Sunday, October 31, 2010

Names Are Important!

Today I attended the worship service at Sisters Chapel on the campus of Spelman College. Rev. Dr. Renita Weems was the guest preacher and ministered on the thought "Something Within" based on the warning issued from Pilate's wife when Pilate had to make a decision about the fate of Jesus. The sermon was great but it was the larger context behind the sermon.

Dr. Weems reminded us of the voices of those unnamed women in the scripture and provided the name of this woman that the Christian text had ommitted. Claudia was her name according to Jewish records but our Christian text chose to omit her name. Though her name was ommitted, the power of her words lives throughout history. How many times do we feel as if our names are forgotten but the legacy of our work, our thoughts, our encouragements, our challenges are never forgotten. As women it is hard to always be remembered. Though women make great strides in the world, we still live within a patriarchial society. Women still struggle to have their voices heard in the boardroom, bedroom, churches, communities, schools, etc. The work of women transcends lifetimes but their names are often so easily forgotten.

This sermon was a reminder to me not to play shy and play small because of my gender, experience level, physical features or others expectations. As I listened to the message, I was reminded of the name I was given at birth. My name is Evita named after Eva Peron, the First Lady of Argentina. The Spanish derivative of her name is Evita. She was a woman of power and influence, respected and admired among the citizens of Argentina. She was considered the Spiritual Leader of a Nation. She fought on behalf of the least of these in Argentina and won recognition because of her political drive and work within her country.

I was not given this name on accident. Even as I was born into the world, my mother realized the power of a name upon the character of her new born child. As I have lived my life, I have wrestled with understanding my identity, standing up for myself and for what I believed in, for not playing shy or small because others could not handle who I really am. Even at 34, I still wrestle with these challenges but the more I stay in the will of God and seek God to show me who I really am, the more I am able to shed these layers to fully embrace who I am, what I am and all that comes along with being me.

As the sermon shed light on, I do have "Something Within" that empowers and equips me to think, to have an opinion, to share wisdom, to offer encouragement, to help change the future of a society. I am important and have been given an assignment by God to fulfill even if it makes others uncomfortable, upset or envious. I can no longer hide in the shadows just trying to do things quietly because I don't want to ruffle any feathers. I am called to speak Truth to Power when no one else is willing to say a word. I am called to help lead people to The Light in order to bring them out of darkness. All of this is the mantle given to me and I cannot allow lives to be held in the balance because I continue to think I am not important.

I am thankful for the women preachers, theologians, academics and leaders that helped pave the way for women like me. I am thankful for a strong mother who gave me a name which speaks to my destiny. I am thankful and grateful that Evita LaShelle Smith was born, lives and will make a difference in this life. My name and my works are important and therefore I must go forward in all that God has for me.

Names are Important!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

New Beginnings!

It is interesting how we try to hold on to things that we know we really should let go of. However, God knows best and moves when we are still contemplating what the right move is. As I sat watching on-line service for the place that birth me into destiny spiritually, I was once again challenged to move beyond fear and apprehension to say a complete yes to what God has said and ordained. I have been released from the place that prevented me from moving forward and have nothing to hold me back from God's promises for my life and ministry.

Today is the new beginning. The question is now that I have it, what will I do with it. I am determined to do all that God has purposed in my heart to do. As Bishop Long taught on this morning "I Shall Pursue! I Shall Overtake and I Shall Recover All". No more delay, no more questioning, no more waiting for a person to call it into existence for me. God has spoken and that settles it.

It is time for my new beginning. I stand ready to accept the responsibility as senior pastor, leader, organizer and mentor. I have been prepared for this moment. It is my prayer that every lesson learned will be put into effect. I pray that I continue to serve as a spiritual "midwife" birthing people into their destiny. I pray to help spread the unadulterated word of God to the nations. I pray to fulfill everything that God has said over my life.

Today is my new beginning! I thank God for this moment and I pray to maximize it!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Power of Praying Women: Defying the Odds

It has been repeatedly stated that women cannot work together, play together or really be friends. Somehow it seems the claws come out and for one reason or another, the relationship seems to suffer. I must admit at one time in my life I used to support this notion. As a result, I would not make very many female friends because I did not want to deal with the drama. I guess that is why I had the same two best friends since the eighth grade. I loved having a male best friend because I did not have the drama associated with the competitiveness of women.

The tides would change when I went to seminary. I guess one thing is invaluable – relationships with praying women. Whether it was the struggles of classes, making sense of ministry, dealing with a broken relationship, or just a bad day, the praying women in my life have made all of the difference. Now that I have graduated from seminary, God has continued the relationships with my circle of praying sisters and it has grown. At a time when it is really needed in my life, I appreciate the wealth of wisdom, the encouragement, and the challenge that I receive from my praying Sistah friends.

I am thankful that God has aligned our paths during this particular point on the journey. I am thankful that I can send an email or make a phone call and they know just what to do. I really do know that it is possible to defy the odds and the stereotypes associated with women as friends. The key to its success is the ability to put God first, let God join together and know that prayer will make the impossible possible.

