On Leaving the Black Church: It Just Seemed Good

My pastor Bayless Conley preaching my soul happy. (photo credit: Cottonwood Church Instagram feed)

My pastor Bayless Conley preaching my soul happy. (photo credit: Cottonwood Church Instagram feed)

Three years ago I made one of the hardest decisions of my life. I left my predominately black Apostolic/Pentecostal church for a non-denominational predominately white church.


It sort of happened by accident...but then not really.

I 'd been feeling out of sorts at my home church. The church I joined when I first moved to Southern California fresh out of college. The church that my childhood pastor from home approved of. The church I got married at and where my first-born was dedicated. The church where I served diligently and forged deep friendships. The church that fed my soul week after week.

I couldn't explain it but I just knew it was time to go. Nothing was wrong, it just started to feel like it didn't fit anymore. But no one leaves a perfectly good church for no good reason.

Except I did.

One day my mother in law invited me to her church. I went because I wasn't planning on going to my own church so any church seemed better than staying at home.

Honestly (and arrogantly) I didn't expect much.  But when I walked into that church the Holy Spirit met me there like I'd never expected Him to. I was astonished at the teaching (which I should't have been because I watched the Pastor occasionally when I'd get ready for my own church service on Sundays.) The word taught was so good that I kept going back again and again until I couldn't deny the fact that this is where I wanted to be. It was like a feast was spread out  every week that left me satisfied and hungry for more at the same time. Turns out that the pastor came from a Pentecostal background which explained the church's wholehearted embrace of the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues and being baptized.

This past Saturday night, my pastor taught on the subject: Following the Call of God.

He pointed out that sometimes God guides us intuitively by the Holy Spirit through "what seems good to us."

Acts 15:22 says: "Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas-- Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren."

God didn't send an earthquake to confirm that men from their group should go on this important ministry trip to non-Jewish believers. The Bible says, the decision was based on what seemed good.

And again in verse 25: "it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul."

Once more in verse 28: "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things."

God's leading isn't always life shattering. Sometimes He speaks subtly and intuitively to us and all we know is that it seems good to us. God guides us even when we're not conscious of it. There will be areas of our lives where there's a definite sense of God's involvement and approval, but it there's no dictate from on high about it. That's why we need the Holy Spirit because He guides those things that seem good into the right place. Of course, there are some things that seem good that clearly are not. The inner witness of the Holy Spirit will give an amen to the correct "seem good."

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. There is a plan for all of us who walk with God--a plan that was established long before we knew about it. And God's got a plan to get us to those good things. It may come through a burning bush. Or a word spoken through a preacher. Or through what seems good.

When we agree with where the Holy Spirit is leading it just feels right. There is no organ at the church I attend now, but I love the worship service so much. There are no church members dancing or running the aisles but I feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in such a powerful way at my "new" church. Many blessings have come from moving on. One Sunday, my oldest and I went and sat in the service and he turned to me and said, "I just want to cry because it's just so beautiful in here." That was further proof that a move seemed good.

From here on out, I won't be afraid of what seems good as long as I get an amen from the Holy Spirit. 


The Problem with Inspirational & Why I'm Ditching It for a While


The other day a friend of mine T. McFaddin Ordell posted this thought of hers on Instagram. Fitting for how I've been feeling lately.

Today I woke up and decided to delete subscriptions to some inspirational text messages and devotionals I've been receiving.

I've been feeling the need to stop snacking on all that and feast on God's Word alone. For me, that means just meeting God in the Word and waiting for Him to speak directly to me.

I found that it was so easy for me to feed my soul on spiritual fast food in the form of: inspirational quotes, devotionals, motivational text messages and scripture of the day emails. I felt like I was being hand-fed revelation that someone else received instead of the personal conversation that God wanted to have with me through His Word.

We live in a generation that thrives on sound bites and 140-character messages that can be quickly scrolled through. I'll be the first to admit, I love Twitter and a well-versed quote. And there's nothing wrong with those things, but sometimes God wants to meet us on the back side of the desert one-on-one so He can address what's going with us personally. Matthew 4:4 says:

Jesus answered, “The Scriptures say:
’No one can live only on food.
People need every word that God has spoken.’

I need every word that God has spoken. I need it more than my favorite devotional and more than the cleverly-spoken inspirational quotes from today's mainstream pastors. 

Just as soon as I ditched all the stuff that was coming between me and God's direct voice, I opened up my Bible and He spoke to me so clearly from the book of Haggai. Of course, I probably would have never gone to that book to get a tailor-made word for myself but that's where it came from.

Sometimes we need to get back to basics and ditch the inspirational for the One who truly inspires.



Forgiving Our Fathers: A Lesson in Building Bridges Instead of Burning Them

I'm always intrigued at people's power to forgive. Seeing it in action is even more mind-blowing. This weekend, I was at my husband's gym when I saw the most heartfelt exchange between he and his dad: a hug. I'm not talking about a polite, pat-on-the-back hug. I'm talking a full-body, I-love-you hug. A simple gesture but one that warmed my heart nonetheless.

My husband didn't have his dad in his life from the ages of 3 to 16. These are the years when boys need their father most, but for one reason or another, his father wasn't there. 

Those lost years took their toll on my husband in many ways and I know there's still some pain associated with his father being absent. When I first met him, this is one of the first life stories that he shared with me. How could you just not know your father for 13 years and then all of a sudden when you're a teenager your parents get re-married and bam, your father is back in your life? Crazy!

But what's even crazier is the solid relationship those two have now. When they hugged on Saturday, I saw a little boy relishing in his daddy's love that he missed out on for more than a decade. I applaud him for not holding on to unforgiveness and pain. What a treat our kids would have missed out on if my husband had burned the bridge between he and his father because of all those years he was gone.

Three generations that know and love each other thanks to a bridge of forgiveness.

Three generations that know and love each other thanks to a bridge of forgiveness.

I love that the kids can play and hug their grandfather....especially since my own father is no longer here. He's the only grandfather they have and I'm glad he's building memories with them.

What could have ended up bad has been for all of our good. My father in law is a steady presence at my husband's gym--working out four times a week and in return turning his health around (losing 40 pounds in the process at 65 years old). He's the biggest supporter of his son and loudest cheerleader. 

One day our kids will grow up and may learn about my father in law's 13 year absence from his sons' lives. I'm sure they'll be astounded at how their father offered forgiveness instead of lashing out in pain. I hope that one day they'll thank their father for this gift.

If Your Father Is Still Alive...

Me and daddy...

Me and daddy...

It's been four and a half years since my father passed away and Father's Day still makes my heart drop.

It always brings me right back to the weeks before my father's death. The call to the hospital to check on him. The nurse telling me he'd been rushed into surgery...that things weren't looking good...that he was sedated...that he couldn't speak. I remember my mother's call the next few days and the urgency in her voice telling me to fly into town immediately. I remember walking into his hospital room and seeing the shell of the man who could fix anything and knew just about everything. I recall him mustering all the strength he could to open his eyes and search the room for my face. And I remember kissing his warm forehead, holding  his hand in mine (those same hands that held the bike seat as I unsteadily learned how to ride a bike) and leaving his hospital room for what I knew in my heart would be the last time I'd see him alive.

What I wouldn't give to pick up the phone and call him to chat about everything and nothing. When he first died, I would forget and pick up the phone to call him for a recipe or tips on how to fix something. Four years later, I don't forget but the urge to hear his voice and laughter is still strong.

That's why it pains my heart when people who know their fathers and still have their fathers cut them off. I want to scream at them, "time waits for no one. You never know how much time you have left with your father."

Those who have severed ties with their father, always have reasons why:

He's not living right.

He hurt me.

He wasn't the father I wanted or needed him to be.

He's full of empty promises.

He severed the relationship.

And the list goes on.

Most of us have been hurt by our fathers in one way or another. It's inevitable because we are human and that's what we do. Sometimes we hurt those we love.

I understand that it may be difficult or darn near impossible to have a relationship with the man we call father. Maybe he's locked the door. Maybe he's got mental challenges. Maybe he's  incarcerated. Whatever the case, we are still called to honor our mother AND father.

I know full well what it's like to be disappointed with your father and not want anything to do with him. (I wrote about it here.) I know the sting of being hurt by a father's choices and feeling like you're second choice to dumb decisions. But to have a relationship with your father you don't have to take anything from him. You don't have to keep trusting in those empty promises. Instead, you can be the one to stand on your word for him. Even if it's as simple as calling when you promised. You don't have to be a participant of his wrong lifestyle choices. You can love him from afar by sending a text message of love or dropping a card in the mail. Even if they're snubbed at first, few people can keep rejecting tokens of love.

If a relationship on this earth is just not possible, honoring your father could be as simple as you not bad-mouthing them to your children--or anyone else for that matter.

Sometimes in adulthood, we hold grudges against our daddies for what we thought they should have been to us. Let that go and just love your father. A postcard saying I love you. Praying for him when no one else is--if that's all he will accept (because really, who can refuse prayers offered up to God on their behalf?)

"Honor your mother and father. This is the first commandment with a promise." The promise? That all may go well with you and that you will live a long time. Maybe you don't want to live long. But I'm sure you want all to go well with you. I'm not just talking about living a comfortable life with the signs of success (car, job, etc)., I'm talking about the kind of well that includes your heart, your mind and soul. You know when all is not going well with you.

There are no stipulations to honoring. It doesn't say: honor your father...if he lived up to your standard or if he loved you right or if he was there or if he's not on drugs. We wouldn't be called to honor if it weren't possible.

Stop making excuses and start making up lost time.

If you are a parent, one day your kids will grow up and may not agree with how you lived your life or loved them. How would you feel if you were written off?

Let's start now with building legacies of lasting love and honor for future generations to walk in.

Why I'm Watching My Words Like A Hawk


I've come face to face with the fact that I watch my children more carefully than I watch my words. 

Not a pretty fact to face.  

I watch what they eat.

I make sure they're kept out of danger's reach. 

I watch for their little souls that they aren't partaking in things that could damage them.  

Bottom line: I watch them like the momma hawk that I am.  

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Kelli asked me to join her for a challenge as an accountability partner. The task: to cut out negative talk about ourselves and if something bad is uttered to replace it with a positive.   

I failed. Miserably.

I'm ashamed at how awful my self talk is. Of course it's been there all along but who's noticing when it's just part of the routine?

Most days I felt like a grumbling, mumbling old lady griping about everything under the sun that had to do with me. Why do I excuse such behavior? If it was any one else I'd be appalled.  

It's crazy how our speech can betray us...and locate us.  

After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, "Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you." Matthew 26:73 

While Jesus was being tried, Peter tried to slip quietly into the background and act like he didn't know who Jesus was. But people knew who Peter was because of his accent. He could deny being a disciple all he wanted, but his words gave him away.  

My words give me away too.  My speech locates me every single time. Sure, I tell people: I love Jesus. I'm a believer. I have faith in the Almighty One.

But my words tell the truth. I think God is a liar.

I say the Jesus doesn't love me but He says that nothing separates me from His love.

I say nothing is working right in my life while He says all things work together for good for those who love Him. 

He says I am  fearfully and wonderfully made but I negate that truth by saying the exact opposite.

Nothing like thinking you're in one place and then you look on the GPS and see you're not where you're supposed to be. Nothing locates us like our speech.  

We quote scriptures and affirmations. Then we turn around and cuss and talk rough with people. We go to church and clean up nice but we gossip and backbite. We encourage and pray for people and then turn around and sing the latest mainstream song with lyrics that we know are not right. Our words are going to give us away no matter what we do.

No wonder the psalmist prayed: "set guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips." Watching my words is really something I must get under control for I know my very life depends on it. If the universe was framed by God's spoken word, how much more is my world framed by mine. I can live in a big world or a small world based on the words I use. 

Maybe you don't have an issue with negative talk, but might there be some words you need to watch? Change your words and change your world.




Drop the Bags: A Lesson in Ceasing from Striving

I snapped this photo of baby girl over the weekend. I had to chuckle at how she was struggling to hold that bag with her phone to her ear. Where did she learn such things?


Today, I was looking through my phone and came across this picture. And I immediately knew where she got this from. Me. Just this morning, I'd weighed myself down with multiple bags while I juggled a cup of coffee and my keys--all so I wouldn't have to make numerous trips to the car.

Needless to say, I'm embarrassed....because if this is how I look, then I need to slow down. And stop it. This is not just how I look on the outside, this is how I feel on the inside too. Burdened. Bogged down. Harried and hurried.

"Cease striving and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10a

In a season where I think I need to do more and be more, God is saying let go, drop your hands and relax. I want to argue that faith without works is dead so I must give God something to work with to keep it moving.

"Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, the God who is our salvation. Selah."

God is daily bearing my burden. Your burden too. Every single day, I can hand the bags over to Him instead of being a bumbling, stumbling mess. He didn't even design us to live that way. We are to walk freely in faith.

I'm thinking about a time when I desired a job before our first son was born. I applied for jobs left and right. I even applied for jobs well beneath my pay scale and outside of my experience. Even with all that, I wasn't landing a job. By the time, my son was born, I'd settled into being a stay-at-home mom. I wasn't stressed and constantly working myself up over a job.

When our son was 2, a former boss called me out of the blue and said she referred me for a job. The pay was well above what I would have ever asked for and the work was right up my alley. It came at a perfect time. I'd taken my hands off of the situation and let God put His hand on it. Only then, was He able to do something with it. The blessing literally came knocking on my door.

I'm feeling like I need to do that again. Take my hands completely off and release things into God's competent care. Sometimes instead of working and walking in faith, we simply need to wait in faith.

I grew up the oldest child of two so taking responsibility was drilled into me. It comes naturally. You step up. You watch over it. You make sure nothing bad happens. Mixing that oldest child syndrome with faith is not a good combination.

"Pile your troubles on God's shoulders. He'll carry your load; He'll help you out. He'll never let good people topple into ruin." Psalm 55:22

I'm going to list out all the troubles I need to pile on God's shoulders. Then I'm going to focus on stopping the striving and simply chilling in God.

Rethinking the Well-Behaved Child

A couple weeks back was parent-teacher conferences for baby girl's daycare.

Her report was glowing: obedient, well-behaved, follows instructions, knows to how to stick up for herself and use the word no.

With the exception of the last two, the rest leave me concerned.



follows instructions

They all made me think of the following quote:


Her report reminded me of myself as child.

I was a compliant child who did what was asked. I rarely spoke up and secretly marveled at (and envied) kids who voiced their opinions and dislikes. It took me decades before I learned to be vocal about where I stood and more often than not, I still am not as outspoken as I'd like to be. And I still think I follow the rules too much.

That's not exactly the path I want my girl (or my boys) to take now. Of course, when I was a new mom that's exactly what I wanted: kids who sat still and listened on command. What I got was an outspoken oldest child, a free-spirited middle child and a baby who laughs in the face of danger.

Teachers applaud the obedient child. While the raucous child who colors outside the lines is tagged for less-than-stellar behavior. Down through the years, I've noticed that it's the ones who buck the system and look for exceptions to the rules who climb the ladder and more often than not, make things happen. Or maybe it's just my skewed view that makes me see it like that.

Either way, I'm not so sure that what I want is totally obedient and compliant children.

I think of my husband: he's well-mannered but not always well-behaved, especially when crossed wrong. I kinda like that. He questions things and doesn't always accept what I think has to be accepted. Sometimes he won't take no for an answer. And other times he straight up bucks the system.

Sometimes it's disobedience that makes the difference. Not a rowdy disobedience, but respectful rebellion.  My hope is that my kids know how to navigate life wisely using obedience coupled with peaceful unruliness.

Don't get me wrong, I want kids who are well-mannered BUT who will also learn to bend the rules when necessary or make waves when it's called for. I don't want them to just accept anything but to question when appropriate. I want to raise kids who respect boundaries but will step over them if necessary for their well-being as well as others.

Were you a well-behaved, compliant child? Do you think it's served you well in life? Would love to hear your thoughts.


Building Cathedrals Out of Little Lives

Building Cathedrals Out of Little Lives

The other day, this young lady rummaged through her purse for her makeup compact. She then carefully dabbed on "eyeshadow" followed by a careful application of "lipstick." The makeup went back in her purse and she went on her way.

Where did this child learn to do this? I'd never sat her down and taught her the finer points of applying makeup and keeping an organized purse.

When you have kids, the saying is so true: more things are caught than taught. Who knows how many times... 

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How NOT to Fast

How NOT to Fast

It's fasting season--namely the 21-day Daniel Fast season. How do I know? Because just about everyone is tweeting about it, Instagramming and Facebooking their spiritual "sacrifice." It's a most perplexing phenomenon to me. When I was growing up, the church I attended didn't encourage banner displays of fasting. And I'm pretty sure the Bible doesn't either.

Back in the day, those who were fasting were urged to...

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