Don’t y’all forget about us!

One of the poignant moments of our travels happened during a visit to my husband’s aunt in South Carolina. I think it was for his father, her brother’s funeral. As we were giving hugs and goodbye kisses, she said, “Don’t y’all forget about us.”

I’d never heard that as a parting request before. And yet more than 20 years later, it still echoes in my soul.

I learned through study of the southern traditions that this was said by those left behind when friends and relatives ventured north for freedom and even later, for relocation for education and jobs. A keepsake from the African notion of being tied to each other for eternity, this request demanded remembrance as an exercise to keep the bond alive. Remembering in the heart and mind is so much more than recapturing an event or a story. It is actually placing oneself again in the vibrant and organic relationship with those to whom one is bound. Even after death. Because death is merely life after life on the African continuum.

Even now this statement shakes me to the core because of the pull I always feel to remember the names of the children, the Black males especially, the folks who are slaughtered on our urban streets as if their lives don’t matter. I make a conscious effort to remember. It was easier, of course, in the early days when those deaths were still shocking and so few and far between. Tiffany Smith on Poplar Grove Street in Baltimore. There’s a silhouette of her on the street sign that bears her name. Three-year old James Edward Smith III who was having his first hair cut. We coined the phrase, “drive-by shootings.” So much easier when the shootings were few. Now the names roll in so quickly from all over the country that I have to stop and consider the conditions of their death in order to place them in my collection that’s growing too heavy for my heart and mind to bear.

Don’t y’all forget about us. Everyone wants to be remembered, to have been significant in someone’s life. And the remembering gives us completion even in the pain. When Jesus instructed the disciples to remember him, he linked it to something they would do on a regular basis – the breaking of bread. So simple. Every time you break bread, every time you pass the cup, remember me. Remember my love. Remember my teaching. Remember the sacrifice I’m about to make on your behalf.

And in return, when we bow at his feet in worship or in request for intercession from his seat at the right hand of the Father, we moan the same theme we’ve heard down through the years, from our grandfathers and grandmothers, from our aunts and uncles, from our neighbors and fellow worshippers:

Remember me. Remember me. Oh Lord, remember me. As if he could ever forget us. As if anything could snatch us from those nail scarred hands.

Oh Lord, remember me.

Fragments? Leftovers?

And the peculiarity in John is that he put the “found” food in the hands of a little boy. Apparently his mother had sent him off well prepared to follow Jesus all day long. She’d given enough food for himself and to share with someone else. He surely couldn’t have consumed seven loaves of bread and five fish by himself. Somehow the Spirit of God gave her a push that day to make sure she’d pack exactly what Jesus would need to feed every one of the five thousand who found themselves unable to tear themselves away from the powerful words Jesus shared with them.

So the disciples instructed them to prepare to eat. I’m sure they were equally curious as to how, great teacher that he was, Jesus was going to feed so many people. They sat “at tables” on the ground and spread something to receive the food they were instructed to expect. The women and children sat together. The men sat in segregated tables. And they waited. Obviously the background sound was the growling of stomachs that hadn’t been fed most of the day. And probably there were some growling temperaments. You know there have to be some in every crowd. And in spite of whatever their expectations had been, and I’m sure the disciples were as surprised as everyone else…everyone who was in attendance ate as much as they desired. And as the disciples settled themselves to recuperate from the miraculous challenge they’d endured, Jesus stopped them mid motion.

“Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.” {John 6:12}

Fragments? Leftover? How? Kingdom economy. We don’t ascribe to it because it makes no earthly sense. We don’t ascribe to it until we need a miracle, that is. Jesus demonstrates that the submission of the little we have can open us to be recipients of an abundant return our finite minds cannot comprehend. And it doesn’t just refer to the things we have, but also to who we are and the gifts and graces with which we’ve been entrusted.

{Excerpted from Jesus in the Key of St. John}

Pray what?

Pray what?

Ever been led to pray for something that made no sense at all at the time?

One morning I couldn’t resist the urging to pray for Herbie Hancock. I kept hearing the name as I had heard other names to pray for. But I didn’t know this one. The only one I knew by that name was the popular pianist, bandleader and composer and I had no way of knowing what he needed prayer for.

But I’d grown enough to know to be obedient to what I heard while in prayer.

Anyway, I prayed aloud and called his name. I prayed for his healing and restoration. And moved on to the next prayer.

After the prayer hour ended, the leader thanked me for praying for his friend who was seriously ill. And guess what? His nickname was Herbie Hancock. Who knew? Herbie Hancock recovered.

Maybe the musician got a blessing too.

This is precisely what praying in the spirit entails – even more so than praying in tongues. It is prayer that is completely directed by the leading of the Holy Spirit. This vital, inspired prayer can only happen as we yield all that we are in the prayer moment to the One who is the Divine Initiator.

This is the Day

This is the day

This is the day the Lord has made. Let’s rejoice. Let’s be glad. Let’s let go and be as children. Let’s laugh. Let’s dance. Let’s shout. Let’s tell the entire world.

This is the day.

Today is what we have. Tomorrow is a maybe. Let’s get it in today. Today is the gift. It’s ours. We can rejoice. We can sing. We can fill our space with laughter and joy. We can tell everyone we meet that we’re God’s children, that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. We can tell everyone we meet that the joy of the Lord is our strength.

This is the day. We can work. We can play. We can love. We can create. We can fill our space with peace and justice. We can stand. We can speak. We can walk. We can defend. We can share. We can spend. We can tell everyone we meet that God loves all his children and is no respecter of persons. We can tell everyone we meet that God is love and can be no other than love. And that we love him because he first loved us.

This is the day.

We might have no other. Let’s rejoice. Let’s be glad. Let’s be joy. Let’s be peace. Let’s be love!

Today.

{#36 from Mustard Seed Mondayz Too}

Have you heard of the Holy Ghost?

Remember, after all the training Jesus had done with the disciples, he instructed them to be still, to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Ghost. They were not to begin their ministry without Jesus until they were filled to overflowing with the power and presence of the Holy Ghost. Once this happened they would minister with every task enhanced, every memory provoked, every encounter perfected by the Holy Ghost, their helper. He gave them the appropriate responses for the people they encountered once they began.

“Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have I give unto thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk,” to the lame man at the temple gate in Acts 3.

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved,” to the high priest and council who threatened to silence them in Acts 4.

The Holy Ghost so powered their prayers that when they were finished, “the place was shaken where they were assembled together: and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spoke the word of God with boldness,” at the end of Acts 4.

Have you heard of the Holy Ghost?

The thing we all love about Baltimore

Joy abounds in the lives of those who can focus on reality rather than be bound by circumstances and statistics. This is the joy that propels the lives of Baltimoreans who cherish their neighborhoods and neighborhood leaders, whose eyes twinkle at the sight of white marble steps; who delight in community groups and their determination to flourish singly and collectively, who can’t help but laugh when they hear the laughter of the children; who press forward against negative opposition, whose hearts overflow with hope that will not be abated by statistics.

If you asked 100 people what they most love about Baltimore, you’d get at least 100 different answers. Some would respond with places like Lexington Market, the Inner Harbor or Fells Point.

Some would name Druid Hill Park, Patterson Park or Mt .Vernon Place.

Some would think first of restaurants…Ida B’s, Nancy, The Land of Kush or The Helmand or Tamber’s.

Others would name peculiarities of the city like our love for neighborhoods, fairs and festivities – AFRAM, Artscape, Jazzy Summer Nights.

It takes all of this and much more to characterize the city we love, the city we call Baltimore, and to explain why so many people wouldn’t live any other place in the world. Visit? Yes. But live? Not so much!

The writers of this book are no different. They love Baltimore and for most of them, it took real effort to isolate the thing they most love about this city.

These writers have penned their love for Baltimore and their hope that it will only, always thrive.

These writers have celebrated people who help, people who hope, people who will not be deterred.

These writers have spread their love for a city that usually holds a negative spotlight on the national platform; love that is not reduced by statistics, but is settled in an environment that continues to overcome and become the essence of its people.

It’s the thing we all love about Baltimore!

Can’t wait to get to church

One year I ran away from home to Hampton Ministers Conference on the Hampton campus in Virginia. Literally ran away from home. Hitched a ride with a friend going to visit her grandmother. She was returning just in time to get me back home. What a blessing!

But the additional blessing was the getaway at Hampton. I stayed on campus in a dorm and slept on a bed that felt like marble stone. But I was young then and my back could take it. And it didn’t matter because I actually didn’t sleep much because I couldn’t wait to get to church. This was my first Hampton conference and I didn’t even know why I had such a determination to be there. But I had. And I did. And here I was.

I made it to the afternoon choir rehearsal for the first morning service. I even enjoyed that. At that time all the worship took place in what became a tiny little place called Ogden Hall that eventually was used only for rehearsals and breakouts before the new conference center was built in the next decade.

So it’s Tuesday morning. It’s early. Not before day, but certainly at the crack of dawn. Prayer was to begin at 6 a.m. and I wasn’t missing a minute of anything. So I readied myself physically and spiritually. I was already on an emotional high that needed to be channeled. And I began my walk from the dorm to the worship center. I had no idea where I was going. But little did I know, that time, all I had to do was follow the crowd. Something I’d resisted most of my life. But this time, it was the thing to do.

All men, all women were headed to worship. Heads up. Bodies straight. Eyes fixed. Mouths smiling…as if there had been a conversation started that needed to be continued in concert with a whole lot of strangers. Everyone was on the way to worship. The campus was filled with preachers and pastors, teachers and leaders, singers and musicians, from all over the country…some from outside the country. Military leaders. Academic leaders. Church administrators.

When we entered Ogden Hall for service and were placed in proper seating for worship, this alto’s seat was as close as if I sat on the pulpit. The late Rev. Dr. Harold A. Carter Sr. sat nearby as did the now Right Rev. John Bryant, who was the morning preacher. So you know it was all right. The Rev. Dr. Cecelia Bryant introduced the morning preacher with these words, “There was a man sent from God. His name was John.”

The lector’s read scripture with energy and authority. The singing in that place was so incredibly rich and harmonious it was almost maddening. The depth of bass, the clarity of soprano, the resonance of alto and tenor filling center…this first timer was overwhelmed. It had all been worth it and the worship fulfilled the totality of expectation. The people had a mind to worship and the heavens joined in with consent.

It was Hampton and it was an indescribable experience.

And I thought about it this morning…nearly 40 years later…because today I have that feeling of not being able to wait to get to church. I’ve already spoken to the Lord quite a few times this morning, so it’s not about that. There’s something right when everything’s right and all hearts and minds are centered on the Lord of life.

Indescribable.

Incomparable.

Undeniable

Happy Sunday!!!