A FRESH YES

pic of expired labelsCleaning out my pantry, I noticed a lot of things in my stock pile has expired.  The reason for this is because, when I purchased these items, based on the super deal or coupon I had, the excitement of the savings caused me to get more than what I would have, if there was no sale or savings.  Sometimes, what this looks like is a storage of a bulk load of salad dressings, can goods, chips, crackers, etc.  What then happens is, days turn into months, the months turn into a year or years and because of my stock, things expire- lose its freshness or cease to be valid or fresh, become out of date, no longer useable, old, not good, you get where I’m going, right. 

As the year of 2018 made its exit.  It too has expired.  Sure we may have experienced some fun moments, but there is a great majority of us, that have had some major horrific experiences.  Not just one year, but years of painful moments, trials and tribulations.  As we enter into a new year, my goal is to help us approach it and go through it, by offering a word of encouragement and hope. 

Recently, I was speaking with another sister in Christ and I began to share my WALK with her.  I explained my fears, my heartbreaks, my rebellious moments and all.  I’ve come to realize that following God is not summed up with my first answer to the call.  That first “yes” only afforded me many more opportunities, in which I would have to answer “Yes.”  Let me explain.  My “yes” to salvation was just for that.  Then I had to answer, “Yes” to the call of ministry, which opened up other opportunities for more Yes’.   I had to say “Yes” to be a Pastor and now, I find myself in another place, where God is requiring another “Yes” from me!   Got it?  Anyhoo… from that conversation, I found myself speaking to another person about going back to their old life, and another one, tired of standing and another one beat up from the journey.  These stories are filled with pain, doubt, regret, disappointment in their self and God.  Most of these women are filled with pain because they feel like they have failed as a Christian; failed as a minister; failed God.   Anybody else here?  I understand and I want to share another person’s journey with you, in which I pray give you what you need to claim your victory and take your joy back.

Peter was one of Jesus’ beloved disciples that was full of zeal, daring, fearless and full of faith.  I mean, out of all the disciples, he had some amazing experiences.  He walked on water!!!  Out of all the disciples, he was the first one that received the revelation of who Jesus really was, and he also was the only one that professed his undying love for Christ, when he utter the words, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.”- Luke 22:33  These are the words of a person who is sold out, dedicated and committed, on fire, full of life and energy, bold and fearless, focused and more.  Does this sound like you, at least, at one time on this journey?   As the story continues, we find this same Peter, who was once fresh and vibrant, defeated at his own denial of knowing Christ, because of fear and the pressures of life.  Can you relate?

We all start out fresh, full of life, faith,  hope, dreams, goals, expectations and somewhere along the way, the days turn into months, and the months turn into years and life happens, loss happens, dreams fade, faith and hope dwindles, goals seem harder to reach, and when we look at ourselves, we realize we have lost our freshness.  Our YES, is no longer as solid or as strong as it first was.  Instead of our Yes, being a sure Yes, it has turned into “a maybe or a sometimes” or for some of us, just like Peter, “No, I don’t know Jesus; No, I don’t trust Jesus; No, I don’t (whatever that is) anymore!”

The good news is, you’re only one YES away from turning things around.  All God needs is a fresh- a new, not tainted, not soiled or spoiled, never heard before, YES!  A FRESH YES!  Let’s see what this looks like.

John’s account of Peter’s experience is so inspiring because, it gives hope to all who have ever fell, lost hope, lost faith, denied the power of God or even knowing Him.  Here’s what happened…After Peter’s denial, Jesus was indeed crucified, buried and resurrected, just as He had prophesied.  After the resurrection, Jesus finds Peter back at the same place he found him the first time; back fishing. (John 21) How many of you have went backwards or back to things or places that Jesus pulled you out of.  Then this is going to bless you.

Jesus has a conversation with Peter and asks, “Peter, do you love me?” and Peter responded with a YES!  At this moment, in the conversation, Jesus didn’t recall the mess up, the failure, the weakness, the lack of faith, the inability to stand or anything like that.  None of that didn’t matter.  It was in the past.  It was old news.   All He wanted to know at this very moment, “Do you love me?”   In the moment that Peter could say the words Yes, this was a profound restoring moment.  Peter’s “Yes” replaced the old, expired “Yes.”  No matter what he did or didn’t do, is no longer of importance today.  All that matters is today.  A fresh yes is sweet repentance.  A fresh yes replaces the expired, damaged, flawed and expired.  And behold…all things are new.  You no longer work from the dry place, but from a fresh and renewed place.  Even your regrets and disappointments are expired, and just like with all expired things, those things are discarded and no longer valid.  God is no longer concerned with those things.  The only thing that matters today is your answer to the question, “Do you love me?”  “For if you love me, you will do (whatever I have asked of you).  I’m not worried about the failures, the mistakes, the weak moments, and the low moments.  All that matter is NOW,” says The Lord!

So now to answer the question, that requires a fresh yes.   For some of us, A Fresh Yes, will be restoration.  For some of us, it’s the next “Yes” for the next shift, level or elevation.  The word “Yes” is simply agreement coupled with action.  This one word holds the key to your future and your purpose.  It releases movement, progress, growth and so much more into your life.  You are not bound by the past, only the refusal to give Him A Fresh Yes!  Happy New Year!

Blessings,

Pastor Clarissa

THE COST OF ANSWERING MY CALL

DEPRESSEDVery recently, I missed an important event to one of my closest friends. And let me just be honest; I’ve missed a lot of important events. Not intentionally, but none of that matters to the one who’s upset that you didn’t make it…again! I’ve beat myself up about it, and it doesn’t get any easier, cause every missed event reminds me just how much I suck at being a friend.

Now that you know how terrible of a friend I am, let me state my case. I figure, since you too, are a woman in ministry, maybe you can better relate to my struggle. I don’t make excuses for my lack of attendance or participation, but I have to be honest about where I am in this season of my life. So much has changed with in the last 5 years.

When I finally surrendered to the call of pastoring on my life, I had no idea of the type of demands, responsibilities or sacrifices it would require of me and from me. I realize that everyone doesn’t have my struggle, but starting a church from ground zero is not easy. One because, you’re building, while others have already built and are enjoying the luxuries of having everything and everyone in place.

I’ve found that when you’re in a building season, it requires a lot of attention, commitment and sacrifices. For me, being a pastor who doesn’t have everything in place yet, I don’t have the freedoms and flexibilities that I had before saying Yes to God! I don’t get to wake up on Sunday mornings and say, “I don’t feel like going to church today.” No, I have to go even if I don’t feel like it. I don’t get to take many weekend trips out of town that would require me to miss Sundays from church. And one of the hardest realities is—I don’t get to go to all the fun and important events that family and friends are having, at the same time, something is going on within the church. This of course, leaves me feeling like an awful person, and on the other hand, makes a lot of people disappointed and upset with me, which adds another whole stack of weights on my shoulders.

It would be so much easier, if everybody in your life or circle could really see your heart and the struggles you deal with internally, when it comes to choosing your calling and your assignment first. Even though it hurts, I’m learning to accept some real truths about myself and my situation. Here’s a couple…

These are my truths-

1. I am not as available as I use to be. I have way more responsibilities and a lot of people demanding my time and attention.

2. My memory is not long term. I will not remember events, birthdays and other important dates without an invite to post up somewhere, and/or seeing it on a calendar. If someone tells me something in passing, more than likely I’m going to forget.

3. I’m just one person. Can’t do it all. Can’t be everywhere.

4. I’m tired of apologizing. (This was just a venting moment. Read it and forget I said it).

Learning how to balance life and ministry is definitely a challenge, but today is not about balance. Today I want to let you know that just because others think you’re wrong or even yourself, for not showing up, you’re not always wrong. As a matter of fact, I want to show you in the word, where you’re probably more right than wrong. It just doesn’t always feel good.

Luke 9: 57-62 NKJV
57 Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.”58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” 61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Here’s what I’m learning more and more, as I walk this journey…

1. The call of God on your life really does cost. Not just money, but sometimes time, family, friends, and rest, just to name a few.

2. Sometimes choosing to follow God will cause you to miss important events with family, friends and others. It’s not on purpose, but it’s your purpose, and others may not understand it, and can I just be honest…sometimes I don’t either. It doesn’t always feel good to be judged by others who have no idea the internal struggles you are already battling, trying to just be obedient to the call of God on your life. There’s a quote that says, “Don’t judge me until you’ve walked in my shoes or lived a day in my life.”

3. Sometimes the call of God will literally make you say “good-bye” to some people. There will be people that you will have to let go, in order to move forward. Your life and theirs are going in two different directions and where you’re going, everybody can’t go and truthfully, don’t want to go.

So ladies…there’s my story; my truth. I’m sure we can use help with balancing life and ministry and I will definitely try harder to be available when I can, but when I can’t, I can’t and I have to be OK with the choice I made to follow Christ.

I pray that my truth has encouraged those of you who struggle with not always being available for others because your ministry and calling requires your full attention and commitment. You’re not heartless. You’re not insensitive or unsupportive. This season of ministry is just a little more demanding of your time and attention. If no one else understands, know that I do.

Blessings,

Pastor Clarissa

 

HEARING FROM GOD

lake 1It’s been officially two months since I last blogged.  I started typing several times, but just couldn’t seem to complete a submission.  Writing for me is not as simple as putting thoughts on paper.  Oh no…it gets really serious at the writing desk, because I want to produce good content and substance.  It is important to me that what I say touch the lives of the reader.  I want you to feel what I felt during my experiences, or at least, somehow relate to what I’m sharing.  So please know that I take this writing thing very serious.  I don’t know what other bloggers do, but I have to read my writings at least five times before I hit publish.  I kid you not!!!  And let’s not even talk about, coming up with a title.  OMG…It gets real ugly sometimes at the writing table!  LOL…

Now that I’ve gotten all that out the way, let’s get to the real content…

On my last blog, I shared with you that I was feeling an uncomfortable tug from the Holy Spirit, requiring more from me.  I gave a good description of what I was feeling, which is the reason I decided to go on a mini sabbatical retreat, and that’s where we left off, so because you are like my best friends, I felt that it would only be fair, that I share my experience with you.  I mean…who goes on away, and not share the details, right?

So here goes…

The day of arrival was pretty normal.  The only thing I did was unpack, eat and chill, before turning into bed.  I woke up around 2 AM and began to pray for every member in my church, as well as my family.  There were some things that were heavy on my heart, and I allowed the Holy Spirit to pray.  I am learning to take full advantage of allowing the Holy Spirit to search the deep places of my heart and pray for what I can’t or know how to put into words.

With the help of the Holy Spirit, I released those people and situations, fully to God.  It was there, in that moment that I found, to fully release something or someone, goes deeper than just saying it.  A full release takes your full soul (mind, will and emotions (another blog, for another day)). 

After a small nap, I arose and began to seek God for what He wanted from me.  As I was bathing, songs that spoke of surrendering, flooded my soul.  As I began to sing the words, “I surrender all.  I surrender all.  All to thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all.” I knew exactly what God wanted from me. 

It’s amazing how ONE word can have such a meaning.  Surrender- to give oneself up, as into the power of another; submit or yield.  This means that I am relinquishing all rights to myself.  I don’t know about y’all, but that’s SCARY to me!  Like really…I’m giving away all my rights.  This is deeper than singing a song or preaching a word.  This is my WHOLE life!  Did y’all hear me…MY WHOLE LIFE!  Yesssss Ladies…this thing is serious for me!

lake 2Anyhoo…back to my day.  After breakfast, I spent some time by the waters.  I talked with God and attempted to read, but the peace was so beautiful, that I just sat, soaking it all in.  After lunch, I spent the remainder of the day, watching a T.D. Jakes sermon series, “Seeds of Greatness” that I took with me.  Although I’ve had it for a couple of years, I hadn’t taken the time to watch the full series.  Thinking back on it now, it probably wasn’t meant for me to listen to it, until this moment.  On this day, it was like rhema!  It was speaking directly to me, for this season.  I knew I had heard from God, and I was clear on what He needed and wanted from me. 

Now the funny thing about this was– I went there expecting God to shonuff speak to me.  I had a clean notebook and everything, however, He only gave me one word, but that one word, has so much meat and so much meaning.  I’ve learned– one word from God, can have more meaning, than 1,000 words from man.  So don’t disregard small talk coming from God.

Well, I was at the end of my little getaway, and although short, I got what I needed.  After my final night of rest, I returned home with a new mindset, for life and for ministry.  I know that I must surrender, for it is there, God will do great things and get His glory! 

This word —SURRENDER, has become my theme for the year!  When I find myself struggling with a situation, I remember to surrender.  When I find myself wanting to give up, I remember to surrender.  When I find myself trying to hold onto things and people, God is moving out of my life, I remember to surrender.  When I find myself afraid of moving forward or up against something that seems too big for me, I remember to surrender. 

2018 is my year of surrender!  What about you?

Blessings,

Pastor Clarissa

WHAT MORE CAN I GIVE

empty cupHave you ever felt like the Lord wanted more from you, but you didn’t have more to give?  Like…where is the “more” going to come from?  For me, I often feel overwhelmed as it is, and yet, He wants more!

I have been pastoring for three years, and within that time, I have attempted to do all that I felt God wanted me to do, along with be a mom, a wife and a friend to people who depend on me greatly, and I just don’t have any more to give at this moment.  No matter how much I say this, it doesn’t seem like God is listening to me.  No matter how hard I try to resist and ignore this pull, the tugs continue to get stronger and stronger.  Don’t get me wrong…I know He is stronger than I am, but I still find myself holding onto the rope of “His will versus my will” and not fully surrendering.  Maybe a part of me doesn’t know how to fully surrender at this new place.  I mean…what does that look like really? 

I vision myself holding onto this rope.  I see me on one end and God on the other.  He’s pulling one way and I’m pulling the opposite way.  It looks like we’re in a game of tug-of-war, trying to prove who’s stronger.   Again, I know He’s stronger than I am.  My strength is no match against His, yet, at certain times, I find myself wrestling with God, as Jacob did in the book of Genesis, chapter 32.  In these moments, I find myself not wanting to give in to God fully.  Like really… I don’t have any more to give!  I’m almost on E!  I’m tired and overwhelmed, and sometimes, if I can be honest, I’m a little weary!    Nevertheless, no matter how much I resist the tugs and pulls, He doesn’t stop calling.  He doesn’t let me rest.  He will not give up! 

What I’ve found to be true is—the Holy Spirit is very persistent in His work!  He does not give up easily, because His desire is to accomplish the purpose of the Father through us.  That is why He keeps calling us!  That is why He won’t let us rest!  That is why He makes us uncomfortable!  That is why He keeps tugging at our hearts!  (Hands lifted in a praise of thanks!)

He’s saying to me (and maybe to you)… “I know you’re tired, but I want to fill you with MORE!  I have MORE to say, MORE to show you, MORE to give you, MORE to do in you and through you, MORE to do for you!  Come to me those of you who are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest, but in the rest, I will restore, revive and refill you with MORE!  It is after I fill you with MORE, that you will have MORE to give!  Let me fill you up!”

Sometimes we don’t give in right away.  Sometimes it takes us months, and even years.  Sometimes we are like Jonah, and run first, but the Spirit of God is still at work; yet calling, yet pulling and tugging at our hearts, until we eventually give in.

As I give in, to the tugs (the drawing of The Holy Spirit), I allow myself to slowly be pulled in His direction!  I’m not sure what’s next, but I know, in order for me to accomplish all that He is requiring of me, I NEED MORE!  More of Him and less of me!  More of His guidance!  More of His anointing!  More of His power!  More understanding!  More clarity!  I NEED MORE!  Anybody else?

As I prepare to release this blog, I have made plans (with permission/agreement from my husband) to take a mini spiritual sabbatical retreat.  I’m removing myself for a couple of days, to unplug from everyone and everything (almost), just to focus on and spend time with God, for restoration, revival and direction for the church and ME!  I’m going to allow Him to fill me up with MORE!  I want to encourage you ladies, to start taking some dedicated time, just to seek God!  It doesn’t have to be a week or a month, but whatever time you can find, to go away, unplug and withdraw (separate and remove yourself) from others, so that you can withdraw (pull from or take away, in order to add something of value) from God!

Heavenly Father, I thank you for allowing me to share with my sisters today.  I pray the words that they have read, have been a real blessing to them in this season.  I pray for every woman who may find themselves in a tug-of-war challenge with you, because of the overwhelming weight of the call and assignments on their life.  May we recognize when you are calling us to MORE, to give us MORE, and may we always be responsive and receptive and surrender!  Thank you for being patient with us when we don’t respond correctly, yet continuing to be persistent in your work within us.  Thank you for not giving up on us.  I pray for every woman who is running on empty, and may be weary.  I pray she surrender to the pulls and tugs that she fill, so that you may fill her up with MORE!  Give us more God!  We want more!  More of you and all that you have for us!  We receive it now, in Jesus Name!  Amen

Blessings,

Pastor Clarissa

GOD IS FOR ME

ALOH ChurchLast week I attended a meeting with our current landlord, to discuss A Light of Hope’s future as a tenant.  In order for you to get a clear understanding of this message, I must share with you the history of this relationship between the landlord and The Hope.

Around March 2016, I heard the Lord say to me “LOOK.”  We were currently renting a small conference room at a hotel on a weekly basis, and as the management company changed, so did the prices.  When I heard the one word instruction, I knew God was directing me to look for a more permanent space to rent, and without directions on where to look, I just began riding all over Pooler, GA. (this was the area where we were and where I chose to launch the ministry).

I searched for days and weeks, and one day, I decided to call two locations.  To my surprise, BOTH locations told me NO.  They both had reasons as to why they didn’t want to rent to a church.  At first I felt a little disappointed and discouraged, but I had a little pep talk with myself and declared that their No’s, was not the final answer, and it only meant that God had something better for The Hope!  Needless to say, that same night, someone suggested I go check out this location in Guyton, GA.  My first response was a defensive no because, it was not the area that I wanted to be in.  (This is another blog for another time, but for now…..)

The next morning, I felt a strong pull to go look at the suggested location.  It was nice.  It was huge.  It was simply beautiful, and by the look of things, it was totally out of our budget.  When I say out of our budget, I’m seriously talking outside of our budget.  On average, we had about 10 active members, and not all were paying tithes consistently.  

As I sat in the parking lot of this available space, I fought with myself, whether I should call the number listed on the sign in the window.  I took a picture of the sign and took an emotional drive to work.  I was conflicted in my spirit, because although I knew this was not where I wanted to be, I could feel that the spirit was in total disagreement with me (my wants, my ideas, my will). 

Later that day, I called and spoke with the owner, and he confirmed what I already knew:  WE COULD NOT AFFORD THIS SPACE!  But the next thing out his mouth was, “Well come on by and view the place, and let’s see what we can work out.  Just have faith.” Against my will, I went.  I say against my will because, I personally did not want to go view this place, but there was a greater pull from within that kept pressing me to go.

When I arrived to view the place, my husband and a few other members were already there waiting on me.  I had shared with them my plans and asked them to join me on this visit.  The landlord was so friendly and welcoming.  He gave us a tour and then turned to me and offered to allow us to rent the space for less than a fourth, of the actual rental price.  We’re not talking small dollars here.  I mean, this place is renting for almost $5,000, but he’s handing it over to us for merely pennies.  Can somebody say- GOD WILL FINANCE HIS VISION!

Now, let me finish telling you the story…

After the landlord told us how much he would let us rent the space for, he also offered to give us the first 2 months free and this agreement was for a year, at which, we would meet again to discuss the next steps.  I agreed, knowing that God was indeed in the midst of this transaction. 

After about a year and a half, I finally received a letter that he wanted to meet with me to discuss my goals ,and his, for the New Year.  I’m not even going to lie, I was a little worried.  I tried to figure out a way to offer him an increase in rent, but the reality of things are—I couldn’t.  I had no financial room to offer him more!  I stressed and prayed and there was nothing I could do but TRUST GOD with this matter!

The day of the meeting came and although I was a little nervous, I was confident that God was in control.  (You know, the unknown can be a scary, or shall I say an uncomfortable place sometimes.)  I walked in and sat at the table.  We started with small talk and then the business talk.  I listened attentively to all he had to say, and in the end, I left there still blessed by this heart and hand of this man.  For the rest of the day, I reflected on the meeting and I would love to share with you some of the things I gained from a leadership perspective.

What I learned from the meeting was:

1.     GOD HAS BEEN AND IS STILL FOR ME– From the beginning of conception of my life and this ministry, and all the way up to now, God has been with me and for me.  He has carried me and taught me many things.  Even through painful situations, I’ve learned that God was for me and all things have been and is still working together for my good!  Know that God is for you!   

2.     GOD WILL FINANCE HIS WORK.-  When we first walked into the building (current worship location), I knew we couldn’t afford it then, and as of this day, we still can’t afford it, BUT GOD!  There is NO mistaken it.  GOD IS DOING THIS!  God is truly financing this ministry!  It may be cliché, but know that God will finance His business.  If He has called you to do something, He will provide for it!  He always have people in place to fund and do his work! 

3.     GOD HAS EXTENDED GRACE AND SPACE TO US.-  I realized that this place, although beautiful in size and structure, is only temporary.  It was never meant to be permanent.  It’s only borrowed space.  God has instructed the landlord to practically allow us to use this space for a specific purpose.  My job is to seek Him and fulfill the purpose, for which He has sent us there.  There are many instances in the Bible where God used other people’s belongings to fulfill His purpose.  The stable for where Jesus was born.  The donkey he rode on into Jerusalem.  The tomb He was buried in and more.  All these things belonged to someone else, but was used temporarily for a specific purpose.  So when time is up, I need to have fulfilled the purpose during the allotted time, and be ready to move, at the appointed time!   My job is simply to capitalize on the moment NOW!  And seek Him daily for the next instructions! 

4.     GET READY! GET READY! GET READY!-  Recognizing what God is doing, I see now that I need to get ready for the work in the here and now, and also prepare for the shift, cause there is definitely going to be a shift!  This is a season of prayer and listening.  Pay attention to all He instructs.  God is getting ready to do some amazing things and WE… His people…His women… need to get ready! 

I pray that my recent experience has been a blessing and a lesson to you.  You may not be in search of a space to rent, but whatever you need from God in this season, know that He is with you and for you.  You don’t have to stress about God’s business, just worry about yours.  God will take care of His.  He has so many people in His directory that He can call on when He needs something for His ministry.  Be it money, a building, a stable, donkey or a tomb, He always has someone in place.  Last but not least, GET READY LADIES!  Be prepared for the next shift!

Blessings,

Pastor Clarissa

GUARD THY HEART

guardyourheart1I imagine that men are just like women when it comes to matters of the heart, or maybe not.  What I do know is- the heart is like a treasure chest and everything that we go through- every experience, every struggle, every heartbreak, every hurtful word and more, goes in there, and our responses to life and people, oftentimes comes from those things hidden within.  As I grew more in the things of God, I remember reading a scripture that allowed me to understand how valuable the heart was, especially now, as I lead others in the Kingdom of God!

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. – Proverbs 4:23  

This scripture rings more true to me now more than ever. Let me explain.  I pastored a woman for almost three years, who although came to church and paid her tithes, she had a problem with submission and correction. There were several occasions where she had totally disrespected me with her words and tone, but I was careful not to react to her behaviors, because I didn’t want to, one- push her out the door (remember, we have a small ministry, so I didn’t want to subtract from our already small community), and two- I didn’t want to possibly scar her with my words.  One thing I was always sure of was- anybody in the church, belonged to God, and I didn’t want to be in any trouble with God, about His people.

There are so many things that you have to take in consideration when leading others.  Everybody doesn’t come from the same culture or background.  Everybody doesn’t think the same way or do things the same way.  Everybody doesn’t come from a church background, or better yet, may have never sat under the leadership of a woman before.  For me and this particular person, I think it was a mixture of all the previously stated and more.  Another thing I was sure of was- it was my responsibility to assist with her spiritual growth, especially since she had expressed to me that God was calling her into ministry.  It was my responsibility to train her up, to be able to lead in the church, but most of my attempts was taken as me trying to tell her what to do.  To give you a better understanding of what I mean, I will share a couple of instances with you.

One Saturday early afternoon, I received a message letting me know that they would not be at church the next day, because they had a headache.  Here’s our conversation-

Potential Church Leader:  I won’t be at church tomorrow because I have a headache.  

Me:  I’m so sorry to hear you’re not feeling well, and will be praying for you.  I do have a question for you though; how do you know how you will feel tomorrow? 

Potential Church Leader:  Not that I should have to explain myself to you, but I know my body and I know how I’ve felt in times past. 

Me:  I apologize that you feel like I want you to explain yourself to me.  As your pastor, it is my responsibility to help you grow spiritually, as a person and as a leader.  My reason for the question was to make you see that you have pre-forecasted your tomorrow, on today.  We as Christians, should never speak sickness to our future, but healing.  By speaking sickness into your tomorrow, we give sickness the power to remain, but when we speak healing and God’s word, we tell sickness that it is not allowed to stay.  I am challenging you to think higher, because you can’t teach someone else how to operate in faith, less you first learn how to yourself.  I pray you feel better.

There was another incident where I advised them to be careful of what they post on social media about politics.  Why?  Because, although you are free to have your own views and opinions, as a leader, you have to be careful to never offend anyone, especially those who you have the opportunity to minister to and lead to Christ.  You can’t offend people and minister to them too!  This advice was taken as me trying to censor them, which was farthest from the truth.

The last time was a lot more offensive and I had to finally let them know that their behavior and disrespect towards me was out of order.   I couldn’t allow her to continue to do her random outbursts of disrespect towards me, because I had always been very careful to never disrespect her.  Furthermore,  after walking with someone for almost three years, we shouldn’t be going around this same mountain of lack of respect and trust, over and over again.  There comes a point, where you will have to trust my intentions, which are never to tell you what to do, censor you or anything of a negative thought, but my actions are simply out of love and passion to help you grow spiritually.  When it comes to being a leader, we must first learn how to follow.  That’s the first lesson!

I did receive apologies, and just as the Word teaches us, I repeatedly forgave.  After a while, their presence was no longer at the church, but they had a strong presence on social media.  There were so many things that aggravated me about their posts, and I found myself growing bitter towards them, and this was not OK! Because I know that we don’t fight against flesh and blood, I realized that the enemy was using the means of social media to taunt and torture me.  After months of debating whether to delete them as a friend, I finally did it!  Instead of allowing myself to be aggravated, tortured and tormented, I chose to resist the devil by stopping his access to me.  *Please note, that I am not calling the person the devil, but the actions that was being displayed for me to see, was a setup by the enemy. 

Now some may disagree with me, but the scripture I started off with, helped me so much.  I had a real clear understanding of what it meant to “guard thy heart” on a whole new level.  I knew the feelings I was feeling toward this person was not of God, and I knew this person had no idea how they were making me feel, but even if they did, it didn’t matter what they were doing; the only thing that mattered was how I responded.  I was accountable for me and it was evident that I needed to fix this issue ASAP. 

