Tag Archives: Destiny

Forgetting our Fears Psalm 24-26

My niece is very profound. The other day she was talking to her mom and spouted some profound theology.

“So Mom, I was thinking about what you read about people wanting to stay in darkness and I thought why would they want to do that? Then I thought about how when you first wake up and the light hurts your eyes. I think they are scared to go because it hurts a little. We have to help them see that the light is better after you get used to it.”

Bailey is only six years old, but she understands human nature better than some people who have PhDs in psychology. In the end it all boils down to giving in to our fears or overcoming them with righteous and divine guidance

The Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it. For He founded it on the seas and established it on the waters. Psalm 24:1

There is a reason why the most common command in the Bible is “FEAR NOT”. We often allow our fears to keep us from becoming our GENUINE selves.

Guard my life and rescue me, do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. Psalm 25:20

Unfortunately tough we may forget form time to time, life isn’t about us. We live in a narcissistic, self-promoting society, but that’s not who we are made to be and it’s amazing how many of our fears would melt into obscurity if we would deny ourselves and focus on what we were truly created to become.

My feet stand on level ground, in the great congregation I will praise the LORD. Psalm 26:2



Dwelling on the Holy Mountain: My journey thorough Psalms (15)

Psalm 15



Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?

Great question, probably the single most asked question of children and adults aside from ‘is God real’, ‘how do you know if you will go to heaven when you die’? Well, this list is sums it up.

  • Your walk must be blameless
  • You must be righteous
  • You must speak truth from your heart
  • Your tongue must speak truth
  • You must treat your neighbors right
  • You must respect others, honor those who fear the Lord and despise the vile
  • You must keep your promises even when it hurts
  • You must not be two faced
  • You must give money to the poor without interest
  • You must not accept bribes

That’s quite a daunting list. Frankly, keeping them all—all the time, seems impossible. Because though I like to think of myself as an honest person, I can’t say that my tongue speaks truth all the time and I’m certainly not 100% blameless. So it’s hopeless.

Not exactly. There are two things I think might be misinterpreted in this psalm by many and most.

First, I don’t think ‘dwelling in the sacred tent’ actually means heaven.  And second, of course we can’t do any of these things on our own, but with Jesus and repentance. Well, that’s when the impossible always becomes possible.

This is my personal theology speaking here, but dwelling in the sacred place and on the holy mountain with God seems metaphoric with being in God’s holy presence—which prior to the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ required ritualistic cleansing. But like any relationship, if there is some kind of conflict, it will set up a barrier between the two parties. In this case, God and you. God doesn’t kick you out or leave—but you do. You’ve made a conscious decision to step away from what you know is right and godly, thereby stepping away from the holy mountain.

Fortunately, there is Jesus. Because of God’s infinite mercy, we are able to come back to the holy mountain and re-enter the sacred tent and commune with him through repentance because of our acceptance of a relationship with his Son, Jesus. This forgiveness resets our tables and since we are wiped clean, we are able to claim each of these bullets once more.

But it’s a process—relationships are dynamic and as they grow and change we must constantly grow and change with them. Even though it may be a one and done acceptance and saving grace, we won’t ever experience the true presence of God here on Earth if we aren’t keeping our life in spiritual order through this process of cleansing and resetting the table to claim these bullet points. It’s the only way to live on the holy mountain. And how great is it that we get to do that now, rather than waiting till after death?

No one said it would be easy, but nothing worth having ever is.

Questions to ponder:

1) Have I accepted Jesus as my savior so that I can live with God on the holy mountain?

2) Is there anything on this bulleted list (remember the bulleted list is broad on purpose, think about what it could mean specific to your life) that I need to deal with so I can step back into the holy tent?

3) Why is it better to live in God’s presence now rather than thinking I should wait till I get to heaven?

