Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Shepastor: “My prayer for you during this Season and the Coming New Year…”

Dear Shepastor Friends,

Thank you for reading, sharing and responding to Shepastor. During this season when we remember, in a special way, God’s love for us all and the gift of His precious Son, Jesus, My prayer for you is the prayer of the Psalmist…

May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble;
May the name of the God of Jacob defend you;
2 May He send you help from the sanctuary,
And strengthen you out of Zion;
3 May He remember all your offerings,
And accept your burnt sacrifice. Selah

4 May He grant you according to your heart’s desire,
And fulfill all your purpose.
5 We will rejoice in your salvation,
And in the name of our God we will set up our banners!
May the LORD fulfill all your petitions.

6 Now I know that the LORD saves His anointed;
He will answer him from His holy heaven
With the saving strength of His right hand.
7 Some trust in chariots, and some in horses;
But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.

8 They have bowed down and fallen;
But we have risen and stand upright.
9 Save, LORD!
May the King answer us when we call.

Psalm 20, NKJV

From my family to yours,
Merry Christmas!

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Shepastor: "Practical Support and Encouragement for One Another..."

"The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" (which means "God with us"). Matthew 1:23, NIV

Studies show that the holiday season can be a very difficult time for many. While some families are hustling and bustling about, having meals together, sharing gifts, receiving guests, dressing up their homes, etc., others are grieving the loss of loved ones, broken relationships, or never having the mate, companion, lover, home, children etc., of their dreams. Tidings of “comfort and joy” have eluded some.

Reflecting upon the Nativity scene, something very practical may escape us as we bathe in the glory of the “new born King…” Mary and Joseph struggled to find a place for her to give birth to the baby. “No room in the Inn…,” only a dirty stable amidst some animals. Yet the Lord saw fit to send an angel to go and tell some folks to be with them. Yes they went to behold the baby Jesus. But could it also be that the Lord wanted to remind Mary and Joseph that they were not alone – that “God was with them?” He called some shepherds, even some kings, even some animals to be with them as they gave birth to the Son of God. Even at Jesus’ birth, the Lord was letting us know that we need encouragement and support.

People, having been told that there is no room for them are surrounded by stinking stables (so to speak). The elderly forgotten in nursing homes, the children in foster care, the prisoners returning to society, the poor who have received notice of yet another food stamp cut, the sick and shut in, retired pastors and even some “working” pastors…no room – go to the stable!

Suicide is on the rise. People are lonely, broken and suffering in silence. Instruction manuals, workshops, and panel discussions abound. But when they return home, the pain still exists – the pain of loneliness, rejection, depression, being overwhelmed etc. Can we do some practical things? Can we be like the shepherds and go and be with them in the birthing process? Can we push past the proverbial and sometimes literal stench of their “stables” and be with them? Can we visit, pick up the phone and call, send cards – dare to have an “in human” touch in this age of technology?

Consider a child’s description of true friends…

They keep our secrets
They tell us their secrets
They remember my birthday!
They always make sure I’m included in fun things
They know when I’m sad and ask me why
When I miss school because I’m sick, they ask their moms to call to check on me

Taken from Brene` Brown’s book, Daring Greatly (Gotham Books-Penguin Group, Inc., 2012, p. 49)
And a child shall lead them…May we “dare” to be shepherd-friends in practical ways. Lives are at stake.

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Until next Wednesday,
In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Shepastor: "Lessons of Transformation from the Life of Nelson Mandela..."

Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?
22I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.
23Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:
24And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

This week the world paused to remember, arguably, one of the greatest men who ever lived. Heads of States from around the world, including our own President Barak Obama, went to South Africa to pay tribute to the life and the legacy of Nelson Mandela. Today’s Shepastor will not attempt to recount every aspect of historical specifics or a timeline, but rather, a sweeping overview of some powerful changes that happened within the late President Mandela’s heart, mind and soul...something that challenges us to be transformed as well.

Born in an aristocratic family, blessed with a high level of education and becoming a lawyer in South Africa meant that this “Black South African” could have lived out his life apart from the most brutal and oppressive aspects of the Apartheid system. However, he was not content to see his fellow brothers and sisters remain in such conditions. Pain and anguish swept over his soul as he watched the horrors of hatred and deep seeded racism play out in severe economic oppression, mutilation and bloody murder in the streets. Rebellion, hatred and even revenge bubbled up in his spirit. Wrongful imprisonment for 27 years…labeled a terrorist…considered a menace to society…why? He dared to challenge evil. But in the midst of hate, in the midst of pain, in the midst of injustice – God spoke to Mandela’s heart. He chose love over hate, reconciliation over revenge, peace over war, negotiation over separation….Love is stronger than death.

Former President Bill Clinton shared that when he asked President Mandela how he felt all of those years in prison, didn’t he hate his oppressors, he reportedly responded,
“Yes, for about 11 years. But one day while breaking rocks I thought, ‘they’ve kept you in prison, they’ve destroyed your marriage, they’ve robbed you of seeing your children grow up. They’ve taken all of these things but you have to give them your heart and mind. That day, I said I will not give them my heart and mind by continuing to hate them. I choose to be free…’”

Like Jesus, like Paul, like Martin, Mandela chose something radical – more radical than rebellion, more radical than revenge, more radical than so called terrorism. Mandela chose love…not to behave as if nothing happened, but “strategic love.” He worked with leaders from around the world to build a peaceful coalition that used economic sanctions against the apartheid regime. He worked with Bishop Desmond Tutu to hold the “Truth and Reconciliation” hearings that helped bring closure to the families that lost loved ones to the brutality of the Praetorian Police. He calmed the fears of White South Africans that under his leadership they would experience what they’d done to the rest of the country.

Certainly, Mandela could relate to David’s transformational prayer...

Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?
22I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.
23Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:
24And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Something deep down inside of Mandela caused him to realize that he wanted to be better than the oppressor. He did not want to become that which he claimed to despise. He cried, “search me… know me…lead me…” May we too find the strength to overcome evil with good by praying “Search me oh God…”

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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Shepastor: "Daring Greatly..."

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the fatih…” II Timothy 4:7, KJV

Today I’d just like to share a powerful, searching and compelling quote extracted from Brene` Brown’s book, Daring Greatly. This quote is not original with her, but she uses it to assert some powerful insights into what it means to live “wholeheartedly.” She quotes Theodore Roosevelt’s speech, “Citizenship in a Republic,” given in Paris, France, April 23, 1910…

It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,

Because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deed, who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;

Who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…”

May we, by faith, “dare greatly” in our work for the Kingdom!

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Until Next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Shepastor: "Revisiting the Essence of True Praise and Worship During this Thanksgiving Season"

"God is a spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” John 4: 24

“God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food… Good bread, good meat, good God lets eat!” These are the prayers of childhood and hurried schedules! As we prepare to dive into Thanksgiving meals, some may not even take time to say, “Thank you Lord!” This holiday, however, provides for us an opportunity to revisit the “thankfulness gage” of our hearts.

When we with grateful hearts truly worship and praise God we develop intimacy with Him. We see Him not just for what He can do, but for who He is – the awesome powerful God who in spite of His greatness and majesty looked upon us with love and mercy, sent His only begotten son into the world to die for us, to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, to forgive us of our sins and to make us joint heirs with Jesus– we have become God’s children.

