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These Pastors Ain’t Loyal?

I recently penned an article for Jet magazine in response to the Rev. Jamal Bryant who once again finds himself embroiled in marital scandal. Below is the article in its entirety as well as the link: These Pastors Ain’t Loyal? by M. Michelle Derosier for Jet magazine.

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I have an inherent distrust of televangelists and pastors of mega churches.

And it’s not just because they’re stereotyped as snake charmers drawing in millions of followers with the false promise of health and wealth while seducing them out of their life savings. What I find most disconcerting is that oftentimes–and not every time, and not all of them–they’re peddling a gospel that is contradictory to the revealed Word of God. Contradictions that can be so subtle it’s hard to tell the difference until or unless you do as 1 John 4:1 says, “…Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

Understanding that I have a tendency to see televangelists as false prophets, I prayed for the ability to step back and approach the story about pastor Jamal Bryant, who faces allegations of fathering a 10-month-old son out-of-wedlock, with unbiased eyes. The Rev. Bryant, leader of Baltimore’s Empowerment Temple Church, hasn’t confirmed or denied the allegations, or the paternity test presented by alleged baby-mother Latoya Shawntee Odom suggesting that he is 99.9999 percent the father of her child.

While going down a rabbit hole of research about his ministry, I struggled to find a man who genuinely repented when he “fell short of the glory of God” the first time around: eight years ago when he had an extramarital affair that caused his divorce and brought to light the discrepancy between preaching and living.

Instead, I found a man whose woe-is-me attitude is as evident today as it was when he described, in this Roland Martin interview, his 29-year-old self who had the first affair: “I was quickly becoming a household name. So, nothing in my mind ever said, number one, I would ever get caught; number two, that my wife would ever leave; number three, that my church would tank out.”

After listening to clips of him speak and of his sermons–one of which quotes the lyric “These h-es ain’t loyal,” from the great Old Testament R&B singer Chris “Eat the Cake, Rihanna” Brown–I am saddened that everything screams “my ministry.” Where I was looking for God as the focus, all I saw was Him as a prop to shine the light on Bryant and his destiny. Although Bryant claimed years ago to have “grown a lot”, all I can see is the same sin and same arrogance. Nothing learned.

While he might not have learned anything, I pray his congregation will. As I’ve often asked God, please deliver me from ever setting You aside to follow a religion or a preacher.

 

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Love is not resentful…

This summer my pastor did a sermon series entitled The Many Shades of Love that covered the following topics: Loving Our God, Loving Our Neighbor, Loving Our Brothers, Loving Our Family, Loving Our Rebels, Loving Our Failures, Loving Our Addicts, and Loving Our Enemies. Although each topic centered on its own books, chapters and verses, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 connected them all.

This morning in my time with the Lord I read 1 Corinthians 13 and kept returning to verse 5, “. . . it [love]is not resentful.” Unsure why that particular passage was resonating with me today even though I’ve read it numerous times, I continued with my devotionals that included Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost For His Highest.

When I came upon this section, “never disregard a conviction that the Holy Spirit brings to you. If it is important enough for the Spirit of God to bring it to your mind, it is the very thing He is detecting in you,” it became clear why the bible passage stuck with me. I was being convicted by the Holy Spirit.

Unsure of the nature of the conviction, I went into prayer asking God to search me and bring to my understanding what needed repentance and change. I don’t know if you’ve ever asked THE holy and righteous God to reveal a sin in you, but it’s frightening. What was He going to find?

Turns out that what He found in me wasn’t exactly new. He’d brought it to my attention before but I guess I hadn’t resolved it to His liking, so He brought it again. What was I resentful about? I resented having been a supportive friend to two people who turned around and deserted me at a time when I needed them most.

In 2013 I had a very invasive surgery with complications that left me in the ICU for almost a week. The people I considered my closest friends were not there to support me or my husband as we went through this emotionally draining time. As D and my mom waited hours for me to get out of surgery, other friends that I had known for a lot less time and those who lived thousands of miles away were constantly checking in and supporting him via text. The two who should have been there, weren’t. Although local, they never came to see me in the hospital or at home while I was recovering. Years of friendship and they barely made an effort. Treated me with about as much warmth and care as you’d show a passing stranger.

For two years I’ve been holding on to that resentment and distanced myself from them as a result. Though I tried to move past it, my heart was hardened. Which is why when one of them went through some troubling times not too long ago I did not reach out and was not there to support. I’m ashamed to admit it.

