Monday, March 30, 2009

Lost and Found

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Luke 15: 8-10

I knew immediately that it was gone. My hand felt lighter. Although it weighs much less than an ounce, I could feel at once something was missing. I looked at my left hand and a pain pierced my heart. My diamond was gone.

My wedding ring had a gaping hole. It must have come out while I was packing my groceries. I searched through every bag I had put into the minivan. It had to fallen off while I was putting the groceries in the bag because I would have noticed it was missing when I paid the cashier. I would have noticed it was missing when I picked up the yogurt or sorted through the chickens.

I had known for a while that one of the mountings was broken. I intended to get it fixed, but it seemed like it could wait. One mounting was missing but there were still four others holding it down. I would have it remounted one day, but there were so many other things that needed to be done. I could live with a missing mounting. It would get fixed one of these days.

But now it was gone.

I remembered when my husband gave it to me. A pear-shaped diamond. It was just what I wanted. I remembered how much he sacrificed to buy it. His sacrifice was something that I appreciated more and more over the years as I understood how much it cost not only financially, but emotionally for him to invest in. I tried to remember it was just a thing. But I said, “God, I loved that ring.” I loved what it represented.


The tears flowed as I drove home. I prayed. And I made up in my mind to look through every bag again when I got home.


I thought about the parable in the Bible about the woman who lost her coin. Palestinian women received ten silver coins as a wedding gift. Besides their monetary value, these coins held sentimental value like that of a wedding ring, and to lose one would be distressing. The coin was precious. My ring was precious to me. I thought about how much more precious my children and husband, my family and friends were than the ring. The ring could be replaced. Those people and relationships could not be.


But I still wanted my diamond.


I was starting to feel that it was hopeless and pointless, but I still emptied my pockets. I emptied my purse. I sat on my family room floor and carefully searched every bag, even the ones I knew that the cashier had packed and not me. I came to the last bag. It was a double bag. I searched the inside bag. Nothing. But I felt a little chip between the bags. It was probably just a food particle. It couldn’t possibly be my diamond. A flicker of hope.


I reached down and there it was-- a small clear stone. Thank you, Jesus! I cried. I shouted. I rejoiced. What was lost had been found. I immediately went to the jewelry store to have the stone remounted into my ring. I told the associate at the jewelry store about finding my lost diamond.


“It’s a miracle,” she said. She informed me that it would cost a little over a $100 to repair the ring, but to replace the stone would have cost thousands.


She said that the ring would be back in a week and while they were repairing it, they would also resize it, clean it and polish it. “It will be as good as new,” she promised.


Just like my ring and the coin in the parable, people are precious to God. Precious does not just mean something is valuable. But is valuable because it is valued by the owner. Jesus Christ bought us with his own blood. We really weren’t worth much. Just dust. But God valued us and loved us so much that He gave His only begotten son.


The tears rolled down my cheeks in the car as I drove home from the grocery store that day, mourning the loss of my diamond. My tears flowed for a lost stone. But how often do I cry over lost souls who are dying every day? Do I weep over the souls of men? Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died. Jesus cried over the city of Jerusalem. Do I mourn for those who leave this world without knowing the greatest love of all? Do I put off telling a friend about the love of Jesus, figuring I’ll get around to it one day? Do I not properly appreciate the value of people’s lives and their need for Christ?


Jesus sacrificed his very life for our salvation. He paid the price. We were small, but he valued us and made us valuable. Through his blood, he made us brand new. My lost diamond had taught me a valuable lesson. I need to cry more. But after I’m done crying, I need to get up and diligently seek the lost.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sistergirlfriend

I read a post this morning from my friend Lisa's wonderful web site, Single Moms and More. I've known Lisa since I can't remember. We grew up together in my hometown of Kankakee, Ill. We were in Sunday School together. We wrote our future married names and the names of our future children in homeroom during high school. I am the godmother of her oldest child.


I was surprised when I read a post on her blog about domestic violence and she mentioned "Monica" as a friend who she knew she could turn to for the unvarnished truth when she needed to hear it.