Writer Jerry Bridges in an article entitled, “Beyond Sunday: Making Worship a Way of Life” in Discipleship Journal (March/April 2001) suggests that we ask ourselves the following questions concerning our worship:

1. Have I presented myself and all I have to God as a living sacrifice, so that my way of life is a life of worship?
2. Do I take time daily to worship God privately and to thank Him for all His blessings to me?
3. Is there some cherished sin, some practice I’m unwilling to give up, that hinders my worship?
4. Do I seek to enter wholeheartedly, “in spirit and in truth” into worship or do I simply go through the motions without really worshiping?
Bridges further states,

“None of us will score perfectly on these questions. That is not their intent. Rather they’re designed to help us honestly assess ourselves and pinpoint areas of our lives that need improvement. Only then, and as we take steps to improve, will they benefit us.”
When we worship God, we give glory and honor to His name. When we worship God, we broaden our perspective of life and our life’s purpose. When we worship God, we open our hearts to sing His praises. We join with the song writer who declared,

Oh Lord, our God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the works thy hand hath made… I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, thy power throughout the universe displayed. Then sings my soul, my savior God to thee. How great thou art, how great thou art. Then sings my soul, my savior God to thee. How great thou art, how great thou art!
May we truly worship and praise God with hearts of gratitude, not only during the Thanksgiving Season, but every day.
May you and yours have a grateful, peaceful and joy-filled Thanksgiving Holiday!

Until next Wednesday,
In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Shepastor: “True Gratefulness is Something that Emerges, Not Something Imposed…”

“Oh give thanks unto the Lord, for He s good; for His mercy endureth forever…” Psalm 136:1, KJV

I grew up hearing the story of a young mother of three who was raised in an affluent home in another country. A series of unfortunate circumstances caused the mother’s family to lose their wealth. Her husband, from the same country, grew up in a decent but poor household. Together, they decided to come to America and make a life for themselves. They had little or nothing. It was a struggle, but by faith they persevered and “made it.” A portion of the struggle included the husband receiving a partial scholarship to attend college in one part of the country, and the wife living with relatives in another part of the country, working to raise money to assist him with school and support their family.

The wife and mother humbled herself and accepted “day work” in order to make ends meet. She rose up early in the morning, walked to work – scrubbing floors, doing laundry, babysitting for wealthy women. On one occasion, after working extremely hard, back hurting, feet tired, bones weary, her employer, at the end of a full week, handed her a limp $5.00 bill and said, “Now what is a ‘girl’ like you gonna do with ‘all’ that money? Aren’t you grateful?” The ‘girl’ responded, “It is not the size of the gift, but the heart and mind with which it is given.” Puzzled, the wealthy employer looked at the woman and asked, “Where did you learn such a thing?” The day worker just smiled and walked away.

To tell someone that they should be “grateful” in the face of injustice and oppression is a travesty. To engage in discriminatory practices that keep individuals down and perpetuate poverty, pain and disgrace is sin.
The concept of gratefulness should never be used to impose guilt upon those who dare question oppressive and discriminatory practices. It is a twisted theology that somehow suggests that an individual should be grateful in the midst of abuse, inequality, and “door-mat-ism.”

True Gratefulness emerges from the hearts of those who recognize some measure of grace bestowed upon them. True gratefulness emerges as individuals acknowledge that in spite of mean spirited and ignorant behaviors, God is still good, God still makes a way and God still causes us to triumph over painful situations and circumstances.

True gratefulness emerges as individuals look back over their lives and declare they have a testimony…”my soul looks back and wonders how I made it over…” True gratefulness emerges when one recognizes that greater is the one with us, than the one within the world. True gratefulness emerges as we say with the saints of old, “what the devil meant for evil, God meant for my good!”

The young mother and wife referenced earlier was my mother. I am grateful that she was able to see beyond the ugliness of an abusive employer, trusted God, did her best, later joined her husband, together they raised their family, bought two homes and lived their lives successfully…gratefulness, not imposed, but emerging from our hearts.

“Oh give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good. His mercy endureth forever!”

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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Shepastor: "Even in the Midst of Tragedy, God Still Speaks..."

”God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in the time of trouble…” Psalm 46:1

Sandyhook Elementary School, Hurricane Sandy, now the typhoon in the Philippines…10,000 or more suspected dead. Sickness and evil on one hand, natural disasters on the other. Someone is asking, “Where is God in the midst of all of this tragedy?” Flippant and shallow theological responses will not do. As pastors, leaders and teachers, we should not pretend to know the answers to such painful conundrums. “From whence cometh evil?” That is the puzzlement that has bewildered humanity throughout antiquity to the present age.

We can, however, reflect upon and seek to replicate the spirit of love, unity, compassion and benevolence that arises in each of these instances from the ash heaps of despair. God shows up when we embrace each other with tender loving care, providing a shoulder to cry upon. God shows up as we as individuals, communities, and nations do what we can to provide food, water, shelter and clothing to those who have been stripped of everything.

God shows up when we, at least for a moment, put our differences of race, gender and class aside, and see our common humanity.
Could these things be the “refuge, strength and present help” that God chooses to use in the time of storm?

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.” Psalm 46: 4 English Standard Version
Could we be the “river” that God uses to “make glad the city of God?” May rivers of peace, compassion, healing, support, encouragement and deliverance flow from the hearts, hands and spirits of God’s people so that the world may see and hear God even in the midst of tragedy.

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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Shepastor: “Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired! Continuing the Conversation on Equity and Access for Women Clergy”

I will stand at my watch
and station myself on the ramparts;
I will look to see what he will say to me,
and what answer I am to give to this complaint.[a]
The LORD’s Answer
2 Then the LORD replied:
“Write down the revelation
and make it plain on tablets
so that a herald[b] may run with it.
3 For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
it speaks of the end
and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
it[c] will certainly come
and will not delay.
Habakkuk 2:1-3, NIV

Civil Rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer’s famous phrase, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired…” could appropriately be used by clergywomen in 2013. I’ve thought about the struggles of Mrs. Hamer frequently over recent days. As I have reflected upon her triumphant and painful story as a female civil rights activist, it grieved me also to think about the disparities and inequalities women clergy face, causing them spiritual, psychological and even physical pain.

While we may not have lost our jobs, been given a hysterectomy without our permission during a surgical procedure, been hauled off to jail and beaten so severely that our kidneys were damaged (all experiences of Mrs. Hamer as she led protests for the right for African Americans to vote – see her powerful biography by visiting, ), clergy women are still having to fight for equity and access into the pastorate. Someone reading this is saying, “there is no comparison…” I respectfully beg to differ…

During the Equity and Access for Women Clergy Conference, it amazed me to listen to the striking similarities between clergywomen who literally, 30 years ago could not get a “call” to a solo pastorate or had to accept small, dying, economically depressed congregations and take on a second job to make a living wage and clergy women in 2013 saying the same thing!

I am encouraged by the great strides that have been made…women are beginning to be called to more stable congregations…women are being licensed and ordained, women are beginning to earn higher salaries than before.

I am discouraged by the snail’s pace of progress and lethargy that has seemingly developed around the issue of equity and access for women clergy. It discourages me when I hear women giving up on the idea of becoming a senior/solo pastor simply because they don’t see doors opening wider for us. I have been equally discouraged by denominations that “support” women clergy with words and maybe even printed materials, but do little to seriously take steps to assist women clergy in the process of receiving a living wage.

As a result of the lack of true support, women clergy are suffering. Their bodies are worn and run down from wearing a million hats to serve struggling congregations. Their minds’ are taxed because out of necessity, they take on additional work to make ends meet. Their hearts are broken because despite the “anointing,” excellent credentials, broad experience and willing hearts, they are constantly passed over and or made to play “2nd fiddle.” Their spirits are strained because they contort their gifts and calling to fit into other areas of ministry and “make do” serving where ever they can with heavy hearts – never able to live out their true calling.

