Do Not Feed the Fear

I am sure this has been said by many great thinkers and a few books have probably been written on this topic alone, but for me this statement is personal.  I have used this as my personal mantra to step into the unknown and believe that everything will work out.  At every major turning point in my life where I had to make a major decision, I was afraid and feared what I did not know.  Despite the fear that I had or that others had for me, I was able to focus on my dreams and not feed into my fear.

When I got accepted into college and did not have a plan in place to get me from one year to the next, I focused on graduation, making my family proud, and completing what I started.  When I studied for my nursing boards while working full-time, I focused on passing, making more money, and making the past 5 years of my life worth every moment.  When I decided to leave nursing and pursue a legal career, I focused on gaining knowledge, expanding my network, and having access to different opportunities.  You have to have a focus and it cannot be your fear.

As I countdown the days to embarking on a new journey, I naturally have fears that run through my mind as I pack, but I only allow them to rest for a moment.  I think about it and push it out by thinking of all of the great things that I know are coming and can come from this next opportunity.  Many times we begin to discuss our fears with others and allow that negative seed to plant and grow roots in our minds and spirit.  That fear keeps you awake at night, it keeps you from making sound decisions, and it keeps you from stepping into your destiny.

Someone recently told me, “You have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.”  Although I initially thought that I hate being uncomfortable, I realized it is only when I am uncomfortable that I actually take the risks that yield great returns.  I have been in DC for 11 years and had plans on staying for at least 2 or 3 more. I had to be broken down and detached from my place of comfort, so that my heart would be open for this opportunity.  If I would have been presented with this opportunity months ago, I would have turned it down because I would have been waiting for my ideal job.  My brokenness, my desire to get back working, and my openness to my personal definition of “ideal” is what allowed me to interview for this position and move my entire family there knowing that this was the right decision for us.

What I have learned over this part of my journey is to Fear NOT.  I do not fear because God is with me.  I do not fear because my steps are ordered.  I do not fear because everything is working together for my good.  My faith has sustained me even when my mind could not rationalize my reality.  You have to grow through every season, especially the ones that are tough to get through.  Many people talk about having tunnel vision but never discuss how hard it is to get through the tunnel to the light. As you walk through the tunnel you have to stay focused on the light and not fear the darkness that surrounds you or your situation.

Do not feed the fear.  Let your faith sustain you.  Greater has to come.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

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Redefining My Relationship With Religion

I have been very vocal about my disappointment and craggy relationship with religion and the concept of church over the past few years.  My generation is one of the first to take organized religion and church off of a pedestal and examine the structure and concept against what it has always stood for.    Many of us are struggling to reconcile the idealism that we grew up believing and the realization discovered from the critical analysis of an institution that has done so much damage to so many people.  This struggle has caused many within my generation to detach from religion, church, or any type of organized thinking that may be oppressive or controlling.  This generation refuses to simply accept the church for all of its good without discussing all of the bad.

Although I felt like I had found my dream church, I decided that I was not ready to be apart of that congregation because I needed to redefine my relationship with religion, or I would eventually be let down again.  So I stopped attending church and started working on my relationship with God.  I have always had a strong relationship with God and I learned to pray very early on in life.  I pray often, I pray hard, and I pray for myself, my family and many others.  I have read the Bible from front to back and have a good handle of the well used verses that preachers use to engage his/her parishioners with on a Sunday morning.  Despite all of this, I could not understand why I struggled with the things that were being yelled from the pulpit and the things that God was laying on my heart.  This is where my relationship needed more definition.

I have discussed this struggle with a few friends and received many different reactions and commentary.  I have a few friends who are just like me and would rather stay away because church is “not what it used to be.”  I have a few friends who are still into church and are able to separate those expectations from their relationship with that church.  Then there are the friends who go for the good and leave the bad right where it needs to be, with the person who brought that mess in.  I tried to decide if I was okay with being away from church forever and raising my son as a spiritualist or become more like one of the last two examples of friends I discussed.  This is what I have been contemplating gently over the past few months and strongly over the past few weeks.

