Sunday, September 11, 2011

Heading To WordPress!

So I have decided to start blogging over at WordPress from now on. The format is more convenient and versatile in my opinion and less hassle with some of the glitches in blogger like my sidebar dropping to the bottom of the page.

Since I will be creating a new blog on a more focused subject in the near future, the convenience and compatibility with the latest technology in the blogosphere is necessary.

Check me out at The Living Letter Chronicles.

Friday, September 9, 2011

2 Years Ago Today...

2 years ago today, I found myself at a Fusion service that changed my life. For real changed my life. September 9, 2009...a day I won't forget.

Fusion had recently kicked off the Naked and Unashamed series and I had only been to maybe 2 services. But I was hooked. I loved it. Loved the worship, the people (even though I really didn't know anyone), the energy, and the fact that they were talking about relationships (one of my favorite topics). For some reason, I knew going into service that something was different. Earlier that day, I was at work listening to the God on Mute series. I got to the last message of the series and heard a woman named Angela give her testimony. She had an incredible story of sexual abuse, brokenness, despair and redemption. I was in tears by the time it was over because her story sounded like mine. I was thinking to myself how I wish I could meet Angela because her bravery in telling her story did something to me that made me want that type of freedom.

I get to service and Pastor Johnson and his wife Summer talk about healing from heartbreak. Healing from all the sins, scars and shame we carried around. I felt a tug in my heart.

Summer was transparent that night and revealed her own story of abuse and how it plagued her early on in her marriage. I was in awe. The pastor's wife had a story like mine? That's not supposed to happen! Pastors don't have issues like that. Us regular broken people do, not people called to preach the Good News. But I needed to hear her story that night. I needed to hear Angela's story that day.

I needed to know I was not alone and that being whole and healed was possible.

Pastor Johnson did an alter call. There was a cross on both sides of the stage and there were little blue slips of paper. He asked us to write down all of our sins, nail them to the cross, accept Jesus if we hadn't already and let Him set us free from bondage. I remember sitting in my seat with my blue slip of paper kind of embarrassed because I had a lot of sin in my life. Abuse, fornication, pornography, babies out of wedlock, lying, abortion, infidelity, insecurity, pride, brokenness, low self esteem, lack of faith, hopelessness, worthlessness, fear, abandonment issues, mommy and daddy issues, codependency.

Could Jesus really accept me with all my dirt and shameful ways? There is no way He could forgive me with ALL the stuff I had done. I was too scared to write everything down because it would fill up the whole paper! But then I remembered Summer and Angela. Both had shame in their past, both allowed God to heal them and now they are telling other people that He can do the same for them. Maybe He could save me from myself.

As the band played, I wrote out my sins, folded my piece of paper and stood in line to get to the cross. I was nervous and anxious but felt like I was making the right decision. The closer I got to the cross, the harder it was to hold back the tears. With every step closer, it felt like I was getting lighter and lighter. I had no clue what was happening to me. As I nailed that little blue piece of paper to that cross with tears pouring out of my eyes, I knew that this was the start of something new. I felt such a peace and a calm come over me as I stood before the cross. At some point, I stopped hearing the music play. I stopped hearing the people around me cry out to God. I stopped hearing Johnson shout for us to be set free.

In that moment, I met Jesus at the cross. I laid all my sins before Him to see. I could no longer keep going holding on them. And He took them all and gave me freedom. He released me from shame, guilt, hurt, and fear. I accepted salvation and He accepted the bruised and broken girl before Him. It was an amazing experience, one that I will never forget.

As soon as I got home, I emailed Summer and thanked her for sharing her story and explained all that had happened to me that night. To my surprise she emailed me back minutes later excited right along with me. Then to my absolute surprise, Johnson emailed me and asked if he could put my testimony on the Fusion Facebook page. I agreed because I learned the power of your testimony. Wonder if its still up there?

A couple of days later, I ran into my small group leader Lee. I told her about the amazing experience at the cross and Angela's testimony. I went on and on about how hearing her story just rocked my world and I wished I could meet her and thank her. With a smirk on her face, Lee told me that I was talking about Angela Kaupe, who just happened to be her friend and accountability. The following service, I got the chance to meet Angela and give her a big tear fulled hug. She was so nice and was absolutely glowing because her and her husband Mike were expecting a baby.

