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

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.

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