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I CRIED TODAY!

 

Today is “National Widows Day”

And

I cried today

But

I did not cry because I am a widow

Even though I am a widow

But

I did not cry today

Because he is no longer present

I cried today

Because some people took the time to say,

“You are not forgotten”

I did not know that tender place existed

Until

“You are not forgotten”

It is so easy for widows to be lost in the fog of grief

I do not mean a widow loses her way because of her grief

Though this is possible

The journey on the path of the new normal can be quite circuitous

Fraught with fear of the unknown

Strengths to be discovered

Obstacles to overcome

Courage to be cultivated

But this is not what I mean

When I say a widow is often shrouded in the fog of grief

I mean too often others lose sight of her because of her grief

Unable to relate to the loss

Or her struggle in the loss

They lose sight of her because of her grief

Familiar voices no longer call out to her

Familiar faces fade away

Memories are sometimes her only recourse

But they too are painful reminders

Of forced isolation

That which is too often a part of mourning

Others try to construct a timeline

For her grief

As though they know what that timeline should be

For her grief

Married friends

Challenged by her singleness

Begin to exclude rather than include

They do not realize

That “single” only means to the widow

A double bed that now only makes room for one

The spouse’s name is no longer spoken

Unless she speaks it

The stories she so treasures

No longer told

Unless she tells them to herself

It’s the widow’s walk without the wail

Or a mournful claque

To encourage the grief over loss

The supportive recognition of her sorrow

Dissipates

After “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”

She is alone

Shrouded in her grief

As though she was buried

With her husband

“Donna, you are not forgotten”

Yeah, I cried today

For additional information about “Widow Wednesday:” http://widowwednesday.com/national-widows-day/

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GREASY LEGS, THONGY STRINGY SHOES, NO DRAWS (aka DRAWERS) AND WORSHIP!

I saw the thread on Facebook before I watched the “Kev on Stage” video. Apparently Dr. Juanita Bynum has taken umbrage, and passionately so, to some current dress trends of church women, especially those who stand in front of the church to lead the congregation in worship.

As a worship leader, I guess I am in her line of fire  I quit stockings long ago. They were expensive and were only good for one wear before a run would inch its way up from a toe or wind its way down from the crotch (should I say crotch in this post?).

I will admit it gave me some pause when I first went stockingless;  what would people say? What would they think? What would bare legs say about me as a woman? Would it be safe for me to walk down the street bare-legged, less known, into the sanctuary? Would I be accosted by hungry deacons on the prowl who might mistake my bare legs for solicitation? Would my bare and greasy legs blind the people to the presence of God? Would God dwell in a temple supported by bare and greasy legs? I don’t do stringy shoes or go draw-less so would my bare and greasy legs be more than enough to mark me with the scarlet “T” for THOT? Also, I don’t do greasy legs well. My dry skin absorbs lotion and coconut oil like they’re addicted to the stuff, so is bare-legged and ashy a minor fault? Is it okay for me to stay on the worship team bare-legged and ashy?

Okay, so the above is a bit of facetious hyperbole, but the thread and the video resulted in this blog.

I can see both sides of the argument about modesty and the believing woman. I get the concerns on both sides  But, listen Linda, listen (you too Joe), the external is no true indication of what’s happening in a person’s heart (but you already knew that, right?). This legalism of judging people by their appearance has got to go. How many times have we missed the opportunity to truly minister to someone just because they didn’t look right, didn’t sound right, didn’t dress right? How many broken people have left the church still broken because they weren’t like us and thus unacceptable for us to reach out to them? How many former members are now bitter church expatriates because of the banging of loud and hateful gavels by self-appointed church judges?

And listen, “Cash me outside” with Dr. Bynum’s colorful expressions in her rant  “How ’bout dah?”  Was there no better way for her to express her despair over these  greasy bare-legged stringy shoe wearing draw-less worship leaders  who are, apparently between services, doing the deacons over in the corner?

Donna, you’re judging, now.

Yes, my point exactly.

You see, I am more concerned about the worship leader  who stands in front of the congregation every Sunday to lead worship but has yet to truly understand the heart of worship. I am concerned about the worship leader who stands in front of the congregation every Sunday but has not yet been convicted by grace. I am concerned about the worship leader who stands in the front of the congregation every Sunday and relies more on a beautiful voice, the always on-key riffs, than the Holy Spirit. I am more concerned about that worship leader who knows all the songs but is barely acquainted with the Master.

To worship God is to value Him highly  When we begin to declare that one’s worship is not for real because their appearance is not up to our self-constructed standard, then our value of worship is sorely misplaced.

Maybe it’s time we all got back to the heat of worship as delineated in John 4.

“They that worship Him must worship Him in stockings, closed toed shoes and draws (aka drawers).”

Oh, that’s not what it says?

“How bout dah?”

Refreshment For My Soul

Originally published in Blog Magazine 3/20122013 Ford Explorer Sport

My 1998 Ford Explorer moaned like a wounded cow in heat all the way up that California Highway 99. The truck moaned all the way from Turlock to Livermore as I, taunted by the relentless rays of the sun that bored its rays through the windshield, frantically searched for an off ramp to the nearest mall. I was afraid to use the air conditioner in the truck because of the vehicle’s mournful wails, so I fought my way back to the Bay Area through those fierce waves of heat that shimmied up and down the highway with just the relief of the open window on the driver’s side because the window on the passenger side no longer responded to the remote push of a button.

It was a miserable and laborious two-hour trek that July Saturday afternoon. The repressive valley heat brusquely hitched a ride with me back in Turlock, and it continuously beamed at me from the passenger seat next to that unresponsive window. I was aiming for home, that fog shrouded air-conditioned City by the Bay home, still thirty miles away from Livermore, but I was frenzied for respite. I steered the still grousing SUV into the parking lot of the first available mall where I frantically poured myself out onto the pavement and stumbled as quickly as I could across the parking lot to the nearest air conditioned restaurant. After what seemed like an interminable wait in line, I tapped into the last of my energy reserves to crawl to the counter and order bottled water, a large Pepsi and a hot dog (my offering to the food chain god for a cool place to rest my heat dazed bones). I grasped the cold bottle of water to my breast and staggered over to the soda fountain to set the empty soda cup under the ice dispenser. I all but licked my parched lips as I pressed the cup against the ice dispenser and watched frosty cubes of ice tumble down, one by one, into the cup. I moved the cup over to the Pepsi dispenser and as my hands trembled I filled the cup to the brim with the icy brown liquid. I walked over to an empty table, sat down, and set the cup of Pepsi and the bottle of water on the table side by side. I contemplated them both for a second then exhaled slowly as I reached out to pick up the cup of Pepsi and lift it to my lips. It was so sweet and sharp and satisfying. The cool sweetness of the brown liquid flowing down my throat felt as though the heavens opened and angels descended to celebrate the return of one more wayfaring soul.

I do not remember how long I sat wrapped in cool satisfaction after that first sip, but each moment and each sip was like being in an oasis where cool breezes whispered through a circle of palm trees that overlooked a quiet pool of crystal clear water. But, no matter how satisfying that moment of relief was, I still had to go back to my moaning car to make the rest of the trip home.I dreaded the journey, but it was something that had to be done.

The times after the death of my husband felt like that parched trip home that hot summer day. There were times when I just was not sure I was going to survive the heat of the challenges that seemed to come at me one strength draining wave after another. The moments of loss seemed interminable as I dragged my way through each day, silently moaning over my loss and pain. As soon as I thought I had overcome the heat of one challenge, another scorcher would show up. Death of a husband, loss of a home, loss of a church family, loss of ministry circles, would it never end? Every time I found what I thought was a Mall of Respite, an Oasis of Refreshing, more heat shimmers would rise and the oasis would disappear. This is what I finally realized: When the fire of life threatens to consume me, I must rush to the Mall of Christ’s Care, to rest in the cool calm of His presence, to sit quietly and listen for His voice, and to lay every burden at His feet. In his Mall there is comfort and care, protection and peace. The key to survival: Christ, for in Him we can find rest for our weary and parched souls, always (Matthew 11:28-31).

Stream Of Consciousness 2

When did we stop telling the stories of our ancestors pride, resilience, determination and resourcefulness in the face of unimaginable adversity, violence and persecution? We would not be here if they, our battered and beleaguered ancestors, had given up. Some died by choice in the murky waters of the Middle Passage. Others died from disease incubated in the filth infected bowels of a dark-hearted ship. Some ran for freedom and died but their sprint spoke to the freedom of the heart even when the heart’s freedom was denied. When we stopped reminding the generations after us that we had overcome the lies of those who deemed themselves superior long before the ink flowed from a presidential pen; when we decided that “we have overcome” meant “never again, no more,” we gave them access to that void left in the souls of those generations after us and they filled it with their animus and their vitriol. They fed shame to our children through subtle conniving racism and our children’s souls were consumed by the darkness. As a result, our children/youth don’t value their lives or the lives of others because they’ve been told and shown by them that they have no value. There are turf wars over arbitrarily drawn lines of invisible boundaries of unowned turf because real turf was redlined, segregated and denied. Too many accept the bitter crumbs from their begrudging table because we have been told that’s all we deserve. We pull and point at one another because we have bought into the lie that it’s the few and not all who are worthy of a place at their table and the uplifted have disdained, forgotten and ignored the left behind because they are not like us, not knowing (or pretending to not know), that their seat , though in the house, is at the children’s table in the kitchen and they will never sit with the big boys in the dining room, not if the big boys have anything to say about it and they do because they have convinced the few that the big boys own the table and they should be grateful that they have a good view.

Our ancestors survived and thrived and pressed their way forward in spite of. They dared each generation after to wipe their tears with hope, to wrap their sweat in pride, to dare to stand on a foundation of dreams. They demanded of each generation after to pour wisdom and excellence into the next generation, to be prepared and equipped for the moment when that door would open and to never forget to look back to a history of strength, raw courage, resilience and determination, in order to keep moving forward in unwavering strength and defiant raw courage.

When did we forget?

#staywoke

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS

Once upon a time there was an internal refugee ban in America. Well, I guess you can’t really call them refugees since they were brought to the New World unwillingly. Let’s just say there was an internal ban in place in America, a quota filled by immigrants. Well, I guess you really can’t call them immigrants because they were chained and dragged to the New World. When they were brought over, before the Mayflower, they were labeled chattel and were viewed as such because their humanity was blithely denied. Eventually, 200+ years later, after much destroying of families and taking of lives enforced by the internal American ban, the war between countrymen broke out and then victory and then freedom (so they hoped and prayed) for the once stolen, a period of reconstruction, a renewal and rebuilding (so they hoped and prayed), a discovery of self and voice (always in place) but then the Feds left and the old attitudes, the old guard, seized power again and though they could no longer shackle the bodies, they built a wall of hate between them and those people. The wall, the internal wall of hate, the created in America internal ban, was even more rigorously enforced and the Feds left the local yokels to their own devices. Black codes morphed into Jim Crow and Jim Crow policed the ban with self-righteous polity.

“You can wash our dishes but you can’t sit at our lunch counters. You can raise our children but you can’t marry our daughters. You can sing those good old spirituals for us but you can’t sit in the pew next to us. You can cook our food but you can’t dine in our restaurants. You can wash our clothes but you can’t share the same water fountain. You can clean our houses but you can’t sit down and eat your lunch in our family dining rooms. You can be a teacher but not in our schools. You can be a preacher but not in our pulpits. You can be a student but not with current textbooks. You can buy our gas for your car at our stations but you can’t leave your gas in our restrooms at our stations. You can buy clothes in our stores but you can’t try on clothes in our stores. We demand your respect but don’t you dare try to look us in the eye. Bow and scrape and stay in your place until we need you to do what we deem beneath us to do.”

Yeah, there’s always been an internal American ban in place, a wall of red, white and blue hate embellished with a white cross. It went underground for a while, or so we thought. It was silent but it was still rooted in the hearts of those who never got over 1964, 20 years before Orwell’s 1984, but Big Brother (in his mind) was watching, waiting for the moment to seize power again.

