I don't quite remember when I fell in love with tea but I do remember the most special moments of me drinking tea. I was eighteen years old and I went to live with my biological mother for four months. I had just met her months earlier and it was awkward for both of us. She and her ex-husband lived a very quiet life in Boulder, Colorado. He was a professor at one of the universities and she was a housewife. After years of drug addiction and being in and out of jail, she deserved the break. I was homeless so she and her husband agreed to let me come live with them. Each evening my mother and I would find a spot in the living room with a cup of tea and a book.

Now, years later, I'm a self proclaimed tea expert. I start each day with a wonderful English Breakfast tea to get me going. As the day progresses, who knows what wonderful tea I will crown queen. But for sure, I have at least three cups of tea a day. And yes, when I can, I have tea everyday at about 3:00 P. M. I love to invite my friends over for tea and cupcakes and so far everyone thinks it’s a delightful experience. I am always in search of the best blend of tea. Yes, I’m a tea snob, I prefer loose tea but I do like some bags also. I have learned not to judge a book by it’s cover. Some bags can be quite nice. And yes again, any Diva knows, what you drink your tea out of is very important.

Tea for me is a way of life. It's wellness for the mind body and spirit. Here, I will explore every expect of tea possible, with a high concentration on wellness. I will review the best teas, the best places to have tea, the best ways to brew tea, the best tea accessories, what tea goes best with what foods, and the list goes on and on. I plan to share my passion for tea with you. And I've been told, nothing I do is ever boring so be prepared to go on this tea journey with me.

RLT Collection Tea Ball Frosted Clear Beads!

Mint Medley by The Persimmon Tree Tea Company

About This Tea:

Until recently I had never drank Peppermint Tea made with loose leaves. And Honestly, I will probably never go back. The freshness of loose Peppermint Tea cannot be denied. When I open the can of Mint Medley, From The Persimmon Tree Tea Company, I feel as if I stepped into a garden of peppermint leaves. It is a perfect blend of organic peppermint and spearmint leaves grown in the US.

Mint Medley has become a favorite and I find myself reaching for this tea tin almost everyday. It is great for on-going nausea. The health benefits and endless. It relieves muscle aches, headaches, migraines, stress. And now that it feels like someone is sitting on my chest and I have a mean cough, I'm sure it will help to relieve some of this congestion in my chest. Mint Medley has been in my tea cup more than any tea as of late. It has really helped with my winter cough, congestion related to this bout of pneumonia. You can read my full review on The Persimmon Tree Tea Company Mint Teas.

RLT Collection AIDS Awareness Tea Ball!

Welcome to my world of books! As an pre-teen books changed my world. I fell in love with the writers of the Harlem Renaissance period and the more I read the more I wanted to read. The fiction of this period was powerful and empowering all at the same time. It spoke to my own degradation and gave me hope for a better tomorrow. It gave me purpose for my own life and the courage to fight the good fight and never surrender.

I love to read! Inside a book I escape into someone else's life. There is something wonderful about turning to the next page of a wonderful story. Something intoxicating about the smell of the book and the story it brings to life. Reading brings me joy, and these days with my health in the balance, I find solace in my books.

I spent hours in my bedroom sequestered with the door closed reading the classics from the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes, Larsen, Hurston, Wright and Baldwin. Books became my escape and my salvation. The fiction of this period was powerful and empowering all at the same time. It gave me purpose for my own life and the courage to fight the good fight and never surrender.

Reading is the one thing that the pain of my life could never take away from me. It was the thing that helped to make it better. And even today, living with AIDS, books continue to be the safest place for me. It’s the one thing that belongs to me that AIDS cannot take away from me.The RLTReads book club will be books that I choose. It’s me sharing a part of me with you that has nothing to do with AIDS. It’s actually in spite of AIDS.

The RLTReads book club will be books that I choose. It’s me sharing a part of me with you that has nothing to do with AIDS. It’s actually in spite of AIDS. I have read hundreds of books from many different genres and I will pick the best of my reads over the years. I warn you, it will not be exclusively white or black, male or female, fiction or non fiction, it will be all of them.

I’m so excited and I’m grateful to everyone who wants to be a part of this venture. We already have 110 Book Club Members. You can email me @ RLTReads@raelewisthornton.com. The Twitter hashtag is #RLTReads. We can make this book club as wonderful as we want to make it. Who says that Oprah has to have the only ownership to a wonderful book club?

This Month We are Reading In My Fathers House by E Lynn Harris

Read along and join our discussion July 19th at 7 pm CST

For more Tea with Rae "Vlogs" Click here to visit her youtube channel

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

When Cheetos Run Your Life...

Awwwwwwwwwww!! Knowing better don't always mean doing better! That is a freaking fact! Well, let me speak for myself, this is sometimes my truth. No matter how hard I work to be my best and to do my best, it doesn't always happen .

Since about April, right after I declared war on my fat, you remember that blog post? Well, right after that, I started spiraling down. I could feel myself falling deeper and deeper after almost two months so I told myself, "Girlllll you better catch yourself before you have to pick yourself off the floor," that is from self-loathing. Cause when I know better and I don't do what it is I know, I tend to sink way down into a even deeper mess - and then depression. I'm not sure what drives that behavior, whether it's the all or nothing Gemini in me or just some childhood shit I haven't worked through.

So I took a week off from blogging to center myself and try and figure out what's got me spending money I don't have, eating Flamin' Hot Cheetos, and half-ass working out.

My dietary intake has been so poor that I'm constipated yet again. Now my constipation is a clear message from my body. It is demanding to be treated like I love it!  Our body always speaks whether we listen or not. Of course for two months, I wasn't listening and it has manifested itself in the form of Irritable Bowl Syndrome, yet again as well as, weight gain of about 10 pounds.

I got a 101 excuses for making it to the gym only 1-3 times, (mostly 1 or none) a week and some are legitimate.

I had a really bad round of HIV related peripheral neuropathy in my legs and feet and then a bout of bronchitis, and for the last two weeks back pain that I learned yesterday in ER to be a muscle strain and inflammation. So, no CrossFit or Yoga until I get better, doctors orders.

 Now truthfully,  I can't blame my health issues on the other unhealthy behavior that has manifested itself in my life. Like the Cheetos ... and more Cheetos.  Maybe  I could argue that the surge in Cheetos was because of the decrease of serotonin in my body. I stopped taking antidepressants because they interfere with the medication I take to treat the peripheral neuropathy, so Cheetos became my drug.

On a side note, I've been on antidepressant for about 3 years straight and I went cold turkey. Now that I'm off the neuropathy medication, I'm going to stay off the antidepressants as well and give my body a break. The less medication is also the best philosophy. I'll try some other things to help me be happy, like working out.

Back to the Cheetos,  I know the week of the Rev. Charles Jenkins blog my stress level increased by leaps and bounds and so did my intake of the Cheetos. I'll be blogging about that separately because that madness took some real examination of self and others.

So here I am, I crashed with the healthy living thing. I started out doing this for my health. The combination of the Irritable Bowl Syndrome  and the menopause issues were demanding a life-style change.

The benefit was the weight lost.  I wonder though, if there was a transition in me from the most important to the  most superficial. The soul  said do this for your "inner most self," and the ego said, "get it  Diva".

The compliments fed my ego and that then  transcended into vanity and that became my purpose over and above living healthy. Vanity will fuck you up every time.

Somewhere there was a shift in my spirit and it manifested itself in my behavior. I got cocky instead of consistent. In the end, the lack of consistency led me to excuses and that lead my ego to  comfort itself, the days became soothing and self-loathing instead of working out and eating fruit.

I had to reel myself in and think back to when I started actually eating Cheetos and oh yeah, Gummy Bears, after 6 months of eating healthy. When I finally put a pin in that donkey,  I had a few aha moments. Once I had some clarity on the combination of things that caused my spiral down, I had to stop and except this space that I currently find myself and take ownership of the madness that I had created. 

I can't beat myself up, none of it can be changed. Nor can I over think it because that will lead to a  full fledged conversation in my head and then before I know it, I'll be acting on that shit and eating more Cheetos because I created even more drama.  I'm learning that the head-game is only your ego trying to justify, because the ego always needs to protect, defend and manipulate, rather than just be. 

The bottom line, I got out of my head after the aha moments. There is no need to beat a dead horse. Most importantly, I stopped eating the freaking Cheetos.

The real key is to let go of the self-loathing and just let it be. I cannot undo a thing that has been done, all I can really do is live in the right now.

And while I'm not eating Cheetos right now I do recognize that there is soot around the light that shines within me. I'll let therapy help me clean the soot from that vantage point and on the other end, I'll get a rag and cleaning solution and get to work. 

The biggest thing for me,  is that I recognized the Cheetos had taken up a life of it's on in my space.  The good news is that the Cheeots have been evicted. In the long run, it's better to clean the soot off the light that dims your soul rather, than add layers of grit on top of the soot.  

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

You Are Not Your Experiences....

There is no such thing as a perfect life, but I've come to understand that there are perfect moments of joy. Yet, we can miss the perfect moments stuck in the un-perfect parts of our life.

On a deeper level, we miss the perfect moments when the un-perfect moments becomes our life. We miss the goodness of life for the pain in life. It's like this, Saturday I went to the Crossfit North Regional games to cheer on the team from RiverNorth Crossfit where I workout.

When I woke up it was great day by my estimation. My bronchitis seemed to be getting better, the cough had tapered to where I didn't think my chest and head was going to explode. Overall, my health is getting back to a good place. The Neuropathy has taped off,  as well as the night sweats. I am actually getting some sleep. There was nothing  that could interfere with me attending the games.

The Crossfit competition was amazing and I was having a great time. I had watched the women's competition and was in the middle of mens competition when I felt that surge from my tummy to my behind. Without hesitation I made my way to the bathroom. I could feel the poop starting to come, as I made way to the end of the very long line. 

Without any shame, I made my way up the line, "Excuse me," I said,  "I'm about to use the bathroom on myself." The women looked up at me without any response. As the poop starting to come more rapidly, I thought it best to throw decorum out the women. "Ummm excuse me, but I'm  pooping on myself can I butt?" I didn't really wait for a response, I just my way to the front of the long line into a stall. There was a big sigh of relief as I sat on the toilet, I had made it with only a minor accident. 

I sat there long after I was finished to make sure that whatever this was had passed. As I sat there I couldn't quite figure what brought this on. It's been well over eight months since I've had any gastrointestinal drama. I shrugged it off happy that I hadn't had a bigger accident. When I was sure that  my tummy was good, I washed my panties in the toilet, wrap them in a paper towel and headed for the front door. 

I didn't know what was going on with my body and I knew that Navy Pier was not place figure it out. I had made it to the first level and was asking security for directions to the door when I started to feel that surge again. "Wheres the bathroom. I'm about to go on myself?" I asked.

As I made my way to the second toilet the poop started to surge out my behind and down my leg. "This is not going to be good," I mumbled, as the pooped surged like fire hydrant on a hot day in the inner city. When I made it to the toilet I knew this was a disaster. I rolled down my pants and sat on the toilet. Poop was dropping out of my pants onto the bathroom floor. "Oh lawd," I cried,  "how am I going to get out of this?'

When I was sure that I had finished, I took my pants off to start the cleaning process. I was not prepared for the mess that I saw. From top to bottom, my entire back of my pants were  wet and saturated in a brown substance.

"Well, at least the front was in tack," was all I could think. I started  my regular process, of trying to clean my pants with damp toilet paper, but the poop was embedded into the legs of the pants. I knew that I had to dip them carefully in the toilet to clean them. Carefully, because I couldn't get the front wet. I still needed to get home by way of taxi.  But dipping the pants in toilet was not doing the trick. This poop was grainy and not moving. So I dipped some more and all that did was make them wet and more wet and the poop was still barley moving.

Eventually I decided that I need to move on. It was clear to me that I was not going be able to clean the pants. The stench was so bad that women where entering the bathroom saying, "OMG what's that smell?" Now that bothered me, it shamed me in some way. I couldn't put my finger on it but it made me feel a certain kind of way.  Then I thought how sad, we really do want a perfect world don't we? We even want to be able to go into the bathroom that is designed to consume human waste and not be able to smell the waste. 

I cleaned the floor, balled my slacks up and took the shrug that I was wearing and wrapped it around my waist. "Thank God for this shrug," I mumbled.  When I made my way out of the stall, I apologized to the women for the smell.  I'm sorry, "I pooped on myself."

I washed my hands and started the process of trying to figure out how I was going to get home with as little of my body showing as I could. The problem was, shrugs are short in the front. I couldn't tie it, or you would have seen my vagina. 

I didn't have time to be overwhelmed I was just on a mission. I set on the floor holding the shrug closed. As women came into the bathroom I asked them for a safety pin, explaining my desperate situation. 

I was happy when the cleaning lady came, because I could  get a bag for my pants that was smelling up the bathroom as I explained my situation, so she could also sanitize my stall.

I asked everyone who came into the bathroom to no avail. Then one girl, a Crossfitter with a big backpack came into the bathroom. I just knew she had one in that big bag, but she didn't.  However,  she started brainstorming with me on how to secure the shrug. After we went around a few times with ideas,  it finally hit me, I could take one of the headbands that I had purchased in the exhibit and pull it over the top of the shrug. It wasn't the best solution but it would get me out of the bathroom and on my way home.

After I had fixed myself up, I sat back on the floor, making sure that the tummy drama had passed. A few minutes had slipped by when the Crossfitter came back with some shorts. "Will these help?" she asked handing them to me. Tears rolled down my face. I was overwhelmed and grateful for that act of kindness. I love Crossfitters because we have a spirit that says, I want you to succeed. "Are you sure I asked?" through tears. She said to me "Don't cry, just take these."

I put the shorts on, sat on the floor and called Tiara. As we were talking I started to cry again.  Tiara's sweet compassionate voice, came through, "Don't cry auntie, don't cry." In that moment it hit me that I was clinging onto the pain of my tummy drama and that opened the door for the pain of living with AIDS, which is all consuming. I then became at the moment all the pain of this disease. The pain took center stage, it became me.

In my conversation with Tiara I started watching me, I became aware of myself. I noticed that my cry wasn't one of the  joy that I had felt when the Crossfitter gave me the shorts, instead it was a cry of pain, the one that I felt when it was clear that I couldn't wash my pants in that toilet. The one that I felt years ago when my T-Cell Count was 8 and I had PCP. I almost missed the perfect moment of joy consumed by the dark moment of pain. 

Add caption
I  stopped the tears in a instant and watched  the pain passed through me. Once I did that, I was able to get off that floor and leave the bathroom.  I am coming to a place of understanding that I am not the darkness of AIDS. I am the person who is watching the darkness of AIDS in me for the last 31 years.

Michael Singer argus that your sense of self is determined by where you are focusing your consciousness. The force of consciousness ends up holding the object stable simply by concentrating on it. .... 

I wonder how many of us become the pain of our journey just by simply holding onto it rather than letting it pass through us?  How many of us give the pain energy by holding it stable through our consciousness? 

Instead of holding onto the the tummy drama,  I looked it straight in the eye and saw it to be yet another experience that has helped me to grow. For sure it helped me to see the practical side of my spiritual journey. I know that while I have lots of work to do on this journey,  I am on the right path. This experience was confirmation.  I've been reading and reading, but this was the first time where the words in those books became alive in me. 

I am not the darkness of AIDS, I am the person who is watching the darkness of AIDS and by understanding that simple point I am able to watch dark moments pass through me, rather than become me. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

RLT Reads: The Invention of Wings Book Review!

I have read over half of the Oprah Book Club abolitionist in the early 1800's long before the end of slavery.  It focuses on Sarah and Ann Grimke and their family, wealthy slave owners from Charleston, South Carolina. It begins on Sarah's eleventh birthday when she is given a ten year-old slave girl Handful as a birthday gift.

While Sarah Grimke and her family are real characters in American history, the book is historical fiction, weaving the life of Sarah's family with historical facts and great creativity.

This is not your ordinary slave book. Sue Monk Kidd, gives incredible voice to Handful and her mother. And let me tell you, Handful and her mother are a handful. Sue Monk Kidd paints the slave culture with brilliance. She gives voice to feminist, as well as a glimpse into the lives of women who are living with purpose in and era when their only purpose should have been family.

Equally important she gives an historical place for two very important woman in American history. Sarah and Ann Grimke, who were abolitionist speaking to mixed audiences of male and female which was unheard of at the time. Coming from the planation class, they were received as legitimate abolitionist, who understood the horrors of slavery first hand. They were the first American feminist thinkers. Sarah was the first woman in the United States to write a comprehensive feminist manifesto and Ann was the first woman to speak before a legislative body.

