Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Shake Heaven

I have the pleasure and honor of being a member of one of the greatest churches, Victory World Church. It was ranked as one of the fasted growing churches in the nation a couple of years ago and based on the traffic volume every weekend, VWC is certainly growing by leaps and bounds. Each weekend, we have 4 services (God bless Pastor Dennis for his energy and dedication!) and have over 104 different nations represented in the congregation.

I am pretty sure Heaven would look a bit like one of our services.

We have some amazing leaders that bring God's vision for our church, our community and for the body of Christ to life. Our newest venture is the music. For me, worship is one of those truly intimate forms of praise to God. I grew up with traditional black gospel music and hymns because that's all I knew. To me the music was rather depressing because it always centered around "woe is me" lyrics or elementary repetitive lines. Nothing really felt like we were praising God, more like pleading with Him to bring us out of this week's latest dilemma. Coming to Victory and worshipping with more contemporary music, I noticed the distinct difference. The uplifting, soul stirring lyrics. The high energy sound.

I finally felt like I was praising God for His goodness with all my heart.

Earlier this year, Grammy nominated singer/songwriter Montell Jordan retired from the R&B industry and came on staff as our worship pastor at Victory. Montell, his wife Kristin and their 3 kids are regulars at Fusion each week so I have seen him around for a couple of years. He and Kristin are involved in Fusion leadership, hosting a marriage clinic for Fusion married couples since they do have 17 years under their belt. Part of me always wondered if he felt convicted when he would occasionally do worship at Fusion or for a Sunday service and still touring around the world singing secular songs.

He did. He realized he couldn't straddle the fence of worshipping God and worshipping the world. After some fasting and praying, retired from the secular world and joined the staff full time. Definitely was a God move because going from being an international star to working for a church are certainly not in the same pay grade.

Montell has helped bring to life a vision of worship music that Pastor Dennis has had for a while. Creating a new sound of music that encourages people to make worship a lifestyle. And with that Victory World Music was born. The first single "Shake Heaven" featuring Montell and the amazing Beckah Shae was released on iTunes a couple of weeks ago. The official music video was released today.

I am very proud of music that comes from Victory. Our worship pastors are serious about their music and go out of their way to make sure our worship sets are not just for entertainment but to seriously give praise and thanks to God for everything. I remember the crazy anticipation of the Fusion Band's "Hello, Again" album release concert last August. The entire sanctuary (about 1700 seats) was filled to capacity and the energy was ridiculous. The Spirit of God seriously reigned in that place.

Victory World Music will take its place amongst other great worship ministries like Hillsong, Planetshakers, Jesus Culture, David Crowder Band, Chris Tomlin, Elevation Church, and Free Chapel Band. Enjoy the video and make worship a lifestyle.

Monday, June 20, 2011

How Do You Defeat Your Goliath?

Last night, I went with my friends Nesta and Ladi to the 212 high school service. I haven't been in quite a while and I love to see young kids seriously go hard after God. After going to a couple of Ignite Youth conference services with Gavin, I have seen the super natural things that can occur when you get a room full of fearless teens together who love God with total abandonment.

Pastor Rolondo talked about the story of David and Goliath. Simple enough. He changed it up a bit and had the teens to think about the giants in their own lives. Pressures from school, friends, family, depression, sexual immorality, body images, lack of faith, whatever. He challenged everyone to think about their own personal giants and how God tells them to defeat their giants. David defeated Goliath with a rock and a slingshot, but he also had an unshakeable faith in God. His faith, dedication and passion for God is what truly defeated Goliath.

I took a few minutes and thought about some of my own personal giants that I struggle with and jotted them down on a note card. As the worship team played, I waited for some kind of divine revelation from Heaven to tell me how to conquer these battles. The sky didn't crack open, the heavens didn't part, and the earth didn't shake.

But He did speak.

To overcome my giants, the answer was simple.

"Abide in Me. Trust in Me. Trust in My word."


I kept asking myself "Is that it? Surely there is more to this! I have some serious stuff that sometimes hinders me. God are you sure there isn't more?"

"Abide in Me. Trust in Me. Trust in My word."

The answers to many of our toughest questions are usually pretty simple. God isn't complicated, no matter how complicated we try to make Him.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Soapbox Rant...

Recently I have been dealing with the issue of condoning, condemning and complying with sin. I would like to believe that anything can be measure along side the Bible to determine whether it is pleasing to God and there is little grey area. You either condone sin by participating in it and not standing up against it or you condemn it by fleeing from it.

Simple enough in my book.

When it comes to church leaders and their ideas of condoning and condemning sin, things get a little tricky. Pastors don't want to offend people so often times they skirt around issues like sex and homosexuality. In my book, if you aren't adhering to what the Bible says about these sins and directing your flock to flee from it, you are condoning it. Some pastors of course go overboard and condemn people for their actions and not condemn the sin itself.

There is a difference.

I was reading through a relationship blog that I read for entertainment purposes only. It's written by a man who I will assume is not saved because his posts revolve around random "worldly" relationships issues like sex and dating. Its posts are amusing at best but nothing that I would live out because it conflicts what I know the Bible says. Yet this most recent posting totally blew my mind. The author of the blog is looking for a wife for his best friend who is about to move to the South for a new job. They have known each other for years, hang out, drink, chase girls, have sex, you know...regular guy stuff.

The problem: The friend is moving to take a job a head pastor of a church. Yep. Here is an except from the Q and A session the author posted about his friend and his reasoning for leading a church while still being "in the world."

Boy, stop, tell me what does he do for a living?

He’s a pastor.

A what?

A pastor, as in a preacher, as in a man of the cloth. He’s going to be the head of a church.


Yeah, I know, so next question cause I know you have one.

Does this mean he doesn’t…

Oh no, he does that.

You didn’t even let me finish though…

I know what you were going to ask. Look, he’s an ordained pastor. He went to school and studied to be a pastor like I went to school to study to be a journalist. Being a pastor of a church is what he does for a living, but off the pulpit, outside of the church, he’s one of the guys. He drinks with us, he parties with us, he listens to the same music we listen to, and dates like a sinner, which means, yes, he does have sex. That’s what you really want to know because that’s what everyone asks me whenever I talk about him and bring up his occupation.

But wait, if he’s a pastor how does he…

Stop right there. This is the one thing I hate. Whenever I try to tell someone about my friend people put him on a pedestal solely based off what he does for a living. First of all, he’s spent many years as a counselor to alcohol and drug abusers. He’s also been a hospice worker. This guy lives in the real world, not in the church world.

I’m simply saying I don’t know any pastors like that…

My friend, the one we’re talking about here, once told me, “The problem with a lot of churches is they try to get people into heaven instead of heaven into people.” That’s some food for thought. According to him, there are plenty who are able to balance a life on and off the pulpit without keeping things hidden from public view. But not only that, you’re right, you don’t know any pastors like him and you don’t know any guys like him. He can explain everything better than I can, so for those who are interested, and want to know more about how he does that balancing act, you’ll have to talk to him.

I think my mouth is still on the floor with this one. The author is of course condoning the fact that his pastor friend "lives in the real world, not the church world." I am more astounded at the fact that the friend sees this lifestyle as perfectly okay. It burns me up to no end that there are so many people in the world proclaiming a calling from God to lead a church, yet their own lifestyle does not set them apart from others that are not even Christians.

A couple of weeks ago, God kept nudging me to read the book of Timothy. Weird I know because I am certainly not that girl who gets these divine scripture references from God. I finally took the time to read it and it blessed me abundantly. 1 Timothy is all about being a leader in the church. I took in some very good food for thought since I am in a leadership position at my own church. It also allowed me to see the measuring stick that Bible has for those that want to lead a church.

1 Timothy 3
Qualifications for Overseers and Deacons
1 Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full[a] respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

This pastor friend looking for a wife doesn't seem to be living up to those standards of being above reproach. I will certainly pray for the people he is about to lead and hope that they don't fall under any deception to condone living just as their shepard does.

**Getting off my soapbox**

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Saving One Girl At A Time

It's funny how God works. I have been feeling a bit helpless after being back in the States from my trip. So much work to do in Peru and I come back to my comfortable home, bed, hot, clean water, food, job, cable, cellphone, and other random luxuries I take for granted. I have been feeling a bit disconnected, like I don't fit here because I would rather be doing something instead of being here among a culture of people who turn a blind eye to the rest of the world. Being in a foreign country where water is rationed and children are as dispensable as garbage, you get a new outlook on the world.

I have been in a funk all day. Went to lunch alone just to get out of the office and on my drive back, I knew I needed to have a conversation with God about my mental state. I tearfully pleaded with God to show me what I was supposed to do at this point. What am I supposed to do with my life now that I have these new eyes in which to see the world? I needed an answer.

And there she was. Christine favorite anti-sex trafficking advocate.

