A Reflection on Juneteenth

Crimes unimaginable

Sins unfathomable

Wrongs not righted

With an apology,

A soft word,

Or the stroke of a pen.

Pain to the deepest parts

Of the heart and soul,

The very fiber of one’s being,

A wound that doesn’t heal,

But rather cuts deeper

With every smile,

Every handshake,

On every pay day,

Every trip to the grocery store,

Every night at mealtime,

When they look at their children,

When they look at ours.

Privilege continues

Despite the lip service,

Despite the promises,

Amidst the meager gifts,

The dregs of easy charity

From the tatters of a bursting purse,

The guilt trip laid on thick

To the middle class and even

The working poor.

Those that lack for food,

Clothing or shelter,

Living barely day to day,

Not knowing where one’s next

Meal will come from.

And at the church the preacher

Says try harder, pray more,

Save your dollars

So you can send your little ones

To a good college,

Make them study,

Keep them out of trouble,

Tell them you love them,

That you’re proud of them

For that report card.

What do you say

When the white kid

Calls them the n-word?

What do you say

When you don’t have a job

Because you refused

To kiss your supervisor’s butt

When he would talk to you

Like you were nothin’,

Just a cog in his machine,

A disposable, replaceable,

Optional, neglectable,

Insultable, disrespected,

Used, abused, tossed out

To the street

Like so much garbage,

Black man?

Power

Wrong meets right.

The fight is strong.

Laugh, they will.

Cry out, they must.

Shout, at the top of their lungs—

Justice must prevail.

So many innocent lives

Have been crushed by the fist

Of the oppressor!

So many suffer

Because of the greed

And the arrogance

Of the powerful.

The powerful?

Who is powerful?

What is power?

Don’t you know that

The wind has changed course

On this hot, dry day.

The wind! The water!

The earth! The animals!

The birds! The insects!

The trees! Yes, even the trees!

Look at an old oak tree,

And tell me about power!

Look at a rushing stream,

And tell me about power!

Watch a lion kill its prey,

And tell me about power!

Is a gun, power?

In the hands of a six year old, a gun is just as powerful as in the hands of a grown man!

A gun is just a tool.

It’s what you do with a tool

That makes it useful.

It’s what you do with a tool

That makes it powerful.

And when a thousand voices scream,

That’s power!

When the people speak as one,

That’s power!

Don’t be afraid.

Be excited!

Be joyful!

Be glad!

For power has come to the people,

And they will not be denied this moment.

They have prayed,

And they have worked,

And they have suffered

For this moment.

Listen to the wind blow

Through the trees!

Justice has come like a mighty rush of wind,

And anything that’s old, anything that’s weak,

Anything that’s not tied down tight,

Is gonna blow away!

Those old tricks, old ways,

Cowardly words, weak attitudes,

Straw men beware!

The wind of justice has come to blow you…

Away!

Mercy

Alone, but not alone.

God waits behind the curtain–

Or is it I that wait on God?

We wait on each other, then,

In a sort of waltz together,

Taking one step forward,

And one step back,

Rotating in circles,

Never completely meeting.

Oh, how my heart yearns

To connect to the holy one!

Like a child yearns

To be held by its mother,

So I crave the loving arms

Of my Creator.

My prayers of desperation

Fall down into the abyss.

My prostrate body

Aches with loneliness and pain

Of rejection and betrayal.

I must continue

To remain faithful,

But my soul is so weary.

How my enemies mock me,

Lord of All, please,

Be merciful.

Courageous Relationships (link to video)

www.saintpaulsumc.org/sermon/new-places-for-new-people-courageous-relationships/

Click on the above link to view a sermon by Rev. Dr. Kandace Brooks in which she challenges her congregation to step out of their comfort zones and reach out to others, to ask for help or to be of help, specifically to the mentally ill, suicidal, etc.

We Are One

I waited for you

On top of the mountain,

But you didn’t show.

I went down

Into the valley,

But I didn’t see you there.

I sailed on the ocean,

Hoping to catch

A glimpse of you at sunrise,

But I was disappointed.

I prayed to you

To appear to me,

And I looked at my reflection

In a pool of water.

It was then that I realized–

You were always with me,

For you are a part of me.

We can never be separated,

You and I.

We are One.

In the Presence of Everything

Are you the hand

That I shake in the pew,

Or on my way out the door,

To the parking lot?

Are you the presence,

In the plate and cup,

Upon the altar,

That is given for me to consume?

Are you the dirty, scarred face,

Of an abused, homeless woman,

Begging on the street,

Around the corner from the grocery store?

Are you the gentle face and eager voice

Of the elderly man

Who comes to my front door,

Struggling to use an iPad to show a video?

Are you the pastor at the soup kitchen,

Who tells me the administrative position

I’m interviewing for requires someone

Who can shmooze with the volunteers?

Are you the book with all the stories

Spoken a long, long time ago,

Written a long time ago,

For people who lived a long time ago?

If so, I’m wondering:

What is your name? Who am I

In relation to you?

Why do you appear differently to all?

I’d like to pin you down,

Put your number and your address

In my contact list.

I’d like to feel you.

I know that’s not how you operate,

If you did, you wouldn’t be God,

Or would you?

Sometimes I wonder.

A Miracle

Gliding along the currents of air,

I’m lifted by the light that shines on me.

Love permeates my being,

Like a spear piercing my side.

The nails are hammered through

My ragged wrists. I cry out,

My God, my God, why?

Have you forsaken me?

The dusk descends and they lower

My cross, loosen my body

And carry me to my tomb.

I stand on a mountaintop.

Throw yourself down!

God’s angels will save you.

Turn these stones into bread.

You are hungry. Go ahead.

Freedom! I am set free by God’s hand.

Risen at last and the tombstone

Is rolled away.

Sometimes I Freak, Part III

Sometimes I freak when I go to church. When you step into a church somehow you feel like you should be on your best behavior. That’s not really a Godly feeling or sentiment, since I believe that God accepts us exactly as we are, wherever we are, but that is how I was raised. In fact, growing up, my mother was ruthless in spurring me and my brother to get ready and stop goofing around on Sunday morning. What was important was looking good by being on time, behaving well, answering questions intelligently and in a spiritual way—basically, putting on a front. Lord knows my family was falling apart at the seams in every way, with my grandmother passing away, my parents’ separation and eventual divorce, and my mother’s undiagnosed mental illness. All was not well in the Bowman household. And those feelings come back to me today as I step through the doors of a church, any church, even one as positive, inclusive and accepting as mine. I wonder what deviant thoughts people suspect me of (well, actually, I am quite the skeptic), what deviant acts I am guilty of that separate me from other Christians and from God, what rebellion I am in that alienates me from the same. Going to church is something I want to do, but at the same time, I do struggle with these things every time, and it compromises my experience on the whole.

Sometimes I freak when I try to pray. Yes, God and I are not on the best of terms—haven’t been for a long time. In fact, except for when I pray with others—my wife at the dinner table and the occasional attempt at a weekly prayer partnership, my male prayer partner, something I initiated this year as an attempt to get closer to God because of my lack of an intimate relationship, and the occasional prayer with my Sunday School class and with the congregation in the sanctuary—I am not on speaking terms with God. I know after that enumeration of instances it doesn’t sound bad, but I guess I am a perfectionist, and I realize how far I am from any kind of daily routine which would bring me into any kind of genuine intimacy with God. Being alone with God is a frightening experience for me. Feelings of emotional and physical abuse from childhood along with visions of an angry Yahweh of the Old Testament conjure a being to be faced that is not the loving, caring Jesus that spoke to the disciples in the upper room that fateful night and told them that when we see him we have seen the Father, because he and the Father are one. When it’s just me and God (and I have to admit it is always the vengeful Father that I envision in my mind, not the gentle Jesus), I just freeze up. Gone are the soothing thoughts of “come to me ye who are weary, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light”. Instead it is a booming God that stares down at me and demands to know every sin I have committed and has come to punish me for them in some crazy sadistic way that makes me cringe and from which I yearn to escape. Not a great relationship, obviously.

Sometimes I freak when I open the Bible. I’ll admit, it’s intimidating. Yes, there is a lot of wisdom there. Yes, I believe it is divinely inspired. Yes, I believe there is potential for healing, instruction, direction, inspiration, grace, forgiveness—all that. But you know what else there is? God. He is there, waiting, behind those words. For what? I don’t know. But the potential scares me. I have read the entire Bible many times over, and if there is one thing I know for sure, there is power behind those words. And the thought of being overpowered, perhaps in a scary way, is what keeps me from those words. I have been overpowered, many times, in absolute terror, and I have run from figures of authority, figures who were supposed to be trustworthy caretakers, symbols of love and support, that have turned on me like a viper lunging for its prey. Is God like that? My intellect tells me no, but my heart, and my body, are not so sure. After all, if humans, blood, family, can be tyrannical, how much more can God? And there is something else—God is all powerful. Do I want to surrender myself to an all powerful tyrant? Do I want his thoughts to be my thoughts? No, not by a long shot.

Broken

Searching for that connection.
Where is he? She? It?
Where or who is God,
When I am here, in this broken

Body, groveling before the pain
Of existence, desperate for some
Type of relief, some release
From the slavery of my body?

My heart aches. My soul cries out
For mercy, but where is my God?
Where is that freedom, that grace,
That hope, that love, that I once knew?

Where is my identity in Christ?
Where is my savior?
All I know right now is suffering.
Is that you, Lord?

Am I meeting you where you are,
Where you were on that cross?
And if so, what will be the victory?
What great battle is going on?

Is my soul the battleground?
Is my heart the prize?
Is this what it takes to bring me
Back into your fold?

To break me, mold me,
Shape me into something beautiful?
But I have been here before.
I have been broken.

Must I be continually broken
In pain and suffering?
What are you trying to teach me?
And where are you taking me now?