Sometimes God answers a question you didn’t even know to ask.
I no longer bound out of bed these days. I pray my way out of bed these days. I slowly sit up and throw my legs over the side of the bed. I sit there for a few moments to meditate on whether I should even try to get up. I must daily choose not be defeated by any geriatric state of mind so I slowly rise to stand even as cranky joints grudgingly respond to the call of the brain, “Get up, get up, GET UP!!! Slowly, inch by inch, I will myself up to my full height, whatever that looks like these days because as we age, we shrink, I think. I wobble into the bathroom for my thousandth visit since I lay down to sleep the evening before (I blame the blood pressure meds). I stare in the mirror and note the bedhead state of my hair. I can see clearly now since cataract surgery and I stare into a face that will greet me every morning from this day forward. I really did not understand just how diminished my vision was until the day after the surgery on the first eye and my face came into all its glorious focus. It took me more than a minute to recover. All I could think was a line the character Aunt Bee had in an Andy Griffith Show episode about aging, “You’re no spring chicken any more!” No spring chicken anymore. Nope, not anymore. My snapback has lost all of its snap and refuses to come back. It just limply lies there waiting for someone, or something, to push it back into place. My hair grows in gray and rallies agains any hair dye that tries to encroach on its territory. Crows peck at the outer corner of my eyes and chin whiskers grow at the speed of light as they defy tweezers. People tell me I don’t look my age, whatever they think my age may be, but my hands will not lie to save face. Birthdays insist on adding up and they refuse to stop showing up every year with another reminder that time marches on. My 18 year old mind is confused about my physical state of affairs and keeps sending out orders with which my obstinate body refuses to comply.
Still, grace continues to somewhat ameliorate the effects of growing older. I am still here, present enough to laugh with daughters, love on grandchildren and celebrate small victories. Ice cream is still a treat (always in moderation as is everything these days) and the hint of Autumn in the air wraps me with warm memories of yesterday. I move forward in the assurance of my faith which reminds me God still cares for me and He will take good care of me. I celebrate today because everyone, young or old, knows for sure (especially these days), that tomorrow is not promised to anyone of any generation.
“Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith “A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”
~excerpt from “Rabbi Ben Ezra” by Robert Browning
The fact of the matter is that everyone is aging no matter their age. We may not always be able to grow old gracefully every moment of every day but grow old we shall so come grow old with me — it’s all about mind over matter; if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. I’m good with that.
It had been a tough week. Emotionally drained, I dragged myself through each day! I felt disconnected, standing on the outside of myself going through the motions. It was a struggle to maintain any kind of momentum! I was caught up in the doldrums and I had no energy to stir anything up! Each morning I crawled out of bed in weary anticipation of the same kind of day.
But Sunday, Oh Sunday invited me into the new week with a full blown praise party in my car on my way to church. It was triggered by one nonsensical word spoken by a pastor in a service that was live streamed. That one word, “whoop,” sent me into a paroxysm of praise! I needed that moment. It was my moment of recovery but I still was not where I needed to be spiritually.
I had allowed my emotions to trump my faith. I was in fact dragging my faith behind me as I allowed my emotions to take the lead which led to the inevitable result, malaise and doldrums. I looked forward to nothing. I was excited about nothing. I wanted nothing. I embraced nothing. I expected nothing.
Then I picked up a flash drive onto which I had loaded some writings years ago. I inserted the drive into my computer, clicked and opened it. I immediately went to the folder labeled, “Gern,” my code word for Journal in case someone got into my computer and happened to come across it (as if their curiosity wouldn’t be piqued by this weird word). “I thought I knew what the journal contained and to some extent I did but I was not prepared for the rawness of the text, the pain and passion between each line. As I read those thirteen year old words, I had to ask myself, “Have you ever felt this way about the Lord?”
It was a revelation that my heart best so strongly for a person while those same kind of heartbeats for God were often moment based and momentary rather than lifestyle laced.
From time to time, when I am in my car, I listen to a Christian radio station that plays hymns in different slots of time. In the week following my week of the doldrums, I was driving and I tuned in to that station. A hymn played that I had not heard in years,‘I’d rather have Jesus.” At first I was locked in to the beauty of the arrangement and the singers. Then the question came to me, when was the last time I put Jesus first in everything rather than giving Him first place in a few things? How often have I intentionally surrendered the reins of my life to Him in all things?
I read the book, “in His Steps,” some years ago. I like the premise of what would Jesus do and tried to emulate the concept but as with all trends, that soon passed as a habit. The hymn challenged me to institute a “I’d rather have Jesus” mindset in all things, as best I could in this fragile frame of dust.
My journey begins now. When I reach out to try and hold on to people and stuff; when I try to control circumstances, when I put It or Them before Him, I will give it my all to remember, “I’d rather have Jesus.”
63 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
3 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
4 So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
6 when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7 for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
8 My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
“I’d Rather Have Jesus”
George Beverly Shea
I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold
I’d rather be His than have riches untold
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or land
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand
Than to be the king of a vast domain or be held in sins dread sway
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today
I’d rather have Jesus than vain applause
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame
I’d rather be true to His holy name
Than to be the king of a vast domain or be held in sins dread sway
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords
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?”
I met Grace and Frankie last year.
Septuagenarians coping with a new normal.
Divorcees who never expected three score and ten to include a roommate and dislocation from all that once was.
I have watched their lives unfold.
I have laughed with them.