I am encouraged because of the recent developments with the Equity and Access for Women Clergy Conference. My prayer is that the five “Activist Groups” (see last week's Shepastor)which have emerged will, by God’s grace, “Make the Vision Plain” and break open the stained glass ceilings that still exists. Truly we are sick and tired of being sick and tired!

I encourage you to read two additional blogs reviewing the “Equity and Access for Women Clergy” Conference held last week at Wake Forest University by Rev. Dr. Jann Aldredge Clanton, and Rev. Dr. Eileen Campbell Reed,

While we all experience discouragement and weariness over the struggle for worthy causes, may we never forget that our hope and our help is in Christ Jesus, our Lord! May we be reminded of the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 126:5-6,

5They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.

6 He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

May our tears, bearing “precious seed” create great rejoicing as we reap the harvest for our labor that truly is not in vain!

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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Shepastor: "Make the Vision Plain: Equity and Access for Women Clergy Conference Highlights, 2013"

I will stand at my watch
and station myself on the ramparts;
I will look to see what he will say to me,
and what answer I am to give to this complaint.[a]
The LORD’s Answer
2 Then the LORD replied:
“Write down the revelation
and make it plain on tablets
so that a herald[b] may run with it.
3 For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
it speaks of the end
and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
it[c] will certainly come
and will not delay.
Habakkuk 2:1-3, NIV

“Make the Vision Plain: Equity and Access for Women Clergy Conference Highlights, 2013”

October 25-26, 2013 history was made as leaders from approximately 10 Christian denominations came together at Wake Forest University School of Divinity to plan strategies for increasing equity and access for women clergy. Spearheaded by Rev. Sheila Sholes Ross and Rev. Dr. Jann Aldredge Clanton, (Conference Co-Chairs)

Conference Purpose Statement: To advocate and network for clergywomen across denominations and cultures to facilitate access and congregational receptivity so that they find clergy positions in order to transform church and society.

Vision Statement: To facilitate equal representation of clergywomen as pastors of multicultural churches.

The goals of this historic meeting were to:

(1) Assess the progress of women clergy in gaining acceptance in the profession.
(2) Review issues hindering job placement and career advancement of clergywomen.
(3) Propose strategies to ensure fuller access for women to more senior leadership roles in congregational ministry.
(4) Address the interlocking injustices of sexism and racism that impede women’s career advancement.

Jann and Sheila hope that “after the Conference, participants will serve as an activist group with the Equity for Women in the Church Community to implement recommended actions to be taken in denominational organizations, local congregations, and academic institutions.”

The conference opened with a moving challenge message from Rev. Dr. Marvin A. McMickle, President Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School. Using Isaiah 58 as a basis for his message, Dr. McMickle, quoting another source declared that
“Inequities exist because (1) We allow it (2)We condone it because of our silence and (3) We treat as second class those who are not like us.” He further stated, “You cannot use the same Bible to decry racism but oppress women.”
He passionately testified that his first pastor as a child was a woman, Rev. Dr. Mary G. Evans, Senior Pastor of Cosmopolitan Community Church in Chicago.

Our main facilitator, Rev. Cheryl Dudely, Global Religious Director (Arcus Foundation) led us in a thought provoking exercise called the “power circle.” Current senior/solo pastors, organizational heads and presidents were asked to come forward and form a circle on the stage. We were instructed to link arms so that no one could get into our circle. She then invited a few others to come and try to get into the circle. Members of the audience were instructed to remain silent and only to observe. Interesting things occurred… A few “weak links” let some in. Some went underneath to squeeze in, some pushed their way in and some remained outside. The audience was asked to reflect upon what they saw happening. Although we laughed about the experience, several major insights emerged.

Although one or two were easily “let in” they stood isolated in the middle of the circle – in, but not “apart.” One participant who pushed her way in talked about how she felt physical pain in the process. Another talked about the need to gain entrance by any means necessary. All of these observations reflect the reality women in ministry face as they seek to gain access to some very tightly guarded “circles.”

Rev. Dr. Isabel Docampo, Professor of Supervised Ministry, Perkins School of Theology shared a moving reflection, challenging us to see the movement of God through various models of ministry and diversity. She cautioned us not to embrace a spirit of “It is what it is…,” but to believe God for new possibilities, big dreams and seemingly impossible realities.

We also broke off into small groups to consider the following…

Small Group Facilitators:

Rev. Dr. Isabel Docampo
Rev. Christine Smith
Rev. Dr. Mitzi Ellington
Rev. Dr. Christine Wiley
Dr. Christopher Hutson

Questions for Facilitators to Use in Small Groups

(prior to conference, groups were organized to reflect diversity of race, gender, and denomination) Cheryl Dudley set the background for this time with the Ruth and Naomi story.

1. Reflect on a time you had an ally of another ethnicity, gender, and/or generation. How did you work together to accomplish goals? What went well and how did you do this work?

2. How might this experience encourage solidarity among cultures in working for increased opportunities for clergywomen?

3. What are incentives for reaching across cultures in our work for clergywomen?

4. How do we avoid transactional encounters where one group feels it's being used by the other?

5. What are moral challenges when we decide to take stands not popular in our affinity groups?
Afternoon Small Groups…

1. How do we see the intersection of gender and race creating challenges for clergywomen in finding pastorates?

2. How can we work ecumenically and cross-culturally to accomplish our goals for clergywomen?

3. What local and national initiatives can we engage in together? Identify at least 5 local and 5 national initiatives.
We reassembled to discuss emergent ideas from each group. The following groups were birthed from our discussions…

Five activist groups: (1) resource development; (2) biblical scholarship supporting women pastors; (3) creation and support of new models of faith communities; (4) a national forum for clergywomen for networking, support, strategy, and mentoring; (5) a think tank for examination of power issues underlying barriers for clergywomen, looking especially at the intersection of race, gender, and class.

There’s so much to share about this phenomenal strategic planning conference! Stay tuned for additional highlights and progress on the work!

Post a comment or send me an email at

Until Next Wednesday
In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Shepastor: "It Depends Upon Who You Ask..."

62Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, 63Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. 64Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. 65Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. 66So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch Matthew 27: 62-66 KJV

There’s an old adage, “consider the source.” People say this when scandalous reports are made, gossip is spread, cruel remarks are given or persons of questionable character share information – “consider the source.” In the text above, Jesus was considered a “deceiver.” If you asked the Pharisees, he was not only a nuisance, but a threat to their perceived power and influence. Jesus got in the way of their game plans.

The religious leaders had become abusive, manipulative, greedy and pompous. They did not care that Jesus brought love, encouragement, healing and deliverance to the people. He was messing up their plans, their image, their influence. People were turning away from listening to them and instead listening to God. He spoke truth. They spoke lies. He spoke love. They spoke hate. He preached deliverance. They laid heavy burdens upon the necks of the people. Jesus talked to His Father. They talked to Roman officials. Jesus sacrificed his life. They yelled, “crucify Him!”

To them, Jesus was a deceiver. To those of us who have received Him into our hearts, Jesus is Lord! It depends upon who you ask.

If you will dare to love, dare to speak truth, dare to make sacrifices, dare to preach deliverance, dare to stand up for what is right, dare to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God, there will be those who call you names. You may be called a “deceiver,” a trouble maker, a nuisance, a provoker etc. But God the Father will call you His child. It depends upon who is asked.

