The Loudmouth Protestant

July 23, 2010

My Testimony: Part 3, Moving Forward

Filed under: God,life,Uncategorized — nickisym @ 10:39 am
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“What a moment you brought me to. Such a freedom Lord, I have found in you. You’re the healer, who makes all things new. Yeah, Yeah, Yeaaaah. I’m not going back, I’m moving ahead. I’m here to declare to you, my past is over. In you, all things are made new. Surrender my life to Christ. I’m moving forward.”

“Moving Forward” Israel Houghton

“Moving Forward” has been my theme song throughout this whole process. It represented so much of what I was doing from being able to let go of that young man to being able to walk into this new season without going backwards. But “Moving Forward” started out being easier sung then done…

Last time we left off in this series with my turning my application in mere hours before it was due and all there was left to do was trust God and wait. Initially I was sitting pretty with the knowledge that there was nothing else left to do but wait. I couldn’t change anything, I just had to watch and wait. But as the days turned into weeks, I started to realize the serious implication of what I had just done. It didn’t hit me hard until one evening when I checked my mailbox and saw an envelope from the school. I pulled the envelope out of the mailbox as if I were wearing an ovenmitt and the envelope was a simmering tray of lasagna. It was the slow and steady pull that you do to make sure no sauces drop on the oven floor or, worse yet, you. I looked at the envelope and I saw my life flash before my eyes. I realized that right there in my hands, I held my future. My acceptance or denial would, either way, change the trajectory of my life and I wondered if I was ready for either response. Despite being a little afraid of the outcome, I ripped open the envelope only to find a letter thanking me for applying to the school and telling me that I can check my admission status at any time on the school’s web system. Whew! False alarm. But still, I knew that it was only a matter of time before I had to make some pretty major decisions.

Quite some time went by before I would hear anything else from the school. A part of me was hoping that I wouldn’t get in just so I wouldn’t have to uproot my life and so that I could continue doing business as usual. But life is never that simple. One day as I was tending to business as usual I saw that a voicemail had arrived on my cell phone. It was in the middle of the day, from a strange number and so I wondered to myself, “Who could this be?” I called my voicemail and listened to the message from a voice and a person unfamiliar to me but an institution that was. It was a representative from the school calling to congratulate me on being accepted into the program. I replayed the message about three times and then just sat there in a state of shock. Me. Going to seminary. Really?

Upon being accepted, I told very few people because I just couldn’t believe it nor did I know what I was going to do with that acceptance. Would I decline the acceptance, defer the acceptance or accept the acceptance? It felt like the choice was mine and not mine all at the same time because, after all, this is seminary we are talking about and while there are people who make the decision to go, there are others who are lead to go. Slowly but surely I was discovering that I was in the latter portion of people, not the former.

I went on the warpath with my prayers, not really accepting God’s silence as an answer and not settling for just a glimmer at the end of the tunnel but wanting a gigantic spotlight to show me where to go. I figured that if God, knitting me in my mother’s womb, knowing me before I was born, knows every little thing about me, surely He knows that He created me to be a creature of habit, security and certainty. I wasn’t absolutely comfortable with dropping everything and going back to school without being absolutely sure that this was not just a good choice, but a God choice. I was in extreme waffle territory. Not the breakfast food but the state of mind where one day you could ask me if I was going and I’d say yes, but maybe an hour later I might say no, and an hour after that I’d say maybe.

My first waffling had to do with that young man. Now, before anyone thinks this entire story revolves around him, it doesn’t. It only seems that way because I didn’t write this in a strictly chronological fashion. Had I written it that way, he might have been two strong paragraphs in one post as opposed to a paragraph per post. Nevertheless, he was my first waffle. It was in the midst of our better days when there still seemed to be hoped and I decided that maybe, just maybe, I could go to school where I was accepted and then a year later I could transfer to a school near him. I’m sure this is also where the straw broke the camel’s back because I know when we make plans God is known to laugh and I’m sure God was having a Def Comedy Jam in heaven watching me change the plans He had for me for a man He didn’t have for me. So, as I have said in every post of this series, the young man went away. But now, finally, we can see the denouement. God removed him for manifold reasons, some known to me, others not, but what I do know for sure is the moment when he was removed and I got over it, I was able to stop waffling about going back to school. With him out of the picture, I knew that school was in one place and one place alone. There were no transfers because God didn’t admit me into any other school but the school I got accepted to. Who am I to change His awesome plan?

