Rev Fave

The Sovereignty Experience

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I had one job — just one. On this particular Sunday afternoon, that job was to edit, convert and post HD video onto a website. Somewhere between mouse clicks and sound levels, I found myself in conversation with two African worship leaders — one from Kenya and the other from Nigeria — enamored by the tech setup used to bring excellence to ministry.

Caught in the midst of trimming video clips and exporting files to an external hard drive, the conversation grew to include another worship leader who led us out of the production suite and into a small music room a few yards away.

And that’s when it happened.

With him on guitar and my playing piano for the first time in years, we all found ourselves in a majestical wave of praise and worship. I was playing songs I had heard on the radio, but never studied. The African ladies carried a harmonious alto into the atmosphere. Others came and began to worship God with their lifted hands. I was still in awe that the anointing touched my muscle memory to guide my fingers across familiar keys to play unfamiliar songs with memorable meaning. This lasted for an hour before we prayed safe travels for the ladies and walked our peaceful spirits back into the suite to complete editing.

Unplanned, unrehearsed and unexpected… in this experience, God did what He wanted to do with His children. I was encouraged to be surrounded by those who don’t mind surrendering to the will of God even when they’re not on stage, on program or on the solo list. I was empowered to play an instrument, that I cherished for decades, with the ease and dexterity I had when I used to play for hours.

We represented three countries, two continents and One incredible God. We collectively experienced the freedom of praise, the transparency of souls uninhibited by salvation, the joy of anointed talents and the sovereignty of God to surge His presence in the midst of an otherwise random situation.

God is Social

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Our God is a social God. He wants to spend time with us. That’s why we were created; to have an ever-growing relationship with the Father in a way that glorifies Him and give us a life and afterlife showered by his love. He’s more than some mystical man in the clouds controlling our every move. He’s more like a loving parent who’s watching our every move. He knew we were going to get dirty with our decisions, so He sent His Son to pay the price for our transgressions — all so He could continue His relationship with us.

God speaks to us in several ways. Occasionally He will reach out and drop a powerful Word into our spirit. Nothing too exasperated, but just enough of our native language to make sense and change the course of our lives.

Some of the most profound, life-altering messages I’ve received from God could be captured in a tweet. He often places visions in my mind and post them in my subconscious like a spiritual Instagram. In order to deepen my relationship with Him, I’ve had to delve my face into His book.

When we share His message to others and ignite influentials to share to their tribes of people – God’s Word goes viral like a YouTube cat video. When His Word goes forth, it gains more than “awwww” – the gains are actually awesome: healing, supernatural restoration, victory, favor, forgiveness, love, grace, mercy, etc. The list is longer than a stream of Periscope hearts.

God is social; however, He won’t post a selfie. It’s His expectation that “we” reflect Him in the world.

 

Why I Will Never Have a First Lady

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The first panoramic view from the pulpit often gives me a sobering pictorial of my reality. Universal images of gum chewers, crying babies and sleeping congregants are par for the course. My eyes always find their way to the front, where she likes to sit. Her headgear is large enough to balance a small fruit basket. Her smile gleams almost as bright as that diamond ring on her left hand. She’s fresh dressed — like a million bucks; with accessories coordinated with a meticulous level of detail.

Her regal aesthetic is a reflection of the man of God to whom she belongs. If the church were a Christmas tree, then she would be the star. She’s the First Lady.

And I will never have one.

My pastor’s wife is just that…his wife. She is his help meet. His best friend. His lifelong cheerleader, personal chef, co-parent, counselor, road trip partner and motivational speaker. I watch her take care of him with such fervor, even after 35+ years of marriage. She is many things to him, but she is not a First Lady. My pastor doesn’t allow anyone to refer to her as such.

Having a “first” implies a sequential order. There is no second, third or so on when it comes to the love of your life. She is his one and only — her function is to be by his side and not be revered by a congregation. More importantly, she brings so much class and grace to her role as his wife, that being a First Lady would be a demotion.

