Jesus, Therapy, or Both?

Before the Black community knew that trauma, Depression, or anxiety had a name, there was an answer to all our problems: the answer was Jesus. Public tears were often mistaken for weakness. Silence was golden and a sure sign of [mandatory] resilience. People have taken family secrets and trauma to the grave because that’s what they did. It’s what we do. Generations of substance abuse and unexplained anger can be linked to unaddressed emotion or experiences.

I was a Christian before I was ever a therapist. Now I’m both. But the Biblical stance trumps the DSM. I've seen a spectrum of response to Mental Health Treatment in the Black Christian Church: either Depression doesn’t exist; prayer is the only answer; or a whole bunch of psychology. I can’t say that my view falls anywhere on the spectrum. I’ve noticed within my own life how much better I’ve felt after I released some things bothering me. It started with Beauty for Ashes.

I’ve been involved in the mental health field for some time.  I’m no veteran but I’ve seen some interesting things and heard disturbing/troubling scenarios. To establish balance I’ve consulted the word. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  1. Talking about issues helps relieve internal pressure (James 5:16).  James instructs us to confess our sins and pray for one another for healing. Sin and trauma are completely different but I believe there’s relevance to discussing what’s inside and asking God to heal us.

  2. A great deal of internal struggles happen in and begin with the mind: (2 Cor. 10:3-5). What we think and meditate on govern our responses and emotions. Thinking and re-thinking the “right” things can be a matter of negative vs constructive thoughts. Check out Philippians 4.  

Even as a clinician I’ve noticed that therapy alone can sometimes be a bandage on a gunshot wound. There is some deliverance that can only be done by God e.g. psychosis. Psychosis can be treated with therapy and medication but it cannot be cured by it. Psychosis returns without treatment. Hence the need for a higher power-Jesus.

Bringing it in…

I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with therapy but at no point should it be used in lieu of seeking God for deliverance. Talk it out but depend on Him to provide your healing, strength, and continued recovery.

Grace and peace,
Risha


The God of This AND That

I was meditating on my problems the other day. Yes- I was deep in thought about the challenges I was facing that needed God’s intervention. As the meditation became a conversation with God, I began to tell Him about the needs that I had and how I needed Him to “make some things happen” because I was not able to. I even went as far as telling Him about the things that I didn’t think I could do because I didn’t have what I needed to move forward. God didn’t address any of the things that I said I didn’t have or couldn’t do. He reminded me that He provided 3 international trips for me within 2 years. As I pondered the depth of what He spoke to me I realized that none of the challenges or needs that I have or had are a challenge for God. I coined Him as the God of THIS AND THAT in my life that day.

I’m a poet so I play with words a lot. Words also usually hit me harder than others because I flip what’s said to me a million times in my mind. Imagine the gravity of the moment when I realized that God was enough for everything in my life. If God can address this, He can also address that. If He can heal this, He can heal that. If He can provide me with this, He can provide me with that. If God did this, He will also do that. The same God that heals headaches is the same God who heals tumors. The same God who sustains my housing, all of my bills, and other resources is the same God who erases debt.  There’s nothing too big or small for Him. He’s able to do exceedingly above anything that we can ask or think.  He is able to do exceedingly above every THIS AND THAT of our lives!

Pause for a moment and think of some ways that you may have been putting God in boxes. Now take those boxes and discard them. There’s nothing that He can’t do!

Grace and peace,
Risha


How Much is "All?"

I recently noticed [another] massive difference between God and I. It was alarming because  I’ve found it to be one of the pillars in our relationship: He is black and white. I have gray areas. So words like “all” or “total” haven’t always meant “all” or “total” to me.

Proverbs 3:5-7 is quoted often. Here I’d like to reference the latter portion of the scripture: “Acknowledge Him in all your ways and He will direct your path.” Truthfully, I’d never seen a time that I applied “all my ways” in the context of this scripture. It seems like I categorized what I should seek Him for. My rationale varied from situation-to-situation. Some situations seemed too “little” to consult Him about-petty matters if you will. Other times I feared what His response would be; if it wasn’t one of those, I just didn’t want to because I wanted what I wanted.

When God says to acknowledge Him in all our ways, that’s what He means. He doesn’t specify a time that He will not direct our path. “All” means with difficult choices, times that seem minor, times we don’t know what we should do, or even times that we feel like we would rather not. God doesn’t change. So “all” also means “all” when He says that He will supply all of our needs; or that we should love or trust Him with all our heart. It means He really has our best interest in mind when He wishes above all things that we prosper and be in good health...God wants to be involved in every area of our lives. What’s important to us as His children is important to Him as our father. He dealings with us involve “all” from beginning to end. Which explains why He would rather us be hot or cold- He wants all of us. 

When it comes to God, all means every. All means total. All means entire(ty). In order to obey His word from the position of “all,” all may also mean discipline; or trusting; or submission; or sacrifice; or humility. Whatever it means for you, do what it takes for all of God’s promises to be unlocked, all of His plans to be carried out, and all that He has for you to be obtainable.

 Create a pattern of “all” with God and watch what happens next!