When you leave things incomplete, God will keep bringing them up to you until you resolve them. I’d sought forgiveness from God, but never from the ones who hurt me. If you don’t know God, you’d think it insane to ask forgiveness of those who offend you, but that’s just what we’re asked to do. I needed to ask forgiveness for holding a grudge and not letting go. It’s not unsurprising that the Holy Spirit convicted me of it again.

Without Christ in me I do not have the love that is patient and kind, that does not envy or boast, that is not arrogant or rude. The one that does not insist on its own way, is not irritable or resentful, does not rejoice at wrongdoings, but rejoices with the truth. The love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things.

With Christ in me I do. And it is Christ that I need to help me let go of that resentment. To let me forgive once and for all and to make peace with what happened. By myself I can’t do it. As believers, we know that at times the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

But that’s no excuse to stay complacent and not aim to grow spiritually. The God that elected and saved me did so that I should no longer live, but that He should live in me. The God who lives in me is the LOVE of the bible. With Him I will live His Love and be able to show it to those who have hurt me.

I pray that if you’re like me and struggling to live God’s love, you’ll seek Him for the strength to do so.

Love

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You can’t always get what you want. And that’s not a bad thing.

Life is quite funny.

By God’s grace, D recently found a new career opportunity in NY. What this means is that after six years of what was supposed to be a year of living in New Jersey, I’m heading back to Brooklyn and taking this Jersey Boy with me. His friends think I’m elated. I’m happy, but it is bittersweet.

When I first moved here I was sad and upset at having to leave NYC, but took comfort in the fact that it would be for only a year. 365 days. When it became clear that year would extend to four, I was bitter and disappointed. Thankfully, two years into living here, I was led to my current church – a blessing God knew I needed but wouldn’t have gotten if He hadn’t moved me to the other side of the Hudson. I had been away from God for a long time before that and was slowly (think tortoise steps) finding my way back. God placed me where I could get the support of an uncompromising bible-teaching-believing-practicing pastor and fellow believers to grow in my walk with Him. Fellow believers who helped me move past the guilt of turning my back on God and accept the forgiveness He offered after I came back in broken repentance.

I am happy for this new challenge ahead of us and the opportunity to change, shape and make a real difference in the neighborhoods of my childhood, but I am sad as well. In addition to my church family, my in-laws have made Jersey a home for me. Where there was no true emotional connection to the state when I first arrived, I must say that it now holds a special place in my heart that is uniquely its own. One that even New York can’t ever touch. How can it? This is where D and I started our married life. Jersey is forever tied to those memories.

Some may not believe me, but I am very grateful for the way life turned out. I am thankful that God overruled my wants and led me to follow His will.

Would love to hear stories of how your life took a path contrary to what you wanted but that turned out to be exactly what you needed.

Proverbs 19 21

#TBT from 2011

Same old story, different couple. 20-something Brooklyn Girl enjoys the highlights and pitfalls of everyday single life without care or thought to settling down. Brooklyn Girl meets New Jersey Boy online and thinks New Jersey Boy is funny. She’ll go out with him. Time goes by and BK Girl realizes that Jersey Boy is awesome. She’ll keep going out with him. More time passes and both BK Girl and Jersey Boy realize they want to keep hanging out with each other.

Jersey Boy proposes to BK Girl after a series of comical errors. BK Girl screams “Holy Crap, We’re Engaged!” before saying yes to nervous Jersey Boy on bended knee awaiting an answer.

BK Girl makes it clear to Jersey Boy – “THERE’S NO WAY I’M MOVING TO NEW JERSEY!” Jersey Boy agrees, but secretly wonders if maybe BK Girl doesn’t understand the meaning of compromise.

Jersey Boy starts the search for NY job. And he searches…and searches…and searches. Jersey Boy realizes NY job market is a bust. Makes more sense to keep current NJ job.

Jersey Boy agonizes over how to tell BK Girl that the stress of the reverse commute would eventually cause him to drive his car off the Brooklyn Bridge. BK Girl and Jersey Boy separately contemplate living apart while married – both agree that’s probably not the best idea. Jersey Boy nervously brings up subject of moving to Jersey to BK Girl.

Seeing the writing on the wall, BK Girl makes Mandelaesque sacrifice and leaves the bright lights of NY for the humdrum life of Jersey — at least temporarily.

What was supposed to be a one year stay has now turned into three with one more to go before Jersey Boy can be settled in his field.

With humor, BK Girl tries to embrace her current refugee status while dreaming of the day she can return to her homeland.

Join her on this cross-state journey as she embraces her life in Jersey while still maintaining her New York roots.

bklynjersey

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The Power of a Praying Friend.