I do not know how to become apart of something, yet be detached enough to not allow any mess within the church to bother me.  I do not know how to appreciate the good things of a church and leave the bad with the person that brought it to the table.  But my lesson was God saying that He wanted me to be myself and myself only.  If my desire is to be emotionally involved with a church, then that should be how I engage and involve myself in that ministry. But before he allowed my heart to desire being in fellowship in that environment, I had more redefinition of my relationship with religion and my relationship to go.

Growing up in a very religious household with my grandparents, my life revolved around church.  Everything we did and everywhere we went centered around what was going on at church.  All of my close friends were in church and we did everything together.  Church was our life.  Religion filled our ears and heads with rules to abide by and consequences that would follow if any of these rules were broken. Most of the consequences ended in going to hell, simply put.  So we did not pierce our ears, celebrate pagan holidays, wear pants to church, not wear stockings when wearing a dress, cut our hair, sit on the front row with our legs uncovered or any of the other rules that dominated our sect of Pentecostalism.  Now that I am free from the bondage of expectation, I realize that these words were a way to create normalcy but the issue was the attitude that came against anyone who violated these rules.

I look back at how my grandfather operated and I do not feel as if he was preaching condemnation but simply setting a standard.  Although I was young, I would listen to the sermons and try to comprehend what was being said.  I helped him with his sermons after he lost his sight and even heard one recently and yearned for his wisdom.  But many of the things that went on in that church while my grandfather pastored that church and even after he got sick and later passed, I learned of as an adult and that is what broke my spirit.  I was so angry that my eyes began to see many of the other terrible things that were going on in churches around the country.

I began to ask questions about other preachers in the pulpit like, “How can a man preach in the pulpit when he cheated on his wife?” or “How can a woman be condemned for having a baby out-of-wedlock but not a man?” or “What is so wrong about wearing earrings when people spend hundreds on gaudy suits and hats” or “How in the world is everyone going to hell if we all sin and fall short of the glory, yet only certain sinners are definitely going to hell?”  These questions plus so many more had me torn because I saw the church and the leaders within the church as ones who lived by the word of God.  I saw the church as a safe place and not one in which people were raped or molested.  I saw the church as a place that built people up, not tore them down for every mistake that they may have made.  I saw the church as a Supreme Being and not one created by man.  That is where I was getting it wrong. 

God revealed to me that the Church is just a body of believers who are trying to hear my voice and follow my word.  The Church is a place to worship and lay your burdens at the altar but also a place to learn from your mistakes.  The Church is a place where you replenish your soul through the word, fellowship, and service.  The Church is greater than anything one man could destroy alone by his acts, words, or sin.  Within these revelations I began to see for myself that I allowed others to make me believe that the church was equal to God.  That I wrongly believed that the Church was the only way to get to God even though I knew I knew him for myself and had a strong relationship with God outside of church.

I know that if something is for you, it is for you and you alone, but if you are not prepared to receive it or use it for the right purposes, that individualized blessing will pass you and be given to someone else.  Missed opportunities.  And NOW for me going to church is simply an opportunity to affirm what God has already spoken to me.  It is not the only opportunity, but one that is organized and built around this convoluted concept of religion.  The purity of my relationship does not depend on the purity of the leadership of a church.  But when I feel that I am not being fed, God’s word is not being affirmed, or I am too distracted by the darkness of a church leadership then that is not the place for me to worship.

Church is simply an opportunity.  If you do not seize the opportunity to fellowship, it does not mean that you do not know God, that you are any less of a Christian (insert any religion), or that you are missing out on what God has for you.  What is for you, is for you and God will get it to you through a pastor, a friend, an article, a song or by any means necessary.  That is how He works.  I have chosen to not be apart of any structure that does not build me up or support my current relationship with God.  I have chosen to take opportunities to affirm what God has already placed on my mind and heart.  I have chosen to be myself and when I can no longer be myself in that ministry, to search for another place of worship.

