POV: You’re Apostle Paul

POV: You’re Apostle Paul

You and me?

We have work to do.

You—meaning, a follower of Jesus who has experienced the goodness of God yourself.

Me—meaning, your fellow sister in Christ, who believes with all her heart that only in Him, a free life is possible.

Whether we realize it or not, every person in pain is longing for what our Savior has to offer. Those who are hurting, those who are hopeless—they need to know that there’s a way out.

And, it’s up to us to let them know that there is a way—The Way.

His Name is Jesus.

And, if there’s anybody who knows the importance of spreading the gospel to all people, even if it means taking the gospel to some unlikely, controversial places, it’s the man I’m featuring for today’s post. This man didn’t just know the world needed the gospel, but he did something about it, presenting it to those who were typically excluded from it.

You know him.

You love him.

He’s probably the writer of one of your favorite verses.

You guessed it!

Today, we’re talking about Apostle Paul.

Not only that, but we’re going to take a look at his ministry from his point of view.

After all, his story is incredible. The minute Jesus called Paul to ministry in Acts 9:15, the Lord made it very clear that Paul wasn’t just meant to preach to the Israelites—God’s chosen people. No. Paul was also called to preach to—brace yourselves—the Gentiles.

Let me tell you why this is so significant.

The Israelites often viewed the Gentiles as the outsiders, enemies, those unworthy of the grace of God. And, the worst part is that they felt they had biblical reasons to justify their viewpoint. When God made a covenant promise with Abraham in Genesis 15, promising Abraham that his descendants were going to be as many as the stars in the sky, we see later on in Scripture that God called these descendants Israelites. Not Gentiles.

Get the picture?

In other words, the Israelites lorded their covenant promise over those who weren’t descendants of Abraham. They overlooked Gentiles, excluded them, outcasted them, shunned them—

—so when Paul came on the scene with a clear call to minister to Gentiles, the Israelites were terribly upset.

But, that didn’t bother Apostle Paul. No way! In fact, he was way too bothered by the fact that the Gentiles were out there giving their lives to gods who didn’t even have ears to hear them with when they could be praying to the God who not only hears them, but talks back too! And, it upset him in such a way that he did something about it—going above and beyond any other apostle, letting the Gentiles in on the greatest love story of all.

And, boy did he pay the price for it.

Because of Paul’s pursuit of the Gentiles, he was misunderstood, mocked, whipped, beaten, stoned, persecuted, and unjustly imprisoned many times. In fact, much of his life was spent in chains for the sole purpose of preaching the gospel. And, thankfully, we don’t have to be uninformed about what life was like for Paul in prison. The Bible gives us an exclusive, inside-look of what prison life was like through the readings of many of his letters—his most famous one being addressed to the Philippian church.

It’s ironic, if you study it. He wrote the book of Philippians in chains for preaching the gospel, and yet scholars call Philippians ‘the happiest book in the Bible.’


Well, let’s take a look inside!

You can’t get past the first chapter of Philippians without feeling like you’re reading a gooey, sappy love letter. Read it for yourself! The whole first chapter is littered with “I love you’s” and “I’m praying for you’s” and “I thank God for you all the time’s.”

Which makes no sense at all.

I don’t know about you, but if I was in prison for an unjust reason and the guard allowed me one five-minute phone call to my church family—

Let’s just say I wouldn’t be reminding them about how much I love and long for them with the tender compassion of Jesus Christ, as Paul wrote in Philippians 1:8. You kiddin’ me? My phone call would instead sound more like:

“Get me out of here!”

“Start a GoFundMe, so you can bail me out!”

I would tell my church family to get #FreeYana trending on Twitter!

Be honest!

Wouldn’t you?

Because you didn’t do anything wrong! You were simply bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost, to those society (and, even the church!) might’ve overlooked. You don’t have reason to be in jail. You deserve justice!

But, Paul? That wasn’t what he expressed to the church at Philippi.

Instead of trying to work out a plan to break out of his prison cell at midnight, he instead commanded them to not be anxious about anything, to pray and petition with thanksgiving, as written in Philippians 4:6.

He wasn’t worried about them coming to bail him out. No, Paul was more worried about their thought life. He told them in Philippians 4:8 to fix their thoughts on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. That was his instruction.

He wasn’t wallowing in self-pity, going into detail about how unfair it was that he was in there and something oughta be done. Nope! Paul said he can do anything through Christ who gives him strength, whether he was chained or free. He didn’t mention his need for anything either. He assured them that God was going to supply all of his needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

I mean, HUH?!

