Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Shepastor: "At the Expense of Our Daughters..."

Acts 2:17-18
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.

"At the Expense of Our Daughters..."
This year, the Academy Awards honored the movie, Twelve Years a Slave as the film of the year. The movie depicted the real life, tragic experiences of an African American freedman named Solomon Northup. The extraordinary actor who brilliantly played the role of Solomon was Chiwetel Ejiofor. Few people, however, can pronounce or even remember his name. That night and continued days after, the spotlight was and remains upon the beautiful African actress, Lupita Nyong’o who played, “Patsey.”

Articulate, stunning and moving, she gave her acceptance speech as one of few women of color to receive an Academy Award. We shouted, celebrated, rejoiced at this milestone reached for women in general and women of color in particular. The night, however, was filled with mixed emotions. As the camera panned the audience, it momentarily focused upon the movie’s main actor/character, Chiwetel…eyes filled with tears…possibly because his heart was filled with joy and pride over the success of the film. But possibly, because it was as if he was invisible at that moment – the spotlight upon Lupita. This man who worked so hard, gave so much of himself, “acted his heart out” was passed over by the Academy…again, few even knowing or remembering his name.

People of color often live with this tension…our men being passed over again and again, our women getting a few opportunities to rise and shine. This reality has been the cause of great angst in the African American community.

The one entity that has given an answer for this strange kind of oppression is the church. The African American church, historically, has been the one place where our boys and our men are given the opportunity to rise to high levels of authority, be greatly respected and even revered…a place where their manhood is pumped, praised and presented…a place where pastors and bishops, deacons and elders can stand upon the platform, speak God’s Word, rally our communities, confront city hall and fill the void found in the hearts of so many women. Frequently, sadly, this affirmation happens at the expense of our women and girls.

Women in these settings, called by God to preach and pastor are often rejected, resented and rebuked. Although slowly changing, (more and more African American churches are accepting women preachers as “associates”) precious few are willing to call a woman to pastor. Frequently, the lay women deeply resent clergywomen who appear to them to be “usurping” the men’s authority. The complexities of racism, sexism and chauvinism all interlock to maintain “glass ceilings” for women in ministry.

I was reminded of this fact this week as I attended a local clergy group meeting. As we discussed the annual “Seven Last Words of Jesus” service that happens in many African American communities on Good Friday, the convener of this year’s gathering presented the preachers for the event. Last year, I was privileged to be one of the first (if not the first) female to preach during this group’s service. It was quite an honor. I was hopeful that another woman would have the chance to be at least one of the seven again this year.

As the program was discussed, it was apparent that no woman would be invited to preach this year. The pastor leading the event shared that one of the “young men” was unable to come so they had to find someone to fill his spot. When I respectfully asked if since a spot had opened up if a woman could be added to the roster, I was unprepared for the hostile response… “In all due respect, I don’t have to prove my stance on inclusivity! I have several women on my church staff…my wife is the co-pastor of my church…I did invite a young woman to come, but she is going out of town. I don’t know any other young woman that I could invite!”

(So interesting that he didn’t think to invite one of his staff clergywomen!) Again, respectfully, I responded, “Dr., there is an entire network of clergywomen in our community and I would be glad to provide to you their names…” He retorted, “I don’t know anything about that network! We are not trying to have you all who are pretending to be young…anybody 40-50 or 60 is not young! We are trying to get some young people! This year we are show casing our young men! I don’t have to prove anything about inclusivity!”

Unfortunately, he went on to attempt to “put me in my place,” after I dared (to quote Theodore Roosevelt) to “step into the arena.” His hostile words stung. A few of the men said, “AMEN!” Most, however, remained quiet. His behavior was a bit surprising. Call me a “sucker for punishment,” but after the meeting, I decided to go directly over to him to see if we could have a reasonable conversation…maybe he was having a bad day! Sadly, his conversation remained the same.

