THOUGHT LIFE – Do I control my mind or does my mind control me?

A few weeks ago I found myself swimming in the thoughts of low self-esteem.  Waves of self-pity, frustration, and lack of accomplishments were tossing me around from side to side in the feeling of a stagnant life.  I was about to take a plunge into the pit of Satan’s suggestions about my identity.  It’s not that I didn’t know who I was.  I knew it then just as much as I know it now.  The problem was that I allowed myself to get weak physically and spiritually.  Then, I let my mind adrift.

During those couple days that seemed so much longer, a war was taking place within me.  I was trying to stay afloat while demons kept using circumstances to build their case against the promises of God in my life.  No one around me had any idea what I was going through. I knew how to disguise it to avoid confrontation.  I didn’t feel like talking to anyone while dragging myself out of this demonic slum.  Isolation is one of the devil’s tactics.  It’s easier to defeat a lonely prey.  Besides, this kind of separation clouds the day even more and darkness intensifies.  That’s where I was except for a ray of light at a far distance (John 1:5).  But in my weakness I couldn’t find the strength to walk toward it.

I’m not afraid of physical darkness.  When all is well within my spirit the night can draw its blackness veil but I’ll not be shaken.  A strong, well determined mind can face the dark as a meager slice on the clock of life.  It’s not so when the Light of this world (John 8:12), the Sun of righteousness (Malachi 4:2) is absent.   No wonder Jesus calls hell a place of “outer darkness” (Matthew 8:12).  When He’s not present, darkness creeps in with its claws of allusions.  If we allow ourselves to be engulfed by them we are doomed to a rapid descent into the chambers of a miserable life.

There is a verse in Job 14:7-9 that reads, “For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease.  Though its root grow old in the earth, and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put out branches like a young plant.”  I praise God for the beam of light above me during my darkest moments.  The Holy Spirit quickened in me the words of God to Adam, “Where are you” and “Who told you that you are naked” (Genesis 3:9-11)?   These questions made me realize I had been listening to the wrong voice.  Then, Bible verses about my identity in Christ started to come back to me.  The scent of His Word, like a laser beam of light, stroke the right nerve in my soul and positioned me standing again.

With my focus redirected I opened my mouth speaking words of victory and counter-acted every lie that assaulted my mind.  I dove into thWord from morning to sun down.  Refreshed and fortified I soared on God’s promises.  Then, I decided to study Satan’s scheme to destroy me.  I know he came to steal, kill, and destroy, but I wanted to learn the tactics of my enemy.  I don’t want to be oblivious to his strategies (2 Corinthians 2:11).  I want to learn to fight and to defend what is precious to me from every attack.

Satan has no power whatsoever to harm us or to halt any blessings prepared for our lives.  He cannot stop our healing because it is written, “…by his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).   He cannot defeat us because we conquered him by the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 12:11).  He cannot keep us down because God has set our feet in high places (Psalm 18:33).  He cannot overpower us because God has given us strength (Isaiah 40:29).  Satan cannot do anything because he is on a short leash (Luke 22:31; Job 2:6).  So, how come so many believers live in bondage?  How come I slipped into his snare?

The Battlefield

The battle always starts with our thought life.  No one  can spoil a house of a strong man before binding him (Mark 3:27).   Satan attacks our mind.  Since he has no power to destroy us he keeps firing his darts of lies into our mind (Ephesians 6:16).  This verse says we must use the shield of faith to extinguish the flames caused by these fiery darts.  It means his firing darts are inevitable.  In 1 Peter 5:8 we read, “Be alert and of sober mind.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  Demons are like vultures.  They hover anticipating the death of anyone who garners their allusive lies.  Once we accept his deceits we lose ground and Satan advances with more lies, which are his weapons.  He tries to make us destroy ourselves since he cannot touch us any other way.

Satan has a simple method.  He knows we act upon our emotions; that is why he tries to steal our joy (Nehemiah 8:10) – no joy, no strength to fight him. Emotions are reflections of knowledge.  A distorted or deceiving knowledge (Revelation 12:9) causes a downfall in any given area of our lives.  So demons work hard trying to convince us of a lie, what is opposing to God’s Word.  If he wins our thoughts he wins the battle without doing anything else.  With corrupted thoughts we destroy ourselves.  “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober” (1 Peter 1:13).

When God gave the great commandment He instructed the people of Israel to have it in their heart (most inner part, mind, understanding).  He commanded them to talk about it at home, on the way, when lie down, and when get up. He also told them to make themselves reminders so the Word would be always present in their lives (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).  He knew Satan would target their minds to shoot arrows of doubt.  The Lord was giving the Israelites instructions to prevent their fall.  The same Word applies to us today (Isaiah 40:8) if we want to live abundantly.

Today I am renewing my mind as commanded in Ephesians 4:23 and Romans 12:2 because I want to live a victorious life in perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3).  I don’t want to pass through life dragging my days and touching the divine only from time to time.  I want to walk on earth rooted in the promises of God.  So, I have been taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).  The Bible declares that through the knowledge of God and Jesus we have life and promises (2 Peter 1:2-4).  I pray that the minds that have been blinded by the devil (2 Corinthians 4:4) may be set free to see the Light (Matthew 4:16).

I am a child of the light (1 Thessalonians 5:5).

I walk in a dark world but not in darkness (Colossians 1:13).

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

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Wisdom in Silence

This past week someone asked me to consider the main quality of a good boss and those of a good employee.  It was easy to immediately respond the first question.  In my opinion, to be in a position of leadership one needs to communicate well.  Good communication enables things to run a lot smoother in the work environment.  No doubt, I believe it should be a two-way street, but the words of an employee should be minimum.  Quite frankly, I have learned that the more I silent the better.  The Bible says in Proverbs 10:19 When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.

Thinking of someone who inspires me about not talking unnecessarily and being an excellent employee the first person who comes to mind is my baby sister.  I know I may sound cocky when mentioning my siblings but I am really blessed for having such wonderful people in my family.  What can I say?  Good roots bring forth good fruits.  I praise God for my parents!  My dad was naturally a quiet man.  He was a man of just a few words.  My mom, on the other hand, liked to talk quite a lot.  But that doesn’t mean she didn’t teach me about the matter.  And on her last conscious days on this earth she taught me the greatest lesson on the subject. She could talk but she chose not to and her silence spoke more than I can describe.  “A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims folly” (Proverbs 12:23).

Beatriz Valadão is my younger sister.  She is a wife, a mom, and a first time granny.  Through the years I have learned a lot from her.  She stirs in me the desire to be a better person in so many ways.  Today I want to say a few things I learned from her as an employee.  I had the privilege of working with her at the Dallas Post Office.  We were RCA (Rural Carrier Associate), or substitutes to the regular carriers.  When I joined the post office Beatriz was already there.  They call her Bee, but my siblings and I call her Bê since we were little.  I am so thankful for all she did and still does for me.  At the post office, she blessed me with so many tips and helping hands on those desperate first days on the job.  I observed her every time I had a chance and I always ran to her asking for instructions and guidance.  She’s smart in figuring out the best way of doing things in an effective and timely manner.  Bee seemed so confident and always encouraged me even on my lowest moments.

As a substitute, Bee was envied by all regular carriers.  They knew whatever route she worked on it would be an easy one the next day.  She’s not only a hard worker but also a servant of the Lord who blesses all those around her.  She is a helper, a giver, and an example.  Proverbs 31:20 describes her constant attitude “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.”  Walking the extra mile is something she does continuously.  It’s a part of who she is.  Recently, Bee was promoted to regular carrier.  No doubt, one of the best regulars the post office will ever have.  She’s diligent, reliable, and a pleasant person to work with.   I’m still learning from her and trying to achieve her work ethics.  But the biggest lesson for me has been to guard my lips.

The way she reacts to bad comments about fellow workers is an example to be imitated.  She is silent.  She changes the subject and breaks a chain that can destroy others.  Everyday Beatriz puts to practice what is written in Proverbs 15:1, A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger”, and in Ecclesiastes 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear”.  When she opens her mouth it sure serves the purpose of causing good to others.

Several verses in the Bible teach about how much we should restrain our words.  One text in particular, James 3:2-6, gives three good analogies, For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell”.  No wonder God created us with a pair of eyes and a pair of ears, but only one tongue.

I’m progressing in this area of my life.  I don’t want to be considered a fool because of my words.  Ecclesiastes 10:14 says, “A fool multiplies words”, and Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion”.  I want wisdom coming out of my mouth and my sister Beatriz has set biblical standards I can follow.

“Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble” (Proverbs 21:23).

“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin” (Proverbs 13:3).

