Monday, September 21, 2009

You've Got a Friend...

This entry was prompted by a conversation and time of (effectual and fervent) prayer that I had with Courtney, my best friend of almost 20 years, this morning as I walked the streets of Madison (exercising, y'all).

I've been in a funk for the last week. How low I've been isn't important (not now--another day, another post when the full testimony can be told). What is important is the love of friends that has picked me up, helped me to dust myself off, and carried me through...

This love/support has come knowingly and unknowingly. It came in the form of the simple, yet timely, text messages from my prayer warrior Toya. It came in the form of email guidance and prayer from Tracy, a beautiful sister who has seen me through much. It came in the form of a message from Aloma, who sent love and encouragement across the Pacific Ocean and several time zones. It came in the form of a call from an old and dear and fabulous friend Kem (who I haven't talked to in ages). It came as I followed the tweets of VIP/Globetrotter Shannon (who is always good for a pick me up). It came on Saturday when I attended the birthday celebration for a new friend/roommate Narshonna (where I jumped double dutch and played the Udu in an impromptu drum circle). It came in the form of a good (delicious and nutritious) meal prepared by Yvette (in the words of N. Lynne Westfield, "she loved me enough to cook for me"). It came in the form of an amazing lunch with my teacher/mentor/chaplain/friend Tanya. It came in the form of an encouraging chat over coffee with my sister-from-another-mother, Kimberly (who really does share the same birthday as my birth sister). It came in the form of phone calls from powerhouse and mochalatte Princess, my blood-is-thicker-than-water sister, who, though we talk in spurts, really knows how to make me put things in proper perspective (and she makes me laugh hysterically, too). Most importantly, it has come in the form of being wrapped in the loving arms of Jesus—my best-friend and heavy load bearer—every step of the way.

So, this post is dedicated to all of my friends, named and unnamed, who have loved me, lifted me, chided me, supported me, prayed for/with me, cried with me, laughed with/at me, dreamed with me, traveled with me, listened to me. I pray I have/can/will be/do the same for you.

(image 1 from the 1991 Rye Country Day School Yearbook, photographer unknown and image 2 taken in Memphis Tennessee in June 2009, photographer unknown)

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Reality TV Junkie & Womanist Response to the Real Housewives of Atlanta...

(this has been brewing in my head for a week. it may not make sense. it may. it doesn't matter much to me. i just had to get it out of my head and onto the page...) (in fact, I wrote this weeks ago and never posted it, but here goes...)

I feel like I always start my blog with, "If you know me well, you'd know..." Well, today is no different. This time the blank to be filled in goes a little something like this "...that I am a reality TV junkie." From the New York City loft with Kevin Powell, Heather B, and Julie to Top Chef, I have seen (and probably love) it all. Ashamedly, I admit that I watched the Surreal Life and all of its spinoffs through the second season of Flavor of Love. (I got convicted when, at the end of one episode of Flavor of Love, I noticed that the company who produced the show was called mindless entertainment.) I drew the line at I Love New York and Rock of Love and Real Chance at Love, but somehow got sucked into Charm School. I don't know, there was something hopeful about watching ladies who embarrassed themselves (and kissed Flavor Flav) get a chance to transform their attitudes and behavior. (Though it took some time and some never got it, but with Mo'Nique as your coach, well...) Here lately, Bravo has had some of the best reality TV that television has to offer—Project Runway (before the move to Lifetime), Shear Genius, and Top Chef. I mean, how great is it when reality show "stars" need real talent to win. Despite my love for Bravo's reality line-up, prior to The Real Housewivs of Atlanta (RHOA), H/housewives never appealed to me. I've always had issues with privilege (my own included, but that is another blog for another day) so watching excessive materialism wasn't my thing. Plus, I don't get the whole socialite thing. But this time the housewives (at least most of them) were Black. So, I tuned in...

In order to justify watching RHOA I used the excuse that I was doing a cultural study. I wanted to...My cultural study quickly turned into an evening event complete with popcorn, girlfriends, and commentary. We laughed and scoffed and gawked and tuned in the following week for more. We (okay, I) were disappointed when the season came to an end. We (me, again) were not invested enough to watch the housewives from any other state. We (you guess it!) were thrilled when NeNe, Sheree, Lisa, Kim, and Candy (I admit DeShawn was boring, but I do miss her) were slated to be on again. But five weeks into the show, I have to turn in my RHOA card once and for all. After the third episode, I knew I didn't need to be watching anymore. So I (as I sometimes do) made a grand declaration that I would no longer be engaging in the foolishness. But two weeks later, as the keeper of the cable, I opened my home up to girlfriends, copped a squat, and took it all in again. I don't want to get all deep with it, but the truth is, my spirit was uneasy as I watched. One of my girlfriends will tell you, there were times on that Thursday night when it seemed like I was trying to do everything except watch the show. I cleaned the kitchen, rolled my hair and deep cleansed my face. I would have ironed my clothes, but I hadn't picked them out yet. Finally, I sat down in one place and as the time passed the show got worse and worse. It was like a train wreck. Not the kind where you are a bystander not able to turn away. It was the kind of train wreck where you are about to get hit but you are so paralyzed by shock you cannot move.

All of that to say, I can't do it anymore. I won't do it anymore. If I am who I say I am, then I cannot support RHOA.

