Reclaiming My Freedom

The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14: 17)

My quest for better spiritual awareness came after years of being an innocent.  As a Christian, I needed to stay in connection with Jesus Christ, the source of spiritual life. The Vine. Righteousness is not based only on works of faithfulness, but faithfulness to the voice of God. It is Him we must please in our daily walk. He is the decider of what is holy and acceptable, and He is the king of peace and giver of real joy. Salvation is for everyone, of every culture, every background, and circumstance. The details of people’s lives cannot be dictated to them by other people.  Instructions must come from heaven to the heart. The above scripture from Romans 14 holds significant meaning. What truer sentiment could have been written about what constitutes the kingdom of God.

It is not the tangible that makes up the kingdom but the intangible. My soul belongs to God, and it’s a part of me that no earthly person can touch or judge. Only God can know the intricacies of motive, backgrounds of understanding, and depth of heart. Therefore, Paul said it best because who are we to judge another man’s servant, to his own master he stands or falls, for we must all give an account in the day of judgment.

In the circle of church attendance that I’ve been in for the last 35 years, people don’t just leave individuals in the hands of God. They tend to just pick at one another. When you put this kind of power in the hands of humans, they tend to wear each other out. After a while, people grab a badge and arrest whomever they wish, with the consent of the authorities.

Part of my journey towards greater spiritual growth involved identifying the things that came between Christ and me and personal, Spirit-led decisions about myself. I had to shake off the control people tried to have over my family and my life. For example, in our congregations,  for reasons I never understood, no one could wear Afrocentric styles or cut their hair in styles. Mind you, these are black congregations. We had to go around like we were in the 1950s wearing just curled-set hair or permed styles that didn’t involve any cut or shape. Go figure.

One minister even tried to sneak in the idea that cutting off split ends WAS cutting hair. She was quietly booed.

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So where does that leave a black woman in the City of Chicago? How does this even work? Insane.images (1)

We were pretending to be white southern belles from the 1950s and ’60s with perfectly coiffed tresses while living in the 1980s, 90s, and 2000s.

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I hear this obsession still goes on. Of course, after studying I Corinthians 11 for myself, I threw up my hands. Who was going to listen to the Bible at this point?

Yeah, that thing.

I was a small minnow in a sea full of whales. What was seemingly important in our congregations was how the Pastor’s wife saw it, not the scriptures. Their hair rules were ingrained in our religious group. Unfortunately certain of our black congregations still have this pre-occupation about what is HOLY HAIR. One group even said that using a relaxer is worldly! You must PRESS your locks with a hot comb.

But, the pressure was real. Conform or else. Or else what? Thou shalt be stared at and talked about and preached against as a rebel, a breaker of unity, a breaker of our laws, vain, worldly …. (don’t ask, you get the idea).

download Can you fry it or dye it and still be saved? Can you feather it, relax it? Can you wear twists or twist outs? Can you braid it or put extra hair in it without being accused of vanity, and then how MUCH extra hair is too much, and who gets to decide that? The person who has no hair?

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One time, my poor daughter ruined her hair on a weekend trip with friends while she was swimming. It was “toe”-up, not just torn up. She had allowed the chlorine to stay in her hair all weekend. This was the summer before she entered high school. We had to cut off the damage and do something cute with it to help it grow back. My child, bless her heart, was already pulling and picking at her hair as a habit. The best way I saw was to put braided extensions in her hair so she’d look cute and it would solve the messiness of daily styling a 13-year-old girl who had damaged hair. My husband agreed. He said to our daughter and me,

“Look, if anyone, I mean ANYONE, the Pastor, whoever, I don’t care, says anything to you about your hair, you have them see me. I am NOT going to have my daughter going to a new school with her hair to’ up!”

Thank you, baby.

Since I became a Christian, that struggle remains daily and real. People always try to put the spiritual whammy on you with their opinions or traditions spun out of everything but prayer and scriptures. They feel their views are the Holy Ghost and trust me if they can’t cover it with the Bible, it ain’t. If their opinion is the Lord, why don’t they have the grace of Christ to act nice about it?

