embracing humility

embracing humility

Jesus, I want to be great. Just like the way you have prescribed in the scriptures.

But if I am honest I also want to great like the world has prescribed.

Help me to choose the former.

Help me to choose love, humility, the low position, sacrifice, service, and my brothers and my sisters before myself.

I submit to you my propensity to want stardom, notoriety, significance among my fellow compatriots of the flesh.

By your grace let us walk the walk You walked. Help me to embrace humility.

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Looking for Love?

Looking for Love?

There is an itch in my soul that I cannot seem to scratch.

There is a hollow within me that needs to be filled.

Spirit won’t you come and fill me with Your Wind?

 

And then He said to me:

Son, what you are seeking is Love.

 

And then I spoke back to Him:

Here am I. Here I am. I come with an insistent heart.

 

Teach me how to love.

 

Teach me how to love and be loved.

Teach me how to You and be loved by You.

Teach me how to love others and be loved others.

Teach me how to love myself and be loved myself.

 

He then said to me:

You know love.

You know how to love.

Start with the person in front of you.

 

Love the poor.

Love those who hate you.

Love those who do not love you.

Love those whose spirits are broken.

Lay down your life again and again and you will find life and love unspeakable.

Give yourself for the sake of Love, and in return you and without fail, Love will find you.

We’re not partying, this is just the way we live!

We're not partying, this is just the way we live!

If you ever get the opportunity to visit Barnabas Prep, or Camp Barnabas, I want you to take a few minutes to look at the message written on the bus featured in this post. On it, there is a powerful quote and it says this:

“We’re not partying, this is just the way we live!”

Every time I see those words I smile. Without hesitation, I am caught quietly laughing to myself. And I honestly can’t help it. Every time I glance at that particular phrase it hits me. In that moment, there is an unspeakable joy and laughter that rolls over my soul.

I smile at first because the saying is so true of our community. I smile secondly because I always wonder what people think when they see us. Especially, people who are parked right behind us and then view us exiting the vehicle. I smile, lastly, when I think of how many times we have allowed people to enter into the party and the joy they have received from us- and us from them.

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About a week and a half ago this saying was put on display and was illuminated like no other. It happened on the dance floor- a fitting place for us to party.

We were on our spring break cruise to Mexico. We were doing what we typically do. We were enjoying life, enjoying each other, and enjoying others around us.

Then one of our students, Jerryd, was caught by the dancing bug. Mind you, at this time there was scant a person on the dance floor. But on his own he started dancing. He started melting away into the rhythms of the night. His hips didn’t lie so the ladies had to comply. And the next thing you know he had a dance partner.

Now, I can’t quite remember all the details about how it happened next. But something about Jerrdy’s infectious dancing begat more invitations to the dance floor. The invitations kept on coming and more people were lost into the rapturous festivities.

Person after person entered into the dance space. Within a few minutes the masses were birthed. People of all backgrounds were partying together- experiencing the joys of movement, laughter, fun, rhythm, love, and the shear beauty of being together.

There was a standstill moment that captured my heart while we partying together. It was the kind of moment that is featured in movies. A scene where time stops. A moment when you can see everything clearly.

For me, it was a moment where I was overcome and overwhelmed with unbelievable satisfaction. In that moment people were just people. We were people who were enjoying each others company. There were no were classifiers of race, disability, social status or anything of the sort. Differences were embraced and accepted.

It was a lovely moment. And I long to see more of them.

I pray tonight that we all would throw ourselves a little further into the dance floor of life. May we embrace the rhythms of love a be compelled to dance with each other.

I pray that we would dance with our differences and diversity. I pray that we enjoy each other presence and share each others pain- no matter how the contrast of expereince.

I pray that we would party hard- because that’s the way we live!

Friar Francis

Uganda Reflection: What’s in a name?

Uganda Refelection: What's in a name?

One of the most cherished moments of my trip was receiving two Ugandan names. Both names were unexpected blessings to my heart. To me, they spoke into two realities: my past and my future as they intersected my present.

Prior to this trip I believed in the idea of names having great significance to a person. When I received my first Ugandan name it solidified this thinking. The first name that my Ugandan family gave me was Mugerwa.

Mugerwa means Mighty Warrior. Which is awesome all by itself. But get this! My name Gary also means Mighty Warrior.

In its most pure sense Gary means spear or spear carrier. But I always grew up knowing my name to mean “Mighty Warrior”. I have lead my life, not without struggle, with this thinking- I am mighty warrior.

