The Loudmouth Protestant

February 27, 2009

Fasting for a Stronghold

Here we are, day three in the Lenten season and day three of my quest to be changed by the power of His spirit. I decided to take a “balls to the wall” approach to my fasting this season and I cut it down to nothing but the bare essentials. Some think it extreme, but I consider it getting back to the basics of life. The disciples didn’t have the distractions we have now and I think that’s what made it relatively easy for them to take up their crosses and follow him. Here we are thousands of years later with a ton of distractions that have done more harm than good.

The Blackberries, iPhones, Facebook, Myspace, television, drinking, partying, fornicating, etc, have all become our strongholds. They have a tight grip on our lives so much to the point that we’ve convinced ourselves that we are in need of them. If we were to be honest, we pay more attention to them than we do to God. You don’t think so? How many times a day do check your phone compared to how many times you talk to, think about, worship, or praise God? When you are on Facebook building your friend list, how many of those people–the ones you know and the ones you don’t–are you praying for earnestly? When you’re at a party, fully convincing yourself that you’re not doing anything wrong, just a little two step and one drink, how do you figure you are representing the kingdom? And this makes me pause for a second to bring up the word of a young minister I admire. In his portion of a Good Friday “Seven Last Words” sermon entitled “There to Judge”  he said, “How are you going to say that you are called apart and then be at every single party that the heathens are at? One or two is ok, but if it’s your name that they’re dropping at the door to get in free after 12AM there’s a problem with that…The world is making its judgment on what to do with this man named Jesus based on your testimony and your activity.”

So much of what we do, the outward presentation of ourselves and our inner life, predicates our life in Christ. And I write this to bring to the attention the body of Christ that the strongholds we have on all the world has produced heretofore and it’s new inventions for the future must be destroyed. Destroyed in regards to the precedence we give them over God. Psalm 94:22 was my original inspiration for this post. “But the Lord has become my stronghold…” (NRSV) I read this before I went to bed last night and kept thinking, “Wow, God as a stronghold, that is the best stronghold to have. I want that stronghold.”

We often talk about strongholds in terms of their negative influence on our lives and gloss over the fact that in many translations, God’s people, like David for instance, referred to God as his stronghold. But imagine if we spent more of our time being concerned about being obessed with God. Like Jazmine Sullivan singing about a love interest–and she could be singing about God–in “Need U Bad.” How awesome would it be to put God in that place? The place where God is such a stronghold that a moment without him reminds you that you need him bad like your heartbeat, bad like the food you eat, need him bad you can’t take this pain, because you’re about go insane. We do need him bad like that but somehow we don’t even take it that seriously figuring, “It doesn’t take all of that.” If I’m only speaking for myself and a handful of people I confess it does take all of that.

This Lenten season is about breaking strongholds, not about abstaining from something only to bring it back on April 12th. It’s about getting rid of everything that is creating a barrier to a true relationship with God. And in its place, creating space for the one true God, the author and finisher of our fate, the one who, if it wasn’t for his existence, nothing we have on this earth right now would exist…Including us.

February 26, 2009

A Stolen Moment

Filed under: randomness — nickisym @ 2:59 pm
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This morning I had the opportunity to reminisce with my colleagues about dolls and our childhood affairs with them. For any women reading this, you knew what a deep connection you had with your Barbie, her clothes, her Ken and her little flat-footed sister Skipper. I owned quite a few Barbies and accompanying pieces to fit her life. With all of this,  I would go over my childhood friend’s house and we would have Barbie playtime. I remember being anal about the way I set out Barbie’s clothes. Everything had to be arranged by occasion, so the casual clothes were on the top rows, dresses in the middle and gowns on the bottom. We’d dress our dolls and play with them in mock fashion for what seemed like hours. It was all fun and games until it wasn’t. And then the day came that would change the trajectory of my playtime with dolls and my trust issues with people and dolls forever.

It was a summer afternoon like any other. I brought my dolls to my friend’s house and set up as usual but this day was special because my mom had just bought me a Shani doll. Shani was the new doll Mattel created to appease the demands of black mothers who wanted a more realistic doll for their little girls. She was an African-American doll who wore a beautiful gown of pinks, purples and blues. Her hair was thick and wavy, her lips full, and from what I remember her proportions were way closer to my current proportions than Barbie’s unrealistic 39-18-33 measurements. I loved Shani. I was proud to be the first kid of the block with one. I shared Shani with my friends and we played gleefully that afternoon until I got the call that dinner was ready at home and I ran out the door…without Shani.

