What I’m Into Part 1: Kickboxing/Boxing

In the 5th grade I discovered basketball. Well, no…actually, the basketball coaches from Jr. High and High School intentionally came down to our middle school to see who had any potential, and they intentionally picked out those that display any talent. So from there, I was one of the chosen few and therefore became an athlete. In East Brunswick, a township full of star athlete’s I was a C athlete at best. My mile run time was not as fast as the others. My weight was always more than the others. My ability to learn plays was not as quick as the others. I was always shorter than the others- which made me have to work twice as hard. To the average person, I was a pretty capable athlete, but it’s really hard to be a star among stars. Nevertheless, it was during that time in my life that the importance and discipline of exercise was instilled in me- whether I liked it or not. I went on to become a better athlete as the years went on but I never really loved working out. I just did it cause I knew it was important to have as part of one’s lifestyle- and it was really all I knew. In college I worked out a little here and there. After college, again, a little here and there. I never really understood the concept of working out “on your own.” I absolutely suck at walking into a gym and doing some form of cardio and then getting on the weight machines. I get bored easy. I’ll go in at 10am and then be walking out the door at 10:20am. I am not self motivated at the gym at all. I find it SO BORING!

Later into my 20’s I discovered Spin Class. It was both invigorating and exciting. I loved the music, the lights and the speed. I became obsessed with spin. And I lost mad weight doing spin too! Originally upon going, I was intimidated by all the fit looking people and how the people in the class never seemed to need to just…take a break geeeeeez. But I’ve always been a big believer in knowing that conditioning takes time. You just have to get over that first hump and then you’ll notice that you’re getting more and more adjusted. So I just kept going and trying and eventually, I was one of those people that didn’t really need to take a break. Unfortunately after a big cross country move and a new demanding job, it was hard for me to make that same commitment. Then I found myself getting bored again. If the teacher wasn’t good and the music isn’t good then the class is going to suck and I found myself going less and less. Or rather, going and then jumping off the bike in the middle of the class thinking to myself, “boo!” I still would switch it up and go for a jog every now and then or a boot camp class or a yoga class, but I just couldn’t find anything I was in love with. My last year in California I probably gained 10-12 pounds from taking students to get Mexican and treating myself to Chik-Fil-A milkshakes every time I felt I had something to celebrate (which was often becauseI ALWAYS celebrated getting through a 12 hour work day). My last few months there I discovered a kickboxing class that I liked but again because it was in Pasadena and given my work schedule, I couldn’t fully commit.

Then I moved to DC and discovered Title Boxing.

I LOVE TO BOX. I finally found a workout that I actually enjoy and have managed not to get bored with in the past 10 months. It’s intense. It’s a full body workout. 15 minutes of cardio. 30 minutes of boxing with 8- 3 minute rounds and 15 minutes of core work. I don’t have time to get bored because things are switched up every 2 minutes and the instructors are super intense which makes it hard to sneak out of class (and believe me I need that accountability because I will be the first person to sneak out.) I even lost most of the weight I gained from all those milkshakes. lol. But I think part of that has to do with me being a pescatarian now- which will be another blog.

When it comes to exercising, it’s important to find a workout that fits you. All workouts are not created equal. Everyone is not going to love everything. People think I’m some fitness guru but that’s just not the case. I just know it’s important to keep my body moving and so in turn I realized I can only do that in things that I like doing. So you’ll never see me just go to the gym and get on a machine cause I hate that. You wont see me in a Zumba class or anything either. But I found something I like so i’m just gonna stick with that for this season. I like to jog to every once and a while- but even that I don’t love. I just do it every now and then to switch things up. I have a friend who discovered Yoga and that is what she’s chosen. My other friend loves to dance, so she takes dance classes. Just do what works for you. Exercise for you, for your health, well being and even your sanity. It even breaks up some of the stress and anxieties of life. And last but not least, in the words of the great Elle Woods:

How “Sex & the City” Taught Me More About Singleness, Sex & Relationships than the Church

I discovered Sex & the City about 1 year after it went off the air. I’d heard of it, of course. I’m not sure who (of age) could avoid hearing about the popular series in the early 2000s. I don’t remember much. I just remember it was in a time when sex on television was still pretty taboo. Janet Jackson’s exposed breast during a Superbowl halftime show was the controversial moment on national television during that time. There were no soft-porn like sex scenes on cable or broadcast tv like we see the likes of now. TV programs weren’t even allowed to say the “B” word or “A” word, but now we don’t even blink when certain words or images grace our television set. “Sex & the City” was immensely popular during that time. Me, being in my 20’s and really very guarded when it came to my faith and my lifestyle- well I sort of judged the show. So I didn’t take much interest in finding out much about it. It was about sex and single women and not only was the sex topic an unmentionable one in the Christian community, it certainly was an off topics conversation for single women. There was only;




Those were the key words I heard when it came to any communication about singleness, sex or relationships. It’s like this episode I once saw of Preachers of LA, where one Pastor was having a relationship conference (or something). They separated the married couples from the singles. The married couples got to go to the room to talk to a sex and relationships therapist. They looked like they had fun. The single individuals got to go to the basement to get a lecture by a 50 year old single Pastor who happened to be a virgin. While the guy seemed like he was pretty cool, I couldn’t help but think, why couldn’t they get to talk to the sex and relationships therapist? Why do single women and men in the church get the half hearted, constricted messages?