We Do Have Liberty

In the Spirit, we have liberty in Christ to follow as He leads and practice what we understand to be sacred in our lives. Yet, there are people in this world who would have you believe that YOUR standing with God is through them. We shouldn’t give away our freedom in Christ to other people. It never ends well. Bottom line if you place yourself in that position you will find in the end that people simply like controlling other people. In the end, you will not even know or understand why you’re doing what you’re doing, but you will feel that you must.

A good, solid Christian told me one time, when it comes to people and authorities, don’t go asking; go telling. Tell them what God showed you, what He wants you to do and then go do it.

When you ask permission, that’s too much power and people like playing with power and half the time, they don’t even know how to use that power.

God saved me as an individual. He individually sought me, and forgave me of my sins and gave me light to walk the path of salvation. I know that God is watching over me as a person to keep me on the right track. If I’m sincere, God will lead me the right way. The way that’s best for me. Yes, we all need community and guidance and shepherding and mentoring and help with our joy and faith. These are things the body of Christ provides by building itself up in the love of God.

I had trained myself to be tethered to other people’s opinions.  I was not alone. But now, I’m aware enough to reclaim my freedom.

Think about the following story and let me know your thoughts below:

Elephant and the Rope

As my friend was passing the elephants, he suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could, at anytime, break away from the ropes they were tied to but for some reason, they did not. My friend saw a trainer nearby and asked why these beautiful, magnificent animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away.

“Well,” he said, “when they are very young and much smaller we use the same size of rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.” My friend was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they were.

–the Unbound Spirit

Happy Birthday to Me!

Happy Birthday to me.  I’m 56 years old today.  I’m not one of those women that thinks it improper to tell their age.  I’m grateful for every year. I woke up this morning at peace. At peace with myself. At peace with the past and looking forward to my future and the future of my family. That’s saying a lot for me.  I had pined away about lost years and mistakes made, bad decisions but I made a decision one day. To make an affirmation to not dwell on the past and look toward the future. I can remember times, I would wake up depressed on my birthday because I was too worried about what my bad decisions had cost me.  I didn’t really understand what constituted success. Doing something big and notable what the image I was given early in life. Having a house and money was the goal. Since I acquired at least one of those, I was moderately successful.  But I was never enough, never satisfied, I was sent this message by my parents, family and later by my church that no matter how much you do, you are never really enough.    I’m so grateful to have learned so many lessons I wanted to pen them down not just for other people, but so that I can remind myself to continue to grow. 

I’ve Learned to Value My Family:

Jackie Kennedy said:

“If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.” 

I wrote, “An Apology to My Daughter”  and we’ve become closer at a time she really needs me, raising her own daughter. After many mistakes, trying to be the perfect parent and following some of the rules of my church instead of seeking God for myself,  I still have time to be a good parent, a present, attentive parent.   I have a chance to pass on those lessons to my granddaughter and my youngest son.  I’ve spoken with children from our church group and realize how impactful that post was to open up doors for them to heal from their own childhoods. There was often this cult-like atmosphere that didn’t serve the gospel well– all children must act the same way and do the same things and act saved even if they’re not. However well-intentioned the motives, the results for the majority of those I have talked to didn’t work. Parents sometimes had to sneak and do things that would benefit their children so no one would know.  Some ended up having to openly repent about decisions they made as a family.  That should never have happened.  Every family is in God’s hands and not the hands of other human beings.  Many of the children in our religious group didn’t go through the normal development process of becoming adults because so many decisions were made for them.  There was so much unnecessary control over families who were not allowed to pray as individuals and come to their own conclusions.  Some were angry at me for writing about this, and others applauded, but whatever the case, it was something I needed to do personally to be genuine and honest about what I see and have experienced.    That honestly has meant volumes to my family.  

