Beauty Still Thrives in the Heat of Life

She walks into the coffee shop at night, barely thirty-five minutes before shut-down. You remember her name. It's Mona. Yes, like the girl Leonardo Da Vinci painted, although she looks nothing like her. She's more beautiful, of course. Incomparable to the painting. Unrivaled. High cheek bones. Slender fingers. You feel you're a lucky guy to see her walk through the door. You only know her name because a few weeks back you couldn't help but ask when she came in for her regular Caffe Macchiato.

You stop wiping spilled coffee off the counter at the back. "Hey, I'll get this one," you say to the employee in front. He scurries along leaving you to serve the girl. You're not confused about whether or not she's smiling because it's obvious. Her smile causes her cheeks to rise higher, revealing the widest cutest dimples you've ever seen. "My future daughter will have dimples like yours, Mona," you mutter under your breath, half-hoping she heard you and half-hoping she didn't.

As soon as you get some free time, you walk to where she's sitting. "Do you mind?" you ask, pointing to the chair beside her. She shakes her head, and soon time flies as both of you talk about the abrupt change in weather from bad to worse and how politics will be tougher this year. Then she talks about the hurdles she had to overcome this winter.

There are three words she keeps repeating. "It's just God," she says, showing off her pearly whites. "He's my rock. I am a living testimony of His grace."

How such an ethereal and glorious creature like Mona could easily say "It's just God" baffles you. She looks like everything's perfect (a beauty to behold) and yet she's telling you of obstacles God has helped her through. Here she is, still standing in the most difficult of times. If she wouldn't have talked, who would have known?

She whispers again, "I can't afford this everyday, but I will someday. If God has brought me through what I told you earlier, He can bring me through this." And then, with grace, she throws her head back and giggles.

Beauty thriving through the heat of life. Imperfection intertwined in perfection. Weakness dipped in His perfect strength. It must be God in her.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

From my experience, I know that beauty still thrives in the heat of life. How? When you're so soaked in the Word of God that every other experience (good and bad) lines up behind the Word. It becomes the very thing you live for-- the love that multiplies into every facet of your life, the bread to satisfy your hunger, the light to shine in your darkness, and the fortress to protect your city. God's word is the only way I know through which beauty shines through even in the heat of this life and through the droughts of wilderness experiences.

Check out this scripture in Jeremiah 17: 7-8 and tell me if you're thinking what I'm thinking.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
And whose hope is the Lord.
For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit."

No one told you that heat will not come, or that there won't be years of drought. But the promise is that when those things come, your hope will be in the Lord, and your leaves...they will ALWAYS be green, no matter what.  

If You Could Die For Me, I Will Love Like You | A Valentine's Day Musing

[Image by Rayani on Flickr]

In anticipation of Valentine's Day, I sought to write something strikingly profound about love. But words failed me.

What is love? Do I really know? Am I worthy of writing about it?

More and more, as God keeps giving me the grace to 'walk the talk,' I'm finding out that love is a supernatural thing. A God thing. It's a very intricate web that goes beyond human understanding and involves so much more than a man giving expensive gifts to his woman or vice versa. Love is not the commercialized snapshot of Valentine's day where Cupid shoots his arrow and the man of your dreams finally proposes to love you forever. It transcends and goes beyond that. It encompasses everything we do on a daily basis.

Love is so much more than what we know and it makes me so emotional when I think about the depths of love and how often we slap the true meaning of love right in its face by our mediocre and superficial understanding of it. The Greeks understood it well enough to divide it into four categories: Agape, Eros, Philia, and Storge. Yet, they couldn't capture it into one. It was too complicated.

Capturing Love into One:

I've found a complete description of love. Something that captures love in its entirety. This is what it is:

"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13 ESV)

The truth is if you can die for me, your love knows no bounds. Every other kind of love, you see, lies in the shadow of this one.

Every bit of love that we will ever show in this life can only be a fragment of His love. His love is the highest form and is what multiplies into the different facets of human love: the love between a couple, the love from parents to children, the love between relatives, and the love between friends.

God's love will drive you nuts.

It will transform your life completely and hold you until you're driven to action. It's the kind of love that makes you want to love like Him. It drives you to do the craziest things you never dreamed you'd be doing: defeating any form of failure, saving a total stranger from destruction, leading a soul to Christ, tearing up over someone you don't know, helping someone else fulfill their own dreams, and sacrificing so much time in helping a friend in need. This kind of love, in addition to the primary types we're familiar with, is at the center of God's heart but often forgotten. The love that chose to die for us whether or not we loved back. We ought to replicate it. We need to be crazy and heads over heels in love with people regardless of religion, race, language, or creed, and perhaps something we do for them will get trapped in their hearts and they will see God through us.

The Samaritan woman left her bucket at the well and became an evangelist of His love. She ran to the marketplace to tell everyone that there was a man called Jesus "who told her everything she ever did." Something happened to her while she was talking to Jesus. She'd most likely been feeling she was living a secret life, a life she thought only the numerous men she slept with knew about. But as she spoke with Jesus and He unraveled her secrets, she felt the loving nature of God pouring into her spirit strongly and all the burdens she'd been carrying by herself suddenly felt lighter. She left her bucket by the well and ran to tell anyone she could find about Jesus. The one who was loved much became the lover, and many of us have a similar story of the love that set us free.

