Holding Out Under God’s Grace

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“Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Take heart. What was designed to take you out will ultimately make you stronger. Trust how God is bringing you through what you’re going through. (Go ahead and read that again.) God could change things for you in an instant. But if He isn’t working it out that way, be content with knowing that He’s got a reason and it is good.

God’s got a reason for taking His time and making you feel every single bump and scrape along this leg of your journey. God’s way of pruning us can seem unfair, tedious, inconvenient, and harsh. You might even think your time of pruning should be over by now. Yet, here you are…here WE are: battle worn, bruised, embarrassed, vulnerable, shaken– and bothered about it.

God gets it. He knows it’s not an easy road. He also knows it’s the best road for us because it will lead us to the blessed destination that He has reserved for us. God sees what we can’t see. He knows what He has to work out of us so that He can work in us and through us. And He knows how long it will take. There’s an choir song lyric that says “Lord, help me to hold out…until my change has come.” This is a fitting prayer set to a melody that we can have in our hearts as we call on God to help us hold out until our current trial is over.

Root of the Matter: Leadership During a Pandemic

In a personal essay entitled “Root of the Matter: Leadership During a Pandemic,” Letitia shares thoughts on the challenges that leaders face, particularly during the current pandemic, and considerations to keep in mind as we embark on the next phase of changes. 

Self Care in a Pandemic

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Today’s episode of rooted and overflowing features a conversation with mental health professional Carmella Hill, also known as The Mental Healthologist. Topics of the discussion include practical tips and resources to help us maintain our wellness during the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here to listen, or visit Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, or Stitcher.

Introducing: rooted and overflowing

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Well, I’ve dusted off the microphone, fired up my editing workstation, and now I am absolutely excited to share that the rooted and overflowing podcast is coming May 12th. rooted and overflowing is the second podcast I’ve hosted. The first was Letitia’s Loft and I retired it pod-faded after just three episodes. There will certainly be more than three episodes this time around and, as a matter of fact, the trailer is out right now. Below is the list of cool places where you can listen to the trailer, subscribe, and share the show:

Apple Podcasts- Coming Soon.

Google Play listeners click HERE.

Google Podcasts listeners click HERE.

Podbean listeners click HERE.

Spotify listeners click HERE.

Just added: Stitcher listeners click HERE.

rooted and overflowing is based on Colossians 2:6-7 which reads “Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, overflowing with gratitude.” Upcoming episodes will feature guest conversations, personal reflections, and Bible-based messages designed to inspire hope and resilience. We’re still working out a few kinks, so if your listening experience is not smooth, kindly let us know in the blog comments below this post. Happy listening!

Palm Sunday Amid COVID-19

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13 “[They] took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him and cried out: Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ The King of Israel!” 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.” John 12:13, 15

As our world continues to grapple with the fallout from the outbreak of COVID-19, the places, events, and activities that typically have our attention have moved to the backs of our minds. Many of us have turned our living spaces into classrooms, cafeterias, rec centers, and offices. Not only have our physical spaces changed, but our mindsets have had to change, too. From figuring out how to use Zoom, Microsoft Teams, AND Go To Meeting (because the three meetings you attended in one day each used a different platform 😊) to learning how to access your tools and files in order to get work done, many of us have had to rewire our thinking in order to keep up with our work responsibilities. Friend, to be honest, I would not be surprised if there are some among us who became exhausted over the past couple of weeks just doing the work to get settled into this temporary reality- while working. Let that sink in for a minute. We are inundated with so much information that it can be a bit unsettling if we’re not careful. Every for-profit and non-profit industry has been upended by the devastating health crisis and many businesses are taking the opportunity to pivot their service offerings to meet the needs of people who are directly and indirectly affected. (Ruby’s Pantry from Ruby Tuesday’s. Look it up. Be amazed by this fabulous idea.)

Now, before I go on, let me say that I do not for one second minimize the dire nature of what is happening outside the walls of my home. The medical community is waist deep in the trenches of saving lives. Essential personnel, volunteers, nonprofit organizations and church outreach teams are on the frontlines of making sure that people have the food, transportation, and access to goods and services that help us accomplish our activities of daily living. Religious organizations, employers, organization decision makers, educators, and facilitators are taking the reins online to make sure that those who are not directly affected by the outbreak are kept safe, engaged and focused on what’s important to them. This global shift in how the world turns is not without its challenges, but it is certainly for our own protection. And I am mighty grateful for and prayerful for the people who are on the frontline of handling the matters associated with the outbreak.

Life is in flux right now. The world is on the world stage as nations across the globe work to get a handle on containing the spread of COVID-19 and saving the lives of those who have tested positive for it. The fallout is a shared experience for people across the globe.

I’d like to highlight another experience that is shared across the globe. The observance of Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is a Christian feast that takes place the Sunday before Easter. (This year, in the western hemisphere it is observed Sunday, April 5th and in the eastern hemisphere it is Sunday, April 12th.) It is a time set aside for Christians all over the world to reflect on Jesus’ victorious entry into Jerusalem as King. As Jesus road in on a foal, the people celebrated Him by throwing palm branches and their cloaks on the ground while crying out “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. King of Israel.” Hosanna is a Hebrew word that is translated to mean “Lord, save us” and is said to express special honor to the One who saves- Jesus Christ.