 

 

I’ve Learned to Value Myself

I am learning to value myself and the talents God has given me.  I don’t take that lightly. At one point I thought I was highly invested in my talents, but my talents were limited by worrying over what other people thought.  I allowed others to limit things God was giving me to do.  I was always the champion of good causes, but I’m learning to channel that in the right direction. 

I’m Learning about True Friendship

I am also finding others who find value in me as a person, that see worth in who I am, just as I am.  People that motivate me and aren’t afraid to celebrate my gifts.  Who actually want to know me and not an imagined version of me.  

There are people in life who will only associate with you because of a position you may hold, or what they think you can do for them. Or if you’re good at listening, they may just want your listening ear.  Or if you’re good at talking, they may just want you around so you can entertain them.  They’re not bad people, they’re just not that interested in you.  

They don’t really value you as a person. If they had a choice to get to know you, they wouldn’t. You have to recognize how much time to invest with such people. 

I’m Learning about Authenticity

I want realness in my life.  Jesus is real to me. He always understood me, even when I didn’t understand myself and he’s helping me to understand who I am and be comfortable with who I am. I am through with projecting images of success in home, family, church, business. But I accept who I am and what I am and I’m extremely happy with that because we have to learn how to value the simple things in life.  The small victories, the failures that teach us lessons, the atmosphere we give our children at home, the small moments we help other people. That is what is important.

I’ve been asked to take down posts about my real feelings simply to preserve an image and that never works.  What works is possessing the real thing and you will not need to cling to a presentation.

I’m Learning About Purpose

Finding out what the general purpose of life itself is easy.  The Bible tells us that the whole duty of man is to respect God and keep his commandments. Finding out your specific purpose is not so easy.  It takes trying different things, not being afraid of failure or how you may look to understand where your talents lie. That’s a process.  To be an instrument of God for His purpose, to be there for your family, your children and others around you with whatever talents he has given you.  That’s what’s important.

I’m 56 years old and happy about the things I should be happy with: my beautiful daughter and granddaughter, my two sons,  and my made-in-heaven 30-year marriage.

Just Happy

Someone asked me recently what I was doing with myself nowadays. I told them “I’m working on myself.”   The best present I could give me is to have a stable inner self.

I’ve learned to let go of past mistakes and people that want to hold to the past.  It’s important to encircle yourself with a village that will help you move forward. No one is successful on their own. People need other people.  Understanding this is truly honoring the gifts God has left to mankind.  We should respect those that are gifted, no matter whether they’re Christians or non-Christians.  All men have gifts and capabilities.  Every coach needs a coach, every therapist needs a counselor, every minister needs someone to lean on. All good mentors need their own mentors.

I didn’t find my worth in how many people were going to wish me a  Happy Birthday today.   I was satisfied. Although I’m conscious that everyone loves these things, I had no yearning today for praise, approval, and attention.  I am no longer trying to please anyone but God, myself and my family.  Other people matter but not in the way they once did.  My childhood was spent seeking praise and approval from my parents and much of my adulthood was spent trying to fit in and belong in a group that wasn’t that interested in me.  It wasn’t personal,  it was just system that wasn’t interested in anyone much as individuals.

One person I hadn’t seen in years knew me, but I didn’t remember them, told me  “you still have that salvation glow”.  Yes, I do, and that’s because, in the last 2-3 years, I’ve been seeking God for the next chapters in my life and learning new and wonderful things about Him and his Word.  I have been studying the bible to actually understand it, rather than to teach messages that will support what’s been already said. The Spirit of God is not stagnant and I’m trying to follow what he ‘s doing in my life and move along with Him, and that makes me very happy.

Independence From Man-Made Religion

Hello everyone! Happy Independence day. I’ve been super busy with new things going on in my life. I’ve got a new speaking engagement coming up, and me and my husband have started a relationship coaching business. I’ll also do spiritual/life coaching. I’m working on an online bible study based on my book too. Man, I’ve got lots of work to do, not to mention a new grandbaby, helping my daughter and my two sons. One’s gone off to college and the other is starting his junior year in high school and on two sports teams. BUT only one is out of the house. They are learning and starting their lives and mom’s got to be there.

