Posts categorized "Religion"

How To Heal from a Bruised Heart-Part II

How To Heal from a Bruised Heart-Part II
By Karen Stewart-Ross

In a previous article, we spoke with Minister Penny J. Little of Evangel Cathedral in Upper Marlboro, Maryland who shared her story of being delivered from emotional brokenness – a state of emotional pain that results in a bruised heart. In part 2 of the conversation, Minister Penny shares how to heal.

Minister Penny J. Little (1)

 

Emotional healing began for Minister Penny when she realized that she was angry at God for all the things that had happened to her and decided to have an honest conversation with Him.
“… I was taught you don’t question God. I was taught that that would be disrespectful…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.
God showed her that there was a “bigger plan” behind it all – that there was a purpose behind the pain.
“…And He started to show me that even in the darkest place, I (God) was still there. I(God) was still protecting you. I (God) had to allow things to happen but it was orchestrated, you know, it was a controlled environment because for every one of those environments where I should have given up somehow I kept going,” said Minister Penny, who offers the following tips for healing:

Reconcile your relationship with God.

“…The Bible says that you first love God with all your heart and then you love your neighbor as you love yourself. Well, how can I love my neighbor if I haven’t figured out how to love me?,” said Minister Penny.

Reconcile your relationship with yourself and love yourself by spending quality time with yourself, recognizing your worth.

“Because a lot of times we have a very jaded perception of what it means to love us. We depend on other people to love us. We depend on the relationships that we are in – for them to reciprocate love so we can know how it feels and that’s based on the perception that we have internally within us but if we have lost our voice, we don’t know how to readily communicate that to another person if we’re coming out of a bad relationship and thinking, ‘I’m going to go to another one,’ you’re only going to reciprocate, or you’re only going to repeat the same bad character traits because you never did get your voice back…,” said Minister Penny, who said that loving oneself ties into one’s relationship with God because one should love his or her neighbor as he loves himself or herself.

Reconcile with forgiveness.

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“You literally have to sit down and be honest with yourself: ‘Where are those places where unforgiveness exists in me or offense?’ You may not be in the place where you have said that, ‘Oh, I can never forgive them for that’ but you are bruised and have an offense. And you can know you have an offense because when you see them coming, you go the other way, or avoid talking to them. You don’t want to interact with them, but it’s not to the point of unforgiveness you want to avoid them. You have to reconcile those relationships. Sometimes it is not a face-to-face conversation. Sometimes, these are things you pour out of yourself and you called it closed,” said Minister Penny.

“If it is a relationship that you feel like you need to have dialogue with the other person, then go to them only after you have forgiven them totally because the most important thing about forgiveness is that it’s one-sided. It’s about you clearing your heart. It’s about you making peace with those relationships and then when you go to the other person, if that’s something that you want to do, you’re not looking for them to reciprocate because if you don’t clear your heart first and you go to them, you’re going to be even more devastated. So, forgiveness is one-sided. It’s about you making the decision to let something go. Then, if you have an opportunity to go to the other person, you can forgive them, and you don’t have any expectation of them apologizing…,” said Minister Penny.

Deal with your heart – access the freedom in your heart again.

“Start to spend time with you. Start to do those things that you love. Things that maybe that you wanted to have on your bucket list but never did. Start to have a relationship with yourself that is in your alone time. [Consider] that maybe loneliness is not the worst thing in the world. Loneliness is, for me, - I just don’t even like to use the word loneliness. I believe that everybody has to come to that place in their life where they learn to be by themselves because that’s the only authentic place where you can learn who you really are. The Bible says, ‘To thine own self be true’ but you have to develop and know what that truth is is by spending time with yourself. So, once you have settled within yourself what it is to be alone and you have success and [are] satisfied with that in a healthy, loving way,” said Minister Penny.

Allow God to deal to restore you.

“Then, the next step is allowing your person to deal with your brokenness and allow God to build you back up again. Because when you spend time with yourself, what you are going to find out is probably not all the good things about you but you also find out some things that you don’t like about you and those are the places that you take to God and allow Him to deal with that. So, in essence, those are your broken places. The book is called Treasures of a Broken Heart where you discover those broken places in your heart. God will start to show you the purpose in it – why it happened so your pain starts turning into purpose and then it gives you motivation. It gives you compassion again. It restores your hope and it restores your hope from a place of healing and from a place of love and reconciliation. Those three things allow you to consider and start to love again,” said Minister Penny.

According to Minister Penny, brokenness may be perceived as a negative aspect of one’s life but it is really an opportunity for God to put the broken pieces of one’s heart back together again with His love and restore it to its normal function.

“Allow life to bring you to that point that you deal with your brokenness…A broken heart is not a bad thing. For me, I see it as an opportunity for you to be restored, to be reconciled, and renewed again, because unless something is broken, you can’t see all of the parts that may need repairing. You can’t see the damage - what the dysfunction [is] that may exist in a heart…,” said Minister Penny.

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: http://www.facepennyjlittle.com/

 

 


The higher the watts in a lightbulb, the brighter it shines.

Kristi Watts, former co-host, 700 Club by Frances Butler

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The higher the watts in a lightbulb, the brighter it shines.

 

When the name Kristi Watts is mentioned, evident faith in God and riotous laughter comes to mind. For over a decade she was co-host of the 700 Club program on CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network), a magazine-style blend of interviews, trending news, testimonies, answers to questions from viewers and prayers. It was hardly unusual to wonder and anticipate what Kristi, who exudes immense grace and never entertains a dull moment, had in her bag of humor for the day to lighten up the impact of often harrowing topics addressed on the show.

 

No stranger to adversity herself, she survived divorce, left a prestigious high-paying career and is often transparent about her low points in life to encourage others who may be facing misfortunes too. She is the recent author of a book titled, “Talk Yourself Happy.” In the book, Kristi underlines for Christians, the stumbling blocks to true joy and demonstrates the real transformational power in speaking God’s word.

 

I had a recent sit-down with Kristi to discuss her life and work as a TV host, producer and writer, and her new book, "Talk Yourself Happy."

 

Tell us how your journey on the 700 Club began and how you were able to captivate large numbers of viewers as you did.

 

I started out in 1999. I had studied journalism in school and earned a Master’s degree in Communications broadcasting. And so, initially, to be honest with you, I wanted to work in children’s television. That was my heart. And I was on my way to work for…tried to work for Nickelodeon in New York City and I didn’t get the job and I remember sitting in my car crying, just crying out to God saying, Lord, what do you want me to do? He said Christian TV and I said, other than that Lord, what do you want me to do? To be honest with you, I thought that my personality was too wild and I was too extra to fit into the mold of Christian television. To be honest with you, I always thought Christian television was boring. I’m a black Jersey girl with all this personality and they can’t handle all this. But the Lord was like, no, Christian television.

At the time, I was working at FOX television, I was one of the co-hosts of a couple of different shows and…I was a very big fish in a small pond. And…during that time, I quit and I went to work at a really small Christian station in Ohio where I think the only viewers were a couple of cows. Everybody thought I was crazy because I left a big time station to work for Christian television of all places. Anyway, the Lord was gracious with that and I did it for two years. And then I said, okay, I did what you wanted me to do now let me go back to secular television. This was a secondary thought, I said Lord, the only way I would do Christian television is if it was the 700 Club because…my mum used to watch the 700 Club when I was little and so…I was well aware of it and it was a highly respected program. How I got there, it makes no sense at all but the Lord. I did not audition or try or send resumes, I did nothing. Nothing but Jesus. So, I was married at the time and I went to NRB, the National Religious Broadcasters and just to kind of get a feel of it but after three days I said, yeah Lord, I still don’t fit here. Everybody has big hair, blue eyeshadow, and after three days, I was ready to go back to secular television. Then I ran into this guy who was cool. He said what do you do and I said I’m a TV producer and he said do you have a resume and I did and handed it to him. He gave me his card but I did not pay attention and I put the card in my pocket. When I walked out to the parking lot, I looked at the card and it said, ‘Vice President of the 700 Club’. His name is Andy Freeman, I met him on a Friday and he called me on the Tuesday and the next week they flew me out and the next week, I was working for the 700 Club.

 

On your website homepage, I pulled a quote from your welcome message, “my training comes from dealing with crazy people in a crazy life, giving me a plethora of stories to share.” Do these experiences form the basis or inspiration for your new book?

 

They do in a sense. I never knew that my life was going to unfold the way that it did. I was the youngest co-host the 700 Club has ever had. I was 27 years old when I started and in my early 40s when I left. A year before I left, Myles Munroe had a word for me. I would sit in my office and my heart just hurt all the time. I would have different people coming to my office all the time and these Christians, they would just share their heart and their issues and I was like, man, there are so many hurting people. And sometimes in Christian television, we have this formula, and the formula is, your life is horrible, you find Jesus and your life is great. And that’s not true.

And so, I started to hear a lot of people’s stories and I said Lord, I just want your heart. A year later, the Lord had me out on my own completely by myself in the wilderness, no job, no money, no friends, no nothing. I was at rock bottom. I was baffled and I was bewildered. I said, okay Lord, are you mad at me, what in the world happened? I would do Bible studies in my house and I would walk my dog and pray all the time. One day I was walking my dog and the lord said, Kristi, how can you minister to the nations if you can’t minister to the people next door? So God walks me through a series of tests where He would say, “Go knock on that person’s door and pray for them.” As I would pray, Holy Spirit would fall and move in a big way in that person’s life. Another day the Lord would say, “Go knock on that person’s door and clean their house. It’s a single mother she needs help.” I would say Lord, I’m a single mother and I need help. Next you know, I’m on my hands and knees scrubbing dog urine. It was stories like that God used to humble me, break me and to more importantly, give me his heart. He had to remove my stone heart, the hardened heart and the pride and arrogance that I had when I was on television.

What I didn’t realize was, it was really easy to sit on a set and tell the world to trust in God when I had everything at my fingertips. It was really easy to have the joy of the Lord, when life was good. God got me to the point where I had to come to the end of myself to realize that joy is not contingent upon any circumstances. The true joy of the Lord is when you’re in the presence of God and oftentimes what gets us in the presence of God, are the trials and tribulations that hit us. God had to show me what true joy and true happiness was. For two years, I had no job, no money, I was living off of my son’s college fund and our savings accounts. I cried for five days straight. I thought that God had ignored me, I thought that God had forgotten me, I thought that I had failed somebody or the Lord. I was disheartened beyond belief. I prayed and fasted and did everything we would do. My mother would call and try to console me, nothing worked. My sister was going through a divorce and I told my mom to remind her when God did this for me…and remember the time when He did that and the other. And I started to think back of the times that I had experienced the hand of God in my life. The more I started to remember, the more the heavy weight was lifting off me and a joy started to well up in my spirit and that spirit of oppression started to leave. And before long, I started to laugh. Thus, the concept of the book.

 

In the book, Talk Yourself Happy, you offer us tips to talk ourselves happy. How important are these pointers to the believer?

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It’s everything. So many of us get so disheartened and discouraged by our circumstances, by what we see or don’t have. So, oftentimes, because God is Spirit, we visibly can’t see Him. So the only way we can truly see God, is by seeing His handprint in our lives. And saying, “God healed me, remember when God healed me…remember when He touched me…remember when He protected me…and God did this and God did that. It’s connecting with God on a personal, intimate level. That no matter how I preach to a person or how much they sit in church, they’re never going to know what the love of Jesus Christ is unless they experience it. Those tips are vital to our walk because it all revolves around experiencing Jesus Christ for yourself. Point blank period!

 

And what would you say to the Christians who would say God is more interested in building our character, often through pain and suffering, and not in our happiness?

 

You know that’s interesting because I did this interview and the interviewer was focused so much on the word happiness. She couldn’t get past it. She said Kristi, it’s not about happiness, it’s about joy of the Lord. And I said, I agree. However, we’ve got to recognize that there are over 27 verses in the bible that talk about happiness. The Greek word for joy, is happy. For instance, there’s a Scripture, my favorite all time Scripture: “Whosoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he (Proverbs 16:20). Here’s the deal, when we trust God with our life, and when we abide in Christ, live in Christ, we get so much more than happiness, we get peace, joy, wisdom, direction, love, and I don’t know about you, all those things make me happy. If we look up the word, joy in Webster’s dictionary, it says, “to be happy.”

 

Producer, host, reporter and add “author” to the endless list. What’s next on the horizon for Kristi Watts? When should we expect to see Talk Yourself Happy in stores?

 

The book comes out January 3rd and there’s a whole line up of shows that I’ll be on, doing a host of interviews which I’m so excited about. I also do women’s conferences. One day, I might be back on television, if that’s what the Lord wants. Here’s the truth beyond the truth, my heart is just to encourage and love people right where they are. To get people to know who God is, not based upon who I tell them He is. But for them to know who He is for themselves, and know the Person of God in Jesus Christ and the Power of God through the Holy Spirit.

 

Kristi Watts website: http://www.kristiwattsministries.com


Wisdom for Wednesdays - Who's Watching

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God...1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
 
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On Monday, a phenomenon not seen in almost 100 years occurred.  A coast to coast eclipse traveled throughout the United States.  This phenomenon was visible as a partial eclipse in all 50 states and as a total eclipse from a 70 mile wide sliver of 14 states.
 
A CNN Poll predicted that at least 161 million people would be watching.  There were also predictions that 2 to 7 million people would drive to the path of totality to view it in full splendor.  NASA reported that 4.4 million people watched its live stream- making it the most viewed event in the agency's history.

 

Schools were closed.  Parents took off work so they could witness this event with their children.    Special glasses were ordered and make-shift devices were created so one could actually look directly at the sun.  Companies made commercials celebrating the grand event.  Businesses offered discounts to celebrate this rare celestial display of God's magnificence.
 
If you didn't want to take the day off, you didn't have to.  If you were in the DMV, you only needed to step outside at 2:42 p.m. when the solar eclipse would be at its maximum for our area (81%).

 

I looked at some of the pictures documenting the day and saw  throngs of people heads tilted back- gazing at the sky.

 

 I'm curious.  Among all of the hoopla, ooohs and ahhhs, where did your mind go on Monday?

 

Mine went to the second coming of Christ.

 

Like the eclipse- His coming has been predicted.  We don't have the exact day and time; but we know He's coming back.    Unfortunately, I don't see the energy and excitement around this occasion.  I don't notice the positive changes in behavior to prepare for this celestial occurrence. Many parents will take off to cheer their kids in sporting events, school plays, and other competitions- but give them a pass on going to church.  This suggest more of a concern for temporary accolades instead of permanent security.

 

I gotta admit.  I don't see the same type of  "promotion" around this heavenly event.  The church- whose business is spreading the gospel and helping to redeem the lost- seems to be occupied with "other stuff" right now.  Not every church...but as a collective, we seem consumed by who's politically on the right or left?  Has Jesus left the White House or is He just arriving?    How much should one sow in order to reap a financial harvest?  You don't hear too much about the rapture, and the need to clothe oneself in righteousness in order to see the Son.

 

Our lives - and our eyes- have become consumed by the media:  digital, social, and print. 

 

Yet, the heavens are still declaring a phenomenon never before witnessed by man. 

 

Who's watching?
 
Best blessings-
Sabrina
Sabrina

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

@HisLadyMelanie

 


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.

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    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 GinaNeely.com.


Moms Making a Difference - Rev. Terri Ofori

Rev. Terri Ofori hails from the ‘City of Brotherly Love’ and this home town heroine shows the love of Jesus wherever she goes. This Harvard and Princeton graduate serves as the Chaplain at Bloomfield College in New Jersey.  With all her awards, degrees and accolades this power house is most loved by her beautiful son, Noah.

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She is a sought after Clergywoman who speaks all over the globe; bringing the new life of the Holy Spirit to once dead churches. Terri is gifted with the ability to bring the world of Pentecostal and Presbyterian congregations together; oftentimes bridging the racial divides that separate us on any given Sunday morning. Together with her husband, Dr. David Ofori, they serve the at risk youth in New York City as co-directors on Pan African Youth Academy.

 

Here's Terri singing Blessed Assurance and giving her testimony.  Click here.

 


Women of Faith – Loved – The Farewell Tour 2015

Several women’s ministries began in the 90s, yet nothing creates quite a storm in and outside of the Christian world like the Women of Faith (WOF) conferences. It is the largest inspirational event for women to date.

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Created in 1996 by Steve Arterburn, it started with four original speakers, Barbara Johnson, Patsy Claimont, Luci Swindoll, and Marilyn Meberg. The non-denominational conference tours to a different part of the country once a year. Each event often boasts a bevy of speakers, mostly Christian, who would stand before a maxed out arena of hundreds of thousands of women. They share their compelling life stories and how they overcame sufferings through practical applications of biblical solutions. The infusion of humor into what oftentimes are most harrowing stories, works like magic to lighten the blows. The weekend-long events are usually packed with live musical and theatrical performances by contemporary Christian artists such as eventual regulars, singer Sandi Patti and actress, Nicole Johnson.

As a final curtain call, the Women of Faith Conferences bring the event, titled, "Women of Faith – Loved – The Farewell Tour 2015," to over 40 cinemas across the United States and Canada in the very first effort of its kind in its 20 year history. Using the genre and style of part-documentary and part-live stage performances, Women of Faith takes the audience through its 20-year journey of touching lives of millions of women through their tours. The film opens with an introduction by the pint-sized bags of humor in the group, Patsy Claimont. The rest of the film is narrated by Mary Graham who, although battling health challenges of her own, displayed a level of grace worth emulating. I appreciate the fact that the individual messages by the speakers and performers, while not aggressively evangelist, are primarily Bible-based. Mary Graham describes the typical audience as being a blend of Christians and non-Christians. The stories presented by the speakers are done with full transparency and cover a wide range of topics. A presentation on mental illness was very masterfully given by Sheila Walsh, who later became part of the group of resident speakers, along with Thelma Wells. Some of the other topics tackled are divorce, homosexuality and Alzheimer’s disease. All these stories are relatable and offer some form of inspiration and comfort. The messages are often quite hard to digest but this is where infusing humor seems to work. In a particular segment dealing with cancer and breast exams, Barbara Johnson sets the auditorium alight in true Barbara style, “You can prepare for a mammogram right now, at home, using these simple exercises,” she quips. “Exercise one, refrigerate two bookends overnight. Lay one of your breasts between the two bookends…and SMASH the bookends together as hard as you can.” In response, the entire auditorium roars with laughter.

It is quite refreshing that clips of the two-decades long conferences now put to film, can be seen by women who perhaps, over the years, could not make it to any of the events. The clips do occasionally feel like lightening flash. Clips could conceivably have more of an impact if left to run a little longer on purpose. Nevertheless, this film captures the essence and full story of the Women of Faith Conference, but more importantly, the core message of hope and faith in Christ Jesus.

To visit the women of Faith website: http://www.womenoffaith.com

 

Writer: Frances Butler


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Moms Making a Difference - Lauretta Pierce - “IF GOD CAN USE A COOKIE…”

LAURETTA PIERCE – “IF GOD CAN USE A COOKIE…”

Lauretta Pierce is the CEO and founder of Covenant Cookies, Inc., based in Atlanta, Georgia. She is a mother, an advocate for domestic violence, an author, speaker, and a philanthropist.

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Lauretta’s backstory is anything but glamorous or picture perfect. Yet, out of her harrowing life experience came the idea for her thriving ministry and business. Covenant Cookies are gourmet fortune cookies filled with Scriptures and uplifting messages. An idea she says God gave to her at the lowest point in her life.

As a teenager, Lauretta suffered a stroke and endured ferocious domestic violence in her relationship. One incident was so horrifying that the skin on one side of her face was literally peeled off and she was left paralyzed for a year. After giving her life to Christ, things went from bad to worse; as her only daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor, which left her blind and wheelchair-bound. Due to taking much needed time off to attend her daughter’s radiation treatments and regular hospital visits, she was soon fired from her job and lost her home.

During this time Lauretta began to desperately seek after God and the things of God. She would literally sprawl out before Him and stay in His Word morning, noon and night. Lauretta was dyslexic and could not read the Bible chronologically. Often, she would end up mixing up all her reading and this often left her confused. The way she was able to read the Bible was to target and write down specific Scriptures, which spoke particularly to her circumstances. Although hope for her daughter’s recovery seemed so dismal that it appeared death was near, Lauretta persistently prayed the Scriptures on healing over her daughter. Within months, her daughter recovered fully and was admitted into university in Atlanta. Lauretta relocated with her.

Lauretta received divine inspiration and all Scriptures she had previously written on sheets of paper and napkins during her periods of adversity, are now inserted in fortune cookies to inspire and encourage people all over the world. Covenant Cookies, which now operates two manufacturing plants based in Atlanta Georgia, and California, are available in various delightful flavors and stunning designs. She has committed her life to advocating for homeless women and victims of domestic violence. This year, Lauretta received her Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters. Her philanthropy, advocacy work and business, have earned her several awards, which include but are not limited to, ‘One Smart Cookie Award’, ‘Dr. Martin Luther King Award’, and ABC television ‘Person of the Week’ award. She currently shares her amazing testimony

Lauretta is a living testimony of the goodness, mercy and grace of God. She shares her amazing testament wherever she goes and has recently been on Trinity broadcasting Network (TBN) and Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). Her mission is to inspire the world – one cookie at a time.

“If God can use a Cookie to change such a broken life as mine, think of what God can do for you,” says Lauretta.

Watch her testimony on the 700 CLUB. Click here.

Written by, Frances Butler

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Moms Making a Difference - Maria Gonzales Jackson

Mrs. Maria Gonzales-Jackson is a hometown heroine. This pint sized powerhouse is a force to reckon with.  She is full of the WORD and full of God's grace.

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Maria volunteers regularly at her local house of worship and over the years has spent countless hours at the Laurel Pregnancy Center where she offered sound counsel to women struggling with their pregnancy.

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Maria is a model mother to her two daughters and a faithful prayer support to several ministries. Watch the girls play the flute. Click here.

 


The Meaning of the Resurrection

Watch Jesus bring life to our dead situations…

Easter is a major Christian holiday for millions of Christians that celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Good Friday remembers the crucifixion and death of Christ, while Easter Sunday remembers His life and power in the resurrection.

As we celebrate Easter this year, ask yourself, what does this Easter Resurrection mean to you? Do we truly understand the meaning of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in our lives? Christ rose from the dead and we no longer have to fear death because Christ has the victory over it.  The Resurrection should be an important foundation of our faith. The Bible tells us that God loves us so much that he sent his only Son to grant us salvation through him.

This salvation in Jesus’ death and resurrection did not only redeem us in death, but also in life. His sacrifice gave us life and life more abundantly. The Resurrection power shouldn’t be a moment we ultimately are waiting for after we die. The promise of God’s life giving power is for us now and who we are in Christ.

Simply, allow this Easter Resurrection to remind you that the victory is won.

Anyone in a fight or battle, wants to see the victory.  Some who go into the battle may not know if they are going to win or lose. Jesus is a prime example of someone in battle for his life and hoping God allows him to not go through it. Jesus would rather not experience the battle and skip to the victory. In Jesus’ case,  he believed he had the victory, but it didn’t prevent him from experiencing the battle. Feeling alone and hopeless, like many of us, he was extremely sorrowful and troubled that he had to go through a painful trial, but in order to be victorious, he had to persevere.

 

Do you have a dead situation in your life that needs the Resurrection power of Jesus Christ? Are you in a season where you feel abandoned by God and you don’t see any life in sight? Remember, this may be your Gethsemane and you won’t experience the Resurrection power until you go through the process.

For our present troubles are small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 2 Corinthians 4:17 NLT

Through the power of our resurrected Lord, there is glory after our troubles and life in our dead situations. Jesus is no longer on the cross or in the grave, but He is risen. He did this once and for all and didn’t just manifest itself on Easter Sunday but it is available to us consistently.

 

Prayer:

Lord strengthen my faith in you to resurrect my dead situations in my life and to have faith as Martha when she proclaimed, I know you can raise Lazarus from the grave. Therefore, I know you can raise my ______________ and bring new life to my situation.

I pray you would help my faith rise to such a level that the things that need to die to be re-birthed wont discourage and hinder me. I want my faith to rise to a level to enhance my relationship with YOU.

I will not only remember the sacrifice you made but the faith YOU had while sin abused and killed dreams and hopes for mankind. When the tribulation ends, your power is able to resurrect them again and it will produce a glory that will be magnificent. So it will be with me. In Jesus name...Amen.

 

Feel free to comment and let us know how you filled in the blank.

Let's pray for one another.

 

Writer: Rev. Melanie M. Thigpen

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