Salt & Light

Each day life can bring us a number of uncertainties, annoyances and disappointments. It’s often easy to react to things based off of your first instinct and fleshly desires. Some times it feels good to give a person a piece of your mind, curse those who have hurt you or engage in a juicy gossip session, or two. Some times taking the high road takes a little more self-control than we would like to exhibit. You know, some times it just feels good not to care. 

All times, in these moments we are succumbing to fleshly desires. Its far easier to allow the flesh to take control of our reactions and responses than it is to walk spirit led. Despite wanting to handle situations in the way that we would like to, we have to be mindful that, as self proclaimed Christians, everything that we say or do points to Christ. 

As I evolved, and am ever evolving, in my walk with Christ, I have become more mindful of the things that I do and say. I am quick witted & tempered, sarcastic at times and often times want to treat others the way that they treat me. My anger at times can get the best of me and, when I am right, I can take the wrong approach to handling situations. 

Each day I pray to God to give me the opportunity to be a blessing in someone’s life. But more recently after a conversation with my mother after a small altercation with a woman, my mother said something to me that caused me to add on to my daily prayer, “Remember to be salt and light.” 

What seems like such a simple reminder to a Christian had such a deep impact on me; for days, I could not get “Be salt and light.” out of my head. Before I responded to any thing, I heard my mother’s voice, “Be salt and light.” It dawned on me that while I asked God to allow me to be a blessing to someone’s life daily, I also needed to ask him to help me understand that some times the blessing to others is in not saying or doing what I would like to. I begin to add to my prayer, God help me remember to be salt and light. 

In Matthew 5:13-16 Jesus states, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” NIV

In this passage, Christ tells us that we are put on earth to bring the flavor of God to this world. When people interact with us, they should get a taste of what it feels like to interact with God. If we lose our flavor, what will we be good for? Nothing. Christ goes on to explain that we are the light of the world. Light is not meant to be hidden, it is meant to be generous, it is meant to shine, it is meant to give refuge in a dark world. 

Regardless of how our flesh would desire to walk through each day, we must remember to always act in a tasteful manner, for we are salt. No matter how trying a situation may be, we must always remember to shine our light, for our light reflects the love of God. The next time we want to act or react in a way that does not resemble our savior we have to ask ourselves, “What do I taste like?”, “Am I shining?”. We must forever remember to be salt and light. 

– Mingo ♥

Bye Delilah

One of my favorite biblical accounts is the story of Samson. For all intents and purposes, Samson could be considered a biblical superhero. I’ve always viewed him as Superman of the Old Testament. His physical strength was unprecedented yet, like Superman, he had his kryptonite…lust.

Samson was a Nazarite. By definition, this means that he was an Israelite called from birth to serve God in a way that was different than others. He was called to a life of abstinence from things that were unclean and maintain purity. Samson was a ruler over the Israelites during the oppressive rule of the Philistines.  While it was clear that Samson recognized the call on his life and he loved God, it was difficult for him to do what was required of him. His fleshly desires and lust always overpowered him and caused him to fall into trouble. Perhaps the most notable tale from his life is his love affair with Delilah. Delilah was a Philistine woman.

We watch Delilah continuously try to persuade Samson to tell her the secret of his strength. Each time she thinks she has the answer, she uses the knowledge and gives it to his enemy for his capture. After Samson repeatedly tricks her with the secret and sees that she calls the Philistines on him each time, Samson allows her dramatic cries of disloyalty and statements of “If you really loved me…” to distort his thinking and eventually tell her the truth that the power was in his hair.

Its always so easy for me to look at the story of Samson and Delilah and ask the questions, “Ugh Samson, How could you be so stupid over and over again?!”, “So…you’re just going to keep ignoring how this skank isn’t any good for you Samson?” or “Yoooo Samson, where are your friends; friends don’t let you play yourself like this.” But if I’m honest, there are times in my life that I have to ask those same questions too. And I suspect that maybe you’ve had to ask yourself these questions as well at least at one point in your life.

Why do we return to the people who have explicitly shown that they do not have our best interest at heart? Whether it be a romantic partner, a friend or family member; why do we constantly allow individuals to stay in our lives when every time we give them a piece of who we are, we watch them attempt to exploit our being and drain us of our purpose? When it is so clear that someone has ill intentions for our well being and no concern with preserving the promise that God has on our life, why are we so willing to break covenant with Christ in order to appease?

