So what’s this all about?

I know grief is nothing new; it’s been part of us since time immemorial. In fact, I believe it all started with God Himself after the Fall and disappointment of man in the Garden of Eden. No wonder grief, like everything else in this entire universe, isn’t a surprise to Him or an issue He’s incapable of handling.

I believe everyone on this earth has and/or will experience varying degrees of grief over their lifetime. Some of us have received a head start in this involuntary race of confronting grief, particularly of the most traumatizing variety, and are doing all we can to reach the finish line (if it even exists on this earth) however long it takes. Before I lose you, let me share a bit of my story and the grief I was confronted with a few months ago.

My name is Amazing Grace Lois Danso. Yes, Amazing Grace is really my first name; it says so on my birth certificate and other legal documents lol. I’m a 26 year old who was born and bred in Ghana (Tema to be specific) until I was 15 when my mom and I moved to the US (you’ll see my cross cultural influences crisscross throughout my posts). I was my mom’s only child with my biological father. Later in my life, approximately seven years ago, she remarried my amazing (step)Dad Mr. Ralph Osae and gained five more children making me the last baby of six in our special blended family. Maybe one day I’ll share more on our dynamics as a family.

Mrs. Beatrice Mensah, my mom, and I were close from the moment I was conceived. Our bond grew stronger and deeper with each passing year. I was your world class certified Mama’s Girl and I wore the title with such pride and sass because my mom was, next to salvation, my greatest treasure on this earth. She was simply the best mom anyone could ever wish for in this life. I know it’s quite the cliché, as most people feel same about their moms. But believe me when I say that my assertion of her being the best out there lost any trace of being cliché whenever people interacted with her. They would indeed attest to her awesomeness as a mom and most importantly, a human being.

I always laugh when I remember how so many people over the years made it clear to me that they were in competition with me for my mom’s affection as her favorite child. Can you imagine that? People actually convinced themselves that such a competition was possible. They always made mom and I laugh at their antics because we both knew the closeness and inseparable bond we had formed was unbreakable and no one could usurp my place as her one and only favorite baby. We were thicker than thieves and were two peas in a pod. We had been like conjoined twins since I was born; we went everywhere together and often joked that I was her little handbag.

My mom’s love for me, and all around her was truly astounding. I’m yet to meet anyone who genuinely loves people regardless of our numerous faults and often-disagreeable nature. There were several occasions where I found myself at odds with the kind of love she had for people (the long-suffering Jesus kind) which saw her forgiving some of the most outrageous sins committed against her loving and caring nature. I could never stand seeing my mom hurt in anyway.

I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that my beloved mom is my dearly departed who has caused me so much grief by going to be with the Lord. Yup, my one and only mom is no more with me. The Siamese twins have finally been separated after 26 wonderful and unforgettable years together.

I lost my love and treasure to that increasingly common menace called cancer on September 23rd 2016, exactly five days after my 26th birthday. I’ll share more on how I feel about that reality a bit later. The past six months have been a roller coaster ride through grief that shows no signs of quickly coming to an end.

It’s been a curious time in my life where I’ve navigated through changing emotions, confusion, depression, and a host of issues that come with grief. I’ve already learned so much about grief these past few months; many of these lessons I didn’t realize I needed to learn about life in general. The greatest lesson I believe I have learned so far which motivated me to start this blog, was the realization that I am not alone in my grief. In fact, I know too many people who also lost their dear loved ones around the same time I lost my mom and connecting with them in our shared grief has been quite the revelation for me.

I have observed something in Ghana (my home country and current place of residence by the way): we do a very fantastic job of mourning well with people who deal with loss. We organize culturally rich funerals, give generous (highly subjective though) donations, and praise Jesus like no other at Sunday thanksgiving services following burials. BUT, I humbly submit that we are not quite there yet when it comes to knowing how to grieve with or reach grieving loved ones and I think I’ve figured out why that is: we don’t take the time to talk about and articulate exactly what we go through across many fronts (physically, emotionally, spiritually, etc.) in our seasons of grief. This is my main motivation for starting this blog; to create an avenue that allows for more dialogue on grief issues.

I want to help encourage people to talk about their grief to help bring relief to their pain and promote healing as I share my personal story and experiences through this heartbreaking process. My hope is to connect with others who are going through grief and possibly also share their stories as they allow me tell them as an encouragement to the many out there who often lose hope in such devastating times. I believe sharing and bearing our grief together will help us heal better and strengthen us in our collective resolve to believe the gospel truth that it is well with our souls regardless of all that may seem to befall us in our times of sorrow. So this blog is especially for those who find themselves in similar shoes as mine. However, to those who’ve never reached this point, I hope this will turn out to be the blog that you never knew you needed to help you effectively reach your loved ones coping with loss. May it also prepare you for the likely event you will endure at some point in your life that will seem to knock you completely off balance; nothing, not even this blog, will ever fully prepare you for the full weight of grief that comes with the loss of a very close loved one.

It seems I can’t shake off my background in Psychology and the influence the field has had on my general outlook in life. So please be forewarned that this blog could get quite emotionally heavy as I get psychologically preachy (get ready for it, we psych people know EVERYTHING lol). But don’t worry; I will also share lighter and laughter inducing posts (hopefully) as we go along for balance sake. I can’t wait to share my thoughts on what people’s ice cream and chocolate preferences say about them and how meeting the wrong ice cream match could cause unnecessary grief lol. Yup, I’m putting undue pressure on myself to be funny when I clearly have no funny bone in my body but God will make a way someway somehow because I’m not doing this blog on my own strength. Jesus already took the wheel on this new ride before I even realized He had blessed me with this vehicle. With Him navigating this ride, I know we’re in safe hands and will get through it all and come out victorious together.

Just to give you a better sense of who I am to help you understand the perspective from which I will write, here are a few random facts:
  • I love JESUS! He’s my personal person. I’ve been a devout Christian for as long as I can remember.
  • I’m very nerdy and I wear it with pride (nerds UNITE!). I have the big dorky sexy black glasses to match and all.
  • Addicted to ice cream, chocolate, and BABIES (yeah, that sounded weird but I mean I love them so much and being around them as much as I can; also love learning all I can about their development – such miracles they are).
  • I speak English, French, a little Spanish, Ashanti Twi, Fanti, and Akuapem (the last three are Ghanaian dialects from the Akan ethnic group)
  • I love to read, write, and have deep conversations with genuine and mad cool people.
  • I’m all about music. I sing and I’m currently trying to find time to learn how to play my violin, Baaba. I’m into Gospel, jazz, classical, highlife (Ghana), some soul and alternative music.
  • I’m a highly introverted extrovert (I love my solitude but do well with people regardless).
  • Did I mention I love ice cream yet? lol
  • I work for a think tank in Accra – Ghana
  • A bit of a Fast & Furious driver but I’m working on slowing down (pray for me y’all)
  • Been a naturalista since late 2010 or was it 2011?
  • An annoying perfectionist as it can get in my own way sometimes.
  • What else? I absolutely love spicy food; I tend to get nauseous when my food isn’t spicy.
  • Baby Panda was my mom and dad’s nickname for me. Daddy still calls me Panda so life’s good. Can’t think of anything else you need to know now so I’ll end the list here.

I just realized I started this blog during Passion Week where we see God’s own grief come full circle with the painful and gut-wrenching death of His only begotten Son for all our sakes. While that might seem gloomy, for all believers, we know the story doesn’t end there because Jesus, our Savior arose in victory on the third day conquering death. Therefore, we are already guaranteed victory in this struggle with grief. I pray that this truth will greatly encourage you as you see it highlighted throughout this blog.

I must however, mention that dealing with the grief that comes with the loss of a loved one won’t be the only kind of grief I’ll be treating on this blog. I will share on a variety of things that give me grief such as unnecessarily long waakye queues, matters of social justice, the epidemic of hilarious direct message (DM) sliding that has befallen my personal Facebook account, etc.

So here are a few things to expect from me as I blog:
  • I’ll try to do this every other week. Posts will always come on a Tuesday since I was born on Tuesday and seem to think better on this day of the week.
  • Will do my best to keep things as brief as possible but then again I like to talk so you’ve out of luck there.
  • I’ll mix it up and try to share a diversity of posts in various formats (videos, poems, art, etc.) as I’m led with each post.
  • I like to foster an atmosphere of love wherever I go and in whatever I do so I will always strive to demonstrate such on this platform and expect same from everyone who joins in discussions. Hateful, rude, and disrespectful comments will never be tolerated at any time.
  • I’ll respond as fast and best as I can to all comments and emails.

It is my hope and fervent prayer that this blog will bless you and give you hope to keep living in Him as you navigate through various trying times in your life. I also pray that we will really do this together as a family. Please feel free to share your stories with me. I’m more than willing to help you share them through this blog if you want to share but also remain anonymous. Simply send me an email at thegriefreliefblog@gmail.com. Please also feel free to send me topics you’d like me to address and your suggestions on how I could modify this blog to help us all collectively heal and get better in this process. I highly look forward to hearing from you all.

Please don’t forget to like, comment, and share this blog with all who may benefit from it.

My Social Media handles (Please like/follow and invite others):

Alright, that’s it for today. Until I come your way with another post, know that you’re never alone. The Lord is so near to you than you even imagine and I’m also here for you. Just shoot me an email and I will respond as quickly as I can. Till then, I wish you nothing but:

Blessings & Love,

– Amazing Grace ❤

 

 

 

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RE: PEPPER DEM MINISTRIES – MISANDRISTS OR FEMINISTS?

