Tag Archives: Faithfulness

Big Girls Don’t Cry

I have been away from this space too long. This period of my life led to a long, severe bout of writer’s block that has made it nearly impossible to even think about blogging. I have attempted several times to share my experiences in this format, but every time I attempted to do so, I would find myself just staring at the computer screen. I had so much to say, but did not have the words to say what was in my heart and mind. I have previously discussed how important and therapeutic Writing is for me, and to not be able to do so has been very troubling. The last few months have been like riding on the most exhilarating and frightening roller coaster; filled with ups and downs, highs and lows. Let me start at the beginning…

I’ve indicated before that I am not overly emotional, nor am I one known to easily cry! To be more specific I viewed my tears as a form of weakness. I was always okay with the tears and emotions of others, but at some point I stopped allowing myself the same luxury. I am comfortable being a listening ear for people, and helping them to deal with life’s triumphs and trials; yet, it is not easy for me to allow people to help me process when I’m “going through.” Starting in April I begin to really struggle mentally and emotionally. H-Town sung, “Emotions make you cry sometimes!” My emotions made me not want to have any emotions. I reached a point where it hurt too much to feel, so I tried my best not to feel anything at all. I was pretty good at hiding my feelings from even those closest to me; I appeared to be so strong but on the inside I was weak.  I didn’t want to confide in my family, and I felt that my friends could not understand. I felt very alone!!!!

Life felt unfair! I had tried to live a life according to God’s will and commandments, yet it seemed very much in vain! What had living for Christ really brought me; what had I gained from doing it “RIGHT!?” Perpetually single and lonely, unfulfilled in ministry, jobless, hopeless, and unhappy; I was at my wit’s end! I was a minister who needed someone to minister to me; a counselor who needed someone to counsel me. I had been there for everyone else, and in my most desperate hour, I was seemingly ALONE! Where were the words of wisdom I had given, where was the person on the other end of the phone willing to listen to me vent! Countless hours spent being a beacon of light for other people, and now I was lost at sea! Lost in despair! Lost in failure! LOST! People implored me to just release it in tears, but that was not easy for me to do.

From April to early June, I secretly struggled! I pretended that everything was okay, but I was slowly losing myself. The breaking point was something that happened with my best friend. In retrospect, the situation seems small and not deserving of what happened. I won’t describe the whole situation because I would like to keep somethings personal and private. However, in the midst of our disagreement I felt that what I thought and felt did not matter to a person whom I thought should care. These feelings, added to what I had been going through, led to me ending our friendship and completely isolating myself.  The next few weeks were the hardest weeks of my life, as my life seemingly unraveled. Over the next 14 days, I cried 12 of them; I just couldn’t seem to make the tears stop. I felt that God was punishing me, I felt that my friends were punishing me, and most importantly I felt that I was punishing myself for not being perfect.

I wanted to give up on everything: church, ministry, relationships, and even life. I was not suicidal, but I was at the point where if death was near I was ready! I wanted to be free of this world, and its stress; and to finally be at peace with God! I strongly considered having myself committed to a mental institution, where I knew I could receive the help that I felt that I needed.

The lowest point also became the turning point for me! I went to a service one night and heard the worship team sing “He’s Able” by Voices of Unity! I sat in the audience, and it took everything within me not to scream! My heart and most of my head knew and believed that God was indeed able; but there was a small part of my brain that kept saying if God is able why am I still dealing with what I am dealing with. I didn’t have a response to that question…my seminary training and holy ghost sought to give explanations, yet that did not change the thoughts! I left service before the preacher got up to preach. As I traveled home, I asked myself ” What did I do to deserve this?” All I ever tried to do was to be myself, and be the best daughter, sister, friend, servant I could be! Yet those efforts seemed to be for naught. I was so TIRED! I didn’t know what else to say or do; I was done!

I decided to listen to Pastor Jason Nelson’s, “Place of Worship!” The song “I Shall Live,” started to play. As Pastor Nelson declared that he would live in spite of adversity and trouble, tears begin to fall from my eyes, and hope begin to bloom in my heart! There was no immediate change to my situation, instead each day was better. The tears stopped, and I was able to smile again. I was able to laugh and feel joy and peace. I promised myself that I would set clear boundaries in all relationships to ensure that I never reached this place again. Thankfully, after some time I was able to talk things through with my best friend, and we were able to begin to rebuild our relationship.

This situation was both a challenge and a learning experience for me. It challenged my faith, my beliefs about myself, and my mental and emotional fortitude. I learned to really take the time to care for myself, and that it is okay to do so. I also learned that real friends will tell you when you are wrong, and also forgive you when you make mistakes. Most importantly this lesson showed me that my tears do not suggest weakness. Instead, I learned that there is strength in being able to release these emotions in tears. Big Girls know that not only do they cry, but they embrace this ability because those who sow in tears, really do reap in Joy!