At first glance, it may seem like an overreaction to semantics; yet the neurolinguistic programming of this moniker makes a difference in the long run. While my pastor’s wife plays an integral role in his ministry, there is no confusion as to her primary role in his life. The only thing greater than her devotion is the reciprocity of love that is displayed whenever I see them together.

It is my prayer than men in ministry — or any man who’s ready to welcome it — finds a wife who transcends social constructs and adheres to high spiritual conduct. First can be any number in any given sequence, but “one” will always be the first number in infinity — the welcome sign towards eternity.

As she waits to be discovered, I believe that miraculous woman should prepare to be worthy of discovery. Meanwhile men should work towards being worthy of her preparation. And when their love for God and individual joy collide — they will jointly discover the labor of love that comes from being more than the first.

Let the Week Say I Am Strong

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Nothing causes you to reflect on God’s strength like an overwhelming week of challenges. It’s amazing that so many obstacles can present themselves in such a short period of time; yet their origins can be discovered long before this week began. I’m embarking on a new journey in full-time ministry. My connectivity to my community is growing. My local church celebrates its centennial anniversary.

In contrast, I’m losing people. They’re losing me. A parade of grief, inconsideration and erroneous deduction is leading the mass exodus of people from my life. Like a well placed band-aid, the removal hurts and what troubles me is my ignorance to the pain. There’s a level of sensitivity, that’s been with me since childhood, that is no longer present. I love you, but I can’t control your departure. I miss you, but I don’t care about your leaving. It hurts because I know it’s supposed to (hurt), but to be honest — I can’t feel you leave.

The inevitability of death. I knew my sister was going to leave soon. The thoughtlessness of people. I understand certain people see my talents as a means to an end, period. The finite quantity of time. I realize my own mortality. The soaking wet weight of sadness. I’ve discovered that I’ve never learned how to process the unpleasant emotions of life. The echoing void of loss. I stand at the entrance of emptiness, often when others believe I’m never alone.

This is why I don’t trust my feelings. They are fleeting, inconsistent and misleading. Feelings have the potential to guide me away from God’s purpose. My mastery of emotions is still a work in progress. While I cannot control how I feel, I have complete autonomy over how I display, manage and disclose the way I feel. What’s important is the promise of God to keep me in perfect peace despite the chaos externally as well as inside.

What does that mean?

The inevitability of victory. God has promised me that I would win, so why should I worry? The thoughtlessness of my wrongs. God has forgiven me of the wrongs I’ve done to Him; how dare I hold on to the transgressions and inconsideration done to me by others.  The finite quantity of sorrow. It hurts to lose people and can cause you to question your own fallacies; but pain is temporary. This too, shall pass. The soaking wet weight of joy. When I think of from where God has rescued me, there’s a joy that transcends my circumstance and it’s unavoidable. The echoing void of the enemy’s presence. I embrace solitude; especially the absence of the enemy and his delusional practice of winning over me.

Perspective.

I can’t lose. I pray God keeps me and matures me beyond the paralytic response to life events, to where I can feel whatever and trust Him whenever.

I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye to My Sister

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He never looked so excited. His smile never stretched that wide. I hadn’t been home from college five minutes and he’s got me on the road again. Dude never drove so fast. Why are we flying to East Chicago? What’s her name? You know that light was red, right? We couldn’t stop by Ray’s Shrimp on the way out here? It’s like that???
 
When we arrived at your apartment, he couldn’t get out the car quick enough. He couldn’t walk the pavement swift enough. He couldn’t wait to get to you. He couldn’t wait for me to meet you. I’d known him all my life and I had never seen him so happy, eager and enamored. Meeting you, seeing your smile for the first time and the effect it had on him – I understood why his actions were so unorthodox. You took his breath away and the look on his face made me forget about the shrimp with hot and mild sauce on it and to the side. From the moment he introduced you, I knew you weren’t going anywhere.

I was meeting my sister for the very first time.

