Thursday, September 26, 2013

Portals Into God's Presence: Kum Ba Yah

I am laying in my bed, sick. A little over a week ago, Baby Girl brought home her first gift from daycare. She joyfully gave it to her father, but I managed to avoid it. Until now. I felt it coming on yesterday afternoon. I tried to fight it with Nyquil last night. The Nyquil knocked me out, but did absolutely nothing for my cold. So, here I am in bed and my hearts prayer is out hymn for the day: Kum Ba Yah.

Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya,
O Lord, kum bay ya.

Someone's crying, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Someone's crying, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Someone's crying, my Lord, kum bay ya,
O Lord, kum bay ya.

Someone's singing, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Someone's singing, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Someone's singing, my Lord, kum bay ya,
O Lord, kum bay ya.

Someone's praying, Lord, kum bay ya;
Someone's praying, Lord, kum bay ya;
Someone's praying, Lord, kum bay ya,
O Lord, kum bay ya.

Kum Ba Yah, is Gullah (Creole language of former slaves from South Carolina) for Come By Here. Although the term Kumbaya has been recently used in irreverent and cynical tones, I understand it as seriously and sanctified. If you are standing in the need of God's presence, peace, and power, the song Kum Ba Yah is an invocation: Come by here, Lord. As I lay here in bed--needing a healing touch from the hand of God—my soul is singing:

Someone's sick, Lord, Kum ba yah!
Someone's sick, Lord, Kum ba yah!
Someone's sick, Lord, Kum ba yah!
O Lord, Kum ba yah!

Video: Soweto Gospel Choir from YouTube

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Benefits of Daycare (This Mother's Perspective)

I am keenly aware that I am writing this post from a place of privilege. It is the middle of the day and I am sitting in Panera Bread enjoying lunch and being with my thoughts while Baby Girl is (most likely) fighting her nap at daycare. Many women do not have this luxury. For sure, I desire to work outside the home—to live into the fullness of God's calling on my life—but for now I have not found or been found by the place where God would have for me to settle. Until then, she goes to daycare and learns and plays while mommy prepares for the next move. With the exception of hiccups around nap time, daycare has been good for us. Yes, I said us. Having Baby Girl in daycare has been good for me. Let me share with you three ways I have been blessed by this experience:

  1. I have been able to reconnect with myself and what lights my fire. These last few weeks have afforded me the opportunity to move through life at a different pace. I spend the first part of my day—before Hubby and Baby Girl wake up—energizing my soul in prayer, Scripture reading, and preparing breakfast to Gospel music. After Baby Girl's needs are tended to and she is at school, I spend about an hour or so energizing my body. Three days a week I run at the park in preparation for the Trenton Half Marathon and 10K on November 9th. On the other days I go to the gym for my Body Works plus Abs and Yoga classes. Post-workout time is mostly spent doing something vocation related—sermon prep, blogging, job search, etc. Sitting down at my laptop to write has been amazing. It energizes me as much as prayer and running. 
  2. I have been able to catch up on rest and housework. I cannot speak for anyone else, but I found it difficult to keep up my standards of a nice home while attending to my daughter's every need (and her needs are legion).  So, imagine my delight when I spent the first week of Baby Girl being in daycare cleaning the house. I organized the closet that had become the hub for any and everything under the sun. I deep cleaned the kitchen. I had the carpet deep cleaned. And not only have I done a thorough cleaning, I have been able to put myself on a schedule to keep the house in order. But cleaning wasn't the only place I had a hard time keeping up; I also found it difficult to rest. Even if I did have the chance to lay down in the middle of the day, my mind would race: to-do-list, fears about the future, etc. Like most mothers, I was running on fumes for a long time. And while I haven't used this time to lay in my pajamas all day, just yesterday I made an executive decision to rest. All day. After I dropped Baby Girl at daycare I skipped the gym and came straight home where I put my pajamas back on, got in the bed, and rested until it was time to pick her up. And guess what? I didn't feel guilty. Folks earn vacation days after working a certain amount of time. Surely I had put in enough work for fifteen months to earn one (or ten) days of doing absolutely nothing. 
  3. I have learned to cherish my time with Baby Girl. I now fully understand the joy my husband feels with each moment he has with our girl. Not that I didn't love her deeply, but as a full-time, stay-at-home mom there was no time to miss her (and have her miss me). Things that delight my husband—like the ways she playfully rolls around on the floor begging to be tickled—had become mundane to me. Each day that I pick her up from daycare, I anticipate our time together. The fun of bath time has intensified. Her laughter excites me. I will admit, every moment is not blissful—molars coming in, anyone—but I have learned how to approach even the crankiness of teething with joy.
What I have learned in these months of motherhood is that every baby is different, every mom is different, and every family is different. While daycare may not work for some, it is working for us. And for that, I am extremely grateful. 

Full Disclosure: While writing this, three mothers with brand new babies have come into Panera Bread. My smile widened and my ovaries danced when I saw them. I think I'm coming down with a case of baby fever.... either that, or I'm missing my baby girl. Or both. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Hymns: Portals in the Presence of God

For our first selection for Portals into the Presence of God, I thought it fitting to chose the hymn that is listed first in many major denominational hymnbooks. Holy, Holy. Holy was written by  Reginald Heber and John B. Hykes.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee,
though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see,
only thou art holy; there is none beside thee,
perfect in power, in love and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth and sky and sea.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity.

From Time to Time Has a New Feature!!!!

If you follow this blog, you know that for as edgy and new school as I am, I have an old, old, soul. I may don a mohawk in the pulpit, but I've also been known to be posted up in a comfy chair, thumbing through my hymn book and humming along. I love when I come across a hymn whose tune I do not know with words that stir in my spirit. The hymns can be used for all aspects of worship—from prayer to instruction. Before I could comprehend Scripture, I would sing along to "Holy, Holy, Holy." Before I had my own words to pray, I would sing along to "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." When Baby Girl was just a baby girl, I would hold her in my arms and sing a worship medley that included "Blessed Assurance," "Great is Thy Faithfulness," and "Hold to God's Unchanging Hand." In fact, even now when she's fighting naps like a heavyweight champ, I sing those same hymns to calm her soul and lull her to sleep. The hymns have shaped my faith. They hymns ground me. For me, the hymns are portals into the very presence of God.  And so, allow me to introduce our latest feature... Hymns: Portals into the Presence of God. Each week, on Thursday, I will post the lyrics to a hymn and a YouTube video of my favorite rendition of that hymn. It is my prayer that you will be blessed and encouraged.

image taken from

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I Have a Testimony

When I look back over my life and I think things over, I can truly say that I've been blessed. I have a testimony!
Rev. Clay Evans

I have a testimony. When I think about it—really think about it—God has been so, so good to me. I cannot tell it all. But that doesn't stop me from trying. God has brought me a mighty long way in so many areas of my life, including my journey to health and fitness. Thanks be to God, Minister Crystal Cochren (one of my sisters in ministry and founder of the My Faith and Fitness Blog) has given me a space to share the goodness of God as it relates to my faith and fitness. Check it out here.

And while on her site, be sure to read through her posts. You will surely be encouraged and blessed! So blessed in fact that you will want to take the time to vote for her. She's been nominated for a 2013 Black Weblog Award in the best faith based blog category. You can vote here.

By the way, I finally registered for the Trenton Half Marathon and 10K Race on Saturday, November 9, 2013. I am running with the Black Girls Run! Group. I am so excited! My excitement showed on the pavement today. I was super confident, fully embodied, and ran my fastest time yet! This race presents so many opportunities: Not only do I have the chance to trust God to do something in me I've always feared, I also have the chance to run with an amazing group of Black and Brown women who are totally committed to living healthy and whole lives. And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I will have a testimony to share after that race.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Think on These Things: I Found the Answer

As I prepared breakfast for Baby Girl on Monday, I could hear Mahalia Jackson's voice faintly in the distance:

I found the answer, I learned to pray,
O, with faith to guide me, I've found the way.
The sun is shining for me each day,
I found the answer, and I learned to pray.

This song ministered to me on Monday morning and continues to do so. I hope it blesses your soul as you go about life's journey.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Preaching: A Maskil

Yesterday I preached at the Bethesda Baptist Church of New Rochelle. Bethesda nurtured and nourished me in the faith. It is the place where I accepted Christ, engaged in rigorous study of the Bible, answered my call to ministry, was ordained to the Gospel ministry, and served as the Assistant to the Pastor for two years. It is also the place where I learned to preach. My pastor, Rev. Dr. Allen Paul Weaver, Jr. is a dynamic, passionate, and educated preacher. He loves Jesus, loves his people, and pours out from the depths of his soul when he is in the pulpit. Before I engaged in a formal study of homiletics in Seminary, I learned about exegesis, textual analysis, voice, and delivery sitting under Dr. Weaver. I am grateful for his witness and for every opportunity that he has given me.

This morning as I reflected on my preachment, and myself as a preacher, I recognized two things:

I am not a "hooper" by any stretch of the imagination. My preaching professor once remarked that I wasn't the most excitable preacher. (He was affirming my voice.) A woman in a congregation I preached at last month noted that my voice was calming. I used to envy preachers who could move a crowd with their voice. I wanted my own signature "say yeah" that would have people standing to their feet when I preached. If I am honest, I felt a tinge of nervousness before I preached yesterday. When I arrived at the church I was told, several times, how the preacher at the 7:30am service tore the pulpit up. I am not a pulpit tearer-upper. But God set me straight. God is pleased as long as I am excited about the Gospel, immersed in study, and preach with authenticity of voice. That authenticity comes across when I preach--whether my voice is soft or booming.  Besides, the "goal" of preaching is not to have folks standing when you preach; Rather that they walk the aisles to surrender their lives to Christ and/or have a closer walk with Jesus when they leave the sanctuary.