As I walked home, I couldn’t help but wonder … When did being alone become the modern-day equivalent of being a leper?”- Carrie Bradshaw, Season 2

I was actually in seminary when I stumbled upon a few re-runs of Sex & the City on TBS in the late evening. After laughing through 3 episodes, it was like suddenly I wasn’t the only one in the room anymore. I had these 4 women with me who were strangely speaking my thoughts and stumbling through life with the same clumsiness and satire that I had been.

“Think about it. If you are single, after graduation there isn’t one occasion where people celebrate you … Hallmark doesn’t make a “congratulations, you didn’t marry the wrong guy” card. And where’s the flatware for going on vacation alone?”

As we speed along this endless road to the destination called who we hope to be, I can’t help but whine, ‘Are we there yet?’”

“Maybe our mistakes are what make our fate. Without them, what would shape our lives?”

“Maybe the past is like an anchor holding us back. You have to let go of who you were to become who you will be.”

I spent the next few nights and weeks, looking forward to watching those mini TBS marathons. Here were these four 30-something White women and here I was this one 20-something Black (and Christian) woman and I couldn’t figure out why I could relate. My life wasn’t exactly like theirs, nor were my life choices. And honestly I can’t sit here and say that this blog is an endorsement of certain life choices and/or behavior patterns. That’s not my point. My point is that my heart and my mind, my emotions and even my hormones were finally being heard. And up until that point I hadn’t really been provided a space where I could express that without judgement. Not only was I not provided that space, but I had not come in contact with many authentic people to help guide me through that. Instead, I looked to these characters on television for any semblance of understanding.

“I couldn’t help but wonder: When will waiting for the one be done?”

“Do we search for lessons to lessen the pain?”

“After all, computers crash, people die, relationships fall apart. The best we can do is breathe and reboot.”

“To be in a couple, do you have to put your single self on a shelf?”

“Being single used to mean that nobody wanted you. Now it means you’re pretty sexy and you’re taking your time deciding how you want your life to be and who you want to spend it with.”

“Friendships don’t magically last forty years … You have to invest in them.”

“One woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure.”

“After a while, you just want to be with the one that makes you laugh.”

“Relationships are not about playing games. They’re about mature and honest communication.”

“No matter who broke your heart, or how long it takes to heal, you’ll never get through it without your friends.”


My friends and I became so enamored with the series that we went to Best Buy, and the store had this pink binder that contained all 6 seasons on DVD. Each of us for various birthday’s and milestones in life would gift the other with “The Pink Binder.” It got me through some tough times. Got me through some tough breakups. Got me through some times when I felt alone and misunderstood. It got me through times when I needed to know I wasn’t the only person on the planet who made those mistakes. And it still gets me through now, in my 30’s, from time to time when I get a chance to pop a DVD in. 

The show revolutionized singleness and honored it. This is something that is so anti-culture and really the opposite of the messages I received in the church. It put singleness at the center, which is rarely the case. Singleness is always on the margins. It’s the “other” category. The “still loading” category. The category that they say you don’t want to find yourself in after a certain age or place in life. It’s something we spend most of our lives striving NOT to be. But then there was this: 

“A Woman’s Right to Shoes” (click to view clip)

Yes they talked about the joys and celebrations of singleness. There were also the frustrations. There was the uncertainty of dating. The reality that there is nothing wrong with wanting to get married and then nothing wrong with just being okay with being unattached. There were poor decisions made and really successful ones. There were career changes and setbacks. There were babies and marriages and failed marriages. There were ex’s and inlaws. There were friendship arguments and tears and laughs. There were single date nights. There were perfect guys that just weren’t right. There were annoying baby showers and cats. There were choices around buying and renting. There were spontaneous vacations and long conversations in the local diner. There were recurring themes of just about everything I am currently experiencing right now in my life as a single 33 year old woman. In spite of many apparent differences in how we approach and even look at life, I still have my pink binder as a guide. 

“Eventually all the pieces fall into place. . . until then, laugh at the confusion, live for the moment, and know that everything happens for a reason.”

I wish that somehow the church had better prepared me for what it meant and means for me to venture through this world as a single Christian woman. Because honestly “just wait” is about as lackluster of a message as any one person should ever have to hear in any one lifetime.

What Happens When A Beautiful Mess & 30 Girls Collide?

A few weeks ago I got the opportunity to spend a week with a few young ladies at something we church folk like to call “Vacation Bible School”. Honestly, it had been a while since I’ve done….well really anything. Last year my life consisted of preaching or speaking to some group large or small just about every other day for months and months at a time. This year, since my big transition, I speak here and there, much to the dismay of those around me who think I should be using my gifts. Alas, after months of binge watching Netflix, barely opening a single book and socializing on weeknights, it almost time for me to walk back into what I was placed on this earth for.

It started with these girls.

I only had 4 days with them. What was I supposed to say for 4 days in 2 hour time blocks? I thought long and hard about scriptures I could use. Wondered where to venture in the bible. Wondered what i could say to spawn some sort of move of God. Then, I thought about this quote that I heard Lauryn Hill say on her Unplugged album.

“I used to be a performer and I really don’t consider myself a performer so much anymore, I’m really just sharing.”

I don’t even have it in me to perform anymore. I’m exhausted trying to be somebody to make somebody else more comfortable with my existence. I don’t want to perform or preach another sermon. I don’t want to wear anymore uniforms or speak in the tongues of angles. I just wanna be free to be me. And I want for these girls to be free to be who they are too, and simultaneously, free to be who God created them to be. So I did all that I knew to do, which was just share. Share bits and pieces of IMG_3526me and how I came to be me. All those lessons that Ive learned along the way that have freed me from the bounds of societal and cultural limitations. I knew that if I did that with any sense of integrity then I wouldn’t have to force bible lessons and the like. God would emanate from me in the manner in which God desired.

It was such a beautiful mess. 

There was no order really. I mean I had notes here and there, but nothing for real. We talked about different aspects of our identity. Womanhood, Blackness, Christhood. We talked media’s role in the unhealthy messages we receive. We watched a clip from Jean Kilbournes “Killing Us Softly” and the film “Misrepresentation.” I asked them when the first time they thought they were ugly. I had them cut out subliminal messages in magazine ads. I had them watch the documentary “A Girl Like Me.” We read articles on Saartjie Baartman, the Black woman kidnapped from SIMG_3544outh Africa in 1810 displayed in a circus as a freak because of her unique body features. We watched clips from the Tyra Banks Show. I had them take pictures of themselves and put them on Instagram and caption who they are and who they are NOT. We waIMG_3541tched a few videos about what it means to fear God and what it means to follow Jesus Christ. We talked about our identities as disciples and not church members and Sunday church goers.IMG_3540

IMG_3538 IMG_3535IMG_3539


and finally…

Finally we did Vision Boards.


We had a Vision Board Party and celebrated our futures with donuts and brownies and fruit and pizza. So what happens when a beautiful mess and 30 girls collide?

Hopefully, someone is bound to get free, if not myself.

I just hope that me sharing and not preaching…sharing and not performing…planted some seed in them that would give them at least a tiny bit of the freedom that it took almost 33 years for me to experience.

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MEGACHURCH: The Failure of Hyper-Glorifying Numbers in Ministry

Recently I watched a semi-conversation unfold on twitter between a friend and a Pastor. They were engaging in a tit for tat debate over the usage of some colloquial saying for God. My friend thought that perhaps the word was too informal and the Pastor guy just brushed him off. When my friend (along with another woman) continued the disagreement, the Pastor- who used the word in a recent sermon series- refuted with: “We had 500+ salvations, 500+ visitors & 3000+ commit to purity through this series.” My friend simply responded “Happy for you.” To which the Pastor guy then responded, “No you’re not you’re a hater, but I love ya.”


I mean, I get it. I guess he was trying to say “look I used the word and as a result of that word we had all of these people respond to it well and they liked it so there take that.” I wasn’t in that conversation so I can’t speak to it. But what disturbed me was this mentality that I have been seeing a trend of when it comes to leaders in ministry. It’s the idea that large numbers equates to success.



MEGAfest (not that I have any issue with MegaFest. I actually like the idea of that conference)

It’s this idea that the larger the church roster, the larger the number of people that come when an “altar call” is called, the larger the conference, the larger the number of commitment forms etc, then the more that authenticates ones ministry. And honestly, while I’m sure that the intent of amassing large numbers has a percentage of well meaning, a substantial amount of it is grounded in pride and narcissism.

As a young person in ministry I watched that growing up (not necessarily at my own church) and unfortunately it rubbed off on me. Once upon a time, I too believed that numbers were everything when it came to determining whether or not my call was noteworthy and if this faith thing was really working. I would pride myself on just how many youth were in OUR youth ministry. “Well over 600”, I would respond. Never mind the fact that I only saw 100 of that number on Sunday mornings and furthermore only had significant relationships with about 35 of them. At the end of a sermon, if I would give the call for someone to come for prayer or come to Christ, I’d be praying in my heart that someone would accept the call and secretly patting myself on the back for the number of people that would come to the front because THAT would mean that a real move of God took place.

What a warped way of thinking.

Warped because while Jesus ministered to the multitudes, his more significant ministry appeared to be the close circle of 12 of whom he discipled. Warped because it was this very man who said:

 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Luke 15)

One day, sometime after I’d left that particular job and grew in my mentality, I remember speaking to my younger sister (who was in the youth ministry that I led) about discipleship. I’ll never forget when she asked me, “What does that mean?” I hung my head in shame. Major fail. I went through 3+ years in what looked like a successful youth ministry, with lots of large numbers and one of the most important concepts was never priority enough to stick. The numbers were though. The popularity was. How many kids came to our retreats and our hip-hop Christian concerts was. What had I done?

Somewhere we’ve gotten lost in all these numbers. We’ve gotten lost in how many seats we can fill at our stadium sized churches and how many twitter followers we have. That is not the gospel. The gospel is about discipleship. And what I’ve learned is that discipleship takes time and energy. It can be messy. It is thankless and humble. Discipleship is about journeying with that one person through celebrations and setbacks, victories and failures. I have so much respect for the Pastors, pastoring their small-midsized congregations and intentionally juggling their time visiting hospitals, counseling, teaching and being present. Those who don’t have the major book deals or whose popular name can draw large crowds to their expensive conferences. I don’t envy those with large sets of people under their care because I realize how daunting the task of true discipleship is and know that while they may be self-impressed with their large numbers, chances are they are failing in basic discipleship 101. I’m not saying that all are, but I am saying that the enchanting spell of quantity can cloud the significance of quality.

I’ve preached in a lot of settings, to large and small crowds alike, but nothing gives me more joy than to see that one person that I’ve had the privilege of journeying with, succeed at life. Even in my own personal life, my spiritual growth isn’t attributed principally to that time I heard that great sermon and went to the altar call among dozens of other people and cried and filled out a card that said “hey I love Jesus.” It’s the people who have discipled me and journeyed with me. It’s the ones who really truly pastored me. It is to them, I say “thank you.” I want to ask that pastor guy my friend was tweeting, to reflect on where those 500 visitors, 500 salvations and 3000 commitment cards will be in 10 years. Because the truth of the matter is this: The numbers alone don’t carry the weight. The discipleship does.

1 Year #Hairversarry: What the Natural Hair Journey Has Meant to Me

My friend Eleith decided to “go natural” in college. Not only did she do that but she vowed to never straighten her hair ever again. I didn’t understand. “You mean, you’re not even going to press it?” This was in the early 2000s. Probably like, 2002 or something. The natural hair movement was not as permeating through our culture as it is now. Going to Temple University, I would see Black girls with various styles, wraps, braids, locks. I thought it was a college phase or something you did when you went to a city college like ours in Philadelphia. My last semester I took a class called, “The Black Woman.” Walking into that class was the first time I ever felt like a hair minority. I was the only one with a relaxer, let alone with straight hair period. Honestly I think they judged me for it, which to this day is problematic when Black women judge other Black women for their hair choices. Every single class I felt uncomfortable. I was insecure in my Black womanhood

….all over hair? 


I wondered why I didn’t have the confidence to pull those styles off. I thought that maybe if I’d started my hair transition when I was a freshman, then I would have had time to experiment. There I was leaving the school. I thought there’d be no way that would work in the real world.

So from then on I continued going to the hair salon every 6-8 weeks (sometimes sooner) to get my perm put in.


I’d go to the Dominican salon every 2 weeks to get my doobie. I’d notice my ends breaking every few months and go back and get it chopped off. This was the routine for the next 8 years. But I’d been getting my hair permed since I was 6. People would tell me that I should go natural and I didn’t think it would look right on me. I was afraid of my hair curl pattern. What if it was “too nappy”? (Another problematic concept) I thought that it made sense for “other women” to go natural but not for me. I was thinking all about style, but not about health. It wasn’t until my hair had grown at a good length after years, that I noticed significant breakage and I started thinking about what would happen if I never got a perm ever again. I thought about it for a few months and then one day after getting my last perm in February of 2011, I noticed a scab from the chemical burning on my scalp. It was then that I said, “enough!” I didn’t know where to begin or how but that was it. My hair stylist convinced me that I didn’t have to cut all my hair off. She said that I could transition out of it and she would straighten my hair with a hot comb and flat iron and trim the permed hair bit by bit. It pretty much broke off on its own. All the heat mixed with the leftover chemical on my ends was a nightmare. Cute the first few days but after that was hard to keep up.

I went ahead and put a weave in so that my own hair could grow underneath it.


I would figure out what to do with it later. Once I moved to southern California, there were not a lot of choices for natural hair salons…actually there was like 1 that I could find. Different from the East Coast where there are a plethora of choices. So I kept the weave in. I’d take it out and get it in again. When I finally found a woman who knew how to straighten natural hair, I started going to her to do my own hair. Once again, my hair started to break off. Not as much as it did when I had a perm. It was thicker and fuller, but again, the heat wasn’t good for it. I’d maybe get braids or twists and then take it out and straighten it again. It was at this point in my journey that I was at a crossroads. I needed to have a long conversation (in my head) with myself.

What’s at stake if your hair is not worn straight? Do you think you will be ugly?

Who told you, you HAD to wear your hair straight? 

Will men be attracted to me? If they’re not then why would I want to be with someone who doesn’t like me in my most natural state?

And on and on, I asked myself those hard questions about why the hair that came out of my own roots had to be manipulated in order to be accepted. It’d be one thing if my sole reason was to explore the diverse styles that we can do with our hair. But that wasn’t my sole reason. Mine was because I felt like I had to. At the time I was exploring the themes within my own personhood, womanhood and even singleness that I AM ENOUGH. So why not have this ideology spill over into my image as well? I made a deal with myself that I would not straighten my hair for the next 6 months. I would not, even when tempted, get a weave or even braids. I would just wear the hair on my head and style the hair on my head and that was it. I had to come to terms with the complete me.

My godsister, Kai, told me about a man name Shai Amiel in Burbank that specialized in cutting natural, curly hair. He was going to be expensive but if I wanted to start that journey I needed to get all the straight heat damaged ends cut from my head. I went to him and he cut my hair (a DevaCut) and lectured me a bit on what it means to care for your curls.

heat damage

He told me which products to stay away from and how I need to care for every single curl on my head. He told me that our curls need hydration, not grease. I took many notes. He also suggested that I leave my hair alone for 6 months (the time id even agreed on) to just condition it daily and that my natural curl would begin to take shape. I hated my hair when I left the salon. But as the days and months went on, I have spent countless hours loving and caring for my curls. I’ve worked mainly with DevaCurl products, Ouidad, Crème of Nature and a few other products. Sometimes I’ll twist at night, sometimes I’ll just wash, style and go, sometimes I’ll put it up. I’ve even read books on the Black hair experience such as “Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America” by Ayana Byrd. (Highly recommend) 

It’s been exactly 1 year since I started that 6 month journey. I figured why not keep going? It has been wonderful! Maybe i’ll switch it up again and straighten my hair again at some point, or braid it or something. But now it’s more about health than anything. Health on the outside and inside. And i’ve enjoyed working on making sure my inner self matches my outer self. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth the journey. I remember hearing the phrase “natural hair journey” and never understanding what it meant. Now I get it.

The Chaos of Anger & Why I Refuse to Judge Baltimore’s Uprising

(*the names included in this piece are all fictional to protect confidentiality*)

Carla’s anger was boiling over because her mother was supposed to come visit and she cancelled for the 2nd time in a row.  Carla had been excited all day. She was even on her best behavior so not to get any sanctions (as we would call it if the kids were “bad”). I loved watching her light up with joy at the thought that she would have a visit from the person she loved the most. Carla was sort of, the ring leader on our unit of 10 girls, all between the ages of 13 and 18. It was a large residential treatment facility with dozens of units, housing young people who were compartmentalized by their offenses. This unit, in particular, was for teenage girls with severe emotional difficulties. When the phone call came that Carla’s mother wasn’t coming, I knew we were in for quite the response. At first she just cried. She screamed to her mother on the phone, “Why would you do this again?!” When she hung up, she went to her room quiet. She probably stayed in there about 10 minutes until we started hearing things begin to slam to the ground. Two of us walked over and Carla was throwing anything she could get her hands on, against the walls and on the floor. My heart ached for this young girl, but as a staff member, I still had to follow protocol. I was angry that she would use her anger to destroy her own room. I knew she was upset but that was no excuse. One warning, then another warning, then I make a phone call to the nurse, then if that didn’t work we call a code and restrain her. I really didn’t want it to get that far.

“If you come near me, I’m going to f*** you up. Don’t come near me.”

When some of the other girls on the unit saw what was happening while we were trying to get Carla to stop, they too began to act out. Tanya, another resident, went to grab the garbage can in the common room and threw it at me.

“F*** you Ms. Khristi!”

“Tanya, stop.”

“F*** you!”

Jordan, another young resident took all her clothes off and started running through the unit screaming and laughing. One of my co-workers went after her. This was a psychotic episode. Jordan would usually reflect whatever behavior was going on around her. Jessica, another resident went to her room and started crying uncontrollably. She began to start to pull her hair out in clumps. Myself and another nurse had to restrain her. Then one by one, each of the girls began acting out. They cussed us out, they threw things at us, ran around the unit naked, they physically harmed themselves and that went on for a few hours.

I was so confused. As a young woman fresh out of college with little work experience, I wondered what I had gotten myself into. This was only my 2nd month working there. Within ½ hour of that phone call from Carla’s mother, the entire unit was in complete chaos. Other staff from other units came to assist. There were multiple takedowns, interventions and sanctions that took place that night. The reality was these young girls were out of control. It all started with Carla’s reaction and it was like a domino effect of chaos. Nothing specific happened to the other girls for them to behave that way in my mind…

…or was it much deeper than that?

