Category Archives: Uncategorized

rainbows and promises

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Snapshot 2015-02-21 13-10-17Genesis 9:8-17

There it is, not with a pot of gold, but with something far more significant. The bow in the sky  even in the cold icy snow is our reminder of God’s covenant with Noah. The promise that God made with not just Noah but with all successive generations – that’s us! God promised that the bow will remind him never to destroy the earth with a flood again! God has established that he is faithful, that he keeps his covenants to us – successive generations.

Being stranded in this cold icy weather provides a great time to reflect on the promises God has made to us and how faithful God has been to those promises. It is significant that in the midst of both literal and figurative storms the bow in the sky doesn’t just remind our just and faithful God about his covenant to us, but it also provides us comfort and peace as we think on all the promises of God!

Magnificent and Merciful God we bless your Holy and you Righteous name! We thank and extol you for your faithfulness towards us especially when we have not been faithful to you. Incline our hearts to see your covenant with us as an opportunity to trust you with all that we are. Help us dear God to be faithful, trustworthy, promise keepers that reflect your love. In the covenant name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Toni Belin Ingram

43 days to go

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Day three. More prayer, more devotion, more meditation, more reading, more worship, more Jesus is so much easier said than done. Life is happening all around us. Death is all around us. Our enemies know we are seeking to live and be better to trust God fully with all that we are, so they attack us. The task is not an easy one, bridled tongues and forgiving hearts, minds focused on who God is in us and what God says about us. Putting our full trust in God, and operating in the belief that God is all we need – mind regulator, heart mender, doctor in sickroom, shelter in storm, provider, deliverer, is so easy…. To say, not really to do.

We have fought the enemy ourselves. Many times we have ourselves been the enemy. But now during this season as we seek the Lord’s guidance, we yield to God every fiber of our being.  As we yield to the Lord we will begin see who God is and who we are in God. Our respect, or fear of the Lord then becomes the beginning of us being wise, not in the things of this world, but in the things that matter, spiritual things.

Patient and faithful God strengthen our resolve that we don’t go back to business as usual. Help us loving God to faithfully wait upon you. Merciful God as we learn more about you, teach us who we really are. Free our minds, bodies and souls to lean not to our own understanding, but to in all ways acknowledge you as you straighten our paths. In the victorious name of Jesus we pray. Amen

Toni Belin Ingram

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trusting believing living

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I have always marveled at those who hear from God, those whose path is guided by God’s truth, those who trust fully and wholly in God for their lives and livelihood. I thought of them as folks who were super special, extraordinary, incredibly favored folk. Then I did a restart on my life, putting my trust, cares, concerns and family in God’s hands. Not only did I learn that I too am super special, extraordinary, incredibly favored, but I learned YOU are too! You just have to live it. Not the fake it until you make kinda living, but wholeheartedly trusting God with all that we are.

This Lenten season is the perfect opportunity to restart our spiritual lives. To truly spend time in devotion and meditation to hear from the Lord. To embrace the Lord’s ways and trust God for our lives. To sit still in the early quiet of the morning pushing through the distractions of life, family needs, bills, what’s for dinner, enables our minds, souls and hearts to hear the God’s truth of how God wants us to live trust and forgive.

Gracious and eternal God, still our minds of the distractions of our lives. Open our hearts that our sinful souls and bodies feel your forgiveness and healing. Lord reveal to us who we are in you. Show us holy and merciful God the plan that you have for us, that we see ourselves as you see us, in your image. Loving caring God enable us to embrace the quiet and faithfully trust you with all that we are and ever hope to be. In the trusting name of Jesus we pray.

pursuing God’s Provision

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pursuing God’s Provision

Here we go again. I hear the Lord say. Ash Wednesday is here they’ll parade in and out of church, put some ashes on their heads, commit to a fast for the next forty days and the entire time ask others what is allowed and what’s not can they eat this or that all the while succumbing to the distraction of being on a fast. You know the distractions that make you talk about what you’re giving up fasting, never what you could possibly gain.

What would it mean to fully and faithfully fast. Not to hear folks talk about our piety for fasting, but rather to hear God talk about who we are in the free pardon of sins and our circumstances. What if on this Ash Wednesday, we weren’t so busy parading around, but inwardly expressed our sinfulness and our need for forgiveness to the One who has already forgiven us. And then commit to operate in the grace and forgiveness of Christ.