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Until Next Wednesday
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Shepastor: “I Almost Cut It Down…”

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9, NIV

For those of you who have been following Shepastor for sometime, you may recall my frequent musings on lessons learned from our family garden. Today is another one! Our rose bush seemed rather bereft of rose buds this year – lots of stems, thorns and leaves, but no rose buds. Two stems, however, seemed to start growing taller, much taller than the bush.

As I looked at the tall stems each day, I kept saying to myself, “You need to go out there, get the shears and cut those two stems down. They are exceedingly disproportional to the rest of the bush.” Full of thorns and somewhat ugly, the two stems persisted in growing taller. Finally, I said to myself, “This weekend is it!” That was Monday. However, when Friday came a strange thing occurred. The two tall, thorny stems had rose buds upon them. Puzzled, surprised and “out done,” I decided to leave them alone.

Each day, the rose buds grew larger and larger. Ultimately, they burst into big, bright, beautiful melon colored roses. Had I cut the “disproportional” stems down, I never would have seen the roses. The bush seemed to speak a metaphor for life to me… So often, we become discouraged when our proverbial bushes seem full of empty leaves and thorns. Then something begins to grow, but it appears to be so disappointing – still no roses, a waste if time. The bush speaks, “don’t cut me down – just let me grow!” Let God do His business in your life. That which seems barren, out of kilter, disproportionate and appearing ripe to be cut down may be on the verge of breaking forth into beautiful blossoms.

Don’t cut down your stems… Continue the work that God has entrusted to your care. Don’t cut down your stems…within the seemingly barren, thorn rattled stem is a beautiful flower bud about to blossomDon’t cut down your stems…you are on the verge of a break through – that ministry, that prayer, that hope, that dream, that vision, that blessing – don’t cut it down as a result of relying only on what your natural eyes can see. In the heavens, God has rose buds about to burst open into your reality.

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Until Next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Shepastor: "The Power of Naming"

19Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. Genesis 2: 19-20, NIV

I listened in dismay today as a news commentator, in conversation with a Native American community representative discussed a sports team’s refusal to change their name – a name that is offensive to our Native American sisters and brothers. Reportedly, the particular franchise owner declared that the team’s name would “never be changed.” Through out our Country’s history, names have been used to oppress, mischaracterize, marginalize, disenfranchise and humiliate people and segments of communities. Names can also encourage, empower, lift and support.

It never ceases to amaze me that people, even after they have been told that an individual would rather be referred to as “thus and so,” continue to disrespect the request and use their designated name for the person. The one who names has been given or asserts power and authority over the one who is named. If the “named” person stands up for themselves and states their prerogative regarding how they would like to be addressed, that person is somehow deemed overly sensitive, intolerant and maybe even arrogant!

Native Americans have a right to demand respect. We have a moral obligation to give them respect. They have a right to be offended when sports franchises, who make literally billions of dollars (with little if any benefiting the people for which their teams are named) continue to use names for their teams that hurt and humiliate a people. The aforementioned news commentator asked the Native American community representative if he thought their complaints would ever make a difference, seeing the sports team owners appear resolute in their refusal to rename their teams. I was impressed with his response. He declared (and I paraphrase),

“Our country is littered with peoples and systems that refused to change, whether it was regarding slavery, immigration, women’s rights, etc. However, the great thing about this Country is that when enough people speak up and stand up, change eventually happens.”

What a powerful statement! May we stand with our Native American sisters and brothers and reject names that hurt and offend anyone. May we have the strength to continue to “speak up and stand up,” so that change eventually can happen. May we resist the urge to “name” others when they clearly have a name they’ve chosen for themselves. And may we have the strength to continue to embrace and boldly declare the names that God has given us, even when others refuse to speak them. God knows your name.

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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Shepastor: “Forgiveness is Counterintuitive, But Do it Anyway”

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12: 21 NRSV

When we’ve been hurt, “burned,” mistreated, unappreciated etc., our humanness cries out for justice and in some instances vengeance. But as members of the body of Christ, we are called to a higher response. Jesus’ unusual example of unconditional love provokes us to rethink how we view others. Jesus taught us to bless those who curse us, bless and curse not (Matthew 5: 43-48). Jesus also showed us the power of forgiveness when he declared, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). When we dare to love, to serve, to give, to “lay down our lives” in the face of insensitivity and mean-spiritedness, we show the overcoming power of Christ within.

When we resist our flesh’s cry to get back at those who hurt us, and choose rather to reflect Christ, we are empowered in a new and fresh way. When trust that the Lord knows all, sees all and will in time “set things right,” it frees us to obey His Word and determine to overcome evil with good. This does not mean that we become doormats or allow ourselves to be abused. It simply means that we choose the more excellent way. It means that we continue to give our highest and best to the glory of God. It means that we refuse to behave in ways that are not in line with our new nature in Christ. It means that we choose to forgive and not to hold onto bitterness, anger and resentment.

In the article, “Five Reasons to Bless Those Who Curse You,” author Michael Brown shares powerful insights about forgiveness…

Here are five reasons why we should bless those who curse us.

1. This is the way of a Jesus revolutionary, emulating the example of our Father. The Sermon on the Mount is a counterculture, kingdom manifesto where Jesus calls us to live by different principles than the world and religious establishment) live by. And in the Sermon on the Mount, he gave this explicit command: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:43-44).

When we do this, we are emulating God himself, who “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt 5:45). This is part of our calling to “be perfect” as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matt 5:48).

To read the other 4 reasons, visit the link below…

Yes, forgiveness is counterintuitive, but we have been changed. As Paul declared, “it is no longer I, but the Christ that lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). That’s why Jesus declared, “They will know that you are Christians by your love” (John 13:35). We do things differently. May the treasure that is housed in our earthen vessels shine forth and glorify God and make our big brother Jesus rejoice!

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Until next Wednesday
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Shepastor: "Still in the Trail Blazing Phase..."

"Now Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1, KJV

It is difficult to believe that in 2013, women in ministry are still in the "trail blazing phase" as it were. This fact has been brought more intensely to may attention in poignant ways over the past couple of weeks. Called, gifted, anointed, well educated and experienced women are still struggling to "break through the stained glass ceiling." While great strides are being made towards opening doors for women to serve in the ministry (senior/solo pastorate and other ministerial arenas), it is still painful to hear the stories of women who have served faithfully, given their all, loved, sacrificed, carried many loads, "made bricks without straw," etc., and yet are minimally compensated (if at all) and passed over for executive or lead positions.

At this point in the conversation, someone might be saying, "Well, maybe this isn't God's will for them... Maybe this is because women are not supposed to be pastors and certain kinds of leaders...maybe it's because they are not anointed or "really called," maybe it's because they are not working hard enough, maybe..."

Here is my list of maybes...

- Maybe the overflow of our fallen condition makes inequity and oppression palatable

- Maybe God is challenging the church to be more open to His prerogative to call whomsoever He chooses...

- Maybe God wants the "real advocates" to stand up, to do more than utter words of support, but to influence systems and push for support

- Maybe God wants men and women to work together to revisit what it means to "do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God" (Micah 6:8)

It occurs to me that we are still in the trailblazing phase. In spite of the pain and the struggle, may we keep "the faith." Let us continue to go to God, "believing that He is and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6, KJV). Let us not content ourselves with minimal advancements in this arena. May we find the courage and the strength to keep forging ahead, by the leading of God's Holy Spirit. May we keep pressing toward the mark. May our service in each venue please God and may the gifts and the anointing that He has placed upon our lives, make room for us at larger tables.

