Wednesday, December 31, 2014

...but God!

The last day of 2014!

All I can say at this point is WOW! It was a year filled with so many experiences, some were amazing, some were good, others were not so good and then there were some that were straight up ugly. Writing this blog was an amazing daily reminder that no matter where I am in my life and how I may feel in the moment, there is always something to be thankful for.

As the year comes to a close and as I write my last entry of this blog, I find myself sitting surrounded with family and friends whose love and support are just beyond belief, reflecting on my life up until this point, all I can say is...BUT GOD!

In so many ways my life could have ended up in a ditch, 100 times over, but God...more than ever I am beyond thankful for His presence in my life, even when I had no clue of who He was - He knew me and He loved me even then. Even in the moments when I thought I was alone and there was no solution, He always provided an answer or a way out, He kept bringing me a little bit closer to Himself and towards discovering my purpose. Through so may mistakes and attacks from the enemy, He never let go, He never stepped away, always fighting my battles, always inserting supernatural glimpses of hope in my heart. Over and over He brought people into my life that became closer than friends, more like family, over and over proving how loving He is and that all good things come from Him, that He is the Father to the Fatherless!

Although there are still so many things that I pray He would reconcile and bring to completion, I celebrate how far He has brought me and how much He has blessed me. I am walking into the New Year ever more confident of His love and His presence in my heart and my life, seeing the evidence all around. I am overwhelmed with His love and what He continues to show me each and every day.

My prayer on this last day of 2014 is that He would use me and my story to bless and empower others, allowing me to be the outpour of His love and mercy; that I would be the branch stretching from the Vine, ever so willing to be pruned and groomed by His hands. I surrender to His will and pray that He would mould me into the person He created me to be, conforming my will to His daily.

It is my joy to honour You, Lord! As I step out in faith into this New year, in complete obedience, trusting Your guidance, I ask that You lead me to where You want me to go, compelled to do Your will. I am thankful that nothing is wasted with You, Lord. Through it all it has always been about You! With You I know I can confidently walk into the future unafraid...

...and for that I am thankful!

Monday, December 8, 2014


As Christmas approaches, many persons are beginning to plan for the holidays spent with family and friends. Although Christmas holidays are filled with lots of joy, love and presents, there are so many persons that find this time of year one of the loneliest times. This is when even the cold wether reminds us of our need for warmness, whether literally or figuratively. This is also the time of the year when the busyness of life counteracts with the craziness of deadlines at work and the financial pressures  as we try to budget for the additional expenses for all the gifts (not to mention the special added stress of the upcoming VAT). It is a beautiful thing when all of this Christmas rush is worth it and is done with unconditional love and the holidays are spent among loved ones as we succeed at putting smiles on their faces. However, for those who have experienced any kind of loss - this time only serves as a reminder of those who are not longer in our lives...

Today I was thinking about all the interesting conversations I've been having lately on the topic and it made me realize how much everyone desires to feel that intimate connection with someone, how much we as human beings are defined by our desire to be desired, wanted, needed, loved...and accepted. Intimacy [In-to-me-you-see] - that connection between two people (could be romantic or not) where both people see into one another. It is that kind of understanding between to people who, although different, have the same understanding of life and the world around them, that compatibility on many levels. That kind of understanding can exist between any two people: friends, family and of course in marriage. You will know when you have that kind of connection, it is almost as if you can finish each other's sentences and you just know that the persons gets you, they understand.

I was talking to a long time friend today that I had the privilege of reconnecting with (it was such a God moment!!!) and she said something that was such a powerful reminder, one of many other amazing things we talked about, that there is a reason why we attract certain people into our lives at a particular stage of our lives. Mostly, we attract people who are a reflection of where we are in life at that time. The way it works, we will attract and be attracted to people who are on the same lever of function (or dysfunction) that we are in during that season of life. The timing also plays a role for the way we experience connection with people, typically serving to either show us where we are or serves a purpose of exposing something we need to learn in order to get where we need to be.

