Here’s What A Tone-Deaf Christian Taught Me

I love to hear people sing. I love to hear voices blended together, no matter how perfect or imperfect they are.

I grew up singing in church. Many members of my family serve as ministers in the community. My grandmother’s late husband was one of them. We were just getting to know him when we visited his small church in Denison Texas.

I was barely a teenager when I realized the power behind a broken, tone-deaf voice, not afraid to stand in front of a crowd and belt it. The recognition came from another person, but I don’t know her name.

She was skinny and frail with short red hair and probably in her late 40s. She definitely wasn’t dressed for church the way my family would’ve expected. We wore dresses in the church as a sign of respect. She was dressed in rugged jeans and a T-shirt.

Before his sermon, Reverend Logan Harper asked the congregation to share their testimonies. He asked people to raise their hands and speak. I sat there, like any regular kid, bored to death and counting down the minutes until lunchtime offered religious relief.

The crowd was small and the church was pretty quiet. She was two rows in front of me. I saw her raise her hand once and put it down. After someone else spoke, she raised it back up. The pastor called on her, and she stood.

She didn’t look around like most people did. She held her head down and didn’t say much. After a few seconds of silence, she started to sing…

All to Jesus I surrender.
All to Him I freely give.
I will ever learn to trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

She definitely wasn’t a singer at all. And back then, I wasn’t a very good Christian. I knew how to walk with the poor and broken a lot better than I knew how to walk with Jesus. But her testimony captured my heart. It touched me.

Looking back now, I understand that emotional rising was because I was looking at the whole picture. I was looking at all of the things I just described. I wasn’t listening to the imperfection in her voice. I was listening to the story she wrote out with her life. I saw her that day. I’m not sure many people can say the same.

She left a mark on my soul and it wasn’t because of the Holy Spirit. It was because she sang. The truth is, if she had just stood up and spoken, I wouldn’t have listened. Eventually, every “praise God” sounds the same. Not that day. That day, I learned love has a language all of its own, mixed with blood and sweat and tears.

As the congregation sing with her, I swear, my age advanced beyond my years. Because it wasn’t about Jesus. It was about survival and acceptance. It was the way she held herself, the way she doubted herself… but she was brave enough to stand up anyway. She was on a mission to inspire someone else that day. She reached out for a purpose.

I never got to tell her she attained it. And I never really got to say thanks. But I think of her often. Usually, in the middle of sinners and beer and midnight karaoke that I have to sleep off the next day. And I’m okay with that.

Because she reminds me that rags might be torn, loads might be heavy, love might be lost, mistakes might be made, but we all deserve grace.


In loving memory of Reverend Logan Harper.

Let’s Talk About Worth

Let’s talk about worth.

Like when life goes from hard to worse and you find yourself down in the dirt like you were born to crawl.

I find myself slammed against brick walls, and the world acts like they can’t see the outlines of the bodies on the ground beneath.

Sorry, you’ve got blood on your shoes, you don’t know what it’s like to have nothing lose. Say another prayer, tell me that I matter, as you step on broken hands and walk on.

Another gold star for you!

Let’s talk about worth.

Like when life goes from hard to worse because the people you need bleed green and blue.

Hope? That’s the real joke. Sorry, I can’t afford justice like you. Poverty since birth, just a kid with a job, I know hard work.

Sleeping in school, waving goodbye to my youth as I skipped the next class because adult bills were due. And you?

Cheerleader, captain of the football team, your daddy was a millionaire, so your laziness got you into Harvard! Let’s talk about worth.

Not allowed to eat out because you’re gay or you’re black with a plastic spoon in your mouth. ‘No transgender allowed!’ Only silver.

Let’s talk about worth!

Like when life goes from hard, then it goes to worse, and you find yourself down on the ground, like you were born to crawl in the dirt! Let’s talk about worth!

I see your real value now.

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Need help? The Trevor Project, 1-866-488-7386. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). Crisis Text Line, 741-741.

This Is How Kingdoms Fall

Testing, testing, can I get mic check? Yo! I don’t know.

I’m tired of people talking like they might know me.

Looking at my love like maybe it isn’t enough; like maybe my beauty and my strength make them angry.

The red on my lips isn’t lipstick, it’s blood. Drawn from the mouths of everyone who has cared—hands half in the air, heart not really there, heads looking within. They don’t have a clue who I am, but they talk it.

Toast another fucking beer. Are you listening?

I sang a pretty song, wore a pretty skirt, damn. I guess I got the words wrong. I must’ve asked for it. Let’s have a real talk.

Empty parking lots with violent bodyguards—hear no evil, speak no evil, watch! Walk like the pain didn’t break me.

Officer, do you want me down on my knees for justice? Or should I just suck your cock? Are. you. listening?

This is how kingdoms fall, Y’all.

Kings treating queens like prisoners. Nooses strung up in the dark! Silence rooted in pain and we clap as we watch!

I won’t go. Do you hear me?

Fuck this charade. Let all the balloons float away. I will kill all of the roses to build my own hope.

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Need help? National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE). National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). RAINN, 1-800-656-4673 (HOPE).