Soul Fiber: Wear Your Red Ribbon

10 I came to give life with joy and abundance. John 10:10 The Voice

Many moons after the first cases of HIV a group of artists gathered in New York City to discuss a project for Visual Aids, a New York arts organization that raises HIV awareness. They came up with an idea that has become a first, worldwide recognized symbol – the red ribbon – worn to signify awareness and support for people living with HIV. This ribbon symbol inspired later versions such as the pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness. The artists were also encouraged by the yellow ribbons tied on trees to denote support for the military service members fighting in the Gulf War.

Ribbon Far beyond the same gender loving community, HIV is a larger issue among the opposite gender loving community. That is to say, there is a greater probability among heterosexual senior citizens and African American women who are contracting HIV. HIV is no longer an exclusively ‘gay person’s’ disease. Wearing the red ribbon is one way of raising our awareness that HIV is preventable and merits as much visibility as wearing the yellow ribbon and the pink ribbon.

In the United Church of Christ (UCC) bulletin, used by churches across the nation, Rev. Mike Schuenemyer, Director of the UCC’s HIV and AIDS Network (UCAN) writes: “December 1st is World AIDS Day – an annual event held to unit people worldwide in the fight against HIV, support people living with HIV and commemorate those who have died. The world lost an inspirational advocate for people living with AIDS earlier this year with the death of Oliver Wendell Martin III….” He was “a dear friend and an amazing leader. His relentless passion for justice and vision for a church and world fully engaged in HIV response lit up many a room. He [Oliver] knew how to bring diverse people together and his war spirit set people at ease to deal with difficult questions…often going above and beyond the call. We will do well to draw inspiration from the witness of his life, so faithfully and generously lived….On December 1st, make it a point to learn some facts about HIV and then put your knowledge into action. Do it in memory of Oliver.” And, please wear your red ribbon.

Please pray for American and Coalition soul’s killed-in-action,

their families and, especially their children.

Soul Fiber: The System Reaps What The System Sows

7 Make no mistake: God can’t be mocked. What you give is what you get. What you sow, you harvest. 8 Those who sow seeds into their flesh will only harvest destruction from their sinful nature. But those who sow seeds into the Spirit shall harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. Galations 6:7-8 The Voice

The posting below has circulated on FB and throughout the email community with the caption “90-year-old man, 2 pastors charged with feeding the homeless; face up to 60 days in jail and $500 fine: http//” Some of the comments are: “What ever happened to America as a Christian Nation?” Another comment: “Would they treat Jesus like this?” Not only would they arrest Jesus, they did; and killed him too. We’ve only claimed to be a Christian nation. PicThere is absolutely nothing Christian about using the bible to support slavery, domestic violence (submission), child abuse (spare the rod spoils the child), etc. The bad news is that these views continue to drive our religious, political, and cultural beliefs.” The longer I live the less I believe many of the things we were taught in the educational and religious systems. Things like “sticks and stones may break your bones but words can never harm you.” We know how painful verbal abuse can be. Untold children have been physically abused as a result of biblical teachings related to sparing the rod and some are scarred for life and become abusers of themselves and others.

Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., Pastor Emeritus, Trinity UCC, Chicago, continues to be ostracized in the media (print and verbal) for reminding America that her chickens are coming home to roost. The “Roosting Chickens” as a title comes from a 1963 Malcolm X speech about the John F. Kennedy assassination, calling it “…a case of ‘chickens coming home to roost.’” Could it be that the increased persecution of “Christian” work locally and abroad is similarly related; that the work of Crusaders, witch hunters, hundreds of hangings, pipeline to prison, and using the Bible as a weapon against women and same gender loving gay lesbian bisexual transgender questioning intersex and allies (SGLGLBTQIA) rights are vindicated as roosting chickens; i.e., what the system has sowed the system is reaping?

Please pray for American and Coalition soul’s killed-in-action,

their families and, especially their children.

Soul Fiber: The Eternal Now: Remembering Constance D. Harper

And the One who sat on the throne announced to His creation, The One: See, I am making all things new. (turning to me) Write what you hear and see, for these words are faithful and true. 6 It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will see to it that the thirsty drink freely from the fountain of the water of life. To the victors will go this inheritance: I will be their God, and they will be My children.” Revelation 21: 1-7 The Voice

Over 500 deltas gathered to participate in the Omega, Omega celebration of Constance D. Harper, Publisher of the Call Post (Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati), Many of us, including her staff and family members, remain disbelieving and shocked about the reality that a legend in her time has quietly and quickly slipped into the eternal now; a refrain used in a tribute from one of her long-term friends (60 years plus) and sorority sister. They both pledged at Central State. And guess who signed their certificate? The late Dorothy Height.