When I first heard Pastor Dennis say the name and its meaning I was stunned. That moment of shock then turned into gratitude. Again, God was speaking to me in a beautiful way.

What I took from that moment was this: “Wherever you are in the world, my son, you cannot escape from the reality of who you are. Your name and your identity is one and the same. I have made you a mighty warrior.” It was God’s way of letting me know that I should be confident in my identity.

The second name I received was Muteesa. Muteesa was a king in Uganda according to my friends. They gave me this name because it was easier to pronounce. And more importantly they gave it to me because they said Muteesa was a king who knew how to give good counsel. This is what they saw in me- I gave good counsel.

My heart was filled to the fullest of full. I felt like God was challenging me to step into a greater reality. Not only has He made me to fight but he has made to counsel. These names are true of my life.

God has made me to fight. I am fighting to stay in his presence. I am fighting with and for those who are neglected, overlooked, ignored, and marginalized. I am counselor. I am bridge connecting the worlds of the rich and the poor. I am repairer of broken homes and hearts. I will sit, chat, share, and connect with people that both society and the Church has forgotten. It’s in my name. It’s in my nature. It’s in my identity.

What’s in a name? A lot!

What’s your name? What does your name mean? Are you living accordingly?

Uganda Reflection: I love being a dark-skinned, brown, black man!

Uganda Reflection:

(The Picture of above is with Pastor Joel Bukenya, a man a greatly admire and respect!)

Uganda Reflection: I love being a dark-skinned, brown, black man!

Uganda had a wonderful way of surprising me continuously. One of the most pleasant surprises that I experienced was the healing of my skin condition. The condition of being black in the States. The condition of having dark-skin in America.

Now, when I say healing, I simply mean that I can say this with confidence “I love being a dark-skinned, brown, black man!” Being dark is an incredible blessing!

You see, while in Uganda, I was afforded the opportunity to step away from the negative imagery of blackness in the States. And I was granted the gift of embracing the loveliness of being dark-skinned.

My experience in Uganda shed light on an inner conflict.

In the States

In the States, at the subconscious level, there is always a war going on within me about my darkness- my blackness. It is not a war that overtly hampers my daily life but nonetheless it is a struggle.

In the States I fight against falling prey to the negative stereotypes. The ones that our media portrays of black people- especially of black men. All around me there are tokens of expression that say black equals less than, ignorant, threatening, and dangerous. I know, of course this is not true, but the messages are relentless.

In the States I fight myself about my own skin color. The question I sometimes ask is this: Am I black enough?

There are often times where I have not felt black enough for other black people. In particular, among those who are of my own skin color, I have been cited as too white. Or better yet, “You sound white.” What does that mean? And what does that mean about what makes a black person black?

Does it go beyond the skin color?

Conversely, among white people, sometimes I am too black. This is rare, though. In some cases my blackness comes as a liability, a threat, and an unwelcomed feature. Seeing past my character, there have been some who have made judgments solely on my skin color.

But in the same breath, some white people, also don’t think I am black enough. They quote me as not, “being like other black people”, or, “You are not really black”. They relegate me to having the Oreo Syndrome. You know, black on the outside, white on the inside. As an “Oreo” I wouldn’t be classified as one “those” black people- the ones that we see on television or hear on the radio. This further perpetuates the negative image.

To make it a little more complicated, let’s throw in one more thing.  In the States there is also an awkwardness I have because of my ethnic heritage as well. I am a Jamaica-born man who was raised in South Florida. Due to this complexity I have also run into multiple issues because of the cultural differences of my blackness.

But, like I said, these issues are not detrimental to my daily life. It is mostly an inward conflict. The damage this inner angst has caused has primarily affected my identity. The chief problem is that I cannot fully appreciate my dark skin as I would like to.

However, Uganda, changed a lot of that. Being in Africa was a freeing experience! There, my blackness was honored, appreciated, and normal. I loved that!

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In Uganda

In Uganda, from my first step, I entered into a whole new worldview of my darkness.

For starters, it was the most incredible feeling to be engulfed in sea of dark-skinned people. It was the first time in a very long time where I was a part of the majority. And I don’t mean Atlanta majority- I mean er’ body was black. Like 99.79 percent.

Everywhere we went there were all shades of dark skin.  Consequently, I quickly became comfortable in my own skin. In fact it made me wonder, is this how white people feel on a daily to basis in the States? Comfortable? Relaxed? At home?

I’m not gonna lie. It was kind of nice to just melt away in the crowd for a few minutes, hours, days, weeks. Just to be one of the many black people. Normal. Not a minority. Not an aberration.

