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#bloglikecrazy: Open Letter #18

To my Church Families:

Lee’s Chapel Baptist Church in Brookside, AL
First Baptist Church Graysville East in Graysville, AL
St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church in Graysville, AL
Mason City A.O.H. Church of God in Birmingham, AL
First Baptist Church Carver in Bessemer, AL
Cathedral of the Cross in Birmingham, AL
Gateway Family Church in Trussville, AL
Zion Church in Landover, MD

In some way, shape, or form and at some point in time, you completely changed my life for the better. Each church listed up there hosts memories from my childhood to now and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything.

Cold ankles in lacy socks at Sunday School. Red Baptist Hymnals. Your sense of community. The smell of wooden pews. The whir of the Leslie when I turned on the organ. Music bouncing off the walls. Sausage and biscuit breakfast before worship service and free lunches every summer. The smiles on your faces and the sternness of your voices. Sequins and pearls adorning your suits. Tie pins and cufflinks that could rival any corporate executive’s attire. I remember thinking that you were the smartest people in the world when you read verses aloud. You were walking art and I was your canvas.

Photo by Dan Whitfield on Pexels.com

I call you family. Whether you prayed for me at the altar or laughed with me in the church parking lot, you played a major part in the woman I am today. You taught me that community is more than a word, it is an action that is always in season. We fed the poor, tutored children, taught God’s Word, and consoled each other at funerals. We forgot about the troubles of the week together. We danced until we felt free. Our hands lifted up and so did our hearts. God met us both inside and outside of those buildings.

Thank you.

I appreciate your light and life lessons. I pray that you continue to shine just as brightly as you did in my life. Keep smiling. Keep saturating yourself in the Word. Keep being a light. Keep encouraging youth so they can grow up to be grateful like me.

Sincerely,

CJW

#bloglikecrazy: Open Letter #1

Well, here we are.

One day, I was questioning Your existence and the next, You grew to be the most intimate Friend I could ever have.

I remember those confusing days. Going to church not knowing if You loved me the way You loved the people around me. Wondering if the sometimes-wild-yet-intriguing “Holy Ghost shout” would hit me next. I knew You were real; You just didn’t feel real to me. Then, I prayed earnestly with the fervent hope that You would answer in some way, shape, or form. I wondered… I waited… I wanted to experience what I heard every Sunday. I didn’t want to just read the stories, close the Book, and leave the faith between the pages.

I was hungry for it.

I was hungry for You.

I had questions and everyone kept saying You had answers. So, one prayer led to another… then another… and another…

Photo by Aslak Su00f8nderland on Pexels.com

Now, my faith encompasses everything I do. My identity, which once felt foreign, now is the super-suit in which I walk because I am confident in Your Creation. I am confident in You. My skin, my voice, my need to understand the world around me — all of it comes from You. They not only make me unique; they are proof that You exist. Who else could generate such biological genius that we have yet to discover? Who else could create underwater miracles that have yet to be named by scientists? No one. No thing.

So, my letter to You is one of Love, Gratitude, and Honor. I appreciate my mother for saturating our home with Your Word. I appreciate my father for allowing me to write down his sermon thoughts and outlines. Those were the best bible studies. Asking questions of my pastor and researching psalmic histories made me thirst for intimacy between us. No longer were You a long-distance love, but an everyday companion. The Greek. The Hebrew. The context. The maps. I found it all fascinating yet so expansive that I would get overwhelmed… but it left me wanting to know more. When I cried alone, I began to feel the warmth of Your comfort. When I was scared and needed a miracle, no explanation would fit except that You heard me.

Thank You for hearing me. Thank You for being with me. Thank You for being in me. I couldn’t do this life without You and thanks to our relationship, I never will.

Sincerely,

CJW

Wednesday Wind Down: Home

Happy New Year, Sweethearts! I hope you’re somewhere safe and enjoying your clean slate.