While we all come from eternity past through eternity present to eternity future, eternity now seems more on point for those who are absent from the body. Another way of thinking about eternity now is in the phrase from the movie Time Machine ‘the future is now.’ We cannot see are beloved loved-ones at their highest vibration of love, their state of being outside the body, yet they are alive. I believe we shall be reunited when our eternity future (yet to be our reality) becomes our eternity now.

The musical selection Take Me to the King followed the spoken tributes. The lyrics that brought tears to most of our eyes are: “Take me to the King, I don’t have much to bring; my heart is torn in pieces, it’s my offering. Lay me at the throne, leave me there alone; to gaze upon Your glory and sing to You this song: Please take me to the King…No rules, no religion, I’ve made my decision; To run to You, the healer that I need, take me to the King….” In the Spirit I could see the Holy Spirit taking Connie to the Divine Redeemer, laying her in the arms of Jesus, and her gazing upon the Glory of God. My, my.

As if that were not the zenith of our shared experience, the selected reading from Holy Writ was Revelation 21: 1-7. May I draw your attention to verses 4 and 5?

   He will wipe away every tear from (Connie’s) eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Then, the one seated on the throne said “Look! I am making all things new.” Common English Bible.

With all of her accomplishments including two inductions into halls of fame, she remained humble and ready to help others even as she lives into the eternity now.

Please pray for American and Coalition soul’s killed-in-action,

their families and, especially their children.

Soul Fiber: Love is God and God is Love

“My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.” 1 John 4:7-10, The Message (MSG)

At a protest against an inclusive Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, a group of extremely conservative clergy gathered to protest the amendment of this Act. It was an honor to be standing at the Capitol as a supportive voice. By the time I was interviewed I was furious (but cool with righteous indignation). I began my remarks by saying “One Black clergy person (when the phrase is used ‘we the Black Pastors’) is not speaking for all Black pastors. Further, the protesters’ ancestors used similar tactics to justify slavery, domestic violence (wives submit to your husbands), Jim Crow, etc. This is a civil right and not a theological issue, and God, contrary to what we heard today, is about love, light, and life.     As usual, I was the only Black clergy person there who spoke in support of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. That is not to brag by any stretch of the imagination. It is actually embarrassing, painful, and an affront to ally’s when members of the Black GLBTQ community accept the violence of living a lie and in the closet because they fear their own truth and God’s truth in creating them more than they affirm God’s love for them as God created them. In my not-so-humble opinion, to continue to believe that one is an abomination in need of deliverance from their sexual sins and gender identity is the real abomination. And to have Black clergy to join the chorus of opponents to equal rights as civil rights (the system is always able find one or two Black opponents) is most disturbing.      As I remind those willing to listen and hear, love is not about sex, sexuality, and with whom you have sex. Love is about intimacy and who are our Biblical examples (for those who want to make this a theological issue)?  David and Jonathan, Naomi and Ruth, and Jesus and John the Beloved. Intimacy is what God is asking of all of us – draw close to Me and I will draw close to you….     This is the bottom line message: If we are going to proof-text, i.e. lift scripture out of context to support our position, proof-text the affirming scriptures; particularly 1 John 4: 7-10 where we learn that ‘love is God and God is love.’

Please pray for American and Coalition soul’s killed-in-action,

their families and, especially their children.

Soul Fiber: God is Preparing You for the Gift of an Answer

“Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hid-and-seek game we’re in…. So don’t you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?” Matthew 7:7-11 The Message

It is worth being more attentive to the Spirit of generosity in Holy Writ, most other inspirational work, and in life; a fact easy to overlook when we are tangled and tied up with our own issues; especially when they are dramatized. We also overlook the reality that God (by whatever name) is literally waiting for us to 1) be in relationship (spirituality) with God who is always, always yearning to be in relationship with us and 2) inviting us to ask for what you need (this is based on the promise “I [God] will supply all of your needs according to My riches in heaven”).

Heaven is not exclusively a place in the future eternity. It is a place in your being (the realm of God is within). Focusing on the bye-in-bye will cost you the here-and-now; that is to say, it will cost you today which is called the present – to be unwrapped with the gifts of gratitude and thanks-living.

