My Fifth #PrayerofChristmas

waterfall at retreat center for Grace deacons retreat cropped

On the grounds of Tarrytown (NY) Estates and Conference Center in 2017

Gracious and Redeeming God,

Morning has come and we are grateful. Thank You! Thank You for the blessing of another day and another chance to get it right. Thank You for not counting our faults against us. Thank You for seeing past our issues and shortcomings to see our possibilities and our needs. Thank You for Your redemptive work that is still at work in us.

Fortify us on this day, O God. Grant us Your peace and restore our souls. For so many, this has been a “walking through the valley of the shadow of death” kind of season. Still others have cried out because it seemed like ruin was all around them. Loss has been compounded with loss. The chewing locust and the swarming locust and the crawling locust and the consuming locust seem to be making their way through the lives of Your people. Yet, we can celebrate because Your word says that You will restore all that the locusts have eaten (Joel 1, 2). Restore Your people today, O God!

Let there be new wine and new wineskins. Let there be living water flowing through us. Do a new thing in us and let it spring forth, spilling over into our families, communities, and nation! And, we, Your people who have been redeemed, will be mindful to give You praise, honor, and glory! Bless Your Holy Name! Continue reading

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My Fourth #PrayerofChristmas

Sunrise Myrtle Beach 3 cropped

Sunrise in Myrtle Beach, SC, Sept. 2018

 

Gracious and Sustaining God,

Hallowed is Your name! Thank You for Your peace that kept us through the night and Your loving hand that woke us up this morning. Thank You for the many ways that You show up for us throughout each day. Thank You for the reminders that You care for us and we can count on You to come through, even in our midnight hour.  We declare today that You are GOOD! Holy is Your name!

Today, we come before You lifting up those for whom the midnight seems to be lasting a long, long time. God, we pray that they would be enveloped by Your love. Your word tells us weeping endures for a night but joy comes in the morning. Yet, for so many of Your people, the clock seems to be stuck in the darkest hour of the night.  We pray for their endurance and strength. We pray for there to be a brook in a dry place for them. Let an encouraging word be said to them when they need it the most. Let someone else’s testimony of morning joy, of renewed hope, of peace that passes all understanding, saturate their very souls so that they can know that difficult circumstances are not the end of their story. Help them to run on to see what the end shall be! Continue reading

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My Third #PrayerofChristmas

sky after rain in Geneva

This photo was taken in Geneva, Switzerland, Summer of 2019. This glimpse of the heavens appeared after it had been raining.

Gracious God,

Thank You for Your grace that sustains us and is sufficient for us. Thank You for not leaving us to our own devices but instead showing us again and again Your love for us. We recognize that it is not because of us but because of You that we have been given Your unmerited favor. We often say Your grace is amazing. The reality is it is indescribable! Language limits our ability to express how good You’ve been to us! In fact, when we think about it, when we reflect on all You’ve done for us, our souls cry out, Hallelujah!

Thank You, O God, that You did what You did for us! Thank You that because of who You are, I can trust that my last blessing isn’t the last blessing I will receive on this side of glory! Thank You for looking past my own foolishness and seeing my heart, my potential, my purpose. Thank You for Your grace!

Today, I lift up Your people to You. We need You in ways that we have not needed You before. We don’t all have the same needs but we all need You this very hour. Continue reading

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My Second #Prayerof Christmas

morning Deep Creek Lake 2019

This photo was taken the morning of this post in Deep Creek Lake, MD.

Dear Gracious and Merciful God,

Thank You for the new mercies this morning. When we think about all that could have happened between last night’s going to bed and this morning’s rising, we say thank You! What a blessing it is to wake up recognizing that You did it again! Your hand of mercy has been upon us, Your grace is amazing! You are faithful and loving and kind! There is one more day in the rearview mirror and another right in front of us! Thank You for this new day.

Today, I am mindful of the beauty of Your creation. The heavens do declare Your glory and the mountains give us a glimpse of Your majesty! Who are we that You are mindful of us and that You consider us and hear our cries? Thank You, O God, that You are trustworthy and true! You are a Way-maker. You are a Provider. You are a Healer. You are a Deliverer. You are a Refuge and Present Help in the time of trouble. You are the Lover of our Souls. Thank You! We are grateful to be created in Your image and likeness and called Your very own.