I know that God has a calling on my life.  I do not think it is to stand in a pulpit and preach a word but I know that it is to spread His word.  I understand that no matter how far I run from religion or church that I cannot run from God.  I believe that this generation will get back to the relationship and stray from the religion.  I want my son to experience the love and support of a church community that I have received over the years.  I promise to protect him from the evil within and to answer the questions that stir up some sort of doubt in his mind about what has been said to him from a religious leader or teacher.  I vow to approach this church thing differently so that no man can disappoint me and push me away from something I love.  I love to fellowship.  I love to worship.  I love to praise.  I am a church lady (as my friend often reminds me) and I can be that person without being caught up in who is delivering the word and more invested in what is being delivered through the word.

I am going to continue redefining my relationship with religion until I settle in a place where I am on a solid rock.  This is literally the beginning of a series of posts about my own struggles with my faith and reconciliation with what I have been taught and what I have learned or believe is truth.  I know many people won’t understand this post or agree and I can accept that, but for those who know that there has to be a change in the way we connect with those in this generation that seek God then I welcome your comments and opinions.

I will never stop walking this walk.  Who helps guide my walk may change but where I am going will not.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

The Lack of Empathy in America

I come from a family that extends themselves to others without reciprocation.  My grandfather was a pastor and gave his all to his church and parishioners.  Many of them were more like family to us than church members.  Through the many changes that occurred at his church, he was never angry or upset, but always empathetic.  My grandmother had a sweet soul and prayed for others even on her sick-bed.  We have all experienced loss in some way or been through a life changing moment that may have knocked us off of our feet.  The empathy from our support system is what gets us through those tough moments.

Even though they have both been gone a very long time, I never loss that spirit of empathy.  So when I see people in America react to the murder of a black child with such hate and toxicity, I often wonder how they never learned empathy or why their empathy is so narrowly applied.   How can you be so arrogant to feel that only certain people deserve your empathy?

When people share an intimate story about a very personal issue, I connect and listen, even if I don’t understand.  When stories arise of young girls taking their lives because they were blackmailed or bullied by their classmates, I empathize with that young girl and her family.  When parents come on TV and discuss their child’s terminal cancer diagnosis, I empathize with them because I understand that they are going through so much individually and as a family.  When a school shooting happens and the shooter’s parents come on TV and say they had no idea that this was going to happen, I am empathic because I understand how that is possible.  When an unarmed child is murdered by the cops, regardless of race, I am taken aback because the cops are the people who have pledged to protect and serve and I suddenly feel vulnerable.

However, when I read the comments or see the coverage of incidents that involve a Black person and law enforcement, the lack of empathy in the media, amongst the readers, and those of other races who are interviewed is astounding.  How is there such a disconnect between these people and the victim simply because of his or her race?  People make the most nasty and disgraceful comment as if we are not human.  I have heard the same when it comes to domestic violence, rape, and forced prostitution.  How does a victim become the person to hate and the family the people to tear down, when the facts show that the other party was wrong?

Confront your biases and deal with the multicultural world you live in.  It is so disheartening to be the victim of racism on a professional level.  The educated are intelligent in one respect but ignorant in so many others.  This goes for race, religion, and sexual orientation.  Everyone is screaming progress but where have we progressed to when an unarmed victim is presumed to have deserved it.  Where a child is suddenly described as if he has lived and learned as much as the adult that is discussing him.  As if we ourselves have never made mistakes or deserve to be persecuted because of our imperfections.

I understand that the media has so much control over people’s thoughts, but there comes a time when you have to start thinking for yourself.  There comes a time where you cannot automatically think that every girl that has gotten raped deserved it because she dressed a certain way.  There comes a time when you cannot automatically think that every Black person that is shot by the police has a rap sheet.  There comes a time when you cannot automatically think that a woman is lying about being domestically abused.  The time is now or we will remain constrained by our hatred if we do not move beyond preconceived notions of truth based simply on race or gender.

