All Posts By

Ibelisse Sanchez

Meditation

Are you living a distracted life?

I need this year to be radically different than last year or the year before. If I’m not willing to hone in on the one thing I desire, I’ll never achieve it. Over the years I’ve been distracted by pain, fear, anxiety, and certain relationships. I’ve voluntarily been robbed of my time.

Everything can’t have my attention. And I can’t allow the master deceiver to steal it from me any longer. My number one goal for this year is an even deeper intimacy with Jesus. My relationship with Him will not grow if I don’t make a concerted effort to focus on Him and what He is saying to me. And it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to take time, vision, determination, and sacrifice.

In optics (film or photography) you can focus on a person or object while everything around it is blurred. As radical as this may sound, that’s what I must do. To focus will require that I blur out other things. It doesn’t eradicate them from existence; I’ll just have to choose not to give my attention, either for a period of time or indefinitely, to the circus of activity trying to distract me. It isn’t enough to say yes to your dream. Saying no to other things is just as important.

Do you live a distracted life? Are you giving too much or all of your attention to activities, people, or thoughts that are holding you back from fulfilling your purpose? I want to encourage you to do a soul inventory.

  • What dream have you been holding hostage?
  • What is distracting you from working on it?
  • What are you willing to give up to achieve it?
  • Who are you surrounding yourself with?
  • What are you doing with your time?

What will you use your time for this year? Below is an acronym of what focus will mean for me this year. Personalize the acronym to reflect your focus and print it out as a reminder.

Here’s to staying focused! Cheers {raising and clinking my coffee cup with yours}!

  1. Fearless: I will allow God’s perfect love to cast out all fear.
  2. Open Eyes: I will seek clarity from the Holy Spirit.
  3. Consistency: I will spend time every day on my focus.
  4. Undivided: I will give my all to Jesus.
  5. Simplicity: I will eliminate distractions.
Meditation

10 Keys to Spiritual Creativity

Many of us think that being a ‘creative’ is about self-expression. I’m here to ruffle a few feathers and challenge that long held view. Over the years I’ve come to believe that living a truly creative life isn’t at all about us. Unless we’re willing to take our ‘selves’ out of the equation, the path of pure creativity cannot flow through us.

Creativity is a spiritual process. Thoughts, inspirations, and dreams find their way into our inner being. But how do they get there? I believe creative ideas come from one of two places in the spiritual realm. The source and motive behind them is what distinguishes life-giving creativity from corrupting creativity.

God is the first and unsurpassed ‘creative.’ Our creative pursuits should always spring from Him not ourselves or other sources. We are spiritual vessels to be used by God for His purposes. If God has a purpose for each of our lives, He also has a unique and creative plan tailored just for us. He alone knows how our life journey will also weave into someone else’s path.

The creativity given us should uplift humanity in some way; build it up, not tear it down. It should cause us to seek higher spiritual pursuits and not temporal pleasures. If what we create causes another to live an ordinary or shackled life, then our contribution is of no value. Freeing the human soul from the clutches of carnality should be our highest creative aim. And we have to trust that God has a storehouse of imaginative ways to reach each individual.

When I was in art school some of the exercises we did entailed drawing or painting whatever came to us. We used our hands and brushes as physical tools of deliberate expression. Writers do it too with free writing. God wants to use us the same way, special tools in His hand to create majestic works of art that transform the human spirit for eternity. But we have to be willing to let go and allow the Spirit of creativity to direct us.

We have to let go of what we think we know in order to be filled with what we don’t know. We have to drain our soul of our ‘selves’ and ‘our’ ideas about God to be filled with deeper revelations of God’s heart and His desires for us.

Some years ago God questioned the motivation behind what I did. Why do you do what you do? If we want our creative pursuits to matter, we have to be willing to question our motives. We have to be willing to lay down our desire for self-expression just for the sake of expression, the desire for fame or validation, and the desire for fortune. Those motives stain the purity of spiritual creativity.

Revelation 3:8 contains a message to the church in Philadelphia, which in Greek means ‘brotherly love’.

‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”: “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.

 

Over the years I’ve thought about creativity, God, and our unique purposes while living our one life on this earth. I’ve collected a few spiritual keys to a creative life that honor God and uplift our fellow sojourners.

