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  • So Why Should I Be Ashamed?

    Shame and guilt are two powerful emotions. I think many of us have experiences from our childhood that shape who we are because of those moments of being laughed at, bullied, or even violated by others. If we are not careful, those emotions drive us to cover them up with addictions to food, sex, overspending, or other self-destructive behaviors. Guilt is about behavior. Shame is about how we see ourselves. We can change behavior but what happens when we don’t feel that we can change ourselves? One of the first examples of shame was in the book of Genesis in the Bible. Genesis 2: 25 states that “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” The serpent comes, twists what God said and based on inaccurate information, they made a decision. They went against God’s command and ate the fruit. In Chapter 3:7, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” 11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” Shame did not enter the lives of Adam and Eve until they were aware that they were exposed. In their discovery, the immediate response was to hide. They covered themselves and instead of addressing their vulnerability of being naked, they covered it up. God was obviously fine with their nakedness/vulnerability because they were created that way. Yet, we can see this as weakness instead of seeing it as the opportunity for freedom. For many of us, we do the exact same thing. We cover up our shame with layers of other issues that keep us weighted down and unable to really address what we are feeling. Isn’t it interesting that instead of taking responsibility, Adam blamed Eve for his decision? Shame often keeps us from looking in the mirror, afraid of what we’ll see or experience when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. We also hide not only from ourselves, but we hide from God. We allow our shame to keep us from being in relationship with God because we feel worthless, unacceptable, and dirty. Scholar Brene Brown researches guilt, shame and vulnerability. She says that shame is an “intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” We experience “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. When we feel dark emotions—when we feel grief or shame or fear, scarcity, disappointment—we feel risk and uncertainty, and we feel emotionally exposed and raw. But vulnerability is also the birthplace of love, joy, belonging, trust, intimacy, creativity, and all of the good things.” Vulnerability isn’t a bad thing. What would have happened if Adam had been honest about what occurred instead of hiding and blaming? What would have occurred if they both remained in their initial state, naked and without shame? God wants us to be in that space of openness and willingness to commune even when we want to retreat away from the pain. It is within those moments of transparency with God and with ourselves, that we can experience a deeper relationship. We can also change the narrative from one that the serpent gives us filled with inaccuracies about ourselves to one that is liberating, freeing, and honest.

  • Manifestation Begins in our Mouth

    Thank God for quiet moments to reflect. I had the opportunity to stay in bed and catch up on watching some of my favorite folks on YouTube which included an interview with a well-known rapper who discussed his quest for personal growth and self-reflection. As I listened to him, I realized that what he was saying was not so unusual but something we often fail to do. We do not realize the power of our thoughts and words. Words are powerful. One of the comments that he made resonated with me. Instead of viewing tasks as something that must be done, it is changing our view that we get to do them. It goes from being an obligation to taking our power back through the way we think, see the world, and speak. Every single day that we wake up is a gift and it is a blessing to have a job, a place to stay, food to eat and the list goes on and on. We get to make decisions every day about what we choose to do or not do. So often, we give our power away to our jobs, family members, and situations as if they control us. Even if they do in some way, we ultimately make the choice on how we will respond. The Bible says, “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.” (Proverbs 18:21 MSG) I love affirmations because there is power connected to the words, ‘I am’. In Exodus 3:14 God says to Moses that “I am who I am” and He said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you’”. The phrase ‘I am’ is powerful because it is in the present tense. It is not what I will be in the future or what I was in the past. The phrase ‘I am’ is even more impactful based on what it is connected to. If we add words like joyful, free, made in God’s image, kind, loving, it connects us to positive attributes. It also should make us mindful of what we say especially when we say “I am” ---We must pay attention to the fact of what are we connecting the God within us to our words, our thoughts, and actions. I think we would take our words more seriously if we realized the negative power we are placing over our lives when we say I am stupid, I am worthless, I am not as valuable. Even Jesus says multiple times “I am” when referencing his identity. He doesn’t talk about what he can do but who he is— “I am the bread of life” (John 6:22-59), “I am the true vine” (John 15:1-6) and “I am the door/good shepherd” (John 10:1-18). Our words would probably change if we really understood the power of our identity, too. It is amazing that in Genesis 1:3, God spoke destiny into existence. Every single day, you, too, are speaking your destiny into existence. You are manifesting your life by the words you say over yourself, your children, your future. If you keep believing the worst about yourself and others, you will find yourself surrounded by it—the results you receive will affirm your belief. You also cannot allow the words of others to inform your destiny when they chose to speak negatively over you. It is ultimately your choice to decide what you will embrace or exclude from your vocabulary and your mind. Your words can build your world or destroy it. The Bible warns us well on the power in our mouth: “Watch your words and hold your tongue; you’ll save yourself a lot of grief.” (Proverbs 21:23) Are your words condemning you (or others) or are they demonstrating that God lives within you? “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12: 37) Manifestation of what we desire begins in our mouth. Change your mind, change your mouth.