We are being manipulated to dislike each other for reasons that are so minute and that many times,don’t hold any truth.  I do not hate white people because I know not all white people hate me, but I hate the idealistic theory that white is right and black is wrong.  I hate the idealistic theory that women are emotional and men are simply better leaders.  I hate the idealistic theory that someone with a different sexual orientation doesn’t deserve our respect. We are so deeply divided and not progressive as we think we are or claim to be.

We shame other countries for acts that occur right here on American soil.  We attempt to convince the world that we are the example that everyone should follow, but since this country was seized by immigrants, they did not respect those who were here, those they brought here, or those who appeared to be different then whatever ideal they had adopted at that time.  We refuse to admit our faults and mend the broken pieces that created this country.  We volunteer across the world as global citizens but hold our noses up to the homeless, impoverished, and destitute in our own country.

I have had to check myself and the way I have been raised to think about many things.  There is a lack of progress and growth that cripples many people.  Many have so many unchecked generational biases that do not coincide with the times, and most do not care to change them.  Please feel free to hold onto your negative notions, but know that the world around you is forging ahead and the ground beneath you is shifting, so be prepared to be apart of the change or an outsider, watching as we enjoy life without your hate.

This generation has to take charge and refine our own empathic triggers and teach our children how to be empathetic to others with no limitations.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own time.

Too Unworthy To Be Used

We are only limited by our imagination.  A statement that has been said in many ways by many different people.  If you can really think about the idea that is being conveyed through these words, then you will understand the power of you.  The only person that is holding you back from greatness and glory is you and the limitations you place on yourself.

Around 5 years ago I really got in tune with God.  I heard the voice of God very clearly but every time I would start to get close to breaking through a threshold where I was tapping into something so deep and so meaningful, I would retreat back to my cave of fear.  I would come back to my man-made created darkness and go through all of the reasons why I was unworthy of greatness.

Me? You want to use me? Why me? I don’t come from a perfect background.  I have struggled through the hell of poverty, been homeless, been shamed and ashamed, been too black, too fat, too stupid or just plain wrong.  Why would you choose someone as broken, as crazy, as loud, as emotional, as weak as me God.  I am not worthy enough to be used.

After years of arguing and playing tug of war with my destiny, I stopped complaining and making so much noise and listened again to God.  And He said, “Because you have been through poverty, homelessness, been shamed and ashamed, too black, too fat, too stupid or just plain wrong.  For all of these reasons I choose you to go forth and be a light to those just like you.  A light to those who want to give up and retreat back to their manmade cave of darkness.  There are many more like you than there are unlike you.”

So many of us have gone through the trials of life and survived and that is a truth that has to be shared.  Especially in a day and age where perfection is just a click away, a commercial away, a reality show away.  In a time where some of our girls are racing to pack on make-up, afford the highest designer fashions by any means necessary, and even willing to risk their lives with illegal or improper surgical enhancements.  Where some our young men glorify violence, rob, steal and kill their own and are dying to wear designers.  Where our intelligent young girls and boys are not getting the proper resources and support they need to succeed.  Where our children are marked in Kindergarten for a path to college or to jail.  The TRUTH has to begin to speak louder than the lies of Hollywood, the stories of reality tv, and the rhetoric of the news.  We have to begin to define and create the identity of beauty, unity, of greatness.

This is for everyone who can’t get past that certain point of greatness.  The one who keeps stopping or retreating back to that place of comfort.  For the broken young girl who is growing through those pains.  For the young boy who is vowing to be greater.  This is for the TRUTH.  This is for everyone who was told or ever thought that they were too unworthy to be used.  You are where you are so that you can help someone else.  You have gone through what you have gone through so you can save someone else.  Our lives are not our own.  Our stories are not our own.  Our truth is not our own.

My blog was never supposed to be spiritual or preaching any type of gospel.  It was an avenue for me to get out many of the things that I am supposed to share.  But my TRUTH is that God has a plan for my life greater than I can even imagine.  I may never hold a title, stand in a pulpit or be on the Word channel, but every opportunity I get, I have to share what He has put in my spirit.

It is my story.  It is my destiny.  It is my truth.  You are worthy to be used.  Let Him use you.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.