Last night, I did exactly what I wanted to do and I took no prisoners. I was in Landover, Maryland visiting Zion Church. Every year, they host new year’s eve worship services and an after-party. Two years ago, while serving online as a prayer/chat host, I said the following to myself: “I’m going in person. Just give me a couple of years.”  Well, I made it and it was incredible.

The welcoming spirit of the people bounced between the walls and spilled through the doors and into the parking lot. The line to attend each service resembled that of rock concerts. Trays of sparkling apple cider and snacks were served as we waited outside. The cold wind whipped around our smiles but couldn’t wipe them away. My sisters and I were simply excited to be there… together.

From beginning to end, their hospitality was genuine and infectious. I am still a prayer/chat host in their iCampus ministry and a small group member, so when I introduced myself, the sparkle in their eyes increased and their sweetness expanded. I was already welcomed beautifully when I arrived just like everyone else. That’s what made the visit so lovely. Love was everywhere and it fueled each part of the experience. Then, I thought of us as human sanctuaries. I’ve thought of our hearts as homes before, but last night, a prayer came with that idea.

Lord, I want my life to be as welcoming as this sanctuary. I can’t let everyone live in my heart, but my Light should welcome others to know You. God, please clear my sanctuary for Love to roam free.

People that didn’t know each other hugged like old friends and danced together like they had a rehearsal yesterday. It was exhilarating, warm, and free — and exactly what I prayed for two years ago. Every day won’t be a party, but moments like last night can live forever with the right ingredient… Love.

The basis of Pastor Keith Battle’s message was Isaiah 43. Here’s a verse from the sermon to uplift your week and your new decade.

IMG3870432726647843040.jpg

Peace, Thanks for listening, and See you next week!

#bloglikecrazy: Peep My Prayers #24

Prayer: “God, I want you to be comfortable in my praise. I want you to live here. I want my heart to be your home.”

There may come a time when you desire more out of a relationship. More intimacy. More time. More something. When that moment comes, how will you express this craving? I’ve experienced this sentiment and it took me on a deep dive into my faith. It also created unrest when I sat in church. I wanted more than a script. More than an agenda. I wanted God to sit with me and not just walk by. I wanted to be comforted, surrounded, and in companionship.

To this day, when I open my mouth to sing or fling my arms in dance, I want God to feel at home. I want Him to expand His awesomeness in the room and be comfortable enough to stay there in enjoyment. You know, the same way you feel when you visit someone who has sweet hospitality. It doesn’t matter if the person lives in an apartment or a mansion — if they make you feel comfortable, you want to stay. You want to be there and they are not required to entertain you in order for you to relish in the welcoming atmosphere. You kick back in the chair or cozy up with the blanket. You may even fall asleep or be completely energized when you leave. That’s how I wanted the Spirit of God to live in the thanksgiving of my lips and the offering of my movement.

I pray that you experience intimacy in waves of grace and truth. There’s safety there. I love you all and look forward to “seeing” you tomorrow. Peace & Thanks for listening!

 

#bloglikecrazy: Day 7 – Behold the Queens!

The Good

#7 – I get to do life with a group of women that are hundreds of miles away!

Distance does not win if Love is in the middle and the ladies in my life group are proof. The group I am referring to is the Zion Queens iCampus Life Group based out of Zion Church in Landover, MD. Twice a month for 1.5 hours, we see each other’s beautiful faces and whenever we get ready, we check in to laugh and encourage one another. Gotta love technology. When I visited the church in 2013, I didn’t know I would connect with people that love me like a sister and pray for me like they’ve known me their whole lives. That’s definitely the good stuff!

The Lesson

Real relationships take exposing of the soul, and it takes courage to do it no matter what age you are.

These women have been vital to my spiritual growth. They’re authentic and exceptional. I am so blessed to have them in my life and you probably have the same opportunity at your place of worship, in your community organization, or in your neighborhood. The hundreds of miles that separate us do not diminish the intensity of intimacy we have among each other. The special ingredient? Trust. That’s the magic sauce.