Praise God I wasn’t losing my brother — but gaining a sister, a niece and here comes a nephew. You never stopped smiling. When we lost my brother, you never stopped being my sister. Years of galavanting across the country couldn’t stop you from reaching out to me and we’d laugh and joke about the good ol’ days and how God good continued to be in our lives.
 
Our last conversation, I was driving and we talked for hours about my brother, your children, the past, the future, our life challenges and how God would see us through it all.
 
Ironically, during my last conversation with my brother, I was driving and we talked for hours about you, your children, the past, the future, our life challenges and how God would see us through it all.
 
And for the same reason, I have no regrets of conversations never spoken. We laughed. We joked. We prayed. We did that. I have that. I will always be your little brother.
 
But none of that prepared me for any of this. I simply wasn’t ready. I didn’t expect our last conversation to be our last conversation. All I can say with any confidence is “Thank You, Jesus” for keeping you here for as long as He did. I’m praying God’s comfort to blanket your children, family members and friends. I’m praising God for your smile, that slender grin that changed the life of my best friend, extended our family and increased the love. I’m thanking God for the legacy of your laughter, sincerity and willingness to help others.
 
God bless you, Darveen. Rest, my sister…rest.

Two Years a Preacher

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On 26 January 2014, I preached my first sermon entitled “Get Down to Get Up.” This message of humility before God, as a catalyst for elevation on earth, is the foundation of my being a preacher. It is my reminder to remain humble in the presence of the LORD and never get caught up in the accolades that often come with being a man of God.

As a preaching son of The Antioch M.B. Church of Pratt City, I’m blessed to serve under the tutelage of Dr. Q.E. Hammonds – one of the most learned, influential pastors in the country. My spiritual learning is enhanced further as I work alongside seven (7) brothers-in-ministry with varied levels of Biblical knowledge and life experiences. My church is compromised of wise elders, progressive adults and brilliant children. We are well-respected in the community and overflowing with love for each other. I am in a blessed place.

It’s been two years since my first sermon and I’ve been privileged to deliver eight (8) Sunday morning sermons in addition to several Words of Encouragement messages on Wednesday nights (after Bible Study). In two years, I’ve been blessed to share at our district conventions, lead our Order of Service and most recently reflect on the theme of our church’s centennial anniversary, “We’ve Come Thus Far by Faith.”

In two years, I’ve attended more funerals than ever before. The LORD and my family saw fit for me to eulogize my 43-year old cousin. Random pit stops at my church turned into teaching bible study with our senior members (i.e., Lunch With Jesus). God continually finds a way for me to serve Him, humbly.

My friendships are deeper. Apparently, my friends weren’t surprised at my call to ministry and I can see where their authenticity has grown in our conversations. Some have refrained from cursing around me *lol* while others quietly encourage me or ask for prayer. I find myself praying a lot with and for my friends. I’m thankful to be able to be a friend to them in that way.

My role as a father has an added dimension. All men are priests of their home; yet it’s different when you’re a single father who’s experienced separation, divorce, long distance and sorrow from not being in the home. Nevertheless, my children are my first ministry and preaching Jesus to them in a way where they can access God in their walk as children, is one of my greatest joys.

I realize that my two years as a preacher has shown me that I can still be a loner (and I’m working on that) when it comes to studying, praying and interacting with people outside of church. I understand that I’m a better writer than I am a speaker.  I’m working hard to allow the eloquence and practicality of my words to leap off the page in a way that my oratory has the same impact. My third revelation is rooted in the power of prayer to revolutionize my situation. It’s amazing. God is amazing.

Thanking God for my two years a preacher and praying I continue to grow in grace for many years to come.

The Healer

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A few years ago, I wrote a song entitled Time Heals – a somber, mid-tempo melody about coping with heartache. The lyrics express disappointment in the perceived healer of life’s woes…time.