"I needed someone who would give it to me straight, no chaser. And I knew I could count on Monica to not sugarcoat anything," she wrote in another related post.


I was surprised and honored by the compliment. We all need friends who will love us enough to tell us the truth in love. It made me laugh because I thought of other friends who have said through the years, "You keeps it real." or "No matter what crazy idea I came to you with you would just say, OK. Have you thought about going back to school?"


Reading Lisa's posts reminded me of how blessed I have been through the years with wonderful women as friends. I always wanted a sister. When I was growing up, I told my parents I wanted a baby sister or a dog. I got a poodle named Pierre.


But through the years, God has blessed me with some very special sistergirlfriends. Some years ago, I wrote a poem for a Kwanzaa celebration for a group that I belonged to called Mocha Moms, which is a group for stay-at-home mothers of color. This poem is a compilation of sistergirlfriend moments that I have shared with others and some are experiences of others that they have shared with me that I incorporated into this poem. But it expresses my love and gratitude for all the grace, beauty, strength, wisdom and love of my phenomenal sistergirlfriends.



Mocha Mom Kwanzaa Celebration
Dec. 26, 2003

Sistergirlfriend
By Monica Fountain

I came tonight to talk about
Unity
Among the sisters especially
Because they say Black women
Can be
You know—catty
Or sometimes they just say we’re B’s
Female dogs
Lassies

But the truth is
They just can’t see
Our love
Our bond
Our unity

So this odes to you
My sister
My girl
My friend

For all the things through the years
You’ve been

Sistergirlfriend
Remember when
We stayed up all night
Talking about him
Trying to figure out
How many kids we’d have when we was grown
Making up their names
Playing tricks on the phone
And we watched “Roots” and got so mad
We wanted to beat up every white person
Who crossed our path
Thank you Sistergirlfriend
For making me laugh

Sistergirlfriend
Acting crazy together
Even having babies together
1,2,3 and then you went for four
And I said I just can’t have no mo’

Sistergirlfriend
Remember when
We stayed out in the cold that night
Talking about the struggle for civil rights
Our hopes for our children and family
I told you when I was 6, my uncle molested me
You’ve always listened to me
Even if my idea was crazy
When I was pregnant, you called me
When I had the baby, you fed me
When my son was sick, you came to the hospital and prayed with me
Thank you for sharing your pain
Your dreams, your hopes with me

Thank you, Sistergirlfriend for keeping
The Unity
In the Black Family
Working in your community
Holding things together
Taking something from nothing and making it better
Supporting your man
Making him think that idea came from him
Changing diapers, wiping a snotty nose
Doing homework, dishes and the laundry
Loving your family
Keeping the unity

In you I see me
Beauty, strength, power, dignity
Thank you for making me the
Best I can be
My sister, my girl, my friend
You bring me together
Make me whole
We’re one in spirit, heart and soul

I’m talking unity
Umoja
And this is for you
Sistergirlfriend
Mama Mocha

Friday, March 6, 2009

Still Searching





In 2005, the Washington Post published an essay by my husband John W. Fountain entitled "No Place for Me." The essay literally went around the world, published in newspapers across the country, overseas and forwarded via email to thousands. The impact of the essay and the discussion that it generated were phenomenal. John received thousands of emails from people of every denomination (even atheist), race and walk of life.

Below is an excerpt from the original essay (please click "No Place for Me" to read the full essay) and some recent poetic thoughts from John.

MRF

“…I am the grandson of a pastor and am myself a licensed minister. I love God and I love the church. I know church-speak and feel as comfortable shouting hallelujahs and amens and lifting my hands in the sanctuary as I do putting on my socks.

Yet I now feel disconnected. I am disconnected. Not necessarily from God, but from the church.