There are many moving pieces and factors that play into making that kind of intimacy happen. Intimacy is so strong and yet so fragile. It can withstand every type of weather and yet it can broken by one careless or unwholesome act. With two people who are healthy and mature that kind of connection can fuel a lifelong friendship and intimacy that is solid and beautiful. That is what long-lasting friendships and relationships are built on.

In my opinion, true intimacy can only be possible when both persons know who they are and their identity is grounded in Christ, when they are both in a place where they have worked through emotional and other issues from the past and are on the same page when it comes to the way they look at things. Even in our relationship with God there are so many levels of intimacy, so there is no surprise that even among those who are professing to follow Christ there are so many differences in the way we understand spiritual truths. That is why it is amazing when you share similar passion and connection with God and this can only be felt by the spirit.

We are all very different, and yet there are moments when friendships and relationships come full circle, when as a result of time and growth lives intersect again and it is a rare and beautiful thing. Reconnecting with a good friend was a very special surprise...

...and for that I am thankful

Monday, November 10, 2014

Celebrating Heroes Today!

As I heard the news for the first time yesterday evening, as each name that was said of the men and women on board of the aircraft and the eardrums delivered the message to the brain, it felt like someone stabbed me in my heart repeatedly. The news numbed me...I was in shock to hear that Dr. Myles Munroe, his wife Ruth, my friends Lavard and Radel Parks...their little son and unborn child and a few others on the plane were no longer with us. Just last Sunday I saw them and I felt such a loss knowing that I took that time for granted, not anticipating that I will never see them again.

The more the news sank in, the more I felt overwhelmingly sad for our country and for the families. We all lost incredible people, visionaries, leaders - HEROES! The authenticity of the messages preached and taught by Myles Munroe were a direct download and revelation from the Lord. The way he impacted people of all ages and backgrounds, believed in each one of them without prejudices, speaking wisdom with love and at the same time, with so much authority - he was a walking and talking image of Christ. He led by example of character and integrity. The men (and women) who were under his wing are the true godly men who are the future in our Bahama land and who will continue to carry out his vision, many already doing that. These are the men that we need to multiply through mentorship. I pray that the legacy will never die, that this time of grief and sadness will be an instrument of change and inspiration for the Bahamas, the Caribbean  and the world!

He taught the truth, the principals of the Word of God. Although I am not a member of BFM, Pastor Munroe has been one of my spiritual mentors for years through the countless sermons I have heard when I visited his church, but mostly watched online and on TV. The books that he wrote are life-changing. Words cannot cover the magnitude of all that this man has done in the time here on earth. The hurt and pain of the loss of our brothers and sisters who were in that plane are going to leave a mark on the hearts of this nation. I hope and pray that the words and teachings will leave an even greater mark! All of us who have been impacted by the influence of someone as great as Myles Munroe, his wife Ruth, Lavard, Radel, pastor Pinder and others who were gathered to go make a difference at the Leadership Conference in Freeport - let us stand and live out the vision, stand up and lead, reach our full potential, and make sure we die empty as they did!

With everything that pastor Myles taught, he was a messenger of someone who is even Greater and He is still alive and lives forever! The same One who gives eternal life to all who know Him and accepts Christ as His Son and the Saviour of the world. We follow pastor Munroe because He followed Christ, so let us take the message seriously, let us carry out the vision of the Kingdom! We are not of this world, we are all here but aliens - we are of the Kingdom of God and we have a responsibility to bring His Kingdom here, while we are here. The only way to do that is to discover your purpose and live out the principals without compromise and RISE UP. We must not settle, we must BE the world changers. We must be the leaders that produce leaders, the disciples that produce disciples. We must not be ok with only hearing the great messages, we must be doers! It's our turn!

Last night we did not say good bye to our was only 'See you later!'

...and for that I am thankful!

