James Weldon Johnson

On Saturday night, I heard pieces of African American history told in speeches and poems and interviews. One Voice was a beautiful, stirring performance by Jeremiah Dew. One of the very first pieces he recited was a poem by James Weldon Johnson. I realize this is the second day in a row that I’ve used another person’s words for this blog, but I think this is something we should all read. At least once. If not more than once. So here it is.

Go Down Death

Weep not, weep not,
She is not dead;
She’s resting in the bosom of Jesus.
Heart-broken husband–weep no more;
Grief-stricken son–weep no more;
Left-lonesome daughter –weep no more;
She only just gone home.
Day before yesterday morning,
God was looking down from his great, high heaven,
Looking down on all his children,
And his eye fell on Sister Caroline,
Tossing on her bed of pain.
And God’s big heart was touched with pity,
With the everlasting pity.
And God sat back on his throne,
And he commanded that tall, bright angel standing at his right hand:
Call me Death!
And that tall, bright angel cried in a voice
That broke like a clap of thunder:
Call Death!–Call Death!
And the echo sounded down the streets of heaven
Till it reached away back to that shadowy place,
Where Death waits with his pale, white horses.
And Death heard the summons,
And he leaped on his fastest horse,
Pale as a sheet in the moonlight.
Up the golden street Death galloped,
And the hooves of his horses struck fire from the gold,
But they didn’t make no sound.
Up Death rode to the Great White Throne,
And waited for God’s command.
And God said: Go down, Death, go down,
Go down to Savannah, Georgia,
Down in Yamacraw,
And find Sister Caroline.
She’s borne the burden and heat of the day,
She’s labored long in my vineyard,
And she’s tired–
She’s weary–
Go down, Death, and bring her to me.
And Death didn’t say a word,
But he loosed the reins on his pale, white horse,
And he clamped the spurs to his bloodless sides,
And out and down he rode,
Through heaven’s pearly gates,
Past suns and moons and stars;
on Death rode,
Leaving the lightning’s flash behind;
Straight down he came.
While we were watching round her bed,
She turned her eyes and looked away,
She saw what we couldn’t see;
She saw Old Death.   She saw Old Death
Coming like a falling star.
But Death didn’t frighten Sister Caroline;
He looked to her like a welcome friend.
And she whispered to us: I’m going home,
And she smiled and closed her eyes.
And Death took her up like a baby,
And she lay in his icy arms,
But she didn’t feel no chill.
And death began to ride again–
Up beyond the evening star,
Into the glittering light of glory,
On to the Great White Throne.
And there he laid Sister Caroline
On the loving breast of Jesus.

Lyrics I Love: Fountain of Grace

In light of Acts 15, where divisions in the church where finally resolved and condemned for what they really are (preferences and pride), Dr. Coleman wrote a song. The song was about grace. Grace that is not and can never be based on merit. Grace that we all need, circumcised or not, well-dressed or not, vegetarian or meat eater or liberal or conservative. God died for our sins and if we accept that, we are His.

Fountain of grace at Calvary,

The Son of God has died for me.

Grace undeserved, so full and free,

This fount of grace has rescued me

And to this fount each day I go,

Confessing sin He already knows;

And in His grace He pardons me –

This fount of grace keeps cleansing me.

 

A fount of grace God now provides

To all who turn to Jesus Christ.

Hearts cleansed by faith, then Spirit-filled,

Equal they stand at Calv’ry’s hill.

 

Fountain of grace for others, too,

But in my pride I them refuse.

I lift myself about their state,

And scorn to share this fount of grace.

O Lord, to You in shame I bow,

Hypocrisy confessing now;

I revel in grace shown to me,

Yet hold it back from those in need.

 

This fount of grace from Calvary is free to all,

Not just to me;

So how can I this grace deny

To someone else’s desperate cry?

 

A fount of grace God now provides

To all who turn to Jesus Christ.

Hearts cleansed by faith, then Spirit-filled,

Equal they stand at Calv’ry’s hill.

Beyond the Brink

To all of you who think that I am some sort of technilogical genius…

You’re wrong.

 

I may work for IT, but that means nothing. I am capable of turning on a computer. I can make Word documents. I can even Google.

But today, I once again came face to face with my mortality. And by that I mean my limited sphere of tech knowledge.

I had to use a Mac.

 

Now, Apple has produced some lovely, functional machines. But I have PC-ed too long to have all this “exit in the left hand corner” nonsense. But today, I did successfully set up a remote desktop connection from the Mac to a PC.

And that was basically the sum of my work today.

Lyrics I Love: Late Maranatha

We long to see the day

When Chrsit shall wipe our tears away,

And the weight of sin is no more.

 

We long to hear the sound

Of praises rising all around

As we worship Him, Lion and the Lamb,

Jesus Christ the Lord our God.

 

Maranatha, Jesus, come!

We are waiting here as one.

We lift our voice to you!

Lord, your bride awaits you;

Lord, your bride awaits you.

 

We long to touch the hands

Where scars of grace retell your plan

To redeem us from the curse.

 

We long to sing your love

With all the saints forever above,

As we join the throng, shouting with one song,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!”

 

Maranatha, Jesus, come!

We are waiting here as one.

We lift our voice to you!

Lord, your bride awaits you;

Lord, your bride awaits you.

 

What are your scars of grace? What makes you long for His return?

To Eat or Not to Eat?

On this wild, wandering journey I’m on, with many pit stops and pitfalls, I am also stumbling along about food. In addition to sleeping enough, believing right things about God, and not letting my thoughts or emotions run freely about the glen, I am also coming to practical terms with food.

Food, in my family, reaches almost religious proportions. I believe this is equal parts my Southern heritage and being raised in the Baptist denomination. Because it is rather pivotal in any social function or as a response to any emotional happening (joyful, grief, boredom…), food is one of those things at the forefront of our minds at basically any moment of the day.

I’ve been an emotional eater for as long as I can remember. I eat to feel better. I eat to calm down. I eat because it’s the one thing that can always make me feel good and life so very often does not make me feel good. I use food as an antidote.

But for years, I’ve known that food can’t be God. And food does not actually heal all wounds. And that gluttony is a sin. Just as much as lying and murder. I don’t want my lord to be my belly. On and off I’ve had success with cutting down on binging, but the problem was that I had, in all honesty, a voracious appetite. Then, as I stopped growing, I couldn’t adjust to the fact that my stomach no longer contained fourth and fifth helpings of food. When I mastered that concept and was able to consistently eat less (aka, the appropriate amount for my hunger and needs), I thought I had beaten my problem.

College has proved me very, very wrong. And last semester, for the first time ever, I really put on weight. Not so much that other people noticed, but enough that I didn’t fit comfortably in my clothes. It was partly because I was only eating crap. My schedule was so hectic, I didn’t have the time or inclination to wait 2o minutes for a salad, so I went right for the pizza because there was no line. And because of the same time problems, I never felt like working out and rarely had the time.  And I ate. So. Much. In the room. To cope with loneliness, to deal with the stress, to not be homesick. I put on about 15 pounds. To some of you, that means nothing. But to me, it was a wake up call.

I was beginning to be disgusted by food and yet I still couldn’t stop. Every time I ate, I was nauseated and I felt guilty because what if my body was lying, and wasn’t hungry, it just wanted me to eat? During Christmas break, things got a little better, but not enough, and I was still very unhappy with my eating habits. I was strongly convicted, yet again, and I finally started praying about it. I don’t even remember asking for God’s help, just constantly trying to repent and asking for Him to make Himself more important in my life.

 

SO. Since I’ve been back to school, I’ve been eating a lot of “rabbit food”. I’ve been careful about salt and lipids and mainly just not eating only junk food. I’ve been keeping pizza and french fries to only once a week. I eat soup for lunch, and I keep salads and wraps with lots of protein for dinner. And earlier this week when I tried to eat some chocolate when I felt crappy, I couldn’t actually finish it. Because it made me want to throw up. And I nearly cried I was so happy. God is allowing me to realize and feel that food is not the answer. And I am so thankful.

