Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Surrendering My 2020 Vision

Sisters, how are y’all feeling? Brothers, are y’all alright? Merry Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa...whichever holiday(s) you and yours celebrate, I hope the season has been good to you. Listen, I know it’s been awhile since we’ve talked, but life (and grad school) took up a lot of my time. Now that winter break is upon us, I’m back to blogging.

Image source: Getty, via Forbes

Usually when I take a break from blogging, it’s because of creative burnout. I either let the numbers get to me, or I just feel like I don’t have anything to say at the moment. This last hiatus, however, was different—and intentional. While this pause was primarily to focus on grad school, I also needed to take some time to dream with God and tell Him what I want to do for His Kingdom. I was recently given Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming, as a gift, and I plan to use this word as my mantra for 2020. I haven’t started reading the book just yet, but the title alone has inspired me to try to figure out who/what He wants me to become. I’ve always heard people allude to Habakkuk 2:2, the Scripture that reads, “Write the vision and make it plain.” I had my own ideas about who I thought God was calling me to be, so I’d write down all the things I wanted to accomplish and then include if it be Your will as an afterthought. The problem was, I allowed my thoughts to “talk over” His voice—that is, until I read the verse above in context. 

Habakkuk, the man that this particular book is named for, is a prophet. He asks God, “GOD, how long do I have to cry out for help before you listen? [...] Why do you force me to look at evil, stare trouble in the face day after day” (Habakkuk 1:2-3, MSG)? Habakkuk is frustrated because all he sees around him is danger, death, and destruction, and he can’t understand why it seems like God isn’t doing anything about it. Angrily, he asks, “Why are you silent now? This outrage! Evil men swallow up the righteous and you stand around and watch” (Habakkuk 1:13 MSG)! Personally, I can’t tell you how many times this year I’ve been angry at God, how many times I’ve cried out to Him and felt like He wasn’t hearing me, and wasn’t trying to do anything to change my situation. At a point, I even asked Him, “God, why does it seem so easy for other people to get ahead while I’m struggling?” Nothing made sense to me until I read Habakkuk 2:2 again. 

This time, I studied the Contemporary English version, “Then the Lord told me: ‘I will give you my message in the form of a vision. Write it clearly enough to be read at a glance.’ The MSG version says, “Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run.” Just as God spoke to Habakkuk, He spoke to me as I read. He said, “Remember that assignment you keep picking up and putting down? That was My idea. Don’t abandon what I gave you.” So, I purposely got quiet so I could hear what He has to say about my goals. And then came the revelation: I’ve been writing the vision and making it plain right here on this blog. That’s why my tag line is, “Where music is diversified, message is simplified, and Christ is glorified.” My purpose is to simplify His message so that His people can read it on the run...as they run towards Him!

And the Contemporary English version clarified it even further, “At the time I have decided, my words will come true. You can trust what I say about the future. It may take a long time, but keep on waiting— it will happen” (Habakkuk 2:3)! The moral of the story is that our hopes and dreams do matter to God. He considers us in His plans because we are the vessels that He uses to carry out those plans. The vision for our lives is His and not our own. That’s why it’s important to take everything to Him in prayer and make sure to get His stamp of approval.

Daring to dream with God means surrendering our vision to Him, trusting that He can see what we can’t. We can rest in knowing that if He said it, it WILL happen—but only when He says it’s time. While I wait, I’m challenging myself to hold on to what I know He promised me. I hope you’ll do the same. Let’s BECOME together. Happy New Year!

Saturday, October 5, 2019

The Wait: The Art of Being Content

So, Thursday was not only October 3rd (for those of you who appreciate a good Mean Girls reference), it was also my favorite internet “holiday”: National Boyfriend Day! As you can see in the picture below, invisi-BAE is still fine! 😂

Image source: Getty

No, but seriously, if you’ve been following this blog, you know that I write about the wait A LOT. I’m a thinker who likes to use similes and metaphors, so the flowery “just smile and wait on God” stories I put out might’ve sounded polished when published, but behind the scenes, it wasn’t pretty at all. I was frustrated because while I encouraged my readers to wait well, I wasn’t taking my own advice. The truth was that the wait was consuming me. I was getting lost in impatience and losing sight of my purpose—but when I tell you God got me ALL the way back together, I mean it. 

Last year on the eve of my 24th birthday, I wrote a post entitled “Practicing Contentment,” a “woe is me” moment I had in the thick of singleness in which I told God, Listen, I’m getting impatient. I mean, I don’t want You to feel like I don’t want You just because I want a husband...but just in case You forgot since the last time I prayed about it (which was last night), I really, REALLY want a husband. Not now, but RIGHT NOW. Amen.

