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One Simple Question Opened My Mind

June 23, 2017

As a divinity student at Yale, I was asked to chronicle my spiritual journey and to include some of the people who had influenced me the most.  We were to write a letter to one of those individuals.  I choose to write to Mr. Melvin Ford, an elder from my hometown community who had long been deceased.  Why Mr. Mel?  

Because.

 

Because, he never told me to “hush” when I asked a thousand questions about the Bible. Because, he told my parents that I had a lot of questions and to talk with me.  Because, he questioned me. Because, he opened my mind to a different way of thinking.  Because, he helped me to realize that there is more than one way to think about things.  Because, he reinforced what my parents taught but in a different way.  

 

One day when I was visiting him (I think I was in high school or maybe home for a visit my freshmen year of college), we sat in his living room talking, just the two of us.  He must have been well into his 90s.  He asked me a simple question.  “What do you think of homosexuality?”  At the time, I responded something like “I don’t know.  I guess it’s wrong.  That’s what the Bible says.”  His response, “The Bible says ‘let man not lay with anything unnatural.’ As for as I can tell it natural for them.”  Huh.  I don’t remember what I said after that statement.  What I remember is that he didn’t try to convince me one way or the other.  He simply asked me a question, and in doing so, he opened my mind to a different way of thinking about the Bible, its interpretation and our love for one another.  

 

Many years would pass before I was aware of the debate within the Presbyterian denomination, in which I am an ordained minister, regarding the acceptance and ordination of gay and lesbian church officers.  I had little understanding regarding the hurt that those in same sex relationships experienced and how the church was/is often complicit in that hurt.  I believe that he did.  

 

I marvel at this southern man with a fourth grade education who was so intelligent, thoughtful, open-minded, well read and, importantly, loving to an inquisitive young girl.  Even as I write this post, I wonder what he saw in me.  Did he have a clue that I would one day become a healer?  Was he planting a seed?  I don’t know.  Here’s what I know.  His words and teachings had a profound effect on me.  I believe that we are all loved unconditionally and need to be healed from our wounds!  Today, I salute Mr. Melvin Ford!

 

 

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