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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Shepastor: "On Assignment...Making the Grade..."

“It seems to me that God has put us who bear his Message on stage in a theater in which no one wants to buy a ticket.” I Corinthians 4: 9a, The Message Bible

Yesterday I attended a local clergy group meeting. This particular clergy group is heavily involved in civic affairs, social justice issues and preaching. I like it. Today was an unusually powerful session. We heard a very thought provoking lecture on the need for the “Church” to evolve – to reach the people who are not the typical, “church people,” we had a visit from the Mayor who is running for re-election, we heard from various other leaders in the community and then we heard a sermon.

The pastor said a lot of things in the message that evoked soul searching, but one segment, in particular spoke to my spirit. Quoting Eugene Peterson’s The Message paraphrase of the Bible, I Corinthians 4: 9a, he stated,

“It seems to me that God has put us who bear his Message on stage in a theater in which no one wants to buy a ticket.”

He then went on to talk about Jesus’ prayer in John 17 where he says to the Father in prayer, “I have finished the assignment, the work you have given me to do…” John 17: 4 in the Message Bible states,

“I glorified you on earth by completing down to the last detail what you assigned me to do.”

The pastor then went on to share an experience he had in seminary with a professor known for being tough on grading papers. The pastor talked about his research, careful wording, long hours and hard work he put into the assignment. He shared how good he felt upon turning it in because he’d worked so hard. However, to his surprise and dismay, when he received the paper, in the professor’s own handwriting the comments read…

“Great research, creative thinking, hard work. However, you did not do the assignment that was given – F (encircled with red ink!)”
The sanctuary erupted because every preacher in the house could see where he was going! No matter how well you do what you do, no matter how many applause you get, no matter how hard you work, no matter how many think (including yourself!) that you are doing a great job, the question remains: are you doing what God assigned you to do?

So often we get caught up in what others think, what the world defines as success, what we perceive to be greatness. In the final analysis, none of those things matter. What matters is did we finish the assignment we were given. It’s so easy to veer off the course of what God has spoken for us to do or not to do in order to grow membership, gain notoriety, or just simply to get folks to “buy tickets.” When we do that, we are most likely comparing ourselves to others.

Avoid trying to do someone else’s assignment. Did the Lord assign you to 500 members? Praise the Lord. Serve them with gladness and faithfulness. Did the Lord assign you to 10,000 members? Praise the Lord. Serve them with gladness and faithfulness. Did the Lord assign you to 25 members? Amen. Serve them with gladness and faithfulness! Don’t allow what the world (and even those well meaning “saints”) says to cause you to neglect your assignment, trying to mimic someone else, duplicate someone else, envy someone else, compare yourself to someone else. Know that God’s grading techniques are very different from that of human forms of scrutiny.

No matter what the Lord has assigned us to do, may we be found faithful, diligently serving, determined to complete our assignments with excellence!

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Until next Wednesday
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Shepastor: “The Fine Art of Communication…”

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. James 1:19 ESV

We are living in a hurried, fast pace, quick age. If you do not own or have access to a computer, an iphone, ipod or ipad (or something like it) you are almost lost. And while these new forms of technology have afforded us tremendous conveniences, some unfortunate byproducts of those conveniences have emerged.

Text messages, twitter and Facebook encourage users to put into print quick, short messages. While the writer may desire to share one message, unwittingly, unintentionally and frequently, other messages are perceived and or conveyed. You may have meant to communicate one thing, but the recipients, without the benefit of hearing tone of voice, viewing body language or clearly receiving overall context of what is being shared, may extract something altogether different than what you originally intended. When using these devises, individuals are less likely to take their time and prayerfully consider their words. Gaps of time before responses also may convey unintended messages. Angry words, flippant remarks and poorly constructed comments can create confusion and breaks in relationships.

The aforementioned modes of communication also give the allusion of anonymity. In other words, people feel freer to say things in text messages, on twitter and on Facebook that they would never say to a person face to face. While letters and telephones have been used in this way, these new forms of communication seem to have exaggerated this tendency.

This is not to demonize the advancing technologies… this is to raise some cautions, lest the devil gain an advantage over us…

Before texting, “twittering” or “facebooking,” ask yourself a few simple questions…

- If I were on the other side of this message, how what would I “hear?”
- Is this something I would say to a person face to face?
- Is this a “light” message that can quickly be conveyed or am I avoiding a conversation
- Does it really make sense to send a bunch of text messages when we could (and more probably should) talk to one another?
In this fast paced society, we are losing the beauty of real human-to-human contact. Let us take some time to pick up the phone and call someone. Every now and then, put pen to paper and write someone a letter. Every now and then go and pay someone a visit. There is a warmth, a charm, a beauty nestled into these increasingly perceived antiquated forms of communication that no text, twitter or FB message can deliver!

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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Shepastor: "When Silence is No Longer Golden"

Ecclesiastes 3:7 There is a time to tear cloth and a time to sew it.There is a time to be silent and a time to speak.

It has been said that the only thing necessary for evil to persist is for good people to remain silent.

This past week I have watched in amazement as debates have been held over whether or not Syrian leaders have engaged in chemical war tactics to kill and mutilate their own people. The images of children, teens, women and men agonizing, tortured with severely burned flesh, corpses wrapped in sheets, cries of indescribable pain and looks of bewilderment should all shock and provoke outrage in the hearts of the humane.

Instead, national and international leaders are participating in political posturing. Rather than joining forces to do what is necessary to send a clear message that the world will not stand by and tolerate another holocaust of sorts, world leaders are engaging in a fact finding excursion for the obvious. While an abundance of caution is necessary when considering any kind of military action, the emboldened stance of rouge perpetrators must not be ignored. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Let us pray for our leaders, our President, our Congress, and the United Nations to have the wisdom, the strategy and the courage to boldly and decisively intervene, not only in Syria, but in Darfur and other nations where genocide is a reality. May we as preachers, teachers and leaders be more committed to the mandates of Luke 4:18. May we be more concerned about the impoverished, the abused and the marginalized and may that concern be made manifest through our collective work in the church, our civic organizations, at the voting polls and in our communities.

Martin Niemöller spoke to the dangers of misappropriated silence...

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.

Sometimes silence is not golden.

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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Shepastor: “50 Years and Counting… Truth is Marching”

21I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. 22Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. 23Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. 24But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream. Amos 5: 21-24, KJV

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the historic “March on Washington.” Records indicate that the full name of the event was, “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” 50 years ago, approximately one quarter of a million people peacefully gathered to protest racial and economic injustices in America. Although great strides have been made, we still have a long way to go. Consider the following statistics given by the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Friday, August 23, 2013:

Earnings in Ohio:
African Americans made 81.2 cents for every $1 Euro Americans made
African Americans made 88.9 cents for every $1 Euro Americans made

“In 1966, the poverty rate for African Americans was nearly 42% (almost triple the overall rate).” In 2011, African Americans’ poverty rate remains high (but lower) at 28% (nearly double the overall rate)


In 1960, 3.1 percent of African Americans 25 and older had completed at least four years of college. The overall rate was 7.7% By 2012, 21.2% of African Americans 25 and older had completed at least 4 years of college. The overall rate was 30.9%

The same August 23, 2013 Cleveland Plain Dealer news paper provided a “report card” of the school districts spanning several counties throughout Northeast Ohio. No surprise, schools in the inner city and other poverty stricken areas where resources are minimal, student teacher ratio is high (in some instances, 52 students to 1 teacher), drugs and violence run rampant, schools were failing miserably. The surprise, however, came when poor grades were given to more prominent or “well off” districts for having minimal to low progress made in closing the achievement gap.

