A Word on Violence – Part 1

 

“Any act of violence is a negation of life and humanity.” – Rev. Ken Wheeler

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I live in the city of Chicago. Anyone who pays even the slightest attention to news headlines knows that Chicago has a problem with violence. A Google search on gun violence in the city will return a link to Huffington Post that lists a variety of stories on violence in Chicago. The Chicago Tribune also has a page dedicated to Chicago crime statistics and interactive maps to help residents figure out what crimes happen in various communities.  Now that the weather is warmer and young people will be out of school for the summer, many of us lament the fact that there will be an increase in violence. It’s a fact – warmer weather = more death in Chicago.

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A Word on Pain & Growth

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I don’t think growth happens without pain.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think pain is something that is prescribed in this life. As a person of Christian faith, I don’t believe that God desires us to go through painful situations, nor do I believe that God causes pain in our lives. I believe that pain is an inevitable part of living because we are human, we are broken and we care.

That being said, it is been my experience that times of growth are painful. Continue reading

A Word on Forgiveness

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My devotional reflection was on forgiveness this morning. I am reading Radical Grace, a collection of daily meditations by Franciscan contemplative guru Father Richard Rohr. I appreciate his take on so many things and this particular book has been an often used part of my devotional collection. The meditations are divided by church season and for the week after Easter, Rohr writes prayers to be recited by the reader. One such prayer is on forgiveness and the opening line resonates deeply with me:

Lamb of God we ask that we might be defense free people, that we might be able to live a truly disarmed life, that we might be able to be secure enough in your love, Jesus, to be insecure in this world, to let go, Lord.

The overarching theme of this prayer is about learning to forgive ourselves, but I’ve been thinking a lot about letting go and forgiving others recently. And I’m beginning to realize that forgiveness is all about vulnerability. Continue reading

A Word on Shame

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As Brene Brown would say, this weekend I suffered from the worst vulnerability hangover ever. After my unfortunate Friday night experience, all I wanted to do was go and hide. I replayed the events of that night over and over and over again and could only think one thing – “Lord, have mercy.”

You see, not only did I feel bad about how things went, my mind led me to a place that went beyond embarrassment to pure shame. I totally passed over the thought of “Oh, well, maybe it will be better next time” and headed straight to “See you are not good enough. You really are a fraud. You can’t do this. You are bad.” Continue reading

A Word on Worthiness

I am WorthyI was asked to be a part of a Good Friday service by a woman who I greatly respect and admire. I am growing as a preacher – am very good with content and am working on delivery because I want to appeal to black church communities. That being said, I was equal parts nervous and excited about this opportunity, which featured seven women in total who were from various faith traditions.

I prepared for the sermon like I do any other sermon. I took time studying, praying, reflecting and writing. As I crafted my message, I felt the Spirit move over and through me. This is a sure sign that I’m operating in my gift and as the words came to life on my manuscript I felt confident that the message that I was given was the one that God had intended.

Then came Friday. Leading up to the worship service, I had fleeting thoughts of insecurity, but I brushed them off. However, when I arrived at the church, every feeling and thought I ever had about not being worthy, not being good enough, not belonging came roaring to life. I literally hid in the bathroom after I arrived because I felt so out-of-place. The anxiety was rising and I though to myself, “How in the hell did I get here? Why do I think that I belong here? I can’t do this.” Continue reading

A Word to the Girl I Once Was

I write this through a watery gaze that is shedding tears for the girl I once was…

I recently watched a video from a family member’s birthday party circa 1983. I must have been 2 years old and the party was held at McDonald’s when McDonald’s was THE place to hold birthday parties. The video was recorded on a VHS and it was slightly fuzzy. It was quite entertaining to see the fashion – especially my mother’s blue tinted, big framed glasses – and hear the music of the 80’s. As I watched, I looked for myself in the chaos of babies, children, teens, parents, characters, balloons…you get the picture. When I finally spotted myself, I was surprised by what I saw. I was sitting alone at a table and I had a look of fear on my face. My hands were clenching the seat beneath me and my frame was cloaked with anxiety. No one was talking to me. My mother wasn’t around. And I looked utterly alone. That video image spoke volumes to me.

Of course, being the good therapeutic patient that I am, I brought this up during my next therapy session. And of course, being the cryer that I am, the floodgates opened. My therapist attentively listened to my sharing and when I was done, she asked that question that I hate being asked, “Rozella, what are the tears about?”

I sniffled my way through my response and finally articulated what I was feeling. “I’m crying for the girl I was; for the image reflected back to me that embodied how I felt about myself. The image that showed me how afraid and nervous I was. The image that reiterates my greatest fear to this day – the fear of being utterly alone.”  Continue reading

Music Mondays: Beyoncé

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Beyoncé released a new album on Friday at midnight. If you aren’t a fan or a music junkie or live under a rock, you probably missed this momentous event. People – both celebrities and normal folk alike – took to social media to express their shock and awe. The internet was all abuzz with a diversity of reactions. Most of the commentary was fun and funny to watch and read. Others were much more thought provoking a la this post over at the Crunk Feminist Collective and this video by the Queen of Nerdland, Melissa Harris Perry, where she hails this visual album as Beyoncé’s ‘Feminist Manifesto’. My favorite track is ***Flawless, which features the words of Nigerian feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie from her Ted Talk entitled, “The Danger of a Single Story“. It has me bobbing my head, shaking my hips, puffing out my chest and singing at the top of my lungs, “I WOKE UP LIKE DIS!” As a womanist with feminist leanings, this song speaks to my soul.

I have been listening to the album non-stop since Friday. It was released as a visual album, meaning that she recorded a video for every song. I recommend watching the videos as you listen to the songs to get the best experience and to understand the context.

All the commentary and pop culture hoopla aside, I was particularly excited about this album because I am in the midst of the hardest season of the year. I have written about my struggles with Seasonal Affective Disorder and am valiantly trying to be positive and proactive during this time of year. It’s hard. I am facing my third Christmas a divorcée. I thought it would get easier, but its not. I travel all the time. I am a long distance away from my family. And I’m sad.

So as I woke up on Friday and reached for my phone, I couldn’t wait to download, listen to and watch this album. It’s hard for me to get out of bed. Like really hard. I jokingly posted as my Facebook status the following:

“Only Beyoncé can get me out of bed excited. Well, and God. But seriously God is using Beyoncé today. #FLAWLESS #thatisall”

I was only partially joking. I believe that music can be therapeutic and I believe that God uses various mediums to remind us of God’s never-ending love and encouragement. So in this instance, God used Beyoncé to encourage me and remind me of the power of love.

The album is all about love – love of self, love of others, love of home, love of life.

It’s all about love – eros, agape, philia and storge.

It’s all about love – confident and mature love.

It’s all about love, which I am desperately seeking…

I’ve struggled with loving myself. I feel like I am on an ongoing journey of practicing patience and grace towards myself. I really want to grow in love of myself because  I believe that I can only truly love others and experience love in relationship if I love myself. This album has me thinking more about what it means to not only love me, but to happy with me.

The last line of the opening track, Pretty Hurts, ask the question – are you happy with yourself? I feel like the rest of the album goes on to answer this question and it seems that Beyonce is happy – not fleetingly, surface level happy – but truly happy. And I want to experience that. I want to be happy too.

I’m inspired and for that I’m grateful. This album is going to get me through the next few days until I am home and can revel in the love of family and friends. It will get me through this season of being alone. It will get me through the sadness.

Thanks Beyoncé. Your music and vision give me life.

Love,

Me