Accepting What God Allows

I’ve dealt with a lot of loss and death in my lifetime. Maybe not any more than others, but I’ve certainly been to my fair share of funerals. Family members that I loved deeply have gone on to be with God either through illness or complete tragedy or both. People who have known me my entire life and those who I met in the last 10 years of life have died – both kinds of losses impacted me, my family or my church family deeply. So, I know how it feels to lose someone.

And then there are losses that you simply can not explain. Losses that leave you weak in your stomach and make you cry at the most inopportune times. Some losses literally cut you to your core. It doesn’t even have to be your loss. It can be a loved ones personal loss that brings you to your knees. Your love for them coupled with your life experience can leave you asking existential questions.

God, why would you allow this?

There’s a song sung by Twinkie Clark. It says,
Accept what God allows
You’re better off anyway
Face the facts
And you will never stray
Turn your faith a loose
He’ll bring you out and give you all the proof
So don’t question God
Just accept what God allows

If that song ever resonated with me, it doesn’t now. Facing the facts is hard and often causes us great pain. Feeling that pain without the appropriate coping mechanisms and spiritual foundation can definitely lead us astray. I have no idea what the song meant by “turn your faith a loose” but I assume it’s like putting your faith into action in your situation. Listen when trauma has gripped you, that faith can seem non-existent. And don’t get me started on questioning God. Questioning God is not an act of spiritual treason. It is, however, a way to be in authentic conversation and relationship with the One who sits with us in these trials. Asking questions is a part of the human experience. “Why did you allow this to happen? Why do bad things happen to good people? Where were You when this was happening God? If you loved me, You would have intervened.” These are all thoughts I’ve pondered and questions people have asked. It feels weighty and difficult and hard to comprehend. And to make matters worse, accepting what God allows doesn’t take away the pain, the hurt and the frustration of loss, trials or tribulations.

So what do we as believers do?

I don’t know that I will ever have the answer to that question.

I don’t think I will ever be able to rationalize the losses we’ve taken.

I do know this. God has brought us through before and I’m trusting that God can do it again.

That is the hope that I have. That even when I can’t trace God, I can trust that God will at some point move me through this season of loss into the next season of life. And it’s in the hope for another season that my faith in God is renewed – even in the face of unnecessary pain.

Hold on to God even when accepting what God allows seems like too much.

Maybe that’s an oxymoron. Maybe it doesn’t make sense. In fact, I know it doesn’t make logical sense and that’s why people think that believers are crazy. It takes a little peculiarity to trust a God who doesn’t always step in when we feel like God should.

But I know God loves us and God never delights in our pain. So ask your questions, cry, scream and feel. And then put your hand in the hand of the One who comforts and heals.

The Time I Failed an Exam: The Real Story

I failed an exam.

There were several reasons why I failed, but nonetheless…I failed it. And there’s a little bit of joy around failing that exam because it’s one of five Senior Ordination Exams for PCUSA ministers. I passed the other four the first time I took them. Three of them I passed with flying colors. One I passed by God’s grace and mercy! So go me for passing the other exams!

I’m telling y’all this because as a Black woman in my denomination (where Black people make up less than 5% of the entire body), passing these exams is like jumping through hoops placed too high and too close together. The system, like everything else created by the dominant culture (read – white people in power) is setup for those with access to resources. Resources of time, of knowledge and of financial support.

At the time, I was a full-time student and mother working a couple of jobs. I had very little time and worked very hard for all of my financial resources. My access to knowledge was somewhat prohibited by the fact that I had little time to read additional materials and no extra financial resources to purchase texts of my own for this specific exam. This was also paired with the fact that I was in high stress mode trying to finish the last semester of my time in Div School virtually, writing final papers and completing a huge project for my graduate degree concentration. I was swamped to say the least.

