Sunday, February 28, 2010

Lenten Series #11: The (Black) Church

I have been on-call this weekend, meaning that I must stay within city limits and deal with any issues sent to me through our safety and security office. All weekend I debated with myself whether I was going to church today. If I do it will have to be a church in town, and the only place I have truly enjoyed has been the Methodist church. I may try the Baptist church again once my car is up and running. But the Methodist church is walk-able.

The truth is I have not been in church in weeks, except the times when we have had “Black Church in Grinnell” which is a university sponsored service that I assist in leading. With that said, this is the only black church experience we have in town!!! This means that if I wanted to have a familiar church experience, I would have to travel an hour away to Des Moines. You guest it right, brother did not make it to any corporate worship service today. 

Hence, I want to talk about church for a moment. Particularly, the black church, but I am sure there is cross over between other types of churches. I thought about this blog when a fellow minister posted a link on his FBprofile to an article that asked the question “What will be the role of prophetic black churches on the national stage in these current national conditions?” I read the article and it took me back to my time at Candler during our many talks as I completed by MDiv degrees with Certificate in Black Church Studies and Baptist Studies. I love the black church for it is home and will always be! But I am not happy for what the black church has become, or better yet, from my eyes, it saddens me that we have fallen away from being the moral compass of our society. 

In addition, while preparing this blog, I thought about the study that just came out by The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which in summary suggested that this generation is less religiously affiliated then older generations. I am always asked by those who find out that I am a young ordained Baptist minister, as to why young people, in particular young adults, are missing from our traditional black churches. I often ponder why? Therefore,  i wish to share my thoughts. I have gathered these bullet points from my experience at, not just my home church, but from colleagues and their churches as well. If it only pertained to my church in Baltimore, then I left it off this list. I also want to note that not all of these pertain to my church. And here are some of my thoughts (in no particular order)…

1. That I would have to dignify that I am not only talking about my church. There are many who know my church or are part of my church that may read my blogs, and trying to figure out who/what exactly Michael is referring to. It is sad that we look for gossip rather than dealing with and working with the truth. 

2. Pastors who can preach but not pastor. (Especially among large congregations where the pastors only really know those who are active or the families that have deep root in the church). I do believe some are called to just be preachers, and that is okay!

3. Corruption within the church and pastors/deacon-boards/hand full of folks with all the power

4. Lack of dealing with sexuality (read my blog - Lenten Series #2)

5. Exclusion of people (women, young adults, GLBTQAAcommunity, mentally ill, homeless, drug addicts)

6. Mental health issues are not addressed. We begin to exclude, in many ways, those who are. Another thing... Depression can’t just be prayed out!! It is even taboo to talk about “seeing some on” to help deal with issues (counseling, psychiatrist, therapist, etc.)

7. Over Utilize some gifts/people while not recognizing or under-utilizing others

8. Either young adults being neglected or seniors being neglected. It is sad when folks love going to their church because the pastor preaches their souls happy, but they can’t find any other ministries of the church that met their needs. Now I am not just blaming this on the church leadership, instead stating some facts.

9. Not acknowledge sexual abuse! Continuing to allow perpetrators to have power while quieting the victims.

10. Marrying any and everybody in order to increase church membership (in other words, not taking seriously premarital counseling)

11. Neglecting the local communities around our churches (where over 75% of our larger churches’ memberships are coming from outside the two-mile radius).

12. Worshipping the Bible rather than God. Some folks can quotes scripture front and back but can’t even see God and experience God moving in this world today!

13. Lack of sincere love for one another! Instead there is backbiting, distortion of truth, seeking to hurt each other.

14. Ohh and let us not forget preachers gathering to see who preaches the best, whoops the best, wears the best, got the numbers, etc. that we neglect the mission of the black church. to be a prophetic voice for the marginalized and oppressed, unless it "can preach" and we get folks to say amen!

