Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Is Miraculous & Messy

Christmas was beautiful. Filled with love and laughter with loved ones in celebration of the birth of Christ.

Happy birthday Jesus!
We enjoyed your celebrations.

I love these people! 💗

A day (and month) of action and reflection.

My favorite Christmas memories were filled with running down stairs and joining my siblings in unwrapping our gifts and jumping up and down as we received things that were on our wish list.
I'm sure many of you felt the same way or even enjoyed watching your children open their favorite gifts today.

That scene of the past is among my favs. Now watching children in our family do the same is heart warming.

Seeing our cute cousins in their pjs playing, laughing and opening gifts this year was so precious.
I enjoyed hearing about their new school favorite dances and toys.

I vividly recall the happiness of being a girl over 30 years ago.
Receiving Barbie dolls, Cabbage patch kids, the anticipated Baby Alive, albums, video games, the iconic Easy Bake Oven and a Donald Duck record player with blinking lights and a microphone made childhood a dream come true.

Our grandmothers punctuated the holidays with their culinary delights representing their east coast and southern roots.

What was your favorite childhood toy? Memory? Food? Tree? Tradition? 

Our tree was not expensive but on a new pastor's budget, it was perfect to us- white, glistening, tall and filled with sparkling gold ornaments, garland and beautiful lights.
Dad would always read the biblical Christmas story to us in our pajamas before we opened gifts. We danced, sang and went to church together.

Mom and Dad would cuddle. My sister and brothers would make us laugh with their nonstop jokes or our collective shenanigans.

My father and I would often sing, "Oh holy night" together as we gathered or crossed paths in the house.

Those moments still melt my heart.
It was Magical.

Growing up in the 70s and 80s was a time of wonder. Becoming a young woman in the 90s and enjoying adulthood with the family and many friends at Christmas was equally beautiful.
It was a wonderful time in life!

We hadn't lived long enough to know what life would be like when Christmas would look differently.
We had only know Christmas to be a portrait that seemed flawless, wondrous and miraculous.

In many ways it was fantasy because it seemed void of pain, loss or sadness. It was a giant gift that had not yet experienced grief.

Fast forward to the late 90s.
Our older brother passed away. A big blow!
Christmas felt differently without his laughter.

In the early 2000s we experienced the loss of our uncle, Rev. Raymond Bailey, our uncle, Ephraim Jordan and both grandmothers, Lucy Smith and Victoria Curtis. How could this be happening all at once?

Without Granny and Momma Lucy and our beloved uncles we couldn't see how we would ever experience holidays that were magical.

In that same season we lost our father, Dr. E. K. Bailey.
Christmas wasn't Christmas anymore.
Celebration turned into sadness.
Music, ornaments and songs didn't seem to make us "happy."
It was suddenly holiday gone bad.

Have you ever felt alive without living?
(Kind of like you are going under water fast or suffocating due to life's sorrow?)
Have you found yourself smiling in the storm? Or wanting to fast forward through the holidays?

Life for years had began to feel messy.
Tears seemed to mess up what use to be happy moments.
Heart ache is and was real.

It felt like the early 2000s were so painful that we seemed to just be coasting in life.
We continued, by God's grace to minister to others, but life was messy for us.

We often felt like life's equilibrium was off.
It was hard to gain our footing or to enjoy the 'wonder' of the season.

If you have felt like that, then you are not alone.
Imagine how Mary and Joseph felt.
They were engaged to be married and anxiously anticipating their wedding day. Then they were surprised to learn that they would become the parents of the Son of God and virgin Mary would soon become incubated with Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:21

An engagement that probably felt magical suddenly seemed messy.

Life doesn't always feel wonderful. Sometimes it feels woeful.

Imagine mothers enjoying their babies and then getting the worse news that Herod ordered all male children 2 years old and under to be killed.
Matthew 2:16
Life can become messy without warning.

Mary and Joseph are preparing to welcome the birth of the Savior- wonderful grace-but there is no where for her to give birth accept an Inn that was probably smelly and filled with animal excrement- messy grace.
Sometimes grace stinks!

Mary  experiences the greatest joy and she gives birth to a healthy baby and our Lord- miraculous grace-yet many mothers are crying their eyes out because their babies were recently terminated. Messy grace!

How can grace be messy?

"We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival."

-Winston Churchill

Suffering is apart of the human experience.  It's messy and can not be avoided.

"...In our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God." -Aeschylus

A precious friend of mine became pregnant- wonderful grace. She later learned that her baby could not survive life outside of the womb and the baby would pass away shortly after being delivered.
Messy grace!

Another dear friend became pregnant several times and miscarried several times.
Messy grace!

Some friends have become engaged. Some have had broken engagements.
Some have married and some have divorced.
Some have started ministries that are thriving and some have started ministries that had to close.
A family member planned a great party that we attended recently and one day later was in a car accident.
Sometime we become acquainted with miraculous grace and messy grace all at the same time.

We all live between the two seasons of glowing and groaning.

I have been given some unforgettable opportunities over the last 10  to 20 years that I will never forget-awesome grace! I accepted many of those opportunities or grace gifts, but had to decline some opportunities because of some of life's personal, private challenges, illness or unavoidable setbacks. Messy grace!

What about you?
When has life been miraculous and when has it been messy?
We all know those moments.