That night at the end of my shift, I naturally had to put in overtime. Not only to restore order to the unit, but I had to go and log in each of their charts, what had taken place, how it was resolved and what the plan for reintegration would be. That was the first time that I had an opportunity to read all of their charts thoroughly, which included not only their behavioral history, but their upbringing. I read for hours.

“Beaten with baseball bat by parental unit.”

“Mother addicted to cocaine at time of conception. Child born addicted to cocaine.”

“Sexually abused by teenage cousin at 5 years old.”

And the list went on and on and on. My heart broke for those babies that night. Here they were one step before juvenile detention, locked in a small petri-dish of a unit, with very few chances to get out and see the sun. Their family structures were broken down, their education was limited to a few classes during the day (just to sort of say they were getting an education) with teachers that were mainly afraid to be there, but really just needed a job. Their lives were the result of being tragically born into brokenness and structures of cruelty.

And that particular day, that chaos boiled over.

That particular day, their rage boiled over.

That particular day, their sadness boiled over.

This is somewhat how I see the rage boiling over in Baltimore. Especially the rage among the young people and the destruction they can’t seem to help but enact. I cannot begin to understand Baltimore. I can’t pretend that seeing a few seasons of “The Wire” makes me a Baltimore expert. I cannot pretend that the few dozen times I’ve driven through Baltimore, or stopped at the Blacks in Wax Museum, or visited the harbor gives me any kind of right to comment on what is happening there. But what I can say is that from what I’ve seen these past few days, chaos is boiling over. Their rage is boiling over. Their sadness, boiling over. I will not critique their anger. I will not quote Martin Luther King sayings about peace, as much as I didn’t stand in the middle of the unit that day as my girls were seething and say “Can’t we all just get along?” My girls had pain that was/is far deeper than I could ever imagine, and their expression of that pain, while I didn’t understand it, I had to take part in managing it. The majority of the time I was even on the unfortunate receiving end of it. And that sucked. I didn’t want garbage cans thrown at me as much as I strongly refute rocks being thrown at police officers. Furthermore I’m not illustrating this as a means of excusing destructive behavior. We must be equally as outraged about systemic injustice as we are compassionate in regards to the psychology of these young people. However I also remain pretty strongly opinionated in our need to focus on solutions and objectives for strengthening our people and communities. But, I refuse to judge this uprising. There is much more to it than the unfortunate burnings of cars and looting of stores.




Intersections Pt4- My Relationship w/the Church As a BLACK AMERICAN in the MULTI-ETHNIC CHURCH IDEAL

(This Part 4 of a series of posts this week on how I’ve lived out my own intersections within the church.)

“Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America.”

Yea, but I mean…I’m seeking to find my place as a Black American within this multi-ethnic church ideal and I just don’t see myself represented. I hear a lot of contemporary churches preach the more progressive ideologies that I mentioned in Part 1 of this blog series;

“…the ones that preach a theology of becoming all things to all people so that by all means we may save some. They are the ones who have more of a responsibility to ensure that women are intentionally included and affirmed within their congregations.”

Dare I say that they too, have a responsibility to ensure that people of color are intentionally included and affirmed in their spaces as well? Everyone wants to talk about how we are all one, yet the visual messages that are sent usually look dominated by one ethnic group. They love to preach about the beauty in people of all backgrounds, races and creeds coming together as one to worship God. But a lot of times it comes off to me that the beauty of all those people are limited to the conference attendees or the congregation. The priority of those same diverse groups of people being in leadership or on the conference speaker agenda? Not so much.

I have a tendency to make feisty comments when I see church staff or attend a Christian conference of some sort and I look at the staff and the leadership or the board or the elders or the speakers and I see no Black faces or people of color. I even wince a bit when I see just one (mainly because it looks like they just needed one and got her or him out of the way. Not always the case, but I digress). But I also understand that many times it could be quite difficult to diversify staff etc. If you live in an area or your faith circles have little to no diversity, sure it would be hard. To them I say, unfortunately you have to live in that tension and pray to God and try a little bit harder. But the ones like the church I visited in a city as diverse as DC and an area as diverse as the Northeast, with a multi-ethnic congregation and an all white male pastoral staff….as a progressive church? Come on. Try harder.

When I was at APU, it was a majority White space. But here’s why I never felt uncomfortable: Because at the very least, diversity was on the prioritized agenda of the university. It was on the prioritized agenda of my office. I watched leadership for 4 years make some really great efforts, have some great successes and some really great ouches. And for the most part, they owned them all. I was a witness as to how a predominantly White institution makes an effort. I watched Tim Peck think through all of the speakers he would invite for the year, ethnically, gender, denomination etc. Too many White males speaking in one week? He would move some things around. I watched Woody, think through his chapel slides for his sermon and make sure Jesus didn’t look too pale and make sure there were adequate brown faces on the screen. I witnessed search processes for qualified candidates with a real sense of significance on and yearning for those with a different ethnic background. It wasn’t always perfect but, man, the effort and intentionality made me as a Black person feel prioritized and considered.

