Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Discipline Series: Final Words

As the Discipline Series comes to a close, I want to leave you with some practical things (from my pastor) to do to grow in discipline. My prayer is that we make changes as the Lord speaks to our hearts. My prayer is that when He speaks to, and convicts our hearts, we move! He shows us where we need to change and/or grow because He knows where He wants us to go. Will we trust Him with our lives? Will we trust that a call to discipline in EVERY area of our lives is for our good?

Consider the following things to help you live a life of discipline.
  1. Have definite goals. A "plan" without specific parameters is simply a thought, and thoughts come and go. Having a goal means you've set measurable confines that you must meet and usually by a certain time. Measure your goals and see them through.
  2. Detach from distractions. PUT THAT PHONE DOWN! (I'm definitely talking to myself. I have to leave my phone in a completely different room sometimes. I'm growing in discipline in that area.) TURN OFF THAT TV! And distance yourself from anything else that hinders you from reaching those goals.
  3. Pursue with diligence and consistence. To have diligence is to pursue with painstaking perseverance and persistence. If you really want to please God with your disciplined life, don't give up when it gets hard. Push harder!
  4. Practice self-control. I'm a witness that if you really want something and you're willing to do what you need to do to get it or achieve it, the Holy Spirit will help you. He honors a heart that truly desires to honor Him. Watch Him make CRAZY ways for you to be successful when you really mean business and you're willing to deny yourself for His sake.
  5. Tell yourself "no" by the power of the Holy Spirit. Again, I'm a witness that denying yourself doesn't have to be difficult. When you renew your mind and set within your heart that you want to walk in discipline, the Holy Spirit will help you say "no".

And when you've done all of that, reap the rewards of your discipline. You will...
  1. be more orderly and have a less stressful lifestyle. My favorite example is what I shared in this series a couple times about taking out and ironing my clothes for the week. Makes life SWEET! When I don't do it, I'm a mess!
  2. feel good about yourself. When I work out, I feel GREAT, and I'm confident. When I achieve a financial goal because I was disciplined in my spending, I feel like a champ. When I know I'm applying God's word and I begin to see Him working on my behalf because of it, I feel like daddy's little girl. 
  3. be more productive. I tell my girls (dancers) all the time that productivity breeds productivity. If your life of discipline makes you more productive, you'll fall in love with productivity and want it more and more. You'll see goals being realized and you'll never want to go back to goal-less life.
  4. have a positive impact on other people. We don't follow people who slack. Period. No one wants to be led by someone who doesn't have themselves together enough to lead effectively. Think about someone you respect now. Think about someone who's leadership you would gladly follow. Now compare them to someone you wouldn't follow. What are the differences between them that inform your decision? I'm sure whatever it is has impacted you on some level. Your disciplined life will allow you to be that for someone else.
  5. have open doors of opportunity. Just like I said in #4, people want to follow those who will positively impact them. And the same is true for employers and other leaders when they're looking for someone to serve on their "team". They want someone who's disciplined. When you're disciplined, it shows in your productivity. It shows in your appearance. It shows in your punctuality or lack thereof. It shows in EVERYTHING. The doors of opportunity will swing WIDE open for someone who proves themselves worthy of the opportunity.
  6. reach your goals. That goes without saying. If you're disciplined, it's inevitable that you will see what you're seeking, in full view
I've enjoyed sharing with you.

Until next time...

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Discipline Series: Life Without Discipline - #12 Can God Use You?

Can God use you? Sure, He can. He's God. He can use anything or anyone He pleases. And He WANTS to use you, but will He use you is the question.

In scripture, God is referred to as the potter, and His disciples (Christians) are the clay. When a potter is molding clay on the pottery wheel, the clay never loses contact with the potter's hands. It can't. If it does, the clay will be misshapen, and it won't become what the potter intended for it to be. The clay is in the potter's hands until it is shaped to his liking and becomes what the potter desires it to be. The potter knows, when he sits to the wheel, if the clay in his hands will be a cup. He knows if the clay in his hands will be a vase. He knows if it will be a bowl. So he keeps the clay in his hands and carefully shapes and molds it to its expected end.

Some clay, depending on temperature and other conditions can be a bit stubborn. It doesn't shape quite like the potter desires, but he doesn't throw it away. He clumps it back into the ball of clay that it was when He began so he can try to shape it again later. He can't use that clay for the purpose He had in mind just yet because it won't "bend" to his hands, but the potter finds that sometimes the clay is a bit more pliable after it sits for a while. It gives and bends to his hands a bit more and finally allows itself to take its intended shape.

Some clay, of course, does exactly what the potter expects it to do on the wheel. It forms as he shapes and it becomes what he intends for it to be. That clay--that bowl, that cup, that vase--is able to be used for its intended purpose sooner than the clay that wouldn't "bend".

Some of us are like the stubborn clay that can't seem to adjust to the "temperature" of life and the other conditions that surround us. They take our attention away from what the potter is doing with  us. When the potter puts us on the wheel, we don't allow His hands to shape us. We don't bend. We don't form into what He intends for us to be. We're not disciplined. We're not ready. If the cup He's trying to make, for instance, won't shape properly and ends up with a hole in its bottom and is allowed to dry and harden that way, it won't be any good for drinking. Its whole purpose for being created is ruined. But the potter refuses to waste clay. This is why He would simply ball the clay back up to its original state so he could rework with it later when He thought it was ready.

This is when He grabs the other the clay, those of us who aren't affected by the "temperature" of life and the other conditions that surround us. He grabs the ones who are disciplined. He places us on the wheel and we take shape. We become what He intends, and he releases us to be used for the purpose for which we were shaped.

If we're not disciplined clay...if we don't hear and DO what the Lord says...if we don't allow Him to shape us and bend us as He sees fit, He'll use clay that's READY to be used. It's not that He doesn't want to use us, and it's not that He can't, but we're not ready. Could He use a cup with a hole in it and still see some of its intended purpose come forth? Sure. But a cup's use would be a lot more effective if it was masterfully shaped with full ability to serve the purpose it was created for.

Why don't we settle in our hearts today to take inventory of the areas in our lives where we know we're not disciplined...those areas that we know we haven't given to the Lord...those areas that are holding us back from being used by The Potter for our intended purpose. Why don't we settle in our hearts today that being used by the one who has already determined our design is more important than our comfort. Let's just kick "us" to the side and trust that, even when it's uncomfortable or hard, He knows what He's doing and we should just obey.

He WANTS to use you. He has determined what you are to be as a finished product. Will you let Him shape you?

The Benefits and Rewards of Discipline

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Discipline Series: Life Without Discipline - #11 A Ruined Witness

Throughout this series, I've introduced some indicators that let us know if our lives are lacking discipline. A few indicators revealed what a lack of spiritual discipline looks (and sounds) like, and others explained what a lack of physical discipline looks like. Today's indicator, like the others, certainly helps us see if we lack discipline, but this one points more to what can happen if we lack discipline.  If we're undisciplined, especially spiritually, We Ruin Our Witness.

Anyone can ruin their witness, or, in other words, lessen their credibility. Let's take a police officer, for example. If an officer is knowingly breaking the law that he is expected to defend and uphold, we would certainly think, "But he's supposed to be an officer, right?" And rightfully so. We SHOULD question that officer's actions if he's breaking the law that he should be enforcing. We would probably develop a sense of mistrust when dealing with police officers after that. Even if in the back of our minds we tell ourselves that not all cops...not all people are the same, we'd still have a guard up just incase they are. That officer not only ruined his witness/credibility, but he messed it up for other police officers too. Now all of them will have to "prove themselves" before they can be trusted.

How many other professionals ruin their credibility and break the trust of those who look to them to do what they're in position to do? How many teachers are having inappropriate relationships with students? How many doctors are intentionally wrongfully prescribing drugs? How many judges go into the court room with "fixed cases"? And right along those lines, how many Christians ruin their witness by CLAIMING to be one thing but by BEING something else? Those Christians, I assure you, are lacking spiritual discipline, and a lack of spiritual discipline ruins their witness, which ultimately sheds unfavorable light on Christianity as a whole.

