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.
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!
Today I preached from the Gospel of John 6 chapter, which tells the story of the 5000 (plus because women and children were not counted). The Gospel of John is the only gospel that shows where Jesus uses a boy’s meal, five loaves of barley and two fish, to feed 5000 plus people. I am fascinated by the boy, who is not counted among the 5000, but is a participant in the ministry of Jesus. I love that Jesus has a child to teach us how to share with each other. I also love that Jesus shows us that we often miss what and who is right in front of us, that offers us provision and blessings, because we often look for something or someone greater, larger or popular. But Jesus uses a boy, a child, after asking the adults how can we feed the folks. The adults could not see the possibility. The adults even shrugged off the idea that the boy had enough to feed the folks. Jesus uses what the boy has, five barley loaves and two fish, and it is enough!
We have enough. We have enough to share with the world. We have enough to feed those who are hungry. We have enough to house those who are homeless. We have enough to provide fair funding in education that all children will have the opportunity to succeed. We have enough to provide health care for everyone. We have enough to end poverty. We have enough to offer love. We have enough. The question is do we see the possibility or do we act like the adults and just shrugged the thought of even trying. Can we be like the boy with the five loaves and two fish? Can we allow ourselves to share our enough? Can you imagine if I share the little I have, you share the little you have, someone else share the little they have, the possibility of all having enough. Come on, see the possibility with me! I believe we can make that little boy proud!
The word “faith” have multiple meanings. I am learning as I get older that what I thought was faith no longer applies at this moment in my life. I understand that faith will probably not mean the same for me ten years from now, which is good, because it means I am growing and constantly involving.
Faith does not necessarily equal religion. Faith is a practice that moves with us in the journey of life. Faith is what we create. I believe that faith is unique to the person and it is unfortunate that many of us have tapped into someone else’s definition of what faith should look like. We have tried desperately to be clothe in a faith that does not cover or fit. I remember when folks in church would say, “We need the kind of faith our grandmama’s had.” Why is that? Is it because we are afraid of our own struggles?
My faith, I create daily, even by the minute, I create faith. My faith helps me to arise in the mornings, not always cheerful, but always willing. My faith helps me to discover how I move in this world; if I am kind; if am giving; if I am loving. My faith comforts me when I am tired and allows me to sit and binge watch ‘Grace and Frankie.’ My faith fills my vase with fresh flowers and listen to the soulful sound of the late and great, Phyllis Hyman. My faith teaches me to pray in a voice that does not belong to anyone else and my faith demands to be heard. My faith does not harm or abuse or persecute others. My faith supports, offers justice and shows up for the well being of others. My faith is powerful, because I am powerful. My faith is loving who I am.
What does your unique faith look like? Does your faith expressively define you? Create! Grow! Create again! Your faith looks good on you!
On this Sunday, July 4th, it is rather quiet on my street. Families have left for vacation, many at the beach and I am loving the quietness. Sitting down to graham crackers with a slice of banana and a cup of tea, smiling to myself like I am getting away with something. This moment, this quiet, feels so peaceful. Should not I be waiting on some disturbance to blast from out of space and shake me to my core? No! This wonderful quietness is a blessed gift. This sweet, and holy quietness is to be treasured, so I will hold on to this fragrance as long as possible. In fact, let me share some of this quiet peace with you, my friend.
Find a quiet corner for yourself and sit. It does not require a chair, sitting on the floor will be just fine, but just make sure you can get up when it’s time. These old bones ain’t what they use to be. Bring a cup of tea with you if you like, along with some butter cookies. Sit and think about all the amazing and wonderful things you have accomplished. Things like teaching a child how to tie their shoes; making a holiday meal for your entire family; learning all the words to your favorite song and performing it at the karaoke bar; saying just the right words to encourage someone; waking up this morning and seeing possibilities that are endless. In your quiet corner, you notice how amazing you are. In your quiet corner, you see how powerful you can be. In your quiet corner, you discover there is a peace that shines within you. In your quiet corner, there is your Creator sitting next to you and applauding you for realizing everything you need is already within you.
Treasure time with YOU today. YOU are so worth it!
I never knew my Dad. Actually, I never met him but he met me. You see, I was adopted. My Dad never had a say in this adoption. I wonder if he knew he could have a say. It was 1959, the girl was 15, her Daddy was a pastor at the Black church, it was the South and the boy knew only to stay away.
They, who knew the story of my birth, told me my Dad stood at the window while my Mom pushed me out. In the country , black babies are delivered by a midwife in a grey wooden house, with one window, no back door, way back in the woods, where no one will hear the teenage mamas’s screams. They tell me my Mom passed out from the pain. My Dad stood looking in the window and the adults brushing him away, telling him to move now, he had no business there.
The other story is that my Dad found me, so they say. I believe them. They say I was about five or six years old, riding my tricycle in our front yard. It’s interesting that my adopted family was only twenty mies away from the grey wooden house with the one window, where the teenage mamas scream. They say my Dad drove in our yard, got out of his car, walks towards me, looks down at me and ask, “Do you know who I am?”. I guess I said no. In my mind, I can imagine seeing this tall, elegant black strong man, smiling at me with glistening teeth, a brightness in his eyes. This moment had to be so special for him. The man says back to me, “Well, I am your big brother.” They say I just rode away on my tricycle and my Dad got back in his car and drove away.
I hold on to these stories. I am so grateful that no one pushed my Dad away when he drove up in our yard to see me and speak to me, if only for a few minutes. I can only imagine how nervous he was and how grateful he was that no one stopped him from approaching me. I really wished I knew my Dad. He died. The last story they tell me was horrible. My Dad was killed by a police officer. I hold on to this story too. I wonder before he was killed by that officer, if he knew he had a say and if he used his voice to scream out, “I have a daughter who likes to ride her tricycle!”
There is a struggle as you embrace your authentic self. To “Be” causes one to look inward and not only deal with the awesomeness of you but also deal with the “ugly stuff” that has been placed in your mind, body and soul by others and yes, also by you. Often, to get along in this world means there are things we have embraced knowing that those things don’t feel right or set right in our spirit. Inwardly we know what is good but instead we choose what is not. It is even crazy that we choose what is not good because in actuality, we choose what is not good to be accepted and loved, until it no longer becomes our choosing but instead becomes a demand to be who we are not.
So how do you break out of a cocoon without the struggle? Sweetheart, you can’t without the struggle. The struggle is necessary because it is the push that keeps you moving everyday to love you. We struggle in relationships with our partners, our children, our careers, making ourselves fight for the people and the things that we love. It is not always pleasantries coming home from a long day of work to put food on the table or listen to our partners’s complaint of their day, but in this struggle, we find that dinner is served and we listen to their complaints. It is in this same way, that we must struggle to be and see that beautiful authentic self, because we love and care for ourselves the way we love and care for others. Because you are worthing fighting for; because I am worth fighting for. You are worth the struggle.
Learning to “Be” is taking the time to listen to your body, mind and spirit. Getting real with yourself; taking inventory of yourself; purging what needs to leave and watering the beauty that requires growth. The struggle will not always last because as soon as you realize how much you love yourself, baby, your walk becomes lighter, your head is raised higher and your arms sway with a stride that hits the ground and leaves behind glitter from your soul.
There is a new rising happening, not just in our country, but globally. We are beginning to hear new voices, new songs that resonate love and freedom. There are more people who are not afraid to stand with the vulnerable and ones that so-called Christians have deemed to be unworthy. In fact, we who are followers of Jesus the Christ, are taking back a religion that has been categorized as un-just, unloving, unkind, and just down right hurtful. We are working together for a just society, where all of God’s children are free, where all have enough to live, where all are loved and have a right to be loved.
I am a Christian. I am a follower of Jesus who stood before the hierarchy of his day and demanded health care for all to be well and enough food for all to eat. I am a follower of Jesus who spoke and stood with women whose society called them prostitutes and shun them when they were unmarried. I am a follower of Jesus who allows children to share their ideas with community, making room for them to lead. I am a Christian. I am a follower of Jesus who stands and speaks truth to power before a Roman Empire and the church that supports a government that bows down to the highest corporate bidder. I am a follower of Jesus who cries when black boys and girls, women and men, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Walter Wallace, Jr., so many more, are killed by police. I am a follower of Jesus who shows love and compassion to all, not based on their religious ideologies, but based on only love! I am a follower of Jesus the Christ. I am a Christian.
So in my voice to all of you who have the audacity to believe that health care will be provided to all, food will be plentiful for all, jobs will pay livable wages so that all mothers can take care of their children, there will be places that all can live and be happy, there will peace among nations, my children can love who they love, that we are endowed by the Spirit of our Creator to do all we can to make this world a more loving and safe place. I say to you, keep walking, don’t get weary!
We can do this y’all! I know there are moments, shucks, there are months, years, where many feel like we are constantly going around in circles. Reminds me of the Exodus story; Moses trying to lead folks who were complaining about nothing ain’t happening. Well, I got news for you. We still complaining, but we still walking, we still moving! Don’t give up now. It is better to love than to bow down before a wicked, unjust system. Keep moving, keep fighting, there is a great camp meeting in the promise land!!! That promise land is just around the corner!
Listen as the Fisk University Jubilee Singers (2020) uplift their rendition of the song, “Walk Together Children”, by Moses Hogan. (*I do not have rights to this music)