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Birth Pains

Almost 26 years ago I was on my way to Worcester, MA to give birth to my daughter.  I remember as if it were yesterday when I felt the first contraction.  I got up around 3:00 am feeling a little tiny cramp.  Since I never had cramps before, I remember thinking ‘how weak these women are complaining about the pain of giving birth, this is so tolerable’.  Little did I know what I was going to experience later.  The only pain worse than that was an infected tooth that required a root canal treatment.  I think I literally left my fingers mark on the metal armrest at the dentist’s office chair.  As I tried to squeeze my pain away my mind was elevating Vívian, my 5 year old daughter at the time, into the throne of God in supplication.  I prayed for her to have very strong teeth.  I know the Lord answered my prayer because to this day she never had any cavity; praises be to Him!

Her dad was still sleeping.  My due date was on the 17th but I really wanted her to come that Sunday.  I wanted to be strong enough to attend a special event in church on the following weekend.  During the pregnancy I heard that walking would help with delivery.  So I was determined to put it to the test.  We lived in a small two-bedroom apartment, but that didn’t prevent me from walking around the dinner table like a bug circulating a lamp.  That was the best space available.  Contractions kept increasing in strength, causing me lots of pain, real pain.  But not only that, they started to come within shorter and shorter time apart.  By now, I was considering every woman to be a hero and despising every man on the face of the earth for not having to go through birth pains.

Close to 6:00 am I made sure my sleeping husband was up and calling the doctor, who told me to go the hospital.  After the long drive with me in the passenger seat, contorting like an earth warm on hot cement, we arrived and I was immediately admitted.  My daughter was eager to leave the safety of my womb and explore this world.   And so she was born, a tiny little girl who would change my life forever.  She came to bring me the biggest joy, to make me feel the deepest love, and to put a weight of concerns on my soul.  I became a mother…

Today, reflecting back on the birth pains I remembered the Bible verse from Mark 13:8 where we read about the end times.  Through my life I’ve heard of so many catastrophes.  They have been increasing in quantity, and in strength.  As an added tragedy, there hasn’t been much time between them.  Actually, so many are happening at the same time that the news haven’t been able to keep up broadcasting it all.  As I am writing this post, hurricane Irma just passed leaving so much devastation, right after hurricane Harvey.  This later one also left a huge trail of destruction on its path; and hurricane Jose and Katia are already on the way.  At the same time, not so much broadcasted on the news, the West of the United States has undergone wildfires bigger than predicted.  Oregon, Montana, Washington, Idaho, Utah, and California have suffered damages from the dried-out lands.  What a contrast!  Some states under water and others under fire!  Not to mention North Korea’s threat to the US after UN attempts to halt their weapons programs.

Countries are at war for power, domination and survival.  There is a continuous drug cartel war in Mexico with despicable violence.  If it wasn’t enough, an 8.1 earthquake just intensified their daily life struggles to the extremities.  In the Congo ethnic hatred groups have caused deaths, villages wiped out, and more than 3.8 million out from their homes.  Myanmar is undergoing crimes against humanity in an attempt to an “ethnic cleansing”.   These are only a few of the latest reports of things happening around the world.  We are living difficult times.

There is a prediction that the world is coming to an end on September 23rd. This is based on the stars alignment on that day and Revelation 12:1-2, where it is written, “And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth”.  In several articles we read that these verses are referring to the constellation Virgo (woman) over the moon (moon at Virgo’s feet) under 12 stars (9 stars of the constellation Leo plus the planets Mercury, Venus, and Mars above her head), and Jupiter (a son) exiting the center of Virgo (birth).

I’m not entirely accepting this prediction as there are other articles debating it, but I’m sure we are living the last days.  In Joel 1:15 and 2:1 we read that the day of the Lord is near, bringing destruction, and we should tremble.  What are we supposed to do then?  Where to go, or where to hide in these perilous days?  “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).  Indeed, there is a place to hide where we can feel secured.

The other day someone close to me said that a time is coming when only faith will see us through.  Nothing else can give us assurance.  Those who seek the Lord for help trusting on His Word will truly find rest for their soul.  Other verses in Joel 2:12-13 read, “Even now, declares the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your hearts and not your garments.  Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.”

I’m not sure what you are facing these days.  Maybe you have been affected in some way by one of these dreadful natural disasters or other misfortunes, or maybe you are living what seems to be a good life without a care in this world.  Reality is that whatever your circumstances are they don’t change what we all have in common – a temporary body.  We don’t know when our last day on this earth will be.  We need to be ready for it.  The only inevitability we all possess is a death sentence that we inherited at birth.  The Bible says in Hebrews 9:27 “…it is appointed to men to die once, but after this the judgment”.

