After Pentecost, then what?



An icon of the Pentecost, from the Greek Orthodox tradition. (Credit: Phiddipus)


Yesterday was Pentecost, the day that Christians commemorate the pouring out of the Holy Spirit (as told in the book of Acts) and celebrate the birth of the Church. My church has been walking through the book of Acts during our Wednesday night Bible class. We spent a good deal of time developing an understanding of the Holy Spirit’s interactions with the New Testament Church. I’ll summarize it briefly because the rest of the post relies on a clearer understanding.

In a nutshell, all who have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior have the Holy Spirit living inside of them. Unfortunately, not all believers allow themselves to be influenced by the Spirit. (In Acts, the apostles experienced both.)

We get excited about “signs and wonders” or the manifestation of the Spirit, but what do we do after the experience? Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as the Comforter (some translations use “Advocate”). Yes, the Spirit is available to comfort us and advocate on our behalf, but an encounter with the Spirit should always prompt action on our part. The Spirit equips us to build up God’s Kingdom – to proclaim the Good News, to set free those who are in bondage, to open the eyes of the blind (Isaiah 61, Luke 4) . . .

For those of us who identify as Christians, here’s a question for you: When was the last time you yielded and allowed yourself to be influenced by the Holy Spirit? We often talk a good game; but at the end of the day, we act out of our own ability instead of looking to God for guidance.

Yesterday evening, I found myself listening to a favorite song from my childhood (“Available to You”), a classic performed by the Thompson Community Singers (a.k.a. The Tommies). I was immediately reminded of how easy it is to go through life without pausing to listen to the Spirit and allowing ourselves to be used by God. The next time you’re thinking about “signs” from the Spirit, maybe you should consider this one:


I hope you can set aside a few minutes to listen to the song (the video is posted below). My prayer is not just that you would make room for the Spirit but that you would also yield to how the Spirit wants to move in your life.


Bonus: Here are two other videos to encourage you to allow yourself to be used by God.

Cheer Up Charlie

In Due Season

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
~ Galatians 6:9

Cheer Up CharlieI’m fascinated by how plants develop without me ever seeing the buds forming or the stems growing. I’m fascinated by how a green banana can ripen to a yellow color in a matter of days, yet I never see the actual pigments changing.

Growth is a process, but rarely do we see it happening; we often just see the results. And if the results aren’t happening fast enough, we get frustrated. Tending to plants reminds me to simply be still and know that God really is God. When I’m frustrated about where I am in life and where I think I should be by now, plants remind me that God is working in my life at all times.

So whether it’s physical, spiritual, academic or some other area, take a moment to look at where you are versus where you used to be. You’ll realize that growth has taken place. Keep pushing forward, and don’t get frustrated; growth takes time!

Be encouraged & encourage someone else!

In Her Own Words

Proverbs 3:5-6 is one of my favorite passages of scripture, and it one of the passages that governs my daily life. The only reason I even know these verses is because my mother wrote the scripture address (or the full passage) in just about every birthday/Christmas card she gave me and every letter that she sent me. If it wasn’t Proverbs 3:5-6, it was Philippians 4:13.

 I’m forever grateful for my mother because she truly shaped who I am as a person and as a Christian. So, as I was wondering what to share with you all on this Monday after Mother’s Day, my first thought was to talk about all of the ways that my mother’s sacrifices and support have impacted me. It’s a great idea, but it didn’t feel like the idea. Sometimes, it’s great to hear about a person but better to hear from that person. So I told my mother that I was preparing this post, and I asked her if there was something that she would like me to share on her behalf. It turns out that she’s been thinking a lot about sharing her story with others in hopes that she can help them get through their own storms with their faith intact. So instead of me talking about her, Dorothy Nowlin will share her story in her own words . . .

I was born in Palestine, Arkansas. I never knew my biological father, and I was raised by my great-grandmother, who had also raised my mother. (My grandmother died when my mother was only six years old.) Palestine was a rural area, so my childhood experiences included picking and chopping cotton along with tending to chickens on our land.

As a child, I enjoyed writing stories, poems and plays. I was even in a play at school and had one of the longest speaking parts. The age of 12 was a time of great joy and great pain. When I was 12, I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior. I remember having to sit on the “mourners’ bench” and also being baptized in the river. But when I was 12, I was also molested by a family member. I never told anyone, but it was a difficult time for me. I once told my mother, who was living in Chicago, that I was afraid that if I didn’t leave the South, I might kill myself. (I even tried once by eating some poisonous plants.) Despite tragedy so early in my life, I graduated from elementary school as the salutatorian.

I moved on to a new life in Chicago with my mother, but a new life didn’t mean no trials. In my senior year of high school, I was also working at a nursing home in the city. One day after work, I was walking to my friend’s house but never made it there because I was raped. I went home to my mother, who called the police and filed a report. Then I had to go on with my life. I graduated from high school, despite the pain. Though there were trials, there were also many times of joy. I stayed in Chicago after high school, got married, found a church home (where I still attend) and had four beautiful children – along with a number of miscarriages. My children are all adults, and I now have three beautiful grandchildren. I even earned my Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education at the age of 61.