In hindsight, I’m not sure why I thought He’d send me a husband when He knew I wasn’t letting Him be enough for me. He knew I wasn’t content, so of course, He made me wait longer so He could teach me how to wait.

Currently, I’m in a very sober-minded season where God is showing me His face. And in showing me Himself, He’s also showing me ME—which is both beautiful and frightening all at the same time. I not only see myself for who I am, but He’s heightened my discernment and revealed who other people are, too. His voice is louder and clearer now as well, because it doesn’t have to compete with constant overthinking about when “the one” will show up in my life. Now, I’m just allowing Him to show up and be who He is to me.

My priorities have changed, and I’m proud to say that contentment isn’t just practice for me anymore. For the first time in my adult life, I’m actually okay with just Jesus. In fact, He’s more than enough. I needed to realize that now, before marriage. That realization has saved my husband from having to try to fill a God-sized space in my heart. I know now more than ever that that is not his job. I’m using present tense here because I believe that God has a husband for me out there somewhere. I’ve said that in many posts before, but I think deep down I was skeptical—and honestly, that was because I was having a temper tantrum inside like, “But DAAAAAADDD! It’s not fair! Where’s mine?!” This time around, I’m not salty about my singleness because I’m looking at it through new eyes. I’ve finally figured out that God’s “not yet” does not mean “never,” even if the wait is long. My husband will find me when God says it’s time, and I intend to be living my best life when he comes. 

Monday, September 23, 2019

Habitation 2019: A Recap

There was no blog posted last week because I spent Wednesday through Saturday in Orlando, FL for a life-changing few days of Pastor William McDowell's Habitation conference, where the theme was “As it is in Heaven.” I’ve been talking about attending Habitation for the last four or five years, but every year, something came up and I wasn’t able to go. Each year in the third week of September, I’d live vicariously through pictures and videos on social media, and long to be there in person. This year, I felt an especially strong pull to attend, and everything lined up perfectly, so I jumped at the opportunity and registered minutes after the site opened.

I’ve been to a few conferences over the years, so I prepared for the usual. I packed my Sunday best and a few comfy items to travel in, and brought extra makeup so I could beat my face—because 1. Things like this are typically recorded and 2. You never know who you’ll meet. I just KNEW I was about to be ready for my close-up, and I was—just not the kind of “close-up” I expected. I was running late the first night so I ended up just throwing on a Jesus tee and some jeans and opted to skip the makeup. It was a good thing I did, because the glory in the place hit us like a tidal wave! I quickly learned that Habitation was not a “cute” conference, but if you go, you should be ready for your close-up: an up close and personal, face-to-face encounter with God. After the move that took place on Wednesday, I decided that I needed to wear comfortable clothes and shoes every day of the event. God needed me there just the way I was, with no frills, no makeup and flexibility to flow with His spirit. It wasn’t about being seen, but rather, hearing and being heard by Him. 

Each day, God revealed Himself to us more and more as we basked in His presence. The glory was tangible as He breathed on us. The anointing swept over the room as we cried out to Him in worship, and I watched in awe as people from all over the world laid on their faces in between the rows of seats to reverence Him. The sermons, given by an array of prolific speakers, preachers, and teachers, were so poignant and timely.

Even the psalmists, the who’s 
who of gospel and CCM, were in rare form. Tasha Cobbs Leonard and Nathaniel Bassey wrote songs on the spot in spontaneous worship, and Steffany Gretzinger’s set was so intimate, it almost felt as if it shouldn’t have been recorded. If you know me, you know I love a good concert. I’ve been to about 65 concerts in my lifetime, and most of them have been gospel. I usually try to record as much of a show as I can, to watch it later for memory’s sake—but this was different. This atmosphere required you to be fully immersed in the moment. It was perfect for tapping into God’s voice. 

Friday, Pastor William McDowell, the facilitator of Habitation, released his new album, The Cry. The first single on the project is called “I Don’t Wanna Leave,” a sweet song that invites the presence of God in. It essentially became the unofficial musical theme of the conference, and it embodied exactly how I felt when Habitation ended.

The song says:

Surrounded by Your love
I found a place of peace
Found a place of grace
Wrapped in Your embrace
And I don’t wanna leave

Here in Your presence
Such a sweet release
I can feel Your joy
Rushing over me
And I don’t wanna leave

On Saturday, I said I didn’t want to leave Habitation, but it wasn’t just that I didn’t want to leave the event itself; I didn’t want to leave the atmosphere that was set there. I’ve known God personally for 19 of my 25 years, and I’ve never felt Him move the way He did in that space. He’s been speaking to me so clearly in the last week, it’s almost frightening. Because of what He imparted to me in the sweet stillness of Action Church, I’ve never been more sure of my purpose than I am right now. This was my first Habitation experience, but it definitely won't be my last.