The book tells a story of slave/ slave owner relationship. She gives voice to the issues surrounding slavery from a slaves perspective. She traces the complicated relationship between Handful and Sarah. There are tons of interesting twist in the book, like Denmark Vesey and his slave insurrection. She gives voice to women in and era when they had no voice.

This book is a must read, especially for history buffs. It was an awesome read that left me wanting more.

On a side bar, I am currently reading Sue Monk Kidd's, When The Heart Waits. I have been on this Seekers journey and when I watched her interview on Super Soul Sunday with Oprah  I was moved to pick it up. The book is her spiritual memoir unpacking the most important elements on her own seekers journey. I have had a lot of Aha moments. I'm almost done, and what impresses me the most about this book is how she weaves her Christian foundation and Biblical principals to inform her journey.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

People Are Watching...

Other Bloggers are weighing in on the fact that I removed the Jenkins blog post yet again this morning.

People are watching.... They are watching you defame my name to protect your pastor's name and its not a good look.  Truth always stands on its own merit.... whether it comes from me, Charles Jenkins or Mundi Griffin.

 If my blog post is untrue then Rev. Jenkins  has the power to reveal the truth. I wait. In fact, I want to be proven wrong. Why? because then I can breathe with ease that  Rev. Jenkins is not that person. I want him to be better than what I think he is at this very moment. 

With that said, my post is going back up and staying up until it is proven to be untrue. I had resolved to let it go, but you can blame your hits on me today for that. Only so many times a person can be hit. I will not be bullied my the Christians at Fellowship, or other church folk, because they don't want to face the truth about pastoral responsibility.

Keep hitting though, but remember my resilience. I've lived with HIV for 31 years. I was sexually, emotionally and physically abused as a child. I then self-abused and that has left me fighting for my life - for the rest of my life. So remember that I take my hits standing...

I've always been the first to admit when I am wrong. ACCOUNTABILITY is everything, including for me..... And by the way  It's just a fact, that no matter how horrible of a person we may find Mundi Griffin to be, there is still an underlying truth that is not being addressed.

What  I know for sure, is that accountability is everything....

I just want you to know, as you move forward in your slur campaign of ME, people are watching.... Watching... watching...We can run from this... You can beat me up but, it's a long over-due topic that needs to be addressed from beyond this one situation, Accountability of Pastors...

 This is a blog Post from The OLD Black Church Blogspot... You can read the article HERE

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Considering The Wife....

Since my blog post on Rev. Charles Jenkins and Mundi Griffin I've been giving a lot of thought to all the issues that surround infidelity. I've given a lot of thought to Dr. Tara Jenkins, Rev. Jenkins' wife.

Honestly, I hadn't thought about the impact of my blog post on her prior to posting. For sure she knew about the affair prior to my blog post, because Rev. Jenkins confessed. His confession started this process. Actually in reality, Rev. Jenkins making a concrete decision to step outside his marriage set his wife's hurt in motion.

What I don't know, and really for me the most important piece, is if any of my details were new to her. It's one thing when you are trying to reconcile within yourself and heal with one truth, to then learn that what you thought you knew was only some of what you actually knew. The healing process then takes a turn. I've always contended that you cannot heal with half-truths and misinformation. Secondly, I have wondered what additional pain have I caused Dr. Jenkins by keeping the issue of her husband's infidelity in the public my posting my blog.

Many people know that Rev. Jesse Jackson and Mrs. Jackson are like family to me and I have never spoken about the baby and the affair publicly. I have always had this overwhelming urge to protect Mrs. Jackson. That is what family is suppose to do.

I remember when the baby drama was made public. The "publicness" of the issue made it a circus. The fact of the matter, when the news story broke, it was old news to everyone in the family close circles. In fact, Rev. and Mrs. Jackson had already worked through the issue of his infidelity.

Yet, the "public" announcement of it all, created a new energy around the issue. I know I even became pissed off at Rev. Jackson all over again. It hurt me to watch Mrs. Jackson hurt.  I watched Rev. Jackson humble himself and take responsibility publicly. It wasn't about blaming for him but taking ownership. The biggest thing though was watching Mrs. Jackson. We surrounded and undergirded her, but be clear, she was never a weak woman.  In fact she is the strongest woman I know. With her faith in tote, Mrs. Jackson held her head up and walked through that fire, with dignity. I was amazed at her strength and  the fact that she always had the most profound insights. She was always looking at the bigger picture. Yet, it didn't mean that she didn't hurt.

I am sure those who love Tara Jenkins have surrounded and undergirded her as best as they can. But it does not take away the circus that surrounds the drama of her husband's infidelity, the picture and all the madness that came with it, as that was also the case for Mrs. Jackson. Support does not take away hurt, only time.

With this in mind, I am publicity apologizing to Tara Jenkins if I have caused you any pain. It was not my intent to hurt you, but to unpack the truths.

Now, I'm not seeking a response from Dr. Jenkins, I just wanted her to know my heart.

We have watched wife after wife, Jacqueline Jackson, Tara Jenkins, Gizelle Bryant,  Maria Shriver , and Hillary Clinton just to name a few, go through the fire because of their husband's infidelity, but do we ever really consider them? Do we ever really consider the wife?

I ask this because I have watched the Scandal craze with amazement. Everyone wants Olivia to get her man, that is, the man of another woman.

I've heard people say that their  love is "special." But what really blew me away was when people started passing one of Olivia's quotes around Social Media, "If you want me, earn me," like there was some honor in a married man disrespecting his wife.

