Friday, February 28, 2014

SO GLAD, GOD KNOWS

By Angeline M Duran Santiago

God knows.
God knows you're waiting for a better job.
He knows the interviews you've attended.
The words you've given an answers have come easily to you. You asked Him to guide you and help you. He has. He will continue to walk with you as you wait, because, God knows.

God knows.
He is aware of the problems you are facing.
Your bills are backed up. The collection letters keep coming. You'e barely making ends meet but somehow, you always have just enough. All your needs are taken care of. He supplies, because, well, God knows.

God knows. 
The Lord knows the areas you are hurting in right now. He knows where in your body you ache, you feel the pull that weakens you, and where the pain increases, rendering you useless at times. He knows your physical limitations as well as your emotional ones. The mental drama taking place in your head before you go to sleep is loud inside your thoughts, but nothing to God. He silences them all. He heals you even when you are still passing through so much. He heals me. He heals me physically and emotionally. At the end of it all, it's so good to know that God knows.

God knows.
And this is why I am not afraid any more. I used to be.
I am not giving up. I did so too many times.
I won't stop hoping. He's given me reason to believe.
I keep holding on. He's been faithful and done great things.
I'm just going to live my life differently because I now understand that all that matters is me being able to comprehend that God knows. God knows me. God knows my heart and my life, my struggles and my victories. 
He knows.
Thank you, Lord.
Thank you.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

WHEN GOD IS SILENT

By Angeline M Duran Santiago
for my sis, J.P.S.


God sees you, day after day, sitting there by the window and looking out to the cars and people passing by. To look up, someone would say, "Who's she looking at?" But, God knows. Your mind is lost in thought, hidden in the agenda of all the things going wrong in your life right now and you can't make them go right. Your heart is heavy because you are tired of praying, even though it's only morning. Yet, already your energy seems drained as you wonder, "Why and why me? Why now? What is my future going to be?"

God knows what's going on even though you think He's not listening or working on your behalf. Forgotten. You are almost sure He's too busy else where to listen to your prayers. "Maybe He is holding me accountable for my past sins and now I'm paying for what I've done wrong." Those thoughts seem to keep coming and you entertain them when deep inside you hear, "He whom the Son has set free is free indeed!"

People have not been fair to you. They've wrongfully accused you, insulted and made your name a curse word in their lips. You've been pushed aside, laughed at, and made to pay for something you haven't done. The ones who were supposed to protect you have hidden from you. The ones you separated yourself from to be in peace refuse to leave your side and somehow remain to try and keep making your life miserable even in their absence.


This is what I hear in God's silence....
You are not alone, I am with you. 
I am by your side and with you wherever you go.
When you go before them do not be afraid of their faces or their voices. I will give you the words to speak. 
My Spirit will be with you and you will not be afraid.
Can you trust me?
This battle that rages on is not for your defeat.
The battle is mine, says the Lord. 
I fight for you! You are mine.
The wrong against you has not been done against you.
The hurt, the accusations, and the lies have not been against you.
They don't realize that what they've thought they did to you, they've really done it to me, because you are mine, my child, my daughter.
Be still.
I will shield you.
I protect you and guide you.
I am with you in the storm.
I will take your place in the difficult time.
My silence is not absence. 
My silence is the assurance that I am working it all out for your good, to bless you and show you that if you will wait and trust in me, I will grant you favor before Kings, Leaders and people in authority. My grace will be sufficient for you.

So be at peace. When God is silent, it's because He's busy watching over you and working on your behalf. 

You tube video,Revolutionary Minute, Tito Santiago



WINGS LIKE A DOVE


By Angeline M Duran Santiago

Do you ever have one of those days, no, one of those weeks, where you just see everything that could pile up against you keep piling up? Have you ever found yourself unable to find an escape from being glued to circumstances that render you completely helpless and as much as you try, there's no way out or around it? I think, if we want to be honest, most of all have been there, and many of us are still there. The heat of angry words going back and forth, the voices raised together with an atmosphere that declares confusion, anger, and the question, "How did I get here?"

God is not absent when all hell breaks loose in our lives. He is ever present observing and waiting for the opportunity to enter in and stop the battle raging inside and around you. God stands quietly and patiently waiting for us to stop and realize we're handling it all the wrong way. But, in the anger of the moment, in the pain of what we are facing, it's so hard to stop and we allow our emotions to get the worst of us until we crash like a speeding car into the wall and end up immobilized, broken, beyond immediate repair or maybe even dead.

"My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death have fallen on me.
Fear and trembling have beset me;
horror has overwhelmed me.
I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest.
I would flee far away
and stay in the desert;
I would hurry to my place of shelter,
far from the tempest and storm.”