Although I did like that feeling, the real healing came from living and doing life with my Ugandan brothers and sisters.

In Uganda I experienced almost the complete opposite of my inner battle in the States.

In Uganda my brothers and sisters took my blackness as an automatic commonality. It was a positive thing. Right away they said, “Welcome home”. There was so much meaning in that. I cannot begin to tell you how much that meant.

There is a holistic wave of peace and wholeness that a black person feels when they return to Africa. Especially when they return home for the first time.

Coming home feels good.

I was at home. I felt at home. I truly belonged.

I did not have to work for it. I did not have to prove anything. I was dark-skinned and that was good enough.

What made this even more delightful was that my Ugandan family gave me a Ugandan name. In fact they gave me two names- there will be more about that in another post. It was more than just an expression of mere kindness. It was a reminder that I was a part of something bigger and grander.

In Uganda I was floored by the character of black people everywhere I went. This place did not follow the protocol of Western media. Everywhere I went, both in the Christian community and other communities, I was greeted by people who dismantled the American stereotype of black people- in particular black men.

In Ugandan I experienced hospitality so wonderful that I could cry. There were black angels everywhere. Almost everywhere we went people were so kind, so open, so giving and so loving.

People were incredibly welcoming. And they were so gracious and loving to foreigners- those who looked different than themselves. My teammates on my trip were all white but they were treated so well. People gave them their babies to hold, their homes to live in, and their hearts share, even without knowing them.

I’m sure if we looked further in to the fabric of Ugandan culture we would see some of the negatives but I was too overwhelmed by the goodness to notice it.

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In particular, the black men that I met in Kampala and Jinja were of full of utmost integrity and humility. They had such incredible character. The men I met were men who thought way beyond themselves. In their hearts and in their actions they were concerned about generations. Their minds were on the well-being and prosperity of their nation and their children’s children’s children. Their hands, work, and actions matched what they believed. They lived far above and greater than the pettiness of today!

These men were true fathers. Not only were they fathers to their own biological children but they were fathers to the fatherless. Their scope of family and togetherness was unrivaled. And the wisdom that the possessed was akin to the lineage of Solomon.

As a man who grew up without my father, my heart was beyond filled with joy and admiration. These men are my heroes.

Day after day I grew to love my skin color more and more because these men and women were living a life that I aspired to live.

All in all I left Uganda proud! I was proud to be black. I was proud to be a Christ-follower. Although my primary identity is a son of God and Christ-follower, it was definitely a nice bonus to enjoy my skin color too!

It was such a blessing to be around great people. In general it was great to know that there are men and women of God doing great things across the seas. But it was extra special, in this particular time of my life, to see that these people were ones with dark skin. They were people, people with my skin color, that were peeling away the stereotypes, prejudices, and misconceptions that pervade throughout many societies.

There is so much more I can say on the subject but I will stop here for now. I am very grateful for this healing and blessing. It was so simple and yet so profound.

Questions of the Day

Are you comfortable in your own skin? Do like all the features that God gave you?

Let me know your thoughts. Let share our experiences.

I love you friends. Thanks for taking the time to hear my thoughts.

Friar Francis

I am back!!!

I am back!!!

Hey Friends and Family,

I am finally back home!

Embracing the bittersweet feeling

It is something of a bittersweet feeling to be back home. A recent Facebook post sums up my feelings on this conundrum quite well. I said this:

” … My heart is full … To say this moment is bittersweet is to take hold of an inadequate term and claim as the whole truth … The truth is that I will fully miss Uganda and I am fully excited to return home and live more vibrantly … (Sigh)…”

My heart has been grafted to my family in Uganda and it will be evident in the way I will now love and live with my family and friends in the States. I have learned so much and I have experienced a lifetime’s worth of joys and wonders during my time in the Pearl of Africa. I am more than ready to share that with you guys.

So…. How was it? What was your experience like in Uganda?

Yes, my friends. This has been the running question of the last few days.

Curious minds want to know.

And this guy wants to answer those questions.

So, I have decided to utilize my blog as my place and space to answer these questions. In the next few days I will begin my attempt to give reflection(s) on my journey/our journey in East Africa. I say slash “our journey” because I went with a team. There were seven of us travelling with Forgotten Song. I, however, will primarily be writing from my personal perspective.

To give myself frame work, I will try to blog about each particular day’s events, highlights, and lessons. In between these I will write stand-alone essays, reflections, thoughts, and lessons that were profound to me.

Bear with me though. Some of this may turn out disorganized and messy. But that makes it more authentic to me. And I think you will appreciate it.