This is my summary of what God's love will do to you: The one who is loved much by God will become the lover. If Jesus could die for you, then you'll become a lover too.

There will be no need to wait for someone to love you first before you love them back. There would be no need to focus only on Valentines Day, you would be a gift-giver 365 days a year. Your love will be selfless and not commercialized. That's what God's love would do to you.

I pray that on this day, love will have a deeper meaning for you. I pray it transcends the commercialization of Valentine's day and breaks through to the hearts of those of you who feel like no one knows what you're going through. That's not true. God knows. God sees. His heart bleeds when you bleed, and His hand moves to steady you when you shake. He is already calming your storms and healing your brokenness. His love speaks better things than the love of man.

It's not a cliché or surprise that I write about God's love today of all days. I am someone who has been deeply loved by Him, forgiven much, blessed much, and redeemed much. My whole life is a story of His love. And because of this I have now become, by choice, such a lover, never hesitating to tell you how record-breaking this kind of love is at every opportunity I get. You can't buy this kind. Neither can you find it in physical things or in men. Only in Him. Today would be a good day to open your heart and experience His love. In the wake of Whitney Houston's passing, we are reminded that life is fleeting, but see, God's love is everlasting and will remain even when everything else passes away (RIP Whitney). So let us grasp His love and be crazy about this kind of love today.

Happy Valentine's Day in style, Readers. Hold the hands of your loved ones and tell them that you will love them with the love of Christ, because that's the best kind of love you can ever give them today and always. And then of course, don't forget the chocolates, roses, and gadgets too. *wink*

"You Are Not A Label" (Not Defined by Circumstance)

[Image by]

With her forehead creased and lips transfixed into a contorted grimace, Nosa looked up at the woman  asking her the now-so-familiar question. She was defenseless. Thrust out into the open to be speculated upon. Singled out like prey. Caught like a fish in a net. A sense of foreboding suddenly broke upon her.

"Can I help you, Ma'am?" Nosa asked gently, using her recited secretary voice.

"Are you the girl who lived in the house that got burned? I saw you on TV. I am so sorry that happened to you."

"No, it's okay. Thanks for your concern. Is there something I can help you with?"

"They said it was five hours before they found you under the flames. It must have been dreadful being under all that smoke."

A small laugh erupted from somewhere within. The lady in red was an intruder to her circumstance. And there were many other intruders. People who don't know a thing about how it feels to be engulfed in flames, but yet choose to ask you about it. Boldly defining and labelling you as "the girl who got burned." How many other people will ask her how it felt? How many times would she have to explain that horrible feeling of death and suffocation she never wanted to remember again. She did not want to talk about that day. She wanted to push it far, far, away from the confines of her memories.

"Ma'am, thanks for your concern, but are you here to see somebody?"

"Ah, yes. Mr. Phillips. Is he in the office?"

"Please, have a seat. I will page him at once."

It took a while before the lady in red went to take a seat. She was staring at her face. At the scars from the fire.

When she left, Nosa slowly stretched her bandaged arm toward the phone on her desk. Trying not to wince, she lifted it up to her left ear, where the scorching fire had left a deep scar. She'd been out of the office for two weeks now, but she'd needed to come back or else she would have lost her job. It still hurt so much just to walk. Or bend. Or eat. Or talk. And the headaches were increasing.

But healing was coming, oh she just knew it. And if anyone dared to say much more about what she'd endured in that fire again, she was gonna say to them, "I have a name. I'm not "the girl who got burned.' My name is Nosa."


*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  * 

The Girl Who Got Burned
The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo
The Young Lady Who Can't Get Married
The Couple Who has no child
The One Who's Out of Status
The Sick Man
Always in Hospitals
The Jobless Man
The One Without a Degree
The, the, the [insert other labels]

Labels, labels, labels!

Are you defining yourself or being defined by others by something negative today? STOP now. Stop defining yourself by that condition. You are so much bigger than whatever is causing you to walk with your head turned downwards. Be confident in your esteem because the One who formed you in your mother's womb made you beautiful & wonderful.

Have you heard the story of the woman who was defined by a medical mystery in her time called the "issue of blood?" She'd been bleeding for twelve long years and her neighbours, family members, and friends all knew what was happening to they defined her as "the woman with the issue of blood."

However, one day she saw Jesus walking down the street with crowds of people following Him, and she must have said to herself, "I'm not going to continue being defined this way. I'm going to touch the hem of His garment and be whole once again." She did. And she got healed instantly.

Now, you might interject by saying "My story isn't as simple as hers," but what story is simple? I want you to know that there was nothing simple about bleeding constantly for thirteen years. Your case might be different, yes, but not unsolvable. Your own healing might come in a different way but the main thing you need to know is that whatever has been defining you for this long WILL end when you touch the hem of His garment.

I listened to such an amazing speech by T.D. Jakes (relating to this topic), and it blessed me so much that I'll share it with you ---> WATCH HIM HERE speaking @ Elevation Church. I hope you watch and enjoy it just as much as I did. But more than that, I hope you rid yourself of every definition circumstances have tried to give you. The best is yet to come for you. Just you touch the hem of His garment and see what happens. Everything good will come. Be patient. Let go and let God take over.

Dear Readers. May you never live your life by a definition based on a mere myopic condition that is smaller than God. He is bigger than every challenge that threatens to come your way.