Quit Fighting Battles that Aren’t Yours to Fight: Psalms 13-14

Psalm 13-14
How long will I wrestle with my thoughts?
I’ve always been my own worst enemy. Cliché, I know, but it’s true. Perhaps that is why I don’t like conflict with other people, because I have enough in my own mind that having it outside my head is just too overwhelming.
Each day we wake up to a spiritual battle field, an unseen war waging all around us. Some people are more in tune with it than others, and the only hope we have in in the triumph of God.
Last night I had a dream. It was so vivid I woke up, gasping at the reality of the imagery. I don’t think the dream is coming true, but there is prodigious truth in dreams regardless of their ‘coming true’ or not. I was swimming in a pool with a little girl, and it didn’t occur to me until after I woke up that this little girl looked remarkably like me as a child. Adult me and child me swimming together. Child me squealing in delight, adult me cautiously watching; ensuring that child me doesn’t drown. And then I look up. In the sky a rocket has just launched into space, but something went wrong and instead of heading into space, it’s heading straight for our pool.
Yes, I recognize the randomness of a rocket heading for a pool with two people swimming in it, but I step back from the literal and begin to think about it on other levels too. I don’t dare begin to interpret it, but just to think about how I reacted in the dream. I watched as this rocket came straight toward us, and I could have screamed, run, cried, or even cursed. I could have woken up. I didn’t do any of these things. I stared as the rocket came closer and thought, hm, this is not how I imagined meeting Jesus. Then I closed my eyes, grabbed the little girl and hugged her tight, and waited praying a simple prayer of: hold us in your arms, Jesus.
I don’t pretend like this is how I might actually act in this situation, but when I did wake up upon impact, I stared into the darkness of my bedroom and adjusted to the reality that I wasn’t actually dead.
I have spent most of my life wanting other people to accept me, seeking validation in what the world says I have to be or who I have to appear to be, but it is exhausting. I’ve spent this week rehashing through some wounds, curses, and influences and I’m ready to be free.
In Psalm 13, the author asks “How long will my enemy triumph over me?” and I realize that my own worst enemy is, well, me. How long will I let this war wage in me? When will I just grab my inner child, hold her to me, pray that simple prayer and let God have full control?
While Psalm 13 ends with trust, Psalm 14 starts with fools–The fool says in his heart there is no God. This juxtaposition shows the consequences of continuing in your foolish ways and not learning from the lessons God teaches.

The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. I don’t want him to find me wanting. I want him to be well pleased.

Questions to ponder:
1) What battles are you fighting that you can give over to the Lord?
2) How can you teach the lessons you have learned from God to the next generation?
3) Why is giving over control so hard?

Local Paragons XIII: West End Cafe

West End Café is a beautiful staple in the Winston Salem downtown community, located in the West End of downtown at 926 West 4th Street. The food is simply delightful—I personally recommend their salads. They have a wide variety. But, you really can’t go wrong with a sandwich ( a GREAT Rueben). It may be small, but I think that may be what is so great about it. There is nothing quite like a quiet meal with friends at West End—food, ambiance, and fun.

Food                                                   Local Color

<3  <3  <3  <3                                       <3  <3  <3  <3  <3

The sunshine reflected off the water in the koi pond in front of the West End Café. Light reflecting, dancing, almost in celebration—a well deserved celebration, Lucy thought as she stared at it thoughtfully. Her eyes shifted to her own reflection in the windows, just beneath the yellow bold faced lettering. There was sadness reflected there, but hope as well.

She knew she shouldn’t be sad.

Lucy reached up to touch the scarf that covered her head.

The surgery was successful. The tumor, benign.

And yet…

Which is why she was here, meeting Rebekah. She hadn’t seen the woman since that day at Krankies. Before her life had turned upside down—or rather inside out, as it now felt.

She reached up and touched the scarf again. Then sighed.

At least she was out of the hospital.

She turned to see Rebekah coming up the steps. Her floor length lacy white dress made her look almost bridal, though the sun hat added a distinctly southern touch. Lucy smiled, sadly.

She touched her scarf again.

“Lucy, you look darling,” Rebekah said, reaching down to pull her up by both her hands. “I can’t believe how well you’ve recovered. You’d never even guess!”

“Well, I think there are a few signs.”

“Oh tish-tosh,” Rebekah laughed. “I’m so glad you called. I have been praying for you, and now I know why you’ve been on my heart so much. I can’t even imagine going through all that—and yet here you are!” She pointed to Lucy with flourish, her hat now askew. Lucy colored, and looked away.

Rebekah smiled. “Come,” she said. “Let’s eat.”

Together they walked into the restaurant. The friendly staff seated them in the back where they, to Lucy’s relief, could eat and chat with some privacy.

Not that they needed privacy, but Lucy felt self-conscious in public. Always now.  Maybe forever.