Esti Dal

I spent the night near a forest.

I put my shepherd’s cloak under my head,

I put my hands together in prayer,

Thus I asked my Good Lord,

My Lord, give me lodging.

I’ve already become so tired of constantly wandering,

Wandering and hiding,

Staying in a foreign land.

May God grant me a good night.

May He encourage the longing of our heart.

May God grant me a good night.

– Zoltan Kodaly, Traditional Hungarian Song

Missing Pieces

Sometimes I feel like I’m missing parts of who I really am.

Sometimes I’m scared that the many masks I wear and have perfected are taking over and when I get to somewhere safe and can take them off, I won’t be able to. They’ll be indelibly a piece of me. And the person I was trying to protect won’t be there anymore.

I miss feeling smart. Not just, “I do well at school” smart. The “holy crap that’s kind of scary” smart. Maybe I grew into my precocity. Maybe I just succeeded at numbing the brain that was too painful to let run around freely. I don’t read enough anymore. I drowned out my thoughts with TV and music and audiobooks and God forbid there ever be a moment of silence because I just might have to face myself.

But I think I miss myself. I miss being secure in my loneliness. Being okay with being by myself without input from other people. I miss not needing my phone or an internet connection or constant contact with someone just to feel like I still exist.

I miss spinning stories to myself, creating, painting, smelling graphite and new paper. I miss being able to carve out days at a time where all I would do is read and read and read and read. I miss being able to finish a 300 page book in 3 hours. I miss the library.

I know you’re thinking, but you can start again. It’s not like those are big deals. Why not just start them again?

Because I’m not sure I still know how.

I’m better at small talk than I ever was. My face at rest while I’m walking is a slight smile, with my head up. I feel like the only things I’m capable of thinking about are my schedule and how to satisfy all my obligations and not mess up and not feel or think.

And what if I’m doing too good at not thinking? What if my thinking was one of the only real escapes. Because the pain stayed. An active imagination and internal life were not the causes of my depression or my deep seated emotions. Maybe I threw away the only life raft God built in.

I don’t want these addictions. To Facebook. To social media in general. To needing external confirmation that I’m not dumb and useless and boring every second. To needing to hear from someone just so I’m not bored or worthless. I was never comfortable in my skin. But I want to be. And I want my old skin back. And I’m not sure how to get there. I’m not sure what I need to give up or change or start doing.

But. I miss being me.

Maybe Not Too Busy

I’ve not been too busy.

I’ve not even been too sick, although that weekend flu gave me a run for my money (that doesn’t actually exist, because guess what: it’s not payday).

 

I’ve not been out of topics.

I’ve not been “taking a break”.

 

I guess I was just too lazy to write. Maybe it was too much of a burden. As if typing out silly little thoughts and silly little days to an electronic screen was a burden. As if this blog was an obligation.

Maybe it was because I was afraid to write. Afraid because break was too short. Too good. Too full of my family and my friends and food and sleep and movies and my own bed and my family my family my family. Afraid because writing is something I use to keep me tethered to home, and if I looked at this place, it would remind me that there are times when I have to be tethered: that I’m not at home. Afraid that just opening this page would whisk me back here.

 

In the end, it doesn’t matter. I didn’t write. I’m writing now. I was home. I’m not now. I have family at home. I don’t here. I have friends there. But I have friends here.

Maybe I should write because instead of just a tether, this place is a bridge. It helps me see where the two sides collide. My self at home and my self at school. The person who is home-loving and quiet and bizarre with only two friends. And the person who never stops going and is flighty and excitable and is popular (or at least has more than two friends. Same thing, right?). The person who now has just as many, if not more ties here to make up for the very few, very strong ties of my past. A bridge between the unbearable misery of reality and the amazingly wonderful experiences and vistas that are open to me here. A bridge between what I feel and who God is.

Maybe I should write.