The grades revealed an unspoken and ugly truth… Even when oppressed peoples gain access to better environments (schools, jobs, neighborhoods, etc.), they still face systemic racism and classism. What good will it do if you attend school in a beautiful building, but are blocked from accessing classes and or curriculum that teaches higher level analytical thinking skills?

What are you benefited if you work downtown or in an affluent area, yet you make significantly less then someone of a lighter hue or a different gender? How is your circumstance made better if you purchase a beautiful home in a “nice” neighborhood, but your mortgage rate is significantly higher than that of your neighbor’s whose credit score may be the same or worse than yours?

The late singer song writer James Brown famously said, “If you deny a man an education, don’t get angry when he acts ignorantly.” Economic injustice produces poverty and oppression. Poverty and oppression produce ignorance. Ignorance produces rage and outrage. Rage and outrage produce destruction.

400 years of oppression will not be undone in 50 years. Truth must continue to march on. Truth must continue to be spoken to power. Truth must overrule ignorance in action. Truth must break the bow of the oppressor. Truth must never be silent. Let truth march on!

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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Shepastor: "Menopause, Mayhem and the Ministry"

2 Corinthians 12:7-9 ERV

But I must not be too proud of the wonderful things that were shown to me. So a painful problem was given to me—an angel from Satan, sent to make me suffer, so that I would not think that I am better than anyone else. I begged the Lord three times to take this problem away from me. But the Lord said, “My grace is all you need. Only when you are weak can everything be done completely by my power.” So I will gladly boast about my weaknesses. Then Christ’s power can stay in me.

The term "mayhem" means, "The crime of maliciously injuring or maiming someone, originally so as to render the victim defenseless."

Ok, we are going to have "big girl" talk on Shepastor today! Send anyone who cannot handle this talk out of the room! Recently, my physician told me that I am entering "peri menopause." I believe her! Sometimes on and sometimes off. Periodic hot flashes, intensified mood swings, fatigue, periodic insomnia and brain fog. Can I get a witness? At times it feels like mayhem! In other words, at times I feel defenseless. Menopause does not care that I still have to preach, teach, visit the sick, pray for and encourage the discouraged, console the bereaved, counsel the wounded, depressed and confused.

And while someone might say, "See, that's why women should not become pastors," women are uniquely positioned to rely upon The Lord for an extra measure of grace and strength as we carry on the work of the ministry in earthen vessels. For some of us, menopause is the proverbial thorn in our sides. Through night sweats, fatigue, forgetfulness and clumsiness, the Holy Spirit whispers, "my grace is strength is made perfect in your weakness."

Some how God still uses us to bless, to heal, to lift, to shape, to mold, to love. The Lord comforts us in order that we may comfort others. The cavern of our wells are dug a bit deeper and wider as we wrestle with physiological mayhem, but spiritual graces of inner peace and blessed assurance. During this season of sometimes painful and unavoidable affliction, may we always remember that God's grace is sufficient. May we remember that we are not alone in this experience. Not only has The Lord promised to be with us, other sisters are going through the same struggles. May we stop pretending that nothing phases us and openly share our experiences with one another. May we prayerfully nurture and build a sisterhood that allows for transparency and support.

Hold on my sisters. This too shall pass!

Post a comment or send me an email at .

Until next Wednesday,
In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Shepastor: “Lessons From a Power Jacket and a Luau: A Story of Ministry by Rev. Denise Cunningham-Doggett, Senior Pastor, Lake Shore Christian Church”

31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25: 31-40, NIV

Isn’t it amazing how some of the greatest lessons we learn come from those to whom God sends us to minister? That is the experience of the Reverend Denise Cunningham-Doggett, Senior Pastor of Lake Shore Christian Church in Cleveland, Ohio. Prior to becoming pastor of a church, for approximately 21 years, Rev. Denise worked in various capacities and ultimately as the Executive Program Director for Family Promise of Greater Cleveland. Also known as “New Life Community,” Family Promise is a transitional housing ministry that assists homeless and jobless individuals with gaining employment and housing.

In today’s Shepastor, Rev. Denise shares some insights and experiences regarding the blessing of ministry in the midst of the homeless and indigent population in the Greater Cleveland area…

Rev. Denise Cunningham-Doggett, Senior Pastor
Lake Shore Christian Church

On last week I hosted the 8th Annual Luau for the Graduates, current residents, volunteers and staff for Family Promise of Greater Cleveland, fka New Life Community. Family Promise is a transitional housing facility on the east and west sides of Cleveland where we assist homeless, jobless families to transition to self- sufficiency by obtaining fulltime housing and employment. The homeless families stay at our Eastside location for 16 weeks until they find housing and employment. I have worked there for 21 years as the Assistant to the Development Director, Business Manager, Executive Director and Program Director. In my many years of working there I have always been humbled by working with the indigent population and the support that they have needed for self-esteem. Many times when working there, people would inquire of me, “As a minister do you get to preach there at your job?” I would always say in my office there is a sermon or a life lesson that I learn from the people. On many occasions I would prepare the women for a job search and help them get job ready by having them “dressed for success.” We have a boutique upstairs where I have cultivated a wardrobe of gently worn, quality clothes for the clients to wear for job interviews.

On one particular day, I answered a phone call at the receptionist’s desk and inadvertently took off my jack at that desk. Now, what I need to tell you about that jacket is that I referred to it as my “power jacket”… as a matter of fact, I looked pretty good in that black jacket and got lots of compliments in it when I wore it! On the way out to do a presentation on behalf of a grant I’d written for the shelter, I asked my secretary, “ Have you seen my black jacket? I seemed to have misplaced it.” After we looked a couple of places, I started to believe maybe I had left it in my car. I didn’t worry. As a professional I usually have 2 jackets in my offices to wear just in case I might need one of them. I believe in being a role model for young women, telling them how we have raised the standard and the importance of wearing the best that we have to wear when going on an interview, to school to visit our children, and in our community.

As I was getting ready to leave, one of the clients came running in my office. She was so excited to share the good news that she just had a job interview and believed that she was going to get a second interview. I couldn’t listen to her very closely because I was so intrigued that she was looking so nice! As she was talking to me I then realized that she had on MY favorite “power jacket!” I could not say very much because she was looking far better in that jacket than I ever did. But I remember thinking to myself, "That is my favorite jacket that you have on!" But I didn’t say a word to her.

God used that moment to minister to me about giving the best that we have to people. Many times I was the one to lead discussions with church and/or business organizations appealing to them to give quality donations to help homeless women. On that day, I believe God let the scripture from Matthew 25:36-40 about the Sheep and the Goats come alive in my heart...

“For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink;
I was stranger and you took Me in;
I was naked and you clothed Me;
I was sick and you took care of Me;
I was in prison and you visited Me.

…..”Lord, when did we see You hungry and fed You, or thirsty and gave You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and took You in, or without clothes and clothed You? When did we see You sick, or in prison and visit You?...
…And the King will answer them, “I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these, you have done as unto me.”

As I was going through my own stuff about that jacket, God was reminding me to let it go….and not say anything about that jacket. The jacket didn’t have all the power that I thought it had. I needed to let it go and be alright that someone else was wearing it that really needed it. Jesus has a way of teaching us to release things that are really not that important. What I really learned is that I have several jackets and more that I could let go of to help someone else. The greatest blessing of the “power jacket story,” was in a few days the “praise report” came back that the client wearing my jacket got the job!