And now she didn’t know what to say.

Not that she didn’t know what she wanted to say. She just didn’t know how to begin now that she had the opportunity.

They ordered their meal. Rebekah got the Veggie Burger Delight while Lucy stuck with the classic Shrimp Po-Boy, one of her favorites from the West End.

“You look great, but how are you, really?” Rebekah asked when the waiter had filled their waters and disappeared. “It can’t be easy, dealing with news—earth shatter good and bad all at once.”

“I don’t know,” Lucy sighed. “Everyone keeps asking me that and  I don’t know how I am. I’m happy I’m not dying,  I guess. Sad it happened at all, but most of all I think I’m angry.”

“Angry?” Rebekah lifted a brow. “Why?”

Lucy shrugged.

“May I?”

Lucy nodded. It was, after all, why she called this virtual stranger and not Katie or Susie.

“The whole human race has an anger problem and we all get angry for different reasons—but in your case I think you may be angry for one of two reasons: One, because your control was threatened or two because it happened to you and you don’t feel like you deserved it.”

Lucy visibly started. “Did I deserve it?”

“I didn’t say that.” Lucy opened her mouth, but Rebekah continued. “I said you were angry because you believe you didn’t deserve it. That’s a different statement altogether, but I think we’ve hit on why you’re angry. That seems to have hit a nerve.”

“Well, wouldn’t you be angry if someone just told you that—“

“Remember, I didn’t say you deserved it,” Rebekah smiled. “But we live in a broken world, and because of that brokenness, death and sickness is inevitable. It’s not that you deserve sickness, Lucy, exactly, but more like we all deserve death and ultimately destruction because of our separation from truth and life. It’s what happened to the world in the very beginning when we gave up ignorance and paradise for death and ‘the knowledge of good and evil’. We got knowledge, sure, but we also got evil. Death. Sickness. So, no it’s not that you deserve it, but the world does and we have to accept that we’re a part of that sickness—even the good people of the world.”

“That’s depressing,” Lucy picked at the napkin on her table. “And doesn’t help my anger issues.”

“Well, that’s just one part. The hope part comes with the healing or the medicine. What God did for us even though we screwed everything up, he made a way for us to be healed, to have life again. He sent Christ to us. He sent Jesus to die for us and take away the sickness and the death and the evil that overwhelmed the world. That’s not a healing we deserve, but it’s a healing we were granted. It’s a healing we’re offered—and it’s the only healing that’s permeant. These bodies that we’re in—they’re decaying. In one way or another they’re dying, but they’re not hopeless.”

“But that doesn’t mean I won’t ever get sick again.”

“No,” Rebekah shook her head sadly.

“Then what’s the point?” Lucy tossed the silverware she’d been fidgeting with on the table.

“Hope,” Rebekah reached over and covered Lucy’s hand with her own. Lucy felt tears prick at her eyes as the warmth transferred from one hand to another. “Do you mind if I pray for you?”

Lucy nodded her head; she didn’t trust her voice.

“Father, you know Lucy’s heart right now. You know how scared she is, and how brave she is. Please show her that she’s not alone. That You love her, that You are there for her and that no matter what happens in the future that You will always offer hope. Open her heart to You. Amen.”

“Thank you,” Lucy murmured. It was all she could manage through the muddle of her emotions. She didn’t know if she believed everything Rebekah told her—but she was willing to listen to more. She would even talk to Saul about it—and that was a step in the right direction.

And for now, that was enough. *

*This is where Lucy’s story ends, for now. If you have suggestions or comments about Lucy I’d love to hear them! Look for a new Installment of Local Paragons: Camden! Coming soon!

Ashley Carmichael is the author of Valerie’s Vow a Christian Romance which can be purchased at www.secondwind.com or Amazon. Follow Ashley on twitter @amcarmichael13 and Facebook.

Local Paragons VII: The Stocked Pot & Co.

