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

My Miseducation About Perfection

If I’ve learned anything it’s this:  It is not enough to realize that I had a difficult childhood. I must find out how this dysfunction affected my personality and behaviors so that I can be my authentic self.

I’ve written about perfectionism before, and yet as I go on in life,  I see more clearly the dangers of this insidious disease.  I’m reminded that the wrong type of perfectionism comes from damaged homes and false signals.  Some people bring this wrong mindset into their life and into their spiritual walk.  Years ago while participating in a married couple’s class at our church. The question on the floor was what is it that your spouse does that irritates you and how do you cope with it.   A minister’s wife got up and said, “Oh my husband is perfect.  He doesn’t do anything to irritate me.”  At first, I thought they were joking, but they weren’t.  How can that be?  Is he a clone?  Is he in a coma?  I couldn’t comprehend this at all. What had gone wrong there? Did she expects people to buy that? Continue reading “My Miseducation About Perfection”

Church Can Hinder Spiritual Growth

Just reading the title may cause you to think I’m a bit off.

“Ain’t she a church-going lady? She’s a minister.”

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But hear me out.

I heard a well-known pastor in my denomination say publicly “Sometimes I find that people when they’re on their own, have stronger faith than those who are in a local congregation.”He went on to explain.

“Folks may be by themselves for various reasons, like too far from a church or something, and they want to obey God, they’re sincere for God, and they obey Him without any interferences. But when they become part of a church, most people become more concerned about what my friends think and what’s Sallie gotta say about it, and disobey God and become spiritually weak.”

Yeah, he said it, and I’m saying it too.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been involved in wonderful, uplifting church services. I almost felt lifted to heavenly places by the atmosphere and the music. I’ve met good people, and seen good examples of spirituality but church must remain in its proper biblical place.

If you’re deeply involved in a neighborhood church, you have to prioritize and keep God first. I’ve seen many a Christian lose touch with God going to church faithfully, every Sunday. When you ask them if God has revealed his purpose for in the kingdom, they seem lost. Gathering with others that love Christ can be wonderful if you don’t let attending church and church culture replace your walk with God.

A local church is a body of baptized believers in Jesus Christ. Gatherings of Christians in ancient times took place traditionally on the day Christ rose from the dead and usually in synagogues or house groups since the first Christians were Jewish and were used to this tradition. We’ve carried this tradition on since the time of the Apostles. Most churches gather once a week for worship. In theory, these gatherings and assemblies of Christians are supposed to be a place where you can hear the word of God preached, learn more about scripture, grow and gather with other Christians to build one another up and serve one another. Back then, Christians and non-Christians were the only groups that existed and the non-Christians were broken up into a variety of institutions of worship. There were no right-wing Christians or moderates, just Christians.

Now, we have hundreds of Christians groups worldwide and even more splinters of those and so many churches in the United States (at last count from Christianity Today there are 384,000 Christian congregations in the U.S.), that it’s hard to keep track.

The whole idea of the gospel is to bring man back to right relationship with God, and open the way to direct communication with God. Somewhere in all this religion, spirituality and inner communion with the Almighty may tend to get lost. I believe this is why Jesus warned the disciples so sternly to avoid the “doctrine” of the Pharisees. Not because he didn’t believe in the Law, not at all. He came to fulfill the law. Jesus warned against practicing their brand of religion. In short, Judaism at the time consisted of a lot of man-made rules that the Pharisees themselves didn’t even follow. (See Matthew 15, Matthew 23 for Jesus’s criticisms of the religious systems of the time). It’s not religious practices that are wrong, the book of James talks about practices of “true religion”. It’s when religious practices are developed arbitrarily and are held as if you’ll drop into hell if you don’t follow them.

For me, if you can’t cover that practice with scripture..um…what are you doing?

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THINK ON THIS….
Church, pastors, priests, ministers should not be mediators between you and God.

Some Christians put the institution of the local church and all that is attached to it on the wrong level of importance. Why? Well, because this is the one thing they can physically see, and we humans tend to put more faith in the tangible.

So if “Pastor says…”, then should I do it, even if it doesn’t make any sense biblically? I’ve heard people reason themselves into obeying things that their Pastor can’t even explain with the bible. In some cases WON’T explain and just tells them to obey. Often people get so wrapped up in church-iosity they don’t even study or examine what they are taught.

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That type of religion stinks.

Our Personal Walk

According to the scriptures is Jesus Christ himself is our only mediator. He’s the only one worthy of that status as the Son of God. The Hebrew religion already had its, priest and rabbis who, by God’s temporary design, stood as mediators between Israel and God.