On Christmas morning we enjoyed a great cookie decorating activity.

My cookie was not a pretty cookie. In fact, it's downright ugly and looks more like a scary man vs. a gingerbread man. Lol!
It is messy, but the time spent with family was priceless.
Perhaps this gingerbread man reminds me of my life and of yours because it has a testimony.  It is Perfectly Imperfect.

Somethings can not be explained. Messy miracles are in that category.
It is in those mysterious moments that God is near offering us Himself.
God grants us strength, endurance, and
power in weakness.
2 Corinthians 12:9.

When people see me they may see a bright smile, a confident woman and may experience a joyful embrace but have no idea that I have often felt like the gingerbread man that I decorated- messy, disfigured, crooked and all over the place.
What they really see is a woman that God has made over and continues to make over.
When you see me you see grace! Amazing grace!

Today you may have been overjoyed by Christmas decorations and lights and the laughter of children or excited being surrounded by family members and good food.  I have been. Christmas is much brighter for our family now, but it has been a process. We rejoice that joy has come!

You may have experienced extreme loneliness and incredible grief.
You are not less faith filled because you may be hurting today.

No matter where you are in life know that God's grace abounds.
It's miraculous and messy.

So was the cross.
It was miraculous that Jesus would die for our sins and His death would ensure our salvation, justification, adoption and reconciliation, but it was messy. Crucifixion was the messiest death ever.
Nails. Thorns. Whips. Wood. Brutal soldiers. Spears. Blood. Death in slow motion.
That's pretty messy!

But if God could use the the messiness of the cross to redeem us, He can surely use the messiness in our lives to redeem our circumstances for His glory.

God has a way of using wonderful and terrible times, moments, and seasons to remind us of His perpetual presence.

It is in those holy moments that we often cannot comprehend that He is moving on our behalf. In Christ is our sufficiency.

Let's not reduce Jesus to a fuzzy feeling or to Santa Claus that gives us everything we want because we believe we have been "good."

Let's not assume that He has abandoned us just because we experience tragedy, sickness, sadness or loss.

Let's not forget that He is the perfect definition of love and wisdom and He cares when we laugh, cry, rejoice, suffer, lament, are frustrated, having a temper tantrum, or experience triumph.

On His birthday, let's join the wise men and bow at the wisdom of God.
His wisdom trumps our shallow wisdom.
He is all wise and will perfect our concerns.
Why trust Him? Because He knew and foreknew everything that we would experience.
We bow our hearts today in worship and obedience and one day we will see Him and bow again in praise forever more.
"We shall behold Him face to face our Savior and Lord..."

Dear Lord,
Thank you for life and love. We celebrate your birth and our rebirth in you.
Your life made our life to come possible. We give you praise.
Teach us to trust you in all seasons. We love you and thank you for being the best gift. The only gift that will never tarnish, decrease in value or fade away.  Until we meet you in the air, make us faithful over seasons that are miraculous and messy because you are right there working it out for our good.

Happy birthday, dear Jesus.
Thank you for today's joy, for our current day makeover and for tomorrow's hope.

#yourlifematters #hopeagain #newyou
#family #Christmas #hope #grief #joy #messy #wonderful #victory #Christ #Godcares #Grow #Groan #Glow #faith #cry #rejoice #suffer #celebrate #peace #love
#the gospel

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thankful For Things That Are Not Cheap

Thanksgiving has come and gone.
What a special time with family and friends. I love family time.
Families represent biological family, blended families, spiritual family and extended family that have become one big happy family by birth, by marriage, by the heart. A legacy of love.

If you haven't heard Alicia Key's new song, please take a listen.
It's the jam!
It also reflects the beauty and complexity of family.
Family is my heart beat.
We have exchanged gifts each year but the best gifts are encouraging each other, laughing to tears, watching each other mature and seeing God deliver in seasons of struggle and seeing God bless in seasons of triumph. We enjoy the journey together. They are expensive gifts to me. Rare and Valuable. Thanksgiving owes us nothing!

Now all roads lead to Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Christ and we also pause to acknowledge and celebrate the beginning of Advent season today.
What a glorious time of the year!
I'm celebrating with the family of God.

(Devotions during Advent season can be found at

Some will enjoy quite reflections in this time of the year.
Some will enjoy family traditions or gatherings with friends.
Others will take part in festivals, musicals, church services, prayer vigils or attend operas, ballets or other holiday productions.

Some will light candles, some will fill their homes with beautiful Christmas wreaths and trees, bountiful stockings, activities for children, holiday music and sweet and savory aromas of the season.
I absolutely love the holidays and all that the season brings!

As we celebrate, let us also consider what will remain as the holidays end?
Let's "begin with the end in mind."

When the candles are distinguished, the wreaths and decorations are stored, when the guests become a memory, when the music fades, the books have been read, and the holiday shopping sprees and family, company and staff parties conclude, what will remain will be what matters most-the things that are not cheap.

Have you considered what is most valuable in your life and what is not cheap?
What have you placed on your wish list or bucket list that will not tarnish or ever decrease in value?

