Message to the Black Community

[Transcript of Message]

From my heart to yours, I’m sending love, peace, and the promise of hope to everyone who is hurting right now. The trauma we are experiencing as a community is palpable. Our hearts are aching. We are exhausted. We’re beyond angry. It feels like there is no relief in sight. 

There are attempts by people to say that supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement are anti-Christian. That’s completely false. Seventy-nine percent of Black Americans identify as Christian. We’ve always drawn upon our faith to give us strength – even when White Americans forbid Black people to practice Christianity or even read a bible. We all know the stories of our enslaved ancestors drawing solace and strength from the biblical story of the exodus. Moses led God’s people out of slavery in Egypt to freedom with hopes of resting in the Promised Land. Today, I draw comparisons between how Black Americans are treated and the Hebrews during the Babylonian captivity. Taken from their home, living as exiles, uncertain if they’d ever return to a safe place for them. See, even though Black people have been in the United States for centuries and literally built this county, we are still hyphenated. We’re told if we don’t like the unequal and unjust way we’re treated, we should go back to Africa. Our citizenship is questioned because of our skin color. 

The book of Lamentations is the exiled Hebrews calling out to their God in the midst of grief and suffering. Even in their pain, they hope in God. The writer said, “My soul is bereft of peace. I have forgotten what happiness is. But this I call to mind, and therefore, I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:17, 21-23, 26). The prophets during this period pointed the exiles to the hope of a messiah. 

Unlike them, we have seen the fulfillment of God’s promise realized in His son, Jesus Christ. Jesus who was a person of color. 

Jesus who came to seek and to save the lost. 

Jesus who said when you see the sick and visit the imprisoned, you see me. 

Jesus who said the last will be first, and the first will be last. 

Jesus came for us. He’s calling us. He’s waiting to heal us, love us, and give us his peace that passes all understanding. 

Pope Benedict said being a Christian is not the result of an ethical or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. Being a Christian is not about identifying with a political organization or a single issue. You don’t have to be perfect and without sin. In fact, Jesus said he came to call not the righteous but the sinner. (Luke 5:32). All we have to do is open our hearts and say, save me Lord. 

We need God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit now more than ever. Scripture says, seek the Lord while he may be found. Call on him while he is near. (Isaiah 55:6) He’s near to us now. He has promised to never leave or forsake us. (Deuteronomy 31:6). Through a relationship with Jesus, we find a home. We are heirs to a Kingdom. Not just in the next life, but we work to build God’s Kingdom on earth and reap the benefits while we’re here. 

But God isn’t a genie or jukebox that plays what we want to hear. He wants our hearts. He wants to heal our trauma and wounds, but we have to let Him. When we spend time reading his word and meditating on it, we know Him and grow to trust Him. Especially right now during a global pandemic and national unrest, we can call on Jehovah-Jireh our provider, Jehovah-Rapha our healer, and Jehovah-Nissi our banner in whom we are victorious.

Last Friday there was a March on Washington that marked the fifty-seventh anniversary of the historic March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr delivered his I Have A Dream speech. Dr. King said, “We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.” And he cautioned us, “Not to seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. 

Dr. King didn’t say this out of fear or cowardice, he said this out of love for us. We’re living in the most armed nation in the world, and the current president has demonstrated he’s willing to roll out tanks and troops to silence our cries for justice. We need to call on God as our protector. We need to love each other, care for each other, and know God has a plan and purpose for each of our lives. What God spoke to Jeremiah we can apply to ourselves. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” (Jeremiah 1:5). Our lives matter. Black lives matter. So, we pray, Thy Kingdom Come. Thy will be done. On Earth as it is in Heaven. If you know someone who needs to hear this good news today, please share.

It’s All Good

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Living in a social media culture can be challenging. Post after post, we’re shown snapshots of people living their best lives. Vacation spots, bikini pics, graduation ceremonies, award celebrations. Not only do we feature our highlights, but we often filter them, causing them to look even better than they actually are.

I’m guilty of it, too. Well, definitely not the bikini pictures. But as a mom and author, I post the successes. You won’t see the messy house, pile of bills, and overwhelming fatigue. I don’t boast about one-star reviews, or feeling envious of others’ success, or the seasons of waiting.

But what if the lowlights are what grow our character most? What if our struggles and setbacks and the grind to overcome them are what God can use to not only help others but glorify Him? No one wants to go through hard times. But the reality is that life will have valleys as well as peaks, and something good can come from difficult times.

I think of Joseph – his story told in Genesis is one of the best known in the Bible, and some of his life’s events are also in the Torah and Qu’ran. Joseph was his father, Jacob’s, second to last child, and favorite. After Jacob gave Joseph a beautifully ornamented coat, his brothers became even more envious of him, and hated him. When Joseph told his brothers about his prophetic dreams, which depicted Joseph raised to a position higher than them, his brothers had had enough. They devised a plan to kill Joseph, but instead sold him into slavery to Ishmaelite traders. The Ishmaelites took Joseph to Egypt then sold him to one of Pharaoh’s officials, who was captain of the palace guard.

