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All is known and all is forgiven

All is known and all is forgiven.
This pronouncement of grace is attributed to Mother Frances Graves, co founder of Faith Chapel in Philadelphia, along with her late husband, Bishop Eugene Graves.

It’s the way she has assured congregants of their salvation for more than 56 years and the power of this salvo is inescapable.

All is known and all is forgiven.

All is known by God and all is forgiven.

All is known by God and yet…

All is forgiven.

By. God. 

I don’t know about your first all, but mine is pretty awful and I find no comfort in anyone knowing it.

Let alone the wonderful God of a universe our minds can’t even comprehend

The same wonderful God who knew me and had intimate relationship with me before

The same wonderful God who formed me in my mother’s womb

The same wonderful God who, with intention, knit me together, including in the pattern of my fabric every ALL I would need to become the magnificent person he intended me to be

I’m not that cool with that God knowing my ALL

Except for the mind blowing fact that in spite of the fact that he knows me ALL

He, with foreknowledge of my ALL, put a plan into place to permit my continued participation in his family because

With full knowledge of my ALL, he is fully committed to forgetting and forgiving, even before the fact of my guilt, with the fullness of his grace

ALL is known and ALL is forgiven.

Thank you, Mother Graves.

Thank you, God.

Happy New Year!


I’m grateful to God for his loving, gracing, keeping power in my life. As much as I love words and how they work together to compose a design, I can’t fathom a combination that is adequate to express my awe and appreciation for who God is to me and the wondrous ways in which he operates on my behalf. I love how he fills me with love so that it overflows into my sphere of influence; how he fills me with his grace and mercy so there so much available for everyone I meet. I love how he overflows his presence in my life so that there’s enough to attract those who are on deficit. I love. I grace. I show mercy. Because. He loves, graces and shows mercy to me.

Thank you.

I’m grateful to my family members who take time and put forth effort to show me love, respect and even some admiration so that being surprisingly close to 70 is not a chore but a joy. I’m grateful to be in blissful association with people who love God, who love God’s people, who love to give and make sure others have basic needs met on a regular basis. I’m grateful to be in glorious relationship with people who don’t take themselves too seriously and know how to throw back and let laughter roar until breathing is a chore. I love you back. I loved you first. I love you always. You make me proud.

Thank you.

I’m grateful for you people who read my books. Talk about being surprised by life. Who knew that retiring would open the door for a brand new thing, as promised by God. Writing books. Blogging. Getting my friends on board – friends I’ve had for so many years. Book signings. Self publishing.

For every visit to this website. Thank you. For every post you’ve read. Thank you. For every post you’ve shared. Thank you. For every mention to a friend. Thank you. For every book purchased. Thank you. For every review written. Thank you. For every site subscription. Thank you. For every invitation to speak. Thank you. 

Thank you.

My prayer for you is that you enter 2019 with your mouths opened wide so God may fill them, with your hearts opened wide so God may love you, with your hands opened wide so God may use them, with your mind opened wide so God can fulfill his purpose for your own well being for the world’s blessing.

Let’s go in together!

Happy New Year!

Christmas on Barclay Street

Preparations began long before Christmas with the detailed cleaning of the house. This was when we brought out the toothbrushes and attacked the floor boards, nooks and crevices along the stairway and the higher shelves over the living room mirror. Singular punishment on every level.

Being the youngest and the smallest in the house, much of this duty fell to myself; little enough to climb the ladder, small enough to kneel on the floor, smart enough to keep my grumbling to myself. These chores occupied the Saturdays leading up to Christmas and I did this while my aunt made cookies. Tons of cookies. Every kind of cookie imaginable. And they were carefully and skillfully layered in huge Utz potato chip cans, nestled lovingly between sheets of wax paper. The cans were perched on high shelves in our walk-in dining room closet so they couldn’t be accessed before Christmas.