Shout out to all of spaces like Fellowship Monrovia led by a Black pastor who prioritizes having their congregation live out a multiethnic and gender diverse community, but who also puts his money where his mouth is by having a diverse staff that reflects that. Thank you, Albert Tate for your effort. Shout out to all the other spaces who at least try. Who have a meeting a year before the conference and brainstorms, “how can we include the most diverse speakers on our agenda?” “How can we investigate and research who those voices might be?” Who do the nationwide job search for a leader in their church and go to those spaces where they wouldn’t otherwise look, in order to recruit the diverse voices that can bring that distinguishable mark to their space. That’s what Woody did for me. He searched far and wide to track down this Black girl from New Jersey to get her to fly out to APU. I said yes, because he made the effort…and ya know cause God said go.

I understand the importance of seeing oneself represented in varied spaces, therefore I’m going to say what I said at the end of my first piece to this series on women in the church:

I think that at the very least, people of color should be able to seek refuge and solace within the church. I think that at the very least, people of color should be able to seek refuge and solace within the family of God.

The beauty of seeing themselves represented.

I’d even go as far as to say the beauty of seeing themselves advocated and fought for (another post for another day).

The joy of discovering who God has called them to be within our family.

The peace in seeing their faces among the faces of their diverse community of God.

If you want to see a less segregated Sunday morning hour in America, try harder.

Intersections Pt3- My Relationship w/the Church As a BLACK AMERICAN w/a BLACK CHURCH BACKGROUND

(This Part 3 of a series of posts this week on how I’ve lived out my own intersections within the church. This part 3 is broken up into 2 sections)

“Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America.”

I mean…I guess.

When my family moved from Brooklyn to New Jersey, I experienced a bit of an identity crisis having gone from a predominately Black American environment to an ethnically mixed, yet mostly White atmosphere. As I stated in my previous post, “The Only Black Girl”;

“I was confused and overwhelmed and I could not find one person who looked like me. I was lost. My young mind couldn’t process what was happening, therefore the only emotion I could process was confusion.  I remember feeling very different.” 

And I lived in that confusion for each of those 7 hour or so, school days, 5 days a week every month. I even lived in that confusion in my neighborhood. East Brunswick wasn’t as diverse as it is now. About 25 miles away was a small church of about 250 people. A traditional Black Baptist Church on that corner on Route 27 in Somerset, NJ. A place my family would soon call “our church home.” In that space, I didn’t think about “being Black”; I just was. I keep using the term “normative” in my posts, but in doing so I’m attempting to highlight how the psyche functions in spaces it deems normative. It functions as it should; intact, protected, unrestricted, relaxed. This is how I felt in that space among people who looked like me, had hair like me, family values like mine etc. It was in this space that we came together, worshiped, fellowshipped and became a community all in the name of Christ Jesus. First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens was more than a church, but one that was very active in the community, serving the neighborhood in areas of housing, employment, health care, youth and economic development. A self-sufficient predominately Black community (because there were other ethnicities represented) that had an almost Booker T. Washington-esque feel to it emphasizing racial solidarity, economic self-sufficiency, and self-help.

This wasn’t just a good thing, it was a necessary thing.

People (some) get so offended by terms like “Black church.” Especially now in contemporary society. They think it just shouldn’t be and we don’t need it anymore because we’ve “come so far”. For starters I would say they don’t understand the history of the Black church and how it came to be in the first place. I think those values were important and to just do away with them is almost disrespectful. There was, and still is, something important there for the Black community in helping to shape our identity. But more personally, here I was, a young girl who found a safe haven in this space where I wasn’t questioned for my skin or my hair. A space where I could get the history that I wasn’t getting in my history books at school, of my ancestors and elders. A space where I was allowed to exercise my gifts and grow and learn to live out community. A space where I was affirmed in my being. It was a break from having to be the model minority, the teachable moment and the only Black girl chosen just to say “we’re diverse” in my school. I’m not sure how I would have functioned if I had to experience those things in my school AND in church as well. What if I went to a multi-ethnic church growing up where the only multi-ethnic part of it was some small percentage of Blacks in the congregation and I was forced to be the only Black girl in my Sunday school class? I’m not sure where I would be as a person if not for my Black church. Now that I have gotten older, I have had to learn to navigate different spaces as a Black American Christian Woman. But not without a continued deference to my roots in the Black church, and most importantly how it stabilized my identity as a Black person in America.

Intersections Part 2- My Relationship with the Church AS A PREACHER but really A TEACHER but really A PREACHER

(This is Part 2 of a series of posts this week on how I’ve lived out my own intersections within the church.)