With that out of the way, I figured it would be smooth sailing, but it wasn’t. Now it was time for the rubber to meet the road in terms of the logistics of getting to school. Particularly, how in the world was I going to afford it? I found out that the school was a private institution–something I didn’t know before I applied. (Yeah, I really just took a blind leap of faith.) I didn’t care whether the school was private or public when I applied, all I knew is this is where I felt lead to go. And so I had to become a squeaky wheel, haggling with the school financial aid folks, filling out the FAFSA forms, speaking to a bishop–actually his assistant–just doing anything to see if I could squeeze a few dollars out of the institution, out of the government or out of my denomination. The result of all of that was my getting a little grant and a loan so large that I harbored the great hope–and still do–that the rapture will come before I have to start paying the loans back. Despite all of this, I knew that I could never let money or my lack of it be a deterrent from starting school in the fall. Money never stopped anyone who felt sure in the natural that they should go to medical school or law school, so why should it stop me in the spiritual when I have received the call to go to seminary. Two waffles down, X to go. With the young man out of the way and the financial situation sort of rectified, one would think that I shouldn’t have had any problem with just boldly declaring that I was going. That was still far from the case. Now I had to deal with myself.

I’ve lived in New York for nearly eight years and in that eight years I never imagined that I would leave the city–despite the fact that I would say at least once a year that I am giving New York 7-10 years. But I just didn’t feel ready to leave yet. I had recently moved into a beautiful apartment with great views of Brooklyn. I felt like I was finally walking confidently in who I was in this city with great friends and the fact that any place I went I was bound to know at least 5-10 other people in the room. I felt like Norm from “Cheers”. Besides that, I had a really great church home, was involved in ministry there, had a great church family and just a lot of creature comforts I wasn’t sure I wanted to give up. Not to mention the job that ensured I could not only do something that I loved,  but it ensured I kept the beautiful apartment roof over my head, kept tithing and offering, and kept the creature comforts I enjoyed so much. But knowing all of this, and even looking at the list right now, those are all things of the world, things that make life comfortable and I knew I wasn’t called to be comfortable. As I continued to discern my way through, God kept on revealing things to me about myself that answered the question of why now was the time for me to move and pursue His vocation on a more complete and full-time basis.

God revealed to me that He had given me most of what I wanted over my eight years in NY and the time preceding that in college. I wanted to go to school to study journalism, He let me do that. I wanted to move to NY to pursue a career in magazines for fashion and entertainment, He let me do that. I wanted to spend my money on whatever I wanted, He let me do that. I spent over a decade doing what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it, how I wanted to do it, why I wanted to do it, where I wanted to do it and with who I wanted to do it with and He let me do it. But how much longer could I survive on doing what I wanted to do? I wanted more out of life and I wasn’t going to find it unless I decided to put my trust in God and see where He wants to lead me. If I knew nothing else at this point in my life, I knew it was time for me to trust someone else besides myself and that person is God.

More of my “Nos” became “Yes” and I found myself opening more to the journey that God wanted to send me on. I started to read books that would help me to get up the courage and go. John Ortberg’s “If You Want to Walk On Water, You Have to Get Out of the Boat” was one of the most pivotal books that I read and it helped me stop looking at myself and start looking at Jesus and trust Him much more with my life. I was strengthened and encouraged by reading,

“God generally helps a person’s faith by asking them to take the first step.”

“There is a danger in getting out of the boat. But there is a danger in staying in it as well. If you live in the boat–whatever your boat happens to be–you will eventually die of boredom and stagnation.”

“You will never know God is trustworthy if you don’t risk obeying him.”

I knew that this was about giving my life over to God to make something more of it. It was about doing what God wanted me to do knowing that He had allowed me to do so much of I wanted to do. And so the process of moving forward continued. But every time I made a declaration that moving forward was what I knew I was supposed to do, something or someone would try to convince me otherwise. This time it was a close friend, who after I told him that I was going, shared with me that he didn’t think it was the right move. He had a gut feeling that it wasn’t the right move for me to make and even if I did make it, I wouldn’t be there for long. His words hit me hard and I began to wonder if there wasn’t a bit of truth in them because earlier that day, a spiritual mentor of sorts, alluded to the fact that I might go but not be there for long. And so, the morning after those conversations, I took it to God in prayer and seriously petitioned for a sign that moving forward was His will.