Without a doubt, when people see a Christian out of character, the first thing they think is, "But ain't she supposed to be a Christian?" And they have every right to raise that question. When we allow our speech to become reckless (gossip, cussing, belittling others, defamation, etc.) and when we're not walking in love and we're causing chaos and confusion,  among others things, we're not disciplined in His ways. We haven't allowed His spirit to dominate our carnal thinking, and as a result, we don't represent Him well. And just like that person who doesn't trust any police officer because of what that ONE officer did, we could be the cause of someone not trusting the Christ that we proclaim because of what we do. We can cause them to walk in the complete opposite direction and not want to have anything to do with God. And why would we want that blood on our hands?

Remember This...
If you're a Christian, you're not saved just to go to heaven; you're saved to lead others to Christ. Period. We are ALWAYS "on the job", so even when we're not talking, we're "talking". Everything we do, speaks. For instance, if everyone's standing around talking about Mr. Stewart and you're with them from beginning to end, even if you're not saying anything, you're in it. Your staying there speaks about your character. How about changing the conversation? How about walking right on out of the convo, which is my favorite "go to" escape. I just walk. And it's taken practice. Sometimes it's hard to gauge if you're just having general conversation about what's going on with the people in your life or if you're talking "about" them, but I get a check in my spirit because I asked the Lord to tell me so I'd know to get myself in line. I had to recently ask a friend that we change our conversation when we're together because I found that WE, not just her, were engaging in conversations about people too much. Even though we weren't putting anyone down or dragging anyone through the mud, I just found that we spent more time discussing the people in our lives and how what they were doing was connected to us instead of us sharing what was going on in OUR lives. I apologized to her for not being the one to stand up and keep us away from conversation about others, and she apologized too. We knew that we were skirting the line and we don't want to hurt the heart of God with reckless speech.

Christians should be doing everything in excellence because of who we serve. People should wonder about us and want to do things the way we're doing things because we're doing things right. If we're not disciplined in the way we live out God's word, others don't get to see Him for who He really is. What an honor we have to be able to share Christ with others, and we should treat it as such! Our lives are not our own; we gave them up when we gave our hearts to Him. We don't get to have moments when we don't want to love people. We don't get to have moments when we don't want to show compassion. We don't get to have moments when we don't want to speak words of life and encouragement. Not when we're His. We must always reflect Him, even when it hurts. We must reflect Him, even when we're tired. We must reflect Him, even when no one else is because imagine if Leah was hurt by the church. She was hurt SO badly that she wanted to quit on God. She knew He was real though. She'd experienced His love for her on too many different occasions to doubt Him, but she was DONE with the "so called" Christians. She wanted to fellowship with other believers who were real. They may not have been perfect, because she certainly wasn't, but in her walk (and she hoped in theirs too), she strived to live a life that pleased God. When she messed up, she didn't continue to walk in her wrong. She turned to the Lord and His word to allow Him to get her right. She didn't pursue sin like so many were doing where she'd come from.

As she was visiting churches to find a new home and meeting people along the way, she met 3 people in a 2 month span who said they were Christians but did everything contrary to what a Christian should. They were not even TRYING to live for God. They didn't have hearts of repentance when they sinned. They didn't seek the Lord to learn how to fix what was broken in their lives. They didn't study. They were happy living their lives the way they were living them. Apart from church on Sunday, there was nothing else about them that made her want to fellowship with them. Leah told herself that she was just gonna stop trying to meet people. It would just be her and God. She gave up on the hope that Christianity was even real to anyone anymore. There wasn't anyone she could look to to believe that it was. And then she ran into you.

What happened next? Did she continue to think that Christianity isn't real and throw in the towel, or did she believe and have hope again? Does she know, now, that she's not alone in her walk and that there ARE others out there who sincerely want to please the Lord and draw others to Him with their lives? 

You determine that.

Life Without Discipline: Can God Use You?

The Discipline Series: Life Without Discipline - #10 Wasted Time and Energy

If this is your first read in the Discipline Series, you don't know the brief story on how this came to be. In a Tuesday night life class (that's what I call bible study), my pastor gave us 12 indicators that let us know we may be living a life without discipline. (Read the intro to this series.) The message wouldn't leave me alone because God has been speaking to me in my personal time with Him about discipline and walking in purpose and pushing past laziness and doing what He says regardless of how I feel or what's going on around me. And He told me to share with you in this blog series. The indicators that have been discussed in the series so far are Carnal Thinking/Desires, We Defend Our Wrong Actions, Our Health Suffers, We Make Financial Mistakes, We Are Overlooked For Advancement, We Perform Poorly, We Develop Laziness, We're Reckless In Our Speech, and We're Always Late.

Today, we'll cover We Waste Time and Energy.

I don't mind talking about myself because as I've mentioned pretty much throughout this entire series, this list of indicators hit me FIRST! As my pastor was teaching, I immediately saw areas where I was strong in discipline and areas where I was weak. And I'm sure that's true for ALL of us. We can all improve somewhere. And this area, this wasted time and energy area, is for me.

I explained in the Our Health Suffers installment that when I work out in the mornings, my ENTIRE day is on track. I'm more disciplined in completing tasks throughout the day and setting order in my schedule so I can maximize my productivity. But don't you know if there is a day when I don't work out in the morning, I'm not as disciplined with my schedule or with completing tasks? And it doesn't have to be that way; I SEE myself ALLOWING it to be that way when it happens! It's like I'm taking a day off or something. Just this past week, when I didn't work out one day in the morning, I found myself dragging while doing things around the house. I had to preach to myself to snap out of that foolishness and do what I would do on a day that I did work out.  Just CRAZY!

Let me paint a picture for you (as I laugh at myself).
  1. I know the benefit of taking my work clothes out for the week. It's a discipline that has saved me time, energy and sanity over the years. I'm ridiculously slow in the mornings, so I need routines that encourage my efficiency. This one is HUGE for me. It's a shame that I'm not consistent with it though. And why wouldn't I be when I know how much it's benefited me before? Why do I fight myself with "feeling like" getting the clothes out when I know that not getting them out will give me a headache later? Why do I allow myself to waste time and energy in the mornings when I'm hustling and scuffling trying to figure out what I'm going to wear? It's like knowing the  million dollars I need is under the pillow right next to me, but refusing to lift the pillow to get it. CRAZY!
  2. I know the benefit of packing my lunch at night so it can be ready for me to quickly grab from the refrigerator in the morning. Again, I'm slow in the mornings, so this is another discipline that encourages my efficiency. And it's a shame that I'm not consistent with this one either. Why wouldn't I be when I know how much it's benefited me before? Why do I allow myself to waste time and energy in the mornings when I'm either trying to decide what I want to take for lunch? Why do I waste time and energy packing up the lunch and washing the spoons and bowls and whatever else I used? It's like knowing that going behind Curtain 1 would save my life, but I go behind Curtain 2 to my death instead. CRAZY!
  3. I understand the necessity of getting out of bed no later than that 2nd snooze. Again, I say, I am SLOW in the mornings, so setting a couple snoozes to awaken my mind is a discipline that has proven to be quite effective for me. If I'm not up and moving by a certain time, I cause myself unnecessary stress because I have to rush. So, why do I sometimes lie in bed past that second snooze, knowing it hasn't ever benefited me before? Why do I allow myself to waste time and precious, precious energy THAT early in the morning by hustling to be ready by a certain time? Why would I, the one who is a stickler for timeliness, cause myself to possibly be late? It's like knowing the house is on fire and literally burning to the ground, but I walk into the blaze anyway. 
I could go on, but I think we get the picture. We waste time and energy when we're not disciplined. And I shared some small examples, but we can lack discipline in some big ways and waste major time and energy. And in those areas where we KNOW we just need to do what we need to do, why don't we just do them?

Let me hear from you in the comments below. What is an area that you lack discipline and you KNOW it's wasting your time and energy. Why don't you just do what you need to do?

Life Without Discipline: #11 We Ruin Our Testimony/Witness

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Discipline Series: Life Without Discipline - #9 I'm Late!