Holy Righteous and Eternal God show us the fast that you choose. Teach us merciful God to not get so caught up in the ways of this world that we forget who we are in you. Strengthen us loving God that in the time of trial we will reflect your peace and your righteousness in our lives. In the faithful name of Jesus we Pray. Amen.

Uninvited guest

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imageUninvited guest

I thought I was at mass, but it was actually a wedding. The language barrier. I really didn’t think much about the flowers and all the folks in Saint Mary’s Basilica. Today is National republic day and I thought it was decorated for that. Beautiful flowers and extremely ornate priests made for a very interesting time to reflect.

Today we came to Saint Mary’s to reflect and hear from God. At first glance, everything I needed was there. Mass, Homily, Holy People, beautiful statutes, Mary holding hung Jesus, the 12 stations of the cross, John baptizing Jesus Christ. Everything. Even outside the main sanctuary are places for reflection. Another smaller simageanctuary with plenty of outdoor seating, the Saint Jude building for quieted solitude and any number of nooks and crannies.

But I chose the wedding with all it’s grandeur, excitement, beautiful saris and exotic beautiful people. People people who didn’t flinch at the sight of us marching in fifty deep late to their well planned, holy matrimonial ceremony. Gracious folk who moved over at our unexpected entry and even posed for our pictures without rolling their eyes or shaking their heads.

I loved it absolutely. One thing I felt and experienced is God in them, everyone was warm and kind and probably a little entertained. God’s prevailing love did just that without hesitation or distraction. As I think about the distraction of the wedding and all the places that there were to complete our assignment of stopping and reflecting it made me realize that oftentimes the uninvited guest in our prayer, meditation, reflection, devotion time is God.

I learned a lot today from my Indian Christian brothers and sisters, welcome the stranger, be receptive to the unexpected and trust that God’s love will prevail even in the midst of distractions.

Until later
Toni

Touch

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I have always loved and welcomed new opportunities. I will admit, I am always still a little apprehensive, but at ten I learned that my inner light burning brighter would always outweigh the bumps and bruises I encounter just getting to the light switch. This #PrayerIndia2015 was no exception. I had no idea what to expect and with Dude, being laid off in October, I didn’t want to put undue pressure on our finances. But God is good and Dude is gracious, so all worked out.

I knew that we would pray and that wasn’t a big deal, I know prayer when I know nothing else. When I heard about the opportunity to go on this trip I prayed for God’s love to prevail and that God would be glorified. I have learned to pray when all is well and when it’s not well. I’ve learned to listen, wait, ask, adore, praise, repent. I’ve prayed the Psalms and Hip Hop prayers with Kim. I’ve prayed scriptures and songs. I know and trust God I believe God, I know God loves me and I love God. I’ve prayed with happy feet, on bended knees and even lying prostrate. I have prayed with my eyes open wide, closed tight, I figured we’d pray with the Indian people and have a little fun do a little shopping.

Obviously, I’ve never been on a real mission trip. We arrived at the hotel in India a little over 24 hours after I had left home. We were assigned roommates, took our personal luggage upstairs came back down and began sorting the prescriptions and setting up the clinics and the sistercare supplies. Well, they did, I stuffed treat bags with the healthy snacks for our sisters that would be coming soon.

They arrived and we prayed, praised and worshipped, but more than in all the folk in the sanctuary, God’s love prevailed in the doctors and pharmacists, the nurses and the shrinks, God’s love was with those who triaged and those who interpreted. I was unprepared for that. My heart was full and I even still have tears thinking about the many times I teased Teleah that they needed her in the clinic and she genuinely looked as if she were splitting herself in two to accommodate whatever and whoever was needed. I took lots of pictures of she and Cozzette mainly because I wanted to document for their young children what sheer joy they gave to every person they came in contact with.

Women who have endured God only knows what appeared to stand a little taller, shine a little brighter and smile much easier. The healing touch of Christ Jesus was truly embodied in the hands and smiles and the light that illumined from the touch of the medical team. I realized that my light was much brighter the switch was flipped not by me but solar powered by the light shining through others. Now I can say I’ve even prayed through touch.