I want to see a show with Black women loving themselves, loving each other, and loving the world. I want to see a show where Black women are content with what they have—where material things are not part of how they/we define ourselves. I want to see a show with Black women supporting one another—career moves, education opportunities, family transitions, etc. etc. I want to see a show where Black female bodies are not being exposed and exploited, by us or anyone else. I want to see a show where Black women speak kindly and compassionately and lovingly to one another. I want to see a show with whole and healed Black women. I want to see a show where Black women are successful because of who we be, what we know, and not because of who we are married to. This isn't to say that I support any foolishness that goes on with the housewives of Orange County, New Jersey, and New York, but as a Black women with a grandmother, mother, sister, a niece, cousins, friends and (prayerfully) daughters in the future, I care about the depiction of Black women in the media. Our lives—my life— are at stake here. Selah.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Breathe. Stretch. Shake. Let it Go...

If you know me well, you know that I quote Biggie, Kane, Salt-n-Pepa, and KRS-One as much as I quote Jesus, Paul, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Obadiah. Hip-Hop Culture has been as much a part of my foundation as an minister/artist/scholar as Church Culture. I open with this truth because someone may be turned off by my title. If it helps, Mace was/is both rapper and preacher...

On to my post. In the midst of finally getting my breakthrough on the homework front (I've been struggling to find/buy/lease/borrow/steal motivation lately), I had to take a break. My Pastoral Care and Counseling CLass is all about trauma and resiliency in children and adolescents. Needless to say, the reading can be a little heavy. OK, quite heavy. Like tears welling up and without your permission and streaming down your face before you can stop them—heavy. Like memories from five, ten, fifteen, even twenty years ago flooding to your minds eye—heavy. Like each page require more and more of you and with each page you feel like you have less and less to give—heavy. Today, as I dove into my homework, I found myself emotionally taken. Instead of plowing through, as I would normally do, I stopped to eat dinner I had prepared a few hours earlier (BBQ chicken, broccoli, cauliflower, and brown rice). After dinner, I read a few more pages. Then I stopped to watch a few minutes of NCIS. Then I read a few more pages. Sensing a pattern here?

So, I stopped again, but this time I did what I knew was going to work. I grabbed my house keys and my iPod, pushed play on my "Worship Walk" playlist, and went out to pray in the fresh air. I had to, in the words of Puff Daddy protégé and preacher Mase, "breath, stretch, shake, and let it go." But more than that, I had to give it to Jesus. As I walked, I was reminded of Jesus' invitation to "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." I had been laboring, over a textbook about talking with children about death. But my labor wasn't a recent development. I had been laboring for a few weeks. Laboring to pay bills, laboring to find the strength to read, laboring to write, laboring even to pray sometimes. I was heavy laden with memories of DJ and Grandma and George and Neville—family and friends who had passed away all before I turned 14. I was heavy laden with the anxiety that comes with not knowing your next steps. Heavy laden with GRE Exam and Doctoral Program Stuff. Heavy laden with feelings of inadequacy, indecision, and isolation.

So, I walked and I talked with Jesus and somewhere between Vinton and King and Green Village Road I rested. I rested in the care of my Savior, who indeed cares for me. I rested, knowing that as I gave Jesus my hurt and grief and frustration and anger, that He exchanged each one for His love, healing, support, and joy. I rested knowing that even though I don't know what is next, God has a plan and a purpose for my life. I rested, knowing that God's grace will carry me (and equip me) anywhere God's will take me. I rested knowing that with Jesus, I am and never will be alone. I rested, and then I came back home and finished my reading.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

It's Not How High You Jump on Sunday Morning...

It is amazing how you can hear something over and over again, but one day it just clicks. It makes sense. It doesn't go in one ear and out the other, but rather it lingers for a while and has a way of changing your mind and heart. My God!

My pastor, Rev. Dr. Allen Paul Weaver, is a wise man. I am blessed to be a hearer of his preaching, a student of his teaching, and his daughter in ministry. He is a real teacher. His preaching is didactic, but not boring. He can jump with the best of them, but he reserves the jump for when it gets real good. In fact, he doesn't plan to jump. The Spirit moves him to jump. He doesn't put on a show when preaching, but rather he lets the Word of God excite him. And when he gets excited, it is genuine and contagious. But I'm not blogging/bragging about my pastor today, but rather I want to lift up something he said on Sunday morning...

Now, don't get me wrong, I love to have church. You know—hand-clapping, foot-stomping, hallelujahs dancing in the air, tambourines clanging, somebody just might break out in a run—church. I love when people are excited about the salvific work of Christ, when folks are praising God for just how good He is, and when people are expressing their gratitude in body and voice. Here is where the wisdom of Dr. Weaver comes in. He said, "It is not how high you jump on Sunday morning; It is how straight you walk when you come down." Can I get an amen?

So many of us put on on Sunday mornings. We jump and shout and run and wail and sing about love and then leave the sanctuary without being changed. We leave without having had an experience with the living God. We leave with the same old mess we came in with. We leave walking just as crooked as when we came in. But, as Dr. Weaver would say in jest, "Chile, we sure did have church this morning."

I don't know about you, but I am tired of having church and playing church. I want to be the church. I want to be a genuine follower of Jesus Christ. I want to be one who daily is being conformed into His image. I want to be one whose life witnesses to the redemptive work of Christ on the cross. I want to have a renewed mind—renewed by the power of the word. I want my life to bring glory to God. I want to, in the words of the prophet Micah, "to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.(Micah 6:8). I want to, in the words of Jesus, "love the LORD my God with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my strength, and with all my mind,’ and ‘my neighbor as yourself’” (Luke 10:27).

And, I want to jump and shout and run and wail and sing on Sunday mornings...but only if it produces a straighter walk on Monday morning.

(Amen Painting by Sheila J. Hall. Taken from