The depiction of what happened at Jesus’ triumphant entry can be found in all four Gospels-

Matthew 21:1-11

Mark 11:1-11

Luke 19:28-40

John 12:12-16

According to the Pew Research Center, there are 2.2 billion Christians around the world. That is nearly one-third of the world’s population of 7.8 billion. Over the course of the next several days, the cherished opportunity to reflect on Christ as King will be what unites us around the world. Not calamities…not our troubles…not the clamor of life- but Jesus Christ. So if you’ve been fearful, anxious, unsettled, or even angry at the state of our world and possibly the state of things in your life, I invite you to switch things up a bit and focus on Jesus and His rule as King. When Christ is the head of your life and the decision is made to let your heart be ruled by His teachings, I am a witness that you will experience hope and peace that will hold you together during the darkest of days. If you don’t know Jesus as Savior, try Him. If you know Jesus as your Savior, trust Him. In the days ahead, take some time to honor Him as the One whom God sent to save us.

Abide

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“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” John 15:4-5

This month I’m kicking off a series of blog entries entitled “A Devoted Life.” Throughout this month and sprinkled through the year this will be a place to unpack scriptures that encourage a life that is devoted to God, through Jesus Christ. Over time the idea of devotions, having devotions, has gotten away from the church. Without getting into speculation as to why we’ve gotten away from it, this is a great time to reacquaint ourselves with the practice of setting ourselves, our minds, and our attention on Christ.

To start, let’s explore what it means to abide with the Lord. When we decide to devote ourselves to Christ, it takes effort on our part. It requires us to be deliberate in setting ourselves apart for and to Jesus Christ. Within the verses of John chapter 15 are three temptations that Jesus was equipping the disciples to overcome in order to abide in Him: 1) the temptation to reject the teachings that did not reveal Christ as Savior, 2) the temptation to grow strange toward each other, which is to not show fellowship or love, and 3) the temptation to shrink back from their responsibilities as apostles when times got hard.  Each of these instances can likely ring true in our personal lives.  And now, just like then, Jesus’ words are meant to give us strength, confidence, and power to live a holy life in a fallen world AND bear fruit while doing it.  Of course, this ability is not something we accomplish on our own.

In verse 4, we see where Jesus says “abide in me.”  To abide means to endure without yielding or giving up, to accept without objection, and to remain stable or fixed in a state.  When you look at a vine you see that it grows from the root and grips its foundation and then there are many, many branches that come from it and they wind, climb, and coil within themselves and other branches.  On the branches you’ll find either flowers like the morning glory, fruit like grapes, or vegetables like the cucumber.

When you break a branch from off of the vine, it dries up.  The branch does not have the necessary nutrients to live.  It’s just all by itself, subject to being blown away or picked up and thrown away or even burned up, as it’s illustrated within chapter 15.  But when the branches are connected to the vine it continues to grow and flourish.  It gets nutrients from the root and yields its crop. People can pick the crop and because the branch is still connected to the vine, more will grow.  This illustrates the value of being connected to Christ in order to remain strong.  When we help people, do our jobs, do our schoolwork, and do it all in our own strength, we get burned out, frustrated, confused, and out of sorts.  All kinds of ugly just sets in because we tried to do something and Jesus already said we can do nothing unless we’re abiding in Him.

When we abide in Jesus, the vine, we will always have what we need to bear fruit.  Fruit is the evidence of and benefits for being connected to Jesus Christ.  The fruit we can display includes transformed personalities, Godly temperament, honest and moral conversations, good works, the display of being devoted to God in prayer and reading His Word and being in His presence. We cannot do these things on our own or according to our own righteousness.  We need Jesus to survive and thrive in this life. I encourage you today to connect or reconnect with Christ and stay connected…Abide in Christ.

A Clean Heart

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“Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

As a young girl, growing up in Dayton, Ohio, God favored me to attend Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, under the leadership of Dr. Charles S. Brown and his lovely wife Mrs. Joan S. Brown. I have many beautiful memories at Bethel. Memories that I cherish to this very day. From time to time I will share them here, along with wonderful memories I made while attending Mt. Calvary Baptist Church and even now at Mt. Zion Church of God in Christ in North Carolina.

Bethel was known for singing soaring anthems, peaceful chants, and contemplative hymns, all with a splash of gospel flavor. Among them is a song composed by Margaret J. Douroux, PhD, entitled “Give Me a Clean Heart.” You can learn more about Dr. Douroux, this song, and her tremendous contributions to sacred music by clicking here.

The smoothest and richest alto voice in the choir at Bethel when I was about 10 years old was from the person of Sis. Wanda Bryant. I cannot hear in my mind another voice leading the chorus and singing the verses to “Give Me a Clean Heart.” The verses from this song highlight verses from Psalm 51 and stands among countless compositions that beckon us set ourselves before the Lord in prayer with a request for Him to do what only He can do to purify our hearts and help us persevere in serving Him.