Isn’t it better to be prepared?

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Pearls

I love pearls! To me they represent femininity.  Pearl earrings are my favorites.  I wear them very often.  I think they can transform the appearance of a woman quite a bit.  On bad hair days, when a baseball cap seems to be the solution, those pearls work like a charm. They give me a more soft or ladylike appearance. But pearls are not soft or fragile at all, they are consequence of adversity.

A pearl is formed when an irritant, like a parasite, enters the shell of the mollusk.  Unable to expel the irritant the mollusk defends itself by depositing layers after layers of nacre around it.  There are natural pearls and cultured pearls. Natural pearls have a very thick layer of nacre and take years to be formed after a parasite enters the shell.  On the other hand, some pearls have the interference of man to speed up its formation.  A bead or mantle tissue is inserted into the mollusk shell; the mollusk will react the same way by depositing the nacre substance around the intruder to form what we know as a cultured pearl.  Although they differ on their interior the process is the same.  The mollusk refuses to give in to the irritant and protects itself by transforming something ugly and undesirable into something beautiful.

I have encountered a number of “pearls” through the years.  They are women who had suffered many things in life but had overcome in a great way.  They had faced hardships imposed on them by co-workers, by family members, by society, or simply by uncontrollable circumstances.  But these women didn’t succumb to the pressures; they rose above the ugliness of the situation and came out stronger than before.  These pearls are worriers, winners, women of faith and courage, women who are leaving a legacy for others to follow.  They are role models!

Today I want to honor one of these pearls, my eldest sister.  Growing up we were not so close, maybe because she matured faster than I did even though we are not so far apart in age.  I remember her taking care of my younger siblings and me.  At the time, as a child, I didn’t enjoy the aspect of her bossing me around to help her with chores around the house, which my mom made sure we kept sparkling all the time. I also didn’t enjoy when she wanted to make sure my hair was shiny and soft by applying milk with lime juice to remove chlorine after a day at the pool. Less yet I enjoyed when she wanted my nails done; she made me her “guinea pig”.  But I certainly enjoyed all the good food she prepared from an early age.  She would make delicious dishes for us to savor as we watched movies in “Sessão da Tarde,” an afternoon TV show as I was growing up.  Good memories from the past!…

Now it’s a different thing.  We grew up.  We parted houses forming our own families. Even though our schedule doesn’t allow us to see each other very often we are very close.  We are twice sisters – by the bloodline of our parents and by the bloodline of our Savior Jesus Christ.

She’s someone I can look up to.  I’ve seen her pass though some dark valleys with her eyes closed, many times drowned in tears.  I’ve seen her climb mountains on her knees, and yell alone in the silence.  She always prays her way through any hurdles, out of any burden, and up into the throne of God!  She doesn’t contemplate defeat; she doesn’t allow her lips to say the lies her enemy tries to poke into her head. She lives by the Word – the Living Word of God!  She only accepts what is written.  She knows who she is, whom she serves, and where she is going.  With each new trial I’ve seen her grow stronger.  Her faith is unshakable!

My first sister is Kendali.  She’s a small-framed woman with the spirit of a giant, an angel in disguise.  Uncountable times she has rescued me, emotionally, spiritually, financially and physically.  She’s a mother admired and duly honored by her kids.  She’s a blessing beyond measure to all who know her.  She’s truly an example to follow, a role model.  She’s a pearl indeed!

Photography – echoes of a history

“A picture is worth a thousand words” is an English language-idiom first used in 1911 that continues to convey a great truth in present time.  We know a picture will engrave things onto the brain much deeper than words alone.   Photographs, in lay terms, or by the popular name, are called pictures.   But photographs are a lot more than just still images.  They are the art of precision, illumination, angle, setting, and creativity, combined and connected to the one handling the camera.

Photograph brings people and events a little closer to one’s heart when distance and circumstances hinder their presence together.  It stirs up memories and trigger emotions.  Photograph preserves what time strives to fade away, keeping the veracity of passed endeavours.   It keeps the past alive. It reveals the unspoken, the obscured, and the aura, whispering secrets and silencing lying lips.  It seals a covenant, a verdict; it registers “the” time.  Photograph echoes moments of a history.

