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?

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 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 Learned to Love Good Friday

 

 

true love-textwebsize“If patience is worth anything, it must endure to the end of time. And a living faith will last in the midst of the blackest storm.”
Mahatma Gandhi

 

I have been there. In a season, where every day feels like Good Friday. Filled with despair, suffering, tears.

Why God? Why this way? Why their death? Why this job?

No answers come, only more silence and more suffering. I am left at in a puddle at His feet.

Wondering, Waiting…when Lord?

It seemed like it was over. This is it. The darkness has won and I am defeated.

It is finished.

It is finished!

It is finished?

We grieve, we cry out, we remember that in “ a little while, and you will no longer see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me…Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy.” (John 16: 16, 20)

It is finished, but this isn’t how the story ends. No, Good Friday is just the beginning for Him and for us.

Suffering is a means of sanctification. We need our Good Fridays for Resurrection Sunday to come.

Despite how it feels today on Good Friday, God is working below the surface to breathe life into what we once thought was dead. Sunday is coming. Weeping will be turned to dancing. Sorrow will be turned into joy. Something beautiful will rise from these ashes. The Savior will come.

Why the cross?

For Your glory and Your great love.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Jesus prayed, “ I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” John 17:4-5

Why this cross?

For Your glory and my good…that I may know and believe Him.

“We were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us.” 2 Corinthians 1: 9-10

We grieve through the Good Fridays of our lives, but just hold on because Resurrection Sunday is coming. We will be reminded of His strength and what once we thought dead will be raised.

And Then She Learned to Live with Uncertainty

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I am a fairly confident person. I have a very strong personality and I am always sure about everything. I know my strengths and my weaknesses. I live my life in a way that plays to my strengths. I hate hate hate uncertainty, I need to know at all times exactly where I am going and what is going to happen when I get there.

I say this just so we are clear that I am happiest when I am in total control, meaning whatever is happening is because I choose to either make it happen or do nothing. But, it’s not possible to be independent and love Jesus with reckless abandon. By its very nature, faith requires you to relinquish control, to surrender to Someone larger than yourself, to believe that just maybe you don’t know everything.

Giving up control is hard…especially for a control freak!  In fact, I am terrible at it and most days I just want to cling to my will and my way. I mean it’s definitely easier to do what I want to live how I want to live, but it’s not really fulfilling. And if I am honest, my way means agonizing over every single decision, rehashing every conversation, and reliving every single mistake. My way is super stressful because it’s predicated on my strengths.

His way seems fraught with uncertainty, but if history is any indication the payoff is amazing. Abraham would never have had Isaac or become the father of a nation without leaving his father’s home in  Ur. Ruth would have never met Boaz if she had chosen to return to her family in  Moab. Paul would have never written half of the New Testament without answering the strange voice he heard on the road to Damascus.

And yet, I have tried to create a third way… a little of my way, and a little of His way.

But, lately the third way feels too clever by a half. It’s impossible to serve two masters. I cannot live to please God and please myself. I have to choose and I have come down firmly on the side of pleasing God.

Of course now, Presto! Change-o!  It’s so much easier to face difficulty and endure trials.

WRONG.

It’s more like “I hate this! I hate being here and I hate you for making me stay!”

“This isn’t where I want to be.  This place is terrible!”

“Now that I am all Ruth, where is my Boaz?”

“Why me?”

“Seriously?”

I feel like Peter, I have stepped out of the boat on faith and I am walking on water, but OMG the waves and wind, Lord! So I am out here on the water trying to walk and because I am in a place that exceeds my skill level, I am sort of stuck out here until God sees fit to rescue me.  I feel uncertain and unsure most of the time, because I am out of the boat, but the wind is still howling and the waves keep on rocking.

And if I am honest I am frustrated with God and most of the time I am feeling some kind of way about this whole living on the waves proposition. I am restless. Longing for solid ground, a weather change, or a word to calm the sea.  God has called me to something, what I am not sure and living in the tension in being to take its toll.  As someone who has always been an overachiever, whenever I face challenges in my life I have been able to conquer them, because of my education, my resources, my parents, and my friends. I have always depended on myself to carry me to the next thing, meet the next challenge, and tackle the next goal. My drive and success has for too long masked the truth of my condition…I am in great need.

I have heard many times that “you don’t know that God is all you need, until He is all you have.” In my case, I haven’t had to lose anything (yet), but suddenly it feels like the things I do have are not enough. Things that just a few months ago looked so shiny have begun to dull, but maybe I am just seeing them for what they always were.

Maybe I have been living in a virtual Christian reality.  Maybe living on the waves is the really how we are meant to live as Christians.  On the waves, we are totally dependent on God. Maybe we aren’t supposed to be comfortable at all. Maybe boat living is a shadow of what we were truly meant for.  Maybe the real glory of Christianity can only be found on the waves.

