And Then She Learned To Say It Anyway

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Lately, I have been plagued by self-doubt about my writing skills. I have envisioned several blog posts in my head and even gone so far as to start rough drafts, but never complete them because I am worried about whether it’s good enough.

I mean there are a million bloggers in the world, how could I possibly think I have something interesting or unique to add?

So I just stopped posting.

But this week, God called me to the carpet. He reminded me that I write not for page views or praise, but for Him.

So after being enraged by the Stanford rapist’s unusually light sentence, I wrote a blog for my job about how Christians should act in a culture that devalues women. I know this topic has been written about a lot and probably better than I did, but I said it anyway.

To read #YesAllWomen:How the Church Should Reflect Jesus’ Radical Ministry to Women, visit txb.life

 

Am I My Sister’s Keeper?

A special post for If:Gathering and Be the Bridge.

“All my black friends have a bunch of white friends. And all my white friends have one black friend.”—Chris Rock, comedian

In Genesis, God asks Cain where his brother was not because He didn’t know where Abel was, but because He wanted Cain to acknowledge his responsibility for his brother’s fate. While we haven’t killed anyone, I believe we have abdicated responsibility for our sisters. Because our sister may not look like us or live where we live or worship where we worship we have told ourselves the lie that what happens to her doesn’t affect me.

The New Testament reminds believers over and over again that once they belong to Christ they are no longer slaves, but sons and daughters. Once we are adopted into fellowship with God, anyone who also has been adopted becomes our brother and sister in Christ (John 1:12-13, 1 John 5:1).  More than an empty platitude, the change in family status meant something to New Testament Christians (Acts 2:42-47).

I believe God is calling on the women of this generation to remember their sisters, the ones who are trafficked, the ones struggling to make ends meet, the ones mourning the deaths of their teenaged sons, and the ones facing the pain and consequences of racism. More than remember, we should be in the trenches with our sisters, because if she feels marginalized, ignored, forgotten, lonely, we should be there, because that’s where Jesus would be.

The problem of racism has not been addressed by those most qualified to actually fix the problem – the church. Most Christians fall into one of three camps, the first camp argues racism is a thing of the past and since they do not consider themselves racist, think everyone just needs to move on. The second camp acknowledges racism still exists, but they do not want to rock the boat so they are silent. The third camp is in the trenches actively working to demolish racism in their churches and communities.

Racism isn’t just conscious hate like that of the young man who killed nine of our brothers and sisters at Wednesday night bible study, it is a complex system of social and political structures set up to preserve the superiority of a particular race. In this country, racism created a system to elevate white Americans over non-white Americans first through the attempted erasure of Native American culture, then slavery, then through restricting immigration from Asian countries, and then segregation.

But, even with the formal end of segregation, the effects still linger, because when you spend 200 plus years building walls between racial groups you cannot demolish that wall or its effects in 40 years. Even for those who are not personally racist, the stain of racism still lingers in our society, in our individual prejudices, in our speech, in our jokes, in where we live, in where our kids go to school, and sometimes in our churches.

According to Ephesians 2:14-22, the blood of Christ allows us to be reconciled to God, but it also allows us to be reconciled to one another as God’s people. The reconciliation of the gospel does not remove differences, but it does unite us as one body. If we are truly sisters then you should care about my experiences as an African American woman in America.

As my sister you should not tolerate prejudice, favoritism or racism because we are all created in the image of God and to tolerate those things is to disregard that truth.

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My 30th Birthday party

 

Our love for our sisters should not just be true in word, but also in deed.  While prayer is powerful, we can no longer afford to simply pray for more racially diverse friendships or the end of racial inequality or against racial hatred, we must act.  James 2:17 tells us faith without works is dead and it is time to move beyond just prayer.

It is not enough to not be personally racist. It is not OK to hear racist talk or see racist behavior and be silent.  To paraphrase Bishop Desmond Tutu, to be silent in the face of injustice is to choose the side of the oppressor. In the same way, I would not stand silently by if someone made cruel or hurtful remarks behind, my little sister Candace’s back, you better believe if I hear something racist about Latinas, I will speak up. Because you aren’t just talking about a faceless group of brown women, you are talking about my sister, Melessa.

If we are sisters, we should know one another, we should laugh too loud together, we should share what the Lord is doing in our lives, we should sit together over coffee, we should pray for one another at our kitchen tables, our kids should play together, and we should invite each other to church.

An important first step is to look beyond your limited worldview and getting to know someone who isn’t just like you. This will require lots of grace-filled conversations full of tough questions, but the work must be done for the sake of gospel. If we are to demonstrate to the world what it means to be daughters of the King, we can begin by showing our supernatural unity despite our differences.