Psalm 55: 4-8


I think I understand what the Psalmist was writing about as he penned Psalm 55. I wasn't there and I don't know what he had encountered in his life. I don't know what was going on in his family, what problems were stirring within the walls of his palace with those that called him King or with those that knew him as Dad. I do know that things must have gotten so bad he wished for wings like a dove so that he could just go up into the top of his castle rooftop and fly away. He longed for wings to soar high above the place that was bringing pain, making him feel helpless and unwanted. He longed to be lost in the midst of the desert. He wanted to be alone, forgotten, far, far away and never come back.

King David wanted to run away, hide in a secret place to find refuge and be far away from whatever was tormenting him and causing him to fear. Oh, to fly away. I've wished that many times. To lift my wings and disappear into the farthest place in the world, away from the moment of anger and pain. I've longed for the desert as well. I've wished for a place of refuge and peace where I could be alone and not have to worry about the present or tomorrow.


As I read the end of this psalm, it seems God reveals to David one truth. "Get over yourself and get on with your life." We see how he realizes that when he cries out to God, God listens and shows up. And at the end of our strife, our misery and the hurts we go through, God is still God. He just wants us to take all our cares and trust Him with our lives. But, we become the tough one and try to fix it up all on our own. Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you. This is almost at the very end of the psalm. Maybe this King got tired of wanting to cover the sky with his hands. He realized he had to face all the issues surrounding him and he tells himself, "Hey, buddy, it's time to cast all this stuff I'm going through on the Lord because He's been there for me before and He will not let me down."



So, what do you think about wanting dove wings now? Still want to fly away. Honestly, you probably still do because what you're dealing with right now is not easy, but think about this. You can turn it all to the Lord and let Him take care of it all. Don't fly away to a deserted place where you face it all alone, Run to the heart of God where He will not only be with you but give you friends and family for the journey ahead.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

WHEN I AM WEAK...

By Angeline M Duran Santiago


Find yourself dragging yourself throughout the day? Do you look in the mirror and feel disappointed because you think you're inadequate, weak, and without a fight for life? It's okay to be weak, really.



Three times I pleaded with
 the Lord to take it away from me.
2 Corinthian 12:8 NIV

We look at our infirmities, our lack, the areas where we find ourselves to be failures and we ask God to take away those things that stick out like a sore thumb and magnify our imperfections. "Take away my weakness." we pray. I'm learning that it's okay to not have it all together, because that's when I identify the One who can meet my needs and help me get it together.



But He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you,
 for my power is made perfect in weakness.
2 Corinthians 12:9a NIV


It's when we learn that it's not to our disadvantage to be flawed, weak or helpless, that we can recognize our need for a God that can show up and do His thing in our lives. When I think of something weak, I think of a new tree. Once planted, people that know about farming or gardening, will go looking for strong wooden planks and rope to place just right around the new tree. Deep holes are dug near the tree with exact measurements and placed just right around the new tree. It is weak and vulnerable as it begins to grow. But the power behind those wooden planks are perfect for the tree's weakness.

We are like that tree and God's strength and power support and hold us up, not when we are strong and able to stand on our own, but when we have lost our strength, when we are broken, when we feel weak and can't hold on. His grace, all His gifts for us, are sufficient for us. He becomes our more than enough.


Therefore I will boast all the more gladly 
about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:9b NIV


So, we can boast, make a big deal and share our tough times with others without shame. Why? Because when we've been fine, we've given God praise and glory for His presence and moved on. But, when our world is falling apart, when we know that we know we can't do it on our own and what we see inside of us is not capable of making it through, we are in the perfect place, the perfect weakened and inadequate place, for God's power to completely rest on us. It's in our weakness that we learn to trust in His strength. It's in our weakness He pours out into our lives what we need. It's in my emptiness that His glory can fill me to overflowing. Then, yes, it's okay to be weak because when I am weak, then I realize, I am truly strong through Him.

2 Corinthians 2:10
That is why for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.



SPEAK TO THE DARKNESS

As I read many blogs, comments, and articles written by friends and acquaintances, there is one theme that flows through many of the pieces shared. I view the paintings and artistic expressions of so many, and this theme continues to speak out at me. So, here is my way of speaking to those dark moments so many of you are writing about and sharing about through your writing and artwork.

SPEAK TO THE DARKNESS
Poem written by Angeline M Duran Santiago


Heavy shadows breathe upon you
Deep heaving puffs
The stench of rotting and ancient piles of waste 
Breathing upon you
Holding you captive in a frozen state
Unable to move or scream or yell or panic
Heart racing and pushing to explode out of your chest and your head
As the darkness pushes cold, slimy walls around you,
Around your heart and your mind.