It’s weird to go from a place of total independence to an almost crippling dependence.  But, I feel that for the first time in a long time, I am exactly where He wants me, for when I am weak, I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

And Then Her Trusty GPS Failed And She Found Herself Somewhere New

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This summer as I was preparing to turn the big 3-0. I began thinking about the last decade, the things I wanted to bring into the next decade and the things I wanted to leave behind. During this time, I read two books that fundamentally shook my view of the world and my place in it. One was Jen Hatmaker’s 7, Jen spends 7 months examining the areas of excess in her life. She choose food, media, stress, possessions, waste, clothes, and spending. She then spent 30 days on each area boiling it down to seven. So for 30 days eating only seven foods, then seven articles of clothing, giving away seven things a day, eliminating seven media types, spending money in only seven places, and adopting “seven sacred pauses.”

The experiment was as crazy as it sounds, but as I turned the pages and laughed at the idea of speaking at a women’s conference for two days in the same dress. I mean come on! Anyone one who knows me knows why I think this is insane. (If you don’t know me See: high school clothes calendar where I diligently wrote down every article of clothing I wore to ensure I didn’t wear the same outfit twice in 3 weeks.)

As I laughed at her stories, God began to move in my heart. Why exactly did I have so many clothes? Why did I need four different pairs of black patent leather shoes? Why am I spending $54 on sushi? Especially, in light of the fact I wasn’t a regular tither, and barely gave any money towards the building of God’s kingdom. I had done Crown Financial classes and while they teach about the importance of tithing, it is mostly about making wise financial decisions like making a budget, saving for retirement, and paying off debts. All very important things, but I was budgeting for dinner out and Ann Taylor dresses. And still when I looked at the amount of money I was spending on myself compared to what I was spending on God or when I looked at the number of shoes I own compared with my brothers and sisters living on food stamps or on dirt floors it just seemed so horribly out of whack and selfish. I had been given so much, and I was spending so little on fighting poverty or improving educational opportunities for girls across the globe. Despite my rantings on government spending cuts to programs like SNAP and Headstart, I wasn’t doing my part.  Suddenly, the stories didn’t seem so funny because God is pretty clear about our financial priorities.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Matthew 6:19-21
So I went on a 30 day fast in which I gave up shopping, eating out, T.V., and social media. My own 30 for 30. At the end of the fast I celebrated my 30th birthday with most of my favorite people in the world, Mexican food, margaritas, and cupcakes! But honestly, I didn’t really feel that different. I thought I was going to have this miraculous spiritual breakthrough, but other than having an unusually large bank balance nothing really changed. (I did start tithing and allocating a specific amount of money in my budget for both faith-based and girl empowerment charities.) But, none of the clouds parting stuff you read about in the Bible and sometimes expect when God begins to move in your life.

Nothing until I read Jennie Allen’s Anything. Anything is about the things in our lives that hold us back from pursuing God with our whole hearts. It forces you to take a real hard look at the things you’ve chosen nice cars, fancy homes, cute clothes and asks if God is real, why are you chasing things that are definitely going down with the ship?  I mean did God really save me to hear me pray the same prayer about a raise or a new job over and over again.

Anything is really a prayer of surrender. If God is real, will I give up everything and do anything He asks?

BOOM!

And then like a puzzle, everything fell into place. I needed to recognize all of things in my life that I loved more than God, and I needed to place them on the altar and light it up before I could really see God move. I had to be willing to let go of my stuff to choose His stuff and after 30 days without my stuff it was a little easier to let it go. (Notice “a little easier” I still struggle over what is the appropriate number of statement necklaces) But, I have seen God honor my surrender in big ways and small. I came back to a childhood passion. I’ve made new friends. I started this blog and a couple of weeks ago Jennie Allen herself read one of my blog posts and sent a note of encouragement via Twitter! (Gotta love technology!)

I am not sure what God is doing or where this path ultimately leads, but I do know that whatever God is doing I want to be a part of it.

I know I am not through, beyond my statement necklace struggle, choosing surrender is an everyday battle and some days I just want to get under the covers and throw up my hands and say enough! But, I honestly believe God is worth it so I keep trudging along sometimes crawling and crying but forward I must go. Forward because in the end only what God says about me matters and I really, really want to hear “well done my good and faithful servant.”

P.S. If this post resonated with you in anyway, if you too are hungry for God to move, if you believe the ship is sinking and you have been preoccupied with rearranging deck chairs then you should check out IF: Gathering. You can read more about it here, here , and here.

You can also keep up with what I am reading under On My Nightstand.