Sunday, February 19, 2017

Trust? Today--How?

photo by purple javatroll / flickr

A Mother told me this funny story that really happened. She had a little box of Scripture verses shaped like a loaf of bread on the kitchen table. And as she sat with her little boy they would take out a Scripture verse and read it and talk about it. One particular morning the little boy took out a tiny card that read: “I will trust and not be afraid.” That afternoon she took her son to see the movie “Oliver Twist.” In the film there is a very scary scene when everything on the screen is very dark and someone is being hanged—and is twisting in the wind. Little Davie stood up in the darkened theatre and said out loud: “I will trust and not be afraid.” And he sat down and wet his pants. 

This has a familiar ring to me. How about you? We come here on Sunday and it is easy to believe. We say together: “I will trust and
photo by Fred Dawson  LRPS/ flickr
not be afraid.” And then reality intrudes. You get in your car and go home. And you turn on the TV. Looks like all hell is breaking loose. You hear about ISIS and terrorism. Too many 21 year olds coming home in boxes. Some scandal in Washington. Or your back hurts and you have to go to the Doctor. Or maybe you have a fight with somebody you love. Or you get up one morning and the blahs hit you in the face. You read the Obituary column in the back of the paper and you notice underneath too many of those pictures—they are the same age as you—ooh. A child breaks our heart. 

And our response? You know. You know. We’re like little Davie—we say we trust and will be not afraid—and when all these scary things hit us in the face we begin to think: Where is God? Reckon this stuff is really true. Doesn’t seem like it most days. We all wonder don’t we. Will we make it through all this stuff. Where is God?

It happened to the Israelites. They had been dragged hundreds of miles into exile. And they hated that strange place. Strange food. Weird customs. And their kids were beginning to date some of the Babylonians. They wanted to go home. And one day after years of exile their prayers were finally answered. So they made the journey back across the desert until they got home.  And what did they find? A mess. Before the Babylonians had left years before they had destroyed just about everything. It looked like Alleppo must look. People, those that had been left--were living in these bombed-out places. The fields where they had grown luscious crops—were just covered in stones and weeds. Why even the Synagogue was mostly destroyed. And they began to mutter: Where is God? Why did this happen? Or worse—where do we go from here? Like little David—they too trusted and thought they believed—but hmm. Not so sure. 

So this is the setting of our Scripture today. Found in Psalm 56. It was written either during those terrible exile days or in the post-exile days when they went back home to nothing but enormous disappointments. And in this gloomy time this is the word God sent. Will you listen?

Read Psalm 56. It’s a prayer. A prayer to Almighty God. 


In 1-4 it is a cry for help. You may have heard the story about this guy who fell off a cliff. And he grabbed hold of a vine and just dangling and he'd looked down and it was a long way down there. And so he prayed: “Oh God help me! Help me!” And a booming voice spoke and said: “I will help you. Just let go of the vine and I’ll take care of you.” He looked back down. No way. And he looked up and said: “Is there anybody else up there?” 

“Be gracious …O God…for people trample on me…all day long foes oppress me…and then again: my enemies trample on me all day long. And in the middle of this he wrote: “O Most High, when I am afraid, I put my trust in you…In  God I trust…I am not afraid.”

So from then until now we have this trust-faith problem. We’ve got all this stuff going on—but God, we are going to trust you. But guess what? That is not the end of the story. It never is. 


For in verses 5-7 all trust we find in 1-4 disappears. And uncertainty takes over. 
Translated he wrote: Is there anybody else up there? Scary time. “All day long they seek to injure my cause…even my thoughts are against me…Lord, they stir up strife…they lurk…they watch my steps. They hope to have my life. The writer ended this section by praying: “O God!We’ve prayed it too, haven’t we? We don’t know what to say about all this stuff that looks like we’re going to drown in. Like them we say: “Oh God!” Or maybe: “Is there anybody else up there?”

