Shine: Walking through the dark, walking with the Light

I didn’t mean for my guarded tone to slip, but by the time words were audible, secret sadness had escaped from its chamber. Ugh. I didn’t want to plow through a field of bitter roots and wearied resolve after a common greeting.

How are you?

When asked, do we gloss over obvious distress, hurrying past the awkwardness of sharing how we really feel? When asked, do we pause and listen? Do we suspend our exhale, hoping that the response won’t be too messy or too involved?

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My friend, Bernai, gifted me with this pause. While we were getting around the initial “hey girl hey,” she caught the dip in my voice, the lilt, the not-quite-right that warranted further investigation.

Sis was having none of the foolishness of a plasticized “I’m okay.” She arose battle-ready. Striking axe to root, she implored the awkard silence and ripped the ground where despondence lurked surreptitiously behind the sentry of pleasantries.

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“Girl, I guess I’m walking through the dark…” Through this prayer-versation, Holy Spirit interpreted my heart where words were previously muted. The feeling of forsaken and forgotten sounded like, “I thought I heard You, Lord. I thought this was your Will,” querying my circumstance in the presence of a willing listener.

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As I talked myself through this valley, with coaxing from a caring sistah-friend, I experienced a David-like shift where lament morphed into laud. God’s gargantuan goodness loomed over what had appeared as foreboding just breaths ago. Although I didn’t see the light at the end of what has undulated as a murky, slimy tunnel, I became keenly aware of the One, the Light, walking alongside.

More than ever (especially in these post-quarantined times), I want to know, “How are you, really?” In the midst of the masks, discombobulated rhythms, and distancing, I imagine moments of kindness and care, waiting for others to speak authentically, as my friend did for me.

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What if we spoke transparently instead of choking out the rote, “fine… okay… great…” or “blessed and highly favored!” in some dialect of religion-ese, when in actuality, we may be emotionally hemorrhaging.

Far too often, we pledge loyalty to a carefully curated charade of social pomp and circumstance. We bleed out, unbeknownst to supports, who might have triaged us out of emotional isolation with the gift of pause and human presence.

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When honest with ourselves and others, we receive strength and support to mitigate our most significant challenges. The braid of trusted community, authentic confession, and wise counsel releases healing and answered prayer to double team the common enemy of our souls (James 5:16).

While we don’t plan to encounter these questioning moments, they locate us, in the simple questions and in the raw conversations. They curiously nestle between covers of disappointment and despair …somewhere in the wilderness between proclamation and promise manifested.

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Through the palpable darkness of in-between, I heard and felt, Holy Spirit gently cheer me forward, “Shine, Ms. Girl! You may be walking through the dark, but you are walking with the Light.”

He encouraged me to remember Jesus, whose worst days, also proved to be some of His best… and ours, too…

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In a matter of days… in a matter of chapters, Jesus Christ progressed from sweating blood to shedding blood.

This payment remitted our sin, marking eternal victory over death, hell, and grave by the Blood price of His suffering and sacrifice.

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Because of that, we will all celebrate the King of kings on a day coming sooner than soon. We will lavish Him with many crowns, as our Victor, Champion, Faithful and True, Worthy Lamb, Lion of the Tribe of Judah!

So, while we walk through the dark valleys and shadows of death, we shine. While His rod and staff accompany us through obscurity, heartache, and bewilderment, we shine. We may be walking through the dark, but ever with the Light…may that hope and comfort be the illumination we need to blaze and shine.

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©2021 Angelique Thomas. Feel free to forward this article in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past articles or subscribe to receive these articles in your email.

This post was inspired by a Hopewriters challenge.
#hopewriterlife

Happy New Me!

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New me looks like a dance party in the kitchen, rocking to my own soundtrack.

New me feels like buoyant hope resurging after a debilitating crash against the shores of disappointment.

New me writes like my pen is ablaze with the fire of God.

This post is day one of a hopewriters writing challenge. I’m stretching into the new with Holy Spirit… join me! #hopewriterlife

New Me… New Joy!

©2020 Angelique Thomas. Feel free to forward this article in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past articles or subscribe to receive these articles in your email.

Trim your Wick: learning to mind my own

During a mindless, Instagram scroll, a bold graphic snagged my eye. Distinct black and white chevron paletted brilliant words superimposed atop. “Trim your Wick!” It read. My friend, Amy, recently started a candle business; and as a service to the expanding customer base, AltarFire Birthdate Candles dispatches messages on social media to its followers. This regular practice enables the candle to burn longer, efficiently, and balanced without pooling (i.e. wasting) valuable wax.

Trim your wick.

As is our rhythm, Holy Spirit began speaking to me in that everyday, but not-so-ordinary encounter. This admonition was more than candle care from my friend’s feed and much more than practical reminder. The Lord Himself seated me at His Table and served life.

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You see, in the Light of God’s Word, I have observed some unhealthy patterns in myself. And by that same fiery Light, the roots of these cycles are being held to match, flame, and reduced to indistinguishable ash.

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Hence, trim your wick, is burning the following truths in my bones: cut the excess. Make room. Keep moving. Don’t let your flame be consumed, but rather stirred.

And in keeping with the parable Jesus wove about the ten virgins and the oil lamps, I hear Him loudly. I hear Him clearly. ”Handle your business. Stop worrying about people. You handle this! I’ve got that!”

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I am responsible to the Lord to continually refuel in His presence to keep the fire in me active and engaged.

Remember, the fire must be kept burning on the altar at all times. It must never go out.

Leviticus 6:13 NLT

Recent reflections by candle light have revealed some faults that I transparently confess. I have been codependently tending to other people’s lamps such that I have missed the open door set before me, and if I’m perfectly honest, several open doors (Matthew 25:1-9).

Woefully, I have found myself in sorrow and bitterness of soul, regretting my own foolishness and lack of preparedness, while resenting those I’d sought to help while I should have been more focused on what God gave me to do.

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It doesn’t mean that the Lord doesn’t intend for me to support, encourage, intercede, and champion others. That is a gift of grace to extend Jesus’ compassion. However, when I overstep necessary boundaries to be and do what only God and others can and should be doing for themselves, I waste my oil by doing what isn’t mine to do. I end up getting in the way of His work.

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Healthy relationships are cultivated through stewardship. In community, we can host the Lord’s presence in ways that welcome the fire’s warmth and light in and through one another without quenching Holy Spirit. We spur one another on to good works and account for one another’s weaknesses, but that does not replace the investment in one’s personal growth. We can love, encourage, cheer, but we cannot change or micromanage others those with whom we fellowship–even when we have the best intentions to see the “better” version.

So, I sit with this Truth. Where it yields an “ouch! Hallelujah,” I welcome the work, from the inside out, even where ‘trim your wick’ means I have to cut away certain mindsets, behaviors, alliances–beginning with what is change-worthy within myself. Leave people to handle what they need to, and let the Lord do what He wills in the when, the where, and the how.

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About a month ago, I encountered a throwback to an abusive thread in my past. A Molotov cocktail of intimidation, shaken together with a narcissistic flip-of-the-script tested me. I had matched online with someone who quickly exhibited aggression in response to my initial questions and expressions of caution. Thankfully, I extinguished it immediately, activating the “thou art blocked” ministry! This evoked a newer, healthier response and practice, anchored in the love of God and the confidence of Christ.

Old Me would have tried to reason, counsel, and encourage at the expense of my holistic well-being. For a too-long season, I errantly dwelled in cycles of dysfunction, thinking I was being “spiritual” in trying to rescue people from their own choices and dysfunctions, thus masking my and deflecting my own. That is not at all what God has called any of us to do… Otherwise, why would we need Jesus, the One True Savior?

Through the braid of prayer, therapy, and community, I have healed and I have grown. I recognize where I have compromised my well-being under the guise of being a nurturing friend, family member, you-name-it! However, the Holy Spirit, ablaze in me, burns away the fog of people-pleasing that tries to reinvent and reinject itself where fear has been evicted.

In this new season, I stretch into establishing new boundaries with those I care about and already know. Yet, it is essential in my becoming, even as I extend this practice and freedom in burgeoning relationships. I am learning how to pace, pause, pay attention, and proceed with caution or boldness in the direction that I believe the Word leads my path by His lamp and His light.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Psalm 119:105

Trim your wick also means prepare and make good use of what we’ve been given. Sometimes, we take what God intended for us and divert elsewhere, at the expense of our own legitimate needs. Dividing our oil can deplete us while keeping others from fueling and fanning the flame of God in their own lives.

…I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you.

2 Timothy 1:6 (abbreviated) NLT

Loving people and serving them well does not mean that we partner with any form of abuse, muddied boundaries, false burden, or misplaced obligation. Today, we snuff out the guilt and shame associated with living in godly, healthy boundaries drawn and protected by Love.

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At the shameless and unapologetic risk of sounding unspiritual, I am learning that encouraging others to seek the Source and secure their own oil actually makes room for God and welcomes His anointing.

So, I tell myself again, as I proceed to light some more candles tonight and settle in with the Holy Spirit for some evening relaxation… This time, with a laugh in my spirit instead of a lurch in my gut, “Come on, Ms. Girl! It’s time to trim your own wick!”

©2020 Angelique Thomas. Feel free to forward this article in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past articles or subscribe to receive these articles in your email.

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