April 24, 2010
Finding your voice is a very important part of the journey, and learning to sing this year has been a beautiful part of finding mine. I have always believed I couldn’t sing but wanted to very badly. My music teacher in elementary school told me I was not a violin but a clarinet. He said it with sarcasm and embarrassed me in front of the class. I stayed away from the high notes and sang softy so no one could hear me. His cruel remark changed the way I saw and heard myself. Words are powerful and can do great damage or much good depending upon how they are used. Pastor John spoke healing words when he told me one Sunday evening that I had a beautiful voice. We were working with the youth, and I found myself singing along with abandon. At first, I thought he was kidding. I’m used to folks making jokes that I don’t understand, but I could tell he was serious. Besides, he’s not the type to joke about something like that, and he was a music teacher before he was a pastor. It was the first time anyone ever told me I could sing, so I began to think that I just might be a singer. John showed me some breathing exercises and gave me a few lessons during Holy Week in 2009. It was a beautiful turning point; I practiced and grew to love singing. Oswald Chambers says it best, “The world does not bid you sing. God does.” (from “The Love of God”) I love that beautiful truth! God does bid me to sing and loves it when I make a joyful noise in praise to Him or hum happily to myself. Singing is a beautiful way to express joy and praise. God loves nothing better than to see me full of joy and hear my voice reflect that joy.
I sang “What Wondrous Love Is This” from the bottom of my heart in front of a group of people during Holy Week this year, and it filled me with sweet joy and peace. Singing, like walking, requires leading with my heart and letting go. I did just that on Friday, April 2, and found that when I wasn’t thinking about singing, I sang beautifully. That’s true in all I do. I know you will love to sing, and I hope you will play an instrument. Papa Jose and Grandma Susie both play beautifully. I pray music will become a big part of your life and bless you as it has blessed me.
You took three steps to me and five to your mama at my house yesterday, and you walked even more after you got home. You walked, I started this book, and we had our first time alone yesterday. Walking, like finding my voice, is all about letting go, stepping out, and leading with my heart.
I had another lesson in finding my voice last Thursday. I had lunch with a friend who is a minister. Her beautiful green eyes looked straight at me after she said the blessing, and I could hear God as she asked why I thought I could not be a prophet and hear God’s messages myself. She and I both knew the answer to that question. I am a woman. It was so embarrassing for me to realize I was thinking such a thought. One thing I would love to see change is for women and men to be seen as equals in God’s ministry. Folks from many denominations think a woman should not be the lead pastor in the church, and I believe that limits God.
I grew up thinking that women were to do only certain things. My father explained that he would pay for my college education if I would agree to be a teacher, nurse, secretary, or housewife. He believed that it was worth the cost of tuition to find a husband who could support me. I smile as I think of that now, but it wasn’t very funny back in 1970. I really wanted to be a key punch operator. That was someone who worked with computers which were just coming on the scene. My father pitched a terrible fit and told me he would not pay for something as useless as that!! I gave in and went with my second choice which was teaching. I was blessed and privileged to be able to spend thirty-three years teaching mostly middle school. I thank God for giving me the opportunity to be around so many wonderful young people.
It was June of 2008 when I realized for the first time that the Southern Baptist Convention didn’t approve of women as lead pastors. I was shocked because I know Christ does not think like that at all. I talked with Pastor John about it, and he said that he did not agree and thought women should be ordained. A young man told me at Vacation Bible School that very night that I would make a good minister. Once again, I could hear God’s voice in his:) I prayed about this new knowledge and talked with my sisters about it. Edie said not to worry about it until it got in my way. She also said to help bring about change. God bid me to do the same. Ghandi would advise me to be the change I wish to see in the world, but I would change that to the change God wishes to see in the world:) Finding my voice is the first step; speaking it and living it will prove to be much more difficult. Pastor John is a dear friend and teacher; we have been through a lot together. We tell each other the truth with love, and that is what makes our friendship so special. The best of friends tell each other the truth with love and hear the truth with love, as well.
Mary Magdalene also helped me understand God’s lesson for me. The people in the Bible are real people who struggled just as we do. That’s what I love about the scriptures, and I hope you will love them too. Mary Magdalene was a troubled women; but when she came to know Jesus, things changed for her. God’s love and truth transform in a beautiful way. His love is for everyone, not just for some people or for good people. Like Paul, I’m sure Mary had a hard time believing that love could be for her. I imagine she marveled at the way Jesus loved with a love unlike any she had ever experienced. Kingdom love is not like any other kind of love. It transforms and makes all other love pale in comparison.
When Mary lived, women had to stand in the farthest corner of the temple to hear God’s word. Women were considered inferior to men, but that is not the way Jesus treated women. Mary was a special disciple and is thought of as the apostle’s apostle by some. I’m sure she made the disciples nervous because women in ministry still make people nervous today. Fear causes us to miss hearing wonderful words of wisdom and living the life God wants for us. A friend told me about Mary’s gospel and said it contained beautiful wisdom. I didn’t realize Mary had written a gospel, and that upset me. Her gospel is filled with wisdom, but it isn’t in the Bible. Many important pages are missing, and I would love to see them. There are wonderful books of wisdom that aren’t in the Bible. The process for deciding what went into the cannon was a long one that I believe was a honest one. I’m not saying her gospel or the gospel of Thomas should be in the Bible, but I do believe they should be read and studied since they were close to Christ and have words of wisdom worth hearing. People often try to silence those who scare them, but God will not be silenced. It is important to speak the truth with love and not worry if others don’t understand or don’t respond as I desire. Not needing a response is important when it comes to speaking or being silent. Finding stillness is the most important part of finding my voice:)
As I read Mary’s gospel for the first time, I was sad that I had never read it before. Mere and I talked about being raised to think that girls could not participate in the worship service. She told me about playing church with her little friends. She went to a Catholic school and knew the Latin masses by heart. She and her friends would make an altar and say the masses in Latin, but they were not allowed to be altar boys. Girls do serve now because change is inevitable. God’s transformation comes with the changes He has in mind for us. Jesus knows men and women are different; God made us that way and loves our differences. He knows those differences are necessary to spread His gospel, and He loves it when we work together. The harmony formed by connecting and loving one another is sweet music to His ears.
Finding my voice has been about much more than learning to sing, but singing was a wonderful turning point for me. It is about knowing God not only hears, but also forgives us. It is about hearing God and being willing to speak the truth with love. Good friends speak the truth with love even when they disagree. God uses love and truth to bring people closer to one another and to Himself. Nothing is more powerful when it comes to walking in God’s kingdom than sharing the journey with those who hear and speak the truth with love. God helps me find my voice and hear the hearts of others if I remember that♥
In Christ’s Perfect Love, Gigi:]