Monday, December 28, 2009

The Year in Review--Number One

Happy New Year. May God bless you and yours in the New Year and may you walk in the purpose that He has for your life.

Here it is. The most viewed posting on At the Well for 2009. It was written as a result of one of my morning quiet times. Sometimes the thoughts and reflections from those early morning sessions with God and His Word before the kids are up and the hustle and bustle of the day have started turn into posts. Not only did this receive the most viewings, but I also believe the most comments, some of them sent to me via email which were not posted on the blog.

Enjoy, share with a friend or leave your own comment. I will be sending out a poll for your votes on your top picks. I look forward to hearing from you in the New Year.

Peace and Blessings.




The Year in Review--Numbers 4, 3 and 2

Here are the number 2, 3 and 4 most read stories and postings on At the Well this year. Let me say a word about each of them.

Miss California was written in response to the hoopla over Miss California saying that marriage should be between a man and a woman during the Miss USA pageant.

Soweto Freedom Song is a video produced by my husband, John W. Fountain. It chronicles his travels to South Africa in 2006 with Rev. Jesse Jackson. This video has been viewed more than 29,000 times on YouTube.

Baggie Books is about me reading to my son's first grade class last year and (somewhat to my surprise) really struck a chord.

Enjoy and share with a friend.

The Year in Review--Numbers 7, 6 and 5

Here are number 5 to 7 of the most viewed stories on At the Well from 2009. Two of them are written by my husband--author, journalist, professor--John W. Fountain.

Enjoy for the first time, or again, and share with a friend.

The Year in Review--Numbers 10, 9 and 8

Starting today, I will repost the 10 most viewed posts on At the Well for 2009. If you missed them the first time around, I hope you enjoy them this go round. If you read them the first time, I hope you enjoy them again and share them with a friend.

I will repost three a day and on New Year's Eve I will post the most read story on At the Well for the year and ask you for your comments and votes for which ones are your top choices to be included in an upcoming book.












Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Greatest Gift

"On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh." Matthew 2:11

As we celebrate Christmas, we can become overwhelmed with cooking, decorating and shopping for the perfect gift. I love seeing the presents under the tree. I remember the anticipation of seeing what Santa left under the tree when I was a child.

Now the excitement comes from seeing the faces of my children as they discover what Santa has left and open the other gifts from family and friends.

But with all the emphasis on buying gifts for others, sometimes, we lose sight of the greatest gift of all.

This Christmas, my prayer is that we will give our "gifts" of worship to the greatest gift of all--God's gift of love, His Son Jesus Christ. The wise men brought Jesus presents fit for a king. May we give him our presence and sit and His feet and learn of Him and praise and worship Him for who He is--the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. May He be the treasure that we cherish and may we be His hands, feet and heart to a dying world.

I pray that this Christmas season, you will treasure the priceless gifts of family and friendship. I pray that you will know and experience the presence of the precious gift of our Savior this Christmas, New Year, new decade and forever.


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year


P.S.--Last November, I started this blog because of the encouragement of my husband. It was a gift to me. He designed the site and got me started blogging. I thank him for that present. I hope that this year something was written that encouraged, edified or enlightened you.

After Christmas, I will be reposting some of the most viewed entries of At the Well--a sort of year in review. After I have posted the top 10 I will be asking you to vote for your favorites which I hope to include in an upcoming book.

Thank you for your prayers and support of At the Well.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Dancing with the Stars

“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.” Philippians 2: 14-16

I love watching the television program “Dancing with the Stars.” When the “stars” are announced every season, I choose my favorites and those who I believe will make it to the finale and those who will get the boot early.

The transformation of some of the celebrities is truly amazing. Sometimes celebrities who I thought would be utter failures turn out to be fantastic dancers. (Sorry, I ever doubted you Warren Sapp. Who would have known that a 300-something pound defensive tackle would be so light on his feet?) Some of the celebrities perform as expected. (Tom DeLay, why did you stay so long?)

But it’s really wonderful to see celebrities who really weren’t dancers transformed into professional ballroom dancers. (Gilles, you were robbed last season). This season, Kelly Osbourne has had a metamorphosis. Before the show, she said she was miserable, depressed and wore a size 10. During the weeks of training and dancing, her life and body have been transformed. Now she says that she is happy, confident and wears a size 2.

The key to success is to trust the professional partner. They know what they’re doing. They are the pros.

It takes a lot of hard work and pain sometimes. They have to practice for hours. Sometimes the dancers are injured. Sometimes it seems as if the pros are asking the celebrities to do the impossible. They have to face sometimes brutal criticism from the judges. But if they trust in their professional partner, learn the dances, practice and stop complaining and arguing with the pro, they usually get a very good result.

God is the perfect partner. If we follow His lead, we will make it to the finals and win the prize (Philippians 3:14). We can’t go at our own pace or do our own choreography and expect to win in this life. Sometimes we have to press pass the pain and the injuries that life deals us. We have to practice what we preach and perfect our steps in His Word. We need to be in step with the One who knows what He’s doing. We have to trust God.

As Paul writes in Philippians, if we continue to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” God will work in us to will and to act according to his good purpose (Philippians 2: 12-13). God has a purpose for us. He wants us all to be stars. He wants us all to reflect his glorious light. He wants our light to shine so bright that men will see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. But if we are always complaining and arguing and sin is in our lives, our lights become dim.

We need to shine like stars in this dark, depraved world. People will see the transformation in us from the time we have spent dancing with the perfect partner.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Ugly Side of Anonymity


When my father was growing up in Louisiana in the 1930s, the Ku Klux Klan would harass and hang black men. They wore their Klan cloaks to hide their faces and came in the night to do their damage. My grandfather told my father, “Real men sleep on sheets. They don’t wear them.”

Now in our technologically advanced days, people are still wearing sheets of anonymity to do damage. Only their cloak is anonymity on the Internet. They use this anonymity to spew hate-filled, nasty comments.

They are not interested in engaging in a meaningful, intellectual discussion. They just want to spout their often racist or hateful perspectives for the world to see, but they don’t want the world to see who they are. They are like a person who throws a brick through and window and then runs away or the Klansman who hides behind a mask and does his dirt in the dark. They are only interested in exercising their power to inflict damage.

I have stopped reading the comments at the end of many stories, especially if it’s about President Obama or the First Lady. One web site allowed a comment to be posted in which the person called the president’s daughter a whore. Others allow commenters to call the First Lady a gorilla. During the campaign, some media sites had to take down the comment sections because they were so filled with racist, nasty, negative comments about Obama.

When my husband wrote an essay that was published in the Chicago Tribune about the homeless this summer, I was disappointed by all the mean-spirited comments directed at the homeless. People were not interested in dealing with the issue, but just wanted to put people down.

But it’s even worse when it becomes a matter of life and death. There have been online bullying cases where young people have committed suicide because of the abuse. Reputations have been ruined because of what some anonymous person posted for the world to see.

