Monday, December 28, 2015

Sunday School With President Carter

Sunday School with President Carter

When my sister-friend Bryn asked if I wanted to go to Plains, Georgia for Sunday school with President Jimmy Carter, I think all of my neighbors heard me scream “yes.”

 Sunday school with the 39th President of the United States is something that I’ve always wanted to do, but until I actually did it, I had no idea how much I needed to.

Plains is about 3 and a half hours of mostly country road from where I live. You have to go there the day before, stay overnight in a hotel and then get up and stand in line for a few hours with folks who have come from all over the world for this experience and I was happy to do so.

Bryn’s husband Tim drove so I had the chance to sit in the back seat making all kinds of Ms. Daisy references, sing Christmas carols and country music and actually see the beauty that surrounded us. 
We had a blast. We laughed about the silliest things, talked politics, policy and sociology. We developed ideas for work and for making the lives of women better while we giggled like children in anticipation of the big event.

As joyful as we were, we had no way to know that our joy would be made even fuller.

I’m going to get to it as best as I can (even my thoughts have a Southern drawl) but I’ll tell you now, there’s no way I can do that day justice.

I’d love to tell you all about the church and the members, especially Ms. Jan, the woman who told us what to do, say, and how to act. I’d love to go into the detail of how a church of 30 members provides food and shelter for tens of thousands of needy folks. How they host hundreds of visitors every week, and how the secret service have to make sure each of them stays in line. (I do believe that even they follow the instructions of Ms. Jan, who also taught Amy Carter when she was in the 4th grade.)

I’d love to tell you all about sitting right behind the President and Mrs. Carter as we all sang Go Tell It On The Mountain, but I need to tell you this; once I got beyond my excitement, awe, respect, admiration, and plain old geeked-out spasms, I got a powerful Sunday school lesson that will affect me forever.

The President outlined the four songs of Christmas. He spoke of Isaiah’s servant song, and Mary’s Maificat; how it turned the world upside down. 
“It transforms the consciousness of human beings about our creation,” President Carter said. Through her calling and reaction, he said, “The lowly become key players in God’s kingdom.”

The President went on to outline Zechariah’s Benedictus and pointed out a most important lesson; "That we should not worry about what we will do, but the kind of person we should be."

“If you want to be a better person,” President Carter said, “Copy the life of Christ.”

He went on to the Song of Simeon; Nunc Dimittis. Through the song of the devoted Simeon, the old man who waits at the temple, we know that we are connected to a partner who “knows everything and can do anything,” the President said.

Then he tied it all together and I was moved to tears, commitment and service.

“We are to be a little Christ. A light to all nations. We have been given the opportunity which some would call a duty; to show love, compassion, grace, forgiveness to all the world. Our life and freedom give us the choice to serve. The greatest prayer we can have is the prayer of Simeon to know the promise of the Mesiah.
Jesus taught us the proper relationship between ourselves and human beings. Through this we must know that we are all equal, worthy and important.
It is because of this that we know that success according to Christ, looks very different than it does to the world. The greatest in the Kingdom is the servant of all. So we are to demonstrate peace, justice, service, compassion and love.
When we do, we will be able to see God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Be you, be at peace, be joy.

Bertice Berry, PhD.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Share the Gift of You

She's already sharing her story
Share the Gift of You

A few days ago, I sat with a friend in the hospital. She was recovering from a surgery but was still her normal bubbly, brilliant self.

I’ve known her for many years and have heard many stories of her life and journey, but on that day in the hospital, she gave me the gift of herself. I felt that she had opened her heart and poured it out to me. I heard stories of her youth, of pain and hardship. There were stories of triumph and adventure, stories of joy and of sorrow.

My daughter sat attentively listening with great interest and I was amazed by my own need to truly hear.

My friend is not near her end, far from it, but she (and her meds) had allowed herself to share the gift of her own life.

This past weekend, I’ve heard other life stories and was inspired, moved and thrilled with how they all connected and intersected with the twists and turns of my own life.

Then I remembered something I heard a few weeks before at a business meeting; we have many pathways but are on the same journey.

During this week of run, grab wrap and give, take the time to share the gift of you.
Listen to a story.

Share your own.

Visit with someone who can’t get up and out.

Find points of intersection between your life and that of someone else’s and you will find your own way.
Be you, be well be the journey.

Bertice Berry, PhD.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Storing Joy

 My mother often reminded me that there was nothing new under the sun. She’d say this whenever I’d come in with a new pair of platforms, trying to show her a new dance.

My mommy would trace the origins to something she had already done, seen, heard or had been a part of and I was humbled.

My mom was born in 1918, and she had an incredible memory. She was raised by her grandparents, so for her, time went way, way back.

“There’s nothing new under the sun, but there’s always a new way of seeing it,” she said in her later years.

My mother kept reading and learning until her very last days, so whenever I learn something new, I am reminded of her.

Yesterday, in Sunday school, Rev. Liam was teaching a class about this beautiful season of Advent. He talked about surprises and Mary and his own journey from Ireland to college and then the U.S.

He told us how he left home at 15 and found work in the wine cellar in the U.S. Embassy. Liam shared that one day an ambassador informed him that he would help him go to college.

Those dangburn public tears of joy began to stream down my face as I recalled my benefactor, Terry Evenson, the man who helped me to go to college.

I marveled at the similarity of our paths and then I got my new thing. Liam shared with us the idea of storing your joy. He said that we can celebrate the moment in the now, but store the memory away for the not yet.

Stored joy enables us to be grateful in moments of doubt and disbelief. Stored joy keeps us in the awareness that all things truly do work together.

Liam continued the lesson by asking if we are surprised by pain, calamity and suffering or by joy.

The paradigm of your belief should and must be rooted in joy because what you seek, you will find; seek joy.

My mother was right; there is nothing new, but there is always a new way to see---joy.

Store your joy and be surprised by what it brings.

Be you, be well, be joy.

Bertce Berry, PhD.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Living in The Now and The Not Yet

Living In the Now And The Not Yet

This past Sunday, I heard a sermon that changed me forever. Rev. Helen White was talking about being able to withstand the day in the face of chaos and confusion.

“See yourself in the now and the not yet,” she exclaimed.

Rev. Helen shared a meditation whereby you imagine yourself in the midst of any place under attack. She instructed us to imagine the madness around us while imagining ourselves standing tall against the attacker.

As she spoke, tears began to stream down my cheeks and I could not stop them.

I was somewhere in my own mind wondering how to face the things that had me down.

“See yourself in the now and the not yet.” I heard Helen say. I imagined the chaos and to my joy, I simultaneously saw that because all things works together, the world was a much better place and I had somehow imagined it so.

I’ve always had a hard time with being fully present. I want to be here and in the future at the same time, and Helen had given me the opportunity to do just that.

Right now, as I write this, I am present. I am at my keyboard smelling the wonderful dish of curried vegetables that was made by my friend Sasha, being reheated by my daughter Fatima. I can hear the sound of the oven door being opened and feel the condensation on the cool bottle of water next to me. I am fully present and yet, I’ve floated forward and I am seeing all of the possibilities I can imagine.

I see my granddaughter interrupting me with marvelous questions (she’s three months old.)

I see email from folks who say that I’ve inspired them thanking me for helping them to see.

I see myself as whole and healthy and I know then as I do now that I am loved, adored and well thought of.

As I look at my own present day refection smiling back at me, I see the now and the not yet.

Be you, be present, be future.
Bertice Berry, PhD