Thursday, April 29, 2010

Think on These Things...

Hymn of Promise by Natalie Sleeth (1985)

In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;
There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.
From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity,
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see

We sang this hymn in chapel today—my final chapel service as a student in Drew University Theological School. What a fitting song to sing in this Easter season, but also in this phase of my life. I truly feel like a butterfly emerging from her cocoon ready to soar...

(image taken from

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

'Twas the Night Before My Final Day of Classes in Seminary...

and I cannot believe I made it this far...
and I know that I've only come this far by faith...
and I am basking in the wonderfulness that is my life...
and I am grateful to God for all of this wonderfulness...
and I have three assignments between me and graduation...
and I must stop blogging so I can go finish one of the three (final sermon due tomorrow)...
but I must first say that I know that I know that I know that I am a preacher...
and I also know that I am not yet the preaching woman that I will become...
but I am grateful for the preaching woman that I have blossomed into...
and I've cried more tears in the last few days than I did in my first semester at Drew...
and these are tears of joy and hope rather than tears of frustration, despair, and loneliness...
because I know that I haven't walked this journey alone...

Because I haven't walked this journey alone, I must give God thanks for the cloud of witnesses that have been by my side—whether present or in spirit—as I have walked this walk. I don't want to name any for fear of forgetting just one. I am grateful for those who have sustained me, prayed with me, studied with me, hugged me, cried with me, listened to me, taught me, mentored me, challenged me, shared meals with me, walked with me, talked with me, sat with me, shopped with me, and preached with me. I am grateful for those who have conspired with me, aspired with me, and inspired me. I am grateful for those women and men who have paved the way for me. I am grateful even for those who will come after me.

'Twas the night before my final day of classes in Seminary and I am grateful!

Friday, April 23, 2010

I Ran Anyway...

I woke at 5:58am today. The sun peeked into my window and beckoned me to get up.

"But I'm tired," I said.

And then I remembered the magazine clipping that sits on my desk: "If you think you'll have enough time to run tomorrow, remember you said that yesterday."

So I got up and put on my running gear. Have I mentioned that I am training for my first 10k (and that it has been over 3 years since I entered my last race)?

Out the door I went. About three deer and seven minutes into the run I realized that my Nike+ Sportsband was not on. Seven whole minutes. That's like an eternity to a tracker like me.

Anyway, I fire up my sports band (it's not that serious really, I just pressed the button) and walked another .15 miles before I started to run. My training program had me scheduled for a 5 mile run today. Truth be told, part of me didn't want to get out of bed and it wasn't because I was tired. Although I am training for a 10K, the thought of running 5 or 6 or more miles frightens me.

I ran anyway. I ran down Woodland Avenue to to mouth of the Giralda Farms loop. I kept going down Woodland towards Treadwell Avenue. No sweat, I thought to myself (ok,maybe I was sweating, but the run wasn't so bad). As I approached Treadwell it dawned on me that in order to get close to my 5 miles that I would have to race the hill that I've only conquered once.

I ran anyway. The hill, really two hills on one road, tried to take me out. As I made my way up the first hill my mind and heart were belting out a chorus of "Please Jesus" that was so loud it drowned out Soul II Soul playing on my iPod. On the second hill I wanted to quit. I wanted to quit several times, but I ran anyway. And, thanks be to God, there was an angel at the top of that hill who encouraged me to keep on going.

As I reached the top, a salt-and-pepper haired—rather handsome—white gentleman was running towards me. The racism and classism in Madison makes the "runner's hello" unpredictable at times.** I smile and speak anyway.

"Good Morning," I said as I threw up my hand to wave.

"Good Morning, nice work up that hill!" he replied.

"Thank you," I gushed. (Which he couldn't see because he was dusting me at that point.)

Nice work up that hill! Yes, it was nice work, wasn't it. His encouragement was just what I needed to keep me going. So I kept running and running and running. Five—one, two, three, four, five—miles later I was at my front door and I had never stopped running!

I ran anyway...and I felt great! I felt strong! I feel like these thighs that I demonized for years are doing things I never imagined that could do. I feel like I will be able to run my 10k with ease. Heck, maybe I'll train for a half marathon after the 10K. Race or no race, I'm going to run anyway...

**I meant to post this days ago but I was so caught up with getting stuff done for school. On my Saturday run, I saw a sistah (code word: Black Woman) running on the loop. Approaching most white women and some white men is always awkward because not everyone is either happy to see me or socially inept enough to smile and say hello. Well, this sistah and I gave each other a virtual hug as we passed each other the first time. It was like a family reunion. I knew what I was thinking...a Black woman in Madison (rare in and of itself)...running (Praise God!). She was doing it, too! She made me proud and inspired me to push harder. On the second passing I lifted my earbuds from my ear and said, "You don't know how glad I am to see you out running!"
"Me, too girl. Me, too!" she replied as she chuckled. Black Girls Run, you know. We really do!

image 2 is from April 2007, my last race before starting Seminary
image 1 is a screenshot from the Nike+ website showing this morning's run

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Think on These Things...