When you do not put your name on something you do not take ownership of the remarks and feel like you can say whatever you want to say with no repercussions. They say things they wouldn’t have the nerve to say in person because they have the cloak of anonymity. But there are repercussions, even if it is poisoning the atmosphere with your hate or negativity.

Anonymity has its place.

It’s important sometimes for people to be able to tell what’s going on with the assurance of anonymity in some situations. Whistleblowers have made a positive difference by coming forward. People who have something relevant to share but because of the delicate or embarrassing nature don’t want to use their names should have some anonymity. If someone witnesses a crime or knows of misconduct in a corporation or institution, they should have anonymity in some cases so that a greater good can happen or an evil can be stopped.

But anonymity should not be used for ugliness.

As a journalism student, I was taught to be very careful and wary of using anonymous sources. Are they reliable? Why do they need to be anonymous? Are they credible?

I had my own recent brush with the ugliness of anonymity.

I wrote a blog about reading baggie books to my son’s first grade class and mentioned that I was Time Magazine College Student of the Year. I received a response that there was no such award and the anonymous invective, “That’s a lie.”

Well, dear anonymous reader, should you happen to be reading this, in 1989 I was one of about 20 (not sure the exact number so don’t call me a lie) college students from around the country to receive the Time College Achievement Award. I shortened it to College Student of the Year in the blog because the point wasn’t about my accomplishments.

The point of the column was that if it had not been for my mother sitting at the table and taking time with me in first grade, all those later accomplishments would not have been possible. The point was that if we take the time to read and spend time with our children, we can make a difference.

If the person had cared to leave their name I could have clarified the matter personally. I could have even sent them a picture of the award or the full-page ad with my photo that ran in Time Magazine. But from the tone of their response they weren’t about that anyway.

It’s the same with the health care debate this summer. People aren’t really interested in clarification or having a civil conversation. Like Congressman Joe Wilson, they just throw rocks and say, “You lie.” Even though, they are the ones who don’t have all of their facts straight.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Weebles Wobble But They Don't Fall Down

“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.” Jude 24, 25

When I was a child I had some little toys called weebles. Do you remember weebles? If you don’t remember the toy maybe you remember the commercial with the little song, “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.”

I used to love playing with the little characters that were shaped like eggs. You could push them down but they would wobble and come right back up. They never completely fell over.

The origin of these toys was the Romper Room punching clown. The little weebles were fashioned after the large punching bag clown on Romper Room, a show for preschoolers. The toddlers would punch and push the inflatable clown and it would always come back up with a smile on its face. I had one of those clowns too that I loved to punch around.

I also used to wait with anticipation for the end of Romper Room show when the lady would look through her “magic mirror” (actually an open hoop with a handle) and name all of the children that she saw in television land. “I see Mary and Scott and Julie and Johnny.”

I was always disappointed because she never said my name.

Sometimes we feel like a weeble. Sometimes our faith is a little wobbly. We doubt. We are full of fear. The circumstances of life knock us down. Disappointments, fear and failure punch us in the face and it’s hard to get up. We feel like we are down for the count.

I’m not sure about the science of it all, but I think that what makes the weeble able to spring back upright is its shape and that it’s heavier on the bottom than the top. All of its weight is at the bottom.

If we believe in Jesus Christ, we ought to have something down deep in us that’s heavier than the world around us.

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” 2 Corinthians 4:17

We have the weight of glory—God’s glory. We have God’s presence and power. And we have this treasure in earthen weebly wobbly vessels so that the power is not from us but from God when we get back up.

Just like the weebles were patterned after the Romper Room clown, we were made in God’s image. And if you really want to know what God looks like, all you have to do is look at Jesus, “who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature.” Colossians 1:15.

Jesus was harassed and ridiculed. He was mocked and scorned. He was berated and hated. But he kept getting back up. He was rejected by family and abandoned by his closest friends. He felt pain, but he didn't let it keep him down. He was a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief. But he didn’t fall over. He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities. But he didn’t stay down.

And then they nailed him to a cross. It looked like Satan had finally delivered the knock-out punch. It was finished. Over. Done. They laid him in a tomb. And he was down Friday night. He was down all day Saturday. It looked like he was down for the count Saturday night.

But early Sunday morning, he got up.

And because he got up, I can get up. Even when life throws us a sucker punch, we can get up. We just have to remember the weight that is within us, the power that God has given us and the pattern that Jesus set before us.

I was always disappointed because the Romper Room lady never said my name or saw me, a little black girl in Kankakee, through her magic mirror. I would be standing in front of the t.v. saying, “Say, Monica. Say, Monica.” But she never did.

But I’m so glad, He knows my name and He sees me. He calls me by my name. When I wobble, He lets me know He is able to keep me from falling.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Roots

Chris Rock's documentary "Good Hair" opens in theaters in major markets on Friday, Oct. 9th and nationwide on Oct. 23rd. The film explores black folks preoccupation with "good hair" or straight hair and the billion dollar black hair care industry which is primarily controlled by whites and Asians.

Seeing Rock on Oprah and other media outlets, made me laugh and shake my head at the same time. It also reminded me of an essay entitled "Roots" that I wrote almost exactly eight years ago for a creative writing class. The essay explores my own journey with the question of "good hair."

October 4, 2001

I am addicted to perm. That is permanent relaxer, the chemical mixture Black women have been using for years to make our naturally curly hair super straight. I can’t tell you exactly when I had my first hit. It was some time before puberty, around the age of eight or nine. It was some time when my mother got tired of wrestling with me and hearing my moans and groans as she tried to straighten my hair with the hot comb on the kitchen stove.

This whole pressing process usually took place on a Saturday. I remember the freedom of a Saturday afternoon in the basement pretending to be a “Soul Train” dancer, whipping around my luxurious locks, a mane of un-straightened hair. And then it was time for the comb. My unruly super-Afro would be tamed into silky shiny strands of ponytails. The shampoo part was fun for the most part, although bending your head over the sink could get a little uncomfortable after a while. But it was the smell of the burning hair and grease, the pressing part that was always a pain. More than once my ear felt the wrath of my wiggling and was seared by the hot comb.

Finally, my mother tired of the struggle and she turned to the perm. What else was a mother to do? Your hair can’t be nappy. Everyone else’s hair is straight. Straight is pretty. Nappy is bad.

So my first trip was made into the dark, dank basement where a bright beauty shop awaited behind a door. It was Annie and Mariah’s shop. They were members of my father’s Baptist church. One time, when my mother had to leave town suddenly to attend to her ailing father, Mariah came to my house to do my hair for school. My father had made a feeble attempt, but had plaited my hair like he probably used to braid the mule’s tail when he was growing up on the farm in the South. I took one look at my hair in the mirror and started to cry. I couldn’t go to school like that. The kids would call me Kizzy, Kunta Kinte’s daughter, with all those little braids sticking out of my head like Medusa, or maybe I would be christened Buckwheat for the rest of my life. Mariah came to the rescue and did my hair in a presentable style of barrettes and ponytails.