The holidays help us to slow down and recall or reveal what is expensive and lasting and what is cheap and fading away.
Does our happiness rise and fall in this season based upon what we are given and based upon how much something costs?
Do we evaluate the success of the holiday based on how big our tree is or how many gifts are under the tree?
Or do we value the sweet, handwritten note from a child, the smile of an elderly man or a story of wisdom of a senior woman passing by? Do we cherish times to volunteer or to  give to Salvation Army, to give to a food bank or family in need or a church ministry or non- profits that are making a difference?
Do we stop and notice brothers and sisters along the way who are in need?

These are the moments that grace us. The gifts that really matter and have no price tag but are priceless.

Am I bashing the fact that someone may have a new car, a trip around the world, new red bottom shoes or expensive tennis shoes, a desired video game, a new flat screen tv or jewelry from Tiffany and Company on the Christmas list? No. Not at all. We all have favorite things.

Gifts are not wrong and neither is the desire to want nice or expensive things.
The problems is when we worship the gift and not the giver and forget that all gifts, great and small come from our Heavenly Father. Even in the holiday hustle and bustle we must see others, assist others and reflect Christ. He is the light in a dark world and the hope of glory. Offer people the gifts that never tarnish. Jesus Christ.
Offer His Love. Hope. Empathy. Grace. Patience. Understanding. A helping hand or a look at life from their point of view.

Choose What Is Timeless Not What Is Temporal. Cheap and expensive gifts tarnish.
Choose your gifts wisely.
Choose the gifts of:
Costly convictions!
Costly relationships!
Costly values!
Costly activism and reconciliation!
Costly worship!
Costly salvation!

I've had a lot and I've had a little, and in each season, I've come to the same conclusion. God is enough. He never goes out of style and is one size fits all!

If we keep our faith in God and our focus on Him, we will see how His Word and our deep rooted spiritual value system can keep us stable in unstable times and will help us to see the holiday season in perspective and the days that follow.

I know now more than ever what is not cheap and I value those gifts the most:
Costly worship
It cost Jesus everything.

The blood of men and women in the civil rights movement who died for our right to vote and to be seen as (and treated as) human beings was not cheap.

Young people who stand in courage of the protection of black lives in the #blacklives matter movement who are often misunderstood or stereotyped yet have values for human rights of protection that are needed and costly. #convictionsarecostly

Policemen that stand up for what is right and defend even when they are not defended stand at a cost because they know that all public servants aren't "bad" and speak up on behalf of those who abuse others. #bluelivesmatter.

Blacks, Browns, Yellows and Whites that all stand together in peace or protest are faithful, frustrated at times,  but  refuse to be divided socially, politically or spiritually because the cause is greater than any one group because this is a position that is costly. #alllivesmatter #yourvoicematters #christianlivesmatter

Worship is not cheap.
Genesis 22 reflects God's command for Abraham to take Isaac to Mt. Moriah to offer him as a sacrifice.
In other words, God tested Abraham to show him what he valued the most by asking him to give back his most prized son.
That. Is. Costly. Worship.
A worship that costs us nothing is shallow, empty worship. Worship is costly. Give God the best. Jesus did it. Abraham did it and the woman with the alabaster box did it. #Costlyworshipmatters

Marriage and friendships are not cheap.
Relationships of longevity have endured some things and overcome some things together.

If your relationships have not come at a cost, then it is a relationship that may not be in full bloom. We can not bloom without seasons of pruning and pruning hurts, but helps. It's 'expensive' to grow relationships because it costs something. #relationshipsmatter

May the first Sunday of #Advent remind us of what matters, of what we love and believe, of what is costly and valuable and of what we are waiting for. Advent is about waiting.

Let us wait and pray for peace, but may we also commit to making peace.

Give costly gifts this season that have no price tag but are timeless.

Dear Lord,
We honor you in this holy season and thank you for the costly gift of your son Jesus.
We wait for Him.
Remind us of what matters most.
Thank you for gifts that are not cheap. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Is It Over Yet?/ Frustration Is Real...but God!

News reports are showing that many Americans have developed anxiety by the political climate and cannot wait for this election season to be over.

I am certainly in that number.
Are you?

I do not recall a campaign that has been so vicious. Comments have been obnoxious, confusing, and demeaning. We have witnessed a season filled with drama, lies, calculating assaults, vulgarity, deception, ignorance and cynical personal attacks that have taken the spotlight from real issues and from sincerely caring for the American people.

While understanding that no political figure is perfect, has ever been perfect or will ever be perfect, we all must find a way to 'chew the meat and spit out the bones,' because in a few hours our votes will speak up for us and there will be a new President of the United States named. 

I am not interested in blogging about my candidate or in urging people to vote my conscious, neither am I interested in placing blame or destroying another candidate, but it is my sincere hope and prayer that everyone will take the time to vote and be heard.
We have a responsibility.
Have you voted?
If not, please do so on the last day of voting.

*Vote because it is personal.
*Vote because someone died for the right.
*Vote because we must speak up and be heard.

I am so very thankful to God for using our ancestors who have made voting possible for many of us and may we never forget their sacrifice.

There are minorities and women that were denied the right to vote for some time and I pause to celebrate the pioneers and progress.
We have a long way to go but we have also come a long way.

Praise God that despite changing presidents, He has remained the same.
Voting stations and candidates change but Jesus remains the same!