Who are you willing to expose your soul to? Guess what. Someone else wants to do that with you too. And even though you’re scared, you’ll find your safe space and your tribe will be there with open arms.

Peace & Thanks for listening! “See” you tomorrow, Sweethearts!

#bloglikecrazy: Day 19 – Church

Remember that TOGETHER post?

Guess what my pastor preached the following day? ENDURE: Running the Race. I included some of my tweets below. It’s one of the ways I like to take sermon notes. 

(Sidebar: I love it when God layers His Word. Don’t you? 🤗)

11/19/17 @GFCBHM

ENDURE

Hebrews 12:1 (NASB) – Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

http://bible.com/100/heb.12.1.NASB

One of my highlights was Ecclesiastes 4:12 – Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Essentially, we fight better together. That’s what church services are to me. Yes, we are there to collectively worship God, but I also like to think of it as a pit stop where you can pause and regroup with other runners. Knowing that you’re running in the same direction, having similar experiences along the way, and celebrating our different journeys forge our faith. It strengthens the spiritual muscles.

Running together.  What a beautiful, yet simple solution to many of our problems. What do you think?

Peace & Thanks for listening!

 

– Here’s a short stop for your week. God bless! – CJW –

The church is not aWhen God breathed into Adam, the Breath kept going (Genesis 2:7). Think of all the people in the world and how many breaths are taken each second. That’s a lot of breathing.

If we look at the Church as the Body of Christ, then inhaling and exhaling take on a new meaning. Church is not a social club. It’s a place for the Breath to resuscitate the Body so it can leave the building and touch the world. It’s a well for the Body to be refreshed enough to share the Living Water with others. It’s a hospital for the Body to be mended during war so that the battle scars become proof of life.

Don’t hold your Breath. It is literally the Ruach Elohim… the Spirit of God. Exhale His goodness. Exhale His grace. Exhale His Word.

Peace & Thanks for listening.

Churchified

african-american-gospel-choir-clip-art-51544
Photo Courtesy of ClipArtHut

 

Written after a conversation with a friend about empty, poisonous church antics. It burned my biscuits.

I don’t want to do church.

I don’t want to play church.

I am the Church.

The Church is me.

It has to breathe.

It has to be.

It has to reach beyond what my eyes can see.

It has to feel the Truth in front of me and slay the dragons I have yet to defeat.

I still have victory over the enemy, but I fight for the prize of the high calling, while boxing these rabid thoughts behind my eyes…

Everyday, I rise.

 

I am the Church.

I am the walking, living, breathing mouthpiece of the most high God.

I inhale His goodness and exhale His obedience.

He is in me and I in Him.

So, I am His hands.

I am His feet.

I am everything He created me to be

Impeccably.

I’m tired of noise in sanctuaries filled with hungry souls.

I’m tired of watching aching bodies leave with gaping holes.

I’m sick of seeing the sick and tired, dying inside pretending to be inspired.

I’m sick of boils bubbling from despair.

Hope expired.

 

Applause! Applause!

A round of applause for everyone on stage

for everyone engaged in cinematic display.

I’m not looking for actors to fill a role.

I’m looking for the Church

the crease

the Fold

the boundaries drawn with blood stained veins

the lines that separate the road from the Way.

 

Do not tempt me with your tinkling cymbals.

Do not entice me with your exclusivity,

But draw me in with Love unscathed

Draw me in with the beauty of His Name

Draw me close to heal my pain

Rain motivation on me

Protect me with your arms of prayer

Don’t manipulate my heartstrings and tell me you care.

Bottom out with me at the feet of Jesus.

Let our souls pour into His Hands until He feeds us

His joy, His love, His strength, His faith.

I’m not interested if it’s any other way.

I am the Church and so are you.

If we can’t be real,

then who are you?

I was always taught that Church was a hospital and an oasis for all to leave better than they arrived. Unfortunately, this isn’t happening every week. Instead, we attend as spectators of a traditional requirement or as mindless participants of a circus act. In a way, we have become conditioned to be churchified.

What do you think?

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