They say you are a healer
But each second I feel weaker
You’re powers aren’t working
Please don’t fail me now

“Time heals” is one of many cultural clichés whose popularity and frequency of use gives it a false sense of validation. At one time, even I was under the assumption that as the seconds sweep across the clock, my healing was imminent. Over the course of time, I would soon forget the issues that plague my spirit and cause my heartbreak. If I simply wait on the minutes and hours to grow into days, weeks and months – my pain will subside…all because of time.

Many of us have experienced the failure of time to be a catalyst for spiritual and emotional healing. In fact, the passing of time has allowed some of us to pick the scabs of our wounds to the point where we prolong the healing process with our unforgiveness, bitterness and anger. Others spend that time keeping the pain in the forefront of their minds. It guides every future decision; thereby having an adverse effect on how time operates.

Time is merely the infrastructure by which you can build your faith or wallow in your defeats. I’ve watched time deteriorate the spirit of a person because they counted on time to do the healing versus their doing the work (to heal). Time is an opportunity for us to give it to God and allow Him to be The Healer in our lives.

What I love about God is how he is not bound by the hands of the clock. He can restore you instantly, He can revive your spirit in days and not months. Healing can happen in the blink of an eye. Faith can be built gradually. Joy is attainable throughout eternity.

The phrase “time heals” can be oxymoronic in that time truly doesn’t do the work, but rather gives you room where God can do the work. We don’t know how much time we have, so it’s critical to give our wounded hearts to The Healer who exudes strength in our weakness, never stops working and able to do anything – at any time – but fail.

We Need A Few Saved Men

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I’ve seen the face of hopelessness and his beard was immaculate. The sunken eyes of shattered dreams rest securely behind the tinted glasses of designer frames. Anger and rage pulsate in veins that throb against dress shirt collars kept close by bowties and sportcoats. The battle lines for souls are drawn across the strong chest that’s covered in orange jump suits; blanketing a bleeding heart that beats inside a cage…subconsciously begging to be saved.

When I see my brother making a conscious decision to get saved and give his life to Jesus Christ, it is a victory won against the enemy that sought to destroy him. And I understand the road to salvation is often paved with discouragement, challenges, temptations and dangers.

Upon salvation, it often gets worst as you have made yourself the enemy’s prime target. Through salvation, the miracle of God transforming every circumstance into a catalyst for glory — is a wonder to behold, if we hold on to faith until it overrides fact. It energizes my spirit to see men…young men…young, black men…make that decision to choose life when the world shows, practices and ultimately wants to administer death.

The world has always had good men. Now more than ever, the world is in need of saved men. I’m beyond ecstatic to see them transforming before my eyes – one baptism at a time – because there’s so much work to do. There are so many lives to be revolutionized. There are so many families to be built, restored and rescued. There are so many businesses and organizations that require a saved man’s leadership. There are communities whose vitality hangs in the balance and waits for the intercession of saved men with steps ordered by God to do the impossible and change the world.

Regardless of the calamity shared in our society’s media, I know that a few saved men are being made everyday. The battle is on and popping. The war is already won. All we gotta do is give our time, talents and treasures to the Lord.

I praise God that a few saved men can do with Him what a few good men could never do without.

You’re Not Getting Old, You’re Being Blessed!

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“But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip.” (Acts 2:24) NLT

I was sixteen years old when I realized I suffered from necrophobia, the fear of death and things associated with it. I could not fathom the inevitable concept of death. This condition was often amplified at funerals.
Funerals freaked me out. Cemeteries creeped me out. The thought of touching a dead body, gripping the bars of a coffin or lowering remains into a six-foot hole – always came with a feeling of doom and trepidation.

I asked God to help me overcome my phobia. When we ask God to adjust our character traits, I’ve noticed He will thrust you in an uncomfortable environment that will extract the trait which you seek. You want more patience? God will place you in situations where you have to wait beyond your normal patience level. Want peace? God will allow you to stroll into total chaos. Want love? God will send you into a circumstance where you may need to love someone who’s not being very lovable.

In order to overcome my fear of death and funerals, God provided me with several opportunities to attend them. I want to be there for people and reaffirm God’s peace and comfort during their sorrow — even if it’s just through my presence.

