Wednesday, July 1, 2015

After We Pray, Then What?

When tragedies strike, one of the first things we see and hear is “we’re praying”.  Shootings in churches, churches being burned down, women pastors under siege, marriage equality, flag controversies…..and we see and hear, “we’re praying”.  We become upset when certain issues are brought to the forefront and others are not.  We blame the media for what they promote and what they fail to report….and we see and hear, “we’re praying”.  Prayer vigils, prayer conferences, prayer cloths and prayer calls…..and we see and hear, “we’re praying”.

But the question becomes after we have seen it all, heard it all, had our prayer gatherings and prayer calls, what is next?  What will be our response?  What are we actually praying for?  We say we are praying for God to heal the land but we won’t repent.  We quote 2 Chronicles 7:14 and we get the praying part right but have not we humbled ourselves and turned from our wicked ways?  We say we are asking God to comfort those who mourn but we fail to want to show love to everyone.  Perhaps while we are praying we need to pray for God to give us strategies for what our role should be in active engagement with the issues at hand.  Perhaps we need to pray for God to give us the courage to stop trying to hide behind “Jesus, fix it” and ask how can we be used by God to help fix it.  Perhaps we need to pray for God to show us how to be more like Jesus willing and able to confront and combat the systems which seek to oppress and harm rather than simply just saying “we’re praying”. 

We can no longer read the word but fail to act on the word.  James 1:22 teaches us not to be only hearers of the word but to be doers of the word also.  We cannot stay on our knees in prayer but fail to act on what God speaks.  The true measure of our witness depends on if the people in darkness see the light of the people of God actively working to rid the world of the darkness.

Taking a flag down is not going to stop racism.  It may remove a reminder but it will also fuel the flames.  To end racism means to operate in the radical love as Christ loved and acceptance of people we consider other or inferior.  It has to be taught at home, in our schools and in our communities.  In order to remove racism, we must remove the mindsets which perpetuate it.  In order to pierce the power racism and unfair treatment of people means we must be more educated and intentional in our voting and electing of officials.  We must do more than simply pray. 

To begin to hear from heaven, we must repent for all the ways we have strayed away from God – not just those who have been the victimizers but all of us.  We have to repent for how we have allowed the comfort of our buildings and worship services to keep us from being actively engaged in confronting societal ills.  We have allowed government to keep us from speaking truth to power.  We have failed to stand on the Lord’s side for the sake of platforms, positions and financial gain.  We have failed to love God’s people because they do not look like, sound like or live like we think they should.  Therefore it is not those whom we deem as wrong who need to repent but the people of God need to repent as well.

As in the last couple of weeks, the days ahead will continue to try our faith and test us as the people of God.  However, we must make a decision that we are not going to hide behind prayer and fail to act.  If anything, we must show the world that we are not afraid and we will rebuild.  We will educate.  We will take a stand.  But most importantly, we will love with a radical love.  We will love to the point it will cast out all fear.  We will love so that the world will know we truly are the people of God.  Love is an action word.  After we pray, let us begin to act in love.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Are You Prepared?

On yesterday there was a significant flight delay due to the weather. The airport I was flying into had been closed due to the weather.  As a result, when I did arrive, it was within 15 minutes of my connecting flight. I was at the B gate but had to get to the E gate. The only way to get there was to run.

The moral of the story is we have to be prepared for the unexpected in life. Over the past couple of years I have been training my body. I've learned to workout, to eat better, and to take care of myself. As I had to make the mad dash across the airport, I could only do it because I had been being prepared in the off season to use the strength and ability in the in season.

The season is coming where we will have to be stronger,  better and wiser to handle what God has for us.  The only way we will be able to handle it and survive is by being prepared.  We must discern what skills, abilities and structures we need to begin developing and putting into place now for us to be prepared for our later. Are you prepared?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Surrendering and Acceptance

This morning as I was preparing for my prayer and meditation time, a song was in my spirit almost out of nowhere. The song was “I Surrender All”. For a moment, I sat with the song because I really didn’t know where it came from or what it was going to mean as I was about to enter into prayer and meditation. It would not be until after my time was over that the understanding would come.

