Monday, August 31, 2009

Beyond Expectation...

A few weeks ago I posted about expecting great things from God. I wish that was enough. Actually, I don't. On the other side of the "Expect..." arch was an engraving that read, "Attempt Great Things for God." You see, it isn't enough to have our hands out to receive from God. We must be in a posture of expectation, but we must move beyond that. I believe that we must also be in a posture of attemptation. (Preachers are allowed to make up words. At least that is what my preaching professor said.) We were created, in the image of God, to magnify and glorify Him. That means that we have to attempt great things for God—things that will ultimately point back to a loving and holy God. We may excel. We may fall short. But there is nothing worse than not attempting at all.

So, today's post is short and sweet. I invite you to meditate on the images and ask yourself, "What great thing am I attempting for God today?" I take that back. That isn't the best question to ask. The better question, and the one I hope that you will lift up is: "God, what great thing would you like for me to attempt for you today?" Selah.

(Images taken by Donna Olivia Powell, 2009 at the Scarritt Bennett Center in Nashville, TN)

Revelations from the Labyrinth

Today I was in retreat with my Summer Shalom cohorts. We spent the day together sharing stories—insights, challenges, gifts, shalom moments, etc. It was an amazing day of communion, with God and with one another. One of the most profound experiences for me was when, after we ate a hearty meal prepared by the sisters of St. John the Baptist retreat house, we walked a labyrith. The Labyrinth is an ancient spiritual discipline practiced in the medieval church that predates Christianity. It has been practiced by seekers and disciples in various religious traditions. It is a mystical experience mirroring the spiritual journey that we find ourselves on. One by one, we entered the labyrinth, modeled after that 11 circuit labyrinth found in the Chartres Cathedral in France, and walked toward the center. At first glance, a labyrinth looks like a maze or a Ms. Pacman game. But the difference is, in a labyrinth you cannot get lost and there are no dead ends. You are always walking to the center, always on the right path. There are times when the center seems so close and a few steps later you are back on the outside.

We were told, before we entered the labyrinth, to walk in an attitude of prayer. So, before taking my first step I gathered my thoughts and focused on the prayer of my heart. My prayer was simple: "Lord, what is it that you would have me to do?" And so I walked, and prayed, and walked some more, and prayed some more. At some point I started to sing, first in my heart and then audibly, "Just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me, and that thou bidst me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come."

That was it. God wants me to come, just as I am, to love and seek and serve Him. The answer was as simple as my prayer—at least on the surface. Come. But coming to God isn't as simple as it seems, especially with all of life's distractions and attractions. Lord knows, I've been distracted lately. I've also missed out on the sweet communion that is only found when one bathes herself—when I bathe myself—in the presence of God. And so, I will come.

After that revelation, I still had some walking to do. I hadn't yet made it to the center. And so I continued to pray. I arrived in the center and thanked God for speaking to my heart. I placed all of my emotions before God—fear, anger, anxiety and the like—and asked Him to remove them from me so that He would be magnified in my life. And then I left. It was time to journey back out to where I had started. As I walked I found my steps were hastened. I was rushing out. (Typical behavior for me.) And then the Spirit whispered to me: "The journey out is as important as the journey in." Wow. What a word. I've been focusing lately on life after Seminary, but the truth is, although I am on my way out, I am not done yet. We spend so much time on the what's next that we don't relish in the what's now. I mean, I've been counting down the days until I leave for Tennessee, graduation, and my birthday. Those days will be here when they get here. But until then I have now to cherish and be better. And so, as I journey out of this place called Drew, I will pace myself, remember to breathe, and enjoy it as much as I enjoyed my walking in.

All that to say, prayer is not limited to Sunday mornings or on one's knees. Prayer is for anytime and anywhere your heart, mind, soul, eyes, and ears are open to hearing a word from God. And, if you haven't walked a labyrinth, I would highly recommend it. Each and every time I've taken that walk of prayer I have heard from Heaven.

(image taken from

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Give Me the Green Light...

('s not what you think. I promise. On my morning walk, as I was meditating on creativity and majesty of God and the array of greens I was seeing, John Legend's "Green Light" just happened to come on my iPod. Coincidence? I think not. It was confirmation that there was something special about the green and that I needed to write about it. As a side note, André 3000's flow is still off the chain. But I digress. On to this morning's post...)