Brilliantly articulated

thinkingWITyou

Dear Ewura Esi Neymar Ada, I am writing this rejoinder to your Facebook Post on the above subject because I genuinely believe you were well-intentioned, and that your ‘missive’ was occasioned out of ignorance than out of vendetta against the feminism movement in Ghana. Even though outrage appeared to be the foundation of your perspective, on a matter so essential to the very civilization of our species, I am inclined to give you the benefit of the doubt: just so we can have a healthy debate.

My second reason is the need to provide some proper perspective to the numerous ‘fans’ of yours who so gleefully liked and shared your post without any proper analysis; which would have otherwise inspired disdain instead of admiration for your post. Hopefully, by the time they get through the end of this piece, they would realize their mistake and make amends with themselves. 

View original post 1,573 more words

My Church-O-Volution: Full Article

I decided to compile my three posts from yesterday into one long article for those who prefer to have everything in one place. Happy reading!

Pass me that tambourine, let me clap off beat, allow me to jump and sway my tiny body from side to side as the choir offers a beautiful rendition to a favorite hymn…I was just in love with church from my very early years. It has always been one of the few places I’m happiest. It still is. I didn’t need my parents to convince or trick me into loving church. I just did. I loved the name JESUS and getting to shout it in any call and response activity at Sunday School led by Teacher Marjorie; my all time favorite Sunday School teacher.

My first church memories are from the Methodist Church in Ghana though it wasn’t my first church experience, technically speaking. From the time I was born until I was about 5 years old, my parents and I fellowshipped with an ultra conservative church that looked like a Seventh Day Adventist Church in many ways although the service day being a Saturday. No makeup, earrings, or trousers was allowed for the women back then. They weren’t also allowed to cut their hair at all, not even a routine trim to deal with split ends. TV’s and anything considered worldly was forbidden. It was THAT strict. Boy am I glad I have no memories of that period in my life. I’m sure I would be seriously scarred if I did. I must however, note that I haven’t been back there since I was a toddler so I have no idea what that particular church looks like at this time. I’d like to leave room for their potential evolution over the years.

Fast forward to about five years following my birth, my parents separated (they would finalize their divorce two years later) and my mom and I found ourselves in the church of her family; the Methodist Church. We attended Mount Zion Methodist Church (the only church I’m comfortable naming in this write up) in Sakumono from then until I was almost 15 when we left Ghana. I loved everything about Mount Zion from the pastoral family to being a member of the Junior Choir to Sunday School and just the people and the kind of church family we were blessed to have. Till date, it’s the one church where my fondest memories of faith reside.

Leaving Mount Zion when we left Ghana was very hard on me. I’m only now beginning to confront the kind of toll it took on me. My late mom however, wasn’t as crushed because prior to our leaving, she had begun visiting a few charismatic churches at the invitation of friends and found herself liking them. I was slower to warm up to the Charismatic Movement because I loved my church the way it was and didn’t see what others saw as the “better church” experience in the Charismatic circles. This isn’t to say Charismatic churches aren’t great churches when analyzed on their own.

When we got to the US, we sought out a Methodist Church. We found one. Surprisingly, we totally disliked it. Or I should say we hated the experience and not the church or its people themselves. It was nothing like Mount Zion and this was such a shock to me. I somehow had felt all Methodist Churches were one and the same no matter which mission you visited. We hadn’t factored in cultural differences across country lines or the reality that a Ghanaian church leader could be ummmm…BORING! My mom and I kept pinching and prodding each other to ensure we didn’t fall asleep during the service that must have lasted for just 2 hours though it felt like eternity. We were both loud snorers too so we just couldn’t afford the risk; there was no such thing as being discreet in church naps for us.

From that horrible experience, my mom was ready to switch gears and seek out an African Charismatic church to attend. I was ready to join her though a bit hesitant. I thought we could have tried another Methodist Church but we didn’t know of any within our city. It had taken us about 45 mins to get to this first church through the kindness of a member who offered us a ride. So we abandoned this course. In retrospect, I feel my mom sought out the Methodist Church first to fulfill all righteousness and be able to note that we had indeed tried in case any former church members questioned our switch.

We church hopped for a while until we finally settled on one church which my mom loved and I strongly disliked. The youth service experience in our first visit left such a poor taste in my mouth I was so ready to be out of there. I couldn’t handle the cultural shock of how the kids mouthed off and insulted their teachers freely and how unruly they were. My prim and proper self-righteous disposition couldn’t handle it. “Why couldn’t they be as Church perfect as I was?” a juvenile thought that crossed my mind more than once. My mom on the other hand had thoroughly enjoyed the adult service and unilaterally concluded this would be our church home before catching up with me. I was crushed when she told me her decision and she was likewise very perplexed by my experience and reluctance. I wanted nothing to do with them. It was an awful place to be; a mother and daughter who both love God struggling to decide on the church body to call home.

I was very candid in my dislike and foresaw that it wouldn’t go well in the long run. My mom acknowledged my doubts (in retrospect, this was such a crucial affirming act on her part) and rather than impose the church on me, sought to appeal to the leader she saw in me. She convinced me to believe I could help change things and turn the youth around for the better. I was extremely skeptical but as someone who grew up serving in the church in one capacity or another, I couldn’t deny that the possibility enticed me. So I grudgingly accepted to make it my church home too. My mom turned out to be right about the youth. It didn’t happen over night but in time, I became the youth president and saw a positive turn around that made me proud and ashamed to have failed in recognizing this ministry opportunity God had brought my way. For the first time in a long time, this church was finally paying closer attention to its youth and intervening the way they should have been for years. Mission accomplished.

In spite of all this, I was still a bit unsettled by the church. I felt I didn’t belong there because certain things just didn’t sit well with me (though I couldn’t really put my finger on what those things were at the time) and decided I would leave when I went to university. My mom of course wasn’t too happy but she knew I was almost 18 and ready to fly solo in navigating my faith so she didn’t stop me. About a year after I left, she would also finally realize that we were a mismatch for this church and also left on a less than pleasant note unlike she would have preferred (she made her peace before she passed away). The scales finally fell off her eyes and she brought me my stone; she accepted that I, at a very young age with relatively limited spiritual experience, had been the more discerning and accurate judge of the church from day one. She always made it a point to judge my church instincts from then going forward. That was huge for me in various ways but I digress; a conversation for another time.

We still found ourselves in Charismatic and Pentecostal settings following this experience both in the US and upon our return to Ghana. We had been so captured by the energetic vibe and exuberance of Charismatic churches (their name alone gives the cue) that returning to our Methodist roots didn’t quite seem like an option though we had heard of the various ways this old church was starting to mimic the relatively newer one. Once you’ve experienced the passion and zeal of the Charismatic atmosphere, it’s so tough contemplating a return to the more solemn orthodox experience. In spite of this hold the Charismatic Movement had managed to have on us, I was never 100% comfortable in this denomination (I didn’t truly fit in) and it took too long for me to figure out why…

I have been churched all my life. Me without church felt incomplete. Like I shared earlier, I loved church from a very young age even before I was old enough to understand what was going on. I imagine my experience isn’t that different from others raised in the church. As far as I knew, I’d be a church girl for life.

The first time I ever deeply thought about God, I was so young. I couldn’t have been more than 8 or 9 years old. 20 years down the line, I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in our home in Sakumono. I lived with my mom only. I had been reading My Book of Bible Stories, if I’m remembering correctly, and started asking some deep philosophical questions: am I real? Is life real? How can I know for sure that I exist? Who made God? Where did He come from and how old is He? You can imagine how badly my head hurt as a kid thinking these thoughts. Of all the questions I had, the only one I bothered to ask my mom about was the last one. She had no answers to give and simply chucked it all under faith and assured me God will answer all such questions when we get to Heaven; we had an eternity to learn all things. I’m wondering if she’s bothered to ask on my behalf now that she’s in the Lord’s bosom. I digress. Again.

My mom’s response was satisfactory for the time being because I didn’t like the headaches I got from thinking so much and I always took her word for it in everything. Also, I’d rather just play with my Legos and art set than bother my head. I’d further hoped that as I went through Sunday School courtesy my favorite Teacher Marjorie, I’d get the answers to my questions though I never posed them to her directly. I filed those questions away and didn’t really think deeply about God until I was 12.

I was hospitalized for bronchitis of my upper left lung. My mom saved me that night. We were both staying at her boss’s place with his family, who were like our own family, because she had just been discharged from the hospital and was too weak to care for herself. I was presumed too young to do it alone. I remember having a terrible cold that day which seemed to get worse as the day wore on. My mom was in the guest room downstairs and I shared a room with the youngest daughter who was also my classmate in school. My mom decided I share her room with her instead so she could properly monitor me. She was supposed to be resting but I was too weak to argue. Before I knew it, she’d woken up her boss and his wife and I was being rushed to the hospital. I was not breathing properly, in fact I was barely breathing. I remember feeling like I was dying. I probably would have if my mom wasn’t watching me.

Even though I was stabilized, I couldn’t help but feel I was inches away from death. I was afraid and didn’t want to die. I was too young to die. So I prayed in my heart calling out desperately to God to hear me and heal me so I know for sure that He’s real. Whether or not He truly heard me and answered and the implications for those He doesn’t answer in similar circumstances is a conversation for another day. All I know is I did get better and in that moment and till this day, connected it to faith. It was following this experience that I can say I gave my life to Christ at the next altar call I heard at Mount Zion and became really serious about my relationship with Jesus.

