My one question for heaven

I had a friend about 37 years ago. She was a new friend, but we got along famously. She had come into my life through a relationship with a close relative and made a tremendous difference in his life, in his temperament and in his character. Who knew a woman could have such an effect on a man? I could never have imagined if I hadn’t seen it for myself.

Anyway, she was one of those people who exuded joy. She enjoyed her job. She liked being around people. She loved a good joke and loved to laugh. It was an infectious laugh that made you want the good jokes to keep coming so she could keep laughing.

And the one thing she wanted more than life was to have a baby. It was the one thing she’d always wanted, the one thing that would complete her world; especially now that she’d found love.

So imagine her ecstasy when she found out she was indeed pregnant. She wasn’t a real young woman so there were some concerns. She was a voluptuous African-American woman so there was the silent killer, high blood pressure. The things docs tell us about that we usually ignore. And she was so happy that she couldn’t be discouraged. Anyway the baby was already soundly in place and all was good.

Very near what should have been the end of her pregnancy, she changed medical coverage which demanded the change of obstetricians. So when she visited the new doc who discovered she was actually past her due date…discovered her baby was quite large (she was also diabetic) …and that the reason she hadn’t delivered was because the former doc had packed her womb to prevent early labor. Somehow all this pertinent information hadn’t been transmitted in a timely fashion.

The solution was simple. She was to have a cesarean section to deliver her baby that same evening. The same day. It was a Monday evening and we talked on the phone before she would go to the hospital and I would go to bible study at the church. She was ironing clothes, I don’t know why, and packing her bag for the hospital. All the while we were chatting and laughing and she was planning for the baby she couldn’t wait to see. The baby she couldn’t wait to take into her arms and finally embrace with all the love she’d been storing all the preceding years. She hustled around the house – no cell phones then so she must have had a long phone cord – and I bubbled along with her, sharing her anticipation and expectation.

So we finally said our “see you laters” and I went off to church. She, off to the hospital to deliver her baby.

And when I returned home, I was blasted with the news that indeed the baby girl had arrived, but in the process her mother, who’d waited her entire life for this tiny package, had exchanged places with her in heaven. First I was in shock. Certainly I was getting misinformation from my loving husband. It could not possibly be that since I’d hung up the phone and gone to church…in the short time I’d been gone…my new friend had died.

And then I was furious with God and had no qualms about telling him. I even declared this was the one thing I would demand an answer about before I rejoiced about being in heaven.

How could he have allowed such a thing? How could my friend have missed a chance to see and hold and love her baby? The one she’d longed for most of her life? How could the baby miss out on all that love? All that love? All that love that had been waiting for her? How could she? How could He? Why? What on earth could be the possible reason and rationale for such a thing? 

I was heart broken. It seemed so intentional, not at all random. So pointed, but what was the point? And after 37 years the pain is not nearly as poignant, but I still have no answers. What I do know is that God knows what I don’t and I trust him implicitly. But I still remember the pain. And I’m always delighted when I’m in the company of the young lady who never met her mother, but somehow embodies the same power, the same love, the same joy and is having a tremendous impact on the world in her own right.

Whosoever will

If you had been the only person on earth, Jesus would have died on the cross just for you. We can argue the theology, the semantics; we can exegete and eisegete the scriptures, but I stand on this because God gave it to me out of a vacuum when I had nothing to stand in its place.
As I ministered for the first time on my own, in an unfamiliar person’s unfamiliar home and neighborhood; as I wondered what on earth I would say to this person who faced death and looked to my eyes for a word…they do search our eyes for truth and sincerity. In that most uncomfortable moment, I heard these words come easily out of my mouth. Words I’d never before uttered. Words that seemed unreasonably familiar although I’d never heard them before. Words I would speak and write many times after.
If you had been the only person on earth…imagine how more easily we’d walk worthy of the calling with which we’ve been called if we got this. If you’d been the only person on earth God would have made a way for you to be in intimate relationship with him. A full bodied plan of redemption. Just for you. Just for me. Not to begin an intimate relationship, but to continue the relationship we had with him in heaven before we began our ambassadorship on earth.
Whosoever will. Let him come. And drink freely of the water of life.

A little something to make your Monday better.

Village Mothers #17

At the suggestion of Pearl Cleage, we speak the names of the legends in our lives, the larger than life people who’ve made our lives more livable.
It is our sacred duty to remember those who raised us because we were born to them, even more so those who assumed a vested interest in us just because…because we lived next door or down the street, because we landed in their classroom or on their community choir, because we became their Brownies or twinkle toed dancers.
It is an honor to remember all those who touched our lives in big and small ways, who saw in us that which was not visible, who deposited tangible and invisible gifts that enhanced our development and propelled us on to become the women we are today.
Our hope is to be those women, to continue the work they started and see purpose and potential in the young’uns who come behind us.
For those who so blessed our lives…
We are honored…as our parents might had said…we are duty bound…to
Speak their names.

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John tells a different story

John. The disciple Jesus loved. Son of Zebedee. He and his brother James, who Jesus called the “sons of thunder” laid aside their fishermen’s nets to learn to fish for people. His gospel is unique in that it focuses on Jesus’ relationship with people, making Jesus’ first miracle changing water to wine at a wedding. Not an expected place to begin changing the theology of the entire world. But for John the perfect place and situation. The family. Putting emphasis on the fact that every aspect of life and relationship is important in the eyes of God. Kingdom thinking. Kingdom living. And there are so many stories you will only find in John’s gospel, the wedding at Cana, the conversation with Nicodemus, raising Lazarus from the dead and. washing the disciples’ feet. The list is much longer, and imagine how the loss of these stories would have affected our perception of Jesus and his ministry.

Washer of feet

Jesus said, If I don’t wash you, you can’t be part of what I’m doing.” {John 13:8}

Love one another. Wash each other’s feet. Simple instructions. We still don’t have it right. Not completely. It was on a Thursday evening, a day we now call Maundy Thursday. It just happens I’m writing this chapter on Maundy Thursday, 2019. It was on the particular Thursday evening that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper as we now call it and the sacrament of foot washing.
When they were gathered, Jesus removed his robe and donned what we might call an apron. He then assumed the position with a basin filled with water and began to wash his disciples feet. He moved purposefully from one to the other. Washing the feet and drying them with his apron.
The feet that Jesus washed that Thursday on his way to the cross were not nearly so dainty and manicured as the ones we present in worship these days.
When he got to Peter, Peter protested mightily. But Jesus prevailed, instructing that if Peter didn’t submit to what seemed to him an unjust act of humility, he would have no part with Jesus. Peter got it, being the quick study that he was. Then by all means, he replied. Wash not only my feet but my head and my hands also.
Jesus did wash the feet of those who’d served with him for three years- those who’d left their families, their ideals, their life’s work – to become fishers of men. The disciples who’d walked with him from town to town proclaiming a gospel they were growing into day by day…a message they would be mandated to proclaim until the end of their days.

A little water to the soup

Anyone who has had to entertain unexpected guests knows what this feels like. Ever had to add water and seasoning to stretch a soup or stew? Ever had to add much bread to a meatloaf or burgers to make provision for six stretch to feed a hungry twelve? Ever been challenged by the hungry stare of your children’s visitors and the excited assuredness of your children? Want to stay for lunch? My mother will feed you. Is it okay?
This is that on steroids multiplied by Jesus’ determination to teach the disciples at every opportunity. Like us they easily lost lessons along the way. By the time of the second feeding, recorded in Matthew and Mark, they’d forgotten the first feeding and were just as perturbed as in the beginning.
When they told Jesus what they’d found, he instructed them to prepare the people to share a meal together. Even at this they had no idea how the little they had could possibly be stretched beyond anything their minds could imagine.
And the peculiarity in John is that he put the “found” food in the hands of the 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. {An excerpt from Jesus in the Key of St. John. PreOrder now on Books and other things page. Publication date April 20.}

An Exquisite Air of Celebration

We used to laugh at the little old ladies in the neighborhood who went to everybody’s funerals. Our childish perspectives couldn’t fathom them knowing those folks…we figured they didn’t have anything else to do so they went to funerals. And then there was the free food that was always good. This character…Funeral Mary…has been notarized even on television shows such as “Good Times,” with Wanda, with the on-the-spot tears and perfect funeral dress, filling the bill.

So now that I’m one of those women…notice the change of description…I know why “we” go to funerals. And especially now that we can travel digitally. No need for hats, funeral dresses, etc. In jeans or jammies we can share in the reading of the word; we can sing along with the great hymns of the church, we can remember along with the stories as they’re told. And. The air of celebration is exquisite. It is at this time that we are reminded of the ongoing, unmatchable grace of God. Collectively. The celebration, or rather the reason for the celebration is not strange. To any of us. None of us is making it without the grace of God, whether we acknowledge it or not. Whether we acknowledge him or not. Whether we thank him or not. It’s not strange. There’s nothing within us that can propel us onward, maintain our lifeline or authenticate the journey except the gracious hand of God. It is this that we have in common. It is this that we celebrate when we gather. It is this that we celebrate when we mark the moment of a well-lived life. Of a life no longer lived on this side of glory. Of a life now standing in reclaimed awe of the glory of the God who has graced it even before the earth journey began.