Our LGBTQ Children in Youth Ministry

Youth Ministry.  How do we define this?   So many churches have youth ministry programs that they provide to members and their neighboring communities.  These ministries involves bible reading, bible games, sleep-ins, trips, bean bags, church sports teams, arts & crafts, ring ceremonies for sexual abstinence and maintaining quiet with concerns for friends and classmates who sit in youth ministry along side them who are unable to impress who they are.  They enjoy the times that they are with friends but youth ministry for them is a struggle.

As a black female preacher in my early years,  who worked with young people, first serving as a youth choir director, then working as a youth director, my concern was that these young people, that God allowed me to inspire, that they would grow up to be anything they wanted to be in life and to be successful, living full lives themselves, that their children would grow to do the same.  But I never had to consider or was aware that I should consider that their sexual orientation mattered in order to live productive lives.   In the late seventies and early eighties, at least in the black church, that was never a thought. Sure there were members in our churches who we talked about being gay and keeping things hush, hush.  We thought it was not important, this was an adult thing and adults knew how to handled any conversation about sex or sexual orientation.  But now this is not an adult conversation. It is not a hush hush moment.

I work with young people today.  Today is not like the seventies or eighties.  And because gay voices are no longer hushed, because these generation of children have friends who have same sex parents, have teachers, principles that march proudly in their communities during pride month, who have teammates that stand tall and play in who they are, I wonder in youth ministry programs are we providing a space and safety for our children who identify as LGBTQ, do they feel safe enough to voice who they are without being rebuked or us going to get the holy oil to sprinkle their sins away?  When in youth ministry we talk about dating and love, how do we speak on those subjects?  What happens when a young boy or girl raises their hands at a sleep-in and ask the question, will God still love me if I’m gay, if I’m queer?  The answer can’t be to say hush.  Not this time.

Our churches look like the communities in which we live….or they should be.  Working with young people today I can tell you that they are looking at the members in the churches they attend which look nothing like their communities.  And they are beginning to ask the questions.  Can I bring my friend to church?  Can I ask my favorite teacher to my choir’s concert?  Will the youth ministry support me when I march proudly in my local pride parade?

Love and acceptance has to be the overwhelming message in youth ministry today.  To minister to a person is to minister to the entire person. I do know that there are some young people that are struggling with their sexuality and on Sunday mornings, in a worship service, can be one of the hardest things they endure.

Someone is probably saying right now that well if we teach Bible our children won’t be like this or like that.  Let me just say this.  I remember a relative who at the age of five we knew he was different.  There was nothing evil about him, there was no demon embodying him.  He was the most perfect five year old.  He loved life and enjoyed helping him mom with his baby brother.  He loved church and God.  As he grew, the church and community began to distance themselves from him.  He died of an AIDS related illness.  His funeral was held in a church.  But between the time of 5 and upon the time of his death which I believe he passed away in his late twenties, the church never served him any kind of love or care. Listen to me closely, his love for God never wavered.        Nor did God’s love for him.  God loves our loves our ALL CHILDREN!  So should we.

Rev. Jacqui

Getting older and embracing it!

I am now 59.   How should I embrace this time of preparing to see the big 60 around the corner?  Hmmmm?

I will make it fun!  I will laugh and dance!  I will run my fingers through my thinning hair!  I will keep flossing so I can keep the teeth I have!  I will workout, maybe not go overboard though,  to keep my bones strong.  I will wear funky outfits that will make heads spin. I will shake my hips!   I will be a sexy diva and make my husband blush everyday.

I will love me!

 

 

 

Grace

This word has been on my mind a lot!  I can’t seem to shake it.  I’m not sure why this word is grabbing my attention.  Maybe because of the time and place we are in our nation.  Perhaps it is a word that we pray will describe how God will view us when children of refugees are returned to their parents and their parents be granted asylum; when public schools in every American town and city will receive the tools required to educate our children and not let it be based on zip codes; when gun-violence in schools is no longer the norm and children return home after the last school bell rings; when a Georgia town respects all of it’s residence the right to vote and not close 7 out of 9 precincts, which are in African American communities; when there is justice in our court systems and regardless of color of skin or economic status everyone is treated fairly; when farmers are able to raise crops and not be afraid of tariffs; when the President of the United States begin to treat citizens like God’s children instead of calling them dogs, son of bitches, dumb and when white supremacy is abolished instead of being classified as “very fine people”.

Grace is that wonderful amazing gift from God, this free and unmerited (favor) act through which God restores God’s estranged creatures to God self.  Wow!  We can’t lose grace right now, can we?  I can’t even begin to imagine and then in some sense I could see how grace could walk out the door, in tears.  But God is love.  Right?  Right?!!!!

Maybe this is why I can’t shake this word….as a reminder to the song written by Katharine Lee Bates which claims God shed God’s grace on thee.

America, America
God shed His Grace on Thee
And crown they good,
With brotherhood, 
from sea to shining sea. 

Yeah, I’m struggling with this word grace.  With God granting grace would not this nation seek forgiveness or does this nation demand God to grant this gift of grace without repenting for her sins?

Grace.  I’m struggling with this word…..

Way My Baby Boomers At?!!!

There are 23 items listed on my “You Can 2018” resolution goals. Twenty-three!  This may not seem to be many goals for you to reach, but for me, shucks just the mere fact of being on a diet for two days is a major accomplishment!   I have managed to work on some of those goals but the one that frighten me the most I accomplished today!  I retired from corporate America after 36 years and 11 months.  It wasn’t an easy decision to make.  After working so long  in one place you really kind of feel like you have it made.  You can come in when you want to.   You can reply back to emails when you feel like it. Nothing becomes an expedite any more and the boss knows you have all the inside dirt so he/she just leaves you alone.  An easy, cushiony, laid back, sun-roof top, digging the scene with a gangster lean kind of work attitude.  Gosh, though, I’m going to miss those first quarterly bonuses! Ahhh…..you know the bonuses you looked forward to that would determine how vacation would  be spent that year!  Yeah, Jamaica versus the Baltimore Harbor!

Look!!  I am grateful for having a job that allowed a single mother to raise her child and to teach me leadership skills that will carry me for the remainder of my life. I’m grateful for co-workers who became friends.  I’m grateful for a pension..even though I know this company really could have done a whole lot better by it’s season employees, but hey I don’t expect any corporation to care about me as a human being!  This isn’t the environment in which we live and corporations unfortunately don’t have to care. They don’t and why we, older generation, put so much stock in these companies is beyond my understanding!  Baby boomers like me have worked for American corporations most of our lives….most of our lives!  We’ve made American corporations great!   Baby Boomers have sacrificed their dreams for the privilege of someone walking into a Walmart to buy 100 rolls of toilet tissue or someone walking into a car dealership to buy a Ford truck.  Baby Boomers have sacrificed their dreams for the sake of America!  Yes, we have given blood, sweat and tears so that America could buy internet, phone and tv at a bundle rate.

It’s time to go.  Just that simple.  So for my baby boomers who are too young to venture into retirement homes in Florida and too old to learn anything else remotely technical, don’t fret!   You really have to believe that you are worth fighting for.  That you are worth searching for a passion you once had but just need to remember; that you are worth living out dreams that are only hidden but can be found (for they were never lost);  that you are worth living your absolute best life; that you are worthy of being your authentic wonderful self!   That you are just freaking worthy!

Search and remember your passion and go after it!  Live your authentic self and dare to give a damn as to what anyone has to say or think.  Seek God for direction in whatever ways you seek God; for God is present in all things.  But when you begin to stir up that passion again, let it be to give of yourself unselfishly, to influence a new generation to love better, to appreciate the earth, to embrace different thoughts and to believe good can happen.   There is a world out there that is desperately in need of our dreams which were deferred for a time but now need for us to show that you don’t have to sacrifice your journey in order to live an awesome life.  There is a world who needs to believe that their life is not wrapped up in corporate greed and their life can be fulfilled with living their passion.   There is a world who needs to see, hey, baby boomers were selfish for a while but we’ve repented and have seen the light!  No!  We’re not ready to walk towards the light….move away from the light!  Not yet!

So as I clock out from my corporate life, I clock in to living my best life!   Be bless my friends!!

Rev. J.

Move Forward

There is no way you can be alive today in this nation in which we live and not be overwhelmed, bruised, hurt, tired, tearful, frustrated, angry, fearful and so much more painful feelings and thoughts caused by the evil ones.   We become stagnant.  Everything around us stop and all we can do is stand in one spot looking hopeless.

We.Can’t.Stay.Here.

Move Forward.  One step at a time.
Move Forward.  The issues won’t magically disappear.
Move Forward.  The children must stop crying.
Move Forward.  Police brutality must end.
Move Forward.  White Supremacy must be destroyed.
Move Forward.  Nationalism cannot be the order of the day.
Move Forward.  Hunger must be wiped out.
Move Forward.  Everyone deserves a home.
Move Forward.  Everyone deserves an opportunity.
Move Forward.  Everyone deserves a good education.
Move Forward.  Everyone deserves freedom.
Move Forward.  Everyone deserves love.
Move Forward.  Everyone deserves to see God.

Move forward and let your light shine so bright that it will cast out darkness so that others will see they too have a path to move forward.

Rev. J

 

 

 

 

You have permission.

Writing can be scary, at least for me.  I’m usually nervous about what people think…yep, still trying to get through that awful feeling.  I’m really learning how to put out in black and white how my mind works.  I know that itself may be dangerous.  I mean once you open yourself up to the world, you never know what kind of response the universe will throw back your way.  And to tell you the truth, that can be quite frightening when you expect the worse response.  Case in point, I started writing a small piece a month ago. I wanted to stop after typing the words , “I’m struggling.”  Fearful on what someone would say or fearful that someone thought I may need saving which the only thing I wanted to do was just write and have a fist fight with my thoughts.  So I stopped typing because what you think (not you really) of me was unfortunately winning.  Then  I received a note from a friend telling me she had not seen anything I wrote lately, like what happened??! Where did you go?  I just got scared to share.   But hearing the news of the suicide of Kate Spade (I have these adorable Kate Spade eyewear) and Anthony Bourdain (love this guy) I really should not care what response the universe gives me.  This is my healing, not yours (of course I’m not talking to you in an embarrassing voice) so here goes.  This is what I started to type a month and 6 days ago.

“I’m struggling.  No.  Not with an illness.  Not in my marriage. Not with finances. Not in a way that I need for friends and family to drop whatever they are doing to come see about me.  I’m just struggling.  It’s not a serious matter, of course, though what is serious to one person can be detrimental to another.  But I assure you, I’m just struggling.  Can’t really explain it.   Things don’t come as clear to me as they do for other people, I’m guessing.   I exist.  I  get up.  I try. I know I’ve been called to do more than just exist.  And there lies the issue.  That’s it!  I’m not struggling!  I’m not living!”

I was in a funk. I found so many reasons to pick an argument with myself.  Why did I gain so much weight?  I was doing so well!  Why is my hair still thinning, I’m taking my Vitamin D!  Damn!!!  Why am I still at this freaking job for 36 years?? You know the feeling sorry for yourself that you can’t even see your worth.  But I just realized something in vomiting my mess and insecurities.   I was living!  I was actually living!

Doing life involves all of this, days when the sunshine is so bright you don’t ever want it to end and days when the clouds consume you, you scratch to get out.  I was scratching to  get out from under the clouds…if I didn’t scratch to get out, then life, living does not happen. Experiencing the pain was living!  Getting out from under dark clouds mean that I scream, kick, pray and sometimes even curse.  Those actions and sounds are visible and loud.  I didn’t need to hide getting out in fear or others, I scratch to get out because of others!  My husband, my children, my friends, myself.  Because I’m worth living, even when life can be painful. I’m worth living all of it.  I’m worth living the happiness and I’m worth living the pain.

If you find yourself in a funk and someone tells you not to be there, don’t listen!  If you’re struggling and afraid to even say the words, “I’m struggling”, say it anyway.  And say it proudly!  It is not a moment to be prideful on what people will think, or how people will assume that you are not grateful that God is blessing you and you should be continuously happy!  There is a scripture that comes to mind, “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17 NRSV).  You have permission to scratch through the dark clouds, permission to cry, permission to scream, permission to live.

I’ve learned that I never stay in the struggle.  I go through, but I don’t stay!  Tomorrow is a new day!  You have a new day!  But if you want to scream today…. go ahead!!!

Mental illness is not a crime!  Mental illness is not a sin!!!  If you need help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  1-800-273-8255.

Rev. Jacqui

 

 

 

 

Show Up!

The Royal Wedding was a delight!  Such  a positive and happy moment for a lot of people who just needed to feel comfort. Just to be able to sit in front of the television with no hearing of killings or rudeness that spews from the mouth of those who sit in powerful positions yet lack power in love.  Thank you Bishop Michael Curry for preaching to us today, reminding us that it’s not a fairy tale or just in our imagination that love,

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God’s Agape love can truly happen when “we all show up”.

Be a blessing to someone today!

Rev. J