Sometimes when I start to write, I have an idea of where I am going but by the time I get to the end, I discover that my writing took me somewhere else. The other day, communication was on my mind. I  ended up writing about the Blues and trusting God with those Blues.

Most of the time, I realize that I went where I needed to go. But this time Communication would not let me go. For two days now, it has continued popping up. 

On Saturday mornings, I have been joining a beloved group of people from my regional church who are dedicated to pray together on Zoom. Our minister, Dr. Christal Williams, opened us with a time of letting us share what was on our minds, and one of the first words I heard was “communication.” This person said  she was praying for the protesters who wanted to be heard. The conversation went on to how we must trust, be authentic and open with God, ourselves,  and others. Stories were shared of recent examples of not being heard, which went beyond race, beyond gender. It went to different generations not listening to each other. It went to theological understandings of seeing and not seeing,  of hearing and not hearing,  of speaking up and of being silenced by outright backlash or by customs demanding it. It went to being weary and needing to be revived by Our Source. It called for communication with others and with God.

I still wasn’t settled; “communication” was rattling my brain, calling me to ponder some more. “I’ll see what the lectionary scripture is for Sunday, Matthew 10:40-42:  being received/welcomed is welcoming Christ, and welcoming Christ welcomes God. Being welcomed and being welcoming.

DYdxeg3CmSBHcL4NA (A picture taken In Little Rock on the first day of integration.)

I looked at some notes I had written three years ago while preparing a sermon on these verses. I had references to two books: Please Understand Me by David Keisey and Marilyn Bates and Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock by David Margolick. The first spoke of our basic, deep-down, human need to be heard and understood. Feeling understood is feeling welcomed and loved. The second book is a reference to the first picture above, showing the first Black students beginning the integration of Little Rock schools. Can you see the hate emanating out of the woman yelling? She later became an advocate for reconciliation between the races. She sought out the black woman trying bravely to ignore her while walking to school so she could apologize. The two moved from that apology to friendship and working together. The door was opened for true conversation, listening and hearing, working together to make a difference.

What kind of doors might open in our communities and nation if we begin to listen to one another with God’s love and welcoming spirit? (Picture taken at The Ecumenical Seminary in Matanzas, Cuba. The Cross represents people welcoming and sharing the love of God.)

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As last weekend was approaching, I was struck by how many things were going on: the world still reeling with COVID-19; violent deaths no longer hidden by the darkness of night, but exposed on video where injustice and hate could no longer be denied; Juneteenth celebrations commemorating the day that American slaves in Texas finally heard they had been emancipated; Father’s Day; World Refugee Day; the Virtual Poor People’s March; and several Woman’s Marches around the country.

I was praying about all of these and I was praying for those who would be preaching a word of hope, wondering what direction they would take. I remembered hearing Fred Craddock say that he generally found that the Lectionary Scriptures for a certain Sunday spoke to whatever might be happening in the world. I turned to the scriptures and there was Psalm 86: “Lord! Listen closely to me and answer me, because I am poor and in need. … My God! Have mercy on me! I cry to you all day long.”

I live in an area along the Mississippi Blues Trail. I’ve been hearing the Blues sung all my life, woes being laid out, to be dealt with, to hand over to God to make things right. Reading Psalm 86, a Psalm of Lament, opened my ears to the connection between the Blues and the Laments. People have been singing the Blues all along, demanding that everyone hear that what is going on isn’t right. The Psalms remind us that those Blues can also be sung to God, who created everything to be good. The Psalms carry an assurance that the Blues won’t last forever because God can make all things new, God can bring good even out of bad, and that God is making a way.

Singing the Blues is ultimately an act of faith, trusting that the troubles we are seeing isn’t the way it is supposed to be. Don’t hold your troubles, your family troubles, your nation’s troubles, even global troubles inside. Sing the Blues, join your voices with others singing the Blues, join hands in prayer, and then listen, and watch, and work together with the God of Love to make a new way, even now.

In the Twilight Zone?

I am now in my third day of trying to get my telephone number ported onto a new telephone. I have been told before that I have one of those anti-technology auras that makes things mess up. I’m beginning to believe it as I am now talking to higher and higher tiers of people in the company and we’re still at a loss. I’ll admit I have been through so many different emotions through all of this. I started out with understanding and recognition that the first person was probably new at her job. From there, I have gone through frustration, disbelief, anger, exhaustion. I told the lady that I’m on the phone with now that I walked into a Verizon store at 10:15 on Thursday morning and I apparently walked into the Twilight Zone. I wasn’t kidding.

I have a new appreciation of what is like to be oppressed or judged based upon your race, gender, country of origin, or any other exterior attribute. I haven’t completely given up, but it is hard to keep fighting even though I know it has to be done. There are times that I simply have to rest and pray and breathe deeply. At those times, I remember that I am talking to other people and that we are all trying to battle a computer glitch together. This has helped me to be nice and encouraging to those I am speaking with and they have expressed their appreciation.

I am reminded that my problem will eventually be fixed, one way or another. But many people don’t have that sense of assurance. They don’t know if they will survive or if their family members will survive the situations that they are in. Hopelessness and exhaustion can overtake them. A sense that it is better just to settle and make do can prevail.

Prayer is not just for resting and restoration. Prayer also is for us to listen to the call of Love. Prayer is the time to pay attention to dreams and to gather courage to work to make them come true. Prayer is a time to remember that we are made to be in community and that we must work together with the help of our Creator.

It would be nice to have all of the answers. I don’t. But I do know that prayer is the place to start. I hope you will join me.

Who Is God

Have you ever asked anyone, “Who is God?” I asked a group of third-graders that question and they suggested that God was an old man with a long beard like the famous painting by Michelangelo. I have also asked adults that question. Many have come up with the same image that the third graders did. Others have an image of God that is more like Neptune, ready to throw a spear or a bolt of lightning in judgment whenever they have done something bad. Some see God literally as a judge. Several see God as a father, caring for them. A few see God as a mother, nurturing them. Still others see God as a vague sense of universal energy. I’ve been reading a thread by several attorneys discussing whether the Higher Power of AA is considered God or simply something outside oneself. One friend of mine envisions God like her grandmother, sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch, waiting for her with arms wide-open.When Moses asked at the burning bush, the answer he was given was that God is I Am.

After much debate, the Church, once it was organized into an official structure, gathered leaders who determined that God is a Trinity:

  • Creator/Source/Father (Men were believed to provide all that was needed to make a child in those days);
  • Son/God incarnate (God in the flesh);
  • Holy Spirit (the breath of God giving life and help and moving everywhere, including dwelling within humans).

I believe that God is bigger than any box or name or any other limitations we can devise. Yet this “Mystery” draws us in, meets us where we are, treasures each and every one of us, sees our potential and seeks to help us grow fully into who we are meant to be. When we are willing to enter into relationship with God, we accept a responsibility to offer this same love and care to others in whatever way we are gifted and able. In doing so, we bring blessing to others and glory to God.

Our broken world is calling to us. God is calling to us. Let’s do what we are called to do and be.