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.
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.
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.
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.