Here I am 2 years later and I couldn't be more happy about deciding to take Jesus up on His offer. Been a long yet AMAZING 2 year journey and He is still blowing my mind with His faithfulness. It's funny that one testimony started it all for me and now my heart has been burdened to create an outlet for others to share their testimonies and set more people free.'s all making sense now. To be continued...

Remembering September 11, 2001

In 2 days, the nation will be observing the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks. It's hard to believe that 10 years have passed because that day is etched so vividly in my head. For my generation, asking someone where they were on 9/11 is almost like asking our parents generation where they were when JFK was shot. This was one of those events that changes the heart of a nation and a generation.

The morning of 9/11 was like any other Tuesday. I was working at Sprint in their call center near Cumberland mall. We were taking our usual customer service calls like we did every single day. Around the center were monitors that updated us whenever their were any network issues so that we can be prepared for the influx of calls that may come in from certain areas. A little after 8:30 AM, I noticed that we were getting a lot of calls from the New York area. We got calls from all over the country so it usually wasn't a big deal to get a New York customer but it seemed like every agent was getting nothing but New York calls that would lose connection. The monitors flashed the latest update saying there were reports of network outages in the NY Tri State area.

That's when everything fell apart. That's when I heard the muffled screams in the background of the few calls that did make it through. None of us had any idea of the sheer pandemonium that was going on as we listened to callers saying they couldn't make calls and that the city was under attack. For us, we realized that because people couldn't make calls, some were able to get through to customer service. I remember the call from the young woman with the sound of fear and panic in her voice that said a plane hit one of the Towers. I could hear people screaming and things crashing in the background. I knew it couldn't be a real call. Who flies a plane into a building?

Then I heard someone say the word "hijack."

After that startling call, I looked around at my co-workers and saw the looks of confusion on many of their faces. What in the world was going on in the New York area? A few of us headed towards to the break room to check the news channels. People were already crowded around watching the CNN coverage of the first tower in flames. Not 2 minutes after I walked into the break room, I witnessed the live feed of the second plane hitting the tower. Everyone gasped and it seemed like we held our breath for an eternity.

This could not be real. I just watched a plane fly full speed into a skyscraper. A skyscraper filled with people. People. Flames. Smoke. Debris. People. Death. Destruction. People. People. People. What was going to happen to all those people in those towers? For the next several hours, I sat still and watched the footage. I watched both towers fall. I felt my heart literally breaking in my chest at the idea of all those people in those massive towers. I watched the images of people jumping to their deaths out of buildings. So many people. So much destruction.

Why? How? Why? What had we done to deserve this?

I don't remember much else of that work day because all of the calls stopped. No one was worried about a late bill or overage charges because every thought was on what our nation had just experienced. I went home that afternoon, turned on the television, and sat and watch CNN until the sun came up that next morning. The towers had fallen. The Pentagon had a gaping, flaming hole from another plane that was hijacked. A forth plane was in a million pieces in a field in Pennsylvania. I watched it all. I had to make sure what I was watching was real. I felt like if I got out of my seat, or turned the channel, or even blinked too long, I would realize I was dreaming and that I had made it all up in my head. I was frozen in time. If I went to sleep I would hear that woman's voice in my ear saying a plane hit the towers. I would replay the footage of the second plane hitting the tower over and over in my head. I couldn't sleep...and I didn't for the next 3 days.

For the next few days, I felt like I was underwater. I couldn't see clearly. I couldn't hear clearly. Everything felt jumbled. I was on auto pilot. You would have thought I was in New York and had witnessed everything first hand. You would have thought I had lost my whole family in the towers. I was that shaken up. Not where it was noticeable on the outside, but in my mind and heart, I was a wreck. After 3 days, I decided I couldn't torture myself with the round the clock commentary and gruesome images. I stopped watching TV cause every channel in the nation was talking about it. Even the Food Network went off air. I was brokenhearted for my nation and for every person who lost their life and I was fearful of what was to happen next. The US was at their weakest point and open for move severe attacks.