One of the exciting events that we hold at the Center is a Luau. Many homeless and indigent families come each year to fellowship, have fun, receive school and self-care items etc., all while enjoying the Luau. This past year, it was also exciting to see the aforementioned client at the Luau. She came late, getting off the bus with her 3 children, excited to be able to say she had to work late that evening. I’m glad to report that 4 years later she has remained in the same housing and is still maintaining her employment. The client expresses gratitude that she is no longer homeless.

I share that story because of the lessons I learned through the homeless people that I got to chance to minister to daily. Through them, God reminded me that I had an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus by touching their lives. I also learned that they touched my life as well.
Stay encouraged!

Rev. Denise Cunningham-Doggett, Senior Pastor
Lake Shore Christian Church
Speak Life Ministries
End Quote

What a powerful story! Power does not reside in the things we possess, but the love of Christ in our hearts, made manifest through our willingness to give to others.

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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Shepastor: “What Will Your Epitaph Read?”

II Chronicles 26:16-23

16 But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense. 17 And Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of the LORD, that were valiant men: 18 And they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the LORD, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thine honour from the LORD God. 19 Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn incense: and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, from beside the incense altar. 20 And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked upon him, and, behold, he was leprous in his forehead, and they thrust him out from thence; yea, himself hasted also to go out, because the LORD had smitten him. 21 And Uzziah the king was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a several [1] house, being a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the LORD: and Jotham his son was over the king's house, judging the people of the land. 22 Now the rest of the acts of Uzziah, first and last, did Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, write. 23 So Uzziah slept with his fathers, and they buried him with his fathers in the field of the burial which belonged to the kings; for they said, He is a leper: and Jotham his son reigned in his stead.

Uzziah's name means, "Yahweh is my strength." 2nd Chronicles chapter 26 starts out by describing the beginnings of a great ruler. When we first read about Uzziah in this text, he is a 16 year old boy that has been chosen to rule over Judah, the Southern Kingdom, when his father Amaziah died. He had at his disposal all of the riches, servants, craftsmen, builders and other skilled workers that could assist him in whatever he desired to be done. This was not unusual, during this day and age, for it was understood and was customary that when a king died, his son, no matter how young would rule in his place.

In addition to skilled workers, the kings were also guided by prophets and priests. In Uzziah's case, he had the prophet Zechariah. In Uzziah's early days, he relied upon God. The text says that Zechariah taught Uzziah to respect and obey God. As long as He obeyed The Lord, God granted him great success. He conquered enemy nations, he over threw kings and kingdoms, he built high and strong towers. His fame spread abroad around the ancient world. He was respected and revered.

But the scripture says, "but when he became strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction." Vs. 16 .

The scripture says pride goeth before a fall. A deacon from my home church used to pray, "Lord, don't let us come thinking too highly of ourselves..."

In 1969, Senator Richard Milhous Nixon became the 37th President of the United States. His rise to power was swift and strong. He established himself as a genius of foreign policy and diplomatic relations. He garnered the respect of national and international leaders. He was despised by some and revered by many. His first term as President was viewed as masterful. He was well on his way to leaving a legacy as a giant of a leader. In 1972 the record declares that he pummeled his Democratic opponent, George McGovern, who only carried Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. Nixon won 60% of the popular vote. His victory was unparalleled in election history. It was a landslide win that had never been seen before, nor ever again.

But something happened. Soon the nation would learn of "dirty tricks" used such as wire taps, secret recordings and breaks into the Democratic Headquarters at the now famous Watergate building to learn about the campaign strategies of the Democrats and also to discover any dirty laundry that could be used to undermine the Democratic Presidential contender, McGovern.

Ultimately the scandals brought down the entire Nixon presidency and he had to leave office in shame and disgrace. Although he tried desperately to rehabilitate his reputation, even now, when you hear the name, Richard Nixon, you think “Watergate.”

Started out so good but ended up so bad. He no doubt would have won the election any way, but pride, insecurity, greed and a controlling spirit lured him into paths of humiliation and destruction. When he became strong...

You can start out so good and end up so bad. When you had little or nothing, nobody knew your name, when you were glad for any opportunity to have or to do or to go, God was at the top of the list. Nobody could beat you getting to church on Sunday morning. Ready and eager to serve in the Sunday School, happy to sing in the choir, willing to sweep the floor, faithful and dutiful in every way. But something happened. God began to bless you. God began to open some doors for you. God began to slay some giants for you.

All of a sudden you found yourself sitting in seats and places and spaces that you'd never been before. People began to know and respect who you were. Your shoulders started raising up a little higher. You didn't have to shop at the discount stores any longer, you could go to the boutique. You didn't have to stand over a hot stove with a marcellous hot iron any more, you could spend well over $60 and $75 a week to get your hair done. You didn't have to worry about using Sally Hanson nailpolish any longer, now you can go and get your French tips filled in on a weekly basis. You didn’t have to worry about getting your hands dirty shining your one pair of shoes, you could now go and get your shoes shined. You now have so many shoes that it doesn’t even matter. Once you only had one black and maybe, one blue suit. Now you have a suit for every occasion!

You have to be careful when your change comes. There is a temptation to think you made it on your own. There is a temptation to forget that God and God alone gave you that house, gave you that position, gave you that job, gave you that money, gave you that opportunity, God blessed you. God kept you. God made you who you are. God can and will bless you. God has promised to make our way prosperous and lead us to our designated promised lands. But God will not tolerate us giving His glory to anybody else, including ourselves.

Foolish pride results in shame. Foolish pride will bring you down. It does not matter how well you started out. You've got to endure endure to the end. He that endureth to the end will receive a crown of life. You've come too far, God has been too good God has been too faithful for you to lose sight of what really matters.

The scripture says that King Uzziah, after he became strong, forgot God. He followed in the footsteps of his father, who also started out good, but in the end, forgot God. Uzziah Thought that he had become so great that he ignored the council of God's representative.

It does not matter how much you think you know, you still have to listen to somebody. God has some spokes persons that he has put in your midst to remind you that you don't have all of the answers, you don't know all of God's directions, you need somebody every now and then to meet you at the throne of grace and pray with you until the answer comes!

Uzziah forgot that and he stepped out of his place, out of his lane, out of his position to assume a place that was not appointed for him. He refused to listen. He refused to be humble. He refused to honor God's representative and as a result he became leprous in his brow. He was now diseased. He was now shamed. He was now put out. He was now removed from his kingship. He died and was buried alone. The last thing that was said about Uzziah was that he was leprous.

What will be the last thing that is said about you? You couldn't control your anger? You refused to listen? You allowed foolish pride to prevent you from receiving lessons God had for you? You didn't know how to handle your affairs? You were mean? You were selfish? You never finished anything you started.? You wore your feelings on your sleeve? You couldn’t be trusted?

Or will it be said that you helped people? You loved unconditionally? You were a godly man or woman? You stood for what was right? You served The Lord with gladness? You gave your all? What will be said about you?

Ultimately, all that matters is what is written about you in the Lord's record. Will He Say well done? Will He call you redeemed? Will He know your name?

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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Shepastor: “Ministering to the Least of These,” A Testimony and Challenge From Rev. Monica Harmon, Chaplain.”

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,” Luke 4:18 NIV

This week, Shepastor is reposting this important interview given by Rev. Monica Harmon...

