I am starting a new job today.

My faith in His people done left me scared

The hatred and hurt was so bizarre

I thought that they would always ride for me

I cried but nobody replied to me

I questioned the truth inside of me

and right about then is when the devil lied to me

I am Restored – Lecrae

I am starting a new job today. It will be different than any I envisioned when I made my 5 year plans. I am working with the Special Services department of a local school system. This wasn’t the goal, but I am thankful that I landed here. I received a call yesterday saying that I have been reassigned from one school to another middle school in the city. I don’t know much about what this new assignment will look like just yet, but I am excited about it all the same. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t feeling other emotions and having other worries, too. I have been a pastor for most of my adult life. I have worked other jobs along the way, but I have still been a pastor. Today that changes. I am just something else.

While I am excited because I have longed for the day when I could work with students in meaningful ways again, I also carry a lot of worry, self-doubt, and anxiety with me into this new job. One thing I said in my interview is that, as a pastor, churches have a way of making you super aware of yourself and of your flaws. The worry of people liking me and accepting my personality, the self-doubt of how I am going to mess this up, and anxiety of the unknown and how my stutter will do in a new space are really weighing on me. Judging by my past experiences and feedback (warranted or not) from church folks, I don’t think these feelings are misplaced either.

Scripture declares that all things work together for the good of those who love him and have been called according to God’s plan. This is something that I really do believe in. I also feel like God is resurrecting my hopes, dreams, and humor in this new season of life. When I was in high school, I wanted to spend the rest of my life working with special needs students. I convinced my guidance counselor to create a class credit for me to allow me to work in the special ed room for the first class of each day. This is God giving me a desire of my heart, and yet, I am still filled with worry, doubt, and anxiety.

On top of this, I also am worrying about what working in a public school looks like during COVID-19. Of course, masks, hand sanitizer, and all PPE will be worn and used, but even in “normal” years, schools can be a breeding ground for sickness. There is just a lot of feelings that are going into this new job.

Though I am dealing with worry, doubt, and anxiety, I find good news and great comfort in some of the words Moses spoke to Joshua as he was becoming Israel’s new leader in Deuteronomy 31:8: “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” God will go before me. God will be with me. God will never fail me. God will never abandon me. This is good news.

So while that may not make all of the worry, doubt, and anxiety go away, it does center me. It reminds me of who I am and whose I am. It reminds me of my mission/vision statement as a Jesus follower.

As a pastor, I shared the same closing prayer every Sunday for all of my ministry, and today I was reminded of that prayer and the vital role it played in the mission vision of my ministry and for me as a follower of Jesus. The prayer I shared at the end of ever service was this: Encounter God in all that you do, Walk out life in the power of the Holy Spirit, and Represent Jesus in a way that positively impacts your school, workplace, and community.

Remembering who I am and whose I am makes this prayer possible. Because God goes before me, is with me, and will never fail me or abandon me, I am able to Encounter God is everything I do. From my morning routine to driving to work to being in the classroom, God is there. Remembering who I am and whose I am makes walking in the power of the Holy Spirit possible. Because of the power of the Holy Spirit, I can walk in joy, peace, love, gentleness, patience, faithfulness, goodness, kindness, and self-control. Remembering who I am and whose I am makes it possible for me to represent Jesus in a way that positively impacts those around me. Jesus uplifted the marginalized and outcasted. In a public school, I’ll have ample opportunity to uplift the marginalized and outcasted.

Worry, doubt, and anxiety don’t make me a bad Christian, it makes me human; and scripture reminds us through our weakness God is made strong. So, I am excited about this new adventure. Sure, doubt, worry, and anxiety are still very present, but God is with me and I am with God.

“We can’t change the world unless we change ourselves” -Biggie Smalls

  • Are you starting something new? How are you feeling?
  • What did you learn from your last new start?
  • Words hurt. What words are you carrying with you now? What are you doing to heal?
  • Even in the midst of worry, anxiety and doubt God is still with you and you are still loved. Don’t you ever forget that.

-a rap dad

Follow me on Facebook: St. Martin’s Coogi Sweater

And on Twitter: @StMartinTweets

With work starting today and school starting in a few weeks for me I will be moving from weekly blog postings to biweekly blog postings!