But when Christ died, as those who are familiar with the evidence know, the veil of the temple was split from top to bottom. (Matthew 27:50). God tore this 60-foot veil that took 300 priests to move. No human could have done that. For Christians, this symbolizes that God had destroyed the barrier between God and man through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We no longer had to go through human mediators. Christ became our righteousness, our way to reach God.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Cor 5:21

In short, no human stands between you and God. God made that clear on the day Christ died.

Often we use our Pastor, or minister or other, fellow Christians as symbolic Old Testament priests.

By placing their opinions and rules above the word and the leading of God, by default, we give them that place. They now become in practice the Levitical priesthood. We imagine and they often do too, that somehow we need their approval for God’s divine favor. It can be deadly to spiritual awareness and our spiritual walk.

Our dependence on the human aspect of religion is what weakens us. We’ll look at our local church communities as the voice of God and replace God’s voice with opinions and rules. We may feel that God will not tell a person a person anything that is not sanctioned by a pastor or other Christians in our circle. The feeling of close community is where we have to be cautious. We can begin to lose the beauty of faith and walking with God when we place people on a pedestal.

It had gotten so bad in specific segments of our denomination that even if someone wanted to wear their hair a particular way if the Pastor didn’t like it or someone of prominence had a problem with it, that hairstyle had to go. Wow! Whenever anyone starts to take the place of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we should respectfully decline to accept masks of divine authority. Whatever God tells us to let go or remove from our lives should be a voluntary act of love. Anything else will be phony and only done to perpetuate a particular image and possibly just the comfort of others.

We weaken ourselves when we don’t live our spiritual lives authentically as God speaks to us. We lose our Enoch-experience. Hebrews 11:5 says that Enoch pleased God. Enoch believed God and loved God, and this was before the Laws of Moses, and any rules instituted as Christian law, so what does that say about what’s necessary to commune with God?

Next time, let’s talk about Romans 14 and its lessons on what’s truly important to God.

Growing in Troubled Waters

A word about spiritual growth…

Everything needs growth to survive. My son, Ellis, whose mind has always run at warp speed, just couldn’t seem to grow fast enough for his own tastes at just two years old. After almost everything he ate, he’d ask, “Will this make me strong-ner?” (That’s not a misprint). The “this” could be anything from green beans to candy.  He would most times look up and ask me this question before he’d begin a meal.  That child was obsessed with being stronger. Mostly stronger than his big sister. That was the main goal.  He didn’t realize that eating and sleeping would get the job done.

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Spiritually speaking, we can be anxious like this, too. We can be so obsessed with looking grown up that we just don’t allow ourselves sufficient time to actually mature. We need to value time. We need to allow ourselves to make mistakes and get help. We have such high expectations for ourselves that we try to hide the dents and nicks in our armor.  But to what avail?  If we pretend we are more spiritual than we really are, we put ourselves in a trick bag.  There always comes a time that people will be able to tell we don’t have what we profess.  Time will always expose our problems.

If we let the Lord have his way in our journey, however, we’ll grow in all the areas we need to.

Excerpt from How to Walk on Water     DOWNLOAD THE BOOK

What Is Worth More Than Money?

According to the bible, money is less valuable than wisdom and understanding; neither of which you can spend at Neiman-Marcus nor Macy’s but stick with me.

Some people never realize that money has its limits.  Now, I know you may say “hold up”, everybody needs it and nobody really turns it down, do they?  And many may even quote me the scripture that it’s the “love” of money that’s the root of all evil, not the money itself.  All true, but here’s what I’ve noticed.  In all the talk of people trying to defend the value of money in our lives, nobody really talks about the limited value of money.

According to the bible, money is less valuable than wisdom and understanding; neither of which you can spend at Neiman Marcus nor Macy’s but stick with me.

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According to Solomon, who had lots and lots of the stuff?  He says that looking over his wealth he realizes that money will not protect you in times of trouble.  It may actually create more troubles for you.  You’d be surprised if you just did a quick search of the term money in the book of Ecclesiastics and Proverbs see what Solomon had to say about money.

 Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: Wisdom preserves those who have it. Ecclesiastes 7:12

This is the same man who said that money is the answer to everything.  And that is probably true in more cases than not in this world.  However, Solomon wrote down his observations about life in specific and just his passing observations.   In his writings, it is clear that his greatest treasure was his relationship with God.  He knew that it would outlast every dime that he possessed.

So as you go about your week, and work hard to get money, keep in the mind the things that money cannot buy and the eternal things that Solomon tells us is worth more than all the gold in the world.