As I attempted to speak with him about the need for our clergy group to consistently show support for women in ministry, he continued to cut me off, speak over me and inform me that “this is not his issue.” “If women are not getting opportunities where they are, they should leave and go elsewhere. I have always supported women in ministry. I’ve always been inclusive. But it is not my job to try and make people who don’t accept women to accept them. That’s just not my issue. It is not in my heart!”

I said to him that we all have issues and we need to learn to be sensitive to each other’s issues. I reminded him that if he was having difficulty identifying a “young woman” to preach, it is because many of the women don’t get the opportunity to be licensed and or ordained until they are in their 40’s and 50’s. I also reminded him of the similarities between sexism and racism…the dominant culture not seeing the struggles of minorities as “their issue.” What if that mentality had persisted? We would still be sitting on the back of the bus and drinking from “colored” fountains! Thank God, others linked arms with us and saw our pain and struggle as a global issue instead of a singular situation!

Today reminded me that we frequently lift our men at the expense of our women. Today reminded me of the wounds caused by oppression and how the church has sought to bind those wounds by replicating that which they claim to despise. Today reminded me that even though great progress has been made, we still have miles to go before we sleep. Today reminded me that we must continue to beat the drum, stand upon the watch tower, stand in the gap, and refuse to embody the ways of any oppressor. We must lift, love, build up, strengthen and encourage our men AND our women! We must empower both, not one at the expense of the other.

Post a comment or send me an email at

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

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Shepastor: "Telltale Signs That You're Veering Off Purpose..."

1 You're blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God. 2 You're blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him. 3 That's right - you don't go off on your own; you walk straight along the road he set. 4 You, God, prescribed the right way to live; now you expect us to live it. 5 Oh, that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course you set; 6 Then I'd never have any regrets in comparing my life with your counsel. 7 I thank you for speaking straight from your heart; I learn the pattern of your righteous ways. 8 I'm going to do what you tell me to do; don't ever walk off and leave me. Psalm 119: 1-8, The Message Translation of the Bible

“Telltale Signs That You’re Veering Off Purpose”

Last Sunday during our church small group sessions, we studied the topic, “God is Always Good, but the Good is Not Always God.” As Christians, we may be clear about what we should and should not do regarding sinful behavior. However, we may not be so clear when it comes to “good and good.” In other words, there may be times when we must choose between two or more good options. We may also have it in our hearts to do a “good thing,” but it is not God’s will. We need the Holy Spirit to help us discern when even something “good” is not God’s will for our lives at a particular time or ever.

Even good things can become hindrances to staying on the course that the Lord has spoken for our lives. Some are stressed because of becoming involved in too many good things! Today, Shepastor considers this important topic to help us to get back on the track the Lord intends for us to follow…

“The Top 10 Ways to Reduce Stress When You Can’t Take a Holiday”
By Carolyn Matheson

1. Revisit your priorities.
Make a list of the top five priorities in your life now. Rank these in order of importance. When you're stressed and overwhelmed, revisit these priorities and remind yourself what's most important to you.

2. Put things in perspective.
Think about how important whatever is stressing you will be in a week, a month, or a year from now.

3. Look at the big picture.
Relax and take a step back. What's really important to you?

4. Simplify your life.
What do you put up with or take on? What annoys you? Let go of the things you have no control over. Deal with the things you can do something about, to the best of your ability. Look at areas of body/health, home, work, lifestyle, relationships and finance.

5. Listen to the Holy Spirit
You will start to notice the peace of God in everyday life and the support of the Lord ordering your steps.

6. Create a de-stressing toolbox.
Create a toolbox of things that can bring you back from stress. Your toolbox may include a favorite CD, poem, quote or beautiful picture. Find something to laugh about. Whatever helps calm your mind.

7. Change what you are doing.
If your job involves a lot of thinking and problem solving, do the opposite, try working with your hands, e.g., painting, gardening, clearing out a wardrobe or creating something. If you work with your hands, try learning something new, writing or investigating a subject on the Internet.

