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

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

As I embarked down this interesting road of “growing a platform” in order to later get my testimony into people’s hands, I discovered the incredible world of Instagram.

It is a peculiar thing, what people put out into the world. What even is more astounding than the extremities people go to for attention, is the awkward silence that surrounds many of these obvious cries for help.

“Don’t quit”

I found myself writing this on strangers’ Instagram accounts in response to pictures that were glorifying self harm and suicidal ideation, but that were also accompanied by words of desperation and longing. I wonder why there is no online outreach to these, clearly broken, souls?

So far, every person I have reached out to encourage has replied with gratitude.

I’m not sure how or why these people got to where they are… with no one around to encourage and lift them up in such a dark time.

Oh wait, yes I am.

That was me.…

It was me who took to the razor as a tool for fighting the numbness that accompanied emotional and sexual abuse I endured at the hands of my first real boyfriend.

It was me who played depressing music over and over… and over… and over again, focusing intently on the burning sensation on my skin as I longed for the tears to begin pouring.

They seemed so impossible.

It was me who needed to feel something; to cry and mourn the loss of a part of me I had never even come to know at 15 years old.

It was me who sat in the top of my closet, drawing a line in the sand and declaring I would “never cut again” as I blended my charcoal drawing into the wall by candlelight; morbid work of art no one was ever supposed to see.

Until my mother found it

It was me who was taken to a psychiatrist, asked a short series of questions, and put on a medication that made me feel happy but didn’t fill the hole that my boyfriend’s “love” had branded into my soul.

It was me who, even after being given an incredible gift of faith in Jesus Christ, had to face down these demons while hiding in my bathroom, wallowing in loneliness, and staring into the glare of a razor blade once more.

But

It is also me who has witnessed these demons fleeing in terror at the sight of my Lord who came to protect me… from them and from myself, when I called His name.

It is me who has gone from shaking on my closet floor with a blanket over my head; hiding from the world and barely able to breathe… to shaking on the floor in my prayer room and sleeping there all night; crying out to Jesus for the panic attacks and night terrors to be stopped…

Then seeing those prayers answered.

It is me, a woman who has been the recipient of astounding grace and incomprehensible deliverance, who is writing this now as tears flow down her face.

My tears, however, are no longer for myself.

They are for those of you who have not yet found your deliverance.

I mourn with you.

I love you.

Don’t quit.

Your sister,

Monica

IMG_3670

Sometimes it is difficult for me to get to a place of relation. Really difficult. In this case, it has nothing to do with the positive. I do not struggle to relate to Bishop T.D. Jakes because of his powerful preaching or his obvious business prowess. All those things are inside of me too (yet in development still). It is more humbling than that.

It is hard for me to relate to him as a fallen sinner in need of Jesus.

Not because I don’t see him as one, but today I somehow forgot how sinful I can be. As far along in my journey as I have come, I still have much ground to cover. So does Bishop Jakes. We all do, which is why the Lord’s mercy is new every morning. We have new need of it every morning. My bout of pride, mixed with a little fervor for the holiness of the church, made for an interesting sequence of events.

I greatly admire Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation church. Last night I watched a live broadcast of his conversation with Bishop T.D. Jakes. There was some useful wisdom in there of what I could catch between running up and down stairs trying to put my daughter to bed (that child never sleeps!), and I was taking in all that I could.

I’ve never favored Bishop Jakes per se, but he’s got a lot of knowledge in some areas that I do not, so I listened carefully. My open-mindedness came to a screeching halt as I watched the end of the broadcast, when The Bishop led the congregation in singing “I Beleieve I Can Fly” by R Kelly.

I immediately set about formulating how to best make people hear that this is not ok. I thought of all the pictures from social media recently of church members marching against human trafficking for the A-21 Foundation. And here these two greats in the church are singing songs written by a child molesting, abusive misogynist who is currently under investigation for, guess what? Sex trafficking.

Talk about fire in my bones!

I could feel it welling up from the deepest parts of me and I had zero qualms about telling the world what had just happened. In a single zealous moment, I turned from a woman passionate about grace to a woman passionate about justice… forgetting that the two work hand-in-hand in the Kingdom of God.

I forgot that my God is already aware and working on this problem in the church. And I took to my soapbox to fill in for what I thought He wasn’t doing fast enough.

I started slamming Bishop Jakes on social media (not realizing this is what I was doing at the time because, well… righteous indignation, right?). Soon after, a friend confronted me publicly with her disapproval of what I was doing. I didn’t care. I was right.

The funny thing about being right is that, absent grace… we cease to be right.

Justification of my own righteous anger ends at the place where it turns to love, and declares, “I got this. I no longer need you.” It ends at the place where I start demonizing people in order to assign blame, which is only for my selfish desire of wanting the problem to be solved faster.

People turn to problems when grace departs from judgement, and no amount of me being “right” would ever justify dehumanizing anyone.

I know this in the pit of me and yet, being still a sinner on even my best day, I am prone to wander from truth. If I don’t intentionally remind myself that Bishop Jakes is not only a leader, but also a human being who makes mistakes and sins just like me, just like the rest of us, I can become a great tool of division against the very church I love so much.

I believe we are at a turning point in the church where grace is replacing judgement in our outreach to the world. Thank the Lord!

Lets not stop there. Let’s extend our leaders that same attitude of grace they have been praying for us to have for so long. I’m not saying they are always right, that’s why they need grace too. But I am saying that God will judge them in a way appropriate for what they have been entrusted with and we cannot assume the role of judge and remain graceful. By all means, speak out against injustice. But don’t do what I did today and stoop to throwing your brother or sister in Christ under the bus because of pride or impatience.

