It took a pandemic for us to see this misogynist who spews his nonsense of racism, sexism and homophobia. I say “him” because let’s be clear, it is those patriarchal stuff-shirts in the church that brought harm to her. But she is persistent, she is a fierce to be reckon with, she cannot be broken. She never came to harm anyone. Her strength is to always welcome all God’s children without any judgement. Her arms are meant to hold and protect us from the wolves that seek to colonize and assimilate us into a mind of greed and perceived power that has no backbone.
She speaks. We are listening and returning to her. Not in glamorous buildings with elaborate window stains to a face of a Jesus who they chose for us to see. But she has shown us her sons and daughters through the acts of protestors who stand against police brutality. She has shown us her sons and daughters through those who feed the homeless and demand affordable housing. She has shown us her sons and daughters through those who fight against voter suppression. She has shown us Jesus. Her children are many. Her children are powerful. Her children is love.
The church is not dead. She is very much alive with open arms and a great big smile, welcoming us home! And the gates of hell shall not prevail against her. Yeah, I know, the Peters are fuming!
“It” is taking too long. This was suppose to be your year. You planned to show up for your best self, to shine so bright that people would notice your existence. Your vision board even shows that this was it. You unfriended folks from your Facebook account and and blocked those you did not agree with from Twitter. You placed yourself around positivity and refuse to allow any kind of distraction to enter your space. The space you created was to be a space of creativity, of joy, where nothing, absolutely nothing can go wrong. How could it go so wrong? This was suppose to be your year.
Why would life throw you a curve ball now, when you have done so much to walk and move in your purpose, your destiny, your dream. “It is taking too damn long!”, you scream to the top of your voice. But to no avail, the clock doesn’t move, the days look the same, the seasons just past in its’ natural beauty, which you don’t notice. The image of the world does not match the image in your mind. Your mind sees possibilities. Your mind sees togetherness. Your mind sees love.
I don’t know what your “It” is that you have been dreaming of, waiting for, dying for. But rest assure, your “It” is still close by. Even, closer that you know. True, everyday appears that we wake to disappointments, too many to name. And yet, our mind refuses to give up, our dreams refuse to die. “It” pushes us to live. “It” pushes us to see what can truly be. “It” won’t let us quit.
God created in a space a world where God imagined wonderful possibilities. All of “it” God claimed to be good, then very good. Can you imagine even in the midst of chaos, God would stop creating? Of course not! God is still creating in you. You wonder why you still care, why you can’t stop dreaming and just throw in the towel. You can’t stop caring, you can’t stop dreaming, hoping, laughing, loving, being. God didn’t create you to stop. You, God’s greatest creation with eyes so bright, can still see a future how God imagined life to be.
There is this song that I keep hearing in my head. It’s an old hymn sung in many black traditional churches in the South during the Jim Crow era. When I hear this song, I see the old but strong men sitting in the deacon corner and the women dressed in their white, as they prepare the table for the Lord’s Supper. I see courage in their eyes and an unbreakable spirit. I have been carrying this song in my spirit almost every day. I’m so glad that I am hearing it because it reminds me to stay in the fight for justice and freedom. This song reminds me to never give up and to never back down. You may not be a religious or spiritual person or even believe in a power that is greater than you. But I hope you have someone, a friend, your spouse, your pet, someone who loves you unconditionally that will walk with you through these troubling times. This is what I hear:
“I want Jesus to walk with me. I want Jesus to walk with me. All along my pilgrim journey, Lord I want Jesus to walk with me. In my trials, Lord, walk with me. In my trials, Lord, walk with me. When my heart is almost breaking, Lord I want Jesus to walk with me. When I’m in trouble, Lord, walk with me. When I’m in trouble, Lord, walk with me. When my head is bowed in sorrow, Lord I want Jesus to walk with me. (J. Jefferson Cleveland, 1937- Verolga Nix, 1933)
My best friend died. We are the same age. We often celebrated our birthdays together; only two days apart. Her birthday is today. When the news came of her death, I didn’t move, first tears came and then anger. Yes, I was furious with her. We had not seen each other in three years. I moved away. She promised to visit one year and then changed her mind. Our phone conversations were always about politics and theology. And yes, those two things, politics and theology, go together like wine and cheese.
The phone calls stopped. I would call and leave messages. She would not respond to my texts. I thought she was angry with me for some reason. Maybe for moving away? But others tried to reach out to my friend as well; her sorority sisters and her family members; her two brothers who loved her dearly; her lover who turned her away. My friend chose not to let any of us in with things that were causing her pain and sorrow. My friend chose to handle her depression alone. Police officers called to do a safety check. Placing her in rehab with hope that she could be saved. My friend gave up on life. Why? I don’t know. I wish I did. I wish she could have talked to me or found someone that would listen and not judge her. You see my friend was not able to show her authentic self until much later in her life. One day she decided to come out to me. “I’m gay”. My response, “Sis, I know.” That was all we said after that but I knew her road ahead would not be an easy one. We are both in ministry where often the place my friend would be judged will be the church which she loved.
When my friend loved, she loved hard. She gave all of herself away and this would hurt her. Giving away her brightness and smile, just so that someone would love her back in the way she so deserved to be love. All she wanted was love. The same kind of love that we all wanted when we are looking for that person, that one who would love us unconditionally, that one person who would wake up next to in the mornings, have coffee with, read the news with, grow old with. I can’t imagine that most of my life would be searching to be who and what God created. But my friend, most of her life, was in search of acceptance to what God had so beautifully created. A gay black clergy woman.
Today is my friend’s birthday. Today she sprinkles herself along the beach lines and dwells with the one who has truly loved her. Today my friend no longer has to search for acceptance. God accepts her and that I’m glad about!
Peace starts within. Peace cannot be found in material things. Peace cannot be found in the most splendid of a vacation, though I must say, it would be nice to relax on a lovely island right about now. Sorry, I digress. Peace is the ultimate gift that some will go to the end of the earth to search for but will not find it. Peace is what we are all wanting to experience during this time in our history. Would you be surprise to know that this peace that I speak of already resides in you? Yes, in you! If you have taken a yoga class or participated in meditating, the first thing you learn is to how to breathe, close your eyes and become aware of your breath. Yes, your breath. There is this soothing sensation that as you are experiencing your breath for the first time it is like your being is aware that your presence on this earth has a purpose. Your being on this earth is required for others to breathe, for others to find peace.
Before he was murdered, Jesus prepared his disciples for what they were about to experience. He tells them, “Peace I leave with you; then almost at a second thought, as to say no, that’s not enough, he then says, “my peace I give to you.” For someone knowing he is about to be murdered, Jesus turns inwardly and blesses those whom he loved. I believe as George Floyd breathe his last breath, he too, by calling out to his mother, turns inwardly and offers his peace to those whom he loved.
Imagine a world that speaks peace before a weapon is raised. Imagine a world that breathes out peace instead of greed. Imagine the world breathing in unison, aware of our collective breaths being present to give instead of take. Imagine the earth renewing herself, because we breathe life into her. Imagine a world that realizes our collective peace have the power to heal the sick, feed the hungry, clothe the naked. Yes, our peace, this peace which is a gift from God. This kind of peace you cannot get from the world. It’s impossible. In fact Jesus says to his disciples, “I do not give to you as the world gives.” This kind of peace is already in you.
So today, take a moment, close your eyes, breathe peace into your space, then breathe peace out in the world. Let’s make this place better. God is depending on me and you! Let’s not let her down!
“How long O Lord!?” I’m not the prophet, Habakkuk in the Old Testament, but I sure understood his frustration with all the insane things happening in his nation! He is a prophet I can admire, all of his transparency on full view who is not concern that because of his status as prophet he should appear stoic and together before the people of God, but instead felt like so many of us, lost, scared and angry.
For over four months we have forced ourselves to put on smiles. We have adjusted or minds and bodies to accept a new way of being. We have admitted that some people in our households really do get on our last nerves. We have not allowed ourselves to grieve because, hey, we are adults, with careers, mortgages, little children and ego. I mean, what would it look like to the neighbors if we lose it?! Seriously, what would it look like? It would look like an act of love. It would look like giving your neighbor the permission to cry in your arms, it would look like allowing the neighbor a couple of doors down to admit that they are not strong. It would look like neighbors coming together for the common goal to be well…to stop pretending…and be well. It would look like an ass-kicking community that refuses to look perfect. Prophets talking to God, being honest and humble, admitting that we need help.
In Habakkuk day it was the people, who because of their egos, created an environment that brought havoc in their land; that even pushed God away. An environment that allowed one to be concern only for oneself. This prophet cries out for them. Can we cry out for ourselves and for each other? When we are selfish, we cannot survive. It does not matter any way you slice it, when we are only concern with our own little piece of earth, we lose our ability to cry out for each other and even sadly, for ourselves. We lose the ability to live life well. We miss the joy of using our talents to create what God has so ordained us to do…take care of the earth, take care of each other. We push God away.
Our help comes from each other. Our help comes from the caring that we show and allowing each other to be able to scream and get angry, not towards each other, not towards God, but towards hatred, sickness, inequity, homelessness, hunger, poverty…that maybe when we ball up our fist together, we come together to gather ideas to make life better for all, to create a world where because of our frustrations with those things that divide us, that frustration leads to good change, because we are so ready for it to be over!
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.
We woke up again to a cloudy, cold and rainy day in Philadelphia. It is Sunday. This day we would usually find ourselves in our perspective church buildings gathering for worship. My husband and I attend different churches. We are both ordained clergy, he in the Lutheran tradition and me in the Methodist tradition. We practice our faith a little differently, but we come back to the centering of our faith, which is Love. This quiet Sunday has provided me the opportunity to meditate on why this particular day of the week is so needed during this pandemic crisis the world is experiencing.
It is becoming difficult to get up on Sunday mornings and not be able to head out to the church building where I get to see people like Sister Woods, who has a way of correcting and loving you at the same time. For those of us who grew up in the black church, you already can imagine a Sister Woods, so you know she don’t play! Sister Robyn, who is that true black “sistah” that carries the justice torch and will stand toe to toe questioning the scripture, forcing pastor to deal with the injustice so many don’t like to take in the pulpit; the young children and teens inspiring adults to do better because, well you know, we really don’t have this spiritual thing all together and the children are there to remind us that we are not all that smart. I miss sitting and singing songs of Zion with my folks! Now, don’t get me wrong! I do like the fact that I can stay in my pajamas all day, look at a virtual worship service, sing off key in the privacy of my bedroom and make ugly faces if I kinda don’t agree with the pastor’s sermon. And now, I find myself surfing on Facebook Live for community, for belonging, for hope and in my search, I have found so many wonderful worship services that have sparked me to think differently about Sunday mornings. And this is what Sundays bring.
Sundays offer us the opportunity to start over again. It is a beginning of the week where we can decide to do things differently than the previous week where we may have experienced stress, the frustration of seeing the hurt in people eyes as they formulate lines to either go in grocery stores or stand in food lines for long period of time; anxiety that is heighten when another first of the month is about to roll around reminding us that mortgage and rent are due soon. Sundays offer the chance to seek compassion and acceptance. Sunday offers hope, dreams and rest as we prepare ourselves for the coming week. We get another chance, to try again, to study again, to live again, to take another step and just maybe we will experience new possibilities, amazing adventures because embracing Sundays gives us clearer vision and strong will to continue on.
So I offer this to you. During this time where we are staying home, which is the most loving thing we can do for everyone right now, find a worship service online that speaks to your authentic self. If you come across a worship service that preaches hatred, racism, homophobia, sexism, white supremacy, log away! Find a worship service that speaks of love and only love. I am a Christian. But you don’t have to be. A community that embodies love is all that matters. Allow Sunday to become your new beginning that happens over and over again, gaining strength over and over again, growing in grace over and over again until Sunday is everyday.
A favorite song from my Christian tradition, written by Daryl Coley, speaks this way:
When Sunday comes My trouble gone. As soon as it gets here I’ll have a new song. When Sunday comes I won’t have to cry no more.
Every trial, every tribulation will be left behind – When Sunday comes.