At eight or nine, it was time to leave the press and curl behind and go to the next level, the perm. The white cream was applied to the roots of my hair and when the process was over my hair was silky smooth and straight. I still had to endure the curling process, but my hair would be straight, at least for six weeks when the “touch-up” was required. At times, if you had scratched your head before the “touch-up,” your scalp would burn as if it were on fire and you would be almost running to the shampoo bowl to rinse the perm out. But such was the sacrifice for straight hair.

This addiction to straight hair has other inconveniences. Swimming is a hassle. If you don’t wash the chlorine our right away, your hair will break out. And who wants to go through all the hassle of shampooing, blow drying and curling your hair? The first agenda when you enter a new city is to find a good Black hairdresser, which is sometimes easier said than done. It’s not easy finding a person who knows what to do with Black hair in England or Spain.

At times I have considered opting for a more natural style. I love Lauryn Hill’s locks and Venus and Serena’s braids. Then the fear of change comes. I would have to start from scratch to grow locks. How would I look with an almost bald head? What would I do while it is growing out? Is my head shaped funny? How will I look? How will people react? Will I have the styling versatility that my “unnatural” hair provides?

Then there are the questions that go beyond the physical. Am I trying to live up to some European standard of beauty? Can you be an enlightened Black woman and down for the cause without dreadlocks or an Afro? Isn’t my blackness contained in more than just the way I wear my hair? In New York City last summer I saw sisters with straight hair, nappy hair, bald heads, dreadlocks and braids. They were all beautiful and their styles were as beautiful and varied as their skin tones.

When I add up the costs of this addiction, it really makes me want to cut my hair off and declare myself perm free. It costs almost $40 to visit the hair dresser every two weeks and almost $60 for a touch up. My mother’s oldest sister recently gave up the perm and cut her hair in a flattering, short Afro. Everyone was surprised. I think to myself if she can do it in her 60s, surely I can do it in my 30s. But as my hair starts to revert around the edges and the comb becomes harder to pull through, the perm calls. I give in to the familiar and call for an appointment for a touch up. “Maybe next time,” I think to myself.

My daughter is five. I tried to press her hair once a few years ago. My mother gave me the hot comb as if to say, “It’s time.” I took a tiny strand in the front of her soft, fluffy brown hair and applied the comb. The smell of burnt hair wafted in the air. The comb was too hot. I put the comb in the drawer and have never used it again. My daughter wears her hair with braids and beads, barrettes and ponytails. It is not super straight, but has a slight natural curly wave. Someday I may succumb to the comb and press her hair so that she can wear cute little Shirley Temple curls or maybe I will blow dry it. But I will know in a few days or weeks it will return to its natural state and I will not be responsible for giving her an addiction to perm.

She is free to be natural and the choice will be hers one day if she chooses to chemically alter her hair. I’ll let her know she’s beautiful no matter how she chooses to wear her hair and that her beauty does not come from the mane on her head, but from her heart.

Friday, September 4, 2009

A School That Works

The conversation usually goes the same way. Whenever I’m with a group of parents the question comes up. It may take different forms but it deals with the same dilemma.

“Where’s your daughter going to high school?” they ask me. Or my question to them may be, “How is the high school?” if I know they have children attending a local high school.

Now the question even encompasses junior high school and even fourth grade as anxious parents ponder what school their child will attend and the school’s scores on national tests. The angst arises from the fear that many parents in my community have of what lies beyond the safety and success of our local elementary school to the horror stories that we have heard about the junior high and high schools in our south suburban school system.

You hear the stories about children being hijacked for their homework. Parents who have children who have graduated or who still attend the local high schools roll their eyes toward the heavens when you ask them about the high schools. Some assure you that this one is better than that one or if your child is in the gifted program, they will do just fine. If they’re an athlete they might have some insulation from the less than desirable elements. Others tell tales of children beating on desk and rapping while the teacher stands powerless before them. You hear about the parade of principals who have gone through the schools, low test scores, lack of discipline and even guns brought to school.

Some pay for private schools. This is an option that is less than desirable when I look at my property tax bill. Then there are other considerations. I suspect some of the parents who have decided to send their child to the nearby Catholic high school have made that decision as a way to get away from the black and brown children who have taken over the public schools rather than just seeking a better education. Will my brown babies really receive a good education in such an environment? We hear the horror stories of young black men who have been harassed and mistreated at the private school. Will my children as my husband says be “culturally” safe?

Our dilemma is not as severe as others. At least we can contemplate sending our child to a private school. And even with its shortcomings, our south suburban system's problems pale in comparison to the plethora of problems in many school districts, especially in urban communities, across this country where schools have failed and many just don’t work.

Given the dilemma, we contemplate driving our children to the West Side of Chicago to a school that works.

On the West Side of Chicago, Providence-St. Mel has been educating children for years and doing an incredible job. All of their graduates, 100 percent, go to college, many to top-tier colleges. St. Mel does this, not in the suburbs, but in the heart of the city. In a place where folks said green grass wouldn’t grow, St. Mel sits on a lush green lawn and raises black and brown children to reach academic heights.

Providence-St. Mel is my husband’s alma mater and it is a school that I would love for my own children to attend.

Here is an article that my husband John wrote about St. Mel and its impact that appears in the September 4, 2009 issue of the Chicago Sun-Times: Here by God's Grace and St. Mel's

A feature-length documentary titled “The Providence Effect” about the wonderful work done at St. Mel will be released in September in theaters across the country. To see a trailer of the movie, click here: The Providence Effect. A listing of theaters where the movie will be shown is also listed. On Sept. 25, it will open at the theater in Country Club Hills for my south suburban readers. It will also play in theaters in New York City, New Jersey, Los Angeles and Washington D.C.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why Does Jesus Ask Obvious Questions?

Why does Jesus ask obvious questions?

He asks a blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51) Duh. Isn’t it obvious Jesus? I want to see.

He asks a man who has been paralyzed for 38 years, “Do you want to get well?”( John 5: 6) Who wouldn’t want to get well? Of course, Jesus. I want to walk.

At times it seems like Jesus ask not only obvious but downright ridiculous questions.

“How many loaves do you have,” he asked his disciples when faced with thousands of hungry people. (Matthew 15:34) What difference does it make Jesus how many loaves we have? Even a year’s worth of wages wouldn’t be enough to feed all these folks. Or he asks Mary and Martha, “Where have you laid him?” (John 11: 34) What difference does it make Jesus? He stinks by now. Lazarus has been dead for days. You’re too late. If you had been here he wouldn’t have died. But it’s too late now Jesus.

