REFlections Interview with Angela Robinson

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If you’ve seen the OWN series Tyler Perry’s The Haves and The Have Nots, you have been introduced to Veronica Harrington aka The Ice Queen. To characterize Veronica as ruthless would be the understatement of the year. In the upcoming promo for the new season (starting on June 30th on OWN), The Ice Queen herself bookends the commercial callously remarking, “When is the devil ever too tired to raise hell?” After hearing those words, I would prefer to forego ever meeting Veronica in person (and keep her in fervent prayer). But, thankfully, I’ve had the honor of meeting and knowing the woman behind the character. Angela Robinson is a gifted artist with a heart for others and their dreams being fulfilled.

In this REFlections interview, let me introduce a woman whose talent is only outmatched by her character, love for the arts and her genuine love towards others. Thank you Angela for taking the time to share your thoughts and insights. For our readers, enjoy!

RF: Ryan Faison | AR: Angela Robinson

RF: How would you describe Angela Robinson in one sentence?

AR: A work in progress. I’m constantly working on myself. I’m a painting that’s not nearly done yet.

RF: I wonder how Veronica “The Ice Queen” Harrington (from The Haves and the Have Nots) would answer that question! Due to the success of this drama on OWN, you are becoming a household name. Do you relate to the character you play in any way?

AR: I definitely can relate. I don’t think it’s possible to play a character that you can’t relate to. I can relate because everyone has their own “stuff”. My character Veronica is walking around with a suitcase full of “stuff”. She has not even begun to unpack yet! I can relate to someone being so controlling and so interested in what people may think to the point of hurting people around them to keep up the facade of perfection. I am not that, but I can relate to people who are exactly that.

 

On Acting: I don’t think it’s possible to play a character that you can’t relate to. – Angela Robinson

 

RF: As a work in progress — the painting still being actualized — what is the one thing, the passion, that wakes you up every morning? 

AR: I’m most passionate about being exactly where God wants me to be and doing what He’s called me to do. I believe what that is — is to encourage people to pursue their dreams and their purpose. This gives me life and wakes me in the morning. I am always thinking of how I can encourage and talk people “off the ledge”. I understand that when we truly walk into what God has destined for us, it doesn’t always look “traditional”, especially traditionally Christian. It’s scary. You may have people talking you out of it. But, you must discern the voice of God and the few people in your life that will encourage you to take the step of faith. I wake up with a passion for people living their fullest life. I think too often we live in fear of rejection, fear of lack, or fear of “will this pay enough?”. Typically, I find my niche in the area of artistic pursuits.

RF: What words of wisdom would you share with those who are driven to pursue their dreams but also need to balance their lives, especially at home? How do you do this Angela?

AR: You have to be intentional. I married an artist (Scott). We get each other. We understand the business. When we first got married, we made a conscious decision not to travel for the first year of our marriage. Sometimes that’s hard because you are looking for that perfect job that may require you to travel in that first year! You have to make that sacrifice. You have to say, “Even if I have to work at a restaurant to make ends meet, I want to invest in my marriage (or home life).” You must lay the foundation. We have a rule in our marriage that we don’t let three weeks go by without seeing each other. You have to be intentional because your family comes first.

RF: How has Scott (your husband) inspired you to reach your dreams and goals?

AR: I couldn’t do what I do without him. He is the wind beneath my wings. We are in this together. Someone asked him recently, “This must be really hard for you with Angela’s success”. Scott was taken aback by the comment because we are one. Our approach is that when the other is doing well, we are doing well. We are one unit. My husband reads lines with me. He helps me memorize my lines. He prays with me before a difficult scene. We are just partners. There is not the attitude of “I’m doing this, you’re doing that.” He’s teaching, he’s acting and he’s very busy himself. We never look at it as separate careers. Our position is what are WE doing next.

 

On Marriage: It’s about what WE are doing next. – Angela Robinson

 

RF: I first met you at Metro Community Church. We were singing together on the worship team unto God. Your passion for God was undeniable. How do you live out your faith in God in your career?

AR: If I were a teacher or waitress, I would use my faith. The same applies to being an actress. It’s an expression of my gift. I studied and trained and I love it. I take it very seriously. In my career, if I played a part where the character is not Christian, some would question and say, “How can you do that?” I respond by simply saying, “That’s not me. I studied and trained so I could diversify and play different, complex and crazy characters.” Living my faith is a walking out.

RF: Does it help to have a boss (Tyler Perry) who has publicly shared his faith in God?

AR: Tremendously. I’ve never experienced that before. I’ve been in this business for a long time and I’ve done theater for so many years. But, I’ve never experienced THAT before. I got a little taste of it when I was in the cast of “The Color Purple” on Broadway and Oprah (Winfrey) was one of our Executive Producers. The ship was run a bit differently because her focus was more on the spiritual side of things. She wasn’t there on a daily basis but had great influence on the show.

With Tyler (Perry), he directs every show (of The Haves and The Have Nots). We are with him on a daily basis. To have a boss who starts everyday with praying is refreshing. We pray together as a cast and crew. When we think about character choices, we always consider from a perspective of faith. We present characters with flaws — they’re not perfect people by a long shot. But, we consider faith in the equation. Christians are watching and we want that represented. Tyler walks out what he talks about.

 

On Tyler: He walks out what he talks about. – Angela Robinson

 

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Tyler Perry’s The Haves and the Have Nots premieres a new season on Tuesday, June 30th at 9 PM ET on OWN (The Oprah Winfrey Network). Angela Robinson plays Veronica Harrington (aka The Ice Queen) | www.oprah.com

 

RF: The rating success of the show is quite overwhelming, especially on a relatively newer network. Did you expect the response to The Haves and The Have Nots? How have you dealt with the “celebrity” and larger platform as a result?

AR: That’s a great question. I teach actors and I always say, “This can’t be about the fame and celebrity. You have to LOVE THE WORK!” I used to boast that I don’t run after fame. I want to be a working actor. And then it happened!! I still to this day and shocked when people come up to me and ask for a photo and say, “Oh my…that’s Veronica!” Ryan, I’ve learned not to go out with my do-rag! You never know who you will run into. I must admit that I’m surprised by the whole celebrity deal.

With the celebrity, God has opened the door to more speaking around the country. I’ve always loved that and appreciative of those doors opening. I tell you — it makes me think all the time. I see why people get addicted to it. I have a greater understanding of why there are those who will do anything not to lose their celebrity because people treat you differently. I’ve said, “Why are they giving me free stuff?” I’ve asked, “Why did I get in and people are still waiting?” I can see how it is an addiction. So, there are those who will take roles that don’t represent them or their values in order to maintain the celebrity. I pray often that I never have that issue. I do see how it can happen. It’s very interesting.

 

On Fame: This can’t be about the fame or celebrity. You have to love the work! – Angela Robinson

 

RF: With the celebrity and the greater platform, what are some causes that you champion?

AR: The Broadway Inspiration Voices. We’ve been together for almost 20 years, comprised of Broadway actors. We have a concert a year and it’s like CHURCH! It’s sometimes the only church some people will ever attend. It’s everyone — Jews, Gentiles, Muslims — to hear the choir. I champion veterans, cancer awareness, and issues I’ve been directly affected by. I’ve had the opportunity to speak at several United Negro College Fund (UNCF) events. I attended a historically black college, so that means a lot to me. All of those things are important to me.

The main thing I echo is that you cannot sit on your dreams. Dreams are from God and are meant to be pursued. “I want to be famous one day” is not a dream. But, if God has put a song in your heart, sing! If God has called you to be a worship leader (like you Ryan), do it! Whatever that is — you cannot allow fear to cripple you. I always say that your life depends on it because your life does depend on it!

RF: Speaking of dreams, Dr. King had a dream. Yet, we see like in the recent Charleston, South Carolina shooting (which was racially motivated), there is a segment of our society that rather live the nightmare of discrimination, violence and division. As an actress and who is a world traveler, how do you respond to these events and offer wisdom for healing?

AR: You mentioned Metro. It is a special place. We prayed early in the morning with the pastor and staff to pray for healing. We believe in prayer. I believe there needs to be intentionality in working toward healing and justice. I am praying for an awakening. Racism does exist — its not in our heads — it does exist. We must acknowledge that and then move forward toward healing. I have been impressed by my white brothers and sisters who have acknowledged the issues and have stepped out to speak out. Hopefully, we can all join in, unify and work together for the common good. For when you have someone who has such hate to kill, my earnest hope is that that these individuals will not be welcome or have any friends because their positions are not embraced.

 

On Charleston, SC Shooting: I’m praying for an awakening. – Angela Robinson

 

RF: Thank you Angela. It has been encouraging to see millions of people around our country and around the world rally for justice and bridging the racial divide. With that said, what are some things that are coming up for Angela (that you are at liberty to share)?

AR: June 30th, The Haves and The Have Nots are coming back! We are excited about TEMPTATION TUESDAYS starting again on June 30th at 9 PM EST on the OWN Network. It is a great season. I’m doing a lot of auditioning as well as serving as the Performance Arts Director at Metro. I’m doing more speaking. Ryan — I’m living my life like it’s golden! (Ryan: Alright, Jill Scott) 

RF: What lasting words would you give that person reading this interview. They are pursuing their dreams (that which is in their control), but they are disappointed, dismayed, and disheartened. They feel like they’re not making forward progress. What would you say to them?

AR: Quitting — is not an option! If you were born to do it, you were born to do it. That doesn’t change because others don’t see it in this moment. You were born to do it. You have to be creative — how to value your time until someone sees it — because they will. When I started working at Metro, I was on the road with The Color Purple for two years. I had been in the business for a while but when I came back, I couldn’t get a job for a whole year. This has never happened. Metro offered me a job and I took it. I was able to do arts and still audition. But, I found something to do in the meantime. After taking the Metro role, doors began to open.

I love Philippians 4 where it says, “I’ve learned to be content in whatever state I’m in.” As artists and individuals-at-large, we must be content where we are because it can be up and down. In this business, you fail more than you win. The key is what you do with the wins. When you are winning, what are you doing with that time? Make use of your time. Keep pursuing and don’t give up because it will be seen eventually. Don’t give up before you get the YES! Hold on to what God promised you and it will come to pass!

 

To Dreamers: Quitting is not an option! – Angela Robinson

 

Angela Robinson Website: http://www.arobinsonartist.com

Angela Robinson Facebook Pagehttps://www.facebook.com/AngelaRobinsons4

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OPRAH IS A REGISTERED TRADEMARK OF HARPO, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © 2015 HARPO PRODUCTIONS, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Read more: http://www.oprah.com/app/the-haves-and-the-have-nots.html#ixzz3dlXBtYkv

 

Bittersweet: The Intersection of Joy and Pain

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Bittersweet

Public Voice of Joy: “I’m so happy for you!!”

Private Voice of Pain: “Lord, did you forget about me?”

Public Voice of Joy: “Look at God opening doors for you!”

Private Voice of Pain: “Yeah..while He is closing doors on me!”

Public Voice of Joy: “God is answering your prayers! Praise God!”

Private Voice of Pain: “Did God even hear my cry last night?”

Have you ever had the voices of joy and pain collide? This collision is the internal intersection of being genuinely happy and grievously sad at the same time. How in the world could you be happy for someone’s blessing and at the same time, question if you’ve been forgotten? You’ll often hear “It’s their season — yours is coming!” or “If God can do it for them, He can do it for you!”. If by any chance you cannot fully embrace these catch phrases, watch out! You may be charged with the villainous term that has seem to catch fire in our culture today: YOU’RE A HATER! 

Despite the accusations or the title we desperately try to run from, here’s the truth: We all have dealt with the intersection of joy and pain called BITTERSWEET. This intersection causes you to pause with joy for how God works in the lives of those around you. But, this intersection also wrestles with the feeling of insignificance, doubt, worry and the nagging feeling of being forgotten. The very thing you’re praying about someone else may receive (and at times, without praying for it). What do you do? 

1. ACKNOWLEDGE Your Stop At the Bittersweet Intersection

Too often, we deny our feelings of being happy for someone and being disappointed about our state of affairs. How could we ever feel that way (we might ask ourselves)? You’re supposed to be mature and rise above it all. How could be so self-centered and selfish? Before cracking down too hard on yourself, the acknowledgment of being disappointed about where you are or what you have is real. Yes, thank God for what He’s provided. But, it doesn’t mean that you are satisfied. The best course of action is to at least acknowledge that your feelings are legitimate. The denial causes greater harm than good.

2. CHOOSE To Follow Sweet Over Bitter

After your acknowledgment of these dual feelings, it’s time to make a choice. Will I wallow in what hasn’t come in my life or will I celebrate what has come in the lives of others? When you genuinely celebrate God’s favor in someone’s life, you are celebrating God! You are acknowledging who He is and His ability to turn situations around. It’s not just about the person — God is watching how you praise Him. Will you be mad or angry because what you prayed for didn’t come your way? Or will you worship God because you had the opportunity to see how He blesses in real time? It’s a choice we all have to make.

I want to encourage you to choose sweet over bitter. The “sweet” road leads you to celebrate others, cast off the victim mentality and gives you a freedom from the burden of despair. But, let me warn you — it will not feel good at first. Our human nature desperately wants to gratify our own desires. Philippians 2:4 tells us:

“Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” (NLT)

When you take the “sweet” road, it drains the frustration of unmet desires and focuses on the sovereignty of God’s timing. It draws your attention on the greater things God is doing around you and the character He is forming in you. It takes a mature person to choose sweet over bitter. It is common to be bitter. Reject the common — be unique. Find joy in another’s blessing!

3. RESIST The Temptation To Compare

The dialogue between the voice of joy and the voice of pain will typically land in the area of comparison. This territory is dangerous because it is comparing your unique story to someone else’s story. It’s considering timelines, scope, and benefits. It doesn’t even fully consider the private struggles, issues and pressure that comes along with blessing. Although the temptation is great to question God of why it appears like He has forgotten you, consider that He always remembers and knows you well (even more than you know you). Could it be that what you’re praying for is not bad but not good right now? Could it be that what you think is a blessing could turn out to be a curse that you cannot bear? Could it be that what appears good on the outside has the potential to drain your life on the inside?

Rising above the temptation to compare aids in your pursuit of genuinely thanking God for others, their provisions and God’s plan for their life. In turn, your response to another’s blessing is the precursor to the blessed responses you will receive when your request is granted.

We live in a time when some people feed off of others hate and jealousy. They find strength in another’s weakness. They take great pleasure in another’s demise in the midst of their success. It’s tragic and shameful. But, you don’t have to contribute to this destructive pattern. Celebrate the Giver of all good things and who He gives it to! Acknowledge where you are, choose the “sweet” road over the bitter one, and on your journey, resist the temptation to compare what you have to another. You will discover a life rich with promise of what’s to come and joy for what has already been done!

Let’s pray for one another that we can love and support each other on this journey of faith. – RF

 

 

Lights vs. The Light

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Lights

 

“Am I not trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” – Apostle Paul, Galatians 1:10 (NIV)

I see it. So do you.

The famous. The celebrities. The popular. The trendy. The next big thing.

If you have a pulse, it’s extremely difficult to avoid the constant barrage of media coverage of those in the public spotlight. The entertainment networks and shows have wall-to-wall coverage of their every move: who is getting married, who is getting divorced, who is having a baby, who is starring in the next big film or ready to release new music. The celebrity industry has proven to be profitable simply by reporting on what well-known people are doing that don’t know you (i.e. TMZ anyone).

Our culture is fascinated by the spotlight of popularity and fame. The growth of social media has only exacerbated the growing trend through a plethora of shares, likes and reposts. Yet, this celebrity culture has swept through the Church as well. Stars are being born and groomed in the pulpits, on the stages of major conferences, and in the latest popular song of worship (and sometimes it makes you question — who are you worshipping?).

God is using this generation to proclaim and declare the Gospel to every corner of the earth and people of all walks of life. I applaud Christ-followers who use their gifts and anointing to reach the celebrity that everyone thinks they know. But, we must clearly differentiate between the lights of men and THE LIGHT of the world!

As I read the Scriptures, I see Jesus as a man and servant who did not coddle to the whims of men but the will of God. As a result, His popularity waned and even those that used to support Him turned their backs on Him. Jesus fully understands the blowing winds of being popular. But, He came to point people to His Father, not His fame. He came to show the world full of darkness that His Light could pierce through the abyss of sin. He came to set you free.

As tempting as it can be, watch out for the lights. The lights of men can shine on you but also shine on your pride. It can suck you into the never-ending cycle of appeasement and compromise. There’s nothing wrong with using your influence to share the Good News, but make it a priority that you are sharing His news, not yours. The comparison game must end. The subtle or direct competition amongst Christ-followers must cease. We have a world desperate for the Gospel message.  This message is not relegated to a sermon or a song, but it’s a life message we can all live.

For it’s THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD that’s needed now more than ever. With the racial tensions in our cities, the catastrophic events around the world and the apathetic disposition binding our generation, we must ask ourselves the question: Are we caught up in the lights or THE LIGHT? When you are caught up in THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD, you have identity, purpose, destiny and significance. Be encouraged to know that God will use you right where you are and He will raise you up at the proper time. But, when you are raised up for purpose, remain humble. Stay connected with Him. When His Light shines through you, you will never have the need for “the spotlight”. It’s already in you. – RF

Amazing Adventure with God!

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Boring. Status Quo. Dull. Redundant. 

The above words should never be used to describe our relationship with God. Too often, followers of Christ seem to be drowning in their own despair, exhibiting signs of a mundane existence. The hope we confess has been silenced by the challenges of life. The joy that is meant to be our strength has alluded too many. Faith in God was never meant to be a chore — but an amazing adventure!

God is an adventurous God! He invites us on the adventure of life to discover unknown territory and to experience unforgettable moments. For God, there’s nothing hazardous or risky for Him. But, for us, this amazing adventure should represent faith-filled risks and taking daring steps into the unknown. In God’s infinite wisdom, He knows that taking an adventure with Him will change our lives forever.

Doesn’t the Scriptures tell us that…

“Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain or what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)

When you make the decision to take an amazing adventure with God, there will be things you do not see. You will not have complete understanding of the terrain. That’s the plan! We are placing our faith in God who is leading us, not placing our faith on what’s ahead of us. In the Gospel of Matthew 14:22-33, if Peter kept his eyes on Jesus rather than the reckoning winds around him, he would have no doubt walked completely on water to Jesus. But, his fear prevented this from happening and Jesus made it clear — you have little faith.

But, here’s the key: Jesus never said Peter didn’t have any faith at all. This experience for Peter was the precursor of him taking even more risks and becoming a Kingdom builder! If you have rejected the adventure before because of fear, anxiety or doubt, take heart! God offers this adventure everyday you wake up and every moment you use your faith to believe in His unrivaled power.

How do you begin to take an adventure with God?

1. Speak words of life! 

Your words will inform how you live. If you keep declaring your life is boring and dull, guess what? It will become boring and dull. Speak words of life over you — that you will prosper, will succeed, and will accomplish the will of God for your life.

2. Pray for new adventures from God!

Seek God for new adventures and new opportunities to grow in your faith. I must caution you though: It may not come the way you expect. It may arrive at your door by way of challenge, crisis or conflict. It may come in an unexpected way. Stay connected to the Jesus — the vine — and receive His strength to accept the challenge.

3. Discover how to give God glory through the unknown!

It can be downright frightening to be led into new opportunities or challenges that you may feel unprepared for. Yet, without faith-filled risks you cannot take ownership of faith-filled rewards. As you use faith to embark on this adventure, always give God glory for the lessons learned and opportunities given.

Jesus was attractive too many not solely on his mastery of doctrine or theology. His appeal was the endless adventure He pursued and accepted. Our attractiveness to others is not about how many times we say Jesus, but live like Him. Take an adventure with God! Go for new dreams and new goals! Don’t hold back because of fear. God has too much in store for you to live in boredom. Your life in God should be marked by the exciting adventure that awaits you. Go for it! – RF

 

The Power of Preparation

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REFPrepare

“Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit.” – Luke 12:35 (NIV)

At an early age, my parents and family instilled in me the importance of being ready. I can recall a time when my mother said to me, “Ryan, we are leaving at “such-and-such” a time. Make sure your lunch is ready.” At the time, I was in elementary school and was grown enough to make my own lunch. However, I had to manage my time because if I waited in the morning, I would be late. One night, I didn’t feel like making my lunch. The next morning, I was rushing and didn’t have time to make it. My mother’s car was the only transportation I had. It was time to go and I was lunch-less. Let’s just say I was on a fast that day! Lesson learned.

But, this lesson of being ready can be translated into the power of preparation.Where you are right now is an opportunity for you to prepare for what’s next. I’ve learned that when you complain, procrastinate or dismiss the season you’re in, you will not be ready for the next. In fact, you may disqualify yourself because of your attitude. I’ve been there. I know the frustration of feeling stuck or stymied. There’s no doubt that we can all get stuck in place without prospects of moving forward. But, in many cases, we may confuse being stuck with getting trained and ready.

Preparation offers the opportunity to go deeper — take a look at your motives, your character and your agenda.

  • Have you taken the time to figure out why you do what you do?
  • Why are you friends with him or her or them?
  • Why did you pursue this career?
  • Why are you spending this much time on the unfulfilling and dismissing your call?
  • Do you have a plan for the next 5, 10, 20, 30 years of your life?
  • Do you know where you are going?

Have you ever been a passenger in a car with a driver that doesn’t know where they are going but act as if they do? It’s the worst!! You wasted time (that you can’t get back), gas (which is going up again) and prompted needless frustration due to the pride of a driver that won’t admit they have no direction. The same applies to life. Even if you make a wrong turn or find yourself at a dead end, it’s not the end of your journey. You made a mistake. We all make mistakes. Turn around and get on the right path!

From a Christian perspective, I have heard many people say “I’m waiting on God.” It may be true. But, waiting doesn’t mean an absence of productivity or fruitfulness. Waiting on God is not a stalling tactic. The power of preparation says that I may be waiting but I’m learning and growing as I wait. Then this way — the opportunities coming my way don’t have to wait on me!

At an early age, I loved to sing. My parents brought me my first microphone with a stand. I sang my heart out on that thing. I kept singing. When I outgrew the microphone stand, I found other ways to sing. But, I didn’t know God was preparing me to sing before Him, to minister to others and one day preach His Word. I wasn’t sure what was ahead but I’m thankful that I knew not to stop preparing.

Wherever you are in life, preparation is waiting on you; it’s power and it’s potential. It’s your choice. But, I would humbly advise you take up serious prep. Your future depends on it. – REF

 

“Where Do We Go From Here?”

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The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial (with the Washington Monument in the foreground); Washington, D.C.

 

This past Saturday, my wife and I had the opportunity to watch “Selma”. Before the trailers for other movies began, my heart was encouraged to witness the diversity in the theater: culturally, ethnically, and generationally. I saw white couples, black couples, white teens, black teens, interracial couples and clergy. Contrary to some media reports, we were about to watch an American movie, not simply a black movie.

After watching “Selma”, I was moved to tears for several reasons:

1. The Activism of Young People

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a young man who was driven by a resolve to see injustice confronted and all Americans be treated equally and fairly under the law. He could have left the leadership reigns to someone else. He could have abandoned the cause for the pursuit of writing and staying in the shadows. He made a different decision. He made a deliberate choice to sacrifice himself, his family, his friends and a “comfortable” life for the inconvenience of real change. But, it was not only Dr. King. The countless young people who joined their parents’ generation to fight the good fight was stunning, convicting, and remarkable in scope.

2. The Engagement of Men and Women of Faith

When the call to march and action was summoned, men and women of faith from across the country and the world joined in the effort. This diverse group of men and women risked their very lives and “reputations” for the sake of the Gospel. Their brave acts served as a template of what faith in action looks like. Coupled with reading historical accounts for years, the visual representation of “Selma” brought the truth of community to life on screen in a poignant manner. They lived what they preached. They lived what they sang. They lived what they taught.

3. The Courage to Move Forward

“Selma” was not only a movie about a march over a bridge for voting rights for all Americans. It was a movie that stirred up the consciousness of the viewer to have the courage to move forward. We cannot deny the strides that have been made in our country and abroad as it relates to racial reconciliation. Nevertheless, we cannot sit on our laurels under the false impression that we don’t have more work to do. But it will take all of us. All of us.

Where Do We Go From Here?

As an American, I’m encouraged to see young people and people of faith coming together with boldness to see our country reconciled. As an young pastor, I feel a deep call of responsibility to contribute to this conversation of “Where Do We Go From Here?”. As an African-American male who is in an interracial marriage with family and friends from all ethnic backgrounds, I also feel the call to discover ways to bridge the racial divide that for too long has hindered progress as an American community. The protests across the nation after the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and others reflect a deep-seeded distrust of authority and across racial lines. Oftentimes, the conversations on social media are purposely presented with talking points by those who support these protests and those who do not.

I’ve already heard the “conversation killers” (aka kill any chance for real talk):

“What else do “these” people want? You’ve got a black president!” 

“All the police are crooked and abuse their authority! You can’t trust them!”