 

  1. FAITH: It all starts with believing in God’s majestic grandeur – His omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience. His infinite creative power and imagination is beyond our comprehension. God’s thoughts are higher than our wildest dreams. If he deposits an idea in us and we try to flesh it out without His help, it’ll probably remain stagnant. If we put our trust in His dynamic ability to reveal His deep reservoir of creativity, He’ll gift us with unique ways of expressing His truths.
  2. FOLLOW: When we consistently follow the Word of God, our life will be created. We are to be followers of Jesus – the Word of God. Without Him we can do nothing and with Him all things are possible. Jesus created us and everything we see and everything we don’t. When we truly follow Jesus as our Lord and Savior, He offers us the gifts of His divine fullness. He is everything we need and even more than we could ever imagine.
  3. FELLOWSHIP: Who but the Spirit of God is able to reveal the secret things of God? Let us fully surrender to the leading and teaching of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a person, not some energy or force. He is our ally, our teacher, and our comforter. Let us become one in spirit and the shadow of the Holy Spirit. Say what He says and do what He tells us to do. But we have to take the time to fellowship with the Spirit and listen to that still small voice that searches the deep things of God and reveals them to those who are in pursuit.
  4. LOVE: Putting others first is the essence of love. When we die to self it opens the door to creativity because we’re willing to lose in order to gain. You can only fill an empty container. When our hearts are aligned with God’s, then our life’s purpose will undoubtedly include serving others. Our creative endeavors should always lean toward depositing life into another and always naming that life ‘God.’
  5. GRATITUDE: Being thankful opens the heart and hand of God to His endless bounty. God so loves it when we are grateful for all that He is and all He has done for us. Greed just fills us with corruptible things, leaving no room for the eternal. When we loose our grip on earthly things, we open our hearts and minds to receive God’s treasures.
  6. INTEGRITY: We must be the same person when we’re around others and when no one is looking. That’s the mark of a person of integrity. God needs to be able to trust us with the gems of His heart and to carry through to completion the purpose He’s planned for us.
  7. HUMILITY: Having a teachable spirit opens us up to God’s endless imaginings. If you think you know it all then you’re not being receptive to the enchanting thoughts of God. Acknowledge your weakness before God and His strength and He will send dreams, stories, songs, paintings and all sorts of goodies to your heart.
  8. PURSUE: Being a truth-seeker will lead you to God’s wisdom. Those who seek do find. Those who ask are given. And to those who knock, doors will be opened. Wisdom is saying or doing or not saying and not doing the best thing at the right time. Without God’s wisdom creativity loses its strength to transform.
  9. FORGIVE: Without letting go and forgiving those that have wronged us, we cannot plant seeds of inspiration in our spirits. We need to be a garden ready for God’s perfect ponderings not a field of bitter roots. Forgiveness is at the heart of God’s ways. It’s not enough to be like-minded, we must be like-hearted to be co-creators.
  10. RECYCLE: Surrendered souls have stories that God can use. We must be willing for God to use our suffering for the benefit of another. God can recycle our pain and birth a purpose out of it. Nothing we have experienced in our lives is wasted with God. He heals our wounds, comforts our hearts, and strengthens us to be a soothing balm for others. We must tell the story together, sing the song together, and display His goodness and loving-kindness together.

 

It is my desire that our creative journey will take us straight to the chamber of God’s heart. It is there that we will find the unique ways of expressing His love for the world. It was His love that created us for good works and I know He longs to embrace us and release His dreams into our spirit like a breath of life for us all.

Meditation

Deep is the Mystery of Intimacy

There is an endless cacophony of noise and voices entering our minds and hearts on a daily basis influencing us. Much of that is out of our control. But what if we deliberately chose to sit and hear from God himself.

My spirit has been yearning to enter into an even deeper intimacy with Jesus. I want to hear more of what His Spirit wants to share. But I know I’ll need to do some specific things for our relationship to flourish. It’s going to take time, focus and surrender. And I know I will have to sacrifice some things but what I expect to get in return will be worth the sacrifice.

When our spirit is silent and expectant our hearts are shaken to life. Sometimes I stretch forth my physical hands and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I get on my knees and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I pace around the room and sometimes I just stand still. It’s more a posture of the heart that God notices. He’s looking for someone that’s humbled in His presence, ready to listen and receive rather than quick to speak.

This intimacy is still such a mystery to me. And I believe it’s hard for some because it requires us to let go and trust.

But I truly believe the Spirit of God wants to whisper secrets from the heart of Jesus. On New Year’s Eve I received a gentle whisper that had my heart fluttering and my imagination dancing. It gave me a sneak peek of what we can expect from a deeper relationship with Jesus.

 

A Midnight Whisper from the Spirit

 

Wedding bells are ringing, wooing the bride of Christ.

At the midnight hour her heart is being prepared.

She will meet Him at dawn to begin a divine romance.

He will sweep her off her feet into the heavenlies.

