I thought this picture of the rainbow was clearer and brighter than it looks above. I also thought I was going to write this post over a week ago. Sometimes things just don’t work out as planned. Last weekend, I was moaning (whining, maybe) about things breaking: the water pipes, the disposal, the blinds, the floor, the hot water heater, the air conditioning, the hedge trimmers, the phone, the computer, the scanner, the blade on the new lawn mower. I was feeling rather foggy and close to breaking myself. A song came on: “I can’t even do wrong right.” That pretty much summed up my feelings. Foggy Mountain Breakdown, a Bluegrass Classic, took on new meaning for me. No matter how much I told myself that I should be dancing to the music, I couldn’t seem to get past the feeling that my life was breaking down.
Luckily for me, I connect with people from various walks of life who have great wisdom. Several reminded me that things often have to break in order to get a breakthrough. Change has to happen to bring in newness. Out of chaos comes order. Troubles come, but there is more out there than just the bad stuff. Those who have faith, trust that the Creator is still creating and new beginnings are always possible.
Do I have any idea how we will get through the added difficulties of quarantines and little to no income? No. But I looked out the window and saw that while it was still raining, the sun was shining. The grey fogginess had rolled away. I ran outside and there was a full rainbow, the first rainbow I had seen since I moved to Mississippi. I’m looking forward to the breakthrough. How about you?
Earlier this year, I don’t think I had even heard of Zoom. Now it defines my life. Zoom meetings, Zoom classes and webinars, Zoom hearings – sometimes two or more at once in different “courtrooms”- , Zoom birthday parties and reunions, Zoom church. About the only thing we haven’t done on Zoom lately is grocery shopping, and there’s an App for that!
Zoom doesn’t only describe the online meeting spot, it also seems to define my offline life. Rushing to take the dogs out, to catch a child who has picked up something he shouldn’t have, to try to complete my to-do list, and to get emails down to a manageable number. I imagine that I am not alone in this zoom lifestyle.
How does one have time to ponder while zooming everywhere? How does one have time to savor the beauty and love of God?
A question arose in our Zoom prayer time yesterday about how Zoom or Social media sites can begin to convey a sense of God’s Presence when most churches are not gathering in physical spaces to help stop the spread of the virus. That sparked my pondering! I started thinking of the ways that people experience God’s presence. Oftentimes, it is through the love and acceptance of others. Sometimes, it is in awareness of the beauty around us, like when walking in the woods, standing on a mountain top, viewing a sunrise or sunset. Certain places may also feel holy to us. At our Church Camp, people turn off the car radio and roll the windows down when they turn into the drive to not miss a moment of the holiness. I used to be stunned how I would feel a sense of the Holy when I would go into little area where I went to Sunday School even after that area was repurposed. I wonder if those places feel so holy because of the love shared and prayers felt? I think so.
How can we share God’s love and be aware of God’s presence in the time of Zoom? My idea is by offering ourselves and welcoming others with loving hearts. God can work in any time or place that we say yes. Even through Zoom.
Somehow, when my physical being starts feeling worn down and achy, my brain wants to shut down as well. I woke up today really dragging, my throat sore, weary from pushing to make a lot of deadlines, knowing that there is so much more that needs to get done as quickly as possible. As much as I wanted to keep my nose to the grind, the rest of me yelled, “Halt!” It seems that my mind is not independent from my physical health.
With today being the Fourth Of July, the American Day of Independence, I have been pondering INDEPENDENCE off and on all day. Those who have studied American history know that when the American colonies won their independence from Britain and formed a new nation, despite a declaration of freedom for all, all did not have the right to own land, all did not have the right to vote, all did not own their own freedom. Each one of these rights was fought for as the country moved through time.
It is like a child growing up. Remember how exciting it is when a baby rolls over for the first time? Sits up? Crawls? Takes the first step? Maybe not as exciting for the parents are the later steps towards independence: deciding to not think or do like mom and dad, moving out, making their own mistakes to gain their own wisdom.
On this Fourth of July, it occurs to me that America has much to celebrate and also some places from which to gain wisdom. Victories have been won, expanding freedom, and more are ahead. Not many grow up without some falls and hurts along the way and neither will we as a country. What is it that children are told when they fall? “Get up and try again.” When our Nation falls or struggles, it’s not the time to throw blame or quit. It is time to get up and try again to be a Nation of the free and the brave, a land of justice and a belief in the possibilities of all.
Just as my mental state is tied to my physical state, those of us in each community, city, state, nation are tied together. Together we can celebrate those who have striven to give us independence and together we can take up the baton passed to us.
The scripture that comes to mind is Isaiah 40: 30-31 “The young will become tired and weary, youth will certainly stumble; but those who hope in God will renew their strength; they will fly up on wings like eagles; they will run and not be tired; they will walk and not be weary.”
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?
https://photos.app.goo.gl/RqLrQW8FkqiGNaPe7 (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.
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.