I used to rely heavily on a written manuscript and my technology, namely my iPad, to preach. God has reminded me that when preaching that I need to rely solely on the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. In this new season my preparation has changed. I have surrendered my rigidity and my controlling nature. I have been soaking up God's word, whether I am preaching or not, so that when it comes time to prepare there is something deep within for God to work with. Yesterday, as I mounted the pulpit, I went with Bible and an outlined 4x6 index card in hand. I never even glanced at the index card. This is a far cry from the woman who would previously read word for word from her digital manuscript on the iPad. If it was on the screen, I said it. If it wasn't on the screen, I didn't say it. This, of course, left little room for the blowing winds of the Holy Spirit to breath afresh on that which I had prepared. This is not to say that I'll never write a manuscript again. It simply means that I recognize that the manuscript doesn't give me power to preach; God give me power to preach.

Life, if we take the time to look back, has much to teach us. These are but two of the many lessons I hope to learn in this journey...

Friday, September 6, 2013

Transition Time...

I love change.

That said, I also hate transition.

In other words, I despise the process involved with change. From the frivolous: I love drastically changing my hair, but I despise sitting to get braids, growing out bangs, etc. To the serious: I love salvation, but sanctification is tough for me (God, why can't we be perfect in one fell swoop?)

And so, this has been a rough couple of days for me. Baby girl is doing quite well in daycare; She has been playing and learning and eating and sleeping well. Her momma, on the other hand, is having a harder time. I'm fine when she's at daycare. In fact, I got more done before noon on Wednesday than I had gotten done in the three weeks prior. I have been reading and writing and cleaning and running errands unencumbered. Plus, I'm looking forward to passionately engaging with adults once I begin working again. However, when Baby Girl comes home it is a different story. She is figuring out what it means to be home with me--and only me--for just a few hours before bedtime. She has been clingy and fussy and tired and nothing I do, short of going outside to play for two hours, helps. I miss my sweet little lovely. I await her return. And until then, I will be patient and extend grace to her, and to myself. For it is grace that gets us through moments of transition...

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Vocation: A Holy Conversation

vocation |vōˈkāSHən|nouna strong feeling of suitability for a particular career or occupation: not all of us have a vocation to be nurses or doctors.• a person's employment or main occupation, esp. regarded as particularly worthy and requiring great dedication: her vocation as a poet.• a trade or profession.ORIGIN late Middle English: from Old Frenchor from Latin vocatio(n-), from vocare to call.Tomorrow, Baby Girl will start daycare/school. I was so excited that I purchased a back to school outfit for her (which includes a polka-dotted tutu). Sadly, there are no new clothes for me. Thanks be to God, there is another kind of newness in store!This newness is around my vocation. I've posted the definition of vocation above. In my understanding of vocation, the above definition reduces the word to something lifeless and one sided. I am drawn more to the origins of the word--vocare--which means to call. What we do is more than a job; What we do is our response in holy conversation with a gracious and loving God. I am reminded of the Prophet Isaiah, who in response to God's calling answered, "Here am I, Lord. Send me!" (Is. 6:8). I answered my call to preach in 2007, however I believe that--whether ordained or layperson--God calls us over and over and over again for greater works, new directions, and new visions all to His glory. Beloved, God is calling me again...To that end, before I get active in my new church home (New Hope Baptist Church of Metuchen, NJ) and before I find employment (baby needs a new pair of shoes to match her tutu) I am going to get still and get clear and listen for God's call as to the direction I should go. And whether it is full-time ministry, non-profit work, education, a mix of the three, or none of the above, as long as God is leading, I will certainly follow. This more than about a job to make ends meet. In fact, it is more than about a career to sustain our family over the years. This is about being who God has called me to be, in the place where God has call me to be. To help me get there, I plan to spend a week doing the following:1) Creating a Vision Board2)Completing the "Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts" Assessment3) Completing the "Birkman Method Preview Report"The first two, vision board and spiritual gifts assessment, I've done multiple times. Without fail, God speaks to me and with these tools I am able to write the vision and make it plain (Habakkuk 2:2). I had planned to do the Myers-Briggs assessment, but a fellow creative momma suggested that the Birkman method may be more helpful for who I be. These tools, coupled with Scripture, prayer, and meditation will surely open me up to live boldly into the fullness of my vocational identity. In the days and weeks that follow, I look forward to sharing my discoveries with you.Beloved, what has God called you to do? When is the last time you paused to listen for the call? What tools have you used to open your heart to God's calling? How have you responded?It is my prayer that as God calls us anew, that like Isaiah, our response would be affirmative availability. That, indeed, is the essence of vocation...(definition jacked straight from the new oxford american dictionary on my mabcbook pro)