Your Grandmother used to say that to you when you didn’t really understand her meaning. “Put it down and let it walk.” She had concerns for your ability to keep moving in spite of strife or bad feelings. I have a concern about one thing – the extra weight you’re carrying. Not the couple of pounds from your holiday celebrations. They are not the problem.
It’s the burden that’s weighing down your heart. That spat you can’t forget. That word that digs so deeply in your heart. That slight that sent you into a spin. You think you’ve let it go. You think you’ve moved on.
But who could – when someone you have loved so much has hurt you so badly. When you trusted them so much. When you actually put your life in their hands. Only to have them stab you in the back. To have them take another’s side against you. To have them return hatred for the love you gave.
They do need to do penance for their misdeed. They need to be chastised in some way. And that’s my work. But you, my Dear, have work to do also. Put it down and let it walk. I know you’re the injured one, but you have work to do. And it’s life changing, lifesaving work. Your life, not theirs. Carrying the memory of a hurt and refusing to let it go is like carrying a dead body on your shoulders. A very wise person said, ”Unforgiveness is like choosing to stay trapped in a jail cell of bitterness, serving time for someone else’s crime.”
Believe me. It is injury to your soul and illness to your body. It is like tying cement blocks to a spirit that wants to soar.
I know you want to. I gave you that desire. And I blow on it regularly to keep it aflame.
I know you want to forgive, even think you already have. But this is what you need to do.
In your quiet time, think it through; identify the pain and the perpetrator. Then purpose in your heart to forgive. You can’t finish the process. That’s my work.
But you must not only initiate it, you must be faithful to it. You have to change your behavior toward the person as if the work is already done. And before you know it, the new feelings you’ve “perpetrated” will have become second nature. Before you know it the work will be complete and you won’t even know when it happened.
Your Heavenly Father
When I pray I actually feel heaven open up and glory come down – in a Turkish restaurant or a dusty library or on a sandy beach. I am so much the recipient of God’s grace and favor, and apparently it has nothing to do with houses and land and money.
Nothing can compare to the feeling of having all of heaven surround you with God’s presence and make you know it is totally available to you and your heart’s desire. It’s too big for my mind to understand. I love being heard before I speak and the bottom line…having prayers answered while I’m still articulating what I think I want.
There are so many people I want to have this experience. So many people. So many people I know serve God with committed sincerity and never actually feel his presence or loving return in their lives. They talk about his goodness. But you know it’s a rehearsed response because who could really talk about, without experiencing in the moment, the presence and peace and fulfillment and mercy of God, without melting into the humility that decries such goodness. It’s at once humbling and edifying and it’s something you don’t want to keep to yourself.
You want everyone to know it’s as accessible to them as it is to yourself.
My God. What a blessing. And we don’t talk about it enough. Not nearly enough.
And I’m asking God how he’s gifted me to share it so people really get it.
I don’t know yet. But I’m listening.
I’m writing something today because I’m supposed to write something today. Every day. Wow! I’m not inspired.
I want to set my hair on fire in protest to children being separated from their imigrant families; and that’s just the latest thing. I’m sure it’s my feeling of not having power to stop this. Or to change this. How can we people of good conscience sit idly by and let these things happen in the name of the Lord? Believe me I’m asking the Lord at the same time I’m asking you. How on earth can we be quiet when we have screamed at the very thought of children having been separated from African families during active slave trade in this country? How on earth can we be quiet when some are old enough to have screamed when Japanese families were mandated to internment camps during World War II?
How can we be quiet when our children are being separated from us in incidents of police brutality? In cases of urban violence? In acts of gang wars?
How can we be quiet?
I just want to do something. I’m praying. And I want to put feet to my prayers. But it seems the people who have power to do something are satisfied to be quiet as long as the person in the Oval Office represents their personal interests and continues to ensure for them the renown and the wealth they comfortably maintain.
How can they be quiet?