I had such firm grounding from the Methodist Church from then and was so sure of my salvation and living a life that glorified Jesus. I loved everyone as best as I could and was convicted whenever I did something that grieved the Holy Spirit. I was happy and living life in peace. Then right before we left Ghana, we started visiting a few Charismatic churches which had a completely different vibe than my laid back Methodist Church. It was in these churches that I first heard people speak in tongues. I later discovered people spoke in tongues at the Methodist Church too but just not loudly like in the Charismatic circles so I was thrown off. It was in these Charismatic churches that I first learned about deliverance and demonic possession and all these “spiritchua” things. To say I was spooked is an understatement. I’d never had to confront these things in my faith up until that point and I was in shock.

I must say though that while I was spooked by all the mysterious and so called spiritual manifestations I came to witness in Charismatic churches, I was also equally fascinated. In fact I was truly captivated and curious to see and know more. I craved opportunities to further witness all these signs and wonders. Thinking back, my fascination might have been the reason I could spend 5+ hours in church without annoyance. The ‘gymnastics’ were quite intriguing.

They also had this addicting quality. Each such manifestation had me craving more and more signs and wonders. It took a while to realize that I’d reduced the power of God to these dramatic displays of the presence of the Holy Spirit. In fact, it became my gauge for measuring or determining the presence and approval of God in any church. It was no longer primarily about Jesus and the Gospel at its simplest level. They weren’t enough if their truth wasn’t accompanied by the dramatics. I falsely assumed they were always authentic showings of signs and wonders from God.

Of course, the Charismatic Movement didn’t force me to have these perceptions. I take full responsibility for them. But I can’t deny their significant influence in perpetuating these sentiments among other problematic views by the teachings and positioning of many churches under this denomination. This isn’t to say that the problems and issues I’ll be highlighting are reflective of ALL Charismatic churches. That would be unfair and disingenuous of me.

The observations I’ll be making are largely informed by personal experiences from the Charismatic churches I’ve visited though at this time, I’m not comfortable in naming them all explicitly. Conversely, my observations don’t automatically absolve orthodox and other non-Charismatic churches from being culpable of exhibiting these traits either. It is very possible that these issues can be found in some of their number though I can’t attest to it from personal experience.

So without further ado, I’ll launch into the issues::

1. The Fear Factor:
This is my biggest gripe with several of the Charismatic churches I’ve encountered. There’s this culture of fear on two distinct levels. The first is found in the messaging that seeks to make this movement relevant. There is a devil and evil forces ready to strike and make your life a living hell if you don’t take cover under the guidance of these churches. There is usually a prophet of some sort who will use prophetic insight from other’s realities (seen through the various manifestations during so called deliverance sessions) to entrench fear into all. You must always attend programs and follow instructions geared towards delivering you from these threats and providing you with supernatural protection. I had tensions with this disposition because for me, it always appeared to diminish Christ’s perfect love and power that overcame and cast out fear and leave you in a state of endless worry that one wrong move will find you vanquished by the enemy.

The second level of this fear is found in the personality that heads such churches. You dare not question them, their teachings, or sometimes questionable practices, because they are God’s special anointed who mustn’t be touched nor harmed. The “touch not” scripture has really suffered under this movement. It has created a system where the leaders of these “one man” churches (that have cult like characteristics) aren’t easily held accountable because they are seen as all knowing and having special insights into the things of God that everyday Christians lack, so again, you dare not.

The carnal as opposed to reverential fear attached to these leaders has been a silencing tool for too long against dissenting or opposing views and concerns of congregants who aren’t always in agreement with the positions of the leaders. It has also led to a lot of sycophancy and desire to please these men and women of God by undue praise and buying their favor through various seed sowing practices (gifting them huge sums of money, cars, etc). I’ve never seen a movement so in love with giving serious appellations (sometimes quite blasphemous) to its leaders as though their self esteem and confidence to do what they claim God has called them do, relied on these acts. Many of these leaders have really set themselves up for hard falls should they ever err because there is a false sense of invincibility created by the sycophants and givers of fake fans who sadly tend to be in their inner circles.

What I find ironic, is the fact that many of these leaders in some of the dominant Charismatic churches, would encourage the questioning of other Charismatic-like churches that they deem heretical. How rich. I find any church body where main leaders aren’t easily held accountable or accessible to be absolutely dangerous.

2. The Decline of Intellectualism
My second main issue is the decline of intellectualism I see in this movement. It connects to the first issue where there is a lot of carnal fear of the leaders. It’s almost as if when you accept to be part of these churches, the part of your thinking that makes you doubtful; that makes you question things that don’t make sense; that makes you filter messages to determine what is true and applicable to life and otherwise, must be sacrificed. Your thoughts aren’t your own any more. They are exchanged for whatever your pastor’s are, under the guise of being a spiritual father/mother and covering (another time we can talk about this teaching) who wants and knows what is best for you.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve engaged in debates with many from these backgrounds whose support for their arguments come from what their pastor says. There is too much trust placed in the word of these men of God, that even Jesus (his words and ways) takes a back seat in these discussions. It’s so bad that when it comes to health, people trust their pastors and their instructions more than they trust well trained medical doctors and even rely on prophets for the most basic of health treatments. A light headache or upset stomach? The prophet must be called and consulted to make sure the witches and demons from their villages are kept in check. I kid you not.

I’ve often been scandalized by this phenomenon though initially, I must admit I also fell a bit for this trap and found myself being a Charismatic programmed bot of sorts. Why wouldn’t people whose views you value and respect, leave you so disappointed when a banking crisis hit and found that one of the most celebrated Charismatic leaders had overseen one of the biggest cases of financial malfeasance to be recorded in Ghana, by their responses to the issue.

They chose to follow the rather insensitive instructions of their leader to respond “God is good” three times when asked pertinent questions about the crisis and rushed to stand and pledge unyielding support before learning all that was to be known about the case and its impact on thousands of families and the nation as a whole. These leaders are very smart in recognizing that inspiring blind loyalty in their congregations is the surest way to retain their power and influence. I wish we were as loyal to Christ and His gospel.

People just don’t like to question these leaders and our nation is worse off as a result. Those of us who do dare to speak are branded as disrespectful church haters who want to attack and undermine the body of Christ. Even the leaders themselves don’t seem to want to study widely and readjust their views accordingly as they better understand the faith they profess. It is a very frustrating place to be as a member of the body who also believes in critical thinking and reasoning as is supported in the word of God. It shouldn’t come as a surprise for me though since one of the things I noticed in the Charismatic church is the culture of isolationism.

There was this sense that those under the movement were advanced spiritually and needed to maintain that spirituality by associating mostly with likeminded people. This season of my life found me disconnecting from pop culture, limiting the materials I read and learned from, dissociating from those who didn’t understand the movement and the fears attached to it that saw us attending several church programs throughout the year. Your whole life could easily revolve around the church 365 days every year and leave little room for anything else.

In such an environment, how would people have their views and perspectives challenged to inspire critical thinking? Since the appeal and popularity of these churches is on the rise, it is little wonder to me that intellectualism and rigorous learning around the things we believe, appears to be on the decline. My time in the Methodist Church constituted some of the times I exercised my brain the most because critical thinking was a virtue and the church didn’t center around a personality whose words were final.

3. Social Justice
I am a feminist; a believer in the equality of all people regardless of gender and any other discriminatory factors. I believe all must be treated with dignity and respect and have equal opportunities under the law to live a decent life. It’s no coincidence that I became increasingly disturbed by things I witnessed in Charismatic circles the more I studied about feminism and issues of social justice in general. My eyes became fully opened to the ways the body of Christ (not just the Charismatic Movement) had helped entrench social injustice; a counterintuitive hallmark of the church today due to its sharp contrast with the Savior we serve, Jesus Christ.

In connection with the decline in intellectualism, the church of today in Africa, particularly the Charismatic ones are propagating a Victorian interpretation and practice of the faith which was deliberately set up to enforce a patriarchal power structure globally that placed the white man as the highest standard to aspire to followed by white women, then men of color, and lastly women of color. There are nuances to this structure especially when properly mapped out to account for all ethnicities but that isn’t the focus of today’s conversation.

The church, by being needlessly suspicious of intellectuals who question it especially on these matters, is unwittingly and unknowingly entrenching the status quo and impeding our development as African people because we keep looking to the West as our standard rather than looking within. Due to our lack of understanding of these social justice issues, we’ve long demonized a lot of what it means to be African and created suspicions of one another that keep us in a state of war with ourselves. If you’re always thinking someone in your own family and village is always chasing you to harm and destroy, when are you going to be inspired to come together as a people to push your nation forward?

It’s little wonder that we have such a big issue with encouraging patriotism in our nation. Why would an undying love and even willingness to sacrifice one’s life for the betterment of the country be an option for anyone who is constantly looking over their shoulders in fear of their own people?

I could talk for days about how the church of today with it’s great influence can get ahead of these issues and leverage their power to help turn our nation around for our collective good. I’m always disheartened by what I see in many of these church circles that have key access to the leaders of our land. It’s rarely ever about leveraging this access to spur on our development and progress. Rather, many of these church leaders use their access to win needless pissing contests where they claim to have the most respect and influence and seek to rather leverage their association with power to increase the numbers of their congregations not for the sake of populating heaven but for bragging rights. Don’t tell me you’ve not yet picked up on the incessant competition amongst these new generation churches for the greatest influence and popularity? Billboards and the programs they advertise get bigger and more extravagant by the year and the socioeconomic gaps between these leaders and the least in their congregations ever widens exponentially.

Poverty is indeed violence. It is one of the greatest injustices known to man. It is unconscionable that the church of today delights in the wealth of its leaders at the expense of the numerous in their congregations. People are so quick to carry all their hard earned moneys to men and women of God because they’ve been taught that blessing these leaders who have long reached stages where they don’t really need it, is what will transfer God’s favor unto them along with wealth of their own to also enjoy. Make no mistake, I’m not opposed to giving in the church or to people of God. I’m just incensed by the lack of understanding where giving is concerned and the questionable teachings that tie God’s blessing of His children purely to their giving habits where His so called appointed shepherds are concerned.

The use of the word of God to reinforce vicious capitalist behaviors where greed is paramount has been quite a disheartening revelation for me. Our socioeconomic stances in the church today don’t imitate Christ, the poor carpenter’s son who always sought to meet the basic needs of His people while embracing them all whether or not they loved him back. Jesus was a social justice warrior. How many of those do we have in the church of today? They are indeed rare.

Most people are more interested in chasing their next miracle, breakthrough, or harvest and for their personal success at the expense of the collective. I really could go on and on.

I’m at that place where I understand that life is too short to spend it massaging issues rather than confronting them head on. I try to live each day as my last and have dedicated my life now to fighting all forms of oppression and injustice. It’s why I speak candidly about the ills I see in society especially the church. It isn’t to condemn or castigate the church. No, far from it. My hope is to inspire introspection in our body and help the church re-evaluate itself and make amendments and corrections to our practice of faith to ensure that at the end of the day, not many will be lost. Though I might have come down hard on the Charismatic Movement, I haven’t washed my hands off it. A conversation with a friend helped me realize that I need to give all people and all churches room to transform and evolve. If I personally could evolve and become better, then so can they, which at the end of the day, is my goal for sharing my evolution in the church.

I may have left the denomination for now due to these issues I’ve highlighted but that doesn’t mean I won’t ever give it another chance if I perceive a revolution taking place. Recently, I heard a pastor whose views on gender and women were quite problematic had adjusted his position and even gone further to recall certain messages he’s preached over the years when he realized their problematic nature due to further studying and understanding the word. How I wish this occurrence was the norm rather than an anomaly.

At the end of the day, I have hope that things can get better. I wouldn’t bother to write this article if I thought otherwise. It is my prayer that all will read and process what I’ve shared in good faith and commit to working to ensure things are better in the body of Christ. Solving a lot of these issues in our influential churches first will lead to accelerated development in our nation due to the kind of power and influence we have as a body.

Until I come your way with another post, I wish you nothing but:

Blessings & Love,

– Amazing Grace ❤

My Church-O-Volution: Final Post

As promised from my previous post, I’d like to go right into my issues with the Charismatic Movement:

1. The Fear Factor:

This is my biggest gripe with several of the Charismatic churches I’ve encountered. There’s this culture of fear on two distinct levels. The first is found in the messaging that seeks to make this movement relevant. There is a devil and evil forces ready to strike and make your life a living hell if you don’t take cover under the guidance of these churches. There is usually a prophet of some sort who will use prophetic insight from other’s realities (seen through the various manifestations during so called deliverance sessions) to entrench fear into all. You must always attend programs and follow instructions geared towards delivering you from these threats and providing you with supernatural protection. I had tensions with this disposition because for me, it always appeared to diminish Christ’s perfect love and power that overcame and cast out fear and leave you in a state of endless worry that one wrong move will find you vanquished by the enemy.

The second level of this fear is found in the personality that heads such churches. You dare not question them, their teachings, or sometimes questionable practices, because they are God’s special anointed who mustn’t be touched nor harmed. The “touch not” scripture has really suffered under this movement. It has created a system where the leaders of these “one man” churches (that have cult like characteristics) aren’t easily held accountable because they are seen as all knowing and having special insights into the things of God that everyday Christians lack, so again, you dare not.

The carnal as opposed to reverential fear attached to these leaders has been a silencing tool for too long against dissenting or opposing views and concerns of congregants who aren’t always in agreement with the positions of the leaders. It has also led to a lot of sycophancy and desire to please these men and women of God by undue praise and buying their favor through various seed sowing practices (gifting them huge sums of money, cars, etc). I’ve never seen a movement so in love with giving serious appellations (sometimes quite blasphemous) to its leaders as though their self esteem and confidence to do what they claim God has called them do, relied on these acts. Many of these leaders have really set themselves up for hard falls should they ever err because there is a false sense of invincibility created by the sycophants and givers of fake fans who sadly tend to be in their inner circles.

What I find ironic, is the fact that many of these leaders in some of the dominant Charismatic churches, would encourage the questioning of other Charismatic-like churches that they deem heretical. How rich. I find any church body where main leaders aren’t easily held accountable or accessible to be absolutely dangerous.

2. The Decline of Intellectualism:

My second main issue is the decline of intellectualism I see in this movement. It connects to the first issue where there is a lot of carnal fear of the leaders. It’s almost as if when you accept to be part of these churches, the part of your thinking that makes you doubtful; that makes you question things that don’t make sense; that makes you filter messages to determine what is true and applicable to life and otherwise, must be sacrificed. Your thoughts aren’t your own any more. They are exchanged for whatever your pastor’s are, under the guise of being a spiritual father/mother and covering (another time we can talk about this teaching) who wants and knows what is best for you.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve engaged in debates with many from these backgrounds whose support for their arguments come from what their pastor says. There is too much trust placed in the word of these men of God, that even Jesus (his words and ways) takes a back seat in these discussions. It’s so bad that when it comes to health, people trust their pastors and their instructions more than they trust well trained medical doctors and even rely on prophets for the most basic of health treatments. A light headache or upset stomach? The prophet must be called and consulted to make sure the witches and demons from their villages are kept in check. I kid you not.

I’ve often been scandalized by this phenomenon though initially, I must admit I also fell a bit for this trap and found myself being a Charismatic programmed bot of sorts. Why wouldn’t people whose views you value and respect, leave you so disappointed when a banking crisis hit and found that one of the most celebrated Charismatic leaders had overseen one of the biggest cases of financial malfeasance to be recorded in Ghana, by their responses to the issue.

They chose to follow the rather insensitive instructions of their leader to respond “God is good” three times when asked pertinent questions about the crisis and rushed to stand and pledge unyielding support before learning all that was to be known about the case and its impact on thousands of families and the nation as a whole. These leaders are very smart in recognizing that inspiring blind loyalty in their congregations is the surest way to retain their power and influence. I wish we were as loyal to Christ and His gospel.

People just don’t like to question these leaders and our nation is worse off as a result. Those of us who do dare to speak are branded as disrespectful church haters who want to attack and undermine the body of Christ. Even the leaders themselves don’t seem to want to study widely and readjust their views accordingly as they better understand the faith they profess. It is a very frustrating place to be as a member of the body who also believes in critical thinking and reasoning as is supported in the word of God. It shouldn’t come as a surprise for me though since one of the things I noticed in the Charismatic church is the culture of isolationism.

There was this sense that those under the movement were advanced spiritually and needed to maintain that spirituality by associating mostly with likeminded people. This season of my life found me disconnecting from pop culture, limiting the materials I read and learned from, dissociating from those who didn’t understand the movement and the fears attached to it that saw us attending several church programs throughout the year. Your whole life could easily revolve around the church 365 days every year and leave little room for anything else.

In such an environment, how would people have their views and perspectives challenged to inspire critical thinking? Since the appeal and popularity of these churches is on the rise, it is little wonder to me that intellectualism and rigorous learning around the things we believe, appears to be on the decline. My time in the Methodist Church constituted some of the times I exercised my brain the most because critical thinking was a virtue and the church didn’t center around a personality whose words were final.

3. Social Justice:

I am a feminist; a believer in the equality of all people regardless of gender and any other discriminatory factors. I believe all must be treated with dignity and respect and have equal opportunities under the law to live a decent life. It’s no coincidence that I became increasingly disturbed by things I witnessed in Charismatic circles the more I studied about feminism and issues of social justice in general. My eyes became fully opened to the ways the body of Christ (not just the Charismatic Movement) had helped entrench social injustice; a counterintuitive hallmark of the church today due to its sharp contrast with the Savior we serve, Jesus Christ.

In connection with the decline in intellectualism, the church of today in Africa, particularly the Charismatic ones are propagating a Victorian interpretation and practice of the faith which was deliberately set up to enforce a patriarchal power structure globally that placed the white man as the highest standard to aspire to followed by white women, then men of color, and lastly women of color. There are nuances to this structure especially when properly mapped out to account for all ethnicities but that isn’t the focus of today’s conversation.

The church, by being needlessly suspicious of intellectuals who question it especially on these matters, is unwittingly and unknowingly entrenching the status quo and impeding our development as African people because we keep looking to the West as our standard rather than looking within. Due to our lack of understanding of these social justice issues, we’ve long demonized a lot of what it means to be African and created suspicions of one another that keep us in a state of war with ourselves. If you’re always thinking someone in your own family and village is always chasing you to harm and destroy, when are you going to be inspired to come together as a people to push your nation forward?

