Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I am tired, I am weak, I am worn...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

For Colored Girls...

I've read Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuff more times that I can count. I was introduced to the choreopeom when I was an MFA student at Howard University. I have a cassette tape—yes, a cassette tape—of the original performance. I have a VHS tape (another dinosaur) of play produced for PBS (see clip below with Alfre Woodard). I have quoted this choreopoem in my academic work. I have quoted with choreopoem with my girlfriends while walking down 18th Street in Washington, DC. I have made artwork using this choreopoem as my subject. I have recited from the monologues to rock myself to sleep at night—I found God in myself and I loved her, fiercely. Shange's work of art has shaped my life, my scholarship, and my ministry. In many ways, I am fiercely protective of it. Needless to say I was less than thrilled when I first heard that Tyler Perry (and not Nzingha Stewart) was directing the work.
I managed to avoid all reviews of the movie--on television, in print, and online. I didn't watch Tyler Perry and the cast on Oprah because we all know that Oprah is notorious for giving away an entire move. I respectfully asked my friends to limit their remarks about the movie. I didn't want to know a thing. Not a thing.

Well, I saw the movie today. As much as I wanted to walk in as a critic, looking to see if Perry's work could stand up to the work that I knew and loved, as soon as the credits began to roll, I was a colored girl...
Watching the move, I shed more tears than I imagined I would. I cried tears of pain for the girl I once was. I cried tears of joy for the woman I am becoming. I cried for the daughters and mothers and aunties and grandmothers in our midst. I cried for the mothers of the church and the babies mother's in our midst. I cried. Tears are telling. Tears are cleansing. And I'll let my tears alone be my review.

image of book taken from http://newmodelminority.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/for_colored_girls_book_cover_01.jpg
image from film taken from http://cdn.sheknows.com/articles/2010/11/for-colored-girls.jpg
image of tissue taken from http://chamberfour.com/2009/04/03/kleenexing-the-kindle/


After reading my blog post, "Musings on Romans 8:28 and Ironing Shirts," my mother called me and suggested that I take the post down. She was nervous about my father reading it. (My parents are my "amen corner" and faithful readers of my blog.) I assured her that I did not purposely burn his shirts. It was in my carelessness I burned the shits. Thinking back, there were a host of things destroyed at 111 North 3rd as a result of my carelessness. Lord, have mercy.

Anyway, a day after my conversation with mom, my father asked me the question, "Is there a statute of limitations on burnt shirts?" He said it with such seriousness. But then a wide smile graced his face followed by a hearty laugh...Is that funny, or what?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Musings on Romans 8:28 and Ironing Shirts...

In the eighth chapter of his letter to the Roman church, the Apostle Paul wrote these words, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."

Notice what he said:
Not one thing, but ALL things;
Not some things, but ALL things;
Not most things, but ALL things;
Not nothing (no thing), but ALL things...

There are times when this just doesn't feel true. But it is amazing how time and the Spirit of God has a way of making me realize the power and truth in this statement. Let me give you just one example.

When I was growing up, around my middle and high school years, I was responsible for ironing my father's work shirts. Ironing dad's shirts really annoyed me. I was good at it, but it was a chore that I absolutely despised. Like any chore, I enjoyed it when I first started doing it, but when mom would call me home from a friend's house or my sister's house or would wake me up to iron his shirts, well you can imagine what happened. Add to this, EVERYONE made fun of me because of it. It was, and still is, the biggest joke among my sister's friends. And I hated it.

For the most part, I was good at it. But the fact that I despised the chore coupled with teenage girl rebellion and laziness led to many a burned shirt. (I did not rebel by cutting school or hanging with the wrong crowd, I dragged my feet in my chores.) Anyway, my dad's good shirts were ruined because I did not want to do the task. I did not understand why I had to do it. I hated the interruptions of my life because I had to iron his shirts. I hated the monotony of ironing his shirts: right sleeve, flip, left sleeve, flip, back panel, flip, right front, lift, inside right, slide over, left front, lift, inside left, lift shirt, collar. Did I say I hated it?

But today, I am reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."

But how could an annoying and monotonous chore work for my good?

In the mornings, as hubby is getting ready for work, I choose his shirt for the day and head into the laundry room to press it. The first time I pressed one of his shirts, I was grateful that I knew how to iron a shirt. (Thanks mom!) Hubby is crisp and sharp when he leaves the house. But more than hubby looking good, I now understand the time not as a monotonous chore, but rather as an intentional time of prayer. I pray for my husband's commute, his day at work, his health, his strength, and all things concerning his life. As I flip and press, slide over and press, lift and press I pray for God to bless him and give him peace. Instead of complaining, I pray. Instead of being annoyed, I am overjoyed for the opportunity to go before God on my husband's behalf.

And so, in this small thing and in all things, whether I understand or not, whether in a storm or in not, I now recognize that ALL things really do work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purposes.

Amen and so be it.

image taken from http://www.garmentcare.info/ironing_wrinkles/how_to_iron_a_shirt_like_a_pro.html

Monday, November 15, 2010

And Your Daughters...