Know anyone who's always late? Yeah, I do too.

People who are always late are VERY disciplined. They're disciplined in caring about themselves and their schedule. They are serious about THEIR time. They make VERY sure that they take care of everything on their end before they get to whatever it is they're scheduled for. They're disciplined in getting ready later than they should. They're disciplined in taking their time with no regard for their commitment to be wherever it is they're supposed to be. They're disciplined in staying behind to watch that last bit of a show or to do that last thing they were doing because, "It'll just be a few minutes. They'll be alright."

All. About. Them.  They are disciplined! (in the wrong direction)

Now, those who know me well know that I'm a stickler for time. I can't STAND being late, and I can't stand when others are late. I make it my business to be where I need to be at least 15 minutes before I'm scheduled to be there, and I don't play about that 'thang! I can hear my friend, Aiesha, in my head now when she shows up to an event that we scheduled to attend together. "I knew you was gon' be here, girl. You always on time."

I wish that were true, Esh. I'm not always on time these days. And this blog is hard for me to hear as I'm writing it because the Lord got on to me when Pastor introduced this indicator in life class (what I call bible study) that night. I'm listening to the lesson, and the Lord is justa talking saying, "How can you be on time to every place but work? What is it about work that keeps you from preparing ahead and planning like you do to be everywhere else?"  And then we had to have one of our heart-to-hearts that went on for a few days. I hated it, but it was necessary because I have been draaaaagging to work for the past month and a half. He straight called me out on it.

I had to look at why I was on time for literally EVERYTHING else and find the commonalities. I realized, hands down, that every time I'm on time for dance rehearsal, a meeting that I call with the dance school staff, a dinner or lunch date with someone, a concert, a play, a hair appointment or a host of other things, I'm on time because I want to be there. There's something about those scheduled things that matter to me; those things are important to me. And especially if I'm meeting someone. I expect them to be on time because my time is important, and I believe their time is just as important as mine, so I make it my business to be on time to show them that I value them.

I can remember being invited to a church last year to see a national recording gospel artist. She was the "main event" for a 3-day workshop. The service that night was scheduled to begin at 7, so of course, one of my mentees and I were there at 6:40. The service began on time with prayer and praise and worship, and it was evident that after about 3 songs, the praise and worship team was adding songs to their "list" on the spot. Their body language was saying it all. It was obvious that they were uncomfortable. All of the people who were serving that night--the ushers, the musicians, the pastor and his wife--were uneasy, and they could tell that we could see that they were uncomfortable. They had already said, at the top of the service, that the artist would be up after the praise team, so that's what we were looking for.


The praise team is still singing. The singers' eyes are watching the door. The pastor is walking here and walking there talking to ushers and apparently getting word on where the artist was. People are getting uneasy in their seats because we're wondering why the artist isn't at least sitting out in the congregation, even if she's not ready to sing just yet. Then, a couple of representatives from the artist's entourage, that were already in place at the church anticipating her arrival, got up to introduce her and speak about who she is and all she's done. We could see that they were stalling too. I could feel their pain as the drew up stories to tell and songs to sing to keep us somewhat engaged as they covered for their leader.

Finally, someone got up and said that the artist's drive was taking longer than they expected. Everything in me knew, and probably everyone else sitting there knew that there was NO WAY the drive was taking that long from where she was said to be driving from. No way. She and whoever was escorting her didn't leave in enough time to arrive on time, and that was just that. The truth was in the air. It left a tension in the room that went from anxious, respectful expectancy to a sort of distrust. It was like, "We want to be able to receive from you, but you don't even care enough about giving to us to make us a priority. You don't even care to be on time to share with us."


When she arrived, there was a loose apology, but it was more of a haughty explanation of "the life" she lives and how sometimes being late happens. The air in the room shifted again. We wanted to be excited that she'd finally made it. We wanted to receive what she had, but because it was about 8:15ish at the time that she opened her mouth to sing her first note, we weren't as excited as we probably would've been had she shown some respect for our time and for the honor we had for her as the "giver" of the evening. We were definitely offended. We didn't matter to her. We were someone else on her schedule, and it showed. She was late. She wasn't ready. I learned after she started singing that she was to sing and to "preach" that night. My hope was somewhat restored, but then, it was evident that she was ill prepared for both. That night felt like a waste.

If you've ever sat and waited for your food too long, you didn't like it. If you've waited on someone for too long when you had somewhere to be, you didn't like it. When you set a time for something that's important to you and people don't honor it, you don't like it. And don't be scheduled to have a date with a significant other and they show up late! Just write their death wish now! You're ready to go COMPLETELY off because you believe that person doesn't think you're important. Why, then, do "the late thing" to others? I'll just tell you. We don't care about "those things" enough. "Those things" are not as important to us as we are to ourselves. At the end of the day, no matter how we try to justify it, we're late because we're selfish. It's about us. And boy, I wish I wasn't able to say that it's true, but it most certainly is in my sad little case.

School has been rough for me this year. I've even said that this has been the worst year of my 10 years of teaching. I've wanted to quit just about every day. There have been days that  I couldn't stand to see even my best class coming. I loathed walking into my classroom. I couldn't even stand the sight of the building. THAT bad! On mornings that I was up early to either study and/or work out, I would take my time and leave home at the very last minute. I would just find things to do at home so I wouldn't get to work too early. On mornings that I didn't get up to study or work out, I would sleep until the last minute. Most days, I wouldn't have clothes already picked out, so I would have to decide what to wear in the morning, and that took time. Just a mess!

I got to a place where work wasn't important to me anymore. My focus wasn't on my students. I was focusing on everything else that was going on at school that frustrated me. I forgot for a minute that education is what God called me to and what He literally BUSTED doors open for, for me. Education is where I'm called to "work", and my current school is my mission field. I forgot that, and I began to treat "my work" carelessly. It didn't matter that when I got there, I taught my behind off. God said that my attitude was wrong from the jump when I wasn't disciplined in preparing myself to be there on time. So we had to deal with the root, and that would have to be a whole 'notha blog, but in short, my passion had to be restored, and my focus renewed, and lateness was the indicator that let me know that something was wrong. Thank GOD for the word He sent through my pastor!

I was late to work because I was, as we say these days, "in my feelings". I didn't care that I would walk into faculty meetings late because I was finishing MY breakfast. I didn't care that I was walking in 5 minutes before class because I had to stop at the post office to mail MY things. Selfish, and all about me, and an undisciplined mess!

If you're constantly late, why is it? Habitual, regulatory, this-is-me-everyday lateness says we're not disciplined, and can we just fess up to it and deal with it? Look at the common trends to see why you're late and fix it. You're saying to others that you don't respect their time. You're saying that you don't value them or you don't value the organization or the event. And it could be, like in my case, that you've lost focus of what's important.

And no matter who you are, you're not ALWAYS late. There are things you're on time for because you WANT TO BE on time for them. What are those things? Why are you on time for those? Do the inventory and take that discipline into other areas.

The Discipline Series - #10 Wasted Time and Energy

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Discipline Series: Life Without Discipline - # 8 Reckless Speech

One sure way to know that we're lacking spiritual discipline is if our speech becomes reckless: We say things that hurt others and that break the heart of God.

A disciplined tongue is one that pleases God. A tongue that is not disciplined and has the tendency to "slip" is not pleasing to Him. When we don't allow the Holy spirit to tame our tongues, we tell on ourselves. We tell that God is not the Lord of EVERYTHING that concerns us. If He's going to be Lord of our lives, He's got to be Lord of who we're connected to, what we do, where we go, and WHAT WE SAY. What we say and do either represents Him well and draws others to Him, or misrepresents Him and pushes others away. And woe unto the man or woman who pushes people AWAY from Christ with their misrepresentation of Him! Lord, let not that blood be on our hands! Our lives are an example one way or the other: they're either good examples or poor ones. Let's work on being good examples with our speech.