Looking back over my life, I recognize that I have been through molestation, rape, the death of my husband, a brain tumor and two bouts with breast cancer. As I look back, I just thank God. I sometimes strayed away from him when I was younger, but he was always there with me. I have leaned on Proverbs 3:5-6 so many times in life, and that’s what I want you to know. Trust and obey the Lord, have faith the size of a mustard seed, and he will see you through. No matter what aches and pains I’ve been through, I’ve come out victorious.

So many people go through pain and try to forget it. But I want to share my story in hopes that it will encourage someone else and give them the strength to keep trusting God and hoping for better. I also share in hopes that those who are not saved will be drawn to God because of my story.

One thing I know for sure is that God kept me, and it was for a purpose. So as long as I live, I will tell anyone who will listen about his goodness in my life!


Mom and Dad 70s

Me with my late husband, Larry, in the 70s


2012 Baby dedication

Me with my children and grandchildren at the dedication of my youngest granddaughter, Anahi-Rose


Spring 2008 - after chemo

Me with my daugthers and grandson, shortly after I began chemo





The Wisdom of the Gambler – Pt. 3

Here is the final post in this week’s reblogged series from 2011.

the dreamer speaks

 This is the last post in the unexpected series about The Gambler. This is the part I’m sure you’ve been waiting for because we finally get to the catchy refrain!

You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em. Simply put, you have to pick your battles. Though you may really want to get your point across, sometimes it’s better to just save your breath. This line also reminds us that sometimes, you don’t reveal everything that you know. (I’d use more card references, but I’m not much of a card player – unless you count the occassional game of Uno.)

Know when to walk away, and know when to run. A great deal of our communication takes place non-verbally. So certain things can be conveyed based on how you leave a situation. The other thing to consider is that you have to be observant of…

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By nilwona

The Wisdom of The Gambler – Pt. 2

This is part 2 of a reblogged series from 2011.

the dreamer speaks

In yesterday’s post, I talked about the nuggets of wisdom hidden in the song, “The Gambler.” Here are a few more nuggets that I’d like to share:

Wisdom can come when you least expect it…and when you need it the most. The first line of the song says that the singer and the gambler were “on a train bound for nowhere.” After they stop avoiding each other and have grown bored of just staring out of the window, the gambler looks at the singer and can tell that he’s at the end of his rope. That’s when he offers the singer some advice.

Sometimes, when you think you’re “out of aces” and have no more cards to play, that’s when the answer you’ve been looking for will come to you. The great thing about wisdom? You don’t have to wait for it to come, all you have to do is…

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By nilwona

The Wisdom of The Gambler

Sometimes, as I review old posts, they ask to be “revived.” This week’s posts are reblogs of a 3-part series from 2011. Who knew a gambler could provide such wisdom?!

the dreamer speaks

Most people are probably familiar with the Kenny Rogers version of the song “The Gambler” and may even remember his TV series of the same name. For the past few weeks, the refrain to this song has been popping in and out of my head. I’ve even used it as my Facebook status a few times. Today, when the words popped into my head again, I decided to look up all of the lyrics and figure out what message I was supposed to be hearing. After reading through the lyrics, I picked up a few nuggets of wisdom that I wanted to share with you:

How much is wisdom worth to you? The song is a story about the singer’s encounter with a seasoned gambler while riding a train. The singer recognizes the gambler, apparently because of his reputation. The gambler’s experience tells him that the singer is down on…

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By nilwona

So much more than Ferguson…

As I mentioned earlier this week, I’m trying to maintain blog presence while also resting my hand(s). So today’s post is a reblog from 2014. Unfortunately, the words/sentiment are still relevant.

the dreamer speaks

Warning: Sometimes, I ramble. This is one of those times.

I recently had a brief email conversation with a colleague who is becoming a friend and an ally. The conversation was, of course, about Ferguson. In one of my rambling responses, I mentioned how I’ve been disconnected from a lot of what’s going on because of my struggle with trying to balance my work schedule with maintaining a healthy self-care routine. (In other words, I’m up and out the door early in the morning and have to get to bed pretty early at night, not leaving much time to catch up on current events.) Then I admitted that a part of me was relieved that my circumstances have somewhat disconnected me because to be plugged in to what’s happening means having to face the painful reality of being black in the United States. To be plugged in means to be…

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By nilwona

Writing the Truth of Racial Justice from My White Skin

AndiToday’s post is from a fellow Redbud, Andi Cumbo-Floyd. She is a writer, editor, researcher, and farmer, whose books include The Slaves Have Names and Steele Secrets. She blogs regularly at ourfolkstales.com and andilit.com.

By faith, Moses, when grown, refused the privileges of the Egyptian royal house. He chose a hard life with God’s people rather than an opportunistic soft life of sin with the oppressors. – Hebrews 11:24-25

I read these verses just this morning and felt the zing of truth, of conviction, of calling whip through me.  The question I am sitting with these days is how do I refuse the privileges that come with the racial identity most people assign me – white – and choose instead to ally with God’s people of color so as to refuse my privileges, my white privilege specifically.  I don’t know the answers yet.

