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 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!
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.
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.
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.
A place to find 40 days of saturation with assurances of God’s love for you. Hebrew Scriptures. New Testament. History. Prophets. Apostles and their epistles. God’s love is interwoven throughout God’s word. And it’s all for you. For your fasting days, for personal seasons of preparation or those prescribed by the liturgical calendar, like Advent and Lent. Who can have too much of the love of God?
Any 40 days. Be filled with the love of God! In fact, make yourself at home in God’s love. Enjoy!
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.