What Does God Say About What We Say?
A lot! Scripture upon scripture tells us to be careful with what we allow to come out of our mouths. Let's examine a few.
  1. "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires."   - James 1:19-20 (NIV)
Surely we've all done some things in anger that weren't pleasing to God and that were probably hurtful to others, which is why we're urged to be slow to anger. But what about the things we've SAID in anger? LORD! This is why we're told to be slow to speak too! Can you imagine how it must break God's heart when we're quick to anger AND we're quick to speak in that anger? It's like a double whammy! I can think back to times before I really allowed the Lord to have control of me. I would get angry and cuss words would "slip" out, and at the very moment I spoke the words, I would feel like running and hiding under a rock because I knew I'd hurt the heart of God. I felt like the scum of the Earth! And even though I wasn't saying those words to anyone directly, I said them even still, and God heard them. I was convicted in my spirit because I knew my tongue wasn't under His control, and BOY, did He deal with me on that!

I remember being in quiet time with God one day and He told me that if I ever get to a point in anger that I want to cuss, I can pretty much bank that my spirit was starving. And it was always true. Any time I was on the verge of not just cuss words, but ridiculous, out-of-Godly character anger or frustration, I could look at myself and see that I hadn't been in the Lord's face, spending quality time with Him and allowing His Spirit to feed mine. That day, He told me that if I was feeding my spirit, those words would be buried so deep that they COULDN'T surface because whatever I feed more is what's gon' dominate. If I were feeding my spirit, I would be so slow to anger and so slow to speak that nothing foolish would come out.  I talk more about this in Do You Love Jesus But Still Cuss A Little?

     2. "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." - Proverbs 15:1 (NIV)

And I know this to be true. I see it in my classroom all the time! There are times when I give directives in my teacher tone, but there are times I give them in my "momma" tone.  And there's a distinct difference. If I tell a student to do something in my teacher tone, it's gentle. My students know that tone well. I use it 90% of the time. It keeps peace in the room and lets them know I love them. It's an inviting tone that assures them that they can come to me and that I'll be there with open arms. But there are moments when they ackin' plum fools and I have to speak to them in "momma" tone. It's louder. It's frank. It's sometimes sarcastic and it means business...RIGHT NOW business! This works when I'm speaking to the class as a whole because it's usually to quiet them down or to get them to do something that I've had to say one-too-many times.(Twice. If I've had to say it a second time, that's too much.) When I use "momma" tone with just one student, however, it doesn't always work as nicely. There are times when that tone appears combative. A child may think I'm picking on them or that I don't like them and in most cases, it just riles them up and makes them come right back at me with the same tone. Oh, I've seen it time and time again! I've been teaching so long that I can discern when and with whom "momma" tone works, but I wasn't always able to do that and my "harsh words" stirred up anger.

When we allow the Lord to take control of our speech and discipline our tongues, we know that harsh words stir up anger, so we choose gentle words instead. I've learned that I can say to a child in teacher tone, the EXACT same thing I would've said in "momma" tone, and it gets me much better, and much quicker results. When I pull that child to the side and whisper bluntly between my teeth instead of raising my voice (LOL! I am laughing at mySELF!), I get results. When I yell, especially in front of even one other student, I get combat.

Think about your personal life. Have you said some harsh words to someone that unnecessarily stirred up anger?  Have you had an opportunity in another situation to be harsh, but you were gentle instead and saw the matter resolved more peacefully? God's word doesn't lie! If we allow His word to discipline our tongues, reckless speech won't have a "say" with us.
     3. "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."
          - Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

Talking about people. Putting others down. Putting yourself down. NO unwholesome talk. NONE! From our mouths should come only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs that it may benefit them.

She's having a hard time believing in herself. Say words that build her up so it can benefit her. He was just caught up in a word war as his classmates made fun of him for 5 minutes straight. Encourage him with some "life words" that will benefit him. They're doing something that irks your nerves. Don't talk to your friends about it; pray for them. Let your prayer talk reach God's heart so He can act on it and it can benefit them.

This type of tongue is the type that pleases God, one that is disciplined in His word and speaks as He would have it speak.

Lastly, I'll leave you with this one.

"With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water." - James 3:9-12

Will your speech draw others to Christ, or will it push them away?

Life Without Discipline - #9 I'm Late!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Discipline Series: Life Without Discipline - #7 We Develop Laziness (Slothfulness)

I have a neighbor with whom I talk pretty often. We talk about our lives and work and our families and a little bit of everything else, so I'd venture to say that we know each other well enough, and have shared enough to call each other friends. I appreciate who she is in my life.

Just recently, we talked over dinner, and she was sharing a pretty heavy cry of her heart that has become a regular part of our conversations. She desires to start a clothing and jewelry business and she also wants to create a non-profit organization to help people who have loss their jobs by way of lay off or unscrupulous termination get back to work. I always enjoy listening to her talk about her ideas because the passion she has for both endeavors is quite invigorating! It excites ME! I get excited when she's excited because I'm a passionate visionary myself. I know how she eats, sleeps, and breathes these ideas. I've been there (and am there). I know she can hardly work when she's at work because her thoughts are consumed with bringing her vision to life. She talked excitedly for about an hour at dinner, and for that entire hour, I was with her. Like I said, it's our routine to talk that 'thang through and through. But just like I did when she talked to me for a few months about the daycare plan (an AMAZING plan unlike anything that already exists), I began to ask her the tough questions; I can only talk for so long. After we've talked about it for as long as we have (months), and we KNOW the Lord has given a clear plan to bring it to life, why aren't we moving on the plan?

I asked her what she'd researched for the jewelry and clothing business. She told me she'd found a few more people to follow on Facebook and Instagram to get ideas. And I knew she'd hate my follow up, but I said it anyway. I said, "But the Lord already gave you the idea. Why do you keep looking at theirs?"

I asked if she'd given up on getting started, and she said she hadn't, but I told her it seemed like she had because I didn't see her doing anything to get going. And then, it came. The onslaught of excuses.
I'm just getting everything lined up right now. As soon as I get a day off when I can just be still and I don't have to run after Tank (her 2-year-old) and find ways to keep him out of my way, I can finally lay some ground work."

She didn't stop there. She went on with other reasons why she hadn't started yet. And just like the passion I've heard and the details of the "plans" for her vision, I've heard the excuses too. I've heard ALL of the reasons why she can't get started, even when I'm offering to help her since I know a thing or two about getting the wheels in motion. I've heard the ideas for months, and I've heard the excuses for months.

Because I care for her and want to see her do what the Lord has given her to do, I HAVE TO tell her the truth. I want her to be obedient to the Lord and experience His provision. There's NOTHING like watching Him provide EVERYTHING that's needed for us to do what He tells us to do. Absolutely NOTHING! I want her to experience His favor. I want her to see how He will cause people to rise up out of nowhere and from everywhere all at the same time to put their hands to work to make that vision come to pass. I want her to see how money will show up when she least expects it in the most amazing and unheard of, miraculous ways! And in those moments when she gets scared because of how big the vision is, I want her to understand that it's not even really her job to see it through. It's her job to submit to the Lord, get directions from Him and just do what He says do. He'll see it through to its big end. He always does!

She won't move though.

Her excuses have said to me, and they have said to God that she's lazy. Straight up. At the end of the day, no matter how she tries to skirt around it, she has developed laziness (slothfulness). She's not disciplined enough to take the vision the Lord has given her and make it come to life.

Of course, she came back with the same thing she always comes with. She said, for the millionth time, "Iantha, you're single. You work and all, but when you come home, you don't have to cook and see about anybody else. It's just you. You have the time to do what you do."

And like I tell her every time she comes at me with that, I said, "Look at all of those mothers and wives you follow on Instagram and Facebook. You're always telling me how you need to get like them and just flip the schedule in your home so you can be more productive. You've even said yourself that if you discipline yourself, you can get it done. You told me that you know you watch too much TV at night and especially on Saturdays. You told me you get up early in the mornings sometimes and that you could use that time, but you don't. And how much time are you spending looking at them on Instagram and Facebook? They're doing what they need to do and you're watching them instead of doing what you need to do. Come ooooon... These are things that you already know."