Help us to be better stewards of all that You have entrusted to us. Continue reading

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My First #PrayerofChristmas

sunrise crop

Photo I took at Deep Creek Lake, December 2018

Gracious and Loving God,

On this first day of Christmas, we give You thanks and praise for the birth of Jesus– Immanuel! Thank You for being with us! Thank You for coming into this world, a refugee born in a lowly manger, and turning it upside down! We give You thanks today!

We thank You that our season of expectation has not gone unanswered. You have heard our cries and pitied our moans. We have been waiting with great anticipation for a Savior to be born. Thank You, Lord, that Your faithfulness is without measure! We declare today that You are, indeed:

  • Wonderful,
  • Counselor,
  • Mighty God,
  • Everlasting Father,
  • Prince of Peace!

We celebrate today that righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne and that we are a part of Your plan to bring Good News of joy and peace and good tidings to this broken and sin-filled world! We honor and give You glory today! Continue reading

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Untitled…On Purpose

The morning after returning home from the breaking plantation, I participated in a Racial Reconciliation Bus Tour with an interfaith group of clergy. I wrote this reflection a couple of weeks later to share my experience during the One America Movement’s board meeting, where I gratefully serve as a member. 

Is racial reconciliation even possible? This is the question that my weary soul keeps asking and I just don’t have an answer.

Model schoolhouse at Franklinton Center at the Bricks, once a “breaking plantation”

I recently spent a day and a half with an interfaith group of clergy on a Racial Reconciliation Bus Tour through the great state of Virginia – a state that was once the home of the capital of the Confederacy. If any place needs a racial reconciliation bus tour, I imagine Virginia tops the list! I had just come from spending a week at a writing retreat with mystic social justice advocates in North Carolina. Perhaps the simplest way to describe a mystic is someone who is sensitive to the presence, movement and work of the Spirit, although that definition is debatable. The writing retreat was at what was called a “breaking” plantation. It was a place where white slave owners sent enslaved African people who had tried to escape to “break” them so that they would never try to run away again. The land was later repurposed to be a school for African Americans after slavery ended. However, signs of the brutality were still there, including a replica of a “Whipping Post” with a sign that ensured you were not confused about what you were looking at. No, this was no stage for a play, standup comedian or other entertainment. It was, in fact, a platform where enslaved people were brutalized and humiliated and where every effort was made to break their spirits.

Clearly, my emotions were still raw from this experience as I set out to do my part for healing our nation from the wounds of the past by engaging in the Racial Reconciliation Bus Tour, just over 12 hours after returning from the breaking plantation. Please do not try this at home.

Perhaps not the best decision I’ve made but I was committed to be present and to engage with other clergy colleagues. The assembled group was a good one from what I could tell with people who brought the right attitude and energy to make space for reconciliation to happen. Conversation was easy for the most part and our commitment to this difficult task was obvious. This helped but reconciliation was (and is) still a steep mountain for me to climb.

My state of mind and spirit are as much a part of my experience as the tour itself. Meticulously planned, the tour delve into the conflicted and tragic past of a place that treated other human beings as property. While I was grateful for a great group of clergy who I felt honored to be among, it was also incredibly hard for me to feel hopeful or optimistic. It was a challenge to be vulnerable with white colleagues again and again when I was feeling as if so much of the reconciliation work has been left up to those who have been victimized. I was struggling to explain how the vestiges of slavery are as much a part of our present as the air we breathe. It is intricately woven into the fabric of our nation, our neighborhoods, our systems, our psyche. And, even though it is as harmful and as deadly as ever we keep trying to repair the shredded pieces with invisible tape that doesn’t hold it together or hide the horrors within it. I wonder in frustration how it is that my white colleagues can’t see that.

Civil Rights Activists Dr. Lawrence and Gloria Campbell share their stories of the Civil Rights Movement in Danville, Va. with us.

Rev. Thurman Echols helped to host us in Danville and shared his experiences fighting for Civil Rights. What an inspiration!