The fact of the matter, when we translate that into real English, it means, in order to earn me you have to disrespect your wife more and more. It means you have to lie to her to be with me. It means untimely that you leave her for me.

{Side note: Now I'm not on a moral higher ground. I've been there with that demand and no consideration of the wife. I will talk about that in my next blog post Being Mary Jane. But I have worked on myself enough to get it--- this is wrong as a left shoe on a right foot.}

In all the excitement around Scandal, I have never heard anyone say this is some wrong shit. I have heard them say that a woman debases herself being a side chick, but no one talks about the "wife," Mellie.

For those who want Olivia to get her man, there is almost a justification, his wife is weak and they don't belong together are some of the ones I've heard. But in reality what people are advocating week after week is for Fitz to leave his wife.

Has anyone given any thought to the environment we are creating, i. e. It's O. K.  to be a side chick but of equal importance, it's ok to disrespect the wife.

What if Mellie beats Olivia's ass? Would it be a beat down she deserves? And what about in real life, when Lorena Bobbitt cut her husband penis off? We made her out to be a crazy lady. A wife gone mad.

Who considers the wife? The husband certainly doesn't. When a man steps outside of his marriage he has said, I place this emotional and spiritual fuck over and above my wife. I can morally degrade her, and keep her at the same time. When divorce is available to everyone.

Who considers the wife? The other woman certainly doesn't, she has said I can trespass over this woman with her husbands permission. I told one of my ex husband's women, "what kind of man would let a woman call his house and disrespect his wife, his sick wife at that."

And even if the husband doesn't have a level head in the matter, why would a woman pour salt into the wound, woman to woman? Like when Mary Jane in Being Mary Jane cornered  her lover's wife in a store to tell her that she was fucking her husband. Wasn't it enough that he was leaving is wife to come to you?

And what blows me away, the husband and the other woman together, they have partnered against not only the secret institution of  marriage, but against the wife.  I've been in that kind of planning meeting and looking back with disgust for my own disgust. I've been both the wife and Mary Jane. I know, as Mary Jane, I felt like the wife had no rights. I needed to respect, and for sure my authority came from the husband. How sick is that? I wanted respect when I was the wife, but didn't want to give it to a wife.  Thank God for years of therapy and a place of understanding of what it means to love oneself. With self love comes love and respect of others.

Who considers the wife in their own personal lives and environment?  Infidelity is not some far fetched concept. We know these people, they are are family and friends.

Do you  go on record with your disapproval or do you remain silent?. Like when does a brother tell another brother, man you wrong.  Or do you just come to his rescue when needed and hold on to his secret because he is your brother?

When does a pastor tell another pastor, pier to pier, man you can't bring your woman around me and you can't talk about your wife with disdain around me. Is there a moral authority that pastors hold other pastors to?

When does a girlfriend tell another girlfriend, you know you ain't got no right to that man, he has a wife and sometimes children....Thats some unhealthy shit no matter how you cut it for you, for him, and all involved. When does a girlfriend speak that truth to a girlfriend?

Who stands up for right in the face of this wrong? I remember a friend of mine was having an affair and I told him point blank, you cannot bring your woman to my house.  I will not entertain her, it don't work like that.

But how many of us ever take that kind of stand? How many of us have entertained the other women?  I wonder how many of the people who have called Mundi a whore, are friends with a Mundi of their own? How many Mundi's have you had in your home or have entertained in some way, yet you know the wife personally?

I learned that my ex-husband's family knew about one of his women. Like how does that work? How is it OK for a  family member to participate in the face of outright wrong?  When she married your brother, uncle, father cousin, she became your family too.

Who considers the wife? The media certainly dosent. They print stories to sell papers with no consideration. I called a blogger today a "Blog Whore" as it relates to this issue, but let me be clear, in my quest for the truth, I didn't even consider the wife.

Who considers the wife? The public doesn't  really. For everyone has an opinion that is often carried out with dogma. That's the reason I removed the post yesterday, the dogma was dark and sinister in spirit.

We have so many examples  floating around. I watched the public turn on the wife, worst than they do on the other woman, when she decides to stay in her marriage, especially when it's a public figure. Like the way feminist kicked First Lady Hillary Clinton's tail when she didn't divorce President Clinton. When it was rumored that Maria Shriver was staying with Arnold she was also under fire.

Everyone has an agenda and an opinion about the wife without any consideration for the wife. Her hurt are hers to work through - her way, it does not belong to us. All we can do is pray for her and those closet undergird and support the decisions she makes that will best serve her life. In the end, it is her life.

Who considers the wife? God certainly does, adultery is a sin.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


In the now four years that I have been blogging, I have been honest, transparent and candid. I have blogged about parts of my life that most people would never share publicly. I have also taken a stand on issues like sexual abuse and rape that have been controversial, like Bishop Eddie Long. In all these years, I've had a lot of debates and I have taken many hits. I've been called whore more times than I would like. But in all of this time I never stopped blogging about issues that pierce the soul and make people think. Blogging is a gift that God has given me to give to you.

Tonight I made a very difficult decision to remove the blog post on Rev. Charles Jenkins and Mundi Griffin. Not because I don''t stand by my post. Anyone who knows me will tell you, I shoot straight from the hip on the issue of truth; And if something had changed in my opinion I would say it with no trepidation.

 I am taking this blog post down because the debate has become unproductive and that has left an unsettling in my spirit. When I have such an unsettling I listen.

The post has taken a nasty bitter turn. It has become a debate about whether I should have posted it in the first place. It has become an nasty exchange of words people attacking people. If one person makes a point another person makes a point, with even more venom.

The fact is, Rev. Charles Jenkins stood in his pulpit and said he had an affair with the Senior Vic President of Operations for Fellowship Church. Mundi Griffin has been the only person to hold that title. So I did not break the story, he broke the story and I simply gave her a place to tell her side of the story, while also addressing the issue of pastoral authority and the abuse thereof.  By doing so I was not saying that she was an innocent party in this affair. She was absolutely wrong and she must account for her own role. Be clear, they have shared responsibility. Nothing can absolve either them of that fact.

My unsettling has to do with the public discourse and the ugliness that has taken on a dark spirit, almost a life of it's own.

I'm taking a step back and becoming still. I know that God will give me clarity in my stillness. Will I reactivate the post?  At this moment in time, only God knows and I ALWAYS listen.

I took the post down to give me some space to pray, seek God's face about the MADNESS. All the nasty has been disheartening and extremely unsettling and I will not allow my blog to be a epicenter for madness.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Breaking My Silence on Pastor Charles Jenkins...

I originally pulled this post because I was unsettled with the spirit that it had taken on. It made me sad to see the nasty discourse among my people. So much so that it began to break my spirit. Why can't people have a honest discussion about important issues without name calling and bullying.

 My intent in this post was not to dishonor Charles Jenkins. His own behavior set that in motion. Nor was my intent to avoid Mundi Griffin of her role in this affair. It was simply to give her a place to have a voice.

She was wrong, but that does not negate the fact that he was absolutely wrong to stand in his pulpit as name his "senior vice president" as the person he had an affair with and to accuse her of extortion with no proof.  Mundi Griffin has been the only senior vice president of Fellowship church.

I took the blog down to give myself some space from the ugly that was taking place. After I god night prayer, stillness and a good night sleep I am a lot clearer. Truth is truth. The fact is, I have never ran away from truth.

 I am reposting this article because I believe in what's true. I am also reposting this article because another blogger, a gossip blogger has taken my post and reposted it on his site without my permission. He as also added commentary of speculation with no verification. I want to make sure that my words are not distorted in anyway. To honor my authentic voice and to stand by truth, I am reposting my original blog.
A couple of weeks ago I was chatting with a preacher friend of mine and he asked,"Have you seen that picture of Pastor Charles Jenkins naked?" HUH? "What picture," he then directed me to a blog that had a picture of my former pastor Rev. Charles Jenkins brushing his teeth naked. The picture had allegedly been taken by a person other than his wife with a claim of extortion.

My heart sank for this public display of his naked body but as I watched the story unfold that week it became unsettling for me on so many different levels. Everyone had an opinion, but mostly there was an attack on the "other woman."

 It's sad how we race to watch Scandal and hope that one day Olivia will get her man, but when it comes to a "real affair" we tar and feather the other woman. I watched the debate on that blog and on social media as people  diced "her" up, but at the same time forgave him and really, no one knew if in fact there was any details as to how the picture actually arrived in the hands of that blogger. I kept my silence with the exception of close friends. I mean, he was my former pastor and he was naked. It was the hottest conversation that week. *hangs head*

On Easter Sunday, six days after the posting of the picture, Pastor Jenkins made his first public comment. With the cameras off, and his wife, Dr. Tara Jenkins by his side, Rev. Jenkins told his congregation that he in fact had an affair with a woman. He said that he had already asked his wife for forgiveness and was now appealing to the church asking the same. He went on to name this woman and claimed that she was now extorting him.

After the news came my way, I immediately called this young woman. I was shocked that he had actually named her in the pulpit and claimed her responsible for the public display of his nakedness.  WTH? was my first reaction.  Extortion, I don't think so, was my second reaction. I know her personally and in fact had learned about their affair a year earlier. She had taken "Auntie Rae" in her confidence as she tried to heal from this eight year affair. Yes, I said eight years!

That day, a little over a year ago, she spilled it all to me as I sat with my mouth wide open. As she talked about rendezvous, day, night, and midday. Damn, I wondered, was he ever at home. She told me about trips at the church's expense, promises of divorcing his wife, the broken promises he made to her, the manipulation, her feeling trapped and then ultimately her escape.

The stories were like a hot juicy Zane novel.  I asked the deeper questions, how could you? Why would you? She admitted that she was attracted to the charisma. He promised to leave his wife which was the reason behind hiring her in such a high profile position. They were a team!

"He is so gifted," she said. Mundi had bought into his dream, hook, line and sinker.  I can't even begin to tell it all in this blog, nor is it my story to tell.  I hope one day she will tell it in its fullness. Now you know me, I finally asked, "Girl, when did you realize that he was never going to leave his wife for you? "When his wife became pregnant with their third child," she signed. I knew that I had to get out!"

While I was shocked at her disclosure to me over a year ago, it all made sense.  I started to connect the dots. I had watched the affair up close and personal. At the time I didn't know what I was actually seeing but as she spilled it all, I started to remember  and remember and remember. It all started with the BoardRoom, a weekly midday downtown worship service that she was instrumental in organizing.

Rev. Jenkins and Dr. Clay Evans
I thought at the time, this girl is so talented, Fellowship is lucky to have her and Pastor Jenkins is lucky to have her on his team. While I though highly of her brilliance for Fellowship, I was a little disturbed when Pastor Jenkins fired for sure two people on staff to hire Mundi.

It didn't make sense at the time, Patrick, our CFO was the bomb. He was also talent and committed. Reynonda, was Rev. Jenkins' executive assistant at the time and she was the bomb as well.  I watched the pain in their eyes and never knew what to say.

