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Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

To Celebrate Life, Love, Moms, Motherhood, & Valentine’s Day

Letter to My Mom, Mildred Blackmon McEwen

Give her roses while she can still enjoy them. ~ Earnest McEwen, Jr. (my father)

Dear Mama ~

It isn’t your birthday or Mother’s Day. Christmas is over. Epiphany, too. It’s the beginning of a glorious New Year… and I’m writing this letter to honor you. I want to thank you for the singular blessing you’ve poured and continue to pour into my life: you!

You are that blessing. Your life is a poem, a mighty spiritual, a testimony of gratitude, faith, and love. And this letter is a celebration of you.

Your road has been long; your journey has not been easy. Bigotry and prejudice fortified you, teaching you how to love even more deeply and how to see not just with your anatomical eyes, but also to see with the eyes of your heart. Greatest of all, you relied on God’s love and strength rather than your own. In this you gave me the gift of faith and unconditional love for myself and others.

You also gave me what my sister-friend and fellow poet Nikky Finney would say is the gift of being “a woman with keys.” A woman with keys moves in a particular way and she has a responsibility, an obligation to help others find theirs, help them move through their rooms, cross their thresholds, unlock their windows and doors on the journey to claim their promise.

I remember as a little girl, you gave me the precious gift of encouragement. When you said over and again, “Be all that God intended you to be—no matter what, come what may.” I now offer that gift back to my daughter, other family members, my students, clients, and friends.

I remember your humility and sacrifice. For many long years you and Daddy toiled and sacrificed so that my sisters and I could have a better life than the ones you’d known. I remember your and Dad’s Mississippi stories of struggle and strife, of Dad’s deep longing to go to college to better himself and improve our lot, of him working as a janitor at Ole Miss and there, by the grace of God, William Faulkner came into his life and paid for Dad to attend Alcorn A&M College, with no strings attached. I remember you working as a teacher and cook in the nursery school to help make ends meet, Dad’s working at low-paying jobs even with his college degree. I remember you both standing on your rock-solid values of hard work, gratitude, faith, love, and integrity.

I also remember the profound lessons you taught me—to lend others a helping hand, to be of service to others… your constant reminders to do something with my time, to make myself useful. Even if I was already occupied doing something! Today your words echo in my soul as the voice of legacy. Early on, you taught me, Doris, Annie, Debbie, and Vera that you make a living by what you choose as your work, and you make a life by what you do for others.

I remember when I asked what compelled you to go along with Daddy’s “impossible” dreams, you said, “I loved your father and I believed in him. More importantly, we had an abiding faith in Almighty God, and He never gave us more than we could handle, and His grace always saw us through.” Even when you didn’t have any idea of how our family would make it, your love and faith sustained you.

Thank you for giving me a legacy that values education, character, as well as loving, lifting up, and helping others with no strings attached. Thank you for painting on the canvas of eternity with your unshakable belief in the nobility of the human spirit, for painting with a palette imbued with the qualities of humility, faith, love, triumph, and the capacity to treat every human being with dignity and respect. Through you, I have a small glimpse of God’s magnificence, devotion, and triumph.

Because of you, I know—deep in my bones—a few things: if you want change, you must stir the waters and be willing to get out of the boat. If you want change, then you have to invest your heart and soul in the generations to come. I also know that each person must live the legacy that God has intended just for him or her, which means that you can’t hide your light under a bushel. You have to dare to wear your soul on the outside, and keep on keeping on—no matter what, and we have to pass it on by building sturdy bridges for others to cross.

Mother, thank you for being a diva in my life, for not merely talking about blessings… but for being the blessing, and for passing it on!

Love and honor, your daughter Gloria

Pass It On!

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I’ve heard Wintley Phipps sing Amazing Grace many times, so much so that his astounding singing and insightful commentary have become inseparable. Wintley’s stirring offering of this spiritual is a classic, a marvelous gift of legacy living. Listen and be blessed.

Pass It On!

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This morning, one of my students opened our class with an attunement, our meditative practice at the beginning of each morning to focus our energy – spiritually, physically, emotionally, and intellectually.

Compassion Flower

Her attunement was to shine the light on simple acts of caring and compassion. She shared with us a moment she experienced just today while waiting for the ferry. As she waited in line, she noticed a man who had slept on the ground the night before, apparently homeless. She watched as he sat up, smoothed his clothing, folded his blanket, neatly, and brushed his hair, readying himself for the day while his companion was still sleeping.

My student noticed another man as he got out of his car and approached the man who had slept on the ground. They had a brief conversation then the man returned to his car. A minute or two later, he emerged, carrying two cups of hot, steaming coffee. He gave both of them to the man, a cup for him and a cup for his companion.

As my student described this early-morning exchange, she said she was struck not only by what she had witnessed, but also by the simplicity of what it means and what it takes to care for our brothers and sisters: a little time… attention… generosity… and a heart of kindness.

Pass It On!

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As the golden days of autumn give way to auburn, rust, and brown,  we lean toward Thanksgiving, a season of deep gratitude.

Today and always I give thanks for my many blessings – family and friends, children’s laughter, angels and prayers that come into my life, bidden or unbidden, even my breath, which I so often take for granted… but which for some is an immense struggle.

Aunbance is Yours

Abundance is Yours

Many years ago, I wrote “Sanctuary,” one of my many poems of gratitude. I share it with you now as an offering of thanksgiving for a faithful, stout-hearted woman of God… my  mom, Mildred McEwen, and to two amazing men whose legacy of generosity and gratitude changed my life… my father, Earnest McEwen, Jr.,  and William Faulkner.

Who has been a blessing in your life? Have you expressed your gratitude?

SANCTUARY

for William Faulkner and my father, Earnest McEwen, Jr.*

Between the brush of angels’ wings

and furious hooves of hell, two mortal men

fell down. How you must have looked—

white shirt stained, khakis fatigued,

smelling of sweat and smoke,

hair at odds with itself and the world.

At the threshold among your restless dead

in echo and shadow of ancient oaks,

providing sanctuary, offering shade,

you had many worlds behind you,

few yet to be born: stories of insurgence,

scorn, decay—theme and variations

of a vanquished South.

Leaning against a jamb

of antebellum brass, you watched, waited,

raised weary arm and hand, saluted

the familiar stranger. Come. Enter. Sit. Sing.

You reached each other across the grate.

What you two must have known of heaven and hell.


* William Faulkner was my father’s benefactor, paying for him to attend college at a time when he had little

prospects of earning enough money to pay for it himself. This was Faulkner’s way of dismantling institutionalized racism long before desegregation was mandated in the South.

__________________________________

Harvest blessings.

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Autumn as Teacher Supports Us as We Practice Surrender:

Autumn Leaves.Gloria Burgess

Surrender.Gloria Burgess.Feel Good Tuesday

Give up your need to be right. Lean into curiosity – your own. Let your guard down, relax, & see where it takes you.

Give up your need to know it all… or even to know anything at all. Be open to beneficial surprise.

Let go of your need to have “the” answer. Let someone else respond. Let someone else find out. Deepen your appreciation for wonder, discovery, & leaning into mystery.

–  Give up your need to make others wrong. Notice what holds you back. Don’t judge yourself. Simply notice… be gentle with yourself & practice choosing differently next time around.

 Pass It On!

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In a recent post, I mused about the vibrancy of community in Ghana… & the dearth of community here at home. Of course, the best kind of community is making the best of it no matter what the circumstance.

To Flourish: Gloria Burgess

At the moment, my husband & I are blessed to be in community with my father-in-law, caring for & ministering to him after undergoing 5-way bypass surgery. Our community also includes other family members, wonderful care givers, rehab specialists, kind neighbors, & the many, many friendships he has sustained through the years.

At 88-years young, he’s doing remarkably well. Hallelujah! Though he still has many months to a full recovery, my father-in-law’s good cheer, generosity of spirit, & positive outlook is wonderful reminder of what it means to flourish.

Pass It On!

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Have you ever taken a step that leads you on a totally unexpected, but life-nourishing journey? Recently I took that step: a trip to Ghana as guest teacher with a group of young university students from the U.S.

Ghanain Girl in Kente Cloth

Our theme was race and identity. We posed a few questions: Who am I? Whose am I? What do I stand for? What grounds me? As we pondered the questions, doors unexpectedly opened not only for the students, but also for me. I found in myself a hunger that was deeper than expected, further hidden than I remembered. My hunger was for belonging, for community, for soul-satisfying nourishment.

In Ghana, I was profoundly reminded of how easy it is to slip into the script of a culture that focuses almost exclusively on the individual, a culture that has lost sight of the value of the collective, a culture where we distract ourselves with daily minutia that leaves us exhausted and depleted. When we buy into this script, it is easy to lose our deep regard for and connection to one another.. We lose our way and we can no longer flourish.

While in Ghana, together, we were reminded of the importance of consciousness, of finding our intentional community where we’re loved and honored simply because we’re human beings. It is here where we have a shared sense of community and a shared sense of values, history, and possibility for the future. We share a deep regard for creativity and the innate creative capacity of others, and we have a deep appreciation for all things cultural, social, and spiritual, for all that nourishes the collective. For when the collective is nourished, it flourishes, and the individuals within it also flourish.

As for the polarity that we create between the individual and the community… how will we work to remove this schism? We must attend to the human community – our relationships with family, friends, and even strangers. We must choose that which is life affirming and life giving. We did it in Ghana. I know we can do it at home.

Pass It On!

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