After I arose from my prayer, I turned on a sermon CD I received the night before and I let it play while I was getting ready for work. The pastor was talking about Jesus and the young ruler who asked Him what must he do to be saved. Jesus told him he must sell everything and follow Him, to which the young ruler became despondent because He barely wanted to leave all of his creature comforts. And the pastor said,

“He could not leave what was secure, comfortable and nailed down and just walk away with Jesus. With human beings it is impossible to hand God everything. I know it sounds strange, but if you give yourself away to cause of God, if you give everything to God, you don’t have to chase happiness anymore, you are going to wake up one morning and be happy.”

At that moment I felt that God was speaking to me. That was the core of why I was uncertain about the move because I felt I had so much comfort and security here. It was time for me to let all of that go though. But that was just the first of His signs to me.

After that I continued to listen to the sermon on my iPod on my way into work and as I stood there listening on the 6 train, right as it pulled up into the station by my job, I randomly reached into the back pocket of my jeans and pulled out a piece of paper. That piece of paper was a stub from my last flight to Atlanta. Besides evidence that I was wearing soiled jeans, I felt God speaking again about my destination. But He wasn’t done. Finally I got to my desk at work and I logged onto Facebook to see a new message waiting for me and that message was from a person I had met at the International Christian Retail Show years ago. We kept in touch on a sporadic basis so that he could keep me posted on his work and also so that we could see if there was opportunity for him to fit in on the site I worked for. But in his e-mail, he said some poignant things including asking about when I’ll start working on my book–I’ve never mentioned a book to him–but most importantly the last ‘graph in his e-mail said that if I was ever in his area, there are some people he’d love to introduce me to if it helps or just to say hi. At this I paused and my mouth dropped open because his area is the area where the school is, which I’ve never talked to him about. I knew God had to be speaking and speaking loudly and I heeded Him at this. But, just as made my declaration the enemy was ready to challenge me yet again. So though God moved the man, the financial barrier, and showed me signs that He wanted me in school, I still had one more barrier to entry, my job.

I strongly believe my job at Beliefnet is what set the foundation for my future, although while I was there I didn’t know. A million times I asked God, “Why am I here and when will I leave?” But He always had me to stay just a little bit longer. But as seminary came into view, the acceptance letter arrived, and other doors started to open, I wondered how and when to break the news and even if I should break the news because I had a very good thing going there. Maybe I should just stay. I was trusted with so much, beyond anything I could ever imagine, and I worked with some of the most talented, intelligent, funny, caring people you could ever find in an office. A part of me didn’t want to leave because it was a secure place. My job was stable, I had just gotten a promotion after waiting many years, everything seemed good, until it wasn’t.

This the part where I can’t say too much because it’s sort of legally prohibited, but I think that is just fine because I am sure you, dear reader, are in need of respite from all the starting and stopping, waffles, roadblocks and every other thing which has clogged my moving forward unrestrained. So to make a long story short–too late–my stable job became not so stable and just a few short weeks ago I was laid off. But don’t worry, this is a good thing because I finally feel that I know exactly what to do, thanks be to God. It was pure divine intervention. So with that, here is what this has all lead to…

I’m moving forward and that moving forward will find me in Atlanta, Georgia at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology to start work on my Master in Divinity. Does that mean I’ll be a preacher? I don’t know. Will I be a professor? I don’t know. But what I do know is this is what God wants me to do at this point in my life.

They say, “Everything happens for a reason.” I say, “All things work for the good of those who love the Lord and are CALLED according to His purpose.” Having gone through everything I’ve gone through to get to this very moment, I know that it all worked out for my good. I don’t regret a moment of my life this year. I don’t regret having met that young man and going through the things I did with him because it made me stronger and more open to the possibility of love. I don’t regret all the doubts I had because without the doubt I wouldn’t have received the evidence that this is God’s will. I don’t regret not even really having the money to go because in having empty hands I am now truly open to God’s provision. I also don’t regret being laid off because it is that moment that has allowed me to really get to the point of my entire life and that is that I have to trust God.  And with that, I’m moving forward.

The Beginning…

July 20, 2010

My Testimony: Part 1, I’ll Trust You

Filed under: life,love,prayer,relationships,Uncategorized — nickisym @ 8:00 am

This is a 2-3 part series on my testimony for the first half of 2010. Much has gone on with me this year and that’s why my writing has been sparse. I’ve had to let time pass, a healing take place before I could be in the position to share this with anyone. I hope that you will take this journey with me in reading these post through to the end for there is light at the end of this tunnel that I hope you will find just as exciting as I do. I thank you in advance for endeavoring to read and share this moment with me.