We’ve got to do better in choosing our leaders.
We need really God-fearing Christians who believe the message of Jesus Christ in their hearts, not just in their minds and on their political literature.
We need people who scream when we feel like screaming.
Not just because we tell them to. But because their scream is erupting simultaneously.
We need people who believe that faith is not something to be set aside in the same way one relegates “Sunday-go-to-meeting” clothes.
We need people who know that the faith we espouse should permeate every cell of our being and should inform every act of our lives, every relationship we enjoy, every task we undertake.
We need people who know Jesus personally…who have experienced the love of God for themselves…who understand that Jesus’ gospel of love is for everyone, but particularly the “least of these”…who are compelled to live out that faith whether or not live cameras capture every act.
We need people.
My God! We need people.
You, my Dear, are fearfully and wonderfully made by God. You are by no means a mistake or an accident. If you don’t believe me, read Psalm 139 in its entirety. But focus on verses 13-16.
They give great detail about your beginnings and believe me, they’re no different than anyone else’s.
Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God –you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration – what a creation!
You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something
Like an open book, you watched me grow from inception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day. (The Message)
You figured heavily in God’s divine design for the world. You have a part to play, and no one else can fulfill your role. You’re not a cookie cut from a mold. You’re a fingerprint, and not even twins share the same prints.
You are so unique that your absence would leave a void in God’s tapestry for humanity.
So get over yourself. Stop being so hard on yourself. Clean up your act. Or ask God to clean it up. Start being proud of yourself. Address yourself as “Sweetheart” or whatever name you prefer. Give yourself the love you so willingly give to everyone else. Pat yourself on the back when you do a great job. Help yourself with an alternative plan when things don’t take the “plan A” route.
Take good care of yourself. You’re important to God. You bear his image and are made in his likeness. You’re a vital member of the family. And the whole world groans waiting for the full manifestation of who you were made to be.
Fearfully and wonderfully made. Walk in it! Be blessed in it! Bless everyone who encounters you! It’s already in you. You just have to acknowledge it and blossom where you’re planted.
Must have been difficult working alongside Jesus. He was much more than the inner circle of three, the crew of 12 disciples and the many others who followed, in spite of not understanding the reason, could ever have imagined.
He went against every convention of their tradition.
He bucked the system every chance he got.
He spoke strange words in strange ways they’d never heard.
He looked favorably upon people they’d been taught to disdain.
He walked through places that others circumvented.
He touched people who were considered defiled.
And yet they couldn’t stay away from him.
Even though their best wisdom, their family and friends and everything inside instructed that they should.
They hung on his every word.
They couldn’t defy him even as hard as they tried.
And after three years, he’d become to them all that he said he’d be from the beginning.
And after three years, when they’d succumbed completely to his teaching and his way…
When they’d bought into his spiel, hook, line and sinker
When they’d even become adept at spreading the same word he’d spoken so many times
Now he’s talking about leaving them.
Now he’s spreading some spin about them having to function on their own.
Now in this moment he’s telling them they’ll just have to adjust without him.
And before he leaves…after telling them the next time they eat together will be in paradise.
Before he leaves they share one last meal.
They’d shared many meals before…some formal Passover celebrations…some bread on the go…some at fancy homes of rich constituents
Remember the time…he invited himself over to Zaccheus’ house for a meal?
Remember the certain man…who Jesus invited to host him and his crew for the Passover?
Remember the meal at Simon’s house when the woman washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair?
Many meals they’d shared…but none was like this one…the last one…the Last Supper.
And he told them to replicate the meal. Often.
Peter was a champion. He was a first tier disciple. He actually walked and talked with Jesus while he was on earth. He was petulant and passionate. He was powerful and persistent.
He spoke without thinking. He acted before he thought. He was a strong willed man who many leaders would have shunned because of his temperament. Jesus was undaunted by all of that. As he is undaunted by our humanity or our flaws. None of that stops the Lord from showing himself strong for us and through us.