8. Listen to your body.
Eat the right foods for your body including lots of fruit and vegetables, and drink plenty of water. Stretch, meditate or go for a walk. Take a warm bath or shower. Talk to a positive friend. Do what your body needs and your brain will be rewarded. Get some rest, an early night or a quiet weekend.

9. Recognize fear of failure.
Look rationally at the situation; write down your worst possible fear and the worst possible outcome. It is not likely to be as bad as you think and you will survive. Have the courage to do things you are afraid of.

10. Do something you love.
Make time to do something you're passionate about. You will be surprised how it will change your outlook on life.
Post a comment or send me an email at

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

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Shepastor: “Lessons From Ants, Badgers and Lizards Part III: The Lizard…”

Four Small Wonders
24-28 There are four small creatures,
wisest of the wise they are—
ants—frail as they are,
get plenty of food in for the winter;
marmots—vulnerable as they are,
manage to arrange for rock-solid homes;
locusts—leaderless insects,
yet they strip the field like an army regiment;
lizards—easy enough to catch,
but they sneak past vigilant palace guards
Proverbs 30: 24-28 the Message Translation

This is our last lesson in our three week series, “Lessons From Ants, Badgers and Lizards.” Today, Shepastor focuses upon the lizard.
From the ants we learned to be disciplined and not spiritually lazy. From the badger, a creature the Scripture refers to as “vulnerable and powerless,” we learned to build our homes “among the rocks,” and use our spiritual jaws to hold on tight and our spiritual feet and hands to “dig deep.” The lizard teaches us how to move past, “gate keepers.”

Proverbs 30: 28 in the Message translation of the Bible states,

lizards—easy enough to catch,
but they sneak past vigilant palace guards

“How in the world did you end up there?” “What right do you have to be there?” “You are not welcomed here…” These are all statements that could be made about a lizard ending up in a palace. Lizards are not the prettiest creatures. If I saw one in my house I would probably jump, scream, and call my husband or sons to come and get it out immediately! The Scripture, however, calls the lizard “wise.” Although it seems to be easily caught, it is able to get past even the strongest guards. What can we learn from the lizard? The lizard is not concerned about what people think. The lizard’s objective is to get into the palace! It is not concerned about its appearance, whether or not it belongs or even if it will be stopped. It heads for the palace.

What has hindered you from “heading for the palace?” What high and beautiful places has the Lord called you to and you have allowed the opinions of others, the negativity of others, or your own low opinion of yourself to keep you from leaping towards higher plains? When will you accept God's view of you, even above your own? Why not accept the Lord's invitation to the palace?

The lizard knows when to leap… lizards hang out in the corner until the right time. When it discerns that its chances will be best, it quietly throws its tail in the air and propels forward, leaping towards its destination. It is able to successfully move past event the strongest gate keepers.

The term, “gate keeper” conjures up images of armed guards. But gate keepers can simply be people or anything that stands in the way of you gaining entrance or access. Sometimes people are gate keepers…deliberately blocking access or entrance to other people, positions, groups, relationships, etc. Sometimes our emotions are gate keepers – blocking us from entering psychological or real arenas. If you think that gatekeepers are blocking your access to something, ask the Lord to show you when and how to “leap.”

Psalms 75: 6-7 declares,
For promotion cometh neither from the east,
nor from the west, nor from the south.
7 But God is the judge:
he putteth down one, and setteth up another

Promotion comes from the Lord. While human beings may throw up road blocks and hindrances for a season, God ultimately can show you when, how and where to “leap” towards your “palace.” No human can stop God’s will and purpose for your life. If the gate keeper, however, is your own fear and trepidation, you must first process the reasons why and seek God’s guidance and godly counsel so that you will be able to place trust in God above your fears.