“No worries,” I thought. Shani would be there when I came back tomorrow for the sequel. But when I came back the next day, Shani was gone. Everything else remained in tact. The clothes I left, the other dolls I left, but Shani was gone. “Where is she?” I asked my friend. She didn’t know. My mind raced and the room spun as I wondered where my Shani could have gone but like Sherlock Holmes, I unlocked the case in no time.

What I failed to mention is that the day I debuted Shani was an unusual playdate in that my friend had her two cousins from Brooklyn over–the two cousins would come over for a week or two every summer because Queens was apparently a luxurious retreat for Brooklyn kids. One of the cousins I loved and the other I kept as a distance because I got the feeling she didn’t like me. I always bristled when I realized people didn’t like me because I wondered, “Why not, what’s not to like?” So anyways, my skills of deduction lead me to believe that the other cousin took my doll back to Brooklyn with her and she didn’t do it by accident. Why? Because she didn’t come from Brooklyn with any dolls. It was just her, her Jheri curl and her Keds. I had caught her red-handed dripping with Soul Glo with my Shani…If only in my mind. I confronted my friend who told her mom but cousin Jheri denied it.

I was devastated beyond belief and truth be told, the retelling of this story makes me a little sad that I didn’t do two things, one make my parents follow the trail of her Jheri curl juice straight to her house and reclaim my Shani and two, make my parents buy me another one. Why didn’t they do the latter you ask? Trust and believe they weren’t broke, they were trying to teach me a lesson of never trusting other people with my stuff.

Well it’s still an unsolved mystery more than a decade later but it stings like it was yesterday. R.I.P Shani.

February 25, 2009

Contemplating Lent

Filed under: christianity,God — nickisym @ 12:06 am
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It’s that time of year on the liturgical calendar again. The time when many Christians give up their vices and delve deeper into the spiritual practices they’ve only been shallowly swimming in. But there’s something different about this year. A sense of urgency in the season and a sense of necessity in our paying close attention to what we are doing with this season of consecration. For me, this Lenten season feels like a defining moment. What I give up is so closely tied to what I believe will be my breakthrough in God, but not only that, this time of swimming in the deep with God excites me. He’s already shown me some of what He wants to show me during the 40-day period and I completely co-sign with Him that this time together is what we need. I need this 40-plus days to be all up in His face as best as I can be. Not for the purpose of just being in His face, but staying in His face, for 40 days.

The number 4o has great significance in the Bible. It took Israel 40 years to get to the Promised Land. Noah was on the ark for 40 days and 40 nights until he was delivered into the land. Jonah gave the people of Nineveh 40 days to repent. Elijah walked Mount Horeb for 40 days. Moses spent 40 days on Mount Sinai with God. And then there was Jesus spending 40 days in the wilderness while being tempted by the devil. 40 whole days each of these people pressed into the presence of God by praying, fasting, listening to and communing with Him. Remembering how each of those people thought it not robbery to just follow God for the 40 days impresses upon me the importance of getting the stamina to stay with Him for 40 days. Think about how many 40-day periods we’ve spent doing meaningless things which add nothing to us.

When I think about the upcoming 40 days, I think about the impact it can have on my life as it concerns taking me to another level in my life of worship. Taking my prayer life to another level. My worship and adoration of Him to another level. My giving to another level. My person to another level. This 40 days can change my life in God and take our relationship to the next level I’ve been wanting to go to. Given that, I realize that giving up the trappings of this world will only enhance that time together. Giving up certain foods, television, Facebook, shopping, etc, will only draw you in closer to God because that is you telling God, “You know what? Nothing really matters except for you.” It’s about us perfecting our relationship with the creator and not His created things. 

We should be more than happy to turn our plates down in favor of seeing what amazing food God will give us. Happy to turn off our televisions to see how God already gave us the most amazing stories to glean from in His word. Happy to walk away from Facebook knowing that we have a friend who sticks closer than a brother and will write on the wall of our hearts all day everyday. Happy to stop spending money frivolously when we could better offer that money to local charities and our churches. Happy to just give up anything that creates a roadblock to an untainted relationship with God. My rule of thumb is, “If you are struggling with giving it up, it most likely is what you need to give up.”

I can ramble on about this because the season we are entering as the body of Christ really excites me. Not to make this a results driven process, but if done correctly, God will reveal some things to us unlike ever before. But he can only do this if we consider it not robbery to press into his presence for the next 40-plus days.

February 20, 2009

Lenten Sacrifices

Filed under: God,spirituality,Uncategorized — nickisym @ 6:42 pm
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Lenten Giving

Lenten Giving

As a companion piece to my upcoming post on Lent, I’d like to offer this calendar provided by the Mennonite Mission Network. It’s chock full of idea for sacrfices to make during Lent which range from the usual food to prayer and services.