“Where has all your praying got you? We are still in a mess!”

As a man of faith, I pray to God for understanding and wisdom about where do we go from here. Not just me, but we. The concerns of the protestors and the point of view of those who don’t agree both need to be explored by those willing to listen and then respond. A conversation about what to do next doesn’t abandon your principles or views. It provides an outlet to sharpen them and allow for questioning of why you believe what you do. Conversations with the agreement of working toward practical solutions and policy grants our country the privilege of becoming a more perfect union.

Granted, there are extremists who terrorize Americans not with bombs but weapons of vile content and abusive behavior. Unfortunately, they are not willing to engage. But, I challenge those who are willing to sit with those who have the courage to move forward — to start conversations who think differently from you culturally, spiritually and politically. If we are going to seriously answer the question, “Where Do We Go From Here?”, we must have the conversation to figure out if we agree on where “here” is and if we’re willing to take the first step into our collective future.

I believe it’s possible. I know it’s possible. It’s my turn to respond. It’s your turn too. – RF

2015. Your Ceilings Will Become Floors.

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May the words below encourage you as you enter a new year:

No Delay (Thoughts on the Passing of Dr. Myles Munroe)

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"Life is short. Time is fast..."

“Life is short. Time is fast…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You may delay, but time will not. – Benjamin Franklin

I had finished ministering at all four services at my home church, Christ Church in Montclair, New Jersey. Preaching on the topic “The Work of Faith”, it was my heart to see our congregation fully operate in the realm of faith. One of the first points made in the sermon was to admit that you need God’s help. Without it, producing works of faith would be null and void. I was encouraged and deeply stirred by the faith in the room and the desperation for God.

After experiencing faith-filled worship services, I went home to discover a timeline of Facebook messages, posts and unconfirmed reports that Dr. Myles Munroe was killed in a plane crash. At first, I thought it was a hoax. A day earlier, there was a rumor that Macaulay Culkin died (and this was untrue). I’ve learned that social media can be a force for good, but also an instrument of abuse. I was checking reliable sources of news to see if this unbelievable news was accurate.

Then, it continued to stream.

The news was confirmed.

It was true.

Dr. Myles Munroe, his wife and colleagues on a plane from Nassau to Grand Bahama were confirmed dead.

Dr. Munroe was on his way to a global leadership forum that he hosted with prominent leaders and thinkers from around the world. And I thought to myself, “You never know when your life will end in pursuing your purpose.” Dr. Myles Munroe was on a mission to pursue his purpose as he taught others on the value of purpose. Tragically, his life and the life of those he loved and worked with ended right before they were supposed to land safely.

I pause to ask myself and those who read this blog a question: Are you pursuing your purpose in God? If not, why not?

My grandparents from both sides of my family would always say, “Life is short.” When you are young, you may nod in agreement but you don’t take their words with intense reflection. You figure that their comments on the brevity of life is because they are old! But when you begin to age yourself, you recognize that what Benjamin Franklin once said is very true — time will not delay.

Time is on the move. It does not wait until you get “your act together” or “you have all that you need” or “you made all the right decisions.” It just keeps moving. As a result, we may find ourselves reflecting on the question, “Where has the time gone?”

The focus on yesteryear and yesterday takes the focus off of today. We have today to pursue our call. We have today to make a difference in the lives we touch. We have today to seek reconciliation. We have today to love God and love others. Dr. Munroe, his wife, and the passengers on the ill-fated flight pursued their purpose and now rests in the blessed peace of the Author of purpose and life.

Whatever has been holding you back, keeping you arrested in thought-only mode and not action — it is time to move. No delay. No delay. – RF

Thoughts on Mark Driscoll’s Resignation from Mars Hill

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Mark Driscoll

The late breaking news today and trending on Facebook is the resignation of elder and preaching/founding pastor of Mars Hill Church, Mark Driscoll. Over the course of several months, criticism and allegations have been levied against Mark leading to a leave of absence and eventually his resignation. The details of the events and allegations are available online. However, I want to use this post to discuss the Church and our response as followers of Jesus.

No one should glory or revel in the decision Mark and Grace Driscoll made. This is not the time for celebration but contemplation and prayer. If we take a deep look at our lives, we could potentially find ourselves in a place of accusation and unrelenting criticism due to our behavior, attitude, language and disposition. As I read Mark’s letter and Mars Hill Church’s response, it was (and continues to be) a sobering time of checking how we live, work, and treat one another.

It’s my prayer that this will cause The Church to pray!

Pray for the Mars Hill Church family, its board of elders and accountability, pastors, and the Driscoll family during this transition time.

Pray for those who were affected by any inappropriate or harsh words from Mark and/or any leader;

Pray for the healing and restoration of dividing factions for the sake of the Gospel and God’s glory.

I was recently at the Festival of Praise concert featuring Fred Hammond and Donnie McClurkin. Between songs, Fred and Donnie shared their personal testimonies of overcoming. Donnie shared a powerful statement: “This is not the time for entertainment. This is the time for The Church to pray!” My sentiments exactly. This is not the time for The Church to get wrapped up in the latest entertaining craze or trend. This is the time for The Church to rise up in prayer in faith that God will restore every broken piece and every wounded heart.

“..no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the LORD.” – Isaiah 54:17

News Source: https://marshill.com/2014/10/15/pastor-mark-driscolls-resignation

Watching The Parade (…While Waiting For Your Promises)

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What do you do when others receive what you have been desperately waiting for?

It’s a question I receive quite often and have contemplated myself from time to time. It’s similar to watching a parade.

The massive floats and colorful banners are on display.

The procession of bands play with precision and on beat.

The grand marshals and celebrants wave boldly to those watching.

And you are watching all of this activity on the sidelines.

The same scenario can be likened to waiting for what God has promised you. This process would be manageable if you only were experiencing the stretching of preparation. But, quite often, the process of waiting extends much farther and wider than we tend to admit. Many times, God will allow you to be exposed to the success, achievements and accomplishments of others — just to see how you will respond. It’s like watching the parade go by.

I’ve never seen a parade that doesn’t draw attention and crowds. Other streets are blocked off in order for the parade to go on uninterrupted. You’ll hear the crowds cheer the participants of the parade with great enthusiasm. When others are blessed with opportunities and God’s promises for them coming to pass, it should be celebrated! God answered prayers! God honored the wait! In the midst of the celebration, has the question ever rose up in your heart: “God…how long must I wait?” or “When is it my turn?” or “I know I shouldn’t feel this way, but have you ignored me?”

If the truth be told, these questions wrestle with our faith from time to time. Doubt creeps in like a thief ready to rob the treasure of faith. Worry mounts like a brick wall tumbling down. Jealousy seeps in like a suffocating odor. If not checked or addressed, the sin of unbelief will cripple you at every turn. I know the parades of success go by, even those blessings that you’ve been praying for. I know how difficult it can be when others (unintentionally or in some cases intentionally) talk about their blessings at every turn. How do you handle it when you are battling coming to terms with your own waiting process?

Here’s some tips that have helped me along the way:

(1) Celebrate Others More Than You Celebrate Yourself

In our narcissistic-driven culture, we are told to celebrate ourselves as if we are gods ourselves! It’s all about us, all the time. But, if we are to overcome the envy, jealousy or depressive state that comes with others receiving what you’ve been waiting for — celebrate others more than you celebrate yourself! This takes time but it also takes intentionality. I’m not suggesting putting on an act as if you are happy for someone. God does not honor inauthentic presentations. God gets glory when we celebrate what He is doing in the lives of others. Rather than focusing on what someone received (in the right, honorable manner), celebrate the Source!

(2) Meditate On His Word and His Sure Promises

The reason why the “parade of manifested promises” bother many is because they spend too much time harping on it. When you focus on what God is doing through and in you, there’s not much time to languish over what you could have done in comparison with others. The way to focus is to meditate on God’s Word and His promises in His Word. Joshua 1:8 declares Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” The Word speaks for itself.

(3) Compliment! (Don’t Compete)

I’ve personally witnessed others being blessed and promises coming to pass — for the benefit of others! It wasn’t only for them but for those connected to them. This is why we celebrate as well! Why compete when you can compliment? Why give “shade” when you can shed light on what God is doing in the lives of many?

Despising your waiting is despising God’s preparation in your life. While you watch the parade of promises coming to pass in the lives of others, learn and grow from it! Discover ways to glean from their experiences and humbly ask how they persevered through trials. God allows the parades to go by externally to expose you to what He’s working internally. – RF