At some point, life started getting back to normal for me. The fog lifted though never completely went away. The anxiety and sleeplessness decreased. Atlanta went back on with business though people were a bit kinder in the days and weeks to follow. People smiled at you more. People said hi a bit more. People donated blood and collected supplies. People started to develop a sense of pride and honor for the US and for that brief moment in time, everyone was on the same page.

This was our country and we were going to stand strong and united.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

End Of An Era

Tonight, I am filled with a lot of emotions. You would think something crazy or radical happened to cause me to be in this bittersweet moment. To most, it's just a Wednesday. To my Fusion community, it's a major end of an era and the beginning of something amazing.

After 10 years, tonight was our last service in what is known as the Fusion building at Victory World Church. As of September 14, 2011, we will be moving to the main sanctuary. For me, it's kinda hard to wrap my head around that fact that for the past 2 years, I have spent every Wednesday (except for when I was in Peru), with my community of 300+ young adult believers going hard after God. I met surrendered my life to Christ at the stage in that building on September 9, 2009. I was baptized in that building. My son was baptized in that building just a week ago. I met some of the most amazing and life changing people in that building. I witnessed supernatural moves of the Spirit in that building. I watched courtships begin and proposals happen in that building. I have prayed so many prayers, worship to God in song so many times, cried my eyes out so many times, fell in love with my Savior over and over again, spent days and nights in that building.

My life was saved in that building. I met God in that building.

As emotional as I am about leaving a place that holds so many memories, I am beyond excited about moving to the larger space. Our Fusion services have been at max capacity for weeks now, with a regular attendance anywhere from 300 to 350 people. We have literally outgrown the Fusion building and more and more people keep coming. God is doing something amazing and I believe that this move is in His perfect timing. As Fusion began to outgrow our home, He was preparing a space for us to continue welcome 20 somethings from all over the city who are hungry for His truth.

To go from a room of 300 to a sanctuary that holds 1,400 will seem a bit weird and intimidating. Our ministry has some work to do go spread the word that there is place people can come if they want to have a true encounter with the living God and have their lives changed forever. We are not worried about how many people can fill the sanctuary but how many people will be set free from bondage. How many people will open their heart to receive God's love. How many people will surrender their life to Christ. How many disciples we can create who will continue to make more disciples and carry out the Great Commission. How many people will live a radical, sold out life for Christ because they experienced Him first at a Fusion service.

Tonight is the end of an era, but it is the beginning of something so much greater.

I Am That Girl...

Last night I was talking with a friend who was a little baffled by the fact that I mentioned I really didn't watch TV anymore. We have had conversations in the past about changes that we have both made since coming to Christ, mine more "radical" than his. I knew the reaction that I would get when I said what I did, and it didn't bother me really. I'm used to it. I am used to the gasps and looks of uncertainty when I tell people about things I refrain from in order to make sure that what I do is pleasing to God. I am far from this locked up in the house, one step away from the convent type girl, but when I decided to be serious about God, I developed a new set of eyes in which to see the world and a new level of conviction about how I was living my life. Once you accept salvation, you become a new creation. That means leaving behind some of the old ways in order to be set apart from the rest of the world. Jesus saved me from a life of condemnation in the world, so why try to keep my feet there?

I realize I am okay with being "that girl" who lives to a higher standard that others may not get. Comes with the territory. Call me a Jesus freak...I am and I wear that proudly.

I am that girl who has decided that after years of meaningless sex, I will refrain from it until I get married.

I am that girl who truly believes that God has "the one" for me and it's not my job to meddle in His plans by pursuing relationships on my own. Patience is a virtue.

I am that girl that has decided that placing things before my eyes and ears that cause me to have lustful and impure thoughts is unacceptable. Cuts out a lot of TV, movies, music and porn. Yep I said porn. Purity above abstinence.

I am that girl who realizes that sitting down with a group of friends and just sharing all that supernatural things that God is doing is the far more fun than going to a club or party and fending off rude guys.

