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.

Rapper Cassidy Brings Jesus to Kill it on The Breakfast Club

Real quick post!

Ya’ll know I’m ALL ABOUT fusing faith and culture, and while many of us haven’t heard anything from the rapper Cassidy in a minute, he brought that F I R E on New York City’s top rated morning show, The Breakfast Club with host Charlamagne tha God.

Not only did Cassidy repesent Christ for millions of listeners, he was quoting scripture pretty accurately too! Great clip for all my youth pastors, ministers, religious education folks, etc.

I have to warn you: Charlamagne goes straight ratchet at the end (@*&!%^ AMEN!) but the entire freestyle is worth taking a listen. I tell you, if I didn’t Believe before, I’d consider coming on over after these bars.

On the rap game gone biblical case,

Alisha L.

Pimpin’ the Grace

Many years ago (more like 7), I was writing for this small Christian magazine and a good friend of mine was also there and wrote on the topic of grace. “Pimpin’ the Grace” is what she called it. I wish I still had a copy of her article; it had so many gems in it. Today, however, I’m going to explore my own territory about grace, what is it, how it works, and how many of us trick it out for chump change. Yes, chump change. [There’s a lot of information here so take it section by section.] Continue reading

Redemption Road.

In recent days, Ted Williams as become an overnight sensation as he gained recognition as the “man with the golden voice”, after being discovered while panhandling on the streets of Columbus, Ohio.

If you’ve been under a rock and haven’t heard this man’s voice, check out the video here.

After over a decade of homelessness, drug and alcohol addiction, and a few run-ins with he law, Williams has several job offers, sealed a deal as the new voice of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, and countless other opportunities to return to a normal life.

I’ve been late to work almost every day this week watching his interviews on the Today Show, and, when asked what would make this part of his life different from the previous years as a radio announcer, the answer was simple. “I have God.”

The difference between my successes of years gone by is that I didn’t acknowledge the Lord or thank him for anything before,” he told [the Today Show]. “This time around, I have God in my life, acknowledging him on a daily basis. I’ve found a new sense of spirituality now.” –Ted Williams

God is a redeemer. He cares not about our past mistakes or faulty history. He is the one who can take a man like Ted Williams and change his life for the better. The desire to chase after and have a heart for God ignites God’s desire to chase after us.

I am crazy enough to believe, however, that William’s experience wasn’t for him. While he reaps the benefit of his newfound lifestyle, God didn’t redeem him on national television for him.

He did it for you. For us. For the entire world to see a live manifestation of God’s ability, power, and compassion.

Every time Williams is on television, he has thanked God, said that it was Jesus that saved his life; millions of people have seen his story, have heard the name of Jesus, and for those who did not believe before that God was capable to do the impossible, now believes.

From Michael Vick to Ted Williams to countless others, God is showing the world through His power that He is real and desires a real connection to us. He wants to remind us that Jesus redeemed us all through His sacrifice and no matter how far away we stray from Him, He is always calling us home, bringing us back through redemption.


On the Chase,

Alisha L.

Redemption Son(g) :: T.I. vs. Clifford

Everyone is aware of T.I.’s troubles; his recent release from jail for felony gun charges was a redemption song of some sorts. We saw him rise, fall, only to rise again through a tenacious spirit, commitment to do better, and, if given another chance, the ability to redeem himself and the people he represented.

Currently, his film Takers is number one in the box office. He recently married his long time love, and all that was taken from him, was returned.

This morning I woke up to the news that our redemption son, T.I., was arrested for drug possession in West Hollywood. I don’t call him “redemption son” to glorify him, make him more than a human, but he was on the path of second chances, a path that many men do not get.

I won’t take the stance that many bloggers or writers will take over the next few days about this matter. This is bigger than a drug charge. Bigger than what may happen if he’s convicted. Bigger than the social buzz that will soon die out after a couple of weeks of talk.

This is about a change in mindset.

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. (NIV)

God allows for us to have second chances, not for us, but for the race we run for others. Everyone is bearing witness to his life (the cost of being a celebrity), but until we begin stripping off the things that easily beset us, or slows us down, we’ll be eternally weighted with habits that trip us up while running our race.

The race set for T.I. and for all of us is one that comes with its own set of obstacles. Life is hard enough without adding to its troubles. It’s when we refuse to lose those dead weights (people, habits, lifestyles, mindsets, etc) that we weigh ourselves down, slow our progress.

When we’re free of these things, we can be eternally rewarded with having the endurance it takes to finish out the race God has set for us to run. Ephesians 4:22 challenges us to do this very thing: Strip yourselves of your former nature [put off and discard your old unrenewed self] which characterized your previous manner of life and becomes corrupt through lusts and desires that spring from delusion (Amplified)

The natural talent that Clifford, yes Clifford, has is God-given. His charisma, his charm, is natural ability to tell a story over hard 808 beats is one that many rappers try to emulate but can never master because those skills were given to him exclusively.

In some way, shape, or form, there will be a price to pay for this mishap. Whether that comes through Clifford’s family, career, or life, there will a price to pay. But, just like God always does, there will be another opportunity for redemption. It’s the essence of who He is. Clifford will be crucified a million times over, but because our big brother Jesus took to the cross first, Clifford will have the opportunity to rise again.

1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.

We must run this race ya’ll. We have to stop being our biggest enemy. We must consider every thing that we bring on ourselves that keeps us from moving perpetually forward. #todayschallenge

On the Chase,

Alisha L.