I want to thank: my parents; my twin sister, Deandra; my BFFF, Maranda; my friend and brother, Jamil; and my sister-friends, Cordelia and Renata. These people listened to me, prayed for me, corrected me, and showed me the meaning of real family and friends. Things are looking up in my life, and I’m grateful to know that God really is able!

I’m enjoying the journey and always striving to Make It Plain!

‘Tis So Sweet

’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, and to take Him at His Word; just to rest upon His promise, and to know, “Thus says the Lord!”

I have decided to once again share one of my favorite hymns; this one seems especially fitting considering the place I find myself in presently. It has been posited that many of the greatest songs of encouragement were born out of pain and personal tragedy; Tis So Sweet is one such song.

It was written by Louisa Stead in 1882, after a very tragic event. While not much is known about Mrs. Stead, historians have been able to discover that Louisa married her husband in 1875 and to their union was born a daughter, Lily. One day the family decided to enjoy a day at the beach on Long Island, New York. While enjoying their family time they heard cries of help and spotted a  boy who was drowning. Mr. Stead jumped into the water to attempt to rescue this boy. Unfortunately, both the boy and Mr. Stead drowned. The words of this hymn were written over the course of Louisa’s struggle with God after this tragedy.

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him! How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er! Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus! O for grace to trust Him more!

I can easily admit that I have not always found it easy to trust anyone, including God! I haven’t always been able to see God’s active hand in my life, which caused me to doubt that all things were working together for my good! Being able to trust God when you are  not able to trace God, is often easier said than done! I’ve seemingly done everything that I was “supposed” to have done, said all of the right things; yet, things still seem to be falling apart all around me. I recall the words of the hymn writer, “Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus, just from sin and self to cease; just from Jesus simply taking life and rest, and joy and peace.” I don’t have to search for peace, joy, happiness, or love in anyone else; I simply must trust the God who gives peace that surpasses all understanding.

Despite my situations and circumstances, and in spite of the mistakes that I’ve made, I will continue to trust God. Even when others have meant to do me harm, or wanted to see me fail; God has always meant it for my good! So I now can freely sing: I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee, Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend; and I know that Thou art with me, will be with me to the end.

Make It Plain

Calvary

I’m in a celebratory mood! This is the season that has been set aside to commemorate the sacrifice that was made by Jesus for the redemption of the world!

As I reflect, I am thankful for the blood that cleanses, washes, and still gives me strength from day to day! IT WILL NEVER LOSE ITS POWER!!!! With that in mind, I’m sharing a clip of Richard Smallwood & Vision singing Calvary!

Remember His Life, remember His Sacrifice, Remember that HE LIVES! The song writer declared that because He Lives, I can face tomorrow!

Always remember Jesus!

Make It Plain

It is Well!

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.

I am a lover of music in every form, and from every genre. My deepest love though is gospel music and most specifically the hymns I grew up hearing in church and at home. During my childhood, and most of my life, my mother was the musician at the church where we were members. (This predated the term Minister of Music!) Often, my mom would have moments where she would go to the piano and just begin to play whatever songs were in her heart and her spirit. This was a time for my mother to celebrate and reflect on the relationship that she had with God, expressed through the music and talent that God had given to her.

One such hymn I remembered her singing was the one that I quoted, “It is Well!” While I sung the song in my childhood, it was not until I had reached adulthood that I truly begin to understand and really appreciate this hymn. While at the Interdenominational Theological Center, I rediscovered my love for not only hymns, but the stories behind the penning of these songs.

“It is Well,” was written by Horatio Gates Spafford in 1873. Spafford was a lawyer in Chicago who experienced three traumatic events in his life within a three-year period. In 1870, his only son was killed by scarlet fever at the age of four. In 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed all of his real estate holdings which ruined him financially. In 1873, the Spaffords decided to journey to England for a holiday and to meet with the great evangelist, Dwight L. Moody. Circumstances arose, and Mr. Spafford was delayed but decided to send his wife, and their four daughters ahead of him. On November 2, 1873, the ship that Mrs. Spafford and her daughters was traveling on collided with another ship. Two hundred and twenty-six people lost their lives, including all four of the Spafford’s daughters. After receiving word from his wife about the tragedy, Horatio set sail to go and meet his wife. On the journey, they passed  the spot where the collision had taken place. After seeing the spot, Horatio returned to his room and penned the words to this hymn.

I cannot imagine Horatio Spafford’s pain at the tragedies in his life, yet I can agree that life has dealt me some tough blows. I have encountered tragic events in life that were both undeserved and unexpected. I haven’t always understood the deaths of those whom I have loved. Neither have I understood the betrayals of people whom I have considered closer than friends. I am not always able to recognize God’s active hand in my life; truthfully, I have often questioned if God was even moving on my behalf. When I consider the trouble that I have faced; the situations that seemingly haven’t turned out for my good, it makes me question. Yet through it all I have discovered that God has never left me alone; God has been right there with me!

