Let The “Chuch” Say Amen

Recently I attended the church I spent my young adult years at. The reason was a bit sad because Deacon Fred Berry was called to glory by his maker, God Himself. Deacon Berry is one of the significant legacies of New Hope Baptist Church, 2301 Rhode Island, Gary, Indiana. He was in a sense the Shepherd for over 50 years in the official office of Chairman of the Deacon Board, but oh, he was much more than that. On August 13, 2016 he once again united New Hope Baptist Church’s membership as we gathered together in one place to say our goodbyes.

As I sat there taking in the joy of seeing and hearing my choir sounding like the choir of yesteryear, “my heart was glad and my glory rejoiced” and inside I almost burst I was so full. To put the icing on the cake was when our prized choir director, Michael Berry who was also one of Deacon Berry’s sons, upon the unction of the Holy Spirit, got up and directed the old New Hope Mass choir at his Daddy’s service! (Lord Do It!) And Oh the joy that flooded my soul!

Andre Crouch wrote a song and some of the lyrics said, “Take me back dear Lord, to the place where I first believed.” For about three hours, I went back. I took a journey to a time when “chuch” was church! When sermon series were unimportant, when every first Sunday you could hear the same sermon about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and not grow weary of the hearing it (Reverend Clarence Loddell, made it sound like music every time). I went back to the third Sunday musicals and I heard Mrs. Mary Barnes and Ms. Bertha sing,” There will be peace in the valley for me someday, and I’ll be changed from this creature that I am.” I remember, New Hope Mass Choir foot stomping and toe-tapping songs Mississippi style… “There’s a lily in the valley bright as the morning star.” It was here that I first got the “Holy Ghost” and “shouted.”

And I realized as I sat there soaked in the glory of the past that over the last several years this is what I’ve been searching for in today’s church. I miss the gospel of Jesus Christ in the church. The basics seem to have disappeared, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). Too much emphasis is placed on entertainment, and trying to mirror how the world does it. The Gospel is the same, but we’ve changed. Yes, even though we’ve dug deeper and biblical scholars have researched, studied, analyzed, and taken apart the gospel, we’ve become so fixated with dissecting God’s word we’ve made more complex than it needs to be. It’s not. Remember, Jesus took unlearned, uneducated men, and solidified a relationship with them, so much so that they spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.

In the new church, “Dr. Watts” songs and hymns are replaced with “praise and worship” songs lead by the best singers in the churches worldwide. But, I missed the Deacons praying as service began. What happened to those meaningful catch phrases of Dr. Watts?

                     I love the Lord, he heard my cry, and pitied my every groan

                     Long as I live while trouble rise, I’ll hasten to his throne

                     I’ll let you know, before I go, what shall become of me

                   I’ll wait until the spirit comes, and move at God’s command

These are just a few of the ones I remember. I am sure you can call out a few of your favorites too. Now many services are organized and timed to perfection. It’s a get in and get out mentality; worship should only take a specified amount of time. Letting God have his way during service might take too long.

Lately, I have been going from church to church trying to capture the spirit of what church used to be. I haven’t found it yet. I say that because I know it’s still out there somewhere, and I believe by the grace of God, it’s coming back. I don’t want to have to go a “homegoing” service just to have church again, and to feel that God is truly in the room.

There seems to be a thought process running through the Church: anything goes, this is inappropriate. Go ahead, somebody got to say it! The saying, “come as you are” to church has been taken to a whole other level. Since when did God say, it’s okay to sag your pants and show your underwear in church? Because it’s the style; it’s in vogue; air-bodi doin’ it? This goes to both men and women, wearing “skin tights” shirts, jeans, skirts, and whatever in church. Why does everyone need to know what God gave you?

It was once understood that “come as you are” meant once saved then you’ll learn better- NOT! Because the world is in the Church. In the effort to bring in the unchurched, we’ve become lost along the way. We feel the need to look like the world and be like the world. I say we, because I’ve been guilty too. But, the Word says, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).

The New Testament opened up with these words from Jesus, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  He knew us and He began with a strong message. Put away your foolishness, because I am here. I have come to save, heal, deliver, and set the captive free. Yes, you are allowed to be you, to live and have fun, and to have a life. Just remember, who you are in Christ Jesus. He promised us an abundant life (John 10:10).

As I end this long blog note, and keeping in mind that I’ve attended church maybe ten times this year and that’s including funerals/homegoings, I believe God may be calling some to minister differently or to seek other ways to impact the world for good. I ask myself now how can I impact God’s Kingdom as I go about my daily life? I think reaching, teaching, encouraging one person at a time is meaningful. Church today has changed so much to me, but that’s because I am old school and it’s hard to get with the new church. Anyway, staying close to God and his Word will, I believe, lead us to where we need to be. I want to be in fellowship with a church membership, but I can wait until God says when and with whom.

Self-Cleaning: Getting Ready for 2016

WasherCleaning Last Year’s Debris

Washing machines have several wash cycles, from normal to gentle, and from delicate to self-cleaning. I recently put a large area rug in my washer; I wasn’t sure I should have, but I did it anyway. The result, it left a good deal of debris in my washer. It was quite a mess, but at least my rug was clean.

As the year comes to an end I’d like to share two observations; usually washing machines clean other things, but one Thanksgiving I set mine to clean itself. As the machine was self-cleaning, I begin to think about the upcoming holidays, and maybe our self-cleaning is part of releasing stuff taken on last year.

God is allowing us to take debris from the old year, cleaning out the internal trash and garbage collected in our minds and spirits in 2015 and putting it all behind us. Like the washing machine, we need to clean out our interior, so we can have room to accept the new bundles for 2016. By self-cleaning, we are getting ready for the supernatural coming our way.

Whatchalookingfor?

The second thing pertains to the upcoming new year, and how Thanksgiving and Christmas is a time God has set aside to prepare or introduced us our upcoming future. Beginning with Thanksgiving preparations, God knows we need time to reflect on things which occurred last year, perhaps a new job or career, perhaps a move, perhaps a divorce, perhaps a new love or a new life.

Many things were introduced and experienced in 2015, and our wise and gracious Father gives us a moment to introduce us or get us ready for 2016. I feel some of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve are about looking forward.

Sixty, Sexy, and Getting Better—Aging Gracefully Beyond Sixty

Oops-you’re Sixty!

Where exactly did those forties and fifties go? Aging can sometimes sneak up on you, especially when you’re having fun, are productive, and just plain busy. You paused for a brief moment and realized you’re beyond what’s considered middle-aged. It’s a high probability that marriage, children, grandchildren, and other wonderful events have resulted in more years behind you than likely before you. Relax, it’s quite alright. Aging gracefully beyond sixty is attainable and actually a pretty awesome place to be.

This is the age where you can put regrets behind you, develop fully your inner beautiful, and teach others life lessons that proved to be important to you.

No Regrets 6489623615_a330c191fb_z

Why bother with past regrets? The fact is, the past remains unchangeable, and regrets may ultimately bring you into a negative space, which can be emotionally unsafe. When reconciliation, forgiveness or making things right is a possibility and if your inner spirit pushes you towards this, then by all means move forward. However, if these things aren’t a reality for you, then you must forgive yourself, resolve yourself, and free yourself so that you can move peacefully forward to an emotionally healthy place as you age. Then you are helping yourself and others in a positive and holistic way.

Being Beautiful

5437070898_cee17ac7df_mAging gracefully involves nurturing an inner beauty that will radiate in your smile, personality, and the way you interact with people. Beauty is truly what lies within your heart. A beautiful soul shines through.

Facing the reality of becoming a physically mature person will ease the gradual transition of an aging face and body. If you’re fortunate enough to migrate into your 60s, 70s, 80s, and beyond, take into consideration that reduced energy, wrinkles, lines, and gray hairs are generally inevitable.

Of course, you don’t have to take these changes lying down. Stay active, engaged, at your best weight, and eat appropriately, but also understand outward youthfulness at some point will mature and reach refinement. Retaining the beauty that lies within, the beauty that relates to attitude, character, spirituality, and graceful maturity is the one that truly matters.

Teaching Others

Whether you like it or not, you are someone’s mentor. A young person’s eyes are on you. They are examining how you respond in certain situations. How many times have you heard someone make a remark about how a mother, aunt or grandmother influenced a specific area or idea about something? So make the best of life’s lessons and pass down positive tidbits. Be aware of what you say and do, and how it will impact those paying attention to you. Aging is about taking responsibility for future generations and understanding that your life matters in so many ways to others.

The great thing about being 60 is even though you’re leaving a great deal behind you, it’s also an entryway to some wonderful experiences yet to be realized in front of you. Regrets and forgiveness are reconciled. You are more decisive, thereby making decisions and choices that are healthier, emotionally and physically. The word grace refers to elegance and refined movement; it refers to the free and unmerited favor of God; it refers to honor by one’s presence. Therefore, embrace aging gracefully beyond 60; it’s an awesome mantle to carry.

Image via Flickr by Jason Howle; Image via Flickr by Justin Vidamo;

Stay In Focus–No Matter What!

Understanding the importance of “firsts” 

We hear this so many times, but it is really critical to keep first things first. Determine your true priorities. These are the things that will make a difference in your life. If you leave these goals, dreams or everyday responsibilities unattended, nothing happens, nothing changes, and nothing is accomplished. Change will be unrealized unless you take action; unless you pick up the pieces and put them back together.

Losing Focus

When you lose focus, stuff falls apart, it can’t fix itself without you, without your intervention. Listen to the small voice which gently, and sometimes not so gently, prods you to take action and move onward and forward.

Don’t allow a new path to overwhelm you.

Claim who you are! God made you incredible, even if only among your circle of friends and acquaintances. Just because the world doesn’t know your name, only means this is not your direction. What are your life’s priorities? Don’t get busy with insignificant tasks so that you become distracted and forget on purpose what you really need to do. Only you can reach inside to determine your firsts. When you leave them neglected, it influences everything else in your life.

