My Apology

“Beginning Again” started out to be a blog about me finding the what next after retirement and could I possibly still dream after turning 60 years old. I am grateful because I am still dreaming. The dreams are not what they once were. The dreams are much better. Because my dreams are not just for me but I realize that my dreams are connected to something bigger than I. My dreams are connected to a better humanity. A humanity that uplifts all, treats all with dignity and grace, stand for the rights of all, ensure that all have enough. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it has taught how much we have hurt each other. We cannot return to a normal that is abusive mentally and physically. We must seek forgiveness. We must apologize. So, here I am, with a dream that offers an apology for those who have been hurt, especially by the church.

To the gay youth at church who stopped coming because we called you a sin. 
To the single parent who only wanted to belong but instead we gossiped about your clothes. 
To the immigrant who only wanted to worship but the church refused to protect you.  
To the homeless person who joyfully expressed his voice every Sunday, only to be shush. 
To the trans person who boldly walked in the sanctuary as themself and told they could not be.
To the once incarcerated who comes back and no one greets you with open arms. 
To the children who are told to sit, not talk, because their voice is not valued. 
To the black boys and girls who scream as we sit by, saying nothing, seeing them murdered.
To all who have never felt the unconditional love of God's hand,
I am sorry.

God is love. God commands us to do better, to be better, to be who God has created us to be. We, who are created in the image of God. God shows up in the gay youth, the single parent, the immigrant, the homeless, the trans, the incarcerated, the children, all of us. God makes God self present in all of us.

This is my apology. I pray you come and dream with me. I pray you find your apology so that all good dreams will be fulfilled. So that all we see in each other is God’s image. What a beautiful sight to behold!

Be well my friends!

Rev. JacquiP

Dust

It’s sunny in Philadelphia! And I am glad that the snow is melting, not to say we won’t see snow again before Spring, but this sun is absolutely beautiful. It shines on my dusty floors and dirty windows, displaying that my cleaning days have been void or none really. But the ray of sun makes the dust dance with joy.

We have been inside our homes for a long time. We have been with our children, spouse, friends, and unfortunately even enemies, in the same space, every second, every minute, every hour, every day and to be honest, we are sick and tired of it. Some of us have made our way to the outside, just not to the grocery store or to take a walk, but courageously to do normal things we use to, like siting in a restaurant, eating and drinking cocktails. I’m not there yet, but to those who have done this fabulous thing, I salute you; keep your mask on please! But if I may, let me point to something we probably never paid much attention to and have taken it somewhat for granted. Dust!

Who thinks about dust?! Well apparently I do? Sounds like I may have too much time on my hands. Anyway! The sun shining on my hard wood floors, that are about a hundred years old, displays dust that rolls from one corner to the next. But the dust is a reminder that life is steady happening around us. The dry skin cells that falls from our bodies, the environment that leaks through the old windows; the last bit of snow we shake off our boots and cracks in our house we don’t even recognize is there, shows us that inside the places we live are really the places we really live! The dust shows us the place in which we are showing up in our lives and in the lives of others. In the homes we have built, the places where we are our truest selves. The dust reminds us that the laughter we shared on a ZOOM call stays in the air of our home and bounces from one wall to another. The dust reminds us of the living room sofa, sitting with the whole family when everyone finally decided on the same movie to watch. The dust reminds us of the tears our older child shed when her senior class dance was canceled and the comfort offered by our hugs and brushing the tears away. The dust reminds us of our partner saying how much they love us and the dust also reminds us of our saying goodbye to loves ones through a cell phone or laptop screen as we gently brushed away our anger and loss.

The dust reminds us that we are still moving, still striving, still crying, still laughing, still grieving and still being. Yes, I must sweep up this dust; it is allergy season! But I know the dust will return. We will return again to a life free from a pandemic. We will return to a world that is new because we have discovered that dust looks the same, feels the same, blows the same and is relentless! So I’m hearing someone say, “we were created from dust and to dust we will return.” Okay, but don’t get too caught up on that please!!! Just appreciate that when the sun shines on your dust, it sparkles and rises up in the air, dancing before you, letting you know that life still happens, because of you!

Be Well!

Rev. JacquiP

Henry

My brother Henry passed away five years ago. He was diagnosed with cancer, I can’t remember what kind of cancer. I wonder if that even matters, but I do remember the day our sister told me of his diagnosis. It was Thanksgiving, and I was in West Virginia, in a cabin on grounds where union and confederate soldiers battled. Believe me it was not a place of my choosing. In hindsight, it is rather strange that a Black woman would be present on a holiday that can be oppressive to Native Americans, in a place where Blacks were definitely oppressed. But that is a story for another time.

Henry died three weeks after his diagnosis. I got an opportunity to see and pray with him before he left us. I loved Henry. He was the brother who did not expect much. He told jokes and always had a smile and kind words for everyone he met. Henry loved me. I wasn’t an easy person to love, the youngest in the family and the one with privilege that demanded attention. Privilege because I did not have to pick cotton before school or call a white person, Sir or Madam. My generation wouldn’t take that crap, at least that is what we thought. No bowing down to the white man for us! In so many ways, my generation wanted to move on from those oppressive things, thoughts, emotions. All the things that reminded us of our struggles.

The family gathered to make Henry’s funeral arrangements. Henry’s daughter, Kimberly, comes to me and says, “Daddy wants you to sing, “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” at his funeral. I hated that song. I thought I had said this to myself but I blurted it out, loud with an emphatic “NO!” This song brought back all the things my generation, okay I, was trying to escape from. The song reminded me of the black struggle, the way my mother would sing it in the kitchen while she was cooking a meal of corn bread and collards! The song was depressing to me and really, don’t you think singing this would take us back another fifty years?!!!

After my drama subsided after a little while of privilege shaming, my niece touches my shoulder and calmly says, “Auntie, I know you love your brother.” She was right. I am so glad my niece is so much like her Dad. So I braced myself, walked up to the mic, and held my head high and sang “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” like it was the most natural thing for me to do. No, it didn’t sound anything like the great Mahalia Jackson in “Imitation of Life”, but I felt connected to our struggle. I felt the pain and burdens of my ancestors and found joy in that connection. I heard my ancestors say they were tired, but in their tiredness, they thought of me and others who would follow them. Henry understood that for his children, they needed to hear that he did his very best in a world that brought pain to a black man who did not require much, but simply wanted to live free and whole.

On this Sunday morning, I found myself humming this song. I saw my mother in the kitchen cooking and Henry sitting at the table smiling. I smiled, still humming Thomas Dorsey’s song in my head and realizing that the song is not a depressing one but it is a song of victory, for standing and moving in a world that often at times will hate you, but our God stands with us, giving us strength to walk on so that another generation will see just how far we have come.

In honor of Black History Month, I lift up Henry, my brother, who loves me anyhow! Listen to the words of this amazing song, “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” song by Ledisi from the 2015 “Selma Movie Soundtrack” and be blessed!

Rev. Jacqui

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

1959

Photo by Lucxama Sylvain on Pexels.com

I was born in 1959. I am the child my parents marched and fought for during the Civil Rights movement. I am now 61. And my children are still fighting for the right to fight voter suppression, police brutality, economic injustice, for my grandchildren and still, for me. Help me to understand why do we still have to prove that we matter to a country who will use us for her entertainment and investments but get angry because generation after generation, we refuse to be quiet, we refuse to give in, we refuse to sit down, demanding what was stole from us, demanding that because of us, this country benefits from the hands of our ancestors. Because of us, our blood and tears in the soil of the land produce fruit that provided homes and places for your children to run and play.

“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:37 (Grandma’s KJV version).

I was born in 1959 and I ain’t tired yet.

Oops! There it is!