Before I go on, I’ll share a summary of why Psalm 51 was written. This psalm is one of lament and was composed by King David. After David’s unlawful encounter with Bathsheba and after murdering her husband to cover it all up, Nathan the prophet confronted David about it. You can read about it from the Bible here. David came to grips with the error of his ways and repented. Thus, we have Psalm 51.

This time of the year brings a time of retrospection for most people. We celebrate and are thankful for what went well. We also think about what did not go well and what we want to do to make sure we have a better year.  For a person of faith, this retrospection includes our walk with God. Our lives are affected by many outside variables. Changes in our health, work, relationships, unfulfilled dreams, money concerns, general overwhelm, grief, and more can move us out of step with God. We daily run the risk of becoming cynical to the point where we no longer trust God deeply. We only trust Him in theory. We trust Him on the surface so that we can save Christian face with ourselves and others who know we serve and (gasp!)  lead in ministry.

Whether it’s the end of the year or the beginning of the new year, while the pace is a little slower, take this time to sit before the Lord with Psalm 51. It is one of many psalms of lament in the Bible, but somehow over time this one has stood out when we find ourselves needing to seek God’s forgiveness and cleansing from sinful thoughts, deeds, and motivations. Many of us are not enjoying this life that God has blessed us with because we just haven’t come clean with Him. We haven’t stopped to take stock of our individual life’s direction. We’re just going through the motions hoping God is pleased with us. When God cleanses our hearts and minds, we get renewed joy, peace, vision, wisdom, stability, and strength to live our best lives and enjoy what God has blessed us with while we serve Him.

The Lord knows how to search our hearts for what displeases Him and doesn’t serve us well. Let us let King David’s script be our guide in prayer as we enter the new year (the new decade!) and let the Holy Spirit do the work while we trust God and live.

2020: Looking Ahead

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Fall is comfortably underway. The air is cooler, the leaves are colorful, and harvest-themed porch decorations abound. Football games, homecoming celebrations, and autumn festivals have added highlights to this time of year. Now, as we’ve entered November we are in that sweet little spot before our collective attention turns to the year-end holiday hustle bustle. In the time that leads up to the holiday frenzy, there is an opportunity that can help you have a new year unlike any other.

As we get closer to January 2020, the national conversation will no doubt relate the year 2020 with the measurement for visual clarity: 20/20. We can almost be certain that the year 2020 will be chock full of motivation to help you get on course and stay on course to achieve your goals. If you have not taken the time to get clear about your purpose or areas of your life that are meaningful, now is a great time to do just that.

To boost your efforts, I’d like to share five quick tips to help you prepare well and STICK to your goals in the coming year.

S- Slow Down. Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” If you are not clear on your purpose, it is highly likely that you are moving through life much faster than you should be. Slow down and, if you have to, stop. Take time to catch your breath and organize your thoughts. Make quiet time with the Lord a priority so that you can pray and not only be revived in the presence of the Lord, but also become clear on the next important steps for your life.

T- Think. Think about where you are in life and where you want to be. Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Too often we let life take over and we get cheated out of experiencing the abundance God has in store for us. It is never too late to take stock of your life and dig in to making God’s plan and purpose your reality.

I- Investigate. Once you have become clear about your purpose and have taken stock of where you are and where you want to be, it’s a good time to investigate the steps you will need to take to get there. Philippians 4:9 says “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” There is a lot that we can learn from each other. When we are open to learning from others and making changes to succeed, it can certainly go a long way. People who are living their God-ordained purpose in life know the steps to take, the pitfalls to avoid, the resources to use, and the mindset to cultivate when it comes to following God’s unique plan. When we organize these things and take action, the results can be extraordinary.

C- Change your Calendar. This next tip is pretty radical but can have lasting results. In 2014 I was caregiving for my husband who had, by then, been enduring a health challenge for several years. I always enjoy working in the community and serving in my church, but by then, I was so stretched out that I finally had to stop, think, investigate, and ultimately change my calendar. Proverbs 16:3 says “Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established.” After taking time to pray and getting honest with myself, I rotated out of several organizations and responsibilities and made a promise that I would only serve in one community organization and serve where critically needed in church. Not only does this practice keep me from becoming overwhelmed, but it also helps me to be of good service to the organization and responsibilities that I have. I am able to focus and give intentional time to the few causes that I am working with. I can give my best to help the church and community organization do their best work for the people we serve.

K- Keep on Course. Hebrews 10:36 says “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” This encouraging scripture highlights the reward of staying the course when distractions and adversities come. We receive God’s promises. Peace of mind, an abundant life, strength, refreshing…too often, again, we fall for the devil’s tricks and miss out on these things that are available to us.

There you have it. A few tips to act on before the flurry of holiday activity begins. When we settle in to trust God deeply and keep on course with what we have learned, instead of derailing our goals by January 31st, we can greet the year 2020 with clarity and with a prepared heart and mind to STICK to God’s plan the whole year through.