Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Removing the Mask and Facing the Mirror

By Jaime Gill

 


Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, who's the fairest of them all? Surely it cannot be me, because if I was those men wouldn't have raped me.

This revision from a line made familiar by the Disney movie Snow White, became the statement that I made to myself as I realized that I was a rape survivor. A survivor of rape.  A girl who was raped. No matter how you say it, the sting of the reality of what happened to me did not get any softer. How did this happen? Better yet, how did this happen to me? At the mere age of 17, I was reflecting that there was something very different about me.

 I was now a rape survivor. 

Raised in a single parent home, I was the baby girl of a family of five. I was very much loved by my family and neighbors, some would even say spoiled. I was protected, supported, and given every opportunity in the world to pursue all of my dreams.  I was the shadow to my older brothers and sisters. I cherished times with my grandparents and my mom and grandmothers were my heroes. My dad and grandfathers were the coolest people I knew.

Honor student, active in school. Former Girl Scout. Friendly to all that I met and knew. How did this happen to me? Why did this happen to me? This was not supposed to happen to me.

 But guess what? It did.

Raped. Three times. Baseball rules say three strikes and you are out and that is exactly how I felt.  I just wanted to go to the store; I just wanted to hang out with friends. How did these very separate days, very separate instances, involving very different people have so many similarities?

 Raped in the back of a record shop. Raped two apartments from my own home. Raped in my boyfriend’s home at a party by his roommates.  Am I cursed? Is God mad at me? This clearly cannot be what life is supposed to be.

So I hid behind a mask. Not a physical mask, but an emotional and spiritual mask. I smiled during the day and I plotted at night. I plotted how to get back at the men that did this to me. That scarred me. That hurt me. During the day, in the public I was one person, but privately I was a different person. I had to be. I had to protect myself from something so heinous and tragic ever happening again. One way one minute and another in the next, but the juggling began to make me tired and confused.  My moods and personalities began to switch at the wrong times in front of the wrong people. The mask became too heavy. I just wanted it all to end. And so I tried to end it.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Unfailing Love of the Father

By Katrinna Harris

By the time I was 13, I was living on my own, living from house to house with whoever would take me in. By the age of 16, I had been raped three times and had tried to commit suicide three times.

 Abandoned and abused, I still knew there was more to life than what I was living. But I could not find it.  I was still a giver and loved people.  I just could not understand why I was born. I often wondered why I was alive. As a matter of fact, I longed for death thinking it would be a relief. I hated living because I could not see a good reason to live in my circumstances.

 I was not raised in a church and didn’t know about God the Father, his son Jesus or the Holy Spirit. I did not have or know anyone I could call on. Manipulated by friends and betrayed constantly, I just thought this was the way of life. That is until God decided one day to pursue me.

Although my earthly father was not there, my heavenly father was always there. I consider it a miracle that God took the time to pursue me. I didn’t know what love was until I met the Father and experienced his love for me.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

These Three Words

By Felicia Bennett


Felicia Bennett and her father, Lavadus Coley, in the early '90s.
Life and death. Two defiant partners who chose to do a 24-hour contra dance on January 8 with the two most important men in my life.

Never in a million years would I expect my father to pass on the exact same day my husband received a cancerous biopsy result.  My emotions were thrust into a tailspin, running towards the Daddy's Little Girl who somehow lost grip of his hand (and her title) decades ago, while suiting up to be the steadfast partner to fight the battle of survival for my husband of nine months.  On this life-changing day, the three most important words that I needed to say to both men were different, yet equally profound. 

My father's emotional absence was a subtle riff my entire life that only grew into a crescendo after he remarried. The emotional detachment grew with every passing milestone.  I learned to love him from afar, and even when he left a trail of broken promises, I learned to step over them instead of scarring my soul.

 A debilitating stroke had me staring down at the shell of a man I once knew, void of all communication as he lay in his deathbed, drawing his last breath. A peaceful sight that erased all other memories.

It was at this moment, beneath that heaving chest I knew there was the heart of a man who once called me his Baby Girl.  I had to let him know that, on the dusk of a cold, January day and his transition, I was here. Bending down, I gently kissed his forehead and let him know what we both needed to hear.

I forgive you.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Lip Gloss, Hot Sauce and a Father's Loving Thoughts: An Open Letter to a Daughter

By John W. Fountain


The following is an excerpt from, Dear Dad, Reflections on Fatherhood.

O

n a snowy Virginia morning that November when the flakes were falling like white feathers from the blue sky, your mother lay on the sofa in our living room, the pains of early labor coming and going as I stood with a stopwatch, looking more like a nervous coach than an expectant father, making notes each time. And we knew: It was time. Music filled the room—Bobby Lyle’s “Christmas Song”—the sound of soft piano filling the spaces in between your mother’s moans from her contractions. And we knew: It was time.

For months, we had been awaiting your arrival. I had painted your bedroom a soft powder blue, bought a giant stuffed bear, and assembled your crib. We had decorated your room with an assortment of stuffed animals and knickknacks and all the accessories for a new baby, including a changing table laden with Pampers and powder. We had even picked out a name: Imani. It was for me a special name. It is Swahili for the word “faith.”

I needed faith. Years earlier, I had lost it. It is the kind of thing that sometimes happens to people on the road of life from childhood to adulthood, and even along the road from adulthood to the twilight years of life when we all eventually turn aged and gray and the light of life slowly dims in our eyes. Someone said life is what happens while you’re making other plans. And I guess life happened to me. I became a teenage parent. Soon after, I was married with three children, then eventually divorced. I had known poverty as a child, then poverty as an adult. And I had scars from having grown up as a little boy without my natural father. They were not physical scars, the kind that you can rub, touch, soothe, and fade with creams and Vaseline and cocoa butter. But they were scars no lessemotional scars, the kind of scars that do not so easily fade. The scars of rejection. Scars of disappointment. Of fear and hopelessness. I’m talking about the kinds of scars that I never want you to have because of a father’s unwillingness to be in your life. So just as we adults sometimes suffer scars as we stumble along the road of life, there are times when we must also find faith if we are to find hope for healing. And that’s where you come in.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Eating My Way to Healing

She was plagued by poor health until God healed her through her diet

By Rhonda J. Smith

In my primary school lunchroom I would stare at the poster that was screaming at me but I could not understand what it was saying. There were pictures of animals and foods representing the various food groups and a caption that read “You are what you eat.” My 7-year-old mind could only understand the caption to mean “If I ate a cow, I would be a cow.” “If I ate cheese, I would be cheese?” I shrugged, tucking away this early lesson in proper eating and only pulling it back out 27 years later, when the fullness of that message would come to me.

“You are what you eat”: You will be unhealthy if you eat unhealthy. You will be healthy if you eat healthy. After suffering for years with chronic constipation, yeast infections, acne, arthritis, abscesses, extra weight, lesions on my gums, poor circulation, inflammation in my chest and a depressed immune system, I came to understand that most of my health issues were directly related to what I ate. I received this revelation not from family members or health care providers but the Lord Himself after crying out to Him after my umpteenth yeast infection.

Being raised on and cooking fat-laden soul foods in addition to the Standard American Diet (SAD) of meat and potatoes, fried and processed foods with very little fresh fruits and vegetables, like many African Americans from the South, my parents just didn’t have the knowledge to help me. I didn’t have heart issues or “sugar” so they didn’t have a clue that my issues were food related. Even the host of primary care physicians and specialists I went to gave me little help. Of the half dozen or so doctors I saw, only two gave me a dietary plan but then told me I could return to my normal way of eating once my symptoms were gone. The others just gave me a prescription to relieve my symptoms. I never got knowledge on how to prevent the issue so I wouldn’t get any symptoms at all. They simply specialized in pain relief. But God specializes in root relief. He specializes in healing.

God said about Jerusalem: “Behold, I will bring it health and cure, and I will cure them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth” (Jeremiah 33:6 KJV). God let them know that He was not just going to bandage their wounds (health) and give them a remedy to heal (cure) them. He was also going to heal (cure) them and then show them how to have a wealth of soundness (peace) in their bodies and His truth as opposed to the falsehood that they had been receiving. He did the same for me:

 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Who Said That?

By Monica Fountain



We’re always sending ourselves messages. On a daily basis, we have an internal conversation, constantly thinking about and interpreting the world around us. Psychologists call this inner voice “self-talk” and it includes our conscious thoughts and unconscious assumptions or beliefs.

What we have to question is where are those messages coming from? When a thought comes to our mind, we need to ask, “Who said that?” Are the thoughts coming from God and based on His Word? Or are they coming from the Enemy of our souls? Are they based on the truth or a lie?

The Bible says that the devil wants to steal, kill and destroy. He goes around like a roaring lion, seeking whom He may devour. And one of the primary ways that the Enemy attacks us is through our thoughts. What we say to ourselves and how we interpret or receive what others say about us are powerful weapons.

The Enemy also is the father of lies. So you can’t trust anything He says. And he’s also the accuser of the brethren so what he says sometimes might be true but his intentions are not good. 

But God’s thoughts toward you and about you are good. And you are who God says you are.

The Enemy says no one likes you. God says you are loved. As a matter of fact, God loved you so much that He sent His only begotten Son to die for you. (John 3:16)

The devil says you’re worthless. God says you are precious and priceless. You are His masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus to do good works. (Ephesians 2:10)

The Enemy says you are a failure. God says you are more than a conqueror. (Romans 8:37)

The next time a thought comes to your mind, ask yourself, “Who said that?” Was that the Enemy talking or God? Is it the truth or a lie? And then encourage yourself in the Lord. Start confessing his Word over your life. And even if something is true, you can say if you have accepted Jesus, “Yes, that may have been me. But now I am a new creation in Christ Jesus. The old has gone. The new is here.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
 
This article appears in The Well Magazine Spring 2013 Issue.
To download the magazine for only $1.99, click the cover.
 
 

 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Healing from Self Hatred

She believed lies about herself until she found healing in God's Truth

By Beverly Moore
 
Lord help me. I live with this deep-seated inner hate for myself that manifests every time I experience failure or rejection. Father, in the name of Jesus I look to You to help me; I keep failing to measure up. I really do need You Lord and I need the power of Your Holy Spirit to enable me to cast out this demon of self-hate.

 
This is a prayer I wrote after experiencing a setback.

Many of us have been bamboozled, hoodwinked and duped into believing lies about ourselves from the enemy of our souls, the Devil, without even realizing it. I used to think that when I heard these negative words coming up from myself that it was me, but I have come to discover that they are suggestive thoughts from the enemy using my voice as a channel and once I open the door through acceptance these negative voices take residence.

 For most of my life I have struggled with self-loathing or self-hatred. You may ask how can anyone hate themselves but it is a very real problem that stems from internal damage to the self-esteem and lack of self-worth.

I know the damage took place at an early age and has shown itself into adulthood. I also know that at the root of self-loathing is rejection. As a child I was teased, for being overweight, couple that with family dynamics which included divorce; both caused me to be deeply wounded with a sense of emotional abandonment.

Sociology teaches us that a child’s identity starts at home with the family and as a child develops their peers, school, and community play a pivotal role in formation. As one of my professors Dr. Reginald Blount notes, “These socializing forces are conversation partners in identity formation.”

If a person in development experiences trauma along the way, without a proper response of positive faith-filled reinforcement, the damage germinates into a healthy dose of low self-esteem. I am not writing this to place blame on my family or community but I do hope we recognize the power of our voices in helping to shape a child’s identity, the power of our voices in helping them fulfill their God-given purpose.

As a result my soul (mind, will and emotions) were murdered at a very young age with words; words that my socializing forces at the time did not consider lethal, but because of it, I struggled to see myself differently. I can honestly say that this problem has impacted every area of my life and one of the physical manifestations of its roots was my weight.

 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Jeremiah 29:11


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11

How incredible to think that the Creator of the universe thinks of you. That the Almighty God who spoke the world and creation into existence has a plan for you and a purpose. That He not only thinks about you—a speck of dust in the vast universe—but He has loving thoughts toward you.

The Great I Am placed you on purpose at this time and in this space and in this place as a part of His plan and purposes for His glory and His story.

You are not a mistake. You are fearfully and wonderfully made for such a time as this. You are God’s masterpiece, His work of art, His handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good work that God already had in mind for you to do.

He knows the plans He has for you. Plans to give you a future and a hope.

Jehovah cares for you and invites you to cast your cares on Him. He cares so much and has taken so much care in creating you that He has individually numbered your hairs. He doesn’t just know how much hair you have. He has assigned a number to each strand.

He bottles every tear and He’s never closer than when your heart is broken.

He hears your faintest cry.

He listens and He speaks.

The Ancient of Days

The Almighty God

Deliverer

My God

He loves you. He loves you so much that you cannot even comprehend it.

The depth, the breadth, how profound His love is for you.

So great is His love that He sent His only son to suffer and die for you.

So much that Jesus took off divinity and put on humanity to walk among us and become our High Priest who understands us.

So much that Jesus conquered Death so that we could have eternal life.

So much that this great God wants you to be His friend and family.

It’s overwhelming and incredible to contemplate.

This great God, this awesome God.

My Father. Our Father.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Refiner's Process: Conclusion

This is the final installment of a message given in May at the Pembroke Fellowship Church Mother/Daughter Banquet. To read the first three parts, click on the links below.

The Refiner's Process
The Refiner's Process: Formation
The Refiner's Process: Refinement


The Purpose of the Process

 The process will make you or break you. It will make you bitter or it will make you better.

