Thursday, October 31, 2013

Portals Into God's Presence: I Need Thee

In the midst of Bible Study last night, the Holy Spirit whispered something into my soul: We—as a society and in the body of Christ —are suffering from an over reliance of self. We take pride in being independent, not needing anybody, not even God. We may not express this in words, but our actions—my actions—speak this fact. And this "I can do it all by myself" behavior is hampering our relationship with God.  But the mark of a Christian, and at the core of our salvation, is a public proclamation that we need God. To love God, to serve God, to trust God, to have faith in God, we must surrender our need to be in control of everything. We must proclaim and live out our hymn of the day. I don't know about you, but I need God in ministry. I need God in my marriage. I need God in my parenting. I need God when I'm on the running trail. I need God in my sermon preparation. I need God when I'm preaching. I need God when I'm balancing my checkbook. I need God in my decision making. I need God in everything that I do.

Beloved, won't you sing with me—and dare to live out—the fiercely radical statement, "I need thee..."
I need thee every hour, most gracious Lord; 
no tender voice like thine can peace afford. 

I need thee, O I need thee; 
every hour I need thee; 
O bless me now, my Savior, I come to thee.

I need thee every hour; stay thou nearby; 
temptations lose their power when thou art nigh. 

I need thee every hour, in joy or pain; 
come quickly and abide, or life is vain. 

I need thee every hour; teach me thy will; 
and thy rich promises in me fulfill. 

I need thee every hour, most Holy One; 
O make me thine indeed, thou blessed Son. 

Here is Bishop Paul Morton singing a rendition of the song, the stanzas are his own, but the sentiment  (and the refrain) is the same as the original song. Let it minister to your soul...

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sharing Our Stories, Imago Dei & Being the Church

I was looking for something to write today. I am committed to posting twice a week, but this morning I found myself unsure about what I would write. There were no burning questions, no pressing issues, no challenges. There are joys, of course, but I'm not the woman who takes to my blog to brag about my wonderful hubby and blossoming baby girl. My life is in a business as usual kind of flow (a good thing). The same cannot be said for everyone.

After eating breakfast, when I should have been blogging, I logged on to Facebook and saw a post from a friend. Her post touched my soul, and immediately I shared it on my timeline. Upon sharing it, she messaged me to say express her appreciation. It was then that I realized that today is the day to share her story. God wants me to share her story.

Tejai Beulah is a doctoral student at the Theological School at Drew University. Our paths did not cross while I was at Drew, but God used my best friend, a doctoral student at Vanderbuilt University, to connect us. Our encounters have been few, but full. Tejai has a way of making you laugh, recognizing your gifts, engaging your intellect, and nurturing your soul. In essence, Tejai participates in God's presence and engaged me as Imago Dei, even when I was in my new mother fog and not feeling like I was remotely created in the image of God.

As Imago Dei, those created in the image and likeness of God, it is of paramount importance that we reflect God's love, God's grace, and God's generosity. I am reminded of the First Century Church who gave of themselves to assure that all in the fellowship were cared for:

"Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need" 
(Acts 2:44-45 NIV).

Beloved, please visit Tejai's page. There she tells her full story. After you've read it, please consider opening up your heart and your wallet. This is how we express ourselves as the church.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Portals Into God's Presence: Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Yesterday, as I was doing laundry, I made up a ditty to the tune of "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing." Like to read it, here it goes:

...Streams of laundry, never ceasing,
Call for mom to be busy.
Prone to leave clothes in the dryer,
Prone to fold them a week late.
Here's my iron, take and use it,
To make laundry nice and crisp.

All jokes aside, "Come, Thou Fount" is one of my favorite hymns. I especially love the third stanza. It speaks of the power of God's grace to cover our every debt. It speak of our need—my need—to have God's grace restraining us as trials and tribulations and our own messiness seek to capture and corrupt our hearts. It speaks of the reality that no matter how good God is, that sin is alluring and enticing and that every once and a while we might be enchanted by its lure. But, thanks be to God, it also speaks of the grater reality that we have the ability to surrender our hearts—the essence of who we are, the seat of our emotions—to a Loving and Merciful God to the glory of God and the edification of God's kingdom.

       Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.

Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
hither by thy help I'm come;
and I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of God;
he, to rescue me from danger,
interposed his precious blood.

        O to grace how great a debtor
daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here's my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

Monday, October 21, 2013

One Year Later...

A great friends of mine is the founding director of a faith based non-profit organization that focuses on wholeness and healing in the lives of women. Every year, for the past thirteen years, she hosts a brunch that gathers women over food and real talk and prayer and a commitment to live in the fullness of God. I have been blessed to attend many years, and this year the brunch was amazing (we focused on love), but the strides that Baby Girl and grandma made while mommy was fellowshipping with the sisters was priceless.

