A Lesson from Squirrels

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.

There is no rush!

Be Well My Friends!

Rev JacquiP

Laughing Jesus!

My home is a happy, funny and spiritual place. Two pastors in the home can be quite entertaining, especially when you hear broadway tunes being belted out and our neighbor so graciously smiling instead of telling us to stop the madness! We can be a handful! But that is what I so love about us! My husband grew up Lutheran and I grew up Methodist. Both of those denominations come with liturgies, prayer books, catechisms, books of worship, crosses, banners, and so many other items that make up our religious tradition. We have some of those religious findings in our home, but there is one thing that we did not see in the churches my husband and I grew up in. A portrait of Laughing Jesus!

Laughing Jesus greets us with his squinting eyes, head tossed back in the air, mouth wide open, inviting us each day to join him in the laughter. Laughing Jesus is the joy of watching children run in the playground, swinging and hugging their friends. Laughing Jesus is the being of a young man who snags his first job, swags as he walks down the street, his headphones, slightly turned down, listening to the sound of his generation, greeting everyone he meets. Laughing Jesus is the couple who is now planning that wedding and getting the news that the venue of their dreams is available for the date of their nuptials. Laughing Jesus is the old man in the nursing home who now gets to sit outside in his favorite spot and smoke his pipe, without the staff knowing. Laughing Jesus is the high school senior who will experience a graduation this year and will beam from the podium as they try to quiet the noise from their parents in the balcony who are celebrating to the point of embarrassment. Laughing Jesus is the thrill of being able to see our grandchildren soon and hugging them, never wanting to let them go. Laughing Jesus is breaking free to simply breathe.

Laughing Jesus tells us to love boldly, to fly with no fear, to dream that impossible dream. Laughing Jesus gives us permission to have fun, to run, play and laugh so loud and so hard that the universe shares in the laughter. The humanity of a Laughing Jesus should tell us that laughing is divine. So maybe you don’t have a portrait of Laughing Jesus; you don’t need one. Just raise your head back, open you mouth wide, close your eyes and let out your loudest laughter! Keep that image of yourself locked in your wonderful brain. There you have your Laughing Jesus!

Be well friends! Love ya!

Rev. Jacqui P.

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!