I’ll trust you. Lord it’s not easy. Sometimes the pain in my life, makes you seem far away. But I’ll trust you. I need to know you’re here. Through the tears and the rain, through the heartache and pain, I’ll trust you. “I’ll Trust You” James P. Fortune & Fiya

When I first heard James Fortune & Fiya’s “I’ll Trust You” I was driving a rental car in Atlanta a few years ago. I was eavesdropping on the song instead of listening to a conversation between friends and as I listened to the words, this song felt important to me, but I didn’t know why. It is a song about trust, the kind of trust you put in God when you have nothing left. At that moment I had everything. I had a job, I was in my right mind, I was surrounded by good friends and family, my life, overall, seemed to be on the right track.  But I heard this song everyday of my weekend in Atlanta and each day my ears perked up. As soon as I got home to New York, I downloaded it from iTunes and added it to my rotation. Little did I know how this song would impact my life years later…

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was talking with a close friend on New Year’s Eve about resolutions and about how I didn’t have any. The only thing I had resolved was to just do whatever God wanted me to do. I wrote in my journal:

“I don’t know what I hope for in 2010. Simply put, I don’t hope for anything but a change. A change in my life, my mind, my heart. A change in faith, to live a life full of faith. All I want to achieve is God having His way in my life. I admit that I have been living under the “ye of little faith” regime and admittedly I’m tired of professing a life full of God yet so void of Him. In 2010 I know I have to take some chances for God’s sake and just step out on faith. What is before me in 2010 requires that I take a step in the right direction. “You know where our feet go. You know where we are heading. You know our destiny.”

That was me the night before the first day of 2010. I didn’t have any other resolution I thought was as powerful as simply just resolving to put more faith and trust in God. Soon enough, just as I proclaimed those words to my friend, my journal and in my prayers, I was faced with living it out.

The beginning of 2010 found me in the position of spiritually giving myself to a man who came into my life on the first day of the year. He was an acquaintance from college who I had only had a few conversations with. I knew some of the things he was going through and he knew what I was preparing to go through and considering that, I became his intercessor and encourager as he prepared for a pivotal moment in his life. I dived in head first into helping him along on this process. In kind, he also prayed me through my process. Initially it was just praying, but with praying comes a heightened sense of intimacy which created between us a heightened emotional state that might have just been accelerated by the extremely intimate act of prayer we were engaging in daily for nearly two months. Before long, the question of feelings came into play and we were no longer on one accord. Though there was much mutual exchange of sweet sentiments and full disclosure between us, including the fact that I knew he wasn’t ready for a relationship because he wanted to straighten out  some things in his life, I held on. I held on because it seemed like I should, it seemed like he wanted me to. He even told me that he knew I deserved the best so he wanted to make sure he had things in order so that he could provide that. I wasn’t delusional about where things were going, but surely I was blindsided when, all of a sudden, he started to withdraw.

Not long after the flower petals and ink had dried on the hand-written letter he sent me extolling my virtues, not long after the morning texts and daily calls halted, I went from being an “integral part of his life”, “an amazing woman”, “a God send” to not being important enough to communicate with.  I became non-integral after his pivotal moment passed and I couldn’t have felt more devastated and used for it. I was back to where I started, alone. But, being alone, I had time to think and pray. Initially I took a fleshly approach and nearly begged him to re-consider me but then I realized that I could not change what GOD was doing–and that I don’t need to beg any man to be with me. I did need him to only be so thankful for the help that I gave him like the nine lepers who didn’t come back to thank Jesus after He healed them, because I needed to understand that a life in ministry to someone means that you will not always get the gratitude you deserve. I needed to see that while this man had some of the qualities I want in a mate, we were on two different levels of spiritual maturity. But most importantly, I needed this man to turn me down so that I could be turned over to a greater cause.

And so, as much as I suffered a broken heart and spirit, and as much as I thought that this was a man that I could see myself with, I had to TRUST that God knew what is best for me. I had to learn to take the power out of that man’s hands to break me and put it back in God’s hands to make me stronger. I had to make a step in what I thought was the right direction which meant stepping away from something I wanted in order to get what I really needed. God used that entire experience to not only strengthen me, but to propel me into my pivotal moment, the moment that would change my life forever…

To be continued tomorrow…

May 6, 2010

Songs for the National Day of Prayer

Yeah, we all know what today is, the National Day of Prayer. I hope in some manner at some point during this day, everyone will find some time to pray for this nation. WE need it. We as a nation and we as a people. In the meantime, since I can’t seem to not connect life with music, I figure I’d keep the party going and share some prayer-related tunes to get your prayer juices flowing.

“We got to pray just to make it today.”

“I heard ’em say, the prayers of the righteous availeth much. And now today, I can testify that I believe it…There is an answer on the way, my God has done so many great things.”

Pray, God will change things.

“I pray you’ll be our eyes and watch us where we go. And help us to be wise, in times when we don’t know.”

May 3, 2010

The “Already Here” God

Filed under: God,gospel music,life,love,Uncategorized — nickisym @ 6:00 pm
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Someone told me about this song a few months ago and a few months ago, it meant the world to me. It had a two-fold meaning because it represented the fact that God was “Already Here” and that the person who told me about it was a gift from God. It kind of felt like an “our song” kind of song for me. I would listen to it and be reminded of the person and see them in the most beautiful light, God’s light.

But, the person is gone now. He’s been gone for a little while and I’ve been picking up the pieces of my broken heart including trying not to be reminded of him through things we shared, like this song. But today, as I sat at my desk at work, I felt the spirit prompting me to listen to the song. I followed the move and I was surprised that I didn’t immediately connect the song with the person, but I connected it with God and I recognized that He WAS  “Already Here” all along. The love I wanted from him was already provided by Him.  

The song talks about how God is “the balm for my wounded soul.” And He has been that for me as I have picked up the pieces of my broken heart. As I listened, I wanted to just cry out to God, not from a place of sadness, but of much joy because He really had been a balm for my wounded soul throughout this process. He has healed me and made me glad. He has given me more joy than I had before I met the person. I sit back and I think about how incredible God is for staying true to His word and His character as a healer. He did a quick work and I can testify to that. He was always “Already Here” for me. I receive His love. Thank you God for being the “Already Here” God of my life.

April 29, 2010

I Want a BMW

The car

Bavarian Motor Works

and the person

Beautiful Man Worshipping

Don’t worry, I’m not coveting. Michelle can have him. I just needed the perfect example of a man worshipping. And I’m not reneging on my word last week about looking for love versus a black man, Barack just happened to be the best of my search for a man in worship. Well, maybe not the best, but he’s Barack and that’s enough, plus he’s not just a black man and we all know that by now. Anyways, God knows my heart and the desires of it, a BMW 7 series and a beautiful man worshipping. Just saying God. Speaking those things…That’s all.

April 27, 2010

Hanson Over Heartbreak

Filed under: entertainment,randomness,Uncategorized — nickisym @ 2:41 pm
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Yeah I know, I’m supposed to be posting about how to quickly mend a broken heart, but this took precedence. Can anyone explain to me why something like this would still happen in the year 2010? What is the world coming to?

Seriously, have they had another hit since “MMM Bop”? Who is sending their children to scream over mid to late 20 year old men? The magic of their hey day wore off when their voices got deep, they cut their hair, got married and started procreating. I just don’t understand…I think my heart just got broken, again. 😦 I need to pray, everyone does so that this doesn’t happen again.

January 29, 2010

Tell Me Something I Don’t Know About You

You’ve heard the statement before. It comes around during the “Getting to know you, getting to know all about you” period. It’s the statement that you love hearing because when someone asks you that it means they really do want to get to know you. But for the intents and purposes of this post, “Tell me something I don’t know about you”, has nothing to do with our horizontal relationships and everything to do with our vertical relationship. You know, the one with God?

I just started reading “The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call of Self-Discovery” by David Benner. I was initially interested in reading this book because my colleague told me that the book helps you to discover your core sins so that you can handle them and move on with living a blameless life. This sounded pretty awesome to me. Of course I want to know what my core sins are. I was ready to get my enneagram on! But, as I began to delve into the book, the notion of finding out about my core sins took a backseat to finding out whether I really know God as much as I profess to or whether I only know about God. It’s a hard thing to take a look at yourself and figure out if you only know about God or if you know of God. Are you a Pharisee or a disciple? I meditated on that for a while and I continued to read until Benner brought up an  “ouch”-worthy point that some of us know God less well than we know our common acquaintances. Benner went on to talk about how relationships develop when people spend time together and how our spending time with God ought to be in the essence of prayer. But he pointed out that we treat prayer like a text message or an e-mail to God. We do a whole lot of talking about what we want and need and rarely much listening. We talk a lot to God but barely allow Him to talk to and with us. When we are having conversations with our friends, we always talk and listen, within the span of the conversation. We don’t just talk for 30 minutes and then walk away from the conversation leaving our friend with no opportunity to talk. (Or maybe we do and this problem extends to other areas of our lives.) But, when I considered it under that lens, that we handle our horizontal relationships better than we handle God, I had to stop and think about how I was going to bring that level of attentiveness and diligence into my relationship with God. After all, He is all I have. If I lose every family member and friend I’ve ever known, I will still have God. If I am trying to move from knowing about him and knowing of him partially, to knowing of him in whole, what can I start doing now to nurture the relationship and open the gates of communication?