Keep Praying Ladies! I’m praying for you.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Saying "Yes"

One of my favorite worship songs is “Yes” by Shekinah Glory Ministries. Usually as I prepare to write a sermon, I will play this song in order to set the atmosphere for my sermons. The song says “If I told you what I really need from thee, would your heart and soul say yes?” The song stress how the Lord says there is more that I require of you. As I reflect on the lyrics of this song, it never ceases to pierce my spirit that as I have committed my life to ministry, the more these statements and questions become real to me.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been placed in a cycle of personal issues while dealing with the day to day issues of church and ministry. As the pressure has become more intense of my own issues, once again I hear the lyrics to this song come to the forefront of my mind. Sometimes I question what exactly did I say yes to. What does it really mean to say “yes”? How much will it cost me or is costing me to say “yes” daily as I balance dying to myself in order to live out what God has called me to do?

Yes has cost me relationships which brings on periods of loneliness. Yes has cost me finances when I have known what it is to do well. Yes, has cost me the structure of security as the world would define it. Some people would say that Christians have no right to become depressed. However, I would be a liar if I did not say that in the midst saying yes, I have felt sad and depressed at times. The question becomes what happens when it seems like your faith is not enough to sustain through “yes”?

The more I say “yes” the more issues seem to come forward. The more I say “yes” the more I begin to question. The more I say “yes” the more unsecure my footing seems to be by my definition or comfort. What does it mean to sacrifice all for the sake of the ministry and this calling which I have? At this point, I can’t turn back because there is nothing to turn back to. All has been abandoned to fulfill this calling. I regret none of it and I will continue to press on. One thing is for certain, “yes” cost but at all cost, I must continue to run on and see what the end will be.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Preachers (and Pastors) Don’t Dance

Tonight my church hosted an All-White Celebration in honor of my pastor’s birthday. The party came with much opposition and I really didn’t think it would happen when I first presented the idea. Though it seemed as if everyone (and I mean everyone) was determined to shut it down, it was my pastor’s desire and I was going to make it happen. Even up to the very last minute before the party it seemed as if everything still wanted to oppose the party. Nonetheless, the party was a success and my pastor was happy. Mission Accomplished!

In all white, we danced to the tunes of artists such as Frankie Beverly & Maze, all the way to Soulja Boy. We even had to go back into time with a little Bobby Blue Bland but we brought it back with a little “Walk it Out”. The interesting aspect for me was the reaction of some people in the crowd when I got out with the young adults to dance, trying to encourage the crowd to dance. (As an event planner, sometimes you have to get the party started to break the ice.) It looked like some were horrified to see the Executive Pastor (or E.P. as the young adults call me) on the dance floor. Why be shocked? I love to dance and danced before the pulpit and still love to dance outside of it from time to time.

While some may have found it inappropriate, I found it as a perfect opportunity to connect with the young adults of the church. They may not always connect with you in the traditional Sunday morning service but they will connect with you when they see you can (and are willing to) meet them in an activity that is fun for them. Sometimes we have to step outside of the binds of traditionalism and old school mentality to learn to “get in where you fit in” and enjoy the moment. All things must be done in moderation and I would never do anything to degrade myself. But I see nothing wrong with a little dancing every now and again. U-Turn and Cupid Shuffle work for me.

To all the people that think preachers and pastors don’t dance….yes they do. We all like to have fun, enjoy people, enjoy ourselves and appreciate being able to relax every once in a while. Maybe if more preachers and pastors danced every once in a while we all would enjoy a more balanced leader. As for me, I don’t think I am fully ready to retire my dancing shoes just yet.

So as the song goes, "I hope you dance". And my reply...yes I will.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

And the Women Shall Keep Silent (Not!)

A few nights ago I had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion focused on youth issues. After listening to a group of adults talk about youth but fail to ask the youth present about the things which affect them, I became quite frustrated. At first, I was not going to voice my concerns. However, my mother told me that I had a voice and I had something to say. As I stood to address the panel with my concerns, it was part of the process to introduce yourself before stating your question or comment. After introducing myself as a pastor, the look of horror on the faces of the women and the clergy in the room was monumental. If I had not realized it before then, I had officially stepped back in time. Standing in the sanctuary of a traditional, southern, Baptist church was a 34 year old, seminary trained, black woman addressing a black, all-male panel recognizing herself as a "pastor". Who was I to make such a claim?

Following the panel discussion, as we were preparing to leave, a couple of persons who knew me shared with the pastor of the church that he should invite me to preach at his church sometime. The first statement he made was "Can you bring a word?" At the end of the conversation, he states "I will give your card to my wife and she can have you preach for a Women's Day" service. My first reaction within myself was "Who does that?"

In 2010, it amazes me the number of pastors and/or churches that still hold to the traditional thought process or theology that women are not to be anything more than Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, church secretaries but not ministers and definitely not pastors. In 2010, women are still trying to break out of the box of preaching assignments which only encompass women's day services, women's conferences or some other female approved church holiday. In 2010, women are still pushing to break through the obstacles which relegate them to dying churches, churches in rural areas, or non-growing churches. In some institutions, women are treated as children of old...seen but not heard. The women are to keep silent...NOT!

As a seminary educated, former corporate woman, it is quite disheartening to face the closed minded theology of those who do not believe women should be preachers and ministers. As one who understands the divine call of God on your life, it is interesting to stand and be questioned by man (or woman) as to the validity or the ability of the call of God on your life. Those who face these challenges and obstacles cannot be relegated to the back of the room, to the "suitable" positions in the church, or to better yet, sit quietly in their place, preferably as the elegantly dressed "pastor's wife".

It is time for the women of God to discover and develop their voice. It is time for the women of God to "accept their acceptance" as vessels that God can and will use. There is a Word from the Lord and it may come from the mouth of a woman.