And Then She Wrote About The Things She Loved

 

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It has been a while since I posted here, but I have been writing!

Here are two pieces I’ve written for other publications on pop culture:

Lecrae’s ‘All Things Work Together’ Is a Grace-Filled Mic Drop

“Over the past several years, Lecrae’s critics have accused him of being divisive and too political, questioning whether he was “still saved” because he signed with Columbia and attended a Kanye West concert. Lecrae answers them all: He is a mascot no more. All Things Work Together is bigger than the critics; it is the story of a man who was lost but, by the grace of God, was found.”

Roses from Concrete: The Irrepressible Spirit of the Ladies of Ste

“Step is a movie about young black women from impoverished backgrounds who hope and have joy and how hope and joy refuse to let the circumstances of life have the final say. They are the roses that grew from concrete. And they are teaching us what it means to flourish even in the brokenness of this world.”

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And Then She Remembered the Truth

Alternatively Titled: On Beyoncé, the Grammys and feeling second best in the Church

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“Lemonade” was the album of the year regardless of who went home with the award last night. The devastation and anger many felt at the result is all too common. Beyoncé was invited to sit front row for the show, her “iconic performance” was teased before every commercial break until she performed (the Recording Academy’s own words), but she wasn’t recognized in one non-genre category (the biggest awards of the night). In fact, Beyoncé has been nominated for 62 Grammys and has only won one non-genre award.

I get it “Lemonade” wasn’t as accessible as “25.”  It was a visually stunning work on the beauty and the burden of being a black woman, a wife, a mother.  It was complicated and didn’t fit neatly or quietly into a box.

But, this isn’t just about Beyoncé, it’s about all the ways black people, specifically black women are consistently told they aren’t good enough, for black women it’s the “you are pretty for a black girl.” It is heartbreaking all the ways America will profit off our bodies, applaud our culture, enjoy our gifts, but not embrace us.

Even in the church, where we profess unity as the body of Christ, women of color are often marginalized. We are picked last. We are told we are too loud, too domineering, too stubborn, because we aren’t understood. And rather than make the effort at understanding, we are told our gifts aren’t good enough, we’re not submissive enough, we’re not soft enough, we’re not quiet enough, we haven’t waited enough…. we aren’t enough.

But here’s the thing, we are worthy regardless of what culture says or how the flawed people of the church make us feel sometimes. We are worthy because we are created in the image of God. We are worthy because we are daughters of the King.

Recognition doesn’t change our identity. In the same way that Eddie Murphy’s character in “Coming to America” was a prince even while he lived in a dump in Queens and worked in a fast food restaurant.  He was always a Prince regardless of whether his co-workers at McDowell’s recognized him as one.  Whether he lived in the projects or a palace, his lineage remained the same, being born to the King, made him an heir. Just as we are made co-heirs with Christ when we are born-again through our confession of Christ as our Savior.

We are enough, not by our own efforts or the recognition of our leaders. We are enough because of who Christ is and what He has done.

Beyoncé is still Beyoncé. And we are still co-heirs with Christ, regardless of whether the leaders or the powerful sees us.  God does. This is not to in any way suggest the tendency to ignore or marginalize women of color is okay. This is about how we choose to receive or not receive the actions or in some cases the inactions of others.

I am choosing not to receive it, because it’s a lie. God does value us. I am a daughter of the King. God does see me. Just as He saw Hagar when she was forced to flee Sarah’s abuse. When the Angel of the Lord appeared to her in the desert, it says in Genesis 16:13, So she named the Lord who spoke to her, “You are El-Roi”; for she said, “Have I really seen God and remained alive after seeing him?” (NRSV)

What I love about this verse is that Hagar got to give God a new name, El-Roi. This is the first and last time this name for God is used in Scripture and it was given to him by a slave girl. Someone with little power, who was usually unseen and overlooked, who had been abused by her employers got to create a new name for God!

El-Roi is personal. She experienced God in a way Sarah didn’t. Sarah also had personal experiences with God. But their experiences with Him were different, because they were different. Sarah was an Israelite and Abraham’s wife. Hagar was an Egyptian slave and forced into position she did not choose. She was shocked when the angel of the Lord appeared to her, because she was so used to being ignored. But God not only saw her, He made her a promise and told her to name her son, Ishmael, which means God heard your misery. God sees and hears even when the world doesn’t.

Being a black woman in America and in the American church often means going unseen, like Hagar. This invisibility is why “Lemonade” was such a seminal work for black women. Beyoncé spoke directly to our hearts, acknowledged the blessing and the burden of being a black woman, and said “our story matters and is worthy of sharing.” It’s also why it was important for Adele to acknowledge what Beyoncé means specifically for black people. It’s also why the rejection of the Recording Academy stings in the same way it stings when white evangelicals fail to acknowledge or fully esteem black women.

