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What Happens When the Door Closes and you are in the Storm?

This is the post excerpt.

Reflection of our lives reveals that we have overcome many obstacles; however, for reasons which are not easily identified, we are feeling quite overwhelmed with the present and unexpected life event. When we perceive that we are overwhelmed, fear, worry, and anxiety escalate at disproportionate levels.

As a result, we become fixated on the closed door and become spiritually disoriented, quickly forgetting the power of Divine intervention. When we begin to communicate with God through prayer, we then understand that God has allowed the door to close. He is protecting us as only a Heavenly Father can do. As our relationship grows deeper with God, He will enable us to see his excellent plan for our lives-many open doors.

© Sonya Johnson Ruiz 2020

Here’s to Your Health: Grades A-D

My career as a nurse mainly consisted of employment in non-traditional settings with two positions in the Criminal Justice system. The NJ State of Corrections had a minimal correctional facility in Trenton, where I served as Health Administrator. In my initial interview with Mr. Oliver, the Director was pleasant enough with only one warning, “If you get involved with any of the residents, your nursing career is over.” No chance of that ever happening!

The most interesting information he shared during the interview was that the Food Services Director was a chef. Mr. Oliver gave two reasons: 1. The foods you eat impact the spiritual, mental, and emotional components as well as the physical body. 2. The chef was also contracted as his personal chef and prepared his daily lunch and dinner.

Truthfully, I had never encountered a man like Mr. Oliver, who was always in a good mood but strutted around the facility on his rounds like a peacock. So, the other nurse and I dubbed him “The Peacock.” We accused him of being arrogant and decided that we would never marry a man like that. Keep this thought in mind. We will refer to it later.

One morning, I overslept. It was my habit to take my lunch, but I did not have time. Because of the re-entry process, the medical staff did not leave the facility during their shift. Lunch for the residents was from 12-1 pm, and for the staff from 1-2 pm. At 1 pm, I went to the dining area to ask for a plate [residents also had kitchen duty]. But then I heard the chef’s voice, “I will take care of the nursing staff.” 

Our conversation:

“Sister, how are you? What can I do for you?”

“I am hungry, overslept and did not have time to fix my lunch.”

“Sister, you do not want to eat this food.” I gave a blank stare and remained silent. “You know that I am a Chef?” “Yes,” I replied.

“Food is graded from A-D with D being the lowest that is not fit for human consumption, it is usually fed to animals, and our food is grade D.” I ended up eating a peanut butter sandwich and drank bottled water.

Fast forward 20 years, and 98% of my food is organically and responsibly grown. Many argue that organic food is a waste of money, and that’s okay. Nor do I eat food from fast-food restaurants, as the majority of individuals frequent. I am not here to judge. But this is what I know. At 62, I am in optimal health. I have several diagnoses that are stable. The Grade A nutrients that I feed my body, along with the power of God, have healed me mentally, emotionally, and physically and have resulted in increased cognition and energy. My spiritual relationship with God has reached a deeper level because my total health is optimized.

Back to Mr. Oliver, I was wrong. It was not arrogance that made him strut around like a peacock, nor did he take happy pills or drink energy drinks to make it through the day. No, this was self-love that honored God for creating him in His image. Twenty years later, I fully understand Mr. Oliver’s enthusiasm about life. I also enjoy happiness [inner joy], the high-energy level, increased mental acuity, and the knowledge and wisdom of taking care of one’s temple. In fact, I, too, find myself doing the “Peacock strut.”

Bible verse: I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Your works, and I know this very well. Psalm 139:14

Prayer: God, we thank you for making us in your image. Help us to start and maintain the journey to achieve optimal health. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

© 2021 Sonya Johnson 

Following Your Heart?

SHOUT the Cry of Victory 30 Days of Prayer Day 16 Happy Sabbath!

Pursue happiness. Go for it. Follow your dreams. Live well. You only have one life. Look out for yourself.

Self-seeking gratification is at an all-time high. This behavior is the standard for most unbelievers, but are you aware that when believers make plans without seeking God’s approval, we are also guilty of pursuing our desires? For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. Romans 8:7

I can recall looking for a travel bag. I went to my favorite store first, and there it was the perfect bag. As I walked toward the bag, another person picked it up. No! I wanted that bag. But then something happened that I have only seen one time in my life. The woman bowed her head, prayed, placed the bag back on the rack, and walked away. Greedily, I grabbed the bag off of the shelf and thanked God for my blessing. But was it a blessing? I missed the message that God was sending to me. At the time, I had a serious problem with impulsive spending. I had three other travel bags, but I desired something new.

The story may seem insignificant. But following our heart’s desires always leads us in the opposite direction of God’s plans for us. Our goal is to always stay in sync with God by following His directions, which keep us on the Path of Righteousness. Even Jesus placed God’s will above His own. Everything He did pleased God. Saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Luke 22:42.

Part One of Surrender and Submission: Incorporate Jesus’ prayer before planning your day-to-day activities, pursuits, and schedule. Present your short-term and long-term goals to God in prayer. We can rely on God to always answer our prayers with, “Yes, No, or Not Now.” Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5. Pray and wait for God’s answers. Imagine living your life and never making another mistake because you seek God’s will first.

I developed an action plan: Every day, I pray, “Not my will [which only seeks to please myself], but your will for my life. God, help me to recognize your answer to my prayer.” Amen.

Part Two of Surrender and Submission: We wait until God gives us the answer. “Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:6. How will I know? God never makes us play the game of chance. When He speaks, you will know. Our position is to remain passive. We do not have to keep praying about the same situation. God never forgets.

Every aspect of our lives is a test to build our character and keep us humble, obedient servants of the Most-High God. Remember, it was our choice to make a covenant vow with God. And His expectations will always place us in the position to prove that we love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind.

Not only that, but we also rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character hope. Romans 5:4

Bible Study: Proverbs 3

Prayer: God, we ask forgiveness for the never-ending pursuit to please ourselves. Our prayer is, “God, not my will, but your will be done.” In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson  

Now This Is LOVE!

SHOUT the Cry of Victory 30 Days of Prayer Day 15

I have come to the conclusion that we [believers] do not love God enough.

Honestly, I cannot think of one person that is willing to die for me. Nor can I think of anyone who would promise to supply all of my needs for my entire life. And who can I talk to twenty-four hours a day, 7 days a week? Even my best friend would get tired of hearing my voice after a while. This is the whole conclusion of the matter: I am ready to LOVE God with all of my heart, soul, and mind.

Bible verse: Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

Prayer: God, please help us to get rid of the distractions that bombard our lives to the point that we are unable to love you. Thank you, for your love, grace, and mercies. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson

Desires of the Heart

Humanity shares a common trait, and that is to aggressively pursue the desires of the heart. We desire the dream house, career, vehicle, lifestyle, and above all, the forever relationship with the perfect soul-mate who will help us achieve our goals. So what is wrong with wholeheartedly pursuing your dreams? Nothing at all! But there are exceptions.

When I decided to start a tutoring business for nursing students, I had a firm knowledge base of nursing theory and clinical practice. Even so, I had to teach entry-level students critical thinking skills and nursing judgment who were unable to choose the correct nursing action for the given patient scenario. On the exams, they were presented with four possible answers [with two being distractors], yet, they always chose the incorrect answer. Nursing programs are based on guided study, lectures, textbooks, and clinical practice. But the root of the problem was their lack of reasoning skills. Please know that Nurses do not have leeway. The wrong decision always compromises the patient’s safety.

Following the desires of the heart:

The Reality: The primary issue is not our desire to dream or developing strategies to achieve a fulfilling life. What happens when Plan A hits roadblocks? Most of us have not developed Plan B because we never anticipated failure of our initial plans. You may think, “that is a pessimistic outlook to develop short and long-term goals, and also think of developing alternate plans just in case things don’t work out.” Whether we choose to embrace this concept or to disregard it, the uncertainties of life are sure to happen.

Teaching the common sense of nursing was challenging, but I was confident that I could complete the task. However, after extended research, I realized that I was not equipped to tutor anyone but myself. So, I changed my short-term goal of immediately registering my business. I became a full-time student, enrolled in online courses for teaching adult learners and Business Management classes. Plan A was developed with immediately following the desire of my heart, which left me without the necessary skills. Developing Plan B was worth it. I enjoyed 12 years of helping others to reach their goal of becoming a nurse.

Anticipate and prepare for the roadblocks or the detours when pursuing your dreams. Our excitement often prevents us from seeking much-needed professional advice, completing the necessary research, and gaining additional knowledge. We can never know enough! Approaching our goals with the mindset that we are on a life-long learning curve equips us to meet and overcome the challenges of achieving our goals. 

The consequences of following the heart and disregarding professional advice:

One of my worst experiences happened because I did not listen to the physician who told me not to accept the Branch Manager position at a Home Health agency. His main concern was regarding the business operations of that particular company because it was well-known for its shady reputation of cover-ups and manipulation of actual circumstances. I will never forget these words, “Sonya, you are a Christian, I cannot imagine you compromising your belief in God to participate in illegal activity.”