A Prayer for Liberation that Leads to Liberating Love (1994)
Frank Madison Reid III

O God, who is a father to fatherless, a mother to the motherless, and a friend to the friendless, we come seeking fellowship with your power and peaceful presence.

In a culture filled with divisiveness, disconnectedness and domination, we pause for a moment of centered-cosmic Christian connection that will bring wholess and healing to ourselves and our world.

We take time right now to worship you, to adore you, to magnify you, and to praise your holy name. In the words of the Psalmist, "We lift up our eyes tot he hills from whence cometh our help, our help cometh from the Lord" (Psalm 121:1-2 KJV).

O God, liberate us from the domination of individual and institutional violence. Liberate us for the ministry of deliverance to the captives within and without.

Liberate us from a self-centered spiritual materialism and liberate us to serve the present age. Liberate us from building our kingdoms and liberate us for the Kingdom of God.

Now God, we thank you for your liberating love which redeems us, restores us, and revives and resurrects us. We thank you for the gift of love you gave us in Jesus Christ. We thank you that it is because of your divine liberating love that we are able to serve, to stand and have this moment of prayer strengthened for the journey of this day. Amen.

Reid, Frank Madison. "A Prayer for Liberation that Leads to Liberating Love" in Conversations with God. Edited by James Melvin Washington. New York: Harper Collins, 1994.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Listen Up, I Got a Story to Tell... (My Senior Sermon)

Sermon Title: Listen Up I’ve Got a Story to Tell

Text: (Matthew 9:27-31)

As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, crying loudly, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’ 28When he entered the house, the blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ They said to him, ‘Yes, Lord.’ 29Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith let it be done to you.’ 30And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus sternly ordered them, ‘See that no one knows of this.’ 31But they went away and spread the news about him throughout that district.

This is my story; this is my song. This is my story; this is my song. Fannie Crosby got it right, we are people with a story to tell. At night, after tucking our children into bed we tell them bedtime stories. On the nightly news, we get today’s top stories. Rev. Clay Evans said, “when I look back over my life, and I think things over, I can truly say that I been blessed, I have a testimony.” In other words, he has a story to tell. Most of you in this room can recall that in Christian Education we read Anne Wimberly’s “Soul Stories…” which helps us to see our stories alongside the stories of faithful, both in the biblical text and in recent history. The rapper Slick Rick—known as one of the greatest storytellers in hip-hop history—puts it this way, “Now here’s a little something that needs to be heard…” The hymn writer said, “I love to tell the story! ‘Twill be my theme in glory. To tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love…” The Notorious B.I.G. said it like this, “Listen up, I got a story to tell…”

The Notorious B.I.G wasn’t the only one with a story to tell. The telling of one’s story is an ancient tradition. Let us look at today’s text found in the Gospel according to Matthew 9:27-31.

Jesus was in the midst of performing miracles where those on the fringes, those whose bodily conditions had caused them to be outsiders, were restored to health and restored to rightful place in society: a dead girl was raised; a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years was given a healing touch; a mute man was made to talk; and, in our text for the morning, sight was restored to two blind men.

In our text, Jesus was on the move. We do not know where Jesus was going, but what we do know is that two men who were blind were following him as he went on his way. Don’t miss this: blind men following Jesus. How many of us, in the text and today, have our sight and still don’t follow after Jesus as these two men did. They were blind. We do not know the history of these men. Had they been blind from birth? Was there some kind of freak accident that caused their blindness? All we know is that they could not see. Because they could not see, they were positioned as outcasts in their society. We don’t know their occupation or how they provided for themselves, but more than likely they were beggars relying on the handouts of others. Their blindness, perhaps like Bartimeaus, would have kept them from holding a position of dignity and making a decent living. Blind. In many ways, their blindness rendered them invisible to those around them. They could not see, nor were they seen. But, as we gather from the text, they had no problem being heard.

These two blind men followed Jesus shouting, “Son of David, have mercy on us!” They raised their voices, in faith, knowing that Jesus could restore their sight. They raised their voices loud enough to get the attention of Jesus. And so, Jesus engages them[1], asks them if they believe if he can do this—though the “this” has not been explicitly stated. And, in faith, they respond “yes.” Do you believe I can do this? Yes. And so, Jesus touched their eyes and restored their sight. Friends, there is something wonderful about being touched by Jesus.

