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What are the key issues facing black women in America today? Does God's Word offer guidance in how to navigate the realities and difficulties posed by those issues? After surveying black women across America to determine which topics are heaviest on their hearts, the authors of Our Voices present a very personal and practical overview. Ten women share with the reader their journeys and what they have learned from God's Word about His perspective on key issues facing them as black women. This ...
What are the key issues facing black women in America today? Does God's Word offer guidance in how to navigate the realities and difficulties posed by those issues? After surveying black women across America to determine which topics are heaviest on their hearts, the authors of Our Voices present a very personal and practical overview. Ten women share with the reader their journeys and what they have learned from God's Word about His perspective on key issues facing them as black women. This book provides a powerful challenge to the reader to walk in obedience to God's Word, amid a culture that is bent on rebellion and that beckons us to do likewise.
THE SPIRIT-EMPOWERED LIFE: JESUS CHRIST, OUR ANCHOR
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure ...
Yolanda L. Powell
Black Christian women have traditionally overcome obstacles and troubling circumstances by remaining faithful to the spiritual anchors of our faith that are grounded in Jesus Christ. Our spiritual life is important to our existence; it is the most valuable asset that we possess. The health of our very soul is, indeed, prime in the shifting tides of twenty-first-century life.
I learned this early on as a young girl. Nearly fifty years later, I can still see the visible faith of the elder mothers in my family. They rocked away pain and problems like valiant warriors, prayed by the side of the bed to an invisible God, hummed the songs of Zion with tears of joy, read their old worn Bibles for daily sustenance, and then dressed in their Sunday-go-to-meeting finest, despite the menial jobs they held all week long. I sigh with joy and pride at the remembrance of this and gain new strength each time I reflect upon it. These women were obviously anchored in a Holy God. None of life's storms seemed to blow them off course.
What a grand life they led in the Spirit! How rich in faith they were despite the rags of segregation and the working-class stigma of second-class citizenship. What noble and honorable women they were in Christ! These Christian matriarchs made constant sacrifices and vowed to leave for us a legacy of strong faith and eternal hope in Jesus Christ—the Light of Life!
The hums and hugs, worship and wisdom of these women speak volumes! How did they survive and overcome harsh days and bitter nights? In what ways did they stand despite racial prejudice and gender bias? From where did their strength and sustenance come during weak and painful times? How did they thrive? How must we? Truly, they were empowered by the Spirit with an anchor of the soul! If we ignore this spiritual truth, we could possibly thwart our spiritual compass and be driven recklessly off course! For after all, Jesus told us that it is indeed possible to gain the whole world and lose our soul (Matthew 16:26).
Therefore, we must revisit the timeless elements that kept and sustained the lives of our spiritual foremothers; for their "anchors" can be embraced and passed on in a modern age—if we will only believe and receive the help they offer and the spiritual richness that will take place deep inside.
TIMELESS ELEMENTS OF OUR SPIRITUAL ANCHOR
An anchor is described as a person or entity. It is that which can be relied on for support, stability, or security; a source that we can depend on for safety. An anchor is a sort of mainstay or an emblem of hope. Every life needs one in tow. Why? Anchors keep us on a straight course and refuse to allow the tempest and gale to alter our direction. What a necessity. There are at least four timeless elements that comprise the proverbial anchor in the lives of Black Christian women. These elements have given us the ability to endure trouble, overcome trials, and persevere through tribulation: 1) Saving faith in Jesus Christ as Redeemer and Deliverer; 2) Uncompromising belief in God's Holy Word; 3) Prayers uttered with an unshakable trust; and 4) Worship and singing aloud songs, hymns, and spiritual songs.
Saving Faith in Jesus Christ as Redeemer and Deliverer
The Incarnate God, Jesus Christ, is the source of eternal life through personal redemption and social deliverance. He is the only One who can right the wrongs of this life, clean up our tarnished record of sin, and bring reconciliation to the instability of our reckless souls. Faith in the Living Lord and in His ability to rectify and restore provides the believing woman with the most powerful tool that she can possess to weather the storms of fear, discouragement, and resignation. The ageless triumph of Christ on the cross and the promise of eternal life in glory with Him is the "blessed hope" that defies all of the negative odds weighed against women of faith.
When God says, "Keep your lives free ... and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you'" (Hebrews 13:5)—He means it! We believe His Word because "God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?" (Numbers 23:19). If God said it, He will do it and the confidence and esteem that this breeds in the believing heart of Black Christian women work wonders in our soul. With all of our sisters in unison, we declare that "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" (Hebrews 13:6). This assurance grants peace and relieves burdens. It's a "sister-secret" we must promise to keep and share as an anchor of the soul!
Furthermore, faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus assures us that "trouble won't last always" and that the Lord already has a grand plan to protect, prosper, and perfect our lives. We are certain of the fact that "weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning" (Psalm 30:5). No matter what we're going through with our spouses, children, parents, kinfolks, pastors, supervisors, or co-workers—Jesus will work it out and bring light and illumination to every dark area.