I was listening to “I Don’t Wanna Leave” on the flight home yesterday, and I heard God say, “You don’t have to.” I was trying SO hard not to ugly cry, but the revelation was too great: Habitation is held annually, but it’s not an event you go to just for the sake of tradition. It’s not a conference, it’s a lifestyle, a heart posture. God inhabits the praises of His people. That means Habitation happens inside of you. If you invite Him in, He’ll meet you wherever you are, and you won't ever have to leave His presence. So, let it be on Earth as it is in Heaven.

*All images are from Instagram. Visit www.habitationconference.com for information and updates about Habitation 2020.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

#WednesdayWisdom: #NoFilter

I didn’t know what I was going to write for today, so I got quiet and let God tell me what His people needed to hear. This post went from 0 to 100 REAL quick because He said, “Tell them what I told you.” This week’s #WednesdayWisdom has #nofilter.

Image source: Peta Pixel

Many people ask me how I know God is real. I know He’s real because of who He’s been to me. Notice, I didn’t say “what He’s done for me.” As I’ve grown in my Christian walk, I’ve learned that if you really want to know God, you should ask to see His face instead of His hand. You’ll see who He is when you ask Him to show Himself to you. You’ll see Him most clearly when you try (and fail) to do things in your own strength. If there were no situations in our lives where we had to trust Him, if we could do it all ourselves, what would we need Him for? God will let you get thisclose to rock bottom so you’ll recognize and acknowledge that you need Him.

I’m reminded of Jason Nelson’s song, “I Am.” In it, he lists who God is to us, but what gets me is when he says that God says, “Just let Me be who I am for you.” I know it’s not comfortable to admit this, but the truth is, we’re not strong enough by ourselves. Here’s the good news, though: God’s strength is made perfect in your weakness. 

I was raised on the belief that “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” I got saved at 6 years old, but it wasn’t until my 20s that I realized that that principle doesn’t apply to God. I’m naturally empathetic. I was (and still am) the “go-to girl” for other people to vent to. It was like I had a sign on my forehead that said, “Got problems? Share them with me!” I was always the listening ear, and I never told them about anything I was going through because I didn’t want them to feel like they were burdening me with their issues. I felt like I had to be the one who had it all together for them, but behind closed doors, I was collapsing under the weight of their problems and mine. To my surprise, as I brought other people’s requests to God and asked Him to heal their hearts, He reassured me! He said, “I already know who you are. You don’t have to impress Me. Just press in to Me.” In those moments, I confessed what God already knew—I was broken, too. I learned how to cast my cares on Him, and I was astounded. For the first time in my life, I could hear Him speaking to me about me. Now, I know that my responsibility as an empath and encourager is to help people give their issues over to God, just as I do myself. 

Your prayers don’t have to be riddled with “thees” and “thous” in order for God to hear you. Getting to know Him is simple. Just go to Him broken and ask Him to fix you. Your brokenness is healed in his presence. Too many of us are afraid to admit (to God and to ourselves) that we’re broken, because society has conditioned us to look whole on the outside when we’re shattered on the inside. God is not Facebook or Instagram or Twitter. You don’t have to put on a filter for Him. He doesn’t expect you to be perfect, because He already is. Admission is the first step to recovery. Get real about your pain so you can get restored! Remove the filter and let Him do His job.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The Wait: Act Like You Know

Over the past three days, I read a Bible plan on the YouVersion Bible app called "Waiting Well."

Image Source: YouVersion

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know that I’ve spoken candidly and extensively about “the wait” in the past. It’s become sort of a series, beginning with my thoughts on saving sex for marriage, and continuing on how to wait for pretty much everything. Since this plan is called “Waiting Well,” I figured it would be the perfect way to jump back into the topic, and the principles here can apply to whatever you’re waiting for. I took notes each day as I read and compiled them into one post. After you sift through my major takeaways, I encourage you all to walk through the plan on your own time. It’s definitely worth the read.

Day one of the “Waiting Well” plan requires us to read Psalm 27:7-14 and 1 Samuel 1:1-11. Here’s what I got from it: Take your burdens to God. Just because you don’t have the thing you want right now doesn’t mean you won’t ever have it. Trust God’s timing and stand on His promises. He has not forgotten you. God remembered Hannah and gave her the son she longed for—in His timing, not hers. God rewards us with the desires of our hearts when the posture of the heart is bowed down to Him. 

