The Holiday season is upon us. This time last year, the Christmas tree was up, decorated with our favorite ornaments and the African nativity set was brought up from the basement placed on the mantle where it could be admired. As of today, there is no tree and the nativity set is still in the basement collecting dust. Maybe tomorrow I will unwrap the tangled Christmas lights? Maybe? There is no rush.
I listened to car horns blowing in traffic, irritated drivers trying to reach the places that held the items they need to buy for friends and love ones. Unfriendly walkers moving at a fast pace, head down, not making eye contact with anyone, because they are on a mission to beat time. It is wonderful to see people out again and yes we are still in a pandemic and yes we must still be safe. And yes, we have returned to a sense of normalcy; the normalcy of once again, not seeing each other and the normalcy of only being concern with our single agendas, the normalcy of rushing that we end up missing the most delicate things of life. Maybe the squirrels can help us recall what it is to experience what it feels like to be fully alive.
Walking with all the car noise and chatter around me, I heard a ruffling in leaves that were raked in a pile. Two squirrels were running and playing with each other; jumping in and out of the pile of leaves. When I got close, they stopped and got quiet until I passed by. Once I passed, the squirrels returned to their joy of running and jumping, chasing each other and being free. For a moment, I was a little jealous of the squirrels enjoying the unseasonal warm weather. For a moment, I didn’t want to return to normalcy as I remembered it.
As you prepare to lay down your head tonight, do me a favor. Hold your arms out wide, take a deep breath, wiggle your fingers, don’t hold that breath in too long; go ahead and exhale! Now take your strong arms and give yourself a great big hug. You’ve been through a lot this week. Tomorrow is a new day. Give yourself some grace. I’m praying you peace, joy, hope and abundant blessings with you and for you!
This is the first Sunday in Advent 2021 and today the word is Hope. I struggle with the word, hope. I don’t know if my hoping to have a better world or my hoping to complete my doctor of ministry degree really gets me motivated to create those possibilities, but I’m working my way through this thought. Here is why. About 4 years ago at a coffee bar, while this young man read poetry and played sounds on his folk guitar that made me feel like I could fly above the clouds, he said, “There is no such thing as hope.” Hoping for things in life or hoping to be something in life, it just doesn’t get you to the places you want to be. His thought was that hope is just a pipe dream that you can wish over and over again. I remember this night well. This was the night I realized and accepted that my Mom was not going to live for very much longer. She had stage 4 lung cancer and all I could do that night was turn to Hope.
Hope is breathing through the difficulties that life throws at you. Hope is walking through the storms, seeing the rain beating on your face, watching the hurricanes toss you around, but you move anyway. Hope is believing that there will be an end to this crazy pandemic! Hope is being vulnerable before something or someone that refuses to see you. Hope is praying for a sick friend or relative because they have no one else. Hope is loving a partner who is struggling with their own demons. Hope is reaching inside your purse and coming up with a few coins to buy a candy bar for your crying child who throws a tantrum and everyone looks at you like you’re crazy. Hope is praying that you will get up in the morning, ready to go to a job you don’t like, but it pays the bills, but one day it will get better, because you continue to hope.
I disagree with the young poet with the smooth sounding guitar. Hope pushes you to dream, to have vision, to imagine the possibilities.
Hope is where we start. In this season of Advent, my prayer for you is that you continue to hope for the very best for you and for others. Imagine us all hoping for the very best for and in our world. Imagine us now walking towards that hope.
God finds a way to get your attention. No, I am not talking about a god that chastises you or is sending you to hell. I don’t know that god. Hope you don’t either! But God who speaks to you either with a whisper or a loud shout that tells you that you are so much more than what you think. You know, that God who created every fiber of your being and was proud of the outcome. Well, this week, God spoke with a loud shout, and I wasn’t sure and still not sure how to handle it.
Here is what happened. I work with birth parents whose children are in the foster care system. This job has its ups and downs. I have experienced children reunited with parents and I have experienced foster care parents who have loved on children for years and have to say goodbye to them at a moment’s notice. I have cried over court decisions that I felt in my heart was wrong and I have jumped for joy when the court decisions were right. I have watched infants come into the system and seen them grow into toddlers and elementary children. I have seen older children take on the role of a parent to save their younger siblings from the awful knowledge they are unaware of. I can’t say that it is all rewarding and I can’t say that it is all just. This week I spent two hours with a birth parent that can be quite intimidating. He curses everyone out; have a shouting match and will debate every last thing, even when someone is trying to help him. He does not trust anyone. He has experienced much trauma and when someone attempts to get close, he pushes them away by using hurtful words concerning their race and/or their gender. This does not make this person sound like a nice person, does it? Let’s call this person, Mr. See Me.
Mr. See Me has been abused for most of his life by systems that have landed him in prison and taken away his family. He has been fighting, seeking justice for himself for a long time and he is tired. He experiences bouts of rage because he is never heard, never seen by those who think him to be insignificant and that his life does not matter. He is unable to express his mental depression at the same time living in denial and pretending that he is well, because, hey, that is what black men were taught to do. Don’t be vulnerable. Man Up and don’t let them see you cry. But every now and then, Mr. See Me shows himself, this loving person who talks about his children with pride and how he listens to his mother even when he doesn’t always agree with her. Every now and then Mr. See Me doesn’t realize it, but he allows you in, if only for a few seconds. On our last meeting, Mr. See Me, with a stern expression on his face, turns to me and says, “Your gift is not meant for this place; your gift is not helping anyone here!” For the past few months, I have said out loud this very thing; this place is not where I need to be. Mr. See Me saw me. Could I take the time to see him?
You might ask, so what is so special about Mr. See Me statement directed to me. In his anger, his disappointments, his struggles through his own life, Mr. See Me saw a gift in me! How many of us have decided that we have all the answers because we believe we are the only ones that can save someone but that very person we believe need our help, because we are so great and mighty, turns out to be the very one saving us?
Yes, I am still pondering on what Mr. See Me said and I am thankful that Mr. See Me decided to show his gift to me, if only for a few seconds. A few seconds that made me see him fully as a human being. For a few seconds who will you see differently, who will you not judge, who will you allow yourself to fully see?
Last week I attended my sister’s memorial service. I gave the eulogy. This was not difficult because my sister was special and great in all things! The best wife and mother, the best school teacher, the best community leader, she was just simply the best. My hope is that I will remember all the wonderful legacies she has left behind and how she taught me to be the best that I can be.
Eliza is her name. Born in 1931 during the heart of the Depression Era and raised in the evil of the Jim Crow Era. A black woman with tenacity and spunk, not wavering to white supremacy at all, but elevating herself to live life to the fullest. She reached back and pulled others with her, inspiring young people to know that they are worthy of all their dreams and aspirations. She graduated with her bachelors from Morris College in Sumter, SC, then went on to receive her Masters in Education from Hampton University, in Hampton Virginia. She defied all the odds and stood boldly in the face of those who said she was not worthy because of the color of her skin. I’m so proud that this woman of bravery was, is my sister.
When I think of Eliza, Proverbs 31 comes to mind. Of course, I am not a fan of Proverbs 31, really I’m not! This particular part of biblical religiosity was used so much to undermined what women should be by religious patriarchy standard. But I must admit, that a couple verses stood out which described Eliza. Proverbs 31: 16-17 which reads: “She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She girds herself with strength, and make her arms strong.”
Eliza built a beloved community with the fruit of her hands. With her love for her family and for all black and brown children that she knew deserved so much more, she opened her heart. When I think of Eliza, I think of this old black and white picture which looks like she is considering how she can make a difference in this world. I love her for never giving up and never giving up planting a vineyard that will produce fruit for the ages to come.
Black Women can’t be stopped! We consider our communities and we invest in them. We toiled the field with our hands which produce beautiful fruit, Our arms are strong and our God is with us!
I love you Eliza!! I miss you, my sister!