Finally, lizards swing their tails up and keep them moving…
Consider these facts about lizards:

The scientists found that the way lizards swing their tails upwards mid-leap is key to a 'safe landing' on a tree - but that throwing their tail in the air isn't enough. Lizards move their tails in mid-flight to stay stable during a leap.
University of California, Berkeley, biologists and engineers studied how lizards manage to leap successfully even when they slip and stumble, and found that swinging the tail upward is the key to preventing a forward pitch that could send them head-over-heels into a tree
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Lizards turn themselves upward and keep their tails moving! Even when they slip and stumble, they continue to swing their tails upward and keep moving. We will have times of “slipping and stumbling” on our upward journey. But if we continue to turn ourselves “upward,” looking to the Lord, seeking God’s face, taking hold to the wisdom, guidance and promises of His Holy Word, by faith, we will be able to keep moving toward our God given goals.

Like the lizard, let us ignore those who suggest we shouldn’t be here or there. May we go where the Lord leads. Like the lizard, may we use godly wisdom and discernment to know when and how to leap past gate keepers. Like the lizard, may we continue to turn ourselves upward and keep on pressing toward the mark of our high calling in Christ Jesus!

Post a comment or send me an email at
Until Next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Shepastor: “Lessons From the Badger…”

Proverbs 30:24-28
The Message (MSG)

Four Small Wonders
24-28 There are four small creatures,
wisest of the wise they are—
ants—frail as they are,
get plenty of food in for the winter;
marmots (badgers)—vulnerable as they are,
manage to arrange for rock-solid homes;
locusts—leaderless insects,
yet they strip the field like an army regiment;
lizards—easy enough to catch,
but they sneak past vigilant palace guards.

This is our second, “lesson” in our series about ants, badgers and lizards. Today’s focus is upon the badger. I confess: I know little or nothing about badgers. I’ve never even seen one! However, I was intrigued with the proverbial writer’s observation about the badger’s wisdom.

Verse 26 of Proverbs Chapter 30 in the Revised Standard Version is stated in this way…

26 the badgers are a people without power,
yet they make their homes in the rocks;
The Message Bible states it like this…

26 marmots (badgers)—vulnerable as they are,
manage to arrange for rock-solid homes;

The Bible likens badgers to “vulnerable people without power.” Bodily, badgers have short legs, are low to the ground and have to dig deep for their food. God, however, has given them extremely strong jaws and the ability to dig deep, enabling them to dig and build homes even in and among rocks.

Jesus once admonished that the “wise” are like those who build their homes on a rock… (Matthew 7: 24-25, NRSV)

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock.

Despite the badger’s “vulnerabilities” and “powerlessness,” God gave it the wisdom and strength to build its home in and among rocks. They have to dig deep. Jesus declared that if we listen to and obey His words, we, like the badger will be wise and will be able to stand the tests, the storms, the adversities, the struggles of life.

There are times when life propels us into circumstances that produce feelings of powerlessness and vulnerability – things over which we have no particular control…injustices, prejudice, sexism, disease, job loss, wayward children, death, generational/familial dysfunction, etc. Yet God’s Word gives us hope…if we choose wisdom, we too can “build our houses among the rocks,” but we have to dig deep. Jesus is the rock. The Word of God, when received, believed, followed and applied moves us from a position of vulnerability and powerlessness to becoming more than conquerors…but we must determine to dig deep.

No matter what our situation or circumstance, the Word of God can teach us how to prevail…but we have to dig deep. When we embrace the promises of God, they raise us above any power or principality that seeks to keep us down and or destroy us…but we must dig deep! God has also given, not only biblical “faith hero’s and shero’s,” but modern day “rocks” that have risen above trials, struggles and impossibilities – triumphing over satan’s rage…those women and men who chose to dig deep, refusing to allow that which was without to nullify that which was within.

Choose to build your “home” among “the rocks.” Build your hopes, dreams, prayers and aspiration upon Jesus and His Word. Build your house among those “rocks” that have done and are doing the same. Avoid the “Elijah” syndrome – you are not alone… you are not the only one going through…you are not the only one who has “haters!” Run to the rock, stand upon the rock, build your home among the rocks – consider the badger and be wise!

Next week we’ll consider the wisdom of the lizard!

Post a comment or send me an email at

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