Pandemic Keeping You From Church? Get Your Praise On Regardless.
I'm willing to bet some pretty good money that, when a lot of y'all attended watch night service at your church on New Year's Eve of 2019, you had absolutely no idea that it would be months before you would step foot back into your church again. And yet, here we are. COVID-19 threw us all for a loop and church is one of the casualties of it. At least for now.
As you wait until you can meet with your pastor and the members of your church of choice again, there are some things that you can do to keep the devil from stealing your joy. As we're all navigating through how to live in a pandemic, I've got a few tips on how you can get your praise on, even if you can't currently do it in the church (and pew) that you're used to doing it in every weekend.
First, Refer Back to Acts 2 in the Bible
When I first transitioned out of regular church attendance (check out "What's The Difference Between Being 'Religious' And Being 'Spiritual', Anyway?"), a Scripture that some people literally kept throwing in my face was "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together". If you read all of Hebrews 10:19-25, that is not in reference to church going, just fellowship. And since the Word also says, "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20--NKJV), I'm a firm believer of (and am at perfect peace with) the fact that you don't need a huge congregation in order to get into the presence of the Most High or worship and fellowship with others.
Matter of fact, Acts 2:40-47 speaks of believers not only meeting at the temple but—catch it—also going from house to house. Both of these fall under the title of "A Vital Church Grows" (in the New King James Version of the Bible). So, if there happens to be some part of you who feels really guilty about not attending church or you're avoiding putting your own health (and the health of others) at risk by going, during a pandemic, cut yourself some slack. Worshiping in your home isn't a bad thing. Some would even say it's quite biblical.
Be Thankful This Is Happening When There’s Online Church
I've got a friend who struggles, basically every Sunday, with which church they want to go to. It's because they are super fond of three of 'em. "Thanks" to the pandemic, though, now they are at home. The silver lining to that is now they can attend all three, simultaneously, because they literally keep three different browsers open so that they can watch all of the services at the same time. Yeeeeeah, personally, that would wear me all the way out. But something about what they are doing does bring up a really good point. If your church isn't currently open (or you'd prefer not to attend right now), technology does make it possible to watch church online. You can either Google your favorite church/pastor to see if they've got an online streaming service that's available. Or, you can check out a site like Christian World Media that literally has a list of streaming services all around the world, including the church, date, time and what kind of services are taking place. You can check that out here.
Hold a Zoom Service with Long-Distant Family Members and Friends
Lawd. If anyone didn't foresee their stock rising crazy high in 2020, it would have to be Zoom. I mean, who hasn't had a Zoom meeting, of some sort, this year, right? Well, an alternative to online church is to hold your own church service with some of your loved ones via a Zoom conference call. Each of you can lead a particular part of the service and, while it won't be just like being at your home church, the cool thing about this option is you can worship with people from all over the globe; folks you may not have connected with in a while. If this is an option that piques your interest, the article, "9 Key Tips for Planning an Online Worship Service" can help you to organize your Zoom service in a way that can feel like you're holding an actual service—just from the comfort and convenience of your own home. Oh, and if you somehow have gotten away with never using Zoom before, you can get instructions on how to set it up here.
Create Your Own Praise and Worship Playlist
As far as church music goes, you could give me some old school Winans, The Imperials and Andre Crouch and The Disciples (yep, I took it way back) and I'd be all good on that front. And while I know that a lot of people go to church, in part, for the good music that might be awaiting them there, remember that being at home means that you are literally your own praise and worship DJ. You can think about all of the songs that you like, create a playlist and jam to them all day long, if you'd like. If you don't feel like making your own, you can always go to your favorite search engine and put "praise and worship playlist" or "gospel music playlist" into the search field; it'll automatically pull up several options for you to easily choose from.
Make Your Own Communion Bread. Serve Your Own Wine.
I'm a pretty literal person. So, while I know that communion is a traditional part of most church services (due to the context of what the Apostle Paul spoke of in I Corinthians 11:17-34), I also know that when Christ instructed his disciples to eat bread and wine in honor of his sacrifice, when he said, "do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:14-23), he didn't say it in a temple/church. That said, just because your church may not be collectively meeting right now (or you may be personally choosing not to go for health reasons), that doesn't mean you can't partake of communion. I know a few married couples who do this together every week. Even before COVID-19, I did it. You can simply reference Luke 22 and/or I Corinthians 11 and then partake of grape juice (or red wine). Shoot, you can even go all out and make your own unleavened bread if you want to. I found a really easy recipe here. (If you want to wash feet as well, all you need is a basin of water and you're all set.—John 13:1-7)
Lots of Folks Are in Need. Give to Some.
Tithing comes from Malachi 3. While I do find it fascinating that so many churches profess that the Old Testament has "passed away" yet somehow the exception is made when it comes to collecting coins, that's another article for another time. For now, what I will say is, according to 2 Timothy 3:16-17, all of the Bible is relevant and applicable. Still, different people interpret tithing different ways. I get that.
What I will say is, what's not up for debate is Christ once saying that, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35—NKJV). Whether it's sending money to your church, supporting an online ministry that you've been checking out since the pandemic or simply giving to someone in need, make sure that you sow into someone else's life.