It didn’t take me too long to figure out what I needed to do. I needed to ask God to tell me something about Himself that I currently don’t know.  Something I can’t read in the Bible or hear from a pastor, something deeply personal that only He could tell me as I result of my staying on Him like white on rice. Something He’d tell me because He wants me to know and because He wants to deepen my personal experience with Him. I decided that as part of my daily prayer time with God, I would ask Him, “Tell me something I don’t know about you.” I want to sit and wait for His answer with the same type of anticipation that I would with a potential suitor. If it means that I will wait all day for His answer, then I will wait. I will wait with my ears open. I will actively engage myself in waiting for God to tell me something I don’t know about Him. I will watch for His answer, I will listen for His answer, I will wait for His answer and set my mind on Him because I’m really interested in knowing something new about my God, because I am really interested in knowing God in that intimate way. A way that is personal to me.

The reality of the situation is, I AM really interested in God. I love God. I’ve said those three words to Him, over and over and over again. I love thinking about Him. I love thinking about thinking of Him. I love thinking about spending time with Him. I love thinking about His word and His history. But, I desire so much more of Him. I want to and need to desire more of Him because He desires more of me. It’s hard to turn your back on a love that strong. A love that loved you before you were even born. That’s love. A love that loves you regardless of what you do. That’s love. A love that sacrificed himself for you. That’s love. A love that knows everything about you and still desires to sit and talk to you and listen to you talk for hours on end about everything and nothing. That’s love. How could I not want to spend myself growing deeper in love with God knowing all of that and much more? He IS love.

And so today, I ask God and challenge you to ask Him, “God, tell me something I don’t know about you.” And watch Him take you into a whole new place of knowing Him, personally.

PS: In case you are interested in reading the book that inspired this post, here it is:

November 2, 2009

Missed Connection: Part 2

This morning as I was waiting for the train, I encountered a reminder of a personal fail/lesson. You’ll remember a few weeks ago I mentioned a young man in my neighborhood whom I had a moderate crush on. The particular morning that I saw him and had the personal fail/learned lesson, is the morning another young lady from the neighborhood swooped in and caught his attention. I hadn’t seen either of them since that day, until today.

When I arrived on the train platform, the two of them were standing together. He, still in his autumnal glory, her, still in her talkitiveness, but they were together. The context of their togetherness I know nothing of. But it looked like they arrived at the platform together. So there they were and there I was by myself. Well, not literally by myself. A good friend whom read that same post about Earth Tones was with me and as we approached them I told her that they were the subject of my previous post. She lambasted me, in the nicest way possible, for not putting my foot in the game. She too agreed that he was quite the catch and now, sadly, looks caught.

I made my way to the next train exactly how I did when these two met each other. I was trailing him. But this time around Chatty Cathy fell behind. I had hope for one second that he was trying to lose her to steal a moment away with me, but as we approached the top of the stairs he let the crowd pass and waited for her like a knight in shining armor. There he was at the top of the stairs patiently waiting for her and there I was passing him by. She rejoined him and continued to talk–I feel like he doesn’t talk nearly as much as she does but he seems to like her loquaciousness nonetheless.

So there it is. I don’t have a “moral of the story” for this one. Maybe the moral of the story is continuing to be happy for someone else’s gain as I learned on part one of this trip. If that’s what it is, then I shall be happy for her and for him since if he wasn’t meant for me, even to just meet and greet for one moment in time, and that’s the way God would have it, who am I to argue? Here’s to happiness to the happy couple. Back to the drawing board–which actually does have other sketches that I’ll share in just awhile.

Until then, be blessed.