Two months into the job, I knew that I had to get out. After the management conference call with the corporate office, the words of warning echoed in my mind. Divine intervention to the rescue! God helped me in a time of trouble. The regional Nursing Director visited my branch a couple days after the call to relay a corporate decision. Since I was a Registered Nurse, I would have to assume the dual role of Branch Manager and Clinical Director effective immediately. As she walked out of my office, I closed the door, asked a prayer of forgiveness [for disobedience], and gave my resignation letter.

Truthfully, we cannot anticipate most of life’s detours.  But when we refuse to acknowledge that our plans may not work out, then the D’s hit hard: The fruits of Disappointment are Discouragement, Distress, and Defeat. Some individuals are resilient and bounce back by immediately developing new and improved strategies, but that is not typical. Our emotions can easily tilt to an unhealthy place when facing adversity. But we have a solution: For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

It has taken most of my life to give in and present my plans to God first. Finally,  I realize that I need to have faith and believe in God’s promises. My prayer has changed to “Not my will, but your will be done” because I have surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. The trials and sorrows still happen, but not due to failed plans. When God reveals His plans for you, there is no Plan B! God can never fail, nor does He change. His Word is Absolute!

Bible verses: Still, I am certain to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the LORD; be strong and courageous. Wait patiently for the LORD! Psalm 27:13-14

Prayer: Hear our prayer, Oh Lord. We are tired of failed plans and the disappointments that follow because we did not include you in our dreams and goals. We ask for forgiveness. Please reveal the plans you have for our lives. We ask this prayer in the Worthy Name of Jesus. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson

It Takes Courage for the Journey

SHOUT the Cry of Victory 30 Days of Prayer Day 13

One of the hardest things that you will ever do is maintain the courage to keep your covenant vow with God. You will be tested by Satan, who will use your closest friends, family, and your desires to test your convictions to serve God. Our desires indicate whether or not we are serving God with unwavering faith, trust, and obedience. Often we fall into the temptations of sin, still, you must pray and stand against the deceptions of spiritual wickedness. Human Effort + Divine Intervention = A Victorious Outcome! 

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Matthew 7:24

Yesterday, I reached the crossroads of Obedience and Disobedience. God has spoken to me through my Pastor and several other individuals to stop all communication with an individual who no longer served God and did not have my best interest in mind. You know what? I prayed and asked God to give me the courage and strength to completely sever this relationship. God answered my prayer immediately. It happened yesterday. The relationship is over!

What made the difference? Divine intervention! God knows that I love Him with all of my heart, soul, and mind. Before the 30 days of Prayer, I identified deficits in my character that required change. I prayed for spiritual growth and a closer relationship with Jesus Christ. Yes, God reached down from heaven and manifested His power to eliminate a huge problem that I struggled with for a long time.

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” John 16:33

We can agree that life is tough! Even so, obedience to God places us in the position to receive the blessings of peace and inner joy. When we do our part: Having courage [standing our ground] against all deceptions [people, places, and things] that Satan uses to lead us down the “Road of Disobedience,” then our Warrior God steps in, “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14.

Choose to always obey God! Our reward of eternal life depends on the humility to be an obedient servant of the Most-High God.

Scripture: But Moses told the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the LORD’s salvation, which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again.” Exodus 14:13

Prayer: God, we ask for forgiveness of the sin of disobedience. We desire to serve you wholeheartedly. Please help us have the courage to give up the people and the desires that separate us from you. Thank you for your divine intervention. We ask this prayer in the Worthy Name of Jesus. Amen.

© 2021 Sonya Johnson

Free Will of Choice Ends Here

SHOUT the Cry of Victory 30 Days of Prayer, Day 12

The dilemma of humanity: This is what the LORD says: “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls. But you reply, ‘No, that’s not the road we want!'” Jeremiah 6:16

  1. To serve God is a choice. Even so, once we make the covenant vow to serve God our choices end.

Do you not know that when you offer yourselves as obedient slaves, you are slaves to the one you obey, whether you are slaves to sin leading to death, or to obedience leading to righteousness? Romans 6:16

2. Jesus tells us that obedience is required to serve God:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 7:21

3. God clears up our confusion about our former lifestyle: 

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance… 1 Peter 1:14

4. Disobedience ends in God’s rejection:

but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected. Genesis 4:5

5. God knows that we struggle to obey Him:

For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Matthew 7:14

Our Reward for Obedience to God:

He who overcomes [the world through believing that Jesus is the Son of God], I will grant to him [the privilege] to sit beside Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down beside My Father on His throne. Revelation 3:21 AMP

Bible Study: Genesis 4

Prayer: God, we ask you to forgive us for our willful disobedience. We desire to obey you and to receive our reward of eternal life. Please give us the strength to overcome as we continue to serve you. We ask this prayer in the Worthy Name of Jesus. Amen.