…Super Hero

This weekend I had the pleasure of seeing the final installment of the Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises. I promise there won’t be any spoilers in this post. Growing up with an older brother afforded me the opportunity to appreciate super heroes. Batman quickly became my favorite. It wasn’t until seeing Dark Knight Rises that I realized my true appreciation for Batman. For those of you who don’t know Batman’s story here is a quick synopsis:

At a young age Bruce Wayne watched as his mother and father were murdered by an armed robber. The murderer was never caught. Becoming an orphan, Bruce became a billionaire heir to his father’s technology company, Wayne Enterprises. Having no other relatives, he was placed into a boys home before being adopted by the family’s butler, Alfred. After being disgusted by the crime that plagued Gotham City Bruce Wayne vowed to keep the city clean; subsequently becoming Batman. Only Alfred and Lucius Fox knew of Bruce’s secret. In the last 25 years Batman has graced televisions screens and movie theaters. The black mask, bat symbol and cape became iconic. In 2005, credibly acclaimed screen writer and director, Christopher Nolan adopted the story of the classic super hero making it into a trilogy that explored more than comic book fantasy. From Batman Begins (2005) to the Dark Knight Rises (2012), Nolan challenges viewers to consider good versus evil. Is humanity inherently good or are we born evil? How does humanity fare in the face of evil?

In the Dark Knight Rises, Bruce Wayne is in hiding; a self-imposed exile, after taking the fall for Harvey Dent’s death. Gotham City has never been more peaceful; that is until Bane enters the scene. From there the plot thickens. As Bruce prepares to re-emerge as Batman Alfred warns him. In that moment Alfred said something that gripped my heart. Alfred shared that he longed for Bruce to give up being Batman, “[Sic]When you left for those seven years, I hoped you would never return to Gotham a place that reminds you of the plague and pain you’ve harbored.”

At that moment the tears welled in my eyes. I could relate to that pain. When I was 17 years old– fresh off the podium from my high school graduation–my father was murdered. For a decade I carried the weight and pain of losing him so unexpectedly. In the following years I encountered more and more pain resulting from emotional abuse, a broken family, betrayal and experiencing divorce. There were nights that it all felt like too much to bear. As I looked around the theater I wondered how many more people needed to leave their very own “Gothams” and are waiting for a super hero to rescue them from their pain.

When I share that I am Christian I am often confronted with the question, “How could a God so loving allow so much pain in the world?” The short answer is, unfortunately we live in a world where evil exists. This does not mean that God is any less loving or present. The thing that makes movies like Batman (The Dark Knight) and Superman (Man of Steele-2013) so popular is that they give people hope. It gives hope of being rescued from a world crippled with pain.

The truth is someone already has, but it wasn’t Batman. When I think about my darkest moments and the hurt I experienced there was always a voice–a sense of calm within me. Last year I had the greatest revelation that all of this time it was Jesus. The men who murdered my father have not been put to justice, but I was able to find forgiveness and to heal because of God’s promises through His Son:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Jesus has been my super hero. By the power of His word he has given us authority to face and overcome the evil of the world. Through the gifts of love and his spirit, Christ charges us to be assured that no matter what we face, or endure goodness will overcome evil. I know there maybe someone experiencing pain right now. I know what it feels like to question the validity of God in your darkest hour, but I promise that God will never leave you. He will be the greatest super hero you could ever imagine if you give your heart and life to him.

Look up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No–it’s Jesus!

Written by SH. @ Shakirah Adianna

…One Way Street

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14

Prayerfully be encouraged to move forward in one direction (press play below or double click the image above)…

Moving Forward, Israel Houghton

SM.

…Marathon

According to Wikipedia, over 500 marathons are held throughout the world annually. The official running distance is 26 miles and 385 yards (26.2 mi), and despite the seemingly difficult and daunting task, smaller marathons include dozens of participants while larger marathons have several thousands.

A number of my friends run in these half and full marathons. (Just so we’re clear, I do not run 13.1 or 26.2 marathons.) In the months leading up to their scheduled running event, the commitment to running their best race is evident – in their training and exercise, in being coached, in their food intake and even in their conversations. For some, their entire lifestyle is driven by the desire to complete the upcoming race, no matter how easy or how grueling. And, the ultimate goal is normally not to beat all other participants, but to achieve a personal finish time and/or simply complete the race well. The focus, commitment and consistency that I see in my compadres’ lives while preparing to compete in their marathons inspire me. It impels my desire to strive with the same level of focus, commitment and consistency in my own life; in my own race.