Maybe Jesus asks what seems like obvious or ridiculous questions for the same reason we ask our children questions. Sometimes I will ask my children something that I already know the answer.

“Did you clean your room?”

“What happened in school today?”

“What do you want?”

“What did you say?”

I want to see if they are going to tell the truth. Are they going to be honest? Are they trying to fool me and themselves? I might ask them a question already knowing what they need but I want to see where their head is at and what’s on their mind. Do they really know what they want and what it might entail or the responsibility that goes along with it? Why do they want it?

We ask our children obvious questions because we want them to recognize who they are talking to. We are their parents. We love them. We want what’s best for them. Most times they have come to us because they believe we have the power to grant or deny their request.

Unlike us as human parents, Jesus has the power to not only grant our requests but to do exceedingly and abundantly above what we can ask or even think. Before he left this earth, Jesus declared, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28: 18) He already knows what we need, but are we going to be honest and come clean about where we’re really at in our situation. And if he says he has something else for us or tells us to wait, are we willing to accept his authority? We want blessings but are we willing to accept the responsibility. We want the promise but are we willing to go through the process.

Jesus has the ability to make something out of nothing. He can supply our needs according to his riches in glory. He can bring life to dead situations in our lives. But he wants us to recognize who he is. He is God. He has the power. He just asks another question, “Do you believe?”

What About the Homeless?

“…I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40

Recently I was walking in downtown Chicago. There’s nothing better than downtown Chicago on a summer’s evening. Beautiful flowers grace the median of Michigan Avenue. The sounds of a violin or the rapid beat of boys beating drums pierce the air. Most pedestrians stroll, enjoying the beauty of the last breath of summer.

But in the midst of the beauty of downtown Chicago, there is also the ugly reality of the homeless--men and women who carry their life’s possessions on their back. I don’t get to the city regularly so I forget how many homeless people spend their day begging along Michigan Avenue. Is it my imagination or are there more of them than there used to be? They come up and ask for money. I don’t want to reach in my purse to hunt for a few dollars in the middle of the street. Apologetically, I say sorry—feeling sad that I couldn’t help in some small way. Sometimes I try not to see them or make eye contact hoping that I won’t be faced with saying no. I resolve in my mind to remember to carry a few dollars in my pocket next time so that I’ll have something readily available or tell myself that I will make a donation to the Salvation Army or another charity that helps the homeless.

We should all be concerned about those who are less fortunate. But unfortunately, many people who are blessed see those who are less fortunate as a nuisance who put themselves in that situation. I was surprised when my 13-year-old daughter said her friend commented that she would not help the homeless.

“Homeless man shouldn’t have gotten himself into that position,” her friend said.

And this is from a 13-year-old girl. But unfortunately children get those attitudes from adults. Instead of feeling compassion or a sense of “There but for the grace of God go I” too many of us have a condescending attitude. In spite of the bad choices people may make and the unfortunate circumstances that those decisions may place them, God calls us to help those in need. You might be living in a house in the suburbs today, but as the recent economic crisis has shown, many of us are just one paycheck, layoff or medical crisis away from being homeless. When we help the least of these it’s as if we are doing it for God.

My husband, John, a professor of journalism at Roosevelt University in downtown Chicago, had one of his journalism classes explore homelessness in Chicago during the spring of 2009. The multimedia project included photographs, videos, podcasts, articles and essays. The work that they produced is displayed at the web site, When the City Turns Cold.

John also wrote an essay about the homeless and his class project which appeared in the Chicago Tribune on July 12, 2009. Click here to read the article Now, I See, which also appeared on the web site Op Ed News.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Candy Straws

“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

My seven-year-old son loves candy.

If I would let him, he would watch television and eat candy all day. His favorite candy is candy straws. His eyes light up with excitement and his tongue even hangs out in anticipation when I buy him candy straws. He’ll even do a little dance in the aisle of Walgreens when I’m buying him candy straws.

Sometimes I will buy him candy without him knowing. I store it on a high shelf in the kitchen above his reach and eyesight. He doesn’t know that it’s up there because he’s not tall enough to see it. He has not grown enough to see the good thing that is in store for him.

I usually don’t give him the whole package all at once. It’s too much sugar at once for his little system to handle. I also want to teach him not to eat it all at once, but how to save some for later. I want to reward him for being an obedient child and following my word. It is a pleasure to reward a good child. But sometimes I buy it just because he’s mine.

When he doesn’t know that I’ve already bought candy, sometimes at the store he will ask if he can have some candy and I say I already have some for you at home. You will get it in time. That answer at times brings whining or complaining. Sometimes that attitude of ingratitude makes his wait even longer. I may wait to give it to him, but it is his candy. I bought it just for him.

God has prepared some things for us. We’re just not tall enough to see it yet. We have not matured enough to see or handle the blessing. Maybe we’re walking in disobedience or in a spirit of complaining like the children of Israel who delayed their promise by 40 years by their disobedience and complaining attitude.

God wants to give it to us. It’s his gift just for us. If we as human parents know how to give our children good gifts how much more so does our Heavenly Father? One of his greatest gifts for those who love him is his love. He gives us the gift of his presence in our lives and the promise that that He will never leave us or forsake us. Even when we don’t feel like He is there or we don’t see his hand in our lives, He is still there.

Let’s grow up in Him and continue to wait upon the Lord. He will give us what we need and even the desires of our heart at the right time or we will grow up enough in our faith that we will be able to see it with our spiritual eyes. Or maybe, like my son, we will come to know that even if we can’t see it, it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Special Series: Babbie Mason - Part 3

Here’s the final segment of my interview with gospel recording artist Babbie Mason. Picking up where we left off on finding her place in the body of Christ that is neither black nor white, but embraces all of God’s children as one.

To enjoy more of Babbie’s music and find out more about her ministry, please go to her web site, www.babbie.com.












Sunday, July 5, 2009

Special Series: Babbie Mason - Part 2




Here's part two of my interview with gospel music artist Babbie Mason. We pick up where we left off with Babbie talking about how the Lord led her from the brink of becoming a Marine to ministering the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world in song.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Liberty

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”
Galatians 5:2

Today across the United States of America, we celebrate freedom. We call ourselves the “Land of Liberty” because of the principles of freedom that our country was founded upon. The Bill of Rights in our constitution enumerates some of those freedoms. Freedom of religion, speech, the press, petition and assembly are a few of the rights that we have guaranteed as citizens of this great country.

Liberty is defined as freedom from control, interference, obligation or restriction. The founding fathers wanted freedom from the control of Great Britain. This freedom was so important to the founding fathers that they were willing to fight for it. In 1775, Patrick Henry famously said, “Give me liberty or give me death.”

I celebrate the freedoms that we have as citizens of the United States. I celebrate that fact that we are not perfect but that we are striving to form a more perfect union. I celebrate the fact that African Americans have gone from being recognized in our constitution as only a fraction of a person to an African-American man becoming the president of this country.

The freedoms that we enjoy in the United States are wonderful and our liberty makes us a beacon to millions who have come to our shores seeking opportunity and freedom from tyranny and poverty.

But the most important liberty that we can ever experience is the liberty of the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

Freedom isn’t free. Thousands have shed their blood to ensure our freedoms in this country. Christ shed his blood to ensure our freedom for eternity.

Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah about his purpose. “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound…” Isaiah 61:1

Jesus has set us free and gives his followers the power to proclaim that liberty to others and open up the prisons of those who are in bondage to sin and the pain of the past.

We have been freed from sin because of the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross. We are no longer under sin’s control, interference, obligation or restriction. When we accept what Jesus has done in setting us free, we are free from the consequences of sin. We are saved. We are free from the power of sin. God has sent the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us into all righteousness and pricks our heart to repentance when we do sin. We do not have to be entangled again in bondage. One day we will be free from the presence of sin.

When we do not have liberty in Christ, we are already dead. We are dead in our sins and trespasses as the scriptures say. But Jesus has come to give us life and that more abundantly. Now that’s something to celebrate.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Special Series: Babbie Mason - Part 1





Gospel singer, songwriter and award-winning recording artist Babbie Mason has carried the Good News across the globe, spreading the message of hope and love through Jesus Christ. With a God-given gift of a silky voice and the lyrical talents to capture the soul, she has created for more than three decades an unmistakable sound-- a music that continues to lead hundreds of thousands, if not millions to a place of worship.

She penned the award-winning classic, “All Arise”, one of the most recorded songs in Christian music and noted recording artists such as Cece Winans, Larnelle Harris, Helen Baylor and the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir have recorded her compositions.

Earlier this year, I sat down with Babbie Mason to talk about her faith, her walk, her journey and her music. To hear the first segment of my interview with Babbie Mason, just press play above.

To learn more about Babbie Mason, visit her web site at www.babbie.com.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Remembering Michael

When my husband read the breaking news alert from his Blackberry, I literally felt my heart sink. Michael Jackson was taken to the hospital. Then he told me he had died. I grabbed my heart.

“That’s my childhood,” I said.

My husband said he had not died. At that point it was just a rumor. I prayed that he would be alright. But later the rumor proved to be true. A sadness settled in my heart.

Michael Jackson was dead.

I never saw Michael Jackson in life, but he was so much a part of my life. I grew up with Michael Jackson. The year I was born, 1968, the Jackson 5 signed with Motown. Jackson 5 posters were taped to my bedroom wall. The first album I ever bought was “Off the Wall.” Who could ever forget the Black History program in high school when students recreated “Thriller” on stage? Who can forget the thrill of seeing the video “Thriller”? Who can forget the electrifying performance on the Motown 25 special when Michael moonwalked across the stage?

I felt a loss, almost like a family member had died. He was like a cousin who you grew up with but hadn’t seen in years and when you saw them they were a semblance of their former self.

Earlier in the day, I had been at my mother’s house, helping her clean out her basement, taking stuff to the Salvation Army. She had told me if I wanted any of my stuff from college that was taking up space that I should claim it before it was tossed.

I scanned through a box of papers from college and found some of my old columns from when I was a writer for the Daily Illini. The first column I ever wrote for the paper, “Beauty not defined by one set of standards” in October 1987 started out “Michael Jackson is a stranger to me.”

I went on to write: “Michael no longer looks like the Michael that I use to know. His nose is pointed, his skin is pale and his curly hair hangs down his back. He has changed. Some people say that he let success go to his head. Some say he’s on an ego trip. Some say he is a weirdo. I say he’s giving America what it wants.”

Besides his increasingly strange appearance and behavior, allegations of child abuse dogged Michael in his later years. Whenever I saw Michael Jackson’s face in recent years, I would feel a little sad. Gone was the beautiful, flat nose, brown-skinned African-American boy with the Afro, replaced by a frail ghost of man. A man who constantly seemed to be trying to be Peter Pan and recreate a childhood that was lost to celebrity and abuse. A man who was surrounded by people who would tell him anything he wanted to hear and squandered his fortune. A man addicted to plastic surgery, trying to recreate himself into I don’t know what but whose face seemed to be falling apart.

I told my husband this morning that at least it seemed that Michael had found some happiness with his children and being a father. I hope that was the case.

Such a tragic life. Such a musical genius who brought such joy with his music but who had such sadness and isolation in his own life. His songs rang throughout my head. I laughed when I thought about Aunt Marj thinking “Beat It” was a gospel song and that Michael Jackson was saying “Jesus, just Jesus.” I thought of the beginning of my wedding video where the music underscoring photos of my husband and me was “Remember the Time” by Michael Jackson. I kept humming “I’ll Be There.” I thought of high school and junior high school and how Michael Jackson’s songs were always in the background.

I shed a tear for Michael Jackson this morning. I will miss you Michael. But I’m glad that I will always have your music and memories. You have provided a soundtrack for my life.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Thank You, Mamie

On June 15 and 16th, my husband and I conducted a workshop in Pembroke, Ill. Last year, we did a two-week journalism workshop in Pembroke and established the iWriteADream journalism program. The workshop this year taught 5th-8th grade students how to do research and produce a powerpoint presentation. For their research topic, we chose "From the Maafa to the Presidency: A Change Has Come. "

Students researched African-American history from the Middle Passage in which millions of Africans died while being transported from their homeland to slavery (Maafa is derived from the Swahili term for disaster) to the election of the first African-American president.

While preparing for the workshop, we collected photos. Some of those photos were of Emmitt Till and his mother, Mamie Till Mobley. Emmitt's death was noted as one of the leading events that motivated the American Civil Rights Movement. Emmitt was 14 years old when his mother sent him to visit relatives in Mississippi. He was brutally murdered after he allegedly whistled at a white woman in a store. His mother courageously chose to have his casket open during his funeral so that the world could see the face of racial hatred.

Seeing those photos and recalling the struggle and the strength of my ancestors inspired this poem.

Thank You, Mamie

June 15, 2009
By Monica Fountain


Thank you, Mamie
For letting me see
Your baby boy

Thank you for opening
The coffin
So the world could see
A catastrophe

Brought by hate
A racial tsunami
That consumed your
Beautiful boy
On that fateful night

Thank you for giving
Us the courage
To fight

Thank you for letting
Us see
The human atrocity
The crime against humanity
On your beautiful
Baby

Thank you, Mamie
For a mother’s love
Courage and strength
To stand up for right
To fight
Hate
With love

Thank you


To read more about Mamie Till-Mobley, read her biography, "Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime that Changed America" written by Till-Mobley and Christopher Benson.

To see some of the work done by Pembroke students in the iWriteaDream Writing Workshop in Pembroke, click here.

