Sunday, February 28, 2021

Sharing Our Stories: The Looking Glass

Into the Looking Glass
A guest post by Stephanie Bankhead

For the most of my 56 years on this earth, I looked in the mirror and saw “not enough” staring back at me. If you had asked, I would have not said that I had a self-esteem issue. Confidence in myself wasn’t the problem. There were plenty of opportunities in life to have success and I have had my fair share. But 2020 was a year of vision for me. Clarity.

It started with the revelation that my faith in God wasn’t the strong foundation that I had believed. How had the assumption crept in that faith equaled a checklist of items that included time spent in the Bible and discipling others? Faith equated to service, to works…performance. I was an ordained pastor, after all. I had to have faith or why would I be doing what I was doing? Enter early 2020 that was filled with the pandemic, racial tensions and fear. Intense fear and anxiety over the unknown and the unfair. Why was I feeling so anxious? Where was my faith? I chided myself over and over daily. I’m sure you can guess how well that worked out.

Transformative changes do not happen through coercion or chastisement.

And so begins my transformation over the year of 2020. I discovered that seeing myself as “not enough” had consequences. If my remorseful failings disappointed me, there was no imagining how God felt about me. Imagine a lightbulb appearing over my head when the realization hit me. Because of always feeling like a failure, my view of God was as a harsh taskmaster or a disappointed boss. Either way, that is an unfair view and not at all accurate. I was gazing at myself and perceiving not enough, disappointment, failure…and merely glancing at God. With a fresh determination, I put on blinders to gaze with length and adoration at my God.

I treasure time in the Bible, seeking for God in every reading. Kristi McLelland, author of the Bible study titled, Jesus and Women, revealed an interesting fact that relates to my story. Are you familiar with the story that we in the western church call “The Prodigal Son?” In the Jewish Messianic Bible, that story title is “The Running Father.” When I am gazing at myself and merely glancing at God, my focus is on the son. When I am gazing at my amazing Father, my focus is on the running, merciful father in the story.

This new perspective also made me realize my inability to receive love or kindness from my husband. I was forever shrugging off his kind words as obligatory. I now know that they were also filtered through my self-perception. My deepest heart’s desire is to feel love and to know God in a way that is truer and deeper than anything I’ve experienced so far. What was holding me back? My own perception of myself.

Once this truth revealed itself and there was a knowing inside of me, I felt different somehow. The verse from 2 Corinthians 5:17 was more authentic than it had ever been. It reads, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NRSV)

In the past, this verse had been for those who receive Christ as their Savior for the first time. That makes me laugh. Because God is not like that. And for as long as I’ve been studying His Word (the Holy Bible), you would think I would already have known that. This is why we know the Word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). God sneaks in with a verse we see as familiar and transforms us in a stunning manner.

Today I’m a new creation. Free. Free to be me! Free to be loved. This new perception of myself has ushered in a playfulness. It fosters a positive atmosphere in our home. The greatest fruit is how it lightens the heaviness that was prevalent in this past year. It’s been one difficult year and any little change helps. This change for me is momentous.

Let me ask you this question: Are you walking around saying you are a follower of Jesus Christ but you see God as a harsh taskmaster or a boss who is never satisfied? I now understand that until each of us can see God for who He really is — His characteristics that we read and learn about in Scripture — we won’t have the fundamental ability to truly love others. How will we overcome racial tensions in this country and world? How will we overcome the oppression of women in this world? How will overcome the division and hatred that seems to be pervasive?

The answer is simple: Change our gaze. Stop gazing at the monumental problems and start gazing at our amazing God. Gazing at His beauty. Gazing at His characteristics. Discovering who He assuredly is in character, personality, and action.

Let us remember this Bible verse: Psalm 27:4 (ESV) says, “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.”

Next time you look in the mirror, see the beloved of God, fashioned in His image. And then let’s turn to our neighbors and love them. Let’s see our neighbors and ourselves as image bearers of the creative God who gives us life and breath.

In closing, will you pray with me?

Almighty God, we praise and worship You as our Creator. Thank you that we are fearfully and wonderfully made in Your image. It is our heart’s desire to know You more. Help us to see ourselves and our neighbors through Your eyes. And help us to keep our eyes set firmly on You, gazing on your majesty and glory! I pray this in the mighty name of Jesus, our Savior. Amen.

Author Bio:

Stephanie Bankhead is a Bible teacher, mentor and author of several Bible studies.

Stephanie has worked at a local church as the Women’s Ministry Leader since 2013. In 2018, she became an ordained teaching Pastor. Before that, she worked as the director of a very successful youth volleyball club. What both of these experiences taught her is that women are still little girls inside. Deep down we are all still asking the same questions, “Am I capable? Am I attractive? Am I enough?”

Stephanie delivers sermons and speaks at women’s events on a multitude of topics. Her favorite topic is teaching people what the Bible says about their own identity in God.