Last year, I arrived at my parents' house early. I nursed baby girl, kissed her, and made my way out the door. The brunch is five hours. And Baby Girl cried the entire five hours. Well, maybe not the entire time. Grandma did get a reprieve from the wailing when she took Baby Girl outside for a walk in her stroller. She didn't intend to take her outside; They were going to walk in the hallway and lobby of my parents' apartment building. But since the tears kept flowing and the cries were unceasing, grandma took her outside. The thing is, my mother was in her house slippers, with no socks, and without a jacket. She must've looked wacky walking around, but since that is what kept Baby Girl calm, she did what she had to do. Baby Girl was five months old.

Fast forward one year.

Baby Girl is seventeen months old now. Although she still isn't feeling everybody, she loves her grandma. Last week she sat (and played, because she cannot sit still for more than 2 minutes) with grandma at church while mommy preached the Gospel. But church for three hours is different than leaving her for five hours at grandma and grandpa's house. And different it was. When we arrived at my parents' house I did a quick and dirty drop off: I took off her jacket, gave her a snack, gave her a kiss and let her know that I would return soon. When I walked out the door she was wailing, but by the time I reached the end of the hallway her crying had subsided. Unlike this time last year, she didn't cry at all while mommy was away. She and grandma had a grand time. They played in the house—coloring with crayons, pretend baking with a flour sifter and pot, and watched Happy Feet. They video chatted with "The Aunties" (my sister and niece in California) and ate grandma's fresh fried chicken and mango.  They went for a walk to my mom's friends house and then to the park—sans stroller—marching and picking up acorns along the way. When I arrived at the house after my time of refreshing, Baby Girl greeted me and went about her business with playing with grandma.

I know from experience that change happens over time. But I must be honest, when Baby Girl was a baby girl and crying every time I left her I never imagined that she would be happy hanging with anyone besides hubby and I. But, thanks be to God, my imagination was limited. One year later, she still loves being with mommy and daddy, but she finds joy in being with others—especially grandma.

Some of you may be asking where grandpa was in all of this. Baby Girl is suspicious of any man that is not her father, including my dad. There was a time she wouldn't get close to him at all. (Despite the fact that she identifies him in pictures. When you ask where is grandpa, she points to him and says "Pa") Last weekend she gave him two high-fives, but wouldn't go in the room to say good-bye to him. I am pleased to report that this past weekend she not only went into the room to see "Pa", but she also gave grandpa hugs and kisses. My Baby Girl is growing up...

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Portals into God's Presence

I am blessed to have great friends. Great friends. Fiercely spiritual and smart friends. Amazingly beautiful friends. However, as we get older (and the responsibilities of life, families, babies, and doctoral programs set in) it is increasingly difficult to connect on a regular basis. We are still great friends, nonetheless. As blessed as I am to have great friends, I am more blessed to have a Friend who is always available. That friend is Jesus. I was reminded of this when I woke up singing our hymn of the week, "What A Friend We Have in Jesus." Meditate on the words as the Mississippi Mass Choir minister to your soul.

What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden,
cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge;
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In his arms he'll take and shield thee;
thou wilt find a solace there.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Writers Write...

Writer's Write...

And that's what I did.

I had an assignment due today for Urban Faith Magazine. At first I struggled writing it. And then the words. flowed like a river. That didn't happen until hours before the deadline, of course.

But I wrote anyhow.

And now I don't have too many more words to share with you except that I am grateful to God for this opportunity and grateful for the new spaces to minister.


image taken from

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Portals into God's Presence: Lead Me, Guide Me

I have been rather busy this week, hence no other blog post.  I have been preparing to pray I have been preparing to preach. I have been preparing to write.

And none of this would be possible or effective without the guidance of God. Simply put, in order for any ministry we are involved in to be edifying to the body of Christ and glorifying to God, we must be led by the Holy Spirit. To that end, our hymn for the week is Lead Me, Guide Me.

I am weak and I need Thy strength and power
To help me over my weakest hour
Lead me through the darkness Thy face to see
Lead me, O Lord, Lead me

Lead me, guide me along the way,
For if you lead me I cannot stray.
Lord let me walk each day with Thee.
Lead me, oh Lord lead me. 

Help me tread in the paths of righteousness.
Be my aid when Satan and sin oppress.
I am putting all my trust in Thee:
Lead me, oh Lord lead me.

Lead me, guide me along the way,
For if you lead me I cannot stray.
Lord let me walk each day with Thee.
Lead me, oh Lord lead me. 

I am lost if you take your hand from me,
I am blind without Thy light to see.
Lord just always to me thy servant be,
Lead me, oh Lord lead me.