Grace and peace,
Risha


What I Learned from A Meme: What I Asked for, What I got

Memes about a hairstyle that a client asked for versus what the stylist did crack me up. I’m not sure if this is good or bad. Recently I was chuckling about a meme when I realized something: God can relate to the disappointment and frustration of the clients that post the epic fails. These clients were hoping to be satisfied with what they asked for. There was an image or design they had in mind that wasn’t delivered.

As I consider this concept closely I think of times that I’ve sat in a chair or two and was spun around less than satisfied with what the stylist did to my hair. I was frustrated because I showed a picture-more than one knowing me, and was guaranteed by the stylist that they could do it. Ultimately, I was frustrated because I felt like I was lied to, used-assured just so that I would give them my hard-earned money, and completely fooled. Interestingly enough, I can recall a couple of stylists that were proud of their work for whatever reason. Maybe they felt that they should have gotten an “A for effort.”

Imagine how God must feel when He asks for things like obedience, faith, consistency, love, growth, holiness, etc. but gets things less than satisfactory like Plan B’s, riding the fence, overriding the Holy Spirit, broken promises, and so on. How about when we don’t do what He tells us but still pride ourselves and expect the A for effort? Granted He’s our father and knows that we will fall short, we should still purpose in our hearts to please Him. The content and intentions of our heart are everything!

Grace and peace,

Risha

Mission Accomplished: My two-week mission to Kenya

I went on my third mission trip. I’ve been back in the U.S. for a little over a week now. My body is recouping from an 8-hour time change, jet lag, and returning to work the very next morning after my arrival. I should probably be careful how I word all of the above to make sure that I don’t seem grieved by the process. Truth is, I’d do it all over again. It’s beautiful because I feel that way about every mission trip that I’ve taken. I mentioned in an earlier post that I wanted to be a missionary when I was an adolescent. The notion of it seemed so far-fetched in my own mind. God has proven that it wasn’t far-fetched in His.

This trip was comprised of a 3-city tour: Nairobi, Eldoret, and Matunda. Every area offered a different experience and required something different of me. I’m a social worker so I take things in differently. I’m huge on culture and always eager to learn how others live: the language, the decorum, the fashion, music, food, etc. Nairobi is the capital of Kenya.  That was the first destination: We were apart of several services that included day sessions in a church and open-air meets in the city. Seeing people give their lives to Christ or experiencing Him in the way that He wants to show himself never get old. Worship services were in English and Swahili. I find it so awesome and intriguing how the Holy Spirit transcends language differences and barriers. The children (one of my favorite parts of every trip) were full of laughter, life, and contentment. I’m often provoked to reassess my own gratitude after seeing people who live less fortunate than myself live with contentment and focus on the Kingdom.

The next stop was Matunda. We stayed in a village called Soysambu. There was another school there that had over 200 students. They were lively and eager to mingle. It was a blessing to interact with them, ask questions, and share the love of God.

The last stop was in Eldoret. Eldoret was the conclusion of the services. We continued to show the love of God and witness His manifestation to others. It was beautiful. This trip was significant to me because of how I saw the grace of God magnified. I needed God’s grace from start-to-finish and He supplied it. We experienced delays of 10+ hours, another plane crashed that was headed to the same destination as our own, there was an explosive found at one of the airports we were in route to, we were tired and sleep deprived but by the grace and goodness of God, the mission was a success: God touched the lives of others while allowing us to be His hands and feet.

Grace and peace,
Risha

Self-care or Self-ish?

Ps. 90:12 “So teach us to number our days, That we may cultivate and bring to You a heart of wisdom.”

The first few times I read this scripture I took it to mean that we should remember our days are numbered-that we have a limited amount of time on Earth so with that we should inquire of God to teach us to be good stewards over our predesignated days. I have greater revelation since the death of a loved one. Numbering our days shouldn’t just remind us that we have a limited amount of time on Earth. It should inspire us to live to the best of our ability; we should make sure that our days are meaningful and fulfilled.

As I sat in the funeral I listened to their years of service. It was impressive-not because of the quantity but because of the quality. She made time to serve despite her daily demands. I found it even more precious when I considered how things could have been if she would have been selfish with her knowledge, mentorship, or time.

Given the impression that she has left on my life as well as others, I’ve concluded that it’s no longer acceptable to be selfish with my time. As a social worker, I totally get the need for self-care. I get it as a human, but with anything else in life, it’s important to be balanced. Please understand: there’s a need to say no in order to rest, replenish, or decompress. There’s a need for me-time, there’s a need to deprive persons of your time and presence who don’t deserve it. But there’s a vast difference between doing what you need to do to function optimally and depriving the world and others of all your goodness for your own benefit. Declining or failure to multiply your God-given investment is not self-care. It’s selfish. Let’s evaluate life, identify our passion(s) and calling(s), and do what we were born to do. Our days are numbered.

Grace and peace,
Risha

Timeout

I remember the first time I was placed in time out. It was awful. For the first time in my short, little life I would have rather had a spanking to get things over with. There was something dreadful about being isolated from others while life carried on. Those 5, 10, or 20 minutes-however long they may have been, seemed as if they took forever. Timeout with other children to witness only worsened the experience. It was shameful that other children knew I’d done something bad enough to be punished and even worse, couldn’t proceed with playing until my sentence was done.

