Anointed, Gifted, and Toxic

toxic-logo

After nearly 30 years in ministry I’ve come to discover that I have spent a great deal of my ministry life being simultaneously anointed, gifted and toxic. Like many preachers, I spent years developing my craft, shaping my preaching style and personality, and developing a philosophy of ministry that I hoped would be beneficial to those I ministered to. I also discovered that with that development came a lot of personal moral challenges that all my ministry grooming could never quite prepare me for. Because I began preaching as a teenager, I was instructed to take Proverbs 5-8 to heart and “ preserve discretion and keep knowledge on my lips”. I had plenty of ministry mentors who had gone down the path of immorality in one form or another and they did their best to admonish me not to make their mistakes.

While I have never been removed from a pulpit, publicly corrected or rebuked, or ever had any inappropriate behavior publicly exposed and scrutinized, I have had my share of moral failings that have caused me to turn inwardly for reflection and repentance. I went through a divorce that had me emotionally unbalanced for over a decade. I had a relationship at one time that although was innocent, was in hindsight inappropriate. I had been in romantic relationships where I did not maintain sexual purity and continued to preach weekly to wondrous reception. I continue to struggle with general anxiety and feelings of inadequacy despite my training, education, and accolades. I have been the toxic person in relationships that led to others involved being more hurt than helped by me.

There are thousands of other preachers just like me. They don’t make the national church headlines with their routine toxicity. They sit in pulpits or pews with the task of ministering to someone else despite their own misgivings. They are aware of their giftedness and toxicity but are only allowed and encouraged to express the former over the latter. It is quite emotionally ravaging for them. They, like me, are not spiritually or emotionally healthy. They are called upon to be God’s vessels of healing and wonder, leading to the salvific knowledge of Christ the Redeemer, and a life of abundance on this side and eternity on the other. It is a duplicitous life at best and certainly an intoxicating one when the ministry gifts are on full display for people to be in awe and wonder of the individual in praxis but not the toxicity attached.

This is why we find it hard to minister to those ministers who have fallen hard to the duality of their anointing and their toxicity. It’s no different than that of Noah getting drunk and being inappropriately exposed to his grandson after having followed God’s plan of successfully building, servicing, and replenishing the earth. It’s also David having to witness the death of a child birthed out of his coveting another man’s wife and successfully conspiring to have that man murdered. It’ Solomon, who after soliciting the Lord for wisdom, receiving it and the wealth that accompanied it, giving himself over to all the vanities of life and causing his successor to be just as foolish in turn leading to the eventual destruction of the House of David. It’s Peter, the great Apostle, denying Christ before those who sought him executed, or the Peter who chose to be hypocritical in his praxis of faith in front Gentiles or Jews.

The point I hope to get across is that as ministers, preachers, prophets, apostles, pastors, evangelists, teachers, or any other title one wishes to utilize, we are well acquainted with our anointing and our toxicity. There are those of us who are more disciplined in our concealment of it than others, but it is still very present. Scripture assures us that we have an Advocate in our toxicity. We have a Christ who wholly identifies with us yet can shield the wrath that our toxicity incurs. The author of Hebrews in 4:12-16, reminds us that our Advocate is one who is fully aware of us in our entirety. He through our engagement of the scriptures, can discern the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. He beholds the nakedness of our humanity, encouraging us to hold fast the profession of our faith and calling, and empowering us to boldly come to Him to obtain the mercy and grace to help in our time of need. It is ok for us to be anointed and toxic, but we must always know that God is our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast of our anointed and toxic lives and ministry, but most of all, He is our Eternal Home.

Creative Intentions in progress

Over the last few weeks I’ve been in full creative mode. I’ve been writing poems, working on book manuscripts and creating visual art. The last part is the most surprising to me. I’ve never been one to draw. My creative outlet has usually been through speaking and creating and non fiction writing so creating the art you see was worth celebrating for me. I’ve actually painted five pieces over the last nine months. Though these pieces may never be in high end art galleries, they’ll hang somewhere in my home or office as a talking point for my creative ego self.

Observing National Gun Violence Survivors Week

If you were not aware, I am a survivor of gun violence. In 1980, I lost my 25 year old mother Sharon Neal to an act of domestic violence that involved a gun and in 2016, my 18 year old nephew Kevin Neal, Jr was killed in a senseless act of gun violence. This week is National Survivors of Gun Violence week an as a Senior Fellow with the Everytown for Gun Safety Survivor Network, I share my story of how my family has been impacted by gun violence with the hopes of helping others and effecting change so that no more lives will be lost to acts of gun violence. Read my latest Op-Ed piece that helps to empower others to share their stories to prevent and eventually end gun violence in our country.

https://www.clarionledger.com/story/opinion/2021/01/31/national-gun-violence-survivors-week-jackson-pastor-shares-story/4315775001/

Black man rage: A Poem

I’ve been experiencing much grief following the death of George Floyd and the looting and rioting that has plagued cities across this country. I could only find one way to express that grief through my writing. I wrote this poem as a reflection piece to help me articulate what I was seeing and feeling.

Two black boys playing with the trash thrown out of the house

Taking apart a broken chair saying, “Hulk Smash!”

Young black boy playing on the porch with his dogs

While music in the car next to him blasts Nipsey Hussle

Three black children on the playground across the town

Running and screaming not fearing anything or anyone around

One black man on the ground telling his captors I can’t breathe

barely making a sound

More black men gathering around enjoying life in quarantine’s vault

Fearing nothing now until cops roll up and everything comes to a halt.

One elderly black man tending the garden in the yard of the home he’s lived in for years

Raised his children in community without fear

Now seeing scorned earth for blocks where life was once good

Hope all gone has deflated the neighborhood

Streets torn apart not by cops but by black brothers and sisters with ricocheting gun shots

One black man walking his dog in the neighborhood

Vexing less melanated citizens fearing he’s up to no good

His presence evokes fear and threats to others simply

Though he makes no noise or scene he is simply being seen

They avoid him like the flu desperately trying to get away

But he resolves that for his children’s future, it’s a price he’s willing to pay

Yes, people say Black Lives Matter

 but we’re seeing in real time how quickly that black life can shatter

Into a million pieces of brokenness and breaking hope of generations past

Black man forced to be silent

Because he knows if he speaks too loud or too bold he’ll incite a riot

Too many black men and women caged in a cell

Cause a systemically unjust society condemned them to hell

With the same blindness of justice refusing them bail

Let them rot cause they’re better safe where they are

which makes us safe from them

The existential quarantine against the man whose blackness forces him to shelter in place

To stay in his lane and not run the race of freedom..don’t breathe just lie in state

Breathe or not its their own fault some say

The pain he sees and feels replacing the pleasure of a life promised to be lived

Being a black man in a fair-weather world

Trying to make a dollar every day makes you wanna holler

Rage against the machine as its raging against you

Copyright June 2, 2020  Lorenzo T. Neal