I am that girl that believes in serving in the church. Time out for just holding down a seat. Be active in the local body of Christ so that others can experience His goodness as well.

I am that girl that has had to choose between being a "friend" and honoring what God says. I knew that this journey would not be easy and many will not have the same view point as me, but at the end of the day, my devotion is to honoring God, not leading friends down destructive paths.

I am that girl who has been ridiculed and made fun of by family because I am not ashamed to love God openly. Hey, if they made fun of Jesus, I can take one for the team too.

I am that girl who has forgiven people who have hurt me the most in life and now I pray for their own happiness and blessings. Only God can get you to that place of freedom.

I am that girl who has not been in a relationship in almost 2 years and is perfectly okay with that. True. I realized that God had some work to do to heal my scars so I don't continue the cycle of destructive relationships. If He was patient enough to continue chasing me for 20+ years, I can be patient enough to let Him mold me into who He has called me to be.

I am that girl who loves to be surrounded with broken, hurting people. Why? Because I was like them just a short time ago so why not pour into them love and encouragement that was poured into me when I was hurting.

I am that girl who would love to have a life dedicated to doing mission work. I thought that the city of Atlanta was filled with darkness and hurting people but I was in for a shock when I traveled to Peru. I had no clue what hurting and desperation was until I spent 10 days in the deserts of Peru surrounded by people who literally have nothing.

I am that girl who is absolutely passionate about ending sex trafficking. My heart broke at the thought of it and I actually took action. It's one thing to hear about it but its another thing to do something about. Whether its attending events to lobby against it, doing a donation drive to support organizations that fight it or just spreading the word on Facebook, it's doing something.

I am that girl who believes that every professing Christian in the world has a duty to love like Christ, pursue Him wholeheartedly, live a life that is purposeful, and to introduce others Him. Period.

Yep, I am that girl.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Death of Miss Independent

Real Talk: Miss Independent is going to be the death of single Christian women.

Some years ago, Destiny's Child had a hit song singing praises to independent women around the world. Even Ne-yo had a song about him attraction to women "who held their own." The anthems says women who don't need a man for anything should be praised. Women should be their own bosses, play by their own rules, and bow to no man. Women sang those songs for months, buying into the idea that women need to take care of themselves and not depend on a man to do for them what they can do for themselves. I was singing right along with them because I too thought that being an independent woman was attractive and smart.

Boy was I wrong.

After having countless talks with male friends on the epidemic outbreak of independent women around the world, they hipped me onto some serious knowledge about the male way of thinking. To men, if she can take care of everything on her own, what does she need a man for? Guess women didn't think about how men would react when their very position in their lives was no long available. If women are taking care of every role that a man is meant to fulfill, we aren't leaving much room for them to be useful in our lives aside from the occasional bed warmer.

Ephesians 5:22-24 says "Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything." Submit. Most women hate that word. Kinda hard to submit when you have been in control of every aspect of your life. Yet, in God's divine plan, He hard wired men to already understand that women are meant to submit to their husband...and husband need to be in a position to garner her respect by loving her as Christ loved the Church and presenting her without wrinkle or blemish. That would be the rest of Ephesians 5...more to come on that.

I sincerely believe that the lack of strong, secure, godly men has helped with the increased battle cry of independent women. Men who disrespect and mistreat women leave them in a position to have to guard their hardened hearts and play by their own rules to avoid heart break. Men who leave their children to be raised by single mothers leave them in a position to be the provider and security for the home. Not placing all the blame on men, but for those who did not heed the instructions of Ephesians to love her like the church leave her to fend for herself.

It's time to kill Miss Independent. I've never felt that any woman should be praised for taking care of herself and being responsible. Working and paying your own bills should be common sense, not something to be praised. Seriously. Women need to kill the Miss Independent mentality and embrace the Proverbs 31 mentality. "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised." A woman who honors the Lord and His commands is worthy to be praised. A woman who knows the value in submitting to her husband (not being a doormat, but respecting him as the leader of her household) brings honor to herself and her family. Time out for looking towards the world to determine what is acceptable and worthy. God already wrote the book on that.