This touch was so wonderful that the men whose sight was restored spread the news about Jesus. Despite Jesus’ stern warning not to tell anyone about what had happened, they could not keep this experience to themselves. Perhaps, like the prophet Jeremiah, it was like fire shut up in their bones. Or perhaps, like the Notorious B.I.G. they said, “Listen up, I got a story to tell.” And so, they told the story. They did not stay put and tell the story; they traveled, went from place to place, around the area telling the story. I know that the text does not say that they told their own story. They text says that they spread the news about him—Jesus—around the district. Yes, that is true. But, one of the things I’ve gleaned under Dr. Simpson’s teaching is that our preaching is part proclamation of the Gospel and part testimony. Our testimony points to the particular ways in which the Gospel has been real in our lives.

In spreading the news about Jesus they had to tell their own story—how they had been blind, outcast from society, not able to see the beauty in life, kept from making a decent living, relegated to living life without dignity. In spreading the news about Jesus they had to tell their own story—how they had been in the right place at the right time, how they had to be courageous and tenacious and downright loud to get the attention of Jesus. In spreading the news about Jesus they had to tell their own story—how they believed in Jesus’ ability to do a new thing, a radical thing, to move them from blindness to seeing, to restore their sight and in turn to restore their ability to be seen by others who were not physically blind but were blind to their person. In spreading the news about Jesus they had to tell their own story—how their eyes were opened. In other words, when we tell our stories, we point to the presence and activity of God in our lives.

As Christians, we are people who find meaning and identity and hope in a particular metanarrative—the Christ story. We are also people with stories of our own that intertwine with one another’s. We are people that, like those two formerly blind men, have the Christ event all up and through our stories. We are people whose stories point to a loving, merciful, healing, and redemptive God who is ever present and ever active. We are people with a story to tell so that God’s presence and work may be known. Dr. Davis noted in Church History last week, “we are in control of how the story gets told, they are our narratives to tell.” Telling the story, our stories, can be generative, but it can also be painful. Some parts of our stories are difficult to rehearse. For the two men in our text, it may have been painful to speak about their years spent unable to see. For me, as you will see, it is often painful to speak about my years spent washed over by the blues. And yet, we tell our stories because there is yet hope in our stories.

I’ve been handling words--and lots of them--for three years now, and so, the remainder of this sermon is my testimony, my living out of this text, in the best way that I know how. My guiding question for this work is, "what would it mean to consider human life, in general, and African-American female life, in particular, sacred text?" Friends, listen up, I got a story to tell…

[1] On a side note, I am interested in the clandestine nature of this restoration. Jesus doesn’t restore their sight on the road, but rather when they come into the house. Jesus also warns them to be quiet about the whole incident.

*Altar created by Donna Olivia Powell

Monday, April 19, 2010

In progress...

I am still here...I promise. I'm just trying to make it to tomorrow (my senior sermon & arts internship presentation).

I've been slack in reporting in since my hiatus. I've reached my weight loss goals, which this time around has become less about a number and more about a feeling. I love my body--my grown woman curvy body--which sustains me and carries me and is able to run with ease. I feel comfortable, for real, with who I am. My boyfriend *giggle* calls me a beautiful nerd. Yep, that's about right. (I call him a nerd lover.) I have made art, good art with by boy Jameel, over the last few weeks (and even entered a campus-wide arts contest in which we were chosen as finalists). I am embodying my preacher self and it shows. What I did not understand three years ago is starting to make some sense. Ahhhh, revelation. With 26 days until graduation, all is well with my soul. I feel good. In some ways I feel like I'm glowing.

To prove that I haven't fallen off the face of the earth, here is a glimpse of my work. It is still in progress. My guiding question is, "what would it mean to consider human life, in general, and African-American female life, in particular, sacred text?" Notice the halos... I have been inspired by the form of the illuminated manuscript--an ancient tradition of making texts come alive.

The first image is a photograph of my mother, my sister, and me at my uncles wedding (circa 1977). The second image is a drawing that I've rendered of that image. I still have to add color and other details.

Once the work is done, presentation over, and body restored (aka I take a series of good naps) then I will post the entire body of work along with the artist statement.

Friday, April 9, 2010


My three week hiatus ran a tad longer...blame it on the warm weather, the myriad of things to do for school, or just me nurturing the relationships that are important to me. All in all, it has been a great time sermons have gotten better, my runs have gotten longer (I can run 3.5 miles, no stopping, no problemo), I've made some art (and am continuing to do so), and I've got some new stuff on the horizons--it is Resurrection season! For some reason, for many reasons, my heart is singing, "I get joy just thinking about what God's done for me..."

One of the many things that has happened is that I entered a sermon in the Good Preacher Seminarian Contest and have been chosen as one of the finalists (along with another Drew Senior Sarah Pomerantz). So, instead of writing more, I'm going to let the sermon speak for me today...

And after you've watched, visit and vote. The password is nashville.