A few weeks ago, I had an intriguing conversation with Rev. Monica Harmon, an Associate Minister at Antioch Baptist Church, Cleveland, Ohio and a community chaplain. She shared with me her experience of visiting a women’s prison in Topeka, Kansas during the American Baptist Biennial. Particularly striking was her story involving a young woman whose mother, sister and two brothers were all incarcerated. The woman, her mother and sister were all located at the same prison. This tragedy compelled me to ask Rev. Monica about her thoughts as she reflected upon this jarring experience. Below is her response…

The Five C’s

Tasha Cobbs, has the hottest new single “Break Every Chain.” This war cry is really an intercession for captives to be set free. Today we must continue to intercede for the least of these. Some of us may never go behind prison walls. You need to ask yourself why or why not? We have distanced ourselves from this reality for the least of these who find themselves serving time for one reason or another. My experience at the Topeka Correctional Institute is related to the Five C’s; challenge, call, communication, compassion and commitment. Recently, The American Baptist Home Mission Societies’ Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling Ministries invited ABC Chaplains for a two day training. Included in the training was an invitation to participate in a trip to Topeka Correctional Institute. While I was not excited about the idea, I decided to participate with the plan. As a result I was changed forever.

The U.S. criminal justice system challenges us to deal with the millions who are incarcerated. We are challenged to deal with the millions of children who are affected by their parent(s) being incarcerated. We are challenged, as Dr. Michelle Alexander states in her book, The New Jim Crow,” by legalized discrimination, demonization and criminalization of black men and women. We are challenged by those who believe justice is blind and everyone gets a fair trial. We are challenged by those who say social justice is no longer an issue.

We are called in Isaiah 61:1 and Luke 4:18 to set those who are captives free. We are called to give them the good news. We are called to visit them according to Matthew 25:35-46. You and I have a responsibility to be our brothers’ keeper. You may say, “He is not my brother.” He may not be your brother, but he or she is somebody’s brother or sister. Where is your brother? Cain responded to the Lord, “Am I my brothers’ keeper?” If not you, then who? We can no longer look for others to do for us, what we must do for ourselves.

We must begin to dialogue with those behind bars. When I heard those women’s stories I was amazed as to how they make it from day to day. Many are serving life sentences. We have to become active listeners. We need to hear their stories. We need to find out who is looking after their children. The most important part of any relationship is communication. Without communication there is no relation.

We need compassion in order to reach those behind bars who society has forgotten. I admit it, I had forgotten about women in prison until I was able to put a name with a face on them. Compassion was the key that kept me that day. It was not my love for them, but God’s divine love that enabled me to listen- listen without judgment. God is our only judge.
In order for change to take place in our society we must be committed to the least of these. We must be willing to open ourselves in order to be committed to changing what has become an epidemic. Wake up American. Wake up. We have been asleep too long. It is time to wake up. Where are the Drum Majors for Justice? Michelle Alexander’s work, The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, is a wake-up call for us all. I strongly urge you to read it!
Rev. Monica Harmon, Chaplain

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Until Next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Shepastor: "May This Bloodshed Not Be In Vain"

John 12:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit. ASV

This past week, America was reminded in painful ways that we still have many rivers to cross when it comes to race relations. Although we have elected for two terms our first African American President, racism still looms large in America.

Statistics show that African American and Hispanic males are significantly more likely to be profiled, detained, prosecuted, incarcerated and killed than their Euro American counterparts. Though not to the extreme, as an African American woman, I too have experienced the sting and frustration of racial profiling. As I visit certain stores or neighborhoods, as I enter certain meetings or business rooms, the stares, the sudden appearance of a security guard, the not so subtle store clerk following me around, all serve as reminders that my milk chocolate brown skin still produces fear and suspicion in the majority society.

While legal pundits will argue that the recent tragedy of the murder of Trayvon Martin was not about racial profiling, common sense dictates otherwise. One can't help but wonder if this seventeen year old boy were White, walking down the street on the phone, eating skittles and drinking tea, if he would have been labeled, "suspicious." Arguments that Trayvon had drugs in his system, was guilty of previous crimes, appeared menacing, etc. are irrelevant. The simple fact is that he was walking home.

The testimony of his friend on the phone was discounted because she was in articulate, offensive to some in her appearance and "raw" in her testimony. Although cell phone records proved consistent with her testimony regarding timing, 911 calls revealed racial slurs and an admonition to stay in his car, George Zimmerman, armed with a gun, chose to follow and confront an unarmed, teenager.

Wasn't this child afraid? Wasn't this child filled with anxiety? Wasn't this child concerned about his safety? How did Zimmerman approach him? Did he walk up on him (as Trayvon's friend on the cell phone seemed to indicate)? We will never know. Only Zimmerman's account was believed. An unarmed teenager simply walking home, profiled and stalked by a stranger armed with a 9 millimeter gun fights for his life and is then shot and killed. No attempt was made to discover his identity. As his body lay in a morgue for days, labeled "John Doe," Zimmerman tells his story to the police and is allowed to go home. Only after Trayvon's father filed a missing person's report was his identity made known. Our hearts are broken.

May this tragedy provoke us to enter meaningful dialogue about dangerous laws, stereotypes and their implications and race relations in America. May Trayvon's shed blood push us to produce the fruit of "Justice for all," in our great Nation. I encourage you to visit Essence Magazine's article, "The Danger Outside: How Can We Protect Our Black Boys," at to consider further the realities that exist in our society.

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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Shepastor: "Lazarus Dreams..."

John 11:38-41 Again feeling very upset, Jesus came to the tomb. It was a cave with a large stone covering the entrance. He said, "Move the stone away. ”Martha said, “But, Lord, it has been four days since Lazarus died. There will be a bad smell.” Martha was the sister of the dead man. "Then Jesus said to her, 'Remember what I told you? I said that if you believed, you would see God’s divine greatness.' So they moved the stone away from the entrance. Then Jesus looked up and said, 'Father, I thank you that you heard me.'" ERV

The prolific Harlem Renaissance poet, Langston Hughes raised the question, "What happens to a dream deferred?" We can inquire further, "What happens when stones cover the passage way to our dreams? Is there hope that dead dreams can be revived?"

A Facebook friend recently posted the picture seen at the top of this post. After chuckling a while, I reflected upon its painful truth shared in a comical way. So often pessimists, fear, guilt, relatives and absent friends place stones before the passage way of our dreams. "Tombed up" and deferred for many seasons, often beautiful, possible, remarkable dreams die. How often have individuals shared their dreams and visions only to have them ridiculed, called silly or foolish, pummeled by others.

Be careful with whom you share your dreams. Be prayerful about the individuals with whom you share the hopes, visions and desires God has placed within your spirit. Be discerning about the recommendations and advice you accept, particularly from those who may have become bitter about life. If per chance your dreams are sealed up in a tomb, remember Jesus' words to Martha, "Then Jesus said to her, “Remember what I told you? I said that if you believed, you would see God’s divine greatness.” So they moved the stone away from the entrance. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you heard me."ERV

God can show you His divine greatness. Remember that Jesus petitions the Father on our behalf. Remember what Jesus said, that He is the Resurrection and the life... Remember that through Christ, resurrection, not only in eternity, but in our spirits, our dreams and our future is possible. Allow The Lord to call upon individuals in your life to help to roll the stone away. It does not matter how long the dreams have been in the tomb. They are willing and able to move at God's command. "Where are those who will assist me with removing the stone?" You ask? Begin the resurrection conversation with Jesus. Soon you will see them emerge. It begins with your inquiry.

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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris