Monday, February 25, 2013

Common Good Part 4: Human Trafficking

“You can choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.” – William Wilberforce, politician largely responsible for abolishing slavery in the British Empire

I speak often on my blog about the statistics and atrocities of human trafficking in our world and am also a blogger for The Exodus Road. I feel that this topic has a role in my series on the Common Good and include it here. For the previous posts in this series you can click here, here and here.

Today's post is brief but it is about asking how we want to leave the world for our children and the younger generations to come. There will be a prompt which I will complete for myself but I would love other people to comment with how they would finish the sentence. Keep reading to understand.


In future years, when my children (or the younger generation) look at the world that existed on my watch, I want them to say . . .  that I loved everyone I met, that I advocated for the oppressed and imprisoned, and that because of it we know freedom.

Matthew 25: 31 - 46

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

Friday, February 22, 2013

Beyond Overjoyed!

I do not know if my title is grammatically correct but they are the only two words that come close to describing the feeling I have inside of me. Yesterday the Coordinating Council of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) elected Suzii Paynter as the next Executive Coordinator of CBF. You can read the news release here.

25 years ago this would not have been a big deal for me. When I was a teenager I had already grown up in a Southern Baptist church that had women on the ministerial staff and they also served as deacons. It was not until I got to college in 1994 that I learned that not all Southern Baptist believe women could or should be ministers, that only men could be ministers and deacons and be heads of committees. Starting in college and on up to present day I have learned a lot about how people view women in ministry and even experienced some hostility and discrimination just because I am a women minister, which makes yesterday's events all the more poignant.

Suzii Paynter's election means a lot of things to me:

#1 - She is a women with a long history of christian ministry
#2 - She supports and believes in the role of chaplain and pastoral counselors
#3 - She also speaks out on the issue of human trafficking, among other social justice issues.

That is three things I as a minister identify with, and I don't even know her. I am a woman and proud to be a Christian Minister, I am called by God to the work of chaplaincy and pastoral counseling and I believe strongly in working alongside others to eradicate human trafficking in our world. I hope that I get to meet her in June @ the 2013 General Assembly in Greensboro. What a pleasure it would be. With all this said what makes me beyond overyjoyed is that nothing is impossible for me to achieve as a woman in ministry. Suzii Paynter is proof that despite what mankind may try to hinder God can still do anything, even call women to lead a large denominational group. PRAISE BE TO GOD!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

"The Mark of Following"

Some background info: I attend Rosalind Hills Baptist Church in Roanoke, VA. Each month a publication of devotions is produced that go along with the pastors sermon series. For the month of March I was asked to contribute a devotion for March 3 and the Sermon title is "The Mark of Following." Since many of my followers do not attend my church I wanted to post it here.

Scripture Reference: Mark 1:14 - 20
    After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him. When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.  

Mark 2:13 - 17
Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them.   As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Levi's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the "sinners" and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: "Why does he eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

"She and her best friend made regular trips to the beach during their early college years, as was custom they would head down to "The Circle" to cruise and meet people. The atmosphere at "The Circle" was very distinctive.  The crowd was a mix of teenagers, young adults and middle aged adults, most intoxicated to some degree by alcohol or drugs. On one occasion they decided to park the car and walk along the boardwalk. As the night progressed she found herself sharing her faith in Jesus with others and engaging their questions about God and Jesus. During the conversation a van with a church name on it drove through "The Circle" and yelled, "Repent of your sins so you can avoid hell!" Then several pieces of paper came out of the van and onto them. In that moment she felt judged and misunderstood. The people in the van had no clue what the conversation was about because they never got out of the van."

To follow Jesus is to take a risk, a risk that you will be misunderstood and even judged. To follow Jesus also means to move, move from one place to another. The disciples provide us with the example of movement. They left from where they worked and lived and went where Jesus went. Jesus provides us with the example of risk by eating with tax collectors and having fellowship with those deemed as sinners of his day. We as believers are called to nothing less. To follow Jesus means to move, to get out of the boat, to get out of the car, to go outside the worship house and build relationships. That is the scandalous gospel that we read about. Jesus was misunderstood, judged and executed. The disciples were misunderstood, judged and at least one; Peter, we know for sure was executed for his faith in Jesus. Many in the history of the church have risked greatly for the sake of the gospel, and many around the world still do today. For the sake of the gospel, may we risk being misunderstood and judged and follow Jesus as the disciples did.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Common Good Part 3: Healthcare and Stewarship

This is the 3rd installment in my series, "Common Good" You can read the 1st post here and the 2nd post here.

This is a challenge to Christians as well as the church....
You might be wondering what Stewardship and Health care might have in common. Honestly, a week ago and would have never put the two together. But, I have a radical idea and will present it to you hear. Stewardship is one of those things every church I have ever attended talks about. How what we have is God's and the least we can do is give 10% of what we have back to the church. Don't get me wrong. Christians are called, or any believer of God for that fact, to give a portion of all that they have as worship to God and the blessings that come from God. The cynicism you might read into my statement is just the fact that I hear the same message over, and over again and I am now 40. Honestly, the message needs to change. Now when it comes to health care, that is a very heavily debated topic. People have opinions of both sides of the aisle about how to reduce cost and in the same manner people either support or hate the Affordable Health Care Act, proposed and signed by our current President. So on this topic I want to explore a 3rd of dealing with health care. A way that up until a week ago I never would have considered. So join me on this thought process and share your thoughts and ideas with me.
"All the believers were united and shared everything. They would sell pieces of property and possessions and distribute the proceeds to everyone who needed them"
The early church was united and shared everything. Hmmm? They shared everything, not 10%, everything and they were united. I swapped parts of the phrase to make a point. While I am not saying a church like this does not exist what I know from personal experience, in the church and what is int he media, is that the church is NOT united and we do not share everything. I don't share everything at my church so that last part is true. What would happen if the church made a complete 180 degree turn? What would that look like? Here is what I have in mind:
1 - Throw out the church budget. EVERYTHING
2 - When members receive their paychecks they bring it all and according to the needs people have the money is divided up
First, your thinking, Adele you are crazy, I have bills to pay. We all have needs and if everyone brought all that they made to the church then all the earnings would be dispersed according to each need. No one would suffer and might I add there would be unity. Church staff would never have to go through the annual budget and worry about asking for a raise, "Should I or should I not" because everybodies needs would be met" Some Church's/denominations do this quite well. I remember being told a true story about a man losing his job and the church, a Quaker church, supporting him til he found a job. The man didn't apply for unemployment with the government because his church met his needs. I can just imagine the gratitude this man felt and the sense of humbleness the church felt because they helped a neighbor in need. While I am politically democrat, as a Christian I believe the church has become somewhat lax and does not do as much for those in need simply because the government has something in place. (More on that in another post. Don't want to digress)

Something to ponder for individuals, churches and companies

So this is where health care comes in. Back last year I wrote a post on how I believe health care is just as vital to life as eating, clothing and housing is. When one is missing there is an impact to either the quality or longevity of one's life so I am going to state it here that I believe everyone needs to have access to affordable health care. How that is achieved is constantly changing. In the past few years I have met doctors who will accept cash payments rather than filing insurance and I save money as a result. What I pay for in cash has been cheaper than what I would pay in co-pays had they filed with insurance. I have talked with other friends who have discovered the same and may the following comment, "No wonder our health care system is screwed. Depending on where you go for medical care and if you are insured you will pay a different price for the same service." Have you discovered the same thing" I can tell you I switched where I get prescriptions filled because now I pay a discounted price for some of my prescriptions because the pharmacy sets the price and they never file my insurance.I am saving money and I am not complaining. With my premiums going up I need to save anywhere I can. More and more has been written about the disparity between what insured patients pay for a service and those who pay cash. Check out the following link:

Hide your Health Insurance status and Pay Cash

Got Health Insurance? Why you may want to pay cash anyway

Patients save by paying cash for medical care and not using insurance

So how does stewardship and health care go together? Not only was Jesus in the business of saving lives spiritually he also was in the business of healing physical ailments. It is all throughout the gospels. That should at least tell us that people's physical health was important to him so it should be important to us.  If we take the knowledge that people who pay cash for medical care save money and combine it with my first idea of everyone giving to the church then the church becomes the source for health care rather than government. (Truthfully, I never thought I would say this, but anyone can be enlightened, even me.)

So here is my radical equation:

People giving everything to the church + Needs being Met = Unity

Seems so simple. But lately the simple things seem to be what is radical and never come to fruition. What do you think? Do you have other ideas on how all the needs in this world, country, community church can be met? Love to hear your thoughts.

Happy Valentines Day! May you feel the love of God and love others in return!

An Ash Wednesday Service (A day late)

Yesterday I led an Ash Wednesday Service at my place of Ministry, HopeTree Family Services.  Below is the service in its entirety. Repent and know that God loves you.


"If you have sinned, do not lose hope because of your error. Pray instead.

On the other hand, if you have done something good, never presume too much on account of your goodness. Never congratulate yourself excessively.

Never look down on someone for sinning, and remember that when the wayward soul prays and repents of doing wrong, the Lord will raise that person up, as he did Lazarus."

                                                                                          - Aelfric of Eynsham (c. 955 - 1010)

Responsive Litany (from Joel 2:1-2. 12-14 and Psalm 70

The word of the Lord,
               That came from Joel
Hear this
               All who live in the land
Put on sackcloth
               Mourn and cry
Wear it all night
               For we are neglecting God
Declare a holy fast
               Call a sacred assembly
Gather the community
               And cry out to the Lord
Make haste, O God
               And deliver me
O Lord,
               Make haste to help me.

Meditation                               Love and Penitence

(This is part confession to the other party that is involved will remain nameless)
I don't know what you were like when you were in high school but I got the occasional wild hair to do what I know I should not do. During my junior year of high school a friend and I decided we would stay out all night. Long story short, we were successful, our parents never found out. As a result I found a new sense of confidence. So guess what, my senior year I decided to try it again. This time with another friend we preceded to stay out all night. But things were different this time. This friend decided to bring alcohol which led her to get really sick. I had two choices. Let her be sick and hope it wore off before taking her home the next morning or do what was right and take her home then and get caught in a lie. I chose the ladder. I would rather get int rouble with my parents than allow a friend to suffer. So my senior year I spent the first month grounded. Never been grounded before but I deserved it. During this time I noticed my dad's, dark brown hair was starting to grey. Right or wrong I started to feel guilty for what I did, for lying to my parents. I saw my father's grey hair as a sign of stress that I put on him through my lying. Now it must be said my father never said anything to me concerning me lieing but nonetheless I felt guilty.

Guilt can be a powerful think and cause of to change how we behave and how we treat others and because of this I think that's why God gave us the act of repentance as a form of worship to him. God does not want us to feel guilty, he wants us to repent and know forgiveness. It was not until college that I learned of Ash Wednesday and I found purpose in confession after that. Baptist, at times are very good at throwing the baby out with the bath water. While I do believe that I do not have to go to a priest for confession I do believe that when we discard it we do ourselves a disservice. Confession/repentance brings healing and we invite God into our lives in a deeper and fuller way. So with that in mind I want to read a passage int he hopes it helps you to see God in a new way, a deeper way and in a larger way.

1 Corinthians 13 is the famous love passage. I am going to read it in a modified way and replace the word love with God.

"God is patient, God is kind. God does not envy and does not boast, God is not proud. God is not rude and is not self-seeking, God is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrong. God does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth. God always protects, always trusts, always hopes and God always perseveres. God never fails.....And now these three remain: faith, hope and God. But the greatest of these is God."

Remember, God loves you and so do I!

Happy Valentines Day!

Celebrate yourself today and loves all whom you encounter.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Common Good Part 2 - Violence

Disclaimer: The Common Good Series will be written from the perspective of my upbringing as a Christian within the Baptist denomination and my graduate education @ Campbell Divinity School in Buies Creek. I state this because as I have grown up I have observed several shifts within the Baptist Community, mainly the Southern Baptist Community. When America was founded Baptist came to seek freedom from the church of England. They wanted to live in a country where they could choose how they practiced their faith and it is to the credit of a Virginia Baptist Preacher that we have the Bill of Rights as a part of the Constitution of the US. What I have observed is that Baptist,   while not all, have shifted from a place on non-conformity with government to a stronger and more visible place of conformity with government and its issues as it has gain a majority status within the Protestant community. My agenda, and I want to be honest, is to present a different view on the current issues in our culture that I think the early baptist in America would take than is currently taken by some Baptist in America today. If you are a regular follower but not a Christian or a Baptist I still hope you will read these post because I do believe that despite our differences we can find common ground.

(This is the 2nd post in a series titled the Common Good. You can read the first post here.)

Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, "Greetings, Rabbi!" and Kissed him.
Jesus replied, "Friend, do what you came for." Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus' companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. "Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw upon the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?"
- Matthew 26: 49 - 53
In my post on the Massacre at Sandy Hook one of the issue I address is Gun control. Drawing upon this issue I want to look at violence in our culture as a whole and explore what the Common Ground would be for Christians in response to violence. While in my post I state that gun control is not going end the violence in our culture I do believe that Christians have a moral duty, obligation, call or whatever you want to call it, from God to live a life that is free from violence and one that embraces love. So how do Christians in America choose between their 2nd Amendment right and the call to Love thy Neighbor? I purposefully say choose because a choice does have to be made. Jesus makes it very clear that a life lived by the sword is in direct contradiction to the life believers are called to live.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said many things that are quite famous and repeated often, but one fit's well into this discussion of violence. Dr. King said, and very accurately,
"Hate begets hate, Violence begets violence, toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the Power of Love."
Dr. King's march for civil rights was a non-violent movement. Now while his life was ended with an act of violence it in no way ended the civil rights movement and now African Americans live as equal citizens in this country." In an article written by Rev. Mark Sandlin of NC he talks about the power of nonviolence and how we as Christians have been called to that kind of life. While Jesus' life ended also by an act of violence his witness to God's love and forgiveness continues to this day and is very evident in the prosperity of the church.  Just because Christians in America live a life of Freedom, freedom to worship without fear of persecution does not, in any way, give us an entitlement of privilege or relieve us of the responsibility to further God's Kingdom on Earth. God's kingdom is made known on earth thought love. Are we not standing in the way of this happening if we embrace the current culture and defend the right to protect ourselves? That is was what one of the disciples did. He used his sword to stop Jesus from being arrested but in his act he was standing in the way of God's will. I am sure we know this statement well, "To whom much is given, much is required." God has blessed us an Americans to live in a free land but our responsibility to follow Jesus' message of love and forgiveness is still upon us and even more so because we are free.
I asked earlier, "So how do Christians in America choose between their 2nd Amendment right and the call to Love thy Neighbor?" And I will leave you with one more:
 "Do you want to live in the will of God or do you want live immersed int he American Culture?'I ask this because I believe, according to scripture, that to live as a follower of Christ is to live a life counter to American culture."