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June 2016 posts

Feardom ~ Experiencing Fear on your Journey to Freedom

What is freedom? Take a moment and think. What is freedom to you? Is it the state of not being enslaved or imprisoned? Is it the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint? If you’re not in prison, you probably consider yourself free.  Living in America, the “Land of the Free”, you’re free. Is that freedom? Yes, for a lot of people, but there are some who are not in prison, and still feel enslaved and others who live in America and feel bound. Freedom can be considered relative, which means everyone has a different thought on what freedom is for them.  One adult male, Clarence answered, “Freedom is life without fear”, while a teenage girl, Natalie answered, “Being able to do what I want, when I want”.  So again I ask, What is freedom to you?

Christians have been contemplating that question for a long time. Fortunately, the Bible helps us discover freedom as a seemingly, joyful experience through Christ in the following scriptures:


So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Co 3:17)

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Gal 5:1)


People will have a different definition of freedom concerning their own lives and journeys. If Jesus sets Clarence free, will he live a life without fear? Will Natalie be able to do what she wants, when she wants where the Spirit of the Lord is? When we gain freedom through Christ, after years of living in bondage, it doesn’t take away the trepidation along the way. Gaining freedom can be a wonderful experience but maintaining it can be more distressing and terrifying than you can imagine.


Don’t be afraid to be afraid.


The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, "I am trembling with fear." [Heb 12:21 NIV]


God's prophet and friend, Moses was afraid. So afraid, that he trembled but he still had enough strength to encourage those he was leading to not be afraid.

The Israelites that followed a terrified Moses were afraid.
(Everybody was afraid!)


Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning." [Exo 20:20 NIV]


If you have gained your freedom, learn to walk and remain in it. It won’t be easy. 


As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. They said to Moses, "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn't we say to you in Egypt, 'Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians'? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!" Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still." Then the LORD said to Moses, "Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. [Exo 14:10-15 NIV]




Freedom is not only a one time incident. You sang, you cried and leaped for joy on your way out of bondage. That’s not it or all. You still have a journey to God’s promises now. During your freedom journey, don’t assume that you won’t experience intimidation, fearful situations and threatening life decisions.  When you do, God is telling you, don’t go back, don’t be confined, keep it moving. 


God is telling you.....Move on. 

Oh and yes, through Christ, you have been set free from bondage, the decision to willingly sin, and you are still a slave, but only to Christ and righteousness now. Don’t be so afraid of paralyzing fear that it keeps you stagnate and sinning. Be afraid, but keep it moving

You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. [Rom 6:18 NIV]

Don't be afraid of fear. If you have to walk in FEARdom to get to FREEdom…DO IT!
Experiencing fear on your journey to freedom is completely normal.
Don't let it stop you!

Melanie Pic

Author: Rev. Melanie M. Thigpen



How to Recognize a Bruised Heart

Part I

by Karen Stewart-Ross

     Prior to becoming a minister and rededicating her life to Christ several years ago at age 28, Minister Penny J. Little of Evangel Cathedral in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, struggled for years with a heart severely bruised by rejection, feelings of emptiness, and deep regret.

     A married mother of three who at that time was burdened by disappointment and many unanswered questions, Minister Penny, as she is affectionately called, had been unhappy with decisions she had made that had altered the course of her life.  

Minister Penny J. Little

    “I think I got to that point where you really do start to recognize that you can do a lot of things in life but you feel that emptiness that a person could walk around with in their heart.  They’re never satisfied – nothing really works out for them no matter how hard [they] try,” said Minister Penny, the author of Treasures of a Broken Heart, a book that addresses how to overcome a bruised heart – a heart damaged by rejection, pain, and regret.   

    “It seemed like everywhere I turned, everything was kind of like spiraling in a downward fashion to the point that, you know, I like literally can say I believe it was my bottom point. I was at that time just realizing that nothing I could do for myself was working…”

     Minister Penny was very unhappy, mad at God, and questioning where she was in life until she decided to have a talk with the Lord about why He had “allowed” her life to become so miserable and it was then that everything changed. 

    “When I really started having an honest conversation with God and said, you know, that I was angry because of this event, this happened and this happened and I started to say, ‘Where were you?  Why did you allow this?’  I didn’t think he was going to answer but He did….,” said Minister Penny. 

     And what He said rocked her world but also served as a catalyst for her deliverance and a reassurance that He had never left her and that there was a purpose in her pain.

     “So He allowed me in an intimate place so that he could show [me], so it wasn’t just about [me].  It was a bigger plan….  And He started to show me that even in the darkest place, ‘I was still there.  I was protecting you.  I had to allow things to happen but it was orchestrated.  It was a controlled environment….,” said Minister Penny.

     After God spoke to her, Minister Penny decided to revamp her life and immediately made some decisions.

      “At that point, He turned my life upside down.  I had to literally walk away from everything but it was the best thing that I could have ever done because at that point it wasn’t about what was tangible, but it was about what was miserable on the inside and that’s when I discovered for me what the essence of life is,” said Minister Penny. “We can do a lot of things to cover up but if you have no peace within your heart, you know, life doesn’t mean anything.” 

     And that is how her book was birthed. 

    “When I started to question the why, I started to peel back those layers of the heart where God could minister to me so that I understood how I got my mind experience to that point of understanding so I could write that,” said Minister Penny.  “I could express that in a way that other people could not so I don’t know if I started off writing to help someone else.  I was literally trying to help myself.”

    So, how does one know that he or she has a wounded or bruised heart?  Minister Penny says it could be an event that really unsettles and traumatizes a person but she believes relationships are a breeding ground for bruised hearts and so many people are stuck in the past and don’t believe they can start over.

     “….I believe when we lose our voice in a relationship whether it’s with our parents, girlfriends, or even an intimate relationship with another person, when you start to deny what is your true authentic thought, your true authentic perception or how you see things.  When you start to want to please someone else to the point that you quiet your voice,” said Minister Penny. “You start to go inside internally and set up these little places, little doors and little windows where we compartmentalize our heart, put it over on the side and say, ‘I’m just not going to deal with it….’”

    And not dealing with it is a major point of concern.

  “….And you continue along that path and before you know it, you have like this whole hidden cave of events that you have never dealt with and that becomes a sort of a bruise … because anything that is sore or tender or painful within the human body is a bruise.  It must get a release point…If you cut yourself, there’s a release of blood so there can be a healing but a bruise is different.  There’s no access for it to release because it’s internal….,” said Minister Penny who believes most people don’t realize they are bruised or wounded.

     “…..And we as human beings walk around like that within our hearts and most of the time we don’t realize that we are bruised or wounded until someone comes and touches you or says something that points to that specific bruise that when you realize there’s pain there.  But do we deal with it?  Most of the time we don’t because we don’t know how to deal with it,” said Minister Penny. 

Three Ways to Know That Your Heart Is Bruised, Wounded, and Broken

1. You Have an Unforgiving Heart

“When you are a bruised person, you can’t release.  You can’t let things go.  It doesn’t mean that you let things go overnight, but forgiveness is a choice and it is also a process through which you are willing to consider, ‘I don’t want to continue to have whatever issues against the person or situation.  I want to be free. I want to walk in that freedom,’” said Minister Penny.

2.  You Become Reclusive

“ You don’t like to be engaged in relationship[s].  You don’t always [like to be engaged].  When you’re bruised internally and no one knows, you’re always the protector of the next relationship, the next possibility of getting hurt so you have a guard up,” said Minister Penny.  “You have this wall around you and you’re very selective or sometimes within your own heart, you just ward off intimacy.  You just keep everything cut and dry.  You don’t engage life.  You don’t engage people and you don’t allow people to engage you so you literally become this recluse within your own heart.”

She says that although the Bible says the heart is to be guarded, God “did not design” for his children to be devoid of healthy relationships. 

3.  You Stop Living

“You become stuck in what’s safe.  So If work is safe for you, you become a person who is totally engaged in [your] work and nothing can take that from you because that’s where [you] can control it, that’s where [you] have [your] success.  That’s where [you] do well according to [your] own definition because it doesn’t require anything to engage [your] heart….,” said Minister Penny.  “Anything that causes you to walk around in these little circles where you have created safe havens.  Anytime we take ourselves out of the situation of being able to give and receive love, we are in essence not living.  We’re just walking around existing and your heart is meant to give love and receive love.  That’s how God designed us and built us….”

     For Minister Penny, the pain ended when she got real with God and she encourages others to do the same. 

     “….It is a problem when we allow that bruised broken heart to exist past a certain point.  Everything can come to an end.  There is healing for every issue in our heart if we believe that so that when we become stuck, we no longer have hope that something can change for [us],” said Minister Penny.  “We have decided that this is how I’m going to be and I will just travel through these safe havens of life and I will be the person that controls whether or not I give or receive love.”

Continued in Part II:  How To Heal from a Bruised Heart

Minister Penny J. Little is an entrepreneur, mother, wife, deacon and minister at Evangel Cathedral in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.   She is the founder of F.A.C.E. Enterprises, LLC, and Kemij Publishing, LLC, and the author of the book Treasures of A Broken Heart.

For more information, visit her website at:

The Food Network’s Gina Neely:

On Faith, Food, Life, Divorce, and Becoming Gina

By Karen Stewart-Ross

     Chatting with Gina Neely is like sipping freshly-brewed lemon-infused tea on your front porch on a lazy Sunday afternoon warmed by a Southern sun, longtime caring neighbors and the presence of a really good girlfriend you haven’t seen in ages.  It’s just that good.


    Neely, the co-star of The Food Network’s popular Down Home with the Neelys series with her husband Patrick, is really loving life right now and it shows.  Down to a size 0, Neely began a weight loss journey nearly six years ago after being approached by former boxer George Foreman who challenged her to lose 25 pounds in 12 weeks as part of a weight loss campaign.

     After a routine doctor’s appointment revealed that her blood pressure was higher than normal, Neely felt that it was best to take the challenge and found that while she was working out on the outside with exercise, she was also, as she says, “being worked out inside.”

     “….Even though you’re doing exercise and you’re training and you’re eating properly, it’s like when you start seeing things change on you physically, it affects you mentally.  That’s why when you lose weight, it becomes a lifestyle change for you.  And then you start thinking about the things you put in your mouth and also things that you’re hearing in your head, and also things that are going into your heart,” said Neely contemplatively.  “So, it’s almost like a toxic cleaning all the way – not just on the outside but the inside too. And I started noticing why I was eating.  You know why I would eat certain things? Because I really wasn’t happy deep down inside.”

      It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where the unhappiness began but perhaps some fingers point to Neely’s now syndicated show which began after Gina and Pat were featured on the Food Network’s Road Tasted with brothers Jamie and and Bobbie Dean.  According to Neely, producers were mesmerized by her charismatic personality and approached her and Pat about possibly doing a cooking show. 

    “I said ‘No, I don’t think so.’  [The producer] said, ‘What?!’  Cooking for me is like my quiet time….,” said Neely. 

     According to Neely, the Food Network’s producers told her their only nonnegotiable was that she had to be apart of the series or there was no deal. 

    “So that instantly for me - mind you - that instantly put a burden on me.  That’s how I took it.  I didn’t take it as a blessing.  I took it as a burden,” said Neely.

     Although Neely concedes that she and Pat had great chemistry on air and represented African-American love well, for her, Down Home with the Neelys was supposed to be a one-shot deal, a kind of in and out scenario.  The network was to get what they wanted and she, although reluctant but for the sake of her husband and family, would have the opportunity to do what she loves to do, which is cook southern food with soul, charm, and love – it was never supposed to be permanent – at least not for her. 

      When Down Home with the Neelys became the highest-ranking series debut in the network’s history and the husband and wife team were immediately presented with contracts for future seasons, Neely felt obligated to her family to seal the deal – although she was never quite “feeling it” although a large part of her enjoyed it.  After consulting with a church elder, she agreed to commit, but only if the show could be done in Memphis and in the couple’s home.

    “It was like my answer was contingent upon their happiness.  You know what I’m saying?,” said Neely.

    Although the show was successful, Neely felt she needed a change.  After losing weight and gaining a new perspective, she says God began to reveal things to her about herself and her decisions – one of which was her tendency to want to please people to the detriment of her needs.

     “I just threw myself into [weight loss], because I started learning new things about me.  I started learning how to say no when I didn’t want to do something.  Or if I did want to do something, I did it and if I didn’t, I did not.  You know, because [Down Home with the Neelys] was a very aggressive campaign.  You just had to be on point all the time. And then secondly, I started noticing that as I was changing, people around me were changing.  And this is what I’ve learned:  People don’t always take change very well.  Even when it’s a good change.  ‘I thought you would be happy for me to see me at my best self and moving toward my best self’ and, in fact, it had a reverse effect on me, and that’s when I started noticing things that I probably would not have noticed before,” said Neely, who claims fans “killed” her on blogs due to her dramatic weight loss.

     In fact, many scrambled for answers surmising that the change was due to her pending divorce.  She adamantly claims that it is not.

      Although Neely feels like a new person, the past couple of years have been rather challenging.  After fighting for her marriage and going to couple’s therapy, in 2014, she and Patrick, her high school sweetheart, announced they were divorcing which sent shockwaves through the food grapevine.

     “It just got to the point that he wanted to stay in this life.  I thought this would be a temporary life for me.  We would - you know - [it] would be good exposure, [we would] make money, get my kids through school, you know, use it as a blessing…take care of my mom and all that, and then we go back to our lives, we go back to the restaurant and we go back to our regular lives but what you learn is that when some people get a taste of a certain bug, they can’t get that taste out of their mouth,” said Neely.

     That “taste” led to increasing discomfort.

     “So, actually I just wasn’t sure I wanted to be in a kitchen with my husband.  You know, I liked it.  I think our show served a great purpose.  I think we sort of trail blazed.  You know, anytime you are a trailblazer, there’s always one and you’re that one and everybody holds you up to a certain standard to show them what love looks like and tell them that’s the kind of love they want and it’s a big responsibility.  It’s a huge responsibility and it just wasn’t a responsibility that I was willing - that I was willing to take on quite frankly,” said Neely.

     Neely admits it’s been a long, tough road – but she has relied on her faith in God.

     “It touches me when people ask me that question because it is the one thing that has sustained me,” said Neely.  “I mean it has made me realize how strong I am.”

     Through consistent prayer during her separation, Neely said that she realized that she has a purpose and if it weren’t for the Lord, she really doesn’t know how she could make it.

     “It was mornings that I couldn’t even get out of bed and because of Him - I know God did not put me here just to be here and I always tell people, I don’t share it a lot, but I could have died two times in my life so I always know within my heart of heart[s], within my quiet space that God has me here for a purpose.  What that purpose is I don’t know yet.  It hasn’t been revealed to me….,” said Neely. 

     Her faith has also led her to change how she approaches life.

     “….So, I just try to be the best person that I can be.  I try to be honest.  I try to be transparent now and help people and just tell my story because my story is an interesting story because we often times don’t take the time to be still and listen to our bodies and our minds and our spirits and just go within and that’s what this lesson has taught me and that’s what Christ means to me because he has taught me a discipline – a new discipline of just being still and allowing Him to use and guide me and to trust that without fear and to be more vulnerable without fear.  To love without fear.  To own my truth without fear,” said Neely.

    Neely’s love affair with soul food, which she describes as her “backbone” and a source of peace and happiness, began in the kitchen with her great-grandmother who would teach her life lessons while she cooked – lessons about how life could change at any moment and it was okay to accept that change. 