As we get older and we experience life, if we are not careful, we can silence the voice of the call on our lives. Depending on what area(s) we are called, we can give in to the pressures of governing boards, authorities and those who seem to know what is best. We look for others to call us and validate us, moving further and further away from that which we know we are truly called to be and/or do. For some of us, we allow our insecurities to take center stage which allows us to give in to other people’s opinions, judgments and desires for us. After all, they have been where we have been and made it to these places of position and power, aren’t they supposed to have the right answers? Yet, if we are in tune to the Spirit, we live with this quiet but uncomfortable longing and voice from within that tells us something is still not right no matter the titles we call ourselves, letters before or after our names, or stages we are allowed to stand on. There is still more and there is still a place we must get to.

This morning it was as if my spirit was singing its own song. “I surrender all. I surrender all. All to Jesus, my blessed Savior, I surrender all”. The spirit was being summons to lay it all down. Lay down all that burdens you have carried. All that you think you know and think you are. All that people have said about you. Everything….lay it down. For it has been what you have been carrying but has it been who you are and what you are truly called to do? While at the same time doing what is comfortable and what you have known, you still have not fully embraced all that you are and what you are truly called to do. An uncomfortable position to be in but almost being able to breathe a sigh of relief because the discomfort you have felt is finally acknowledged. The masks you have chosen to live behind are able to be removed and you see yourself for who you really are. No longer having to live on the sidelines of the life you know you are supposed to have because you are afraid of what will people think, say or do. Yet not really caring because what is calling you is much stronger than the opinions and perspectives of others. Yes, now it is time to surrender and accept. Surrender what has been. Surrender every fear, insecurity, hiding moment. In exchange, accept the fullness of your calling, purpose and identity. Accept who God has called, crafted, created and sent you to be. Freedom is birth in the surrendering and accepting.

Today I surrender my fears and insecurities to God which has caused me to hide and not walk in what I know God has called me to. I accept the purpose and the identity of who I am. When I was called to ministry there was a text which I was repeatedly taken to.

Jeremiah 1:4-10 (NRSV) says “Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Just as Jeremiah was fearful and insecure, so have I been. But God knew before time who Jeremiah was called to be. As with me, God knows who God has called me to be. Now it is time for me to walk in it and no longer run or hide from it. So today I choose to accept my acceptance and my full calling. Not simply as preacher/pastor but the fullness to walk in the apostolic and prophetic. “To pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant”. Now is the time and I choose to say “yes” to it all that I may live in the fullness of who God called me to be. I surrender and accept.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012 Reflection: The Year of "But God"