The Stocked Pot & Co. is a cooking school and catering (by Simple Elegance) company located on Jonestown Road in Winston Salem, North Carolina.  ith extensive experience and wide training, the company is renowned for its culinary expertise. My experience at The Stocked Pot couldn’t have been better. I took a class through Amazon Local (they also offer deals through Living Social and Groupon). The class I signed up for was centered on Julia Child’s cooking and the art of sautéing. The chef was knowledgeable, friendly and entertaining and the staff was welcoming and professional. I was particularly impressed by the well rounded knowledge not only of cooking but of the history, nomenclature, motivation and reasoning behind the cookware, styles and reasoning in each dish the chef prepared. This allowed me to learn not only about the way to cook but why certain dishes cooked the way they did—which is important to me. The class I took was a demonstration class and lasted about 2.5 hours and the food was phenomenal. There are other classes—some which are more hands on—on a wide variety of food preparation styles and cooking techniques. I would highly recommend the cooking classes to anyone and would definitely consider them at the top of my catering list given the outcome of the dishes prepared during class.

Food: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3                                                     Local Color: <3 <3 <3

Learning opportunities: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Lucy walked into The Stocked Pot fifteen minutes early. The class was scheduled to start at 6:30, but she wanted to be sure she had arrived and was settled before her client arrived. While normally they chose a caterer by more conventional methods, her client had wanted to take this cooking class to vet the possible candidates. Lucy had agreed. After all, the clients were paying and she would get a good meal out of it.

Lucy settled in at a table directly in front of the demonstration area, a small mock kitchen with brightly colored backsplash that greeted her with the effigy “Cooking is fun”.

“Lucy!” the high nosed, nasal voice sounded loud in the small area, but Lucy forced a smile to her face as she stood to greet her client.

“Hello, Janie,” she said, reaching out to shake the other woman’s hand. Janie shook brusquely then pulled her long, dark curls back into a low, loose ponytail at the base of her neck.

“It’s warm today, isn’t it? I’m burning up. This place is cute. I hope the food is as good.”

“I’ve heard good things about it,” Lucy nodded and settled herself back in her seat. “But I certainly hope it’s what you are looking for. I know how important—“

“The food is absolutely essential at this party. After all Monique is retiring and she was one of the best chefs the city ever knew.”

“I understand,” Lucy said. “Would you like some water or tea?”

“Tea, but only if it’s sweet.”

“I’ll get it,” Lucy stood and walked over to the drink station at the back of the long room. As the ice rushed into the glasses, breaking the silence of the room, she pulled in a breath and tried to clear her mind. Tonight was about Janie, but she couldn’t seem to stop thinking about the look on Chris’s face when she took the call from Silas last Sunday. She’d been out with Silas twice since then—and Chris hadn’t met her for coffee as he usually did. The acute sense of loss suffocated her.

“Excuse me,” the voice interrupted her thoughts. “Do you mind?” Lucy looked behind her and saw that several people were waiting to get drinks.

“I’m sorry,” she murmured, then quickly hurried back to her seat.

Janie began to talk. And talk. And talk.

Lucy tried to listen, but her head had begun to ache and nothing seemed to get her attention until the chef got to the front and began to speak. Even then, she didn’t take notes.

Janie, on the other hand, was completely zoned in on everything he had to say. The back of her recipe handouts were filled with notes, and her hand was up in the air with questions every time the chef stopped to take a breath. When she wasn’t speaking to the chef, she was chatting with the people at the table. The smile never left her face, and her nasal laugh filled the small area more than once in her enthusiasm.

“Oh my gosh, Lucy,” Janie exclaimed when the plate of food was settled before them at the end of class. “Is this chicken not to die for? I can’t believe all these sauces—and he fixed all this while talking to us?” She paused to stuff a bit in her mouth, her eyes rolling up to the ceiling as she reveled in gastronomic ecstasy. “Can you imagine what he can do if he’s focused solely on the food?”

“Hmm,” Lucy took a bite and nodded. “So what do you think? Do you want to hire them?”

“Absolutely,” Janie’s plate was nearly empty. Lucy’s stood nearly untouched. “I can’t believe the juiciness. My chicken almost always comes out dry.”

“Great,” Lucy nodded and forced herself to eat the rest of the food—which was phenomenal; if only her mind hadn’t been so preoccupied she might have actually enjoyed the meal. As it was, all she could think about was her growing desire to spend more time with Silas, but how sick it made her that it seemed to be costing her friendship with Chris.

Katie was no help either. It wasn’t something she could really talk about with Chris’s twin sister—it wasn’t really fair to either of them. Lucy’s head pounded.