Alone, someone says you're alone
Forgotten, someone whispers, you're no longer remembered
Forsaken, someone says, "Left here to die."
Your trembling legs and knees collapse to the dark, cold floor
Releasing endless tears, you try to breathe
But that is being strangled out of you.

And the shadows here torment you by whispering:
Remain here in your sadness
Dwell here in this depression
We will accompany you through your mourning
Don't ever leave, darkness will hide you.


Shadows forgetting that Light always shines
Through the crevices of dungeons established in minds
Though your cries are silent, 
Your heart has reached out,
And Light breaks in to remove every doubt,
"Enough!" you hear it said
"Come out!" you are told
"Let go." someone tells you,
"Life is waiting." echoes through the walls.

Speak to the darkness, Go on, Shout it!
You don't have a hold on me!
Speak to the darkness, Declare it!
God Almighty delivers me!
Speak to the darkness, declare your freedom,
Depression cannot have it's reign,
Jesus ransomed you and fought the battle
For the darkness that holds you in place.



Speak to the darkness, Do not fear!
Yell it, shout it, make it hear!
Shake off the shackles of fear, doubt and pain,
Christ, the Risen Saviour, calls you out to live again.

Dungeon walls are crumbling, the chain links turned to dust,
Your heart and mind have been set free because in God you placed your trust.
Darkness is over, you walk into God's loving arms,
Stay there, run to Him when you darkness tries to claim you,
Remain in Him, 
Speak to the darkness and remind it
That The Lord of Hosts encamps around you
And His Light will always show up when you call upon His name.

God is greater!
God is with you!
He will rescue you!
Speak to the darkness,
And God's Light in you will shine forth
And make it kneel before the One who created it all.



Poem, "Speak to the Darkness, " written for those dealing with depression, mental illness, sadness and feeling broken, written with love and hope for you all, by Angeline M. Duran Santiago, February 25, 2014




CHRISTIAN MARRIAGES UNDER FIRE



I'm not afraid to open up the subject on infidelity today. I'm very tired of seeing so many precious people in my life hurting, broken and without repair. The world seems to be fine with infidelity. Why have we become so comfortable with cheating on our spouses and then saying, "God forgives me." and going back and forth without remorse?

1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12

Why hasn't the church gotten angry at how many Christian couples are breaking up and walking into the divorce courts? Enough with the tired excuses and let's talk about what's going on in the so called Christian marriage. I mean, look, either we are true and real or we're a bunch of sorry wimps pretending to be part of God's Church and Christ is not real but absent when it comes to the kind of Christian life we're going to live in our marriage and home.

No marriage is exempt. We all see or hear about marriages facing difficulties. But what happens when Christian marriages begin to look and live like everyone else, without God? Some affairs begin as friendly, counseling sessions, (Yeah, right. If you were really counseling someone, you wouldn't be alone and your meetings wouldn't be secret). Other affairs go from so called innocent texting and phone calls to emotional ties you can't break free from. The idea that nothing physical has occurred is a poor argument for an act that has most definitely taken place in your mind and your heart. You have relationships that end up in physical commitment and the breakdown of your once beloved marriage. How has it become so easy for church going Christians to fall into such temptation, they leave their families to continue the affair?

Here is my view on how believers are having a very easy time walking into all kinds of infidelities:

You're forgetting that you made a covenant with God. That covenant with God included speaking your vows while looking into your spouse's eyes and holding hands. But, you forgot this one, right?


You've been so busy with work or ministry, that you've forgotten your victory in work and ministry only comes by placing God first and in the center of your day. So, when temptation shows up in your face, you go from saying no, to not saying anything. You stay quiet and allow yourself to surrender to what you imagine is wrong. 


You've stopped walking in faith, having a heart for God that cries out to the Lord in prayer and seeks direction by reading and meditating on God's Word. The moment fellowship with God is put on the bookshelf, your heart becomes a target. You think it's all innocent and nothing will happen or that no one will know, but really? How long will you hide behind your suit or makeup without getting caught?

You've stopped communicating with your husband or wife. Instead of going to them when you need to vent, have questions, or just need a hug, you allow yourself to be comforted by empty words from someone who doesn't really care about you. You've built a wall between you and your spouse, not because they don't understand, but because you want an excuse to blame them when you decide to justify what you're doing.