I also want this to be interactive. So please, please talk to me. Whether it is through this blog, phone calls, meeting up with me, or through some other media outlet. Although, i don’t drink coffee, let’s meet for coffee and chat!

You can also join me on Instagram and Facebook. My name is Friar Francis on there as well.

On many of my posts I will be asking questions in hopes for answers and dialogue. I want to learn from your experiences as well. This is my gift to you. This is your gift to me.

To begin with the dialogue. Here is the questions of the day:

What has been one of the most profound trips/experiences of your life? Why? 

I am answering this question through this blog. Maybe you should the same. What’s YOUR answer to this question?

Thank You SO SO SO SO Much!!!!

The last thing I want to say in this post is this: Thank You soooooooooooooooooo Much friends and family!!!

There were so many of you that made this trip/adventure/experience-of-a-lifetime-possible. You gave me your encouragement, your gifts, your time, your money, your kind words, and much much more. I am from the bottom of the bottom of my heart grateful.

Throughout my time of blogging in the next few weeks I want to make shout outs to you all. Today I want to start with Little Voice Talks.

Little Voice Talks is one of my dear blog friends. Although we have never met in person I am greatly honored to know her. She may not know it but she has been a great source of encouragement for this trip – and life in general.

I will never forget these words, “Donated. Go for your life. Do God’s will. I’m proud of you even if we’ve never met xx”. We have never met in person but she gave of her words, time, love, finances, and faith in order to see me advance in my life. Words can not express my gratitude!

Those words along with prior messages have been encouraging down to the core!

I thank God for you “Little Voice Talks”! I pray God’s richest blessings over your life. May you and your family receive a bounty of grace, peace, prosperity, and joy today!

Please check out her blog  here. Give her a shout out and encouragement. She is blessing to so many!!!

I love you all dearly!!!

Remember that you are greatly loved,

Friar Francis

Layover in Amsterdam

Layover Amsterdam

Hey Friends,

Just wanted to let you know that I arrived safely in Amsterdam. We spent the day there yesterday and now we are headed this morning to Uganda!!!

I won’t have the regular access to internet until I am heading back home. So for now, have a great time until we chat again.

I love you dearly!

Friar Francis

Three Little Words

A few word can make a difference

My soul is arrested and held captive by three little words- You are loved. More specifically, Jesus loves me. I know this to be true, but why do I continually wrestle with this?

That is a question, I cannot and will not answer in this moment. However, I do know and believe this to be true. And I agree there is power in hearing, giving, receiving, and experiencing these words…

About a week ago I had a soul-haunting scene speak volumes on this dilemma of my inner man. While spending time in Lakeland, I got the pleasure to stroll around Lake Hollingsworth almost every morning and evening. It was a special time that I spent alone with God meant for prayer, silence, relaxation, detoxing, and for taking pictures of the beautiful scenery.

With these objectives in mind, I ambered my way around the lake in a contemplative fashion. Each step was an attempt to get closer to God and free from myself from stress. On one of these strolls, in the evening, while utterly stressed, and distressed, I had an encounter. I don’t know if my face showed it, but a man passing the opposite direction arrested me with the aforementioned three words.  He passed me and delivered these words in a way that has shaken me for days. He looked directly in my eyes and said in a very quiet and meek tone, “Jesus loves you”.

The words alone had power. But it was the delivery. The delivery really reached me.

I have heard those words before so many times. And I have said them countless times as well. But for some reason in that moment I was hearing them afresh.

To sweeten this moment even more was the fact that I ran into the same man again. You see the lake that I walked around is about 3 miles long. So, this afforded me another opportunity to run into this man. This is exactly what happened.

It was so funny too! I had the same reaction. I was taken aback and unprepared. The second encounter was as intense, and yet mild, as the first. Again this unknown man spoke past my exterior into the core of my being.

Sometimes I have to yield my heart to this crazy truth. Jesus loves me. Jesus loves you.

And sometimes He goes out of the way in small, still, and unexpected moments to stop us dead in tracks. He calms the storm and allows the dust to settle. Or he meets us in the fire and fury. He finds us and takes us aside and says, “I love You”. Or he speaks through his sons and daughters and tells us, “Jesus loves You”.

Maybe under further inspection I might find that Jesus is doing this sort of thing to us all the time. We may just be blind to it. And maybe, just maybe, there are other people that are sharing this sentiment of love with us constantly. We might be too shrouded with business to see it clearly.

Well if that’s the case..