The tree went up about a week before Christmas. Seeing it come in the house made me cringe at the countless pine needles it would deposit in various places throughout the coming Spring. It also made me shudder at the minute instruction and correction that would ensue concerning tinsels that were not hung individually with perfection. Tinsel’s first. Then the lights. Following with the balls and other ornaments; some older than dirt. Did I say we also had to replace the tinsel in the original package with precision so it could be used the following year?

We always got toys, never a bike, always a book and the obligatory doll. I loved dolls. I took exquisite care of them, down to their wardrobe that I made with help from my cookie-baking aunt. I gave my entire collection to my little sister when I got married. Thought later I should have saved them for my girls. We also always got clothes and a new coat. The coat was for church and the former coat could now be worn for school. Same process for the new shoes.

And the house was filled with smells. And food. And cakes and pies to add to the cookies. Another aunt made the best coconut cake under the sky and it shared space with all the other baked goodies on the buffet in the dining room. When company came they were always bombarded with egg nog and dessert, including the fruit cake. Fruit cake. Never quite understood it. But it was always there, long after the holiday was over.

But it was the best time of the year, especially when cousins came and stayed and played and the day was warm enough to go outside and play. On Christmas. The laughter was heartier. The love was lovelier. And everyone was happier. Filled with more joy. With more hope. With more goodwill toward others. With more enjoyment of each other and determination to carry all this into the new year.

Merry Christmas! Happy Birthday Jesus!

Tales from the Sweetheart Gang

If you want to know why Plooney called some people “yick minded,” or you want to know the power of “Blessed Assurance;” If you want to now what raising 9 children looks like or the key to southern hospitality, you must read “Tales from the Sweetheart Gang.”

It really is pure fun. It’s the result of women with sometimes questionable relationships with their mothers suddenly hearing their mother’s voice and words spewing from their own mouths, toward their own daughters. Mothers and daughters.

These authors have each written a chapter to remember the love and genuine affection their mothers had for them and the wonderful, quirky, sometimes downright strange ways the proclamation of that love came forth. Some basking in that love takes place. Some sudden realization of a love that neither looked nor felt as expected.

Tiffany Christina, the youngest author, celebrates while her mother is still with her, and yet her realization is the same; she is her mother. Another original Mini Me to Theresa Ginyard.

All of these authors are my friends and have been for some time. We went to high school together. Or we played in the neighborhood together. Bettie Crest Durant and I lived just a few houses apart on Barclay Street. Brenda Alford came from further east than I just to meet up at Booker T. Washington Junior High School and continue to Eastern High, where we added Barbara Green Hope to our terrific trio. Brenda and I sang together with the Gospel Harmonizers at the first Baltimore City Fair. Barbara and I played together in Eastern’s orchestra.

Rev. Doris Gaskins and I met a million years ago as we began our mutual journeys as urban pastors. We prayed, studied and prepared sermons in the hopes of spreading much of the same love we’d received from the Lord.

Talibah Chikwendu hired me as an entry level reporter at the AFRO American Newspaper more than 20 years ago and we’ve been friends ever since. 

Dorothy Rowley is another AFRO alum who, like myself, has recreated herself during her semi retirement. She loves all things lively and spreads her joy and faith wherever she goes.

Rev. Bertha Borum is my newest friend and we came together as a result of mutual parishioners telling us how identical our personalities, our temperament and our love for the Lord seemed to them. It was all true and we pastored together for eight years after our initial encounter.

Our hope is that these stories will inspire our readers to recollect their own stories and share them with the young’uns who may not have stories of their own. They’re great ice breakers for gatherings and bread starters for telling new stories. Read. Enjoy. Share. Retell. Have a celebration for the “Tales of the Sweetheart Gang.”


Advent

It’s a peculiar season that’s kind of hard to understand. Some people put up Christmas trees and decorations before Thanksgiving but most wait until after. The shopping day, Black Friday, seems to be the official signal that Christmas is on. All things Christmas are now allowable and let the shopping begin. But the church calendar has another little season sandwiched between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s called Advent.
And it’s just that; a season between. A waiting period. A time to perfect waiting. A time to prepare for. A time to stop and ponder. A time to meditate. It’s like Lent preceding Easter. A time to consider the sacrifices of Jesus before we celebrate his resurrection.
Advent is observed for the four Sundays preceding Christmas. In addition to preaching and teaching, an Advent wreath is in full view of congregants and one of the four candles is lit each week with a scriptural reading to illuminate the themes; hope, peace, joy and love. A white candle is in the middle and represents Christ and all he brings to the world.
Advent is a time to consider the entire life of Christ before we celebrate his earthly birth. A time even to center on his second coming – he lived; he ministered; he died; he was raised from the dead; he’s coming again.
He’s coming again for a church without spot or blemish. He’s coming again to reclaim the faithful with whom he’s been in fellowship and for whom he’s been in intercession. He’s coming again and for those who have accepted his lordship in their lives, this is good news. And for those who have not, it’s a reminder that his is a welcome invitation that is always extended; every minute of every day. With no need for formality. With no need for a celebrant. With the only need being a heart that says yes.
And then it’s Christmas every day because Jesus Christ is born anew in our hearts and souls every day. And then it’s time to celebrate the coming of one who brings with him the shalom of God – justice and holy access for whosoever will. Are there ways we can open our hearts even more to receive the fullness of God’s love and grace? Are there ways we can be more available as vessels of transport of that love and grace to everyone we encounter? Are there ways we can surrender ourselves to be the vessels of honor that bring glory to God while blessing the people of God?
These and more are our Advent considerations as we prepare ourselves to celebrate Christmas with all the joy our hearts can hold and to bless the world with all that can’t be contained.
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Grace on the beach

So I’m standing on the beach in Ocean City, Md. in 50 degree weather. While I’m in the morning prayer circle with EPI Ministries, I’m contemplating removing my shoes so I can feel the ocean water as some of the others are doing. Anyone who knows me is already nonplussed that I’m on the beach in the cold at 7 am on an end-of-October morning. And can hardly believe i’m even considering baring my feet. But I am. And I came all this way. And I don’t want to miss out on anything because I believe the Lord has something planned for us when we stretch out beyond our comfort zone. And I’m next to the oldest in the group and don’t want to be “too old” to try something different. So the contemplation began. 

What if the water is entirely too cold?

If I put my feet in the water, how will I dry them?

How will I get the sand off my feet?

I wonder if anyone brought towels from the pool room. 

And before I could conjure up another barrier to the blessing…Although we were standing well beyond the line the wave had previously reached…And before any of us could react…the wave came up and totally bathed, baptized and embraced our feet and ankles with a chilling but loving wet smooch that superseded my check list. 

I’m so glad he doesn’t let my misgivings allow me to miss out on his giving. 

I’m grateful for grace. And laughter.

And the people who danced in the water with me. 

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I speak their names

I speak their names…I’m not sure why the Lord has apparently entrusted me with the task of remembering the wonderful people in my life who’ve touched me in ways they can’t even imagine. I’m am often sparked with a moment of flashback to the face of one of the women who helped me become a woman. So this list will grow. 

And I am honored to speak their names.

  • Rida Bell Billups
  • Bruce Branch
  • Hattie Childs
  • Victoria Clark
  • Theresa Cley 
  • Magruder Cockrell
  • Luvenia Crest
  • Bessie Dawson
  • Charlotte Flowers
  • Susan Fuller
  • Jacqueline Hardy
  • Mary Hodges
  • Geneva Johnson
  • Anita Jones
  • Nellie Logan
  • Irene Moore
  • Ruth Murphy
  • Helen Norman
  • Lucille Payne
  • Barbara Powell
  • Hazel Sidberry25FC6DAE-338E-4FA7-81E5-E920DA12398B