Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Am I A Christian???

The other day I was talking to an ex-boyfriend that was talking about his former relationship with another woman and his description of her was "She is a Christian lady." This already difficult conversation (since this is someone that I still have feelings for) and statement hurt me to the core because it seem to imply that the new woman was something that I was not.  I thought to myself, "Did he not think I was a Christian lady too? Am I not a good Christian? More importantly, is God pleased with me?"  

Although the statement bruised my "spiritual" ego it also caused me to reflect on what it means to be Christian.  It also made me think about how do I demonstrate my walk with Christ in my personal and professional life. Years ago I thought being a Christian meant being religious.  When I first gave my life to Christ I was on constant "hallelujah" auto-play with everyone I met.  I consistently talked only about the scriptures, preached to everyone I knew, submerged myself in the studying of the word and listened only to gospel music.  

One of the most important revelations during this period of discovery was that I realized that being Christian meant more than the outward appearance.  It was more about being a true follower of Christ's teachings. This is why I absolutely love the ministry of Jesus Christ! Unlike the Sadducees and Pharisees (the religious scholars that were caught up in rituals and the law) Jesus taught his followers to develop a deeper and personal relationship with the God.   

Jesus was constantly challenged by religious leaders during his walk on the earth.  Many leaders of the law accused Jesus of blasphemy and called him a fake, heretic, liar, and even a demon ruler! Jesus even had to defend himself to the religious teachers in Matthew 5:17.  He stated, Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to fulfill it."

I certainly desire to strengthen my faith and walk in Christ and so I am constantly pressing to become a better believer.  Perhaps I needed to hear that statement so that I could rededicate myself and refocus on strengthening my faith.  Perhaps I needed to be motivated to seek the scriptures for new revelation and direction.  Perhaps I needed to hear that statement to remind me of what I do not want to become.  Because I know one thing for sure...I dont want to be religious; I want to be like Christ.

We are all spiritual beings having a human experience.  As the bible says, "We all fall short of the glory of God" but the wonderful thing is that He gives us a daily opportunity to receive a fresh anointing. I will continue to stand on the scriptures as my guide and below I have listed some of my favorite verses.  I pray that God continues to give me the strength, revelation, discipline and courage to follow the true teachings of Jesus Christ.  I hope these scriptures bless you like they have blessed me.

John 10:27

 27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

John 13:34-35

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Luke 16:14-15
 14And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.

 15And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.

Luke 4:18

18 “ The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
       Because He has anointed Me
      To preach the gospel to the poor;
      He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,[a]
      To proclaim liberty to the captives
      And recovery of sight to the blind,
      To set at liberty those who are oppressed;

Peace, Love and Blessings!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Lessons Learned from Black Men

Last week on Father's Day it was my intention to post a blog dedicated to black men.  On this particular holiday I am always very reflective about the role of the many great father's around the world, particularly in my community. For years this has been a bittersweet day for me.  Bitter in the sense that my own father was never active in my life; but also sweet because so many other fathers blessed and seeded into my life. 

As I get older and wiser I realize that sometimes things don't happen as we think they should.  However, God ultimately gives us everything we need in order to develop, grow and prosper.  Throughout my life God has placed good men in my path as a part of my journey. I have learned a lot about manhood by watching the men in my family, my male friends,  my former boyfriends and personal mentors.

Below I would like to share a few lessons that I have learned from two black men in my family that greatly impacted and shaped my life.

ALL Things Are Possible
I loved my granddaddy and thought he would live forever.  He died in 2008 at the age of 104.  What I remember most about my granddaddy, Joseph Gamble Sr., is that he was a very smart, wise, quiet and humble man.  He rarely talked so when he said something you knew that you needed to listen.  Only his immediate family knew his other skills and hobbies as a folk artist, avid reader and political commentator. (Interesting Fact: My granddaddy was the ONLY Democrat that I ever knew that liked President George W. Bush) 

My grandfather was the son of a white farmer and black woman in the early 1900's in Alabama.  He loved his family and would always tell  me stories about his childhood "up the country".  He especially liked to tell stories about his extremely colorful and resilient father.   My grandfather said that his Dad loved his boys and gave each son their own business (i.e. a "whiskey still") on their respective 18th birthdays. Most of granddaddy's favorite stories were centered around the adventures with his brothers while making whiskey and "running" moonshine.

What I found interesting about my granddaddy is that even though he was the least formerly educated and (least) traveled member of my family he was the MOST open minded.  My grandfather dropped out of school in the third grade and only traveled outside the state of Alabama 2-3 times during his entire lifetime.  Yet it was my grandfather that was always the most excited to hear about my travel adventures to Cuba, Africa and Europe. (He was very excited when I went to Cuba because he was secretly fascinated with Fidel Castro and the "communist".)

One of the other things that fascinated me most about by granddaddy was his unwavering belief in supernatural events. He often shared stories about unexplainable events like finding unexpected money to pay a bill in the exact amount needed, witnessing strange incidents occurring in nature and having chance encounters with people that were possibly angels. He loved watching the news and would often read books on dianetics, spiritual writings and Christian science.

I think the most important lesson that my grandfather taught me was to look beyond what I could see in the natural world and be open to experience the vast possibilities in the universe.  My grandaddy taught me to widen my horizons in thought. He taught me that God has no boundaries.

Never Take Love for Granted
I sincerely believe that God gives every human being a guardian angel on earth that loves you unconditionally.  My brother, Marcus Christopher Brown, was that angel for me.  He believed that his big Sister Tosha, could do anything, knew everything and someday would "be somebody".    

