This photo is me pointing at a mushroom while on a hike in Mount Hood of Portland, OR. This pic signifies to me what we can miss if we don't stop and pay attention and what we can hurt if we don't stop to learn.

This photo is me pointing at a mushroom while on a hike in Mount Hood of Portland, OR. This pic signifies to me what we can miss if we don't stop and pay attention and what we can hurt if we don't stop to learn.

EXPLORATION

MY PERSPECTIVES ON HIP HOP, SPIRITUALITY, DIVERSITY, & EDUCATION

I look forward to exploring my thoughts with on various topics because I enjoy teaching, learning, and talking. More importantly, I enjoy sharing with others not just what I think, but also walking you through what I have done. As a former campus pastor, I have witnessed the growth of some beautiful people after they have accepted who they are. As a diversity professional, I know that I can positively influence how people learn by being intentional to connect with them. When I combine that with hip hop, I watch the world open up and more possibilities become real through art and courageously speaking out. 

Explorations will be another way to dive deeper with me on topics. Let's get started. 

Why I Enjoy Not Going to Church-Series

Not Going to Church? 

I woke up this morning determined to write. This time last year, I was waking up at 7AM, to prepare for my periscope recording at 7:30 AM. I would be addressing my small group of followers going into Bible scriptures. My message would be encouraging and at times enlightening. At times this was a precursor to the sermon I would be preparing to deliver at PEACE Church. PEACE Church stands for Peers Entering Acceptance Toward Christ Eternally. This was a student developed university campus church, where I was a pastor for four years. There was a time at the beginning of my Pastor-ship at PEACE I would attend Poplar Springs Christian Church to fulfill my deacon responsibility and then head on over to PEACE to pastor. Honestly, it was all exhausting in the end. It was exhausting spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and socially. I don’t miss church. I miss the people, I miss the community, but I do not miss church. 

Since moving to Connecticut, I have attended a couple church services and felt unfulfilled, but I have taken to exercising, hiking and reading as part of my Sunday routine. Its very relaxing, and its very fulfilling. Strangely, I recall hearing other people throughout parts of my life saying that they are spiritual, or that they went on hikes, and I know I would think, they don’t know what they are talking about. I even thought they don’t understand God and you must be in a building at a church to experience God. However, since I’ve moved up North, I feel as I am experiencing God so much now. I wonder if its because I’m not preparing to assist others in their understanding of God, while they are struggling through their shifting lens of church. As I worked with students at PEACE, I admit, I struggled embracing being a pastor because I took their spiritual development so seriously. I did not want to engage in things that would spiritually cause me, to spiritually lead the astray. Therefore, I was strict on myself. As I entered that church I would see beautiful women and handsome men that were so brilliant, battling their hormones, while enjoying parties where they partook of drinking, stepped to vulgar songs, and sang in the church choir. I would see the guilt on their face, while seeing the joy in their eye that they had a good time, which may be unlike how they envisioned their elder that led them to church. 

I felt that the students were holding themselves in prison to something that was not true. They battled having a good time with thinking that determined if they were good people. Every Sunday, was a time of helping the students embrace themselves, and understand how they feel, is not the problem. What you need to understand is the way God wants to use the freedom that you already have. You have it because you have embraced a God through a man that sacrificed himself for the world and came back to show those that believed in Him that their hope is not in vain. God is real. This being that created all things is real and we are all a part of it. If we can accept Him being Jesus then we have accepted God, that which loves us the most. Once you have accepted that love you accept that you are a part of the world, and each human. Each action, impacts me and can affect others around me. Therefore, I should take responsibility for my actions and love myself while trying to understand how to exist in this world. 

Does that sound simple, does that sound freeing? I admit, at my age, while I was teaching them, what I understood, I recognized that I needed to connect with them in a way that they were comfortable. I did not mind using pop culture, or Youtube videos, current events, black history, indigenous history, and a number of examples to reach the students. It was fun, but it was also exhausting. Serving as a deacon was the toughest, because I was a young and fiery spirit urging to breathe in a space that felt old and suppressed. There was so much love, but there was also ego and traditional thought that suppressed youth, elevated elders, tried to reconstruct middle age, and promote premature unions among sexually depressed people. There was so much love and there still is, but to embrace the unreliable and deny the undeniable, that is so hard. 

Now this is not to say that many wonderful things have not been taught through church. For example, I learned social activism as well as respectability politics in church. Jesus Christ was a living example of challenging politics through church ideals. The courage I learned to use my voice I learned by looking at Jesus in the Bible speak out against Pharisees. I would practice using my voice with my family first, then in church, and then it rose socially. In many ways I read Jesus practicing spiritual understandings inside and outside the temple. 

