Have you ever wasted time trying to help people make sense of a calling God gave to YOU?

Maybe after prayer and confirmation all we need to do is get to work.

What are you going to walk boldly into that God has called you to do?

Your sister,

Monica

Advertisements

Multicultural. It’s the thing most churches want to be these days, and rightly so.

But it seems we have run into some problems about what a multicultural church really is; and how can you become something you don’t understand?

Let’s start our discussion with what does NOT qualify as a multicultural place of worship.

What it’s NOT:

1) A church that happens to have people of color who attend sometimes

2) A church that happens to have people of color who attend all the time

3) A church that happens to have people of color who are in leadership or who use the facilities to run their own worship service

4) A church that makes use of diverse forms of worship

While some of these things may be qualities of a multicultural church, none of them in and of themselves qualify the church as being truly multicultural.

Being a multicultural church doesn’t just mean that you have other races who attend the church. It means that you honor them by incorporating their cultural ways of experiencing God into the church’s worship experience for the sake of growing together.

What it IS:

1) A church that SEEKS OUT people of color because Jesus seeks them just like he seeks white folks (not seeking them out for the sake of diversifying)

2) A church that RECOGNIZES and VALUES the unique contributions people of color bring to the Body of Christ (utilizing styles like gospel and rap in worship for reasons other than “it’s cool”)

3) A church that knows how to ASK for the perspectives of their ethnic brothers and sisters and actually LISTEN to the response

4) A church that EMPATHIZES WITH and ACTS ON the struggles people of color have in and out of their church lives (not to feel sorry for them but to walk in solidarity)

We live in a time where people need to know the genuineness of Christ more than ever. Everyone is asking the question, “Is this real?

We need to get real; be honest with ourselves. We can do all the same things and still get it wrong. You can have all the elements and be abusing rather than serving our brothers and sisters of color.

The reality is that the body of Christ is already a multicultural Church. We just spend so much time in our cozy subgroups that we’ve convinced ourselves that we aren’t diverse.

Maybe we should focus more on getting to know the other parts of the Body than trying to make our personal branch of Zion look like the ideal church.

Jesus is always concerned about the heart, and so should we be. Where your treasure is, there your heart is. Time is currency more valuable than money. Where are you investing your most valuable resource?

I hope this perspective serves to stretch you in the way you do and view church.

Your sister,

Monica

*last photo I snapped after fellowshipping with my sisters at Antioch Baptist Saturday morning. See my Instagram for additional photos and video 🙂

If you’ve ever walked into a church you’ve probably been hurt by it.

It’s when the pastor’s son bullies you and no one stops him or corrects his behavior. You’re only 7 years old but you never forget.

This is church hurt; when the place you thought you could find healing brings agony instead.

The kind of pain that lingers deep inside.

It’s when you’re a lonely teenager from a broken home where you never want to be. You happen upon a church function in your neighborhood and you are hesitantly invited… but then overhear, “why is she here.”

It was said in secret so you don’t confront anyone. The pain stays.

It is when you become a teen mother because of the abyss of loneliness in your childhood home, and you overhear the pastor bashing another pregnant teen.

You feel equally shamed. The pastor said it so it must be true.

The pain stays.

But then the REAL church shows up…

The church that is all African American and accepts a young white boy with grace and love… even though he is bald, pierced and has “S-K-I-N-H-E-A-D” tatted across his knuckles.

You regain hope for the church.

The church that throws your lonely-teen-momma-self a baby shower and cooks for you and takes you shopping for appropriate young women’s clothing to wear.

The church that lets you serve in worship and lead even though you told them you’re only a month out of detoxing from a 5 year alcohol relapse/binge.

You begin to heal a little.

The church that shows up to the hospital when your child has a seizure and to your home when your marriage is falling apart.

The church that counsels and prays for that broken marriage instead of condemning you and telling you to submit to an abusive husband.

I have seen both sides of this crisis in the church.

The pain is real but so is the healing.

I have found healing in forgiveness. The same forgiveness that was extended to me, without limitation, by Jesus.

I have also had to ask forgiveness…

The sins I had minimized as “lesser” had actually created the very same deep pain as those perpetrated against me.

That is the point. We were all guilty. That’s why we need Jesus.

He is STILL the answer to all our troubles.

He is STILL our hope and healing.

Even for #churchhurt.

May you be forgiven and extend forgiveness without reservation.

May you love the church, the broken bunch we are, as Christ loves the church.

Your sister,

Monica

I sat in my husband’s office yesterday listening to him share about a church someone recommended to him. Being the vigilant theologian I am, I immediately knew what was off just by the denomination.

Extending the benefit of the doubt, I looked up the website anyhow. I was still kind of looking to prove myself right but I tried to be as non-biased as possible.

It didn’t take long to confirm that this church does not welcome women in their leadership.

” ________ churches are governed on the local level by “sessions”, a group of men that have been set apart by the local and regional bodies of the church”

My heart sped up a bit as I tried to convey to my husband that he had found yet another church that couldn’t get with Jesus’s position on the role women play in the body of believers.

His response? “Let’s try to keep an open mind”

O-kaaayy…

I moved on. At least I tried.

After about 15 minutes of trying to silently process what had just happened, he noticed my demeanor and asked our kids to step out of the room. He stared at me.

“I don’t want to talk about it.” Then correcting myself I stated what I really believed:

You don’t want to talk about it.”

He already knew.

What he didn’t know was the pain it caused. That I could not wrap my brain around being “open minded” regarding such things.

“If the website said ‘churches are governed by a group of white people set apart by the local and regional bodies of the church’, we would immediately know something was wrong, not try to be ‘open-minded’,” I said angrily.

He asked why I was angry, assuming it had to do with what I want to do in ministry. I had to explain the greater implications of this type of discriminatory mindset in our churches.

The fact that I had to have this discussion with my own husband who loves and respects me (and whom I follow unashamedly), brought a harsh reminder that we need to keep talking about this.

The church is finally making moves to attain racial reconciliation and yet our homes are still afflicted with ignorance.

I am applauded for changing an alternator one day and the next I’m supposed to be open-minded about establishments (that are meant to reflect the heart of God) telling women that we are “valued and equal” in a tone like they are expecting to get a medal for being so progressive.

I don’t need you to tell me my value. My Lord told me who I am. Likewise, I look to Him to tell me what I can and cannot do in His Church.

I am deeply grieved by the number of women who have been conditioned to accept this treatment as tolerable and even ideal.

Women who have heard things like what I just read in this church’s belief statements:

“Doubtless the presence of women serving in positions of spiritual leadership can undermine the God ordained role of spiritual headship that their husbands (and other husbands) are to play.”

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if a women serving in a spiritual leadership role undermines your “authority” and she’s not even your wife, you’ve got some other issues that need to be worked out with the Lord.

I’m not out here trying to gain support from our brothers to speak up against this disorder. I tried that already. It was ridiculously unsuccessful. (Likely because they are unaware of how bad it really is just like my husband was.)

This article is for us women.

Let this marinate:

There is only one teacher. That is God. If you are a willing vessel He will teach through you with all authority.

One of the most interesting, yet heartbreaking things I recently learned was the history of the deacons’ white gloves in African American churches.

The purpose of the gloves was to cover their hands as they served in white churches because they were not allowed to touch white people. To this day many churches still have their deacons wear gloves and don’t know the painful history.

Women who serve proudly in churches that relegate them to “appropriate ministry roles” are devastatingly similar to the deacons who still cover their hands.

You walk around in bondage to man-made rules oblivious to the freedom that is available to you, often doing so proudly.

That’s not your fault. Nobody told you how it got this way.

It’s time to take the gloves off.

Weather man or woman, if this article got your blood pumping and you need to decry the error of what I have written… I plead with you to first fully examine your own position in the presence of God.

Come correct and we can have a necessary dialog.

Worst case scenario, we disagree and I keep speaking truth because that’s what I was made for. Regardless, I’m going to love you all anyway… because I was made for that too.

May you be broken and blessed by this today.

Your sister,

Monica

I am not here to put my two cents in on what Cosby may or may not have done.

I trust the Lord will sort that out and work in our justice system as necessary.

I am, however, glad to hear that there is a retrial on the horizon.

Regardless of the outcome, the fact that this case is being given a retrial is a huge indicator of how far America has come in regard to treating women as fully human; a sentiment we have seen eerily echoing out from our past sins of racism.

(imagine the combination of both prejudices that “angry” black women have to deal with every day in America)

Women in general have had a rough go of it for centuries. We were reminded of this just yesterday as dialog about women being the first to preach a risen Savior flooded our social media feeds (mine anyway), and people lashed out in protest.

There’s a difference between preacher and pastor” one man commented, clinging to his superiority.

I kept my comments to myself and decided to enjoy Easter with my family, sans debate on church patriarchy. I have seen enough to know that God is at work (still) and there is no need to argue on the matter.

I believe however, that He is on the side of the oppressed and that our nation is now having to face the harsh reality women have lived for so long.

In the coming year, we will see one man (Cosby) held accountable for his alleged actions against women. America is finally moving in the direction of Jesus’s ideal of how we should respect and value one another as humans. We’ve got a long way to go, albeit, but it gives me hope nevertheless.

It gives me hope that the church will continue to lead the way for our equality despite the naysayers and power-seekers.

It gives me hope that this type of thing could be just what we need for whole church to begin realizing the lingering bias and ignorance.

It gives me hope that my daughter, who is 8 and wants to be a pastor someday, will not have her dream ripped away by some fool that worships law over the Lord.

So, I am grateful that the Lord works all things for good. All the horrible things these women have had to endure at the hands of politicians, celebrities, and for many of us, even our family members…

All these things are being worked together for our good. The world is taking notice of our struggle and God is on our side.

For my brothers and sisters, I ask you to decide where you stand.

Will you be on the right side of history when our nation looks back on these events? Will you bear the load of your fellow Americans when we could not speak for ourselves? Or will you turn your face away because it is just easier not to listen?

I pray your heart is softened and your eyes are opened to the struggles of those around you today and every day.

Your sister,

Monica

When I was a child I lived in Fairfax county in Virginia where there were so many different cultures I never had the opportunity to see myself, or anyone else, as different.

We were all different and that gave us a sameness.

As I aged, I began having experiences with people who did not think like me and had no problem being vocal about it.

Visiting family in West Virginia one year, I experienced my first drive-in theater. It was wonderful. However, my enjoyment came to a screeching halt when I heard a young white boy use the N-word. I told him, very directly, not to say that around me. He conceded. The young black man he was speaking about could not have said what I said, how I said it, and gotten the same result.

I suppose this is what white privilege looks like.

In my young adulthood I attended a party… partied way too hard… and became pregnant by a young black man I had just met. I was barely 19 and already had one son. The young man who impregnated me was in school and leaving shortly thereafter. Abortion seemed like the perfect solution to an already frightening situation.

My friend who hosted the party drove me to an abortion clinic.

Later I discovered that she had logged into my AOL messenger (for those of you who know what that is) and had been propositioning men for sex, pretending to be me.

One of the messages this “friend” sent out invited one man to “do anything” he desired to me because “I could just have an abortion. I got pregnant before and I killed the baby because it was black .” This is what racism looks like.

I was heartbroken over my decision already. She twisted the knife. I quickly realized that

1) this young lady was not my friend

and

2) she was closet racist

I had never seen evidence in all the years I had known her. Our mothers were friends for some time and I had never known her mother to speak that way either.

Racism is often quite hidden. But only for those who are not people of color.

Whether we want to address it or not, this issue still causes division within the church.

A fellow minister and friend of mine is a pastor in a local county nearby. He just recently informed me of the “sister churches” that became divided into seperate churches, one black one white, during the Civil War and have never reunited. His church is one of many that has been touched by the depravity of racism.

“The church needs to be a light to the world and we cannot do that when we hold darkness in our hearts.”

He and I discussed ideas for bringing reconciliation between the churches. My friend has a long road ahead of him if he chooses to embark upon this task. But all of us are responsible to address this within the church and outside of the church walls, in our communities.

I grew up in a home that had many issues I identified with stereotypes of black communities in America. Most of my friends were black as a result, though I lived among many cultures. I assumed they all had broken homes, parents with addiction, and borderline or actual poverty.

Unbeknownst to me, I had used my limited exposure to part of the black community (my friends who did have these issues) to define an entire race of people.

In high school I joined the Awareness of Black Culture club. I quickly realized that my perspective had been more informed by society’s view of black Americans than by their culture and who they really are.

I lived among, went to church with, partied with, and went to school with the black community and STILL I was misinformed about their culture, issues, and as a result their value.

No let me be very direct in saying that I did not value them less than myself or anyone else. I had simply failed to recognize the contributions that they have made and continue to make to this country and also the world at large.

The one thing that I was blessed not to miss out on was the black community’s contribution to the church.

It was in a very small, historical predominantly black Baptist church where I first experienced the Holy Spirit. I witnessed and participated in worship that was truly free. I saw grown women dancing as freely as this child out of pure joy in the Lord. I heard honest testimonies of broken people that had been redeemed by the Lord.

There has always been a transparency in the black community, weather in the world or in the church, which I have greatly admired. I took it upon myself to be just like this. Always real. Sometimes real to a fault, but honest nevertheless.

I want to call you all into action on this as well.

Let us not leave the dialogue about race in yesterday just because today is not a holiday that draws attention to the power and value of the black community.

I want each of you to take an honest inventory of your own heart in relation to how you perceive people of color.

I want you to write it down.

I want you to pray over it.

You can tear it up when you’re done, or burn it… Just do it for goodness sake!

Write it all out and turn it over to the Lord so that we can truly begin moving beyond hate, stereotype, and the racist expression of these things.

The church needs to be a light to the world and we cannot do that when we hold darkness in our hearts.

If somebody like me who is so engaged in the black community could STILL have misunderstandings,then surely all of you can take a few minutes to evaluate your own thoughts on the matter.

Won’t you?

I thank you for joining me in this effort and I pray that God reveals to you places that need to be healed and forgiven if and where they exist.

It is imperative that our brothers and sisters of color know that they are not alone in this fight and that we are willing to wage war, even on our own flesh, to better unite with them. We are to bear one another’s burdens and when we refuse to, in the light of truth, we are in sin for not doing so.

I love you all and pray you have a blessed day that is full of revelation, hope, and restoration.

Your sister,

Monica

Being alone stinks.

Anyone who has had to be alone can attest that my choice of the adjective “stinks” is a grave understatement… but you get the idea.

There’s something about being alone that is unsettling even for the most stable of us human beings.

When we are alone, the parts that are still to be healed, loved, and resurrected are undeniable. Whereas, when we are surrounded by people and busied with our many activities, it is all too easy to suppress our deficiency.

Because of this, most of us just avoid being alone in the first place.

We seek out people at every turn. If we are introverts or have trouble connecting, we seek out activities that we believe will foster connection. This only exacerbates our troubles as we replace organic relationship with forced homogeneity that comes about only by claiming allegiance to the same football team.

Those of us who do this are typically the most afraid of being alone.

Making an activity the primary source of our enjoyment rather than the people we engage with, helps us skirt around the pain that inevitably follows when a person hurts us.

And they always do.

With priority set on the thing that fosters community rather than the people (who are the life of community), we can go about our activity as though nothing ever happened, simply finding other people to do said activity with, when we are hurt.

This is what is happening when people “church-hop”.

I used to do this type of thing all the time. The activity was drinking. The activity was dancing. The activity was going shopping. The activity was even sex at one point.

All of these things became crutches in my life instead of things that I could enjoy in a healthy way while building relationship.

My activities were a replacement for authentic human interaction.

I suppose one could not blame me, given all the trauma I had experienced. However, I choose to take a higher road and evaluate where I may have been in sin.

Doing so has helped me to uncover:

1) The selfishness that lay beneath my desire to avoid loneliness, and

2) The toxic actions I carried out in attempt to accomplish this impossible feat.

My selfishness was the driving factor for manipulating people into staying around me, while simultaneously being the the very thing that hindered my ability to connect with them!

Some would say this is narcissistic behavior. Perhaps if I had been tested during that time of my life I might have flagged as mentally unhealthy and, in fact, narcissistic.

All I can say is that I have recovered and then share my reflections

I am grateful to have learned the importance and the art of being alone.

No longer do I react to my emotions, which still encourage me to fill quite time with things rather than introspection and theological reflection that enhances my relationship with my Father.

No longer do I view lack of activity as inherently “boring.”

Rather, I embrace a simpler lifestyle. I have found that all my needs have already been met in Christ.

This quiet time “alone” has proven to be a gateway into a place where I know I am never alone. A divine paradox that I treasure more than any other moment. A place where I can just be with my God.

It is, after all, this connection that gives life to every other relationship.

Each human connection I steward is precious to me, but I am first and foremost a disciple of Jesus… and my Savior has a peculiar, yet perfect, way of dealing with His disciples.

Jesus spoke many things to the public.

Many good things…

He told stories that revealed the incredible power of our Father and His divine kingdom.

He told tales of people who honor the Lord, giving everything they have… like the woman who had but a fraction of a penny yet gave it to offering at the temple, nevertheless.

But these things are not explained so openly.

It is when Jesus is alone with His disciples that He explains all these things to them.

I could learn the entire Bible inside out.

I could have every story memorized. I could have every chapter and verse roll off the tip of my tongue and possess a superior command of Scripture…

Still, none of this matters unless I am able to sit “alone” in the presence of God and hear Him by inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

This coming weekend, I will begin a 21 day journey of fasting and prayer, corporately with my church. I so look forward to this time with my Lord!

I would like to invite all of you join me in this fast, as you are able.

You will never find anything so fulfilling than the realization that all you need is God Himself.

That He is not only the Provider, but the Provision!

Fasting draws us deeper into this truth.

God is always capable of meeting you where YOU are. He did that very thing when He went to the cross and died for our sins as Jesus Christ. But during a fast, we are able to reach out and draw closer to where HE is.

God needs nothing but Himself to exist.

As we relinquish things we rely on for comfort and even sustenance, we move into divine territory.

We express our deepest desire to know and be known by God. We put our words of faith into action and proclaim that He IS all we need.

Will you consider doing this with me? I promise it will change your life. It has for me! Fasting and prayer is the very thing I was doing when I received the unshakable faith I have now.

Whatever you decide for how you connect this year, I pray you have been blessed by my reflections and that 2018 is a year of joyful communion for you; with God and with each other.

Be well my friends.

Your sister,

Monica