Thursday, July 2, 2009

Ixnay the Weetsay Eatay...

I was up until well after 1am. I woke this morning shortly before 6am. Not cool. If you know me well, you know that I require eight hours of sleep in order to function. Quiet as kept, anything less than seven hours and I'm not a pleasant person to be around. Add skipping breakfast to that mix and you've got a recipe for disaster. 

Initially I attributed my sleeplessness to something else. Perhaps there was a lil bit of that factored in, but then I remembered that I had not one, but two glasses of sweet tea yesterday. Plus I had a brownie at dinner. I've gone almost a month without coffee or other caffeinated sodas. I've had wee bits of chocolate here and there. In other words, I gave myself the equivalent of an intravenous slow drip of caffeine. I'm sure I'll have the bags under my eyes,  later, to prove it.

Note to self, stay away from the Sweet Tea.

A Video Meditation: The Gospel of John

I created this video meditation for Dr. Melanie Johnson-DeBaufre's New Testament class at Drew Theological School in the Spring semester of last year. Images by yours truly. Music by Shai Linne of Cross Movement records. As the Apostle Paul says"Think on these things..."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Give Thanks...

My eyes, ears, heart, mind and soul have taken in much over the last four weeks. As much as I have received, I have also given. It is nearly impossible to ask someone to share their stories—joy, dreams, hurt, pain and anger without sharing your own. Sharing my story always leads me back to the values that my parents—John and Lois Powell—have instilled in me. I wouldn't say that I was an ungrateful child. Far from it. What I will admit, though, is that there are things that my parents said, did, or made me do which I never said "thank you" for. Why, you ask? Well, it was mostly because at the time I wasn't thankful. As I mature, I recognize the blessed wisdom that my parents had (and still have). When I work with young people, I realize just how important the union of structure, discipline and love are when raising a child. So tonight, I pause to give thanks to my parents for all of the things for which I am grateful, things for which I never parted my lips and said "thank you."

Thank you, Mom...
...for waking me early on Saturday mornings to clean the house. 
...for the sounds of Aretha and Otis that accompanied the smells of Comet and Pledge.
...for trusting me to go to the store by myself (even if I did often return with wrong items)
...for making sure my hair was healthy and always done.
...for making me sit at the dining room table to do my homework until it was done.
...for giving me a bedtime, even when I was a senior in high school.
...for working a second job so that I could attend NYU.
...for the Donna Olivia Powell permanent collection that you keep under your mattress.
...for being my amen corner when no one else will.

Thank you, Dad...
...for never allowing the word "can't" to be part of my vocabulary.
...for always ordering the latest volume of the encyclopedia.
...for allowing me to watch you balance your checkbook.
...for making me work for my allowance, even if it was just keeping your cup filled with ice and cold water.
...for working full-time until after I graduated from college.
...for still supporting me as I make my dreams come true.
...for demonstrating what a man—a husband and a father—looks like.

So here is to you, Lois and John...I love you and I am grateful!


I just came in from having dinner with a beautiful seventeen year-old young woman here in Gallatin. By most people's standards, she is ugly—disgusting, even. By most people's standards, she isn't going anywhere in life. By most people's vision, she'll never amount to anything. But the moment I saw her two weeks ago, I knew that there was something special inside of her and that she had a future with great promise ahead. So I invited her to dinner.

I picked her up promptly at 6pm. Later she joked that she thought that I was going to be late, because, well, black people are always late. I responded that I was an "on-time negro." We laughed. Anyway, when I arrived at her house, there was a gang of folk, mostly kids, outside in her neighborhood. As she walked out of the house, everyone stopped and stared.  Perhaps it was my New Jersey plates. Perhaps it was her outfit. Here was a young woman who I'd previously seen in too-tight, too-short clothes, but she got dressed up for dinner. Heels and all. It was clear from her walk that she was uncomfortable in her shoes, but she took the time to put herself together and I appreciated that. She had on an asymetrical top with one shouler bare.  As we walked from my car to Chili's, I noticed on a huge scar on her shoulder. Sadly, it wouldn't be the only scar I would see during the night. 

You see, she has a 2 year-old daughter, is a high-school drop-out without a GED, has two felony charges, and just got in trouble last week. She also lost her virginity to her father at the age of seven, has held that secret from the person she loves most (her mother), has been raped, miscarried babies, abused at the hands of boyfriends, and has been bounced around from home to home and state to state. She's been diagnosed bi-polar, is a cutter, and yet, she has a light inside of her that God allowed me to see. Her light is undeniably bright.

I didn't want to be fake with her. So I began the conversation with "I am a teacher, an artist, but I am also a minister. I want you to know who you are out with. I asked you to come to dinner with me because I see something inside of you and I know you've been through a lot in your short life. But I also know that you have so much more living to do and I want to know how you want to live your life." She went from being this hard-rock girl who scowled most of the times I had seen her to a bubbly, smiling, teenage girl. But still there were the scars—visible and invisible. During the time we spent together, she did most of the talking and I listened. I listened with my whole body—my ears, my eyes, my heart, and my soul. Peppered throughout our conversation were tidbits from my own life. She saw a well put together woman, but I showed her discoloration and marks that point to my own life scars. Surprisingly for her, we had some scars in common. I shared with her the liniment and salve that I used to heal. 

Despite her scars, she is hopeful. She wants more for herself and her daughter. She is a dreamer. I gave her some pointers on how to make what she wants happen. I encouraged her to take inventory of her life, including her so-called friends who don't have the same dreams that she does, and get rid of anything and anyone who isn't helping her to grow. I encouraged her, despite her past abuse, to recognize that her body is indeed a temple, worthy of love and respect. I encouraged her to forgive herself. I encouraged her to shake off her haters and to move towards the new life she envisions for herself. I encouraged her to walk in the light that is so desperately trying to break free. I encouraged her to hide her dreams in her heart, to write them on paper, to speak them aloud, and to measure every decision by whether or not they will help her dreams to come true. I encouraged her to believe God...

After cheesecake and brownies and almost being in tears, she and I left Chili's. I dropped her home. It was hard to leave her there. I wanted to take her with me. I wanted to show her something different. I wanted to take her under my wing so she could discover and develop the strength in her own wings. But instead I dropped her back to the place where many of her wounds were inflicted. Needless to say, my heart was aching. 

My heart was aching, but then I remembered what God allowed me to see within her. I remembered that scars are marks of wounds, burns and sores, but they are also signs of healing. Tonight, I pray that she will be completely healed—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I pray that her wounds will be reminders of how resilient she is. I pray that her scars will bear witness to how a life can be transformed. I pray that her scars will prevent another girl or woman, especially her daughter, from being wounded. I pray that one day, someone will love her, scars and all.