Samson’s story shows that sin is insidious and comes with a cost. In the end, Samson is able to deliver himself and people from the Philistines but, he loses his life in the process. This biblical story that we learn as children has deep implications for our lives as we grow older. We learn that we serve a redeeming God who will use you despite your repeated transgressions nevertheless, your decisions could cause you your life.

We all have Delilahs in our lives. She comes in different forms. She could be the relationship that you know you should not be in. She could be the sexual partner who makes your body feel alive while your soul feels dead. She could be the drugs that just keep calling you, or the weed that you claim you could quit if you wanted to. Your Delilah could be the nasty attitude that prevents you from growing or the unforgiving spirit that makes you bitter and difficult to deal with. I’m not sure what or who your Delilah is, but if you want to walk fully in the life that God has called you to, I suggest you confront your Delilah and tell her “Bye!”

*Samson’s story can be found in Judges Chapters 13-16.*

-Mingo ♥

A Different Approach to Prayer

Last week, 15 year-olds shared with me that they hated praying. Not only did they hate praying, they didn’t believe that God answered prayers. They’ve prayed to pass test yet, they failed. They prayed for sneakers yet, never received them. Some of them even prayed for broken relationships that went unrestored. As I watched them wrestle with the desire to hear God but always feeling ignored, I began to pray to God to help me find a way to restore their faith in prayer and encourage them to try again.

Immediately, God told me to inspect their prayer life. I began to ask them: 1) When do you pray? 2) How often do you pray? 3) What do you pray for? 4) How do you pray? 5) What do you do after prayer? After engaging my questions, many began to admit some key things about their prayer life: They only prayed in church, they only prayed alone when they needed something, they only asked for things, and after prayer, they didn’t engage God in any other way.

I thought about how my prayer life, at times, has reflected this pattern. Talking to God when I wanted to, or when I “needed” to. Speaking to God when things were dire. Approaching his throne as if it was a 911 call instead of viewing it as the opportunity to have a conversation with the best friend I’ve ever had. During those periods of life, God seemed distant; He seemed as if He wasn’t listening. And while I felt like He was distant, I wonder how He felt when He heard my voice and knew it was for request and not relationship.

God is a generous God. Nevertheless, what I’ve realized about generosity is that, while it often breeds the building of strong mutually beneficial relationships with others,  other times, being generous to the wrong people can foster one-way relationships where people expect from you, yet never give or, when people only come to you when there is a need. Sometimes people see the pureness of your giving and they exploit it for personal gain. We’ve probably all encountered these people at one point or another. Individuals who stick around but make more request than they do offers; and when you finally make a request of them, they never follow through. Or, people whose small talk, and presence always lead to a favor being asked or a question being posed. These encounters cause you to go from a place of feeling generous and being willing to give to feeling cold, used and withholding from with the very person you are interacting with. No one likes feeling used. Feeling like an ends to a mean is a debasing feeling that leads to hurt, anger, and even resentment.

Could God feel this way when we only seek him to ask for the benefits of a relationship with him without actually doing the things required to build that relationship?

God does not interact with us the way we interact with each other. Even when we fail to remain consistent in prayer, God will not ignore us when we decide to call on him. Nevertheless, the lack of a genuine relationship with Christ built on constant communication and strong relationship can cause God not to be able to move in our lives the way that he would like. And, every time we reach out, we will always feel awkward, and unsure because we are not used to speaking with him and therefore, possibly be unsure of his voice.

For anyone struggling with their prayer life, I want to challenge you to begin to set aside time  daily to pray and spend time with God. You will find that, like with any relationship, the more you spend time with him, the more you’ll understand his ways. You’ll even begin to realize that you do less asking and have more conversation. This means you’ll spend more time confiding in him about every aspect of your life. You’ll grow to truly value his advice and instruction and throughout your day you’ll be able to hear him more because you have become increasingly and acutely aware of his voice. If you feel like your prayer life is struggling again, I invite you to try again… with a different approach.

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” – Colossians 4:2

Mingo ♥

 

Confronting My Pride, Conquering My Cancer

“On September 17, 2014 I sat in a doctor’s office and listened to the words, “Ms. Mingo, we had the test ran twice because even I could not believe the diagnosis. I am sorry but you have a rare form of lymphoma.” I felt my heart sink as I sat on the patient’s table and looked over at my mother for the first time ever with the thought that I may leave this earth before her.

I had been 25 for less than a month. Prior to that day, I felt on top of the world. In that month, I had just secretly officially graduated from undergrad, landed a job a week afterwards and started my masters program. I never imagined that the symptoms that I experienced all summer, which caused me to visit my doctors two weeks prior, would result in me being diagnosed with cancer.

I couldn’t understand what I had done to deserve this. I cried to God asking him “why me?” I began to audit my life to try and find justification for what I viewed as punishment. I couldn’t find anything. After being referred to UPenn’s Perelman Center and beginning to receive my treatments, I began to feel like a “cancer patient”. I had to wake up early in the morning to receive treatments, I had to follow guidelines given by my doctor. I had to be reminded daily by pain, extreme fatigue, itching and my skin that I had this disease.

I hated it. I hated feeling weak. I hated needing and receiving accommodations from my professors and place of employment. Pride began to take control and I began to make poor decisions simply because I needed to convince myself that I was still the strong girl I’d always prided myself on being. I skipped treatments and played hookie from doctors appointments. I looked fine and few people could tell my diagnosis by looking at me so I breezed through daily activities pretending to be okay. My parents and family pleaded with me, my doctor scolded me; their pleas and instructions, I ignored. I wanted to do what made me feel strong….

Off and on for over a year, I made the decision to play with my health for the sake of proving to myself that I was strong enough to fight cancer on my own. Until the symptoms reappeared aggressively and I was scared. By this time it was 2015 and I was in another state with new doctors. I called my mom and she lovingly scolded with me and made her final plea.

I sat in my apartment crying, again I asked God why he made my body weak. I very clearly heard God say to me, “Your cancer has not made you weak, your pride has.” I immediately stopped crying and realized, I have cancer–and that’s okay.

What was not okay was allowing my pride to dictate the steps I took to control my illness. For over a year, despite my foolishness, God’s favor kept me and I continued to frustrate his grace in order to pacify my pride. In that moment I realized that my strength was merely an illusion I was trying to grasp onto.

From that moment on, I stuck to my appointments and treatments. Shortly thereafter, my cancer went into complete remission. This does not mean that I am cured, it means that test results show no signs of the disease. My cancer can reoccur– and that’s okay. I’ll do what is need to tend to my health. Cancer and weakness are no longer synonymous to me. Sometimes in order to become strong, you must confront that which makes you weak. My pride has been confronted.”

“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭119:71‬ ‭NIV‬‬

– Mingo

This blog post was originally written for and published as a piece featured in the “And That’s Okay” Series on Www.sincerelysyreeta.com

God Provides

It was a Wednesday, I was sitting in my car, in front of my apartment with tears falling down my face. I looked at the building where I resided wondering how much longer it would be before I walked into an eviction note on my door. I was a full-time student, and was working full-time hours but, I was working as a volunteer for AmeriCorps and anyone who has lived on an AmeriCorps stipend knows that it is clearly your passion to create change in the world that fuels you because after you fuel up your car, and pay some of your bills, the penny pinching begins. This is no exaggeration, as an AmeriCorps volunteer living on a stipend and working full time, I still qualified for federal assistance…

While I was crying, my mother called. She instantly knew something was wrong and inquired about the cause of my saddened voice. I began to share with her that I had calculated all of my expected expenses and income for the coming months and that from my calculations, by April I would run out of money and be evicted; it was October. I cried even more as I explained my frustration with being in this place in life. After all, I was walking in what I felt called to do. Whether through school, through work, or other endeavors I was putting myself in positions to learn all that I could, in order to effectively empower people to grow into become their best selves and, equipping them with the resources necessary to do so.  I could not understand how pursuing something that made me feel so fulfilled left me so financially deprived. It was then that she spoke so much life to me. She explained to me, “What you feel called to do, your purpose comes with a cost.” She went on to encourage me to have faith that every thing would be okay and to remember the God that we served. I went into my apartment and went to sleep. At 2:00 am, I woke up with enthusiasm ready to read my bible, and ready to fight through whatever was necessary to answer the call on my life. It was that night that I wrote one of my favorite posted blogs, “Cranes”. I finished the blog, said a prayer and went back to sleep.

The next day, I had a meeting. It was a meeting that I coordinated for my current supervisor (Ty), at the time, and the program manager (Natalie) at my former AmeriCorps placement from the year prior. I wanted to present to them the opportunities that I saw for both organizations to leverage their resources and help fill in the gaps for each other through collaboration in order to expand the impact of their services. During the meeting, Ty asked Natalie if she had any open positions at her organization. He expressed that he really like me but, thought that I was overqualified for the position that I was in and he believed I deserved a job with more responsibilities and a higher pay. Natalie replied, “Yes! We are; I’ve been interviewing people for a position for college advisor and have not been too excited about the candidates. I love Brittany and the work that she does, if she interviews, she’s hired.” The two went on to discuss the position and the salary and set up an interview time for me. I literally sat there and had no say in the conversation. I could not find the words, neither of them knew what my night was like the night before. Neither of them knew the concerns that boggled my mind and the calculations of my expenses to led me to believe that there was no hope. But, God knew.

The following day, I had my interview and by the end of that day, I was offered the position. It was all very surreal to me. Within three days, I went from crying in my car due to final stress, to being offered a position that would still allow me to do the work that I felt most passionate about, while paying me more than double of what I had been making. And, I had nothing to do with it happening.

I have been with my organization for eight months now, and so much has happened during that timeframe. I share this experience not to boast but, to encourage. This is one of the many times that God has shown me that he has my best interest at heart. Life may seemingly place us in desperate situations but, in God we have hope. There will be days of uncertainty, eyes filled with tears and restless nights. One thing I know for sure is “I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” Psalms 37:25. Now matter what circumstances may look like, no matter what your calculations show, know that God knows exactly what you need. He will provide.

Mingo ♥

When I Think That I’m Right

“You cut people off too quickly”…”You never allow people to right their wrong”…”You have justice issues”…These are words my mother has spoken to me plenty of times throughout life. She’s right, for as long as I can remember, I have struggled with how to interact with people after they hurt or offend me. Instead of talking things out, if someone hurt me, I cut them off or, I went into revenge mode…and then I cut them off. Often my revenge looked like saying the meanest things possible so that my offender could feel pain like I had. Or, it looked like being completely cold as I watched them struggle with my treatment of them. I’ve always felt justified in this behavior. After all, if you do something wrong, you should pay the consequence, right? I’d be nice to say that I have become a super saint and I no longer possess this trait. But, the truth is, I do. I can reconcile with someone if we were both wrong in the situation; “hey let’s forgive each other”. However, if I am right and you have wronged me, farewell.

More recently, I have been reflecting on how I feel towards, and treat, those who have disrespected, used, hurt or offended me. As you may have guessed, anyone in this category of my life has been cut off. In social media terms, “My fall back game is strong,” And while I have been okay with treating my enemies however I see fit, God has been dealing with my heart on the matter. Well, to be honest, while I was searching for scripture trying to justify my stance, God slapped me a couple times with some of his words in Luke 6:27-36:

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners  lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But, love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be the children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your father is merciful” NIV

When your trying to find a scripture to justify treating your enemies like they are disposable, this is probably not the scripture you want to find. Crazy thing is, I did not find this scripture, it found me and, it found me exactly when I needed to be reminded how God calls Christians to love differently than those of the world. I’ve read and reflected on this scripture daily. Initially, after reading it, I said, “Now I ain’t nobody’s punk, Jesus.” Reading it through the lens of my flesh, that is what I felt like the scripture was telling me. I felt like God was saying, “Yeah Britt, if someone just mollywhops you on one side of your head, turn to the other side and let them get a two for one, smile and say God bless you.”  I felt like he was telling me, “When someone walks all over you, dust yourself off, lay back down, and let them trample over you a second time.” Despite feeling like this, I read the scripture and prayed about it daily and then I heard God tell me say, “I was not a punk when I laid down my life for a sinner like you even when I knew you’d repeatedly offend me during your life.”

I wish this was a message where I could end telling you it is easy to learn to love your enemies in the way that Christ commands. I wish this was a blog that could end in me sharing steps about how to show love to those who have wronged you. The fact of the matter is I’m not there yet. I have a coworker at work who I ignore, I have people in my life who I stopped speaking to without even giving them the opportunity to acknowledge and right their wrong. There’s a person who has apologized to me and yet I still barely acknowledge their existence.