There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about my deceased brother. He was my younger brother and only sibling on my mother's side.  Unfortunately, he committed suicide on Thanksgiving Day in 2003.  It was a very sad and unexpected blow for my family.  

My biggest regret and life lesson learned from my brother is the importance of  not taking love for granted.  As my mother's oldest child, I never imagined that my brother would die before me. (And especially in his early thirties) I thought that I would have my little brother around to boss during my entire lifespan.

In hindsight, I now realize that I took his unconditional love and belief in me for granted.  It was only after his death that I realized how much pain Marcus was going through and that he needed help from his family.  Unfortunately,  I was personally too wrapped up in my own life to even recognize the depth of brother's pain.  This is something I sincerely regret.

For months, the reality of my brother's death caused me to struggle with tremendous feelings of guilt and remorse.  However, one particular day as I was thinking about all the things that I should have or could have done better to save my brother's life I heard a voice in my spirit.  The message was very simple, "Do you think that you could have saved him but I couldn't? Don't you know that life and death are in MY hands not yours."  It was at that very moment that I released the guilt and reflected on the larger lesson that Marcus taught me.......never take love and/or those whom you love for granted.     

Black men have taught me so much about life and love.  The men in my family are only a small fraction of men that have positively impacted my life.  I have learned from my friends, ex-lovers, leaders and coworkers.  Much of the breadth and depth of my life experiences have been a direct result of my relationship with the brothers that I loved or the ones that loved me.   

Today I encourage you to take the time to reflect and be thankful for all of the men that God has placed in your life.  The brothers have certainly added the texture to the fabric of my life. 

Thank you black men!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Standing in Your Power

Have you ever felt totally powerless?  If so, then you know that it is an awful and debilitating feeling.  One of my biggest personal challenges has been my desire to constantly want to please people.  I absolutely love to serve people and make them feel happy and loved. But sometimes it is at the expense of standing in my power.

I truly believe that serving others is a calling and gift from God  However, many times I have allowed this gift to be exploited and used out of context by my unbalanced desire to be accepted by other people. Recently a friend told me that I could reduce the stress in my life by no longer allowing others to exploit by gift by standing in my own power. 

Lately I have been thinking a lot about what exactly does it mean to stand in my own power.  I realize that many of my relationship challenges, personal failures and feelings of betrayal have resulted in me allowing external pressures to erode my internal sense of power.  It is important for all of us to completely embrace who we are as powerful beings. 

Although I am not a big self-help book fan I must admit that I have read scores of self-help articles, inspirational readings and motivational books on the subject. I truly desire to understand the concept more fully.  This evening I decided to mentally "freestyle" and list some of my thoughts about the concept.   Perhaps this blog post will serve as an personal exercise to help facilitate my growth in embracing the fullness of who I am. Prayerfully it will also be a blessing to you as well.

Reflection #1: Greater is He within me; than he that is in the world. 
This is a powerful bible verse that teaches us that our internal power within is actually greater than any external power or pressure in the world. If we really stood on this belief there is no way that we would ever feel a sense of powerlessness.  I recognize that my weak moments are rooted in the fact that I haven't fully accepted that God is not an outside separate entity but in fact His Sprit lives within me. God is a part of my being.

Reflection #2: People pleasing behavior never satisfies the people that you are trying to please.
I know that is a tongue twister but many of you know exactly what I mean.  Through my many life experiences and wisdom I have finally discovered that it is absolutely impossible to please everybody.  It is particularly useless to focus your energies on people that only seek to take from you and/or exploit your "people pleasing" nature.

People that constantly demand proof, actions, and personal favors recognize your gift but desire to control and/or exploit it for their own benefit. As we learn to stand in our power we have to recognize that we must be good stewards over the gifts that God has given us.  As the scriptures say, "Don't throw your pearls to swine."

All people deserve our prayer and reasonable help but NO ONE deserves to be given our power.  God bestows his favor to whom ever He chooses. Those that value your power will also value your use and protection of that power.

Reflection#3: Self forgiveness is this best path towards self acceptance.
I am oftentimes my worst and harshest critic.  Over the years I have internalized that being self critical will automatically  lead to self improvement.  NOT TRUE! While I think it is important for one to be reflective it is counter productive to become self-critical to the point of self doubt.
Reflection #4: Fully embrace your power for your gifts shall make room for you.
This statement is also rooted in a scripture.  It is so true!  Most of my most powerful moments have resulted in me operating in my gifts without fear and/or reservation.  Of course, your haters will take notice but I am convinced that the more you fly with the eagles the less you will be concerned about the actions of chickens.

Reflection #5: Chickens peck, turkeys strut, birds fly..... but eagles soar. 
A long time ago a best friend of mine told me about her bird analogy as it relates to people.  She told me to look at the actions of a common birds (chickens) and how their actions differs from the eagles.  She pointed out to me that chickens 1. hang out in groups, 2. have wings but don't fly, and 3. will eat whatever is placed before them.  While on the other hand, 1. eagles operate independently, 2. fly higher than any other known bird, 3. they build their nest up high and 4. highly selective about what they eat, who they mate with and where they build their nests.

She said, "Tosha we are eagles.  You must seek out the company and support of other eagles."  She also went on to say, "If eagles stay on the ground too long and hang out with the chickens there is a possibility they will take on the behavior of chickens.  Not only will the eagle no longer  soar...but it may forget  how to fly."
Please feel free to share your thoughts about STANDING in YOUR POWER!