Good photographers not only possess the good gear and talent, but the dexterity of a professional.  There are professionals and there are PROFESSIONALS.  I can say without restrictions that Studio 22 has professionals with capital letters.  I salute Studio 22 for its success but I know that behind its name there is the integrity of Kássio Silva as a photographer, a businessperson, and an individual in all areas of his life.  Wedding photography is his expertise.  He writes love poetry in the form of images.  Kássio has received many accomplishments on wedding photography, but his work extends far and beyond.  He also does lifestyle photography.  He’s not only attentive to every move and detail at the event or occasion he’s photographing, but also, when necessary, he’s a coach to the ones in front of the lens, achieving remarkable results.  His photographs speak the song of the soul being photographed.

I have the pleasure and the honor of knowing Kássio and share the same family tree.  I’m a proud sister of this man who has brightened our eyes with phenomenal images of his work.   I proudly encourage you to see for yourself and enjoy his art of wedding photography.  Then, follow Studio 22 on Instagram to be continuously mesmerised and inspired by the love stories recorded through Kássio’s camera lens.

 

No Experience. No Problem.

 

“There is deer season and there is waiting for deer season.”

In my house we are hunters. We keep the above saying to the letter.  From October to March our weeks are all about preparation for the weekends. That is when we drive four hours every Friday to the Hunting Camp just to be in the woods waiting for the perfect buck. We hunt Saturday morning and afternoon, and Sunday morning.  This is the best time for us to bond as a family – no electronics, and we all enjoy everything that is involved in hunting.

In the woods, each of us has a spot to be, either a tree stand or a box blind. First time Vivian went with us, she reassured my husband she could stay by herself.  Reluctantly, he agreed after reminding her of several rules and gave her a .243 riffle, which is the weakest one we have.  He left her in my box blind because it is elevated from the ground about 5 steps, a little safer, and that was the place we saw the most number of deer in the motion camera.

We usually arrive at our spot in the woods around 5:30 am when it is still pitch black, having only the path underneath our feet to guide us.  We don’t use flashlights.  We stay there until around 11:30 am when we go back for lunch and return in the afternoon.  I wish we could stay much longer but for us girls there is no bathroom break.  No fun in that!

On this particular day, my husband and I didn’t see a thing.  Not even a skirl entertained us.  All was dead calm.  Then, around 10:15 we heard a shot from the direction Vivian was sitting.  Immediately my husband called her on the radio in a very low tone to avoid noises.

“Was it you?”

“Yes, I killed a buck,” she answered still with a trembling voice.

“Do you see it?”

“No, he jumped into the woods.”

“Stay put till I get there.  Do not get down,” he said emphatically.  There are many hogs in the area and they attack.  Wagner was being a protective dad.

“Ok.”

I was excited for her and so proud.  First time ever and she kills a buck? Or so we thought.

Time to leave.  Wagner came from down the stream where he has his stand in a tree, met me up the path and we both went to see Vivian.  From a distance she saw us through the box opening and came down excited to tell us how it happened, pointing to the spot where the buck was when she fired.

No blood.  No pattern to follow.  We looked, and searched, and nothing.

Frustration grew stronger as my husband, a veteran hunter, kept saying she probably missed the shot.  After all, it was her first time and the riffle was not that strong for such a distance.  She insisted.  We broad the search area to no avail.  No signs of any killing.

We tried to comfort her for the disappointment.  In private, she would say to me that she had shot in the right spot, and she was absolutely sure that the buck was there somewhere.  She always talks to me more than with dad – a closer bond, I guess.  What could we do?  Maybe the shot just scratched him and he fled…

One week went by.  We, the girls, had an event to attend so Wagner went by himself to the camp.  He decided to try his luck at my box.  As soon as the sun started to push down the cold fog and warm the woods a little, he felt a stench coming from where Vivian said the buck was.  He went to check and sure enough there he was, at least what the coyotes left of it.  He called us.

“You’re not going to believe it, Vivian really killed a buck.  An eight-point buck.”  He said like he was so regretful for not finding it the week before.

And he continued,

“It was about ten steps further than where we stopped looking.  The coyotes ate most of it but I’ll take the head for her to see.”

“Imagine that, she was right all along,” I responded with a grin on my face.

We boiled the head with borax to clean it.  The skull had been crushed but the antlers were fine.  It’s hanging on our wall as Vivian’s proud reminder to all of us that she had the right shot just as she had said.  For us it is a reminder that we should not doubt the inexperienced.  With patience, attention, and determination one can accomplish great things.

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