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Momentarily overwhelmed by challenges and uncertainties I’ve been facing these last few months, this morning I practically fell apart during my prayer time. Okay, I fell apart. More like I curled into the fetal position, crying snot bubbles and taking quick shallow breaths that rendered me light-headed and unable to speak my heart to God. The more I tried, the less successful my attempts.

Unable to find the words for myself, I shook with anxiety while searching my phone for a fellow believer in Christ who could support me. Of the three go-to prayer warriors in my life, I called my friend S. When her voicemail greeted me after several unanswered rings, the disappointment tore a guttural cry from my spirit. I was devastated. Where I normally would have been searching God’s Word for the support I needed, that morning an avalanche of tears blurred my vision to the point of making the content of my Bible unreadable.

Not knowing what else to do, I wailed several few short sentences that found their way from my heart to my mouth.

  • PLEASE, GOD HELP ME!
  • GOD, PLEASE, I NEED HELP!
  • GOD, I’M OVERWHELMED!
  • GOD, PLEASE. HELP ME, PLEASE, GOD.
  • I NEED HELP.
  • GOD, PLEASE ANSWER ME.
  • I NEED HELP.

I kid you not that I did not finish the last sentence before I saw (the ringer was off) S’s name flash on the phone that I was still holding. Like a lunatic, I greeted her with laughter and tears. My voice still hoarse from my cries. God was listening! Where I was starting to feel alone, He was reminding me I wasn’t. When S prayed for me this morning when I couldn’t for myself, I was reminded of the following:

  1. God is compassionate and merciful. His heart is moved by His children’s pain. Even as the sovereign creator and ruler of everything, He still cares about each and every single one of His children who come to Him with a burdened heart.
  2. In His compassion and His sovereignty, God will sometimes choose to answer prayers immediately. More than anything, what I needed this morning when I was crying out was to know that He was listening. As He needed to when He calmed the storm for the apostles in Mark 4:35-41, I think He chose to give me that immediate confirmation because at that moment my faith wasn’t strong enough to see past my fears.
  3. As believers, we are the body of Christ. And as the body of Christ, we are to come alongside and encourage one another in our walk with Christ. Spiritually, I was at a low point this morning. By God’s gracious provision, He sent a sister-in-Christ who prayed for me and provided the support to lift me up and get me back on my path.

I am thankful to God for the power of a praying friend. I am thankful that He made S obedient to His leading and directed her to go in search of her phone even though she wasn’t sure why there was an urgency to find it. If you’re a believer and don’t have an S in your life, or a D (my sister), or a K (my brother-in-law), if you don’t have God-fearing, God-loving, Bible-believing and Bible-obedient supportive loved ones in your life whose first line of defense is to pray for you, then pray for God to lead you to them – or them to you. And while you’re at it, pray that He will make you one to someone else.

I may not be a friend, but as a fellow believer I am your family, so may those of you struggling today know that you have someone praying for you. As S prayed for me, I pray that you will take Jesus up on His offer to find rest for your souls by exchanging your heavy burdens for his light yoke.

Remember, as the body of Christ, we are supporting one another to do His kingdom’s work on earth. We’ve each been given the Great Commission and while we have an individual responsibility, we also have the collective responsibility to support one another in this work.

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I’m a jerk.

And an ungrateful brat.

Rarely am I a spoiled little monster, but unfortunately, even I have my horrible moments. What happened? Here’s the short of it.

Preggos (a term of endearment, I assure you) have nothing on me when it comes to cravings. I’m sure I exited my mother’s womb yearning for a specific food item – likely chocolate chip cookies. Yesterday I had a hankering for a fresh, square mozzarella slice from a specific pizza shop some miles from our house. My husband, the loving and caring man that he is, went out of his way today to grab me a pie. He’d barely placed the box on the counter before I pounced on the waiting food – my taste buds savoring the cheese before I even opened the container.

“That’s not what I wanted!” I whined (loudly) with disappointment when I realized that a miscommunication had caused him to pick up the wrong type: a Sicilian instead of my fresh mooz. I slammed the box shut and stomped out of the kitchen like a two-year-old denied her favorite toy. I sat for a while on the couch nearly in tears until my grumbling stomach forced me back into the kitchen. I bit into the slice with anger, my bitterness poisoning the flavorful marinara sauce.

Clearly I overreacted. But at that moment I couldn’t see past not getting my way. Selfish. I know.

