the dance of grief and grace

I wonder if it ever gets easier. The constant dance of embracing joy and grief close to your heart. As a therapist, I lived in this dancehall of vulnerability. Where brave individuals rehearsed and mastered powerful steps. One step. Two steps. 12 steps. First steps toward healing, freedom and peace.

Pain is an aggressive dance partner. Stepping on the toes of your joy. Forcing your spirit and your gaze to be downcast. Until Grace cuts in and introduces your to an old friend called gratitude. You look up and see again the beauty of God. The goodness of God. The faithfulness of God. What is my soul’s response? What is my next dance step? I wonder.

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The Spectacle of Racism

Yesterday, I watched some of the Michael Cohen hearings. Amongst other things, some law makers, cited their Christian faith while discussing the truth, the law and the significance of racism within the current administration. Racism turned into a spectacle.

This photo was of a spectacle lynching. Amongst other citizens, Christians just leaving church were in attendance displaying their views on racism. Calling it the truth and it was the law. Photographs were taken as advertisement for the next spectacle lynching. To incite horror and fear.

This is the last day of Black History Month. Patrick Campbell’s image of the American flag is brutal. It’s a hard truth. Yet one to be dealt with. Looked at without blinking. African Americans flinch, but we don’t get to blink. Lynching is the forgotten legacy that lives within our DNA.

At the National Museum for Peace and Justice, EJI (Equal Justice Initiative) founder, Bryan Stevenson, remembered and memorialized those who perished in the 4,400 lynchings that took place in the U.S. from 1877 to 1950.

In the 400th year since the first slave ship arrived, we are still having conversations about the value of our bodies, our voices, our souls, our spirit and our freedom. Racism and white supremacy are evil. Their existence is an invitation to all forms of domestic terrorism. Systemic injustice terrorism. You’re not a child of God – terrorism.

Lynching had the right to kill simply because of a Black body’s inconvenient existence. Racism says your humanity is offensive and is making a spectacle of itself.

Wendy’s Song. The painful holiness of hope and joy.

On my way to church yesterday, “Great Are You Lord” played in my car. I first heard this song at Quest Church in Seattle in a season of grief as my best friend fought the ravages of ovarian cancer. I sang it with tears running down my face. I sometimes stared blankly in front of me. I poured out my praise through clinched teeth. The words were true, and my friend was suffering. The words were true and the answer to my prayers, pleading desperately for her healing, appeared to be “No.” However, the prayer to be a part of a sacred community, where I could sob uncontrollably whenever I needed to, and be comforted by whomever was seated nearest to me, was answered with a resounding “Yes!”  I experienced the miracle of God’s tenderness and presence during a season where my heart felt filleted and laid bare.

Now, after venturing out on the snowy Chicago roads, I entered the church service late. I heard my name upfront as I was being prayed for. Again, I was a part of a loving community that made me feel seen and loved. The service ended with “Revelation Song.” I smiled and I cried. I first heard this song at my best friend’s memorial service. Every time the word “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty” was sang I was encased in so much pain, that I felt assaulted by the holiness of God. It was true. God is holy. But it was being declared simultaneously alongside my best friend’s eulogy.

The reason I was able to smile during the song was not only because of the timing. God seeing me. But, also, because of the second verse of the song.

During a season of discernment about a bold career move, I prayed and fasted about a decision that would take me away from family, dear friends and my loving Quest Church community. I didn’t have my best friend to decide if this recurring theme of “Sing a new song,” was significant. And there it was. Again. In Wendy’s song of haunting holiness, was also the voice of my friend. Advising me in the same song that was the soundtrack of my deepest sorrow, to sing a new song! I could now hear a voice of enthusiastic encouragement, excitedly pointing me to take risks, be brave and to have courage. She always modeled fearlessness. I knew this new song would welcome the return of unbridled laughter. A hallmark of our friendship.

So, with arms stretched out, there I stood. Singing “Revelation Song.” Wendy’s song. With my position and my new church family in Chicago. Where I’m singing a new song. Where my tears flow freely. Simultaneously with overflowing joy.

Together Wendy we can live with the sadness
I’ll love you with all the madness in my soul
H-Oh, Someday girl I don’t know when
We’re gonna get to that place
Where we really wanna go
And we’ll walk in the sun
But till then tramps like us
Baby we were born to run

Bruce Springsteen. Born to Run