And this was, in my opinion, the most important thing to remember: There was no guarantee that God would answer Hannah’s prayer and she believed for it anyway. We have to have faith in the midst of uncertainty even when our preferred outcome isn’t guaranteed—because even if He doesn’t do the thing we want Him to do the way we want Him to do it, He’s still good. 

Day two’s required reading was 1 Samuel 1:12-28, and I was getting revelation after revelation. In these verses, Eli initially thought Hannah was drunk until she clarified that she was praying. Don’t let people make you think that your praying is silly just because they don’t understand it or because it doesn’t look like what they think prayer should look like. Everyone communicates with God differently. No matter what, stand on what God promised you! 

This plan links directly to a sermon I’ve been binge-watching for the last few days called “Crazy Faith” by Pastor Mike Todd. He breaks down the definition of “crazy” as it pertains to faith in part one of the sermonic series. Watch the clip below (source: YouTube):

Secondly, Hannah promised that if God gave her the child she desired, she’d give him back to God—and she did. Maybe the reason why God is making us wait for what we want is because He wants to make sure that when He gives it to us, we’ll give Him the credit, the recognition, the acknowledgment, and the tithes that He deserves. Nothing we get belongs to us. Everything we have should bow in reverence to Him. If He’s holding out on the promise, perhaps He wants to make sure not only that we can trust Him, but also that He can trust us.

This led me to one of my go-to scriptures, Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” I read that verse whenever my faith needs a pick-me-up, and even though it wasn’t required for this particular reading plan, I thought it was fitting. Pastor Todd referenced it in yet another excerpt from part one of his “Crazy Faith” sermon (source: YouTube):

If we don’t believe the promise itself is substantial, tangible, attainable, our faith will be more prone to waver. If your hope is not SUBSTANTIAL; if it bends in the face of adversity, if it can’t stand up to uncertainty and doubt, then it won’t hold up long enough to see the EVIDENCE of the promise!

Day three focused on several verses (1 Samuel 2:1-10; Jeremiah 29:11; Philippians 1:6; 1 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Timothy 1:12), and taught us that in order for your faith to be substantial, in order to see the physical evidence of what you hope for, you have to act like you KNOW! Even if you don’t know how or when things will turn around for you, you know Who you believe in, and you know He always causes His children to triumph. Ironically, today’s “verse of the day” in the Bible app is Deuteronomy 31:6, “'Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you'” (NIV). Faith moves its feet. Fear stays stagnant and stuck. Neither one knows what’s next, but only one chooses to move forward. One holds you back, the other takes you in the direction of your purpose. Which one will YOU choose? Everybody’s waiting for something. Whatever you’re waiting for, wait well.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

#WednesdayWisdom: I'm Finished.

#WednesdayWisdom is back! This week, let’s talk about a troubling phenomenon that’s making the rounds on social media: the idea of “manifesting”. This term is typically used by that one friend who says “I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual,” you know, the friend who swears that burning sage cleanses and protects their household against evil spirits. Listen fam, I don’t know about you, but as for me and MY house, sage goes in spaghetti! 😂 All jokes aside, this word just rubs me the wrong way in a “spiritual” (non-Christian) context. 

I’m a firm believer in, “Speak what you seek until you see what you’ve said”, but I don’t call it manifesting because MAN-ifesting is man-made. My declarations are based on Jeremiah 29:11. God knows the plans He has for me, plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me hope and a future! I speak things over myself according to what the Bible says, and when I ask in His name, His plans unfold in my life according to HIS will, not mine. He knows more than I do. Even if what I think I want now doesn’t “manifest,” all things that happen in my life happen for my good, meaning it’ll all make sense eventually.

MAN-I-FESTation is something that I MANually cause to FESTer—“fester” meaning “to aggravate”. In other words, if I’ve gotta stir it up to make it happen with “MAN” power, I’m living life according to my own will and desires and not what God wants for me. If I’ve gotta stick my hand in it and make it work for me, it’s not for me. If it’s for me, it won’t be manual, it’ll be automatic. That doesn’t negate the work I’ll have to do to maintain it, that just means it’ll happen when and how it’s supposed to as I follow God’s instruction MAN-ual. 

I looked up the biblical meaning of “manifest,” and “manifestation,” and according to Bible Study Tools, it means "to make apparent" (Mark 4:22; John 17:6; Romans 3:21; 1 Timothy 3:16) “very evident" (2 Timothy 3:9), and “prove.”

Image source: Crosswalk

What I’d like to focus on here is “to make apparent,” a definition explained in 1 Timothy 3:16, “Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.”