Stephanie lives in Amarillo, Texas with her husband of 32 years. They have a rescue pup who barks too much, and a bird abandoned when her two grown children flew the nest. Her four grandchildren are the apples of her eye.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Sharing Our Stories: Roseanna's Review of "How to Fight Racism" (book by Jemar Tisby)

Review by Roseanna M. White of Jemar Tisby’s book, 
How to Fight Racism: 
Courageous Christianity and the Journey Toward Racial Justice

I can honestly say that reading The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby had a profound impact on how I understand the history of racism within the American church. 

So when I saw that Mr. Tisby had a new book out, I was quick to order it—especially when I saw that this one was meant to be a practical guide to overcoming racism in one’s personal life as well as where it appears systemically.

Tisby approaches the question with what he has termed “the ARC of racial justice.” The book is broken down into three main categories to correspond with that ARC: Awareness, Relationships, Commitment

In the Awareness section, he leads the reader into methods of understand one’s own racial story—not only in terms of what one’s own race is, but in how one has interacted with the very concept of race from childhood on up. Those who are Black or people of color most likely have a very different story than those of the white majority, but everyone has lived with race. Becoming aware of how we were each taught—through others or through experience—to view race, how it has become part of our current understanding, is a crucial first step. Once we become self-aware, then we can take steps to move toward true equity and understanding.

While Tisby is careful to point out that relationships alone cannot solve racism—that it is bigger than individuals and must be addressed on a system-wide level—he knows that for most of us, true racial reconciliation begins with Relationships. It’s as we become friends with and come to care about individuals from other races that we can truly come to see what others suffer. With that empathy comes understanding and the desire to see change for their sake.

But from that first desire, we then must move to Commitment. We must take active steps on social levels to support or instigate change—in our churches, in our communities, in our businesses, and in our government.

Of the two books, I still prefer The Color of Compromise solely because it focused on history and the stories of people who lived it, and this is always how I’m best engaged.

How to Fight Racism was a more clinical, academic approach to the question of racism, which is no doubt preferred by others. The advice he gives is well rounded, and I was pleased to see that he addresses people in many different circumstances.

Coming from a rural community with a very un-diverse population, I’m often left feeling like all the opportunities and advice offered in books doesn’t apply to me, since those opportunities simply don’t exist where I live. Tisby actually addresses how people who live in areas like mine can still engage meaningfully with the question, which I really appreciate.

By the end of the book, I was left with a list of possible actions I, my church, and my community could take…and also with the heavy certainty that fighting racism could easily become an all-consuming task. Something so big, so engrained in our culture, can’t be undone by wishing or making a few friends. It must be dismantled with the same care with which it was built. That’s an intimidating task…but also one that so clearly needs to be tackled, especially by people of faith who should be seeking the good of their neighbor, loving their neighbor above all.

How to Fight Racism invites the reader to be well versed in why this is a fight we all must take on…and then equips us to determine how best to do it wherever we are.

Reviewer’s Bio:

Roseanna M. White is a bestselling, Christy Award nominated author who has long claimed that words are the air she breathes. 

When not writing fiction, she’s homeschooling her two kids, editing for WhiteFire Publishing, designing book covers, and pretending her house will clean itself. 

Roseanna is the author of a slew of historical novels that span several continents and thousands of years. Spies and war and mayhem always seem to find their way into her books … to offset her real life, which is blessedly ordinary.

You can learn more about her and her stories at

Connect with Roseanna:

Blurb for How to Fight Racism:

Racism is pervasive in today's world, and many are complicit in the failure to confront its evils. Jemar Tisby, author of the award-winning The Color of Compromise, believes we need to move beyond mere discussions about racism and begin equipping people with the practical tools to fight against it.

How to Fight Racism is a handbook for pursuing racial justice with hands-on suggestions bolstered by real-world examples of change. Tisby offers an array of actionable items to confront racism in our relationships and in everyday life through a simple framework
 — the A.R.C. of Racial Justice — that helps readers consistently interrogate their own actions and maintain a consistent posture of anti-racist action. This book is for anyone who believes it is time to stop compromising with racism and courageously confront it.

Tisby roots the ultimate solution to racism in the Christian faith as we embrace the implications of what Jesus taught his followers. Beginning in the church, he provides an opportunity to be part of the solution and suggests that the application of these principles can offer us hope that will transform our nation and the world. 

Tisby encourages us to reject passivity and become active participants in the struggle for human dignity across racial and ethnic lines. Readers of the book will come away with a clear model for how to think about race in productive ways and a compelling call to dismantle a social hierarchy long stratified by skin color.

Buy How to Fight Racism on Amazon or Barnes and Noble

Author Bio:

Jemar Tisby is the author of the New York Times bestseller, The Color of Compromise, president and co-founder of The Witness: A Black Christian Collective, and co-host of the podcast, Pass The Mic.