Brokenness

Have you ever broken a glass while washing dishes? The shattered pieces are in the water and you have to be very careful or you may cut yourself. A broken glass can hurt you.

Broken people, people who have been damaged by life, can also hurt you. Broken people often damage themselves and others. People who have been broken by a parent, a spouse or even a child who has caused them immeasurable pain may actually cut themselves, seeking to end their own life. They might put drugs or alcohol into their bodies to ease their pain. Perhaps they give their bodies to others trying to find solace in sex. Oftentimes, they lash out at others, not even realizing that they are venting the pain pent up inside.

Broken by the critical words of a parent. Broken by the betrayal of a spouse. Broken by the disappointment of a child deeply loved. Broken by a violation of your body. Broken by an abortion. Broken by someone who should have been there, should have cared, should have protected or provided for you but just wasn’t there or didn’t seem to care.

It’s a cliché, but it is true. Hurt people hurt people. Most often, the person that they hurt is themselves.

Once a glass has shattered, it is impossible to put it back together again. And it is impossible by human endeavor alone to put broken people back together again and make them whole. We might patch them up and seal the cracks. But we cannot make them new again.

Only God can put broken people back together again.

Only God can heal some wounds. They are so deep. They are so devastating. The injury is so catastrophic. The heart has broken into so many pieces that it is like a shattered glass. It cannot be fixed or replaced in the natural. It takes the supernatural to not only put the pieces back together but to make us brand new. A new creation.

How does God do this? Through his Son, Jesus Christ. Why is Jesus able to fix our brokenness? Because he was broken for us.

“And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19

Jesus was broken for us. And through his brokenness, we can be healed.

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." Isaiah 53:5.

God wants to heal you. But do you have the faith to believe? Do you have enough faith to say, “Lord, help my unbelief.” Even if you have been broken so long you can’t believe that a pain-free existence is possible, just open your mouth and say, “Jesus, help me.” Open your heart. It’s scary because it’s been broken by people. This pain is impossible.

But with God all things are possible.

"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." 2 Corinthians 5:17

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Cut Connects Father and Son


This beautiful essay by my husband, John W. Fountain, appears in the June 21, 2009 edition of the Chicago Sun-Times. It speaks to the importance of the time we make to spend with our children--those precious memories that children remember and that impact their lives long after the toys have been thrown away and the clothes and shoes outgrown.


Happy Father's Day to all of the wonderful fathers like my husband John who have been there for their children from the day they were born and also for those who have been a father to those whose fathers were not there.


Cutting my son's hair lets us share priceless, intimate moments

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Baggie Books

Every Thursday I volunteer in my son’s first grade class. I listen to the students read their “baggie books.” They are supposed to read their books which they keep in a plastic pouch every week. The books are on various levels from one to twenty.

“Are you coming to read with us today?” they ask me in the morning when I drop off my son.
At the beginning of the school year some of the children were on level one and could barely read “a”, “and” or “the”. Now some of those same children are reading fluently.

Over the school year, I have seen their reading skills and confidence improve.

One little boy’s face beamed with pride when I praised his improved reading skills and moved him to the next level.

“I am so proud of you,” I said.

“Could you show the teacher?” he asked.


To some of them, I say, “You read like a t.v. news broadcaster. “ To others I say, “That’s my doctor” or “You’re my lawyer.”

I know about the value of an encouraging word and someone taking time to work with a child and speak possibilities into their life. And I also know that at school may be the only place where some of those children may receive an encouraging word or have an adult read to or with them.
I also personally know about the lasting impact that learning how to read can have on a person’s life and the importance of first grade.

I remember being in the bottom reading group in first grade. And although it was a long time ago, I remember the shame. I remember the frustration. I also vividly remember my mother sitting at our kitchen table with me, working with me on reading. I remember the sting of her popping my hand with an extension cord when my focus had waned and her patience had withered.

In this day and age when corporal punishment is frowned upon, some may question her old school techniques. Trust me. It was not a beat down, just a quick rap on the knuckles to get my attention. But the message was clear. Learning and reading is important and I’m going to sit here and stick with you until you get it--even if I have to beat you until you get it.

I steadily moved up in the reading groups. I started making “A”s. I became a part of the academically talented or gifted program. Honor roll student. Illinois State Scholar, National Merit Scholar. Full ride to the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. Summa cum laude. Time Magazine College Achievement Award in 1989. British Marshall Scholar.

And it all started at that kitchen table in first grade.

I say all that not to toot my own horn, but to say what is possible. The honor really goes to my mother who sat at the table with me, who always expected excellence from me. My parents valued education and paid me money for every A (yes, paying kids for grades is an incentive—a good one). My mother came to the school and was a mother for other children when their parents never showed up. She had my P.E. teacher change my grade from a B to an A.

“Did she dress out?”

“Yes,” the teacher replied.

“Did she participate?”

“Yes.”

“Then she gets an A.”

“ Yes, ma’am.”

What if I hadn’t had a mother who cared enough to help me overcome whatever obstacle was holding me back in first grade?

What would happen if more parents took the time to read to their child every day? What would be the impact in our neighborhoods and country if instead of marching and protesting pastors and their congregations went and read to a little boy or girl in their neighborhood school?

Marching and protesting are all well and good and often needed but what is absolutely necessary is that we take responsibility for our children’s education. As President Obama often says, we can and should spend more money in our schools, but parents also have to turn the television off and read to their children. We need to invest in books and computers instead of the latest fashions.

One little girl who reads beautifully now was in the lower levels earlier in the year. She expressed her frustration to me one day and said that so and so was on such and such a level and she was where she was.

I told her first of all to not believe everything someone tells you, because they might not be on the level that you think they are. I also told her my story of being in the first grade and in the lowest reading group. I told her to keep practicing and she would move up.

Now she is in the top reading group and one of the best readers in the class.

Maybe one day she will be a Rhodes Scholar and she’ll look back and say it all started with baggie books.


The class made me a special thank you book for reading with them this year. It brought tears to my eyes. They drew pictures of us reading together. I’ve read a lot of books since my year in first grade, but few have been as touching as the one from Ms. Curran’s first grade class 2008-2009.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Miss California

I really empathized with Miss California in April. I know about losing a title because of one pageant question.

Many years ago, I was a contestant in the Miss Teen Kankakee pageant. I felt the crown was within my reach. That is until I came to that pesky question section.

They asked me some question about being a lawyer. "Hey," I thought. "I don’t want to be a lawyer. The other contestant, Lisa, wants to be a lawyer. That question’s not for me."

I stumbled and bumbled through an answer, totally taken off my game by the unexpected question. I ended up with the second place trophy and stayed in bed mourning the next day, until my father finally told me to get up.

That question had cost me the crown.

Miss California, Carrie Prejean, said she believed she lost the Miss USA crown when celebrity blogger judge Perez Hilton asked her if she believed same-sex marriage should be legal across the country.

