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).

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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

 

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

 

And then She Remembered It’s Just a Shadow

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When I was little I would wake up in the middle of the night seized by a fear of monsters in my closet. I would see these huge shadows on my wall and think it was only a matter of minutes before I was gobbled up. I would run to my parents room and climb into bed with them–safe from whatever was lurking in my room.  After trying to reassure me that there were in fact no monsters in my closet, my dad would have to take me back to my room, turn on the lights, and then show me there was nothing in my closet but my clothing. Eventually, I realized that shadow I saw every night, the one that led to my parents room and my dad’s nightly closet sweep, was just my closet door. Once I realized that it was just my door, I started shutting that door every night before I went to bed.

As a child, I spent a lot of nights clinging to my blanket afraid of something that wasn’t real. As an adult, I have spent a lot of time clinging to the safe path because when I consider the alternative all I see are monsters. The road less traveled is less traveled for a reason. I mean who wants to take a path that hasn’t been cleared and leads to who knows what?

But, the safe route has begun to feel a little uncomfortable, I have begun to believe there just might be someplace better than this. The safe road isn’t perfect, but I know the safe road and all of the cool kids are on the safe road. I am happy with the safe road, I can make a pretty decent life on the safe road.

I don’t think I can stay here, but I am not sure I can go there.

The trees on the other road look a lot like failure, loneliness, discomfort and difficulty. The road less traveled seems like the perfect place for monsters.

The other road terrifies me.

Maybe that’s what the Israelites were thinking in Numbers 13 and 14, when 10 of the 12 spies came back from Canaan, “the land of milk and honey,” with stories of giants and fortified cities.  They heard the word “giant” and they were afraid.  So afraid they began to long for the oppression of the Egyptians despite the reminders from Joshua and Caleb that God had promised them Canaan, and while there were giants, the giants did not have God on their side.

Their fear meant that an entire generation missed out on the promised land. They allowed their fear to keep them from the abundant life God truly meant for them. They saw giants and missed their inheritance. They probably thought, like I often do, it’s my inheritance so this should be easy. It shouldn’t require a struggle and I should be able to walk right into it.

But, what if the scariest looking road is the only one that leads to the promised land?

What if the Israelites had just remembered that the God they served had split the Red Sea and caused it to swallow the entire Egyptian army?

What if they had remembered the words He had spoken to them when He led them out of Egypt?

“I will bring you to the land which Iswore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a possession; I am the Lord.” Exodus 6:8

Just like my closet door was not scary once the lights were on, the giants aren’t really that scary when considered in light of the promises of God.

I don’t want to miss out on my promised land, my buttermilk biscuits smothered in honey, because the less traveled road looks scary.  Because maybe those monsters are just shadows, maybe God and I are going to slay those giants, or maybe I am going to learn to live courageously even when surrounded by giants ?

Who knows? But, I won’t know for sure if I stay on the safe path. Staying on the safe path has it perks, it’s a giant-free zone, but it’s also hot and empty. The life of the road less traveled seems pretty scary precisely because it is so risky. Yes, there are giants, but there is also abundance and provision. I could allow the giants to keep me on the safe road, or I could remember that those monsters are just shadows and that giants ain’t got nothing on a girl with five stones and her Jesus.