I didn’t like what I was feeling and I learned a long time ago, I can’t control what other people do, but I can control what I do.  By deleting this person, I no longer have to see what they post about anything, and what I don’t see, don’t offend or affect me.  My heart is protected from the enemy’s plans to plant seeds of anger and hatred, and those feelings of bitterness are no longer there towards the person.  I love them and I pray for them, which I couldn’t do before, because of what was in my heart. 

Learning to guard your heart will become more and more important to you as you continue to do ministry and lead others.  Being a leader doesn’t exempt us from being hurt, but in my opinion, makes us more vulnerable to the virus of hurt, which means we need to really be on guard, to do all we can, to not allow ungodly seeds to enter and take root.

Our hearts must stay pure, in order to love God’s people the way He does, and to fully operate in His Kingdom.  Be careful of what you allow to enter the gates to your heart, because out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks, and it’s not always goodness.  If you ever find yourself in a place with an affected heart, immediately go to God, who is able to create in you a clean heart and also able to renew a right spirit within you.  

Keep Growing,

Pastor Clarissa

GRACE TO GROW

growing in graceI’ve known it for a while. There’s been signs all over the place. I’ve known that God was requiring more of me as a leader. I’ve known that God wanted me to do more than just stand behind the podium on Sundays, and make sure the rent was paid on time. There’s so much more to pastoring. There’s so much more to ministry. There’s so much more to leadership, yet, it is possible to not know how to move to the next level. That’s why having spiritual leaders and mentors are imperative for your journey. You will always need someone to help you navigate through the journey of becoming a leader.

I’ve come to realize that each year has been a requirement of growth, which, if I’m honest with you and myself, I’m not so sure I obtained. Yes, I survived the past three years, and the ministry is still here, but I recognize that it is only because, in my ignorance, God’s grace covered me.

Year after year, I’ve sensed that He wanted more. I felt… and ignored the signs, the weight and pressure of the drawing that I was feeling. One because, I didn’t feel ready or qualified, and to be honest, I wasn’t ready to lay down my life completely. I mean, we sing songs like- I Give Myself Away (My life is not my own, to you I belong. I give myself, I give myself to you) and Take My Life, but I’m not sure we truly understand the sacrifice. I’m not sure we understand that the cost of leadership is expensive. Well, let me speak for myself; I didn’t understand.

It’s one thing to get a word to share on Sunday, but I wasn’t just responsible for preaching or teaching a word on specific days, I was fully responsible for the life and spiritual destiny of each person that joined this ministry, God had allowed me to oversee. The role of leadership begin to take on a whole new view. What this meant on a small scale was- I had to be willing to sacrifice time that I didn’t want to give up; TV shows that I didn’t want to give up; sleep that I didn’t want to give up and more. On a larger scale it meant, if the people were going to eat, I had to feed them. If they were going to learn, I had to teach them. Like…I am totally responsible, and their lives and destinies, are depending on me to grow, so that I can give them what they need.

The harsh reality is- as much as I didn’t and sometimes, still don’t want to grow, I can’t remain where I was, when I first started. I can’t continue to operate today, as I did, when I first started three years ago. That “probationary” season is over! God, even with all His patience, will not allow me to comfortably, continue to lead His people in that same place.

So here’s what I’ve learned ladies! When there’s a shift taking place in your life, and you have been granted with MORE (responsibility, leadership, finances, business, opportunities, etc.), what you did before, won’t be enough to sustain you at this new level. The types of prayers you prayed, won’t be the same types of prayers you will pray now. The time you spent in prayer and the Word before, won’t be the same amount of time you spend in prayer and the Word now. Nothing can remain the same as before. Your mindset must change, but most importantly, YOU must change! The scripture puts it like this- Much is required from those to whom much is given, for their responsibility is greater.- Luke 12:48 The Living Bible

As you grow, you might find yourself in a place where you want to draw back, but know that your growth is not an option, but a requirement. You can’t be in leadership and not expect to be challenged or to grow, but know that, for every new level, there’s also another level of grace available to carry you through. His grace is sufficient in your beginning stages, and for every new level of growth you reach in your journey.

Pastor Clarissa Johnson