Though Joseph’s time in Egypt is filled with faith, success, and triumph, he also experienced betrayal and dark days. After being falsely accused of rape, Joseph was thrown into prison. But even there, the Lord was with Joseph. Using the gift God gave him, Joseph interpreted the dreams of two other inmates. All he asked in return was that the men remember Joseph and ask Pharaoh to release him. One of the men is subsequently killed, and the other man who is released forgets Joseph.

Two years later, Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams is remembered by the cup-bearer who had been in prison, and Joseph is called upon to interpret Pharaoh’s dream. Joseph says, “It is beyond my power to  to do this. But God can tell you what it means and set you at ease.” (Genesis 41:16) After Pharaoh tells Joseph his dream, Joseph says that God is telling Pharaoh there will be seven years of prosperity followed by seven years of famine. He explains Pharoah should appoint an intelligent and wise man to take charge of the land of Egypt to ensure enough crops are collected during the seven good years, stored, then disbursed when the famine befalls the land. Pharaoh appoints Joseph to that position, and he becomes the second only to Pharaoh in rank.

Through using the ability God gave him, Joseph is instantaneously lifted from prison to the palace. He’s given a wife, who bears him two sons. Joseph names the first Manasseh, saying, “God has made me forget all my troubles and everyone in my father’s family.” And his second son he names Ephraim, saying, “God has made me fruitful in this land of grief.” He acknowledges the hardship that befell him, put praises God for helping him overcome it.

Just as predicted, there are seven prosperous years followed by seven years of famine, which is felt throughout Egypt and the surrounding lands, as well. The famine also reached Canaan, and Jacob sends his ten sons to Egypt to buy grain. Though Joseph instantly recognizes his brothers, they don’t recognize him. Joseph puts his brothers through various tests, and when they prove they regret what they had done to Joseph and want to protect their younger brother and father from any further grief, Joseph reveals himself to them. He sends for his father, and Pharaoh allows Joseph to assign his family to the best land of Egypt to survive through the remaining years of famine. After their father’s death, the brothers fear Joseph will retaliate against them for the past. But Joseph says, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (Genesis 50:20)

I love this story because often the initial reaction to facing hardship is wavering faith. We wonder, why did God allow this? What have I done to deserve this? After my breakdown, I struggled to make sense of life. I felt like Joseph – betrayed, sold out, imprisoned. But, I remember coming across a quote that resonated with me. 

There is no situation so chaotic that God from that situation cannot create something that is surpassingly good. He did it at creation. He did it at the cross. He is doing it today.” (Bishop Handley Carr Glyn Moule 1841-1920)

I had no idea how anything good could come from the mess my life had become, but I clung to the hope that my suffering would not be in vain. That belief helped me persevere and look for purpose when life felt bleak. 

God did, in fact, use my suffering to deepen my faith and help me learn more about mental health issues. Having two books published with characters that are dealt complicated hands, and forced to navigate ups and down, is concrete proof that God used my worst days for something good. But not only that, but I have a testimony of God’s faithfulness that I hope can help others going through a trial. 

Whether we’ve caused the mess or someone else has wronged us, no situation is too tough for God to rectify. He doesn’t forget or forsake us. He’s there with us every step of the way, no matter how dark the night or steep the climb.

Our insta-memories are fun and beautiful. We should celebrate and cherish the good times. But let’s not be afraid to show both sides of life. Whether we’re in imprisoned or elevated to power, something good can come out of our situation that can be used to help others.

Buried

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I once felt like I had died. In what seemed like a flash of the eye, everything I had known to be my life had been taken away. It was dark, scary, hopeless. I couldn’t see a way out.

Today on Holy Saturday, we reflect on Jesus in the grave. I can only imagine what the day must have felt like for his mother, the disciples, and those who loved and followed Jesus. All their hopes and expectations of Jesus as the Messiah must have felt buried along with him. In fear and devastated, they must have faced a completely uncertain future.

In an imperfect world, there are always hardships that threaten to end us. Events like the loss of a relationship or job, death of a loved one, illness, or tragedy can happen and threaten to swallow us whole.

But as we know, Jesus didn’t stay buried. What seemed like the end of his ministry, turned out to be the greatest triumph over death ever. Those who trust in God have confidence to believe that He has a divine purpose and plan for every person.

Regardless of the depth of the struggle, we remember that God is with us every step of the way. Isaiah 43:2 reminds us, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

Though it took time and patience, I emerged from what felt like the end of me to a new and better phase of life. When we need to “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,” we know he descended to the darkness of hell before ascending to the heights of heaven. Wherever we are in between, so, too, is Jesus. If we’re ever faced with despair, remember Easter will always come.