An Open Letter to Governor Nathan Deal

Dear Governor Nathan Deal,

I know, I know. You’re under the Gold Dome wheelin’ and dealin’ (pun intended) over some of our most vulnerable citizens including the elderly, the sick, and the undereducated. You’re busy doing very important work! I just wanted to drop you a line about some things that, as a life-long citizen of Georgia, bothers me. I found it ironic that you spent the weekend lining your belly with pork at the annual “wild hog supper” just a day before beginning conversations about how laws and bloated bills will impact the wellbeing of our state. I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere but for the sake of time, I’ll narrow the focus of this letter so you can get back to work. Continue reading

Cleanin’ Up Christmas

Recently, I began reading the book Christmas is not Your Birthday by Mike Slaughter, lead pastor of Ginghamsburg Church, as a part of an Advent small group series hosted by Impact Church in Atlanta, Georgia. The five-chapter book explores the idea of shifting the focus of Christmas from a me-me-me experience to one that gives-gives-gives to those who are in need. I could run the list of great points Pastor Slaughter presents about the commercialization of Christmas, but this blog is about something much more important. Continue reading

Sitting in the Margins: A Year in Review

This week kicks off a brand new year for the students at the Candler School of Theology and I really can’t believe that this time last year, I was a first year student, bright eyed, bushy tailed (read: haired!) and eager to start on a new journey.

I remember posting this status on the first day of orientation:

August 22 Facebook Post

Then, I didn’t know how all of my experiences had lead me there, but I knew that the pull from God to go that direction was the right thing to do. It didn’t always make sense, but I was sure that I was on the right track.

Throughout the course of the year, my ideology about God and people would change drastically. The embedded theologies that have been with me for decades began to shift as I read and searched the history and context of familiar texts finding new meaning in them.

Ideas I had about “certain people” and varying “ideas” were dropping, shifting, molding, and taking new shape.

Some folks told me I was “losing my Jesus.”

I just laughed. If the only knew that what was happening behind the Tweets, Facebook posts, public worship, and every day life was drawing me closer to Him.

In the last year, I’ve been broken, depressed, lonely, fearful, afraid. I’ve been displaced and, for a moment, I was living out of my car. Months later, that same car was repossessed. Relationships were  broken and my pride and ego was crushed to pieces. For a very serious moment, I considered dropping out of school and thought that I had made a horrible mistake trying to pursue God in such a “grandiose” way.

How could a path so certain be filled with so much brokenness and figurative (and literal) death?

The answer was right in front of me: God was desperate for me to experience something much more than a change in theology or continual exercises in critical thinking. He wanted me to experience what it truly meant to be a part of the marginalized.

I am a marginalized person; I am a Black woman and a single mother who uses public assistance to keep things afloat. My position in the margins have always been there. My marginalized seat as a Black single mother who is on public assistance is well worn, but the experiences in the last year have introduced me to what it is like for families to scramble to find emergency housing and what the working poor face as they have limited transportation and must rely on the kindness of others and public transit to travel around the city for work and school.

As I found residence in a new section of “The Margins”, parts of my elitist, privileged views were revealed. They were ugly. I became one of those whom I once turned my nose up at, who I had no patience or compassion for. My degrees didn’t matter, neither did all the blessings that I was afforded over the years. God leveled the playing field. He made me see things the way He sees things.

Once God restored me with a place to call my own and a little cash car I was able to buy with a whole bunch of favor (and unexpected funds), I realized that everything I had experienced, as brief as it had been, was enough for me to have a newfound compassion and understanding of what the heart of God is. It taught me that this life we have, these things we possess are nothing — they have no weight — and they are never to become a place of comfort for us.

God kept me when I wanted to quit — when nothing was making sense but I was still required to keep moving forward.

During the most desperate of times, God ensured that my pride (that I held soooo tightly) wouldn’t hinder me from being able to receive from people He brought to me to help me.

All of the furniture I own, every dish, bed, and pot, was given to me — for free. (Remember this? Yeah, good seeds come back.)

A number of other things have happened that have blown my mind — all kinds of opportunities — that have made the last year’s pain just a distant memory. Weeping may endure for a night… (y’all know the rest!)

There are so many things I could name that has changed in the last year, but the thing that I can say that has changed the most is this:

I treat people differently.

I try not to use my “Christian privilege” to make people feel inadequate or less than. I try not to take scripture out of context to appease my own fears and insecurities about my misunderstandings of others.

What I’ve learned in the first year was simply how to treat people better: the estranged, the outsider, even myself.

I could attribute a shift in theology for that. I really could. But, as we know, there’s no greater teacher than experience, right?

As I begin year two in this journey, I am desperately seeking vocation. I am trying to understand what God wants me to do with my life’s experiences — and show me how to shape them into purpose.

I know things won’t be easy this year and year two will present its own set of problems. But I am thankful for where I am in this moment.

I’m also very thankful to the friends, family, classmates, professors, staff members, and even strangers who kept me moving forward when my feet felt stuck in the cement.

Thank you.

Here’s to year two, y’all!

Keep an eye on this blog for conversations about what I’m learning this year — and tell a friend!

On the Chase,

Alisha L.

When the Rubber Meets The Road: A Story of Compassion

If you read my book Pieces: Finding the Missing Piece is Easier Than You Think, you know that my relationship with my father has always been estranged. Though he lived in the same house with us until I was 13, it was as if he wasn’t there. The emotional detachment proved to be just as detrimental as him not being there at all.

As the years have gone by, I’ve learned to cope and forgive — eventually, I stopped using his absence as an excuse for my poor ability to make sound decisions about men and took responsibility for my part. I even took the advice of a good friend and decided to reach out to him regularly (read: sporadically) just to say “Hi.” Looking back, it paled in comparison to what I would eventually do in a time that truly mattered. Continue reading

Berklee Bound!

I always get requests from people to guest blog or post certain topics or issues on my blog. 99 percent of the time, the answer is no.

However, there’s always that one percent.

I received a call from my friend Tar’Ra, who, usually opens up with giddy banter and giggle filled “hello’s”, got straight to the point.

“You know Satar’Ra (her daughter) got a full ride to Berklee, right?”

“Yes!,” I exclaimed. “I remember.”

“Well, they ran out of funding and are only covering three-fourths of her tuition this year. We have to come up with the other money before August first or she can’t attend.”

Optimistically I asked, “Well, how much is it?” (Surely, it can’t be THAT much).

“$20,000.”

You can imagine how the rest of the conversation went; a single mother of two who’s made a pretty good career as a hair stylist has decided to leave her home and downsize to a two bed room apartment to free up $1,000 a month to help get Satar’Ra to Berklee.

I wrote an article about Satar’Ra in Atlanta Tastemaker Magazine  (January 2012) and told thousands of readers about this musical phenom; she plays 5 instruments and was one of The Grammy’s featured students at their annual summer music intensive in LA. In that article, she was hoping to attend Berklee to pursue music. A few months later, she learned that not only was she accepted, but had a full scholarship. How heartbreaking must it have been to learn that like many colleges across the U.S., Berklee didn’t have enough money to cover all of her expenses this year.

Her dream, however, doesn’t have to be deferred.

Her mom has set up a secure account to help raise funds to send Satarra to Berklee. The link is here. [don’t just bypass this. Click it. Donate. Not for me, for her.]

If you have any doubt about her musical talent (who’s last name is TROUTMAN… ring a musical legacy bell? Think Roger.) Check out her YouTube Page. This girl gives me CHILLS every time she opens her mouth to sing.

I’m making my donation this weekend. How amazing would it be to see this girl make her dreams come true at one of the TOP music programs in the country on the backs of those who believe in her?

If you have any questions or want to find her on Facebook, here are her links:

On the Chase for Others,
Alisha L.