Church Lady

She wore all purple. A purple suit that looked like it kept her warm in an old church building where cool air seeped in from the beautiful stain windows that are definitely historic and have much more character than any efficiency windows. She probably gave money towards the upkeep of those glorious windows. Her purple hat sat perfectly on her seasoned hair, falling at the top of her eyebrows just right with a wide brim, not too wide to hide her smile, but wide enough to pronounce her wisdom. In all purple, she exuded royalty and demanded it.

The church lady in all purple, who probably marched in many Civil Rights protests; raised her fist against her oppressors; stood outside in the cold registering folks to vote; prayed for her children and her children’s children; told the pastor what the community needed; demanded fair housing; grew a garden in her kitchen; organized the annual women’s tea; took the bus to sit with a sick friend; made a pound cake from scratch; learned how to navigate Facebook; washes her bed linen and iron them weekly; keeps a lace handkerchief and mint candy in her pocketbook; praises her God with no shame; this black woman in all purple, walks up to the church mic and begins to sing John Lennon’s song, “Imagine”. It was absolutely beautiful!

This was a bold move. I love this song! I have always said that it should be a hymn but the lyrics of the song would force us to think, to do exactly what the song calls for. To imagine a place, a world where love and unity resides. Instead of preaching a heaven and hell we imagine there is no heaven or hell below us, above us only sky. Above us only God. No religion, but only God. No possessions, but enough for all. Imagine sharing all the world. What would communities of faith look like if we walk in revolutionary love, repenting as a community, instead of finding ways to separate ourselves from each other? Imagine this kind of world can truly exist. We would have to be intentional in our thinking and caring of each other. We would have to see each other, fully.

The lady in all purple, with her best Sunday church hat on, holds her her high and belts out the last verse of the song. She is determine. She is strong, with no fear as to what the congregation will think or what they will say and she sings out with the voice of an angel, “You may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.” The church lady has spoken! Let it be so!

Amen

Tonight

Tonight, find a moment to pray for families whose love ones have died due to this pandemic.

Tonight, find time to hold your love ones close to your heart, even if they are not physically present with you. Pretend that they are.

Tonight, find the strength to love more boldly with the intent that you can change the world.

Tonight, dream like you never have before for tomorrow calls us all to be and do better than ever before.

Remember to Dance

I am creating a space to practice yoga in my home. Yoga is not new to me, but because I am not disciplined in my practice, I consider myself still a beginner. The room is the smallest in my home but it is the room I gravitate to the most. Hanging on the walls are two pieces of art work which are very precious to me. One is a drawing of a young woman with locs, her head gently bowed, the palm of her hand turned graciously and she is softly swaying. The drawing is titled, “Thoughts in Movement”. The other piece is a painting of three older full body women, colorful scarves tied around their heads, aprons tied around their round waist, looking like they just came out of a field, jubilant and dancing with the sun lighting their joy. There is no title for this piece. In fact, this piece was balled up in the back of my truck for years after I moved away from an abusive relationship and was about to throw it out! It was worn and had a small tear but I restored the art piece and had it perfectly framed.

While creating this space, I found myself dancing, with no rhythm. My body went in whatever direction it wanted to. My belly shaking with sounds and the flaps of my arms joining in with harmony. I looked at the picture of the three older women and laughed out loud and danced along with them, dancing through fields of hardship but swaying with an ease. I then turned my attention to the young woman and thanked her for her bravery and determination to keep moving, because of her I remember how to dance. I remember to how unravel myself from the bruise spots on my body. I remember how to hear the soft whispers instead of the harsh blows. I remember that there were other women who danced through the pain with me. I’m so glad they did not allow me to keep them rolled up in the back of a truck or thrown out in the trash.

This journey comes with some trials and tribulations. At times it may appear to be easier to hide in a corner, crumpled up because unraveling yourself will hurt. Unraveling our past mistakes, our past failures; unraveling how others have harmed us, these things are not pretty. But unraveling helps smooth out the wrinkles. Unraveling brushes away the debris of all the wrong things we have said to ourselves. Once the process of unraveling starts, we remember who we are. We remember we are creative, intelligent, loving and we can dance to our own unique rhythm.

So what should be the name of the picture? The picture of those women dancing triumphantly, the one with no name. What should it be titled? I don’t know, yet. But what I do know is that I have the power to figure it out. And for that, I dance!

Dance y’all!!!! Dance!

Girls Like Me

I revisited the name of my blog. I thought maybe I was not being optimistic by the title, “Beginning…Again.” The thought that it looked like I fail a lot, meant I start and whatever it is doesn’t work and I start again. Then I realized, here we go again, doubt, guilt and shame was sitting in. After 61 years, one would imagine that those kind of feelings don’t show up as often, because after a certain age, it is what it is and that’s just the way it is. You are who you are. No trying to make any change and why now would it even matter! For an elderly African-American woman, it matters. It matters that I continue to begin and start as many times as I can; as many times as God allows.

For some girls like me, who were raised in Jim Crow south, who experienced an environment shaped to diminish your being in order that girls like me would not discover their spark. Black little girls who were given white dolls for Christmas and read the stories of Dick and Jane, the white children whose parents were always well-groomed and their dog, Spot, who was well-trained. When I reach high-school, my English Lit teacher wanted us to read the book, “Gone With The Wind.” Of course, I did not read the book, not because I found it to glorify the Confederate army, but because I was a typical and normal American teenager. Instead of reading this book demanded by my white, young, first year English Lit teacher, I wrote a made-up story as my book report, handed it in and got an “F”. I expected it, which now I realized was the wrong way of thinking on my part. I created a story, I created my own story, handed it in and got an “F”. My teacher did not encourage me to keep writing my own story, but instead demanded me not to do it again. Sure, maybe I should have read the book; it was her class. And maybe this teacher could have seen me as her student. But she did not, because she wasn’t expected to see me as a student, but I was expected to see her as my white, young, first year English Lit teacher.

So for some girls like me, who are now black “seasoned” women, we begin as often as we can, to tell our stories and to tell ourselves we are worthy. And when at times to tell and voice these stories become a struggle, because the past is hard to shake, you will find us sitting quietly, taking in strong breaths, and saying to ourselves, it’s okay, let us begin….. again.

You and Me

The last Sunday of 2020. And my pastor decided that I would be the one to preach the last sermon of the year. Of 2020 y’all?!! Of course I could have preached about the pandemic, the fourteen million people who are unemployed, eviction notices being issued, and black lives still being brutalized. So, yes, I did preach about those things, but I also challenged what things would look like if we all participated with God in making these disturbing, ugly, sinful, issues disappear for good. How can we find ways to partner with God?

No, I am not one who believe that all we have to do is put everything in God’s hands and well, then walk away. Let God handle it. I mean, God already created the universe, provided the land for food and kind of just dropped the planet in our lap, so can we do something that God will be in total awe!? If anything from 2020, we have learned how to survive with little. We finally realized we don’t need all the stuff, the perfect phone, the sharp car (I do drive a 2011 Mercedes Benz) or the social media fame that makes overnight celebrities (well, let me rethink that one). But seriously, in all of this year’s darkness, we found people helping each other, people working with people they would have never given the time of day. This pandemic destroyed lives and in a weird way, this pandemic allowed us to see how precious life is.

So here’s my challenged. There is this scripture that points directly to how we can partner with God; yes I’m a preacher, get over it, but just hear me out, okay?

If there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interest of others.” Philippians 2:1-4

We need each other and God needs us. If we truly want peace; if we truly want to see people made whole; if we truly want to eradicate homelessness and hunger; if we truly want all people to live free; then we must learn from 2020. Let’s see if we can show God what we’re made of!

Happy New Year!

Christmas Tree or Not

We put up a Christmas Tree! Last year we didn’t and never missed it. Last year we opened up gifts, ate a lot of food, drank a lot of booze, attended church services; of course maybe not in that order. But last year we celebrated the day, no biggie, just the usual, with no tree. But this year is different. We needed a Christmas Tree. We needed to feel Christmas. We needed to see the lights, smell the fragrance of evergreen, take out family ornaments and the star; oh my goodness the star, how could we have missed putting up a tree last year with the star on top??!! We took advantage of last year’s Christmas which had become just a day where yes, we did a some things a little different, but we treated this special day with a sense of arrogance and privilege.

Last year, we took life for granted, but this year we can’t afford to make that mistake.

We are now forced, and it’s a good thing really, to live out loud; to live like we will not have another chance. We are now forced to live being ourselves, not wondering what others think of us, because everyone has been forced to do something that we have all failed to do for years; Live! A pandemic forced us to look at ourselves; to really see what it means to be who we are. Some of us were appalled at what we had become from years of selfish abuse and others were elated that they were able to love after years of trying to belong. We will not be the same when this pandemic ends. We should not want to be the same when this pandemic ends. We should not want to hurt, hate, kill, steal, or be a complete jerk when this pandemic ends. We are forced to be better, to do better, to live better, to love better. We can’t return to the past years. We can’t afford to return to what we once were.

So, do me a favor. If you don’t have a Christmas tree up by now, go get one. Get a biggest and tallest one you can find. Only kidding! String those big different color bulbs on it; only if you must. Sit and admire how great a decorator you are. Have a glass of wine or some sparkling water; smile and enjoy your tree. And be thankful you are not the same person you use to be. You are better than ever.

OK. If you don’t do Christmas trees, hey that’s fine. Just know you are still better than ever.

Looking forward to seeing a better you! Oh, and better me! Wow! Imagine a better world!! It is Christmas! Anything is possible!

Luke 1:37 “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Happy Holidays!!!

An Angry Prayer!

Another friend has died. I saw the Facebook post with unbelief, saying how could this be? He just posted a funny story a few days ago. This has to be a lie. But it wasn’t. And I became angry. My anger was and I think still is directed to God. This is so hard because feeling anger towards God is wrong, right? I mean, the one that I uplift, the one that I sing praises to, the one I depend upon, the one that I preach about, the one that I follow and ask others to follow. Another friend has died, doing the work of caring for others, following what God asked of him. I am livid! So God, hear my angry prayer.

