I used to be afraid to talk about racism. I found myself believing that talking about this apparent problem was going against my faith; that somehow I couldn’t be a Christian and talk about this issue because it would mean that I would be on the side of causing division rather than unity.
Then I came to realize how foolish that was. So foolish that it sounded like I was saying that I was afraid to talk about sin because somehow talking about sin meant that I wasn’t talking about the loving God who offered forgiveness and grace.
Here is why I have been freed to talk about this issue: Because the root of racism isn’t institutional. The act of institutionalization of racism is the action of sinful hearts.
And here is what I have always known: We have a Savior who helps us confront our sin while offering us amazing, radical grace.
Racism didn’t appear out of thin air. And the U.S isn’t the only place that it takes place. Since the fall of man, disunity has been the pattern created. The construct of disunity based on one’s physical feature has continued to inform how one is treated. It’s real. And God isn’t caught off guard by it. He’s been dealing with it way before the U.S came into the picture. He’s simply sickened by it.
One because it’s sin. And two because it seeks to negate the work He has done for “everyone.” Not just fair skinned. Not dark skinned. Not wide nosed. Not thin nosed.
As believers, ones who have been renewed in our minds on how we view God and one another, we have been called to a ministry of reconciliation.
“One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in His death so that everyone could also be included in His life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people every lived on their own.
Because of this decision, we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong as you know. We certainly don’t look at Him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is create new….We’re Christ representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. (2 Corinthians 5: 14-20 MSG)
Powerful passage that reminds us that we have been called to act, speak, think and live in such a way that brings the distance between a person and God closer while at the same time God drawing the distance between one another closer. It reminds us that the construct of race as a dividing factor can longer be upheld as believers. It reminds us that race can’t be our idol.
There are many conversations that have erupted because of racism. And the enemy is so cunning with where he wants this conversation to lead humanity. However, we can’t be led to where he wants us to go—which is a constant state of division.
So that’s why we as believers have to talk about racism…
Let’s talk about it because we as believers will be confronted by it in our lives and we have to know how to respond.
Let’s talk about it not for the sake of stirring up hate and division but as believers, if we don’t, it will stir hate and division.
Let’s talk about it because its ugly head has made its way into the body of Christ and if we as His body can’t even take on the ministry of reconciliation we are called to take on, then who will?
Let’s talk about it because we have seen the power of the Gospel change our hearts and minds towards one another and we have seen Love overcome and now this message burns in our hearts for the world.
Let’s talk about it because God calls us to be the voice of those who are still victims of this sin.
Let’s talk about it because it’s darkness and our actions bring light. Why are we hiding our light under a bushel?
Let’s talk about it because we believe God can use us to deconstruct individual minds that can eventually change institutions.
Let’s talk about it because we believe that His Gospel doesn’t stop at just preaching Jesus, it’s living Jesus. And I don’t know if you’ve read the book of the gospels because you would know that Christ talked about what others tried to hide from: SIN.
We don’t have to be afraid. God isn’t intimated by this conversation. He actually would love to give us the wisdom and the grace to bring light to this so that His work can be seen in greater measures through us. He wants to make sure our conversations and actions are motivated by His love because our responsibility is to make sure that our righteous indignation doesn’t morph into self-righteousness which eventually turns into hateful actions.
These are serious times. While the enemy wreaks havoc in this world, we as believers can’t sit back and be OK with it. If there was ever a time that we need God’s presence in our individual lives AND our churches, it’s now. We have to increase our capacity to receive God’s love so that we don’t grow cold and bitter. We have to increase our sensitivity to the Spirit of God so that can fight this battle that isn’t against flesh and blood but against principalities and dark forces. He’s given us the weapons. We just have to know how to use them.
The world is dying to see what true reconciliation looks like and we as ambassadors of reconciliation have the power to show it to them through the way we come together in unity. There is so much work to be done but we have to privilege of moving the needle forward.
There is so much more I desire to say and desire to write but I will wait for another post so that I can leave you with the WORDS that truly matter: God’s Word. Here is what Jesus prays in John 17:
“I’m praying not only for them [disciples]
But also for those who will believe in me
Because of them and their witness about me.
The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind-
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us.
Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they will be as unified and together as we are-
I in them and you in me.
Then they’ll be mature in this oneness.
And give the godless world evidence.