The truth is this. We're all tired when we come home from work, but there's something about a vision from God that quickens a tired body. There's something about knowing that what we have to do is bigger than us that makes a tired body forget about itself to focus on the needs of others. There's something about a man or woman, single or married, that MAKES time to do what the Lord has given them to do, regardless of what's going on in their lives. They discipline their minds. They discipline their schedules. They turn off the waste-of-time TV. They wake up early. They go to bed late. They shut out distractions. They get it done!

Laziness (slothfulness) SCREAMS life without discipline. Someone without discipline will exhibit laziness and lack of drive. And one moment of laziness, if allowed to persist, becomes weeks of laziness. And then months... And then...

In thinking about this installment of the discipline series, one scripture just kept ringing in my head. It wouldn't leave me alone. It's one that the Lord drops in my spirit every time I need to remind myself to push. Every time I need to remember that what He gave me to do is for others and that it's for something bigger than me, this scripture comes to mind.

"A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest--and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man." - Proverbs 6:10 (NIV)

I remember when the Lord TAUGHT ME that verse some years ago and gave me a visual that I'll never forget. He gave me the picture of an armed and extremely muscular man holding me down. Every time I tried to move, I couldn't. None of my squirms were even worth a try with him. And he stayed there. He was assigned to keep a tight grip on me. The Lord was showing me that every time I'm lazy and refuse to discipline myself to be about His business, poverty would lock me down just like that. And poverty in this verse does not just refer to lack of monetary provision. It refers to poverty in the mind, in advancement, in well being... Everything about us can experience a wave of poverty when we aren't purposefully productive. And we wonder why we don't feel like we're where we need to be or have what we think we should have. When we don't move in what we KNOW the Lord is telling us to do, we experience lack. I'm a witness!

Get moving on what the Lord has given you to do!

I told her, like I always tell her, to remember that there are souls waiting for what she has. By this point in the conversation, every time, she's admitting to just being lazy. She says it, and shakes her head, and puts her face in her hands, and talks to herself about herself. She confesses that she doesn't want to let God down. She tells me that she doesn't want people to miss out on what they need. She tells me that she doesn't want the Lord to pass her assignment on to someone else. And I always tell her the hard truth. I say, "Keep playing around being lazy, and He will. You'll see somebody downtown erecting a building with the name of the business he gave YOU in lights."

We always hug when all is said and done. We always move on to some other conversation. We always end on a high note. I just pray we won't always walk this same path. I pray the day soon comes when she takes the first step into His plan for her.

(She approves this message. *wink*)

Life Without Discipline - # 8 Reckless Speech

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Discipline Series: Life Without Discipline - What Are You Doing With Your Tools and Your Time?

Before reading today's installment of The Discipline Series, if you haven't already, read yesterday's installment; today is a continuation of yesterday. It will be helpful to understand what was discussed yesterday so you can better understand the reading today. Plus, there's a little assignment for you to complete that you'll need for today.

Think back to my 8th grade dance class. Do you remember me explaining what good dancers they were and how good they were as a group? Do you remember me saying how they acknowledged how good they were when they saw themselves on video? And do you remember me detailing how they refused to showcase their good dancing as part of our school's Christmas program this year? I remember days in class when we were preparing for the program that they would  give me EXTREMELY poor performance, little to no effort, just so we could move past that portion of the class and on to something else. They refused to use their skill because they were more concerned about themselves and their feelings and their fear of embarrassment. They didn't care anything about contributing to the success of the program or the enjoyment of those who would watch. They forgot their whole purpose for being a part of the dance class and their reason for learning all that they had learned. Their purpose was to perform, but they sat down on it.

Now think back to the man with 5 talents, the man with 2 talents, and the man with 1 talent. The man with 5 talents and the man with 2 talents took what they had and invested it in others. They didn't sit on their gifts. Their Master gave them tools to dig into the lives of others and then He left them for a time to let them do their work. When He returned, He expected to see many lives affected by the men's work, and He did! He was well pleased! He told them both,"Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things."

The man with the 1 talent was given the same expectation: to use his tool to dig into the lives of others. He did no work. When the Master returned, He was not pleased. He said to the man, "You wicked, lazy servant!" He went on further to say, "Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents."

This is what God does with us. He creates us and He gives us purpose, and when we give our lives to Him, He shows us exactly what that purpose is. He gives us talents (tools) and assigns us to a specific work where we are to dig into the lives of specific people. He gives some of us 6 talents, some 4, some 3 or however many He sees fit, according to our ability. And while we're here, as long as we have life, He expects us to work. He doesn't expect us to sit idle with our tools in our hands. When He returns, and He WILL return, He's going to ask us, just as He did the men from the parable, what we did with our tools and our time. That's His main concern. He gave us tools and He gave us time. What work did we do with our tools to dig into the lives of others?

Will He be pleased when He returns to ask you what you've done with your tools and your time?
Maybe you didn't understand that you were here for purpose. Maybe you didn't know that your gifts were tools or that you were even supposed to be using your gifts to dig into the lives of other people. You can get to work now. It's not too late!

And maybe you did know that you are here for purpose, but you haven't been doing much "digging". Your performance has been poor. You haven't been working up to your full potential. You've been sitting on your gift(s)...your talent(s)...your tool(s), and like the man with 1 talent, you KNOW what the Master expects of you upon His return, but you still don't work. I urge you to get to work! You don't want to hear "lazy and wicked servant" from the Master. And you don't want Him to take the tool(s) He gave you and give it/them to someone else who He knows will put it/them to work. Or even worse...

The scriptures actually go on to say that  the Master said of the man, "And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Don't let this be you. Nurture your gifts and become disciplined and intentional in using them to "dig into" the lives of others. This is how we build God's kingdom; you're expected to play a part in it. There are people waiting to hear about who God is and how they can know Him through a relationship with Jesus Christ, and YOU are expected to use YOUR tools to reach them. There are people your tools will reach that mine never will, and vice versa. Don't cause people to miss out on an opportunity to know God because you're sleeping on the job.

Complete the Assignment
Take a look at your list from yesterday's assignment. You're going to look at each of your natural gifts (tools), and beside each one, you're going to tell how you can use it (work) to dig into the lives of other people to teach them about who God is and how they can know him through a relationship with Jesus Christ. You can write down what you're already doing if you're already doing something, but I want to challenge you to think of another way you can use that tool.

Iantha's Example
God was VERY strategic in giving me tools that I could use all together in one place. Because He knew before He even formed me in my mother's womb that He was going to create me to be the director of Praise Movement School of Dance, he gave me EVERYTHING I needed to do whatever He wanted done through the ministry. He wanted me to dig into the lives of girls and teach them how to know Him through a relationship with Jesus Christ, and I LITERALLY use EVERY tool He's placed in me to do that.

dancing - I dance to songs that teach people about the love of God through Jesus Christ. I create a visual representation of the song so viewers can see the message. Many times, it has a more lasting impression than merely hearing the words of the song.

choreography - I create pieces that teach people about the love of God through Jesus Christ. The pieces are visual representations that allow viewers to see the message in the song.

singing - Ha! I sing to teach. I can make my Praise Movement dancers and my students from school remember ANYTHING by creating a song to help them. They remember scripture this way; they remember choreography this way; they remember anything I want them to remember this way.

writing - I write to teach. This blog is an example of me getting a direct command from the Lord because He wanted me to say something. Even if only one person reads it, I know that person is getting what s/he needs because the Lord told me to do it. He gives me the ability to write clearly and break His word down so people can understand. I also write lessons for the dancers when we are studying to minister a song.

budgeting and planning - Our summer dance camp and fall dance tour are our biggest annual ministry tools. We serve hundreds of girls each year between the two. The planning that goes into each is REAL, but because this is a tool that the Lord gave me, it gets done with joyful ease. The same with budgeting for each. I'm a money manager because that's a tool He gave me. I make sure every minute is planned for purposeful instruction and that every dime is being used toward that instruction. I use planning and budgeting to make sure girls everywhere can know who God is through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

We Develop Laziness (Slothfulness)

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Discipline Series: Life Without Discipline - Ever Been Overlooked (#5) Because of Poor Performance (#6)? PART 1

If this is your first read in the Discipline Series, you don't know the brief story on how this came to be. In a Tuesday night life class (that's what I call bible study), my pastor gave us 12 indicators that let us know we may be living a life without discipline. (Read the intro to this series.) The message wouldn't leave me alone because God has been speaking to me in my personal time with Him about discipline and walking in purpose and pushing past laziness and doing what He says regardless of how I feel or what's going on around me. And He told me to share with you in this blog series. The first indicator was Carnal Thinking/Desires. The second was We Defend Our Wrong Actions. The third was Our Health Suffers, and the fourth was We Make Financial Mistakes.

Today, I want to ask: Have you ever been overlooked for opportunities or advancement (indicator #5) because of your lack of discipline and/or poor performance (indicator #6)?

It may be hard to admit, but the truth is people get overlooked all the time for promotions, opportunities, advancement and their "big shot" because they lack discipline, which usually shows up with poor performance. Let me use my middle school dance classes as an example.

When my students were preparing to perform in the school's Christmas program this year, I was working them pretty hard in class every day. Each grade level (6th, 7th, and 8th) was set to perform one song each; they each had one shot to make a statement. The 6th graders were ready to go! All year they've been my hardest workers. They WANT TO shine in EVERYTHING they do in dance class. The 7th graders really liked their song for the Christmas program because it was a fun one. For once, I didn't have much static from them. But those 8th graders, the ones who are too mature to care, "fought" the Christmas program from the day I introduced their song until the day of the performance. The boys thought the choreography was too girly. The girls thought the combinations were too difficult. The music was too slow. The transitions were confusing. "And we'll be dancing barefoot?" they asked. Every complaint under the sun! It was a trying time with them. There were a few students, though, who knew that no matter what the choreography was like or how slow the music was or if they had on shoes or not, they had to make the grade, and they weren't about to let one performance mess that up. They worked hard EVERY class session, they didn't complain, they asked for help when they needed it, and they even asked for extra rehearsals. They weren't the best dancers, by far, but they gave 110%.

Three days before the performance, I announced that only three 8th grade students would be performing in the Christmas program. The class was shocked and a bit confused at first; they couldn't believe I wasn't making them participate, but I REFUSED to have a halfway performance from them. When I named the three students, they were excited. They had worked hard for it. The rest of the class erupted with a different excitement because they were relieved that they didn't have to do anything. I could literally feel the tension subside in the room. But then, the KICKER!

When I announced that those 3 students would also be receiving 2 test grades for their performance and an exemption from the final choreography assessment (the biggest one of the semester), everyone wanted to all of a sudden get their act together and perform. But, of course, it was too late. And like a good teacher whose goal is to teach a lesson in EVERYTHING, I stood my ground and watched them eat their complaints and squirm with embarrassment, disgust (with themselves), and regret.

See...it wasn't that they couldn't do it. In fact, they had proven many times in the weeks of preparation that they could out dance the 6th and 7th graders and make the 8th grade song the audience's favorite. (I love friendly competition with them.) After seeing themselves on video, they even agreed that they looked amazing, but the "I don't care" and "I'm too cute to perform in front of all those people" attitudes killed them. (What did they think dance class was for?) The BEST dancers missed an opportunity to be the best because they couldn't get over themselves. They let all of their good talent go unnoticed, and the not-so-good dancers jumped in and "took their prize".

Who took your prize?

Jesus had something to say about a matter similar to my classroom example. In the following passage, Jesus was talking to His disciples, explaining to them that no man knows the day or the hour of the end of the age. He told them to not let that be their concern. Instead, He said, be busy about the work of the kingdom. He gave them this example:

14 "Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15 To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17 So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18 But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money. 19 After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.' 21 His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. come and share your master's happiness!' 22 The man with the two talents also came. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.' 23 His Master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' 24 Then the man who had received the one talent came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.' 26 His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. 28 Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents." (Matthew 25, NIV)

Jesus used this story as a way to explain to His disciples and today's disciples (Christians) that they should be using what He gave them (gifts, talents and abilities) to bring others into the kingdom. Like the man who had 5 talents, for example... Let's imagine that his five talents were teaching, building and creating, singing, budgeting and planning, and writing. The Master was pleased when He returned because the man had used his teaching to break down the truth of God's word to others; he used his ability to build and create to design a facility for the homeless in the community where they could shower, eat, sleep and attend classes to help prepare them for life off the streets; he sang in the choir that held weekend concerts at the homeless facility, and many of the homeless were so moved by the choir that they wanted to join to learn the songs of the Lord; he used his budgeting and planning skills to create an organization that would financially support 20 less fortunate children every year to attend a week-long Christian sports camp where they could hear the gospel and learn God's word; and he used his writing to write books that encouraged others to live lives that please God.  The Master was so pleased! So many people came to know Jesus as a result of the man using what The Master gave him. He made a return on The Master's investment in him.

And the same for the man who had two talents. He did a lot with his two talents and people's hearts were drawn to Jesus because of it. But the one who had one talent did nothing. He was like so many of us who have skills and natural giftings and do nothing with them for the kingdom. He "sat on the gift", and the Master was not pleased. The man was told to put his talents to work, but he didn't and the Master called Him a lazy and wicked servant. He completely overlooked the man and gave his talent to the man who had 10 talents because he knew he'd do something with them.

Think On This...
Are you like the man with the one talent? Has the Lord overlooked you for "promotion" or advancement because of your poor performance? Has he given attention to someone else with your same giftings and skill set because you haven't proven that you can produce?

We will continue tomorrow with being overlooked because of poor performance, but you have an assignment. You will need this assignment when you come to the blog tomorrow.

On a sheet of paper or in the notes section on your phone, list the natural gifts you have. A natural gift is something you do well that, in most cases, you knew how to do without any training. Singing, for example, is one of those things that you're either born with, or you're not. That's an example of a natural gift. Most of us have multiple gifts. List as many as you can think of.

Iantha's List
twirling (batons)
budgeting and planning

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Discipline Series: Life Without Discipline - #4 We Make Financial Mistakes

I grew up in a home where one of my parents was a money manager and the other was not. One parent saved money and operated (as much as possible) on a budget to make the most of what came into our home. The other parent was a free spending, impulse buyer who was concerned only with paying bills. After the bills were paid, the leftover money was for the spending. I saw the struggle that that caused. I heard the arguments. I witnessed the strain. The parent who was disciplined with money taught me the value of money and how to make the most of what I earned. And guess what? We never had one formal lesson; I learned it merely from watching. The other parent who wasn't disciplined with money taught me what NOT to do. Again, there was never a lesson or a talking to or any warning about how I would end up broke, but I knew from what I saw that that way wasn't THE way.

When I observed my disciplined parent, I saw thoughtfulness and careful planning in paying bills and in providing me with the things I needed for school and cheerleading and the millions of other things I had going on. Nothing was handed to me without that parent consulting the overall financial "plan" that was made for the money in our home. I remember, quite vividly, having to wait at least a day for just about everything I asked for if it meant there was gonna be some dipping into the family's money.

I took the lessons I learned from both parents into my own life and became a money manager very early in life. When I started making my own money as a junior in high school, I planned out what I would do with it. I didn't just spend it because I had it. I got paid every week, so each week I would make inventory of my needs and plan my money accordingly. If I had school activities or junior or senior class fees (I paid all of my senior year fees on my own), I would factor that in for the week as priority. If anything was left, I saved some of it and used the rest as spending money. I learned this from watching my disciplined parent. I didn't want to be frustrated with needing or wanting something and having no money to get it. I saw how miserable that was from watching the other parent. I refused to needlessly and carelessly squander away my "livelihood". (Like I was making real money! Them lil' $100 checks! Ha!)

That practice paid off. Later, in college, when I got an on-campus job to have extra money (school was completely paid for with grants and scholarships), my parents passed my car insurance and cell phone bills on to me. Those became my responsibility as soon as I started making my own money. Around that same time, I got wise counsel from another family member to get a small department store card to help build my credit. I was advised to shop there once a month and to pay off my balance within two months, if not the very next month. This would show creditors that I was responsible and set me up for the "big stuff" I'd be purchasing once I was on my own after graduation. So I had 3 bills, and I learned to budget with those 3 bills. I got paid once a month with that on-campus job, and I knew all I had to do in the month. I knew what needed to be paid, so I didn't spend wildly or make unnecessary purchases. And after my 3 little bills were paid, I was careful about what I purchased even then.

When I gave my life to the Lord my freshman year in college and began to study God's word, I learned that I was to be a good steward (manager) of EVERYTHING the Lord blessed me with because everything in my hands was to be used, in some way, either directly or indirectly, for kingdom purposes. My life was no longer my own. I was to be an example for Jesus Christ in EVERYTHING I did and my resources were placed in my hands to help me do that. If I was wasteful or careless with anything--my apartment, my car, my money--I would pretty much be wasting what God blessed me with, and I DEFINITELY didn't want to do that, so I stayed the course. I honestly didn't know any other way to be.

Then I got my first post-grad job and moved into an apartment with new bills, and it took me a few months to get on track. But when I did, naturally, I was on a roll because I was already disciplined in budgeting and planning. After a few months of being on a roll, though, I got comfortable. The money I had left to play with, I just started spending and spending. I was just buying stuff and eating out on a regular, and I wasn't saving a dime! I was gladly living from check to check, spending every penny from one check until I got the next. NO DISCIPLINE! But that was about to change REAL QUICK!  My car, the car I'd had since high school graduation was paid for. One Saturday, out of nowhere, a teenage driver came across a 4-lane highway and slammed into  the driver side of my car. It was totaled. I had to get a new car and that meant a new car note. I'd NEVER had a car note before because my parents had taken care of it since that car was my graduation/college gift. But now, on top of the bills I had, I was adding a car note, and when I tell you I ain't had NO MONEY after I paid bills...I ain't had NONE!

I remember being in quiet time with the Lord one day not long after I got the new car. He told me that that car note was my wake up call. He told me that I was being wasteful. I wasn't planning and budgeting like I had before and that I needed to learn to manage again, especially since there was so much that He'd placed me in my city to do. (I'd just moved to Augusta, GA. Had only been in the city about a year when the accident happened.) I was gonna have to be disciplined in my spending and in managing the affairs of my home because it was a direct mirror of the managing I would have to do with the ministry He was about to place in my hands, Praise Movement School of Dance. My money was so tight with that car note that it whipped me into shape quite nicely. LOL! That was a HAAARD season! I became VERY disciplined in my planning and in my spending. That spiritual whoopin' from the Lord DID NOT feel good!

I shared all of that to say this...
When we are not disciplined in our finances, it will show. We WILL make financial mistakes. We WILL make unnecessary purchases. We WILL buy things we don't need.

Do yourself a favor and begin operating from a monthly budget, if you don't already. Like, how can you NOT? How can you NOT track what's coming in and going out each month? I can't imagine it any other way. It's NECESSARY. Plan wisely. Consult your budget for things outside of your regular bills. If the budget says "NO", don't buy it. I live by the motto (because I learned the hard way): Tell yourself "no" today so you can say "yes" tomorrow. There is so much excitement and pleasurable accomplishment in delayed gratification. You don't HAVE TO have it (whatever
"it" is) RIGHT NOW. If you didn't plan WITHIN YOUR BUDGET to have it, you don't need it. Financial mistakes can HURT, and they can be lasting and follow you for years. Invest in your financial stability by applying a little bit of discipline.

Poor Performance

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Discipline Series: Life Without Discipline - #3 Our Health Suffers

In this series, we're digging into 12 indicators that let us know our lives may be lacking discipline. The last 2 indicators have focused on a lack of spiritual discipline. Today, indicator 3 focuses on a lack of physical discipline, and one sure way to know we lack physical discipline is if we see our health suffering. Now, let me be clear before we jump in. There are some health issues that are hereditary, and others that may come upon us in ways that are beyond our control, but when our health suffers because we don't give necessary attention to our bodies, there's no doubt that we've dropped the ball in discipline.


It's not difficult to spot a person who lives a physically disciplined life. Their discipline speaks in the way they look. The same is true for a person who lives a life without physical discipline. Their lack of discipline speaks too. I know I can certainly speak for myself here.

For years, I was dancing regularly at church, and when I say dancing, I don't mean standing up for a 4-minute song waving my hands and twirling around. I mean throwing DOWN with some high impact leaps, kicks, turns and charismatic dance phrases for however long the praise team would sing. My worship garments, all except the very top layer, would be soaking wet! And we didn't just dance one Sunday a month. We danced EVERY Sunday morning and at least once a week at rehearsal. On top of that, I was working out 2-3 times a week at the gym (mostly step aerobics). I lived a pretty active life, so I was in good shape, and I was pleased with the way I looked a felt. Then, out of nowhere, I began experiencing some lower back issues that caused me to have to slow down. Per the chiropractor, I needed to quit step aerobics completely because of the pounding that the stepping up and stepping down was giving my lower back, and I had to slow down and seriously modify the intensity of my worship at church. And I honestly didn't need the chiropractor to tell me that. My body was letting me know that I would have to make some changes in how I got exercise.

In November 2013, the Lord moved me from that church, so not only was I not working out like I used to at the gym, but I would no longer be dancing at church 2 times a week. For a little while, I did modified work outs at home and every now and then at the gym, but it wasn't long before I completely stopped. I sat for months, doing nothing and eating however much of whatever I wanted, and it showed. I looked at myself in the mirror in August 2015, and I knew I had to do something. I wasn't accustomed to being inactive, and I certainly wasn't accustomed to "filling in" my clothes. I didn't feel like myself AT ALL and my confidence was beginning to slip. I was always tired and drained; my energy was low. My performance at work with my students wasn't at its best either, and I was easily frustrated with just about everything they did or didn't do.

One day I saw on Facebook that some of my friends had attended a 2-hour boot camp with Veeta D's Fit Camp. From the pictures that were posted, I could tell they were really working, and I knew that's what I needed. I knew, too, that because I'd been away from consistent work outs for so long, I would need some accountability. I signed up IMMEDIATELY, and from August 2015 to February 2016, I worked out pretty much daily. And I wasn't just taking instruction from Veeta when I worked out. She TAUGHT US how to work out based on our individual needs. She TAUGHT US how to eat and how to measure our caloric intake so we wouldn't be working out in vain. I learned how to take care of me so when I was no longer with her and the Fit Fam, I'd know what to do, and I'm SO MUCH better after my experience there. My motivation was taken to a new level, and I knew that there could never be another time in my life where I didn't work out on a consistent basis. There just couldn't be!

I've seen both sides of the physical discipline coin. I've seen the benefits of disciplining my schedule, my body, and my mind (because physical discipline starts in the mind), and I've seen the consequences that come with not disciplining myself, and I don't ever want to fall on the "no discipline" side of the coin again!

So How Can One's Health Suffer?
I'm annoyed when people think that working out is just for physical appearance. I get asked all the time, "Iantha, why do you even work out? You're small, girl. You don't need to work out." Uuuum...YES! I do! Working out for me is more about being healthy than it is about looking good. I want both, but more than anything, I want to feel good. If my body isn't functioning like it should, what good am I for kingdom use? I can't minister like I should if I'm "sick and shut in."

Obesity (Poor Eating Habits)
You've probably heard that weight loss is 20% working out, and 80% what you eat. If you haven't heard that, just know that it's true! I also read somewhere that you can't outwork a bad diet, and I couldn't agree more. When I first started with Veeta, I wasn't counting calories or "tracking" my meals. I was used to eating what I wanted because I was so active, but when my level of activity changed, I knew I had to make some eating adjustments, and BOY what a difference it made! I literally saw change within a week. And I felt so much better because I wasn't heavy with food.

Obesity is real! When we carry extra weight, it causes all kinds of other health issues (below). If we are going to be disciplined in this area, it's going to mean studying up to know what's good to eat and what's not. Every food that tastes good to us isn't necessarily good for us. Once we know what's good and what isn't, we have to make a conscious decision to prepare and eat foods that help our bodies, and eat less of the ones that hurt us. Some foods we just have to completely rid ourselves of.

I'm no medical professional, but I know that diabetes is a killer. In my own family, diabetes has wiped out a couple people. I can remember one family member being particularly instructed by the doctor to refrain from eating certain foods. Rather than listening to the doctor in this matter of life or death, she indulged in those foods because "she couldn't help herself." And if you read yesterday's blog with indicator #2, Defending My Wrong Actions, you know that "I can't help myself" is a lie! She COULD help herself. She just lacked discipline, and it cost her life.

Self-Esteem / Confidence
No matter who you are or where you come from, one thing will always be true: When you look good, you feel good, and when you feel good, you ARE good. When you don't look good, you don't feel as good. My confidence was not at 100 when I was "filling in" my clothes. I was uncomfortable. I didn't walk with my head as high. I tried to find a way to cover up the "extra" that was there. And even though I didn't "get back" over night, just feeling better from my workouts made a difference in my confidence. (When we're not confident, other areas can be affected too.)

Heart Disease
Another killer. Extra weight and unhealthy foods put strain on our hearts (and other vital organs). Cardiovascular activity, alone, could change the condition of a weak heart, even if the pounds aren't shedding just yet. Power walking for 30 minutes a day could make the difference of a lifetime!

And these are just a few. So many diseases and disorders are related to excess weight and poor eating habits. Is your life worth the discipline it will take for you to get your health in line?

Lastly, what I found is when I'm physically disciplined in one area, I'm physically disciplined in other areas as a result.  I remember telling Veeta when I first started in August 2015 that there was NO WAY I was going to do 5 am work outs. When I started with her, I was doing evening classes. I decided one day that I was gonna do a 5 am just to try it out, and I fell in love! The way the energy from that morning workout set the tone for my day was unreal! I would get home from my workout and hit the ground running! I'd prepare a full breakfast (most days) and actually sit down and eat it instead of grabbing something while rushing out the door. While I was eating, I would read a book (if I was reading one at the time) and/or study God's word. After that I would actually make my bed! Ha! (That WAS NOT an everyday thing before those morning work outs.) I would then shower and prepare for work and get there well ahead of time instead of walking in right on time. And my productivity would be through the roof at work!

The benefits of discipline were (and are) BLESS-ING me!  There are areas where I have it together, and areas that need my attention, but having examples from what I KNOW works is all I need to get it right.

If your physical, mental and/or emotional health is suffering because you're not giving attention to your body, it's your lack of discipline that has you where you are.  When you choose to do something to get yourself on track, you'll see a difference. Trust me.

Life Without Discipline: #4 We Make Financial Mistakes

Dear Jonathan McReynolds,

(Originally drafted September 25, 2015, but not posted for fear of looking like a groupie. Ha! I'm good now.)

Dear Jonathan,

Let me just start by saying, "Brother, you are the TRUUF!" I wanted to post pictures and video on Facebook from the CD release weekend in Chicago so people could see and share in the awesomeness, but I realized I had a lot more to say than could be covered with a mere post or two. And I needed to say it all to you.

Let me get the pleasantries out of the way since this is a letter. "Hey, hi, hello. How are you? Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I'm Iantha. *sticks out hand to shake yours* I'm a New Orleans native who lives in Georgia. I'm a middle school educator and founder of Praise Movement School of Dance. My life's work and the very beat of my heart is pouring into my students and my dancers. I love music. It lives in my bones. I know when I hear GoOD music, and I know when an artist is more than an artist. You, sir, are more than an artist who is making GoOD music. Thank you."

Okay. That's enough.

I remember when I first stumbled upon you. Because I'm always looking for music to use for ministry with Praise Movement, I keep my ear to the street. Ha! (A lil' gangsta wit' it!) I'm always searching for a fresh sound and a fresh message to keep my girls excited about dancing unto the Lord. And in my search about hmmmm...maybe a year or so ago now, there you were. It was No Gray. I was like, "Umph," nodding my head to the beat, making the stank face when you hit all them notes and runs, lifting my hands as I downloaded the message from the song into my internal database. Myyy, myyy... And like we all do nowadays, I had  to hear more from you, so I scoped you out on social media. I sat for a good bit on YouTube watching all of your Unplugged videos, and that was a wrap! I'd officially added a new artist to my repertoire. You were fresh and genuine. The lyrics came for a real place, and that, I LOVE! And on top of that, like India said to you on stage at the CD Release last weekend, you just "sing your face off!" Ha!

Of course, after that, I wanted an opportunity to see you live. The artists I love, I just HAVE TO see! When you were in Columbia, SC at Tye Tribbett's The Chosen conference, a friend and I took the short drive to see that amazing line up, but we were, unfortunately, with the great number of folk who couldn't get a ticket. Let me not revisit that memory. It's too painful. (I love me some Tye too!)

So fast forwarding to now...
THE VERY DAY that you announced your CD Release/B-Day Bash via social media, I contacted a friend and asked if she'd be down for a trip to Chi-Town because I  was immediately compelled to go. I should've mentioned in my lil' intro up there that I will hop on a plane in a minute for an adventure! Being able to see Jonathan McReynolds and his amazing line up AND do Chicago for the weekend? (singing) "Com-plete-ly yeee-ees! My sooo-oul says yeeees!"

We made arrangements THAT night...purchased our Gold Access tickets, booked flights (she from Dallas, and I from Augusta) and a hotel, and hashed out all the details. We were ready for our Jonathan McReynolds Girls' Weekend! (That sounds a little weird, but I already wrote it soooo...)

And that Friday night DID NOT disappoint! My GOD, my GOD!

Thank you, Sir, for teaching Christ and Him crucified. Thank you for, at the young age of 26, living a life that shouts Jesus. I'm 9 years your senior, but I remember when I was 25 laying the foundation for Praise Movement and how it seemed there were only a few (thank God for them) in my age bracket who were serious about not only living for God, but "living Him" so others could learn from how we live. We wanted to make disciples. We wanted to build the kingdom. Young adulthood gets it hard because so many are living lives outside of Christ and it would make it look like none of us are living for Him. So NOT true! I'm so grateful for your ministry. I'm grateful for the lives that will be changed from not only hearing you through your music, but from seeing how you live your life.

Thank you for sharing bits and pieces of your journey on stage that night. Thank you for letting the world know that you simply did what you felt God was telling you to do, and 5 years later...

Please continue to share it. Let others know through your testimony that souls await our obedience. Souls await our decision to walk in the gifts and callings He's placed in us.

And thank you for sharing your stage with other artists. It was an amazing night! I wanted to see Israel live too, so that was cool. And how dare Smokie sneak up in the building and get himself on that stage and kill for all of 2 minutes! *falls out*  It was just a great night of lifting Him up and honoring the man of God. Thank God you were born. And again, as India said, "We need you on the planet."

Oh, and Happy Birthday! I didn't say that when you signed my CD and so graciously agreed to stand to take a picture with me even though as you said, "now you know I'm tired. I been working."  Even that spoke volumes. Ha! And when I said I'd traveled from Georgia to be with y'all that night, the love of God and sincere gratefulness rose up in you and manifested itself with a hug.

I'll continue to pray that your love for God's people and your humble gratefulness remain. Certainly, "the world" you're in now can be a whirlwind, so I, and so many others, will stay on the wall and cover your humanity. We'll cover your health. We'll cover your gift. We'll cover your mind. We'll cover your discernment.

Lastly, we enjoyed the heck out of your beloved Chi-Town, okay?!?! Will DEFINITELY be back to finish exploring. One day was certainly not enough.  The nomad in me needs adequate time to see what I want to see and do what I want to do.

We love you! We're grateful for you! Keep living Christ! I look forward to the live recorded acoustic set! That CD is gon' be da BIDNISS! No pressure. Pun intended.