Sermon Podcasts and the Black Church

Filed under: technology,Uncategorized — nickisym @ 9:33 am
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In preparation for a fast that my church is having as we look toward Thanksgiving, I decided that I would subscribe to podcasts from pastors across the country who I’ve been interested in hearing. I subscribed to podcasts from Andy Stanley’s Buckhead Church in Atlanta, Georgia; Francis Chan’s Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California; and Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hills in Seattle, Washington. In addition to those sermon podcasts that I subscribed, I already subscribed to John Piper’s Desiring God (Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota) podcast, James McDonald’s Walk in the Word (Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows, Illinois) and Shaun King’s Courageous Church in Atlanta, Georgia.

Of all of those podcasts that I have accumulated only one of them is from a black man. And though he is black, it pretty much stops there because his church couldn’t be categorized as a black church per se. The oldest preacher in my sermon podcast bunch is John Piper. So it’s not an age thing, but there is a lack of diversity on the sermon podcast scene. I looked up some of the more popular black mega-churches like TD Jakes’ Potter’s House in Dallas, Texas; Bishop Charles Blake of West Angeles in Los Angeles, California; Bishop Noel Jones of City of Refuge in Gardena, California; Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth in Atlanta, Georgia and Lee P. Washington of Reid Temple and in Glenn Dale, Maryland and there was not a podcast to be found. This is by no means a comprehensive search, but these are some of the biggest names in Christianity in the black community. From all of this I wondered, “Why don’t more black churches, especially the megachurches, offer podcasts too?” Is it too untraditional, are their communications ministry not up to date with this technology or is it an issue of money since many of these podcasts are free?

It may be dangerous for me to ask this question, especially throwing in the last part about the money. But I can’t act like that wouldn’t be taken into consideration knowing that most of the ministries that do offer podcasts do so free of charge. So maybe the black churches feel the congregants would stop paying for the sermon CD. But, in my belief, the benefit of offering podcasts far outweighs the cost.

Charging people to buy a preached word creates a barrier for entry to those who many not be able to afford but really want it. Although I will also acknowledge that only offering podcast and not CDs for sale also create a barrier of entry for those who still on the other side of the digital divide. But the number of people running around with iPods and access to iTunes is through the roof nowadays, so that shouldn’t be a concern either.

But what if this is an issue of our generation and not of previous generations? I understand if podcasts and iTunes seem to new-fangled for the black church which is usually rather traditional even in the midst of it being very modern. But, even still, you have to keep up with the generation you are trying to reach out to. You must reach outside of the church to get the people who are outside of it. It’s not for the benefit of the people in the church, it’s for the people outside.

So I don’t want this to stretch on for too long, but I am curious to know why more black churches aren’t utilizing podcasts. More and more people are reaching out to technology to reach out to God. And those of us in the church need to remember that in order to reach the world outside, sometimes we need to get their attention with the things they focus their attention on. So, this is me, just wondering…

October 5, 2009

An Open Letter to Alicia Keys

By now we have all heard the story and all its layers. If you’ve been hiding under a rock, or you just don’t concern yourself with the goings-on of pop culture, allow me to break it down for you. R&B artist Alicia Keys and hip-hop producer Swizz Beatz have been having an affair for some time now. Swizz is married to R&B artist Mashonda. He is still married to her despite going public about his affair with Keys—I presume the divorce is pending. In the midst of this Keys is on Twitter tweeting sweet nothings to her betrothed producer while Mashonda, his damsel in distress, is tweeting just that, her distress. Last week, Mashonda tweeted an open letter to Alicia Keys on how she feels about Keys grip on the situation. It was heartfelt and though I disagree with her tweeting her emotions as opposed to just confronting Keys in person, I suppose you have to take advantage of the technology. So it got me thinking that I need to write my own open letter to Alicia Keys. Ok, “need” may be a strong word, I more so want to write it but I feel the need to write it as a longtime fan of her music and her as a person. And to my understanding, we may serve the same God and if that’s the case, I actually have carte blanche to hold her accountable for her actions. Now, if someone knows Alicia Keys is an atheist, Satanist, Hindu, Buddhist, Scientologist, Zoroastrian, Pagan, etc, than let me know, and I rescind my letter (probably not). But for now, here goes.