Peter became such a champ that he continued the ministry Jesus began on earth and wrote two books that are included in the Bible.
But look at this picture of him.
Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.
There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one. Acts 5:15
Peter, of all people. Remember Peter? Impetuous. Strong willed. Outspoken. Sometimes good answers. Sometimes not-so-good answers. In one instance, his answer was so spot on that Jesus told him flesh and blood had not revealed it to him, but only God could have done it. In another, Jesus told him to get behind him and characterized him as Satan. A man of many contradictions.
Peter. Of all the disciples. Not John the lovebug. Not James, the other Son of Thunder. But Peter, who followed the Lord closely enough to walk on water. Peter who declared he’d never forsake the Lord, and yet denied him when it appeared his life was at stake. Peter.
He didn’t touch them. He didn’t pray over them. He didn’t speak a word over them. He walked by them. He simply walked by them. He only walked by them. And their hope was merely that his shadow would fall on them. They had seen it before. Some of them might have been the past recipients of this healing. Some of their friends and relatives may have been healed in the process. But they’d seen it. They’d heard it. They knew it worked. And their only concern was that the patient get close enough to the edge of the road that Peter’s shadow would fall on them as he passed by. No audience required. No paperwork to fill out. No insurance affiliation to verify. No membership required to the neighborhood church.
They only needed Peter’s shadow to fall on them and healing would be instantaneous. Peter didn’t know how this happened. Jesus never talked to them about becoming healing machines.
He only said to them that if they would ask anything of the Father and in the Father’s will, it would be done unto them. And he told them to wait on the Holy Spirit. To wait to be filled with power from on high.
And filled they were. Filled to absolute overflowing with the power of God’s Holy Spirit Jesus had sent to be with them and comfort them after his crucifixion, resurrection and departure from them.
So filled that someone could be healed by the power exuding even from their passing shadow.
I was training a class of young folks in the basics of ministry in the fall of 2001. They were each called, as are we all, and were committed to finding their unique area of giftedness and assignment.
So I crafted a curriculum of ABCs beginning with their own salvation, pulpit decorum and serving with grace at the Lord’s Table. We talked about visiting the sick and planning worship services of all kinds. As we neared the class on water baptism, I was led to conduct what I called a baptism lab. I sought out one of my colleagues with a baptismal pool, the Rev. Virginia Wise of New Rose of Sharon Baptist Church in Baltimore, and she responded with extravagant hospitality.
I love that phrase, coined in my life by Apostle Stanley Butler, to describe the hospitality of God that the church should strain to imitate as much as humanly possible. I digress.
Anyway, we scheduled the lab. I informed the class members and invited a few friends who I thought would enjoy the lab.
When we arrived, it was impressed on me to open with a few old songs, like the ones we would have sung at a Friday evening baptism service. It was, after all, Friday evening. And we always had baptism on a Friday evening at my home church. And we were conducting a baptism lab. Or so I thought. My plan was to have the students feel the weight and the grace of letting someone down into the waters of God, knowing they would rise into the newness of life.
As we began to sing…Oh how I love Jesus, Down at the Cross, Wade in the water, Take me to the water…it became apparent the Holy Spirit had another plan for our Friday evening. The fire fell on us all and we sang with the same gusto as in any worship service. Not everyone wanted to baptize or be baptized. Everyone wanted to be baptized in the power and presence of God’s Holy Spirit.
And after a brief extemporaneous word from the Lord, I had the pleasure of baptizing the daughter of one of my students. Totally unplanned. I had the pleasure of baptizing my own daughter at her request. Not her first time. Totally unplanned.
And ultimately the joy of baptizing Rev. Wise’s little granddaughter who was visiting from Virginia and refused to leave without having been baptized.
What an evening! What an experience! What a lesson!
Our best plans for a baptism lab were completed “bested” by the Lord himself and we were all blessed beyond anything we could have imagined.