Wednesday, May 30, 2018

"Hug Me, Brotha!": The Problem with Church "Bros"

In the church, it seems that the topic of relationships is taboo. From Sunday school age, we are taught that everyone we meet within the four walls of the church is our brother/sister in Christ. That's all fine and good...until you get a little older and realize your "brother" is easy on the eyes. As teenagers and young adults, we quickly learn that bro/sis = automatic friend zone. 

Friend zone maze / Pinterest

If I call a guy "bro," I mean it. From my perspective, the "brother" label creates a boundary. It's a subtle way of saying, "You're cool, but I wouldn't date you." Friend zone forever and ever, amen. 😂 That's just my personal interpretation of it, but I know some "sisters" who call their crushes "bro" and then get mad when they don't "take the hint." Sis, you can't be mad at what YOU mislabeled in the first place. Call a thing a thing (*Iyanla VanZant voice*)!

"Brothers," I feel you smirking as I type this. Don't even try it, because you guys do the exact same thing. What I really want to know is, when you call us "sis", how are you really feeling? It's a dangerously gray area. In conclusion, attention church boys, this is a public service announcement: We are all God's children, but until we CLEARLY establish what the nature of our relationship is, call me by my name. In the meantime, "Hug me, brotha!" Church-appropriate side hugs only, of course. Kickin' it Duggar style (& if you know where the "hug me, brotha" reference is from, let's be friends)!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

#WednesdayWisdom - "Let Me Prey for You": The Importance of Protecting Your Promise

Hey everyone, hope you're having a blessed week and making it over the hump. Last Wednesday, we talked about who you should connect to. This week's dose of #WednesdayWisdom is about who you should disconnect from. Today's scripture is Proverbs 4:23, "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it" (NIV). I've referenced this scripture before, but this time, I'm taking it in a different direction.

When I was younger, my grandma used to tell me, "You can't let everybody pray for you." Back then, I asked, "Why?" because I was raised knowing that prayer is a positive thing. Grandma told me that it is...when it comes from the right place. Now that I'm older, I understand the importance of limiting who I confide in.

Image source: JGI/Tom Grill/Getty

For example, let's say you're ecstatic about something HUGE that just happened in your life. If you told a few people and then all of a sudden, your plans fell through, it's probably because one of your friends told their friend, who told their friend, who pretends to be your friend, but is actually your enemy. Those people you trusted to pray for you may actually be praying against you, preying on your gifts and anointing. Telling everybody your business before everything is set in stone is a recipe for disaster. Everyone is not equipped to cover what you're carrying...and a lot of your "friends" are hoping you'll drop what you're carrying.

If you broadcast things prematurely, you run the risk of allowing your enemies to speak death over your destiny. Before you share your good news, you need to spiritually reevaluate your circle. Ask God to help you distinguish between snakes in the grass and those who are really in your corner. The hard truth is, people want to see you do long as you're not doing better than they are. You might think they're loyal to you, but in actuality, they're loyal to their need of you. They don't really believe in your gift, they believe they can ride your coattails all the way to the top. You were created to be used by God, not by man. The gifts you possess are valuable. When you are confident in that fact, you'll do everything in your power to protect them. Stop letting your adversaries put their mouth on your miracle. You can rejoice at the finish line, but until then, ZIP IT! When you get there, your accomplishments will speak for themselves. In the meantime, protect your promise by knowing when to share it. Timing is everything. #WednesdayWisdom

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

#WednesdayWisdom: The Winner's Circle Theory

Hey everyone, hope you're having a blessed week and making it over the hump. Your weekly dose of #WednesdayWisdom is a word on friendship. Your circle rubs off on you!

Whether you know it or not, you are a direct reflection of the company you keep. The more time you spend with people, the more their perspectives, habits, dialects, and even personalities can influence you. If you want to be great in life, you have to study the greats. Look at their formula for success and try it to see if it works for you. Surround yourself with who you want to be.

A couple of times on this blog, I've mentioned that in the next season of my life, I want God to send me friends who love Him. Don't get me wrong, I love introducing Jesus to those who don't know Him, but I can't hang with people who don't want to go higher! I need to be surrounded by people who love Him because I want to love Him more. If I'm really committed to growing in Christ, I can't afford friendships that influence me to walk backwards or be stagnant and complacent with where I am in Him. I need friends who not only see how great I already am, but also nurture my potential to be even greater. Real friends don't let you settle for good when they can see the God in you! Vessels pour into other vessels.