It’s little wonder that we have such a big issue with encouraging patriotism in our nation. Why would an undying love and even willingness to sacrifice one’s life for the betterment of the country be an option for anyone who is constantly looking over their shoulders in fear of their own people?

I could talk for days about how the church of today with it’s great influence can get ahead of these issues and leverage their power to help turn our nation around for our collective good. I’m always disheartened by what I see in many of these church circles that have key access to the leaders of our land. It’s rarely ever about leveraging this access to spur on our development and progress. Rather, many of these church leaders use their access to win needless pissing contests where they claim to have the most respect and influence and seek to rather leverage their association with power to increase the numbers of their congregations not for the sake of populating heaven but for bragging rights. Don’t tell me you’ve not yet picked up on the incessant competition amongst these new generation churches for the greatest influence and popularity? Billboards and the programs they advertise get bigger and more extravagant by the year and the socioeconomic gaps between these leaders and the least in their congregations ever widens exponentially.

Poverty is indeed violence. It is one of the greatest injustices known to man. It is unconscionable that the church of today delights in the wealth of its leaders at the expense of the numerous in their congregations. People are so quick to carry all their hard earned moneys to men and women of God because they’ve been taught that blessing these leaders who have long reached stages where they don’t really need it, is what will transfer God’s favor unto them along with wealth of their own to also enjoy. Make no mistake, I’m not opposed to giving in the church or to people of God. I’m just incensed by the lack of understanding where giving is concerned and the questionable teachings that tie God’s blessing of His children purely to their giving habits where His so called appointed shepherds are concerned.

The use of the word of God to reinforce vicious capitalist behaviors where greed is paramount has been quite a disheartening revelation for me. Our socioeconomic stances in the church today don’t imitate Christ, the poor carpenter’s son who always sought to meet the basic needs of His people while embracing them all whether or not they loved him back. Jesus was a social justice warrior. How many of those do we have in the church of today? They are indeed rare.

Most people are more interested in chasing their next miracle, breakthrough, or harvest and for their personal success at the expense of the collective. I really could go on and on.

I’m at that place where I understand that life is too short to spend it massaging issues rather than confronting them head on. I try to live each day as my last and have dedicated my life now to fighting all forms of oppression and injustice. It’s why I speak candidly about the ills I see in society especially the church. It isn’t to condemn or castigate the church. No, far from it. My hope is to inspire introspection in our body and help the church re-evaluate itself and make amendments and corrections to our practice of faith to ensure that at the end of the day, not many will be lost. Though I might have come down hard on the Charismatic Movement, I haven’t washed my hands off it. A conversation with a friend helped me realize that I need to give all people and all churches room to transform and evolve. If I personally could evolve and become better, then so can they, which at the end of the day, is my goal for sharing my evolution in the church.

I may have left the denomination for now due to these issues I’ve highlighted but that doesn’t mean I won’t ever give it another chance if I perceive a revolution taking place. Recently, I heard a pastor whose views on gender and women were quite problematic had adjusted his position and even gone further to recall certain messages he’s preached over the years when he realized their problematic nature due to further studying and understanding the word. How I wish this occurrence was the norm rather than an anomaly.

At the end of the day, I have hope that things can get better. I wouldn’t bother to write this article if I thought otherwise. It is my prayer that all will read and process what I’ve shared in good faith and commit to working to ensure things are better in the body of Christ. Solving a lot of these issues in our influential churches first will lead to accelerated development in our nation due to the kind of power and influence we have as a body.

That wraps up the series on my church evolution. Thank you for taking the time to read. Missed the previous two posts? Check out My Church-O-Volution: Background followed by My Church-O-Volution: Part 2

Until I come your way again with another post, I wish you nothing but:

Blessings & Love,

– Amazing Grace ❤

 

My Church-O-Volution: Part 2

I have been churched all my life. Me without church felt incomplete. Like I shared earlier, I loved church from a very young age even before I was old enough to understand what was going on. I imagine my experience isn’t that different from others raised in the church. As far as I knew, I’d be a church girl for life.

The first time I ever deeply thought about God, I was so young. I couldn’t have been more than 8 or 9 years old. 20 years down the line, I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in our home in Sakumono. I lived with my mom only. I had been reading My Book of Bible Stories, if I’m remembering correctly, and started asking some deep philosophical questions: am I real? Is life real? How can I know for sure that I exist? Who made God? Where did He come from and how old is He? You can imagine how badly my head hurt as a kid thinking these thoughts. Of all the questions I had, the only one I bothered to ask my mom about was the last one. She had no answers to give and simply chucked it all under faith and assured me God will answer all such questions when we get to Heaven; we had an eternity to learn all things. I’m wondering if she’s bothered to ask on my behalf now that she’s in the Lord’s bosom. I digress. Again.

My mom’s response was satisfactory for the time being because I didn’t like the headaches I got from thinking so much and I always took her word for it in everything. Also, I’d rather just play with my Legos and art set than bother my head. I’d further hoped that as I went through Sunday School courtesy my favorite Teacher Marjorie, I’d get the answers to my questions though I never posed them to her directly. I filed those questions away and didn’t really think deeply about God until I was 12.

I was hospitalized for bronchitis of my upper left lung. My mom saved me that night. We were both staying at her boss’s place with his family, who were like our own family, because she had just been discharged from the hospital and was too weak to care for herself. I was presumed too young to do it alone. I remember having a terrible cold that day which seemed to get worse as the day wore on. My mom was in the guest room downstairs and I shared a room with the youngest daughter who was also my classmate in school. My mom decided I share her room with her instead so she could properly monitor me. She was supposed to be resting but I was too weak to argue. Before I knew it, she’d woken up her boss and his wife and I was being rushed to the hospital. I was not breathing properly, in fact I was barely breathing. I remember feeling like I was dying. I probably would have if my mom wasn’t watching me.

Even though I was stabilized, I couldn’t help but feel I was inches away from death. I was afraid and didn’t want to die. I was too young to die. So I prayed in my heart calling out desperately to God to hear me and heal me so I know for sure that He’s real. Whether or not He truly heard me and answered and the implications for those He doesn’t answer in similar circumstances is a conversation for another day. All I know is I did get better and in that moment and till this day, connected it to faith. It was following this experience that I can say I gave my life to Christ at the next altar call I heard at Mount Zion and became really serious about my relationship with Jesus.

I had such firm grounding from the Methodist Church from then and was so sure of my salvation and living a life that glorified Jesus. I loved everyone as best as I could and was convicted whenever I did something that grieved the Holy Spirit. I was happy and living life in peace. Then right before we left Ghana, we started visiting a few Charismatic churches which had a completely different vibe than my laid back Methodist Church. It was in these churches that I first heard people speak in tongues. I later discovered people spoke in tongues at the Methodist Church too but just not loudly like in the Charismatic circles so I was thrown off. It was in these Charismatic churches that I first learned about deliverance and demonic possession and all these “spiritchua” things. To say I was spooked is an understatement. I’d never had to confront these things in my faith up until that point and I was in shock.

I must say though that while I was spooked by all the mysterious and so called spiritual manifestations I came to witness in Charismatic churches, I was also equally fascinated. In fact I was truly captivated and curious to see and know more. I craved opportunities to further witness all these signs and wonders. Thinking back, my fascination might have been the reason I could spend 5+ hours in church without annoyance. The ‘gymnastics’ were quite intriguing.

They also had this addicting quality. Each such manifestation had me craving more and more signs and wonders. It took a while to realize that I’d reduced the power of God to these dramatic displays of the presence of the Holy Spirit. In fact, it became my gauge for measuring or determining the presence and approval of God in any church. It was no longer primarily about Jesus and the Gospel at its simplest level. They weren’t enough if their truth wasn’t accompanied by the dramatics. I falsely assumed they were always authentic showings of signs and wonders from God.

Of course, the Charismatic Movement didn’t force me to have these perceptions. I take full responsibility for them. But I can’t deny their significant influence in perpetuating these sentiments among other problematic views by the teachings and positioning of many churches under this denomination. This isn’t to say that the problems and issues I’ll be highlighting are reflective of ALL Charismatic churches. That would be unfair and disingenuous of me.

The observations I’ll be making are largely informed by personal experiences from the Charismatic churches I’ve visited though at this time, I’m not comfortable in naming them all explicitly. Conversely, my observations don’t automatically absolve orthodox and other non-Charismatic churches from being culpable of exhibiting these traits either. It is very possible that these issues can be found in some of their number though I can’t attest to it from personal experience.

So without further ado, I’ll launch into the issues in my final post…

This is a series I’m developing. To hold interest, I’m breaking it up and sharing it in bits over the next few hours so please don’t draw any conclusions till we get to the final post.

Missed the previous post? Check out My Church-O-Volution: Background

– Amazing Grace ❤

My Church-O-Volution: Background

Pass me that tambourine, let me clap off beat, allow me to jump and sway my tiny body from side to side as the choir offers a beautiful rendition to a favorite hymn…I was just in love with church from my very early years. It has always been one of the few places I’m happiest. It still is. I didn’t need my parents to convince or trick me into loving church. I just did. I loved the name JESUS and getting to shout it in any call and response activity at Sunday School led by Teacher Marjorie; my all time favorite Sunday School teacher.