The rumor was spreading that Jenkins had made these staffing changes because Mundi was a better choice to further the goal of the new Fellowship that was shifting quickly from the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church  my mentor Rev. Clay Evans had founded. It was becoming Fellowship Chicago a modern church reaching the unchurched, especially the younger generation.

I believed in Charles Jenkins. I also believed in Mundi's talents. I knew she came from the ivy league equivalent of cooperate America and those gifts came with a price tag; six figure price tag. Her salary at Fellowship was $106,000 but I rationalized that this was ok because this is the church of the 21st century, we need a Senior Vice-President of Operation.

Let's be clear, Mundi Griffin left a six figure job to run the operations at  Fellowship, and while she was making $106,000 it was a significant pay cut. The fact of the matter, all of her entrepreneurial businesses also suffered as she devoted more and more time to the projects at Fellowship and of course even more time to Pastor Jenkins, which according to her was his number one priority.

As I look back, I now know he was making a way for his lover and creating a partnership  in plain sight, how could she not believe him, trust him? He had used his power as pastor to elevate her. This partnership would last 5 years as his employee and lover and another 3 years as his lover, once she left Fellowship.

I was disappointed when  Rev. Jenkins announced from the pulpit that Mundi was extorting him.  NO the truth of the matter, her lawyer sent him a letter for breach of contract in 2013, which I have seen.

I sat there puzzled, how did Rev. Jenkins make the leap to extortion? There is no lawyer on the planet, unless they want to be disbarred and go to jail, who would participate in extortion.

I was even more disappointed at a missed opportunity for a pastor to be as authentic as he could be for both his healing and for the church.  Pastoral abuse is a serious issue. He had already used his leadership authority to further his relationship with Mundi, now he was using it to flip the script. I could have appreciated his Easter Sunday pulpit confession if he had not deflected the real issue onto her.  Flipping the script never works for me.

While I was in seminary, clergy abuse was a serious topic.  I learned that the greater burden of moral responsibility falls on the one with the greater power. For me this cannot be reduced to the common themes I hear when a pastors affair is made public in the Black Church, you know what I'm talking about the things we say to minimize  the truth, it goes like this: we have all sinned, we should not judge, who are we to judge, forgiveness is the core of Christianity, and the all time fav, look at David and he was a man after God's own heart.

 No, this is not about making judgements but about holding pastors accountable for how they use the pulpit for their personal agendas. This madness has got to STOP, from Bishop Eddie Long to Rev. Jamal Bryant to  Rev. Charles Jenkins.

Using your authority  and your pulpit  for your personal agenda is clergy abuse. From the pulpit, Rev. Jenkins claimed the affair started after Mundi joined the staff, but in fact it started way before. Mundi joining the staff simply gave him unlimited and immediate access to her. That relationship began at the same time as the BoardRoom. During that time Mundi was in and out of my home, she had become close friends with Davita who became another one of my children when I first started speaking.  Looking back, I remember all those times, Davita would tell me that she was at a hotel on the Mag mile with Mundi hanging out. I get it, Davita was Mundi's cover in this affair. He would leave the hotel and Davita would come and hangout with Mundi, to at first defray suspicion from Mundi's own husband, Yes I said husband. This was one tangled web. That's another story.

I've been talking to Mundi for the past two weeks trying to help her make sense of it all, but most importantly to get her on the road to healing. She had been a bundle of mixed emotions. One day, she has feelings of shame and another of anger  that he would out right lie on her and other days fear. As I've been told her Facebook picture was screen shot by someone and circulated amongst Fellowship's congregation as the person behind the extortion.

I understand from the pulpit there was a war cry from Pastor Jenkins.  Richard Gula in his book Ethics in Pastoral Ministry argues that Pastor represents a community of faith, a religious tradition, a way of life and yes even God." He goes on to say, "Some people feel that to talk with us {pastors} is to talk with God, or to be accepted or rejected by us is to be accepted or rejected by God."

 This level of incitement from the pulpit disturbed me. To even claim "spiritual warfare," is not about accountability, its about deflection, and it is a thin line in the abuse of pastoral power. The truth is, Rev. Jenkins had an eight year affair, a picture got out, he have no idea where it came from, so he took a leap with no verification what so ever. He used his pulpit authority as a weapon. There is nothing from Mundi asking for money. NOTHING! and the truth of the matter, if there were I know I would have gone to the police the day it began. But all we have is a half confession and a scape goat for his shame.

Mundi Griffin is actually relieved that the "affair" is no longer a secret. It's a weight she's been carrying. In eight years, she kept his secret, she kept her secret, she kept their secret. Rev. Jenkins was the one who disclosed the relationship, that is an undisputed fact.

On the other side of the coin, Mundi has been accused of extortion by Rev. Jenkins from his pulpit and Mundi has remained silent. Today I am giving her this voice in a unedited one on one interview.

RLT: Mundi, lets cut to the chase. Are you extorting Rev. Jenkins
Mundi: Hell No!  If that were the case this conversation would be taking place with me behind bars.

RLT: So you never sent him any kind of communication demanding $50,000 or you would release information about your relationship?
Mudi: Absolutely not!  Again, if that were the case this conversation would look a lot differently.

RLT: Have you had any correspondence with Rev. Jenkins regarding this incident?
Mundi: Yes, he called me a few times on the Tuesday after he made the announcement from the pulpit but I didn't answer. Instead I sent him a text and we had a heated exchange.

RLT: From reading these text, it seems he was trying to get you to admit to extorting him. This was the first contact you had with him in any fashion regrading this matter of extortion: (see below)
Mundi: Yes

RLT: So let me ask you this, do you know this guy from the Obnoxious Blog where the picture was posted or have ever had any contact with him?
Mudi: No, I was just as shocked to read the blog as everyone else.