Our hope can not be found in the White house. It could never be found in the White House.
The White House is America's house.
it is a beautiful house.
It is a welcoming house.
It is a historic house, but it is not a perfect house and the people that dwell therein will be America's leaders but not America's leaning post, great hope or stabilizer.
Our only hope is in God. 
He provides power, peace, safety, stability, integrity, love for all people, protection, justice, accountability, victory, value and grace.

***America's house is protected, but God's house is the only house that is secure.
Psalm 127:1

May we only place our faith in Him.

If you have not secured your place in God's house, then guess what? You can do that today.
Accepting Jesus Christ in your heart is the only way to RSVP for a place in God's house in eternity.

Why choose Christ?
*Because it is personal.
*Because someone loved you first.
*Because someone died for you.
*Because of eternal rewards and security.
John 3:16

You can be saved today. No gimmicks. No red tape. No prerequisites or qualifications required. Simply choose and confess him.
Romans 10:9,10
Our 'vote' for God in his son Jesus is the only vote in life that really matters in the Life to Come.
I want to see you there!
Jesus voted for us before we voted for Him.
Glory to His name! Let us show our gratitude in devotion.

Friends, take the time to be sure to cast your vote for our next president and above all cast your vote in the Kingdom.

God already knows the outcome.

Dear Lord,
We come to you in collective prayer to say thank you for today and thank you for brand new mercies. 
We pray for these final hours of the election and we pray for all voters and all U. S. dwellers.
We pray for the candidates and their families. 
We pray for the President and First lady and their family.
We ask for wisdom and guidance.
Bless America and all nations.
Thank you for a place to call home and thank you most of all for our Eternal home with you. 

In Jesus name,
#pray #vote #have faith #trust God

Friday, October 21, 2016

A Thank You Letter To Grief

How does one get over the biggest loss that they have ever experienced?

We often ask ourselves that question after the passing of a family member or friend or after losing a job, watching a relationship dissolve or after hearing a diagnosis and being forced to learn to live differently.

I'm not sure if each of us would answer that question the same way or if it is even possible to articulate a response, so I will not attempt to strategize ways around it or dilute the impact of it- but I can say like many of you that grief is real!
You can not go around it. You must go through it.

I've come to a place in my life that I don't run from it, attempt to explain it, pretend that it doesn't exist and neither do I choose to extend it or stay parked on Grief Rd.

If we are honest, however, because of grief, we are changed and better on the other side of it.

This week I pause to remember my father, Rev. Dr. E. K. Bailey. He was and is my hero who was promoted to his heavenly home on Oct. 22, 2003.

It has not been an easy journey to live without him, but a journey nonetheless.

We all must take our seat in the seat of grief and some may wrestle with it more or longer than others, but through it all, I am a witness, that joy will come and so does the birth of a testimony of grace in and through grief.

I've considered some lessons I've learned and wanted to encourage someone today in your process of healing with my personal thank you note. Be encouraged!

Dear Grief,
I could never imagine coming to a point in life where I would want to thank you.
I thought thanking you would be the denial of the pain that you have brought, but now I see that it is not the denial of loss, but the awareness of life known differently and the
 acknowledgment that it hurt but did not destroy.

I want to thank you for the tears that reminded me of love shared.
Thank you that I now know that the heart always remembers what the mind longs to forget.
I'm grateful that God understands the silent language of the heart.
Without you, Grief, I never would have known that we don't always need to have words for God to hear our prayers and that He is a master of understanding a language that is inaudible.
For the restless nights that made me pray more and seek solace in scripture and in the sweet whispers of our Heavenly Father- thank you.
For the human emotions of sadness, anger, denial, depression, acceptance and eventually joy, I'm thankful.
For showing me that I do not have to know it all or have it all together. Bless you! I'm so much better.

I have come to discover that we cannot fast forward through grief, but must give ourselves to the process.
We do not have to have a journey that looks like anyone else's path and we can give ourselves permission to know pain.

We live in a society and culture that is always rushing people through pain and into celebration. Sometimes I wonder if we should consider rushing through celebration and sitting in pain because some of life's greatest lessons are not on the mountain but in the valley.

I'm encouraged by I Peter 5:10b, "...after we suffer for a little while, we will be strengthened and settled and sustained.
My heart rejoices because I have come to experience the profundity of that favorite scripture and now I know that without suffering we cannot know what it means to be established.
Thank you Grief for taking my hand, expanding my view, broadening my perspective and sensitizing my heart to the experiences of others.
Thank you for teaching us how to live the theology that we believe.
Surely we cannot believe that if Jesus was risen from the dead that His Same Power would not be given to us at our darkest moments.

Grief, you have taught me more about living, dying to myself and the resurrecting power of Jesus Christ because I have seen that power resurrected in my heart.
It has been broken and now I see how the Lord is pumping new blood into a new heart.

You continue to teach me that there are some things that can be communicated with words and you have also taught me the importance of silence and the ministry of presence, sympathy and empathy.

Thank you for how you have made a woman out of me and you continue to grow my faith.
You have a way of bringing out the adult tendencies in us even when we want to remain children.
You have taught me how to stand on the Word of God, how to keep it moving when I wanted to give up, how to have moments of isolation and moments in community. Moments in weeping and in rejoicing. Moments in reflection and in great anticipation.
You have given birth to my most authentic self and I am grateful.

Thank you for teaching me how to swim.

I have found that people that seem the most unhappy in life are the people who never slow down and take the time to truly grieve, people who are envious of the love of those shared that are grieving or people who choose not to live after grief.
I had to write you a letter with the hopes of inspiring and encouraging others who may not see a window out of their season of grieving.
While you are a necessary part of the journey, you are not the final destination.
Our lives can not be defined only by our grief.
It must also be defined by God's glory, by our victory in Him to overcome all things and by our daily choice to keep living with hope.
Without you I would not know that good grief is possible. Neither would I know the pure bliss in the assurance that our present and future grief is already swallowed up in victory in Jesus Christ. What glory shall be revealed!
Romans 8:18

Although we often feel that God is far away in our grief, now I understand that it is in those moments that God is the closest to those that are broken hearted.
Psalm 34:18

Tears are a part of our life story, but I am thankful that the day shall come when every tear will be wiped from our eyes.
Revelation 21:4

I give God praise for mourning that has turned into morning.
Psalm 30:5

Thank you for growing, grooming and gracing me and so many others.
I know brokenness but not despair.
I'm wounded but not left forsaken.
I'm a 'wounded warrior' with 'war scars' that remind me of battle, but but also remind me of God's sustaining power.
I did not die.
I gained new life.
I did not give up.
I gained new passion.
I didn't bow to the expectations of others to be perfect.
I've bloomed in my own humanness and that feels awesome!
I know Christ more through suffering.
I know joy because I have known grief.
Just as caterpillars can not rush the stage of the cacoon, we can not rush grief, but we can be certain that dark places and tight spaces are playing a part in each of us discovering our wings.

I smile today because of a heart dancing with appreciation for the transformation that God has made in my life.
Thank you Grief, thank you Lord,
I'm. Still. Standing!

Dear Lord, thank you for good grief.
Refresh the hearts of your children who are discouraged, depressed, displaced, depleted or distracted by grief. Help us to give ourselves to the process and thank you for being in the middle of every season of life with us and granting your presence, your peace and complete healing.
You are our hope and eternal reward. Make us faithful even in times of loss.
Thank you for life after grief and for turning ashes into beauty.
In Jesus name, amen.

#joy #grief #victory #encouragement #trust #healing #faith #process #time #tears #hope

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Not At Home In My Own Home

What evokes thoughts of home for you?
The rooms? The pictures? The colors? The aroma? The people that dwell there?

I recently sat in a busy airport waiting to go home. Excited to see my family, to have a home cooked meal, to kiss my husband and to rest in my own bed.  There I stood at 5am waiting with people hustling with their morning coffee and conversations and I overheard a man telling his friends, "A black man was shot, but he should have been shot. What was he doing anyway?"
This comment was made after hearing news reports of the police shooting of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, OK. Crutcher was seen in the video with his hands up and it has been confirmed that he was unarmed.
This was a brother, a son, a father, a man- a valued life.

How could anyone rejoice in murder in cold blood?
I was headed home but didn't feel like America was home anymore.

Sitting in an airport in a city that I love like home, in a country I love calling home, preparing to go to my beloved home, but accepting that this world just isn't our home.

Airport conversations cause great pause.

My heart is broken.
My soul is tired.
My tears are endless.
I weep for black lives that seem to be the next 'endangered species.'
I weep for police officers that have been gunned down as they have served their communities.
I weep for the gay community that was attacked in Florida.
I weep for public servants who are either overworked and underpaid, who are often judged and feared or wrongly accused, under appreciated and killed in the line of duty.

I also weep for families whose loved ones have been killed by officers who are using their jobs as a playground for hate crimes instead of protecting lives and honoring the badge of service.
I weep for white lives.
I weep for yellow lives.
I weep for those sent to prison on trumped up charges.
I weep for those that assume that all white people are racists and for those that assume that all black people are racists.

I grieve for friends who dissolve relationships because they cannot handle having friends who share different political or religious views.

I weep for non-Christians who have not found the Saving Grace of knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and I weep for the persecuted Christians of the world.

I weep for young and old lives, sons of mothers and fathers and husbands to countless women who are gone too soon.

I weep for my husband and your husband, my brother and your brother and I weep for cousins and friends who could very well be the next victim. I weep that our country often victimizes the victims.

Instead of accepting blame, the truth is often turned on its head and innocent lives are snuffed out without cause because of presuppositions based upon fear or ignorance or racism.

I weep for waiting children who are hoping against hope in foster care to be adopted and feel misplaced and rejected.
What area of life do you feel out of place?
What are you waiting for?
I am waiting on equality for all men and women, for systems that protect everyone.
I am waiting on the global church to have a greater impact that places feet on the gospel that we preach.
I'm waiting on numbers to decrease in blacks being murdered and in deaths at the hand of police officers.
I'm waiting.
Discouraged but not deflated.

As an African American that takes pride in living in the United States which is a world filled with endless opportunities and one that has provided me many privileges, a great education, lasting relationships and appreciative exposure, but I no longer feel at home when I am not sure that my husband will return home each night safely.
I'm waiting on the African American man to stop being hunted.

The country that we love and call home doesn't feel like home anymore.
Are we really who we say we are?

Are we acting like "the land of the free and the home of the brave?"

Home is a term that typically brings on thoughts of refuge and peace or images of safety, warmth, unconditional love and acceptance.

What happens when home is not home anymore?

Some of you are reading this blog and may feel like you are in a season where you are rejected from your own 'home.'

Is that portrait of home symbolic for you of the job that you once loved where you no longer are welcomed or is it a church that you called home but now you are a stranger?  Is it a society that deems you invisible and invaluable or a relationship where you no longer feel relevant and heard?

Sometimes home never changes.
Sometimes our home changes regularly.
Sometimes it changes seasonally.
Sometimes our view of home changes because we change.
Other times, the hard truth about home is exposed and we are forced to sit in the tension of the mirror reflected of 'home.'
The American picture of home looks better in the prestigious frames of fairytale than it appears when we actually walk the great halls of its history and its modern-day reality.

I don't know if there has been any other time in my life that I have felt more like a citizen of heaven and less of a citizen of earth than right now.

I am comforted because this is not my home.
We should feel like strangers on our way to a better home, our permanent home with our loving Father God.

If you feel like you don't belong, know that you are in good company.
Guess what?

Jesus didn't feel at home in his own home of Nazareth.

Esther was a hidden Jew in a Persian palace.

The woman with the issue of blood couldn't be at home in her community due to sickness.

***Sometimes we must leave home in order to feel at home.

Popular songstress and R&B chart topper Beyonce, sings a powerful song entitled, "Listen." I love the empowering, sultry 'anthem' because everyone knows the frustration of having a voice and not being able to use it and the freedom of finding it and refusing for someone to take it away again.

It is a song that reflects the silent screams of a voice waiting to be heard.
It is a message that we too must develop courage to share, to be heard and to listen.

Dear America,
We have helped build a country that sees some of us but not all of us. We have educated your children, built your homes, supported your businesses, established businesses and institutions and empowered many generations even when we didn't feel empowered.

We are not a perfect people and like you, have sins and regrets that some of us have misplaced anger, have reacted out of rage for feeling unheard, have rioted or developed social entitlement, have been racists in acts or in thoughts, have ignored others and relied on enablers who have kept us from fully rising or have wanted or taken handouts. We have wrongly accused and judged, forgive us for violence, ignorance or naivety, but we also want you to acknowledge your sins as well, your institutional racism, exclusivity, violence, over aggressiveness and sin in acts or thoughts, your judgments, your misplaced anger, your fear and moments of over or under reacting, your societal amnesia and blindness, your arrogance and superiority complex, your enabling or moments of being enabled, your handouts given and taken, your riots, your passivity, your
mis-education of black people and the misrepresentation of many people, your naivety, ignorance, your one-sided-ness, hypocrisy, your passion to protect life in the womb and yet your rejection of some lives outside of the womb, your resources that have often been available but are under utilized and your system that is not intentional in protecting all.
Please. Listen.

May God grant each of us His mercy and forgiveness.
May we hear and see one another.

May we strive to live in peace on earth until we may live together at the feet of Jesus where suffering and sin will cease.

We are waiting for that great day.

God has prepared for all Christian believers 'a building not made by hands.'
My soul rejoices that it is a home that will not decay and will not become corrupt.
It is a home where I can take off mortality and put on immortality and a home where each of us will be leveled and death will die and the only view that will matter is the face of our Eternal Reconciler.

Today in a world of despair we can have hope that is an eschatological hope.

We cannot put our hope in people or things or in systems that are not built to protect everyone or provide the illusion of safety but are deadly and dangerous.

We must redefine what home is.
If our hope is built on anything less than Jesus Christ, then our home will perish.

As Americans, home can not be based solely on people that are occupying it.
It cannot solely be based on patriotism, pedigree or popularity.
It can not be a place that we have established. Those homes are fleeting.
Home is my safe place, but my earthly home is subjected to weather damage and burglaries, but my heavenly home is secure.

As Christians we must remember what the word of God says we should build our homes with and by what means it should be established.
Proverbs 24:3-4
Proverbs 3:5-6
Proverbs 3:33

Even when we are hurting we are hopeful because We have a home where God abides and is preparing to receive us unto Himself. John 14:3

Long for it.
We weep and wait.
We will grieve, share, pray for one another, speak up, support one another, hear views that are different and legislate.
We must not be silent.
Let us hope in the midst of hurting.
Let us see God even in the midst of despair.
May we long for home.
We are only passing through.

Dear Lord,
Hear our prayers, interpret the silent groaning of our hearts and show your compassion even now.
Make us One in the Spirit. Teach us to live in peace.
Help us to wait and long for you, precious King. Make us a reflection of your heart.
Thank you that we are only home in Christ.
We wait for you.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Oh Samson! (Life Observations from our Lab) *National Dog Day

Yesterday was #NationalDogDay.
Dog lovers rejoice!

I hope you enjoyed some time with your best pet pals.

I love dogs and you are bound to come across indicators of my favorite furry friend, Samson Augustine Robinson, in conversations with me or on some days in social media posting. He has my heart.

My husband named him and I'm sure you can tell that Samson was named by a minister who is also a historian.
This is my first dog to have a middle name.
I'm an Augustine fan, so I won't complain.

Samson is handsome, loving, kind, smart and strong. Very strong!

He adds sunshine to our home.
He is our "son" and our strong sun child.
He certainly lives up to his biblical name.
One moment he is sweet and one moment he is not.
One moment he is calm, obedient, cuddling or running happily and another moment he is looking like a busy, out of control cartoon character or wild child.

We are smiling one moment with him and chasing him another moment.
Rewarding one second and correcting the next second.
Proud of him. Then frustrated by him.

Samson reminds us of ourselves.
He is imperfect.
He is curious.
Making mistakes.
Being good. Being bad.
Enjoying life.
Being rewarded.
Being corrected.
Learning who he is.
Coming to understand his limitations.
Unlocking his potential.

That is the story of most dogs.
I have had about 7 to 8 dogs in my lifetime but this one is the first one that I've reared with my husband, so he is extra special to us.
Besides, we have a soft spot for Labs.

What joy the development of pets bring puppy parents.

As one of Samson's pet parents, I find it unusual that he can have so much strength and yet have had many vulnerable moments that have called into question his awareness of his own power.

I've seen him very aggressive when he is in protective mode and I've seen him run away from bullying neighborhood cats.

I've seen him run confidently through the yard and neighborhood and I've seen him be chased out of his own yard by strays.
We have often stood in our kitchen watching him out of our window in the backyard and are bewildered because Samson is a big dog whose presence is commanding, but sometimes he doesn't know his own strength.

He has the power to scare off intruders with his big teeth and loud bark but often resists chasing away intruding animals in our yard or is protective or defensively asserting himself at the wrong time.

Labs are considered America's most popular breed. They are bred to be intelligent, agile and friendly working dogs.
They enjoy having a job to do.
They love swimming, fetching, helping hunters or fisherman and take pride in pleasing their master.

Ours is the same way. He thinks, works, runs, plays, protects and strives to please. He is also coming to understand that in his circle of neighborhood furry friends, he has nothing to fear.
It would be like the lion being afraid in the jungle. He's learning something about power.
The trouble comes when Samson forgets this: 1. Power is often abused. 2. Power is misappropriated or 3. Power is under utilized.

How are each of us like Samson?

Are we striving to please our Master in heaven?
Are we fully aware of the power that we have been given through Jesus Christ?
Do we exhibit power in some things and act like cowards when we are afraid?
Are we allowing circumstances to overwhelm us and chase us away when we have the power to stand?
Are we 'barking' at the wrong people at the wrong time?

Are we being bullied when we really are stronger than our enemy?

Don't spend another day living beneath your potential.

Know what you were born to do and to be.
Live with boundaries.
Work. Play. Live intelligently and with purpose, but be sure to know your power.
Don't apologize for it.
Don't ignore it
Don't abuse it.
Don't fear it.
Just dedicate each day to using it.

Jesus died on Calvary, but didn't stay dead.
Jesus got up from the grave in victory!
That same power is at work in you and me.
Why have phone chargers if you never use them?
Why have lamps if you never turn them on?
Why would we be a Christian and never use the power given to us?
Tap into your power today.
Know who (and whose) you are.

The world celebrates dogs this week and so do I.

But the greatest celebration takes place every day of every week and year.
Celebrate the power of Christ made available to you and me.


Dear Father,
Forgive us for abusing or under utilizing the power you have given us.
Make us faithful in striving to please you and thank you for moments of grace and everyday life illustrations that remind us of your amazing patience, love, commitment and mercy given to us.
Thank you for granting us your power in Jesus name. Amen.

Friday, July 1, 2016

What's Happening To Me?

There are pictures of change all around us and within us. Change is in the world, in politics, in ministry, in friendships, in the media, in entertainment and reflected in our private plans and hectic lives.

Change is surprising!

I have disliked coffee for all of my life.
Loved the aroma, but despised the taste of it. It use to taste like 'dirty water' to me.

Now, I can't get enough of it. This year has been filled with finding glorious coffee shops with the most delicious and robust coffee that you can imagine. I have gained my 'coffee lover' badge since this time last year and can hardly start the day, a mentoring or study session without it now.

What's happening to me?

I would pray as a kid that our mother would not prepare beets as one of the vegetables with our dinner. It tasted like 'the earth' to me. Mom is an excellent cook, but nothing in the world made beets appetizing to me. I always preferred Mom's mac and cheese or green beans as a side dish but Wow have things changed!

Now, at 40 plus, I can't get enough of beets.
They have become one of my all time favorites.
I like them cold on salads or warm with goat cheese and toasted pecans.
What in the world is happening to my palate?

Since we are being honest about the transitions of taste buds, I recall not really enjoying the taste of salmon as a young adult. Imagine that! I always preferred milder, white fish. Now, I have found that grilled, blackened or broiled salmon are my first choices on a menu at a seafood restaurant.

Again, I say, "What is happening to me?"
Now I try to eat more of what makes my body feel good.

Changes are taking place in my food choices, but also in other areas of life.

After the hard work of seminary studies (10 years ago), I vowed that I would never go back to school. My mind and body were exhausted after a 120 hour Master of Divinity degree. Although it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, I couldn't imagine putting myself through that type of sacrificial, mental stretching again.

Well guess what? I was recently accepted into a reputable and rigorous doctoral program and now I'm preparing to enter a season of supreme academic preparation and dedication. My mind craves the stretching that I once ran from.

What's really going on? 

I'll tell you what's happening. I'm changing and it's OK!
It's necessary.
It's apart of our life cycle. 

Change is growth! 

Dr. M. L. King said, "Change is now."
It must be urgent.
If not, our lives will never progress.

Things that I use to pass up are suddenly things that I now prefer.

Changes are happening in my taste buds, in my health, in my professional and academic goals, and even in my faith.

I have often waited to move in faith, especially as a teenager, because I was relying on the opinions of people to validate my faith moves.

I often waited for things to be logical or understood before I stepped out in faith, but now, things are different.  Really different!

I'm enjoying the new me. The process of discovery and the journey. I am experiencing rewards of faith, tests of faith and heart break that is associated with change.

Change involves loss.
To miss that is to live in la-la land.
Don't do it!

Change can help and change can hurt, but even with the difficulties associated with change, it propels. What it produces is far greater.

Be not discouraged when change causes your faith to be stretched like never before or when God allows stretching to strengthen you.

Every jump in life takes courage, prayer, obedience and God's help.

I shared some painful, personal information with a close friend recently and she said, "I can't believe you aren't crying. You have become a big girl."
I smiled and gave God praise because 20 years ago I would have fallen apart. This was a major growth moment. Glory for God-glorifying grace moments like that!  There are still things that can upset me, but now I see the value in trusting God even in tough moments because He always works it out. (Romans 8:28)

Although there are still many areas that are under construction in my life, moving in faith is now something that I strive to do even when I don't understand God's leading.
Do I still become fearful? Yes.
Do I often wrestle with God's decisions when it pushes me to make moves that will force me out of my comfort zone? Indeed!

However, we all come to a place in life will we have to choose change even when it makes us face our future of uncertainty with hope and trembling.
To be nervous is fine but keep it moving!

Change is a grace gift. Embrace it!
It will not be done being fearful.

Change confirms and catapults.

Paul experienced change. From enemy of Christians, to forerunner of our faith.
Esther experienced change. From orphan to queen!
Change separates those that say they have faith from those that actualize their faith.

We are changed to become agents of change!
Flex your faith today.
Mandela, Gandhi and Church Fathers did it.
Langston Hughes and Harriet Tubman did it and you can too.

Faith breeds change, but know that change is uncomfortable and has rewards, risks and consequences.

Trailblazing is not comfortable.
Serving and leading is not comfortable.
Marriage is not comfortable.
Singleness is not comfortable.
Having a voice for social justice or standing for right is not comfortable.

Working in the home is not comfortable and neither is working in corporate America or ministry.

To walk in faith is to embrace a life of anything but comfort.
It is to be open to change. The Bible urges change. The question is, "Do we?"
Ecclesiastes 3:1

I am always reminded of God's faithfulness in each season and see that His character continues to be immutable.

We can relax in embracing changes because life is always changing and so are we, but Jesus is the same and THAT will never change.
Hebrews 13:8

I am deeply comforted by that truth.

Have you reached a place in your life where you are becoming everything that you didn't want to be or didn't see yourself becoming? Or are you becoming the man or woman that you were afraid to become but always wanted to be?

Were you the shy one in the family but now you speak up?

Were you the lazy one but now you are the most hardworking one on your team?
Were you the one very easily frazzled and now you stand with a smile in the storm?
Were you the one afraid to move from your home town but now you are enjoying living where ever God sends you?
Were you afraid to start a business or to go to school and now you are flourishing in obeying God's next steps in your life?

Did you resist drinking water, eating fresh fruit and veggies or despised planning to exercise, but now you are proud to be making smarter health choices?

Isn't it amazing to wake up on your journey and see that we look, feel, taste and dream much differently?  All of our senses are evolving and so are our perspectives, personality and plans.

It's OK. Change with changing times. Change with changing relationships. Change with changing fashion trends, culinary creations, personal plans and personal goals.

Don't consider yourself abnormal. Consider yourself human.
The world is evolving and so should we.

Change protects us from the prison of regret and the jail of superficiality and familiarity.

If we looked the same at 21, 35, 46 or 60 that we looked at 5 or 10 years old, then there would be a clear sign that growth was interrupted.

The same is true with learning. If we stop reading, our minds will become out of shape.
If we stop exercising faith, our faith will become flabby.

Change on purpose. The future you needs it.  The world deserves it. God requires it.

Dr. Robert Smith, Jr urges bible students around the world to "never retard your growth."
Choose growth through change.

As as we change, be sure to cling to the One that never will.
What is God asking you to do?
"Arise! Be strong...and do it!"
Ezra 10:4

What's happening to me? Life is happening.
What's happening to each of us? Maturity is happening. God's will is happening.

God is happening to you and me and it's crazy, uncomfortable, wonderful, scary and feels so good! 

Say Hello to the new me and Hello to the new you.
Hello Change.
We welcome you. 

Dear Father, thank you for this season. Thank you for helping us to embrace change and to live out the faith that we believe. We honor you for Jesus who grew throughout His ministry. He came as a baby but completed His assignment as a man. Thank you for the portrait of His journey as fully God and fully man. Thank you for His steps from the crib to the cross.
Teach us to steward the maturation process of life with grace, dignity, integrity and flexibility.
Help us to trust you more. We give you praise for changes in us and around us, but we are most grateful that you will never change. Great is Your faithfulness!
In Jesus name, Amen!