"Rise up, Bahamas...
Rise up!
This is the time to rise up as a nation and be reminded of all that has been taught by the great men and women we mourn this day. Above all, let us be reminded of who they pointed toward and gave their very lives for His mission!
Let this tragedy serve us all as a reminder that each one of us can rise up and be a leader in this Bahama land, fulfilling our potential and raising up more leaders, passing the baton to the next generation, as pastor Myles clearly saw in his vision. True disciples MAKE disciples. All of you who were impacted by his teachings - rise up, unite and let's make a difference in our land. This is the time to shine with the knowledge and wisdom you have received! 
Rise up! Get mad as the injustice, not at your neighbor or brother! Bring all the young people you know into this conversation and execute the plan and a vision for peace and leadership making! 
Rise up people of God! Let us keep our eyes on Christ and continue the Kingdom work, building this nation. Together we can make it happen! 
Rise up!"

~Iliana 2014

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Ambassadors of Peace

This evening I attenders a Peace Rally that was organised by Dr. Allen. It was held at the QC Auditorium and the attendance was good, I was pleasantly surprised and encouraged. There was even a panel of leaders who one way or another are making a contribution to the country. Each took turns to share their stories and their insight on the current crime situation in the Bahamas. The sentiments went from the power and need of prayer, to need of persons to get involved in the programs that focus on the fatherless youth who are on the street, to making the government accountable for not being more proactive, to making suggestions that we need outside help from abroad to help us with this crime situation which is getting out of control. 

Afterwards, people were given an opportunity to come to the mic and share their thoughts and comments. Many shared either personal stories of their first hand experiences with gang violence, being victims of crime, some shared their testimonies of being in the gang, even ex gang leaders came forward to share their stories. 

I am so thankful that Dr. Allen took the initiative to bringing the people together to have an open forum to have eye-opening conversations and empower people to speak out, reminding them that they have a voice. That is the best thing that I took away from this evening’s gathering, and for what it’s worth - I believe that was his vision and the main idea behind The Peace Rally. However, I must admit, I was hoping for more. 

It was a mixture of frustration and a bit of disappointment for me. The reason being is that with the momentum that was created in the room, I believe the rally did not provide the followup on how to carry out this vision further, which is why I am hoping that this was only an introductory Peace Rally gathering. The main motivation for the assembling of the rally, I believe, was due to the mindless and heartless killings, robberies and rapes that began to happen in the areas that caught people’s attention, such as Blair. “If this can happen in the crime watch area such as Blair, it can happen anywhere”, someone pointed out. 

When I first heard of the murder of Andrew Cartwright (may he rest in peace and may the Lord continue to comfort the family!) I was talking to a friend who lives across the street, then a friend of a friend who lives next door and heard everything that happened and even witnessed the crime scene. They were in such shock that they described their experience "as if this was happening in some movie rather than to them". As I was hearing these stories I was seriously considered to invest in a gun since I live around the corner. That was also the moment when I started to thinking of moving to the west, hoping it would be safer. All these thoughts came and suddenly I realised what was happening. Isn’t that what our flesh does? Isn’t that our initial intuitive reaction - to flee and find safety for self and family? The truth that Jesus spoke about is so evident - we increasingly becoming lovers of self. We tend to want to run away, buy a gun get behind the wall of a gated community and hope that it does not happen to us. "It’s ok as long as it’s not me”, "Out of sight out of mind" mentality. We are hoping to close our eyes for a moment and hang on to the threads of the feeling of safety, never actually thinking of the solution. But it is not going away and the problem is climbing over the walls, we cannot ignore it any more. 

That first instinct was quickly replaced with personal rebuke and then with righteous anger, which was the drive behind me showing up at the rally tonight. I believe people came for one of three reasons: either because (like me) they are fed up with allowing this to go on and also feel that righteous anger, secondly, they are feeling helpless and want to know what everyone else is prepared to do to bring justice, or thirdly, they have been in the crime field as a part of the solution and hoped to see some proactive movement happen from within the community. The latter are all too familiar with the problem and got very quickly discouraged and frustrated when the meeting became just another exchange of stories and a battle between what was better, prayer-or-action-debate. 