Until later
Toni

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I’m 39,000 feet in the air traveling at 523 miles per hour with about an hour left to Hyderabad, India. When Rev. Mommy Cee suggested that I come to the international women’s praying convocation in India I immediately thought of all the reasons I shouldn’t and couldn’t ranging from money and the fact that the AME church as a whole doesn’t think so highly of #AMEIndia. Then just as quickly, I heard God ask how do I really expect to practice what I preach and ensure that the Kingdom come here on Earth as it is in Heaven if I don’t move when God gives opportunity.
So, here I am, God blessed me with dude that supports every activity and dream I have with very minimal mumbling. I flew from Atlanta to Chicago to meet up with the other 40 folks. I was excited that I was in the terminal with Garretts popcorn. The fact that there was no line was a sign from God. I got a jumbo Chicago Mix. When I was coming through security, I was very hurt by a TSA agent in Chicago who was indiscriminately rude and nasty to the non American travelers. She even covered her nose and yelled “ugh, give me tissue they stink” My heart pounded and my fist curled. After, getting my shoes on, I calmly went to the supervisor on duty an expressed my concerns. He apologized and said that he does not tolerate that behavior and immediately observed and went and got her.
I found my group, a bunch of women and 3 men, we received journals, instructions and prayer from Bishop John. (My brother Henry joked earlier and said “don’t let them leave you” in 1988 Bishop and Reverend Mommy Were newly elected and went to Nigeria and Henry went with them. He stayed a couple years and pastored)
We boarded the Etihad Airlines flight, I watched a couple of movies – Hector and the Search for Happiness and The Love Punch. I slept several hours. Chose the vegetarian meals (still on Daniel Fast) which are all full of spicy potatoes, rice and some kind of bean…. (Hopefully, I won’t be the one that stinks)
As we landed in Abu Dhabi the lights put me in the mind of Las Vegas and I felt myself wishing I had organized my trip for a day stay over on the return, but quickly realized that would only be fun with Dude….. or Dwayne Jeff and Sonya – they make for great travel companions as well that’s as long as Sonya doesn’t make the flight arrangements.

Well, until later….
Peace and Love
Toni

Nothing but time

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You really never have enough time, unless of course you simply take it. I’ve had so many things I was going to do whenever I got the time, but the time never ever came and I never got any of it done. I really would like to be categorized as a doer, but honestly, I’m mainly just a thinker, a very compassionate innovative thinker, but a thinker nonetheless. Sometimes, if I’m honest I would even say that I have paralysis of analysis.

Thankfully, God doesn’t see me the way I see myself. God sees me in God’s image. Able not just to think but also to do. This is my year. I’ll be fifty on April the 23rd, I sent my three beautiful, loving, capable adult children, what my brother calls a “text of terror”. I simply said they were being cut off. Don’t feel bad for them, they got private school, college tuition, rent, gas money, travel around the world and anything they ever asked for – they’ll be just fine. Dude was laid off in October and this pastoring gig is not a moneymaker, so it seems only fair every capable body use the skills talents and graces God has equipped them with to the fullest.

The other thing that sapped my time was worry. Worry is paralyzingly ungodly which is not a good pastoral trait. So I’ve given that up to. Now mind you, I realize that is easier said than done, but Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie gave me permission in the form of a bracelet. A “permission slip” bracelet. (Praycation retreat- I’ll wait on her book to tell you the rest of the details and the genius of basically giving yourself permission to live the life God has created each of us to live)

So, this is my journey, my online journal about all the ways I’m using my time now that I’ve decided to really live the life God has blessed me with. You’re invited to join me and share your opinions, your hopes, your dreams, even your sheer disdain that I would have the audacity to publicly say and give life to all the things that many of us would rather pretend don’t exist.

Prayerfully, you read with an open mind as I delve into politics, church stuff, raising kids, keeping husbands, enjoying older parents, playing grandparent, hanging out with family, eating out, cooking in, traveling and whatever else pops into my head. Keep in mind, this is not about you, but all about me and probably a bit about dude and #marchingtoZion

Peace and Love
Toni

giving

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Last night, I went to Target to get some thank you notes.  Of course I could have gotten them from anywhere, but I love Target.  I was in my neighborhood not the church one, but my home one.  When I walked up talking and laughing and being my usual jovial without a care in the world self, I heard a woman talking and I realized she was talking to me.  I saw her as I walked up and my eyes caught hers and I smiled as she and her kids were standing by the door.  I am accustomed to folks standing and waiting on rides and I wasn’t in Edgewood where it is bound to be someone asking for something so I was a little taken aback when she started talking to me.

“Ma’am do you have any money?” Of course living in that VISA commercial I very rarely have cash and so I immediately was saying no when I remembered my nail tech’s tip money that I didn’t give her and I passed her the money.  “What’s going on with you?”, my pastoral concern was taking over.  She told me that she didn’t have all of her rent money.  I apologized for not having more to share and went into the store.