I have cried with them.
I have been angry with them, at them and for them.
I have grown to love them as friends and contemporaries.
I have never met them.
You see, “Grace and Frankie” is the name of a Netflix series I discovered last year.
Played by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, the Anal Waspy Socialite and the Free Spirited Jewish Hippy Bohemian (who are radiant in these roles), they are an unlikely coupling as roommates but they find themselves having to run in place on the same track as they initially cast side-eye at one another.
Their husbands, soon to be ex-husbands, announce to them (around a restaurant table to waylay a scene, the husbands hope) that they are in love with each other, have engaged in an affair with one another for twenty years and now that they can, they want to get married…to each other.
Sayonara life as the ladies once knew and lived and loved.
Sayonara to a future filled with retirement and grandbabies and exotic trips around the world.
Sayonara yesterday, hello uncertainty.
I feel their pain, their sense of loss, their severed identity.
The ex-husbands move on with life as usual with the desired partner and no drastic unexpected changes (well, maybe one).
Grace and Frankie have to figure out exactly what is “moving on.”
This is not an attempt to review the series, and I suppose some of the material should be problematic for me, but it isn’t.
Instead, I want to talk about the “lossness” with which the women struggle, loss that is palpable throughout each episode.
Who wants to be seventy years old having to figure out the rest of their life, however long that life might be?
How do you pursue purpose at a stage in life when you thought you had accomplished pretty much all you were going to accomplish by that stage of the game?
Grace and Frankie stumble and fall, regain their equilibrium to move awkwardly forward like a blind person in a unknown space.
They have to learn to walk again, 69 years later, and they have to learn how to negotiate their own way through the rest of their life without fear hobbling their stride!
Eventually, they become fearless and fierce in pursuit of their own voice.
Real life Graces and Frankies take note.
Sometimes the end really is the beginning
I see you, Grace and Frankie I see you!
One day it hits you like that proverbial ton of bricks.
You are no longer a teenager.
You are no longer a young adult.
You are no longer middle-aged.
You are old.
Euphemistically, a senior.
More than half your life is behind you.
You could live your life celebrating the fact you are still here.
You could, that is, if America did not work so hard at thumbing its nose at you.
Doing its best to point out that wrinkles and gray roots are anathema.
Wisdom is no longer revered.
Emeritus really means out to pasture.
Pursuits of achievement and awards are relics from the past.
Expectations for more are rooted in yesterday.
Aging in America is too often the death rattle for women.
Wrinkles become the bane of the mirror.
Makeup settles into creases and crevices hitherto unknown.
Eyelashes and eyebrows betray her with gray growth.
Hair thins and arm wings flap.
Body parts that once stood proudly, now sit down, never to stand again without support.
A cougar when she relishes the company of a younger man.
An old fool if she is wealthy.
“Growing old is not for sissies!”
It is for those who have the courage to age in America without apology!
Come, grow old with me. . .
It was supposed to be just the one prayer
A single thought that demanded release
“I pray today
for the woman”
Just one thought
But each day
Morphed into prayers
Day after day after day after day
“I pray today
for the woman”
For a woman
I usually have at least one opinion about Black History Month, mostly based on my personal history and experience. I always made it a point to discuss this February phenomenon when I was a talk show host on RMG radio.
While going through some old papers, I discovered a poem I created from the thoughts I scribbled in a dark theater as I watched Tyler Perry’s movie adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s play, “for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf.”
I remember the uproar that surrounded Ms. Shange’s work when it first came out. The movie, from my perspective, brought the same intensity to the movie screen. This poem was my attempt to capture my raw visceral response, the emotions raised as I watched the story line unfold.
This is one of my Black History moments.
I do not know
what to expect
I walk into the theater
I know of the play
Ms. Ntozake Shange
I remember the turmoil
that swirled around her
around the work
of her hands
my generation’s un-uttered angst
written in plain view in black and white
I do not know
what to expect
when I go in
and take my seat
when I leave
what do I do with
put on blast?
the movie unwraps itself
and the stories
of the women
begin to wrap around each other
I hurriedly write
snatches of lines
thoughts that rush me
out of the darkness
illuminated only by revelation
this community called woman
must pay attention
to each other’s
“A deliberate coquette”
the line startles me
though it is strangely beautifully lyrical
a deliberate coquette
in street language
“I choose to be a whore!”
what pain can drive
a soul to self-inflicted despair
Promiscuity on Purpose
what am I do to
with that woman who has yet
to identify her
as she recoils at the thought
“another anonymous lay?”
“Raped by Invitation”
an oxymoron spoken
by a wounded soul who wraps
herself in a shroud
rather than reveal her wounds
she laughed and smiled and sat down and dined and dared
to invite a stranger-friend
into her sanctuary
because she trusted the message
My fellow theater voyeurs
in the wrong places
how many women laugh
in the dark
because of unspoken connections
to the object
of that laughter?
The desperate girl child
seeks the back alley abortion
the naive excitement
of a back seat sexual encounter
vanquished by desperation
unwanted life planted in her
that which her broken
“that growing inside you is sin”
so many stories tangled together
even as we women believe
we walk a solitary path
if we would just look up
we would discover
we are surrounded
mirror our own
“how are we still alive?”
hiding our scars
lest someone ask
“how did that happen?”
connect through pain
in the conflagration of life
connections that link us
to the next heart
that beats in sync
to the inequity
it is the pain
that makes us one
in the healing.