Hubby and I did a photo shoot and things are looking up for us

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Half of the time I look like this…images

 

It’s ok. God is doing new and wonderful things in our lives.

But the subject today is man-made religion. Here’s my thought.

I venture to say that most people if given a choice between church traditions and the Bible will choose church customs every time. This is because I believe people are more comfortable doing what the next man does over belief in something they cannot see. People prefer stability, and if someone is telling them what to do in all areas of their life, this often represents security for them. Often people come to God ready to love Him fully and obey whatever He tells them. This can be obeying what they see in black and white in the bible or just in their intuitive relationship with the Spirit of God. However, when they join a church (it doesn’t matter which belief persuasion) they run into the wall of church tradition. Very rarely do we find a church that allows people to just obey God as he speaks to them. In some way, they will they have to conform to a set of rules that some person has created. You understand that once you tie yourself to church rules, it’s not the bible that reigns, it’s the authority of the person that makes the rules.

This is why I often speak about spiritual awareness. Each of us came from God Almighty. All of us were born bent toward sin and sinful ways. Christ provided the way back to God by paying the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, forgiving us and removing any barriers to God through His Atonement. So why do we feel that unless we are tethered to a church building, we are missing out on a relationship with God?

Don’t get me wrong, I believe, strongly that church community is important. It offers us an opportunity to gather with other like-minded people who follow Christ. It gives a sense of belonging to those that follow the bible and it’s a time we can assemble with other Christians and worship and tell what God has done in our lives and share about his goodness. This is all very fulfilling and necessary for spiritual growth. We edify one another and certainly how can we do this at home or alone.

And yet, when God’s people come together, Satan often joins the party as well. More often than not, Christian gatherings can become a place where good followers of Christ can get sidetracked from God’s goals for their lives. Good people will fall into the trap of “you must do it THIS way” to be a good Christian. And the end result is that we begin to follow man more than God. We find ourselves being more concerned with what people think of us more than God’s view of us. We become more concerned with being called a good brother or sister according to the dictates of a man-influenced dogma, than being called God’s dear child.

So this Independence Day. Let’s declare of our freedom from man-dominated worship and vow to get in REAL connection with God himself.

As a minister, I’ve seen a repeated decline in spirituality from people that live their spiritual lives dependent on other people’s approval. True spirituality requires independence. Everyone must be free to follow his leading and obey His Spirit. Jesus plainly told the disciples, that they would have individual responsibilities to Him in their walk with God. Responsibilities others in their Christian community may not understand. But how many of us have the courage and confidence to move forward? We see this in the last chapter of John, when Peter, after receiving instruction that he should simply follow Jesus, turned and ask Jesus what would another disciple (John) do?

22 Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!”

This is where we have our struggles! And sure enough, shortly after that, the disciples started a rumor that Jesus said, John would not die. A rumor, a false one, about what Jesus said! This was not what He said, but people start rumors in church all the time don’t they? They know half of a story and fill in the rest with speculation—that’s just how folks are. Our walk with God is as individual as our fingerprints. So make a commitment to follow JUST JESUS and live as JUST A CHILD OF GOD without –isms and –tarians and –ologies and simply Follow Him!

Enjoy the fireworks!

Mixed Messages Sorted Out

I am learning, although late in my life, to be a person that is well rounded. For so much of my life, everything, (and I mean everything) had to do with religion only. The spiritual self. That’s not a bad thing-not totally, unless you fail to have balance.

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Ok. I’ve got that religion thing down seemingly. I had that down so well in fact, and was so faithful, that God called me to preach.

Or …do I really have all the pieces to that puzzle? I say that because God talks to us about who we are, in our entirety. Not just our spiritual self and spiritual awareness but our everyday habits, our beliefs about life, work, and family. He challenges us to be our best as a person while here on earth in every aspect.