In spite of all life’s turmoil and no matter what may come my way, I have found strength in the words of this hymn. Through it all, It is Well! In it all, It is Well! In spite of hurt and pain, It is Well! With tears in my eyes, It is Well! When people enter my life, It is Well! When people leave my life, It is Well! Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, IT IS WEll, IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL!

Make It Plain!

Isolated but Indwelled

I’ve decided to share one of my sermons! I preached this sermon on April 23, 2009 at the Interdenominational Theological Center! I was asked to be one of the speakers for our Senior Chapel Service.  This sermon was preached to the ITC community, thus there are certain names and events that are relevant to that community. I am aware that because I’m sharing the sermon it is open to criticism, and I’m alright with that. Also, if you wish to share this sermon with others or your congregation, please give me some credit! Make It Plain!

Our text is found in the book of Jeremiah the 20th chapter and our focus is verses 7-9; again Jeremiah 20:7-9. From the New International Version of the Bible you will find these words recorded: “O LORD, you deceived me, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long. But if I say, “I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” The Word of God for the people of God, thanks be to God. I will use for a subject, “Isolated, but Indwelled”

Isolation is the act or state of being cut off from other people; while in isolation people often begin to deal with loneliness and are sometimes confronted with their own personal issues or idiosyncrasies. In The Wounded Healer, Henri Nouwen describes this isolation, this loneliness, as the most painful human wound. Nouwen further suggests that as a minister of this gospel we will experience both personal loneliness and professional loneliness. We have to wrestle with the fact that no matter how much we are loved, people will not always understand our burden and passion for ministry. “Why do they always call you to come to the hospital?” “They can’t pray for themselves?” But I’m the pastor, preacher, Christian educator, worship leader, pastoral care provider it’s my responsibility to be present with people, but what about me I’m your wife, husband, mother, father, sister, brother, mother, father, best friend, what about me I’m your child. Isolation in ministry is the feeling of being stripped away from many of the things that you hold on to in your life, or rather the feeling of those things being stripped from you…family, friends, hopes, dreams, ideals, material possessions, and a certain lifestyle. In that time you go through a period of intense loneliness and isolation which leads to you really wrestling with God; it leads to a period of questioning and crying out; this is where we find Jeremiah.

Jeremiah has been arrested for saying what God has commanded him to say. To add further insult to injury, he is beaten and placed in the stocks not because he is a criminal, but because he has been preaching a Gospel that is not popular. What makes this matter worse is Jeremiah is not imprisoned and beaten by those outside of the church; instead the one who has called for his imprisonment is a fellow priest and prophet. One who should have stood with Jeremiah instead is the one ready to condemn. It is interesting that as ministers of God we find opposition not just from outside the church, but right inside our own church walls. Those who we thought should stand by us are the ones betraying us for thirty pieces of silver, or the promise to become the one in charge. After spending the night in prison, Jeremiah finishes his sermon but when he comes to a place of isolation off by himself, he says” God you deceived me. Can you see him, bleeding, body stiff and possibly bent out of shape, tired, angry, frustrated; I can imagine that his mind would go back to the initial call when God says to Jeremiah… “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, I sanctified you and ordained you a prophet to the nations.” I can imagine Jeremiah say to God, I told you I couldn’t do this because I was too young, but God you told me that you had put the word in my mouth. You told me, God not to be afraid that you would be with me and rescue me. Where were you God when they were beating me, where were you God when they were arresting me? I was only doing what you told me to do and look where that has gotten me.

Jeremiah says God you deceived me and I was deceived; I am not sure about you but during my matriculation here at the ITC, I have found myself like Jeremiah saying, God you deceived me. I was content to stay in Texas; get a nice job, sing on the praise team at the church, preach for bible study once in awhile, wait for the right man to find this good thing, and be happy with Jesus alone; but God you told me to come to this institution. God, you didn’t tell me that I would be leaving my nice middle class neighborhood in Beaumont, TX to live in the hood here in Hotlanta, GA. God, I didn’t know that I would have to endure having my car broken into and experiencing two car accidents within a year and a half span. God I didn’t know that I was going to have to come to this place for them to tell me that I couldn’t refer to you God as just Father, but that I had to come to know God as both Father and Mother. I didn’t know that this revelation would cause me to reevaluate my understanding of who God really was. I didn’t know that I would have to get rid of my embedded theology, and really begin to wrestle with the reality that if you God are good, why do bad things happen to good people? God you deceived me, and I was deceived. I thought ministry was all about preaching gigs and mega churches. I thought ministry was relegated to visiting people in the hospital, nursing homes, and prisons. I thought ministry was giving money to missionaries to travel to Africa and Haiti. God I was deceived because I’ve discovered ministry is more than all of that! Ministry started with me confronting my own feelings of low self-esteem, self-image, and self-concept.  Ministry meant having to confront my own elitist ideas and feelings, my own narcissistic view that liberation was all about me being free as a black woman in ministry. Ministry means fighting for liberation for all people: white, black, Hispanic, Latino, Chinese, Japanese, African, European, heterosexual, SGL, bisexual, transgendered, male, female, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, atheist. God I didn’t know that I would be talked about by preachers; I didn’t know that I would be criticized for trying to take liberation outside of the classroom and to actually try to manifest it on this campus; liberation for Morehouse School of Religion, Gammon, Turner, Phillips School of Theology, Johnson C. Smith, C.H. Mason, Richardson, and the Lutherans. I recognized that if God is truly on the side of the oppressed then that includes even those people who I may not agree with theologically.