I have three words to give you this morning, noon, and evening …

Jesus Loves You.

Friar Francis

Embrace the Juxtaposition

Embrace the Juxtaposition

It has been quite a feast for my eyes the last few weeks. My ocular instruments have enjoyed the bounty produced by the Fall foliage. I cant get enough of this goodness that lies before me and all around me.

Never have I been so memorized by a season in my life. This is the first time in my adulthood that I have enjoyed Autumn.

Autumn is a stunning lady. She is a woman, who in her death, dies gracefully, pleasantly, and majestically. She is a woman that has captivated my heart.

In her slow death she has taught me so much. She has taught me to savor each season. She has taught me to savor each moment. She has taught me to be patient. She has taught me to share in the joy of natural and unblemished radiance. She has shown me a glimpse of this idea- death can be beautiful!

But most of all she has taught me to embrace juxtapositions. She has revived and birthed within me a philosophy and theology of both-and-thinking.

While death is present, there is the possibility of joy and beauty being there too. She has reminded me that life is multilayered and interconnected.

She has rejoined me to the bigger picture. She has engaged my heart, my dear heart who falls prey to compartmentalized living. I can’t separate the parts of myself! And I can’t separate you from me!

I must embrace the complexity of my day! And so should you! We should enjoy the various shades of who are and what we experience.

Let us embrace this beautiful woman- Autumn!

Let us embrace the wonder and joys of our lives, as well as the dismal and frustrating aspects too. Let us count it all. Let us count it all joy!

Take a moment this evening to reflect on the Autumn in your life.

What are the juxtapositions going on in your life?

How are the leaves turning in you life?

What is dying in your life? Can you find beauty in this death?

I love you friends! Enjoy the complexity of it all. Enjoy every variation and color change in your life. Don’t be afraid to embrace it all the same time.

Friar Francis

Quick Update: I am Going to Uganda

Uganda Updatw

Hey Friends,

The following is a little dialogue between you and me. It will give you a little update on my upcoming trip to Uganda:

Our Conversation

ME: Wow! Well, there is a lot going on in my life here in Northwest Arkansas. There are so many things I could share with you but let me tell you the most recent.

You: Whoa! What’s going on?

Me: I am…

You: You are???…

Me: I am … As you may already know, via Facebook, heading to Uganda.

You: What!?!?!

Me: Yeah, it’s kinda crazy. I wasn’t really planning this at the beginning of the year, but here I am ready to jump into this adventure. It’s nuts because I have always wanted to go to an African nation but it never seemed to work out.  I had thought of doing disability stuff with Joni and Friends for my Graduate Practicum, but essentially the timing never worked out. It looks like the time has come now though!

You: Wow, that’s crazy man! When are you planning to go?

Me: So, yeah, I leave around December 27 and I will be there for a little over two weeks! I am travelling with a small team connected with an organization called Forgotten Song. Forgotten Song is an organization that does self-sustainable projects in war-torn countries. (Check out the hyperlinks)

You: What will you do there? Where will you be?

Me: Well, I have quite a few objectives that I would like to accomplish on this trip but I will just list four for now.

1. I want to visit, participate, and learn from orphanages in Kampala and Jinja. In particular I will spend time at Ekisa, a home to over 20 kids with special needs. This home is connected to 99 balloons– an organization that you should check out!
2. I will glean, participate, and learn some of the best practices for self-sustainability projects and businesses. Two initiatives that I will focus on are a poultry project and a chocolate business.
3. I want to learn from and share life with my Ugandan brothers and sisters.

Here are some items on my itinerary:

– Visit orphanages, churches, schools, and organization connected with disability and/or marginalized people groups.
– Spend time with Ugandan host families.
–  Speak at churches and other organizations.
– Put on a dance therapy session.
– Attend a New Year’s stadium celebration.
– Shadow Ugandan Pastors and leaders.
– Provide at least two orphanages with volleyball, soccer, and other athletic equipment. Put on a small volleyball clinic (Maybe).
– Eat grasshoppers. A friend told me that I must do this!
– I will update you with other info when I have more time. This is just a quick synopsis.

Another thing to note, is that this trip will also be a means to cast vision for future events in my life and our community.

Ok, that’s what I have so far to say. Let’s chat soon!
Remember that you are greatly loved!
Friar Francis

Narrowed Audience

Narrowed Audience

I narrow my audience down to one person, to one person alone. Hear me in this moment. I shut out the voices of all others. I cast my eyes upon you, My Love. My heart rips wide open. I abandon myself to You. What are you saying to me in this moment?