I miss the people, but I don’t miss the church. Here is my truth, I love God. As you read this, I hope you will have more questions about God, but I also hope that you will feel a peace resting in God. I still think that church is an amazing environment for people to build community and learn about structure that will help one succeed in life. I invite you to protect your mind and your heart while listening to people speak through their own filter. There is so much to be taught in life and in church. I am now going to talk about my learning in life.

I Didn’t Go To Church Today- OH NO

No, I didn’t go to church today, but I did something that I needed to do. I cleaned my home from top to bottom. I did all of my laundry, cleaned the kitchen, cleaned the bathroom, took out the trash and recyclables, pressed my clothes for the week and rearranged my closet. Yes, I did all of that today and also read more of Ibram M. Kendi’s Stamped From the Beginning. Would I call that productive, yes, but would I call that spiritual? For me, yes it is very spiritual what I did today. Cleaning my laundry and pressing my clothes for the week allows me to take spiritual inventory. What I also did while rearranging my closet, was to identify more than 60 articles of clothing that I am donating. This time was spent clearing my place of things that I no longer need while getting my place of dwelling in order. 

The “order within the place of dwelling” is very important because its one of the areas in many people’s lives that is taken for granted. One of my favorite quotes is from the film Fight Club, when Tyler Durden says, “the things you own, end up owning you.” Have you ever thought about how much you accumulate and let sit around for years without touching it? Also, how do you get prepared in the morning especially if you work a regular, 8-5? To me when I wake up in the morning and my closet is in disarray, there are a couple of things I like to do to start my day, but now I can’t. I like to give thanks for rising another day, then I meditate for 20 minutes, and I go workout. Well if my workout clothes can’t be found in less than one minute, I guarantee, that 10 minutes is now gone because I am dealing with the frustration of finding my clothes and then trying to put an outfit together just to go workout. You see, the longer you look for something that you are accustomed to easily placing your hands on, the more ideas will slip in your psyche that will frustrate you. The other thing, is that since I walk to work, it would behoove me to have my clothes already prepared, even more than enough clothes so I can switch out outfits, and not have to worry about time while walking. Arriving at work calmly is really nice.   

I hope you understand that I am not bragging about my routine, I’m sharing that I have a routine and that order helps me to stay more peaceful. I believe that the way a person’s home is, is also the way routines are spread out in their mind. Therefore, if organization is something you lack at home, then its something you may struggle with in your life. I said “may” because everyone is not the same. See if I can’t come home to a clean space, then to sit down and try to do something extra-curricular seems that much more frightening to do, because there is so much clutter around me. Where do I start? When do I stop? How do I know its clean? And then you don’t clean it up. 

Does that sound familiar? If it does, then this is one of the reason’s staying home from church may be a good thing. See while church is teaching you to get your life in order, sometimes it’s great to apply it to your life. Cleanliness is something that a Sunday can be used for because while in most places around the world, culture slows down, it’s the same in many lives unless you have children. Regardless, Sunday could be a day to get your family organized. 

For some, attending “church takes time away from what I need to do.” Let’s be clear, for some church is a need. I understand that because I was a regular church attender and when I didn’t go I felt like something was off. For instance, I believe that Matthew 18:20 is true when it says, 

                        For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I 
                   in the midst of them. 

Being with my church family can be a relief. I can share what is going on with me and learn from there how I need to make it better. I also think that Hebrews 10:24-25 is clear when it says, 

                        And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and 
                        good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of 
                        doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day 
                        approaching. 

It is wonderful to come together with your community especially if that is a church community. 

It is also important to operate fully in your physical life as well as your spiritual life. When you combine the two, you will see that the two are attached. Living a life with order, helps you to live a life of reducing or managing stress because you are managing your resources. I still rested and fed my mind, but I also had my mind on God. I did not watch television today, because I would have been distracted from myself. I meditated and took a bath. I stretched and paid attention to what was going on in my body. I also fasted throughout the morning so that I could move slower and be more in tune with what was going on inside instead of focusing on what I need to put inside my body. 

For me, today was a spiritual day. I didn’t attend church, but I did have time with God. Being with God as I clean, read, iron my clothes, bathe, and re-organize keeps me yearning for God, because the simplest things excite me. I can really dive into that excitement at home. Now how can you use what I shared? 

MORE QUESTIONS 

What does it mean to be more peaceful? 
Can’t you or I still go to church and achieve this? 
What does organization have to do with spiritual development?

SELF CARE

When your body is healthy, you can really experience God within and outside. Engaging in a yoga practice to loosen limbs and center your attention can be accomplished easier when you are healthy. When I say healthy, I do not only mean, a body that exercises 30 minutes or more three to five times a week. Exercise is very important to keeping a body limber and mobile, but there are other aspects of health that are important. I am talking about your emotional, immune, mental and yes spiritual healthy. I believe that self-care can be diverse and is not uniform. In this post I will make a correlation to my time in church and my life outside of church. 

When I was attending church I was very active in the leadership. For me church became a routine and a job. I still attended church for my own spiritual development, but I was seeking more than the church’s approval of sanctity or holiness. I wanted to experience what I read Jesus experiencing in the Bible. I wanted to stand for God and break the rules that oppressed people while being willing to put my life on the line. Needless to say, I am still on that journey and church got me to a point that is significant in my current position. Church gave me the structure to attain knowledge about my faith. Learning with my friends while working with my people as we serve God was fulfilling. 

I did not enjoy the coercion I felt came from leadership to get people to do more in the church. I do not like it because as a person that has worked in church, if you run your place of worship like a business, then business tactics you must employ to keep the doors open. Church now has to be as visible as Facebook and as savvy as the government to get their messages out. While I applaud the effort, I abhor those that use church like Facebook to spy on others and shame people because of their interests or life. I also do not share in the phase of posting one’s life for the world to see. 

In church while preachers are telling people how to live in the world and give to the church, they are not using this critical time with the focused attention of everyone to break down practical life strategies that will simplify their lives In complex times churches are still recruiting and retaining talent for the purpose to grow a congregation instead of developing independent living human beings. 

Self-care is a way for human beings to become aware and healthy because the better you feel, the better you live. In church, I was mostly taught to work for God tirelessly and I will be rewarded once I die. I reject that idea because God did not tell me that I had to worship in that way. My body is a finite and it needs rest, sustenance, and care. Churches are composed of people that need the exact same thing(s). In my opinion people are mentally attacked to work as a slave and be an example to others. In solitude I can process what I have learned over the years and do it without the influence of others because peer pressure is prevalent in church. Many people do what they do in church to appease someone or to fill a void inside. I am not saying that is wrong, I am saying that if that is the sole reason for why you are working in your ministry, it is selfishly motivated. 

INTERNAL MOTIVATION 

Sustainable self-care can be an indication of strong internal motivation. I think the more people can do self-care, the better they can worship. When you feel good, you want to share it with others. When you feel good within, you are not easily distracted by what others are doing. Recognizing God dwells within, each of us needs to be clear of what is going on inside of our bodies. My experience in church was that I learned more about what was going on outside and I was instructed how to value it and not be a part of it. 

A scripture speaks to this is 1 John 2:15 (KJV) 

            Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the 
            love of the Father is not in him. 

What fascinates me is how we will and will not apply this to our lives. I will share that I do not share in the world’s definition of success by capitalism, nor do I believe in our endowed right to dominate all of the world’s resources. Church and the Bible have been used to promote notions like these and I believe that as I am not in church, I can think more broadly and efficiently about how I move in the world. I can do that while learning how to care for my body through diet, exercise, mental stimulation, and rest. 

I want to manage my blood pressure by how I live, not by a workshop that tells me I need it as I come to the church tirelessly after work. 

CONCLUSION 

My experience in church is not like anyone else’s and yet I am sure, its just like many. Self-care for me is much easier to do in solitude but I believe that church can also be a vehicle for promoting self-care. Self-care is what God wants for us because then we can care for other people. This temple that God has given us, is our only one and we need to care for it. There are scriptures that tell you this, but there are also books, and family members dying early that can also tell you this. Self-care helps you to stay in the present. Church can play part of your self-care, because it can be relaxing to be with your family and friends. Church can be a part of your self-care because you are able to praise in a way that you don’t have to be concerned about what others are thinking. 

If church is that for you, please I hope it continues. For those of you that are wondering can I have that outside of church, I am here to tell you, yes you can.

GENUINELY UNEXPECTED

Illustration by Higher Ups University

Illustration by Higher Ups University

This podcast is done with my sister friend Adrienne "True Butterfly" Charleston. Adrienne and I often have great conversations about topics that I think would catch some off guard and others they would be relieved. We've decided to partner and create our very own podcast. We already have one episode posted and others recorded. Check out the first episode that is entitled "I Don't want to Talk about Whiteness Anymore." It is a provocative title, but I hope the content is what you take something away from.