Jesus was the earthly manifestation of God. He was evidence in the flesh that proved that God exists. Jesus is often referred to as the “Son of Man,” and “man” is the root word of “manifestation.” Jesus has already been manifested. He’s already come down to earth and vindicated us of our sins by dying on the cross and rising again on the third day—and just before He died, He declared, “It is finished.” Did y’all catch it yet? If the MAN-ifestation of God said, “It is finished,” then there’s nothing left for you or I to do except to believe that it’s finished. According to Google, the word “finished” means “(of an action, activity, or piece of work) having been completed or ended.” Isaiah 64:8 says, “Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Jesus didn’t say, ‘It was finished,’ or ‘It will be finished’, He said “It IS finished.” That means that we, God’s “pieces of work” are already COMPLETED—we don’t have to wait until tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year to be whole. We can claim wholeness right now.  

I’m about to let you in on a little secret: You don’t need to be anything more than what you are in order to be great. Use what’s already in you! Your purpose is concrete. If you desire to be married, that’s already set in stone, even if you’re currently single. Your career? Solidified. How? Why? Because Jesus said so. Everything you’ve prayed for that aligns with God’s will is ready for you. It’s waiting on the other side of your obedience. I don’t know about you, but I’M FINISHED!

Monday, August 19, 2019

God Never Left Me...And Neither Did My Gifts

I’m still getting back into the swing of this blogging thing. It’s like trying to use muscles that have atrophied, almost like learning how to walk again. The same thing applies when we try to pick up where we left off in our relationship with God. Depending on how long we’ve strayed away from Him, our walk can feel totally new. Whether it’s your first time or 15th time coming to Christ, building and maintaining relationship with Him is not a walk in the park.

Walking with God begins by crawling. Crawling to (or back to) Him, just as we did with our parents when we were babies, and trusting Him to teach us how to stand and walk, knowing that He’ll catch us when we fall. Falling is inevitable, because we’re human, but God will always be there to brace it. Hebrews 13:5 tells us that He will never leave or forsake us.

Image source: Executive Forum

This made me think of one of my favorite songs, “You’ll Never Leave Me,” from gospel artist Will McMillan’s 2018 project, My Story (check out my review of the album here). The song speaks about God as a constant vs. the fickleness of human nature. It’s one of those songs that makes you stop and reflect on where you are in Him.

[Verse 1]:

You’re so consistent at being consistent in Your ways
Your ways
And I’m so consistent at being inconsistent each day
My ways
I’ve made the choice to fall many times
To get up and fall again and again
While Your love shows me how to reach for Your hand every time

There’s SO much to unpack here! First of all, God specializes in consistency. He is the only constant in this ever-changing world. And we were made in His image, but we are not Him. We start things in earnest—setting aside time to read our bibles, to pray, to do what it is He’s called us to do—and then we become overwhelmed, preoccupied, distracted, discouraged make excuses as to why we CHOSE not to finish what we started. The only thing we’re consistent in is inconsistency. God knows this, of course, because He created us—and still, in spite of our lack of follow-through, being the gracious Father that He is, God extends His hand and teaches us how to commune with Him again—and the best part is, each embrace feels like the first time—only deeper.


For when I fall
You’re there to catch me
And if I fall again
You’re there to do the same
Lord, You keep Your grace around me
You’ll never leave me

The keyword here is “never.” Webster’s dictionary blessed me on this one! The word “never” means “not ever : at no time; not in any degree; not under any condition.” That means no matter how many times I fall short, no matter how many times I drop the ball, no matter how many times I tell Him I want to quit the thing(s) that He called me to, He. NEVER. Leaves. ME! And His gifts never leave me either. 

The song says:

Even when I’m wrong
Even when I fall
You’re always with me
You’ll never leave me alone

God literally wouldn’t leave me alone about this blog. Every few days during my hiatus, He’d nudge me and ask, “Why aren’t you writing?” I’d come up with some lame excuse, and each time He’d say, “Do as you’re told.” And then He let me sit there and think about what He said and what I was doing. Still, He was gracious enough to wait until I was ready, and now, He’s giving me fresh oil to write again. 

A word of encouragement for those who are having trouble picking up where they left off: If God called you to it, DO IT! Just because you haven’t used your gift in a while doesn’t mean you’ve lost it. It just needs a good stir!