You may be thinking “I’ve asked God for…and have not received it yet.” Are you certain God did not give you an answer? It may not be the answer you expected or wanted. Yet, God ALWAYS gives you what you need.

You may be bitter about the death of a loved-one, particularly the death of a child. You may say “I would never ask God to take my child; even if she or he was in unmanageable pain.”  Did it occur to you that your loved one asked God to “please take me out of this misery?” In many of the most devastating experiences, is God using (not causing) your pain to prepare you for the answer in the form of another gift?

For a minimum of ten years, I have prayed for training that would prepare me to hang out my shingle, so to speak. That prayer was answered just last week when I was gifted with 40 hours of Peer Support Specialty Certification training. My point?

Keep asking and be direct. Make your request a gift and in time expect God, the Gift Giver, to prepare you for the gift of an answer.

Please pray for American and Coalition soul’s killed-in-action,

their families and, especially their children.

Soul Fiber: When You Hear A Crowing Rooster

“Then he got nervous and swore “I don’t know the man! Just then a rooster crowed. Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three time.” He went out and cried and cried and cried.” Matthew 26:74-75

When you hear a crowing rooster does it remind you of the time you’ve made a commitment or given your word? Does humanity have that sense of self-awareness where we immediately recognize where we’ve sidestepped our own desired to have integrity or are we teaching in our educational, family, and religious systems the reality that our word is important and can be trusted?

Surely, we have had Peter’s experience when we are so emotionally caught up in the moment that we sometimes miss the “who, what, when, were, why possibilities, probabilities, and unknowns. For example, a person may join a church based on their emotional experience as opposed to taking the time to determine, is this the place for me to belong? Is this the place that teaches me tools for better living or is this the place to become a cookie cutting believer?

We are grateful to be received and accepted as a new church start in the Michigan Conference of the United Church of Christ.  We were not expecting this recognition and almost immediately, I heard the rooster crow in my spirit. Thirty years ago, God called me to the ministry with three assignments based on the threefold conversation the resurrected Christ had with Peter in John 21. Three times the Christ asked Peter “Do you love ME?” This is the first year I wholehearted answered that call. And in all the excitement, joy, and thanksgiving I feel, I also feel some sadness and can related to Pater saying “Lord you know everything there is to know. You’ve got to know that I love you.” Of course He knows everything. The lesson is “have you counted the cost associated with answering God’s call and your purpose (hopefully these two are synonymous).

On a lighter note, when I arrived for a week’s Peer Support Specialist Training, upon getting out of my car a rooster crowed and I thought “what an alarm clock.”

Please pray for American and Coalition soul’s killed-in-action,

their families and, especially their children.

Soul Fiber: Exchange Your Complaints for Compliments

Do all things without murmurings and disputing’s…Philippians 2:14

Minister Darrick D. McGhee writes in his FB meditation “It’s a wonderful day to be a child of God. Today, I have been commissioned to come and minister to you. My brother, my sister, here’s another short and direct devotional. While praying this morning, the Holy Spirit pressed this heavily within my spirit: Beloved stop complaining so much! By complaining, you are sending a message to God that you do not believe He can change whatever it is. If you know He can, why spend time griping and moaning about it? Could it be possible that the thing you are complaining about is not God’s will for you? Hmmmm! May God Bless you at Your point of need!

This is wonderful counsel in the light of so much gossip, backbiting, resentment, deception, bitterness, divorce, injustice, sickness, exclusivity and the like could very well be lodged in our humanity as a result of the nags, liars, and complainers.

We are doing what we know to do to reach out to those for whom there seems to be more complaints than compliments heaped upon. Some faith-based organizations are even disallowing AA Groups for fear that same gender saints will insist upon using “their” church. Not so when it is God’s church.

Space for Grace (SFG) invites you to another powerful learning opportunity on Thursday, October 23. The more we learn about one another, the more likely we will do as suggested by Minister McGhee.

The late Maya Angelou wrote: “Try to be the rainbow is someone’s cloud.” Minister McGhee reminds us that ‘when you complain, you are telling God, the Universe, and yourself that you do not believe…. At SFG we submit that “When you feel like complaining, practice exchanging your complaint for a compliment.”

Please pray for American and Coalition soul’s killed-in-action,

their families and, especially their children.