While death is certain for everyone, its exact arrival time is highly uncertain. In recent years, I’ve seen elderly patriarchs and matriarchs leave admirable legacies. I’ve watched a man in his early 50s leave young adult children whom he won’t see graduate from college. I’ve endured the pain of watching a mother and daughter plucked from the earth like roses and laid to rest together. I’ve empathized with the grieving parents of a days old infant. I’ve even had the difficult task of eulogizing my own cousin who grew up with me, but will never have a chance to grow old.

As I’ve come to terms with death and my own mortality, I joke that I have “Black Benjamin Button Syndrome”- where I’m aging backwards. That condition only applies to my aesthetics; while the truth is I am getting older.

My peers are lamenting through what they perceive is a mid-life crisis. It’s a concept I cannot understand because it implies that we know the beginning and end of our life story by identifying our current state as the “middle.” There may be some subtle and /or blatant changes happening in our health, finances and life circumstances. Stiffness. Soreness. Aches. Pains. Bills. Dreams deferred. Visions blurred. And the lie on the street is that you’ve let life pass you by. It’s almost time for you die and you’ve done nothing you planned. That high school graduation speech gave you so much promise and hope; but it’s 20 years later and now your kids have that promise and you’ve been deceived into thinking your abundant life has alluding you.

But God.

He gave you “now.” That’s it. There are no days stored up for you and the ones you spent are over. He gives everyone right now. From the most successful to the most downtrodden – each of us gets right now. Not years, months, hours or even minutes. The exact quantity of life is not promised to you, but that doesn’t mean you go left and stress over the exact moment your life ends. You know neither.

So what do you know?

We know that God created us for a good work that He will carry on until the day of Jesus Christ. That’s our focus. That’s our purpose. We also know that Jesus died but death couldn’t hold him. As believers who are Christ-like, we have the same destiny to be released from the horrors of death – which is eternal punishment – and find peace in that we will die and that will NOT be the end of the story. In fact, it will be the beginning of infinity in the most glorious place in the universe.

Meanwhile, be confident and know you that where you are in life is exactly where you’re supposed to be. Even if it’s not in the best environment, all things (including the ratchet) are on God’s payroll.

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phillipians 1:6) NIV

Behind the Selfie

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For more than 10 years, I’ve called social media our “best foot forward” in terms of sharing our thoughts, life events and appearances. It’s the digital equivalent of teenagers hanging out at the mall on a Saturday afternoon; and I don’t expect to see you out there in a dingy robe, house shoes and a bonnet on your head – smelling like bacon and syrup.

Some of us are out there like that, though.

For every person that posts the immaculate selfie, a cautionary status directed at their “haters” or a gushy relationship status — there’s someone who’s not happy with their appearance, feel inferior because they think no one likes them or compressed by the gravity of loneliness. And they aren’t teenagers; these emotions grip the lives of middle-aged parents, professionals and even the elderly.

We see your blessings. We celebrate your milestones. I thank God for technology that connects us like never before. Behind the selfies are bruises from abusive relationships – internal and external. Your children are ’bout that life and you pray that, when the phone rings, it’s not someone asking you to come ID their body or bail them out of jail. The lie of worthlessness keeps you on the ledge of suicidal thoughts.

You’re on FB for the sole purpose of stalking his page, going through her photos and reliving a season long gone…and painful. You’re one check away from homelessness. You can’t stand your marriage. You hate your job. You don’t see the point of school. Some days, you don’t see the point of you.

That’s what I see often behind the smiles of social media. It is indeed our best foot forward; yet our shoes are dirty, worn and uncomfortable. My God wants us to follow Him – he doesn’t have a 5,000 friend limit. My prayer is that He heals our heart – so what’s left is joy. When joy cohabits with your circumstances, it gives your situation purpose and leverages your life challenges into testimonies.

Thank God for touching the statuses we don’t post, wiping the tears that fall after the selfie is taken and restoring the life we work tirelessly to polish before others who are hurting, too.

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