As a growing Christian, I’ve found myself in predicaments that felt like timeout. Repentance didn’t seem to suffice for sins that I committed. It felt like I was on a probationary period even after I asked for forgiveness, so I would refrain from asking God for anything because I was still in “timeout.”  Along the way, I’ve learned that the times in timeout was condemnation.

God is certainly our father but His ways of teaching and growing us is not like that of natural fathers. Although we may anger, disappoint, or sadden him, He does not hold our actions over our heads when we ask Him to forgive us. Moments that I feel condemnation lurking around the corner, I begin to speak God’s word regarding the situation: 1 John 1:9, Romans 3:23, and Romans 8:1. Sure, people are prone to remember the bad and forget the good things that we’ve done but that’s not God’s way. Ask God to forgive you (and turn away from the sin), forgive yourself, and move forward knowing that God is there to love on you and restore you!

Grace and peace,
Risha

Crafting My Second Book

So... I've written another book! Ain't God good? The writing process for this book was more intense for me because I've stepped further out of my comfort zone. Beauty for Ashes caused me to be anxious about what people would think. I wondered if it was good enough. The process for my second book hasn't been any different.

My writing is typically associated with spoken word poetry. This project will not have any poetry. However, there are some similarities present such as inspiration from God, relatable context, and a creative undertone.

The book is called Close to Home. It presents real-life, original concepts that provoke readers to consider how they would handle situations if they were at their front door. There is suspense, romance, drama, and action rolled into one book. I took a poll via social media recently. I wanted to learn if people prefer happy endings or plot twists. Most people responded that they prefer plot-twists opposed to happy endings. Each storyline provides a reader with an opportunity to determine the ending for themselves.

I don't take it for granted that you all read my work, share it, or show me love. It's never overlooked or forgotten. Thanks for all of the support along the way. Let the journey continue!

Grace and peace,

Risha

Get Out: Depression and Reality of the Sunken Place

Get Out has been out for a minute now. So technically, this shouldn’t be considered a spoiler. One of the most discussed and intense scenes is when Chris unwillingly sinks into the floor. Once he falls into a dark and bottomless hole where he can no longer be seen or heard from by anyone, the hypnotist informs him that he is in the “sunken place.”  Characters throughout the storyline function from the sunken place: their body image doesn’t change. They look to be the same despite their imprisonment.

I’ve heard many people respond to the scene in the movie with the phrase “that’s crazy!”  What's crazier is the countless people with depression so severe that they're actively in the sunken place.  It’s difficult for others around them to know because they look the same outwardly. Some function in work environments as they always have, post selfies and vids regularly,  dress to the tee for church services, or provide for families all while their emotional health is in shambles. And then there are others with stents of Depression so crippling that they’ve become numb, over or underweight, unhappy, and unmotivated.  It’s misfortunate that Depression has such a negative connotation. Perhaps people would be more willing to seek help if they didn’t fear the negative associations that come with it. Some who've become entrapped don’t know how to get out.

The sunken place can be a very lonely and frightening place. It’s nothing that a trapped person can simply climb out of.  We’ve seen 2 celebrity suicides within the course of a week. Money or any other form of resources are insufficient to address the root of misery. Just as we may look at others and assume their lives are foolproof, we do the same to those closest to us. If you’ve noticed a loved one that doesn’t seem like themselves, check on them. If you know someone who’s lost their mojo or has been sad for an extensive amount of time, look further into the situation.  It’s worth the effort. If you’ve been feeling unmotivated, numb, irritated, discombobulated, or simply different than you’ve known yourself to be, reach out for help.

We’re in this together.

Grace and peace,

Risha

God is Gracious: Gems from a Jewel

Can I embrace my blackness for a minute? Black moms are notorious for sharing unsolicited advice and opinions. It comes with the territory. As my mom and I continue to age, we continue to learn.  We learn more about life, spirituality, and each other. We learn together. As an ode to my mother, I’ve decided to jot down my top 3 gems from her.

  1. Ease your head out of the lion’s mouth: I can admit that my temper isn’t always in line with the word. Although I strive to make great decisions, I sometimes fail to. In most cases, the failure is related to rash decisions.  My mom has always told me to be mindful of how my response to others (in anger) could impact me in the long run.

  2. Have mercy: Without mercy I can’t obtain it.  My mom often emphasized the law of reciprocity-sowing and reaping, and the importance of showing mercy because I need it even more than I need to give it to others.  Recognizing my need for mercy helped me understand grace and how much I need to receive and give that as well.

  3. Always pray: My mom is a woman of prayer, and has been for as long as I can remember. She takes Proverbs 3:5-6 to heart and applies it in every situation.  We can drive around a mall parking lot and she’ll pray that God gives us a good parking space. Sure enough, one opens. She commits everything to prayer. Along my journey, I’m learning to do the same.  

She continues to share her wisdom with me.  I’m forever grateful for my mom as the woman of God and mother that she is. I look forward to the additional gems I’ll gain from her.