I know I’m not the first person to fail an exam, but it was an eye opener. I worked hard at what I thought would be great essays, but I felt crushed because I just didn’t have the right texts. It was my choice to attend an ecumenical Divinity School/Seminary. And it was my choice to focus on more radical work within my degree (Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies). But it wasn’t my choice to be penalized for it. They tell you not to include anything in the test that would identify you, but it’s hard to separate my experience as a Black woman within Christianity. Our identities make our spiritual experiences unique and shape our theology. Even if I agreed with Migliore, Barth, or Calvin, how I came to agree with them still speaks to who I am in this time and place and context. How do you leave that out? How do you wash yourself clean of the personal experiences to write about a theology you have come to know and love through deep investigation of self and God? How do you write a sermon about the disabled and not talk about how there are levels to which differently abled persons get more visibility? Or how do you speak to someone about a priestly blessing without speaking to the fact that there are those who have been abused by the faith leaders they once knew?

So, I failed. Because as I wrote, I kept panicking about whether or not I was saying too much or too little. I wondered if it sounded too “Black,” or too “radical” or just plain and simple…not white enough. And then, I turned the test in blank. Yeah you read that right. After slaving over translations, online resources, and a couple of trips to borrow books, I turned the test in blank. I was crippled by fear. Fear that I wasn’t good enough. And even as I am now on the other side of this and have passed the exam, – third times the charm – I still feel sad about failing. I feel sad because I let bringing my full self to the table be a hinderance. But isn’t that part of being a minister? Isn’t allowing your story and God’s story to meet up so that you can walk with God’s people on their journeys part of being a good pastor? How can you gauge if I’m ready to pastor only on translations, word studies and historical background? Why isn’t it about how all of that speaks to God’s people today, in this specific place and time and context, in Black and Brown bodies and experiences? Because if I wrote to the needs of those people, with the experience that I have, the readers would know who I was – A Black woman in the South trying to become a minister in a denomination where she is the ultimate minority.

Maybe people will read this and think I am complaining. Maybe there are those of you who think it’s par for the course. Maybe there are others who feel just as bewildered as I did. Whatever you’re feeling, I hope you remember that you are God’s child too and that it matters who you are. Your skin color, your gender, your sexuality, your location…everything about you matters to God. And God loves you for you. You don’t ever have to erase yourself to be loved, to be chosen or to be accepted by God. So show up as your full self. You’re made in God’s image and you’re beautiful and qualified to do whatever God has called you to do in this world.

xoxo

JasSings

A Lenten Reflection on Darkness

Strangely enough, I have been thinking about the dark a lot lately. It’s interesting because many times the dark or darkness gets a bad reputation. I can completely understand this because often times when we are in the dark, it’s hard to see where we are going. It’s also hard to know what is present with us in the dark. And it’s easy to be scared when we can’t see or don’t know what to expect. But there is so much more to the darkness than not being able to see.


Darkness is a place of rest and growth. Seeds buried in the dirt are covered in darkness, nurtured by the soil it inhabits and the water that seeps into it. We sleep in the dark because science has proven that we get the best rest in the dark. When the lights are out and we are sleeping, our minds and bodies are being restored for the next day. Even certain types of photographs require darkness and low level lighting in order to develop properly. Darkness is useful. Darkness is, dare I say it, essential.


Lent often times is associated with darkness. After all, we know that Lent leads us through betrayal, uncertainty and eventually to the death of Jesus. In the past, Lent has led us through seasons of self-denial and strict discipline. This year, I believe that Lent is leading us down a path of rest, development and growth. I know you are thinking, “How is that possible with everything going on?” It seemed strange to me too, as I contemplated sharing this with you all. But the truth is, we have a choice. We can allow ourselves to be afraid of the unknown and be consumed by that fear, or we can trust God to use this Lenten season to do something miraculous in our lives.


My prayer is that the darkness associated with Lent will be one that helps you grow and develop. That this year’s Lenten journey will lull you into a rejuvenating rest and a peaceful restoration that can only be accomplished through trusting God to do what God does best – take us in his hands, cover us like soil, develop us like photographs and make us new.


Jasmine

Are you ready to follow through?

We often get upset about the fact that people don’t “follow through.” The situation or opportunity is all setup and ready to go, all a person has to do is show up and follow through. But sometimes we don’t show up. And other times when we show up, we still don’t follow through.

We human beings are some interesting beings. We say we want things or at least we act like it, only to later be at odds with ourselves and others.