I am a woman who grew up in the Black church, my training has come – for the most part – from within the Black church and I am a woman who was licensed and ordained in a Black church. But I kinda don’t preach like I have had any kind of cultivation in the Black church. I could give myself a little credit in that when I really started preaching, the First Baptist congregation was so kind and accepting of my voice that I have to believe what was coming out of me had some sort of an impact. But I don’t whoop, I don’t holler and my idea of “bringing it home” is a few thoughtful reflective questions, a prayer and an Amen. I’ve always understood “real” Black preaching to be adorned by its ability to prompt a call-and-response from the listeners. The beauty is that the sermon is not a monologue, but rather a dialogue, or even a dance between the preacher and the congregation.

I don’t dance; I just kind of, talk.

I was always pretty introverted growing up. I still am. (A later post will be on how I function in the church as an introvert & a contemplative) I had a lot of personality, but I didn’t like to be in front of people, unless I was playing a sport. I excelled in basketball and soccer and anything else that required me to sweat and be competitive. In church, I remember giving the visitors announcement one day when I was little and choking while I was up there. My brother, on the other hand, gave the youth sermonette one day in church. It was so good that my Pastor decided not to preach the sermon that he prepared and everyone shouted and went home. That was the shadow I lived in.

I have no idea when I even began to explore speaking. I ran across an old program from when Pastor Soaries was inaugurated Secretary of State of NJ and I was listed as the youth speaker. That must have been the day. I don’t remember having any significant public speaking moments before then. I don’t remember much about that day or even what I said. I do remember that I enjoyed it. Through college I was more concerned with my own personal faith walk that never did I consider anything public. When I did consider ministry as a calling, it was always grassroots and behind the scenes. I had been exposed to many preachers up until that point and honestly I probably didn’t consider it because I just didn’t see myself in any of them.

In seminary, I took Speech 101 and Speech 102, then proceeded to ask my registrar if I could skip Preaching 101 and 102 because that just “wasn’t me” and I “probably wasn’t going to ever preach.” (I actually said that) Everyone around me, if they were Black, seemed as if they were either skilled or passionate about shaping their voice within the tradition of Black preaching. There was one professor, Dr. LaRue, where taking his class was sort of an unspoken essential obligation that most of us as Black seminarians had. He was THE Black preaching professor who everyone went to, in order to learn the art of Black preaching from…and more. I was scared to be in that class. My voice and my passions seemed to contradict the flood of young preachers who would all contend for Dr. LaRue’s attention. Looking back in retrospect, I’m sad that I didn’t get a chance to glean from Dr. LaRue’s wisdom. He is a kind and wise man.

Enter Sally Brown.

Rev. Dr. Sally Brown.

Me, Ashlee, Jessie and Kim (my seminary friends) loved this woman. She was patient and kind and rigorous. Dr. Brown encouraged me to find my own voice. She encouraged me to make sure my content was on point. To make sure I understood that context was everything. I was nervous, resistant and hesitant to take any preaching class in seminary. I graduated from seminary, however, having taken 3 different preaching classes with her including an independent study. I almost applied to a PhD program with her in mind to study under. She was so impactful that I invited her to my ordination to take part in the ceremony.

Thank you Dr. Brown.

Once I left and went back to my home church, Rev. Soaries validated my gift. He put me up front, a lot. I honestly was so young and immature that he didn’t have to do that. But neither my youth nor my gender was ever a question to him(my immaturity was though). I watched him, who I thought and still believe to be one of the greatest gifted speakers/preachers I’ve ever heard. He understands context, his content is always substantial, his voice inflections always appropriate, his timing always near perfect, his command of the audience; genius. Watching him, was learning from him. I could find my voice in watching him in his. But still, I struggled on how to apply it to that context. Because really, most would consider me more of a teacher because a preacher has a little more umph. But, in other instances, I had seen preachers called preachers who didn’t have that umph…in non Black church contexts mostly. Not always. Did that make me less Black? Does that make me less Black? Should I not call myself a preacher? How does this work exactly?

Enter APU.

Associate Campus Pastor for Preaching… So funny how God does things. One of my biggest insecurities all wrapped up in this dignified title and role. It was sort of like God just created this for me to work it all out. Me and my voice, preaching in jeans and flip flops with a mic stand and a few notes with 1500-3000 young faces staring at me. It was like God was saying to me “Yes you are a preacher no matter what context you find yourself in.” And even now having been out of that position and thrust in another context, I am still a preacher. So grateful for this blessed burden. I once heard this phrase in the movie Eat, Pray, Love where the main character Liz says “God lives in me, AS ME.” What a journey it has been just to come to a place where I can embrace that. Where I can preach in a setting in Ghana, West Africa or a prison in Mexico or an AME pulpit in Los Angeles and still be able to proclaim that God moves through me, as me. God speaks through me, as me. God lives in me, AS ME.