In the presence of the Lord we all fall short. We become Christians because we know this, and we know that grace is the solution. Not judgement.

Its not the end of the world because one of my favorite preachers did something I don’t agree with. It’s not even my job to argue that there might be some sinning mixed into this situation. I’m not in that room. Maybe someday I will be blessed with the opportunity to influence some of our promenant leaders. Today, I have you all.

That is not a lesser thing to me.

So now I ask forgiveness for failing to lead you well today. I ask you to stay with me. I might stumble but I still know where I’m going. I can only pray that, should I ever have such a great platform and responsibility as T.D. Jakes or Steven Furtick, you all will remember this moment and continue to extend me the same grace when I fall… as I hope you do now.

Grace to all of you. Thank you once again for being a part of my journey and letting me be a part of yours.

Your sister,

Monica

IMG_3424

I’ve got a good bit to share in light of Hugh Hefner’s passing, but it is not to honor him. I didn’t know the guy personally so I don’t have anything sweet to say. If I had, I would absolutely share it. Still, whatever nice things there might have been about him, it would in no way change the fact that he lived a life full of a whole lot of other stuff that we should not be glamorizing, at least as Christians. (see X Doesn’t Mark the Spot ). I’m not likely going to change anyone’s hard nosed opinion about him by writing this, but if it gets to the heart of a few, then maybe the world will be a little better for my daughters.

I met lots of guys similar to Hugh in my line of work. When I worked in Crystal City, I met men who paid the club owners to take myself and other strippers out on their yacht for the day. I was young. I had no idea that once we got out on the water, there were going to be things going on that I did not want to take part in. The women who were with me were glad to do it. They didn’t see anything wrong with using their bodies, which had been abused and used against them in the past, to generate a little income and spend time in the lap of luxury for a few hours.

That didn’t change the fact that we were rented out for the day.

The other women knew the drill. They had done this many times. They assumed I would be down. I wasn’t. After processing the shock of what was happening, I found my way down to the front of the boat. I stayed there, laying in the sun, until the trip was over. I couldn’t wait to get back so I could pop a few E pills and forget it all. Only a few short years later, I would be doing the same things, almost to a T. I never considered it prostitution because I was “dating” the men it happened with. Men who were older than my father. I didn’t consider it sex trafficking or extortion when my ex encouraged me to start stripping in the first place so he could live off what I made. But it was.

That guy would sell me for a double whopper meal at Burger King.

For years I let this go on because “he loved me”. He and all the other men who used my sexuality to influence their bottom line, either socially or financially (make no mistake that the two are tied closely together), were never in it for me. They were in it for themselves. It was during my time working at 1320 Club II in Springfield, VA that I began to see what it really looked like for people to care about me. When my ex came home from jail and whooped up on me one day during a 12 hour hostage situation I endured, the only person willing to tell me the truth was my boss at the strip club.

He saw the marks around my neck and called me into his office. “You’ll go back. They always do.”

Our meeting ended abruptly as I watched him try to hide the pain in his eyes and I was left with the decision of becoming another statistic or not. I already was in so many ways…

My father had left when I was young and was awful to me when he was around

My home was alcoholic and abusive

We were poor (like living in motels poor)

I was a teen mother

The list goes on. I decided “no more”. No more going home to a man who was trying to build an empire on the backs of women like me. No more laughing it off as he idolized guys like Hugh Heffner and suggested I go get him more women to make money. No more treating myself like an expendable piece of sex and thereby opening the door for all these “men” to do it as well. No more sleeping with celebrities and soothing my conscious with the Benjamin’s and the fact that they were famous and “nice” to me.

Of course they are supposed to be nice! I’m a human being! In the words of Chris Rock, “You want a cookie?!” Quit patting guys on the back for actually taking care of children and the powerful women who bring them into this world! And if you think I’m being too passionate about this, take a walk in my shoes for a moment…

A moment where you find Christ and your world changes.

A moment when you realize that you don’t have to serve any human being, including and especially yourself, to be loved. That you already ARE loved by the Creator of the universe and that He gave his life for you instead of trying to take yours like the world does.

But then you speak your testimony in a church and realize its not much different than the world…

The pastor of the trendy startup church plant brings you onstage to share your struggle and you think you are getting to honor Jesus. But he really invited you there because recovery from the sex industry is the sexy, idolized topic of the month. His secretary jokes calling you “his stripper” in front of the entire congregation. They laugh.. they have a moment of poverty porn born out of viewing you as a victim instead of a sister in Christ. You share nevertheless but leave asking for nothing.

Attending seminary, you later reach out to that church for financial support for school. They kick you a quick couple bucks for a “speaking fee” (that they were not willing to give until asked), but offer nothing more. Your home church is the opposite, encouraging women and treating them rightly as equals in the ministry, but you soon find that this is not the norm of church culture.

But Hugh Hefner is not the problem. We are.

The story of his life is just the jumping off point for a really important discussion we need to have within the church. To acknowledge that, as the church, we need to make more progress in the area of speaking against misogyny. On a whole, we still look way too much like the world. We’re out here watching pastors say stupid things like “make it rain”, when that came from throwing dollars up in the air over a stripper and then watching her have to crawl around to pick it up. Playing hip hop at our events that promote that lifestyle. We are so out of touch with the world we have become just like it and don’t even know it. Time to draw a line in the sand, especially on how we treat our women and children.

And brothers… I’M PUTTTING THIS IS ON YOU. Just like white people need to speak out against racism, our brothers in Christ need to speak out against misogyny.

Please? They won’t listen to us… we’re just women.

Your sister,

Monica