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Words Can Be Hard and That’s Okay.

His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
 There’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti
 He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready
 To drop bombs, but he keeps on forgettin’
 What he wrote down, the whole crowd goes so loud
 He opens his mouth, but the words won’t come out

Lose Yourself by Eminem

How’s your New Year’s Resolution going? My resolution was to embrace who I am, talk about it, and not shy away from the hard things. This has been a challenge, but I have kept to that resolution. One of the instances that got me to this point happened December 19th of last year. During a Democratic debate, Sarah Huckabee-Sanders fired off a tweet that made fun of Joe Biden’s stutter. It was a night I will never forget. I felt small and I remember crying that night.

The Atlantic had just published a long form interview with Biden about his stutter and dove into the challenges he faced as a child and now as an adult about his stutter. It was one of those interviews that doesn’t happen often, but Biden allowed it because the journalist also dealt with a stutter. Joe Biden has a stutter. This was a known and unmissable fact that circulated in the political and stuttering world. He has done town halls and such before where it has come up, but this interview was different. On this night and the days that followed, the political world and social media realm seemed to jump on the bandwagon of her tweet and dragged his speech missteps through the mud. Many people I know and love took part in this banter.

This hit me hard. Every attack on him and every person cheering her on brought up flashbacks of every time I had been made fun of or misunderstood because of my stutter. I have lived with a stutter all my life, and the more I listen to people older than me the more I realize that I will always live with this stutter. It will always hang around like a monster in the shadows that seems to come out at all the most inconvenient times.

Living with a stutter means having to think about your day to day interactions. Speaking to crowds has to be planned out, and nothing good ever happens when you are caught off guard or have to defend a position with a spotlight on you.

Living with a stutter means having to think about your day to day interactions. Speaking to crowds has to be planned out, and nothing good ever happens when you are caught off guard or have to defend a position with a spotlight on you. This is something I found out the hard way last summer. Old head after old head stood up at a church conference and talked about how much they loved mentoring young people, but! It was always “but something.” I felt that I had a responsibility to speak out, so I shouted, “Point of personal privilege!”, went to the microphone, and nothing came out. I felt the eyes of a few hundred people on me and heard the voices of people in the crowd behind me heckling me and nothing still came out. I didn’t have anything written down because I didn’t know I would be doing this. I said something, but it was quiet and not what I wanted to say. My stutter got the best of me. It was utter failure and embarrassment wrapped up into one moment.

My words have escaped me a lot lately, too. Zoom calls, small talk, and meeting new people in this season of life have all been challenging for me. I love people and I love having meaningful conversations with people. I also pride myself on my ability to have small talk. That hasn’t been the case lately though. COVID has been hard on people with a stutter. To avoid conversation with people in public, I have been putting my AirPods in and listening to the latest rap album or a podcast. (As I write I am listening to the new Juice WRLD.) I was in Lowe’s minding my own business when an employee pointed to my hat and asked what Rap Dad meant. I was more than happy to tell him, but he got more than he bargained for as I struggled to put together words to explain what it meant.

Just like for people in the LGBTQ+ community, people who stutter have to come out of the closet, too. We are different in the way we do though. For me, it isn’t the people that I am closest to that I have to have this conversation with and wonder what our relationship will be like afterwards (I can’t imagine what that has to be like); instead, it is with new people when we meet. For us, “coming out” is a safety mechanism to make us not seem dumb, nervous, or a liar. This self-disclosure gets tiresome. As a pastor, the first thing I would say to my new congregations is “Hi. My name is Pastor Steven and I have a stutter,” and even then I would get comments about how nervous I seemed.

So what helps me cope with my stutter? A few things. First, hip-hop and rap. The words are like therapy for me. It is hard to explain, but even people like Ed Sheeran have found help through the words of their favorite rapper. Knowing the lyrics and being able to say those words fast is a huge part of it though. Second, understanding that I will live with this all my life has also been a huge help. Third, hearing from people much older than I who still struggle with stuttering is the most encouraging and discouraging thing I have experienced. While it is a reminder of the fact that I can’t run from this, it is also a reminder that it won’t hinder my success in life if I won’t allow it, too. Fourth, having people around that understand my stutter and give me that grace to struggle with my words has also been a huge help for my whole person. Finally, The Stuttering Foundation has also been helpful. The resources on their website and social media accounts have been a huge help to me this year. I found them the night Sarah made fun of Joe and have been so thankful for their work and encouragement.