Two things that I've been giving to, as of late, is The Black Chef Movement (it consists of two Black female chefs who feed protestors and people in need, free of charge) and the needs of Navajo Nation (check out The Navajo Water Project). Anyway, tithe literally means "10 percent" and the Bible says that we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7-9). In a nutshell, this means that we've got to actually sow something. Being out of church should never hinder that. Please make sure that you do it.
If You’re in “Phase 2” or Up, Hold a Small “Praise Brunch” at Home
Now, I'm mentioning this one, mostly for the extroverts out here. While I am more of an ambivert myself, I do personally know extroverts and it's pretty legit how this pandemic is taking a toll on their spirit, due to the constant lack of social interaction. That said, I live in Nashville. We have a different health department than Tennessee, so we kinda do our own thing. Anyway, at the time that I'm writing this (because 2020 really has been all over the place), we had to rollback to Phase Two which consists of being allowed to have private gatherings of 25 or less people. If your city is in the same phase (you can always Google to find out or contact your mayor's office to confirm), while I wouldn't advise 20-something folks being all up in your crib, this does make it possible for you to have a few family members and friends over for a brunch on the day that you observe whether it's Saturday or Sunday.
I don't know about y'all, but I grew up in a church where, it was common practice for there to be a potluck dinner, immediately following church service. It was a cool way to catch-up with people you hadn't seen all week and enjoy a meal while you're at it. And in times like these, brunching/potlucking is a good reminder that, even though church may not be going the way that you're accustomed to, there are alternatives that can make Saturday or Sunday pretty sacred, special and enjoyable—in spite of.
Remember God Is Everywhere. And Is for Responsible Living and Good Health.
Yeah. I'm not gonna even link all of the stories I've read of church leaders and congregants who defied their city's mandates and either met up at church when they shouldn't have or went without a mask on. All I'll say is, for every person who claims that it's their God-given right to go to church, even in a pandemic that could put them and others in harm's way, the Bible that they are toting on their way there says this:
"And here's why: God gives out Wisdom free, is plainspoken in Knowledge and Understanding. He's a rich mine of Common Sense for those who live well, a personal bodyguard to the candid and sincere. He keeps his eye on all who live honestly, and pays special attention to his loyally committed ones."—Proverbs 2:6-8(Message)
Seeking out knowledge and understanding about what's going on right now and then applying common sense to it? The Bible itself says that it can help to protect you. Let them.
I know that 2020 has been on some 2.0 stuff when it comes to creating and adjusting to a new normal. But that doesn't mean that a different way of living can't still be good. As far as church goes, I'm literally praying that these options can make living in the time of COVID-19, just a bit more bearable. Until you can attend your home church, once again.
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (firstname.lastname@example.org) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
How Content Creators Hey Fran Hey And Shameless Maya Embraced The Pivot
This article is in partnership with Meta Elevate.
If you’ve been on the internet at all within the past decade, chances are the names Hey Fran Hey and Shameless Maya (aka Maya Washington) have come across your screen. These content creators have touched every platform on the web, spreading joy to help women everywhere live their best lives. From Fran’s healing natural remedies to Maya’s words of wisdom, both of these content creators have built a loyal following by sharing honest, useful, and vulnerable content. But in search of a life that lends to more creativity, freedom, and space, these digital mavens have moved from their bustling big cities (New York City and Los Angeles respectively) to more remote locations, taking their popular digital brands with them.
Content Creators Hey Fran Hey and Maya Washington Talk "Embracing The Pivot"www.youtube.com
In partnership with Meta Elevate — an online learning platform that provides Black, Hispanic, and Latinx-owned businesses access to 1:1 mentoring, digital skills training, and community — xoNecole teamed up with Franscheska Medina and Maya Washington on IG live recently for a candid conversation about how they’ve embraced the pivot by changing their surroundings to ultimately bring out the best in themselves and their work. Fran, a New York City native, moved from the Big Apple to Portland, Oregon a year ago. Feeling overstimulated by the hustle and bustle of city life, Fran headed to the Pacific Northwest in search of a more easeful life.
Her cross-country move is the backdrop for her new campaign with Meta Elevate— a perfectly-timed commercial that shows how you can level up from wherever you land with the support of free resources like Meta Elevate. Similarly, Maya packed up her life in Los Angeles and moved to Sweden, where she now resides with her husband and adorable daughter. Maya’s life is much more rural and farm-like than it had been in California, but she is thriving in this peaceful new setting while finding her groove as a new mom.
While Maya is steadily building and growing her digital brand as a self-proclaimed “mom coming out of early retirement,” Fran is redefining her own professional grind. “It’s been a year since I moved from New York City to Portland, Oregon,” says Fran. “I think the season I’m in is figuring out how to stay successful while also slowing down.” A slower-paced life has unlocked so many creative possibilities and opportunities for these ladies, and our conversation with them is a well-needed reminder that your success is not tied to your location…especially with the internet at your fingertips. Tapping into a community like Meta Elevate can help Black, Hispanic, and Latinx entrepreneurs and content creators stay connected to like minds and educated on new digital skills and tools that can help scale their businesses.
During a beautiful moment in the conversation, Fran gives Maya her flowers for being an innovator in the digital space. Back when “influencing” was in its infancy and creators were just trying to find their way, Fran says Maya was way ahead of her time. “I give Maya credit for being one of the pioneers in the digital space,” Fran said. “Maya is a one-person machine, and I always tell her she really changed the game on what ads, campaigns, and videos, in general, should look like.”
When asked what advice she’d give content creators, Maya says the key is having faith even when you don’t see the results just yet. “It’s so easy to look at what is, despite you pouring your heart into this thing that may not be giving you the returns that you thought,” she says. “Still operate from a place of love and authenticity. Have faith and do the work. A lot of people are positive thinkers, but that’s the thinking part. You also have to put your faith into work and do the work.”
Fran ultimately encourages content creators and budding entrepreneurs to take full advantage of Meta Elevate’s vast offerings to educate themselves on how to build and grow their businesses online. “It took me ten years to get to the point where I’m making ads at this level,” she says. “I didn’t have those resources in 2010. I love the partnership with Meta Elevate because they’re providing these resources for free. I just think of the people that wouldn’t be able to afford that education and information otherwise. So to amplify a company like this just feels right.”
Watch the full conversation with the link above, and join the Meta Elevate community to connect with fellow businesses and creatives that are #OnTheRiseTogether.
Featured image courtesy of Shameless Maya and Hey Fran Hey
What Is the Cab Light Theory & How Does It Apply To Your Love Life?
For most of my 20s, I found myself toggled between situationships and dead-end dynamics that left me with nothing more than frosty memories of what could have been. While these relationships proved to be great learning moments and experiences that have shaped my views on what I deserve in a long-term partnership, it’s hard not to mull over why timing never quite played in my favor.
Chalk it up to naivety or simply the hopeful romantic in me, but love never seemed like a distant concept to me. Sure there were tough lessons I had to learn and breakups that I needed healing from, but the hope of finding that special someone still remained. Yet, in my reflections, I couldn’t help but wonder why I kept meeting men who seemed good enough for the moment but would be better had we met at another time.
That is, until I considered one fated component of my dating life that was simply out of my control: and that was time.
When you can’t make sense of things on your own, the TikTok algorithm has a way of leading you to the answers you’re seeking. And during a recent scroll, I stumbled upon a thread of women echoing the sentiment that “men marry the woman in front of them, at the time they are ready to be married” — but could this be the root of my dilemma?
This notion, known as the "Cab Light Theory" is a concept that was introduced in the hit TV series Sex and the City. In the scene, lawyer Miranda Hobbes suggested that men are like taxis - when they're available, their "cab light" is on, and when they're not, it's off. “When they’re available, their light goes on. They wake up one day and decide they’re ready to settle down, have babies, whatever, and they turn their light on. The next woman they pick up — boom! That’s the woman they marry. It’s not fate. It’s dumb luck,” she tells her group of friends in the ladies' room.
The theory is that men are ready and willing to pursue a romantic relationship when they're emotionally available and interested (light on), and if they’re not, well, it’s on to the next pick-up they go (light off). While men are not modes of transportation, there is a point to be made about how a passing notion in a TV series from the start of the millennium could still hold some truth today.
In the original video shared by creator Tay Talks, her take on the “Cab Light Theory” implied that men aren’t necessarily marrying their soulmate or even the love of their life, instead, “it was just the girl he was dating at the time he was ready to get married and settle down.” The “dumb luck” that Miranda Hobbes was referring to in the show is the chance encounter that a woman would find a man who is both financially sound and emotionally available enough to stop his dating pursuits and commit to one woman forever.
But as dating trends shift with new social and economic factors at play, how could it be that more “lights” aren’t going off for men?
In an illuminating piece by Psychology Today, men are more lonely than they’ve been in decades and their soil for choice isn’t helping. The article shared that dating apps drive new connections but have a gender imbalance, with 62% of users being men. And with women becoming increasingly more selective in preferring emotionally available men who share their values, men are now facing a relationship skills gap that can lead to fewer opportunities for long-term partnership if growth, healing, and deeper emotional intelligence are not achieved.
While it’s easy to oversimplify the headaches and frustrations that come with modern dating, we can’t forget that while timing does play a factor in us finding “the one,” we also have the power of choice within our grasp. Men and women both need time to heal, grow, and discover themselves on a deeper level — so would we really want to “jump in the cab” of someone who hasn’t gone through that process already?
Since love is one of those forces that we can’t just make happen a the snap of our fingers, it can be easy to fix a blanket theory into the reason behind our singleness, but it’s important to remember that we can choose to pursue other candidates who date with openness and desire for commitment rather than waiting until someone’s light hastily cuts on.
While love can be sublime it shouldn’t be random. And when love finds us, we shouldn’t have the question in the back of our mind whether we were the best our man could do at the time. We deserve to be sure.
So yes, the “cab light theory” is a cheeky concept that prompts us to appreciate the timing of our love life, but it should also remind us that alignment is everything.
Because the real question is: was his light not on, or was he simply not the one?
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