I’m learning from life that we can’t be mad at others when we think they don’t follow through for us or for themselves. There are so many things that keep people from taking that next step in their careers, family lives and relationships. And whatever the reasons, despite how perfect things may seem to be, it really just boils down to one thing: Are you ready?

I’m asking myself that same question. Am I ready for what will come next if I follow through? Do I really believe that I am prepared for all that I say I want and deserve? The answers to those questions will reveal so much.

The truth of the matter is we aren’t self-aware enough sometimes to know if we truly want to follow through. And that’s why we get ourselves in these situations where at the last minute, we bail. We bail on what could be the best thing to ever happen to us because we didn’t know we had so much baggage, so much emotional instability or so little capacity to step up to the plate of responsibility/love/opportunity.

I’m promising myself this year to be ready to follow through. Be ready to start what I finish or don’t start it at all. I deserve to be, have and do what my heart desires and I can’t afford to let a little fear of the past stop me from the brilliance of the future – or even the joy of the present.

If we haven’t learned anything from 2020 – we learned that life is way too short…so I’m ready to follow through.

Don’t Be Delusional: On Remaining Silent Concerning Matters of Justice

There are so many things I need to be doing right now: Assignments, videos, editing, writing and reading to name a few. But there has been something weighing on my heart. After a situation recently gut-punched me and made me boohoo cry all before 10am on a Monday morning I thought that I needed to write.

And so I did. I wrote, but it was in the form of an email.

As I tried to decide what and how much I would/could share with you all, I hung my hat on these words, my words: “When the church chooses not to take a stance, it empowers others in their delusions of what justice, Jesus and the Gospel is really about.”

As a Black woman and a future #ClergyMama, I am disillusioned daily by people who claim to be Christian but refuse to stand up for what they believe in. I know it’s hard and I know that people will disown you for certain beliefs. I’ve experienced the backhanded comments and strained relationships for my beliefs too. I’m not immune from that sort of thing. But as a Christian, someone who follows Christ’s example of love and justice, there are some things you can’t just turn a blind eye to. There are some things that you must choose a side for. You can’t be lukewarm.

It ruins your witness. And further, it promotes the ill-interpreted Gospel of those who think it’s okay to deny folks of their humanity. Playing the fence as a Christian says to those who are intent on looking past the ills of this world and promoting their own selfish advancement at the expense of those who are at the bottom of the social totem pole that God only loves them. It debunks the need for justice in this world and it downplays everything that Jesus did in his ministry.

I can’t begin to tell you how painful it is to know that good white people, good rich people, good politicians and good Christians rather coddle those who have power than to support those who do not.

It’s infuriating that people you respect are just as complicit in systemic racism and bigotry all because they prefer not to ruffle a few conservative feathers.

Don’t be the one to promote the beliefs of delusional Christians. Don’t be the one who will go along just to get along. Don’t be the one who supports the opposite of what Jesus established here on earth.

Don’t be delusional. Your inability to stand up, will cost you. It’s not free to remain silent anymore. “When the church chooses not to take a stance, it empowers others in their delusions of what justice, Jesus and the Gospel is really about.”

On Blossoming: A Gratitude Post

2020

2020 has been… a year.

It feels like 2 years rolled into one. Jam packed with unforeseen and never before seen happenings. Filled with so many heartbreaking, unbelievable, downright ridiculous occurrences. Crushing us with loss, and fear, and doubt of what is to come next.

2020 has been… a year.

Yet through the midst of this year of years, I have found joy and peace, love and understanding, and insurmountable growth.

This year, my star word was Blossom. In its verb form, it means to mature or develop in a promising or healthy way. And I know that I have truly Blossomed.

I noticed it yesterday as I introduced myself to a group of people that I have never met before on behalf of the student-led organization I am currently serving as president. I was able to see myself in real time as I spoke and shared my organizations vision. As I spoke, I almost didn’t recognize myself. The woman I was looking at was cool, energetic and passionate. She spoke with such ease and poise. Who was she?

I know it might seem crazy but I was proud of her. I was proud of myself. In those moments, I recognized a leader. I recognized an influencer. I recognized a woman.

This year was unexpected, to say the least. And yet, Jasmine still managed to grow, mature and develop in a healthy way. It’s been such a beautiful transformation. I’m so grateful for this journey. Grateful for a God who sees fit to turn the worst year into the best year ever.