RLT: What did you think when you read the blog?
Mudi: Here he goes again, in yet another relationship with a woman other than his wife.

RLT: Well lets talk about that... When did your relationship begin with Rev. Jenkins?
Mundi: I joined Easter 2004. Our first conversations were via email and a few phone conversations. He was always picking my brain about his vision for Fellowship.  We would also talk fashion as he was always complementary of my fashion choices.

RLT: When did it shift?
Mundi:Well, in one planning meeting regarding the BoardRoom he asked me to step out of the meeting in the middle of the meeting.  Once we were on the other side of the door, he looked down at my finger bearing my wedding ring and asked,
"What is that"
"My wedding ring," I said.
He then asked, "Does he know what he has?
I said "I hope so," Now, knowing damn well that my husband didn't know what to do with me.  My marriage had really ended before it started and my growing relationship with Charles Jenkins didn't help it one bit. We were only married a little over a year.

RLT: Why did you kept the relationship a secret even after it was over? Some women are vindictive
Mundi: We actually ended on peaceful terms at first but there was nothing to talk about publicly.  I confided in a my close girlfriends but that was it. To what benefit would I have gained from discussing it publicly?

RLT You didn't want to hurt him?
Mundi: It wasn't about "hurt".  The relationship had ended and there was nothing to talk about.  I was anxious to leave the past where it was and move forward in a healthy relationship.

RLT: Why are you going public now?
Mundi: Because he has given me no other choice. He's made our affair public and has painted me as a scorned woman that is extorting him.  He has fabricated a story to deflect the larger issue at hand.  He has misused the pulpit on an Easter Sunday to push his messy circumstances of infidelity and has lied while doing so.  This is an abuse of power and a misuse of the pulpit.  I want my name cleared and I want a retraction.

People trust their pastor, because of this trust no one is asking the tough questions and its suppose to fly and thats some bullshit.  If I am extorting him, why hasn't he filled charges? Where is the proof? This was inflammatory and in fact, he defamed my name.
                                              I edited Pastor Jenkins telephone number out to the top of these text messages.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Separation of Opportunity: Reflection On Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.

Today marks two years since my membership in Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. as an honorary member was rescinded. I'm not going to rehash any of those gory details you can read all about it here and here and here. The pain that I felt  three years ago seemed insurmountable. Even last year I was still hurting far more than I would have wanted to admit.

I look back over being kicked out of Delta Sigma Theta, Sorority and think it a blessing that I can now fully embrace. For sure, I'm wiser, stronger but most importantly it sent me on a journey of self understanding that had been waiting in the wings to happen.

Two years ago this was a crisis that consumed my life, every part of my being, my body, heart and soul. Yet reflecting today, it also presented me with an opportunity. Sue Monk Kidd in her book When the Heart Waits would have seen this crisis as a "separation of opportunity." The greek word crisis derives from the Greek word Krisis and Krino which means "a separating."

This separation made me reexaime myself. The woman I had become and the woman that I'm seeking. 
At the end of this road, through all the hurtful tweets, facebook discussions, comments on my Youtube and my blog, from women who once called me sister and praised my advocacy in HIV/AIDS, and stood in my honor at official meetings when I enter the room, I learned, in spite of what was said about me, I like me! And I like me so much I don't feel the need to defend who I am.

I mean, I really, really like me. That would translate into loving yourself. When you can say you like who you are, what you do, how you do it, what you wear or don't wear, how you live your life, without limitations on what others think of you, you have reached that place of self-love.

Delta helped me to be even more  unapologetic about who I am. My authentic self has grown by leaps and bounds. It recently gave me the strength to walk away from my leadership positions at church without defending my right to do and live as I please, in spite of what people may deem "proper" for an ordained minister. It has made me live out loud without regard to the issues of "respectability" that I highlight in my book, The Politics of Respectability. My life is uniquely mine and to live your life for the validation of others would be to deny who God created you to be., that uniqueness.

Delta, even created space for me to move through this profound spiritual journey that I just began with confidence that my "seeking" does not conflict with my Christian beliefs but enhances them. Sue Monk Kidd would say "In order to follow the inner journey, we need to leave behind those things that are deadening the loyalties that no longer have life for us," When I read that I said yesssss, my separation from Delta released me of loyalties that hindered my authentic self.

When I look back over the sacrifices and loyalties I kept to "belong" all the money I spent on red St. John Knits to "fit in" with the upper crust of leadership. All the times I spoke for Delta events for a potion of my speakers fee, so that I could be the "liked" honorary member and show that MY sorority was doing something on HIV/AIDS. Even coming to one convention {because I was told repeatedly that honorary members "never show up"} instead of staying with my mother who was in the last weeks of her life, I know that I am released from loyalties that hindered my authentic self.

This has been a long two year journey, but I can look back and say, that Delta did for me what I was unable to do for myself. In Delta I was still the "little Rae" seeking approval half/in and half/out of my authentic self. 

Those tweets that day was my authentic self, but the rejection that I felt over being my authentic self was "little Rae."

As I reflect, I had to examine what was it in me to cause me to be so wounded by Delta's rejection? But the larger question and most importantly, why would I want to below to any organization that could not validate and support my authentic self.  Why would I want to belong to  women who one day called me sister and the next called me demon?  I had to take a long look at myself, not at Delta Sigma Theta for those answers. 

This separation from Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, was a Separation of Opportunity for it sent me on a journey of reexamination. It helped to heal the "little Rae" always seeking approval, always half/in and  half/out of my authentic self. 

Today, What I know for sure, I'm the authentic version of me, living out loud in the spirit that God create me to be. 

Clicky Web Analytics