The pain and the process has a purpose. The ultimate purpose of your affliction is to see God and for you to look like Jesus. The purpose of the refining process is to teach you God’s principles.

 
Principle

God wants to teach you a principle during your process.

 It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. Psalm 119:71.

 You can wallow in pity or you can learn the principle.  What are some principles God teaches you during the process?

 
·         The Lord will provide.

·         He hears our cries.

·         He’s close to the broken hearted.

·         Trust in the Lord with all thine heart. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct your path.

·         He has plans for me. Plans to give me a future and a hope.

·         Even if He doesn’t deliver me from this fiery furnace, God is able. He’s able to do exceedingly, abundantly, above what I can ask or think.

·         God loves me.

·         God is with me.

·         God is worthy of the praise, even in the press of the process.

 
Praise

The process produces praise.

These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold--though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. 1 Peter 1:7

 Presence and Power

The process assures us of God’s presence and demonstrates His power.

I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, 'They are my people,' and they will say, 'The LORD is our God.'" Zechariah 13:9

Promotion

And then the purpose of the process is to give you a promotion.

 
For you, God, tested us;

you refined us like silver.

11You brought us into prison

and laid burdens on our backs.

12You let people ride over our heads;

we went through fire and water,

but you brought us to a place of abundance. Psalm 66:10-12

 

After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you, (settle you, place you on a firm foundation). 1 Peter 5:10

 
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. James 1:12

 
Promise

That’s why you don’t lose heart. Because the process comes with a promise. That’s why you don’t have to give up. Because your process will be complete.

What God starts, He finishes. He completes. In fact, the Lord has already finished whatever He started because He is the Alpha and the Omega. The beginning and the end. On the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished. Process complete. Three days later he got up with all power in His hands. He was promoted because now he is sitting at the right hand of God, making intercession for us. Don’t lose heart. You can go through the process because Jesus went the process and He finished.

You are valuable to God and He has a purpose for your life. God can’t shine through us until He has refined us. The purpose of the process is for you to reflect the light of the Son. Your brilliance comes from the Son, not the SUN, but the SON. The moon that shines so brightly in the sky at night is not really shining of its own power. It’s just a big rock. The moon is simply reflecting the sun’s energy and power.

 Philippians 2:13 says, “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” The Message Bible puts it this way: That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.

 In the book of Revelation, John uses imagery to give us a picture of the New Jerusalem where God will live with His people. There will be no need for the sun or moon because God himself will be the light.

The Bride, the wife of the Lamb, is described as a precious jewel. The Church, those who believe in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ and call Him Lord and Savior, is the bride of Christ. Jesus is the bridegroom. We are the bride of Christ. If you have not accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, accept him today. Believe on him today so that you can live with God for eternity. If you’ve believed on him, don’t despise the process. Know that there is a purpose and He’s preparing you. He’s refining you. He wants his precious jewels to reflect his brilliance.

 So let your light so shine that others may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven. (Matthew 5:16).

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Refiner's Process: Refinement

This is an excerpt from a message given at the Pembroke Fellowship Church Mother/Daughter Banquet in May. To read the first two parts, click on the links below.


The Refiner's Process

The Refiner's Process: Formation


Once a diamond or a precious stone has been mined, it has to be refined. Refinement is defined as: The process of removing impurities or unwanted elements from a substance. To improve or perfect by pruning or polishing; to free from what is coarse, vulgar, or uncouth; elevate.

 
The value of a diamond is determined by the 4C’s--color, clarity, cut and carat.

                               
Color—Diamonds come in every color and shape and so do God’s precious gems. You don’t have to be a size 2 with hair flowing down your back to be beautiful and brilliant. God made each of us beautiful and unique in our own way. You are fearfully and wonderfully made.

 Clarity—The clarity of a diamond is its purity. How many flaws or imperfections are in the stone. We’ve all been marred by sin. Sin clouds us. Sin is impurity. Un-confessed sin blocks intimacy with God. If you’re going to shine, you have to remove the sin from your life.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Refiner's Process: Formation

Part 2 of a message given in May during the Pembroke Fellowship Church Mother/Daughter Banquet.

A gem is a naturally occurring material desirable for its beauty, valuable in its rarity, and
sufficiently durable to give lasting pleasure. Today in gemology, there are four gems or stones that are labeled “precious”: rubies, diamonds, emeralds and sapphire. The other stones are called semi-precious.