That you’ve sent me and loved them.
In the same you’ve loved me.”
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD (Isaiah 55:8).
The more breaths He allows me to take, the more appreciation I gain for this declaration!
Three years ago, I knew that God had put the desire in me to have a retreat for WITHIN Ministry. I saw it clear as day. My heart would beat faster whenever I would think about it. Ladies gathering for a weekend, seeking the Lord. Fellowshipping with one another. Hearts being transformed. Memories being made. I saw how it beautiful that would be! So I put it to prayer and put my hands to work.
Two attempts. Two different years. Two different approaches. None went through. I didn’t understand. Why wasn’t God giving me the go for the plans I had created that would allow close to 75 ladies to come together and grow in the Lord? Why would He continue growing this desire within me but thwart the plans I would create to execute it?
I began feeling like I wasn’t hearing Him anymore. I became discouraged and eventually tucked away the plans and tried to suppress the desire.
Then the weekend of November 15th 2014 happened. I was invited to speak at a young ladies’ “Sisterhood” Retreat in Texas. An intimate group of close to 25 ladies came together and encountered an amazing time in the Lord and with one another.
At one point, we were sitting on the floor going around sharing and laughing, when all of a sudden, it was like the eyes of my heart were opened! That moment, a clear understanding of this desire that God put in me illuminated. THIS is how the Lord wanted it. The word “INTIMATE” rang loud in my ears.
I slept that night with a revived passion for the WITHIN retreat because it felt like I finally heard God’s desire for the retreat. Not my understanding of how it should be.
Because truth be told…I thought it should have been 75 ladies. A large group. A lot of activities. A lot of structure.
I thought it should have been collaborated with other ministries.
I thought it should have been….
But God gently allowed blocks on the road from fulfilling those “should have beens” to what NEEDED be:
Intimate. Personal. Intentional.
And not because retreats can’t be a large group, but because that was not what God had desired for WITHIN Ministry.
And now I know why…
Three years later from when this desire was planted, “COME AWAY” retreat took place.
Words can’t and won’t adequately describe how the Lord met 20 ladies gathered in a lodge up in the Poconos Mountain the weekend of May 29-31st, but I will say this: We came, never anticipating what took place. We left, never to return the way we came.
His ways are truly higher than our ways. All weekend, I thanked God for loving these ladies SO much that He wouldn’t allow any other plan to go through because of the great plan He had prepared for them, since the foundation of this world! Mind blowing! How humbling to know that this ministry would be a part of each of these women of valor’s story!
God really does exceedingly and abundantly ALL that we could ever THINK or IMAGINE and I am forever grateful.
I pray that you are encouraged by this. Even the desires that God puts within you must be heeded to the way HE desires for them to be done through you. Trust that He will guide you as you put your hands to work. Just make sure you obey when He says NOT now. And NOT this way, because here is what I’ve learned: He knows what He’s doing;-)
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthian 2:9)
Here are some pictures from our “COME AWAY” retreat to give you a glimpse of what we experienced:
Many things in life will either FILL us or DRAIN us. I’ve desginated Fridays as “Filling Fridays” to share with you all things that have filled my soul, spirit, and life and I pray they do the same for you. Sometimes it’s music. It can be a book. It can be art. Whatever it is, the hope is that it will FILL you with something GOOD!
This week, I want to share a singer/worshipper who has been blessing my socks off!! Her voice is out of this world and her lyrics are piercing! Her name is Morgan Harper Nichols (sister of Jamie Grace) and her new album called “StoryTeller” just came out and all I have to say is GET IT! This will FILL you reeeeeaaaal Good! This song posted is one of my favorites!
Set deep in our hearts
To long for the things that this world can’t satisfy.
Forever is what we were created for
But somewhere along the way
We thought it could be fixed with just the idea of
A more that runs out when expectations aren’t met
A more that runs dry the moment promises aren’t kept
A more that doesn’t satisfy the forever built into our hearts
It’s that forever kind of love meant to be felt
Forever in sickness
Forever in health
Forever in stubbornness
Forever in discouragement
Forever in lack
Forever in abundance
Forever when we run away
Forever when we run back
Forever when we keep our promises
Forever when we break them.
Forever when we fall.
Forever when we get back up.
Grateful that my lack of always
Never diminishes Your forever.
