Make Jesus the Star of Christmas

pexels-photo-217840When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:10–11)

It’s Christmas, starring Jesus, the reason we have anything to celebrate at all. Whether the advent of His coming is acknowledged or whether He is ‘Xed out of the world’s gatherings and plans, Jesus came to bring hope to the entire world. Despite His hope-bringing mission, He takes a less than leading role to our culture’s Xmas symbols which saturate the season with substitutions for Christ and distractions from Christ. Nevertheless in the hearts and minds of those who have accepted His sacrifice and who absolutely adore Him, Christmas is a time of reflection on a precious babe who made His appearance on the Earth He created to meet our desperate need for a Savior. The fact that Jesus left His position in heaven to descend to Earth should not be second to anything else this wonderful season has to offer, but should instead point us to everything true and pure that should be celebrated at Christmastime. Using this thoughtful list, make Jesus the star of the season in your life by sharing the kind of hope and love that make this the most wonderful time of the year.

  1. Give the best of your time, talent or resources as a symbol of how God gave us His very best in giving us Jesus and later Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice of His own life to take away the sins of the world and to make things right again between humanity and God
  2. Share a smile, an encouraging word, but most of all share and spread the truth of Christmas to keep the message of Christ’s coming to Earth as the main reason for celebration and to remind us of His promised return as a glimmer of hope in a world that needs every reminder of the plan of salvation, that the story of Jesus is (fortunately) to be continued…
  3. Forgive Honor Jesus Christ by remembering His mission on Earth—to give us access to God again through the forgiveness of our sins. If God was willing to forgive, then you should let go of the heavy weight and toxicity of an unforgiving heart; do yourself a favor and forgive.
  4. Commune It is hard to celebrate baby Jesus without celebrating resurrected Jesus and soon coming King Jesus. Find a personal and maybe even a creative way to connect with our Savior, to remember His sacrifice, and to anticipate His return. Be intentional about not following the world’s pattern of being primarily focused on the materialistic and the substitutionary symbols of the season, but settle in to calm and allow moments for worship and intimacy
  5. Be Gracious Do something unexpected for someone, such as increasing your tipping at your salon, pet groomers, or favorite lunch spot; doing something nice for a widow; babysit for or take groceries to a single mother; or whatever you find in your heart to do to shine the brightness of the light inside of you because of Jesus

 Happy a Merry Christmas! 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Empty Seat at the Table

pexels-photo-196648“‘Tis the season to be jolly,” and all the rest. You are making and checking your gift-giving list. You are trying to make as many things merry and bright as you possibly can, but you cannot shake the feeling that this is not just another holiday season. The holidays are just not as cheerful as they would be if the empty seats at the table were filled with the presence of your lost loved ones. Whether it is one or more loved ones lost, the weight of their absence is often more heavily felt during the most wonderful time of the year. Their missing kisses, hugs, warmth, smile, and good-humor is magnified this time of year. Yet, no matter how much loved ones are missed, it is important to realize just how much of a vapor life is. So while you still have breath in your body, it is important that you live and find the joy that remains here: the smile of a child, the dawn of each new day, children at play, the spirit of giving, the birth of a baby, wedding bells, the encouraging words of those that give comfort, or more importantly, the peace that surpasses all understanding. While it is okay to move forward, to live, to enjoy your life without your dear loved one by your side and to find happiness in new joys and experiences, it is also okay to grieve as long as you need to. You may never get over the loss of a loved one (and you never have to), but you can get through it and go on with your life. Mourning is a temporary event that becomes a little less familiar with each passing day, or month, or year. As mourning reaches its end, the fondness of memories can be reminisced with a smile instead of a tear, with honor instead of pain, and with gratefulness to God for the gift that was the presence and connection you were favored to have had with your loved one. So while the empty seat at the table may reflect a deep hole in your heart, it can also or will hopefully begin to reflect your heart’s abundance of precious memories of happier times when laughter came easier and smiles were brighter.