“Thanks for coming with me,” Janie said, standing from the table. Lucy reached over and took the empty plate from her, stacking it on top of her own.

“Happy to,” Lucy said. “I’m glad it worked out for you.”

Janie nodded, then headed for the door. Lucy threw away their trash, thanked the chef and then followed. She felt bad that she hadn’t been more enthusiastic, but as she started her car she knew she’d make it up to them given the money they would spend in catering when she called later to set up the event later in the week. Her guilt quickly cranked into relief as she started her car and headed for home.

But she didn’t get far.  Having only driven a couple of miles, her car began to sputter, then it gave a great jerk. Lucy yelped as the car heaved and she was barely able to pull into a dark BB&T parking lot before her car gave one final hiss, then died. All she was left with was the silence.

Lucy looked down at her phone, the only light left in this abandoned place. She only had about 15% of her battery left, but lately 15% was not really 15% and there was no telling when it would shut off on her. Knowing that Chris was her best option, since he was only a few miles away, she dialed and hoped he picked up the phone before her phone died.

As the dial back tone shifted, Lucy got her second big shock of the night as a woman’s voice floated through the air waves and into her ear.


“Um,” Lucy was at a loss.

“Hello?” The woman’s voice said again.

“I’m, uh, looking for Chris,” Lucy stuttered.

“He’s indisposed. Can I help?”

“Um,” Lucy’s brain swirled. “No, I guess not. I guess I’ll just call back later.”

“Okay.” Lucy could hear a muffled voice in the background, she presumed it was Chris but though the woman’s voice was faint she could clearly hear her response. “Nothing. It was a wrong number.” Then the line went dead.

Lucy stared at her phone in disbelief. Clearly she had been wrong. Chris didn’t have feelings for her—he’d apparently been…well, she didn’t have time to think about that now. Nor did she have time to figure out why her eyes smarted with tears. She was stranded in a dark parking lot, and she was down to 12%. Maybe TJ could help. She dialed, but it went straight to voicemail. Lucy hung up quickly, not surprised. Feeling frantic, Lucy called Katie—she knew Katie couldn’t help, being an hour away, but hearing her voice might help her feel less panicky. After three battery draining rings, she was left with Katie’s voicemail. This time Lucy left a message, trying to control the panic in her voice, but knowing that with her friend the emotion was clearer despite her rambling.

Lucy looked at her phone, despairing the draining percentage dialed the only other number she could think of.

He picked up on the first ring.


“Silas,” she felt like a small child, but at the moment she was so relieved. “My car broke down and none of my friends are answering their phones. I—I just—“

“Where are you Luce? I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

Lucy breathed a sigh of relief and told him where to find her. He was across town, but would be there soon. She hung up the phone and leaned her head against the seat. The silence didn’t feel quiet as choking now as she waited.

Her phone rang. She looked down at the caller ID, surprised that the device still held a charge—it was Chris. Part of her wanted to ignore it, but that felt juvenile, so she answered.

“Hi, Chris.”

“Lucy. What on earth is wrong? I got a frantic call from Katie saying something about you being stranded somewhere and she can’t get there. She said you weren’t answering your phone. Where are you?”

Lucy looked at her phone, but she didn’t see any missed calls.

“My phone is dying. It must not have picked up Katie’s calls,” Lucy said. “My car broke down. I’m—“

“Where are you?” he insisted. “Why didn’t you call me?”

“Don’t worry about me,” Lucy insisted. “I know you’re busy.” She could still hear the woman’s voice ringing in her ears.

“Lucy where are you?” she could hear the impatience in his voice.

“I’m–“she yelped as a knock on her window interrupted her speech.

“Lucy! What happened!” Chris’s voice was boarding on panic now, but Lucy’s heart had settled firmly back in her chest as she stared into Silas’ winning, warm gaze.

“I’m—“ but she didn’t get to finish. Her phone died. She stared down at the dark screen, wondering what she should do next. Silas waved at her again, so she pushed thoughts of Chris aside for the moment and opened the door.

“One knight in shining armor at your service,” Silas said, bowing deeply at her. Lucy smiled, and swallowed the fear as she stared at the motorcycle parked next to her car. At least she wouldn’t have to hitchhike home—but in retrospect, as she stared down the monstrous machine, perhaps that would have been preferable.