From the dew covered manicured lawns to the half-eaten granny smith apple thrown by the wayside and the moss covered tree that stood as if it had been here a million years to the buds sprouting through the asphalt living to be seen, I could not help but notice all of the green around me today. Now, if you know me well, you know that I am no tree hugger. As stated before, I grew up in the concrete jungle of sorts. While there were beautiful trees growing in Hartley Park (my hangout of choice as a youngster), I fancied climbing the big plastic slide and red painted metal bars on the "Big House" over climbing trees. But this morning, the green—in all of its splendor—demanded my attention. As I walked, I tried to count the shades. After a certain point, I stopped trying to count and started taking in just how beautiful it all was. (There were way more shades of green than on the yarn color chart shown above.)

I have to admit, one of my morning devotional readings probably set the tone for my walk. The Psalmist wrote, "I will meditate also upon all Your works and consider all Your mighty deeds" (Psalm 77:12). I left my apartment ready to consider God's works and was met with an overwhelming amount of green. At times, we use the word green to describe something or someone that is inexperienced, naive, and gullible. Not so with the green I encountered on my morning walk. The trees and grass were wise beyond measure. They were teaching me things. They were reminding me of things I had once learned. They were encouraging me along the way. At one point I was climbing a hill that was so steep I wanted to call someone to come pick me up to drive me home (dramatic, yes). Anyway, as I looked up in the distance, there was a tree that stood solidly with the most inviting leaves I had ever seen. The tree was confident and assured. The leaves fluttered in the wind like cheerleader's pompom's cheering me on as I journeyed up. I couldn't wait to arrive at that tree—to make it proud. So I kept climbing, knowing that each step brought me closer to it. And when I arrived, I gently touched it in gratitude.

After my intimate sharing with the tree, I recognized how much I needed that tree in that moment to get through. But then, with labored breathing and semi-sore legs, my eyes were further opened to how much I needed all the trees and grass and flowers around me. Their life and work made it possible for me to breathe fresh air (and for oxygen to get to my muscles). They take what my body exhales, rejects, and considers toxic and makes something that sustains me. It made me wonder, "what I am doing to help in their sustainability?" Sure, I recycle. With the encouragement of my roommate, I even compost. (though I don't take the bins out, it smells awful!) But there has to be more.

So, even as I reflect on the splendor of God's creation and just how much green there is to behold, I am also left asking myself, "in what ways can you be a good steward over all of God's creation?" More to come as this question settles in and has its way with me...

(image take from

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Expect Great Things From God

In one of my times of morning devotion last week, I was blessed by the heartfelt prayer of the Apostle Paul found in the third chapter of Ephesians:

"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen." (3:20-21)

I was familiar with these words. Most folks who go to church and stay until the end of service are. It is one of the many benedictions—the utterance or bestowing of a blessing—lifted up as the people of God go on our way to journey through another week. Truth be told, I am sure I've taken these words for granted over the years.

It wasn't until I read Paul's words of prayer and blessing that I was reminded of my time at the Scarritt Bennett Center in Nashville. As I walked across their campus—watching the birds fly freely, smelling the freshly cut grass, and listening for God—I stumbled upon an engraving on an arch that read "Expect Great Things from God." I stopped and read the words over and over again. I prayed them. I meditated on them. I would have sang them aloud if there weren't so many people around (and I wasn't tone deaf). I photographed them to take with me. I walked away changed, knowing that I needed/wanted/longed to expect great things from God moving forward.

To be in expectation is to have your eyes open, ears open, hands open, heart open, mind open to the move of God in your life. It is to have received a visit from the Holy Spirit. It is to be pregnant with dreams and visions. It is to believe that the vision that lives inside of you will be birthed in due time. It is to know that what is inside of you is greater than what you have imagined. Expectation is predicated on faith--the kind of faith that gets Jesus' attention, moves mountains and pleases God. Selah.

I am expecting great things from God this year. Are you?

(Image taken by Donna Olivia Powell, 2009 at the Scarritt Bennett Center in Nashville, TN)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

“How does one become a butterfly?" she asked...

I'm not sure why, perhaps it is because I've spent most of my life—either as a student or teacher—in school, but August has typically been a month I spend in the cocoon preparing to fly. At times I've been forced into the cocoon, like the year when my Aunt Mildred passed away. Life as I had known it had changed. At times I have voluntarily gathered my things—Bible, journal, pen—and entered the cocoon. Those were the moments when I was anticipating and craving transformation. Whether involuntarily or of my own volition, the cocoon has always been a good place for me.

cocoon |kəˈkoōn|nouna silky case spun by the larvae of many insects for protection as pupae.a similar structure made by other animals.a covering that prevents the corrosion of metal equipment.something that envelops or surrounds, esp. in a protective or comforting way : the cocoon of her kimono | figurative a warm cocoon of love. ORIGIN late 17th cent.: from French cocon, from medieval Provençalcoucoun ‘eggshell, cocoon,’ diminutive of coca ‘shell.’ The verb dates from the mid 19th cent.

You have read how Oxford defines the cocoon, but I know you are wondering what does the cocoon mean for/to me? The cocoon is the place where I am changed. It is a place of growth and increased strength. It is a place of darkness of loneliness and sometimes pain. It is the place where my colors and wings are developing. It is the place where I complain about not yet being a butterfly. It is the place where I muster up the courage to fly. It is a place where I struggle and grow tired. It is the place where I write without ceasing. It is the place where I pray without ceasing. It is the place where, for all of the reason I listed above and so many more, I commune with God most intimately. It is the place where, despite the difficult transformation taking place, I am safe and secure. I trust that when I break free from the cocoon I will be stronger, more beautiful, and ready to soar. I will be a butterfly.

So, today, as I prepare to enter my cocoon, I share with you some pearls of wisdom that I've gathered over the years about caterpillars, cocoons, and butterflies (which, by the way, is the title of the dope mix CD that my bestie gave me for my 32nd birthday. It still gets much play on my iPod.) Enjoy!

"Just when the caterpillar thought that life was over, it became a butterfly" (Anonymous)

"You are destined to fly, but that cocoon has got to go." (Nelle Morton)

"If you want a butterfly, you gotta be a butterfly." (India.Aire)

"If nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies." (Anonymous)

"We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty." (Maya Angelou)

"Just like the butterfly, I too will awaken in my own time." (Deborah Chaskin)

How does one become a butterfly?" she asked. "You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.” (Anonymous)

"When the time comes for the caterpillar to change into a butterfly it spins a cocoon around itself. Once the cocoon is finished the change starts to take place. Everything about the caterpillar becomes different. What will emerge later on after a great struggle is not a caterpillar with wings but a new creature! It is a butterfly!" (Anonymous)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Musings: Updates, Words, Newness and Threads

I never wanted to be the kind of blogger who only wrote once a year or once a month. But it seems a month and some change has gone by without a single update to my blog—at least not one that I've finished and posted. It seems I've taken the title from time to time quite literally. Perhaps I should cut myself some slack. I mean, I have cleverly (and sometimes cornily) updated my facebook status. I have tweeted more than the birds in my neighborhood. (well, pigeons don't really tweet, I think they coo, but that's besides the point.) My journal, the blue and green and white striped one that I cracked open on flight 1021 from Laguardia to Charlotte (the first leg of my tip to Nashville) has been baptized, blessed, and will be laid to rest real soon.

As I type this, this is reading as one of my I'm sorry I haven't written in so long kind of posts. Really, it is not that. It is my feeble attempt to get some words out. I'm not sure it matters which words come out. I'm not sure it matters which order they come in. That reminds me, I've been talking with my niece K. Nichole about words lately. The conversation started with the discussion about the necessity of having a dictionary present when listening to Cornel West. (who I affectionately call Corneezy unbeknownst to him.) Somewhere, somehow, it morphed into a conversation about the great words I've learned while at Drew Theological School. Words like hermeneutic, epistemology, deontological, and my personal favorite, pericope. They excite me. Crazy, I know, but I love words. I'm looking forward to new words.

More than new words, I am looking forward to new things. I can't say much more than that new. This school year holds within it the possibility, no the probability, for amazing and exciting life changes. I'm talking about more than a haircut and color (though I will do that). I'm talking about the kind of newness that breaks into ordinary time and changes the course of our lives. I believe Tennessee was part of my newness, but I believe that there is so much more if I would be still...

Which brings me back to where the summer began. I had some still moments in Tennessee, but clearly restlessness and keepyourselfdoingsomethingness is part of the fabric of my being. Thanks be to God, those threads are being unraveled and a new garment is being crafted. There is that newness again. I cannot seem to escape it.

That's it for now.