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Dear Younger Me

coffee-tablet-headphones-work-163187Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, (Philippians 3:13)

Experience is not the best teacher, but the truth is, despite the tough love and hard lessons learned, I needed my young adult life to play out exactly as it did beginning at the emancipation age of 18 in order to bring me to exactly where I am—content, possessing peace of mind, and humble knowing that, but for the grace of God my story could have had a different plot. Younger me possessed pride and a rebellion seemingly synonymous with youthful oblivion. My mother, who I now realize was always right, not perfect, but right, used to say, “if you don’t hear, you’ll feel.” I never really cared for that statement or more importantly, never grasped what it meant until I came to myself and acquired a portion of wisdom to be able to reflect on some of my past mistakes and how I had to feel in order to really learn valuable life lessons. If I knew in my youth and young adult years what I know now, it would have saved me from my mistakes, but it would not have served purpose because it would have prevented me from being made. Every past mistake, regrettable choice or decision when viewed through the lens of the present can be seen for what it was, a lack of wisdom or the failure to listen to wise counsel. A letter penned to younger me is futile because younger me is behind me and cannot be saved from the failures of her past. However, reflections on the past can be purposeful if they serve as constant reminders of the goodness, grace, and mercy of God and if they perhaps lead to the establishment of mentor-mentee relationships. Otherwise, I have no time to dwell on hindsight’s perfect knowledge because I cannot change a thing, but I can from experience tell someone else that they are whole, that no man, no matter how handsome and together he is, completes them, as they are already complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10); that God purposely positions people in their life to help you make wise decisions, it is their choice to listen; that they are valuable on their own not by any human association or associations, but by the association of Jesus Christ; they have a purpose that can only be revealed by God, so it is best to be still and seek Him instead of their own agenda; that bad company will influence you to do wrong so choose your company wisely; that God’s protective, unconditional, Fatherly love is the greatest; and that because of His great love, the good and bad in their lives is essentially working together for their good (Romans 8:28). When you have overcome, the choices you may regret, and the things you may now be ashamed of are a tool for you to use to help others realize that their future will far outweigh their past if they are full of faith and put their trust in God.

Dear Younger Me is inspired by a song by the same title that I hear almost everyday on the radio and it forces me to be reflective, realizing how far I have come and how good my Father is: Dear Younger Me by Mercy Me.

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10 Easy Steps to Studying Scripture

pexels-photo-24165But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3:18

Your growth as a Christian is key to your spiritual livelihood. There is grace to be enjoyed and wisdom to be gained that will make you aware of all of the many different graces that are lavished on the believer by our heavenly Father. If you are spiritually immature then, like newborn babies, [you are to] crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. When you taste something delicious, the natural response is to eat more or to desire more. Similarly, since you have tasted the goodness of God, allow that encounter to produce a constant craving for His word. It is a fact that you will not grow spiritually without spending time in God’s word, because God’s word is a seed that when planted in your heart, produces fruit that matures (Luke 8:11). Any urge to avoid such a crucial part to the development of your new life, or any distraction that keeps you too busy to spend quality time with the Lord threatens your ability to be spiritually productive. It is through the word that we are taught, reproofed, corrected, trained, and made complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17).

No matter your level of understanding, God will give you the portion of grace that you need in order to understand how to walk in his ways and to do His will for your life. While it is true that you can learn from preachers and teachers, from books written by wise men and women, what you are learning is the result of those individuals’ personal study and time spent with God. God gave them what they are sharing with you, God inspired them to write what is in the pages of their books, but He desires time spent directly with you in order to share with you knowledge of Himself and His ways, in order to directly feed you pure spiritual milk. God’s word is God-breathed, meaning He said it all, He just used Holy Spirit inspired men to write it down (2 Timothy 3:16). The contents of biblically sound books you read with your awareness of God’s word firsthand, makes these secondary sources of godly information a useful tool to supplement, not to replace your primary Bible study. So, since you should study for yourself so that you can properly and accurately handle the word of God, how do you study Scripture in a way that is not intimidating or overwhelming? Well, it’s simple, pray first asking the Holy Spirit to guide you into the deep things of God and to open your eyes so that revelation knowledge is yours. Apply these 10 Easy Steps to make the most of your regular, quality time with God:

