Centered Hearts, Swelling Gratitude, Abundant Grace. How?

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With busy lives (tasks with deadlines; needs with accompanying cries, whimpers, and whines; minutes that tick by without permission), how can we live with centered hearts (the kind that focuses our caring labor on the long-game care of humanity; not the kind we assume comes from the labels that people use to define our personhood), swelling gratitude (the kind that is born from the “enough” around us; not the painted calligraphy kind that is purchased at craft stores), and abundant grace (the kind that comes from the wells of forgiveness for perpetual imperfection; not the kind from ballerinas or naive optimism)?

If not for the Divine Parent who loves our busy lives, forgives our imperfect attempts, and redeems our busyness, I know not how.

This Thanksgiving, I pause and do more than give thanks.  I pause and pray – reorienting my life in praise of the God from whom all life comes.  In prayer, I move to the place within me where all the tasks, needs, and minutes are interrupted by awe, respect, and gratitude for God.

May I live these days standing in this place – in awe, in respect, in gratitude for the God beyond and within, above and below, present and coming, far and near.

For it is only from this place that I can obtain the centered heart, swelling gratitude, and abundant grace whereby I endure the long days and savor the short years.

So this year, I repeat the steps.

Awe
Respect
Gratitude
Repeat.

Focus
Be satisfied
Forgive
Repeat.

Amen.

An Eternal Feast on Valentine’s Day

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“Who loves you more than me?” I asked as we pulled up to the bus stop.

“Daddy?” he asked.

“No.  Even more than Daddy.”

“Jesus!”

“Yes, God loves you so much – more than even Daddy and I can.  And God loves every single person the most – each person who sits at your table in school, the ones who walk down the hallway next to you, your teachers, and the people holding signs by the interstate entrances.  Can you imagine loving everyone so much?” Continue reading

On the Eve of the Inauguration: What I Know, What I Feel, What I Believe

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Last year when I had to walk youth through some difficult moments, I grabbed a dry-erase marker and created three columns… what we know, what we feel, and what we say we believe (and must remind ourselves in hard times).   As the inauguration looms, I find myself employing the same strategy for the future that looms before us. Continue reading

Repentance Begins on Your First Day

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To the baby cradled in his mother’s arms,

Feel the warmth. Soak in the affection.  Nurture your belonging in this beautiful world.  Gaze in her eyes and receive her fierce devotion.  This is your birthright.  This moment is your true identity as beloved divine creation.

I dream for you a world where all others embrace you the same way your mother does now.
I dream for you a world where you may flourish in freedom of body, soul, and mind.
I dream for you a time and place where others may perceive your tender heart and your endless potential, just by the sight of you.

Even as your mother gazes upon you today, she is preparing for the talk.  She will one day have to sit you down on the porch and speak to you about the world as it is.  Her heart will twist and turn in her chest as she places a new identity over this first one – black male in America.

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Sending Him Into The Bull’s-Eye

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I was in the ninth grade when Columbine happened. No longer the name of just a school, it represents the beginning of what has become the persistent violent anger taken out on the culture’s most vulnerable. Other than jail, schools are the only other place where people, based on age or life stage, are required to be. Don’t show up and face legal ramifications. And it is in this place – where futures are bright, opportunities abound, and parents’ hearts beat outside of their chest – that has become the bull’s-eye of violence.

Politicians debate and social media is polarized.
24-hour media cycles go on and on, running footage repeatedly AS IF that is helpful.
People dig down into their perspective and philosophies, choosing principles over people.

It is what it is.

Generally, politics fuel so much of my righteous anger that I find it best not to talk about it with others. However, as I approach the time when I have to send our oldest to kindergarten, it feels way more personal.

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The Framework that Remains

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The two men carefully bend sticks and tie them in place. Held together with scraps of clothing and rags, the sticks create a frame for a tent in the midst of the Gourougou Mountain. Random pieces of tarp tied onto the frame transform into a shelter. Meticulously, with patience to execute it well and urgency because their well-being depended on it, they turn nature’s leftovers and human leftovers into a home. The Land Between, a documentary we’re showing at Highland on Sunday as part of our Moroccan partnership, tells the stories of those who are stuck between the home they have fled and a future they cannot grasp.

I sat in my office as I previewed the film and I marveled at their survival skills, ingenuity, and teamwork. Then I marveled at their suffering and resiliency when the journalist takes us back a few days later to see the bare bones of the shelter. The sticks stand but the tarps so carefully tied have vanished. The men share the story of how the authorities chased them out of the camp and burned all their things.

The journalist leaves the camera unnervingly on the framework of sticks. Hollow. Empty.   Bare to the bone. It tells of the death chasing after them AND the life enduring despite it. Continue reading

Raising Men

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IMG_2429On a rare beautiful sunny January Saturday, we pour out the back door with a short window of Drew home amidst a busy call-weekend. In the garage, the oldest climbs aboard his “racing bike.” I help him around the car and through the driveway. Drew settles the youngest into the wagon and wrangles the dog on the leash. I place the helmet on the head of my little bicyclist and wait for the snap of the clasp under his little chin.

With one inaugural push, he pedals as fast as he can do the sidewalk. The farther he gets away from me, the more my heart begins to pound. It is as if my body is on overdrive as I begin to panic a bit. My eyes focus on the driveways to watch for cars backing out. My voice raises to attempt to slow him down, unsuccessfully. My feet can’t help themselves and I run after him. He’s five houses away from the intersection with Wilmington Ave and yet I’m sprinting full speed.

Does he really know how to stop when going so fast? I forgot to remind him to stop at the intersection before he took off, will he remember? Is he old enough for this? He’s not ready. I’m not ready. Continue reading