God, I know you are here but it does not feel like you are. There is sorrow and anguish that we are facing and yes, it feels like we are alone. Hearing of hundreds of thousands dying and friends, family crying and trying to do the best they can. Hear this prayer, O God. We have seen you in our troubles before. We have heard how you cried when your people were taken and we have heard how you rejoiced when your people were found. We read stories of how you have healed the sick and even raised the dead. Hear this prayer, O God! See our anger, see our tears. Remember how much you love us, even when we do not love others. Hear us as we scream out to you. Our voices may rattle, our tone sincere, our use of words may not all be appropriate. But you already know, because we are your creation, you already know we are tired. Comfort, O God your people. Remember us. Remember the songs we sang, when all was well. Remember our dancing as we rejoiced, when all was well. Remember our attention to you, when all was well. We know you are here. We know you see our anger. We know you see us. We are not going anywhere; we are patiently waiting on you.

Amen

A Revolutionary Love

I love church. I love being church, community, the ecclesia. The church has caused me a lot of problems, but today I realized how much church is big part of who I am. I have to say that I wasn’t expecting to feel love for the church in the way I felt it today. I have been critical of the church. Somedays the church is good and other days I wonder how I allowed myself to become a part of an institution that has preached hate and homophobia to the point where there have been times that I just want to walk away. But today, I saw a congregation hold each other as they discovered their church had gone up in flames.

Middle Collegiate Church (middlechurch.org) is a place where everyone is welcomed. It is a community of people who believe in God, don’t believe in God, straight, gay, all races and ethnicities, who stand and fight against the injustices in that ravage our nation. They are a group of people that every Sunday morning, I don’t know any of them, but at 11:45am I can’t wait to sit in front of my laptop to attend worship because they don’t know me, but it’s almost like they do. Their love is intentional. As I watched the service today and saw the congregation crying, singing, praying and still making sure that the community in which they sit is still provided with food and clothing for the homeless, holding on to each other, but still being a force and standing, speaking against those powers that keep the marginalized oppressed. As the building burned, so many of them spoke saying, “we are the church”, this is a building. In that building were memories of baptism, weddings, dancing and laughter and funerals of love ones. They grieved publicly, being human, being fully seen, being fully embraced by God. The most beautiful thing is that the world in which they gave themselves with their radical revolution way of love, responded with arms wide open, to receive this group of amazing people, because their radical revolutionary love planted a big heart in souls that had once been broken. I saw God today.

I fell in love with church again, because of a community that is showing me that revolutionary love works. I fell in love with church again today because I saw what church can be. For us pastors and preachers, for us lovers of the Gospel, for us lovers of God, I pray we will be intentional about loving people, not trying to change them so they can go to heaven, but instead love them so the world can see God. I’m so glad that Middle Collegiate Church reminds me that we are the ones God has been waiting for. Check them out on a Sunday morning. You will be so happy you did!

Expect Greater

Today is the First Sunday in Advent. Advent is a period of four Sundays before Christmas and observed by Christians preparing for the coming of the Christ child. Advent is an expectancy of something greater to come. I love the Advent season because it reminds me that past troubles and woes do not dictate my future. This year has not been the greatest for many of us. I lost my brother, my best friend and a woman who raised me like I was her own child. My car was totaled because someone decided they would run a stop sign and not check to see if I was okay and my job cut hours. As I write this, the song comes to my mine, “I Won’t Complain” by the Rev. Paul Jones. Seriously, I use to hate that song because what is wrong with expressing hurt and pain? Nothing at all. What is wrong though is remaining in the hurt and pain. Don’t remain in the hurt and the pain of this year. Expect greater.

I am grateful that I had a best friend, a loving brother and a woman who showed me compassion. I’m grateful that I was not hurt in my car accident and I’m grateful that I have some income. But I expect greater to come, not because by some miracle rewards will land in my lap. I expect greater because life is still happening, life is still moving, life is here and life is still to come. I expect to keep finding ways to produce in order for the earth to provide a home for me and those I love. I expect to experience joy when I see my grandchildren run and play. I expect to feel the arms of my husband always embracing me. I expect to live my life with purpose. I expect greater because greatness lives in me.

During Advent, I pray that you will expect greater in your life. I pray that you see all the good that you have around you and in you. You have come this far, why give up now? Expect greater love, joy and happiness. Expect greater.

Thank you!

Thank you for dreaming your dream. Thank you for your creative spirit that pours out on laptop screens, blank sheet of papers, notebooks, journals and even that napkin stuffed in your pocket. Thank you for giving us voices and breathing us into an existence we thought not possible. Thank you for lifting us and making us feel safe. It is your words, those beautiful words, those painful words, those funny words, those challenging words, those make you feel like slapping your mama words (but we know better), those frightful words, those unifying words that give us feet to walk and hips to sway. Thank you.

To the writers who struggle to make sounds but sing even when they feel they won’t be heard. To the writers who teach us to keep on keeping on. To the writers who care, but don’t care, and write on anyhow. To the writers who share their stories with us, thank you for your power, grace and resilience.

Write on! We need you!