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 valuable you me. 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 did not have an experience or personal relationship 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 your 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, 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 Her Heart was Heavy (link love)

The events in Ferguson, Mo are truly heartbreaking. Mike Brown is my brother, my friend, my neighbor. I don’t really have words for my feelings on what is happening to Black Americans across this country. Every week, I am confronted with a new name to add to the list Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, Travyon Martin, Jordan Davis, Jonathan Ferrell, Renisha McBride, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Ezell Ford, and Mike Brown.  Honestly, it is hard not to internalize the message that some lives matter more. I don’t know what to say, but I do know that my God is a God of justice and that even if society tells black people our lives are less valuable, I know that is not true in the eyes of my heavenly father. I know because He tells me so in Isaiah 58:6, the fasting that the Lord has chosen is “to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?”

I am reminded that once a upon a time a young Alabama preacher was the clarion call for justice and equality in this country. His dream unfulfilled and likely to remain that way if we are unwilling as a nation and as Christians to actively break the chains of racism and confront our biases. I have posted links to posts that are much more eloquent than I for those who want to understand Ferguson both historically and in the context of our faith.

Here are some links on Ferguson that put the events in the larger context of what it means to be black in America.

Melissa Harris-Perry: No Rights Which A White Man is Bound to Respect

Ta-Nehisi Coates: Reparations for Ferguson

Jelani Cobb: The Anger in Ferguson

Kara Brown: This is Why We’re Mad About the Shooting of Mike Brown

Greg Howard: America is Not For Black People

Here are some links on Faith and Ferguson ( I am grateful for leaders like Matt Chandler and Russell Moore)

Austin Channing Brown: Black Bodies White Souls

Sarah Bessey: In which I have a few things to tell you about #Ferguson

Eugene Cho: Please don’t ignore it. Five ways that Christians and churches must engage Michael Brown’s death

Russell Moore:  Ferguson and the Quest for Racial Justice

Matt Chandler: More on Ferguson and White Privilege

Thabiti Anyabwile: Coming (Back) to America: My One Fear

Baptist Press: Ferguson and You

I hope that every Christian that has posted about ISIS in Iraq and cares about justice will be on their knees this week praying for the people in Ferguson and for their African American neighbors, co-workers, and friends because weeks like these are a heavy thing to carry alone.

“How long, not long because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

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 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.

And then She Realized God Doesn’t Play

I don’t really believe God.

This week, He answered a beyond prayer…a prayer beyond what I could even ask. And when it happened instead of praising God for His goodness, I kept thinking Ashton Kutcher was somewhere with a hidden camera.

I know the Bible says over and over again that God is able and that prayer changes things.

“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16b

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7

“You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” John 14:14

Yet, when it comes to my own life, I didn’t really think anything meant ANYTHING. I guess I thought anything meant realistic things, things that made sense, things that were natural.

And then this week, God did something that was just so crazy. When I was in law school I used to dream about teaching a law course one day. I didn’t even pray to God about it, because it was a ridiculous prayer. I couldn’t teach a law course because I didn’t meet the requirements for most law professors, I wasn’t on law review and I didn’t graduate at the top of my class.  So it was a nice dream, but as far I as I was concerned it was just that a dream.

Then, last week when my boss came into my office and asked if I wanted to teach and undergraduate course on Race & the Law, I was shocked. I mean God had answered a prayer I was never really bold enough to pray!

And I realized that I don’t really believe Him, not like I say I do or I would expect Him to be good to me. I mean I am His daughter and He knew me before time began, the desires of my heart, my gifts and abilities He placed those in my heart.  I am reminded of something one of my spiritual mentors said to me in college “God isn’t trying to put rocks in your shoes.” In Isaiah it talks about God longing to be gracious and show His goodness, but I never really believed that until now. I still secretly felt like He was just waiting to pull the rug out from under me, but I won’t live that way anymore.

God isn’t playing when He says anything and He isn’t joking when He says that nothing is too hard for Him. That is a promise I can stand firm on, the rug isn’t going to be yanked and Ashton Kutcher isn’t hiding behind any bushes. God is all-powerful and I will start living like that is true.

I will wait expectantly because I know God is who He says He is and that He can do what He says He can do. Even when I don’t see a way, or the dream seems too crazy, or idea is ridiculous.

Because God can is able to do  “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.” Ephesians 3:20-21

This week, I saw Him do more than I could ask and next time I won’t be caught off guard.

And Then She Learned To Wait Patiently

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I hate waiting. Hate it with a passion. I want things, people, projects  to move at my pace or else:

” I am over this, I quit!”

“Just give it to me, I’ll do it myself!”

“Seriously?!!”

People say if you ask God for patience, He’ll place you in situations where you have to learn patience. I don’t think this is true. I have been constantly been placed in situations that should have taught me patience–teaching my younger sister to drive, waiting in line behind a sweet 80 year old woman at Target as she counts out pennies, getting lost on my way to an important meeting. Yet, I am the least patient person I know.

Recently, God has been stirring some new hopes and dreams. But He hasn’t provided clarity, because maybe I am not ready for it yet or maybe it isn’t quit ready for me. Whatever His reasons, the vision isn’t quit clear and I am in a holding pattern.  Which any frequent flyer can tell you is the worst, so close to your destination you can see it, but not able to touch it! It’s uncomfortable, the waiting place.

But, God can use any place for His glory. He gave the Israelites bread from heaven, He gave Joseph a vision that would save Israel, and He gave Paul letters to His church.

So I will  wait.

The old me would have just landed the plane, even without a clear runway or an open gate. But this time will be different, because I will sit and wait on the Lord. Even if it seems like he is moving at glacial pace. Even if I am less than thrilled. Even if it feels like a special kind of torture. Because He is not finished yet.

I will wait. PATIENTLY.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. Psalms 37:7

But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. Romans 8:25

And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised. Hebrews 6:15

I will learn to sing in my “Egypt,” I will dance in my “desert,” and be productive in my “cell.”

Because I can’t bootstrap my way to the “land of milk and honey,” and He who promised is faithful.