Who do you learn from? Is it someone who makes the world better for everyone? Is it someone you can truly be proud of? Is it someone who looks like LOVE!!??? My sister is ALL OF THAT!!!!!!
Saturday nights are for sitting quietly at home, watching a movie and maybe a little love making might happen later, but more than likely not, we just say our prayers, kiss and hug and fall asleep.
Saturday nights we used to get dress and hit the town, eat an over price dinner and bar hop in the city until the wee hours of the morning.
Saturday nights are now for breathing out the insanity that happened during the work week and drinking beer and wine, wearing old torn clothes, not combing our hair and hoping the adult children don’t call looking for money.
Saturday nights are sacred and holy. Saturday nights belong to us, to prance around in our underwear with the windows open, caring not what the world says.
How precious it is to get old and to see what really matters. I love Saturday nights!
I got my first and only tattoo at the age of 50. I chose a West African Adinkra symbol that represents God’s presence and protection. The tattoo is on the upper middle portion of my back and depending on what I am wearing, the tattoo is very noticeable. I remember I was sitting in the church pulpit, draped in my clergy robe, and one of the choir members came to me after service and said, “Wow! You got a tattoo before you were saved!” I can’t remember my response or maybe my response was not as kind as it should have been, so I rather not remember. Another time, I was attending a church conference and another clergy person behind me ask, “Why would you get a tattoo where people can see it? Why not put it lower down your back where it couldn’t be seen?” The sadness in this is that the question came from a young person who was in her twenties!!?? What could she be hiding that she is afraid for others to see? I was already a little nervous about people in the church seeing this symbol of freedom sketched in my skin, but at the same time I thought this beautiful rebellious act of declaring this freedom would also make me believe that I could truly be free. Every time I go to church, I take time to make sure that my symbol of authenticity is covered, not to cause anyone to guess whether I am saved or whether I belong.
Yes, at age 50, I was still searching for self, still searching for acceptance, of what I don’t know. I wanted to share my tattoo with friends and family because it was just such an amazing piece of art. I wanted so much to share with them the person of me. The weird thing is that I still even now cover this symbol that represents the God in my life, the God who loves me unconditionally and I am not alone.
There are many of us who cover up that very thing that represents God. We cover up the most amazing thing that shines about us because we may be afraid that our brightness will be too much for some to handle. Afraid that others will extinguish our lights, so why not hide this light for ourselves only, and bring that light out only when it is safe. Well, that does not work because there will come a time where you are unable to hold that thing that represents God for you. You will find yourself bursting with an excitement that is uncontrollable because after a while, you get tired and you don’t give a hill of beans and before you know it, that cover you put on to hide that mark of God’s beauty falls off and blows away.
Do you feel that? Are you experiencing the same sense of tension in the atmosphere? I know I am not the only one. In fact, when I am near you I feel the tightness that is in your gut because my spirit reacts to your energy, or lack of. Don’t you feel that? A covering that is smothering us trying to stifle our souls. You are human right? Please tell me you feel what I’m feeling, please?
Don’t you see it? I mean do you not see the people in the street who are running for their lives, trying to hide from man-made hate and man-made climate interrupters! Don’t you see it? It is sad, isn’t it? Are you seeing the children too? I mean, can you put down your social life for just once! I really think you see this. You are human right? Please tell me you see it, please?
I hear something. You hear it too! Yes, you do! You can’t deny it, even though, you wish you could. I think I understand why you pretend everything is fine in the world. Yes, of course, it is a lot to handle! But I don’t believe we can pretend that the world is glorious and not in a horrible place right now. How do we not feel the souls of others spirits being crushed, or see children crying, or hear the earth rumble? We are human right? Please tell me you hear that sound, please?
Listen closely! Peace does not come with weapons or military might. Peace comes from us. Some will say that God will send the peace, so why do anything and just wait on God? Look around! I got news for you, God has been waiting on you. God has been waiting on us. We can pretend the world is just fine or we can say sorry God and by the way God, how can we help? It’s up to us, not God.
Be A Blessing My Friends! You are human, right? No robots here!