Speaking of that night, Joe Biden responded with words that hit right at the heart of the public perception on stuttering. He said, “You know, stuttering, when you think about it, is the only handicap that people still laugh about. If I said to you when I was a kid I had a cleft palate, no one would smile.”

“You know, stuttering, when you think about it, is the only handicap that people still laugh about. If I said to you when I was a kid I had a cleft palate, no one would smile.” – Joe Biden

“We can’t change the world unless we change ourselves.”

Biggie Smalls
  • Do you stutter? Do you know someone who does?
  • If you stutter, don’t be discouraged. Message me. I would love to support you anyway I can and point to you to resources. Seriously, don’t go at it alone.
  • If you know someone who does stutter, take them out for coffee and just let them talk and give them grace to be okay.
  • Go to The Stutter Foundation’s website and look at the list of famous people who stutter. It will surprise you.

-a rap dad

Follow me on Facebook: St. Martin’s Coogi Sweater

And on Twitter: @StMartinTweets

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Jesus & 3/5th of a Woman: Part I

God loves the people you hate.

– Carlos A. Rodriguez

Artwork by Scott Erikson. Look him up and buy some of his artwork. Everything he does is incredible.

Do you have a favorite story in Scripture? I do. It is the story of the Woman at the Well in John Chapter 4. Actually, as I write this, I am flanked by pictures from that story on each side of my desk.

This story is one that I feel needs to be told over and over again, but to just tell the whole story in one setting doesn’t do justice to it nor does that make it applicable to everyday life. This woman has a story to tell if only we will take the time to listen and not rush to the ending. Today, we begin a series called “Jesus and 3/5th of a Woman.” My hope is that we will put ourselves in the story and ask hard questions about our judgments of Jesus and of this woman as we take part in the national conversation surrounding racial reconciliation and social justice.

I think what draws me to that story is the woman. First, she reminds me of my mom. Second, the Church, namely its tradition, has put stories and names on her that the scriptures never have put on her. It just isn’t right. The Church has demonized and sensationalized stories of many women over the years and the woman at the well has been caught up in all of that. She reminds me of my mom because she is doing whatever it takes to take care of her and whoever waits on her at home. John points out that she is drawing water at noon instead of in the mornings with the other woman. Why? I’m sure the voices of others are too much for her to bear, so she goes at the task alone. I also see my mother in her because men have left her abandoned to fend for herself, and she has come out stronger and more determined than ever. I have never met her, but I understand her plight.

Every time I read this story, I am struck by verse four. If you aren’t careful you will miss it. John writes, “He had to go through Samaria on the way.” Jesus is traveling from Judea to Galilee and he HAS to go through Samaria. Jews and Samaritans didn’t get along for a number of reasons and because of those disputes Jews avoided Samaritans at all cost. Jesus didn’t have to go through Samaria. There was another route that Jews always took. Sure, it was more dangerous but it avoided Samaria and that was worth the risk for them. So why did Jesus have to go through Samaria? I think it has everything to do with the conversation Jesus has with Nicodemus in John 3.

For God so loved the World that Jesus had to go through Samaria because if Jesus avoided Samaria, Jesus would have portrayed God as a liar. Like when the American Church quotes John 3:16 and avoids, marginalizes, oppresses, talks down to, and disregards anyone that looks different than them. Surely, there were other Jews who believed God loved the world and avoided Samaria… avoided “those people”…. I wonder how the disciples must have felt when Jesus came to a fork in the road, and they took a new route.

I recently read a book about a little boy who dealt with a stutter. At one point in the book, he asks why he stutters and answers that he has always been told that’s just how God intended it. He comes to the conclusion that a god who played cruel tricks on little boys like him didn’t know much about being a god. The person who told him this never meant to portray God as evil, mean, or incapable, but that’s exactly what this deeply religious person did when she said that to him.