It doesn’t make sense, does it?

How is it that Paul could be wrongly imprisoned, persecuted, misunderstood by his own brothers and sisters in Christ and still…have joy?

Well, I’m writing this post today to tell you the answer—the secret sauce to Paul’s perfect peace.

You ready to find out what it is?

Here it goes…

His perspective.

Paul had the right perspective.

And, if you read Philippians 3:12-14, you’ll find out what that perspective was, that his eyes were fixed on one prize and one prize only:

Jesus Christ.

And, because Jesus Himself was the only perspective Paul had, he was able to endure every trial, tribulation, and obstacle he faced as he spread the gospel. And, it was his perspective that made every problem worth it.

Dr. Matthew Stevenson puts it this way:

The problem isn’t always the problem. Instead, the problem is your perspective of the problem.

And, when you run into problems spreading the gospel, a poor perspective is the last thing you need. In fact, the wrong perspective will keep you from enduring, from pressing on towards the prize, as Paul said in Philippians 3.

Therefore, if we’re going to do what Paul did, something we’re all called to do anyway—bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to all people, not just the ones who look like us, think like us, talk like us, but all people—then we must have the perspective that Paul had.

That perspective being Jesus—only Jesus.

And, if Paul was willing to endure chains, persecution, and being misunderstood for the sole purpose of spreading the good news, with the right perspective, we can, too.

At twenty-two years old, Ayana is an author, a blogger, and the host of “To Be Heard” Podcast. In 2018, she self-published her first novel, titled, How I Fell in Love with Myself, and self-published her second novel, titled, My Name is Anxiety in 2022. She is a former English & Journalism major with a previous education in writing from a program based in New York. As she continues to pursue a career in writing, she aims to bring relevant messages of faith, redemption, hope & self esteem to you & others around the world.

Follow Ayana on Instagram @ayanasymone

Brown-Skinned Vessel

Brown-Skinned Vessel

Picture this:

You’re eight years old, and today is the first day at your new school. With a bright, third-grade future and a killer first-day-of-school outfit, you walk in the building with your head held high, your fancy new lunchbox in the firm grip of your left hand, and your mom’s and dad’s last words to you before dropping you off—“Just be yourself!”—still ringing in your ear. And, as you approach the last door of the hallway to your right—instructions you received from that morning’s janitor—you take your final last breaths and walk in ready to meet your new classmates with confidence, until after taking a quick scan of everyone in the class, you realize—

You’re the only Black student in the room.


Uncomfortable, yes?

Perhaps even a little unsettling.

And, as an eight-year-old, you might not be jumping-off-the-walls excited that you immediately feel like the odd one out before the day could even get started.


But, alright. There is where I’ll insert my story here.

This little scenario I had you picture?

If you haven’t guessed, that eight-year-old student is me.

And, if you’re looking for an update on her, let’s just say that certainly was not the last time she’s been in that situation. There’s been plenty more moments during the thirteen years that followed where she’d walk into a room, look around, and—yep!—only Black person there.


Don’t worry. This isn’t me being insecure about my skin color.

Certainly not.

It’s Black History Month, after all! Today’s post will be a moment of celebration, if anything!

But, before I start throwing the confetti, I don’t think it’d be wise to move forward without giving you some of the details I faced during that third-grade year, without giving you an opportunity to walk a mile in my size-four shoes. After all, that was one of the first times I’ve walked into a room realizing just how brown I was once sandwiched in between so many other students who were White. (Now, granted, there were other Black students in my grade at this new school, and I remember breathing out a huge sigh of relief when I saw one of those students eventually walk into the classroom after me on that first day. But, the White to Black student ratio was excruciatingly far from equal, and I wasn’t quite sure how I should adjust.) In other words, the school I had attended prior to third grade was predominantly Black. Meaning, my friends were Black. Our families were Black. Our churches were Black. Our entertainment was Black. Our lingo was Black. And, most important of all, our hair was Black—Black, as in, greased, braided, beaded up, and twisted with barrettes. Not blonde, straightened, and flowing a river down our backs, which is what I saw on the first day of third grade. And, when one girl tried to untie the barrette I had hanging from one of my twists at recess, I was shocked that I had to explain to her that that was a non-negotiable, “No!” My friends back at my old school understood that our mothers put blood, sweat, and tears into combing out our kinky hair and putting it into a style every day before school, and we were not to let anyone touch it, including ourselves. But, the girls at this school just…put their hair up, took it down, and did whatever they wanted with it without needing what I would need just to get my hair into a low bun: two brushes, a wide-tooth comb and another one with a rattail to split the part, Olive Oil, edge control, several hair-ties, and barrettes.

