.  Second only to the decision to be willing to share my personal life including my pains, trials, struggles and afflictions publicly on the blog, fully aware that it will not only make me vulnerable but also put my life and my family on display. And I had decided a long time ago never to be a subject of pity.

It was also challenging because I was calling not only myself but others to be vulnerable—be willing to open their pains and hurts up for healing, and to be willing to admit that there are scars, calluses and hardness in their hearts. And to willingly let go of those who have hurt and offended them. In sharing these hard truths, I was taking a risk as these persons may distant themselves from me in a reaction to this post. Following God’s leading had to come first before any other consideration if my writing is to be a sacrifice of praise to God.

Since I cannot exceed the truth in expressing the goodness of God, my offering therefore is genuine when it is about God's goodness. When this forms the foundation of my writing—the truth of God’s goodness—it makes my writing sincere and genuine.

It was, therefore, a joy on Monday, October 27th to read “Six tips For Christian Bloggers/Writers" on Imperfectly Perfect Lives.  It confirmed God’s instructions to me.

Unforgiveness, Holding to Hurts and an Offering of Praise: 
As soon as I wrote the above caption, I realised that unforgiveness and offering of praise to God cannot co-habit—the two words simply don’t go together in the same phrase.

The Bible says in Matthew 5:23-24:

“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.…”

From the foregoing, only reconciliation and forgiveness can co-habit with genuine offering of praise that is acceptable to God. Nothing else we do matters as long as we are harbouring unforgiveness, anger and malice, and holding someone—perhaps a child of God created in God’s image—bound in the prison of our hearts.

Simply put, our offering of praise cannot be acceptable to God if it is coming from an unforgiving and harden heart. We cannot truly offer praise with sincerity and in obedience to God out with unforgiveness in our hearts.

It means that I can forgive those who hurt me and be the first to make a move towards reconciliation and restoring a broken relationship as an acknowledgement and appreciation of the undeserved mercy God has shown to me. Though, it is never easy to let go of hurts and pain but when done in obedience to God, it becomes a sacrificial offering acceptable to God.

I received a novel titled, Burning Hurt, from a dear Sista in Nigeria last weekend. I read the book in five hours. It was the fastest I have ever read a book. Written by Unyime-Ivy King, Burning Hurt, confirmed to me in strong terms that hurting people hurt others and that we have to forgive to be free. We have to forgive to offer an acceptable sacrifice of praise to God.

In concluding this post, I want you to know that God loves the sinner but He hates sin. I am created to reflect the image of God, therefore like God, I can separate the offender from the offense, and give the offender a gift of mercy and forgiveness as an offering of praise to God. This way, I can deal with the suggestion that I am giving the offender a free-pass. It also means that I trust God to act on my behalf and vindicate me. Since Jesus, our Senior Advocate, has never lost a case we can assured that He will act in our best interest.

My dear Friends, you can stand on this truth.

God deserves the best in everything we offer to Him. If we are to live our lives for His glory as a 
living sacrifice acceptable to Him then we have to offer God our best in everything we do, starting with our heart.

I have a clearer understanding of God’s instruction now. I can write, and indeed live my whole life, as an offering of praise to God. What about you? Would you consider making every aspect of your life an offering of praise to God?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Scars, Calluses and Hardness In The Heart

Today’s blog is a continuation of last week’s: We Call, He Answers, and He Reveals. The purpose of this post is to spur us to do a heart check as we call out to God and await His answer. Perhaps, that sincere search will reveal to us our need for an open-heart surgery by God. God reveals to redeem. He does not leave His children who earnestly call out to Him in darkness. In the glorious light of His presence, the eyes of our understanding is illuminated.

Scars and Calluses:
The skin is a seamless organ but burns, injuries and other traumas such as surgeries can cause a scar on the skin. It is a mark that is left on the skin after the wound has healed. Scarring is a natural part of healing process after an injury. A number of factors however will determine its appearance. Scars don’t go away once formed. They are permanent but can be reduced in size and do fade over time.

Having been under the Surgeon’s blade several times in my life, I bear on my body several scars—some visible and some covered up. Some scars can form keloids due to an aggressive healing process and they tend to extend beyond the original boundary of the injury. I have some of those too. But I must confess I contributed to it. I learnt the hard way to keep my fingers off my wounds. The healing process was delayed and lengthened when I picked and scratched at the wound, and they formed big ugly scars. In instances when I exercised utmost discipline, the scars are thinner and have healed faster.

Scars can impair the function and vitality of the area it is located. For example, when the muscles of the heart are damaged, the heart tries to heal itself by changing the damaged heart muscle cells into scar tissue. Scar tissue is not like heart muscle tissue because it does not contract and cannot help the heart to pump. If enough scar tissue forms in the heart, it can result in a heart failure and sudden cardiac death.

A callus is a toughened area of the skin which has become relatively thick and hard in response to repeated friction, pressure, or other irritation. Since repeated contact is required, calluses will form on any part of the skin exposed to friction over a long period of time. While calluses are generally not harmful, they may sometimes lead to other problems. They can be reduced by softening the skin.

Emotional Scars and Calluses:
The deepest scars and worst calluses are not visible. They are the scars upon our hearts. Words that cut deep into the core of our being. Careless and thoughtless actions of others inflict wounds on our heart and damage the soft spots in our hearts. Deep-seated hurts from many offenses, unmet expectations and disappointments causes emotional wounds in our hearts. These wounds results in scars.