“Vermont recently became the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage,” Hilton said. “Do you think every state should follow suit, why or why not?”

Prejean, like me, also seemed to bumble a bit and be caught off guard at first before she gave the following answer:

"I think it's great Americans are able to choose one or the other," she said. "We live in a land that you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. And you know what in my country, in my family I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody there, but that's how I was raised and that's how I think it should be, between a man and a woman."

In the end, Miss California was named the first runner up, but ended up getting more attention for that one answer than Miss “What’s Her Name” who actually won the crown.

Later, Hilton described Prejean as a dumb “b” (rhymes with itch). She has been lauded and lambasted for her answer. She has been interviewed and appeared in commercials defending traditional marriage. Photos of her posing in lingerie have been posted on the Web.

It’s strange to me that someone would be publicly derided because they state a belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. How did we come to this point? For all of human existence and in every culture that I know of, marriage has been defined as between a man and a woman. Does it now make you an oddball to say what has been the case throughout human history or that would have seemed a few years ago to be an obvious and ridiculous question?

The first amendment of the U.S. Constitution ensures American citizens certain rights, including freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Perez Hilton asked the question and Miss California gave him an answer. She expressed what she believed. By the way, her answer was the same basic answer that has been given by President Barack Obama and other politicians including California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger when asked about same-sex marriage.

I do not see same-sex marriage as a question of civil rights. I believe in equal rights for all citizens. An adult person of sound mind should be able to leave their property to whomever they wish. People should also be able to say who they want to make health choices for them if they are incapacitated and who they want to receive benefits from their death.

But I also believe in the Bible. I believe that God’s Word and his law supersede man’s law. And I believe, like Miss California, and many others, that marriage is between a man and a woman. And that marriage is not a civil rights issue but an institution ordained by God. It always has been and it always will be.

Man may change his laws. The California Supreme Court recently upheld Proposition 8 which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. One day, that may not be the case in this country. Man may redefine marriage. But whatever man may say, what God says will remain and be true-- yesterday, today and forever.

"And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."
Genesis 2:22-24

Service vs. Status


For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
Luke 14:11(NIV)

One Sabbath, Jesus was dining at the home of a prominent Pharisee. He noticed how the guests were jockeying for positions at the table.

He gave those there a bit of advice. He told them when someone invites you to a feast, don’t sit yourself in the seat of honor because you might be asked to move. Instead, Jesus said to take the lowest place and let the host sit you in the seat of honor.

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted,” Jesus said.

If Jesus came to some of our churches today, I’m afraid he would find the same scenario.

Many people are jockeying for positions of power. Some are always clawing and scratching to be on top. They cherish their position, but they don’t have a heart for people. They want to have big names and be recognized. But they don’t want to spend time and energy doing the real work of ministry.

They want to have status, but they don’t want to serve.

It’s human to want acknowledgement and appreciation. But what is the motive of our service?Are we looking for status or to serve?

Jesus said the greatest in his kingdom are those who serve. Jesus was the Son of God. But he could wash his disciples’ feet. The Creator could crouch down and wash the dirty dusty feet of his creation. Jesus was able to do this because he knew who he was and he knew his purpose.

Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

When we know our purpose and our value in Christ, we don’t have to claw and crave for recognition. When our emphasis is service, not status, Jesus himself will place us in a seat of honor.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Just a Mom


“Mom, when are you going to get a job?”

“I have a job. I take care of you.”

“No. I mean a real job.”

So went the conversation with my son Malik and daughter Imani. The next day was “Take Your Son or Daughter to Work Day” and I figure my children were feeling deprived. They didn’t have a place to go. Dad worked as a professor downtown in the evening, so they knew they couldn’t go to work with him. Although Malik suggested he might go to Starbucks with Dad, a place he knows his father often does a lot of writing during the day.

“I work from home,” I explained.

“But when are you going to get a real job?” Malik asked.

I went into a brief dissertation of what the “job” of motherhood involved, but to a 7-year-old boy, being a mom was not a real job. A real job entailed getting up and going somewhere every day. A real job was not what Mom did.

I understand. For him being a mother was not a “job.” It was who I am.

I used to have the same conundrum when people would ask me “What do you do?”

For many of the last 17 years, I have been a stay-at-home mother. And sometimes I felt dumbfounded when asked the question, “What do you do?”

In my own mind, I figured the expectation was to have a sterling resume of accomplishments, awards and accolades. It almost seemed like a disappointment or that I was living below my potential to say I was a stay-at-home mother. Many times I felt like a failure because I could not say my professional accomplishments.

Although we pay lip service as a society to motherhood being the most important job in the world, so many mothers are made to feel that what they do is not significant.

I met a young mother in Florida in February who was raising two pre-schoolers. Her husband lamented that when she met people and they asked her what she did, she would reply, “I’m just a mom.”

“She’s incredible,” said her husband. “I try to tell her that what she does is the most important thing in the world.”

Just a mom. How often do mothers, whether stay at home or “working” mothers who go outside of the home every day and bare the awesome privilege and responsibility of motherhood feel that way.

I’m glad to say now that I was able to encourage that mother and tell her how I had felt the same way.

I don’t know exactly when it changed. I don't know exactly when I stopped feeling like I had to almost apologize for being "just a mom." Maybe I just stopped caring about what others definition of success and expectations were and started feeling comfortable in my own skin and about my own life decisions. Maybe I just decided to believe that God’s Word was true and that my worth was not determined by what I did but by who I was and whose I was.

It’s not just about the question, “What do you do?” I think the more important question is “Who are you?”

What do you believe in? What have you invested your life in? In 100 years from now, what will you have left that really matters? I believe our character and what we have poured into the lives of others are the some of the things that will stand the test of time and that transfer on to the next generation and beyond.

My son wrote me a pre-Mother’s Day card the other day. It read, “You’re a cool mom. I decided you need a cool card.” Inside the card was a drawing of him and me driving in the car under a sunny sky.

I’m just a mom. A cool mom. Just a cool mom with the best “job” in the world.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Spiritual Heritage

“For you have heard my vows, O God; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.” Psalm 61:5

As a child, I often heard my father’s gravelly baritone throughout the house.

“Guide me, O Thou, Great Jehovah, pilgrim through this barren land.”

On Sunday mornings as he was getting ready for church or during the week as he was going about his day, a song would swell up in him and just bubble out.

“I am weak but though art mighty, hold me with Thou powerful hand.”

As a child, I really couldn’t appreciate what I considered his “old-fashioned” singing or even understand why he would be singing or how a song could grow inside of you to the point that it erupted from your soul in an explosion of praise and worship.

As an adult, I am so grateful for the spiritual heritage that my parents passed down to me, from the “old-fashioned” songs that now resonate in my soul to the living example lived out every day before me of what it meant to love God and His people.

A heritage is something that is passed down from preceding generations.