When we, as people of God, say, “For God so loved the World,” and yet we avoid “the World” we are portraying God in a negative light and making God out to be a liar. We make God out to be something God isn’t when we say, “For God so loved the World,” but continue to talk about the other as if they aren’t loved by God. We make God out to be something God isn’t when we oppress, marginalize, and disregard the other as if they aren’t loved by God.

Jesus had to go through Samaria because Jesus had to show us that God loving the world means nothing if we aren’t willing to back that up with actions that show God loves the world. Jesus showed us that God loving the world means going to the places other people avoid. Jesus showed us that God loving the world means more than your own history, norms, rituals, political views, and culture.

Before you write or quote John 3:16 again ask yourself if you are willing to back that up with your own actions.

“We can’t change the world unless we change ourselves”-Biggie Smalls

– Do you really believe God loves the whole world? Really?

– What can you do this week to show that?

– Actions speak louder that words. In this case your actions directly impact what others believe about God so love with reckless abandon.

-a rap dad

Dads, let’s be honest with each other: our prayer life sucks.

“Everything, even sweeping, scraping vegetables,

weeding a garden and waiting on the sick could be a prayer,

if it were offered to God.”

St. Martin de Porres

Dads, let’s be honest with each other: our prayer life sucks. There really is not another way to say that. While being a dad and husband, working and doing things around the house seem to take all of the time we have in a day and that leaves no time to read scripture or to pray. Not having time to pray doesn’t exactly come up in conversations around the water cooler either. Quite honestly, it doesn’t come up at all between guys. I get it.

It has been my experience, though, that because this doesn’t come up men try to fix it by buying men’s devotionals. Or if we can’t fix it, we just put it on the back burner and say, “I will get to it when I get to it.” Neither are good, healthy, or life giving for your family. In the church realm, there is a recovery program called Celebrate Recovery. It is like AA or NA, but it just cast a wider net than either of those do. Actually, CR proclaims that it is for your hurts, habits, and hang ups. An unhealthy prayer life is a hang up and that might even be caused by a habit or a past hurt. I have seen CR do wonderful things in so many people’s lives including my own.

Step 1 of CR’s 12 steps is “We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.” You can’t try harder in your own strength to have a better prayer life. You can’t avoid prayer long enough for you to magically have time for it at some point in life. That isn’t how that works. We must admit that we are powerless in our pursuits to make room for prayer and to reach a point in our life where we feel we will have more time to pray. Our lives, spouses, children, parents and all of those who depend on us need us to come to this realization and move towards a healthy prayer life.

So, if we can’t work towards a point in time where we have more time to pray now or in the future, then what can we do to cultivate a healthier prayer life?

St. Martin de Porres offers some wisdom. Martin came to believe that everything we do can be a prayer, no matter what it is, if it is offered to God. This is putting Paul’s call to pray without ceasing in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to practical use. Martin lived in Lima, Peru from 1579–1639. He was a barber, surgeon, clergy person, caretaker, gardener, animal shelter manager, founder of orphanages, and so much more. Martin was a very busy man. Many people have written about the times he spent in solitude praying, but Martin lived a life or prayer in public, too. Martin was able to live a life of prayer and to see everything as a prayer because he saw everything as taking care of the things and people God put in his life for him to care for. While he was taking care of the things and people God called him too, he was able to think about the wonders of God and to care for people as though he was caring for God.

Seeing everyday tasks as a part of your calling changes the way you do those things. This is a conversation that most won’t hear at church either. Your main calling isn’t to go off somewhere and be Dr. King or Billy Graham. It is to care for the people God has placed in your care first and foremost. So, those tasks we talked about earlier that take time away from God are actually a part of who God has called you to be and called you to care for. This isn’t to say that prayer in solitude isn’t important because it is, but, as a dad, that’s not always possible.

For me, this new way of praying looks like cleaning the kitchen, doing laundry, cutting grass, or doing something else that has to be done while I listen to scripture, a book, or worship music. Going to work is giving me a way to care for my daughter, wife, and animals. By doing that, I am living a life of prayer because I am caring and fulfilling the call on my life which glorifies God.