And then She Found Her Place

 

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They say hindsight is 20/20. And in hindsight it is clear to me how God wove all of the threads of my passions, talent and education into my dream job, but the process was super messy, uncomfortable and frustrating.

No one tells you that everyone finds their calling in life differently some us take 4 jobs in 7 years and others land just in the right spot straight after college.

I think rather than pursuing careers or agonizing over our callings we should just pursue Jesus. Let’s just run hard in His direction and the other things just have a way of falling into place.

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. ~Matthew 6:33

From my own experience the more I chased Him and the clearer my path became. Things were fuzzy and out of focus when my gaze was on building my resume.

I once heard a story as part of a sermon on calling about three masons. The first man was approached by a bystander and asked what he was doing. The mason with a hint of annoyance in his voice replied, ” I am hammering away at this dumb rock, and I can’t wait until I go home.”

The bystander then asked the second mason what he was doing as he was hammering diligently large blocks of granite. The second mason replied” “Well, I’m molding this block of rock so that it can be used with others to construct a wall. It’s not bad work, but I don’t think this is what I really want to do the rest of my life.”

The bystander then asked the third mason who was hammering his block fervently, while taking the time to stand back and admire his work. He looked at the bystander and smiled before proudly proclaiming, “Me? Well, I am building a cathedral!”

God wants us to want Him more than anything because when we are totally focused on Him, not because of what He can give us, but because of who He is, we can be trusted with the master plan.

The master plan is His glory and the building of His church.

God uses humble and surrendered people because He knows that when things pile up at work or we are exhausted or unsure or when we get the promotion or the big stage, we will just point ourselves, our successes right back to Him.

I feel so honored that God has given me a vocation that allows me to use my gifts for His glory and kingdom in my 9-5 sphere of influence, but this job is not the ultimate end, it’s just my part in building the cathedral.

I was featured in the Baptist News Global Magazine in November, to read a copy of the article visit www.baptistnews.com

 

And Then She Learned to Love the Tension

I wrote about my love/hate relationship with suspense and how Advent has really helped me learn the meaning of joyful expectation for my work blog. 

I hate suspense. For as long as I can remember, I’ve hated that pit in my stomach when I don’t know how the story is going to end. My aversion to suspense means reading the end of books when it’s not clear who’s the villain, it means surreptitiously getting on http://www.moviespoiler.com while watching the latest blockbuster, and it means an aversion to surprises in any form.

You can imagine how the aversion to suspense played out as a child during the Christmas season. I was definitely the kid shaking presents and trying to untape and retape gifts before December 25. Thankfully, I had parents who let us open one gift on Christmas Eve, which definitely helped me sleep better knowing I had at least one gift I loved every year.

It’s weird that given my aversion to suspense that I love Advent. The season during which we mark the waiting with calendars, devotionals, and candles. I love Advent because it reminds me I am not alone in my anticipation of the next season, in my waiting for a fulfilled promise. The Israelites knew what it was to sit in hopeful anticipation, because God promised them a child born of a virgin who would be King forever (Isaiah 7:14, Daniel 2:44).

No spoilers here, read the rest at txb.life

And Then She Chose Courage

Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.–Maya Angelou

I have been really dismayed by the response of some of my fellow Christians to refugees in the wake of the Paris bombings. ISIS is evil and their capacity for destruction is scary, but I can’t help but picture that little Syrian boy who drowned this September because his family was fleeing the very same terror. I absolutely think we should screen refugees, which is why I am glad there is a robust screening process in place. But, I question the wisdom and truth of “close our borders.” I am worried that Christians are choosing comfort over compassion. I wonder if we are choosing fear over the ways of Jesus.

I won’t pretend that the life we are called to is easy or fun. I will admit that I don’t feel like following even 60 percent of God’s commands 40 percent of the time.

Honor your father and mother. Pssh! My mom is annoying me today so snark all around. Love your neighbor as yourself. Nope! Neighbor doesn’t understand systemic racism so done with that idiot! Suffer unto me the little children.  Whatever that kid has an attitude problem so forget showing them Jesus. Visit the prisoner. Lord no! That person is a criminal!

Being a Christian is hard, it’s scary and it seems like Jesus is always asking you to do something crazy. Like that one time He told Peter to step out of the boat and walk on water. Or that one time He told the disciples He would feed 5,000 men with two loaves of bread and five fish. Or that one time He told me I could teach a class on Civil Rights at the University of Texas even though I was just barely 30 and had never taught before. I mean c’mon!

And yet Peter walked on water, there were leftovers, and I was someone’s favorite professor.

How can this be? We serve a God that asks us to give up comfort, to put ourselves in impossible circumstances because that’s when He gets to show up and be God. When no other name can receive credit or glory that’s when miracles happen.

We say we want miracles. Yet, most us keep ourselves out of any situation or circumstance that might actually require one.

