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Daily Dose (Mar 5 – 8)

Tuesday —

This week, the freedom to choose to care.
So, it is story time.
Thirteen years ago, I walked across a bridge. The sun shines down from a bleached blue sky. The air may by cool, but our spirits don’t notice, as we stand and sing under the sign, Edmund Pettus Bridge. We are in Selma, Alabama on Bloody Sunday.
And no, after today I will never be the same.
I came to Alabama for a pilgrimage.
As it turned out, I walked smack dab into an epiphany.
Or perhaps, the epiphany walked into me.
Either way, it wasn’t in my plans.
I find that I navigate my days a little easier when I have some semblance of control. It’s just that epiphany and control are not to be found in the same sentence.
On a Friday morning I was honored to join a group of new friends on the 13th Annual Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage. We gathered at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
On June 11, 1963, history was made when James Hood and Vivian Malone walked through two white wood doors at Foster Auditorium to enroll at the University, the first African American students in the school’s history.
Their action proved all the more courageous, given that they needed to pass the Governor himself as he stood in that doorway, defiant in his intolerance and the fanaticism that still reverberated from his inaugural address, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” said Governor George Wallace.
I cannot imagine their courage or their fear. I can imagine that they shook more than just a little on the inside, and wondered, if only fleetingly, “Is it worth it? Maybe, this is a good time to turn around.”
I walk past the ordinary white wood doors–now enshrined in the lobby of the renovated Foster Auditorium–into a gymnasium with fellow pilgrims to hear the words of Dr. Sharon Malone (Vivian Malone’s sister) and Peggy Wallace Kennedy (the daughter of Governor George Wallace).
Diminutive in stature, Peggy is still youthful and carries a Southern grace in her face and demeanor. I had no expectations for her address (save for my skepticism radar in all matters having to do with the heart and reconciliation). In story form she took me to a swing-set outside a family home where a 13-year-old girl swung, unaware of the fateful remarks made by her father, a 13-year-old girl who would grow up pondering and wrestling with what it would mean to live under the shadow of her father’s words.
While her story is a long way from that of a nine-year-old boy in rural Michigan, we did have one thing in common: the realization that just because a parent lives from certain script, it does not mean that script is binding to the child. At some point in her life Peggy Wallace Kennedy knew that she had the freedom to choose her path, freedom to choose her script, and that she must stand where her father stood with her own son as a testament to change, to bear witness as to why she chose to say No to exclusion and Yes to the need to protect the least among us.
“So today I rise,” she told us in the gymnasium. “Today I rise to stand in the schoolhouse door. Every day I rise… to speak to a child. To comfort a parent. To offer a hand. To enable justice.”
The doors she walked through were not literal, but real nonetheless. Each and every one of us fashions a life by the choices we honor–or more fundamentally, by the doors we open, and the doors we close.
Here’s the deal: There will always be a door to hope or gratitude or respect or worth or kindness or delight or compassion or mercy or dignity or vulnerability or value or opportunity or dreams.
And, we must first open that door to our self.
Only then do we realize that when we walk through that door, we say No to shame or resentment or self-righteousness or fear or indifference or detachment or numbness or hopelessness or humiliation or hatred or despair.
“Count me in,” I said (on the inside), knowing full well that this will be easier said than done. Because, I tell myself, courage is not easy to come by. But empowers us to the freedom to choose to care.

On the walk, I was honored to stand with heroes, including Sr. Mary Antona Ebo (more about her tomorrow) and John Lewis. It’s not my practice to put personal photos in Sabbath Moment. We are on the bridge alongside Peggy Wallace Kennedy (daughter of George Wallace) and Donzaleigh Avis Abernathy (daughter of Ralph Abernathy).

And if you want to watch my presentation, The Gift of Enough from last week’s Religious Education Congress, you can find it here. 

Wednesday —

“Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love,” Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us.
And this week stories about the freedom to choose to care.
And hearts full of grace. Not one of these people woke up one morning, and said to themselves that they were about to do something heroic. It’s just that, when they had to, they did what was right. They chose to care.
Yesterday I wrote about my memories walking the Edmund Pettis Bridge, and included a picture with Sister May Antona Ebo.
A still-plucky Sister Mary of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary — the first black nun to march — didn’t think she was martyr material, but felt it was time to “put up or shut up.”
On March 7, 1965, Alabama state troopers and local police — some on horseback — used billy clubs, bullwhips and tear gas to bludgeon and bloody about 600 civil rights activists who had started a march of 50 miles from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery.
News of that “Bloody Sunday” attack at the Edmund Pettus Bridge was broadcast into homes across the country and would be a turning point in the civil rights struggle. After the attack, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. issued a call for church leaders around the country to come to Selma. Sister Antona Ebo was working at St. Mary’s Infirmary, then a hospital for African-Americans in St. Louis, when news of the brutality in Selma reached her.
“If I didn’t have this habit on, if I wasn’t working,” she told her co-workers at the infirmary, “I’d be in Selma.”
“God called my bluff,” Ebo would later tell a reporter.
Ebo’s supervisor, Sister Eugene Smith, asked her whether, as an African-American nun, she would be part of a 50-member delegation — made up of laymen, Protestant ministers, rabbis, priests and five white nuns.
On the morning of Wednesday, March 10, the group flew to Selma. They were promptly taken to Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church — a civil rights landmark.
Ebo later realized that inside the chapel, politician and civil rights leader the Rev. Andrew Young had referred to her when he asked “the people to stand and acknowledge that one of the great moral forces of the world was now entering the church.”
“I didn’t even know that that was me,” Ebo says now with a chuckle.
The good news? You never know when the seed you plant, the light you spill, in a very small way, will make a difference in our world. Choosing to care, indeed.
Sister Mary Antona Ebo died November 2017, at the age of 93.

I am writing this on a flight to Paris, France. And look forward to connecting with my old friends. And I look forward to sharing stories about the gifts of grace that await.

Thursday —

This week stories about the freedom to choose to care.

And tonight, after a very long day of travel, I write this in a house in the village of Sainte-Marie-la-Blanche, in Burgundy. And I look forward to my morning walks, around the two ponds, La Garenne and Le Grand Creux, looking forward to a stop, to visit the village’s exceptional 16th-century church.
I am so grateful to have traveled many wine regions, and am blessed to have tasted beverages that I could never afford, but offer a glimpse of heaven. And yes, I’m biased. But then wine is not a beverage here; it is an experience. Your choice is to savor and take delight.
And this week we will visit Burgundy wineries passed down through the generations, grandfather to father to son (and now thankfully, often to daughter). A world where terroir is king, the personality of the soil. Meaning that this wine is born of a place, a very specific place. And I’m honored to be in the company of crafts people. Like being with a great gardener. The men and women I have met coddle their vines—they call them trees—lovingly.

I have loved learning about terroir.
And here’s the deal: Let us think of terroir as the light within.
Remember the song we sang as children, “This little light of mine”?
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells the disciples, “You are the light of the world.”
And then adds, “Let your light shine.”
Let. As is, allow. As in, the light is already there.
Jesus never said, “Create the light.” He never said, “Make the light.” He never even said, “Be good at light shining.”
He simply told us to get out of the way, and let the light that is already there, spill.
So. Instead of light shining classes, let us give ourselves the gift of embracing the light that is alive and well inside… the light of compassion, kindness, empathy, inclusion and hope.
Yes. The freedom to choose and care is grounded in the light (terroir) that is already within.

And once again from Martin Luther King Jr. “Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” 

Friday —

This week stories about the freedom to choose to care.

And I’ve been telling stories from my Selma Bridge and Alabama tour. About people who made choices, who made a difference.
One final story. On a Saturday morning I stood in the kitchen of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church Parsonage, the home to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his family from 1954 to 1960. By the time the Montgomery bus strike was achieving both success and national attention, Dr. King began receiving telephone death threats (as many as 40 a day).
“One night very late around midnight–and you can have some strange experiences at midnight–the telephone rang.” Dr. King relates the story in a later sermon. “On the other end was an ugly voice.”
“For some reason, it got to me. I was weak. Sometimes, I feel discouraged… You can’t call on Daddy anymore. You could only call on the Something your Daddy told you about, that Power that can make a way out of no way.”
And at that kitchen table, he prayed. “Lord, I’m down here trying to do what’s right… But I must confess… I’m losing my courage.”
King explained what happened next: “I could hear an inner voice saying to me, ‘Martin Luther, stand up for truth. Stand up for justice. Stand up for righteousness.'”
Maybe that’s what clicked. When I see acts of courage (about the freedom to care) I see heroism, and I don’t see myself. Or I see how far I have to go. Or I see how far short I have fallen.
But I do understand tired.
And I do understand discouraged.
And I do understand the end of my resources.
Mother Pollard was one of the elders of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, during the bus boycott of 1955-56. When her pastor Dr. King, suggested she go back to the buses because she was too old to keep walking, she told him, “I’m gonna walk just as long as everybody else walks. I’m gonna walk till it’s over.”
King marveled. “But aren’t your feet tired?” he asked.
“My feet is tired,” she replied. “But my soul is rested.” 

So tired is one thing. Being soulless is something else altogether. Mother Pollard knew this. I doubt she went to a workshop to figure it out. She just knew in her bones; that she is whole, and filled with grace and sufficiency.
Which meant that for Mother Pollard, her rested soul allowed her to live fully into this life. (I read that the best beauty product is to actually have a life.)
She walked toward, and not away from, life. This life, her life, with its contradictions, frustrations, weariness, tired feet and injustices.

Prayer for our week…
Let us go forth from here,
blessed and renewed
in the Spirit of Shalom
in the Spirit of  Integrity
in the Spirit of Illumination
in the Spirit of Transformation
with hopes lifted heavenward
with hearts loving the earth
in the name of our creating, liberating, nurturing God.

Photo… And I’m so grateful for your photos, please send them to [email protected]

Check out our books… Stand Still, The Gift of Enough, This is the Life and Soul Gardening

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