Watch a live performance of "You'll Never Leave Me" below:

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Is This The End? Finding The River in the Desert

"See, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not be aware of it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert." - Isaiah 43:19, Modern English Version (MEV)

Hey guys! Long time, no see, yet again. I know, at this point I sound like a broken record, but I’m back to blogging. Full disclosure: I’m currently attempting to write my way through the worst case of writer’s block I’ve ever had. I really thought about closing this blog, because I didn’t feel like I had anything else to say. I got tired of being the encourager, especially during a season where I felt like God was doing nothing. The season I’m in is not good or bad, it’s just...neutral, a season of in-between. Now that I feel like I’m nearing the end of this limbo and change is finally on the horizon, I’m in a place where I can write about it.

For the first half of this year, I felt purposeless. I lost focus and felt like I wasn’t getting anything accomplished. Life overwhelmed me and I felt lost and overlooked. I didn’t know where I was going, so I just stopped and sat on my gifts. In the middle of all this, I was taking membership classes to join my church, First Baptist Church of Glenarden. I was going to church every Sunday and being stirred by every message, but as soon as I walked out of the sanctuary, I felt empty again (and I had stopped reading my Bible). I started to think that all the endeavors I’d devoted myself to would amount to nothing. I felt frustrated and stuck and angry at God—like I was in a desert—and then I got re-planted.

The last week of July was very transformative for me. On July 23rd, I got (re)baptized. This was very important to me because unlike the baptism I received as a baby during christening, this one symbolized a conscious rededication to Christ after 19 years of salvation. I was dipped in the water, and those who watched told me I came up fighting. I think this was partly due to the fact that I can’t swim, so I was trying not to drown 🙃, but as I was immersed, I felt something break. The breakthrough that took place in the water was evident later that week, when I attended the YouthFest: Planted conference at City of Praise Family Ministries in Landover, MD. The conference spanned three nights, and each night I felt more and more free. Night one set the tone for the rest of the conference. A fire word was brought forth by the renowned Apostle Dr. Matthew L. Stevenson III, prefaced by worship from psalmist Chandler Moore. Chandler’s been on my list of must-see artists for a while now, so I was excited to see him live. He set the worship atmosphere with a melodic declaration of “You’re here right now,” and seamlessly segued into one of my favorites, Jesus Culture’s “Holy Spirit”. I captured the opening moments in the video below:

After that, I was unable to record any more, because God wanted my full attention on the next song Chandler sang, “The Isaiah Song.” I had heard this song when it was first released in June of last year as an EP. Honestly, I listened to it once or twice on YouTube and forgot about it, but we all know certain songs hit differently depending on the season we’re in—and this particular night, it hit me HARD.

If you know me, you know that I can usually memorize lyrics to a song very quickly—and by “quickly”, I mean, I can hear a song once, and the second time I hear it, I can sing along to almost every word. I’ve been doing it since I was old enough to sing—actually, since I was old enough to hum. Before I could memorize lyrics, I memorized melodies, and I was humming long before I could talk. With “The Isaiah Song,” it was different. The melody sounded familiar, but I couldn’t remember the lyrics at all. It was like I was hearing the song for the first time.

I wanted to sing along with Chandler, so I relied on the IMAX projector inside the church and read the lyrics as I sang. At some point in the song, the lyrics began to lag. They flashed on the screen about 10 seconds after Chandler had moved on to the next line...but somehow, I was still singing along. as I belted out the chorus, something in my spirit leaped, and my body followed suit. 


Sing, sing
O barren Land! 
Water is coming to the thirsty!
Though you are empty
I am the well
Draw from Me, I will provide

Those lyrics permeated my soul and spoke DIRECTLY to the creative drought I’ve been experiencing. I just completely lost control of my body and started leaping in time with the music. This had me shook, because I am a black woman with NO rhythm whatsoever. Like, that gene completely skipped me. I stick out like a sore thumb at every family reunion because I can’t line dance to save my life. I can barely even wave my hand on beat. And I don’t shout. Ever. It was a total out-of-body experience and I was being moved by the Holy Spirit, but the whole time, I was thinking, “I know I look real crazy right about now...” Ultimately, I didn’t care. God knew I needed that. I felt so free!

The next day, I bought the EP on iTunes and listened to it nonstop. The Planted conference rerooted me, and that Sunday, the last Sunday in July, I got the right hand of fellowship at FBCG.