Oh yeah, for the first part of my life, I didn’t have that part too well–the right balance. And there was no one to tell me how much I was out of kilter. We were all suffering from the same disease in our denomination. For so long, I was involved in a religious system that only focused on the spiritual. Not working on who I was as a person led to difficulties in the secular areas of life. As I now focus on why I do the things I do or why I think the way that I think, I am discovering that being in this mental space of self examination, is preparing me to do the will of God. There is personal work that we all need to do. A wholeness we all need to achieve to the best of our ability.

This process of self awareness can be painful. It can be harsh to go back and relive a childhood memory, or a painful incident or even just examine why you acted a certain way last week. Yet, all of the digging and self- discovery is a good thing.

I discovered this week why I had the nagging sense of never having accomplished anything.

No matter how well I preached or performed a duty, I never felt good about my accomplishments. This was compounded by the Christian teachings that we all must be humble and that pride is a sin. Somewhere in my mind, I thought “well I can’t celebrate myself because all of those things mean very little in comparison to Christ”. Even though overall that may sound holy and seem true, I realize that Christ wants us to celebrate and feel accomplished about efforts that HE helped us achieve. That when we are successful in using our gifts, we can celebrate the outcome. Somewhere the lack of self-esteem and the good teaching about humility got mixed up and resulted in just not enjoying my accomplishments and my life. And then I was surrounded by people that saw snapshots of me at church but didn’t really know me. All the while, teaching that they were closer to me than my natural family.

But I found that many of those people did not have the time, the know-how, nor the responsibility to help me with my life. Even though, I was constantly sent the message that they did have all those things. See, this is what happens when you’re seeking for completeness through other people and looking for a place to belong.

I know, it may sound weird, but that’s what seemingly happened. Somewhere, my mind and my past experiences melded together and gave me a mixed message. An incorrect message–that nothing I did outside of church really mattered much. So I didn’t pay the proper attention to my finances, my personal growth, my professional growth, and continued education. And although I achieved a lot in spite of this, I was surrounded by people that often made me feel that much of that stuff was useless and unremarkable.

As I change my surroundings, my associations and who I allow to be close to me, I am learning that positive affirmations and positive people make a big difference in my life. I no longer hear the negativity that surrounded me most of my life. But I am surrounding myself with mentors, coaches, and friends that will have a positive effect on me and help me reach the goals that God has set out for me.

I heard a person say that we are the average of the 5 people that are closest to us.

Well, today I am committing to changing who is a close, positive effect on my life and who is simply an acquaintance passing through. It makes a difference when you get those things sorted out.

Meditation Builds Spiritual Strength

download (2)Do you ever wonder why sometimes you feel spiritually weak?  Check your levels of meditation. I can’t even list how many times in scripture God encourages us to meditate on his words.   There’s something wonderful that happens when we read and think about the words of God.  Not only do you begin to take in the true meaning of the words but they actually begin to change your thought process.

You see, as you think and think over the words again, they become a part of your mind and your heart.  Eventually, it will come out in our actions.  David said, “thy word have I  hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11).  It is harder to ignore that voice in your head warning you against doing wrong when that voice has been allowed to drill into your mind.

I was reading a passage in Joshua, Chapter 1, verse 8 that caught my eye.

This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

You may say how can I meditate day and night?   It’s just like when you eat a good meal and you remember that meal.  You bring it back up in conversation and may encourage a friend to try the dish or the restaurant where it was served.    When something is good to you, it will come back up and you’ll think about it.

Meditation is an exercise of the mind.  You become more spiritual when you think on the Word of God, which Christ said is the bread of life. Christ is the Word and the Word gives life to our spirit.   When we take in what is right, our spirit will reject what is wrong

When we take in what is right, our spirit will reject what is wrong and sinful.  We will lose our taste for wrongdoing if we take in and meditate on His words.  Sure, the flesh will always want wrong but we will find a strength to say no.  Our desires will change toward good and our heart will be affected by the power of divinely inspired words.

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