On top of that, I come to find out at this new school, they didn’t listen to the kind of music I listened to with my other friends. They were singing along to Taylor Swift, but I got down to Destiny’s Child!

The girls at this new school had a crush on Jesse McCartney, but I had a little crush on Soulja Boy!

“You don’t know who Elvis Presley is?” one girl asked me in our music class, mouth agape. Girl, no! My dad blasted Stevie Wonder and James Brown in our house. Who is Elvis?!

Everything about me and the White students in my classroom was different.

We went home to different neighborhoods, were raised in different households. Our backgrounds were different. None of our interests were the same.

(One thing all Black and White students alike agreed on, though?

High School Musical.

But, that’s beside the point…)

It was a complete ‘Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz’ experience—still the same girl I was back at my old school, but certainly not in Kansas anymore, I’ll tell you that much!

And, because everything was so unfamiliar, because everything was so foreign, there were a couple of lies that I let seep into my mind undetected that began to take root before I knew to expose them.

Here was the truth:

My skin was darker.

My background was different.

I was not familiar with being one out of two Black students in a classroom.

That was true.

The lie?

My skin was ugly.

I didn’t belong.

And, something was horribly wrong with me.

And, it didn’t take long before the enemy took initiative and had those lies locked into my eight-year-old mind. Because this is exactly what he does, exactly what he wants for you and me both:

To hate the person God made us to be.

The enemy wants us to hate our skin color, our gender, our stories, and even our God-given personalities. Whatever he has to do to get us to hate God’s creation, even if that creation is ourselves, he’ll do it.

And, that’s what he did to me.

I was eight years old then, but all of the lies he planted began to spring up when I turned twelve years old, where I found myself praying—literally praying—that God would make me into a White girl.‘Cause if I was White, I could fit in.If I was White, I’d be beautiful.If I looked like a majority of my classroom, I might just find a really great group of friends.

Do you see how this has the enemy written all over it? That he would persuade such a young girl to hate herself in such a way that she would ask God to change her? And, don’t you see how he’s still doing this to our generation today? Making us hate our God-given selves—our bodies, personalities, characters, temperaments, and identities?

It’s devastating. It’s wicked.

And, too many of us believe him.

And, that is exactly why it is my honor to tell you what my eight-year-old self needed to hear on that first day of third grade. It is a privilege to fill you in on the truth that has been healing me from these childhood wounds.

You ready to receive this?

Here it goes:

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the way God made you.

Just in case you are unsure about what the word ‘nothing’ means, I’ll tell it to you plain.

It means:


Yes! You read it right:

No thing.

Not a thing.


Not one mole is out of place.

No complexion too light or dark.

That birthmark is not a defect.

Your nose is not a dimension too big or too small.

There is NOTHING wrong with the way God made you. In fact, according to Song of Songs 4:7, there is no flaw in you. And, in case you haven’t read how King David beautifully wrote it in Psalms 139:14, God fearfully and wonderfully made you.

You may not need to be reminded of this today, but maybe your kid-self does. Maybe you’re someone who is still believing a lie from your childhood that if you just learn to be someone you’re not, in a body that’s not yours, with a pigmentation you weren’t born with, you would be worthy of some sort of affection.

Can I tell you something, friend?

That’s nonsense. Straight nonsense from the pit of hell.

Are you understanding me?!

Those kinds of lies come from a professional liar—a liar who whispered the same kind of nonsense in Eve’s ear too. But, even more important than that, the liar you’ve been letting give you advice is actually a loser—a big one. I’m talking, the biggest L in the history of L’s, okay? This enemy has been defeated by the blood of Jesus Christ. And, no one in their right mind would take advice from a lying, defeated loser.

Am I right about it?

You don’t have to entertain that voice any longer.

So, rest assured. Whoever God made you to be is just right for the kind of mission He’s given you—

—which leads me to my next point, something else you oughta hear:

You’re exactly the kind of person He wants to use to make history.

You see—to me, Black History Month is more than a twenty-eight-day-long celebration. It is a reminder that God uses brown bodies like mine to bring about His kingdom on earth. The same brown bodies that have a history of gory persecutions, gut-wrenching pain brought about by slavery, unjust killings, unfair oppression, racism so evil it’ll make your stomach turn are the same brown bodies God wants to fill His treasure with so that His eternal kingdom is advanced in the midst of the world’s darkness. And, that is what I celebrate when I think about the ancestors who have gone before me—Black people who dared to take a stand, to say yes, to say no, to sacrifice, to change the narrative, to make history.

If God used Black bodies like mine in the past, He can use Black bodies like mine in the present.

This is what I like to throw in the enemy’s face. After I let him bully me for years, convincing me that my Black wasn’t beautiful, this is the kind of truth I like to remind him about.

And, you know what, my friend? You should know that you’ve got a reason to stomp on the enemy’s head, too.

What that reason is, you may be asking?

God wants to use you to make history, too.


Yes, you!

Anyone with a heart that says:“Here I am, Lord! Send me.”

God wants to use us to make history.

And, Paul describes us as fragile clay jars in 2 Corinthians 4:7. In other words, human vessels that God can use to carry His treasure.

What treasure?

The light of His Presence:

Jesus Christ—the One who conquered death and changed history for us all.

No matter what you look like, no matter what color your vessel is painted, anyone can receive this treasure. As long as the vessel is available, He’ll use it.

And, He wants to! You’re exactly the kind of person He wants to use to make history. You don’t have to look like me, and I don’t have to look like you.

For what we’re individually called to do, the vessel He gave us is just right.

Let me say it again:There is nothing wrong with the way God made us!

If my vessel was supposed to be painted white to do my assignment, He would’ve made me white.

If my vessel was supposed to be six-foot tall, He would’ve taken my four-foot-eleven self and made me taller!

If my vessel was supposed to be blue-eyed, He would’ve given me blue eyes.

But, He didn’t!

You know what He made instead?


And, you know something else?

He made you…YOU.

He made you unique. He made you purposeful.

He made you original.

We were never made to look like each other. We were made to look like Him.

And, through your vessel—your unique, original, beautiful vessel—your Creator wants to place the universe’s greatest treasure inside of you—Himself. Your vessel and His treasure make a good team—the kind of team that makes history.

And, you know what?

There are still books that need to be written, movies that need to be directed, songs that need to be recorded, a gospel that needs to be preached, history that still needs to be made!

And, I don’t know about you, but this brown-skinned vessel is available. With His treasure in my heart, my heart in His hands, I’m ready to make some kingdom-building, life-changing, ever-lasting history. And, I believe the eyes of the Lord are searching the whole earth, looking to see if there are other vessels who want to make some history with me.

At twenty-one years old, Ayana is an author, a blogger, and the host of “To Be Heard” Podcast—available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. In 2018, she self-published her first novel, titled, How I Fell in Love with Myself, and is currently working on her second. She is a former English & Journalism major, currently taking online writing classes from a school based in New York. As she continues to pursue a career in writing, she aims to bring relevant messages of faith, redemption, hope & self esteem to you & others around the world.

Connect with Ayana through her website, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook

Watch Your Mind

Watch Your Mind

If you’re anything like me, you have full-blown, over-coffee conversations with yourself in your head all the time. During the day when you’re trying to work, during the night when you should be sleeping. All the time. 24/7. At 100 MPH speed.

Your conversations range from scrutinizing your appearance, criticizing your work ethic, nitpicking what you say in every conversation, thinking about what’s due tomorrow, trashing the very thing most people compliment you on and so on and so forth until you’ve nearly driven yourself mad.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, yes, it feels just as miserable as it looks in writing.

But, for those of you who can relate, I’m writing this blog post for you.

Because in case you’ve forgotten, your casual, absentminded way of constantly tearing yourself down in your mind is not okay. It’s not healthy, it’s not humble, and it’s not holy either. The truth is that the way we talk to ourselves matter—not just because we’re the only ones worthy enough to have an intelligent conversation with ourselves every once in a while (kidding!), but because while we can tune out the world any time we want to, we actually have to live with the voice in our heads. And, whatever we tell ourselves is what we hear, and what we hear has a pretty strong impact on how we live.

At a very young age, my bible-believing, Jesus-freak grandmother taught me that there is power in our words. And whenever something offensive would slip from me, she’d always give me the same stern warning I’ll never forget:

“Watch your mouth!”

(And, just by taking a look at my career choice as a writer, I suppose I took her pretty seriously, as I try to use every word with purpose.)

But now that I’m older, I’ve realized that my mouth is not the only thing that needs monitoring. As I’ve grown to be a creative over-thinker as much as I’ve become a creative writer, I’m warning myself to watch the words that I let in and out of another part of myself:

My mind.

Which leads me to introduce the topic of today’s post…

Today, we’re talking about self-talk.

And if there’s anyone here today that’s got to get a whole lot better at being kinder in the area of self-talk, I will be the first to admit that it’s me.