I’ve been meditating on “The Isaiah Song” for two weeks now, as a companion to the book of Isaiah, and I feel myself recharging. Each time I hear, “Yes, you will write again!/ Yes, you will create again!”I am wrecked to the core. The song says, “You’re making ways in the wilderness!/ You’re making rivers in the desert!”And He is. Somebody somewhere needs what I’ve got, so I will write again. I AM writing again. I’m writing my way through the wilderness right now—even when I don’t feel like it, because our faith says we don’t live according to how we feel. We live according to what we know, and I know that this is what God has called me to do. I’m not fully charged yet, and I’ll be honest, it feels weird getting back out there—but we all have to (re)start somewhere. What I’m learning in this season is that I don’t have to keep my testimony to myself just because I’m still being tested. Sometimes, people need to see it unfold as you work your way through it. It’s more relatable that way. So, even though writing is uncomfortable right now, I rest in knowing that the more I do it, the more smoothly it will flow. In time, it will come naturally again. God will give me the words to say. He will tell me what to write, because He is the source that I draw from. He is the well that never runs dry, and He will continue to provide. And to think, this whole time, He’s just been waiting on me to show Him that I’m thirsty.
                                                                                          Until next time,

Check out the official video for “The Isaiah Song” below:

Thursday, May 9, 2019

His, Theirs, & Ours: The Insecurity of Being “Somebody’s”

Hey y’all! Long time no see, I know, but life has been crazy lately. Grad school and moving and finals, oh my! Anyway, I had to come out of hiatus to talk about what’s been plastered all over social media this week: The Ayesha Curry debate. After combing through all the tabloids and reading the clapback that Ayesha posted on her Instagram, I decided to gather my thoughts into this post. It’s a lot to ponder, so grab a snack and let’s chat.

From the outside looking in, it seems like Ayesha Curry has it all. As wife to THE Stephen Curry, she’s basically basketball royalty, standing beside him in the center of a God-fearing household raising their three children—all while being a girl boss and chef extraordinaire—and looking great doing it. And did I mention she’s only 30? Man, she’s got it made!—or so we thought. On Monday’s episode of Jada Pinkett Smith’s “Red Table Talk”, Ayesha spoke candidly about the insecurity she feels when she gets “zero male attention” while women are “throwing themselves” at her husband.

Ayesha Curry / The Undefeated (GLAD)

Everybody and their auntie had something to say about this, and most of them were throwing stones in glass houses 🐸☕️ but I think it all boils down to a personal problem. Yes, Steph is faithful to Ayesha. Yes, he’s “the man” in the NBA right now. Yes, he seems to be a wonderful father and provider, and I’m sure he tells her she’s beautiful all the time. And yes, it’s also true that she’s a public figure in her own right...but this is an internal issue. 

The bottom line is, even when your husband isn’t Steph Curry, there’s a whole lot that comes with being “somebody’s”. And in Ayesha’s case, there’s even more pressure. Steph was her first and only. When they got married (very young), she became Steph’s wife (and all that comes with that) and Sonya & Dell’s daughter-in-law (and all that comes with that). As they grew their family, her title shifted to Riley, Ryan & Cannon’s mom (and all that comes with that). As two lives join together, individual identity, especially for women, becomes multifaceted. This is why it’s SO important to discover and KNOW yourself before marriage, so you won’t completely lose who you are when two merge to become one. 

If truth really be told, everybody has some level of insecurity. Ayesha Curry just said out loud what ALL of us (including men!) actually feel, but are afraid to admit even to ourselves, let alone the whole world. ***(I say “including men” because I saw way too many brothers calling out a double standard here. If the shoe was on the other foot and Steph had said these things while Ayesha was in the forefront, my views would be the same.).

Ayesha’s sentiments made me appreciate my singleness all the more. Her comments helped me see why it’s important to be firmly rooted in Christ before (and especially during) marriage. We will always be His (God’s) but in marriage, especially as wives, we are expected to be his (our husband’s) and theirs (our kids’), leaving little to no room for ourselves. Singleness is our time to enjoy being “ours” while we still can.

It’s easy to lose sight of who you are when your identity is so deeply intertwined with someone else’s. In marriage, that interwoven-ness is beautiful and should be healthy—but you are entitled to save a little bit of you for yourself. That doesn’t mean entertaining other people, or sliding into or answering people’s DMs or even WANTING them to approach  you when you’re married (because adultery and emotional soul ties are REAL) but sometimes you just need to take some time to remember that the original “you” is in there somewhere. I’ve seen comments from women saying “Give me a Steph Curry and I’ll be happy!” and men saying the reason they wouldn’t approach Ayesha because they respect Steph & she’s already being “taken care of.” What people are missing here is that this has absolutely nothing to do with how Steph treats Ayesha and everything to do with how Ayesha treats herself. Her validation should not come from men—not even Steph. It’s an INNER battle, and it’s deeper than just a need for attention.