Some of these things, I will go into deeper during this Lenten journey, but I just wanted to list a few issues that continued to be raised when discussing the state of the black church with friends and colleagues. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are great thing about the black church and maybe I will talk about them tomorrow or later in the week. I will say that I know I would not be who I am today without the black church, in particular, my home church, New Shiloh Baptist (Baltimore, MD). They have stood by me and have been a source of strength and encouragement as I walk this path God is leading me through. My pastors have been very supportive and I love them both. No they are not perfect, and I don’t worship the ground they walk on. But, I respect them both because they have given so much to me and my church family, and have been my mentors in many ways. I know that I can call on them for anything at anytime.

Finally, we need to take serious our call to be prophetic voices in this nation and ask for forgiveness for falling away from our mission! I pray for our generation of pastors/preachers/church leaders that we heed the call. The black church must sincerely pray Psalm 51. Personally and collectively. Too often we want folks to personally confess, but collectively, we have fallen in many ways, and corporately we must and should continue to go to God’s throne of Grace.

Have mercy on us, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out our transgressions. Wash us thoroughly from our iniquity, and cleanse us from our sins. For we know our transgressions, and our sin is ever before us. Against you, you alone, have we sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgement.
Create in us a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within us. Do not cast us away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from us. Restore to us the joy of your salvation, and sustain in us a willing spirit…
Then we will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you…. O Lord, open our lips and our mouth will declare your praise…The sacrifice acceptable to God* is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
(Portions of Psalm 51, NRSV)

Humility resonance in this Psalm and it funny because we often say how much we want to be like Jesus, and we either forget or it slips our mind that Jesus was all about humility! We have a long road ahead, but I believe, especially when I look at many, not all, of my colleagues who are coming through or went through seminary (some need to go back or stay in!, I’m just saying), I have true hope for the future of the black church, my home sweet home! 

Peace, Love, and Prosperity,

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Lenten Series #10: Tragedy and Compassion

So a few days ago, I had to do something that I have not had to do since being called to ministry. Something that was very difficult for me.  I had to deal with communal grief that came to our community because of the sudden lost of a staff member.  She seemed to have died in her sleep. Her coworkers were concerned because she is normally one of the first ones to work at 8am.  So my office’s administrative assistant called me and my other coworkers from the chaplains office to a brief meeting to give us the news and to say that her colleagues really needed and wanted us (the rabbi and myself, because the chaplain, our boss was out sick) to go down and be with her coworkers in the accounting and hr departments. This was tough on several levels:

First, she was young, only about 33years old! That hit many of us because she was not far from our age.  The night before, she was talking to some coworkers and friends on facebook. And I believe was going to watch some of the Olympics but did not feel well so decided to go to bed early. Who knew that that would be her last communication with the living. Some believed she had lived her life, touched many and has fulfilled her destiny, but of course for many felt that her life was cut short.

Secondly, the rabbi and I were the only men present. The two offices (hr and accounting) are dominated by women, and well, I grew up in a house of women, and many of my closet friends are women, so I have the inklings of when there needs to be “girl time”. Therefore, I believe the rabbi and I could not fully engage because they already formed a sisterhood.

Thirdly, I really did not know her and don’t believe I have ever met her except through email correspondences. The same could be said for the members of that office, because I only have had conversations with many of them through email/phone call about financial matters. So my being called to give pastoral guidance was difficult. I know that I will be called to do this often, especially being an ordained minister, so I know it is a skill I will learn and develop over time, but this doesn’t reduce the fact that it is hard. When I later talked this through with my boss, the chaplain, she fully understood that and even comforted me by sharing that it is only because of such situations and private tragedies, etc. that she has gotten to know members of that office on a more personal note.  She also acknowledged the difficult nature of such lost because a lot of our work is around students and yet we are called be the Chaplain/spiritual leaders for the entire community (faculty, staff, and students).