I’m Scared

Filed under: life,music — nickisym @ 1:30 am

I’ve never been afraid to admit that I am a scary person. I’ve been so since I was a child but as I’ve grown, the things I am scared of have become a little less based on fiction and little more based on the strange reality around me. My reality played loudly in my ears the other day when I discovered R&B artist’s Jazmine Sullivan’s song, “Fear” off of her debut album “Fearless.” If you’ve spent anytime reading this blog over the years, you’ll not be surprised to find that I found some amazing connecting points between me and this song. And since I’m not scared to be transparent, I wanted to share the lyrics of the song–with the bolded parts being my fears. 

Fear: Jazmine Sullivan

I’m Scared to try cuz I’m scared to fail
I’m scared to die cuz I’m scared of hell
I’m scared to kiss scared to hug
I’m scared of sex cuz I’m scared to touch

I’m scared to look cuz I’m scared to see
I’m scared of you cuz I’m scared of me
I’m scared to fly cuz I’m scared to crash
I’m scared to move on so I live in the past

I’m scared to fight cuz I’m scared to bleed
I’m scared of love cuz I’m scared he’ll leave
I’m scared of drugs I’m scared to drink
I’m scared to swim cuz I’m scared to sink

I’m scared to learn cuz I’m scared of truth
Don’t wanna gain weight cuz I’m scared of food
I’m scared to think that the label dropped me
I’m scared to think of my album floppin…

This may sound silly but its true
So don’t pretend it ain’t you too
We all afraid of something here
Cuz you aint human with out fear

I’m scared to start cuz I’m scared I’ll quit
I’m scared that people won’t like my sh*t

I’m scared of fame and paparatzi
rumors starting the people watching

Scared to grow up cuz I’m scared to get old
Scared of the dark and being alone
Scared of war and I’m scared of jail
Scared to share a secret cuz I’m scared you’ll tell

This may sound silly but its true
So dont pretend it ain’t you too
We all afraid of something here
Cuz you ain’t human with out fear

February 19, 2009

A Proverb from LMP

Filed under: randomness — nickisym @ 11:28 am
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“If my character flaw is obvious from the onset of our meeting and you flee in the opposite direction instead of forgiving my grievous error, you aren’t fit to be my friend.” -Loudmouth Protestant 2:19

February 13, 2009

A Prayer for Air Travel

Filed under: God,prayer — nickisym @ 10:11 am
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I woke up this morning to the news of the Continental Connections flight 3407 plane crash in Buffalo and I thought to myself, “Not again.” A few weeks ago, US Airways Flight 1549’s passengers and crew survived a splash down in the Hudson River. Every passenger and crew member was rescued with minimal injuries. But such was not the case with the Continental Connections flight that left Newark on its way to Buffalo, NY. All 49 passengers, the crew, the pilot and the inhabitant of the house the plane crashed into died.

My heart dropped as I watched this and immediately I thought about the millions of people who will have no choice but to board planes to get to their destinations. Including the family members of the deceased that may have to board planes to confirm their loved one was indeed one of the casualties of this tragedy. And it struck me, anytime we board a plane we are entrusting our lives to someone. To some, they believe it’s in the hands of the pilot, but really, it’s all in God’s hand. Now this is not to say that God meant for the plane to go down last night, I don’t know that. But this is my call to those who travel, by air in particular, to gird themselves up with prayer. This is my prayer for air travel:

Heavenly Father,

We thank you for your great creation of aircrafts. The machinery that you helped engineers create through your creative spirit to take your children from point A to point B efficiently.

As people walk down the ramp to board the plane

Let your hand of protection would be upon it

Upon every passenger, making them cool, calm and reserved as the flight crew helps us board this plane in an orderly manner

Upon the flight crew making sure that they take every necessary precaution to secure the cabin and the persons therein

Upon the pilot of the plane who has been given the great task of navigating people from point A to point B at altititudes so high one would think they are closer to you than the ground below

Give the pilot knowledge, wisdom and understanding. Give him or her the discernment so that they may be sensitive to your spirit to know when they should stay and when they should go

Father, allow them to trust your guidance to tell them the most safe and effective route to take on the journey.

It’s a massive undertaking to board a plane and to trust that they will land on dry ground alive and well, but let them trust you with their lives.

Father, from this day forth, be with every man, woman, boy or girl that will board a plane. Displace fear with faith.

Wrap yourself about the wings of the plane, be in the propellers, pour your Spirit all over the plane and make it your co-pilot.