Her first dance of true love with the Father will have the angels in awe.

The Son will then take His bride and show her His mansions.

Each day they will discover a hidden treasure together.

They will open new doors together;

enter into deeper rooms of revelations.

His heart will unlock rooms holding mysteries so deep,

her breath will be taken away.

There will be a library of books filled with words of love for His bride.

They will eat fruit baskets of grace and truth.

And He will take her to the throne room of mercy – a room of never-ending love and intimacy.

 

These are a couple of books I recommend that aided my intimacy journey with Jesus:

Secrets of the Secret Place by Bob Sorge

Desperately Deep by Lana Vawser

 

 

Meditation

Breaches

Abandoned HouseAbandoned homes are a sore sight – boarded windows, overgrown grass, missing doors. And when a home is abandoned it becomes susceptible to breaches. Obviously this happens because the house is not maintained and looked after. Certain areas become weak over time and simply fall apart, forming entryways for unwanted guests and pests. The damage can be costly and devastating.

Sometimes the damage can be repaired and sometimes it can’t and the only option is to tear down and rebuild. If only someone had taken the time for maintenance. Most likely the damage could have been prevented.

This can be the case with our lives and our relationships.

According to good ole’ Webster, a breach is …

  1. infraction or violation of a law, obligation, tie, or standard
  2. (a) a broken, ruptured, or torn condition or area; (b) a gap (as in a wall) made by battering
  3. (a) a break in accustomed friendly relations; (b) a temporary gap in continuity : hiatus
  4. a leap especially of a whale out of water

I believe that we are walking temples that need constant care in body, soul, and spirit. And all to often we experience signs of spiritual dehydration due to our wanton wandering. We’ve walked away from truth, from God, from covenants, from our callings, and from the destiny of our true selves.

If we fail to pause, reflect, and choose new thoughts and behaviors, not only will we suffer but those around us will as well. Taking care of our temple, what’s inside, and what it surrounds itself with is not only our right but our duty.

Breaches affect our identities, our spiritual, physical and mental health, our relationships, our churches, our cities, and our nations. Whether we’re trying to avoid or repair a breach the following four power points can help put some focus on the areas to work on.

To avoid breaches we need upkeep.

Good maintenance demands nutrition, rest, and prayer. The first two can be understood from a physical and a spiritual perspective. If we don’t take care of ourselves physically through diet, exercise, and sleep, we will not function at our optimal best and at worst, can become ill. And if we don’t take care of ourselves spiritually through an intimate relationship with God we’re setting ourselves up for a breakdown that can affect the soul (mind, will, and emotions) and the body.

To avoid breaches we need integrity.

God requires truth in the inward parts. Embracing truth keeps you sound. Lies cause division and confusion. Without truth it’s impossible to have integrity. Our integrity is guided by moral principles. And for integrity to take root we need to be consistent in godly thoughts and behaviors when we are around people and when we are by ourselves. Being a man or woman of integrity gains trust and builds and maintains solid relationships.

To avoid breaches we need security.

Someone or something is constantly influencing our minds and hearts. Either we take charge or we’ll be taking in whatever the world throws at us. Choosing what are five senses will be allowed to entertain is crucial. What we focus on will form us. Knowing what we stand for and what we want our life to be about is key. If it doesn’t line up with our principles and life goals let’s shut the door. If we are not proactive with the life we want to live, others will most definitely determine it for us. That includes our beliefs, our for-life partners, our friendships, and our callings.

To avoid breaches we need humility.

Humble hearts have followed their Master, leaned their head against His shoulder, and washed His feet with their tears. We need to humble ourselves before God and each other in a spirit of peace and forgiveness. This is the doozy because it goes straight against the human ego to be right, to be in control of our lives, and to feel a sense of superiority. Having a teachable spirit is a major key to receiving God’s wisdom.

Abandoned dwellings are a waste. But if they’re still standing there’s always hope for repair, for rebuilding, for disposing and replacing. There’s also hope for those who have breaches in their personal lives and relationships. Isaiah 61:4 says, And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations and they shall repair the former cities, desolations of many generations.

It’s time to repair the breaches and rebuild our lives!

Bible Study, Meditation, Writing

Write Your Story Again

woman-writing-in-journalAs I was studying Jeremiah 36:1-32, I realized how encouraging this Bible passage could be to aspiring writers and storytellers. Many writers struggle with telling their personal stories, myself included, especially with how much of it to tell. What may help with that is a matter of perspective. Our stories are a vehicle used to tell the bigger story.

What’s the bigger story? The redemptive story of God’s love for us.

In writing our stories, we tell God’s grander story over again. We cease to be the main character of our own story. That can alleviate some of the mental and emotional pressure associated with telling our stories.

At some point or another, we’ve asked ourselves if our stories are worth telling and how much of it to tell, and most irking, if we should air our dirty laundry. Every story with a greater purpose is worth telling. And the dirt will always be there. Telling the story of love necessitates it. Being a crafty writer will help with how it’s told.

The prophet Jeremiah was instructed by the LORD to take a roll of a book and write all the words He had spoken to him against Israel and Judah, and against all the nations from the time of the current king’s father’s reign.

I know what you’re thinking! God’s words spoken against Israel, Judah and the nations? How can this story be of encouragement to a writer? Hang tight with me a little longer! God’s hope was that in retelling his words of judgment they would turn from their evil ways so that he could forgive them. God was basically saying, This is what’s going to happen if you don’t stop all the evil you’re doing, but if you do stop, I’ll forgive you.

Jeremiah obeyed and had Baruch the scribe write down all the words God spoke to him. He then instructed Baruch to go and read the words written in the roll to the people in the LORD’s house. Did you catch that? The LORD’s house! He was talking to the people of faith on a fasting day. You know, like the folk going to church who are really not being churchy. Now, non-churchy folks weren’t off the hook either. Baruch was to read it to all of Judah as they came out of their cities. The scope of ears to hear was wide.

After the reading of the rolls to all the people of Jerusalem and to all who came from the cities of Judah, three antagonists surfaced in this story –Michaiah, Jehudi, and King Jehoiakim. Michaiah was the first snitch that went to tell the princes, Jehudi was sent by the princes to fetch Baruch the scribe so he could read the roll to them, and the princes went to the king and told him all that it said. The king had Jedudi fetch the roll and he read it in front of the king and princes.

What did the king do? He had the roll thrown in a fire on a hearth burning before him. And no one was afraid of what had been done. No one flinched at this assault against God’s words.

The story hasn’t ended but I want to share a few points we can take away from this passage in preparation for telling our own stories.

Be obedient to God’s word to you no matter what.

Baruch was asked by the princes, “Tell us now, how did you write all these words—at his instruction?” (v.17) Baruch simply answered, “He proclaimed with his mouth all these words to me, and I wrote them with ink in a book.” (v.18)

It’s that plain. There’s no need to complicate this one. Our story can only take shape when we start telling it. But also let’s be patient with ourselves. It may take us some time to tell our story. Sometimes we have to let the tears run, wait, wipe away the tears, and extract deeper meaning from our experiences. But eventually it should be told.

Let’s trust that he who began a good work in us will complete it if we stay the process of living and telling.

Not all of our words will be hopeful but they can be helpful.

Jeremiah and Baruch were obedient to God’s command to write His words in a roll of a book. Sometimes what needs to be said isn’t pretty but God’s grace always precedes his judgment. In this passage, the judgment had not occurred. It was a warning. That’s God’s grace.

Like God’s words of judgment, our stories will not be told with exclusively flowery, fragrant words. Some of our words will be like picking at scabs. Some may not be ready to hear our words. But for some, our words will be timely and that’s why we need to tell our stories.

Every day that we have lived is a necessary thread in our story. The joys, the births, the sufferings, the deaths, even the dirt and the shame. Let’s not stuff them in our mental or heart closet forever. After we have processed our pains and weaknesses, let’s pull those memories out, dust them off and use them for good.

You will have opposition but you can’t be defeated.

Many will try to silence us in an attempt to subvert our story. This is what happened when the king burned the scroll. The enemy is afraid of the content of our stories because our stories will always have God as the protagonist and the victor. He doesn’t want God to get the glory. But God’s footprints and handprints will be seen in the journey of our lives when we tell our story.

Due to the content of what was written in the roll, the princes advised Jeremiah and Baruch to hide themselves. Sure enough, the king wanted them found but God hid them from the king. The Bible asserts over and over that He is our refuge despite the circumstances around us. Let’s be at peace with our story and the telling of it even when we feel the heat around us.

You will have advocates that will protect your story.

Only three made intercession to the king to not have the roll burned but he refused to listen. Those three were El-nathan (Hebrew: gift of God), Delaiah (Hebrew: freed by Jehovah), and Gemariah: (Hebrew: accomplishment). The meaning of their names alone is inspiring.

But our biggest advocates are God the father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. These three are really all we need. They will inspire us, teach us, and guide us, so that we may tell our stories.

Our stories can be a token of peace or a balm for a troubled or hurting heart. There is not one day in our lives that’s a waste, if we tell it in light of the bigger story.