You have lost the fear of the Lord. If God is truly living in You, there is a fear in doing wrong and displeasing God. You hear God's voice and you rejoice in His guidance. But, if you want to do your own thing and have a moment in the flesh, you tune God's Holy Spirit out, shut him out, and follow after your heart's desires when you know they drag you deeper into the darkness each time.


You no longer fellowship with men and women who will hold you accountable to do the right thing. When you hang out with people who love God and want to honor Him, you look out for one another and are not afraid to tell one another if they need to get it together. Your fear of being put on the spot by someone who may tell you to stop playing with fire, has kept you alone and away from being real.



Your love life has become distant, cold and barely there. The arms that once longed to embrace their bride or groom have become heavy and avoid love. Love makes you remember but you don't want love, you want lust. Your husband or wife is a reminder of something pure and real, and instead of giving yourself completely to enjoying your spouse, you daydream and fantasize about images that are not only false, but render you empty, lonely and hopeless.

Your fantasy has become an addiction. You've gone from being wrongly intimate with someone to indulging in feeding the appetite of all your eyes can see. From addiction to pornography to sexual experiences that keep you falling away from God and your spouse, you have allowed sin to take root in your life and you feel trapped, bound and unable to get free. Your marriage is heading for divorce quickly but you don't know how to escape the nightmare of addiction.

You need to go back to seeking God's will. The path to the Lord is still before you. Your marriage still has hope if you break free from giving in to temptation and doing wrong to surrendering your emotions and your heart to God. We're supposed to be the people of righteousness, God's chosen, the elect and favored children of the Lord. 


Run! Don't allow yourself to fall away from God's grace. Be like Joseph in the old testament that ran away from the woman that was trying to seduce him. Run to God and be strengthened in Him when you feel pressure to sin against the Lord and your spouse. Run to your wife or husband when temptation comes and share your struggles. Pray together. Talk about what's going on. Encourage one another with God's word. Find someone to talk to, whether counseling or just to help you get through this difficult time, but do it.



What's your excuse, pastor, preaching, minister and counselor? What's your excuse church secretary, missionary and leader? God will not be mocked but will bring all things to the light. Don't you know that? You are hurting your children. You are making God's people look foolish. You are hurting yourself. Why will you so easily destroy your marriage?  

Let me end it this way: You have two choices, get it together or go one with your life. Divorce is not the answer but it will become the solution in a marriage that continues to spiral downhill and you're not doing anything to prove why you should stay together. Saying, "I'm sorry." doesn't prove repentance. A changed attitude and life does. Either you get with the program and seek the God of the breakthrough, the God who restores, sets free and makes all things new, or you sit around fiddling your thumbs, undecided because you want the best of both worlds. In the end, you're the only one that can decide. My prayer for you is that you seek help before it's too late and by then, this sort of strongly written blog may not even be of any help to you at all.

#marriage #infidelity #chrisitianmarriage #adultery #affairs #restoremarriage #restoration #pornography #sex #intimacy #destroymarriage #healingmarriage

Monday, February 24, 2014

THREE WAYS TO BRING YOUR FAMILY CLOSER



My Amazing Family~ God's gift to me! Baby waving from belly.

1~ALL TOPICS ARE OPEN FOR DISCUSSION

Many families do the famous hush when a certain question is asked. I believe this happens when we haven't prepared ahead of time for the "what may happen if they ask" moment.Instead, parents especially, should think of those questions that will come up and prayerfully prepare themselves to give the best answer, the truth, according to the child's readiness to understand. Sometimes we can even just ask what they already know about this subject. Chances may be your child heard something at school that has opened the door to curiosity, or they've seen something on TV that may be contrary to what they've learned at home. 

If you're not ready, you will look foolish scramming around for an explanation. Best to be ready and don't say no to certain taboo subjects. God has given us wisdom and understanding. If you don't have an answer, your children will go to their friends, friend's parents or the famous internet for an explanation. This can be damaging if they turn to people with different viewpoints and beliefs from yours. If you don't have an immediate answer, be honest. I've said, "Well, I am not ready to give you the best answer right now. Can you give me til tomorrow to find the answer to that?" It hasn't failed yet. Yes, I've been told, "I thoughts parents knew everything." Have open forum discussions in your home and make it a learning place where thinking is not banned and freedom of expression is encouraged and applauded. Invite God's presence into your midst and allow your family discussions to be a place where learning together is valued and God always reigns.


2~EVERYONE MESSES UP SO, GET OVER IT

I've learned that families aren't perfect. There was a time where I thought if I worked hard enough, I would have the perfect family that not only pleased God, but lived to serve others and be an example. "NOPE!" Warning! Danger ahead, no such thing exists. We all mess up in one way or another. Kids get on each other's nerve, argue, test their boundaries and limits, and push your buttons. Your husband won't meet all your expectations and you will not be the perfect spouse all the time either. 

There has to be room for forgiveness and moving on. There has to be teaching on loving and accepting one another with all their craziness. We need room for learning from mistakes. We need sessions of hugging one another, praying together and learning to not only say, "I'm sorry." but, "I forgive you." Silence destroys but communication heals. The lesson I'm learning, and perhaps the hardest one, is letting go. It's hard to forget the wrong we've experienced, the heartache and the memories of the wrongs done in a family where you thought you had it all together. I've learned that we can truly move forward if we allow God to heal every hurt and let love work in us, a little each day.

My Precious Three, Aaron, Jacob and Jeru

3~THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME

Home is a haven, a place of refuge, acceptance, and where you are loved unconditionally. Is your home a place of comfort and security? I've gone through many challenging moments in my life to get me to that place where I can say, "There's no place like home." We have to nurture our families the way we care for gardens. Families are gardens filled with precious seeds. Have you ever had a tropical plant, or let's see, an Orchid? There are very delicate plants and flowers that require extreme care for them to thrive. Neglect one step and your very expensive plant or flower will wither away before your eyes. 

People in your life, family especially, are those delicate flowers that we have to care for, water, place in sunlight or remove from the cold. We have to watch for what will affect their growth, make sure not to over water with our super security and rules, but love, love and love some more. When we begin to see our children and our marriages like that special garden we invite the world to come and look at, our children will say, "There's no place like home."

Sunday, February 23, 2014

MY STORY: EARLY CHURCH EXPERIENCE

As I share about my early weeks visiting church, I've decided not to mention the church's name because although my baby steps there were difficult, it was those challenges that made me pray and seek the Lord all the more. The church has since completely changed from legalism to a house of worship. It took many years for this to happen. It is not my desire to put anyone on the spot, so I have kept names out as well. If you find that you are part of this story, know that I forgave it all years ago. Our experiences, painful as they are many times, can be helpful for others. God loves us so much and I pray that your church is not a place of rejection for new believers or anyone that walks in for the first time.


I was very young when I became a Christian. It was a choice of my heart that no one pushed me into. There was a tugging at my heart to seek the Lord from a very early age. Having gone through struggles, like many of you have as well, I finally felt at home when I laid down my cares, my hurts and anger at the foot of the cross.

Part of my next steps in my new life were finding and connecting with a church family. I was going to a Street Outreach at the time called Challenge Center on Scholes Street in Williamsburg. They had weekly bible studies and I quickly had a desire to join the work I saw them do, reaching out to the homeless, the youth in the streets and in the high schools. A platform was given to me to share my story and soon I was in school groups sharing and praying with teenagers as well as joining in their street ministry. But, they didn't have an official church. During this times myy mom had also begun this new life in Christ and she had become part of a church. So, I just followed.

My early church experiences were negative. Had I not truly gone to seek God's presence, I would have either walked out or gone mad punching a few on the way out. I remember walking in and seeing a youth group in the first room having Sunday school. As I walked on by, their welcome was, "There goes Madonna. No, she's Cyndi Lauper. Nope, 
 Boy George. Oh my goodness, the dead come back to life." At the time I attended Art and Design High School and my fashion style mimicked my life in Art and Dance. I loved black because I felt it made me invisible. I blended in with the nobodies and I could express myself without having to look like everyone else's designer, magazine look. My brother's long, curly hair and dress style was also different than everyone else's and we really seemed to not fit in. Jesus had said, "Come as you are." And it seemed the church was not ready to agree with that message.



With my heart beating, anger rising, and fists squeezed tightly, I walked in the main sanctuary with my mom hoping the Jesus that had begun a work in my heart in the streets, on a rainy night, was present. I joined my mom, with the adults and was over joyed with the discussions going on in regards to scripture. Finally, a place where I could listen to what I needed. I felt my heart be filled with such joy as I listened. As I sat there, I identified the difference between the youth in their Sunday School class and me. They were there because their parents had brought them or made them go, and although they had most likely been born in the Christian atmosphere, they hadn't had a heart changing experience with the Lord. It took a few weeks for this to make sense in my mind, but I soon felt sad for them, compassion and began to ask the Lord to use my life to help them. Not, that I was better. In no way am I implying this. I realized that if they truly knew Jesus as their Lord, they would have received me with love. They automatically assumed I didn't have God in my heart because of my appearance. 

In time, I put aside my black, Gothic or crazy look so that I could fit in a little better and show that I truly wanted to be someone they could trust with standing on a pulpit and sharing God's word.  I allowed myself to accept the rules of dress, although I didn't agree with them. I was soon taught that holiness was shown in the way we dressed. No makeup, no pants, no nail polish, no hair cut, no movies. It was funny because many of the leader's children did all the things I was told not to do. But, my heart wanted to please the Lord, grow and be used of the Lord. My friends in other Christian circles began to show me that God was not into legalism but into loving people, holiness that comes from a life surrendered to God from the inside, not from the outside first. Because of the leadership and ministry opportunities I was given, I submitted to dress codes that were not me in any way and although I loved God and serving his people, I struggled with not being able to be me, still loving art and dance. It wasn't until I married and had my baby girl that I finally took the step to return to that fist place I had heard about God's love. 




I returned to the street outreach that had now grown into a church. I had always kept the things I learned there. "God looks at your heart and that you have separated your life to live in a way that him, not only in your outward look, but starting with your heart." "God is seeking the lost. God changes lives." I wanted my children to grow up experiencing God, not feeling the bondage of legalism, man made rules, and being forced to be a church goer. I wanted my children to experience God's love, being filled with His presence, and wanting to serve Him as they discovered their purpose and call. 

Why did I continue to go to that church after such negative beginnings? God used those early challenges to mold me, teach me to pray, forgive and trust Him. First, I gave my heart to God, not the church or the people there. Second, my commitment was to honor the Lord and learn his ways, and seek His will for my life. Third, something had happened inside my heart and my mind that I couldn't explain and all of a sudden I wanted everyone to have what I had, including those young people in the church. I decided to win them for the Lord and not give them the coldness they had offered me. Lastly, God showed me my life was not in the the church, but to be a living church wherever I went, representing Him. 

My words here are not to criticize or judge church people or Christians but to show that we are all just people. There is not one person that has it all together, that is perfect or without room for error. People in church are still growing, changing and learning how to live for the Lord. Yes, some people choose to be stumbling blocks, gossip and make you feel unwanted. But, don't we experience that in school, at work, in our neighborhoods and even in our family gatherings sometimes. We're going to be in a house of worship with people that have come out of being abused, people that are hurt, people that are going through problems and sickness, couples that are facing divorce, teenagers addicted to what the world offers, and people who at one point or another will have to make a choice to either believe and follow Christ or recognize they're wasting their time just sitting there. 

Well, I think this about sums up my early weeks in the church. Many of you might have walked out and never returned. My challenge to you is this, Go back and start again.  Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of you heart. This means that if you seek God, truly seek him, you're going to find him and He's going to do something great in your life. No negative experience in church can keep you away. No one can cause you to blame God for how others react to your presence in the sanctuary. Close your eyes and concentrate on the Lord. Open your mouth to sing and praise Him. Focus on what your heart needs and surrender to the Lord. I guarantee, your life will never be the same.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

MY STORY: CHANGING DANCE PARTNERS


By Angeline M Santiago Duran

I've shared bits and pieces of my life, here and there. You've already read about some of the horror stories of my childhood in middle school in Saved In The Dance, and even read a little about that day I surrendered my heart to the Lord and decided to give him my heart. But, there are lots of things in between and little by little I hope you give me the chance to share them all with you. No, it's not for attention to myself or to even try to look good before anyone. Many things I've shared I've kept to myself because I was embarrassed and fearful how they might be taken out of content. Perhaps, now, I have found the moment to shed some light on things I lived so that your relationship with God can become encouraged and strengthened.

I was fifteen years old when I was exposed to a dance group where I felt I could be a part of. Being with those in the group, I was able to learn different dance styles and have a place to practice what I believed what my personal style. As time went on, they became affiliated with a radio station, 98.7 Kiss fm. They would help out in street promotions where they would put these concerts out in public. Here I had the opportunity to dance in front of my community and it felt wonderful. You already know my heart for dancing if you've taken the time to visit my other blogs. 

As time went on, a famous singer of that time approached me and asked me if I would join him as a back up dancer and even choreograph dance routines for his video. That night I thought I would cry my heart out because that was a dream I had. I wanted to get to choreograph dances and be in all those wonderful music videos.  A few days later, he introduced me to some girls that I would dance with, showed me what he expected the group of dancers to wear and asked to see my routine. He immediately told me that although the dance was creative, he needed sex all over the place and I had to add sensuality to the dance.

I went home and shared some of the information with my mom, and I saw the sadness in her eyes as she listened. I knew my mom believed in my as a performer when it came to dancing, but she immediately pointed out that if I remained with this singer, I would be making a horrible mistake. His music was in every radio station and I longed to be part of the lights, the stage and the applause. Knowing I was hurting my mom, I continued to go to practices and look forward to my big debut.

 The clothing that would be my outfit for the video was beyond sexy and exposed my body in ways I was very uncomfortable showing. How would my mom feel to see me in a video dancing and dressed this way? That was all I could think of. Letting her down was a big problem for me so I went to the singer and shared my feelings. He was sarcastic, cold, and cursed me out as he told me that if I couldn't give him what I wanted, there were so many other girls that could get the job done. With that, he called one of the young women in the dance group and placed her in charge of practicing, in other words, I was out. 


That night, I went home and I let out tears of frustration as I asked God if this was his plan all along. I was upset that God would allow me to finally get a tiny bit of recognition and a foot into the door of the dance world, only to let me fall on my face. That night I prayed and asked God, "If you are real, take this, all of it, take it away and show me your way. I want to dance more than anything. But, my mom says you have different plans for me."

A few days later, a letter came in the mail from the dance group I belonged to, expressing that they had unanimously agreed to have me removed from their dance group. My mind quickly said, "No more being in the spotlight. No more performances in the street jams with the radio station. No more opportunities to be discovered in dance." And, just as I wanted to cry, my mind quickly recalled the prayer I had made and the promise I had made to the Lord that if He showed me the way, I would change dance partners. I would allow God to show me why my heart longed to dance. 


There's a saying many people say, "I used to dance with the devil, but now I belong to God." I danced because of the great joy I experienced in performing or in putting together dance numbers. I wouldn't say I was dancing with the devil, but had I not cared about my upbringing and honoring God, I know my life was destined for greatness in the world, but a quick downfall as the enemy would have taken over. I saw what happened to the girls in the group, where three of them actually left the singer and his career slowly came crashing down as well. I saw the depravity and corruption behind the scenes of dance videos. I saw and experienced people wanting to manipulate, use and toss you to the side when you didn't give in to their corrupt mindset. But, God heard my prayer and took me out just in time. 

I showed the letter to my mom and felt peace in my heart. Well, perhaps fame would never happen, but I was on my way to opening my heart to God's will and learning His love for me was greater than the applause of any crowd. A few months later, God placed people in my life that encouraged me to love God, love people and get into His Word. Not long after this, I gave my life to the Lord, as I shared in I Won't Go Back. 

Changing dance partners took time. I never imagined I would ever dance again once I became a Christian. The Lord kept the love in my heart for dancing but I just changed my reason for dancing and decided to perform for an audience of One. There is nothing that compares to telling God's story through dance and movement. When we are living for the Lord, our dance becomes a prayer, a weapon of war, a reason to celebrate and praise, and the onset of celebration. Changing dance partners from the world to the gospel is something I shall never regret. Have you changed dance partners, yet?



Thursday, February 20, 2014

MY STORY: "I CAN'T GO BACK, I WON'T GO BACK TO THE OLD ME"


By Angeline M Duran Santiago


There's a life filled with glamour, really loud music, and the lifestyle desired if you have the right cash or friends in your life. Many times, with all the lights and celebrations, falling into wanting to get high as part of the festivities becomes an addiction. There's no denying that coming down from a high, especially if you realize your life is on a downward spiral, is not something you look forward to.


We want the DJ to keep playing our favorite song and we want to stay in the dance floor, even if by ourselves. We want the party to keep going past sunrise and those we consider friends to grab a pillow and spend the night. Loneliness, Sadness, and Fear sometimes even cause many of us to give in to choices and decisions we know are so wrong and against our beliefs, but we cave in to the pressure of wanting to be part of the spotlight and the moment.

I remember that Autumn, rainy day, when I stepped up into the crowd listening about God's love. It was late and the preacher was done with his sermon. The street was filled and there was no walking room. Why was I here? 



"God loves you." I don't remember anything else except that the preacher all the way in the front, man made stage, called out and said, "If you're tired of the way your life is, God won't let you down." I remember invisible hands moving me forward as he called out, "Will you say yes to the Lord?" The rain poured down faster and harder but I couldn't move away, I only got closer. 

Suddenly, as if my heart had been a locked dam, under pressure for years, every hurt was released as if on cue, pouring out of me like the rain. Waves of past hurts and rejections crashed out from deep within me and for the first time in a very long time, I cried. The broken child was released into the arms of a loving God that night. The girl who thought her only way to feel joy was to dance and find the right jam or group of friends to be with was given a new identity. My entire heart and soul was flooded with a warm liquid of love, completely healing me from my past.

I can't go back to what I had. I won't go back. Once you truly experience that moment in God's presence, there's no scientific evidence, no physical proof, and no way to show what God has internally and emotionally done deep in the wounded and scarred parts of our lives. I'll share what God did in another blog. For now, all I know is I won't go back.




THE GRAVE SITE

By Angeline M Duran Santiago


In my neighborhood, part of the regular sites one sees driving back and forth are the many cemeteries, stretching through neighborhoods and reminding us of their existence. One of the things my family and I take time to search for are the dates etched in the stones. Somehow we imagine the stories these people once lived, based on their names and the history of their birth year and death. Waiting for the bus becomes a conversation of what might have been the reason a child died before age one, or how someone lived to one hundred years of age.

My visits to the cemetery are few, at least here in New York. I consider myself blessed for that reason. But, I've entered to visit with my husband and my children to visit his father and grandfather's site. We think of funny moments together with him, say hello and see you soon. In the tradition of long ago, we look for rocks, the bigger the better, to place on the tombstone as a reminder that we were there, or at least that someone remembered to come and stay awhile.

The grave is a place so many want to shy away from. It symbolizes our end, the last of our days, and termination to who we are. Still, to me, the grave is a reminder to remember my Creator and live my life with the constant knowledge that I long to be before Him one day. I've had many close calls home, as have many of my family members. We're still here because it's not our time yet. God still has a plan, a great plan. 

He still has something for us to complete. Our existence has great worth and value in God's agenda and if we align ourselves with His will, seeking to walk guided by His love and power, we will be able to fulfill everything God has designed for us.

The grave site should never be a place of fear for us. Yes, it is a reminder of loved ones gone forever in this world. I don't deny there is a pain and grief that settles in our spirits when we reminisce and look at those endless rows of stones. It can also be a place of hope if we embrace a life that has begun with God in our hearts here on earth, to continue in the life to come.




Tuesday, February 18, 2014

COMPANY FOR THE JOURNEY




Walking down the train station stairs, my mind was suddenly overcome with a conversation I'd rather not entertain. I looked to my right and Discouragement, dressed up for the snow, looked up at me. Feeling awkward, I looked away, not in the mood for these negative thoughts, and trying to avoid a huge snow pile before crossing the street, I looked to my left and saw Disappointment, hands in pockets, walking alongside as well. 

"You're not going to get the job."
"That was a horrible answer you gave the interviewer."
"Over qualified. Who wants to hire someone as old as you?"
"What a waste of time, I tell you, what a waste of time!"

The argument between Discouragement and Disappointment went back and forth, keeping me in the middle. No matter how quickly I tried to step up to pass them, they'd catch up to my side, louder still. 

"You're not good enough."
"This is all because you messed up before and now look at you."
"It's all your fault."
"Hopeless. This is all a mess."



Stepping over some snow hills, I find myself looking at a deep puddle where snow and ice have melted, making a pretty nice pond. Trying to ignore the negative words being thrown at me from both sides, I sigh and say a prayer.

"Lord, silence these voices of fear and hopelessness. My heart waits on You and I chose to believe you have my back. Surround me Lord with your favor and make a way."

Standing still, waiting for the light to turn green, I suddenly realize that Discouragement is having a hard time speaking. I look to my left and smile as I see Hope and Faith, walking on my left, broad shoulders and gigantic forms like linemen at my side, not letting anyone come near me. I smile and know that I have to look to my right side because this looks like answered prayer. As if I were holding a football and ready to run, I see Courage and Endurance on my right, powerful full backs covering me, covering my ears to the voices of despair and regret. Desperation and Discouragement retreat behind me. "Go! Go!" is all I hear.

You would think I am the running back in the game of life, running with all my might to go home. I am determined, sure and confident that I will not fail. You see, God knows when to open doors and when to close them. He knows my future. I seek His will and not mine. With Hope, Faith, Courage and Endurance surrounding me, I boldly push forward and refuse to look back. As I get to the corner and turn towards my home, I see Victory, the tallest lineman of them all, powerfully at my side, running with me and smiling. I've said "I" and "Me", but I want to add you to this story, too. This is our story. Many of us face these battles daily.

Heaven is cheering me on. Heaven is cheering you on! You might be facing discouragement, hard decisions, and life choices that leave you tired and wondering if you've done the right thing. Remind those thoughts that come to weigh you down that you're not going to listen, and look around you to see that God has sent angels to guard you and get you to the finish line. You are not alone. I pray your eyes are opened and you will see God is with you and sending the help you need for each day's situation.



2 Kings 6:15-17
New International Version (NIV)
15 When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.
16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
17 And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.