I’ve since apologized to my husband for my tantrum but I can’t help but be ashamed of my behavior. As a Christian, I carry the name of Christ, and as such I am to bear good fruit. Galatians 5:19-21 state “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” The good fruit that I am to bear are noted in Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

While this incident may simply seem like a momentarily lapse in good manners, it’s more than that to me. How can I be an effective witness to my husband (an unbeliever) if my actions are out of sync with Christ’s teachings? No matter what we tell someone about Christ, they’ll only believe us if our actions match our words. While I know God will forgive this sin, I can’t help but be saddened that I embarrassed Him with my behavior. That I misrepresented His name and His character. That I missed an opportunity to show my husband how those who bear the name of Christ are equipped to handle disappointments – especially the silly, minor ones that mean nothing in the grand scheme of life.

Well, there you go. Now you know I’m not perfect. Not that I believe any of you ever thought so.

What about you? Have you ever taken a misstep in your walk with Christ? Or have you ever behaved in a way that you immediately regretted? Sharing is caring.

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Ferguson: Verdict Aftermath.

By now you know the officer who shot Micheal Brown, Jr. was not indicted.

How could he have been when the law is written in such a way that allows for the broadest interpretation of reasonable imminent threat? Meaning that officer Wilson was free to shoot to kill because he reasonably believed Michael Jr. posed a threat to his life even though the teen was unarmed.

I have never been a police officer and never involved in police work, so I can’t say what it’s like in a time of heightened danger where you’re facing a having to take a life in order to save your own. I imagine it’s heart stopping fear wondering if you’re going to make it home to your family. However, where is the reasonable danger to you when you are the one who is armed? When you are the one brandishing a loaded weapon? Where’s the threat when you’re armed, it’s broad daylight and your opponent is running away?

Police officers are an integral part of our community and serve a vital role in maintaining order and protecting us as citizens. As such we are to support them and make every effort to keep them safe while they keep us safe. The problem is when the law – as it does now – dismisses the protection of citizens in favor of the protection of law enforcement. Isn’t there a better balance? Isn’t there a way to reasonably protect the lives of officers without sacrificing the lives of young men of color? Don’t their lives have value as well? Are there not mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings, extended family and friends whose hearts would be shattered if they should lose their lives? Or is the life of a poor kid of color so worthless that there shouldn’t be anyone to mourn for him?

I was slapped in the face today by someone’s angry Facebook rant towards those who had the nerve to seek justice for Michael Brown, Jr.: a thief, the person exclaimed. While we can debate the veracity of that video released by the Ferguson police department, that doesn’t get at the heart of this issue. It doesn’t get the point this person is missing. Whether or not he had taken those cigarillos did not warrant being gunned down like an animal. I’m sorry, not like an animal. PETA would never stand for it. So why should we as human beings place any less value on another human life?

Because he did a stupid thing that he would have likely learned a lesson from had he not been killed? Because making a mistake at 18 means that his path was set for life with no chance for redemption? How many of us now productive members of society would have carried a vastly different legacy if our lives had been cut down in our teens or young adulthood? Who knows what contributions Michael Brown, Jr. would have made to this world? What husband he would have been? What child he would have guided and raised? What changes he would have made to his community? What productive member of society he would have become?

We don’t know because he was never given the chance because of a system that’s broken. A system that tolerates an officer refusing to carry a taser because it’s bulky and uncomfortable. When that same bulky and uncomfortable Taser could have meant doing his job without taking a life.

The allowance of excessive force when an officer reasonably believes his life is in immediate danger is flawed. It’s like using one permission slip for every single school trip when your parents only meant it for the trip to the planetarium last month. Shoot to kill should not be a blanket permission slip. You can’t be free and clear to shoot someone who is unharmed and moving away from you. There’s zero logic in that.

Our system is broken. It’s broken. And until we make systemic changes we won’t ever get justice for Michael Brown, Jr. or any other ones that came before him, or any who will inevitably come after him.

And I have to tell you, I just don’t have any more tears in me to cry for another life that doesn’t  need to be lost. And I don’t have any more ways to encourage my 21-year-old brother that he matters in this country. That all our brothers by blood matter. And that all the boys who look like him but are not related to him matter. I don’t have it in me anymore to have to tell him he’s too young to give up on change. That he’s too young to accept defeat and to accept things as they are.

If we don’t change this system, older sisters like me, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, girlfriends and wives will start to run out of excues to justify this country’s  (OUR country’s) treatment of black men.

change

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Ferguson Grand Jury Decision.

Ony half an hour until the grand jury announces if officer Darren Wilson will be charged with murder for the shooting death of unarmed teen Michael Brown. My heart goes out to Michael’s family who continue to seek justice for their son.

With four brothers and countless cousins who could have easily been (and could easily still be) Michael Brown, I await with others around this country hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. I pray that no matter the decision there’ll be some way to restore the peace and the trust that’s been broken.

NaBloPoMo_November

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