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It’s Christmas Eve

Foster kids always have stories. Have you noticed? When I was newly housed with my new family, it became apparent that crying was not an accepted behavior. I don’t think I had been a “cry baby,” even at the tender age of 6. Someone poisoned my puppy when I was about 4. I didn’t cry. Actually I think I was afraid of him. But I digress. My principal caregiver – my mother’s stepmother – got sick and had to be rushed to the hospital. I never saw her alive after that day. I was transplanted to the house of her son. While I knew him because of his frequent visits to his mom, I was not familiar with anyone else in the house. His wife looked at me with suspicion, or maybe it was fear of being saddled with me forever. Her sister, who had two sons, also peered at me, as if my coming could change her living arrangement. I didn’t cry. Even when I learned my grandmother had died. I didn’t cry.

When my sister and a cousin, I think, returned from an unusual trip to the playground – with Miss Arlene – and saw a huge dark wreath on the front door of my house. When we entered our dark house, in the middle of the afternoon, and saw a coffin in the living room with the form of my grandmother who I’d last seen before she’d gone to the hospital a week ago. When I realized she was really dead. I think I realized it. I’m not sure I understood in that moment. I didn’t cry.

So crying hadn’t been my habit. And yet somehow, the new family made it clear there would be no crying. It was said. But it was also modeled. No crying. No hugging. No kissing. No touching. No emotion. At all.

Even on my first Christmas Eve when presents were delivered by family members. Many family members. Many gifts. Some delicious gifts. Homemade coconut cake with three high layers. Homemade pies. To add to the goodie buffet that rested fully stocked throughout the holiday to New Year’s Day. No need for crying. Not until the Cousin came and said she’d left my gift in the car, after honestly declaring, “I forgot about you.” So I ran to the car with her, but there was no gift. And she said she’d bring it the next day. And she forgot. And every time she came, for more than a year, she’d say she’d forgotten. Too much forgetting for a 7-year old. But I didn’t cry.

It seems I learned through much early transplantation that crying was a waste of energy, my energy, that needed to be preserved so I could take reasonably good care of myself. Apparently I wasn’t going to be able to depend on adult people to put my needs first. Apparently I was going to be on my own. I would have to fend for myself. I would have to learn the ropes. I would have to be sure to breach no boundaries, break no rules, betray no emotions…or else. It was quite clear to me.

So I set up my walls. I wrapped myself with my own arms. I blanketed myself with the comfort I needed. I learned to be self sufficient and rely on no one to be “for” me. In the heart and mind of a 7-year old.

But today it’s Christmas Eve! And I’m no longer a 7-year old. And the very thoughts of Christmas make me cry. Almost everything makes me cry. The children who feel like I felt as a little girl. I cry for them, especially those who have hidden their tears away for fear of abandonment. The people who are locked away in government internment camps because they tried to save themselves from the tyranny that exists in their native countries. I cry for them. The people who are being killed for no reason. The people who are killing for no reason. I cry for them. The people with power whose hearts are cold toward those without power. The people who fear people who are different than they. I cry for them.

I also cry with rejoicing that it’s Christmas Eve. I cry with understanding that the Baby born in Bethlehem can still make a tremendous difference in the hearts of all people who will accept him. I cry with knowing that the justice he demands often invades the hearts of people before they even know it. I cry with love because the love with which he loves is infectious, it’s overwhelming, it’s beyond understanding or overcoming…and it’s available to everyone who will receive it. I cry with joy because his love is the great equalizer; it’s the one thing that can make a difference in this world. It’s what our hearts cry out for. It’s what our souls hunger for. Love without measure. Love without limits. Love without boundaries. Multicolored. Multilayered. Love. Love that will disarm. Love that will not harm. Undeniable. Unbelievable. Love. Merry Christmas! I love you! And you too!

Say so!!!

Are you a person of integrity? Are you of one heart and mind? Can people take your word to the bank?

Then say so!

Are you a gifted person? Are you gifted of God? Do you represent the best work of the Holy Spirit?

Then say so!

Are you walking in power, love and a sound mind? Are you whole in body, mind and spirit?

Then say so!

Speak your truth. Speak your Holy Ghost reality. Speak the word over your own life and the lives of others. 

Then say so!

In spite of what you see. In spite of what you hear. In spite of what makes sense to you. 

In spite of all that surrounds you. 

Say so! 

I am the daughter of God right now. 

Say so!

I am saved until the day of redemption. 

Say so!

I am whole in my body. 

I am whole in my mind. 

I am filled with the Spirit of God. 

Say so!

It is only in this way, with this constant confession, with this sanctified assenting that we can walk worthy now. 

Lifted beyond our lives. Gifted with transformed observation. Enabled to hear with hearts instead of ears. 

Say so!

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is…you’ve been set up!

You can’t fail. you can’t mess it up. you can’t miss the target.

The only requirement is that you do it. 

Ask and you shall receive.

Knock and the door shall be opened unto you.

Seek and you shall find.

The only requirement is that you do it.

The only thing you must bring is the intent.

And that’s simply to show that you care. Positively or negatively. 

He will perfect or complete those things that concern you.

You can’t go wrong.

God’s system is infallible. Just grunt in his direction. Just blink in his direction. Just have a thought toward heaven. Just glance at his word. Just breathe a deep sign. Just set yourself down in agreement. Just wave your hand toward heaven. Just pat your foot in contentment. Just nod your head in consensus. Just nod your head in understanding. Just nod your head in reception. Just nod your head.

And He’s got your permission to move, breathe, stop, start, heal, deliver, set free, detain, arrest, …whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven. Whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Whatever it is…comes under the unspoken contract of the genius of prayer.

That’s the bottom line.

God watches

Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands;

Isaiah 49:15-16

Can you even imagine that God is so intent on giving us his attention that he’s inscribed us on the palms of his hands? Keeping us ever before him and making our names ever in his sight. The Message bible says, “I’ve written your names on the backs of my hands. The walls you’re rebuilding are never out of my sight.” The Amplified bible says “I have inscribed [a picture of] you on the palms of my hands.” Think about the number of times in a day one glances at the hands. How accessible are the hands? They’re right in front of us most of the time. Glancing at the hands is an easy thing, not that God could forget us any way. Exciting right? No matter the imagery, the fact is the same. God loves us so much he keeps us, as well as our borders, in close proximity so he can watch over us and protect us.

Mercy me

O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good; and his mercy endures forever.

I Chronicles 16:34

Can we turn our attention to the mercy of the Lord that he extends to us…fresh mercy…every morning of our lives? My elders used to say the Lord’s mercy “suits our case.” Of course I had no idea what this meant when I began to hear these words as a young child.

But as I matured as a woman and as a Christian, I began to understand that as uniquely dark as my sin is, so uniquely overpowering is the mercy of God that overwhelms my sin with kindness I in no way deserve.

Fresh mercy tailor made to me and freshly renewed every day of my life. And that mercy never runs out. There’s no shortage of the supply. And there’s no shortcoming in my life that God’s mercy cannot overcome. Overwhelm. Beat down. And if this thought does not at least elicit thanksgiving then, back to the drawing board.

Mercy without measure. Mercy for me. Mercy for me every day. New mercy for me every day. Fresh unique mercy that suits my case, fits itself into every crack and crevice of my soul, makes me look like something other than what I would be without it.

Oh thank the Lord. Thank the Lord.

For the Lord is good; his mercy everlasting.

And his truth endures to all generations.

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}