Monday, June 29, 2015

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace

By now, you’ve seen the footage or have heard about the President of The United States leading thousands in a beautiful tribute to Rev. Clementa Pickney with the song Amazing Grace.

If you haven’t, you should.

You should also watch the eulogy in its entirety and you should reflect on your own grace.

Most folk know very little about the origin of that song, and even less about the man who wrote it.

Reverend John Newton became a fierce abolitionist. He urged his fellow Englishmen to end the horrors of slavery. He knew those horror intimately, because Newton had been the captain on a slave ship. Captured and forced into the life of a seaman, Newton often found himself in the same condition of the slaves he’d transported.

Once, he was even sold over to a slave trader who gave Newton to his African wife. She treated Newton and her black slaves terribly. Later, Newton wrote that it had been the African slaves who had nursed him and kept him alive.

Newton was later rescued and converted to Christianity on his voyage back to England when the ship almost capsized. Newton cried out to God ready to die, but the ship amazingly found itself in a calm sea.

Newton stopped drinking and gambling, but continued in the slave trafficking business. With each passage, Newton came to see that until he set others free, he could not be. He decided to give God full control of his life and after a serious illness and then stroke, Newton completely gave up the business of trafficking Africans.

By the time John Newton wrote the words, “I once was blind, but now I see,” Newton had lost his physical sight but had gained a vision of the world to come.

A world that was free of slavery and the oppression of others because of race.

To hear a president sing that song brought so much full circle.

As President Obama told the audience at that Home going ceremony, “Grace is not earned.” Grace is God’s unmerited favor. How we respond to it determines the world we get to see.

I once was lost, but am grateful to be found.

Was blind, but am grateful to see.

What will you do with you grace?

Bertice Berry, PhD.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Be Forgiven

Some of my Sunday dinner family
                      Be Forgiven

Most people think that wellness starts with the mind, but I have come to know that it begins in your heart.

Last week, most of us were saddened and angered by the shootings at the church just up the road from me in Charleston, South Carolina. Then the survivors and family members spoke of forgiveness and I was corrected.                                                                       

I don’t know if I could have said, “I forgive you,” to that young man. I’m having a hard enough time giving forgiveness to the folks I know who say things that are racist.

I’ve grown tired of being angry, but I won't be indifferent and I am only now stepping up to the plate of forgiveness.

Many of my friends don’t fully understand the burden of racism in America and they surely cannot comprehend what it’s doing to them.

Until those beautiful words of forgiveness, I hadn’t looked at what I had been holding.

I’ve often said that forgiveness is not about letting someone else off of the hook, it’s about getting off the one they put you on.

Forgiving someone is about letting go of the pain and suffering that comes as a result of the injury.

For my own wellness, I will move my focus from the terrorist over to the beautiful folks who could forgive.

You can probably read through my lines to see that I’m not yet up to the task of forgiving that murderer. It’s probably because I see the act of terrorism in a much larger context.
We should be talking about this.
We should be sitting down at dinner tables with the folks you mean when you say, "Some of my best friends are," and you should be discussing how this and other acts of terrorism make you all feel.
We should all be holding our hearts in pain from the indifference we have to our nations indifference.
We should be feeling something.

If your heart is not aching, truly aching, well, I forgive you.

Be you, be well, be forgiven.

Bertice Berry, PhD

Monday, June 1, 2015

Finding True Life-Work Balance

The Real Life-Work Balance

Yesterday as I dragged myself up out of bed, I wondered how I would get through the day. My body ached, but I had missed three weeks of church (one because of work and two from being sick of being sick.) I had planned to have family dinner afterwards but at that point I wondered why.

I’ve been hosting a dinner and a documentary Sunday for almost 2 years, but recently, health issues have caused me to cancel more than a few. One of our family members is leaving for a mission in Japan, so we wanted to be with him before he left. Still, my body ached and I was moving slowly. I pushed myself up, made myself get dressed and climbed the steps of our beautiful church building.

Once there, I got the love and hugs and the sermon that I needed. Rev Sierra of Christ Church Episcopal spoke about the need for community in times of pain. She quoted her college roommate who’d said that isolation is the dark room where all of her negatives are exposed. WOW.

I tried to hold back my tears, but the best I could do was to avoid the crack cry that was fighting to burst forth. Sierra spoke of the need to come together as a community, finding strength in one another.

As she spoke, my pain subsided and I felt renewed. Sitting there with these beautiful folks, I felt a kindred spirit of like-minded, like hearted people.

My Sunday dinner only confirmed what Sierra had said as we all sat breaking bread (literally, I’d left it in the oven too long,) and laughing together together. These beautiful young folks made me feel renewed and I suddenly became fully aware that the real balance in life is not between life and work, it is between your flesh and your spirit.

When my spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak, I need the joy and laughter of others.

When my mind wanders to what is wrong, I need my heart to remind me of what is right.

When my feelings have been hurt enough for me to want to stop doing what I love, I need the embrace of a friends and family in spirit to remind me of who I am.

The real balance in life comes when you know how to give your all to others and then turn around and give that same all to yourself.

And with that I will drop the mic.

Be you, be well, be love.

Bertice Berry, PhD.