I think what the Psalmist was trying to say that if you are a person of faith—doing all the right things—trying your best to color inside
photo by Amber Case / flickr
the lines—you bump into all these problems. There is something we call: prosperity gospel. And people are following this message in droves. Some of these churches on TV are so big that it looks like Clemson playing football. Except it’s Sunday. The music is up-beat. Everybody on the stage is pretty. The Pastor is handsome and has a lot of hair. Beside him with long blonde hair—usually—is his beautiful wife. And he stands up smiling from ear to ear. He says: God wants you to be rich. God wants you to drive a big car and live in a house like I do. (Which by the way has 6 bed-rooms and a swimming pool and a Jacuzzi.) Just follow the steps I give you, he says…and you will be swimming in success. Just give your money—as the plates are passed—God is going to take care of you.

And out there under the balcony is a little girl who just got divorced. Her ex doesn’t pay regularly for her and the two kids. She doesn’t know what she is going to do. Maybe the Preacher, she thinks,  is right if I just give and pray God is going to take away all my problems. On the second row down front a man just heard two days ago that he has cancer. And he is scared out of his wits. He hasn’t even told his wife—because if he tells her it is going to seem even more real. And the Preacher with his Brooks Brothers suit on—saying God is going to make you successful. And then there is Mary. Mid-way back she is worried to death about her son. She told her neighbor: “You know I thought when he grew up it would be simple and not so complicated.”  “Ha” she says.

There is a whole lot of religion that’s like this.  Follow me, they say Jesus said, and everything will be fine. Just fine. And if you are having trouble—well, there must be something wrong with you and your faith. You just have to believe. Where do they get such a message? That Preacher never preaches on Psalm 56 and if he does—it just zeroes in on “I will trust and not be afraid.” 

Just come on down here and join this church and everything will be fine. I don’t think he  preaches on Job either. And there is not a Cross in the house. Because it is a negative symbol.And all the songs have to be upbeat.

Well, we can just go home now and be depressed. Except we haven’t finished reading the Psalm. 


Verses 8-13 give us the rest of the story. For here we find a reassertion of trust. 

Listen. Listen. I love the way The Message puts it. It’s Eugene Peterson’s translation. And this is the thing that kept the light burning for those in Exile and those that stumbled back home to all those ruins. Listen.

”You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights., Each tear entered in your ledgers, each ache written in your book.” Now back to the NRSV: "My enemies retreat when I call on you…because deep in my heart I know that God is for me. In  God I trust; I am not afraid. What can a mere mortal do to me?" I love the ending verse: “For you have delivered my soul from death, and my feet from falling, so that I may walk before God in the light of life.”

Do you see what is happening here? He doesn’t brush aside all the hurts and troubles and bad lab reports and terrible headlines. No. They are always part of life and none of us will get out of this life without some scars. But God gives his people hope. 

Frederick Buechner once said that Paul wrote about Faith hope and love but the greatest of these is love. And Buechner says:  If Paul was writing today he would say: Faith, hope and love—these three—but the greatest of these is hope. I think he is right. 

This is what kept them going. Hope. A trust in God that no matter what happens—and it will be a lot. But even then we will not be afraid because God is with us. It isn’t because we read the Bible through in one year. It isn’t because we give and we should. It isn’t because we are smart and know how to work it out. No. It’s a grace that comes to us when we need it.

I heard Alex Haley tell this story one day. He said when he was a little black boy growing up in Henning, Tennessee that he would get so down. And one day with his head down sobbing at the kitchen table, his Grandmother put her hand on his shoulder and said: “Alex, we don’t know when Jesus will come—but he will always come on time.” And that’s what we need to take home with us when we leave. And we may go back go some hard things—but we do not go alone. Despite it all—Jesus will always come on time. God is here.

Several years ago my brother and I decided to take a cruise together. Just us. We’d never done anything like that. And so we went to the Caribbean with a whole lot of people. And every night we would go down to the auditorium where they were doing Karaoke. It was a hoot because all these people who couldn’t carry a tune got up and just slaughtered some song. But once in a while there would be someone who really could sing. 

In the middle of everything—people would yell out: “We want Bill. We want Bill to sing and we want him to sing: “I Believe I Can Fly.” And out of the darkened theatre there would come this fifty-something man. Fat and not too good looking. Hair thinning. His face looked like life had not been good to him. But he took the mike and he began to sing. And it was beautiful.

"I used to think that I could not go on
And life was nothing but an awful song
But now I know the meaning of true love
photo by Amarit Opassetthakl / flickr
I'm leaning on the everlasting arms
If I can see it, then I can do it
If I just believe it, there's nothing to it
I believe I can fly
I believe I can touch the sky
I think about it every night and day
Spread my wings and fly away
I believe I can soar
I see me running through that open door
I believe I can fly
I believe I can fly
I believe I can fly ."

And the crowd would go wild and give him a standing ovation.

Every night without fail—as the drinks would be served and some of the people there were more than tipsy—somebody would yell out:” We want Bill and we want him to sing: “I Believe I Could Fly.”

And Bill would waddle up on the stage and begin too sing. Maybe he was singing for himself. Maybe he was singing to that crowd—some half-drunk. I saw some people wiping away tears. Maybe he was singing to us all: “I Believe I Could fly…I believe I could fly.” 

Long ago people hanging on by a thread—found this stubborn hope. It kept them going through exile and wars and death and failing crops and a Holocaust when they lost 6 million of their loved ones. But on Sabbath—they would trickle in year after year—crisis after crisis—and sit down—believing maybe, maybe, despite it all, they could fly after all. And the thing that kept them going was that little verse that we all need to hang on to. “I will trust and not be afraid.

photo by evil nick/ flickr

(This sermon was preached at the Mt. Zion Presbyterian Church, Sandy Springs, SC,
                                                  February 19, 2017)

--Roger Lovette /

Friday, February 17, 2017

Staying Healthy in an Unhealthy Time

photo by Les McKee / flickr

Those of us having a hard time with politics these days are scratching around trying to find ways to keep our heads up and not run down the street screaming. It isn't easy. But maybe it never has been easy in a time of difficulty.

One thing for sure moaning and groaning won't do it. Stoking the fires of resentment and fury won't really help. Watch news 24/7 surely is not good medicine. Neither is sticking our heads in the sand and acting like everything is coming up roses. It ain't. We know that.

What helps? Carlyle Marney once said: "When I get into trouble I always turn to the Psalms." Not bad advice. Turn to Psalm 56 ands a whole lot of other places. The theme in this Psalm is: "I will trust and not be afraid." The setting was the exile or those terrible days when they stumbled back home to nothing but a crumbling homeland. Trusting in tough times is not easy.

Good books help if you're a reader. Music might lift you up. Going to church on Sunday and looking around at the stained glass windows, whispering prayers in the silence helps me. Seeing here and there people who have had a tough, tough time still standing and walking down the aisle to take the bread and the cup--these not-so-foolish things keep me going. Yesterday I saw a buddy I haven't seen in a while. "Where you been?" He said, "I've had a brain tumor, big as a baseball--and I just got out of the hospital. They say it might take 18 months to get back." He was changing his clothes and beginning to work out. I'm leading a Grief Support Group and around that table grief splatters on that round table and touches us all. Suicide. A child's death. A mother with Alzheimer's. A motorcycle accident. After weeks and weeks they begin to mend--just a little. Healing, like grace, comes slowly. I remember their faces when I turn from the news.

Somebody, in another hard time, asked her friend, "With all this mess going on--what keeps you going?" He replied: "I rejoice in the smallest of victories." Not bad advice. Standing with a group of 500 at a rally to remind ourselves what America is all about. Reading columnists that refuse to cow-tow to the party line. Politicians, rare these days, who stand up and say what's crazy--when it is. Reading Letters to the Editor--and thinking, Well, I'm not the only one who feels this way. Calling a Senator's office. Talking to a friend who agrees with you in nothing--and yet is your friend in everything. Whatever we can do to keep your perspective clear and clean--maybe that's the task of us all.

Sometimes movies help. Sometimes. My wife and I went to see "Lion" the other day. Strange title. I wasn't exactly sure what the film was about. We left almost two hours later wiping away the tears and touched to the core. This little five-year old Indian boy, living in abysmal slums goes with his brother to take a train--the brother tells the little boy to wait until he comes back. The brother never comes. So in desperation the boy sneaks into a train hoping to find his brother. He travels hundreds of miles. Gets off knowing no one. Five years old. He finally winds up in an orphanage. An Australian family adopts him. He is surrounded by love and care. Yet he still remembers his Mama and his brother and home so far away. Twenty years pass. Now grown he begins to try to find the little place he called home. Every day he thinks about his brother and his Mother. After months and months of searching he finally discovers his little village on the Google map. He returns home. Wanders down the little make-shift streets. Finds his old house. And then he sees his Mama and she sees him. It is a great, great moment. His brother had died. But he was home finally. He asks his mother what his name, Saroo meant. The Mother said, "Lion." At the end of the film we see the real boy-now-man with his real Mother. The man who was that little boy directed this film--and the the story is true. No wonder it is up for Academy awards.

Looking back we all know that there have been  terrible ups and downs in our land. From time to time we have all been dislocated. This does not brush away the hard time we are in or the heartbreak of all those dragged from their homes and sent back to the country they fled from. Yet--the old Scripture keeps coming back to me. "I will trust and not be afraid." Our trust is uneven at best. Yet--in a hard time--like those Israelites years ago maybe we need to find ways not to be afraid.

As the Rally ended in Greenville the other day--someone came forward with a guitar. And he began to play, "We Shall Overcome." And blacks and whites and immigrants and people of all ages, domestics and professors began to sing: "Deep in my heart I do believe we shall overcome some day." Let's keep remembering the song and the Psalm and Saroo who made it against incredible odds. Maybe, things being as they are, we really can trust--and maybe, just maybe we will not be afraid.

photo by evil nick / flickr

--Roger Lovette /

Thursday, February 16, 2017

What Happens When the Church Takes the Bible Seriously

photo by UNHCR / flickr
When the history of the church in our time is written wonder what Matthew 25 - "I was a Stranger and you took me in..." will mean looking back. The LA Times, a secular newspaper writes about a Church in the Bible Belt that decided they did not have a  choice--they had to follow the Red-letter words of Matthew 25: "Inasmuch as you do it unto the least of do it to me." I guess you can call this fake news or maybe there is just a conservative church out there that has decided to do what Jesus wants. 

Once upon a time when was Pastor we took in 13 Vietnamese refugees. I think it did more for us than it did for them. One of our members provided a house. The WMU--God bless them--took these folk on for a project and showered them with love and supplies. I don't know where they or their children are today--but I hope they remember a church on College Avenue in South Carolina that took them in when they had no other place to go.

Reckon churches everywhere ought to follow this church in Fort Worth (of all places) Texas?

I remember a Poem Ernie Campbell, then Pastor of  the Riverside Church once quoted. It is still current and challenging today.

What, finally, shall we say
In the last moment
When we will be confronted
By the Unimaginable,
The One
Who could not be measured
or contained
In space or time
Who was Love
What shall we answer
When the question is asked
About our undeeds
In his name—
In the name of him
For whose sake we promised
To have courage
To abandon everything?
Shall we say
That we didn’t know—
That we couldn’t hear the clatter
Of hearts breaking—
Millions of them—
In lonely rooms, in alleys
     and prisons
And in bars?
Shall we explain
That we thought it mattered
That buildings were constructed
And maintained
In his honor—
That we were occupied
With the arrangements
Of hymns and prayers
And the proper, responsible way
Of doing things?
Shall we tell him
That we had to take care
Of the orderly definition
     of dogmas
So that there was no time
To listen to the
Of the little ones
Huddled in corners
Or the silent despair
Of those already beyond
Or, shall we say this, too:
That we were afraid—
That we were keeping busy
     with all this
To avoid confrontation
Wih the reality of his
Which would lead us to
That it was fear that
     kept us
Hiding in church pews
And in important boards
     and committees
When he went by?
                     —Ursula Solek

(Read further--the Johnson Ferry Baptist Church (Marietta, Georgia) has taken  in 7 Syrian  Refugee families. It was so amazing for this secular media that 60 Minutes featured the church some time ago. May their tribe increase.)

photo by UNHCR / flickr

--Roger Lovette /

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Church--Where is It?

"We moderate and polish the world's thinking, and name it Christian. The church embodies the upside-down kingdom. Whatever the world admires is probably not good, according to kingdom values. The church is always anti-empire.

What the church does is provide a place where pain can be touched and where the vision for a new world can be lifted up and held before the people."
    --Gordon Cosby

If you leave Main Street in Greenville, turn left on College Street--drive past the Greenville Art Museum--drive not far on Buncombe Street you'll come to a part of town not so ritzy as some parts of Greenville. Turn right on to Rutherford Street and you'll see a church. It's called Triune Mercy Center--funny name for a church. We parked and moved toward the doors. A smiling black man who looked like life had not been good to him--greeted us and handed us a bulletin.

Up the steps and into the doors to the Sanctuary we were welcomed by another black man. Well, this is a surprise, I thought. I had read the Pastors's powerful book, The Weight of Mercy which told the story of Deb Richardson-Moore's pilgrimage as Pastor of this church. I had wanted to visit this congregation since I had heard about the church four years ago when we moved back to South Carolina. They minister to homeless folk, the drug-addicted and the destitute.  But looking around there were a whole lot of people that could have been in anybody's church. The place was packed. Here and there I saw a few people I knew. Sure enough I could see people who looked like they had so little. But they didn't look uncomfortable or out of place. This was their church. There were sitting side by side with men in ties and women carrying Michael Kors' purses. 

The church looked predictable.  Stained glass windows like my home church had 70 years ago. The pulpit was in the center. There was a piano and an organ and band instruments. There was a tiny cross-stitched panel on an easel. On the Communion Table were beautiful flowers. Behind the pulpit up high was a large stained glass window of Jesus praying in the Garden. I liked that.

The bulletin surprised me. I don't know what I expected--but it was almost a typical Methodist worship service. At least this is what I thought. A man came forward with a guitar and sat on a stool and began to sing. It was haunting and it was beautiful. There was applause which would be a theme that ran through the service. The Pastor welcomed everyone in  a relaxed loving kind of a way. She asked a black man toward the back to stand and she thanked him for his art work on that easel at the front. More applause.

As the service moved along there were Biblical readings and responses and hymns that everyone knew. The man with the guitar sang several times. More applause. When it came time for the offering four black men looking rough came forward as ushers. As the Pastor held up the Offering bags--and prayed--this was followed by more applause. She had reminded us that how fine life is and how grateful we were to be alive.

As the Pastor began her sermon you knew she was a good communicator. Warm and loving she laughed and said she was going to
she was going to preach a sermon she had preached there three years before. The title of her sermon was "From the Epistle Known as Sports Illustrated." Hmm. I wondered   where this would go. She told a story she had read once in Sports Illustrated.  It was about a young man who had a hard time with reading. He was great at football. And he could have played for the NFL but he flunked out of college. His Daddy said, "Well, I guess you can be a ditch digger." But he didn't. He wound up was a High School Coach and had an incredible influence and won game after game. The whole town worshipped him for what he had done for that school, the players and their town. He moved on later to a terrible school whose winning almost any game was nonexistent. She linked her sermon to I Corinthians where Paul told his friends that we cannot be judged by human standards. This man had an incredible influence on many and certainly was never was ditch digger. She said none of us are losers. She hammered that home powerfully and I found tears in my eyes.

She was reaching out with her arms and told us that all of us were loved and we counted. She said that the world talked a lot about losers--but in the kingdom of God all of us count are loved by God. When she finished--the applause swept through the room. That happens in few sermons. Everybody there must have gone away feeling like we had been graced and we had heard a mighty word about worth and dignity and love. Despite it all none of us are losers. 

The church serves lunch every Sunday and a different congregation in town is in charge of the meal.The bulletin said that almost every day of the week there are meetings for Alcohol or Narcotics and the Porn Addicted.

I read in the paper that afternoon that the Greenville Hospital Association provides a traveling van that moves around the city and treats sick people who have no insurance and few resources. One stop in their mission is always Triune Mercy Center.

Mainline churches almost everywhere are having a difficult time. Atheism is on the rise. More and more folk are disenchanted with today's church. The Evangelicals who have jumped on the Trump Bandwagon has diluted the message of our Lord. Small wonder our influence is waning. What is obvious is that vast silence from most pulpits about  the injustice and cruelty that is coming from the highest places of our government. Interestingly there was no mention Trump or where we are as a country in that service at Triune. But we all knew from that solid gospel service that all really do matter and that in a dark world there is still a very good news. 

My wife and I left moved and touched by that experience. I did not know what to expect before we went. I was surprised at so many touches of the mainline church that I saw in that building and in that service. But that hour made me glad again to be on this team where, on our better days, we still beat the drum for justice and righteous and love for all God's children. Not a loser among us. 

Langston Hughes, the great African-American poet expressed it. And as we think of this month of Black History I think his words are important.

"At the foot o' Jesus,
Sorrow like a sea.
 Lordy like yo' mercy
            Come drifting' down on me.

At the feet o' Jesus
At yo' feet I send.
O, ma little Jesus,
              Please reach out yo' hand."

(You might want to read the Triune story in Deb Richardson-Moore's fine book, The Weight of Mercy: Monarch Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2012)

--Roger Lovette /

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Know Anybody That's Narcissistic? Hmm.

photo by Dave Brewer/ flickr
(Wise Man, Good Friend Kerry Capps put these words on his Facebook page. You might want to check him out.) -rl

Narcissistic personality disorder is one of several types of personality disorders. Personality disorders are conditions in which people have traits that cause them to feel and behave in socially distressing ways, limiting their ability to function in relationships and other areas of their life, such as work or school.
If you have narcissistic personality disorder, you may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious. You often monopolize conversations. You may belittle or look down on people you perceive as inferior. You may feel a sense of entitlement — and when you don't receive special treatment, you may become impatient or angry. You may insist on having "the best" of everything — for instance, the best car, athletic club or medical care.
At the same time, you have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism. You may have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation. To feel better, you may react with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make yourself appear superior. Or you may feel depressed and moody because you fall short of perfection.
Many experts use the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, to diagnose mental conditions. This manual is also used by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment.
DSM-5 criteria for narcissistic personality disorder include these features:
Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
Exaggerating your achievements and talents
Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
Requiring constant admiration
Having a sense of entitlement
Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations
Taking advantage of others to get what you want
Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
Being envious of others and believing others envy you
Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner
Although some features of narcissistic personality disorder may seem like having confidence, it's not the same. Narcissistic personality disorder crosses the border of healthy confidence into thinking so highly of yourself that you put yourself on a pedestal and value yourself more than you value others. -- Mayo Clinic

--Roger Lovette /

Black History Month Nudges our Memories

(On August 25, 2005 my brother and I and our wives drove down to Hurtsboro, Alabama to a tiny black church on the edge of that town. It was the home church of Nancy Fears and this would be the day of her funeral. Our family was the only white folks in that church. When the Pastor wanted to know if anybody had anything to say this is what I said...
I give you my remarks because in this Black History Month we all need to remember all those black folk that graced our lives. Back then especially 
they worked and lived and dreamed mostly out of sight. Most of them never had their names in a newspaper. And yet--our lives would have been far smaller and much diminished without these brave souls who gave so very much with so little praise or pay. On this day so long since 2005--I once again rise up and call her blessed.) -rl

We have all gathered here on this sad day to honor Nancy Fears. We look back on this special life of 94 years. We remember who she was and all the things that made ump her life--and so we have come to pay a tribute.

Outside my Mother--Nancy was my teacher. She only finished the third grade her daughter Betty Ann told me. But Nancy was my teacher. She kept my brother and me while my mother and Daddy were at work in the mill. She kept us safe and clean. I don't know how she came into our lives--but she was a blessing.

I just want to mention some of the things that I learned from dear Nancy.

I learned about patience. Growing up is hard for all of us. But I can remember sitting at our kitchen table pouring out my disappointments. She would turn and say sharply, "Roger, just you wait. Just you wait. Chile--you got to be patient."