Despite whatever the year may have brought you…

no matter how hard the enemy tries to keep you from prospering…

I hope you will find yourself BLOSSOMING!

Dream Homes, American Flags & Neighborhoods We Don’t Belong In

When I was a little girl, occasionally, my mom would take me on drives through nice neighborhoods.  I’ve adopted this same thing with Haley.  Recently, while driving through a new neighborhood in Winston, we found ourselves gawking, oohing and ahing at the beautiful homes, manicured lawns and extravagant layouts.  We were making a spectacle of ourselves but honestly, we had never seen homes so immaculately built in person.  We have begun to mentally design our dream home in the fashion of those homes and have told everyone we know about them whenever the topic of homebuying comes up in conversation. 

Recently, I started a new job at a predominately white church in a really nice neighborhood.  After recording live prayers this morning, I decided to drive around the surrounding neighborhood.  It’s an area that I’ve driven past quite frequently in my ten plus years of living on the west side of Greensboro.  As I crossed the street in my cute little Honda, I noticed a home with about 5-6 U.S. flags hanging off of the fence.  Next door to it was a home with two big U.S. flags.  I immediately felt uncomfortable.  I didn’t even want to look at the houses anymore.  Somehow, this patriotic display just didn’t sit well with me. 

It’s true that the U.S. flag has become an unsettling symbol these days.  I often wonder why people are so intent on raising a flag on their lawns in the midst of social unrest; When everything they say that flag stands for is actually not true.  And it really makes me think that the desire to raise the U.S. flag so prolifically is because they’re too ashamed to raise the confederate flag.  People are asserting that the way the United States is now is the way it should stay and that they are proud of it as is.  Everyone knows that the U.S. is in shambles.  Politically, we are a destitute land.  It’s so frustrating.  

And the neighborhoods with beautiful homes and extravagant landscaping are often full of flag wavers.  And quite frankly, I’ll never belong in those kinds of neighborhoods.  I’d rather go door to door asking people if they had a problem with my skin color or people of my race before moving into a neighborhood and becoming the victim of silent or covert racism, bias and prejudice.  

When will dream homes be built in dream neighborhoods?  Neighborhoods where Black people are treated equally not because of their ability to afford to live on the “good” side of town but simply because they are human beings.  Neighborhoods where brown people are valued.  Neighborhoods where the cops don’t get called on us because we look suspicious.  Neighborhoods where we don’t have to worry about what a random influx in raised flags actually means.  Neighborhoods where everyone is somebody.

When will dream homes be built in neighborhoods where I belong?

Cue The Finish Line

July 30, 2020

People say life is a marathon and I couldn’t agree more. Every time you accomplish a goal or reach a new level in your dreams you cross a finish line.

When you take the time to celebrate your wins along the way, you create more joy and happiness in your life. Also, who doesn’t love a little pat on the back?!?

Take the time to wish yourself a job well done and then get setup for the next race because there are so many finish lines for you to run through!

Keep Running and Cue The Finish Line!!!

Cue The Transformation

July 29, 2020

Getting to the root of who you are and what you’re capable of will change you.
Period.
Full stop.

You can’t tap into the very thing that will allow you to operate at your best without making some changes. Living into your essence will make you quit some things, leave some things, pick up new things and ultimately be who you are truly called to be.

This work requires access to the Holy Spirit though. The Spirit will lead you and guide you. Prune you and nurture you. Strip you and rebuild you.

So be aware and beware. Do not start this process if you aren’t ready to change.

But if you’re ready, go ahead…
Cue the Transformation!!!

Cue The Essence…

July 28, 2020

The great hymn writer, Beyoncé, sang so gracefully, “Step out your estimate,
Step in your essence and know that you’re excellent, Rise…”

Today I want you to think about what it means to step into your essence. Essence is the quality that defines you. It is “the most significant element, quality, or aspect of a thing or person.” Your essence is your “ultimate nature…opposed to [your] existence.”

What is within you? What is so deeply defining you? When you find and connect to your essence, you will in fact “step out of your estimate” and you will RISE above what you thought you could be and into your highest self.

Cue the ESSENCE!