My first church memories are from the Methodist Church in Ghana though it wasn’t my first church experience, technically speaking. From the time I was born until I was about 5 years old, my parents and I fellowshipped with an ultra conservative church that looked like a Seventh Day Adventist Church in many ways although the service day being a Saturday. No makeup, earrings, or trousers was allowed for the women back then. They weren’t also allowed to cut their hair at all, not even a routine trim to deal with split ends. TV’s and anything considered worldly was forbidden. It was THAT strict. Boy am I glad I have no memories of that period in my life. I’m sure I would be seriously scarred if I did. I must however, note that I haven’t been back there since I was a toddler so I have no idea what that particular church looks like at this time. I’d like to leave room for their potential evolution over the years.

Fast forward to about five years following my birth, my parents separated (they would finalize their divorce two years later) and my mom and I found ourselves in the church of her family; the Methodist Church. We attended Mount Zion Methodist Church (the only church I’m comfortable naming in this write up) in Sakumono from then until I was almost 15 when we left Ghana. I loved everything about Mount Zion from the pastoral family to being a member of the Junior Choir to Sunday School and just the people and the kind of church family we were blessed to have. Till date, it’s the one church where my fondest memories of faith reside.

Leaving Mount Zion when we left Ghana was very hard on me. I’m only now beginning to confront the kind of toll it took on me. My late mom however, wasn’t as crushed because prior to our leaving, she had begun visiting a few charismatic churches at the invitation of friends and found herself liking them. I was slower to warm up to the Charismatic Movement because I loved my church the way it was and didn’t see what others saw as the “better church” experience in the Charismatic circles. This isn’t to say Charismatic churches aren’t great churches when analyzed on their own.

When we got to the US, we sought out a Methodist Church. We found one. Surprisingly, we totally disliked it. Or I should say we hated the experience and not the church or its people themselves. It was nothing like Mount Zion and this was such a shock to me. I somehow had felt all Methodist Churches were one and the same no matter which mission you visited. We hadn’t factored in cultural differences across country lines or the reality that a Ghanaian church leader could be ummmm…BORING! My mom and I kept pinching and prodding each other to ensure we didn’t fall asleep during the service that must have lasted for just 2 hours though it felt like eternity. We were both loud snorers too so we just couldn’t afford the risk; there was no such thing as being discreet in church naps for us.

From that horrible experience, my mom was ready to switch gears and seek out an African Charismatic church to attend. I was ready to join her though a bit hesitant. I thought we could have tried another Methodist Church but we didn’t know of any within our city. It had taken us about 45 mins to get to this first church through the kindness of a member who offered us a ride. So we abandoned this course. In retrospect, I feel my mom sought out the Methodist Church first to fulfill all righteousness and be able to note that we had indeed tried in case any former church members questioned our switch.

We church hopped for a while until we finally settled on one church which my mom loved and I strongly disliked. The youth service experience in our first visit left such a poor taste in my mouth I was so ready to be out of there. I couldn’t handle the cultural shock of how the kids mouthed off and insulted their teachers freely and how unruly they were. My prim and proper self-righteous disposition couldn’t handle it. “Why couldn’t they be as Church perfect as I was?” a juvenile thought that crossed my mind more than once. My mom on the other hand had thoroughly enjoyed the adult service and unilaterally concluded this would be our church home before catching up with me. I was crushed when she told me her decision and she was likewise very perplexed by my experience and reluctance. I wanted nothing to do with them. It was an awful place to be; a mother and daughter who both love God struggling to decide on the church body to call home.

I was very candid in my dislike and foresaw that it wouldn’t go well in the long run. My mom acknowledged my doubts (in retrospect, this was such a crucial affirming act on her part) and rather than impose the church on me, sought to appeal to the leader she saw in me. She convinced me to believe I could help change things and turn the youth around for the better. I was extremely skeptical but as someone who grew up serving in the church in one capacity or another, I couldn’t deny that the possibility enticed me. So I grudgingly accepted to make it my church home too. My mom turned out to be right about the youth. It didn’t happen over night but in time, I became the youth president and saw a positive turn around that made me proud and ashamed to have failed in recognizing this ministry opportunity God had brought my way. For the first time in a long time, this church was finally paying closer attention to its youth and intervening the way they should have been for years. Mission accomplished.

In spite of all this, I was still a bit unsettled by the church. I felt I didn’t belong there because certain things just didn’t sit well with me (though I couldn’t really put my finger on what those things were at the time) and decided I would leave when I went to university. My mom of course wasn’t too happy but she knew I was almost 18 and ready to fly solo in navigating my faith so she didn’t stop me. About a year after I left, she would also finally realize that we were a mismatch for this church and also left on a less than pleasant note unlike she would have preferred (she made her peace before she passed away). The scales finally fell off her eyes and she brought me my stone; she accepted that I, at a very young age with relatively limited spiritual experience, had been the more discerning and accurate judge of the church from day one. She always made it a point to judge my church instincts from then going forward. That was huge for me in various ways but I digress; a conversation for another time.

We still found ourselves in Charismatic and Pentecostal settings following this experience both in the US and upon our return to Ghana. We had been so captured by the energetic vibe and exuberance of Charismatic churches (their name alone gives the cue) that returning to our Methodist roots didn’t quite seem like an option though we had heard of the various ways this old church was starting to mimic the relatively newer one. Once you’ve experienced the passion and zeal of the Charismatic atmosphere, it’s so tough contemplating a return to the more solemn orthodox experience. In spite of this hold the Charismatic Movement had managed to have on us, I was never 100% comfortable in this denomination (I didn’t truly fit in) and it took too long for me to figure out why…

This is a series I’m developing. To hold interest, I’m breaking it up and sharing it in bits over the next few hours so please don’t draw any conclusions till we get to the final post.

Missed my last post? Check out Funeral Etiquette: Entry 1

– Amazing Grace ❤

Funeral Etiquette: Entry 1

I know it’s been quite a while (five months of silence to be precise…yikes!) but I hope you forgive me. I had underestimated how busy my year would get (I guess it’s too late to say happy new year now lol) but I’m back.

I’ve been hoping to talk about this for a while now but kept putting it off until  simply attending a funeral this morning reminded me to do the needful. Today’s blog topic has nothing to do with the funeral I attended this morning but was actually triggered by one that happened two months ago.

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I shared the following below on my Facebook profile when one of my favorite musicians (from Ghana), Ebony Reigns, whose life ended through a tragic accident, was laid to rest at the forecourts of Ghana’s State House:

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Ebony’s funeral attracted thousands of mourners who attended to pay their last respects. From some videos and pictures I saw circulating social media, several of the mourners took pictures of her corpse while filing past. It triggered this memory I have of my mom’s funeral and how uncomfortable the act done to her corpse made me. I couldn’t decide whether or not the act was appropriate so I decided to voice out my concerns on my Facebook profile and solicit other views.

Most people seemed to share my sentiments and found the action insensitive, unsettling, awful, immature, disrespectful, and confusing, to borrow from their words. Some described it as motivated by the need to gossip AKA “kokonsa” which isn’t cool at all. A friend from another country also commented that it was “one of the many things that puzzle [him] in Ghana.”

A few others however, gave a different perspective that helped to explain why people feel the need to take pictures of the corpse. Apparently, for many who are unable to attend the funeral in person especially those related to the deceased, there is the need to know that the corpse was dressed well and appropriately for their burial. It is in other words, their way to ensure that the family did right by the deceased in sending them off. In essence, the act is steeped in a cultural expectation. Another commenter however, was completely indifferent and didn’t see anything wrong with it either way. He chose to rather focus on an intervention families could take to control the act and I thought to share that as my funeral etiquette tip today.

Given the era we live in where many of us struggle to detach ourselves from our electronic devices and find ourselves capturing and documenting everything we see and do, it might be helpful for families to issue a disclaimer prior to the filing past session of the burial service, to discourage mourners from taking pictures of the corpse. Where disclaimers aren’t issued (potentially due to forgetfulness from funeral planning stress), mourners have a responsibility to also check with trusted family members first, before going ahead to take any such pictures. It is the proper and sensitive thing to do that shows respect for the bereaved who may be uncomfortable but unable to voice out their displeasure due to being wrapped in their grief and pain. I for one certainly couldn’t voice out my displeasure at my mom’s funeral.

The same principle applies to using the said photograph in question as a profile picture or sharing it in other ways across various social media platforms. It doesn’t hurt to ask first to avoid (re)traumatizing the bereaved. I struggle to understand why people find it necessary to engage in such in the first instance. However, due to learning that people grieve in a variety of ways, I can only caution and strongly admonish that people take a few moments of circumspection before indulging in such acts.

So to sum it all up, my funeral etiquette for today is simply: ask before you snap!

Feel free to share your thoughts on this with me in the comments section. You could also suggest other funeral etiquettes to explore in subsequent posts.

In the meantime: missed my previous post? Check out Collateral Beauty: A Grief Relief Recommendation

Alright, that’s it for today. Until I come your way with another post, I wish you nothing but:

Blessings & Love,

– Amazing Grace ❤

 

 

 

Collateral Beauty: A Grief Relief Recommendation

Hi Everyone!

Let me start off by wishing you all a very merry Christmas (better late than never lol) and a prosperous, mightily blessed new year.

This is most likely my very last post of the year as we close out 2017. I dedicate it to you all who’ve faithfully read my blogs and encourage me to keep writing. Thank you all so much for a terrific year. May the next one be even greater than we ever imagined!

