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.

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.

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.

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.