Now, here's the spiritual reality: Things don't always work out the way that we plan, or even with a favorable outcome; but God promises to be "our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1). We must be comforted by this spiritual truth and look for the All-Powerful One to show up—one way or another! In the process of discovering reality and truth—Jesus does work through every situation in our lives to ultimately bring about godly character in us for our ultimate good. Despite it all, however, God is yet for us and He is still good! Jesus, then, is the primary anchor of the soul for the Black Christian woman.
Uncompromising Belief in God's Holy Word
The primary foundation of our lives as women of faith is based on an uncompromising belief in the Holy Scriptures. According to author Michelle White, "The Bible is the collection of sacred texts that attest to the existence of God, catalogues God's victories on behalf of the weak, and gives clear statements of God's loving intentions toward humankind" (White 2002). The relevance and veracity of the Bible make it essential reading for the spiritual wellbeing of a woman yielded and empowered by the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit is vital to our walk with Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. He was sent to be our "Helper" and "Comforter" and "Guide."
Being led and directed by the Spirit of God is a win-win situation for the believing woman. Even though the way may seem steep or challenging, His presence and power reassures us that we will eventually reach our destination and fulfill our destiny. We become accountable to His leadership and direction and are apt to confess our sins, address toxic habits, and regain daily control of our lives—moment by moment. With this kind of empowerment, we simply will not practice sin or lawlessness and are less prone to carnality and self-deception. As my spiritual sister Kathie often says, "We learn to live truly, deal truly, and love truly! This is the essential undergirding of spiritual empowerment."
Personally, I love the Word of God! It has been a "close companion" to me for over a quarter century. It is chock-full of narrative stories, drama, poetry, history, spiritual insights, and practical instruction to guide our lives. The apostle Peter informs all believers that "we did not follow cleverly invented stories" (2 Peter 1:16). In other words, the Scriptures are not a Hollywood script or a fiction novel. They are an account that God Himself delivered to us through different writers and spokesmen at varied times to communicate clearly with us as His children. In every line, He bares His soul and pours out His thoughts.
Peter further exclaims that "we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts" (2 Peter 1:19). I agree. The metaphor of the Word being like light is so important for believers to comprehend living in this dark and often confusing world. Let's read to gain spiritual sight and illumination on life issues we do not quite understand.
This is what our ancestors did. The Old Testament resonates with victory and defeat, power and weakness, comfort and despair. Historically, Black slaves listened to stories about Pharaoh and how the children of Israel came to freedom. From these accounts, they made direct comparisons to their internal and external battles with the heartless slave owners. They found comfort as they considered Daniel walking around all night in a den of lions and coming out unharmed. They believed the spoken text and it became a foundation for their faith. They reasoned, if God worked such a miracle for Daniel, would He not do the same for them?
They took hold of Holy Writ and never looked back doubting that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is able to deliver. As they listened to the biblical account of the three Hebrew boys who were thrown into the fiery flames and yet were preserved by the presence of Almighty God, they heard the words of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: "If it be so, our God, whom we serve, is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up" (Daniel 3:17–18 KJV).
Now, the good news in all of this is that these patriarchs never boasted in the outcome but in the Lord alone. True faith in God will empower us to prevail and overcome circumstantial hardships regardless of what they may be. As I heard a believing sister say recently, "The truest test of our faith is what we do when we don't come out on top—when things don't work out. When the loved one dies, or we lose our job, or we receive a cancer diagnosis." Only the Word of God can give us that kind of spiritual equilibrium. It was so in the time of Daniel, in the days of American slavery, and it can be so for us in a new millennium.
Let's also review the New Testament. The life and times of Jesus, as recorded in the Bible, is quite revolutionary and refreshing—especially in the lives of women. Our Lord showcased our worth and dignity, even when it was quite unpopular to do so. Jesus alone brings deliverance from demonic oppression, forgives a sister caught in adultery, and dares the men to cast an inflammatory indictment against her. He heals bleeding bodies, rescues tormented minds, and gives spiritual sight to the blind. He is the Master Defender and Heroic Knight who lifts women to new heights of possibility and acceptance. As Black Christian women, we revel in God's Word because it is a singular place of liberation and a rare domain of empowerment for us.
Author Michelle White describes the Bible poignantly as:
a mirror, [in which] we see ourselves in the person of Naomi, otherwise known as "bitterness" but we also see ourselves in Mary, honored by God. So much of who we are when we are vulnerable and ill is reflected in the life of Hagar, but in spite of the struggles, Esther and Ruth shine through. We go ahead in Jesus' name because we are more than conquerors. We are as David: adulterous, conniving and yet still beloved of God—a complicated spiritual paradox. We suffer and we triumph, we win more and sometimes we win less.... (White 2002)
The Scriptures also pierce and penetrate our person, revealing our true selves like a magnifying lens. They help us to work out our belief systems through transforming the way we think. God's Word is continually correcting and conforming us to the image of Christ. It positions us to be changed and transformed by the renewing of our minds. We come to the conclusion, via the Word, that Almighty God is right and we are wrong. Therefore, we anchor ourselves securely in His Holy Writ and exclaim, "His truth is everlasting and His word endures to all generations!" The Word of God is, indeed, a true anchor of the soul.