2017 and everything is still everything.

They learned from their history.

Have we?

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IN LOVE AND GUILTY?

I love the fellowship of the saints in the local assembly. I love the fellowship of Destiny Christian Fellowship, Fremont CA.

I absolutely do not like to miss any service or study. However, there are times when circumstances will not allow me to take the drive I normally do not dread or think is too far.

Today is one of those days. I am just getting over a nagging cold. The power went out. The freeways are a challenge. As much as my mind believes that I am that young and fearless, fierce and courageous woman, time and tide reminds me it just ain’t so. Today, I am home, sorely missing the fellowship but having the wisdom to know my limitations.

Why do I share this? Because as I felt badly about not making my way to church, I realized it was out of a sense of guilt that I wrestled with not being present. I have seen the posts declaring that if you love the Lord this weather should not stop you from getting to church. I get the intent. It is well meaning, but we have to begin to measure why we do what we do and how it impacts the people who have a valid reason for staying home. Is there any glory to God if I show up just out of a sense of obligation rather than my love for Him and the people with whom I fellowship? Will my staying home impact my salvation or my relationship with Him, especially if I am pursuing Him daily, because I miss a Sunday?

I love the Lord. Is guilt about not being perfect supposed to be a component of that love?img_1882

I’m just asking.

MY HISTORY, MY PAIN

I posted the following on my Facebook page last week.I truly thought that all the news about the deaths of black men at the hands of police officers had not really affected me emotionally.

I was wrong.

“I woke up at 3 a.m. this morning. This time I took the cue and began to pray. I prayed first for the safety of my family. I prayed for the safety of that daughter who is often beset by anxiety that could look like a threat to a police officer. I prayed for the men in my life, that they would be surrounded by God’s protection, especially the one who is special needs whose actions might look like a threat, for that brother who has a hair trigger temper, for that friend who might just look like a bad dude. I prayed for a grandson, thanking God for something I never thought I would have to be thankful, and of which I have never been ashamed, his fair skin and blue gray eyes. I prayed for my nephews, that one in a state that is not so diverse, that his “difference” might not be seen as a threat and for that one in a city that is so diverse that each male of color might be deemed a threat. I prayed for me that I would not be consumed by fear. I prayed for us that we would continue to “march on till victory is won!”

I prayed for all of us.

All of us!!

I prayed and I pray:

God has not given us the spirit of fear…

Lord please surround us with your presence; fill us with your spirit and overshadow us with your love as we poor pilgrims of sorrow travel through this land. We look to you, O God! Hear our plea, attend unto our prayer.

My pain links to my history and your response to my pain links to yours!”

It may take a  minute for that last sentence to sink in so please allow me to elaborate.

The pain and sorrow and pain  I carry in my soul links to a history of sorrow and pain, the history of my family in America. The first link is the fact that I don’t know all of my history, that I can only go back so far before the trail leads to a dead end. I can only surmise that the first people through whose lineage I came did not come to the New World of their own volition. They did not just  wake up one morning and decide to leave Africa behind to explore new frontiers.

My sorrow and pain links to my grandparents who spent their lives eking out a living by working for Mr. Charlie and Miz Willie. My grandfather was a brilliant man, but that brilliance could only be played out as the superintendent of White’s Chapel A.M.E. church. I get my love of reading from him and every time I travel, I grab a Reader’s Digest in honor of the many stacks of those magazines I devoured when I lived with my grandparents.

If your pain links to my sorrow and pain because you can relate to my history, then your response to today’s racial climate will most likely mirror my response.

But if you can trace your lineage all the way back to those days of yore when your ancestors were exploring and raping and pillaging and escaping to freedom only to return to enslave those not so privileged, then your response will most likely reflect the privilege you enjoy today as you mock what you deem the extremism of my reactions with a cursory, “That was then, this is now. Go back to Africa if you don’t like it here.”

At some point you may just realize that my ancestors were never voluntary immigrants.

My pain links to my history and your response to my pain links to yours!

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My grandmother standing at the steps that lead into the tin roofed house in rural Texas.