And the Church says…

[I wrote this post in September and it’s been sitting in drafts ever since. *Blows off the dust*]

“Amen.” Of course that’s the automated, often involuntary response to the phrase “And the Church says…” We say it so easily, almost on autopilot, giving no thought to what we’re really saying. But the word “amen” is more than a cliché that fits easily in your church vocabulary list. Continue reading

Honor the Poor?

Honor the poor?

Seldomly do you see the words “honor” and “poor” in close relationship to each other. We typically give honor to those who are “deserving”: our service men and women and those who teach, heal, and care for our world in various ways. Honor, to give regard with great respect, comes to those who, in some way, make doing the work of Christ (even if they’re not calling it that) of prime importance. Continue reading

The Path

If you know anything about parking at Emory University, you know it can be quite the task to park on or around campus — especially if you’re a commuter student and don’t have a parking pass!

Sometimes I park along the street where Barnes & Noble is to save on my commuter parking swipes in the deck or when my visit on campus will be short. Today I parked in my “Oh thank you Jesus I found a spot!” location on the street. I usually follow the sidewalk around the corner and up the hill to campus, but today I noticed a few students walking through a lightly wooded area on a makeshift path that heavy laden feet have created.

I hopped out my car, followed the path that I saw them on, and actually cut through my usual route closer to Candler. I thought to myself, “Well look at Gawd!”

Here’s the thing: sometimes you don’t know the path to your destination exists until you see someone else walking it first. Sometimes we don’t understand why our lives go a certain direction but know that the path you take to success will lead other people to their destined path as well. We’ll all get there after while, won’t we? 

Share this simple lesson with someone you know who’s looking for their path, too!

On the Chase,

Alisha L.

I Talk to Strangers

This morning, as I was getting off of the Emory shuttle, I was walking down the sidewalk when I realized there was a woman walking in tandem with me.

We were walking so in-sync, in fact, from the outside, it probably looked as if we knew each other. I thought it to be rude to walk so closely to someone and not speak to them, so I turned my head and said, “Good morning!”

She responded in-kind and, after asking me where I was attending school, she began to tell me that her husband was a minister for many years but after going on a missions trip to Budapest, they returned back to the states not as committed to their congregational beliefs as before.

I asked what denomination was she and she said they were a part of the Conservative Church of God.

“Ohhhhh…”, I said. “Real conservative! Missions work usually kills any kind conservative views!”

We both laughed.

She said, “We came back and realized that what I believed didn’t work in Budapest. That’s the point if the Gospel, right? It’s supposed to work everywhere! What good is the Gospel if it doesn’t apply to all?

She said she returned to the States jaded — her husband left the ministry — and, they’ve found peace with living with and for Christ in their own way, with their own understanding of the Gospel being something for all people. Funny note: she mentioned that her mom still cries out, “You’re going to hell!” because of her newfound understanding of the purpose of the Gospel. This Southern white woman then exclaimed, “Well, I guess that’s where I’ll be going, then.”

What a great God moment. She’d rather choose hell than oppress folks with views that don’t allow all them to be able to relate to and receive the liberative Gospel of Jesus Christ. Turn up for Jesus, indeed.

Her question still resonates with me, though: “What good is the Gospel if it doesn’t apply to all?”

I mean, really! What good is it if we use the Gospel of Jesus Christ to limit and hinder and refuse and ostracize and condemn and separate and divide? The Great Commission, to take the Gospel over all of the world, is not only the missional work we’re all called to do, but also the lens through which we view and express our faith. (See Matthew 28:16-20)

Our beliefs, especially those that are shaped through denominational allegiances, can sometimes offer a narrow view of what it means to stand with those who want to experience Jesus. I know that I’ve had some beliefs about Jesus, God, and the Gospel that were limiting and seemingly made me look and feel superior because of my understanding of Jesus. (My very limited understanding, may I add)

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is. for. everybody.

Everybody.

Yes, even them.

If how we view Jesus and use the bible in relationship to other people does not include them, their experiences, and contexts, then we ain’t doing this thing right.

Sorry.

Here’s the bright side: you can learn a whole lot (about life and Jesus) by talking to strangers, though!

On the Chase,

Alisha L.

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.