Anytime I find myself getting sick, I take it as a sign from God that I need to slow down. Now a couple of days away from the end of the year, I lie in bed with a slight cold. However, in the stillness of this last Saturday morning of 2012, I am very grateful for being forced to be still. In the stillness I hear God and can have time to meditate and reflect. Many times when the end of the year comes people have so much excitement stating the next year is “going to be my year” because the year we are exiting from has had its share of trials and tribulations. We rush out of one year with such anticipation and expectation, seemingly only to recite the same sentence at the close of the next year…..”Next year is going to be my year”. When we look back on it, it seems all we had was a series of setbacks, disappointments, struggles. All we can look forward to is a new beginning and hopefully better outcomes. As I prepare to exit 2012, I have great expectations of what 2013 will bring. However, I am also choosing to leave 2012 in gratitude rather than defeat or disappointment in what has happened over the course of the year. It has been a year of ups and downs, disappointments and setbacks but it has also been a year of great joys, blessings and favor. I started the year looking for a job, money low, and bills still needing to be paid but God blessed me with a new job making more than I have made in years. I envisioned starting the PhD program this year but it was setback. But God has me in position to complete my second masters and pursue another educational opportunity in an area I am passionate about coming in 2013. It was a year of car troubles and related expenses that appeared to drain me. But God blessed me with a new car and the car that I wanted. Some people walked out of my life, it hurt deeply and I didn’t really understand. But God opened the door for new relationships, friendships and associations to come in their place. There are many things I could look at as loss. Many things I could choose to look at in sadness. However, as I leave out of 2012, all I can say is “but God”. 2012 was the year of “but God”. God is faithful. God has a greater plan than anything I could ever imagine. It is not to be churchy or religious but it is to state facts. Things have happened which I could not have imagined or dreamed. It was not at my hand or my doing but it was in the master plan of God. Every loss, every setback, every dark cloud, even when I could not see it at the time, had a “but God” attached to it. Therefore as we prepare to cross into 2013, I am not going hell-bent on my will, my timetable, or my expectations. I cross over into 2013 continuing to seek God’s will, God’s direction, the Spirit’s leading and God’s timetable. Yes, I have some goals written down and some desired timelines to keep myself accountable. However, I also remain flexible knowing there may be some adjustments along the way because God is still in control. The goals will be met and the desired end will come but the journey may take some twists and turns before I get to the end. It does not lessen my expectation of it coming to pass. That is a lot to say coming from a control freak, type A personality that likes to know the whole process in advance. However as 2012 has shown me, no matter how much I want to know or how much God has shown me in advance, there are still steps, twists and turns that I don’t know about in advance. I just have to trust God and flow with the Spirit. I leave out of 2012 in peace, not with the frustration and anxiety of years past. I leave in light knowing even in the midst of all the struggles, 2012 was a necessary year. There were lessons learned through the struggle, disappointments and heartaches. It did not kill me when I felt like it would. It did not win when it seemed as if it had the final say. I am still here and choosing to continue to move forward. I am still learning and living. Therefore, all of it happened for a greater purpose than even I understand right now. I pray we all come to the place of not rushing our lives away and failing to appreciate the journey. We all have a way we must go and it was not promised to us it would be easy, fair or perfect. However, we must choose to trust God knows what is best. We must keep the faith and keep believing it will get better. We must be able to look on the whole picture, even the things which hurt us or made us struggle, with the eyes of gratitude because it built our faith, character, deepened our relationship with God, taught us to pray, and a host of other things. Let us choose to leave 2012 in peace with great expectation for what is to come in 2013. Farewell 2012 and welcome 2013!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Permission Slip: A Valentine's Love Letter to Myself

When we were in grade school, whenever there was a special activity or field trip usually there was a permission slip required. The permission slip would have to be signed by a parent or guardian granting permission to participate in the said activity or trip. So often in our lives, like small children, we walk around with invisible permission slips, waiting for someone to give us permission to live our lives. We wait on society, relatives, mentors, or friends to approve of us and our choices. We sit by watching life pass us by because we are waiting on the permission slip to be signed by some authority figure to turn in to some unidentifiable source that has the key to open the door to our lives.
However, today on this Valentine’s Day, I have chosen to give myself one of the greatest, most important gifts I can give myself. I give myself the Ultimate Permission Slip. Today I hereby sign it stating my approval for Evita L. Smith to participate in my own life as of February 14, 2012. I attach this permission slip to this letter to myself:
Dear Evita,
I have loved you since the beginning but have wished and hoped for you to realize and acknowledge it. There is so much inside of you and you have not even begun to see what great things are in store for you. So today I give you a gift of love – permission to be the best you that you can be. I give you permission to live your life to the fullest and obtain everything God has for you. I give you permission to forgive yourself for the past and be free to experience the future. I give you permission to say “yes” to what you will and “no” as you please regardless of anyone else’s expectations. I give you permission to be ok with whatever decision you make. I give you permission to let go or grab hold, walk away or stay, take the risk or be cautious. It is your choice. You have permission to live out loud, be bold, laugh, cry, dance and be free. May from this day forward, you never wait for someone to give you permission to be you because you are the best you. You are the best you because you are “fearfully and wonderfully made”. May you never live in regret or feel less than because the you that you are is just fine. So go on and do you, love you but most importantly be you. You hereby have your permission.
Happy Valentine’s Day! I love you!

May those of you who read this always give yourself permission to be and love you!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year 2012

5...4…3…2…1, Happy New Year! The moment we all waited for…a new year, a new day, a new start has begun. While it is an exciting time as we consider all the things we will set out to accomplish this year, it is also a scary time. 5…4…3…2…1 and the clock starts. It is the countdown to the clock starting me trying to figure out how I am going to get so much accomplished in what seems like a short amount of time. This clock is ticking down 12 months until I am at this point again – a new goal list, a new set of responsibilities, a new calendar to get them done.