Be the providential God we know you to be henceforth now and forevermore.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

St. Francis’ Sermon to the Birds

For the past few weeks I have been reading about the life of St. Francis of Assisi and in that time I have built up a truly profound admiration for his life in Christ. Today I think my admiration turned into love as I read about how he extended his love to God’s creation through a sermon to the birds of the air. As I read it, I just smiled in an amazement at how this man took his worship of God to another level and decided that preaching to humans about God’s goodness was not enough. And so, without further delay, I want to share with you, St. Francis’ sermon to the birds of the air.

“My brothers, birds you should praise your very Creator very much and always love him; he gave you feathers to clothe you, wings so that you can fly, and whatever else was necessary for you. God made you noble among his creatures, and he gave you a home in the purity of the air; though you neither sow nor reap, he nevertheless protects and governs you without any solicitude on your part.”

Thomas of Celano records that the birds stretched their necks and extended their wings as Francis walked among them touching them and blessing them.

–Excerpted from “The Lessons of St. Francis: How to Bring Simplicity and Spirituality Into Your Daily Life” by John Michael Talbot with Steve Rabey

And I smile…

February 11, 2009

God Blocked It

Filed under: God — nickisym @ 11:57 pm
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This song jumped into my spirit following my previous post and I had to share it. 

A Mighty Long Way

Filed under: God,life — nickisym @ 11:51 pm
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Lately on Facebook there have been a barrage of “surveys.” From the very viral “25 Things” to “One Word” and now to the latest one to be passed among virtual friends, “Memories.” So like I got sucked into “25 Things” at my best friend’s behest, I put “Memories” up… 

Well no sooner than I hit the publish button, the first memory for a friend to share with my other hundreds of friends who could see it was a memory involving an overproof bottle of alcohol my sophomore year of college. Geez. A few passed before another friend posted a memory about me and my episode after a night of poor drinking choices. (Now by no means was I an alcoholic during my college years, as I tell it to anyone, my indiscretions as it involved alcohol was limited to one drunken mishap a year.)

Nevertheless with not one but two friends posting their memories of me being while I was inibriated I felt sort of strange. Immediately I wondered if I was supposed to delete the note altogether so that no one would come upon it and question me or gawk at my former self. I thought on it for a second, pondering the repercussions of having a colleague or a church companion find out about my dark past and after speaking with another friend who saw it, I was encouraged to leave it up. I sat on that word for a moment and then resolved in myself to leave it up because for me, it was evidence of God’s saving grace.

You see, without those past indiscretions and many more, I couldn’t be half of the woman I am today. I wouldn’t have a testimony about how one night when I took many shots of overproof rum God somehow saw fit to keep me alive in my ignorance when I very well could have passed out in my own puke in my friend’s apartment. Without that other moment where after downing cheap licquor store vodka with Red Bull–which at the time was considered a deadly combination–and then setting it off with a miniature bottle of Smirnoff and all I did was throw up on my new pair of jeans and had friends that took me back to their house to hang my head over a garbage can and I didn’t die in my sleep from choking on my own vomit…That’s God. Without other moments where I’ve jumped in the car of perfect strangers when I first came to NY without knowing more than their first name and my body wasn’t discovered in a ditch, that’s God. Without moments where I cried myself silly because I thought my heart was broken beyond repair and yet and still it wasn’t bad enough for me to take my own life, that is God. 

There is a long list of things that could have taken me out a long time ago if it weren’t for the grace of God and for the fact that He thought it not robbery in His own kingdom to keep me here for a higher purpose. And because of that, I have to be grateful that he saved me from myself, my biggest danger. There was no one else causing as much harm to me as I was causing to myself. 

So that note where my friends brought up some of my sordid pass, that isn’t hurting anything. As the Rev. Carolyn Showell told us during a sermon for our Women’s Season, “If you’re going to tell it, tell it all.” (Meaning, if you are going to tell about my business back in the day or in this day, tell how I was a mess and how Iwas redeemed.) Taking it one step further, right before I heard that word from Rev. Showell–on the same night, my Bible Study teacher told us that the best way to re-ignite your attitude of gratitude is by reviewing your past. ((((God, I didn’t even know that it was going to connect the way it is right now, but I thank you for connecting those dots.))))) He directed us to Psalm 103:2-4, “Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies.”

I don’t regret, for even a moment, the things that I did. Without the fumbles, trials and tragedies, there can be no testimony. I only thank God that I lived through it and that I have a story to tell, a testimony if you will, or how he brought me through. One that has brought me to this moment of extreme gratefulness.

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