The "Winner's Circle" theory, as I call it, is actually a proven scientific fact. It's a principle called Stevin's Law, and it's demonstrated using communicating vessels. Let's break this thing down. First thing's first: What is a vessel? The word has several definitions, but for the purpose of this post, let's focus on the first one, as listed in Merriam-Webster's dictionary, "a container (such as a cask, bottle, kettle, cup, or bowl) for holding something." So, now that we know what a vessel is, let's see what Stevin's Law says about communicating vessels. According to hydrostatistics, "Given a set of two or more connected containers containing a homogeneous liquid, when the liquid settles, it balances out to the same level in all of the containers regardless of the shape in the volume of the containers."

Just in case you didn't catch that revelation, here's how it relates to the Winner's Circle Theory: If God fills up a vessel and you connect yourself to that vessel, whatever's in that vessel flows to you. Regardless of how different you look compared to the vessel beside you, you can and you will still be used. The same anointing, the same oil that filled that vessel now becomes shared with you simply because you're connected to it! When one vessel is elevated, pressure rises and the elevated vessel appears to have less liquid in it than the vessel it's connected to. In other words, elevation in the Kingdom creates more pressure on you, but if you're connected to a filled vessel that's not quite where you are yet, if your supply gets depleted, they can rise to where you are and fill you up again. This is why I want to connect myself to people who are more spiritually developed than I am. The strength of their faith will encourage me to rise to the occasion. As they cover me, I'll push myself to cover them. Check out the YouTube video below for a visual explanation of how connecting vessels work:

The big takeaway from this little science lesson is Proverbs 27:17, "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another" (NIV). When two or more vessels are connected, nobody is completely empty. Nobody's left out, and as long as they're on the same level, pressing towards the same mark, everybody wins. Like laughter, ambition (and passion for God) is contagious. Re-evaluate your circle and ask God to expose any and everyone who's not helping you get full. Get connected to some faith-filled friends who feel you and fill you, and watch God set you up to level up! #WednesdayWisdom

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

"For Us, He Will": A Mother's Love as Reflection of the Father

If you've read my blog for any length of time, you know by now that I love music. I mean the title of this site speaks for itself. The person who instilled that love in me was my mother. When she was pregnant with me, she sang all the time. Even in the womb, I was exposed to all genres, everything gospel to musical soundtracks (To this day, we still harmonize to The Sound of Music every chance we get. Don't judge.)

Before Mom rededicated her life to Christ, she primarily listened to secular music, so for the first five years of my life, my go-to artists were Kirk Franklin, K-Ci and JoJo, Charlotte Church, Deborah Cox, TLC, and Monica. I remember back in 1998 when The Boy Is Mine album was released. I was 4 years old and still in a car seat, belting "For You I Will" at the top of my lungs. A few years later, I found out that Monica sang it with her oldest son, Rodney, in mind, so I thought it was special that my mom and I sang it together. It wasn't until adulthood that I realized that the song is applicable to a relationship with God.

Monica - The Boy Is Mine (1998) / Amazon

Verse 1:

When you're feeling lost in the night

When you feel your world just ain't right

Call on me, I will be waiting

Count on me, I will be there

Anytime the times get too tough

Anytime your best ain't enough

I'll be the one to make it better

I'll be there to protect you, see you through

I'll be there and there is nothing I won't do

When I was younger, I interpreted these lyrics as a mother's selfless love for her child, but they can also be read as the Father's love for His child. Whenever we're feeling lost, He's there. When nothing seems to be going right, when we feel like we can't make it, He always sees us through.

Verse 2:

I will shield your heart from the rain

I won't let no harm come your way

Oh, these arms will be your shelter

No, these arms won't let you down

If there is a mountain to move

I will move that mountain for you

I'm here for you, I'm here forever

I will be your fortress, tall and strong

I'll keep you safe, I'll stand beside you

right or wrong

This verse is basically Psalm 46:1-3 set to music. The New International Version reads, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in the time of trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging." No matter what life throws our way, we can run into God's arms for safety. He will always be in our corner.

Now, on to my favorite part of the song, the bridge:

For you I will lay my life on the line

For you I will fight, oh

For you I will die

With every breath, with all my soul

I'll give my world, I'll give it all

Put your faith in me

And I'll do anything

I really don't know how I sang "For You I Will" for almost 20 years and never realized it's gospel. It's crazy how my whole perception of this song changed when I really took the time to think about the lyrics. Jesus literally laid down His life and died for us. He gave everything so that we might live, and all He wants in return is to know that we trust Him. God is so good!