     “When people talk about soul food, I don’t think of soul food as collard greens or chicken and things like that.  When I think of soul food, I more so think of soul food like soul from my heart, for my spirit.  I grew up around my great-great grandmother.  And I guess being around more older people, they’re more wise and I use to listen to the wisdom that they spoke.  When she cooked, it always felt like she was cooking and putting love in the pot.  Not just ingredients, but love was going in,” said Neely.   “And when she was stirring, it was like she was stirring my soul and telling me a story and just talking about life lessons and how things may go one way and turn totally another way – things that you weren’t even planning to happen….”

      Things like divorces.  But she’s come to terms with that and is using her experience and the process of reclaiming her life to help young girls and other women who are going through divorce and other challenges. Some of the stories she hears have broken her heart - including one where a woman called herself stupid for repeatedly going back to a man who blatantly pursued other women while in a relationship with her.

    “And I just said, ‘Why do you not love yourself?  First off, you’re not stupid.  Don’t ever call yourself stupid.  But my main question to you is, ‘Why do you not love yourself?’ because you should love yourself enough to protect yourself and not allow anyone to mishandle you.’  You know, that’s a big thing for me.  You can do any[thing] but don’t mishandle me,” said Neely.  “That’s all I ask.  If I’m giving you my best and I’m trying to be good to you, don’t mishandle me and when you mishandle me, I lose a great interest and great respect for you.”

     To women who are in the midst of divorce, she encourages them to embrace the change and learn from it.

     “Yes your life is going to change and you have to be open to the change.  It may not be the change that you think it’s going to be.  You will fall out in the floor.  I mean there’s not a day that I didn’t want to fall out in the floor and want to pull my weave out.  I cried.  I had so many emotions.  I grieved for the love that we had more than anything.  I grieved for that love because I loved that love.  I love Patrick.  It’s just that the love is so different now.  We’re just on two different planes and I had to accept that.  I had to surrender to that and let that go and just say, ‘He doesn’t get – He’s not that guy.’  That’s okay though.  I mean…I can’t change him.  People are who they are,” said Neely.  “So, if I can’t change him, I only have the power to change me and what I want and what I can do and what I will accept and won’t accept.  So we have to find the strength within ourselves and only our true selves….”

     Her advice to women: 

    “Look in the mirror. Look at how you played the role in it – how you were accountable for it, how you enabled it.  It was not just him because I played a role in this demise too. So, you have to be open and honest enough to look at yourself and ask God, ‘Ok God.  Why?  Why this?  What am I going to do now?’  And if you could just be still.  Be still for just a minute and listen to that itty bitty quiet voice that we always drown out with all kinds of crazy thoughts and everybody’s opinion and what everybody got to say and what everybody thinks.  Tone all that out and listen to that voice inside of you that’s just above a whisper that’s telling you, ‘I got you. I got you,’” said Neely.

     So, who is the new Gina Neely?

     “The new Gina Neely is one that is open, one that is honest, one that is transparent in her authentic self.  I no longer try to please everybody.  I try to please me.  I try to be pleasing to God but I do keep a little hood in me and I try to be a classy lady but I also try to help people. You know, I try to help people, you know, try to build up more of their self-esteem, inspire, empower and in particularly, young girls that I talk to….,” said Neely.  “Do whatever you want to do.  Do what’s in your heart and that will make you happy because at the end of the day, we only get one life.  Some people get a do over.  Some people do.  But we’re not promised a do over.  I got two do-overs honestly and I’m not wasting my do-overs.”

    Does she have any regrets?

     “….See, I sort of take things, like when things happen, you know, I think things happen for  a reason.  And now I can understand what Maya Angelou used to say, ‘I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey,’” said Neely.  I wouldn’t.  I really wouldn’t.  Because my journey has taken me to a better place.  I’ve never been happier.  I’ve never been at peace….”

Visit Gina Neely’s website at