Wednesday, November 25, 2015

When Being Grateful Isn't Easy

Reading scriptures like 1 Thessalonians 5:18 that tell us to “give thanks in all circumstances” is at
face value easy. My family and I know this all too well as it was only two short years ago when we were sleeping on the floor in one room of a family member’s house, crying out to the Lord, struggling to say thank you. Struggling to lift our hands. Struggling to even want to go to church, to pray, or to say much of anything to anyone for fear of having to explain what we believed God was doing.

When trying times come, saying thank you to anyone let alone God can become hard to say.  And if we are honest, for some of us, life has had its toll on us! For others, things just aren’t quite where we would like to be and we are wondering when the breakthrough will take place. And others of us say thank you out of habit. But there’s no root or sincerity backing our thank you. It’s just a religious practice. We say thank you as a protocol, just because, or we know that in doing so we will be blessed or somehow set a part; however, in reality you’re no better off than the person who struggles to say thank you. 

The bottom line is that our country, the United States of America, struggles with gratitude.  Well, let me present it this way. One study found this: “Americans are very grateful and they think gratitude is important—they’re just not very good at expressing it.” The study went on to say that women are more grateful than men, that most people thought that gratitude in our nation was declining, that associating oneself with religion birthed more gratefulness, married people were more grateful than single people and that 18-24 year olds express gratitude the least of all. 

Here’s what’s happening.

We admittedly as people measure gratefulness by what we have. The single person reportedly being not as grateful as a married person or the thought  that 18-24 year olds are ungrateful comes from a tangible place when our “inner gratefulness meter” which measures how grateful we are or are not can’t be based upon anything we have including the people in our lives.

A dear friend and mentor, Dr. Thomas Muhomba, once mentioned this very thing. We had a long conversation, almost debate about the blessings of God.  The conversation was around what the definition of a blessing is.  I began to list examples i.e. someone blessing you with money or a car or healing, etc. And it was then that Dr. Muhomba told this story. He said: "one time, my wife and I were scheduled to go to back home to Africa and it was important that we get there. God knew that we needed to get there.  After weeks of waiting, one day, we came home to thousands of dollars sitting at our door in an envelope. And it was at that time that I thanked God for being God. Because when I’m in Him, certain things are already promised to me. And He promised to take care of me.”

God has promised to take care of you. So even in your worst seasons, God is still caring for you. How do I know? Because you and I are still here! It didn’t kill you, it built you. And if you’re in something now, where the burden is too great to bear, transfer the weight to the one who can carry it. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. 

My husband and I made a transfer. And towards the end of the seemingly three long months of sleeping on the floor, we cried out to the Lord. We cried out with a resounding voice in gratefulness. Lord thank you for keeping me! Thank you for keeping our children! Thank you for opening doors! Thank you that we’ve had food to eat! Thank you for family providing a place for us to lay our heads and help us transition! Thank you for my marriage! Thank you for laughter! Thank you for being God! Because we deserve nothing! But you deserve everything!

Now, you begin to open up your mouth and thank and praise God that you’re still here; for His keeping power! Thank Him for the little things! Thank Him for the one bedroom floor that you’re sleeping on! Thank Him for your family! Because even at your worst, God is still taking care of you. Whether you're on the mountain top or the valley low, your praise should remain constant because it's not conditioned upon anything tangible. It’s more than “thank you”. Gratefulness assumes the posture of being indebted and obligated to the one who is sure to fulfill His promises!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Why I Agree With Brelyn

Here’s why I agree with Brelyn. And it may not be as obvious as you think.

It’s been all over the news at this point.  Buzz Feed has covered it here, outlining some of the negative connotations that were associated with the bride, Brelyn Freeman (now Bowman) who received a certificate from her doctor stating that she was still a virgin, as her hymen had been examined.  She presented this certificate to her father, Dr. Mike Freeman, renowned Pastor of Spirit of Faith Christian Center  in Maryland, on her wedding day.  It was a covenant that she made before God and her father; one that she wanted to honor and did just that.

Many have wondered why her new husband Tim Bowman, Jr. , who is also a virgin, didn’t have to present anything, and they have been overly criticized to say the least.

Here are my thoughts. And why I know this world needs hope more than ever.

First, let me say that while my husband and I were not virgins when we met, we made a decision to remain celibate until marriage; a decision made based upon our relationship with God and our understanding of the scriptures as it pertains to fornication. My husband asked for my hand in marriage from my parents
My husband and I's first dance at our wedding: May 2007
out of respect for them and the high level of accountability that my family had and still does have that is rooted in love. It was by far one of the best decisions that I have ever made. God has allowed us to share our testimony to hundreds of teenagers and young adults over the years and it is an honor to have served God in that light.

And before you crucify me here – let me be clear. We have friends from all different walks of life. Some who love Jesus but chose to be intimate prior to marriage, some who lived together prior to marriage, some who had children prior to marriage, and there is nothing but love. Again, my husband and I made our decision based upon our love for one another and our love for God – which does not demean or lessen another’s love for one another even if they did things a different way. Our choice.

This leads me to their choice

While it may look like to some that my reasons for agreeing with her are my own personal choices and paths in life that seem similar in the foundation of our beliefs, that’s not solely the reason I agree with her. 

  1.       I agree with her because in a day and age     where role models are few and far and in  between – why not look up to someone who waited for marriage to encourage others that it’s possible?

  2.       I agree with her because in a day and time where people are making all kinds of choices and being celebrated, why can’t it be her choice to make?

3.       I agree with her because look at them: they are absolutely adorable! You can check out both of their twitter feeds (@brefree & @timbowmanjr) and you'll see love, fashion, travel, music, family, and God. What’s wrong with that? They present themselves relatable, not overly "churchy", and highly inspirational.
Brelyn & Tim Bowman

4.       I agree with her because I have a 7 year old girl and a 6 year old boy. And for any of us with children, whether we’ve made mistakes or seemed to have lived in what you deem perfection, deep down, you want this for your child.  I don’t care what walk of life you’ve come from. You don’t want them with sexually transmitted diseases, or having children out of wedlock, or touched inappropriately, or anything that could lead to overall heartache and heartbreak to come down their path.

So to everyone who said, what about the person who was raped? Or the person who was molested? Or the person who had unforeseen circumstances – that’s something that’s completely out of our control. And that was not the message here.  The message here was hope, purity, love, grace, and the power of God in a dying world. Try Him. You might like Him!

Congrats to Brelyn and Tim Bowman. Continue to #makejesusfamous  

Monday, September 28, 2015

Church, Wake Up!

Church, Wake Up. The people who once loved you are disdained by you. Frustrated. Perturbed. Angst within by what you stand for.

The people who you want to reach call you hypocrite. Not relatable. Judgmental. Confused.

I understand you pride yourself on diversity through denominations but you’re doing more dividing than bringing together. From every edge of the spectrum you’re representing with the loudest of voices. But what is it that people really see and hear?

There’s the “Kim Davis Christian” who refuses to sign a marriage license in the name of Jesus. There’s the “Social Injustice Christian” who wants to stand for righteousness, hash-tagging black lives matter, screaming justice for all. There’s the “Come and Sit in the Pew Christian” who hasn’t really found their place in the social club (I mean church) that they come to each week. They give, they serve, they love, but no one really bothers to even know their name. They just blend in.  There’s the “Play It Safe Christian”; doesn’t speak up about much of anything; the not quite sure where you stand, Christian. I could go on.

Church, Wake Up.

I still believe in your relevance. I still believe that you are the called out; the chosen; the bride of Christ. But you’ve lost your identity. No one knows who you are or what you stand for anymore. You’ve dissolved your existence in tradition, legalism, and a mere social outing, where we once were known for changing lives; for love, peace, tolerance, faith, hope: miracles.

I’ve written and re-written this post several times, and it all comes back the same.  Before we comment, like and share this one, I pray that we are more introspective; that we dig deep on this one, because you and I are the church. I pray that something stirs in you to stand up for truth, to love people deeper than you ever have and to find a united front in knowing that Jesus is real and is still relevant to a dying world; a world that needs hope; a world that needs you.

Church, please wake up. I say this with utmost sincerity and no criticism for what others may believe. But you that do: you believe because of what you know to be true. You have an “I once was lost but now I’m found story.” You believe this! You can still be relevant without being hypocritical. You can still love without judging. You can still be a leader without compromising and be effective. But the world is laughing at us. And they’ve lost respect.

Church, Wake UP!

The time will always be now. Change starts with us. Return back to the basics of what we once knew. Stop hiding from what your struggles are and face them head on. The world waits. “For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.” (Romans 8:19) Revival is coming. Let's be present when it gets here. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Dreamer, Wake Up!

This post is for the dreamer. You’ve dreamed so much that your friends now think you crazy. Irrational. Illogical. Again? You’re moving again? You’ve got a new job again? You’re transitioning again? Really?

Yes really.

This post is for the person who has seemed to fail. Go backwards. Not make good decisions. Take too many risks. Outlandish in their approach to life. It seems as if you’re never satisfied when really you yearn  and crave to be the best you ever produced.

Yes, this is for you.

I want you to know you’re not alone. I often look at my life and wonder why I’ve had to travel through the many places I’ve traveled. Why did my relationships have to go through so much trauma? Why did that opportunity lead to such distress?  Was I really supposed to do that? Was that really supposed to happen? Well if so then why did that end up like that?

Yes, it all had to happen.

After years of journeying, I’m starting to see things come full circle. I’m starting to dream again – and wherever you are on your journey, I want you to start dreaming again too.

Yes, it had to happen that way. Yes, it seemed unbearable. Yes, you almost died in it. Yes, you almost lost your mind.  Yes, even now at times, you question everything. But don’t stop dreaming.

It’s easy to name people who had to struggle that are now successful who are famous or well-known. But let’s be real. There are people every day taking risks for their family, daring to be different, to think on the edge of the box, to go the extra mile, to lose the weight, to start the business, to do something they’ve never done. Yes, regular people like you and me. If you’re reading this you can find yourself in one of three places when traveling this life:

1.       Depressed because things didn’t turn out the way you wanted.
2.       Detached because of all the hell you’ve been through.
3.       Determined that enough is enough!

I’m pulling for you.

It’s so easy to calculate the mistakes. It’s easier to sit and wallow and wonder than it is to actually do something about it.  It’s easier to remove yourself from what you’ve always really wanted to do for fear that it won’t actually ever happen. But somewhere deep down there is a light. That light burns for something different. It burns to dream. It’s silently screaming that now is the time. It’s tired of waiting. It’s ready to seize the moment. It doesn’t care if it fails again, because it would rather fail trying that to sit doing nothing. That kind of will is what we’ve all been waiting for. We’ve been waiting for you.

Come out!

It’s time. Dreamer, wake up. You’ve got more fight in you; more greatness in you; and everything you’ve been through is now your fuel for understanding towards the bigger picture. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. It was just a part of your journey. Your story. Your book. Your process. And you’re better for it.