The point is, titles, bodies, and even marriages evolve and shift with time. The old you is beautiful, and so is the new one, but who you were/are in singleness isn’t/will not be who you are in marriage—and that’s okay. You’ll change in many ways as life progresses, for better or for worse—but no matter how much evolution takes place, one thing stays the same: The foundation of your identity is always firm in Jesus. You will always be validated, confirmed, and affirmed by Him. In sum, let he (or she) that is without insecurities cast the first Tweet. Instead of bringing Ayesha down, let her comments encourage you to search your own heart and, if need be, to reintroduce yourself to YOU.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Souled Out vs. Sellout: For Profit or Purpose?

Last Saturday (January 5th), I attended Bishop T.D. Jakes’ annual leadership training at First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Upper Marlboro, MD. As an aspiring leader myself, I was excited to soak up every morsel of wisdom Bishop Jakes shared—and he left me with quite a bit to ponder, especially concerning recording artists, gospel artists in particular. The nugget I’m sharing in this post was specifically geared toward business(wo)men, but since I view the gospel music industry as both a lucrative business and a calling, I found it to be applicable in this context as well. Bishop Jakes framed his discussion with the analogy of a boat. He said (paraphrased), God didn’t just give you the “boat” (job, placement, etc.) as a way to make a living. He wants to use it as His platform. Maybe the “boat” is not about the fish, maybe it’s about moving Jesus.

Here’s my interpretation of that as a supporter of Kingdom music: Gospel artists, also referred to as psalmists and worship leaders, need not get caught up in how many “fish” they can catch just for likes and lit Instagram stories. The purpose of your boat is not fishing for attention, you’re fishing for lost souls. It’s your job to reel them in to Him.

Image source: Act Media

That analogy was lost on some people, so Bishop Jakes dissected it even further, this time using business lingo. He explained that God is an investor, and investors look to make profits. For clarification, he defined profit as “what is left when a transaction is over,” and then he asked the audience, “What is [God’s] return on you?...If God is a businessman, how does He protect His return on your life, and how do you make His investment profitable? What does it profit God to bless you? You can’t rip off your partner and expect to stay in business!” This really resonated with me because there’s a fine line between being souled out for Jesus and being a sellout...and there’s an even finer line between doing gospel music as a business venture and sharing the Gospel with God’s people. 

One of the things I’ve learned in supporting Kingdom artists (and secular artists, for that matter) is the danger of the swollen ego. If I meet an artist, especially a gospel artist, with a decent voice AND a decent heart (which, I might add, is a very rare combination), I pray that God will never let them realize the magnitude of the gift they possess—because once they realize how big the gift is, the ego inflates as well—sometimes so much so that the gift itself is swallowed up, and pride and entitlement take its place. The swollen ego is dangerous because when it becomes bigger than the gift, the glory begins to shift away from God and transfers to the vessel. The gift is God-given, the ego is man-driven. Slowly but surely, if it is not checked at the door, the artist loses focus and becomes fueled by awards and accolades and disregards Gods stamp of (dis)approval. The Bible says in James 1:17 (NIV) that, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” The gift can be perfect because it was bestowed to the vessel by a God who is perfect in all of His ways. It is possible for the gift to be completely unflawed; however, the vessel is riddled with imperfections. Why? Because it is physically impossible for us to be exactly like God. We were merely made in His image. If we could perform miracles for ourselves, we wouldn’t need Him!

Speaking of our need for God, the concept of gift-giving highlighted something for me: The same way humans have free will in life, we are given the freedom to govern our gifts. According to Google, the word gift, a noun, is defined as “a thing given willingly to someone without payment; a present.” God is not an Indian-giver. Very rarely does He give a gift and take it away, and once He gives it, He doesn’t tell us what to do with it...and if He does tell us how to use it and we choose not to listen, He doesn’t force our hands. When God gives us gifts, we can choose whether or not to use them. Of course, He would prefer that we use them for His glory, but even if we don’t, He can allow them to prosper, at least to a certain extent. How do you think secular artists become popular? EVERY good and perfect gift comes from the Father of lights...even if we don’t thank Him for it.

In John 12:32 (NIV), Jesus says, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” We see how much of an impact (both positive and negative) secular music has made in mainstream society, media, and culture. Imagine how much of a difference would be made if everyone acknowledged the one true SOURCE of music (because whether your fave wants to admit it or not, they were, directly or indirectly, influenced by gospel music in some way, shape or form). And guess what else? Even if an artist chooses to never acknowledge God as the giver of his/her gift, when Jesus comes back for His people, “every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11 NIV). Oh, and I’d be remiss if I left out one of my personal favorites, Matthew 10:33 (NIV), “But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” The creator always gets credit for His creation. The important question here is, are YOU giving credit where credit is due?

Watch Bishop Jakes’ full message below: