Tag Archives: bible

How I Got A Criminal Record

prison

I commit crimes all the time.

I have always fancied myself as a criminal. Obviously, I am not actually a criminal; the thought of spending more than two months in jail cell makes me internally freak out. Despite my fear of prison (every time I drop the soap in the shower, I shudder slightly) I’ve spent my whole life considering the different crimes I would commit if I wasn’t a Christian.. There are quite a few. Fortunately, Jesus saves and as long as I follow Him, I shouldn’t find myself on the inside any time soon.

Despite not being on the inside in reality, there are moments where I commit crimes. None of them are particularly heinous; they are mostly petty crimes, but they all look to the same to my judge. Let’s call these crimes sins. God is my judge and He can see every single thing that I do; He is privy to the good things, the bad things, and the things that I am too ashamed to tell even my closest friends. It’s quite unfortunate that the being I love most sees the worst things that I do and takes them very personally because this means that at some point in every week, I am filled with mild to intense feelings of guilt.

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

Genesis 3:8

I understand why Adam hid from God. Although Adam knew the solution to his problems resided in God, he hid anyway. It was the shame, the guilt, the knowledge that he had done the very thing he had sworn he would never do that made him hide. I understand why Adam hid because I’ve hidden too; I have experienced the Adam moment. I have experienced that moment where God expresses (through His word) that he requires me to live a certain way. I have experienced that moment where I realise that what I want to do and what God requires from me are in constant conflict. I have experienced that moment where I choose the thing God hates in order to satisfy whatever whim or desire I have. Oh, and I despise it. I hate the fact when I am given the choice between choosing God or choosing myself, 40% 60% of the time, I choose myself. It’s not just the disappointing God factor that annoys me; it’s the fact that I lose. I say I won’t do something, I declare that I am free from whatever potential crime I am being tempted by and then the next moment, I’m committing the crime, wondering if God still loves me.

I hate to lose. I am winner. I am competitive and this Christian walk often feels like a battle I can’t win. I am tired of falling at the first, second, third and fourth hurdle. Last week I decided that I wasn’t cut out for this Christian life. I told Jesus that although I loved him dearly, I was never going to be able to be who He wanted me to be, no matter how hard I tried. I said I was sorry for wasting his time but our love story was to come to an end because I was tired of always being the one in the relationship that always messed up.

Just as I was throwing in the towel, I realised:

1) God knows that I’m going to get it wrong.

This journey isn’t about being perfect, it is about striving for perfection, striding towards God and having a heart that longs to do right by Him. That guilt you feel is awful but at least you feel it, you are not so far away from God that you do not react when you fall out of line. Instead you are contrite, you are disappointed and you want to do better. This is good. It means you care; it means there is hope.

2) I cannot do this alone.

I was right when I said to God I couldn’t do it. I can’t.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

Matthew 19:26

His power is made perfect in my weakness and when I am at the end of myself, that is when God can truly begin. I am not alone in this, Jesus is praying for me (John 17:9) and standing in the gaps, interceding for me (Hebrews 7:25).

3) God does not dwell my past crimes.

I–yes, I alone–will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again

Isaiah 43:25

As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Psalm 103:12

I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.

Isaiah 44:22

No longer will they teach their neighbour, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.

Jeremiah 31:34

I don’t usually include this many verses but I really want to reinforce and evidence my final point. I don’t have a criminal record because of the grace of God and because of the greatest act of love known to man: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. After you’ve apologised, let that thing go; it is in the past. Don’t dwell on it, don’t ruminate and don’t let it stop you from getting back again and running with Jesus.

All my love beautiful people,

Joy xxxxxxxxxx

How To Find Out God’s Plan For Your Life

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Can you believe it’s September already?

This year has been full of unexpected events and challenges but God has been faithful. The fact that we are all still standing has nothing to do with who we are and everything to do with who He is and His desire to lavish mercy and compassion upon us despite the amount of times we have fallen.

As we enter into the last quarter of the year, I believe it is imperative that we remain focused on God. Let us not fall at the last hurdle, especially since this month marks a new chapter in all of our lives. Some of us are starting new jobs, beginning university, college or entering into a new academic year which holds more weight than the last. In all of this, it is crucial not to consider our earthly goals  more important than our spiritual ones.

It’s so easy to get caught up in our personal life plans and focus on things that will eventually cease to exist. Yes, we want to make a good impression, we want to be excellent, we want to achieve but we are called seek God first above all else; our personal desires are secondary. There was a moment in my life where I put all my personal desires to the side and yelled “GOD, I ONLY WANT TO DO WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO”. I wanted to know what I was created for and what I was ‘called’ to do so I prayed intensely, asking God to reveal the great plan at work.

Nothing happened.

Don’t get me wrong, there were moments where I caught a glimpse of what God could maaaaybe want from me and I was able to draw my own conclusions (for the most part, my assumptions were wrong and God always managed to bring about His plan in the most unexpected manner). My desire to seek God and put Him first also caused me to became obsessive and fearful, afraid to make decisions in case I got it wrong and messed up His plan.

So what does God want from you and I? What does He want us to do?

God wants you to:

Love Him and love others (Luke 10:27)

To pursue righteousness and love (Proverbs 21:21)

To aim to please Him (1 Corinthians 5:9)

To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8)

I’m sure there are a few other things in the Bible (sorry, it’s getting late, I’ll add more in another post) that God requires from us but can we, hand on heart, say that we are doing the above? We want this great big reveal but continuously fail to adhere to that which has been revealed.

I am no longer obsessed with God’s plan for my life, I just do my best to read my Bible daily, pray fervently and serve others. I pray for God’s sovereign will to come to pass and leave it at that; I trust Him and understand it is not my job to see where I’m going, but to follow Him. I’ve stopped worrying about the unknown (future) and begun to focus on the known (scriptures). I hope you will too because although we may never know what the future holds, what is required of us as we walk into the future is pretty clear.

Lots of loveeee,

JOY xxxxxx

Why You Keep Lying On Facebook

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In my Sunday School class, the question was once asked:

 If a man held a gun to your head and asked you if you were a Christian, what would you say?

 Now, of course the “right” answer was to scream “I LOVE YOU JESUS” and suffer the unspeakable consequences but over a decade has passed and I’m still yet to decide what I’d do simply because I never really show up in moments of panic, I freeze and scream internally until the moment of panic passes. Also, I believe that hypothetical responses are rarely indicative of what one will do when faced with the situation. This question came to mind this morning and although I still do not have an answer, it always causes me to think more deeply about life, what I am willing to die for and more importantly, what I am living for.

“They say ‘you only live once’ but what are you living for?”

I let my Mum use my Facebook yesterday and it was fascinating watching her read through my newsfeed; she could not understand why the people I knew felt comfortable sharing such intimate moments of their lives online. When she asked me why, the cynic within me arose:

“Mum, people want to show other people how happy and content they are, even if that means giving 500+ people access to the most sacred moments life offers.”

As I was saying this, I realised that most of us are living for the applause. We are living for the ‘likes’, the moments where others validate our actions. We carefully choose what we will reveal online in order to create what we feel will be the perfect image. Underneath the façade lies the real; the real moments of pain, confusion, frustration, anger, happiness and joy.

Although we cannot pick and choose the moments that God sees, we act as though He isn’t watching 24/7. We spend more time choosing filters on Instagram than filtering out the negative parts of lives and we spend more time controlling the way others view us than we do allowing God to take control and fix the broken parts of our lives – the parts that aren’t picturesque enough for the online world.

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.

Hebrews 4:13

One of things I enjoy most about being a Christian is the fact that I am forced to have honest conversations with God. I can’t lie and I can’t pretend that everything is okay when it isn’t. He sees right through the façade because He sees all. When I have no words to say, He still hears the pain I feel or the joy I don’t know how to express.

God sees.

My challenge to you today is to live each moment in light of the fact that God sees. I don’t want you to think of Him as a judgemental, domineering presence which seeks to dictate your every action and can’t wait to punish you, but as a loving Father (Isaiah 64:8), who is interested, concerned (Luke 12:7) and full of love for you (1 John 3:1).

Lots of my love & Happy Wednesday!!

Joy xxxxxx

Why I Stopped Talking To God

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It’s not very ‘Christian’ to admit that you stopped talking to God, is it? I wonder if any of you will admit the times you’ve had to just walk away from God for a minute because you just couldn’t understand why life kept dropping bombs on you. There are situations that occur that bring our worlds to a standstill and while we’re trying to hold ourselves together, other parts of our lives begin to fall apart.

Have you ever asked God “WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME?” We don’t often talk about those moments that occur during our Christian Walk, (the questions, the angst and the fear) because they’re not as attractive as the relentless faith we are supposed to exhibit and the lifting of hands in worship, but life throws too many unexpected events my way to not have asked God why he is allowing certain things to happen to me. It has be a crazy year, an expect-the-unexpected-kinda-year and I have done my best to ‘keep the faith’ and ‘pray no matter how I feel’ but I think this week it all became too much and I didn’t connect to my Source. Despite knowing that in the moments where I feel most hurt and angry, I should run back to God, not run away, this time my feet wouldn’t move, my hands refused to turn the pages of His word and my heart stopped beating for him.

 The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!”

“Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.

Judges 6:12-13

When I read the response from Gideon this morning, I thought, “finally, someone asking the questions that I’ve been asking God!” His question was respectful, genuine but completely honest– if the Lord was truly on their side, why were they oppressed, abandoned and homeless?

I’m sure some of you have been in a tough season and asked God some real questions:

 Why?

How?

Where are you?

What are you doing?

Why me?

What have I done to deserve this?

I sat with the above questions longer than I sat with God this week because I couldn’t bring myself to admit how disappointed I was in Him. I also knew in my heart I knew I had no right to be disappointed. This was the same God that had allowed me to walk through beautiful seasons that I was also undeserving of so what right did I have to be disappointed?

Although walking away was illogical, I had more questions than I had answers and I needed time. In hindsight, the distance I put between God and I was a mistake because He was the only person that could have healed me, saved me and kept my irrational thoughts at bay.

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

I think I forgot that being a Christian didn’t mean that my life was going to be flowers, sunsets, giant teddy bears and ‘happily ever afters’. My belief in God did not excuse me from the pains of life. The only difference between those with faith in God and those that do not believe is that when we face our problems we have God on our side; our faith alone does not exempt us from pain and sorrow. Through the trials and tribulations that we face, we are able to experience something new of God, a side of Him that we otherwise may not have encountered. It takes being poor to see God as our provider, it takes being sick to see Him as our healer and it takes heartbreak for Him to be revealed as our comforter. It has never been said that this journey would be easy, but it does say that His grace is sufficient for me and that His power works best when I am weak (2 Corinthians 12:9). I shouldn’t be afraid when I reach the end of myself because that is where God can begin.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

I’m still here with my questions, my disappointment and my pain; faith in my strongest moments and fear in my weaker ones. But I am also here accepting that God knows what is best for me (Isaiah 55:9) and He will always bring things together for my good (Romans 8:28).

I am learning what it means to be dependent on God. He is my security, He is my everything, He is my source. There is no walking away.

I am learning what I meant when I surrendered my will and asked him to take control of my life.

Learning that just because I want something to happen doesn’t mean it will and just because I don’t want something to happen doesn’t mean it won’t.

Learning how important it is to trust God.

Learning that I need to read my bible even when I don’t want to. I need to pray even when I don’t have the words.

Learning that I can run away from my problems or run through them with God.

Learning that even though I’m not as strong as I’d like to be, I’m not as weak as I thought I was.

Learning how to speak again. To connect with Him. Apologising for my absence. Admitting how lost I am without Him. Asking for forgiveness. Learning how to pray in hope and faith once more.

I am learning.

Joy x

What To Do When You’re Falling Apart

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At the moment, I’m getting into the Old Testament (OT) – the part of the Bible most young Christians tend to avoid – not because we don’t want to read it, of course, but because it just feels a bit intense and at times, confusing. The New Testament (NT) feels a lot easier to get through, right? It can at times feel like an action movie with the star of the film being our main man Jesus Christ who just keeps doing and saying amazing things.

 Boom! Born in a manger

Boom! Doing Miracles

Boom! Dying on a cross

BOOM! RISING FROM THE DEAD

Such a page turner, right? And of course, once you become a Christian, you’re given the little red NT Bible so most of us just sit with the last 27 books and neglect all the other books. After years of being content with the NT alone, I decided to begin right at the beginning of the Bible. I have just finished reading Joshua and let’s just say it’s been quite the journey.

God delivered  the Israelites out of the Egypt but instead of allowing them to enter the Promise Land instantaneously, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years because of their disobedience and distrust. The Israelites had no real idea where they were going; there had been ups and downs, disappointments and frustrations. The very thing they hoped would come to pass had been severely delayed.

Eventually, the Israelites reached the land God promised them and in Joshua 22, Joshua their new leader, gave some of the tribes some sound advice:

But be very careful to obey all the commands and the instructions that Moses gave to you. Love the Lord your God, walk in all his ways, obey his commands, hold fast to him, and serve him with all your heart and all your soul.

Joshua 22:5

On the day I read this, I was having trouble holding onto God because I had so many other things in my hands. It had been a whirlwind week, full of moments where things had failed to come together in the way I hoped they would. I wanted to throw myself into my emotions and hibernate under my quilt. Thankfully, this scripture caught me as I was falling apart and caused me to question my response to what most would consider one of the usual setbacks of life.

When we are falling apart that is when we should hold tighter onto God – we shouldn’t let him go because of our emotions.

When everything is going wrong – fall apart hold fast

When things aren’t going your way – fall apart hold fast

When you’re not sure what to do next – fall apart hold fast

When you put all your hope into something and it doesn’t come together –fall apart hold fast

Hold fast to God, He is all we have.

Joy xx

Why I’ll Never Go Back To My Ex

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Relationships. Hard work, aren’t they? The (secret) reason why the majority of RomComs end with the first date or the wedding is because after the initial whirlwind romance, things get tough. Relationships are challenging paths walked together by two completely different people with beliefs, experiences and outlooks on life that they held prior to their meeting. No matter how similar you think you are, on that rocky, challenging road all will be revealed. Oh, of course at the beginning things are amazing – beautiful dates, late night calls and those warm, fuzzy feelings but unfortunately, that doesn’t last forever. Each person stops being the best version of themselves and slowly the cracks in the relationship begin to show and within these cracks lies the truth about how different you both really are.

And then it begins: the phone calls that end with someone dropping the phone abruptly instead of with an “I love you”, the tears on the phone because there are no words that adequately encapsulate the hurt that you feel and that awful moment where you are deciding whether to stay or leave. Ah, yes, relationships are tough which is why most do not survive. Most of us are too selfish (sorry) to really handle relationships and these days, more emphasis is placed on our individual wants, needs and goals than the necessity of compromise and therefore the likelihood of a relationship becoming and remaining a success decreases.

Ex is a term that is usually used to refer to a former sexual or romantic partner, especially a former spouse but it can also refer to a variety of former relationships i.e. an ex-friend (I stole this definition from Wikipedia, sorry God). Since each relationship is inherently different, the reasons for their dissolution also varies. Even though some reasons may be looked upon by outsiders as minuscule and easily worked through, to the parties involved the reasons usually justify the break-up. Anyone who has been through a break up knows how dark those first days/weeks/months can be, so dark that the need to pick up the phone and run straight back into the arms of the one you once loved can often become overwhelming.

I think during that dark time we so often forget that the said ‘ex’ is an ‘ex’ for a reason. Yes, we miss them and during that period we long for their presence again but does that mean that they should still be in our lives? Well, of course you’re saying ‘no’ at the moment but I’m sure you can easily recount moments where you’ve given into your emotional urges and gone back to the very person you once cried to be saved from. Some relationships are poisonous and yet we continue to consume them in the hope that one day our stomachs will accept them. The truth is, those relationships will never sit well with us because they are not meant for us.

I was reminded of this when I was reading my Bible last week and I was astounded to see that the Israelites wanted to go back to their exes too. The Egyptians had enslaved the Israelites and during this time of pain and agony, the Israelites cried out to God to save them. Eventually God heard their cries and sent a man named Moses to deliver them. Eventually, the Israelites were set free and ran outta there so fast (in the most dramatic exit known to man), happy, rejoicing, praising God and finally able to walk with their heads held high (Leviticus 26:13). Unfortunately it didn’t take long before the grumbling began; suddenly it dawned on them that they had no idea where they were going. Feelings of uncertainty and fear settled within them and they began to question the God that had set them free and the man that was leading them.

What’s the point in the LORD bringing us to this land? To die by the sword so our wives and children would become war victims? Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?

Numbers 14:3

During their dark time (post break-up), they began to long for a time that they were in chains and in pain; fear of the unknown made them look back and idolise a time they once cried out to be saved from.

The pain of missing someone does not mean you are meant to be with them, it simply means that they once held a special place in your heart, and that in itself is not a good enough reason to walk back to them. People don’t say this often but the truth is, pain can be good for you. Pain shows you exactly what you can live through. As humans we search and crave for happiness but it is in the moments of profound pain that we grow the most. It is when there is no certainty but God and we are literally clinging to his every word that we begin to find who we are meant to become. That is when we realise that there is a call on our lives, that is when he becomes our light in the tunnel and at the end of it, and that is when he shows us glimpses of the greatness he has placed within us and the glory he intends to reveal in us one day (Romans 8:18).

…You are not to go back that way again

Deuteronomy 17:16

I’m talking about that job you hated but offers security, friends who say they you love but attack your character and ex-spouses that have no idea how special you are and therefore treat you kinda badly. You are not to return to the things that you once asked to be saved from because you do not belong there anymore; you are not to walk that way again. You do not fit there and if you try to make yourself smaller to resume a position that was not actually created for you, you will hurt yourself. The relationship may have worked before but there is a reason it stopped working: you changed. And that’s okay. You grew. And that’s even better.

There are many people that I miss, so many relationships that I wish I could still hold with both hands instead of reminiscing about them during solitary moments but if I was meant to be holding them, I would be. If I was still meant to be walking with them, they would be here and our lives wouldn’t be taking such different paths. Every time I get that desire to run back to those people and paths, I remind myself that what God has for me will always eventually be mine and I continue to walk forward on the path he has destined for me.

Lots of my love,

Joy xxxx

How To Look Good Naked

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I love make-over shows.  Maybe it’s the idea that you can start with a woman lacking in confidence, unaware of her beauty, and with a few  make-up tips and better fitting clothes, said lady transforms into a swan right before our very eyes. You feel like you’ve gone on the journey with her and you’re nearly as elated as she is when she finally gets to see how breath-taking she can look at The Big Reveal. ‘How to look good naked,’ is probably one of my favourite make-over shows, especially because the master of fashion A.K.A. Gok Wan, manages to transform appearances and multiply confidence without anyone undergoing nips here and tucks there at the hands of a plastic surgeon. (No I’m not anti plastic surgery per se, I just think it’s always nice when you can work with the looks God gave someone and still make them feel beautiful.)

Despite my allegiance to the show, if you’ve ever watched an episode,  you will have also noticed that the show doesn’t actually fulfill it’s branding, and when the hours up, you won’t be any steps closer to improving your naked body. Unlike Gok, I am solemnly swearing this beautiful morning to not only provide looking good naked advice, but also feeling good naked tips. Look good= feel good? Or is it, feel good= look good? Is it just me or does your outward appearance have a strong correlation with how you feel on the inside? When you haven’t got that shape up, you’re edges need perming, or your skin is being an enemy of progress and breaking out all over the gaff, it’s really hard to still feel like you’re great and you have good things going for you. There’s an interesting relationship between how you feel and how you look, so, sort out one of them, and you’re halfway to happiness.

Maybe I’m just a shallow lass but when the mirror is telling me things I don’t want to hear it’s really hard to put my happy face on.

Last summer I came to a realisation. I remember I was looking through my Facebook photos when it suddenly dawned on me, and I felt a huge urge to share my recent discovery. As I picked up the phone to inform my various amigos, I broke the news to them gently: I wasn’t a beaut. Now don’t get me wrong, before this day I wasn’t under some impression that I was a head-turner or anything worthy of breath holding, but I did feel ‘more happy than sad’ when I faced my reflection. It was weird; all of a sudden I had been hit with this new reality that I was absolutely nothing special. Of course my friends responded in the way they do to most of the melodramatic things I say and rolled their eyes, telling me my utterances were foolish and foundation-less. But it’s like the more I said it, the more I came to terms with the average Joe I had always been but only realised I’d become. That’s when the change began…

I’d told myself I was Plain Jane and from that day I couldn’t see anything else. I wasn’t at despair with my mug-shot, it just didn’t bring me any kind of joy. If in the summer I only had an inclining that I was just your average girl, by the winter I had completely become her. I looked in the mirror and saw a ‘something lacking, nothing to write home’ about lass, looking back at me,  and didn’t even realise the effect it was having on my outlook on life. I thought I was complacent with a ‘who cares if I’m not beautiful, why should I get to feel nice anyway’ attitude but it was slowly eating away at me and the sadness I felt when faced with my reflection spread to other areas of my life and hovered over me like a grey cloud ready to rain on my parade. It’s strange because we tell ourselves that there’s more to us than looks and then spend a whole lot of time letting our  appearances govern how we feel and the confidence we lay claim to. So there I was, in  a rut that I didn’t even know I was stuck in, when one moment threw me out of synch with my ‘I’m ugly, self-pity’, routine.

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. Psalm 139:14

Bible study one Monday got the cogs in my head turning as I was reminded of scriptures I absent-mindedly recite: life and death is in the power of the tongue. That was it. Hey presto! I had singly handedly made myself ugly and If I wanted to feel beautiful again I needed to speak it over myself, which is  exactly what I did. Waking up and finding nothing in my appearance to smile about I looked into my eyes and told myself I was fearfully and wonderfully made. If God says I’m wonderful that means I’m a spice even when I just feel like rice with no salt.(spice= pretty person.) By the end of the week I had got my mojo back.

You can call me crazy all you like, but I genuinely did speak some pretty over my life, and within a week I saw it.

I guess I learnt three things.

Firstly: If you believe it you’ll see it.

I’ve always been a big believer in this so I don’t know why I let myself believe something I didn’t want to be true. It’s like self-fulfilling prophecy: once you convince someone they’ll amount to nothing, they start believing you and stop trying so hard to achieve. The Bible tells us everything we need to know about ourselves so when ideas come into our heads that don’t match up with what God says about us then we need to kick those thoughts to the curb where they belong.

Secondly: Don’t say things you don’t want to become/remain true.

Our words are way more powerful than we give them credit for. God made the whole world by speaking because:what we say, we create. This means we have to be ultra-careful to not curse ourselves and not let others curse us. We may have all felt like the exam we’ve just taken was a struggle but WE are not going to fail, if YOU feel like YOU are going to fail don’t include ME in your sentence. I know I sound extreme, but it’s time we started taking the things we say, and the things said about us more seriously.

Lastly: You are beautiful.

You may not fit into the current mass media definition of beauty but that’s the great thing about the world we live in, opinions change. God doesn’t. You might never feel world pretty, but as long as you know you’re God wonderful, to heck with magazine portrayal.

To everyone wishing they were model pretty, remember that your God defined beauty before any human could say what was the right and wrong way to look. Find your reflection in the Bible, there’s way more truth in that than your mirror.

 

Love lots

 

Dani xxxxx

That Time I Was Recruited Into The Sex Industry

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I wish the title of this article were merely a ploy to get you to click the link and read our precious blog. Alas, it isn’t. I, Joy Johnson (that’s not really my surname) was approached and recruited into the sex industry.

My fear of strangers is a very recent phobia that can be dated back to 2013. I started watching a show called the Following, a show that follows masses of people who kill, well, for no reason at all. They walk up to passers-by, people in cafés, in homes, in CHURCHES and stab them through the chest with absolutely no remorse. As I watched this show, I realised that I wasn’t safe and I began to question my innate trust of human beings. How did I know who was a killer and who wasn’t? What stopped you, yes YOU, from stabbing me through the heart on any given day? Absolutely nothing.

My trust in humans was restored in March when I lost my ipad and a woman who I had never met stayed with me, reassured me, sought help on my behalf and hugged me when I found it. I realised that not all strangers were evil serial killers and perhaps Hebrews 13:2 could be something to live by:

Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!

Since then I begun to open my heart to strangers but this newly found trust was almost ruined last Wednesday. I was sitting down, waiting for a friend when a man walked past me. He paused and then turned around to speak to me. I was literally thinking ew, rolls eyes but then I remembered my new mantra:

LOVING JESUS MEANS LOVING PEOPLE.

He said I was beautiful. I thanked him and looked away because compliments are pretty awkward things to receive from anyone, particularly strangers. He then asked me where I was from and I responded that I was from Nigeria and he looked shocked; he had just flown in from Nigeria THAT morning. He asked if he could sit down and of course, I obliged. He introduced himself as Michael; he owned various hotels in Lagos which meant he travelled there quite frequently. This knowledge made me happy to engage with him. Does that make me a goldigger? Let me be clear – he wasn’t hot, he was older than me (by about 40 years), I was just genuinely interested in this Caucasian man who was doing the most, talking about palm oil this and  plantain that. I was impressed. He said he also owned businesses in LDN and although today was his birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY MICHAEL, I said), he was on his way to a meeting.

Sidebar: I know I am giving you a lot of details here but I want you to know that although I am naïve, his story was (kinda) plausible at the time. I didn’t just get up and follow a stranger. Well, I did actually.

The famous Michael (apparently that was his nickname) asked if I was available to join him for coffee. I was once again obliged; it was his birthday after all and my friend was nowhere to be seen. He told me he was turning 42 and small alarm bells started ringing (I know, I know, why did they take so long to go off?) because he looked just a few days older than 62. We went into the McDs across the road, we sat down and he asked what I did. I told him I was looking for a new job; his eyes lit up and he began to explain what his employees did. ‘His’ women gave massages and facials to supermodels in order to firm up their bodies (particularly their breasts), in preparation for any upcoming photo shoots.

Yikes. Ok. Another alarm bell. I didn’t ever want to touch anyone else’s breasts but my own.

But still I engaged with the famous Michael. He told me to take his number and as I was taking it, his phone rang again, and he said it was an Igbo woman called Titi.

RING RING RING RING RING. The alarm bells went crazy in my naive little mind.

I’m Igbo and have enough Nigerian friends to know that Titi is actually a Yoruba name. It took this subtle mistake for me to freak out internally and realise that this man was actually a psycho. But what could I do? He was about to give me his number; we were in the middle of Mcds and running away felt a little drastic. I told myself I had to get away. I painted my im-so-interested-i-care-what-you-think face on, nodded and took his number. Then he asked me to call him so he could have mine and my heart sank. I wanted to say no but of course, you guessed it, I obliged.

He asked me to work for him; training would be free because it was his birthday and I was Nigerian and he just loved my energy. You know what training included? A full body massage from him, which would require me to be naked. YAY. He told me I would enjoy it and if I worked for him, I could make up to £500 a day. Eventually he had to go to his ‘meeting’ and we parted ways.

(I blocked his number as I walked away and prayed I never saw him again)

Why am I telling you this story? It only shows how naïve and trusting I am, to so stupidly follow a stranger. But would I do it again? Perhaps. Let me tell you why:

1)The importance of evangelism

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Matthew 28:19-20

Yes, those Christians who shout on the high street can be a little extreme but I think they have got it right in some ways. Jesus’ last instructions on earth were basically RUN AND TELL THAT but how many of us are ashamed of our belief in Jesus or afraid that people will mock us if we speak of him? When was the last time you shared something about him on your Facebook/Twitter page or to a friend who you know does not believe? Jesus can’t just be Lord of our rooms when we pray daily, he should be Lord of our lives and that includes declaration of his great works. If we are truly following Jesus, speaking about him at every given opportunity is part of it.

2) It’s nice to be nice

It always amuses me when I see  Christians who read their bibles on the tube but simultaneously give passers-by the dirtiest looks if they accidentally step on their feet. How do we treat the people we don’t know? I for one, don’t even like sitting next to people on public transport. Do you know how much that conflicts with the Jesus in me that sought out the marginalised, the dirty, the infected, the broken and befriended them? Meanwhile we won’t even make eye contact with people on the tube and if someone pushes past us and we are ready to attack. It’s either we are like Jesus, or we are not.

3)Letting God interrupt my day

The main reason I spoke to Michael is because I decided a month ago that I wanted to let God interrupt my day. Even though I make daily plans, I want to be available and I want to used by him. I spend my day looking and waiting for ways to help people I don’t know. Let me be clear, it’s not because I’m a nice person, it’s because I want to look like Christ. I don’t think we should have to tell people we are Christians, they should feel his light from us radiating as soon as they interact with us.

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.

Hebrews 6:10

One my best friends threatened to lock me up after I told her this story, but I would do it all again. I will keep talking to strangers and I will do my very best to be open because I want to look Jesus, my best friend, the one that saved me. If that means talking to the Michaels of this world, then so be it.

Now run and tell that!

All my love,

Joyyy xxxxxx

Ps: by the way, I realised Michael is probably a pimp and may report him to the police.

That Time I Wore An Invisibility Cloak To A House Party

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I loved Harry Potter growing up. Despite Mum telling me that witchcraft was real and I was frolicking with darkness, I devoured those books in secret, loving the places that the author allowed me to go. In my heart, I became Harriet Potty, Harry’s black adopted sister who was facing a similar fate to Harry. I waited for my letter of invitation to Hogwarts for many years; I waited, hoped and hoped some more but nothing ever came. I was devastated. For some reason I wasn’t eligible for this amazing school of witchcraft and wizardry (in hindsight, I thank God that I wasn’t) and I was forced to live life as a muggle with no special powers. If someone had told me back then that one day I would have the opportunity to wear an invisibility cloak (like the one Harry had), I would have cried tears of joy. Yeah, I’m not the coolest person. 

The first time I wore Harry’s invisibility cloak I was 18 years old, walking around Fresher’s Fair, hungover from the night before. The room was loud and obnoxious to my fragile ears and eyes and it was then, as I walked around the room crossing the paths of hundreds of people, that I felt like no one could see me. The noise and the loneliness finally overwhelmed me and I ran back to the safety of my room, where the loneliness could feel more like a choice than a bullish reality. From that day, the invisibility cloak was no longer Harry’s, it was mine and it became part of my being; not a part I loved but a part that I accepted. I never willingly put it on but after a few attempts of trying and failing to be seen, I stopped trying to take it off and let it merge with my being. I became smaller, fragile and timid.

University, for me, was the biggest hype of LIFE, the biggest hype known to man, known to beast, known to every single living thing. Adults and recent graduates told me all sort of folk tales about their university experience:

You will LOVE it, they said.

You will meet your lifelong friends, they said.

You will meet the love your life, they said.

You will never want to leave, they said.

I experienced none of the above.

University was a trying experience, a time of painful growth and acknowledgment of my flaws. Although it was necessary, I did not enjoy it. You see, in that very first year of university, I wanted to be seen because at that time in my life, being seen would have meant feeling alive, and this was a feeling that often eluded me during this time.

One night I was at a house party (it was really just a boring gathering in a house which was located in the middle of nowhere – I really wish people would label their events correctly: rave is different from house party which is different from gathering; I am too tired of this false promotion), insecure, sad, lonely, and once again wearing my invisibility cloak. I couldn’t seem to take it off, people just kept walking past me. I spent the night in the corner of the room on a chair, with my friend (who had friends there) every so often remembering that I was her +1 and asking me if I was okay. Every time I lied and said I was; I was lonely and on the brink of tears, but I still had my pride! Needless to say, that night goes down as one of the worst house parties I have ever attended.

Later that night, my friend and I got lost (yes, the night got worse) and we wandered around Manchester at 3.am (don’t tell my mum!), looking for a cab, a bus stop or a friendly stranger who could point us in the right direction, which was of course unlikely given the time. With nothing left to do but walk and talk, we began to share our problems and fears with each other in a way that we had not done before. We both fought back tears that night as we told each other how miserable, invisible and alone we felt every single day. Despite knowing deep down that we had so much to give and so much to offer the world, we only felt small and insignificant.

All I wanted that night was to be seen, to be spoken to and to be acknowledged. To this day I can still remember that painful feeling of loneliness and literally counting down the hours until I could be at home in my bed, crying to my then boyfriend about how horrible my life was (notice I wasn’t crying to God about this invisibility problem – this was definitely part of the problem). I’m sure some of you reading this are thinking “look at these first world problems, girl you should have just spoken to someone!” To be honest, I wish I had been brave enough to. But then, if I had, I wouldn’t be sharing this story.

Some of you are wondering whether this post will tell you if I finally took off my invisibility cloak; it does, keep reading!

The next year I gave my life to Christ and began my pursuit of him. God began to break me apart in order to build me back up again. He had to break me apart first because there were deep-rooted lies I believed about my worth and my significance and those lies couldn’t co-exist with his love and belief in me. One day I was reading my Bible and I came across this verse:

“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

John 1:48

Before Philip called Nathanael, before Nathanael knew who Jesus was, Jesus saw him. Jesus had his eye on him, Jesus was interested in him and Jesus had already chosen him. Jesus saw him. As I read this scripture, the penny dropped: Jesus sees me too.

When everyone in the room is talking and I’m being ignored, Jesus sees me.

On the days where I don’t feel good enough, Jesus sees me.

On the days when I do not feel as though I can compete, Jesus sees me.

On the days where I only feel anxious and unsure of myself, Jesus sees me.

I am seen.

The good, the bad, and the things I hide from other people because I fear I will be judged are all seen by Jesus and yet he still wants to know me. This truth helped me to take off my invisibility cloak. It wasn’t some great big reveal, it was a slow and painful process where Jesus took it the cloak apart piece by piece until suddenly, I could see myself the way he did.

So to you, reader, the one that feels invisible, as though you don’t matter. You do.

To you, feeling overlooked, you are seen.

To you, in pain, you are seen.

To you, overwhelmed, you are seen.

To you, invisible, you are seen.

To you, insecure, you are seen.

Jesus thinks you’re enough. He loves you. He sees you.

All my love,

Joy x

P.s: I have included a song which I used to sing  and wish could be my reality. Now it is and I thank God. Hope it helps you too xx

What I Learnt: Hallowed Be Thy Names

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Why I chose this book

I was quite excited to read this book because I hoped that it would positively impact my prayer life. There are times where I just want to praise God for who he is and remind him of all his amazing attributes and…well, I can’t, simply because I don’t know enough of them. Does anyone else ever run out of things to say?

I also think it is important to remind God of who he is (not because he forgets) but because it increases our faith and belief, especially in times of great difficulty.

5 things I learnt 

1. Know God

We can know someone’s name and have very little knowledge about who they are. Some of us claim to be Christians but know God on a very basic level and are yet to explore what the Bible says about his nature, his characteristics and his personality. I think a lack of understanding concerning the character of God can have harmful consequences such as stunted growth and limited expectations of him.

If we do not know that God is Jehovah Jireh, our provider, what will we do when we are in times of financial difficulty? Will we call upon God and remind of who he is or will we crumble under the financial weight? If we do not know that God is El Shaddai (all-sufficient), how we will ever shift our focus from our own weakness, powerlessness and failures, to his ability to keep us, teach us and make a way for us in the wilderness?

I think this book once again highlighted the necessity of reading the Bible every single day and being in relentless pursuit of God. At the beginning of my relationship with God, a prayer a day was absolutely fine but that is no longer sufficient given the time that has passed. If you are still where you were when you first started your journey with God, I think it is perhaps time to reflect on what you actually desire from your relationship with him and what he desires from you. Every day is an opportunity for growth and we shouldn’t let these opportunities pass us by.

2. Problems can be good for you

It is only in the past year that I have come to appreciate the problems and trials that I face. Being a Christian doesn’t excuse me from life’s pains but it does give me access to an amazing pain-reliever. When we look back on our lives in years to come, our most remembered moments will be the ones of pain, the moments where we felt like we had nothing more to give but managed to somehow survive. Hallowed Be Thy Names continuously reminds the reader that it is in the most difficult and trying times of our lives that God gives us a revelation about who he is and a fresh view of his character and power towards us. In order to overcome the challenges we face in our lives, we have to have a deep-rooted belief that our steps are ordered, leaving no room for accidents, good/bad luck and coincidences; everything happens for a reason and ultimately for our good.

3. Are you angry with God?

Some of you are angry with God in this very moment and this anger is linked to moment in your past where you feel God failed you.

God, you said you were going to help me but all I felt was loneliness

God, you said you keep my loved ones safe, but the person I loved the most died

God, you said no weapon formed against me would prosper and yet every single day I wake up sick

You wanted God to come through for you but he didn’t. He let those bad things happen to you and knowledge of this constantly overrides your love for him and your desire to seek him. Whenever you begin to get comfortable with God you remind yourself of that intense pain he failed to shield you from, retract and question his existence all over again. All you can think is “well you let THIS happen” and “where were YOU when I felt like this”.

It wasn’t until I read this that I realised that I also had some issues with God. I had to admit those issues God and ask him where he had been during some of the hardest times in my life. I can’t tell you where He was during your storm but as I looked back on those hard and dark years, I realised that God was there. Even though I felt isolated and alone during those years, the fact that I am still standing today, free from the issues that once held me captive, is evidence of God’s love and presence. He didn’t leave then and come back a few years later; he was always there.

4. It is not enough to just acknowledge your sins

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

Romans 3:23

I sin. You sin. We sin.

But are we still moved by our sins? Have we become desensitised to the magnitude of our actions? Yes, we cry out to God and repent but the very next day, we are back to the very thing we asked God to save us from. How genuine is our cry of repentance if we return to the sin? The more we engage with the sin, the less convicted we will feel and eventually it will feel as though the sin isn’t even ‘that bad’. If we hold onto our sin we will eventually forsake God and be given over to our lusts. God will send warnings but eventually we will move so far away that we will no longer be able to hear his voice. We need to daily cut sin away from our lives and fight the desire to do that which we know is wrong.

5. Grace over wrath

The wrath of God isn’t as fun to talk about as the love of God, is it? As Christians, when we fail to speak about the wrath of God, it’s like giving the listener the best ice cream in the world but not warning them about brain freeze. We want to sell them his love but not warn them of his wrath; in doing so we fail to fully encapsulate the nature of God.

God is merciful, kind, patient, compassionate, full of love and grace

BUT

God is also holy, just, pure, severe, unchangeable, a despiser of sin and no respecter of persons.

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness. They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them

Romans 1:18-19

 

Would I read the book again?

To be honest, I wouldn’t. I do love how much I am learning as Dani and I go through books and write about them and I am finding that each book has something to offer. This book I felt had too much opinion and I found the author quite conservative.  Despite this, it increased my desire to learn more about the nature of God and I will be reading more about this subject in the weeks ahead.

Lots of loving,

J xxxx