I thank God that my parents passed down to me not only sayings that I now find myself repeating to my own children, but that they also lived a life that I could emulate.

“God gave you some sense,” my mother would say. Now I hear myself repeating those words.
I saw my mother feed the hungry, visit the sick in the hospital and the elderly in the nursing home. I saw her care for the less fortunate, even bringing folks in from the street and fixing them breakfast. She has given away money, clothes, food or whatever anyone has needed. I saw her be a mother to so many others.

“If you can’t say Amen, at least look Amen.”

I heard my father say many a Sunday morning as he stood in the pulpit to preach. Now when I speak I find myself saying those same words sometimes.

I saw my father be a voice for the powerless and fight injustice wherever he found it. He preached every Sunday, but that was only a small part of what he did. He counseled couples and wayward teens. He married and buried, comforted and challenged. He arose from his bed in the middle of the night to help a family cope with tragedy. He was a father to so many.

There are so many other things that I could say but there is not enough time and space to say all that I received from my parents and others, some who have gone on to be with the Lord. But I am so grateful that even though they have left us physically—Mother Green, Grandmother Hagler, Aunt Marjorie, Elder Davis, Rev. Bond—that their spiritual heritage remains.

Now I sing throughout my house, even louder than my father. My kids must think I’m crazy as I am going through my day, washing dishes or whatever, and just break out in a song.

“If the Lord, never did anything else for me, He’s done enough.”

But I hope that I am leaving them a heritage not just by what I say or sing, but what I do every day, that one day they will pass on to their children.

Copeland-isms

“Evil is incapable of a perfect plan.”

“If you can’t say ‘Amen,’ at least look ‘Amen.’”

“A man who deserves a long introduction doesn’t need it. A man who needs a long introduction doesn’t deserve it.”

For those of you who know my father, Rev. William H. Copeland Jr., you might have heard some of the above statements that he has made over the years. There are so many. Some I may have forgotten. Perhaps there was something he said that made a great impression in your life.

I’m collecting some of these “Copeland-isms” as I’ve heard them called. If you have some that you would like to share, please leave them in the comment section or send an email to MonicaAttheWell@aol.com.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Prayer Warriors

Brother to Brother Column

Prayer Warriors

"I have never seen anybody more ready and willing to pray than Grandmother. She didn't mess around when it came to calling on Jesus. While spending the night at her house through the years, I had heard the telephone ring in the middle of the night, then Grandmother's raspy but soothing voice praying aloud, pleading for God to intervene in some situation for the caller on the other end. . . . It was like she had a hot line to heaven and that God was one of her bosom buddies.”

From “True Vine: A Young Black Man’s Journey of Faith, Hope and Clarity”

by John W. Fountain




Missing Grandmother

By John W. Fountain

The years so soon fade

Faces, like the shade--

They disappear,before our eyes

And seas of tears

Despite our cries.

And hope springs anew,

Eternal like the grass

That lives to wither,

whose life shall pass,

But that long lingers in the consciousness of spring,

In all of us human,

In every living breathing moving thing.



And come morning sun

Or days darkened and done

Or whatever life's sum

Will soon come

Will rise

Will stir

Will revive

Will soon be made again alive

Like new mint leaves before our eyes

And new emerald trees that know not our cries that once drifted up,

Away, toward dreary, cloud-patched skies

And our eternal ties

to loved ones past,


to our future and to the years of past,

Which quickly fade

That do not last

That disappear

Like withering grass

Will soon spring eternal

Forever

perfect in the Son

When this life's season is done,

And we are one with Him.

Precious Memories


“The memory of the righteous will be a blessing…” Proverbs 10:7

We all have those special people who have made an impact in our lives. Share your memories of those who have left a mark on your life by the words they said and the lives they led.

Just leave a comment or send an email to MonicaAttheWell@aol.com and I will post them in the future.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Plow in Season

“A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing.”

Proverbs 20:4


Devotional:

Every day I’m looking for a hint of green. A glimmer of a plant poking its head through the dirt. Although there is snow on the ground in April, I have already planted my seeds, preparing for my vegetable garden. Although I am still wearing my winter coat, I know that the warm air is coming sooner or later. Soon, it will be time to go into my little garden patch and start turning over the soil in preparation to plant the seedlings that are currently growing in my living room window.


I’m looking for signs of growth every day. I get excited when I see speck of green poking through the brown dirt, knowing that each now tiny plant will grow into a harvest of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. I know that I have to start in April if I want to have tomatoes in August.


Just as we prepare for a natural harvest of fruits and vegetables, if we want to see a spiritual harvest in our lives, we need to plow in season. We can’t be weary in well doing or at harvest time, we will look up and find nothing. We have to prepare to plant. We have to cultivate the ground to make it ready for the seed. We need to break up the soil and turn it over. After the seed is planted and starts to grow we have to water, weed and fertilize. We have to prune and stake. Finally, we get to harvest the fruit of our labor.


Sometimes we get sluggish in our spiritual gardening. We don’t plant or hide the word of God in our heart that we might not sin against God. We don’t break up old habits and bad attitudes that make our hearts too hard to receive God’s word. We fail to weed out sin. We let bitterness grow and strangle our growth. We fail to fertilize and fortify ourselves with fasting and prayer or prune away everything that’s not like God.


If we want to see a harvest in our lives and in the lives of those around us, we have to plow in season. We have to do the work that is required now and practice the spiritual disciplines that will cause us to grow personally and that will empower us to touch the lives of others with the love and power of the gospel.


It’s hard work. It sometimes seems like a long wait. But in the end it’s worth it.


I see a little hint of green now, but I’m looking forward to biting into a ripe, red tomato at harvest time.


Reflection:


What type of harvest are you looking for in your spiritual life?

In what areas do you want to grow spiritually?

Application:


· Take a minute to write down your daily activities and how much time you spend on each. Then calculate how much of that time is spent praying, reading or studying God’s word or doing another activity that promotes spiritual growth.

· Commit to praying every day. It doesn’t have to be an hour. It could be a minute in the morning in the shower. But take time to talk to talk to God and then take time to hear what He is saying to you through His word—the Bible.

· Commit to reading the Bible every day—even if you just start by reading a verse a day. Proverbs is a good place to start if you don’t know where to begin. There are 31 Proverbs, one for every day of the month.

· Forgive the person who hurt you. Forgiving someone does not mean that you condone or forget the wrong they might have done to you. It does not even mean that you have reconciliation. But if you forgive, you free yourself. When you forgive, you don’t allow bitterness to take root in your heart and stunt your spiritual growth.

Scriptures:


Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. Matthew 3:8


I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5


There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
A time to be born and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to uproot. Ecclesiastes 3:1-2


No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11


Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Ephesians 6:9


Prayer:

Dear God,

Thank you for giving me everything I need to grow in you. Let me delight in you and make me like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season.


Amen.

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