While some people sit comfortably floating through life, content with the status quo, people like me begin to feel intense pressure. It is the life of the dreamer. When one has the fire and passion of dreams and visions inside of you, it puts you in overdrive. (At least I can say it does for me.) When I consider the amount of time lost while trying to “find myself” – the various careers, schooling, relationships, etc – when it finally clicks what you are supposed to do, you feel like you have to make up for lost time. It feels like the clock becomes louder and faster, signaling you are running out of time. While you know everything you have experienced has been preparation for now, it still feels like you are behind.

This is one thought I constantly battle especially as the New Year approaches. “This year I have to get it right”, I say. Then I am reminded of two things. The first is the race is not given to the swift but to the one who endures to the end. This journey is a process and it takes time. It is not a sprint but a marathon. Therefore I have to take it one day at a time knowing I will make it to completion. The second thing I am reminded of is one day with the Lord is like a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. God’s timing is not like the timing of man. I have to abide by God’s timing and release myself from the confines of my own timetable. Though there is work to be done and I must work on the things God has for me, God also has a set time of fulfillment. There is no reason to stress myself but to take it one day at a time.

I have always been an overachiever and could stress myself out to perform. Now years later though I still have the overachiever mentality, I have to allow my relationship with God to guide me rather than my mind to rule me. I will reach my goals. I will bring God glory. It may not be on the schedule I once thought it would be. But in the end it will happen. After this self-check, I can say “Happy New Year” now, take a deep breath and enjoy this moment of transition. It is a new year filled with new opportunities and I am excited about its possibilities.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

It's Calling Me

Over the course of our lives we will try many things. We will go to school, get degrees, work in jobs, and have relationships. In all that we do, ultimately we are trying to figure out where do we belong, how do we fit in, what is my purpose. Oftentimes through the conditioning of society, we go through the motions of life without truly experiencing it because of certain societal norms, rules and wishes of others upon our lives. Fear of failure, fear of the unknown, and fear of rejection, just to name a few, act as chains upon our dreams, passions and desires keeping us from moving forward in what is truly down in our souls to experience.

It is a scary place to ask yourself the question, what would you do if you weren’t afraid? What would you do if you knew you could not fail? Where would you go if circumstances proved favorable for the journey and resources were not a question? These are the questions of what some people would call daydreams but I consider them the “questions of the soul”. It is questions like these we are afraid to ask ourselves because we are fearful or uncomfortable with the answers. It is questions like these we fail to give ourselves permission to ask because the answers may result in something that someone else would not approve of. It is questions like these that we should ask ourselves to check our own pulse every once in a while. Are we living or simply maintaining?

The questions come from a calling deep within. As we are molded to the confines of the world, we learn to drown out this questioning. We drown out the questions of the soul with the cares of life – a j.o.b (just over broke), an endless string of unfulfilling relationships, the American dream of a house, the spouse, 2.4 kids, and a dog, bills, memberships to clubs and organizations just trying to achieve a little status, titles and degrees to make ourselves feel important. However, even at its loudest point, there is still something calling from deep within that begins to pierce through the noise and confusion of life. The questions begin to call out to us. There is an unfamiliar yet familiar voice which speaks, gets our attention and we feel uncomfortable and unsettled until we begin to answer back. We try to ignore it but it continues to press and call until we yield and begin to answer.

The voice calling from within is named Purpose. It is the voice that desires to call you into your destiny and out of your displeasure. It is the voice that awakens you in the middle of the night to let you know that where you are is not where you are supposed to end up. It is cultivating you for your future. It is the voice that lets you know that you have chosen to settle rather than tenaciously fight for what you believe in the depth of your soul. Purpose calls, purpose beckons, purpose wants us to return to our first love that we will maximize this thing called life and experience it more abundantly. For purpose knows who we really are, where we are going, and purpose desires to steer us to our appointed destination.

Today I choose to answer the call of purpose. I choose to answer the questions of the soul, confront every fear and accept the call of purpose on my life. I will go where it takes me and live it out authentically and fully. As I answer this call, it empowers me to help others awaken to the call and answer it for themselves. It’s calling me and I have to answer. It’s calling you too but what will you do?