As a woman who identifies as white but whose ancestors were black, as a woman who has been called to write about, research, and speak the truth about the wounds rooted in the legacy of slavery here in the U.S., as a woman who believes that our God is a God of justice and a God of profound mercy, as a woman who was raised in the southern United States and who has taken on, mostly unwittingly, the racism of that place, how do I settle myself in with the oppressed rather than using the power that my “white” appearance gives me?

I’m still figuring that out.

One thing I am doing is working actively to amplify the voices of people of color, particular African American voices.  I do that in my books and on a website I run called Our Folks’ Tales. I do it by volunteering my time as a member of the board for an anti-racism organization, Coming to the Table. I do it by spending lots of hours researching the names and stories and family lines of enslaved people here in Virginia where I live.  Those are good things, important things, but they are not the little things that matter most, the daily things, the moment-based things, the speaking truth for freedom in the every day.

This daily struggle, the one I don’t have to live because of my complexion, this struggle is the one I think that the writer of Hebrews is speaking about. Moses took on violence against the enslavers and then fled before reluctantly returning to bring freedom through God’s miracles.  I am called to be a child of peace. I am called to be here, right where I am, on this farm that was once a place of enslavement. I am not bound to murder or to flee.

I am called, and perhaps this is my answer, to write. To write the truth large and loud. To share the truth as spoken by my sisters and brothers of color. To speak my own truth as a white woman who finds deep rootedness and identity in her black ancestors.  I am called to bear witness to injustice, to call forth the strands of mercy, and to trust that God’s goodness and active love will bring justice through those things.

I am not Moses. I have no speech impediment, and I will not part the sea.  But I will speak, loud and gentle, the truth that we are not in the land of milk and honey, where equality is our standard and privilege given to all.  I will speak this truth as I sit at the Mercy Seat, trusting all along that if I do my small work, if I write out the truth as I see it dimly, God’s justice will roll down like that mighty stream.

Where Are You?

Note: I’m dealing with some arthritis/carpal tunnel issues, so this week’s posts will be a combination of short posts, guest posts and/or reblogs.

On Saturday, I attended the UMI (Urban Ministries International) Writers Conference. There were a ton of reasons (all physical) that I shouldn’t go, but I really felt like I was supposed to be there, so I pressed on and made it. UMI CEO, Jeff Wright, presented a devotion to start off the day. Before he was done, I knew I was right where God wanted me to be! I wanted to briefly share his thoughts with you.

God’s formula for discovering your purpose involves knowing these three things:

  1. You have a passion for it. It gives you joy.
  2. You’re good at it. Others have affirmed this. Not only are you good at it, you do it in excellence.
  3. It blesses other people. Use “the blessing test” in Matthew 25. Does what you do bring others closer to Christ?

Figuring out if these three things apply to you will help you figure out where you are in your path to discovering your purpose. Enjoy the ride!


3 Lessons I Learned From Scumbling

I spent Friday evening and most of Saturday and Sunday sitting around a table with seven other people and writing* an icon under the instruction of a gifted iconographer. (*Because icons are seen as a depiction of the Holy Scriptures, the act of creating one is called writing, not painting.) I’m still processing this amazing/formative experience, but there are three thoughts/lessons that are clear enough to communicate to others.

#1: Trust the process. Things were going fine until it was time to work on the face of our image of Christ. The way that iconography works, you put down the skin tone (which is dark) first. Then, you add lighter and lighter tones to create the shape/highlight of the face. I crouched over my icon, attempting my best effort at a technique called scumbling. It involved using an almost dry brush and circular motions to apply highlighting to the face. Except, to me, it looked like I was putting clown make-up on Jesus! But I continued to diligently scumble, because I knew that this was a process that iconographers had been using for centuries. So, even though it didn’t seem to make sense, I chose to trust the process.

#2: Trust the teacher. Even if I didn’t trust the process when it came to scumbling, I knew I could trust our very capable instructor, Joe Malham. He would never say this himself, but Joe is an amazing iconographer – and quite a patient instructor!

#3: Sometimes, you have to step away for a better perspective. Even though I trusted the process and trusted our instructor, I must admit that I was still a little worried about how successful my scumbling efforts were. Then I stood up and stepped back from the table. It’s amazing what a little bit of distance can do!

So, of course, I’m going somewhere with this. Particularly because the process of writing an icon is an act of spiritual formation/discipline/worship, I couldn’t stop myself from applying these icon-writing lessons to my life. (I also had to acknowledge that these aren’t actually new lessons. They’re just old lessons presenting themselves for a review!) I hope that you find them to be helpful for your journey as well!

And because I know you’re wondering, here’s a photo of my completed icon. It’s a portion of the “Supper at Emmaus” icon. (If you’ve seen the original, you’ll note that Joe took a little creative license and swapped out the roll on the table for a cup.) There are some final technical touches (frame, lettering, varnish, etc.) that Joe and his assistant will add, and then it will be blessed by the priest at St. Gregory the Great.

Jesus - supper at Emmaus 4.17.2016

P.S. Here is the final completed version!

completed icon May 2016