  1. Limit distractions (Bible reading via technology is convenient because our devices are at our fingertips, but be mindful of alerts and the temptation to rush your quality time in order to surf the internet, return a call, post that picture or status update to social media, etc.)
  2. Think about what you know about the book of the Bible itself (its author, audience, purpose, issues, themes)
  3. Context: do not settle on a Scripture’s meaning by one verse alone
  4. Think about how the Scripture was relevant at the time it was written and how it is relevant today; consider how the Scripture can be applied right now
  5. Use a good study Bible (one that I use is Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible); study Bible annotations are the author’s revealed knowledge of Scripture, that being clear, a good study Bible like the one written by Finis Dake is the compilation of a lifetime of work which resulted in some of the best study notes you will find
  6. Use a concordance to find Scriptures related to a matter of personal importance to you, perhaps something you need God to help you with or a topic you would like more understanding of (i.e. Forgiveness), if you use Dake’s reference Bible, impressive components of a concordance are included. I use Strong’s Concordance which I have recently discovered to be very useful, I will revise this post as I become more familiar with this amazing tool.
  7. Your study of Scripture is not a sprint, it is a marathon, a thorough study is more beneficial than a quick read through; so take the time to thoroughly digest what you are reading
  8. Take notes while reading to record the revelation that God is giving you while you are reading
  9. Read and meditate on God’s word daily; our spirit needs daily nourishment in order to thrive
  10. Always remember that you personally know the Author, pray and ask the Holy Spirit to teach you the deep truths of God…God does not reveal His deep truths to outsiders

Happy Bible Reading!

 

 

 

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Whisk

 

 

7382 SW 56th Avenue

South Miami, FL 33143

 

Sundays are for Sunday brunch at Whisk as they serve Sunday brunch exclusively until 4pm. I love this especially since most restaurants end their brunch service at 2pm or 3pm and that is too rushed for the modern church-going Girl who lets the real “Sunday Brunch” the sermon and the fellowship digest before heading to satisfy their appetite. Whisk indirectly understands our plight. Now, I have tried the Low Country Shrimp and Grits which were good, but room temperature. If you like your food on the warmer side, do mention that when ordering. I have ordered this twice and the dish was room temperature. I did not send it back because I planned to review the meal and you can better determine whether a dish is good or not by eating it at room temperature; if it is good at room temperature, then it is a well made dish. I must say, the grits were good quality, let me qualify that, they were not “quick grits.” They were the stone-ground type that are more expensive and harder to find; I have only seen them at one local specialty store where I first purchased them several years ago. They are the type of grits that take much longer to cook, but are worth the extra time and effort because the texture is supreme to quick grits. The shrimp were large, succulent, and cooked perfectly. I liked the addition of mushrooms to the dish, but had them omit the bacon since I do not eat pork. I could eat this dish everyday for brunch, and I say that as someone with a pretty mean shrimp and grits dish of her own. I also had the Fried Green Tomatoes which were decent, but the sauce, while it added a freshness to the richness of the fried tomatoes, was a bit on the liquid side. During the same visit, I ordered Papa’s Buttermilk Pancakes with pecan-caramel praline butter and maple syrup. When I read praline on the menu I immediately thought of New Orleans, Louisiana, and therefore I anticipated a crunch factor to the pecan-caramel praline butter, but it was missing. That would be my only minus to the entire dish because the pancakes were light and fluffy. On a separate visit, I tried the Pepper Jelly and Goat Cheese served with toast points and it was delicious and different, but I had heard of pepper jelly from country-cooking style chefs so I was completely open to it as I am with most foods I have not tasted. I would recommend Whisk for brunch again and again, that is why they have made my list of Where to Brunch in Miami. Let me know if you visit by commenting about your experience below. Cheers!



Are You Prepared?

pexels-photo-70298But while they were going away to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were prepared went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. (Matthew 25:10)

Being prepared is a must in any season. Whether you are preparing for a storm, marriage, college, or to buy a house, you either have your business in order or you are in the process of having it in order because you intend to be ready when the time comes for an event that will affect your life. As words of wisdom or words of warning are shared to emphasize the importance of being prepared for today, likewise, a loving Father, God shares the need for preparedness as it concerns our tomorrow. When I think of people who heed a warning to be prepared and people who procrastinate or show disregard and are as a result left to deal with the consequences of their folly, I think of the ten virgins that Jesus taught about in one of His many parables. These women could not be more distinct. Half of them were wise and the other half were foolish. The bridegroom, who they were awaiting, delayed his arrival for some reason, so they all fell asleep. The wise women ensured that they had oil enough to shine bright at the appointed time. Their display of wisdom is the opposite of the foolish women at such a critical time, lacking oil, and upon awakening to notice of the bridegroom being nearby, they attempted to buy oil at the eleventh hour, but it was too late. As a result of their carelessness, they missed the opportunity to enter into the marriage feast and they were shut out. It is a lot like life itself, when you are prepared, you are ready for any occasion whether it is to receive a blessing or to be one, but when you are unprepared, you are not ready for opportunities that could have otherwise been yours and you are faced with negative consequences that could have been avoided if you would have taken heed. Yet, there is a time to take heed and it is not the eleventh hour. Similarly, Christ’s return is to be prepared for, He has tarried like the bridegroom, but as with the moral of the Parable of Ten Virgins, God advises us to be wise and to watch for Christ’s return in that we continue to be ready, continue to be about the business He’s assigned us to fulfill. The mercy and the grace of God readily available to those who do not know Him, those that find themselves unprepared should heed Love, and not be ignorant to the fact that one day there will not be another day, another hour, another minute, another second to get ready. Opportunities will not always avail themselves. Time is not a commodity. The appointed time is now. If we can prepare for a storm, a successful marriage, a great college experience, to find the perfect house, for this temporary dwelling place, we can exercise wisdom in preparing for the certainty of Christ’s return. Are you prepared?

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A Prayer for Election 2016

pexels-photo-129112Be encouraged this election season and do not worry about tomorrow because God will take care of everything. Be an informed voter and urge your circle to do the same. Vote your choice and leave the rest up to God. Instead of worrying about who will take office, focus on what God considers important like loving Him, loving His people, doing His will for your life, and not giving all your attention to this life, but being concerned primarily with being ready for your eternal home not this temporary world that we are just passing through. When it is all said and done, it will not matter who rules the world, but who ruled your heart.

Here is a sincere prayer that I wrote during quiet time back in July 2016, and it is still relevant today. Recite it when you need a reminder of God’s sovereignty in all things.

Dear Heavenly Father,

In your Word, You said that “when the [uncompromisingly] righteous, are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked man rules, the people groan and sigh (Proverbs 29:2).” Lord, at a time when there is so much peril in the world, we desire a season of rejoicing. Grace us with rejoicing Lord, favor us with the most suitable and capable candidate as the next President of the United States of America for such a time as this. A President whose moral compass “bends toward justice” and whose character while not perfect, is still praiseworthy. Lord, we know that, the only perfect Man that ever walked this earth is Jesus, and He’s not on the ballot, but you remain on the throne. We trust you because you are faithful. We trust you because you are good. We trust you because you do all things well. We trust you because of your unfailing love. We trust you because you established the order and authority that is public office, but even still no one trumps your authority. We trust you because no matter who is in office at the local, state, or national level, you are still ultimately in control. You can turn the very heart of any man for our good (Proverbs 21:1). Thank you Lord for hearing our prayer and for answering us. In Jesus name, Amen.

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Pumpkin Spiced Coconut Creamer

person-woman-coffee-cupPumpkin Spiced Coconut Creamer

It’s like sipping a warm pumpkin pie in the islands.

Ingredients:

1 cup half and half

3 cups coconut milk

1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk (optional)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract (may substitute coconut extract)

1/4 cup agave nectar

1 15 ounce can pumpkin purée

2 tablespoons pumpkin spice (or make your own see recipe below)

1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. To a blender add all ingredients in the order listed.
  2. Blend on low, then gradually increase to high speed. Reduce speed to low, then turn off blender.
  3. Taste and adjust liquid, spices, and sweetness to your taste. The more liquid you add, the thinner the consistency.
  4. Pour in a glass milk bottle or other air tight beverage container. Keep refrigerated for up to one week.
  5. Add desired amount to your favorite coffee or even hot chocolate, and enjoy!