  • Made to be Different

    Spring is one of my favorite seasons of the year. Despite the need for significant antihistamines, I still enjoy talking walks and experiencing the beauty of blooming flowers. On Easter Sunday, my family and I had the chance to walk through an amazing park with so many beautiful flowers. One bush caught my attention because of one dark pink flower surrounded by an unlimited number of light pink flowers. It was indeed an anomaly. It stood out and its unique difference made it even more captivating. In a world that loves uniformity, it’s very easy to conform to become just like everyone else. There is this constant desire to fit in, to be accepted and even fly under the radar not to generate attention. With the exception of a few celebrities, most people become targets for standing out. We are taught from an early age to behave, dress, and think a certain way. When we do not comply with the standard, the consequences can result in being talked about, made fun of, isolated or even bullied. We conform because we do not want to be seen in a bad light. We want to be liked and if we feel as if our opinion goes against that of the group, for many, we are not willing to suffer the backlash that could result because of alternative points of view. Conformity isn’t always bad. It is problematic when we hide who we are and who we were created to be in order to receive acceptance especially from those who do not matter. When we blend in like everyone else, our uniqueness is diminished. In Romans 12:2, our focus should be on pleasing God: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Addressing conformity requires a change in the way we think and focusing on God’s will for our lives first. To fight this need, we must practice constantly checking our thoughts to determine if our actions are to seek approval from others. We are called to be different, to stand out. 13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16) What makes you different? Are striving to be what God designed and destined you to be or are you more concerned with fitting in so that others are not uncomfortable by your presence? Are you losing your flavor to fit? I hope this week you make it a habit to allow your light to shine bright. I hope that you are willing to blossom into the beautiful flower that you were created to be. I hope that you are determined to stand out in a sea of conformity radiating God’s purpose for your life. I pray that you will stand rooted in the knowledge that you were made to be different, that you were made to shine bright even if you are the only one.

  • Right now, justice looks like righteous anger in action

    This is a reprint of article I wrote published August 31, 2020 for the Baptist Standard. Right now, it’s hard for me to write. I’m triggered by the events of the past week in the video of 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario and the murder of Daunte Wright. I’ve discovered that in my moments of anger, grief, and fear for our lives, I had to step back and regroup. It can be overwhelming to see these scenes repeatedly and even remembering my personal experiences of encountering law enforcement that were painful and terrifying. This isn’t easy and just as I encourage all of you to pause and take a break when needed, I am doing the same thing this week. I find that when I feel like this, it’s important to remind myself of what’s important and why we can not stop or give up even when it feels like these abuses of power never seem to end. I hope this reminds you, too, of your why. Be encouraged and do not grow weary in well-doing. Find your way in participating, doing something, saying something—whatever that looks like for you. Don’t do it for yourself only—it’s about legacy. Our children and grandchildren deserve much better. “… let justice roll down like waters,  and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24). I have been wrestling with this idea of anger. As a society, we are more comfortable with rage and other manifestations of anger, like hate, than we are with displays of righteous anger, which Jesus demonstrated. In the Gospel of Matthew, we see Jesus upset with something he witnessed. He saw the house of God being used for something other than it was intended. “Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. ‘It is written,’ he said to them, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers’” (Matthew 21:12-13). Jesus exhibited righteous anger. He did not stand back and watch injustice occur. In that moment, he did not just speak up; he did something. Many would describe his anger as righteous anger. Righteous anger is a response to the mistreatment of others and to sin. Righteous anger speaks out In this season when righteous anger not only is needed but is critical, much of the church has remained quiet, refusing to speak out on behalf of those who are part of the body of Christ. As we witness racial injustices, there has been a deafening silence from pulpits and congregations across our country once again. I am reminded of a parable in Luke 15. “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:4-7). Jesus is not saying the 99 sheep are not important, but when one is lost and needs to be reunited and returned to the flock, it is important that we find that sheep and bring it back into the fold. Love at the core of God’s will At the core of justice is God’s will and an understanding that without love, we are like clanging cymbals (1 Corinthians 13:1). We create noise that continues to divide and separate the church. Our lack of love could be the very thing driving away those to whom we are called to serve and minister. 1 John 4:20-21 says: “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” Right now, justice looks like the righteous anger of Jesus. Right now, justice looks like reconciliation and repentance and restoration. Right now, justice requires speaking up on behalf of those who have been separated from the body of Christ because of racism and discrimination. Right now, justice is love for those who do not look like us or live the way we do. I pray we begin to live and embody the Lord’s prayer: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” But right now, I’m angry. I’m hurt. I’m grieving and I’m tired.

  • You are NOT an Imposter.

    I’ll never forget the first day of my PhD program. As I listened to others in my cohort, I was blown away by their intellect and accomplishments. I felt I didn’t belong and secretly, I was waiting for the program to tell me that they made a mistake in my admission. No matter what I had done, I felt that someone was going to find out that I wasn’t as capable and intelligent as the others. The provost of the program then led a discussion on a term I wasn’t fully aware of but totally described what I thought about myself—in that moment, I thought I was experiencing the imposter syndrome. As she further elaborated on this term, others began to share their own feelings of inadequacy. Although men experience this, it is discussed more commonly for women. So many of us go through the motions daily in our lives feeling that we don’t belong or deserve to be there. As I grew in my knowledge of myself and what God says about me, I began to understand that this way of thinking is detrimental. This is a mindset that must change. It does not serve us well or those around us. In a recent Harvard Business Review article, authors Ruchika Tulshyan and Jodi-Ann Burey state, “Imposter syndrome,” or doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud at work, is a diagnosis often given to women. But the fact that it’s considered a diagnosis at all is problematic. The concept, whose development in the ‘70s excluded the effects of systemic racism, classism, xenophobia, and other biases, took a fairly universal feeling of discomfort, second-guessing, and mild anxiety in the workplace and pathologized it, especially for women. The answer to overcoming imposter syndrome is not to fix individuals, but to create an environment that fosters a number of different leadership styles and where diversity of racial, ethnic, and gender identities is viewed as just as professional as the current model.” For many of us, we have felt that there was something wrong with us instead of realizing that often our environments reinforce our ideas about value and worth. Our validation must come from God. 2 Corinthians 3:5 (International Standard Version) says, “By ourselves we are not qualified to claim that anything comes from us. Rather, our credentials come from God.” When we are doing the work that we have been called to do or lead, realize that God qualifies us. There are many examples in the Bible of those being called by God who felt less than qualified. In Exodus 4:1-17, “Then Moses answered the Lord, “But suppose the Israelites do not believe me and will not listen to what I say. What shall I do if they say that you did not appear to me?” But Moses said, “No, Lord, don't send me. I have never been a good speaker, and I haven't become one since you began to speak to me. I am a poor speaker, slow and hesitant.”11 The Lord said to him, “Who gives man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or dumb? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? It is I, the Lord. 12 Now, go! I will help you to speak, and I will tell you what to say.”13 But Moses answered, “No, Lord, please send someone else.” 14 At this the Lord became angry with Moses and said, “What about your brother Aaron, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. In fact, he is now coming to meet you and will be glad to see you.” Moses is an example of what many of us face---we question God for the opportunities and doors that open for us. We are unable to see our power and begin to rely on the beliefs and comments that others have said about us. Instead of being aware that God will bring it to pass through us, we rely on our strength. With God, all things are possible (Matthew 9:26) but we cannot do it alone. Romans 8: 37 NLT says, “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” Stop turning things down that were meant for you because of a belief that you are not capable. God called Moses and yet, he was more confident in Aaron’s abilities than his own. You are not an imposter. You are made in the image of God. You have gifts and talents. You have a purpose. Seek God’s guidance for your calling and journey. It is time to walk into it.

  • When Church Hurt Happens

    No matter how different we believe that people are, I’ve learned that at the core of each of us is a desire to feel a sense of belonging. We all want to feel as if we matter, that we are valued and that we are heard. Belonging is a strong emotion and it’s something that at some point in our lives we’ve sought to fit in. “Belonging refers to an individual sense of acceptance…when belonging is intentionally fostered…feel [ing] accepted and connected with each other around a shared sense of purpose.” [i] We want to feel as if we are accepted at our jobs, in our homes and even with a peer group. As kids, we want to be liked and this doesn’t stop as adults. The desire to be noticed and recognized does not go away. Even if it is no longer by a group on the playground that we seek popularity from, there is something in our lives that we want to be a part of, to feel that people ‘get’ us and that we can be accepted for who we are. For many of us, the church has served that purpose. We have wanted to be a part of something that was bigger than ourselves with others that could empathize with us, who would stand with us and support us. Sometimes, the very place that was to offer a haven of support has caused a lot of pain creating wounds that have permeated to the core of who we are. What happens when the hurt we have is from others who are Christians, church folks who were supposed to be different? Church Hurt “refers to the pain sometimes inflicted by religious institutions — a pain that distances sufferers from their communities and from God.” [ii] When I was in college, there was a pastor that I trusted. Instead of being someone I thought I could confide in at a time when I needed spiritual direction, I found myself running out of his office to get away from being attacked. I’ve seen loved ones dismissed at a time when they needed consoling by those in leadership positions whose role was to do just that. I know of countless stories of abuse, betrayal and trust broken in the church. Some of my friends who know my journey often ask how I was able to return to a place that caused me such pain. For several years, I left the church, but I never left my relationship with God. Over time, I was blessed to find a congregation that is not perfect but one that has demonstrated love and a commitment to creating a sense of belonging that I needed. It took time to work through the trauma of church hurt and as I mentioned in my last article, it would have been easy to hide and sedate my pain, but I needed support to get through it. Counseling was critical to begin to heal the wounds that if not addressed, would have destroyed my relationships and would have created a wedge between God and myself. There is no excuse for bad behavior and for individuals who abuse their power. That is not the church that Christ created. That is a church built on the egos and insecurities of a human being. So many of us sit by and watch this happen Sunday after Sunday without ever saying a word or doing anything. Know that Jesus spoke up when He witnessed abuses of power. We, too, need to use our voices and power when we witness injustice even if in the church. It is important to also know the difference in God’s character and the character of humans. Anything that goes against God’s love and God’s nature is not of God. So how do you heal from church hurt? We must address this trauma head-on as well. Matthew 18:14-17 commands us to not keep quiet but tell our truth and seek restoration even if we must bring others into the conversation. We can’t stop believing in God and give up hope: “Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble and keep on praying.” (Romans 12:12 NLT) Church hurt is real and is painful. God sees your pain. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3) When we go through losses like this, we are grieving the loss of our identity and what is familiar. Allow yourself to grieve, commit to your healing and restoration through prayer and partnership with others that can walk with you. You can reclaim your joy, your peace, and your time. “Weeping may tarry for the night,  but joy comes with the morning…. You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;  you have loosed my sackcloth  and clothed me with gladness,  that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.  O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!” (Excerpt of Psalm 30) ___________________________________________________ [i] [ii] Image from

  • Prayer = Power

    One of my favorite things to do is spend time in silence to hear God and listen to the quiet voice within. A few years ago, I started visiting monasteries and convents to spend time in absolute silence. There is no television, radio, or even clocks. I would leave my cell phone locked in my car so that I could focus. I would only take my Bible and a journal to write. It was a time for me to be still and know God (Psalm 46:10). I would spend days at a time with no conversation, just praying and listening for God. It’s been pre-COVID since I’ve had the opportunity to spend some significant time away for reflection and restoration in complete silence. When I’ve had the time, it’s usually not for extended periods. I’m looking forward to going away really soon to spend time in the presence of God. For those of us who are always giving to others in our homes, houses of worship, or in our businesses/careers, or relationships, it is critical to find the time to get away, alone and in absolute silence to hear. Many of us miss the move of God because we have not created the space for silence and prayer. I’ll never forget this one day when my daughter was a little girl. I remember asking her if she could hear the birds outside. The chirping sounds were beautiful and so close to the bedroom window. No matter how quiet the room was or how much I eliminated any noises or distractions, she replied, “I still can’t hear them, momma.” It wasn’t until she allowed herself to be still, clear her thoughts, and let go that she was able to hear them. I am often reminded of how often we miss God because we have not created the space for prayer time and reflection. We often can’t hear God because we are not in position to receive a Word that is often so close like those birds. Positioning ourselves for prayer is critical. It’s also how we receive fuel or power to do more. Mark 1:35-39 states,” It was very early in the morning and still dark. Jesus got up and left the house. He went to a place where he could be alone. There he prayed. 36 Simon and his friends went to look for Jesus. 37 When they found him, they called out, “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let’s go somewhere else. I want to go to the nearby towns. I must preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled all around Galilee. He preached in their synagogues. He also drove out demons.” Sometimes, we need to leave those we love and care about behind. It allows us to take care of ourselves and as a result, they benefit from our personal stewardship and our relationship with God. Jesus took time when the probability of distractions was so limited so that he could pray, and he left to go to a place of solitude. After praying, notice that Jesus was able to fulfill his purpose because of the power of prayer first. He was able to perform His gift and deal with those who were toxic. Your power is connected to your prayer life and your soul needs solitude to recharge so that you can deal with whatever comes your way. As a child, I remember the elders of the church would say, “Little prayer, little power. Lot of prayer, lot of power.” Just as cellphones must be connected to the source to be charged, how are you reconnecting to the source (God) for your power? Is your battery low and if so, it’s time to get away, even if for a moment to reconnect and recharge in the presence of God? “Because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, [Jesus] said to [his disciples], ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.” (Mark 6:31-32) Go by yourself to a solitary place and pray.

  • What's Your Love Language?

    It is very easy to become cynical and bitter. If you are not careful, you will become a person who finds fault in everyone. When I meet people that have nothing good to say or complain about everything, there is a reason that they have allowed their pain to pierce others. I find myself in awe of how mean people can be. People make fun and pick at individuals without any remorse and sympathy. As the verdict was announced in the murder of George Floyd, the Twitterverse was on high alert making fun of Jessie Jackson. Some of these individuals found it amusing to pick at this man who has spent his life as a civil rights leader fighting for many of the rights they benefit from. They failed to acknowledge that he has Parkinson’s disease which is responsible for his gaze and movement. There is something to be said about a world that has lost compassion and empathy. It is very easy to feel sorry for others because we do not put ourselves in their shoes. It allows us to detach and see the person as ‘other’. Sympathy does not require much of us. All we do is say or make gestures that appear kind and we can go back to our lives. What we are missing so much of in our lives is empathy. Empathy is more than feeling sorry for someone. It is truly placing yourself in the other person’s shoes. Empathy is about understanding what others go through and sharing with them in their pain. Empathy requires us to be vulnerable and connect to another through our emotions. Empathy is not about minimizing someone’s struggle to make your situation appear greater, it is about being with them and recognizing what they are experiencing. Somewhere along the way, this has become lost. In building our self-esteem and pushing this narrative of putting ourselves first, we have lost the desire to care for others. There is nothing wrong with self-care AND caring for others---and not at the expense of either. They can both co-exist. Bu right now, our world is suffering and so are we. The Bible says “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. ... (2 Timothy 3:1-17)” Our world is at an extreme of self-centeredness. If we are at the center and everyone is disposable, we often leave out space for God. God is then blamed for all the occurrences in the world when a choice was made to move God from the center. God has been replaced by our own needs, our greed, and our desire to be first. The issues listed in 2 Timothy 3:1-17 all focus on preserving self. It is all about me at the expense and pain of others. “Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am.” (Mark 8:35 MSG) The solution for this self-centeredness is simple. We must get out of our own way. This requires not only holding others accountable, but we must hold ourselves accountable. The standards for treating one another with kindness and compassion must return. It begins with recognizing that our love walk must be checked. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matthew 22:37-39). Loving God is first. Loving our neighbors is second but if we do not love ourselves, it will be difficult to love our neighbors. Maybe the loss of empathy and compassion for others lies in the loss of love we have for ourselves and God. We cannot be for others what we are not willing to be for ourselves. I thank God for Mr. Jackson and the many others who deserve our admiration, respect, and love.

  • Spackling the Holes in Your Soul

    My daughter needed my help this weekend. She has some holes in the wall of her apartment and needed to get them covered. When she first moved, it was important for her to decorate her room with pictures and lights. Realizing that she would be charged when she moves out, she had to hide the evidence of puncturing the walls. Spackling paste was a necessity. As we searched the aisles of a local store, we had to find the correct tools to apply the spackle to the wall. Spackle is a putty that allows you to fill holes and small cracks. What makes it special is that it dries quickly and covers up the damage created. Spackling does not just apply to walls. Life is messy, complicated, and sometimes painful. Life circumstances can create holes in our spirits leaving us exposed and struggling in our hearts and minds. Instead of addressing the root cause of the wound, we often soothe it with temporary coverings. These temporary coverings can start off small. It is taking a bite of something decant here and there. It is smoking (legal or not) because it calms us down. It is drinking a few glasses of wine before we go to bed to relax. If we are not careful, these small moments of pleasure increase and become full blown addictions, but never really addresses the traumas that we endure. More and more organizations are becoming aware of trauma and its impact on its clients. Instead of focusing on what is wrong with a person, it focuses on what happened to a person. Yet, I do not think many of us think about all of the traumas we have encountered especially as Black people in America. We experience triggers and are re-triggered often without even knowing it. We do not feel safe. Our trust has been broken and transparency is often non-existent until caught on camera. As much as the church recognizes the need for healing, it is imperative that we acknowledge the trauma. It also means that many churches must pay attention to the trauma they have also caused through ‘church hurt.’ Trauma is not new. Throughout the Bible, there are examples of Jesus healing those who were blind. Some believed their blindness was just something that happened, others saw it as a sin the person committed or that someone else sinned and their decision impacted the person. In John 9: 3, it states, “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” In Matthew 9:27-29 there is another example of Jesus healing the blind: “27 And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” 28 When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” 29 Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” No matter how it happened, they were still wounded and suffering from the trauma of blindness. They knew they needed healing and something different. When we hide our wounds with our choice of spackle, we are ultimately experiencing a form of blindness. We are unable to really see how the pain is impacting our lives and those around us. It is important to acknowledge our situation. Instead of covering it up, own it. It isn’t about staying focused on the wound. It’s about focusing on the healing beyond the emotional or physical. Our wounds impact our spirits. Are you crying aloud for help and going after your healing at all costs because you realize you deserve more than spackle as a cover? Do you believe that it is possible to receive healing and knowing that your belief will determine what happens? Believing that God is more than able “to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us…” (Ephesians 3:20-21) Are you working in your own power or in the power of God? If you are working in your power, the spackling putty will only temporarily address the issue. Real healing begins in recognizing that it is available for you-- “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) Realize the trauma, go get your healing and leave the spackle where it belongs.

  • Help Wanted: Sheep Needs a Shepherd

    I’ll never forget hearing about this story that happened in 2005 in Turkey. It has stuck with me all these years. According to news reports, “Turkish shepherds watched in horror as hundreds of their sheep followed each other over a cliff. More than 400 sheep died in the 15-metre fall - their bodies cushioning the fall of 1,100 others who followed.” I could not understand why the sheep did not pay attention to what was happening in front of them. They followed the others believing that nothing could go wrong. Sheep by nature tend to be followers and not have any direction—they go where they can graze and enjoy the grass. According to the, “Sheep have a strong instinct to follow the sheep in front of them. When one sheep decides to go somewhere, the rest of the flock usually follows, even if it is not a good "decision." For example, sheep will follow each other to slaughter. If one sheep jumps over a cliff, the others are likely to follow. Even from birth, lambs are conditioned to follow the older members of the flock.” Sheep are very social animals and even when grazing, must stay in close contact with others. Staying in groups can serve as a form of protection from predators. Without a shepherd, sheep can get into a lot of trouble. The shepherd guides the sheep to the pasture to ensure that they are safe and protected. Sheep encounter wild animals, and the shepherd is armed to address any conflict. In addition, the shepherd makes sure the sheep are healthy. A shepherd will even assist with birth of a lamb. The shepherd is also responsible for fleecing the sheep—when the hair becomes unmanageable and weighs the animal down, the shepherd removes it. I now understand why God calls us sheep. Just as sheep can be directionless, misguided and make bad decisions, we as humans do the same. Several scriptures reference humans as sheep such as Psalm 100:3, Psalm 79:13 and Ezekiel 34:30-31. Sheep need a Shepherd. The disarray in our lives, families, homes, jobs, schools, and houses of worship are a direct result of our unwillingness to be led by the Good Shepherd. As much as we want to believe others are stupid and make poor choices, we all have fallen short and can add this description to our resume if we are honest. It’s time to realize our need for guidance beyond ourselves because it isn’t working and like the sheep, many are either falling off cliffs or about to. Here are some possibilities to consider about the confusion we face: Could some of the challenge we face be a result of our inability to hear the voice of the Shepherd?  “But you don’t believe me because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me.” (John 10:26-28) Is it easier to criticize others than to take the time to find them, walk with them, and bring them back in love? “What man among you, who has 100 sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the 99 in the open field and go after the lost one until he finds it? When he has found it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders, and coming home, he calls his friends and neighbors together, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my lost sheep! I tell you, in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who don’t need repentance.” (Luke 15:2-7) Are we too busy pushing to lead instead of positioning ourselves to be led? “But he led his own people like a flock of sheep, guiding them safely through the wilderness. He kept them safe so they were not afraid….” (Psalm 78:52-53) Is it possible that we can’t distinguish between danger and destiny because of what speaks more to our hidden agenda?  “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Matthew 7:15) When we recognize who we are AND whose we are, not only will our lives look different, but our world will also experience the impact. We must recognize our need for the Shepherd and that nothing else will satisfy. “The Lord is my Shepherd. I want for nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters.” (Psalms 23:1-2). There is a better way: Stop following the flock. Watch out for the wolves and cliffs. Allow the Shepherd to guide, protect, and keep you.

  • A No Win Situation

    Many of us have someone that we know that has been impacted by incarceration. According to the NAACP Criminal Justice Toolkit, “There are 3 million people in jail and prison today, far outpacing population growth and crime.” [i]  The number of individuals incarcerated in the US increased from 1980 to 2015 approximately from 500,000 to 2.2 million [ii]. As we celebrate Father’s Day, it is important to note the disproportionate number of Black men that are no longer in our communities. Data paints a picture of the significant impact of incarceration in our community: African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites.[iii] Black Americans remain far more likely than their Hispanic and white counterparts to be in prison. The black imprisonment rate at the end of 2018 was nearly twice the rate among Hispanics and more than five times the rate among whites. [iv] Black men are especially likely to be imprisoned. There were 2,272 inmates per 100,000 black men in 2018, compared with 1,018 inmates per 100,000 Hispanic men and 392 inmates per 100,000 white men. The rate was even higher among black men in certain age groups: Among those ages 35 to 39, for example, about one-in-twenty black men were in state or federal prison in 2018. [v] This issue is very personal for me. One of my dear childhood friends is currently serving his time in a trustee camp in Texas. Prior to his sentence, he was a dad very much involved in his daughter’s life. Between splitting responsibilities with her mother, he was the dad that surprised her and her friends at lunch. He combed her hair seeking me and other friends to offer advice on what to do. He took his child to sporting events and book signings to expose her to new experiences. Omar has always tried to be there for his daughter. As much as we are impacted by this loss of someone who is funny, smart, and caring, the real loss is for his pre-teen daughter. He’s very aware of the decision he made. He knows that he messed up, owns it, and made a choice that has had severe implications for so many. Like many other Black men who are incarcerated and lose their freedom, their children experience a major loss as well. The impact of incarceration can be devastating for children. “One in nine black children has had a parent in prison.” [vi] “Having a parent in prison can have an impact on a child’s mental health, social behavior, and educational prospects. Children of incarcerated parents may also be more likely to have faced other adverse childhood experiences.”[vii]  The loved ones are also hit hard by exorbitant costs. The cost of commissary items along with correspondence through platforms like JPay[viii] have fees to send immediate correspondence or to make phone calls. According to the New York Times, The Prison Policy Initiative “estimates that families spend $2.9 billion a year on commissary accounts and phone calls. Families are also often responsible for paying court fees, restitution and fines when a member goes to prison. According to a 2015 report by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, the average family paid roughly $13,000 in fines and fees.”[ix]  Economic hardship isn’t the only cost partners experience. Depression and health issues are also common for loved ones[x]. In addition, our community misses out on realized potential—we lose workers which equates to individuals that can contribute to paying taxes. We lose men who could be a part of the community and we suffer. “More than one out of every six black men who today should be between 25 and 54 years old have disappeared from daily life. Incarceration and early deaths are the main drivers behind their absence.” [xi] It has been amazing to witness that despite his situation, he has continued to forge a relationship with his daughter. He calls her daily, goes over her homework and even teaches her about the Bible. Yet, how many fathers have this opportunity to continue relationships with calls that can be almost $2 per 30-minute call? Although this doesn’t seem expensive, over the course of time, it adds up in addition to the other aforementioned expenses. Fathers are important. My father, grandfather, uncle, and others have been instrumental in the woman I am today. I can’t imagine my life without them. Research affirms this: “A father’s increased involvement with the child is associated with a range of positive outcomes for the child: fewer behavioral issues, fewer psychological issues and enhanced cognitive development.” [xii]  Even with no visits allowed in the last 15 months, there are dads trying to stay connected as much as possible to their children while behind bars. This Father’s Day let’s not forget those dads who may not be physically present with their children but are doing what they can to continue to be in their lives and yet, the impact keeps those affected on the outside behind a set of invisible bars as well.