Stop Doing Church...Be The Church

I have been burdened lately with the idea that so many people are so content with just doing church that they forget that we have been called to be the church. It's hard to get people to serve, tithe, or participate in anything church related that will make them break out of their "I am a Christian on Sunday" routine. There are so many lost people in this world and if we don't take the Gospel to them, we are failing at the Great Commission.

Last week, I read a blog from Pastor Shaun King who announced that he was stepping down as senior pastor of Courageous Church, the church he planted just 3 years ago. There is no sex scandal or mismanagment of funds that caused him to make this decision. It was the fact that he was passionate about his church being doers of the Word of God and the majority of his congregation was content just hearing about it. He could give the most passionate message about doing outreaches in the community, donating money and resources to Haiti or focus on ending child sex trafficking right here in the city. Yet, when it came time to put action behind the newly stirred up hearts, the people didn't budge. They didn't show up for outreaches, they didn't donate to worthy causes, they didn't follow his vision to shift his church model to focus less on a Sunday service and more focus on being the hands and feet of Jesus in the community.

I am sure it was beyond heartbreaking for him to know that the very church he planted aptly named Courageous Church was more content on just doing a routine church service than actually being the church. I have followed Pastor Shaun and his efforts for change for a couple of years now so I can speak with confidence that this man has a heart for God and a heart for change on this Earth. It still baffles me how people, even at my own church, are just content sitting back while everyone else does the work of Christ. My pastor talked about the serving grace of God this past Sunday. He stressed that we should all have a heart to serve in the body of Christ as well as for the things that break the heart of God. Luke 22:27 says "Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves." If Jesus saw Himself as a servant, surely those of us that follow Him should have a heart to serve as well.

I feel rather lucky to belong to a church where 70% of our 10,000 member congregation serves faithfully. Whenever we have community wide outreaches, people donate time, money and resources faithfully. Whenever there is a need, our congregation steps up. When the floods in TN happened, our Fusion ministry had young adults there days later to help with clean up. We sent numerous teams to Haiti after the earthquake. We do community clean ups, furniture and clothing drives for the Clarkston refugees, Fusion on Tour, Sunday to Sunday, countless ministries that go into the community to serve, etc. We have accepted the call to do the works of Christ and to stand behind the vision of our church leaders when it comes to spreading the love of Christ community and world wide.

I am certain that Pastor Shaun and his family will continue to be change makers in the community and the world. Though the Courageous Church will revert back to their regular Sunday services, I pray that the seeds that Pastor Shaun has planted over the past 3 years will start to break through the soil of contentment. I pray that my own church home continues to press forward to shake off lukewarmness and embrace the call to serve.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

I Am Second

God has an interesting way of lining things up for me. When it comes to this whole writing thing, He has sent some pretty awesome people my way and has flooded me with ideas. After sitting and talking with my friend Amber a few days ago, I been pondering what this vision I have been given looks like.

Stories. Testimonies. One of the most powerful tool for winning souls for the Kingdom besides the Bible and Christ Himself. Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone has a defining moment where they decided to leave it all behind to follow Jesus.

I happened upon this video testimony on YouTube a while ago and for the oddest reason, I came back to it again tonight. I listened to Brian Welch's story of redemption and was in tears. Powerful story that can soften even the hardest of hearts. You can see so many other videos testimonies like Brian's at I Am Second. This is an amazing movement that is spreading globally to give people hope to know that their circumstance is not the end of the world. It is meant to inspire you. It is meant to show you that the most admired people in the world all have struggles just like the rest of us.

Enjoy and hopefully you will join the movement. I have.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Perfect Timing

God has been absolutely blowing my mind lately. He has all but split open the sky to let me know that this desire I have for writing is of Him and not just something I like to do. He wants to use me to spread His message through books, blogs, whatever medium He sees fit in order to "set the captives free." I think the final bit of confirmation came from an email I got late Sunday night from a young lady that I have never met (Hi Nicole!) but who spoke the most encouraging and confirming words to me in an email. We follow the same blog and she found the link to this blog and the rest was all God.

God gave me this idea about what to write about on August 21. I wrote a few pages of notes and some random names to remember later. Ever since that day, I have had this overwhelming, absolutely consuming desire to focus on that idea to a point where it is hard to focus on anything else. I asked my lovely friend Amber to meet up so I can share with her all that God has been revealing to me. As I explained my desire to write, the prophesy spoken over me, the confirmations here and there and just the mind consuming feelings I have been having to write about this idea, I could see her eyes light up.

We were on the same page in so many ways. God was speaking the same message to us, placed the same desires on our heart, all to be carried out in different mediums.

As I was riding home, I was thinking about how huge this calling to write really is for me. I was in awe at the idea that He had been pursuing me since I was a kid through this love for writing.

But then God spoke. This path to writing didn't just get paved when I was a kid. It was paved with purpose and intent from the day I was born.

I was born in a car, told that story a million times and laughed at it a million and one times. But tonight, 30 years later, I realize I was born at the day, hour, exact minute and location I was supposed to thanks to God's timing. I was named after my godmother Frances because she delivered me in the back of the car. Had I been born at any other time, my name would have been Tamika. Why does this matter? I learned that my names means "free." God knew that my calling in life was to "set the captives free" through my desire to write so why not ensure that my name be called "free" so that I can walk in calling from birth?

His timing is so perfect it is mind blowing.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bigger Than Me

I love being apart of something that is bigger than me. Something that allows me to just play a small role in the grand scheme of things. Something to leave my mark on so I can look back and know I made a difference, even in what I think is insignificant way. I love being apart of God's master plan, apart of a ministry that is devoted to changing the direction of a generation. I love living life with people who are passionate about change.

Today God showed me that what I do, the people I meet, the people that I lead, the ministry that I serve, the random acts of kindness, the listening ear, that one extra phone call, that one "Hey, I'm just checking on you" text message, that silent prayer, it's all so much bigger than I can imagine. I've never had a day like this before that left me having to seriously lean on God and pray before I too action.

It started with an urgent cry for help at 7:00 AM on Facebook and it didn't end until well after midnight. I was operating on what seemed like strategic tactial mode the whole day. From a chance encounter with a dear old friend, to the series of cryptic updates on someone who fell off the grid, to the silent prayers and worry of someone I Shepard, to a friend going through the hardest time in her life, I was realizing that this life, this calling, this purpose is so much bigger than me. My mere existence in this natural world is all for a grander plan in the supernatural. God is so precise with our lives and the people He puts in them. We have to always be aware of the power that He gives us because you never know when you are going to have to utilize your gifts to get through a 24 hour time span.

This one day was filled with so many up and down emotions, so many tears, so many prayers, but so little focus on myself. This day was not about me at all. It was about me realizing that I have no room to be selfish because I have no idea how far my ripple effect stretches. I have been equipped with the wisdom, discernment and sheer passion for God's people to be such a vital instrument in His master plan. I just didn't know it until today. I haven't been called to just sit back and let someone else lead the way. I have been given the authority to be the one leading the way.

For a brief moment in time, I seriously questioned whether or not I was really capable of leading my generation in the Fusion Ministry. Most days I felt like I hadn't quite got my footing though people often applauded my work. That little bit of fear and uncertainty was causing me to almost consider taking the easy way out and letting someone more experienced take the wheel. But God knew better than to let me give up. How does He show me how equipped I really am? By throwing me in a world wind of events that let me relying on Him completely. In my weakness, He was strong. Where He is strong, I am strong.

This bigger plan is not about my level of knowledge or experience. It's about my level of dependency on Him to get the job done. Gideon is one of my favorites in the Bible. Weak in his own faith in himself, God used Him to do amazing things...all because He got his source of strength from God. Fusion is about to undergo so crazy, God centered, mind blowing changes and it excites me every time I think about it. He is about to open the flood gates in the city and send people in our direction in ways we can barely imagine. And He needs me there to be apart of it. He needs me there because in that crowd, there is someone I am supposed to meet. There is some one's life I am supposed to impact with a message from God.

It maybe just one life, it maybe 1,000. Who knows? Who cares? This thing is bigger than me anyway. I'm just along for the ride.