As I checked out, I looked out the doors to the store and saw the family standing there and I chose the cash back option.  When I went back outside, as I handed her the money, I asked the mother what was the problem with the rent.  Being in Edgewood, I have grown accustomed to parents who have not gone to their required classes or met their requirements of working.  I hadn’t heard this one though.  The father of her two oldest died and his SSI check was now being split between them and another child that she didn’t know that he had.  I apologized and we spoke briefly about her options in finding an apartment that could be afforded on her new lower income.  Immediately, a woman walked briskly up and passed a bill to the mother and said, “here, take this $100 and I sure hope you’re not lying – go take care of those babies”.  The mom exclaimed in excitement and asked God to bless the woman and assured her she was not lying.  The woman said uh huh and walked away.

So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

I felt some kind of way when the woman gave that $100.  I remember growing up in the church and at every benevolent offering you heard “so let each one give as he/she purpose in the their heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” while the lady gave $100, she seemed compelled and not very cheerful to me.   Sometimes it seems that we have to do something to make ourselves feel better – not necessarily because it is the right thing to do.  I see folks all the time give money and say, “don’t buy a drink”, “you better spend my hard earned money on food”, “I pray to God you’re not tricking me”.  I often wonder if they spend their time wondering what their money went for.

I know in the economic times it may seem hard to give cheerfully or it may appear prudent to question where your money is going, but imagine if that is how God treated us. We are to give from our hearts cheerfully because that is how God has blessed and continues to give to us.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). Jesus “gave Himself for our sins” (Galatians 1:4). “Walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us” (Ephesians 5:2). God is a giver and He wants us to be like Him.

Every time I find myself in need, my God restores me and heals me and encourages me and cheers me on with compassion and mercy and grace.  The way that God takes care of me encourages me to be like God – gracious and merciful, compassionate and loving.   The way that God gives to me, despite who I am, despite my shortcomings, despite my thoughts and despite my actions, makes me realize that I have an example that is so easy to follow in my giving, not just in my money, but in my time, in my heart strings, in my talents.

I want to be like Christ not just when folks can see me, but cheerfully at all times and in all places in my heart.  I want to love as Christ loves, I want to give as God has given to me – at that point I recognize that God blesses me with peace that surpasses my very understanding.

Maude and Me….

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When I first came to Greater Smith Chapel as pastor in May of 2008, there was a huge dead tree that greeted me from the street.  After the first worship service, I walked out the front door of the church and to the right of the church was a magnificent oak tree.  I mean it was huge the tree was green and flourishing.  There were families of animals living in the branches.  Squirrels and chipmunks and all species of birds frolicked in the tree and you could envision a tire swing and a picnic table underneath.  The mass of yard that the tree covered could host several students studying or a great game of hide and seek.  The tree could literally be considered the tree of life.

One day the unfathomable happened, we were at church hanging out and having our normal dose of fun everything was great and getting better.  All of a sudden a huge wind came out of nowhere and uprooted the tree.  Not the dead one or all the ones that were in desperate need of pruning, but the great big oak.  The wind was so magnificent that it lifted the tree and turned it on its side breaking the very live roots.  Then the heavens opened up and the rains came down, lightning struck and all hail broke loose…. Hail started falling from the sky.  It was awful and an hour or so later it was gone as quick as it started.

When the tree was removed, it left a huge void in the yard…. There is a major brown spot in the yard that we just this summer decided to make a children’s garden.

Someone said it’s not always the leaning tree that falls

Maudestine Glanton was an oak tree kind of person.  She had the unique ability to encourage and engage children and adults alike.  She helped and gently nudged and would even make you believe what you were doing was you own idea.

One of the great debates in our two years together (which really seem like a lifetime) is what would the church do when I left as pastor.  Maude Glanton always said that whenever Greater Smith Chapel had trained a good pastor they would leave.  I would always emphatically tell her that I had no intentions of leaving, that I was not seeking to go anywhere and that the kind of congregation that I ideally wanted to pastor, we would create at Greater Smith Chapel.  We always talked about what if when and if I left, I always explained that I was 150% all in.  We never EVER considered what Greater Smith Chapel would do, what I would do when Maude Glanton left us…

There is a huge void left in my heart.  I know as surely that I do that our Savior lives that Maudestine May Glanton in her infinite wisdom has already given us the tools to fill this incomprehensible void… I look forward to sharing my learning with you in some blog posts in the nearby future entitled “Maude and me…. The girl’s guide to pastoring and loving and living”