He grew up just north of Chicago and attended the University of Notre Dame. He went on to join Teach For America and was assigned to the Mississippi Delta Corps where he taught sixth grade at a public charter school and later went on to be the principal. 

He received his MDiv from Reformed Theological Seminary and is presently working toward his PhD in History at the University of Mississippi studying race, religion, and social movements in the twentieth century.

Jemar and his family call the Deep South home and especially love the weather, people, and food! His new book, How to Fight Racism releases in January of 2021 and is available for pre-order now.

Connect with Jemar:

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Sharing Our Stories: Black Love Matters

Black Love Matters
A guest post by Dr. Angelle M. Jones

“He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
– Luke 10:27 (NIV)

I’m currently reading President Barack Obama’s newest book, A Promised Land.

This idiomatic motif invites the open heart and mind of the reader to enter into a previously forbidden part of his life. President Obama uses this intimate and personal memoir to invite anyone interested to go on a journey with him into the White House Situation Room, and the presidential Oval Office.

The reader is also allowed to enter into the complex space inside the mind of a younger, rising, yet improbable presidential candidate. Of course, the reader is catapulted into one of the most compelling Black life expeditions ever experienced. In his most humble yet understandably confident way, Obama chronicles his journey. We hear the conflict, yet deep conviction, while searching for his authentic voice in the echoing chambers of the whitewashed world of Harvard Law School. From the ivory towered halls of Harvard to the sound of his paving the streets of Chicago (Illinois), serving as a grassroots community organizer, Obama as the author transports the reader from the written page to urban America where he gained momentum, to earning the right to become a well-respected political pundit.

In this lengthy, yet tell-all narrative, we learn some of the highs and lows from the first Black man to serve in the highest office of the United States. This true story is told by the voice of the one who rose from living in a small apartment dwelling in a predominately Black community in Chicago, to becoming the first Black inhabitant of the White House that Black slaves built. In the memoir, we get a glimpse of the man who will go down in history, not only as 44th President of the United States, but as the one the world watched emerge as the first of African descent to rise to that position of world-renowned power.

Not only from reading the book, but since becoming a public figure, one of the things that always stood out to me is Obama’s undying love for his wife Michelle. For those blinded by the political division or racial dissonance, or perhaps even a loathing disdain for the first Black President, you may have missed what remains clearly evident to the majority of the Black community. I’m sure I speak for many, more than the type of political leader one becomes, for the average card-carrying Black person, Black love reigns. Contrary to what is portrayed, no matter how many of the fifty percent of American marriages dissolved in Divorce Court include us, Black love matters.

Since slavery, marriages between African slaves and African-Americans today, have been depicted by Whites adversely. Possibly because marriage between slaves were not recognized as legal, slave masters didn’t regard the growing intimacy between slave men and women as love. Because White people did not consider those with black and brown skin to be considered human, the idea of property joining together in holy matrimony was probably as realistic to their slave masters as imagining their animals marrying. Subsequently, the idea of whether two melanin-dipped animals could experience true love was highly unfeasible.

Between slaves not being recognized as human and not being allowed to marry, what was missed through the blurred lens of slave masters was the inexplicable existence of an incomparable and enduring Black love. Fortunately, today, many real-life slave narratives are being discovered, some reflecting factual accounts of this resilient Black love. Stories of love able to withstand separation from their mate when one slave partner was ripped from their family to be sold to another master located hundreds of miles away. The deep and abiding love between two slaves, which may have been put on hold when unwillingly sold and separated, love which never ceased until they found one another. A love that allowed them to create their own version of a post-slavery, Happily Ever After. 

The narrative often cited as the number one reason for problems in the African-American community, is fatherlessness. For years now, White sociologists have studied, researched and deemed the lack of fathers in the home as the major cause for the so-called demise of the Black family. Fatherlessness has been blamed for everything from poverty to teen pregnancy. Since the Jim Crow era, reports and studies like the 1965 Moynihan Report, are used to prove the disconnected Black family is supposedly due to socially irresponsible Black people choosing to live together over marrying.

For years, sociologists have found ways to relieve White America of the guilt and responsibility for damaging the lives of generations of Black families. Psychologists would rather deny that perhaps the percentage of fatherlessness, and not marrying might be the residual traumatization of the thousands of Black people captured, stolen and brought unwillingly across the world in the belly of a ship, stacked like the animals it was made for. Truth is, surviving as enslaved people who were stripped of their culture and family identity reveal that Black love is probably one of the most resilient expressions of God’s love ever shown. Contrary to White sociological thought, Black love is authentic, giving, selfless, enduring and most importantly forgiving.

Think about it: If you are White and have one Black associate or friend, you are a recipient of that forgiving, Black love. Only a people who love God with all their heart, soul and mind can in return, extend that love to that neighbor who may also be their oppressor.

In a society that continues to demonize Black lives, when bombarded with media images causing you to question whether those Black lives are worthy of love, replace them with one of President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama and capture the essence of Black love.

Hopefully this image will serve as a reminder that Black Love is worthy, and yes, it does matter.

Author Bio: 

“Inspiring and Motivating With the Power of Words” 

Angelle M. Jones believes that the power of words inspires, and motivate to bring about transformative change individually and collectively. 

Angelle originally hails from Cleveland, Ohio. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in African-American studies from the University of Cincinnati. Angelle has a master’s degree in Theological Studies from Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia and an earned Doctorate in Ministry on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, and his philosophy of The Beloved Community from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.

Her ministry career began as a staff member of the Northeastern Ohio Billy Graham Crusade in 1994. For twenty years, as founder and director of In The Spirit Ministries, Inc., she led teams on mission outreaches throughout the world. From 2007-2012 Angelle served as Missions Director of New Salem Missionary Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio where she currently resides. Angelle is founder and director of GlobaLife Coaching and Consulting serving as a Life and Transformation Coach and Church Consultant.

In 2016 Angelle authored and self-published her first book, Happily Never After. Along with sharing words of hope by sharing her writings on her social media platforms, she has been published in Vantage Magazine which is a literary source for faculty, students and alumni of Columbia Theological Seminary, and Ready, which is a cutting-edge online magazine addressing current events and trending socially relevant topics for women.

Angelle is the mother of an adult daughter. She is a grandmother and great-grandmother.

Connect with Dr. Angelle:


Sunday, February 7, 2021

Sharing Our Stories: A Challenge for you

A Challenge to Learn and Grow Together
A guest post by Kristen Rimer Terrette

Revelation 5 is about praising the Lion, the Lamb, and the Root of David for His victory over sin and death, and His forever reign over all creation.

But this verse. This is one of my favorites. In Revelation 5:9 (NIRV), this is written about Jesus:

“You are worthy to take the scroll and break open its seals.

You are worthy because you were put to death.

With your blood you bought people for God.

They come from every tribe, language, people and nation.”

It paints the perfect picture of Heaven. I love how God’s Word is careful to cover all the bases by mentioning every tribe, language, people and nation. No matter where on earth we reside, or what people group we and our family claim as our heritage, we are combined as ONE in Heaven.

And if our commission is to build God’s Kingdom on earth, so that we look a little more like Jesus on earth every day, then our every day lifestyle must include people from all different backgrounds and cultures.

I’ve been challenged in how I can accomplish this.

Years ago, I was convicted that my everyday life was very neutral, or in my case, vanilla. I’ve mentioned this before, but while I was a children’s ministry director, I realized the kids under my care weren’t as diverse as they should or could have been. I don’t know why I noticed and was bothered by this particularly, but Jesus sure was pointing it out. From then on, I’ve intentionally been open to all types of relationships with people who don’t look like me. Some of these relationships have happened naturally. Some have been more strategic, and I’m still working on this constantly.

I found one of the easiest ways to include people of different tribes, language, nation, and tongue in my life was through social media. It’s that simple! I don’t have to agree politically or even spiritually to see, hear, read, and be opened to the thoughts and ideas of others not like me. The thing is, I have developed relationships and friendships with lots of different people. My compassion level for others, and how I strive to love others well, has amplified. My spirit has joined with the Holy Spirit convicting me and actively engaging me in conversations about race, unity, justice, and Jesus. Anything that does this is worth a try! 

Allow me to share some social media accounts that I follow and love. They give me insight, accountability, and even get me thinking outside my comfort zone. They are from people or organizations representing differing ethnicities—Black, Native, Hispanic, and Asian.

Here’s my challenge for you: Go follow some or all of these social media accounts that I will list below. Commit to a month of watching and reading their posts. This is not the time to input your ideas and try to change someone. This is your time to observe. See what happens! See what God can do in your heart, mind, and spirit. See how He opens your eyes and grows compassion and understanding in your heart.

Anything with the potential to make us better followers of Jesus Christ is worth it.

Read on for the list of some of my favorite Instagram handles. They have challenged my thinking, grown me closer to the heart of God, and given me vision to what Heaven will look like when we are saved in His Kingdom. Most of these people or organizations are also on Facebook and Twitter:




















Who do you follow? Comment below with the links to your favorite people so we can learn and grow together!

Author Bio:

Kristen's passionate about storytelling and helping people take their next steps in their relationship with Jesus.

She lives forty-five minutes outside of Atlanta, GA. where she served as a Children's Ministry Director for many years. With the support of her husband and two children, she now stays home writing fiction and non-fiction.

She also serves on the women’s leadership team at her local church and writes for Crosswalk and Wholly Loved Ministries. You can check out her articles and novels at

Connect with Kristen:
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