Now to today’s blog, if you’re like me, this season, while joyous and festive, still comes with a painful reminder that you no longer get to enjoy the season with your dearly departed. Past memories flood your mind and throw your emotions into disarray. For me personally, these memories are bittersweet as the pain of not being able to continue old traditions and enjoying the presence of the one you loved dearly are juxtaposed with various happy memories that remind me of her precious smiles and loving words that embody and convey all that is worth knowing about this season of love and positivity.

This is my second Christmas without my mom and it’s almost as hard as the first one without her; the different between the two has been marginal, to be honest. Needless to say it’s quite a tough time for families that are dealing with the loss of a loved one. But, if you know me, you know I don’t like to dwell too much on the negative feelings but seek to find the bright spots in the midst of it all. The creative arts is typically my avenue for doing this be it through books, music, film, etc.

I have heard many positive things about the 2016 movie Collateral Beauty starring Will Smith, Naomie Harris, Helen Mirren, among other phenomenal and talented actors. My boyfriend, George, suggested it to me months ago and insisted I would love it but I never got around to watching it until I recently saw a friend post about it and mention the trigger word “grief”. That was all my grief antennae needed to really push me to finally watch the film.

All I can say is, if you haven’t already, please find and watch this movie! I’m yet to encounter a movie about grief that seems to aptly capture practically all emotions and realities that come with said grief. It was an unbelievably relatable story told in a very creative, authentic, and highly original manner that gave all the feels and thrills of a well produced movie for a riveting story. One of the standout elements of the movie which really solidified my obsession and appreciation for it, is the truth conveyed in no singular way that grief at its core isn’t necessarily about death itself but LOSS; deep and profound loss manifesting itself in various forms not restricted to death.

I can’t begin to describe (trying to stay away from doing a full blown review) all that I learned from this movie and the cathartic release it was for me due to the opportunity it afforded me to feel and even join in the expression of different emotions during this process. Sure, it might make you cry your eyes out but I guarantee that it’s worth it and you’ll be so glad you did. I absolutely recommend this movie with no known reservations to me at this time.

Go ahead and check out the trailer below:

COLLATERAL BEAUTY – Official Trailer 2

This December, experience the miracle. Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kiera Knightley, Michael Peña, Naomie Harris, Jacob Latimore, Kate Winslet and Helen Mirren star in #CollateralBeauty, in theaters December 16. —– COLLATERAL BEAUTY When a successful New York advertising executive suffers a great tragedy he retreats from life.

 

If you’ve seen this movie, feel free to let me know what you think in the comments section (be sure to give ***SPOILER ALERTS*** for readers yet to watch the movie).

My Social Media handles (Please like/follow and invite others):

Facebook: @thegriefrelief
Twitter: @GriefReliefBlog
Instagram: @thegriefreliefblog

Missed my previous post? Check out #MeDaase: My 123 List!

Alright, that’s it for today (and the year). Until I come your way with another post, I wish you nothing but:

Blessings & Love,

– Amazing Grace ❤

#MeDaase: My 123 List!

Today is Thanksgiving in the US (one of my favorite holidays when I lived in the States) and it dawned on me how hard it can be to give thanks or feel any gratitude when you’re in an intense season of grief. It’s quite understandable. However, it could lead to a pessimistic outlook or ungrateful disposition if conscious efforts are not made to reorient our thinking positively.

So today, I’d like to share about those people and things I’m particularly thankful for in 2017. I found as I started typing them out that it was hard to stop. I’d initially planned to share about 20 or so but each one I wrote triggered another memory and another and another. I stopped when I got tired. You might want to grab some munchables for this one…

I’m THANKFUL for (in no particular order):

1. My life (I’m still here)
2. My mom of blessed memory who taught me to be thankful and never take anything for granted in life.
3. My relationship with Jesus. Let me use this one to express thanks for all my church families throughout my life from infancy till date and all the church leaders, groups, etc who’ve shaped my faith one way or another. I can’t begin to list them all or I’ll definitely need weeks to complete this list. I can’t give special shout outs and risk leaving out anyone lol.
4. My BFF of 12+ years, Rashida Moore. No long things; you rock!
5. My Boo (#ADM), enough said lol (because, why not?)
6. My family. Special shout outs to my Dad for his strength and resilience and also for the additions to the family through my Sister-in-Love Darilyn and her whole family. Hey Broni!
7. An awesome and phenomenal Boss.
8. My amazing colleagues at work who’ve given me the best work experience by far these past 2+ years (Freda, Martha, Adaz, Abby, Rich, Benny, Uncle Mac especially).
9. That Pinkberry opened in Labone this year.
10. My godson Kuuku and his wonderful parents Faith and Ekow Ghartey.
11. For social media and all the wonderful people it’s connected me to (the list is too long to acknowledge).
12. The social media stalkers and creeps who gave wisdom on how to deal with pervs.
13. Bob Afro bubble tea in East Legon.
14. My mentor Nana Yaa Ofori-Atta.
15. Discovering Vida Club Sandwiches (Vida E Caffe).
16. #PepperDemMinistries (PDM)! Efe, Ama OA, Hetty, Felicity, Jayjay, Nana Ama, Maame Awereba, Zeenat, Ama Asubonteng, Linan, Mss Es, Louise, Gail, Noelyne, Juliana, Vera – you ladies have really made this last half of the year rock! You’ve stretched my mind in so many ways. More pepper lol!
17. The Writers Project Ghana especially Elizabeth Johnson
18. CitiFM and all their humanitarian and social impact efforts!!!
19. The Citi Breakfast Show (it’s hard to listen to other stations in the morning) specifically:
20. Bernard Avle (one of a kind – serious broadcasting/journalism gem)
21. Kojo Akoto Boateng (for being so thorough and mindful about the details)
22. Nana Ama Agyemang Asante (you’re in your own league and on another level chale)
23. Nathan Kwao who always increases my passion for sports. His passion is highly contagious.
24. My car (Nissan Suny nicknamed Bentley – the disrespect! I know lol) and all the lessons I’ve learned about cars from its many issues this year.
25. ExpressPay and Mobile Money services for making life a little easier.
26. Facebook particularly for connecting me with George (#ADM).
27. Kobina Aidoo and his cool family (I see you Maame Eduafowa Arthur lol)
28. Our treadmill for being a constant nagging reminder (that I’ve sadly ignored for the most part) that I need to stay active for my health.
29. My atheist friends who’ve taught me invaluable lessons about human decency and how it doesn’t take faith to have it and faith isn’t an automatic guarantee that anyone would be a decent human being. Thanks for challenging my faith and pushing me to get real about it beyond the surface to really evaluate why I believe what I believe (I see you Maame Awereba lol).
30. Chocolate (Special shout outs to 57 Chocolate)!
31. The Coalition Against Sexual Abuse (CASA) and its #Justice4Her movement.
32. Bright Tetteh Akwerh, Comfort Arthur, Kwame Akoto, Mizpeh Wewobe, and all my artist Baes
33. Mensdo Beverages (Bissap); my drink of the year.
34. Media houses especially ClassFM that have supported or featured PepperDem.
35. ADM’s family and how they’ve welcomed me.
36. That my kelewele dealer didn’t go on ultra long leaves of absence like previous years and is currently back at her base in Comm. 11 Rama Down, Tema.
37. Agnès Bertrand-Sanz our PepperDem ally all the way from France who’s been so supportive and instrumental in getting our message across continental lines.
38. Nana Awere Damoah
39. Technology especially my phone for making blogging life easier.
40. WhatsApp audio and video calls.
41. Growing in confidence and assertiveness.
42. How great my dyed natural hair turned out.
43. Awesome PDM male allies such as Dr. Kwabena Opoku-Agyemang and Richard Anim who will definitely not let me go Scott free if I don’t give them this shoutout.
44. Shoprite
45. Maame Aba Daisie and her handmade soaps.
46. That French food joint behind the Osu Mall.
47. My favorite Uncle Fiifi for being all round awesome and for his company, Reflexology Ghana, that has helped my body with exquisite massages (thanks Sylvia) and reflex treatments.
48. Dara Mathis, Nkechi Bianze, and the many intelligent and outspoken women I’ve encountered online.
49. All the people who’ve been there for me as I’ve mourned my loss and have supported me in one way or another especially financially and in kind when I didn’t even ask. Special thanks to Auntie Grace, Auntie Maame and the entire Mayflower Family, and everyone who’s called and texted and visited.
50. Wiscom taxi services for the best taxi experience I’ve ever had in my entire life.
51. Salem Hephzibah Afangideh, my Naija sister from another mother who’s bent on stealing Kofi Siriboe from Ghana which is proof that she secretly loves Ghana jollof and admits defeat in our jollof wars lol.
52. For Jo Saxton who’s all kinds of awesome and also introduced me to Salem through a friendly jollof war.
53. The ability to mute group chats for up to a whole year on WhatsApp.
54. GIFs!!!
55. Nyaho Medical Center and other clinics that actively held free breast cancer screenings during October’s breast cancer awareness season.
56. Romantic walks that help you kill two birds with one stone (romance and exercise lol)
57. Kwesé TV and how their introduction has helped bring down DSTV prices.
58. Netflix
59. The Marvel Cinematic Universe
60. GiGi by Wear Ghana
61. Ice Cream
62. Discovering the joys of eating akɔnfɛm and ɛtɔr (not together lol) with your boo.
63. WordPress
64. Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie
65. Bob Marley particularly for Redemption Song.
66. Growing in critical thinking and analytical skills.
67. That Fauziya in Comm 11 still remains my number 1 Waakye Bae.
68. That I’ve read more this year than before.
69. For my IG account (@agsbooksadventures) that’s dedicated to books and has connected me to bookworms and lovers.
70. That the marking of my mom’s one year anniversary went smoother than I anticipated in spite of my stress.
71. How accessible Twitter has made world leaders (cough cough Donald Trump).
72. My Sis Akorfa Wullar
73. The #MeToo campaigns and the exposing of powerful sexual predators .
74. Sara Asafu-Adjaye and Kathleen Addy for being awesome and phenomenal, supportive women who’ve had our backs from day one as PDM.