It finally happened! Seriously! It did! I don’t know when it happened but that’s it! Yep! I am now 61 years old and I choose to not care what others think of me. Whew! For most of my adult life it mattered what others thought of me. I carried myself as a person who always smiled and people said, ” She is so kind” or “She has such a sweet spirit”. I met the needs of others by being what they wanted me to be. As long as I stayed in my place, did not make a fuss and spoke softly to the naysayers, I was welcomed. I don’t know what took me so long and it really doesn’t matter what or why, but baby I’ve arrived! Yep. It happened!

Now I’m not sure if I have said this before. Maybe?! Maybe last August turning 60 I said it? If I did, well, it didn’t stick apparently. But now, I’m sure. Don’t second guess me!! Now I’m sure that I choose to be authentic to who I am. This is the way I see it. If I walk around pretending to be what you want, then I am not only hating myself, I am hating you. Yes, I am hating you. I have lied to you. I have smiled in your face and pretend to laugh at your jokes. I have gone out of my way to provide things that you need at the same time blessing you out under my breath and returning the thing that you need with a fake smile and a dangerous graciousness that may have made you feel like you were on top of the world. And you fell for it. Oh my! That was not nice of me after all. Wait! You’re waiting for an apology?

This is what I know for sure now. After turning 61, you can not please everyone. You can not pretend to be someone different in order for others to love. You cannot keep up an appearance that drowns your true self because what will happen, is that one day, that shell will break. And either you will choose to live free, broken shell and all, or you will die never knowing how wonderful and marvelous you are.

I’m serious! This time it really did happened!!! I’m broken for the better and I’m loving it!

Joy is coming.

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5). This scripture is a familiar one in my community. I grew up hearing those who were sharecroppers, working on Jim Crow farms, whisper this scripture in their prayers on Sunday mornings at Mt. Olive AME Church in Woodrow, SC. People would dance and shout just in the hearing of this scripture. People hung on these words day and night, in the midst of an oppressive era. When racist called my community derogatory names, when local government tried to take away their voting rights, when banks refuse to give them loans, when they fought a war and then were deny any kind of welcome home parade from the country they fought for, this scripture provided strength to my ancestors to stand and demand their rights.

And here we are again, in a continuation of an oppressive era, this scripture resonating in my mind over and over. Today, my black community are the ones dying more from the Covid-19 virus; having inadequate or no healthcare, working essential jobs such as CNA’s, grocery clerks, public transit workers, assembly workers in meat factories; only allowed to take unpaid sick leave. And here we are again, having to deal with burying our dead not only from the virus but now from white supremacy families who just believe that all black young boys and men should be hunted down and killed. We pause and call the name of Ahmaud Arbery. We work hard to provide for our families. In fact we work ten times as hard to get the same things, housing, transportation, education, etc. And here we are again, being the ones who will suffer more from an economic recession. And here we are again, breathing into our nostrils, this beloved scripture.

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. When would the joy come? When would the weeping stop? Why does the weeping have to endure for the whole night? Isn’t a whole night of crying enough? Is it that crying throughout the night will produce joy in the morning? So in the morning, I have something to look forward to? These kind of questions pop in one’s mind, I would guess, when the burden of pain seems just too much to bare. Or, if I can be honest, when one wonders if God really cares. But then I am reminded that my ancestors were not a selfish people that thought only of their immediate satisfactions. My people have great vision; to see beyond hateful bigotry. My people have great vision; to see beyond even the deaths created by our oppressors. My people have great vision; we arrived in chains but broke loose to create magic and provide to a world musicians, scientist, engineers, entrepreneurs, educators, farmers, congresspersons, senators, a black president and so much more. So when I stop and remember the amazing contributions that my people have given to this world, out of their love for humanity, I understand the tears and the endurance, the struggle to make this world a welcoming place. The world needs us. The world would be lost without the richness and grace of God’s melanin people.

Weeping may endure for a night. Water is required for growth. Tears made our roots stronger. Tears provided nourishment for my people. We endure in the hope and as we sprouted forth, seeds fell to the ground, but the seeds can never be dormant. We produce from our tears new generations and in them Joy arise. Understand, we cannot be stopped. Joy always comes in the morning.

To my ancestors…I understand now. Thank you!