Before I was called down and given the news, I was in the midst of planning for our weekly Wednesday Praise and Prayer service.  It is interesting how our plans go on hold in order to be a presence for the community.  I won’t lie, at first my concern was on the service, will I have to cancel? How will they know (students/staff) if it is canceled? When will I have time to complete the planning of the service / what about the bulletin?  How do I get o the guitarist, who I have already asked to fill-in for our regular pianist?  Through the sincere concern and quick movement of my colleagues, I was reminded that these things will take care of themselves and right now we are called to be a ministry of presence down at the Old Glove Factory (the name of the building where accounting and HR reside).  And that is exactly what at we provided. We let them know the services our office provides, gave space for them to share their stories, their fears, their hurt, and finally we prayed together. We stayed around for little while after, and as we prepared to return to our office we reminded them to call us email us, if they need us, corporately or individually.

As I left the gathering, I headed to the chapel. I didn’t have time to print out a bulletin/program for the noon time service. But as the rabbi dropped me off in front of the chapel, I confessed to him that the hardest part for me was preaching to the multitude. I find it easy to deal with grief one-on-one, but in a group it is hard because each person’s needs are different. I continued to think on this as i waited for people to come for the service (I had about 20minutes to spare).  So there seated in the chapel, I flipped through my bible and stumbled across the story of Jesus feeding the multitude.

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ Jesus said to them, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ They replied, ‘We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.’
And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’ Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. (Matthews 14:13-21)

What intrigued me was that Jesus was exhausted tires, probably just wanted to get away and retreat. But tragedy struck, the people were hungry. The disciples wanted them to go home and find their own food, but Jesus commanded that the disciples feed the people. When we read this passage I think too often we get stuck on Jesus feeding 5,000 with a just a few loaves of bread and some fish. We get stuck on “the miracle”. But I think some thing deeper happened even before the miracles. It was the compassion that Jesus had for the people that we ought to admire and emulate. He was tired, I know it had been along few days, but the people were hungry, needed food, it was the compassion that met the need of the multitude. The food provided temporary relief. But the outpouring of Jesus’ love is remembered for generations and generations to come!! Also, it was Jesus being present that allowed him to see and serve the needs of the people, the multitude.

I don’t want to be a mere Christian (cuz Christians, like the disciples, can send you home hungry), but instead, I want to be like Jesus, in my heart!!

Peace, Love, and Prosperity,

Friday, February 26, 2010

Lenten Series #9: I Love My Job!

I'm just going to say it...I Love My Job! 

This is a statement that not everyone gets the chance to say. I count it a joy, a privilege, and I really don’t take it lightly. Rarely ever do I have to use the phrase “T.G.I.F.”(Well except for this week because of a campus situation my office had to respond to, I think I’ll talk more about that in tomorrow’s blog because I am still processing it all).   

But getting back to how much I love this job… I get paid to get to know students, to attend events, to provide at times just a ministry of presence. Tonight, I got to chill with many different students (mainly from CBS, our version of a BSU) as they sang oldies but goodies while eating pizza and wings. Tomorrow, I get to share in the Jewish holiday of Purim, and on Sunday evening I will have dinner and conversation with the students chosen to go to Atlanta with me during spring break as we concentrate on the issue of homelessness. 

In addition, I get to counselor students who are having hard time either dealing with deaths, relationships or just adjusting to college life. I mentor students (particularly males) who are seeking a role-model (whether willingly or as a consequence to some actions). I comfort students through hard situations, and rejoice with them when things seem to be going great! I plan and re-design programs with students in mind.  Also, I get the chance to collaborate with brilliant professors, and I have even been asked to share insights in some classes.   

All that I have just described is just a mere glimpse at the blessing God has given me. And I don’t take it lightly.  I could talk about the hard stuff; the long nights (at times). The meetings I go to in order to plan for another meeting.  The meager pay for working 2 different jobs. I could list more, but “My good days, outweigh my bad days, so I won’t complain!”  I echo our dear friend, Paul:

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:11-12

Peace, Love, and Prosperity, 

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Lenten Series #8: Cold (brrrr)

I have something to share with you that has been on my mind for what seems to be such a long long long time... 

I know you were may be expecting something so deep, so philosophical, or some biblical exegesis, but today I just need to let you know how cold it has been here in Iowa!