Our lives are our individual marathons. At times, they too can be difficult and full of ups and downs, yet rewarding when run with the right attitude. In this respect, we are encouraged to train for and run this race, called life, with heart and with gumption – or simply, to be “in it to win it”.

“…Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training…we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-25

To be “in it to win it” is to prepare to win; to run to win; to never give up. Just as my marathon running friends refer to and follow a daily regimen to keep them on the path to accomplishing their goal, we should consider the effectiveness of a systematic plan in our own aspiration to run this Christian race to our best. And, even before committing to it, we must decide in advance to persevere.

My friends all have training and running advice to share with one another; they constantly and enthusiastically trade tips they’ve gained from their experiences. I like tips. I also like to share. My prayer is that you are encouraged by a few tips that I have been given and a few tips that I have learned along the way God has mapped out for me:

  1. Be in it to win it. (You could have guessed this would be first.) No one trains to lose; remember that and in turn, train to win.
  2. Be disciplined. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11
  3. Look ahead. “…But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14
  4. Run light. “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…” Hebrews 12:1
  5. Get a coach. “Without good direction, people lose their way; the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances.” Proverbs 11:14 (MSG)
  6. Join a team. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17
  7. Eat well. “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” Joshua 1:8
  8. Don’t whine. “…but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3-4
  9. Don’t quit. “Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling…because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NRSV)
  10. Be encouraged. “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

How comforting is it to know that God knows the marathon course routed for each of our lives (Jeremiah 29:11) and is with us in every leg of the race? It also helps to know that everyone who crosses the finish line is guaranteed to receive the prize!

Are you preparing yourself, daily, to joyfully run your race? Will you train with SH and I?

SM.

…Remake

He has “…loved you with an everlasting love…drawn you with unfailing kindness”. Jeremiah 31:3

Sade knew something about someone’s unordinary love. It made such an impact on her that she told the world about it, through song, in 1992.

So, what do you know about His extraordinary love? And, who are you telling about it?

Press play to enjoy Rawsrvnt’s remake!

Happy Friday.

SM.

…Runner Up

Last Sunday I had the pleasure of watching the 2012 Men’s Wimbledon Championship game. I’m not a tennis fan, but this game was particularly exciting. Both opponents had a great deal at stake. Roger Federer, from Switzerland, was face-to-face with his seventh championship. Conversely, Andy Murray, England’s hometown hero, was at the heels of what could be England’s first Wimbledon victory in the last 68 years.

After a high impact, edge-of-your-seat, and exciting match, Federer secured the championship. It was a proud moment, but one that Federer has become familiar with seven times over. While I applaud Federer’s athletic acumen, I was moved by Murray’s grace in accepting being runner up. During the awards ceremony, Murray approached the mic with tears in his eyes. Overcome by emotion, his voice cracked as he greeted the crowd. As he struggled to find the words to say, his apparent humility struck me as familiar. I saw a man who endured a long journey knowing there were people counting on him to clutch this year’s championship. And even though the trophy wasn’t his for the taking being number two became a badge of honor. This reminded me of Jesus.

Though Christ came to earth crowned by God as the King of kings, he took on the role and nature of a servant; offering himself as an atonement for humanity to reconcile with God through his shed blood. Jesus was the ultimate runner up, often being mocked, ridiculed and even spit on. He endured lash after lash yet he understood the importance of His mission. In doing this, we are able to experience and share the Love of God. He illustrated that being number two is greater than being first.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place. Philippians 2:5-9

We live in a society that prides itself on accolades and self-grandiosity. In the movie Talladega Nights, lead character, Ricky Bobby quips, “If you’re not first you’re last!” This is the approach we often take so much so that being first comes at the expense of others. Our desire to make it to the top is rooted in being self-centered. Countries have entered war, businesses have crumbled, economies have crashed and families have been torn apart because everyone wants to be first. Power has become the antecedent. I like to believe that we don’t mean any harm in this approach; however, it’s a dangerous game we play when we put ourselves at the center of the universe. We neglect the needs of those around us. This is, unfortunately, often illustrated in marriage. Individuals will look to their spouses to fulfill all of their needs and exceed their expectations while failing to serve. Even worse there are couples who desire being right over the growth and development of their marriage.

We’re all guilty of it. Once we enter the “rat-race” of life what drives us is the need to be first. However, this is a hindrance to seeing who we are in relation to God. What drives us should be our desire to take on the heart and mind of Christ. We should seek to love others above ourselves. This is where we see the work of God in the world. More importantly, this is where those who do not yet have a relationship with Christ see God.

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:1-4

As you go throughout your week how will you aim to be second? Are you willing to forfeit first place to be a runner up?

Written by SH. @ Shakirah Adianna

…An Outfit

For my 30th birthday, my family and friends lovingly showered me with gift cards to several of my favorite clothing stores (thanks again people!). Then, later in the week, one of my favorite ladies sent me a picture of a picture inside of her 3-year old son’s prayer book, “Dear God, Good Morning”. The graphic displayed a really cute kid praying this really cute prayer:

“I thank you God, for clothes to wear to school and church and play…Dear God, what shall I wear today?”

The text message that accompanied the picture simply said “This made me think of you because I know you pray this prayer”.

My circle knows me well. And, I know that I am not alone in this: Finding and putting together an outfit can sometimes be a lot of work (and cost a chunk of money). But, when you compile that perfect outfit for your look of the day, the ROI (return on investment) is priceless! Whether you’re going to a gala, wedding or park; to church or down the street to the grocery store; to school, work or to the mall to buy that key piece for another outfit, it just feels good to be put together from head to toe. You’re confident. Your smile seems to be a bit brighter. You have a little extra pep in your step!

The amount of time and effort that can be (and has been) spent searching and buying and coordinating that amazing outfit has no boundaries, and is sometimes directly attributable to the reason we wish (or need) to wear the respective outfit. I am a firm believer that if our intent is pure, God is okay with this because He is a lover of fashion too – His magnificient creation, Earth, inspires patterns, color-blocking (maybe that’s a stretch), neutrals, neons and metallics. Yet, He longs to be at the forefront of our styling. He wants to assume the role of our personal stylist, and in Ephesians 6, He shows His desire to style us in a universal, one size fits all outfit – the full armor of God.

A few FAQs answered by His Word:

What is the full armor of God?

The one and only outfit you’ll ever need. It will change your opinion about every other outfit in your closet. The full armor Includes the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, feet fitted with readiness, shield of faith, helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit. See Ephesians 6:10 – 17 .

Why is the full armor the perfect outfit/look for everyday?

You are called to be the light in this world. You also need to be prepared to receive and respond to whatever the day may bring — good or bad weather, God’s grace and mercy, as well as battle against the devil’s schemes. The full armor of God prepares you to stand firmly in your circumstance and allows you to be a difference.

The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Romans 13:12

Prepare your shields…and march out for battle! … Take your positions with helmets on! Polish your spears, put on your armor! Jeremiah 46:3-4

What’s this helmet all about?

The helmet of salvation covers your mind – thinking, discernment, intellect, wisdom and reasoning. You need to…”have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:5) and “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. 1 Peter 3:15

Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin. 1 Peter 4:1 (NKJV)

Do I need the breastplate?

Yes sir/ma’am, you do! A soldier, with their iron breastplate, enters battle boldly. Your breastplate of righteousness allows you to confidentially stand before God, men and spiritual forces of evil.

He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair–every good path. Proverbs 2:7-8

Should I carry this shield daily?

The shield of faith is not a mere, disposable accessory. Faith defends you from the attacks of the enemy, as it can extinguish all of its flaming arrows. Wear the shield every day, as this protection cannot be penetrated (thank God)!

We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. Psalm 33:20

…who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:5

Is a sword really necessary, too?

Yep. This sword is the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. The battle of spiritual warfare of the mind is fought and won with prayer and Spirit-led words. And, the unmatchable power of Christ, is revealed in the Word. Who wouldn’t want to carry this authority with them?

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (NKJV)

Is the belt a key piece of the outfit?

Webster defines truth as “sincerity in action, character and utterance”. Thus, it appears that this belt encompasses honesty in your heart and your mind. This honesty is key in your achievement of close and meaningful relationships with Christ and His people.

But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Colossians 3:8-10

Are the shoes comfortable?

Yes, these shoes are perfectly fitted with readiness, directing your movement away from the enemy and leading you to bring good news.

Therefore my people will know my name; therefore in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I. How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation [Yeshua, Jesus!] who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’ Isaiah 52:6-7

How much does the full armor of God cost?

It’s free.99! The cost has already been paid…all of it.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

We cannot ask for a better deal. Let’s determine, together, that full armor of God is officially going to be our “go to” outfit!

SM.
#longestpostever

P.S. SH and I tend to share our upcoming outfits with each other – sometimes for confirmation that the right choice has been made; sometimes just to get an oooh or an ahhh. Who will you share this “go to” outfit with?