Dwelling on offenses will cause toxic thoughts to fill our heart. The longer these thoughts lingers, the more they take root in our hearts. We replay the hurts until they consume us and the wounds remain open. The longer the wounds are allowed to fester, the bigger and deeper the scars, often causing calluses and hardness in the hearts of the persons involved.

Often, the tendency is to harden our hearts to protect it from further assaults. People with calluses in their hearts will become callous, that is, showing an insensitive and/or cruel disregard for others—their hearts have become hardened. Other words for callousness includes cold-hearted, heartless, lacking compassion, and ruthless. Emotionally hardened, such individuals become indifferent to the suffering of others especially those to whom they have hardened their hearts.

Forgiveness is not optional:
Forgiveness is extending grace. It is extending the same mercy which we have received from God to those who have offended us. We, the objects of God’s mercy, are called to show mercy (Luke 6:36). Forgiveness is giving someone a gift of mercy, and wavering the penalty for their offense. It is also giving yourself, the offended, the gift of a grudge-free life.

When we withhold forgiveness, we not only refuse to offer what God freely gave us, but we also hurt ourselves. Unforgiveness poisons our soul. It weighs down on our heart. It also causes calluses to develop in our hearts thus hardening our hearts.

“Unforgiveness is like taking poison and hoping another person will die.” 
- Joyce Meyer

Ripples of Scarred and Callused Heart
The rippling effects of the oceanic earthquake may have far more devastating effects than the original earthquake as evidenced by the devastation caused by the tsunami following the earthquake. So also when an issue for offense occurs, magnifying the issue and allowing it to fester will lead to far reaching consequences than the initial offense. It is usually the strategy of the enemy to perpetuate the hurt, anger, bitterness and resentment generated by the offense.

Scars in the heart prevents us from having a vital and thriving relationship with God and with others including significant people in our lives. It also impairs our sensitivity and our ability to respond appropriately with compassion to their shortcomings. When this relates to Christians, it results in even a more grievous outcome because it also prevent the word of God from taken root in such the hardened and stony heart (Matthew 13:5). Such persons rationalize their position and actions even when it contradicts the truth of the word of God. It therefore hinders spiritual growth.

Our hardened hearts will make us believe that the situation is gone too far to be redeemed. It causes us to close our bowels of mercy against the person to whom our heart has become hardened, and to consider such persons unredeemable. The Bible offered us several examples of situations that were far gone that God redeemed.

God is the Master of the impossible:
He turned Saul, a hard-hearted murderer of Christians, to Paul, one of the greatest Apostles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no heart He cannot touch. He is the God Who restored the decaying body of Lazarus back to life. He can restore broken or dead relationships. He caused dry bones to live again. He can restore life and vibrancy to every deadness and dryness in any sphere of our lives.

What this tells me is that there is no situation and no one that is too far gone for God to redeem and turn around. Therefore, we will be putting a cap on God’s infinite ability if we give up on anyone and on any situation or deem that person or situation unredeemable.

© Judykennamer | Dreamstime.com  (edited)
God is able to excise the scars and calluses that have developed in our hearts, and soften even the hardest of hearts. His word is like a hammer upon a hard rock. His word can break in pieces the hardness of our heart. We need to allow God’s word to cleanse us and wash away the bitter and painful experiences by being willing to let the word take roots in our hearts.

Consistent application of the Word of God upon a hardened heart can either soften it or break the hardness of that heart like the hammer shatters a rock into pieces (Jer. 23:29b).

You have a choice:
We have to be careful not to retain malice and deep-rooted bitterness in our heart. One of the ways to prevent scars from extending beyond the boundary of the wound is by not allowing the wound to fester—immediately cleaning out the dead tissues from the wound. Also it is important not to keep scratching, peeling and picking at the surface of the wound.

“…but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the devil that kind of foothold in your life.” – Ephesians 4:26-27 (The Message).

We give the devil the opportunity to build calluses in our hearts and harden it further when we go to bed angry and offended.

You were not called to be a prisoner of bitterness, malice and unforgiveness. When we allow bitterness to take root in our hearts, it holds the heart bound and defiles us. You can choose break down these prison walls. God is able to cut a path through the wilderness created in our hearts by the scars and calluses, and He can open rivers through the wasteland to revitalise our hearts if we choose to let go of the hurts.

We have the responsibility to guard our hearts with all diligence and vigilance from becoming callused and hardened.

“Get rid of the garbage and its offensive stench, and the rats that  feasted there will leave.”

Will you take the persons who have hurt and offended you off the hook in your heart today? Will you release your pains and hurts into God’s hands and let Him avenge for you?

If and when you do, you will not only become free of the pain but you also open the door to God to do a spiritual surgery on your heart to remove the scars and calluses built up there.

Prayer:

Thank You Lord for caring about how much my heart has been deeply hurt and has become scarred, callused and hardened. I release my pain and hurts into Your hands right now. Thank You for showing me mercy when You gave Your only Son Jesus Christ to die for me on the cross. Thank You for forgiving me all my sins. I choose to extend the same grace, mercy and forgiveness to (name the person/s). I refuse all thoughts of revenge and ill-will towards _______. Thank You for giving me the grace to forgive and to let go. I ask You, dear Lord to heal and restore my heart to wholesomeness. Restore the vitality of my relationship with You and with all those who have been affected by the scars in my heart. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayers, in Jesus name I pray. Amen