Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Sisterhood: Sisters or Enemies?

Okay, so let me just say this: I have a love/hate relationship with reality television.

I have wept over performances on The Voice and So You Think You Can Dance. The beauty I've seen in the fresh talent on shows like that has left me amazed and, at times, in tears.

But as the Mama of four kiddos with so much to do and so little time, I just can't commit to reality tv. I just don't have the time to tune every week to see if the girl with the fiery voice or the guy who floats through the air like an Alvin Ailey dancer makes it through to the next level.

I just don't have that kind of time...

And then there's the reality television that eventually reveals the depths of every character's worst flaws -- a la Jersey Shore. You know, the kind that makes you say, "Wow, at least I'm not that much of a loser..."

I personally despise that kind of reality tv.

So, it was with much fear and trepidation that I watched the first episode of TLC's The Sisterhood.

The Sisterhood follows five Atlanta-based pastor's wives or "First Ladies," as they are affectionately known in the traditional African American church. I happened upon this show at a holiday family gathering, and I have to admit curiosity got the best of me. Being a pastor's wife myself, I couldn't wait to see TLC's depiction of these women.

The first episode started out rather benign. We entered into the homes and churches of the first ladies. My first thought: they were intelligent and strong. They weren't the kind of women who hid behind their husband's shadows. They were much like the pastor's wives I know.

And then it happened: we were introduced to the villain, the arch-enemy, the trouble-maker. She is a lovely lady with a powerful testimony, but her jealousy and bitterness exude her every word. Unfortunately, we all know this woman. We've met her in the workplace, the church and even our families. She is real.

However, her introduction in The Sisterhood left me feeling like this show was less about sisterhood, and more about rivalry.

Since that first episode, I've only watched a couple more. From what I have seen, I've pulled a few lessons from The Sisterhood that I'd love to share.

Love your Sisters
This lesson is for us all, Ladies. It's a common temptation to see other women as the enemy. She's either prettier than you, smarter than you or richer than you. Or she's the woman that everyone looks up to and wants to be around.

First of all, "she" is human just like you. She is flawed. She is imperfect. She has insecurities and failures. JUST LIKE YOU. And while you're wasting time and energy envying her, she just might be envying you.

So get over it. There will always be a woman that's better, brighter, beautiful-er. (Like that new word?) And realize that at our core, apart from God's amazing love and presence in our lives, we're all a wreck.

Let's stop fighting our sisters. We need each other.

Be relevant Christians
In a recent episode, one of the pastor's wives and her pastor-husband planned a "Bar Mitvah"for their son. (Side note: this particular pastor has a Jewish heritage, but became a Christian in adulthood.) After spending time with their event planner, the pastor asked them to bow their heads to pray.

My heart went out to the event planner, who was completely out of sorts through the entire prayer. She was obviously not a Christian, and seemed quite offended at this couple's insensitivity toward her.

As Christians, we have to remember that every one in our world is not a Christian. Some ascribe to other religious beliefs. Some ascribe to none at all. We must be aware of this and be sensitive to others, loving them as God loves them.

We should never force anyone else into prayer or any other Christian "box."

After all, God didn't force us into relationship with Him.

Don't just do church, be the Church
I'll begin this point by again mentioning that I've only watched a few episodes of The Sisterhood. In those three episodes, I've watched ladies' luncheons, shopping sprees, counseling sessions and lots of event planning.

What have I yet to see? Ladies bible studies, mentorship programs, community outreach and family bible studies. I haven't seen anyone feeding homeless people, mentoring a young single mother or teaching their children scripture.

Not to say these women don't do this kind of ministry. But TLC has of course chosen to focus on black-tie fundraisers, instead of "come-as-you-are" prayer meetings. But that's what the Church is supposed to be about, in every city, in every state, in every country. We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus, loving and serving others as He did.

But then, that wouldn't make for great reality tv, would it?


So what do you think? Have you watched The Sisterhood yet? What would you include in the program if you were producer?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Foster Care: A Crisis Among Us

I recently heard some great news from Alicen Bennett, an Arkansas Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) caseworker and DCFS liaison to The CALL*.

This past January, 28 foster homes opened in Arkansas, meaning in that month alone 28 new families became available to take foster children into their care. A blessing, considering all the hoops that these families must go through -- background checks, medical exams, home studies and training classes.

On the same day I heard that great news, however, I also heard some bad news.

While 28 foster homes opened in January, 48 homes closed.

Do you understand what that means? While 28 foster families have just opened their homes to foster children that desperately need those stable home environments, 48 foster families have closed their homes to those same children that desperately need them.

Here's one more statistic: In 2012, 500 homes opened across the state of Arkansas.

Sadly, in 2012, 480 homes closed.

And another: 3908 children are in Arkansas foster care today. However, only 1132 foster homes are available to those children.

These numbers are unbelievable.

These numbers break my heart.

"The need for foster parents is staggering," says Alicen Bennett. I wholeheartedly agree.

We could point fingers -- at foster parents, at social workers, at DCFS bureaucracy. But what good would that do?

I've got a better idea of what we can do.

First of all, we can pray. Pray for God to move more of His people to consider fostering a child. Secondly, we can give financially or volunteer for a foster care nonprofit like The CALL. Thirdly, we can take the huge step of becoming foster parents ourselves.

In ten years, I pray that states like Arkansas can boast more positive statistics surrounding foster care. I pray that the number of homes available to children would not only equal, but exceed the number of children in need of those homes.

Until then, what will you do about the national foster care crisis?


* The CALL stands for Children of Arkansas Loved for a Lifetime. The CALL is a faith-based non-profit that recruits and trains people from local churches for foster care. The CALL's vision is "to have no waiting children in Arkansas foster care, but instead to have waiting, Christian families ready to take them in."

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Ray Lewis: Super Bowl XLVII

I've never claimed to predict the future, but I've got a good feeling about tomorrow.

I think my Baltimore Ravens are going to pull it off tomorrow. And I think Linebacker Ray Lewis will get MVP of Superbowl XLVII.

And even if he doesn't, he's MVP in my book. You know why? Because he's a man of God who loves donning t-shirts with bible references like Psalm 91.

And because of quotes like these:

"Listen to what people say you can't do, and then GO DO IT."

How many of us have heard people tell us what we can't do? Maybe they think we're too young or too old, or too short or too tall, or we belong to the wrong gender or race. Or maybe we're aspiring to do something we've never done before.

Maybe the voices that tell us what we can't do are in our own heads. Sometimes we're actually our own worst critic.

Whoever the critic may be, we've got to press on with whatever God's called us to do. We've got to hear His voice above all others.

"God is absolutely amazing."

I agree with Ray.

God is amazing no matter what comes our way. No matter what hardships we face. No matter who opposes or accuses us. No matter how often people try to remind us of our past.

He's even amazing if the Ravens don't win the Superbowl tomorrow.

But it'll be cool if they do...