I can talk myself into feeling less than.

I can talk myself into an anxiety attack.

I can talk myself into quitting, into getting bitter, into making a bad decision.

I can talk myself into anything.

And it all happens in my mind.

And, the filthy bickering you yap at yourself all day long happens in your mind too, which is why I’ve got to warn us all on the blog today:

In the same way I was taught to watch my mouth, we’ve all got to watch our minds too.


Because our voice lives there. And, if we have no choice but to live with it, we better make sure that voice is aligned with one much more meaningful than our own.

And, I’ve got great news today:

There is another voice.

And unlike our own, this voice holds the truth about ourselves and about our situation.

And the best part?

It’s the only voice that matters.

This voice overrides the lies you’ve believed, the degrading comments you’ve accepted over time, the shame you’ve condemned yourself with…

This voice is powerful!

It’s none other than the sweet voice of Jesus Christ, and everything He wants us to hear is already printed in His Word.

If you didn’t catch it the first time, I’ll tell it to you plain:

This is good news!

Because one thing I’ve observed about myself is that I have a bad habit of talking to myself not according to His Word, but through my own imagination. You know—the place where we entertain our own seemingly realistic scenarios and filter them through a distorted version of reality, convincing ourselves to believe lies that we didn’t even stop to wonder whether or not are true, inevitably leading us to talk to ourselves like we’re piles of dirt.

Yes—that place.

If we let it, our imagination can run rampant and lead us down the rabbit hole of stinking thinking. But, here’s a reminder that I have to tell myself and a reminder you might want to consider as well:

Our imagination isn’t real.

God’s Word is.

And, it’s about time we let His Word be the mediator in every conversation we have with ourselves.

So, without further ado, I want to introduce two truthful and victorious ways to have healthy self-talk:

  1. Affirm yourself in the Word of God.
  2. Align your thoughts with His.

I call this the double A battery, if you will. Affirm and align, friends. This is the way to win in the area of self-talk.

(But, PSST: Neither of these steps are possible if we don’t know what His Word says in the first place.)

Now, I’m not too sure what you’ve heard about the Word of God, but if you’ve heard anything other than the entire book being a beautiful love story of God redeeming the world, who rebelled against Him after He created it, through the precious blood of His Only Son Jesus Christ, then it isn’t true. The Bible—God’s Word—is the greatest reason why we should pursue victory in the area of self-talk.

Everything in His Word was written because He loves you. Every story told, every miracle, every commandment recorded is not to demonstrate how much He’s against you, but instead is there to remind you of how much He is for you. And, the Word He has spoken over you in the Bible is the word He wants you to speak over yourself in your mind.

What I’m saying is this:

There is power in our words, but the ultimate power lies in His Word. And in His Word, specifically Philippians 4:8, He makes it pretty clear through the wonderful writings of Apostle Paul what He wants our thoughts to consist of:

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

And, hey, I must admit:

That’s a pretty powerful list—a great filter to use when it comes to our self-talk.

If the thought coming your way is not true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy, don’t let it in. And, if you’ve already let it in, don’t let it stay! It’s time we watch what we let in and out of our minds. The mind is where God can speak, and it would be a shame if you let your own destructive voice become louder than His truth.

Therefore, let this be an encouragement to us all. Let’s choose to tune into the Word of God. Let’s affirm ourselves in His Word by telling ourselves that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, according to Psalms 139:14, and that we are His masterpiece, destined to do incredible things for the Kingdom of God, according to Ephesians 2:10, and that we were made in His image, according to Genesis 1:26, and that through His sufficient grace, even when we are weak, we can still be strong, according to 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

Meditating on these things and more in His Word is what can help us fulfill the next step:

When we affirm ourselves in the word of God, we can align our thoughts with His.

After all, His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways are higher than our ways, according to Isaiah 55:9. It’s time we talked to ourselves through His perspective!

So, let this be the topic of discussion in your mind from now until forevermore. Let your self-talk be all about Jesus. Hold His voice to the highest esteem. For it is up to you to watch the words you tell yourself in your mind, and the only conversation you should have is what He’s already spoken about you in His Word.

At twenty years old, Ayana is an author, a blogger, and the host of “To Be Heard” Podcast. In 2018, she self-published her first novel, titled, How I Fell in Love with Myself, and is currently working on her second. She is a former English & Journalism major, currently taking online writing classes from a school based in New York. As she continues to pursue a career in writing, she aims to bring relevant messages of faith, redemption, hope & self esteem to you & others around the world.​​
Follow Ayana on Instagram @ayanasymone

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