 

Move from your so-called comfort zone

Because you are miserable in that space anyway. Take authority over your priorities. Stay focused – examine where you are spending your time and energies and how this aligns with your destiny.

God Made you Carefully – He made you uniquely you! Focus on that!

 

A Saint from the Other Side

One thing I thought I would never do is talk to dead people. I often, not to anyone’s face of course, thought when relatives, co-workers and friends said someone from the other side had spoken or visited with them, that they were exaggerating or simply not telling the truth. After all, what sane person talks to dead people? But now I have another take on the entire matter. Having lost a dear friend, to me—a sister, a few months ago, every now and then I find myself out loud having a conversation with her. And, despite how crazy it sounds, it is very therapeutic. Now, I will say, while I was talking, I went between talking with her and Jesus—we were having a three-way! Now, when someone says they were visiting with a saint from the other side, who am I to say they aren’t.

Happy New Year!

Yes, I realize that my greeting is late; past the first quarter, past my birthday, past the crucifixion, past the resurrection, past winter and hopefully now spring. But it is a new year-already bursting with joy, happiness, and pain and lost. I am glad to be here, nevertheless the lost of love ones leave a void which cannot be filled. What became real to me this year is the scripture, though the outward man perishes, the inward man is being renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16). Only those of a certain age, and that are at peace with their age, can readily admit this.
Recently, my friend Pat Gray went home to be with Jesus. My soul and spirit felt the blow of this sudden and unexpected loss. To me in a sense this also embodies the outward man perishing. I miss Pat! I regret that I could not say goodbye. Pat was such a private person; and few people, ones we mutually knew, were allowed into her real secret chamber. Losing Pat makes me look at death in the eye, and that is okay. I know that only God and time will make the heart ache less.
Today, I must love more. I must be more patient. Compassion should be my best friend. Peace should be my amour bearer; listening should be my default; bearing other’s burdens should be my life.
We will talk later.

So-Long

There are some friends, relationships and experiences, which are sometimes intended for only brief moments, and are not necessarily for a lifetime: but some of them are sorely missed, especially relationships that for one reason or other shined as a bright lights in dark places. One must glean from these experiences the treasures that God wants them to have. And be joyful and glad that these relationships were placed before them and are special to them. And whether lost through death, divorce, distance; or just mere busyness, greater responsibilities and priorities; or just end (never understanding why); just know that they are–and you are–richer for having experienced each another. So please, no sadness, no remorse; God is merely making room in your life for unexpected, unusual and greater blessings; received them with an open heart and mind. Bring forth the light. Hallelujah!

I am a songwriter, not an artist….really?

I have never considered myself a singer. A writer yes. An actress – perhaps – but a singer – unh-unh. Nevertheless, by default this is exactly where I am finding myself. Who would have known? Who could have known, save Jesus? As an artist there is so much more to consider, because you cannot hide behind anyone, you are out there on your own. I feel as though I really don’t want to be here, but if I leave then I will regret that I never tried. And I feel so awkward, uncomfortable, but that is how I understand success sometimes feel. However, I am asking myself, well aren’t you a little dated to be just getting started with  this? And all I can say is yes, but…I can do all things through Christ. Don’t you think you will appear a bit foolish for trying this now, but… God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. I decided if a song is never purchased or listened to, at least I did it. I left a legacy for my children, and my children’s children. I feel that somewhere down the line, after I am long gone, one of my daughters or sons will say, “Look what grandma Mat-Mat did.” And they will treasure it in their heart, and that will be very, very good!

I am quite geeked though because someone in UK purchased an MP3 of God’s song – Like You Jesus – WOW!!!!!!

Check it out! http://cdbaby.com/cd/madelynbanks

OMG!!!

I have not been here in a minute!

We can make a decision to think upward versus downward. It is totally up to us. We can choose coping mechanisms for life difficulties and hiccups, that are positive versus negative. We can choose to accept that life is not necessarily fair, but God is. We can yell and scream and holla because the past threw us a few curve balls. But I believe that the suffering of the this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that one day shall be revealed in us. Isn’t God cool?

I cannot see tomorrow, only God can, but I proceed with great expectation by His grace!

Wow it has been a minute!

A lot has been going on. Well it seems like a lot! I am in school full time now, I have full time mom responsibilities, and all the other stuff! I have not written a term paper in like – what thirty years or something. So having three in front of me is a daunting task. Like give me a boring subject and expect me to write 3000 words? It’s been difficult, but I am getting it done.

I have been a little down and out, maybe it’s the dang Chicago weather! I need a little sunshine in my life. I am working to make life a little more interesting but it has been a challenge for me lately. I feel like I am a triangle lately, trying to fit into a square. I have been in back in Chicago for 5 plus years, and I am getting an itch to move someplace! Not back to LA, just someplace. Hummmmm

I had to put my book on hold, until I can get these term papers done – whew. But please folks hold me to getting it completed before the year ends. School is out in about 4 weeks, so I will get it done.

I cannot believe it is almost Christmas!!!! I purchased my first gift last week. So it’s real! It is after midnight so I gotta to.

Smooches!