What I was hoping to get more out of the Peace Rally can be summarised in the following points:

  • The most powerful thing that can be done is acknowledging that we are as much a part of the solution as we are a part of the problem. Carlos Read pointed out the famous quote that “in order to get a different result, we need to do start doing things differently”. I wish that he stayed and shared more on what exactly that meant in practical terms for the type of audience that gathered there tonight. 
  • I was hoping that the focus of the meeting would have been geared towards presenting an opportunity for people to come up with some strategies that could be written down for further review and some type of followup would have been established. (even if it was volunteer based and volunteers recruited on the spot).
  • With the awesome turn out it would have been great to have all persons leave their contacts or for leaders from the panel to leave their contacts and specific information, such as where and how persons can come alongside various programs, organisations and initiatives that are already in place. 
  • The Rally would have a greater and lasting impact if it was made clear that although we do not have all the answers and all the solutions, this will be one of many Rallies and the goals and mission/objectives were clearly outlined at the very beginning as to why we were there and what is ultimately being accomplished. 
  • The main goal and purpose for the first Peace Rally, in my opinion, should have been bringing people to an understanding, putting everyone on one page and sparking up a Clear, Single-Mindedness in the way of thinking in such a way, that each person would want to take the conversation to their homes, their immediate groups and communities. That is the only way the change will come about. 

The beauty of a Peace Rally like this one is that we get people to come together. When we get people together for a Rally it is expected that there will be points of action that will be given to challenge each and every individual. It is also assumed that this ONE BODY will continue to move forward together as ONE, affecting change by sparking little fires of passionate hope for change wherever they go. The only way there will be a change in the crime situation we face in the country today is through the UNITY of the PEOPLE who are moved enough and challenged with specific action points to create a wave within their communities. That wave would then have to be constantly fueled through more empowerment through community prayer groups, community rallies and community events that would be guided by ONE VISION and ONE MISSION of that ONE BODY created through the Peace Rally, so that when another one is scheduled to transpire, more and more people would come and people will be joined as one. That is when unity of mind and collective passionate vision has a chance to overcome this situation as it grows. We cannot continue to operate in isolated corners, we need to unite! It is literally either them or us, except that our weapons are prayer and unity in love for one another and even those who are our enemies! People who are leading already - let them lead. Those who come alongside - let them operate in the area of their skill and giftedness. Those who can give - let them give. All, however, should be challenged to grow into leadership and train more leaders! 

There was so much truth spoken tonight, the only thing was missing is the conclusion and call to action. I love that the story of Rhode Island, NY was mentioned and the way Mayor Giuliani transformed the community which was plagued by crime, prostitution and drug trade in just two years in office by implementing some radical changes and investing in education and “civility” campaigns. He was truly a radical leader, and in that sense - the support of our government will be crucial! What will it take to stop this? 

These ARE the last days and we are NOT fighting against flesh and blood. The people of God must RISE UP NOW and stop waiting on the government to provide the solution. Together as a community we have the power and we can influence the government! We need to come together and implement what the Word teaches us for it is our Weapon and it is stronger that any other. We cannot compromise now and remain lukewarm, we must take it by force and we will only be able to do this when we first become obedient to loving one another and coming together as ONE! Together we are powerful and our unity brings glory to God who blesses those who obey His commandments. We are many parts, but we are still one body. There is much that we can do and it does not have to be a debate: some can pray, others with connections can approach the government, doe can give, yet others can go into the community and walk about, building relationships with the young and old who need to feel love. What we need is to pray and then to be empowered and motivated to step out in faith!

Whatever it is that each is equipped with - pour that into the vision of being the Ambassador for Peace! Tonight I saw the power that we can have if we truly come together with one mind and One Spirit, it was a beginning!

...and for that I am thankful!

Friday, October 24, 2014

One day at a time.

Life can be overwhelming at times. It is interesting how there are some seasons of life when everything seems to come at you all at once from different directions. It is so easy to get caught up in the fast paced, high demand current that threatens to take you out of balance. If we allow it, people, circumstances and even our own thoughts can really take over and we begin to loose control as the stream of life begins to carry us and it starts to feel like we are trapped. We begin to loose focus as we try to solve all the issues all at once and it only spins us more out of control.