Makes 6-8 servings

Pumpkin Spice*

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

1 tbsp ground cloves

1 tbsp ground ginger

1 tbsp ground nutmeg

*multiply recipe to make more for later use

Directions:

  1. Mix all spices together with a spoon and pour into an airtight container.

Story: I have loved Starbucks’ pumpkin spice syrup for years, but I recently read an article that raised some concerns about the syrup ingredients. So, I decided to make a version of their syrup myself. As I was considering ingredients I recalled how well coconut pairs with pumpkin and I pay homage to my Jamaican heritage with the creamy addition of coconut milk in this recipe. While rich and smooth, this is a healthier, all natural, creative twist on a classic. Let us know how you like this seasonal creamer in the comments below.

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Mixed Greens

3 bunches Collards*, rolled up lengthwise and cut into thin shredspexels-photo-134877

1 head Cabbage*, rolled up and cut into thin shreds

½ green bell pepper, cut in half

1-2 garlic cloves, minced

½ onion, diced

¼ cup olive oil

1-2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

½ cup Vegetable stock or water, continue adding as needed

1 tbsp Kosher salt, or to taste

2 tbsp Seasoned salt, or to taste (optional)

1 tbsp Cracked Black pepper

*buy organic when available and when your budget allows

Serves 12-14

  1. Thoroughly wash greens and cabbage. I cut the greens, place them in the sink, sprinkle them with baking soda and give them a nice bath. Once they’re clean, I rinse them thoroughly. I remove the greens, then repeat this step with the head of cabbage.
  2. Using a stock pot on medium heat, add olive oil, and proceed to sauté the onions, then add the garlic, and green bell pepper. Cook for approximately 3 minutes, the sautéed vegetables should be translucent.
  3. Add the collard greens, vegetable stock (or water), apple cider vinegar. Cover and cook on medium high heat for 15-20 minutes adding stock ¼ cup at a time. Reduce heat to simmer for 20 more minutes.
  4. Add cabbage and cook for an additional 15-20 minutes. Taste the greens, they should have a bite; the cabbage should cooked through.
  5. Remove from heat and Enjoy!

 

Story: As I incorporate more vegetables into my diet, I use ingredients that not only taste good, but that I have discovered are power packed with health benefits. Do some research and you will discover for yourself why collards and cabbage can be very beneficial to your health. Traditionally, these greens would be made with smoked meats, but while in conversation with my Pastor, she mentioned that she does not use meat, but instead uses bell peppers to season her vegetables…I’ve been seasoning with bell peppers ever since and my family who loves the smoky flavor of smoked turkey in their greens don’t miss it at all! Cooking these greens will definitely help you dine well and be well. This is a great dish on its own and suitable for Vegetarians and Vegans; or I like to serve it with fish such as salmon or cod.

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Divine Intervention

black-and-white-person-woman-girlHearts are breaking more often these days as news of trouble surfaces locally, nationally, and globally. I know God’s heart breaks over the wickedness of His creation. God neither slumbers nor sleeps so I know He is fully awake when injustices and senseless acts of violence occur of any kind. No matter how much He’s excluded from the solution, God remains the remedy to all of the evil in this world and His principles if adhered to would make a world of difference in our society. One thing is certain, God is not going to intervene in any situation in which He is not welcome. That is why the whole world benefits when God’s people pray and seek His face regularly and earnestly for His divine intervention. Above that, what if we did what is required which is to do right, to love kindness and mercy and to understand that it is not about us to the end that we walk in humility before God (Micah 6:8)? Imagine the difference that would be made if people actually loved their neighbor, actually cared about their welfare, actually treated all men as being created (as they were) equal. There would be no war, hate, bigotry, and all other evils in the way of a harmonious existence would be eradicated. Yet and still, we know in this world Jesus warned us to expect trouble (John 16:33); and we also know that the events of this age are leading up to His much anticipated return. So, as we live, be light, love, pray, and act with wisdom, in our hearts we always return longingly to utter, “Come Lord Jesus,” but with this world as urgently in need of a Savior, I can understand the reason for His delay (2 Peter 3:9).

 

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