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. 

 

 

 

Arrival

I am breathing, not a sigh of relief from anything to be saved from or anything to be liberated from.  I’m breathing because I just feel okay.  It can be often tiresome to keep seeking for acceptance, for self-help advice books, for meditating sounds, for motivations to make me feel like I’m queen of the world.  I’m breathing because I’m okay.

I use to think that being okay was not good enough.  That I needed to be more dynamic, more gorgeous, more intelligent, more sexy, more joyous, more happy, more giving, more loving, more great.  Can it be that I’ve reach my limit of more? And what is “more” anyway?  Can it be that I’m okay now where I am, how I am.  Because I’m pretty sure I’m okay.

I am smiling, thinking about how much I’ve placed so much effort into being more.  But it’s funny, because through my effort, I seem to have remained the same for some years now, like my mind and soul keeps telling me, “Stop holding yourself hostage!”  I’m smiling because I’ve realized that it is just possible that I have arrived.  Where was I trying to get to?  Some facade of a make believe person so that she can pretend to be more than she is which really is but less than what she realizes and less than what she possesses?

Don’t you ever get tired of running away from yourself?  I ask myself. Or constantly finding something to change about yourself? I ask myself.  So much of searching for if I can just talk well or read faster or be organized or lead with no failure or dress with power or smile showing white straight teeth or walk in stilettos or make heads turn and take notice when walking into a room or being the one that is needed the most.  I’m laughing now…girl you must think you’re many people, a superhero, multiple personalities?

For today, at this moment, I’m okay.  I believe that okay is good, that it is whole, that it is loving and kind to me and others.  I give my true-self to others, all of the flaws, all of the crooked teeth, all of my insecurities, all of sometimes mispronounced words.  I give them my best self.

It’s cold outside here in lovely Philadelphia but the sun is shining, providing warmth and reminding me even when there is a chill that pushes me inward that my soul still has a way of breaking free, shining it’s glorious self all over the universe. I’m okay.  How about you?

 

One Night

The moment you asked me out!  Wow!  My heart was beating so fast.  You were the most gorgeous creation of God’s handiwork.  Your smile, the way you told corny jokes, the way you held my hand, acknowledging to all that we were a couple.

I felt loved.  I felt joy.  I felt beautiful.

It was one night.  I was tired, not feeling my best. It was an awful day at work and all I wanted to do was get home, crawl in my bed and sleep.  Just rest.  You called.  I said I wasn’t up for company.  You insisted to stop by.  You said you would bring hot soup.  You would sit with me.  You would make sure I was okay.

You knocked.  I opened the door.  You smiled.  You hugged me.  I smiled. You rubbed my shoulders. I said that felt nice.  You unfastened my bra.  I said, not tonight.  You said, “I’ll make you feel better.”  I said, “No!  Seriously, I’m not feeling well, please, not tonight!” You frowned a little, but sat on the couch, grabbed the remote and found a movie.  I snuggled near you, with my blanket and a cup of tea, wondering silently what happened to the hot soup.   I fell asleep, with my head on your shoulder.

I felt a push, my back now on the couch.  You removed my panties and did not care as I struggled and screamed No! You made no sound. You made no sound. You made no sound.

You grabbed the remote, searching for another movie.

I made no sound.

 

 

 

 

Our LGBTQ Children in Youth Ministry

Youth Ministry.  How do we define this?   So many churches have youth ministry programs that they provide to members and their neighboring communities.  These ministries involves bible reading, bible games, sleep-ins, trips, bean bags, church sports teams, arts & crafts, ring ceremonies for sexual abstinence and maintaining quiet with concerns for friends and classmates who sit in youth ministry along side them who are unable to impress who they are.  They enjoy the times that they are with friends but youth ministry for them is a struggle.

As a black female preacher in my early years,  who worked with young people, first serving as a youth choir director, then working as a youth director, my concern was that these young people, that God allowed me to inspire, that they would grow up to be anything they wanted to be in life and to be successful, living full lives themselves, that their children would grow to do the same.  But I never had to consider or was aware that I should consider that their sexual orientation mattered in order to live productive lives.   In the late seventies and early eighties, at least in the black church, that was never a thought. Sure there were members in our churches who we talked about being gay and keeping things hush, hush.  We thought it was not important, this was an adult thing and adults knew how to handled any conversation about sex or sexual orientation.  But now this is not an adult conversation. It is not a hush hush moment.

I work with young people today.  Today is not like the seventies or eighties.  And because gay voices are no longer hushed, because these generation of children have friends who have same sex parents, have teachers, principles that march proudly in their communities during pride month, who have teammates that stand tall and play in who they are, I wonder in youth ministry programs are we providing a space and safety for our children who identify as LGBTQ, do they feel safe enough to voice who they are without being rebuked or us going to get the holy oil to sprinkle their sins away?  When in youth ministry we talk about dating and love, how do we speak on those subjects?  What happens when a young boy or girl raises their hands at a sleep-in and ask the question, will God still love me if I’m gay, if I’m queer?  The answer can’t be to say hush.  Not this time.

Our churches look like the communities in which we live….or they should be.  Working with young people today I can tell you that they are looking at the members in the churches they attend which look nothing like their communities.  And they are beginning to ask the questions.  Can I bring my friend to church?  Can I ask my favorite teacher to my choir’s concert?  Will the youth ministry support me when I march proudly in my local pride parade?

Love and acceptance has to be the overwhelming message in youth ministry today.  To minister to a person is to minister to the entire person. I do know that there are some young people that are struggling with their sexuality and on Sunday mornings, in a worship service, can be one of the hardest things they endure.

Someone is probably saying right now that well if we teach Bible our children won’t be like this or like that.  Let me just say this.  I remember a relative who at the age of five we knew he was different.  There was nothing evil about him, there was no demon embodying him.  He was the most perfect five year old.  He loved life and enjoyed helping him mom with his baby brother.  He loved church and God.  As he grew, the church and community began to distance themselves from him.  He died of an AIDS related illness.  His funeral was held in a church.  But between the time of 5 and upon the time of his death which I believe he passed away in his late twenties, the church never served him any kind of love or care. Listen to me closely, his love for God never wavered.        Nor did God’s love for him.  God loves our loves our ALL CHILDREN!  So should we.

Rev. Jacqui

Getting older and embracing it!

I am now 59.   How should I embrace this time of preparing to see the big 60 around the corner?  Hmmmm?

I will make it fun!  I will laugh and dance!  I will run my fingers through my thinning hair!  I will keep flossing so I can keep the teeth I have!  I will workout, maybe not go overboard though,  to keep my bones strong.  I will wear funky outfits that will make heads spin. I will shake my hips!   I will be a sexy diva and make my husband blush everyday.

I will love me!