Temperatures have been below zero and yesterday the wind factor made it feel like it was -15degrees. Now, some may say “Michael, you knew this before you moved there. People warned you. I warned you!” Well… To those I say SHUTUP!! (out of love, so keep reading lol) It was extremely frigid yesterday while walking from one end of the campus to the next, my legs became numb. It was so cold, that I did not go to the dining hall for dinner yesterday. Instead, I cooked in my apartment, which I rarely do during the week because of my busy schedule. Did I mention that they are calling for more snow the middle to latter of next week!! GOD, GIVE ME STRENGTH!!!

Today after all my meetings, I had dinner in the dining hall by myself while “people watched”. I looked around, and saw the Dhall packed with students laughing, talking, eating, breaking bread together. Did not think much of it. Seemed like a normal day. But as I begun to leave, while carrying my tray, I saw a familiar face, a fellow student affairs staff person with his wife, daughter and son. I stopped and talked to them as they were gathering food. He introduced me to his family. I told them they picked the right day to come to the Dhall, because of it being “Wing Night” and they even had country pork ribs, all the fixins, and oreo mud-pie for dessert. I told them it is normally not like this so enjoy it while they can and they laughed. After I said goodnight to them, they continued smiling, and visiting the different stations. When I walked out the Dhall, I realized that I had just been visited by God, the Almighty.

Ok, so I lied, here comes the deep stuff…

See, the back story that I did not tell you is that this family just lost their entire home, EVERYTHING, due to a house fire (including the family dog). Yet every time I see the dad, he has a smile on his face, very pleasant, and I could even see that love and joy through his family. Yes, they were fortunate that the college offered them a college-owned house to rent for a few months as things get sorted out. So on these cold nights they have a place to stay. But the fact remains they lost every family memorabilia; they lost their own individual/personal belongings (although the members of the town and college, including the students, are helping to replace items). They lost it all!! Yet when I look into his eyes and even in each of their eyes tonight, I saw glimmers of hope! They have each other, which was evident as they introduced themselves to me.

Well, with all that said, It is Cold! But How dare I Complain!! God has been too good to me! I have a roof over my head, nice fluffy pillows and three free meals a day. Even though I don’t have the best of clothes and material possessions, I have what I have and the ability to purchase more. All my needs are being provided for. And yes it may be cold outside, but I don’t have to worry about being cold in my apartment because we have 24hr maintenance. These seem like little things, but after tonight, my eyes have been opened to how big they really are!

Today, I noticed that whenever anyone asked me how I was doing, I would say “Cold!” We would laugh and talk about how bad the weather is (given that I only have to walk a block or two to go to my office and meetings) Now that I think about it, if that is all that I can say, what message is being delivered about the God that I serve!

A friend who frequent my blog and my FBpage recently said something to the tune of “Michael I prayer for patience on your behalf, spring will come soon enough.” I laughed that over, but now it truly runs deep in my heart. So I pray…

God of Longsuffering, God of Patience, God of Peace,
Give unto me endurance and teach me to be thankful for the simple gifts you provide daily so that I may be a witness of your unfailing love. Through Christ, who gives us strength, Amen.

Peace, Love, and Prosperity,

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lenten Series #7: The Journey

What essentially, does your call to ministry mean in your life?
This call reminds me that I am on a journey. One with ups and downs, turns and stop signs. But it is one that pushes me forward as I seek God's will. One that is taking me all across this country, this world, and one that keeps me humbled. 

When I first left home to go to seminary, i knew that when my time was done,  I  would immediately be called to a medium size church to serve as pastor or associate pastor. If you would have told me then that I would have be in ministry at a small private liberal arts college, i would have laughed at you.   But as God pruuned me and prepared me,  I begun to see my desires shifting to become God's desires for my life.  God opened me up to an entire new avenue. Well, i must give credit to my experience at Candler, and within the Emory office of Religious Life (which was through my Contextual Education experience). They opened my eyes to seeing how God could use, even me, on a college campus to assist young adults as they seek to make meaning of their lives.  What a journey God has taken me on!