Somewhere along the way, for us, for me, the church -- the collective of black churches of the Christian faith, regardless of denomination -- lost its meaning, its relevance. It seems to have no discernible message for what ails the 21st-century black male soul…”


From Washington Post essay “No Place for Me” by John W. Fountain




Still Searching for the Church I Once Knew
By John W. Fountain

I sit here, no place for me
The sanctuary filled with psalm and praise,
though I am mostly in a haze
Stuck between the memories of times past
When the spirit was high
When I stood on Sunday's
Clinging to my last
Hope
Of one-suit days
And heart-felt praise
And yet, I sit dazed
Feeling like a fish out of water
Like a son with no father
Under the incandescent lights
Pews half filled
The usual sights
And yet I feel here
So un-Christ like

Noise
And rhythm and motion
Yet no plan for the sick,
The widows
The poor
For brothers who need so much more

Just commotion

And yet,
I love this place
Where I found grace and the wisdom of the church mothers
Who mothered me
And fathered me
A spiritual son to maturity
But now full grown
It feels so wrong
Even as my feet pat to song
Another song
Ringing: “Thank the Lord for Jesus”
Everybody singing
Everybody singing
Just singing
Just singing
Just
Singing
Just
Sing-ing
...Just.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Toy Guns Not Child's Play

Brother to Brother Column





By John W. Fountain

My son Malik’s big brown eyes lit up as the woman, a distant relative, handed him a gift, still tightly packaged and glistening in the sun as children at our family reunion in Indianapolis, frolicked on a summer afternoon, their voices drifting on a breeze.

Malik tightly held the toy in his spidery fingers as she walked away. By the time we arrived most of the assortment of gifts annually given to children had been dispensed. My son’s face shone with glee. Mine twisted.

“Uh, I’m sorry Malik, but uh, you can’t have that.”

“Why not?” my son asked, staring up at me.

“Because…,” I said, “Because it’s a gun.”

“But it’s only a water gun, Daddy,” Malik responded, not loosening his grip. “What’s wrong with a water gun?”

“It’s a gun, Malik. You can’t have guns,” I said, though internally, I was at war: My angst over guns marked by my wife’s and my decision that our children should not have guns of any kind versus the innocence of a gift that only shoots water, given to a son to whom I would gladly give the world.

It is not as much opposition to guns as it is to gun violence, though some might say they are the same. As a former Chicago crime reporter, I have witnessed the toll of guns in the hands of young men with hair-trigger tempers and a moral void that enables them to kill and kill again.

I have witnessed a summer’s weekend carnage inside the Cook County coroner’s deepfreeze filled with cold, lifeless bodies of young black men wearing orange toe tags. I have stood at the edge of a pool of blood on a basketball court and looked into the aching eyes of mothers and fathers, written the public epitaphs of far more young victims of gun violence than I care to recollect.

Guns don’t shoot people—people do. I know, I know. But what I also came to know, growing up on the West Side, is that guns in the hands of young men who looked like me led to the premature demise of so many young men who looked like me. And as a man, I came to believe that unrestricted access to guns is one thing. But this is another: A culture of misogyny, self-hatred and the absence of moral lessons—chief among them, “Thou shalt not kill”—a culture that inevitably produces calloused young killers.

I am not anti-gun as much as I am pro-life—the lives of my son, and my daughter, and my neighbors’ sons and daughters. And our stance reflects a belief that no matter how much we as a people march, or call for stricter gun laws or more police—that unless we do something to change the culture, we can only expect more of the same. That our greatest threat is not the enemy from without but within. That ultimately we must heal ourselves.

We see our ban as one small step in raising a black boy who respects the sanctity of human life and grows up to be a black man.

Together, Malik and I walked over to a picnic table where I spotted the relative who had given him the gun.

“Something wrong?” she asked.

“Uh, yes,” I said, “It’s the gun. He can’t have a gun.”

I instructed Malik to hand it back. A few moments later, after rifling through a bag of leftover gifts, she emerged with a package of little lizards—perfect. Malik smiled.

Inside I still wondered whether I had done the right thing, until we returned home that evening and the television blared with news of more shootings, this time of three boys fatally shot while sitting in a car in Maywood. And I knew I had.

Living Water - Toy Gun - John W. Fountain

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