Dear Alicia,

I remember the day that I bought your first album. It was the summer before my senior year in college on a shopping trip at Super Wal-Mart with my mom where we were mostly buying food, school supplies and stuff for my apartment, I snuck your CD into the cart. I couldn’t wait to listen to it and as I usually do with CDs I buy, I removed the wrapper from the CD well before I got in front of my CD player because I didn’t want to waste a moment once I did get near the CD player. I listened to that first album countless times and that album alone with its hit single “Fallen” cemented me as a fan of you for life. I loved that of many of the female artists of the time you didn’t feel the need to conform. Sure, you were light-skinned and gorgeous which followed the standard of the—and all—times, but you fought to wear your hair in cornrows until YOU didn’t want to wear it like that anymore. You were always fully dressed in your videos  and any hint of sensual-ness or sexuality was an organic part of your being, not an act to sell music. Your music was based on your pure, unadulterated talent and passion and I loved every bit of it. I bought every album that followed with the exception of your live one because…Well I don’t remember why, I just didn’t. Anyways, in my mind, you established yourself as a respectable woman, one of good character and reputation. Yeah there were rumors that swirled around about you, but I wasn’t compelled to believe them. After all, you were Alicia Keys, not bent on being a conformist and I believe your strength scared people. Your music spoke of that strength. You weren’t the damsel in distress. You weren’t vulnerable. No, you were telling men that they need to go ahead and get gone. You were telling women about their worth. You were into showing strength on superhero levels. You were into liberating women through your music by example. You were into all of this until you weren’t as of a few weeks ago when news broke about your affair with Swizz Beatz, a married man with a child.

I’ve heard that you said that you can’t help who you love. I understand that in the case of loving outside of color lines in places where doing so is still taboo. Or maybe—though I don’t necessarily condone it—same-sex relationships. But not being able to help loving a married man is not one of the cases that apply to the “can’t help who you love” clause. Why doesn’t it apply? Because love doesn’t come at the expense of hurting someone else’s feeling so that you can get yours. Yes, this is very elementary, but it is true. Sure, you may think to yourself, “I’m not the sole reason for the dissolution of their marriage. He told me they have other problems.” Sure, he did and this may very well be true, but it is actually not your responsibility or place to be in the spotlight declaring love for a man who still has unfinished business at home. You are a part of the problem, even if you are not the cause, and that alone should make you feel deeply conflicted. Conflicted enough to not speak about your lovely feelings in very public forums. I wonder if you’ve taken a step back from this whole situation and thought, “Let me put myself in Mashonda’s shoes and see how it would feel if the man I committed myself to for life had an affair with another woman.” Mashonda fell in love with this man and started a family, I bet she could say, from a different perspective, “You can’t help who you fall in love with.” I also wonder if you have thought about the fact that it wouldn’t be too far-fetched if Swizz’s case of infidelity with you in the midst of his being married won’t be his case of infidelity with someone else in the midst of your lovely relationship. Why do you think that it won’t happen to you? Don’t you remember the lyrics to your song Karma, “Cause what goes around, comes around. What goes up, must come down.” That alone should tell you the consequences for your actions. I don’t follow karma but I’m a believer in, “You reap what you sow.” Or maybe you are just living out the lyrics to your song “Wreckless Love” and at this point you just don’t care.

Well Alicia, baby, I just want to tell you that if you think this is love, you’ve got it all twisted up. If you think on God and what he would have for you, it isn’t another woman’s man. Point blank. God does not orchestrate confusion on any side. And if Swizz were to be for you and with you, it’d be well after the ink dries on the divorce papers and his own heart was restored and ready for new love. I don’t know where you are right now with this situation. It may well be that following Mashonda’s open letter that you have changed your mind and decided to lay low for a while and think about the consequences of your actions. I hope that is the case and not even for Mashonda’s sake but for God’s sake. If only for you to realize that what God has for you it is for YOU. He doesn’t dish out sloppy seconds. What He has for you, in terms of love, is pure and true. Love is patient and kind. Love is not envious—meaning it doesn’t envy established relationships and covet them. It does not boast, it isn’t proud, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking—meaning, in this case, it’s not you on Twitter showing off your stolen love to the world while someone else is hurting because of it. It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrong—the crazy part of this is that though you are wrong, God can make it right and he’ll forgive you and keep no record of your wrong, iff—that’s if and only if—you have a repentant heart. It always trusts, hopes, perseveres and never fails. Sound familiar? That’s because it came straight from the Bible and it is the love you should be going after. I bet it’s the love you want and think you have. I don’t know the content of your relationships with Swizz, but I’m willing to put money down that it ain’t a love like this. It ain’t a love like God wants for you. I believe that more than anything. I hope one day you’ll believe it too. Until that day, I’ll be praying for you Alicia.

Sincerely Still Your Biggest Fan,

Nicole

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