This message ends in me asking for prayer. And, I am certain that there is someone reading who needs the same prayer as I do. I am at a point where I am getting better with not committing the more obvious sins that we always seem to harp on. Nevertheless, my heart is unforgiving and at times I can be cold. Being right doesn’t justify my lack of forgiveness.  I must learn to show mercy as God has shown unto me. I am challenging myself to love and forgive when it is not easy. If we share the same struggle, I challenge you to do so as well. Christ loved us enough to forgive us of our transgressions. He calls us to do the same. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35 NIV

-Mingo ♥ 

 

Tempted to Build the Temple

I was sitting in my room, being holy, and minding my own business. It was early; the sun was shining and the birds were chirping. As I was having my morning fix of social media: scrolling through timelines, laughing at memes, and liking pictures, my phone pinged. A familiar, yet distant name came across my screen. I immediately thought, “Not today, Satan.” The name across my screen symbolized a period in my life that I have worked hard to close and step away from. I had not talked to him in a long time and before opening the text message I already knew his overall purpose for engaging me in conversation.
For about five minutes (probably more like five seconds) I tried to play it cool and keep scrolling through my timeline. While I knew I did not want to travel down that road, a part of me was dying to open the text. A part of me was curious to see what he said. So…I opened it. It was the casual hello that sparked small talk but then led to him attempting to be my personal tour guide down memory lane.
When the first, “do you remember…” was presented, I simply replied, “Nah, I forgot.” I hadn’t forgot. In fact, not only could I remember, I emotionally and physically responded to the memory. My heart started beating a little heavy, my mind started racing and I literally said, “Jesus, help me.” After becoming upset with myself for even responding to the text message, I figured the only way that I could fix this was to be honest and share where I was now in life. I explained that I decided to become closer to Christ and made commitments to the Lord that I could not break. When he replied, “Oh well does Jesus…” I knew I had to end the conversation. Not only did I end the conversation, I erased the contact and blocked the number.
Erasing and blocking the number did not bother me. What bothered me the rest of the day was that I could not stop thinking about him. I battled between unblocking the number to resume the conversation versus being angry with myself for having the desire to do so. I began to ask myself how mad would God be if I… or won’t God forgive me if I… or would it really be that bad? In a week’s time frame, this was the second time that I had to deal with this type of interaction. The first person was an easy bullet to dodge. The current person, not so much. Then I became upset with God. I was irritated that He would allow these little tests when he knew I was trying my hardest to live a public and private lifestyle that would please him. Like God stop playing with me. I have literally began to do all that you tell me to do and now you want to dangle stuff in my face like this? This is foul, Jesus. (No disrespect intended; that’s just the kind of relationship we have; real talk.) I was mad because I felt that I was tempted and I fell.
As I have developed the habit to do when I cannot understand or am struggling with something, I began to search for help in the bible and online. I typed in “What does the bible say about temptation?” I found scriptures and used my Life Application Bible (you really should invest in one, it is amazing with helping you study scripture) to gain a better understanding on the role that temptation plays in our walk with Christ. What I learned helped me better process my experience and become further prepared to encounter temptation in future.

Often times, when tempted our first response is that Satan is responsible. While the devil certainly tempts us,  God allows us to be tempted. Now, why would God allow us to be tempted? He wants to build us to be more like him.  Just like we have to go through multiple test in order to attain a degree, or prove that we are capable of handling a job, God provides us the opportunity to show that we are spiritually equipped to handle our walk. Though temptation comes in many forms for various people, God allows for us to be tested to choose what is right over what your flesh desires. You will never be tempted by the things that you don’t struggle with because you can easily resist; there is no test.

Three things that I learned about temptation that helps me are:

  1. Temptation builds character.  
  2. Temptation provides opportunity to show your growth. 
  3. God always provides you with an escape.

Temptation isn’t a plague to be ashamed of; it is not sin. Yielding to temptation is sin. Temptation is a challenge in life’s obstacle course that you are able to conquer. Jesus was tempted in all areas like we are yet, He did not sin. When you are tempted, run to Christ. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” -Hebrews 4:15-16

-Mingo ♥