While at lunch, I read a few pages of her book "Can I have it all, please?" and had intended on blogging about some of the passages I had read. But after taking a quick detour to she was again. The Freedom Project section of the site featured an article about her efforts to end modern day slavery with The A21 girl at a time. I heard her speak a couple of months ago at my church and her passion to end this atrocity still resonates in me. Seeing that article gave me that familiar ping of fire in my spirit.

End modern day slavery one girl at a time.

I feel like the human trafficking area is where I am supposed to be. That is one thing that I can talk about for hours and never get tired of. That is the one injustice that blows my mind that people are clueless about when I mention. That is the one injustice that breaks my heart to know that even after knowing the facts, people are still indifferent.

Saving one girl at a time. 27 millions people in slavery right now. Christine always says that 27 million is an overwhelming number so if we can just put a name and a face to one victim and save her, it is all worth it. I put a name and a face on one victim this time last year and her name is Sabrina. One girl at a time. God sent me to Peru to get a global perspective on how bad things really are. Before, all I knew was how bad sex trafficking is here in Atlanta. Not discounting what the girls here go through but it does pale in comparison to the stories about trafficking internationally.

Be her freedom...join the a life. Check out Christine's article here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Daddy's Little Girl

I had lunch with a friend that went to Peru with me and we made plans to meet up on again on Sunday. She casually mentioned that it was Father's Day and since she didn't have a dad, it was no big deal. I replied with a similar response mainly because I totally forgot it was Father's Day on Sunday. When you grow up with no father around, that day really has no meaning.

I was thinking about my state of fatherlessness this morning when I read a blog about how former Destiny's Child singer Kelly Rowland own father has been trying to reach out to her. Most people are well aware that Kelly's father abandoned her when she was a kid and she spent a significant portion of her life under the care of Beyonce's parents. Instinctively, I assumed that because Kelly has some degree of fame, her absentee father is creating a buzz for monetary reasons. Who would think that a man that abandoned their child would really come searching for them 30 years later to try to make up for all the years that they missed. How often does that happen?

My own father has been trying to contact me for about a year now and the phone calls go unanswered. I know of him but have no relationship with him and to me, that's fine. My mom even got onto me about not answering when he calls usually following up with the same "he's your father" excuse. I really have no desire to reclaim any lost years or have some man to become this father figure so late in my life. To me, the idea of having a dad is truly a foreign concept. I understand the purpose and benefits of having a dedicated father around growing up. I never got that so, I don't know how to put that type of relationship into context. I was never daddy's little girl and never will be...and that's cool with me. Kinda hard to miss something I never had.

I am positive I have daddy issues. Using boys and sex as a source of validation growing up is truth to that. Luckily my God is a father to the fatherless so I have been saved and redeemed from all that. Yet, I sometimes wonder what real lasting effects of not having a dad will catch up to me down the road? I have dated a lot of guys, good and bad. In my BC (before Christ) days, I thought I had an idea of what I good guy was but was wrong. Had I had that positive male figure to admire, I am sure I would not have made a lot of the mistakes I did growing up.

Will I be able to recognize a really good man when I didn't grow up with that example of a good father? I don't have a standard to measure them to that is ingrained and familiar to me. I didn't grow up with a positive example of marriage either so how will I know what a good marriage should be like? How jacked up will my boys be since they don't have a father active in their lives? Gavin has never really known his father. Aiden's dad was super involved but has reduced himself down to an every other weekend dad due to his new family.

Generational curses at its best. My grandmother had her daughters with different men and I don't even think my mom had a relationship with her dad. She then had 5 children with 2 different men and none of us have a relationship with our fathers. My brother has a football team worth of kids and is only present in the lives of two. My other brother has a daughter back home that he only sees a couple times a year because he, his wife (who is pregnant with kid number 2) live in Maryland. My sister is on her second husband so her daughter may fair better with her step dad since her dad lives in another state. And then there is me, raising 2 boys alone. Boys who will someday be men who grow up without a father.

As sad as all that I have written sounds, I know it is all a lie. As I type, I can hear that small voice in my mind that is telling me "you have all those things already." I have been blessed beyond measure and sometimes forget it. God has given me the privilege of getting to know some truly amazing men. Single, courting, and married godly men who love, cherish and respect their wives and would lay down their lives for their children. Men that understand their purpose as a husband and father and live that out proudly. I am surrounded with examples of marriages that He Himself has orchestrated. He has provided all the things that I didn't have growing up through other people. Even Gavin has some great men that spend time with him and show him what it looks like to be a man who honors God in all things.

I have always been Daddy's little girl. Just took some time to realize who my Daddy was.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Fusion on Tour

While being in Peru, Fusion (young adult ministry at my church), decided to embark on a light version of Fusion on Tour. Fusion on Tour was a brainchild that was hatched a couple of years ago by our ministry leaders. Pastor Johnson is very much an advocate of our generation learning how to "be the church" and not just attend church. It is so easy to get into a Wednesday Fusion service groove and leave behind all the practical concepts that we learn from the teachings. To help shake things up, 2 years ago, Pastor J announced at one service that he was shutting down Fusion for 6 weeks.

That was a HUGE deal. Fusion is really big on community and living out life together so to not meet on our regular Wednesday was hard. It was our routine. Yeah we had small groups that meet during the week and people hung out all the time but not being immersed in our amazing worship sets with the band or hearing an inspiring message from Pastor J was hard to fathom. Instead of our regular weekly meetings, we had to go out into the community and actually be the church. Each week, there are different "tour dates." Tour dates include anything from sharing your testimony online on FB and tag friends and family members that are not saved, buying someone a coke to show them that Jesus loves them, building a bridge with a friend or family member that you have lost contact with over the years, or take a coworker to lunch day. Simple gestures that open the door for your to introduce (or re-introduce) people to Jesus.

Fusion on Tour launch night is always night of chaos and adrenaline. Small group leaders gather their groups together to give out their assignments. The tasks are simple. Some go the local gas station and pre-pay for gas for people. Some go to a restaurant and talk with the server about God (my group went to Hooters last year). Some may go to a fast food place and pay for food for people in line. One group last year went to the local Publix grocery store, bought food for the employees, stocked shelves, mopped floors, took customers groceries to their cars, and just prayed for random people around the store. It's always AMAZING the stories and reports that flow in from people that did little things around their community that make such a huge impact in the lives of people.

This year, Fusion is doing a "light" version of Fusion on Tour. Kind of a bummer but with so many changes and transitions going on, I wasn't sure if were even doing the tour. Only one week off and just a couple of tour dates during that off week. I love the "Fusion Goes Viral" date the most. Everyone posts their testimony online for the world to see. It's amazing and eye opening when people open their heart and share where God has pulled them from. You never really know what some one's life was like in their BC (before Christ) days but the end result is always glory for God.

I have shared more of an edited version of my own testimony with most people and have been a bit more open here (more for therapeutic reasons). Think its finally time to tell the whole story, no sugar coating, no details left out. Sharing my story with the girls at The Nancy Cole House (rescue shelter for former sex trafficking victims) in Peru made me feel like my story was relevant considering their own pasts. I was a little shocked when I was asked to share my story but I knew it was all in God's timing. Missionaries have the best intentions but sometimes, living a relatively "sheltered" Christian life gets lost in translation when talking with a 12 year old who has been forced to have sex with 40 men a day for the past 5 years. Hearing what God has done from someone who has been abused and abandoned resonates more when you can relate.

It may take a couple of days to get my story together to post and at the same time, process my experience in Peru. Lots to do!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Back to Reality

I'm home now but the last 10 days are fresh in my mind. I'm still processing all of my thoughts and feelings as I look back through the 472 pictures I took. This one is by far my favorite. This little boy lived with his mom and grandmother right next door to the Hearts in Action, International church in the mountains of Cieneguilla, Peru. The mom cooks for the after school tutoring and nutrition program for the local kids who live in the tin shacks in the mountains right across the highway from the church. I saw this little bright eyed boy every day we went to the church to help out and he is the cutest little thing. He always stayed close to the kitchen door so he could keep an eye on his mom but would peek his head out every now and then to make sure we were still near by. I took this photo as he fell asleep in the doorway waiting for his mom to finish cleaning the kitchen and making sure he could see our team leaving for the evening so he could wave bye. We must have taken too long because he fell asleep right where he sat in the doorway, watching his mom and watching our team of missionaries.

My heart is still in Peru and I can never look at life the same. So much work to be done to bring the name of Jesus to the ends of the Earth.

More to come...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Countdown Begins...

I just got back from the CVS Minute Clinic getting my tetanus shot before leaving for Peru tomorrow. I'm kinda in awe that this has all come together and the time is finally here. Even today, God has proven to be absolutely faithful! Trying not to go over budget with spending for the trip, I forgot about having to pay the $25 co-pay for my shot. Turns out my insurance covered it completely and I was able to spending that $25 on my much needed travel sized items for my carry-on bags. I like to give God glory for even the littlest victories!

I am excited, nervous, humbled and expecting some amazing things for this trip. I am hoping that I am able to get to a computer while I am there to post some pictures and give status updates. If not, I will have plenty to share when I get back.

Get ready Lima, Peru...