Our lives are meant to glorify God. When we glorify God, we are in communion with the lover of our souls. Dad, you have people depending on you. They need you to be spiritually healthy.

“We can’t change the world unless we change ourselves”

attributed to Biggie Smalls

-How is your prayer life?

-What can you do to improve it this week?

-Your spiritual life doesn’t have to suffer because you are taking care of your responsibilities.

Dad, you can live a life devoted to God. You can live a life devoted to prayer. You can be a faithful follower of Jesus and still take care of everything and every person God has called you to take care of. If that was not the case, God would have never given you a family in the first place.

-a rap dad

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Welcome to the Funeral

Damn, welcome to the funeral

Where we from, we ruin ‘em

The preacher preach, we shootin’ him

Now we need one for you and him

Funeral by Lil’ Wayne

On Monday morning March 9th, I found myself in downtown Gadsden, AL drinking coffee, skating, and listening to Lil’ Wayne’s album, Funeral, while also contemplating my future. This skate was a mental health skate of sorts. I had a lot on my mind and I just needed a good cup of coffee, smooth roads and Weezy. I will be thirty in September. From the time I was twenty-two I have proudly carried the title Pastor but the past two years have been detrimental to my mental health and it has made me question if I want to continue in this work. From the outside view ministry has been great. I baptized three people who were over seventy-years-old, brought all of the churches in the small town I served together for monthly worship services, I offered at least thirteen families hope in their time of loss and so much more; but the weight of after church conversations, the small acts meant to disrupt what we were doing in ministry and other things became too much for me to handle. Every church as a group of people who want to fight the pastor on everything and it was this group that caused me to withdraw to the streets of Gadsden on this day. While I was skating, I came to some conclusions about myself and what I want out of this life.

Weezy may have a better understanding of the plight of a pastor than most regular church members do. As I was skating, it occurred to me that we were lied to as kids. Words hurt and words from those you have given yourself too might as well be bullets to the soul and I was tired of getting shot at. During that skate I decided it was time to do something else with my life. This got so bad in 2019 I found myself sitting in a Cracker Barrel wondering why life felt so numb and then in a therapist office to discuss that feeling. I have spent 8 years in pastoral ministry. I worked hard to get to where I was and fought hard to achieve everything I needed to do for this job; yet here I was skating in downtown Gadsden realizing that the next 8 years would have to look completely different for me if I wanted to be the best husband and father I could be and, most importantly, be alive to be each of those things.

What I decided in the coming days after that skate is that no job, no matter how hard I worked for it, was worth the detrimental hit my mental health took. Something had to change. It just had too. My wife needed it to change. My daughter needed it to change. I needed it to change. So here I am. I am interviewing for jobs and working on making some of my dreams that I have had on hold for a long time become a reality. I know that my mental health won’t allow me to operate in the same context as before. I know that my mental health won’t allow me to operate in something that isn’t lifegiving for my family and me. I now have a better grasp than ever on who I am, what I am passionate about, and who is and isn’t important to me.

So who am I and what is this?

I love Jesus. I am a husband. I am a father. I skate. I drink coffee. A superstar of a single mother raised me. I don’t have a relationship with my father. I take medicine every day for depression. I have a stutter that shows up when I have a poor mental health day. I am fascinated by the origins of current political issues. I grew up influenced by hip hop. This is who I am. These are the things I will be writing and talking about. My name is Steven W. Barber and I am a rap dad.

Saint Martin de Porres and Biggie Smalls are the patriarchs here and nothing is off limits. You are welcome here.

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Every funeral means a resurrection. Welcome to the funeral. Put the unhealthy parts of you and of your relationships to rest. Be made new again.

“We can’t change the world unless we change ourselves”

Biggie Smalls
  • How is your mental health and what can you do to improve it this week?
  • What is dead weight in your life and needs to be laid to rest?
  • You can be made new again. Full Stop.

-a rap dad

Follow me on Facebook: St. Martin’s Coogi Sweater

And on Twitter: @StMartinTweets

Please do me a favor and share this with someone as well as give me a clap so more people can find this blog! Thanks!!