Brother Joe May Pilgrim Travelers Lead Me Guide Me from sheepwoman on GodTube.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Portals into God's Presence: Hold to God's Unchanging Hand

Yesterday I purchased new running sneakers. I don't know if it was the shoes or my fatigue from Wednesday's Body Works plus Abs Class at LA Fitness, but I had a difficult time running today. I'm using the Couch to 10K app, which I've named Sheila; She tells me when to walk and run. I completed my training and ran when I was supposed to but my feet and legs felt time stone pillars for the entire run. It wasn't my best run, but the reality is that I never stopped running. And isn't it that way on the journey of faith. Some days are more difficult than others, but when we keep fast in our relationship with God, we make it through. The same way that I never stopped running—though my pace was slowed at times—as a Christian we overcome difficulties and trials by holding on to our faith, holding on to our God. And so, our hymn for the day is: Hold to God's Unchanging Hand. This weeks video is a sweet country/bluegrass group that, in my estimation, really sings this song. The lyrics and video are below.

Time is filled with swift transition,
Naught of earth unmoved can stand,
Build your hopes on things eternal,
Hold to God’s unchanging hand.

Hold to God’s unchanging hand,
Hold to God’s unchanging hand;
Build your hopes on things eternal,
Hold to God’s unchanging hand.

Trust in Him who will not leave you,
Whatsoever years may bring,
If by earthly friends forsaken
Still more closely to Him cling.

Covet not this world’s vain riches
That so rapidly decay,
Seek to gain the heav’nly treasures,
They will never pass away.

When your journey is completed,
If to God you have been true,
Fair and bright the home in glory
Your enraptured soul will view.

"God's Unchanging Hand" - The Franz Family, Live (Canon 5DmkII) from ColdWater Media on Vimeo.

(If you noticed, the video is from Vimeo and not YouTube. For some strange reason, YouTube has been acting funky on my Macbook and IPhone. Thank God for other video sites!)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What TIme is It?

In my very second week of my Liturgy course at Drew Theological Seminary with Dr. Heather Elkins she asked a poignant question: What Time is It? The answers ranged:

  • Some said, "10:15am" noting the actual time on their watch.
  • Some said, "Back to School" noting the time of year when students and teachers return to campus.
  • Others said, "Ordinary Time" noting the period on the liturgical calendar not marked by a major event for the Church (ie. Advent, Passion, Easter, Pentecost)
  • I said, "NOW" thinking about Jesus' words in the sixth chapter of Matthew's Gospel:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:25-34 NIV, emphasis my own)

That was a little over five years ago, and while I—in theory—I am attracted to living in the present, I still have a tendency to focus on the past and future. While there is nothing inherently wrong with glancing on the past as a source of joy, comfort, strength, or learning, taking up residence in the past has a way of halting ones spiritual growth. And planning and future thinking, too, aren't wrong per se, but it is problematic to worry, fret, and become anxious what hasn't yet happened.

I noticed this just yesterday. I am in a prime place in my life: married to a wonderful man, mother to a beautiful daughter, able to move about with some sense of ease, poised to glorify God in ministry outside of my home, and yet I have been so anxious about the future. I would go as far to say that I've made an idol of my Drew Seminary self—a theological rock star of sorts—who should be preaching and teaching, and perhaps pastoring RIGHT NOW! And so, my "now" response then still haunts me.

After asking us the time, Dr. Elkins asserted the following thought: Technologies of time are often our theologies about God. In other words, how we understand time shapes our theology about God. In my stewing over the past and being anxious about the future, I am making a profoundly theological statement that God is not trustworthy. Heavy. Which I know is not true. God is absolutely trustworthy and faithful.  So why is this ordained-minister-blood bought believer lady behaving like a practicing atheist?

The answer lies in social constructs of time that I have allowed to shape who I am and how I move in the world. What would it mean for me, for any or all of us, to rest into now without concern for the future. To let the future unfold as a series of God given nows. What would it mean for me, and you, to move away from arbitrary time-marked milestones in favor? Really, if I don't have my PhD by 40 is something cataclysmic going to happen. (Cue suspenseful music) What would it mean to embrace the time that we are in—whatever that time may be—and let it be used for our good and God's glory?

For me, it would be extremely liberating. It would give me time to think. Time to pray. Time to move. Time to dream. Time to laugh. Time to be with myself and others. Time to create. Time to play. Time to walk. Time to run. Which, when its all said and done, that's what my time here on earth is all about anyway. It would be a life not bound by what I should be doing, but modeled after Jesus very being as the Great I Am.

Another great preacher understood time in this way:

 There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
     a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
     a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
     a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
     a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
     a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
     a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
     a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, NIV)

Beloved, what time is it?