Never stop telling your story over and over again.

The passage in Jeremiah ended with God instructing the prophet with these words, “Take yet another scroll, and write on it all the former words that were in the first scroll which Jehoiakim the king of Judah has burned.” (v.28) Not only did God ask him to write it again, he even added many like words.

As I was reading this in Jeremiah, it was as if God was saying, Listen, what I told you before stands! Many will try to do away with my word, burn them like the rolls written by Baruch but write them again and I will add even more for you to write.

Our story doesn’t end until God says it ends. As long as we have breath, let’s write it and keep writing it!

 

Meditation

An Unlikely Tribe

summer-sport-bikes-bicyclesI recently attended a meeting at work with two judges, one prosecutor, one defense attorney, and two probation officers. They were telling the federal offender population I serve about a Second Chance program which offers them a support team comprised of the aforementioned individuals who would meet with them every two weeks for about a year and provide guidance and resources to aid their reintegration into society after incarceration. Their allies would be composed of unexpected people.

At first mention, the offenders were suspect of the group members. Afterall, aren’t they the ones that pointed the finger, convicted them and locked them up? Well now, that’s a matter of perspective. This is where we would have to throw our biases out the window and take a risk. If we play the blame game and refuse to budge, we’ll probably rule out potential supporters.

We can choose to surround ourselves with folk who will propel us forward or with those who will say what we want to hear and remain stuck. We need people that will challenge our faulty thinking and steer us in the right direction. We need a fellowship of people that believe in our capacity to change and succeed.

And if we want real and lasting change, we need persistence. We need accountability. We need good examples around us. Especially if we’ve been going around in circles for a long time.

We need people who will teach us that sometimes we have to face the consequences and that it won’t be pretty. We need cheerleaders who will encourage us to keep going even if we get snagged, veer the wrong way or just plain fall flat on our face. We need people who will not give up on us when we’re giving up on ourselves.

And once we’re strong enough and become who we hope to be, we must become part of a tribe for someone else. We owe it to each other. Because along the way, we’ve all crossed paths with people who have lifted us up, who have shaken us awake, and who have loved us hard.

Let’s pick an unlikely tribe to walk our journey with us and if we’re feeling adventurous, we’ll let them pick us. Either way, it’s really not about what we want, it’s about what we need. And let’s not be quick to rule people out of our inner circle. When you expect the unexpected you invite a secret array of colorful people to surround you. That is your tribe.

Meditation

The Black Oxford

black oxford appleThis isn’t about a shoe or the woven dress shirt fabric or even about an African American presence at Oxford University. It’s about an apple. Not your ordinary grocery store apple but a classic. The Black Oxford is a purple-skinned, white-freckled heirloom apple, as vintage as one can get. At first glance it looks like a plum. It’s roots go back 225 years. It was born in 1790 in Paris, Maine during a time when backyard orchards were commonplace.

What makes this particular apple special is its longevity. Nowadays you buy a fresh apple and it’ll last you 2-4 weeks in a pantry before turning to mush. Not the Black Oxford. It can keep for more than six months in a cool dark place at the right temperature with enough humidity. I certainly didn’t know an apple variety could be preserved naturally for that long.

Many of the New England orchards with these old apple trees need to be hunted down. You may want to talk to an old farmer who may be able to point you in the right direction. Once you find one you’ll want to remove a strip of live bark from those 100 or so year old trees and graft it into a healthy tree to resurrect that treasure of a fruit.

The story of the Black Oxford reminds me of another story involving a vintage fruit from a forgotten land. I see flashbacks of an abandoned garden filled with trees but no one is left to till it or eat from it. Distant echoes brush past me leaving me unsettled, cold, and naked. “Where are you?” reverberates in my soul. The past pulls me back for a few seconds and then returns me to the present with urgency. As if it’s counting on me to change something.

This time around it can be different. It has to be. We have to refuse to bite into just any apple. We should be done with modern, short-lived ideologies that try desperately to trump truth. We should be done with lies.

It’s time to search for the tree that produces precious, unadulterated fruit. Organic, deeply-rooted, mature and healthy. That tree of life. The one guarded by the cherubim. That very one that would allow us to live forever.

We bite into the fruit of that tree to be made whole because we’re an untended orchard of dwarf-sized, bitter, angry, lonely, sick trees. And our fruit is dormant. We need that ancient nourishing sap to be the blood running through our viens.

That rare fruit hung on a tree long ago for us. He beckons us to partake of Him. And this time, we’ll graft Him into our hearts. Because we’re the dying trees that need revival.