In these moments it is so important to regain control. It is in these moments that it is important to take it one day at a time. The most important thing at this time is to pause and rest. Then, instead of looking at the whole picture, just look at one area and complete one task that is more pressing without the feelings of guilt. It also means that maybe it is necessary to take a few steps back and temporally remove people and situations that are not helping but instead are draining our energy (in love of course, the once who count will understand).

For me, when I go through moments like these I tend to remember the words of Jesus after he spoke to them of some challenging times to come, encouraging His disciples with these words: "I have said these things to you so that in Me you would have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but take heart, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). No matter what we go through we can still have peace in Christ because He has overcome the world, even death itself!

Peace comes when our heart's focus is on the One who can help us overcome all the circumstances. Being free from worry and having peace comes from knowing this truth. As long as Jesus remains our focus, we can trust and have faith to take it one day at a time even though we don't see the outcome or have the answers. When life becomes overwhelming that is the time to strip ourselves away from all the distractions, slow down and find dwelling in His Word. When we set our feet on the Truth, the Rock - we gain balance in our life. When we stand on His truth we become free of the worries of this world.

...and for that I am thankful.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Right or Wrong?

How do we go about telling what is right or wrong? 

There are many ways to tell what is morally correct and what is not. We go about it based on what we were taught and what our parents and teachers believe in, later on developing our own world of ideas and philosophies, making decisions accordingly. In many cases it is easy to tell right from wrong, like for example it is commonly known that it is right to 'stop' at a red light and it is right to 'go' at the green light. We were taught and we just know that it is right to look each way before crossing the street. In other cases we know it is 'the law' to wear our seat belts although not everyone may follow it. The rights and the wrongs that we perceive within our worlds are like either the clear paths we can go through or the stop signs signalling 'do not head in that direction'.

There are different types of Rights vs. Wrongs which guide our decisions:

- The Moral Right vs. Wrong
- The Socially acceptable Right vs. Wrong
- The Legal Right vs. Wrong
- The Personally acceptable Right vs. Wrong
- The Common Sense Right vs. Wrong
- The Intuitive Right vs. Wrong

How do we find out what is Right and what is Wrong? We learn through experience and by discovering the consequences and outcomes, which then help us (hopefully) not to do something if the result is unpleasant or unwanted. We may even get confused at times about what is right or wrong and our understanding and concepts evolve as we ask questions and learn more about life. The interesting thing, I find, is that we all want to be rights about what we consider 'right' and 'wrong' which is why people engage in so many arguments trying to prove that their 'right' is the 'rightest' on any given topic. What's worse is that we try to impose our 'rights' and 'wrongs' on others.

Whatever we believe about the topic, we still somehow in many instances choose to do 'wrong'. The funny thing is that in so many cases as humans we, for some reason, trip over the same rock and go back to repeat the same mistakes. If we take Einstein's definition seriously we can determine that majority of the human population is insane...

This morning I had an interesting conversation with some great minds and as 'iron sharpened iron ' we got to a point in our conversation where we began to examine what is acceptable and what is not acceptable for us as believers and even further - teachers of the Word. It was interesting because what each one of us sees as acceptable and not acceptable is such a personal definition. No matter how personal the question of 'right' vs. 'wrong' may be, I am convinced that there has to be a way to tell, aside from our personal convictions.

Many times young people ask questions such as "Is it ok for a Christian to have tattoos?" or "Why can't I listen to certain music or watch certain shows/movies, it has some occasional cursing or one scene with violence, so what?" or "What's wrong with going to a bar and having one or two drinks with my friends, shouldn't I have a right to choose?".  Sometimes these Rights & Wrongs can seem hard to determine with the blurred lines of what is socially acceptable, especially if the Bible does not directly deal with the issue. (That is also implied that the person believes in the Bible being the inerrant Word of God)...These are seemingly complex questions to answer for a lot of believers and this is the same reason why there is such a split even within the Christian church and the body of believers. I ask myself "should it be so if we are reading the same Bible?". Shouldn't we come to the same conclusions about what we believe about living life as God designed it? Why are there so many separations and disagreements? How can we stand as one is we do not agree?