  • Toxic Leaders Need to Take a Seat

    A friend of mine recently shared her struggles at work with dominating, manipulative, and mean-spirited leaders. I was stunned that a leader would be concerned with such insignificant details. Micromanaging is more about the leader’s self-confidence, fear of being exposed for what they don’t know and feeling a sense of control. Because of the lack of identity and control they often experience in their personal lives, work becomes a place to command others. Their importance is rooted in position—not who they are without the title. It’s sad to say I’ve had my share of bad bosses whose insecurities created toxic work environments. They saw leadership as an opportunity to control, manipulate and dictate using power as a weapon instead of an instrument to cultivate talent, mentor, and guide. In one of my favorite books, “Leadership for the Disillusioned: Moving Beyond Myths and Heroes to Leading That Liberates” author Amanda Sinclair, discusses the leaders of Enron and WorldCom, two major corporations that fell because of unethical and power-hungry leadership. Sinclair documents the difficult childhoods of the leaders and demonstrates that because they did not deal with the wounds of their past, they recreated a narrative that hurt others. This happens all the time. Toxic leadership is detrimental on so many levels. According to Gallup, “active disengagement from a toxic boss costs the U.S. $450 billion to $550 billion per year. A Harvard Business School study discovered that avoiding a toxic hire, or letting one go quickly, will save you $12,500 in cost.” The cost of toxic leadership has psychological, emotional, and physical implications. It’s even worse when toxic leaders are in professions that are designed to help others like healthcare, nonprofit management and the church. Places that are designed for healing become battlegrounds of depressed individuals who suffer with a deflated self-image, devastated aspirations, and destroyed dreams. Leadership is not to be taken lightly. I think we fail to realize that we will be held accountable by God for the way we steward relationships not just in our homes but even in the workplace. We must recognize that leadership is something God is interested in and as we are elevated into roles, we must know that God will hold us accountable and there are consequences. “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. It is God who judges: He brings one down, He exalts another.” (Psalm 75:6) As Believers, the model for leadership must be Christ. “It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26–28). As leaders, the responsibility is great and the requirement for how we care for others that we are leading is not to be taken lightly: “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” (Luke 12:48) Leadership requires humility. We often hear the expression, “There is no ‘I’ in team. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have expectations of others or there is no accountability, but it does mean that we recognize the gift of those who we work with. We see their value. They are not below us—we are in partnership. When we study and pour into our teams, set a vision with clear, measurable directives with open, two-way communication, the possibilities for success are unlimited. “You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:13–17) Jesus understood his role as leader and the power of the position. He did not use it to harm but to edify and encourage others to fulfill their God-given abilities. I think for many people, we don’t want to see others shine and our inability to see who we are because of unprocessed and unresolved pain jades our vision to fully see others the way God created them. Great followers are not cultivated under poor leadership. If your team isn’t thriving, maybe it’s time to examine your leadership, the way you view your team and your understanding of power.

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