 
The chemical composition determines what kind of gem is produced. For example, a diamond is formed from carbon. Rubies are composed of aluminum, oxygen and chromium. The process that the mineral goes through determines whether you get a precious gem or a rock.

 
You see there’s a difference between a rock and a ruby. There’s a difference between a stone and a sapphire.

 
You don’t just find gems lying on the street. Gems have to be mined and refined. You find gems hidden under ground because they are formed beneath the earth’s surface. Rare gems have to be formed. A jewel has been through a process that makes it valuable. Three things go into that process and they are the same things that go into forming you into God’s precious gem.

 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Searching for God

Her search for love led her to the love of the true and living God

By Latasha Williamson

When I was a little girl, I truly loved the Lord. I would pray every night and every day. I was raised in the church.

 I also genuinely loved people. I can remember meeting people and they would ask me, what do you want to be when you grow up and I would say with a big smile, “Me and my husband are going to go to Africa to save all the starving people.” I was very serious because I believed with all my heart that was my purpose.

As I began to grow, I was very much in tune with the feelings of others. Somehow, I would always know what someone was thinking and if they were sad or happy. It was as if something from the inside of them was speaking to my mind. For a long time, I didn’t know how to handle others feelings and emotions, especially when they were sad, distraught or troubled.

 I had to grow up fast. My parents divorced. My mother found herself a single mother with five children to raise. I was the oldest. At an early age, I had to help raise my sisters, which I felt took away from my childhood. There was a void inside of me that I tried to fill by looking for love in all the wrong places. I tried to fill the void with promiscuity and partying.

 My issues were spiraling out of control. I was having sexual relationships with different men, drinking excessively and partying. My mother and I stayed at odds. My junior year of high school, she sent me to live with my father. My father, who was an ordained pastor,  supported me and began teaching me about God. My deepest desire was to know the one and only living God.

I began a search to find this God that led me down a dangerous road to New Age religion.

When I went to college for my undergraduate degree, I attended church sporadically. Things in my life continued to get worse. By the time I was in graduate school, I stopped attending church all together.  I had decided to forget about Christianity and Jesus. I wanted a new way of life. I wanted to know the one and only living God. I had a big void in my life and I was searching for fulfillment. I just assumed that I tried Jesus and He wasn’t enough.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Refiner's Process



This post is taken from a speaking engagement this May in Bradley, Illinois. The occasion was a Mother/Daughter Banquet hosted by the Pembroke Fellowship Church of Pembroke, Illinois. The theme was Women Reflecting God's Brilliance.

Scripture References:
Revelation 21: 9-11; 22-23
2 Corinthians 4: 7-9; 16-18
Isaiah 48:10
  
Ladies, you’re a gem. Like the New Jerusalem, the bride of Christ, you are a precious jewel. You’re more precious than rubies. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are God’s masterpiece, his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for you to do. You are valuable to God.

As a matter of fact, you’re so valuable and God loved you so much that He gave His only begotten Son to die for you. He loves you so much that He has prepared a place for you. He loves you so much that He wants to have a relationship with you and fellowship with you. He has counted every hair on your head and bottled every tear that you have cried. He loves you so much that he has plans and a purpose for you. Plans to prosper you and to give you a future and a hope.

But to be the jewel that you are, God, Our Refiner, has to put you through the process. To make you shine, like you were designed to shine, you have to be formed and fashioned, made and molded. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

This is for the Dark-Skinned Sistas


This is For the Dark-Skinned Sistas
Dec. 2003

 
By Monica Fountain

 
This is for the dark-skinned sistas

The chocolate wonders

The brown bombshells

 

This is for the one

Who was told don’t drink coffee

It’ll make you black

Make me black?

What is that?

As if I could be more black

As if just the color of my skin

Made me black

If coffee makes me black

Bring it on Joe

Give me a Starbucks grande double latte espresso

 

This is for the sister who was told

Don’t wear yellow

That’s too bright

Forget about red

You’re too dark

Black as night

Leave that for the light-skinned sista

With the long hair

As if my blackness was something to

Fear

 

This is for the sista

Made to feel less than by the

Brother

Who in amazement thought

He was giving you props

When he said,

“You’re sure cute to be so dark.”

 

Browner than a bag to a hue

As black as midnight blue

 

My dark sista

My ebony sista

My chocolate sista

Here’s to you

 

For your strength and the

Beauty of your dark tones

The orange in your skin

The browns, the golds

You are beautiful

With your big broad nose

And your nappy hair

In them big cornrows

Or precision pressed to straightness

Or permed to perfection to let the

Natural go

In dreadlocks or braids

Twists or curls

This is for you little black girl.

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