Our preferred brand of Christianity is one that can be done all in our own strength. We prefer a God we can manage and totally understand. We prefer the American Dream. We prefer safety and comfort.

Comfort is so much a part of American Christianity. Our comfort has become our gospel, most of us live out Jesus commands only so long as it doesn’t require anything too difficult.  We want to serve God and while we hold fast to our dreams, our plans, our way of life. We cannot do both, we must make a choice, because at some point one thing will be dropped in the pursuit of the other.

My Bible Study group is studying Mary Jo Sharp’s Living in Truth. This week’s study included a lesson on how many people hold correct ideas about Jesus, but they don’t act on those ideas.

I think that’s where many of us fail when it comes to Jesus. We read the Bible, we believe it is true, but our actions tell a different story.

We believe God can do anything (Luke 1:37), but we act like He can only do somethings. We believe we are to care for widows and orphans (James 1:27), but only if we feel like they are spending our money wisely, or we can just give them the stuff we don’t really want anymore.  Our Bible may say show hospitality to the stranger (Hebrews 13:2), but clearly what Jesus really meant is care only for the stranger that you are comfortable with, the ones that share your values, your faith, and love America.

But the promise of ease is the absolute opposite example of what we see in Jesus’ own life and those of his disciples. Is the Jesus who hung on the cross, whose disciples were beheaded, crucified, and wrongly imprisoned suddenly promising a life of safety and comfort of 2.5 children, in a White House in a safe neighborhood with good schools?

Our desire for comfort is rooted in the American Dream, not the Gospel. Jesus promises eternal life to all believe in Him as the only way to God. He doesn’t promise a perfect life or an America that endures for eternity. Jesus speaks of building His church and promises that the gates of hell will not prevail against it. He does not promise to build lives of wealth, health and happiness.

And therein lies the dilemma of American Christianity. We love our stuff. I love my stuff. I love cute boots, and Kendra Scott earrings, and yearly vacations. I mean how could you not? These things are all amazing, but the problem has become we prefer our stuff to God. Our stuff seems easier, more fun, and definitely more safe.

Nothing challenging about a Saturday morning Target run (unless of course its the Saturday they release their latest designer collaboration), but reaching out to and supporting refugees being resettled in our neighborhoods might challenge my worldview.  Nothing demanding about iTunes playlists and Apple watches, but caring about what happens to poor kids might require me to invest time in a public school in a impoverished neighborhood. Nothing inconvenient about a book club with my girlfriends, but loving my neighbor as myself might mean giving up my Saturday to help the elderly woman on the end of my street.

We’d rather be comfortable. But, the truth is that comfort is an illusion. It’s the scheme of the enemy to keep you comfortable, the truth is convenience and comfort will cause you to miss out.

I love my job. It’s really the thing in life I was created to do, but it’s terrifying. It requires the sort of public life I hate, I’d much rather be behind the scenes. It requires a lot of public speaking, which makes me so nervous. I think I have sort of a weird voice so standing in front of people (sometimes lots of people) talking makes me physically ill sometimes. Usually before every speaking event, I am planning my escape, “Is it too late to call in sick?”

I never call in sick. I push through the discomfort and do the thing God has created me to do. I do it scared, but I do it.

I imagine God is more pleased with my obedience, precisely because it is a sacrifice. I have laid my comfort on the alter, because God didn’t promise me a nice safe life.

I am struck by the fact that if today, I had to choose between my old safe ways and my  life now. I would choose the scarier looking path, because on this path I desperately need Jesus.  On this path, I have seen things that can only be explained by God. On this path, I have accomplished things, I never would have dreamed, but God did and I wouldn’t have known any of it on that other road I used to call home.

Lord, help me to live out the whole gospel when it’s scary, when it costs more than I want to give, when it looks dirty, and when it’s hard. Help me to be courageous to choose what is right over what is best or most sensible or easiest. I cannot do it in my own strength. May your words be my guiding light and may I be willing to step out of the boat. Maybe I will sink, but even in sinking may it be done for Your glory.

More on a Christian Response to Refugees

Jen Hatmaker

Jeremy Courtney

Marty Duren

Ed Stetzer

 

Welcome to Fashion Friday: Ready for Fall

While this blog will remain primarily about faith,  I am routinely asked where I shop and since the title of the blog “Surrender Is the New Black” is a reference to a fashion term, I thought it would be fun to start doing a “Fashion Fridays” post.

 

The inagural “Fashion Friday” is dedicated to the changing weather in Austin (from really hot to less hot!)

 

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Dress: Ann Taylor (ON SALE!)

Jacket: Ann Taylor

Shoes: Ann Taylor 

Bracelet: Noonday Collection (similar here)

Necklace: Kendra Scott 

Earrings: Kendra Scott (similar here)