Sunday, April 29, 2007
Okay, so from the moment I found out about the photo shoot I made it a complete disaster in my mind. I spent way too much time, energy, effort, money, and anxiety on how I'd look because...
I'm a girl.
And I wanted to look purty.
I've already gone through the whole "there aren't a whole lot of people who resemble me" thing anxiety issues, and I've told you about how vulnerable I felt about the themes in Zora and Nicky: A Novel in Black and White. Then there was that whole thing about being a real live "author" again after painful things that happened with that other publishing company which shall not be named. I got to Calarada feeling defensive! And that generally makes me more than a little snarky.
But everything was okay. It was more than okay. In fact, the trip was wonderful. I had a great time. It was a time of butterflying.
One of my favorite sayings is from St. Francis De Sales. "Be who you are, and be that perfectly well." I think that's a big job in and of itself. And I don't mind it. I don't mind coming here with my vanity, and my fear, and my unkindness and placing it all at the foot of the cross. If I can tell you honestly about my vanity, then maybe before I leave this world, I can find some real authenticity. And if I can tell you about my unkindness, then maybe I can lay it down and take up love. Love is harder than kindness, but it's possible. You have to be honest about your crap though. You just gotta do that. It's an important step on the way to the big, juicy love.
I found in Colorado Springs a publishing home--and yes, I said home, that made me feel understood and wanted. Nobody has to tell me things change in this business. They change pretty fast. But it's good to feel wanted no matter how short the season.
As I get closer to the time that Zora and Nicky will release, we'll talk more about the race thing, but mostly we'll talk about the love thing. But just for right now, here are some things I'm thinking as the sun streams through the blinds in my bedroom window:
I'm ready to love. I'm ready for Thy Kingdom Come. God's Kingdom is a multitude of people of every nation, tribe, people, language. Men and women. Short, tall, beautiful, plain, fat, skinny, and everything in between. We will look like the usual suspects, and no doubt there will be surprises in the Kingdom of God of who made it there, and who didn't! I'm laying all the racism and bias and bigotry that I've inherited, and all of the unkindness and cruelty that emerges inside of me every single day at the cross right now. I am saying "God teach me to love." Lord, have mercy. That is one terrifying prayer. It is a prayer that you know God will answer. It is a prayer/lesson you just know is going to hurt to learn.
But come anyway love lessons with all your exquisite pain, because I want to be a part of a church that looks like heaven. I want to love in a way that looks like heaven. It will take courage. It will take not being afraid to move past my own comfort zone and going into the deep of being in relationships with people who are not like me.
Two years ago I went to my first Ancient Christianity and African American Conference and had to repent and confess because most of the amazing African American men who were leaders of this conference had white wives! I was mad at them for that! I'm not proud of it. But it's true. And the next year I was a little less racist and even enjoyed at least one of those white wives and I did some business with God and realized that those feelings were coming from a lot of internalized pain and feeling rejected that has very deep roots in me. Now mind you, I have very good white friends, and have for years. But this was different! But then, I thought to myself how fortunate anyone is to find love, no matter what color the person doing the loving them back is.
Last year, completely inexplicably, one of the priests at the conference, my beloved godfather, and the man I made my confession about my anger about the white wives to, gave me a quilt full of butterflies. It was made many years ago by his own grandmother. He said, "I had to keep it in the family." This year I will go spend time with him and his wife, and we are going to work on a book together. A very important book to me. In some ways I think his gift to me last year was a beginning of a butterfly time. I had no idea that a few months later I would enter a chrysalis of darkness, mystery and pain that I could not have anticipated. I believe that chrysalis was the soul night that enabled me to reach the places I'd needed to go to write Zora and Nicky, and it will take me through The Exorsistah, Malaika's Wings, and Ragamuffin Diva.
Two days before I left to go to Colorado Springs a package came to me. In it was an exquisitely wrought silver butterfly ring. It came from a lovely friend who has loved me, laughed with me, cried with me, and journeyed with me through this chrysalis, often when I didn't even know she was there.
While I was in Colorado Springs, two other friends met me. We shared a meal, and then when to Springz Ink where Heather and I finally sealed our sistahood in blood (and no, we didn't mingle our blood. That ain't safe.) We both got tattoos. And you probably guessed, I got a butterfly, and just above it, my name, Mair. The butterfly is red and orange. It looks like fire. :O)
On Friday evening, Terry, Melanie and I had gone for ice cream, and as we were walking into the ice cream parlor, and toddler came tearing away from her parents running right toward me. It looked like she was running right to me, but then she ran past laughing. She was so free and happy and wild. Just on her way to nowhere really, just happy to be on the journey. I looked at that little angel, and noticed she had butterflies all over her shirt. Isn't it funny how God just knocks you all over the head with hints?
I guess it's time to come out of the crysalis. Ready or not world, here I come. Right now, I'm fresh out of the mystery. My wings are still covered in crysalis "blood." I'm mostly staying in place, flapping, flapping, flapping wings, just testing them out, but not going anywhere. But pretty soon God is going to release me, at least that's what He seems to be saying. And I'm saying, "Yes, Lord. I want to fly wherever you want me to go."
I love Him for that.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Okay, the votes are in! Y'all decided on the 'fro, but I did
NOT! Not completely, that is.
I'm here in Calarda Springs this morning, which I've heard is "The New Jerusalem... Uh... Where's that wailing wall! ?
But I digress...
And I'm here in all my not-so-ginormous braid 'fro glory. Yes, yes y'all. I did both! I got my hair--and might I add that's my own hair lovies, no extensions for this sistah--not that there's anything wrong with that. Anywho, I got my hair cornrowed in front and the fro is just doing it's thing in the back and everybody's happy no matter how you voted.
Ain't I easy?
Hey, don't answer that. Folks might get to calling me a NHH. Lets see if you can tell what that stands for in this age of blatant racist, sexist, misogynistic public commentary. Okay raga-d. Play nice. Play nice.
The photo shoot is in a couple of hours and I got a bad @#% shirt to go over this blackalicious long sleeved t-shirt I'm wearing. And I got on waaay too much ghetto jewelry cuz a sistah's got to represent. I will try not to throw my fist up in the air during the photo shoot and yell "ungowah black powah (that's a seventies thing). I will try. I will not promise.
I think I may be having an. . .
E-P-I-S-O-D-E (this "episode is brought to you today by an unfortunate brain chemical mix). This is also what happens when you write "race books". And all your woundedness comes right to the center of your heart. God help me.
My song for today, and sing it to any tune you want:
First you get a sis-tah
take her out the ghet-toe
then you take her picc-cha
'cuz she is so cute 'yo
you made her an auth thur
gave her lots of mon-nay
now she writes a race book
will it be too sex-eee!?
Okay, raga. Play nice!
Do you get the feeling I may have some unresolved issues? Help, God! Help!!!!
I'd better go before I get into any more trouble today. And my day is just getting started y'all. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy, Lord, have mercy.
And I mean that.
One last note. Both my publishing houses are very good to me. I just wanted to say that whatever feelings I have are not because of where I am right now. Maybe we'll talk about things like what's it's like to be black in the CBA, where there only a few black women, and NO black men, later. Maybe. Probably not.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Okay, this is really dumb, but I said I'd talk to you about more than just my brooding moody prophetessy stuff, right? And you said you'd stick around, so here goes.
I have a photo shoot next week for David C. Cook in Colorado Springs. And there doing this big honkin' black and white pictures. I always panic when anybody has to take my picture anyway, though you wouldn't know that this week. See, I got a shiny new mac. I always name my computers and this one is blackn'sexy (like me). Ha! I told my friend Mark that and he said I need to get saved all over again from scratch. But I digress. So, blackn'sexy comes with this built in camera and I obsess when I'm avoiding finishing Zora and Nicky and take brooding moody photos of myself using all kinds of special effects. And then I send them to people. Mostly Steve and Lisa. And Heather. Those poor people. I also subject my myspace page people to them. Okay, and yes, I took the new picture for my profile here, and you gotta admit, that's the coolest author photo ever. Anyway, here's the question.
Afro or no?
Now if you don't know this, and maybe you don't, Zora and Nicky is a book about race. There, I said it. And it's a book about race that's contemporary. No, we don't get the comfortable time period distance historical books about race gives us. We have to look at our foulness right here and now. And there is foulness, beloved. I had to confront my own, and sadly it was there. Anyway, I'm going to be hanging around Hotlanta in July at the Internation Christian Retail Show, Lord willing, in July, with this HUGE black and white photo of me, and me and my friend Mary thought it would be really cool if I wear my afro because that's totally how I wear my hair almost every day. And wouldn't that just be cool since I'm one of a handful of black people in CBA anyway.
However, and this is a big however, nobody takes my picture with the exception of me, now, and post it--like four feet tall--in a booth. I'm not sure if afros translate as well when photographed. It's not like I'm Angela Davis and this is 1975. I have enough vanity to want to look pretty cute! What if it's windy? What if the fro decides to be unruly that day? Afros don't always play nice. They're like me. They can just not cooperate sometimes. What if my afro is an afNO that day???
I was going to get some cooperative braids, although in general, I so am not feeling synthetic, or worse, somebody else's hair woven onto my head, though I gotta admit, it looks nice on sistahs. And it is cultural. I can still represent! Be all black and proud, just like James Brown, God rest him, said. Sayin' it loud!
I'm black and I'm proud!
Whooooo! That was fun. We're gonna miss you, godfather of soul.
Not that I need a hair style to feel good about who I am.
I don't know. I don't have long to think about this. So, at the top is this picture of me out in the wind today in all my ginormous afro glory.
And this is me in my room with my retro militant black power afro pick. So, what do you think? Afro Sheen Queen? Or some other time, raga? And listen, don't think if you don't say afro it's some kind of sell-out thing. Personally, I'm leaning toward the braids. My hair isn't trimmed or anything, and I'm really trying to let it grow. The picture is worth a thousand words, as they say. Again, what say ye?
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
It's one of those stories of senseless violence that makes you keep your television on CNN all day and night. First you try to process the horror. Then you try to find the stories. The people. The martyrs and heroes.
I love the stories, to see the faces behind the tragedy, and hate them at the same time. I hate that these souls--somebody's loved ones--are gone too soon. I cry with their families for them. There was so much hope. Kids getting their education.
And now. . .
For the life of me, I can't process this tragedy. I want to interceed deeply, but all I can do is sit here stunned and hurting, probably like so many of us.
I like that other people, Veteran prayers, have paved the way for peace prayers for me. I found this prayer of peace in my hungry wandering today. It's by Brother Roger of Taize, he himself, a victim of a violent homicide. Brother Roger was 90 years old when he went to live with Jesus. A mentally ill woman stabbed him to death during evening prayers. Lord, have mercy. This world, so full of beauty, is also the habitat of so much terror. Yet we must still pray. We must still love. We must still remember the radical words of the even more radical Jesus:
"Blessed are the peacemakers: they shall be recongnised as the sons of God." Matt. 5:9 The New Jerusalem Bible.
Here's Brother Roger's prayer:
O Risen Christ,
You breathe your Holy Spirit on us
and you tell us: 'Peace be yours'.
Opening ourselves to your peace-
letting it penetrate the harsh and
rocky ground of our hearts -
means preparing ourselves to be
bearers of reconciliation
wherever you may place us.
But you know at times
we are at a loss.
So come lead us
to wait in silence,
to let a ray of hope shine forth
in our world.
Amen, Brother Rogers. Interceed for us still here in this violent world of troubles.
Pray for the victims and their families. And let's pray for one another.
This icon, 'Christ is our Reconciliation' was made for Pax Christi International at the Monastery of St. John in the Desert, near Jerusalem. Further information: www.paxchristi.net/symbols.
Pax Christi, St. Joseph's, Watford Way,
London NW4 4TY
You can purchase a copy of the icon/prayer card there.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
In some ways I've felt like I've been through a war, and I've got the post-traumatic stress syndrome to prove it. I can't seem to shake the feeling that I could be so dead right now. And I seem a little more afraid of everything than grateful for everything, though I am grateful, don't get me wrong.
Today the insurance adjuster called with news of our settlement. Right after that Ken called the car dealership and Jere asked us to come in and get big honkin' man car number 2.
I don't wanna go!
I don't wanna get another big honkin' man car!
I don't even want a small, manageable car that will never ever roll over. 3 times.
Walking has taken on new meaning for me. I can walk and contemplate with my new boyfriend Thomas Merton. I can explore the beauty of nature and find God in it, just like Betty Skinner did in The Hidden Life. And I can do it all in brand new walking shoes. This is a marvelous, new, walking revelation.
But, oh, you should see him. Ken is excited. He is energetic. He is itching for big honkin' man car number 2. He can't wait.
But he is going to have to drag me out of this bed kicking and screaming.
Holy Cow! He's going to do it!
He's coming right at me.
He's moving toward the computer!
I don't want another big honkin' man car!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I don't want to go outside.
I just want to stay in bed and be little.
But only when I feel like it.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
This is for you, rascal. But you already knew that, didn't you?
I use to think I could fix
I made a mess.
Broke a few
more than they were
before they met me.
Still, I'm drawn
to shattered people.
Their lovely sharp edges,
their exquisite, cutting shards.
I just don't try
to fix them anymore.
I got tired of bleeding
more than I already do.
Instead, I take
my splintered pieces
and scoop them into
a scarlet bag.
I place myself
at their feet
spread myself out before them
as a love offering.
Sometimes this works.
Sometimes they walk
all over me.
I did say they were broken.
they'll take all their pieces
their many, hard-edged pieces
and pour them out
of black leather
or white velvet
right at my feet.
And God will put His fingers--
carefully now! Be careful, God!--
On all our sharp and shining places.
Make a beautiful mosaic
out of all our brokenness.
He will bind us together,
by the bright, white strength
of love that never fails,
even though we are broken,
even though we are tiny little
fragments of what we use to be
or what we should be.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
In some ways, I'm still on that median strip of land, turning over, and over, and over and everything is breaking all around me. Glass is flying in my hair and I keep bumping my head, thinking
But it just keeps turning, and turning, and turning, only now I don't have on a seat belt, and I bounce like a baby's sock left behind in the dryer. And the dryer is on by accident. All of this is by accident.
It really was the end of the world as I knew it. Or at least I think it was. Because I'm feeling, no, I know I don't know anything. I'm certain that I don't know, and now I'm lying because I'm not certain about anything. Maybe I do know. You see what I mean?
I use to think I was honest, but I'm not. My mask may just be a little thinner than some. I use to think I knew something about God, but I don't. I am the nontheologian. I don't know anything about God and I don't study Him. She is a mystery. I don't know at all.
Sometimes, I make myself into a tiny ball and find myself encircled in a womb made of warm hands that are vaguely familiar. Sometimes I hear whispers in a language that makes no sense except to some quiet place hidden inside of me that I can't get to yet. Sometimes a distant Lover steals kisses and makes me long to reach out to Him in my darkness and pull Him inside of me. But He teases me, and disappears before I can take Him fully into myself.
Sometimes I want to spin around, but not like in that big honkin' man car. I want to spin around like Rumi in God love. I want to spin, and spin, and spin while poems fly out of my mouth. Until I crash into you, laughing and singing in your ear like God's troubadour.
Don't you think the world needs a few more troubadours, of the God kind?
But don't listen to me.
I use to think I was a holy fool. Now I just think I'm a fool, but I don't know.
I don't know anything.
I've lost my head, by accident.
Grace to you, Lovies.
God, thank you that Mair and her babies are o.k. Thank you for the way you protected them in the big man truck, Lord; had they been in a Tercel, the story might’ve been more Good Friday than Easter Sunday. Those ladies who ran from your tomb early that morning were gripped with fear and great joy. I imagine that’s how Mair and her babies felt, Jesus, crawling out of the truck. It feels like a pretty shitty thing to happen to a sister on Easter Sunday morning, carrying the red eggs no less…but it did happen. Again, thanks that they’re o.k.
Sunday, April 08, 2007
Mary picked up an egg and said, "An egg can turn red." And one miraculously did so in her hand.
I didn't think I'd get the red color right. I fretted for days over it. See, I'm the least Orthodox Christian in Mother Church, and we all know it, but sometimes, I just want to do something good.
We missed so much church before we got the big honkin' man car. I didn't get to tell you about it because we bought it during lent when I wasn't blogging. We got this big, beautiful shiny new Ford Expedition. And life has been good, much better with it than without it.
And now it's Pascha, and Christ is risen! Even the most marginal Christians like to go to church for Easter. And I've been going to church. This is the Christian's holiest of days.
I spend the day busy. I move too fast or too slow. I feel guilty that I'm not writing, even though I'm writing, always writing, in my head. I shop for the dinner I've been to busy writing to go to the grocery store and buy. I start the sweet potato pies and make Easter baskets and forget to eat. I wash Easter frocks and fret and feel angry at Ken because I can tell he doesn't want to go. I can just tell, and this means so much to me.
Our greatest feast day. And I've dyed 2.5 dozen red eggs. Now, it's 10 pm. I've got on my favorite dress. The kids are all excited and everything is terribly normal.
Do you ever wonder what your last day will be like? Will you know it will be your last day? Do you remember the beautiful ordinariness of that unforgettable September 11th? Tonight wasn't my last night, but it could have been, and it was so regular, this day.
I didn't want to drive. I don't have good night vision. As grateful as I am for the truck, I don't care to drive it. It feels too big for me. Too hard to handle. I ask Ken weeks ahead to go with us. I ask him days before. The day before. It's a plan. He's going to drive. The whole family, even Lumumba who isn't even a Christian is going to go. But it's snowing. The money is low. We don't have much gas. Things seem to conspire to keep us from getting there. I decide to ride with a friend. She's in pain and decides not to go. I understand. I've had chronic pain. I ask Ken to drive. He doesn't want to go.
I can't see well at night. It's snowed, but it's not snowing now. Again I ask him to come with us. He says he doesn't feel good, but he's in and out of the house with that wild mindedness I recognize. It scares me. Reminds me of the bad days. He starts drinking. I get angry. I just want to go to church for Easter. One night. The rest of the services are in the day time. But he won't go.
So we take off. I tell him to pray for us as we leave. I say this with an angry I told you so edge before I even have anything to tell. I have this sense of foreboding. But I just want to go to church. I want Ken to drive. He's the better driver.
The kids and I sit in the truck and we pray for safety. We pray longer than usual and we set off. And everything feels fine. Not many on the road. It's late. The service starts at 11:30 pm for lamentations in the darkened church, and at midnight, the risen Christ and the lights, and celebration! I wanted to be there. I wanted to crack red eggs and say Christ is risen. I wanted the kiss of peace and to celebrate. The long fast was over. And I could eat an egg!
We were singing on M14. Pigeon John, and oddly, we were singing, "As we know it." Pigeon John singing his angst filled anthem, "It's the end of the world as we know it" railing at God about the endless, seemingly mindless suffering in the world, just because of the fall.
Why the Holocaust why the slavery?
Why the Crusades in the name of bravery?
Why you let little girls get molested dog?
I mean God I mean you know what I mean is all
And the fall of Adam and Eve is all it took
To leave the whole human race lost and shook?
That don't make sense it don't feel right
But I can see your whole face up in the moonlight
Dang you look crazy you make a negro wanna cry
You hold the whole ocean in your eyes
Are you crying too?
"That don't make sense. It don't feel right." I love the honesty and simplicity of those lines.
And then I think. "I shouldn't be listening to the end of the world as we know it." Odd thought, because I've listened to that song endlessly in the car. I love PJ! But I had the creepiest feeling just then.
And just that quickly things changed. A patch of slick ice and I couldn't see it. And the truck begins to swerve. I hear myself tell the kids to hold on, and it's going to be okay. I've got this. I try to steady the wheel we start to get right and we're going to be okay. For a moment we seem to right ourselves. For a moment it looks like we'll be all right.
But we're not all right. I don't know what happened but something did, and then the truck is swerving around and we spin and spin and spin all the way across the freeway from one side to the other until we hit the median and then we flip over. And the car rolls over, and over, and over again.
All I can think about is my children in the car. I don't mind dying. But I don't want to hurt my sweet babies. It seems like it's no end to this car turning in slow motion. The awful sound of it. My head banging against the window and my children's fear. Red eggs flying. My heart breaking with the windshield. Then everything is quiet. I'm stunned because my head banged so hard against the window. I hear Abby. She thinks I'm dead. I hear Kamau. I realize that I've got to hear the little ones to pierce the awful sound of not hearing them anymore.
"Is everybody okay?" I say, and God, I need to hear them all say they're okay. They're okay right, Lord? Because I'm okay, and I couldn't bear it God if they're not okay. I couldn't do that God, and you know it. And by some miracle they are okay.
"Let me hear you. Tell me you're okay."
And one by one they speak to me.
Aziza starts to cry. She's only seven. By now onlookers are running to us. The car is on it's side and we all feel stuck, but we start to make our way out of seat belts. Them first. The truck landed on my side so I can help push them out of the passenger window, the best way out from the position we're in. I pile them out of the truck. And an Expedition is a BIG truck. It's not easy, but we do it.
We hoist Aziza out first because she's crying so. And then Nia Grace. Kamau. Abeje next. I'm a little more stuck then they were. My dress got stuck in something. My favorite dress. I slip out of my coat, take off the long jacket that goes with the dress--man I loved that jacket! And put my coat back on and let some good Samaritans help me out of the truck.
I look at the wreckage and I can't believe we all walk away from it. A few weeks ago, Phillip Yancey had a similar accident and I read about it and wept because I love him so. ZZ and Nia have cried several times. They are next to me, sleeping soundly, beautifully alive, as I type. And I'm so grateful.
Life is so fragile, full of ordinariness, days of anticipation when all you want in the world is to spend time in the beauty of God's house cracking red eggs together with your family of God saying Christ is risen. And then something happens.
You don't get to church. The world as you know it changes.
Here's an irony. Just as the truck stopped and crashed to it's side, PJ serenaded me with:
What up Jesus (yes?) what up my nickel my man
Can I ask you couple questions about the whole dang plan?
Without an answer you stretch out your hand
With a look in your eyes that you understand
All the pain all the loss all the confusion
All the up and the downs are now amusing
And I spent all of my life rushing and hustling
When I could've just been your friend
What does it mean? I don't know. If I knew what everything meant I'd bottle that up and sell it! All I know is that even in that crash God's hand was on us. I wonder now if I should have just stayed home and I can't come up with a good answer. Life is hard. Sometimes the answer isn't stay home. Sometimes there are crashes. Pain. Loss. Confusion. We can still be Jesus' friend even in the midst of it. My last words before I thought we weren't going to make it.
"Jesus help us."
And He did.
I'm glad I'm still here. Now, it's 4 am. The kids are safe in bed, and I'm going to have a bath and cry like crazy because I really am shaken. Here's the rest of PJ's song. It's kinda nice in the end. Just like life.
And it's the end of the world as we know it (2x)
We're drinking coffee in sun
All my friends the old and young
And its ok now
We're drinking coffee in the sun
All my friends the old and young
And it's ok now
Its ok now
Its ok now
you can hear that song on my myspace page, and PJ's too.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
Simon must have watched with horror as what was left of Jesus tried to drag that massive cross a few more feet down the road. Can you imagine it? Jesus had suffered the humiliation of being stripped naked. Had bets placed for His few humble pieces of clothing. He'd been spit upon and beaten and scourged until His flesh hung off his bones. He scarcely resembled a man. And then He had to take that long walk carrying the cross he'd eventually die on.
Can you see Him stumble and fall, stumble and fall? Try to get back up and carry that damned cross again that was too heavy for any body to bear, including this innocent Man with the charge of being, "King of the Jews." He even has a crown. What a mockery. An outrage.
The awful procession is going by and Simon must watched with abject pity thinking that the alleged King of Jews is going to surely die before He even gets to the top of the hill. Everybody thinks He's going to die, even as they hurl insults and hisses and blasphemies at Him. He falls again and that big, massive cross falls, too. He can't see for the blood in His eyes swollen shut. The blood from the crown of thorns jammed on His royal head. And Simon sees Him reaching, reaching, reaching past His darkness for something. What is He reaching for?
Dear God He's trying find that damned cross. He's looking for the cross to pick it up again. It's going to kill Him before He even gets to the hill and He's groping for it like He's got to have it.
Maybe a soldier realizes the futility of this whole thing, but he knows if he dies right there in the street they'll be hell to pay. They'll be such an uproar... It'll be craziness. They've got to get somebody to help him. But it's a feast day. They can't get a Jew, so they look for the most non-Jew looking person and it's Simon, the black man. The nigger in the wrong place at the wrong time time.
He don't want nuthin' to do with it, Simon. Can you blame him? He's in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, himself. He's a Jew! On Pilgrimage. He just wants to do it big. Do it right. And now here he is. If he does this thing... He's going to be defiled. Despised. But he's compelled.
Roman law. A sword. A man wearing a crown of thorns who seems driven to carry a cross to His own damned death.
Simon is angry. He's disgusted. He goes to the prisoner, what's left of Him, and their eyes meet.
Oh. My God.
Who is this Man? This Man who's eyes can see inside of you, even when they are bloody slits. His eyes tell him He has to carry this cross to the end. He must make it to the hill to this wretched death and Simon doesn't understand, but he has to help Him. He has to. By God, he's compelled.
He gathers the cross on his shoulder. My God! It's heavy. He falls to the ground himself. And he's a big man. He gathers himself. He's taken strength from the broken King of Jews, and hoists the cross up once again upon his shoulder.
He walks slower bearing the burden. The injustice. The shame. He knows nothing of the Man whose cross he shoulders. The one who women come to wailing, weeping. Crying and testifying of healings. Deliverances. That mother whose daughter He raised from her sick bed. That unclean woman He made whole. The whore He taught to love. How they weep for Him.
And Simon wonders if his cross of color, in an unfair, biased world isn't but a tiny one compared to His.
He's said so little. He never uttered a word of condemnation or self-pity. He asked his friend to take care of his mama. He prayed for the people who had done this to Him. And that awful thing He said, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken me." Simon watched it all. Could not take his eyes off of Him.
After all, Simon held that cross. Felt the weight of it. Jesus' blood, which must have drenched that cross, covered Simon first.
And here I am, this black woman, standing at this station, thinking of your story, Simon, of His story. You were a Jew. I am a Christian, but we are both facing the same crosses. We still get profiled, Simon. We are still sadly too often to some the niggers in the wrong place at the wrong time. We still have crosses that we help Jesus bear, but they are not like His cross are they? His cross is still the Holy terror that makes all crosses bearable.
All of them.
All of them.
Monday, April 02, 2007
Pass It Around
He’d leave us soon. We tried not to think of it as we followed Him, but you could tell He was between Heaven and Earth. He’d said as much. I saw in Him a kind of love-broken weariness, and it reminded me of how the poet prophet Isaiah described Him: looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain first-hand.
He’d set the table, and we sat in the upper room, preparing for the feast. We were tired, and hungry, but glad to be with Jesus. The pungent scent of roasted lamb and bitter herbs rose like incense in the room. Night, as thick and palpable as fog, surrounded the house. The flames on the candles He lit bowed and rose in the breezy room, as if they too, worshiped Him.
He said to each of us, “Give me your feet.”
We grew silent, each of us removing our sandals.
I watch Him move across the room, dressed in the garment of a slave. Dear God, Jesus is on His knees, pouring water on our feet. The Son of God, the Son of Man, washing us as if the pitcher contained, then released His own tears, slipping between our toes, the filth of the world falling to the ground, now hallowed by His presence.
He sure knows how to make a mess of things.
I whispered to Him, “Thank you, Jesus.” Hot salty tears rolled from my cheeks, and mingled with Jesus’ hand when he reaches up to wipe my face.
"Master, let me wash yours." He refuses me.
“What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will after this,” He says to me.
He cleanses us all, every one of us, even the one who would betray Him.
“Do you understand what I have done to you?” His brown eyes shone in the candlelight. “You address me as ‘Teacher’, ‘Master’, and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher washed your feet, you must now wash each others feet. I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do. A servant is not ranked above His master; an employee doesn’t give orders to the employer. If you understand what I’m telling you, act like it—and live a blessed life.”
Act like it, and live a blessed life.
He makes things so simple. But we didn't act like it. He told us to love one another. We didn't know how.
When it was time to sit down, all of us with him He said, "You have no idea how much I have looked forward to eating this Passover meal with you before I enter my time of suffering. It's the last one I'll eat until we all eat together in the kingdom of God."
We don't like to hear Him talk this way. I want to protest, but His eyes halt my cries. He takes His cup filled with wine. He blesses it. And this is a wonder, a mystery that I'll ponder for the rest of my life, and maybe the one to come--that single cup in His hand. His simple prayer. And these words as He passes it around.
"Take this and pass it among you. As for me, I'll not drink wine again until the kingdom of God arrives."
He takes bread. Does the same. A single loaf. We'd seen Him make enough to feed thousands to from just three loaves, and now He takes His own singular offering. Whispers blessings. "This is my body, given for you. Eat it in my memory."
He's talking crazy again, I think. He is sick to death. Full of sadness. I didn't know. There are many days, even know, when I still act like I don't know.
We eat in silence. After the meal He takes the cup again. He blesses it. "This cup is the new covenant written in blood, blood poured out for you."
He sets off a storm of bickering among us. Who will betray Him? Who will sit with Him in His kingdom? Oh, but we had it all wrong. We had no idea what would come. Broken bread and bittersweet wine poured out, poured out, poured out. One small broken loaf of bread. All that wine spilled. For us? Expensive bread. Priceless wine. Broken, bread and spilled wine. Blessed by a GodMan who washes feet while He's dressed like a slave. Who tells us to love each other like He's shown us. He tells us to serve one another. Who can understand it?
Even now, in my old age, I cannot fully fathom the mystery of it all. I don't even try. He's gone from us now. I only meet Him in quiet places. In silence. In prayer. At this table. I keep coming to the table. Hungry for Him. Thirsty for Him. Always listening for His voice. His whispered blessings over the meal. I keep trying, failing, and trying again to take it to heart. To do it.
Take this, pass it among you.
This is my Body.
This is my Blood.
I am greedy for Him now. I wish I understood. I wish. No matter. It still nourishes just the same. All I have to do is partake and hand it over. Try to do it with all the love I can muster.
Take this. Eat it. Drink it.
Pass it around.
All scripture quoted from The Message