Thursday, March 6, 2014

God's Dream for me...

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.  For the last two weeks, most of my spiritually inclined and spiritually curious friends have been talking about what they are giving up, during these great forty days before Easter.  On that great Easter morning, more than anything, I hope that I will have developed a discipline during this sacred time that will have gotten me just a little closer to living into God’s dream for me. 

God’s dream for me...Let’s ponder that for a second.  Yesterday I blogged for the first time is what seemed like eons.  I blogged about LOVE.  Love should be the driving force behind our Lenten discipline.  Often times we forget that we are the beloved of God, and that God does have a dream for us.  Danielle LaPorte poses this question.  “Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?”

I have friends that are giving up everything during Lent from Facebook, Twitter, red meat, alcohol, caffeine and Lord knows whatever else.  I applaud them for that.  Maybe you have chosen to give up something during this season.  Ask yourself…Will this bring me any closer to God’s dream for me?  What we “give up” does not have to be tangible or a habit.  My friends from New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore urged their Instagram followers to give up one of the following during Lent; fear, worrying about the outcome and doubt.  I would like to think myself an overachiever and try to give up all three.  Won’t you join me in giving up self-loathe and insecurities, if for only forty days?  We are the beloved of God and he has a dream for us.  Let’s walk in it.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Lent & Love

Holy Cow!  It’s Lent again!  The time of year when people pick up on resolutions which they let slide in January, forego certain indulgences and increase spiritual disciplines to help prepare themselves for the celebration of Easter.  Over the last week, my social media feeds have been buzzing about Lent.  From clergy friends informing the twitterverse that they will be preaching on Ash Wednesday, to people declaring that they will be MIA on Facebook until Easter.  My personal favorite was my cousin’s Facebook post “I am giving up lent for Lent.”

We are called to observe a holy lent and contemplate where our heart and treasure lie.  Before we go sauntering off into our twenty-first century wilderness for forty days to get a little closer to Jesus, have we really thought about why we do what we do during Lent?  Sometimes we have a knee-jerk reaction and sometimes not. Just last night, someone asked me what this “Ash Wednesday and Lent thing is all about?”   My Ash Wednesday message to you today is that YOU ARE LOVED.  Lent sets the stage for this amazing love story of the cross that dates back long before we were born. 

I was in church Sunday and the priest said my message is simply this “You are loved.”  There on the tail end of Epiphany, I had an “epiphany”!  YOU ARE LOVED!  As we start this season of penitence, let’s do all that we do in love.  Whether you’re giving up chocolate, soft drinks, profanity or alcohol, let love be your motivation.  You are the beloved of God, and his change agents for peace and justice in the world.  I challenge you during this Lenten season to not only go deeper in faith, prayer and perseverance, but go deeper in love.  After all, love is the reason that we are all here today. 


Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Rejoice?  Well this is a word that one normally encounters during the holidays and the expectant season of Advent.  I've already noticed the red Starbucks coffee cups with the words joy, celebrate and magic written in white letters popping up in my classrooms, the gym and other places about town.

My morning routine is pretty boring.  Stare at the clock in shock that it's time to arise for another day's work, catch the early morning news headlines, tell God thank you for another day, coffee, shower and if I'm lucky, I can squeeze in some before work prayer, scripture and meditation time.  I guess today, I was lucky.  I read through today's devotion of Forward Day by Day.  The reflection reading came from Nehemiah 12:43 "They offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy."  The opening sentence of the meditation was "God calls us to rejoice, even in the toughest of times."  That immediately resonated very profoundly with me.

You know, sometimes life will deal you a bad hand and you don't feel as though you have much to rejoice about.  It could be a medical diagnosis, the loss of employment, the loss of a loved one through divorce, death or estrangement.  I admit that at times like these, I don't have much joy and certainly am not inclined to praise my God in a high spirited dance of gladness.  Today in chapel at Saint Mary's, my advisee and current student Caroline delivered her junior speech.  In her speech, she talked about the gift of joy and rejoicing even in the midst of personal loss and grief.  I could only imagine what it would be like to grieve the death of a parent at the age of 14, but that has been Caroline's reality for nearly two years.  Although there have been joyous moments and overwhelming grief, she took time to share with her school community how she manages to find joy and understanding even in this life altering loss that she and her family have struggled to cope with and accept.

In our darkest moments, we are called to be a light of joy and shine out so that others among us might find their way, even though we are stumbling along with them in the dark.  The opening lines of James' epistle read "My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect , so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing" (1:2-4).  Rejoicing may seem like a long ways off for you.  But it is important to remember that we are people of hope and resiliency held together with the glue of love and faith.  I often tell people that even in the midst of our mess, God produces the best.  Rejoice!


Friday, October 18, 2013

Well, the dead has arisen!

Most people that know me really well, know that “The Color Purple” is one of my favorite movies.  One of my favorite lines from the movie is when Old Man Mister says to Sophia at the Easter dinner table “Well, the dead has arisen.”  If we look at the seasonal life cycle, we have the spring of infancy, the summer of youthfulness and early adulthood, the autumnal joys of middle adulthood and finely having adopted a bit more common sense and wisdom, followed by the sometimes bleak winter of late life and maybe even loneliness.

My absolute favorite season is fall.  I love it so much, I have a Pinterest board “Autumn, the new Spring.”  That sounds so oxymoronic.  How can the season which precedes the season of barren trees, lengthy cold nights and extremely limited day light hours be the new spring?  Albert Camus reminds us that “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”   Even in the midst of this climate and life change, we are called to enjoy the beauty of entering a new season of life, a new adventure and new possibilities with God.  For every fall, there is a winter.  Just as there is a morning after every night.  We are reminded in the Psalms that "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy will come in the morning the morning light."  

Autumn sets the stage for seasons of gratitude, love and charity.  As we enter this autumnal journey of 2013, think about the beautiful things that you have to be thankful for.   Think about those things that may have latched on to you during the spring and summer, and let them go.  Let go and let God move through you as his abundant graces harvested within you spring forth into a new dimension.  You may think that you are on the brink of death, or that you have no hope.  Beloved “the dead has arisen.”  Rise, there is work to do.  We have risen into a new level of glory and transformation for such a time as this.


Monday, June 10, 2013

What have you done for Him lately?

In Raleigh, today is Moral Monday.  Moral Monday is a day in which NAACP leaders, community activists and religious leaders protest and take a stance of justice for all outside the Legislative offices in our capital city.  Since the flush of spring, there have been hundreds of arrests made.  But why cause such a ruckus?  Let's just leave things the way they are.  The NAACP leaders and community activists are shouting out against laws that affect the poor and marginalized in our state.  They are speaking for those who are unable to speak and articulate for themselves.

In the bible we often read of accounts of the marginalized, especially women.  There are two examples that I want to focus on, one coming from the Old Testament and the other from the Gospel of Luke.  In 1 Kings, we are told the story of the widow of Zarephath, who was gathering sticks for a fire to use the remainder of her meal and oil to make a bread cake for her and her son and then, they would die.  Obviously, this lady was in dire straights.  Along comes Elijah, prophet of the Lord, who in his hunger and possibly a test of the widow's obedience begged her to make the bread cake for him instead of her son, and promised her that that her meal and oil would never run out.  The widow did as Elijah asked, and it came to pass, that the widow's only son died.  Elijah took the widow's dead son up to his chamber and prayed to the Lord, and the widow's son was resurrected.  Pretty miraculous, huh?

In the Gospel according to Luke, Jesus was headed to the town Nain, and rolled up on a funeral procession.  Here we have another widow who was mourning the death of her only son.  Jesus was moved with compassion, and told her do not weap.  He touched the bier, which could be likened to a coffin in modern terms, Jesus said to the young man "Arise" and the man sat up and began to talk.  Fear fell upon the people and they began to praise God.  As is the case with most if not all of Jesus' miracles, word quickly got out about this prophet that had arisen among the people.

What are these two stories telling us in the twenty first century?  The widow of Zarephath, was faithful to God.  In her lack, she blessed the man of God and received not only a material blessing of meal and oil, but the miracle of a resurrected son, as was the case with the widow of Nain, whose son, Jesus resurrected. My grandmother Annie, used to tell me. "Only what you do for Christ will last."  No matter how great or small, only what you do for Christ will last.  Janet Jackson had a single on her "Control" Album.  The song's title posed a simple question, "What have you done for me lately?"  In response to the widow of Zarepath's actions.  I want to lift this question to you.  What have you done for Him lately?  Him who?  The him that has raised to you to another day of blessings and opportunities.  The him who loves you.  The him who redeems and sanctifies you.  The him whose love enables you to see beyond the fault of others and be moved with compassion.  What have you done for Him lately, on behalf of someone who could not do for themselves?


Monday, April 1, 2013

He got up! So now what?

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! -- The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!

On Good Friday, we remembered the agony, shame and sufferings of Christ's terrestrial existence.  After he died, he was buried and left in the tomb for the completion of the burial rite after the Sabbath.   I'll be the first to admit, Christianity requires a lot of buy-in.  The Christian faith tells us that the divine loved humanity so much, that he sent his only son, to live as one of us, to shake up the first century world, and to be murdered.  Then -- it gets better.  Jesus was murdered and has been resurrected and got out of a grave?  No wonder people tend to look at Christians as if we're a little off our rocker.  That's some hard stuff for anyone to take in.  My Christianity is as much a part of my identity as my nationality, race and last name.  The Christian story of love and redemption is a difficult one to grasp, which leaves, even its most seasoned and learned adherents frequently questioning at length.  My favorite resurrection account comes from the Gospel of Luke.

"But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body.While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened."  Luke 24:1-12

The first time I recall hearing this gospel preached, was by my former pastor, The Reverend Kimberly Lucas.  I want to pose the same question to you that Jesus posed to the women, as well as Rev. Kim to the parishioners of St. Ambrose Episcopal Church.  "Why do you look for the living among the dead?"  Each day we awaken into the glory of God.  We are blessed with another opportunity to make a difference, to be a blessing to someone, to walk and talk with a stranger or friend.  At the same time, we are in a quandary of life and death.  We are walking into the new life that God through Christ has given us, but simultaneously trying to resuscitate the dead things that the Holy Spirit has liberated us from.  Why are we chasing the dead things that have us bound?  The failed relationship?  The lost job or home?  The hurts from the past, mingled with anger, bitterness and resentfulness?  Why are we looking for new life in this valley of death and dry bones?  

Beloved, the resurrection of Christ sealed the deal on an eternal kinship and adoption made centuries before our existence.  We are the beloved of God.  Because Jesus got up, we can too.  Our despair can arise into joy, our strife can be turned into unity, our bitterness and hatred into love and reconciliation.  Why do you look for the living among the dead?  As the old song reminds us, because Jesus lives, we can face tomorrow, all fear is gone and we know who holds the future.  Life is worth the living because HE lives in and through each of us.  Alleluia! Christ is Risen within YOU!


Friday, March 29, 2013

It is finished - Stations 13 & 14

One of Jesus' saying from the cross, or "Seven last words" was "It is finished!"  At this point, the crowd and the onlookers had gone home to prepare for the Sabbath.  The Roman execution officers had clocked out.  The disciples had probably gone into hiding, fearing for their lives.  Everyone in Jerusalem was probably talking about the crucifixion and the strange events that surrounded it that day.  To human understanding, this was the end of a very sad story.

In Station 13, Jesus' body is taken down from the cross, presumably given to his mother.  I could imagine Mary still in shock, horror and grief as she receives the mutilated corpse of her son.  She is now charged with burying him.  In Station 14, Jesus is buried in a borrowed tomb.  Joseph of Aremithea, was instrumental in all the logistics of Jesus' burial.  The women wrapped Jesus' body in linen and he was laid in a tomb, with the rest of the burial ritual to continue after the Sabbath.

Sometimes in life, we have to face some dead end situations in which it is obvious that it's over, done, and on to the next.  Sometimes in those seemingly dead situations, we realize that it is not finished, but rather the door to a new opportunity has been opened.  Often times pain, loss and rejection steer us in another direction.  A direction of hope, promise and potential.  Look at the seemingly finished situations in your life today and speak life into them.  We know that it is not finished.  Keep the faith!  TO BE CONTINUED!

Dear Lord Jesus crucified, help me to realize that the story is not over.  Your perfect work is not complete in me.  Help me to be patient with myself and others, as we come to realization that it is not finished, but just beginning.  Amen.