Although there is a shift in progress, in some places ministerial leadership is still an all boys club. I can recall my first semester at Drew. I heard the rumblings and grumblings from women whose ministerial gifts and graces were ignored, devalued, and outright rejected because they did not posses the correct genitalia that qualifies one for ministry. They were hurt. They were angry. They were silenced. They were confused. Most of these stories were voiced by women in historically and predominantly Black Baptist Churches—the very place where God has called me to serve. I must admit, I was frightened by these stories. I also must admit, I tried to make these stories my own. As much as their stories were true for them, their stories were not my story.

I am grateful to be under the leadership of a Spirit-filled and Spirit-led man, the Rev. Dr. Allen Paul Weaver, Jr., who recognizes that God has called women and men to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His recognition goes beyond the surface. He is not simply pleasant to women preachers; He demonstrates his understanding of Scripture by nurturing and training both women and men in the ministry. He was the first Pastor in Bethesda's 122 year history to license women to preach, to ordain women to the Gospel ministry, and to ordain female deacons (not deaconesses). He has catechized a host of women from churches in the Metropolitan New York area as they prepared to be ordained into the Gospel ministry. I am the second woman clergy person to serve in the role of Assistant to the Pastor. Currently, our ministerial staff is equally balanced female and male. He invites gifted and powerful women into our pulpit to preach beyond Women's Day and Mission Sunday. Dr. Weaver understands that gender and genetalia do not make one more (or less) fit for ministry. He understands that it is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, obedience to a call from God, being a student of the Word, and a love for God's church that makes one fit for ministry.

The prophet Joel uttered these words—from the mouth of God—to the people of Israel:

“ And it shall come to pass afterward
That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions.
And also on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days."
(Joel 2:28-29 NKJV)

Lest we think these words are part of the old covenant, the Apostle Peter, on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon the people, used these words as fodder for his sermonic message. The Spirit of God can, does, and will use men, women, boys, and girls to proclaim what thus saith the Lord.

And your daughters...

I have had the pleasure, two weeks in a row, to witness an amazing move of God in ministry in predominantly Black Baptist churches. These events let me know that God is still on the throne, God is still moving, and that eventually people will catch God's vision...

Last Sunday we attended an ordination of deacons service at the Calvary Baptist Church in White Plains, NY. This was no ordinary ordination service. This was the first time in Calvary's 75 year history that they were ordaining women to the diaconate ministry. I felt chills as Dr. Weaver preached a word of challenge and blessing over the church and the women being ordained. I felt joy for the church and for those girls and boys who will grow in the church seeing women and men servings as leaders. I felt the Spirit as authority was conferred upon these four women.

Last night, after a marathon day at church, Pastor and I traveled down to St. John's Baptist Church in Harlem for an ordination service. The ordinand was a women that Pastor had catechized and prepared for ministry. She was also a women who went before council for examination the same night that I did. Although we were strangers on that night, as we waited for our turn before council, we affirmed each other, prayed with each other and encouraged each other in the Lord. She is now my sister and a co-laborer in the Gospel ministry. I was blessed to be counted in the number of those laying hands on her as God elevated her from Minister to Reverend. I was blessed to be able to extend to her the right hand of fellowship, welcoming her into this beautiful and strange vocation. If that wasn't enough, I found out in between the laying on of hands and extending the right hand of fellowship that she was the first woman ordained to the Gospel ministry in St. John's history. In that moment, I heard the shouts of that great cloud of witnesses—voices of those Daughters of Thunder—Jarena Lee, Amanda Berry Smith, Sojourner truth, Florence Spearing Randolph, Pauli Murray echoing in my heart.

One of the most poignant moments in the ordination service was during the charge to the ordinand delivered by Dr. Weaver. He charged the ordinand to be a preacher.
A preacher—nothing more and nothing less. He challenged her to be mindful of the nomenclature used to describe her ministry. He noted that when we mark ourselves—and are marked—as female preachers, we mark a distinction (which some might read as an inferiority). He called her attention—our attention—that in Christ there is neither male nor female, Greek nor Jew, bond nor free (Galatians 3:28). He reiterated the fact that it is her Spirit given gifts that will make room for her in ministry, not her gender. Although his charge was for this particular ordinand, I must admit that I kept his words and have been pondering them in my heart (Luke 2:19).

Amen and so be it.

image of Florence Spearing Randolph taken from http://ptoday.blogspot.com/2007_02_01_archive.html

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


A cop out, I know. But I want you to know that I am here. My direction has changed a bit. I have been enjoying God, my life, my husband, my family, and my church.. I have been taking it all in. I have been living so as to have something to write about. But for now, I am...

speechless |ˈspē ch lis|
unable to speak, esp. as the temporary result of shock or some strong emotion : he was speechless with rage.
unable to be expressed in words : surges of speechless passion.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Think on These Things...

When I dare to be powerful—
to use my strength in the service of my vision,
then it becomes less and less important
whether I am afraid.

Audre Lorde