I learned a lot about faith from Nancy. She would tell me from time to time, "You got to believe. How can anybody get through this world without believing." She never talked much about faith--she just lived it. Never pious or self-righteous, she just lived her faith out.

I learned about the dignity of every human being from Nancy. I don't have to tell people in this room about how it was in the nineteen forties. You could tell me stories that would make my hair stand on end. There was a hard line drawn between black folks and white folks. I didn't know many black folks back then. That was one of the terrible things about segregation. But I knew Nancy. I trusted her. I loved her. i knew she was as important as anybody else. I learned a little later how wrong the world was to black folk. But when I started preaching I talked a lot about the dignity of everybody. I learned that lesson from my teacher, Nancy.

I learned about loyalty and commitment from Nancy. Even though we couldn't 't pay her very much because we had so little she was committed to our family. She would just appear many Saturdays after she had worked all week in the mill. And she would say: "This house needs a cleaning." And the dust would fly--she did it because she loved us. She defended us. She kept up with births and weddings and funerals. She sat with us when our father died and later our mother. This picture above shows Nancy standing on the front porch of our flour-room house holding my little girl in her arms proudly.

Nancy taught me about gratitude. Born in 1910 I cannot even imagine how hard life was. Maybe that's why her father took her to school in Chicago hoping it might be better than Alabama. Even though her life was hard--she didn't stay down long. She was grateful. She was gratefully for her children and talked about them often.She used to tell me stories about Hurtsboro. She was grateful that she had survived--even though she never used that word.

I could talk a long time--but my brother and I have come to grieve with you. Nancy has laid her burden down. She aches no more. Whatever cares and worries she had are all over. She is at peace. 

When my Mother died Nancy stood by the casket and talked to my mother. She said, "Miss Ruth you worked hard, hard all your life. You raised two good boys but now you don't have to work no more. You just rest, Miss Ruth, you just rest."

And I would give Nancy back the words today that she gave us back then. "Nancy you worked hard, hard all your life. You raised several fine children. And you don't have to work no more. Dear Nancy, you just rest. You just rest."

--Roger Lovette /

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Immigration Comes to Greenville

A friend from the Islamic Society invited me to a Rally that was to be held last Saturday in Greenville, South Carolina. That invitation read: No Hate, No Fear, No Ban! The Rally was to protest the travel ban which Mr. Trump had suddenly instituted on refugees and immigrants without warning. Thousands of lives were disrupted. Half-way to America, already approved for entrance--they were stopped. Many were sent back home. Students working on degrees and some Professors visiting relatives could not enter back into the United States. Some who had sold everything to buy plane tickets to the United States were turned back. Fortunately a Federal Judge in Seattle had the night before issued a nationwide restraining order lifting the ban. At least for a moment the closed doors swung open. But all those affected knew this could be overturned at any time. 

So we met on Saturday in the cold Greenville afternoon. 500 people came out. We were there in defense of all those that wanted to come here and had been turned away. We came to say to our Muslim brothers and sisters that we stand with you. We came to say that we believe America should be a place of no fear for those who come here simply to live. We came, remembering the thousands of Syrian refugees that had no place to go.

I was proud of the Church. A Methodist minister, a Catholic Bishop, a Jewish Rabbi raised their voices for us all. That rally made me proud to be an American. All across the country people much like those of us in Greenville gathered. I think we all met to say we do not like this redefinition of America where our borders are closed and we turn our backs on the suffering of the world. Not only is this UnChristian but it is UnAmerican.

Toward the end of our gathering someone came forward with a guitar. We all sang, "We Shall Overcome" and "This Land is our Land." I came away with hope for the future of our fragile country. Leaving I remembered that two blocks away I remembered there stood on Main Street a statue of Max Heller, the Jewish man who fled from Nazi Germany with his wife. They came to Greenville where they found a new home. Max Heller years later became our first Jewish Mayor. He said he would work to give back what Greenville and America had given to him. Greenville's beautiful Main Street is a testimony to his gratitude. I wonder if out there in that Saturday crowd and out there all over the world there were not some others who looked to us with hope for a better life. No Hate! No Fear! No Ban! Dear God, let it be so. 

--Roger Lovette /