Prayers Uttered with an Unshakable Trust
"Prayer is the constant and vital activity of maintaining connection with God who is the source of strength and power," says author Michelle White. It is also a conversation and exchange that fortifies believing women and causes us to "throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles" so that we can "run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (Hebrews 12:1). With all of the "issues of life" from personal and social to emotional and relational, we can cry out, "lead me to the rock that is higher than I" (Psalm 61:2) because we know God will hear our prayer.
As Black Christian women, we must learn to cast our enormous cares upon the Lord, knowing He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). The Father gives us an open invitation to join with Him in a shared relationship of prayer in which we must bring to the time of intimacy a speaking mouth, a listening ear, and an obedient heart. The Lord also makes Himself available and responsible to us in this great exchange and becomes Himself our Chief Intercessor and Wonderful Counselor.
Because of His faithfulness, He hears us deeply, responds to us wisely, and provides us with supernatural comfort and direction. Through this spiritual process of prayer, believing women enter into an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit. We pray to a caring Father in therapeutic terms that are often a mixture of spoken declarations, mind decrees, heart surrender, unintelligible groans, flowing tears, victorious shouts, and a final exclamation, "In Jesus' name!"
Years ago, through a mixture of trial and error, I learned how to pray simple, passionate prayers that slowly developed into an intimate relationship with our Chief Intercessor, Jesus Christ. Prayer became the central focus of my life and it forged within me a strong reliance upon my Savior. Modeled after the popular "ACTS" of prayer—adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication, here's my personal spin on the acronym for personal development and growth:
A is for the Acclaim of Precious Adoration. The first words to part our lips are words of awe, appreciation, and applause. The Lord responds to our sincere and heartfelt words of adoration. Recite the names of God and exalt Him for the different ones that you have experienced over time.
C is for the Comforting Humility of Confession. How can we approach God and stand in His presence with unconfessed sin in our hearts? During times of prayer, we seek His mercy and forgiveness. Prayers of confession roll out the proverbial red carpet for the King of Glory to draw near and remove our sins with the cleansing blood of Jesus applied to our hearts.
T is for the Tremendous Renewal of Thanksgiving. Knowing that Christ has seen and heard the ugly stuff in my life and still loves me makes me want to worship Him out of the depth of my born-again spirit. This is the aspect of prayer that says, "In spite of all I've done to trample on Your grace, You still cover me with Your wings of mercy. And, I thank You."
S is for the Sustaining Power of Supplication. Our hearts fall into deep places of request as we ask God to heal and restore our marriages, convert our children, preserve our jobs, or deliver us from our fears. To supplicate is to entreat and ask earnestly and fervently in prayer. Because God is our everything—Creator, Deliverer, Healer, Savior, Father, and Friend—there is nothing in us that He cannot change or correct—to please Himself. We must only yield to Him.
Furthermore, over time I have discovered new frontiers in prayer that were stimulating and invigorating. Surrendering to Christ garnered fresh sustenance for my soul and gave me increased power to see changes all around me. Here's a brief list of the prayer empowerment I experienced:
Singing New Songs. Singing helps to remove the "sameness" from spoken words and causes the heart to soar with uncluttered thoughts. It's a fresh, sweet, daily offering to give to the Lord in the midst of telling Him all your troubles. It's a serenade of the spirit that can add a joyful lightness to the time of prayer (Psalms 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1).
Reciting the Scriptures Aloud. An open Bible is a helpful resource in prayer that greatly empowers your spirit. Praying the Word of God is like having an endless inventory of supply to bombard the heavenlies. Plus, it pleases the Lord to hear His own Word being recited with joy and faith back to Him (Psalm 33:4–9; Isaiah 44:23; 55:11; Romans 10:17).
Incorporating Flexible Movement. Refuse to stay in traditional prayer postures. Walk around the room, swing your arms, clap or lift hands, skip, leap, and jump! I call it exulting over God. There is surely a time to kneel quietly. Yet, be willing to add a time for movement, flexibility, and spontaneity to prayer. It's a sure energy booster and, I believe, a delight to the Lord who made us expressive human beings (Psalms 66; 100).
Excerpted from Our Voices by Amanda Johnson. Copyright © 2009 Amanda Johnson. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. The Spirit-Empowered Life: Jesus Christ, Our Anchor
Yolanda L. Powell
2. She Shall Be Called Woman: Embracing Who God Says I Am
Sabrina D. Black
3. Our Purpose: A First Lady's Revolutionary Conversion
4. In Pursuit of a Healthy Lifestyle
Dr. Taffy Anderson
5. Racial Reconciliation: Our Ministry to Bridge the Gap
6. Money and Financial Fitness: Stretch, Save, and Share
7. Sexuality and Seasons of Life
8. The Sojourn of Singles: Decision at the Crossroad
9. Two Lovers: The Sancity of the Marriage Covenant
Dr. Doretha O'Quinn
10. A Single Mother's Assignment: Raising Boys to be Godly Men
Victoria S. Johnson
11. A Single Mother's Assignment: Raising Godly Daughters