I think it's safe to say I'll never sing this song the same way again. I know that Sunday is Mother's Day, and I believe that if she could, my mother really would bring me the moon, as the song describes. If I need her, even if I was on the other side of the world, I'm sure she'd attempt to cross every ocean to get to me as soon as possible. When I was younger, I used to think my mom was superwoman. She is one of the strongest people I know, and I consider her both hero and friend. The greatest gift she has given me is not just praying for me, but teaching me how to pray; not just holding my hand, but teaching me how to stand on my own. "For You I Will" makes me appreciate the sacrifices she's made for me, and it also makes me think about how mothers are a reflection of God's love for us. Everything we are is because they are, and everything they are is because He is.

My mother, Vivica, and I.

***To all those who have lost their mothers, my heart goes out to you. Those of us who still have our mothers all too often take them for granted, and during this time of year, most of us don't take into account the pain you must feel. While this post may make you sad, I hope it has also allowed you to reflect on who your mother was. Take comfort in knowing that God was the blueprint for her greatness, and lean on Him as you cherish her memory.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Set Apart: The War Between Calling and Compromise

Now that National Poetry Month is over, #WednesdayWisdom is back! Today's dose is a word on what it means to be set apart. In the war between calling and compromise, which one wins? I hope this message helps you make it over the hump.

"Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." - 2 Corinthians 6:17 (NIV)

Image source: Medium

From the moment I entered the world, I've been set apart. I was born three months prematurely, and doctors told my mother I had a 50 percent chance of survival. They gave her a long list of things I'd never be able to do, but that list is unimportant because I beat every odd. I excelled academically, and my only "disabilities" were a very mild case of cerebral palsy, which impedes my ability to run and climb, and rhetinopathy of prematurity, a visual impairment which requires me to wear glasses and causes my eyes to wander. Growing up, I was labeled the quiet, weird girl who walked with a limp. People constantly asked if I was looking at them, and when I'd answer "yes," they'd burst out laughing. I was bullied mercilessly from kindergarten through high school, and ostracized among my peers. I was called "lame" because I didn't go out of my way to join cliques, and I didn't dress like everyone else. I was a nerd, a homebody who stayed in the books (shout out to that 4.5 GPA 😎). For a while, it bothered me, but then I realized, people often ridicule what they don't understand. If they only knew my story...

Fast forward to undergrad, which was a (slightly) more mature version of the same thing. I made a handful friends in college, some of whom I still keep in touch with. For the most part, they were good people...the kind of people who got lit in the club on Saturdays and got cute for church on Sundays. Monday through Friday, most of them were pre-occupied with partying, drinking, and hooking up...none of which sparked my interest. As my friends encouraged me to "turn up" and "live a little," I turned down every invitation to compromise, but I started to wonder, Is something wrong with me? Why can't I let loose and have fun like everybody else? I used to think I couldn't do what everybody else was doing just because I was naturally a "goody two shoes" and my conscience wouldn't let me. As I've matured, I've realized it's deeper than conscience. It's calling.

Don't get me wrong, I have sinned. In fact, I fall short every single day. We all do, but the way my anointing is set up, whenever my flesh even thinks about doing something wrong, my spirit is automatically convicted, even if I decide to sin anyway. Back in 2015, I watched a sermon from Christian rapper Lecrae that really blessed me. He was preaching about value, using clothes as an example, and he said something I'll never forget. He said, "You're valuable because of Whose name is on you. God's glory is stitched in your genes." When you're set apart, God's glory is literally encoded into your spiritual DNA sequence. The hand of God in your life will be evident because you won't look, talk or act like the world. He'll take drastic measures to prevent you from sabotaging your own anointing.

If I hadn't been picked on, I might've hung out with the wrong crowd. If I'd started partying, drinking, and hooking up, I could've gotten into a car accident, gotten pregnant, or contracted an STD...but God. He took the taste for all those things out of my mouth before I even had a chance to acquire it. He left me out of the "in crowd" because there is a specific crowd of people I'm called to minister to. My calling won't let me compromise! Somebody out there needs what I've got...and somebody needs what you've got, too!

Being set apart can sometimes feel like a curse, but it's actually a major blessing. It's a heavy but necessary weight, and I'm honored to carry it. I'm still figuring out my purpose, and sometimes, I still wage an internal war with voices of insecurity and doubt. Sometimes I wonder why God chose me (although I'm learning to be content with never knowing why) but I'm so glad He did. Every day, I strive to make Him proud. #WednesdayWisdom