Always & Forever.
That kind of Love
Is what we were created for.
So don’t cut it off thinking you aren’t worth more.
Always & Forever
And He[Jesus] asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22“It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” 23And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief…(Mark 9:21-23)
This man was desperate.
Can you imagine seeing your son in anguish from being demon-possessed since childhood? Being thrown in the fire and water? Knowing that every day you woke up, you faced the reality that today could be your child’s last day?
He had heard of Jesus and all the miracles he performed and now, Jesus was so close. Close enough to hear his voice as he shouted over the crowd to get his attention.
And he did.
Finally, there was a glimmer of hope that his son could be healed. But fear gripped him. Perhaps it was because before he approached Jesus, he thought the disciples who had been with Jesus could have healed him. But that was a failed expectation. An expectation that he wasn’t completely sure if Jesus could meet as well, but he had to try. So he did and this is how:
“But IF You can do anything…”
Immediately Jesus responded to this man’s hesitancy.
“If You can?” All things are possible to those who believe. (Mark 9:23)
I don’t believe Jesus responded this way to condone this man’s hesitancy. I believe it was to simply remind him that while he faced the disappointment of failed expectations by man, Jesus’ ability is never confined to an “if you can” because He always can. It’s only confined to our ability to believe that He can.
So instead what He says to us is “If you believe.”
Now here is the part that I am constantly blessed by. The man assures Jesus that he believes. AND at the same time, he still needed help overcoming the battle of doubt within.
“I believe…but help me overcome my unbelief.”
Wow! What courage it took to say that to Jesus.
He could have simply said “I believe” to appease what Jesus had just said to him. But He couldn’t shake off the reality of the battle within that would remind him of all that he had been enduring for the past years. And because those memories would rise up, He knew that if Jesus were able to heal his son, then unbelief wouldn’t intimidate Him. Surely, He could heal him of that as well
I love the honesty of this man! I’m encouraged by it. And it allows me to get a glimpse of what an intimate relationship with God could look like.
As you read further on, you see how Jesus responded. Jesus didn’t scold him, He honored his honesty. He appreciated it and desired to use it to show Himself strong.
Here is what I have learned from this story:
Jesus honors our humanity and in that, He honors our honesty. He honors our vulnerability in confessing our doubts at times. He honors our desire to want to believe Him while in the midst of facing our reality.
All of us experience different realities. And Jesus isn’t naïve to them. He doesn’t downplay them. He doesn’t laugh at them. He is compassionate towards them.
And in His compassion, He wants us to know that He takes delight in being Believed at Who He says He is and WHAT He says He can do in our lives.
While He wants desperation to drive us to Him, He doesn’t want fear to keep us from believing IN Him and most importantly believing HIM.
I encourage you to keep being real with Him. Keep standing on your belief while confessing your unbelief to Him. I believe that the more we do that, the deeper our relationship goes in Him and the more our unbelief will turn to belief.
He loves us deeply and He longs to be so real to us. Keep giving Him the chance!
May these words encourage you:
God’s way…it’s not for the faint hearted. I’ve wanted to quit. I thought it easier to entertain my own ambitions. And they weren’t bad ambitions. They were just MY ambitions.
But then I’m reminded that when I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior, I exchanged my life. I surrendered it. My life is no longer mine. I’ve acknowledged a greater story.
And this Story has a path set out for me. For you. That’s right…a path prepared, since the foundation of this earth. Hard to grasp in my finite mind.
There have been many paths that seemed right but led to the death of my mind. My spirit and my soul.
But God’s way …it’s a way paved with love. A way filled with grace pits. A way guarded by mercy rails.
A way leading to healing. wholeness. wisdom.
A way of life.
Life ever-lasting. Life that keeps on giving. Life that fulfills.
And on this path, our lives are at the mercy of His leading. On this path, there are imperishable treasures found in each step. They don’t fade, nor do they rot.
God’s way. We are blessed when we seek to walk on it. To stay on it. To share it.
God’s way. It’s not for the faint hearted. Oh, but it’s so worth it.
Keep at it.
It’s 2015! I thought we would be in cool robotic looking outfits by now….but….I guess I can thank God that we aren’t!
This time of the year always brings in excitement. New Goals. New Vision. New Things. New You. Just all together NEW!
The promises of “THIS is YOUR year!”
“This is the year of turn-around!”
“This is the year of manifestation!”
“This is the year of growth!”
“This is the year of…you fill in the blank.”
And I in no way want to sound cynical…it’s just that I no longer really pay attention to those sayings any more.
The truth is…
I have NO idea what this year holds for me. I have no idea what I will encounter. I really have no idea what to really put my hands to. So many times I’ve fallen under the pressure of forcing myself to envision something because everyone else had this vision and this goal and this plan.
Last year, in the beginning of the year, I fell into a period of anxiety and depression because I had allowed that kind of pressure to get the best of me. And how did I find myself?
I couldn’t put my hands to anything because I was so overwhelmed by all that I had on my plate and I felt like I had to keep doing more.
I learned a big lesson in 2014 and I vowed that I wouldn’t bring it into this year.
I vowed that every year, my vision will be to draw closer and deeper in the Lord, for that is where my life and everything pertaining to it flows from.
I vowed to remind myself that doing more doesn’t mean I mean more to Him.
I vowed to keep my visions and plans prayerfully before Him before setting out to do any of them.
I vowed that I will no longer drive myself to worry and anxiety because I couldn’t see what the future held for me.
Last year, fear drove me to a place I didn’t want to be. But I thank God His love drove me closer to Him so I could be wiser.
This year, I will no longer let fear drive me just because I don’t know what this year holds or I don’t know what direction to really go. And as weird as it sounds…I am excited about not knowing!
I will remain faithful to where He has planted me and rest assured that His Word will be a lamp unto my feet- giving me enough light to step in the right direction. I am at the mercy of His leading. That’s how much I need Him.
This is my verse for this year and I will hold on to it for dear life:
The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)
The peace that comes in knowing that my God has already paved the way is amazing. He’s gone where I will go. All I need to do is hold on to His hands and let Him take me to the uncharted territories that He’s charted for me. So I don’t need to be afraid or discouraged when things don’t seem to be going the way I had envisioned.
So here is to 2015…a year filled with faith adventures. A year where you can strip off the unrealistic expectations of doing more and learn to BE more in Him so you can DO more of what He desires for you to do.
16 years ago, I sat in the pews of chapel at my boarding school and struggled to understand what the preacher was talking about.
My mind hadn’t grasped who Jesus was. I had heard the stories of what He did for us and how He died for us. But if you were to ask me then what they really meant for me, I couldn’t tell you.
I sat confused.
16 years later, I live amazed by Him and I live for Him. Not that I have figured Him out completely, but within those years, my eyes, my ears, my heart and my life opened up to know God. His love. His grace. His mercy. His ways. His word.
Someone recently asked me how I manage to stay this committed? How did I get to where I am in God?
I had asked myself that question once before, but I think this was the first time I received such a deep revelation about God and what a relationship with Him means.
I could have easily answered my friend by saying it was through reading my Word + praying + going to church+ going to conferences+ worshiping + doing good deeds + [whatever fits] equaled a closer relationship with God.
But that would be FAR from the truth.
As I sat to think about this question and reflect on my journey, one simple truth resonated in my heart:
There is NO formula to a relationship with God.
God is far from a formulaic equation. He goes beyond that kind of limitation.
Formulas are predictable. Our lives are NOT.
A relationship with God isn’t a 1-2-3 step program, nor is it a check off the list kind of task.
You don’t arrive because you followed a tutorial.
I don’t know if you have read the bible, but if we have an honest look at those whom God chose to tell us about, they don’t have pretty and primped stories. No. They were messy. Complicated. Dramatic. Gut-wrenching stories.
Consider David, whom God called a “man after His own heart.” Committed adultery. Committed murder. Committed rebellion. Yet he captured God’s heart.
Consider Peter, who denied Jesus 3 times. Not at different points in his life. No, it happened one after the other, in one setting. Yet, Jesus said He would build His church upon the fact that Peter had the revelation that Jesus was the Son of God.
Consider the woman caught in adultery. Brought to Jesus by the teachers of the law because what she had done was damnable. Yet, Jesus spoke these words that would forever change the trajectory of her life: “Neither do I condemn you…” (John 8:11)
I don’t know about you but the way God responds to each of these lives is outside of any formula. It’s within the heart of that person. Unique. Tailor-made.