The truth is, the answers are so simple that sometimes we tend to miss it because we over-spiritualize things and intellectualise everything. We want it to sound deep and profound and impressive, so we miss the essence and simplicity of the Gospel. Today there was that 'Aha!' moment when one simple statement made by my brother in the faith, Pastor Nate, resonated with me and brought clarity to a lot of things I was asking discernment on. As we shared our personal takes on what we understood to be acceptable or not, he shared that for him the litmus test for discerning right from wrong comes down to this one simple thing. "It is so simple, that I do not want you to miss it", he said..."for me the question is always - does it bring glory to God?"

That was simple and so true. When we want to do something that is questionable we tend to want to negotiate with God as if asking "How far to the edge can I come before it is considered wrong or sinful?" That is the wrong question. In everything that we think, say or do the question to ask is "Does it bring glory to God?". Imagine if we asked that question as we approached the subjects like the way that we treat our bodies, the way that we treat ourselves and others, the way that we treat our brains with the stuff we expose ourselves to, the way that we date, do marriage and parenting...does it bring glory to God? That is where we ought to start in the way we re-learn to walk and live out our faith, not according to the patterns of the world, but according to the Word - the way God designed it. That would bring Him glory. God's Truth is so simple and beautiful, so clear and yet so profound. Desiring to bring Him glory is what's lacking in the body of Christ...and that is what the unbelieving world finds so unbelievable.

Sharing moments like these with people who love God and share the same desire to learn how to bring Him glory is priceless. Today was that day...

...and for that I am thankful!

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
~ 1 Corinthians 10:31

Friday, October 10, 2014

"What's LOVE got to do with it?" (***EVERYTHING***)

It is all about love!

I don't mean the romantic kind, although there is definitely a place for that kind of love too. What I mean is, everybody wants to be loved. We hear countless songs about LOVE, I even heard people say things like "Love is my religion"...but we have such limited understanding of the meaning of LOVE and what it actually LOOKS LIKE 'real time'.

We all want to experience the depths, the width, the heights of love and often people go to such extremes for love. Yet, there are others who settle for the sake of love. People have killed in the name love! We fall in and out of love like we fall in and out of a hammock or a chair.

Love is so misrepresented and that is not at all a surprise. We base our idea and experience love based on our own exposure to it. We tend to love the way we have been loved. If we have never been loved by our parents, or the love we have received in the past was full of pain, then we are going to recreate what we know and have experienced.

What I have been discovering lately and the one thing that God is really teaching me in this season of life, is that we are meant for GIVING of love, more so than receiving. God is LOVE, He so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son... We are created in His image, which means that we too are created to GIVE when it comes to love, but we cannot give what we do not have.

The only way we will ever be able to truly love is when we understand how much we are loved. When we understand that our unlimited source of LOVE comes from God and we decide to connect to Him, our well will never run dry. Instead, it will overflow and be poured out into the lives of others. When we focus on giving love without any expectations of getting anything in return because our love tank is constantly being filled by the Source, we are able to recreate the Love we experience from our Father - the unconditional, RADICAL LOVE!

Other people stop being the source of love because it can only come from God's unfailing and unconditional love for us. That kind of revolutionary love does not seek her own way, it does not seek his own selfish desires, because it only knows how to give. It does not require approval and it does not give to be 'liked', it is about pure, genuine desire to express the LOVE we feel from our Heavenly Father to everyone we come in contact with.

I thank God for this revelation - and answer to my prayer to reveal to me how to love others as He loves me. In retrospect, I am also realising how much growing I need to do in this area because i do not know how to love...I do not know how to receive love...because I still do not fully grasp how much I am truly loved by God...

...even though I do not fully know this Love, I am thankful for it...