It is now, after my seminary experience, that I realize that I have been called into the fullness of ministry that is not just centered around preaching, but around caring for people and meeting the needs of the community through the love of Christ. So now, I have a purpose for living. I get excited because this call is not a 9 to 5. But it is a lifestyle and a continual process. So not only do I have a purpose, but I have a direction to follow. Yes, I am applying myself to be a minister of The Gospel. In doing this, my ultimate goal in life is simple. I believe that "If I can help somebody as I pass along, then my living shall not be in vain.” My plan is that my love for Christ and His people will manifest in strengthening the lives of others.  This happens in the pulpit and in my daily life, which includes all of who I am. again i echo that this call is a journey!

This calls means that I continue my desire to work within higher education in student affairs. This has been my ministry and my calling since my days in undergrad at UMBC.   So, it is my desire to continue within higher education, while pursuing my ministry as a Multicultural Diversity Educator and Christian Worship &Liturgical Arts Consultant. Again, this year I finally realized that ministry for me is beyond preaching. Although, I believe I am a good preacher, and I love to proclaim the gospel and I pray for more opportunities to preach, I have come to the point where I know I am called to MINISTRY, meeting people where they are. Just as the prophet Ezekiel did when he went to the Judean exiles and, “was overwhelmed and sat among them...” (Ezekiel 3:15, NLT).  What best place to do such work then on a college campus, with young people who are seeking to find their way, walking thier own journey, desiring their own call.  

This call of ministry is a journey and has entrenched itself in the totality of my life. 
Peace, Love, and Prosperity, 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lenten Series #6: The Call

Call to Gospel Ministry:

Upon entry into undergrad at UMBC, I was a Computer Engineer. I loved it for a year and a half, and then the passion dwindled. As a result, I changed my major to Mathematics. I love math, and I have always enjoyed it. In high school, I was always in accelerated math courses.

I do not know why I selected computer engineering, when in fact, my passion was for math. At least I thought this, until the summer of 2005 while in Columbia, Missouri conducting computer science and mathematics research at a local university. The town and the people were great; nevertheless, I hated the research I was conducting, and at times I became very lonely. Being from Baltimore, I missed the city life, my friends and my family. Even so, this was the best summer of my life. Why? Because GOD met me there, and we had a chance to truly commune. It was in Missouri that God spoke to me (at a tree I can still picture and remember) and told me to leave it all, even the stability of my scholarship to follow God. I was afraid, but did just what God said. 

At that time, I acknowledged and truly began to struggle with the call to ministry. I knew that if GOD called me and I did not go, the weight of punishment would be the same as if GOD did not call me and I went. I knew that GOD had something great in store for me, but not that!
After returning from Missouri, seeking counsel from my pastors, listening to GOD, and allowing God to lead me to Isaiah 6, I realized that GOD was telling me that ministry was indeed God's will for my life. God told me that They needed someone to go, and I asked myself, “Michael will you go?” 

It was August 7, 2004, when I said, “Lord, here am I, send me”. Even until this day, do not know where exactly God is sending me, or how exactly I will get there, but I do know that...

If Jesus goes with me, I’ll go anywhere! ’Tis Heaven to me, where’ I may be, if He is there! I count it a privilege, this cross to bear. If Jesus goes with me, I’ll go, anywhere!”- C. Austin Miles. 

Go, anywhere... Yes, the call has taken me away from my family and friends.
Go, anywhere... Yes, the call has taken me to Grinnell, Iowa.
Go, anywhere... Yes, the call has taken me into student affairs/ college setting.
Go, anywhere... Yes, the call has taken me exactly where God needs me to be!

Although I am a sinner saved by God's undeserving grace and mercy, I want to allow God's light shinning through me to draw seekers closer.

Peace, Love, and Prosperity, 

Monday, February 22, 2010

Lenten Series #5: Is God Moving?

I have been wanting to share my ordination responses (from June 2009) for some time, and well I thought I would use this week, to share some of the questions and even update some of my responses based on new experience.

What do you see God doing in the contemporary world?

This question has caused me to ponder another question, Is God actually moving in the contemporary world? It is hard sometimes to see, with the high murder rates in our inner cities, the lack of financial stability for families, high unemployment rate, children being malnourished in our own country let alone around the world, the recent plane crash killing over two hundred innocent people, and the more recent Marta train crash from DC, and the destruction caused by natural disaster in Haiti, the corruption in our government and large corporations, and let's not forget the pimping that is happening in our churches. All of this and more makes one ponder where is the Hand of God in this world today? But then I heard the prophet Isaiah say: 
“Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick: Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild animals will honour me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.” Isaiah 43:16-21
A New Thing!! Is my God- moving? Indeed God is!! But how? Was not Isaiah speaking to the people then? So I still I pondered, what is our God doing now? 

I then heard the voices of the host of my ancestors; you know, the great cloud of witnesses, those who witnessed God’s movement on earth and have crossed over to the other side. I heard them saying, “Michael, our child, open your eyes! Did you not feel the wind as God moved God's arm as God placed the first black President of the free-world into office? And that same wind swept across the cornfields of Iowa to bring the same such experience to Grinnell College, where our prayers continue to guide your path.

Did you not witness God's feet move across the waters that saved many during the hurricane disasters? Did you not see God's hand of love around the young men being saved by mentoring programs such as “Mentoring Male Teens in the Hood”? Do you still not perceive? Did you not hear God's voice of cheer from all the different generations, the different tongues, in churches all across the world this past Sunday that were calling on the name of Jesus? “O for a thousand tongues to sing, my dear Redeemer's praise, the glories of my God and King, the triumphs of God’s grace!” 

Did you try wrapping your mind around the new forms of technology that are hastening the cures for diseases, and those used now for getting the word out about the saving grace of God through Christ Jesus? Did you not smell the abundance of God's grace and mercy as the freshness of the rain has been pouring out so that droughts would no longer be an issue this year in the major farming parts our country? 

Finally, our child,” they said, “on that rainy day, when it was all said and done, did you not see the rainbow... for when it looked like the sun wasn't gonna shine anymore, God, OUR God did a new thing and put a rainbow in the sky!”

So you asked the question: What do you see God doing in the contemporary world? Well, I see God moving and doing a new thing!!

Peace, Love, and Prosperity,

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Lenten Series #4: The Great Cloud of Witnesses

It is Saturday, and I spent the afternoon watching a film at the city’s library with the Concerned Black Students org. they sponsored along with some of the black faculty, screening Julie Dash's Daughters of the Dust. What an intricate yet powerful independent black film. I suggest you watch it once with a group of people, dialogue about the different characters and symbolism, and then watch it again. So much to see that you will indeed miss some things the first time around. It was wonderful. I won’t go into much details about the film because I think it is a must see especially for those interested in understanding the African culture and the African American experience. 

I will say that there were many themes scattered throughout the film, but the one that resonates with me is the struggle between the old and the new, tradition vs. contemporary. A continual message from the elders was that the new generations must not forget where they had come from. This is what I want to spend my blogging talking about. 

Many people would say I have an old soul. Well, that’s because I grew up always being around my elders. Whether it was in my church, my grandmother’s church or even teachers in school, I seemed to always have been surrounded by adults. I credit that to my mom for she seemed to always make sure that I had strong role models around me. Therefore, I am where I am because of my ancestors, because of those who paved the way. Sometimes it may sound like a cliché, but I know it to be true that I STAND ON THE SHOULDERS OF GAINTS!  

And so as I continue to this Lenten journey I want to take this time to give thanks, to pay homage, to remember… 
  • those who took the time to pray for me. 
  • those who allowed me to sit under them and breathe in their wisdom.
  • those who took me to church and other places when my mom needed her space.
  • the teachers who gave me extra work after I finished min so that I would not disturb the class. 
  • those who put a few dollars in my pocket (from the coins to the bills to the checks).
  • those who let me express my culinary skills in the church culinary ministry.  
  • the talks and encouraging words by men who became role-models and big brothers.
  • Even as I sit at my computer in the office connected to my apartment, I can’t help but think about the trailblazers who made it possible for me to have this job in the middle of the cornfields of Iowa. I don’t know their names, nor their faces, but I give thanks to the Almighty for the path they have laid forth. Because I know it was not just by my merits that I have made it thus far.  I am grateful for the great cloud of witness that keeps me focus on the goal. 
  • Finally, I give thanks for my grandmother, Vashti Hall Hunt Forman, representing in my life the great cloud of witnesses who laid a strong foundation for my Christian journey. I only named her, because I knew that if i begun listing, i would not be able to stop,  (Leila Lee, Andrew Carter, Leslie Davis, Nathan Carter, etc.) 
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

Peace, Love, and Prosperity, 


Friday, February 19, 2010

Lenten Series #3: Role-Modeling

This has been a very long week!!!!!!!!! As I reflect back over I am grateful for having a great job where I get to minister to college students in a unique setting. 

Since Tiger’s confession seems to be all over the blog-sphere today, I thought I would say a few words. The interesting thing is that these words have nothing to do with Tiger, but instead has a lot to do with me they are a deep reflection on how I live and want to live my life. By no means am I perfect, nor will I say I am the best role-model there is. However, I will not be naive and say that I am no role-model because no matter what, I know people are watching. 

Whether it is the little girl from my church who hugs me every time I go back home or the students who needs to meet with talk about his lack of motivation, or my little sister who is in her first year of college. I know that people are watching. And thus I must do my best to exude excellence, honesty, Yet knowing that I am grateful that I am not in the media spotlight because if the truth be told, I don’t want all my secrets let out into the light. 

When Peter denied Jesus 3 times, Jesus still met him at what might have been one of his darkest hours and said ”Do you love me?...feed my sheep” Though we may fall from the world graces and though we all have skeletons in our closet. I still hear the Lords voice saying “Tend to my sheep!” That is why I am grateful because despite myself, God gives me a second, third, fourth, 389th time to get it right! To light my light shine! To be a witness of God’s love! To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with my God! (Micah 6:8)

This is a short blog today because as I stated, it’s been a long week! But I leave you with these words from Jesus, the ultimate role model that many of us profess to want to be like, yet continually miss the mark. Jesus says: 

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your God in heaven.” (Matthews 5:14-16)

This passage helps me when I think before I act, and causes me to ask the question what light does folks see when the look /interact with me? Ohh how I pray that they see JESUS!

Peace, Love, and Prosperity,


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lenten Series #2: Sexuality - I am Who I am

Almost missed my deadline LOL... (thank God for Central Standard Time)

Today I faced one of most challenging experiences… preparing a bible study around the theme: SEXUALITY. What do I say? How do we begin? Should we start with questions? What if someone gets highly offended? What do I do if…? Soon after worrying about how I was going to present this topic/begin the dialogue, I thought about why it is so hard to have such a discussion. What about this topic makes it difficult to prepare a bible study? So easy to talk about the children of Israel or the life of Christ, or examination of the Psalms, but sexuality??!!? Then I realized it is hard because we don’t talk about it! Period! Growing up it was taboo to acknowledge ones feeling towards the opposite gender and even harder if those feelings were towards the same gender.

When I asked my students why they decided to come to talk about sexuality, many of their initial comments centered on how homosexuality is a major issue in their particular denomination. In other words, they skipped the word sexuality and went right to homosexuality. They had no language developed around sexuality, but knew that the church has been facing splits and separations because of varying views on homosexuality. So we had to spend time distinguishing the difference between the two and how our focus for this discussion would be based on sexuality as a whole and not to single out homosexuality(although we then decided it would be our next bible study topic).

Another student emphasized how much we avoid Songs of Solomon /Songs because of the deep sexual nature of the writer. We avoid! We don’t talk about it! We don’t even acknowledge our sexual nature and therefore disregards one of the major parts of God’s creative genius, our sexuality. How many sermons, how many bible studies, how many workshops, how many worship songs acknowledges God brilliance in creating sexual beings. Instead, we constantly associate sexuality with sin, and fornication, etc. (sidebar: yall know yall Christians don't be listening to gospel music, when you express your sexuality!!!LOL Yall know Shirley Caesar(or for my light skinned family, Michael W. Smith) do not be in the background!!! hahahaha. okay end of sidebar)

I do think it is important to note that my view on sexuality and homosexuality have changed quite a bit since my journey through seminary and my interaction with some great people from diverse backgrounds. I will go deeper into this at some point during my Lenten journey. But for right now, there is something very significant that struck me from Psalm 139. Ohh how I love that psalm! It really places emphasis on the fact that God knows all about me!! Not only am I “fearfully and wonderfully made”, but “My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.”

In other words, it was clear that when God created me, God created me in secret. I hope this will help somebody cuz it helped me! When I was created in secret, I was created in the image of a God, who knows all about me.  Every part of me, my personality, my sexuality, my frame, my big-bonedness :) , my heart, my soul, my corks, my EVERYTHING. Therefore, I must stop allowing society, the world, the church, my parents, my friends, dictate who I am, but I must know that my God knows all about me and that  is more than enough!!!! I am who I am, and that is indeed a child of God, complete with sexual desires, brilliant mind, handsome features, and the same MUST BE said for each human being, my sisters and brothers.

If the church is going to be relevant in the 21st century, then we can no longer allow the creation that God made be ashamed of who they are, but embrace it and utilize our sexuality as a means of growing closer to God, to oneself, and to each to each other in community because I am who I am! Friends, I leave you with portions of Psalms 139.

Psalms 139 1-6; 13-16
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.

For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance."

Peace, Love, and Prosperity,

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lenten Series #1: HUMILITY- The Breathe of God

okay let me be honest... yesterday and this morning I was not happy that our office (Religious Life) was forced to move our Ash Wednesday service that was to be at noon, to now having one in the morning and one at night to accommodate the college's announcing the new president. I was not a happy camper!! But then this morning, during the first service, my boss the Dean of Religious Life said something simple yet profound in her closing prayer, something like:

"O God we know we are just dust and are nothing without you breathing in us, through us and all around us"

That hit me!!! Not only is God's breathe in us, but it’s all around us. As she continued praying I pictured this mighty wind surrounding me and if it stopped for even a second, every part of me would fall to ground, and become dust.

Echoes of Psalms 139 filled my soul “O LORD, you have searched me and you know me…Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” I don’t want to go, I don’t want to flee because then I will be useless as dust.

In other words, I WAS HUMBLED! I was gently reminded that this journey through Lent is a reminder of not what we can do, but that we cannot do, better yet we cannot BE without God. And so my attitude changed and I even decided to go back to my apartment to wear a little more business attire to get ready to meet the President ( not a suit, but a button up shirt :) )

Ill save talking about the new President and others details surrounding that until tomorrow. Because it has been a LOOONNGGGGG DAY!! Goodnight my friends. I leave you with these simple words by Daniel Iverson...

"Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.
Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me."

Peace, Love, and Prosperity,


Lent Season Begins!!

The season of lent is almost upon us. But as one of my colleagues reminded us in seminary "I'm Baptist, we don't lent” LOL.

Well, for my Lenten practice I have decided to blog each day. I find that I have a lot I want to say but really don’t have the local community to say it. So I will share my thoughts to my web/FB community through blogging.

I seek to share my thoughts openly and honestly. To critically examine my life, the world, the church. To speak truth to power. so today i begin this journey. Asking God to speak through me. Asking God to sharpen my hearing and my vision so that what a share is becomes a deeper reflection and not merely rants or inspirational vitamins.

if there is something you think i would enjoy writing about i would love for you to share it with me. I could always use ideas. Thanks!