Every time I open my mouth God I’m calling for social justice, speaking against injustice realizing that as Dr. King said an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. I have to deal with people who deem it necessary for me to know that I’m not called to preach because I am a woman; question my sexuality because of the way that I choose to wear my hair; People are saying girl I don’t know what they teaching you at that seminary, but all you need is Jesus. Every time I open my mouth I have to deal with the pandemic of HIV/AIDS, the injustices found in our Justice system, inadequate health care while all these other preachers are walking around putting Jesus back on the cross. So, why should I keep on preaching: I feel abandoned by you, GOD; I feel deceived by you, GOD; I feel derision by you, GOD; I am the reproach of people for choosing to face issues, while the words that are coming from our pulpits Sunday after Sunday are ineffective in changing the situation of our communities. So I’m done God, I’m not Going to make mention of you anymore. But your word has become to me like a fire – the word, not just contained in this book with its contradictions and inaccuracies, but your word. The word not just given to Isaiah, Mark, and Paul; the word given to Harriet Tubman, Fannie Lou Hamer, Frederick Douglas, and Martin Luther King Jr.; the word given to Dr. Carolyn McCrary, Dr. Riggins Earl, & Dr. Love Henry Whelchel; the word given to Jamil Vanjuan Willis, Marcus George Halley, and yes even to Davica Williams-McKeithen, Regericka Brewer, and even to me – that word has become like a fire shut up in my bones; I’ve been indwelled with something. Even when I want to keep my mouth shut for fear of being persecuted, I feel it burning and I get tired of holding it in so I don’t. No longer will I allow my voice to be silenced because of other people’s insecurities about women in ministry. I’ve been indwelled! No longer will I just preach the gospel in a way that continues to oppress people, but I will preach the true gospel of liberation. I’ve been indwelled! I will not be the one to use the gospel to become rich or to become famous. I’ve been indwelled

Now I can say…“The spirit of the Lord is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. The Lord has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom from the captives and the opening of the prison to those that are bound.”

Now I can say…“And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Now I can say…“You wilt keep them in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you: because they trust in thee.”

Now I can say…“For God’s anger endures but a moment; but God’s favor is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

Now I can say…“But my God shall supply all your need according to God’s riches in glory by Christ Jesus.]

Now I can say…“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they will mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not get weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

Now I can say…“My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ Name. On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

Now I can say… “Shackled by a heavy burden, beneath a load of guilt and shame; then the hand of Jesus touched me, and now I’m no longer the same. He touched me, Oh, He touched me, and oh the joy that floods my soul. Something happened and now I know, He touched me and made me whole. Since I met the Blessed Savior, Since He cleansed and made me whole, I will never cease to Praise Him! I’ll shout it while eternity rolls. He touched me, Oh, He touched me, And oh the joy that floods my soul. Something happened and now I know, He touched me and made me whole. I’ve been indwelled!

We’re Moving On Up

Major changes have taken place in my life beginning with a move from my hometown of Beaumont, TX, to Atlanta, GA. As I sat in the middle of boxes containing all of my possessions I couldn’t help but be grateful for all that God continues to do. In this year of transition, I have experienced God in new ways. I have seen God keep me through 6 months of unemployment and job searching. Through days and nights of questioning the validity of my three years of seminary education which had not led to employment. I’ve had to reevaluate the relationships that I have long-held so dearly. The process of letting go is one that makes me emotionally uncomfortable, yet one that has been necessary to my continued health.

The most important lesson I’ve learned is that God’s grace is truly sufficient. It’s not something that I’ve read about only, it is manifested in my life everyday. Even now, in the face of continued uncertainty, I trust the mercies that are new every morning. I echo the sentiments of the hymn writer when I say, “All I have needed God’s hand hath provided; Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!”

I’m not sure of all that the future holds, but I am sure of the One who holds the future and thus I will continue to move Forward!

Make it Plain!