We cannot find our worth in others. Psalms 146:3 says don’t put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save… but blessed is [she] whose help is in the God of Jacob, who’s hope is in the Lord [her] God.

We are daughters of the King and because of who His is we are worthy. We are enough. We are seen. He will wipe every tear from our eyes. He has an inheritance for us, an encounter in a desert place, and a unique utterance from our lips.  Nothing is wasted in God’s economy. The very thing our enemy means to harm us, to hold us back, God will use for our good. (Genesis 50:20).

Despite the myth of the strong black woman, it is sometimes exhausting to be a black woman in America with the constant messaging of the majority culture about our worth. It’s hard to maintain any sort of affection towards those who demean us, ignore our accomplishments, yet benefit from our contributions. It’s hard in my flesh.  Yet, it is my identity as a daughter of the King that allows me to consistently take the lemons of the world and make lemonade.

 

  1. What parts of Hagar’s story do you identify with?
  2. How have you allowed the world to tell you a lie about your identity?
  3. How do verses like Ephesians 2:10, Psalms 139:13-14, Romans 8:16-17 speak to your identity?
  4. How are you using your voice or power to affirm and push out front the women of color in your life?

And Then She Prayed

What Does This Mean? A Prayer for the Church

Donald Trump will be the 45th president of the United States. Even as I type this, I am in disbelief. I am shocked, and I am saddened about the state of our country. We are a nation divided, and as an African American Christian and millennial, I will just admit that the election of President Obama gave me a false sense of progress towards unity and the fight against inequality. Even in the church, I have been encouraged by the work I’ve seen from leaders like Russell Moore and the New Baptist Covenant.

The results of Tuesday night revealed the truth for this country and for me. We are as divided as ever. Red and blue, black and white, Christian and Muslim, millennial and baby boomers, urban and rural. And honestly, it’s heartbreaking. For me personally, it has challenged my faith in humanity, but if I am honest my faith in the church, as well.

I know God is in control and this result did not catch Him off guard, but I can’t help but thinking, “How Long O’Lord?!” I will say what has held me up are my family and friends black and white that have joined me in lament, that have prayed for me, encouraged me, that have sent me verses like Psalms 3:1-8 or reminded me of while Moses’ faithfulness in the wilderness only led to two people who started in Egypt entering the promised land. All of these things have helped, but it’s still hard when I see prayer requests from teachers about the fear their Latino students are dealing with over their families or from my church members whose kids were in tears last night.  

I don’t really have words. I just keep remembering my childhood pastor used to say about faith, “faith is acting like God is telling the truth.” This election has forced me to examine my own heart and what I truly believe about God. And as a result, I will do a couple of things, despite how I feel. I am choosing to believe God is telling the truth. He cares for me, just as He cares for the Trump supporter, the immigrant, Muslims, and the oppressed. Secondly, I will repent of my own sin, the sin of placing more faith in the ability of politics and public policy to change hearts than the manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

I am re-evaluating what it means to lead and effectively disciple Christ followers when it comes to political engagement. I want God to be glorified even in this.

I will pray for my neighbors — for those who will seek the good of the city, for those who choose to build bridges, and for those who are unwilling to recognize that I too am created in the image of God and have the right to feel safe in the country my ancestors built.

I will pray for unity and diversity, not the fake kind that involves us being in the same room, but not understanding and fighting for one another.  

I will pray for those who are grieving and for minorities, millennials, and city-dwellers who voted for Hillary Clinton and are now questioning the witness of the church. They need Jesus, too, and I hate what this result is doing to their perception of the church.

I will pray for the Trump supporter who is experiencing economic anxiety, who felt left behind and for those who are pro-life. I pray that income inequality and abortion will be addressed in President Trump’s administration.

I will pray for the Trump supporter that recognized his racist and misogynist rhetoric, but reluctantly pulled the lever for him and now feels judged by their fellow Christians. I pray that you would seek to understand rather than be understood, and I will pray that the Lord will heal the hearts of those whose who now view you with suspicion.

I will pray for President Trump and this nation because it has been illuminating. We are a nation divided, and that division exists even within the church. I pray that this will cause all of us to take a hard look at ourselves and seek to understand the other side. I pray that someday soon we could repent of the sin of racism, sexism, misogyny, Islamophobia, and xenophobia. I pray that God will bring beauty from this brokenness.

I don’t have any answers just prayers and the eternal truths of the Word of God.

“… you will not grieve like the rest, who are without hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

“Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation, his spirit departs, he returns to the earth; in that very day his thoughts perish. How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Psalms 146:3-5).

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

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