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75. Old school music
76. Sis Aku and the Frimpong & Ayi family (Ken Leeeeeeee)
77. Social media beefs for revealing people’s true characters.
78. A sense of humor
79. My awesome US aunts Brago and Dorcas
80. Parafin waxes after a pedicure.
81. Road rage (only when it keeps bullies in check lol).
82. Adwoa Banful who I’ve known for just a few months but has already become a very close and dear big sister.
83. Bacon
84. Shea butter
85. Twists N Locs salon
86. Ampersand Tech Limited especially Lady-O Hammond and Drew Barnes for your support and patience
87. Yvonne Orji and Issa Rae and the show Insecure
88. Games of Thrones
89. Damien Escobar
90. Going a whole year without Indomie
91. 2 Ewe Boys (Kossi and Elikem)
92. Kinna Reads
93. Mandate Books, Walking Books, The BookNook Store, and all the bookstores
94. My dear Bro Robin-Huws and his Hues Mixtape; favorite artist discovery of the year.
95. Pagya Literary Arts festival
96. Chewing Gum (the show and the chewable sweet)
97. This blog and how it’s been a wonderful outlet for me.
98. To my faithful readers who keep me encouraged and share their stories with me.
99. The audacity to dream big.
100. Learning to not care what others think.
101. Kofi Brokeman
102. The term “distin”
103. Those really tough broke seasons that have taught me to be a Pesewa Pincher.
104. My new mechanic David
105. Silent readers and screenshot takers (kɔkɔnsa is bae chale) who keep me accountable for what I post online
106. Ama Ata Aidoo
107. Learning that bitcoins are the new gold
108. Ahaspora (hey Christabel)
109. That I’m short (don’t ask why lol)
110. Sulfur 8
111. Friends who’ve endured even when we’ve not stayed consistently in touch (Rester, Joy, Pamela, Ruby)
112. Akyaa and Patrick Ampofo
113. Safe travels on the Motorway especially last week when my brakes failed (’twas as scary as it sounds)!!!
114. Bozoma Saint John and all her #BlackGirlMagic
115. That I’ve been malaria free for at least two months back to back. I usually get it once a month. I’m enjoying this miracle.
116. Second Cup Coffee shop
117. Patrick Awuah
118. Cafe Kwae
119. Aku Kwamie
120. African Leadership University
121. Books
122. Health insurance
123. Being trusted with confidences

Alright let me pump my brakes here for now or this will never end lol. Apologies if I left you out; blame fatigue lol. Know that I’m extremely thankful for you specially.

Bottoms line is I have more than enough reasons to be thankful this day and everyday. I’m anxious to see what this list looks like next year.

What about you? What are you thankful for this year? Go ahead and let me know in the comment section.

On Social media? Find me:

Facebook: @thegriefrelief

Twitter: @GriefReliefBlog

Instagram: @thegriefreliefblog

Missed my previous post? Check out One Year on…

Happy Thanksgiving! Wishing you nothing but:

Blessings & Love

– Amazing Grace ❤

 

One Year on…

Hi Beautiful People!

So today, I’m dedicating this blogpost to the one year mark of my mom’s passing. Today also happens to be her birthday; her second in Heaven so far. Rather than write a post, I thought I’d just share pictures from my diary of the letter I wrote to her in honor of this anniversary. I started it on the anniversary of her passing on 23rd September 2017 and finished it tonight, 4th October 2017. Please take a read below:

IMG_2956IMG_2957IMG_2958IMG_2959IMG_2960IMG_2961IMG_2962IMG_2963IMG_2964

 

My Social Media handles (Please like/follow and invite others):

Facebook: @thegriefrelief
Twitter: @GriefReliefBlog
Instagram: @thegriefreliefblog

Missed my previous post? Check out Birthday Boycott?

Alright, that’s it for today. Until I come your way with another post, I wish you nothing but:

Blessings & Love,

– Amazing Grace ❤

 

Birthday Boycott?

Yeah, I know. The title sounds very extreme. But, it’s exactly how I felt towards my birthday this year. For the first time in 27 years, I didn’t look forward to my birthday on Monday (September 18th). I was definitely grateful to God for allowing me to see a new year in my life. However, I couldn’t help being fixated on the pain that has come to be inextricably linked to my birthday: the passing of my mom which occurred five days after my 26th birthday last year. What should have been a celebratory month ended up being one filled with so much pain and confusion. Considering this reality, I don’t think you would blame me too much for not being excited about September this year. All year as I’ve waited for and reflected on September, I’ve not been able to help thinking of her death instead of my birthday.

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My original plan for my birthday this year was to simply thank God when I woke up for the blessing of another year and then treat the day as a normal day; doing nothing special as my way of coping with the change in what had been my birthday tradition for most of my life. Every year on my birthday, my mom would wake up long before I did and start thanking God for allowing me to see another year. When I wake up, I would smile at God for the blessing, thank Him, and quickly jump out of bed to go look for the one who labored to bring me into this world. She would greet me with all the excitement in the world and give me the biggest hug of the year amidst offering so many “Awurade yɛ da w’ase oo” (we thank you Lord) prayers.

You see, I was what we call a miracle baby in our Christian circles. My conception, survival in utero, and birth were all miracles. My mom didn’t have it easy at all and she nearly lost me on different occasions. So after thanking God, she would proceed to recount the story of my conception, her pregnancy, and my birth. I’d heard it so many times that I could recite it in my sleep but I didn’t care. This was our tradition and I loved every minute of it. Following the history lesson where she always seemed to reveal an element of the events surrounding my birth that had been missed in previous years, she would proceed to lay hands on me and pray pronouncing several blessings upon my life. It’s one of the things I miss most about my mom; the incessant powerful prayers she would offer on my behalf.

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Conjoined from the early days

After prayers, I would then get any gift she had for me. They were always great gifts. Some of them came as surprises before, during, or after school and then later in life, work. She always kept it interesting. I was always hyped about my birthday because of my mom. You should have seen the party she threw on my 7th birthday (it’s a shame I can’t find the video cassette – I feel so ancient saying that lol). I still remember it so vividly; it was THAT awesome. I’m hoping you can see why I really didn’t want to fuss about my birthday this year. I felt like a birthday boycott where I even deactivate my Facebook account so no one would remember my day (most of us rely on this social networking site to remind us), was in order. But, nothing of the sort happened. Why? Because I’ve been blessed with an awesome boyfriend (George) and BFF (Rashida, who’s in the US) who would hear none of it.

George has actually been fussing about my birthday for at least three months now. He would always bring it up whenever I’d succeeded in forgetting about it. He understood my sentiments but took it upon himself to help change them so I wouldn’t dread my birthday going forward. He’s been so awesome celebrating and making me feel extra special this week and I’m actually excited and looking forward to the special celebration for just the two of us he’s planned for later this week. Let’s just say my whole plan to boycott my birthday this year fell apart before it could even get started. George and Rashida constantly made me feel loved in the days leading up to my day. They were overhyped on my behalf lol. They made sure social media was too.

That’s another thing. God used this birthday to show me just how blessed I am to have made several friends on social media who have all grown to truly love and care about me. It was one of the most pleasant surprises for me this year. If you follow me on social media you’ll know I’m quite the chatterbox. I just didn’t realize how many people actually paid attention and read my posts (the Silent Readers Inc). They all came out of the woodworks and showed their love and appreciation accordingly. I even got a shout out on Citi FM (97.3) from two journalist friends on Facebook (Kojo and Nana Ama). I also received a book gift (one of the greatest gifts anyone could ever give me) from a friend called Pearl, who I’d met through Facebook and met just ONCE a few months ago at an event. It’s been an awesome and overwhelming experience.

I’m just so thankful and grateful to God for showing me He’s not abandoned me since He called my mom home. I’ve actually felt His love and care in greater measure since her passing. He’s used countless people I never expected, to prove that to me on several uncountable occasions. I’m just laughing at myself for ever thinking I could successfully stage a birthday boycott when the Lord has surrounded me with so much love.

It still sucks that my mom wasn’t around this year and the reality that on Saturday (September 23rd) I’ll be forced to remember the day she left me still stings. However, thanks to all the people who love and care for me, it doesn’t hurt nearly as much as I expected it to when I reflected on the matter. For this, I’m eternally grateful.

My Social Media handles (Please like/follow and invite others):

Facebook: @thegriefrelief
Twitter: @GriefReliefBlog
Instagram: @thegriefreliefblog

Missed my previous post? Check out Counting Concern

Alright, that’s it for today. Until I come your way with another post, I wish you nothing but:

Blessings & Love,

– Amazing Grace ❤