I have been so busy working in my doctor of ministry program and now the new pastor of a small historic church! Yes, it is quite a lot of work, but I love it! I haven’t blogged for a long time, so here I am, trying to get back into the swing of things. Not sure even where to begin, but here I am. I must say, when we put out in the universe our dreams and hopes, and believe that we are worthy of receiving the very things we ask for, abundance pours from every direction.
The amazing Sheryl Lee Ralph, reminded me of so many wonderful blessings as I listened to her acceptance speech, winning the Emmy for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy in television series, “Abbott Elementary. Ms. Ralph reminded all of us who find ourselves an “endangered species” that our voice matters and that we are not to sing a victim song. We belong! I cried last night, listening to her acceptance speech, thinking about all that I have hoped and work for, now coming into fruition.
Here I am! Beautiful, courageous and ageless. Here I am! Intelligent, compassionate and witty. Here I am! And I am good! Never give up! Know matter if you had a set back, no matter where you are in your life or what age you are in your life, never give up! Work on your gift, your purpose, because it is not for you! It is for others to see that they can, along with you, make this planet a better place to live!
What do you hear when your windows are up and there is a slight breeze coming through? Do you hear your neighbors gossip as they sit on their porches? Do you hear the cars from a nearby busy street? Do you hear children playing and laughing as they jump in a bouncy house placed for a birthday celebration? Do you hear the birds chirping? Do hear the dog barking at the squirrels running up and down the tree? Do you hear the video reels in the background of old Sopranos clips being played because someone in your household can’t let go? Do you hear your heart beat? Do you hear your breath? Do you hear space full with vibration that is safe? Do you hear life happening around you that is pleasant and assuring, with no thought of hearing sounds that destroy and murder? Do you hear the future of living in a world where gun violence in not the norm?
Do you hear children playing and laughing……? Do you hear?
The Dance of the Dissident Daughter A Woman’s Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine is bold and pleasantly frightening. Sue Monk Kidd questioning her spiritual journey and wondering if her Christian faith actually recognizes her womanhood and speaks to her directly, is a question I believe many women have asked, including myself, and what is so surprising is this memoir written over 25 years ago, is still very relevant today. Sue Kid Monk’s tenacity to deal with the question is one of bravery and begins the process to heal what she calls, “feminine wounds.”
In all honesty, reading this book was difficult because it tugged in those neglected spaces women usually just settle for, and at the same time, there is liberation taking place. Kidd gently forces women to truly focus on what roles they play in their faith journey and reminds us not to just accept the status quo as is, but that it is quite alright to search for a place that includes you and includes your worth. This book is for women who are ready to heal wounds caused by a Christian faith tradition that has stifled the voices of the feminine sacred divine. This book is for women who are searching for a rebirth in becoming who their authentic, beautiful and holy selves truly are.
There is a warning though that comes when you begin to open your mind to the The Dance of the Dissident Daughter. Don’t be surprised as you read Kidd’s memoir, that you soon remember a moment when listening to a sermon you didn’t agree with and secretly screamed out loud but kept the facade of a smile on your face to show your loyalty, or when participating in a women’s conference that somehow managed to include Adam’s rib into their description of women, and yet you kept that silly grin on your face, that you as well have participated in patriarch oppressive systems. You will come to the realization that you too might be ready to start a faith journey you can claim your own, but be further warned, with that comes labor pains that may take longer than expected, but the stretch marks will soon tell the story of a journey worth taking.
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?
Sitting here trying to figure out what to blog about today. Crazy. I have not blogged in two weeks. Not because I didn’t want to, I got busy, life happened and well, no excuses. So, here I am, with nothing to say really and I guess that is okay. It would be nice to find something to say that is positive and uplifting, especially now where we are again experiencing another virus surge, to mask or not to mask, that is the question. I, of course, think the answer is simple. Wherever we see our children, our little ones who are not vaccinated, the children who depend on adults to protect them, then for me it is obvious, wear a damn mask!
We are all tired! Got that! But exactly what are we tired of? Are we really tired of not doing everything our little hearts desire or are we really tired of taking care of each other? Which one? Did we realize somewhere along the line that this is what God’s aspires for us, to actually see each other, show compassion for each other, take care of each other’s need? You know, actually love my neighbor? Is this what we are tired of? Maybe we have discovered that reaching out across the aisle to save another person is not as scary as we once thought. Maybe we have also realized this kind of love comes with a sacrifice offering of egos. And just maybe the tiredness of it all comes from the struggle pulling us to what was familiar than now to this energy of love that is seeking to show us what is possible. And what is possible is near. What is possible is everyone having enough. What is possible is everyone being whole. What is possible is life!
So apparently I did have something to say today. We are all tired, but we can’t give up now. We can’t lose hope. We can’t lose faith in each other. I need you to survive and I pray you feel the same about about me!
“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!
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.
Today is cloudy and the fog is very thick. I believe, though, that the sun is shining behind those clouds, fighting to come through and will succeed.
Today is dreary and quiet. I hear no noise of children playing in the street. I believe, though, I will hear them again when the sun defeats the darkness.
Today feels hopeless. Watching those lost in the debris of an uncaring world. I believe, though, the sun will shine so bright, that we will have no choice but to look through the darkness and be forced to see our imperfections, but also see our possibilities.
Today we will discover that we are the light that shines, we are the ones we have been waiting for.