Rev. Thurman Echols being arrested in Danville, Va. during the struggle for civil rights

 

Is reconciliation even possible?

Frankly, these days the cries for reconciliation are drowned out by my weary soul’s cries for justice and repentance and reparations!

Yet, I am a minister of reconciliation! This is what my faith teaches me. This is what my sacred texts tell me. This is what the Spirit reminds me:

“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-20

I don’t feel like the best ambassador for reconciliation on this bus tour. But, something in me will not let me lose hope. I go through each stop waiting with great anticipation for something to break, for something to happen that will mean that this Racial Reconciliation Bus Tour is different from the last one…and the next one. I wait with great anticipation believing that visiting the site of Richard Walker’s lynching will bring me more than pain. I wait with great hope and anticipation trusting that Danville, a city filled with a brutal past , will one day change and be a community where racial transformation can rise from the ashes of hatred and despair. I wait with great hope expecting that this time what will be broken is not the spirits of those who believed in freedom and their own humanity but freedom and humanity, justice and righteousness themselves will break forth!

I wait…

I wait…

I wait…

Praying that racial reconciliation is indeed possible.

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Posted in Civil Rights Movement, Equality, Healing, Hope, Inequality, Jesus Christ, Justice, Racism, Reconciliation | 2 Comments

Not So Easily Broken: A Week On the Breaking Plantation

There’s something especially cruel, horrific even, about a breaking plantation…as if slavery itself wasn’t cruel enough. You see, breaking plantations are where they sent the slaves who kept trying to run away. On the grounds of this one where I’ve spent the last week, is a sign: “Whipping Post & Magnolia Tree,” marking the space where the enslaved people were beaten into submission.

Or, so they thought.

Honestly, when I arrived, I looked around and texted a friend expressing my doubts about the place. I told her that I didn’t think I was going to be able to stay here for a week. The facilities are nice enough but there’s nothing around us, I texted. A city girl on a plantation is just not a good look.

And, the remnants are everywhere, it seems to me.

cottonThe ground is unapologetic and unforgiving. It gives testimony to the bygone era and demands to be recognized. Cotton bursts through the ground and taunts me: Somebody’s gotta do some pickin’!

To which my soul shouts back, Our pickin’ days are over!

The resistance of my ancestors lives in me.

Looking out across the expansive plantation the trees are mostly around the perimeter with large open spaces. Nowhere to run. No way to escape. These are the thoughts that capture my attention. How would they get out of here?

IMG_20190520_095151481Then there is that tree. The tree that is stripped bare. No leaves. Split on one side. Stripped of so much that once hinted at its full majesty. This tree stands out to me. This tree is haunting me and pulling on my spirit, begging to be noticed, asking me to pay attention to it. Did a strike of lightning seal its fate? Or, was it something else? For some reason, I can’t help but wonder if someone was lynched here. Somehow, that’s what I see when I look at that tree. Letting me know that pain resides in its limbs and the blood of the slaughtered saturates its roots. But, still standing and commanding my attention.

Selah.

There is a rhythm to the day here. And, the train reminds me of it and helps me to mark time. The train elicits the same response from me time and time again. “FREEDOM” rings in my ears. It seems to get louder throughout the day. FREEDOM is just through the trees. FREEDOM is calling and beckoning me. FREEDOM, O, Freedom! Freedom, O, Freedom! FREEDOM is near!

Is this what they thought about as the lash of the whip tore their flesh? Is this what crossed their minds as they toiled bent over in the fields picking cotton? Is this what they prayed about as day turned to night and night turned to day?trail off the plantation

 

IMG_20190515_174059197You see, there’s no way this place quieted or quenched the resistance in the spirits of those they brought here. I just don’t believe it. Fire kept burning in them and found new ways of living, surviving and growing because the fire would not die and they were not so easily broken. I can imagine that each attempt to break them only reignited the fire even deeper in their souls. There is no breaking us! Freedom, like fire, is shut up in our bones! We are still here! We will not be broken. We. Will. Not. Be. Broken.

YES! I know this for sure. Because the resistance of my ancestors lives in me.

Posted in Endurance, Inequality, Justice, Overcoming Obstacles, Racism, Slavery, Uncategorized, Violence | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments