My Brother, Carl

I was attending a visit with a client and his daughter when suddenly I had this urge to check Facebook. I gasped when I saw the first status of my friends were from my niece with the message, “It is with sadness that Carl Pinkney passed away on Jan 2, 2020.” Immediately, I ran out of the room in tears that my nephew, who I called my brother was gone. I wasn’t upset on the way I found out about his death; that wasn’t an issue. I was upset because I never told him how special he was to me.

Carl and I were born ten days apart. Carl was the oldest. Carl’s grandmother, Katie, took me into her home when I was only a couple of hours old. If anyone from the South read this, they would understand that when a young teen girl gave birth and was unable to take care of her child, there were families who stepped in and raise that child. No questions asked. No legal papers drawn. This was how shame and caring functioned at the same time. This is how Carl and I met. Babies who would be raised together, sleeping in the same crib, starting kindergarten together, first grade, fighting with each other and being friends. We were inseparable. We held hands walking into our kindergarten class together and when we went to first grade, we were in the same class. I always felt safe because he was near.

Our homes were next door to each other and I spend almost every night at Carl’s house for supper. To be honest, Carl’s mother, Katie’s daughter-in-law, was a great cook. I felt like I belong sitting at their kitchen table. At Katie’s house there was just her and I, but the house next door was always filled with laughter. Carl love telling jokes and sometimes they were not clean jokes. One time, his mother actually washed his mouth out with soap. He was my hero.

Carl and his family moved to another part of the county when he was a teenager. His high school and my high school were arch rivals. Of course, Carl’s high school had the better football team and marching band. Carl played saxophone in the band. He idolized his older brother, Earl, who also played saxophone. Earl died when we were eight. We still found ways to see each other on the weekends, partying in places we should not be, smoking weed and drinking Colt 45. His friends became my friends and vice-versa. After graduation we attended the same college; we both dropped out. We both seemed to be chasing a dream or chasing life that would, so we thought, make us whole and complete. Carl joined the military. I moved to New York. We became distant from each other, chasing whatever desire we had that demanded us to give up our childhood.

This is what I remember about my brother, Carl kept his childhood alive, I gave up mine. He always had a twinkle in his eye because he kept chasing life. The way my niece described him, Carl was optimistic. He never lost hope. Even in his flaws, and there were many, the twinkle was always there. Carl lived life on his terms that were always not so pleasing to all of us, but he lived life still chasing the fullness of it. He struggled, got back up, struggled and got back up again. He told stories, yes some fabricated, but he had a gift of gab and he knew it. His stories were warm and humorous; his mission to make people laugh at themselves, stop and see the beauty and struggle of life.

Carl purchased a home in October of 2019; something that may seem simple for some but for him, it was major! After his 60th birthday, which was August 2019, he finally did something to let people notice that he could never fail. He was proud! He posted pictures of his home on Facebook, with emphasis of the pool in the backyard. He standing proudly with his wife after signing the mortgage papers, with key in hand! I can only imagine him saying, some folks counted me out, but God never did. He won’t get to swim in that pool but I’m sure he takes delight that his grandchildren will. He won’t get to sit in the rocking chair on the front porch, sipping on ice tea, or something else, telling his stories, but I’m sure those of us who love him will sit and sip ice tea, or something else, re-telling his wonderful fabricated stories and remembering to laugh at ourselves.

Carl was baptized a few months before he bought his home. His vices tried to defined him but he kept seeking life and he kept seeking his dream. I love him for that. I believe he found peace. I believe he knew, this time for sure, that he could never fail. Failure just wasn’t in him. John 16:33, “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage, I have conquered the world!”

I hope we all can learn from my brother. Carl would say this; “When the world is kicking your ass, because the world will, never give up, never give in, never stop fighting, never stop believing; because God has already ordained that, you will win.”

Miss you my brother!

My Philadelphia Prayer

Artist, Robert Indiana

It’s cold and rainy in Philadelphia. Close to the end of the year! My sweet husband has made dinner reservations for New Year’s Eve in Center City. I’m looking forward to walking shoulder to shoulder with people who are just as crazy as we are to go out of the house on New Year’s Eve. Who would miss the opportunity to hear frustrated drivers who can’t find parking or the women who are slaying that outfit, but can’t walk so well in those nice heels! Or the homeless guy who just wants to be your friend for five minutes, just to feel like he belongs (because he does) or the folks who are still trying to get home because their bosses wouldn’t allow them to leave early. Excitement will fill the air!

In July of 2020, it will be three years since we’ve moved to Philadelphia. I came kicking and screaming. I had never visited Philadelphia before living here. It was not a place that was, should I say, inviting. At least that’s what I got from family and friends who once visited or lived here. I accept that I would just figure out how to adapt and somehow life would just go on, in spite of living in Philadelphia. I didn’t expect what happened next.

I fell in love. I love Philadelphia. Seriously, I don’t know when it happened but, yes, I love Philadelphia. I love the parks, the bike and walking trails, the color of flowers that bloom in spring. I love the museums, Kimmel Center and the local theaters. I love the history. I love the people. Philadelphians, not sure if that is the proper name or not….but I gotta say, they have heart here. I have found myself being part of community that serves it’s brothers and sisters with love. And unfortunately, there are parts of community where violent crimes have caused over 300 deaths this year. This hurts! Philadelphia, you are better than this. Because what I have witnessed so far is that Philadelphia really has good folks who want the best for their city. I have seen neighbors working together to end gun violence, I’ve marched with women who seek that all children have a right to fair funding for education. I’ve sat in a temple and heard stories from immigrants who felt safe enough to share their stories. And I’ve received blueberry dumplings from a woman who heard me say how much I missed this southern dish.

Yes, I love Philadelphia. It is a great city with great people and of course, we can’t forget about those Eagles, right? Well? Ok, I’m still trying to understand the football fans, but hey, they’re passionate about their team, so respect!

My prayer for this great city is to recognize your greatness! My prayer for this amazing city is to appreciate the people here who have struggled with you when others have denounce your existence. My prayer for this historic city is that you hold on to the different ethnicities which makes this city vibrant and alive. My prayer is that this city will hold on to her children and fight for them no matter their zip codes. My prayer is that brotherly and sisterly love be the trueness of who you are because people like me love to call you “home”.

It’s good to be here.

So I’m 60!

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

I decided to start a blog… I’m not sure if I can call it that, but anyway! Let me start over here. I decided to start a blog because I was turning 60. The blog was not focus on anything specifically, just whatever my thoughts were at the moment. It’s been months since I’ve written anything, so I guess I just didn’t have any thoughts I wanted to share. To be honest, it’s been a little rough and a little embarrassing to share anything.

I retired, but I think I told you that already. Anyway, I haven’t been motivated and no not looking for anyone or anything to motivate me but turning 60 has stumped me. Yes, I can blame age on my lack of motivation! I have that right! I know there are many wonderful women 60 and over doing amazing things and living life to the fullest; Oprah, Gayle, Chaka, Lynn, Alfre, Loretta,Debbie & Phylicia, and of course I can’t leave out Angela, which I’m still working on getting those killer arm muscles, since the age of 30? Oh well.

One thing I’ve learned through this period of drooping, is that it’s unfair to call young people lazy or unmotivated. I’m here to tell you, old folks (okay middle age?) can be lazy “af” too! (Can I say that?).

So, I am now 60 and really have no time not be honest with myself. I know when I’ve laid in bed too long, I know when I’ve had too much wine, I know when I haven’t been kind. I know when I have not shown compassion or share in the burden of my neighbor. I know that along with others, I have hidden my face and quiet my voice from injustices I have seen recently in our country. I am aware of the lack of education funding for public schools and the lack of affordable housing. I see that young single mothers today receive less than young single mothers in my day. I acknowledge that voter suppression is a real freaking thing and I can’t just sit by and watch it happen.

Yeah, I’ve been lazy, unmotivated, just pure selfish. So God I seek your forgiveness. I have everything to get me up from this place of gloom and it’s really up to me to now get up. I have to make that decision to be inspired, not to make everyone say, “Wow she’s amazing! Of course, if that happens, I would be thrill; why lie? But let’s be honest….it’s really not about age and seeing what you have not done in this wonderful life you’ve been handed, instead it’s recognizing how important your being in this world matters to someone who still don’t know how amazing their life can be.

So instead of trying to race against my age, which is nothing I can do anyway, maybe I can just learn to be and to love.

I guess I need to change my blog url?

How is your view?

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Recently a clergy person tweeted a different view of looking at the Prodigal Son, a parable Jesus teaches in the Gospel of Luke 15:11-32. The clergy came from the perspective that the younger son is not a terrible person but from the view that possibly the son could be gay and when the Dad greets him on his return back home, his Dad affirms the son, and says I love you. I actually thought that view was great. Reading the Bible through the eyes of someone else, a marginalized and oppressed group of people can be quite compassionate.

For me I read this parable through the eyes of a black teenage boy who is struggling with a mental illness. I notice that every time I hear this parable preached in the church it is always that this young son was too fast, cared too much about himself, didn’t want to obey his Father and wanted freedom to do whatever he wanted to do. This preached word was always built on behavior, a bad terrible behavior, the young son has a sinful nature. The young son didn’t know what he had…and so he was taught a lesson. Now returning home, the Father embraces him and therefore God embraces the sinner when you return home.

I wonder why the young son is viewed through our eyes as being sinful. I wonder why we accept this view. Could it also be the young black boy who suffers from a mental illness is trying to cope at home but can’t and tries but becomes addicted to things he thought would make him feel better, realizes he made a mistake, didn’t think things through all the way. And Dad doesn’t focus on the “why” of the young son’s journey but instead embraces him and the family sets out to try again.

We do great harm at times to ourselves and to other people in our lives when we make the “why” a defining point of a person. Even the young son had determined that he was unworthy, he was no good, all because he spent all his money, became homeless and the only thing he could determine, because his journey wasn’t a successful one, is that he is not worthy. We make up the reasons we want for why someone is homeless, why someone is broke, why someone is gay, why someone is mentally ill…and we labeled them as unworthy. But you know….God will love you…when your behavior warrants an understanding from us.

I am a female black clergy concerned about our black youth who are dealing with mental illnesses. For me this is not a taboo subject. It is imperative that we view scripture from the lives of these young people whose journeys are different, but whose journeys are also worthy.

And yes, when reading this parable it becomes obvious that we are all the older son. The one who has already judged the “why” because we have determine that God sees others through our eyes.

God sees others much, much, better!




Self

It’s quiet. I should be doing something. Maybe turn the TV on? Bathroom needs cleaning. Wait, do I hear squirrels in the attic? No. Maybe I should check out twitter to find out the latest happenings. Oh well, there goes spending time with myself.

Ok, I will give myself another chance. Let me start all over again.

It’s quiet.

Welcome.

Glad to see you today!

I love church….but sometimes??

Last Sunday I went to church. I wasn’t exactly excited about going. I did go out of responsibility and unfortunately that was about it. Church for me has become a difficult journey. I don’t know why or maybe I do and don’t want to admit that in this adult life, church is not what my mother told me it is, a place to welcome you and to love on you and to get saved. Really… my mom didn’t say to welcome you or to love on you (I thought maybe that would just make me feel better) but she did say to get saved. But still there is something that I quite can’t put my hands on. No, I’m not excited about going to this place but when I’m there, preaching, worshiping, praying, I so enjoy seeing people happy, smiling and letting them know that they matter.

Throughout church service with the choir singing and people sharing their hopes and pains, it is all so beautiful until the call “to be saved”. I could not shake the uneasy feeling I had that something wasn’t right about this. People who gathered into church came because of a number of reasons. Some that I can think of are to be part of a community, some seeking to find forgiveness, some who are seeking to be loved, some seeking to get into a heavenly realm, some I guess seeking to be saved because they believe themselves to be unworthy. But “being saved” seemed to be the only reason the church exist. And on that thought is where I find church difficult.

What would happened if all Christian churches would take people as is and not define them needing to be saved, but instead needing to be accepted and loved?! What would happened if people were able to walk into a church and breathe and not fear because the world is scarier enough to deal with?! What would happened if the church decides that all who walks through the door has no judgement but only the opportunity to become whole?! What would happened?

And what are we being saved from? Or saved to? And will God only love me if I get saved? I don’t remember Jesus ever saying anything about this to the point where we put so much emphasis on it that the church only becomes concerned about one’s salvation so you can go to heaven….until then…well… you’re on your own!

John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

This is not a call for individual salvation….this is a call for community salvation. And eternal life is not something we look to experience after death but living life fully now, living life with hope and assurance, with love and acceptance. I mean is the church really just saving for the “way up yonder” moment and the right now doesn’t matter?

As I’m writing this, I just happened to see someone on a website holding up a sign saying, “Repent or Go go Hell!” Ugh!!

Yes, we seek God to enter our lives….all of what our lives look like. ALL OF WHAT THAT LOOKS LIKE…and I truly believe God can handle what that looks like! God transforms, not the church. The church, the ecclesia, the community supports…not damage.

I’m at a point in my life, as a preacher of the Gospel, as a sister of humankind, as a wife and mother I want to greet all those who enter into the church and welcome them, hug them and let them know they are saved from ridicule, judgement and self-doubt. I want them to know that God has always been with them. I want them to know that God loves them, relax and just breathe. And that the community, the ecclesia, seeks salvation along with them and God will provide that for us all.

Tomorrow is Sunday. Breathe!

Authenic Praying

My husband and I pray every night before we go to the sleep. Our prayers are sometimes short, serious and sometimes our prayers have a sense of humor in them. Our prayers are for our children, our nation, our dreams and we even pray that the person who is doing all the farting under the bedcovers will stop! We take turns in praying and to be honest I try to get out of praying when it’s my turn. I think because as a child, I was taught that prayers were to always be serious, always sound intense and that you should quench your eyes, shutting them real tight and sweating profusely because you wanted to make sure that God or your Higher Power knew your prayers were sincere.

How can anyone really pray when you are already stress about praying? It makes no sense. People project images, pretending to be something or someone they are not. All of us do it, at times. And the older we get, we realize that we don’t need to play those games anymore…it becomes tiresome and hey God, you’re gonna get what you get…. I figure you can handle it. So I pray in my authentic self, my words are not grand, sometimes I close my eyes, sometimes I get on my knees, but most times, I hold my husband’s hands and we lay in bed and begin to pray.

We pray to release our thoughts and concerns into the universe, our hopes and our aspirations and we believe that a Creator who creates the universe so carefully can take our prayers among with others who have a love for humankind, sprinkle those prayers and nourish the earth with those prayers that are prayers of love.  Prayers are never to be selfish, never to used as a device like a genie in a bottle and definitely never to be used to pray to a god to hurt people.  Prayers are an opportunity to hold the hands of your neighbor who you may never see or know but your very being shares with them a belonging to this universe created for all.  Your authentic self  in prayer mixed with everyone’s else hopes and aspiration produces a beautiful light that beams in our homes and communities but a prayer that is self-righteous, a prayer that is only to project an image produces nothing….it’s just noise in the universe.  

Tonight it’s my turn to pray.  I will be my jovial self, laughing and telling jokes, being who I am, holding my husband’s hand, having the air fresher close by and talking to my God, just as I am. 

Rev. J.