His love doesn’t respond to formula. It responds to desperation. It responds to hunger. It responds to the cries of our individual and unique hearts for the more that we didn’t even know we needed until our eyes were pried open to this light, this love, this touch that felt different from any other thing we had ever chased.
He responds to our everyday mess-ups. Failures. Disobedience. Rebellion.
Jesus responds to those who are looking for an answer. Not to those who think they know HOW to find that answer.
So how do I stay committed?
I keep living. I keep walking. I keep waking up every day in NEED of Him. I keep running back even when I want to run away. I keep seeing and experiencing His love for me and that has made me run faster and faster back to Him.
I think the great philosopher and theologian, Augustine of Hippo, said it best when he wrote:
“To fall in love with God is the greatest romance; to seek Him the greatest adventure; to find Him, the greatest human achievement.”
I have fallen in love with my Savior. And that has made all the difference.
So BE FREE with your Savior. Remove the formulas and receive the Free Love of God.
I never wanted to believe it when people would tell me that there were some opportunities that present themselves that would never present themselves again if not taken at that moment.
In my mind, I thought, well if God wanted me to have it, then it would come again. And I learned more recently, that it isn’t all the way true. Because, there are some opportunities that when God gives it to you, it’s because the impact it has for that moment can’t be duplicated. It’s for that NOW. And yes, God can redeem it but it won’t have the same impact that it could have had.
Here is my story:
I have a colleague who has been sick for a while now. One day, I was running late to work and ended up parking in the garage that I normally don’t park in but because of the way I think, I told God, “Well…I’m late. I guess you should use me even in my tardiness.”
Be careful what you tell God to do. He will do it. And He did.
As I pull in, I see my co-worker whom I admire very much and enjoy talking to and learning form because of the person that they are. Brilliant in thought. Humorous. Hard worker. And…for the past 5 years, I’ve known that God had a hand on his life whether he really knew it or not.
We ended up parking next to each other and walked and talked till we got to the elevator. As he’s talking, Holy Spirit said to me, “Tell him you want to pray for him and that you believe in the power of healing.” Now…when I heard this, it made sense to me because of what I had been experiencing in God at that point. I had been studying healing and have been asking God for opportunities to pray and believe for healing for people. And it seemed like this was one of those opportunities.
Fear set in. Flesh set in. Thoughts of feeling as if that would just be too weird set in. I couldn’t see myself stopping in the middle of this garage deck and laying hands on him.
And so as we are talking about his health, my spirit is screaming, “PRAY.”
My flesh is screaming “NOT NOW”.
And within that split second, I missed the opportunity.
I walked away ashamed. Asking God to forgive me. And He did. But it still stung.
Fast forward a day ago when I find out that this same co-worker was diagnosed with bone cancer.
My heart hurt for him. I cried that he had to go through this. And the Lord quickly reminded me of that moment in that garage deck where I had that opportunity to pray for him.
What IF I had done it? What IF that moment could have kept this moment from happening?
And you know what…I could live in the WHAT IF’s and wallow in guilt. But that’s not what God wanted. I knew that in that moment when God reminded me of that time, it was so that I received the urgency of the NOWs that God gives us in doing something OUTSIDE of fear, for His glory.
He says in His word:
“As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4, NIV).
God will redeem this. I know He will because now there will be opportunities to pray for him and share Jesus with him in these next moments of his journey. I still believe for healing. Still believing that God will use this illness to draw him closer.
But that other time will NEVER come again. And yes, a part of me still wonders. But now more of me says, I will be ready for the next opportunity. I will do the work that he sends me to do.
AND, for that to happen, I need to remain in His presence so I can be sensitive to His presence in my daily walk and let go of the fear of looking weird. Being rejected. Or any other nonsense. And you know what puts that more into perspective for me? When I know that we have brothers and sisters being persecuted and beheaded in the Middle East all for the cause of Christ! And we can’t even pray for people?
These times are serious. If I’ve ever believed that, it is NOW.
God is moving. God is shaking this Earth so that His sons and daughters can wake up and start PROCLAIMING who He is in all parts of life. In our jobs. Homes. Communities. Schools. Everywhere we are. He is.
And God WILL show up! I promise you. He WILL show up. Believe Him and trust that He wants to use you NOW!
Because as hard as it is to say, some opportunities will never come again.