The Flamingo Lounge sits a half block east of Lane street. Respectable is not a word often used to describe this neighborhood. Even in the most generous of prayers, potential is the closest it ever comes to a compliment. The windows are blacked out, making it seem always appropriate to be drinking. It’s not until you open the door and let the burning light of day rip through the darkness that you realise it’s only noon.
He wears the face of a man who gave up fighting years ago. Some men stand taller than others, and although he is easily over six foot, I wouldn’t put him past 5’10’’. Some men never learned to rid themselves of the slouches their mothers all so badly hated. He was one who thought he fit better into other men’s shadows. Men who stood tall, men who fought for things. He never stood a chance, he tells himself. He blames where he’s at due to fate. He was just never dealt a good hand, he just never came up aces. He never stood a chance, he says.
He looks at his watch. The kids who he never gets to see anymore are probably at recess. He wonders how they are doing. He wonders if they ever miss him.
There is a weight to defeat that he carries on his shoulders. There is a smell of loneliness, two parts fear and one part gin. And there is a look of despair that is eternally caught in his eyes.
What stands out at The Flamingo Lounge is the silence. You don’t notice it right away. It sort of sits there, an unnoticed guest. Then all of the sudden at once you realise, this bar is quiet. Not a library quiet or a peaceful quiet. This is a quiet like your mother is doing the dishes for the first time alone since your dad died. There is the sound of glasses clinking, hard breath, and emptiness.
Then out of that emptiness comes the sound of a phone ringing. Equal parts of confusion and curiosity creep onto his face. He looks at his phone. Clears his throat.
"There's a train, hidden somewhere within my body. It is full of people, of stories, sorrow, joy, creation, and destruction. This train has no regular schedule, it comes and goes as it pleases. But I've begun to recognise the sounds and the signs of it coming near. And in those moments, if I don't write, I will never get to meet those stories. I won't know their names or where they've come from. If I don't write, it's as though they never existed."
I don't know what sparks it. But there's this feeling I get, it's when I know a story or a poem is coming. Sometimes I catch it in its entirety, but often I just get fragments of it, recollections of a dream, just enough to piece it together.
But quite often, the pieces don't fit. And I'm stuck with the leftovers.
That is what these are. The leftovers.
Inside of me lives a large black woman
She longs for freedom from the slavery of the South,
That wet heat, and her oppressive owners
In the rooms of my body there is
A constant struggle and a great choir
Singing to walls a song of hope
Waiting for them to crash
Within the rubble,
Next to my ribs is a clock maker,
Each night he wines these clocks inside of my chest
Twists the key in their backs
And rests his eyes for the evening
And just like a wasp
Isn’t all made of stinger
I’m not all hatchet
I have found that some
Rules, are meant to be broken
My Grandfather was raised on a farm
His hands were hardened by the breaking of soil
His words by the passing of years
There are deep callously that live inside his fists
They have been there since I was a child
And just as old is the dirt under his nails
Though he was a generous man,
His hands were never open.
It seemed every part of him was
Waiting for a fight
Waiting for a long winter
For the rains to be spars
For the land to be hard
For the harvest to be lacking
My grandmother played the violin
She knew only one song,
But each day there were new verses.
They grew from the same dirt her husband toiled in
Beauty and frustration
What strange bedfellows they were
The Song my Grandmother carried with her,
It was in the stitching of her clothes
It was the way the floor creaked in harmony beneath her
The moonlight that kissed her face that evening,
It was so beautiful.
The oceans the sky had been hiding were suddenly revealed
And I could hear the gentle crashing of waves
The reprise of undeterred love
The faithfulness of the shore,
I could hear how the moon stretched the waters
Making room for the tides
All this was held simply in the quietness of her song.
In the fruit that she left cut on the table
I could hear this all by the way she said I love you.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"
These are truths upon which this nation was founded. That all men are created equal. That they are all endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights; and that these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
It breaks my heart how we have reacted to the shooting in Paris. To the bombing in Lebanon. And to other acts of terror around the globe. In the face of such evil, evil that has left families: men, woman, and children, trapped, we have reacted from fear. We have called upon our leaders to close our boarders. It breaks my heart that I live in a state that has said they will no longer accept refugees.
I want to preface this post with a few things.
First, I'm not trying to undermine the complexities of this crisis or immigration policy. I, by no means, have the answers to all of this. This is simply my response to the overwhelming movement to completely shut our borders to refugees.
Second, I'm not one to normally add my voice to current event discussions. It seems there is an excess of noise with the explosion of social media over the last decade. And I've never wanted to simply add to the already cluttered sound-scape. But I simply could not sit by and watch as so many let fear rule our choices.
"I am not surprised by the amount of evil in the world, I'm simply surprised that there isn't more. Apart of Christ I can do no more than hate, than fear, than curse."
In the last week we have seen unequivocal evil. We have seen the reality of hate. We have seen the reality of darkness. And in the name of self preservation, we have turned our heads from this evil. We've changed our profile pictures to stand with those who were attacked, but we have forgotten about the families who must live under the rule of ISIS. I believe we should stand in solidarity and in mourning with the people of Paris. There is no doubt in my mind that it breaks Jesus' heart. It breaks mine as well. But we shouldn't stop there. We cannot forsake those whom are caught in the midst of the heart of it all. We have forsaken the call Jesus.
"Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow."
We must choose love. In the midsts of such hatred and discrimination, we MUST choose love. We simply do not have the right, having understood and having seen what Christ did for us, we do not have the right to stand by and do nothing.
"I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear."
This past year I had the great privilege of getting to do life in the Middle East. I got to spend day and night living with Jordanian neighbours, Syrian roommates, Egyptian housemates, and Palestinian friends. These men, woman, and children truly became dear friends of mine. They welcomed me into their homes, they gave me their food and drink, no matter how little of it they had to offer, they let me into their struggles, and they called me their friend.
I got to sit and have conversations with Syrian refugees, I got to hear their stories, I heard how they were fleeing for their lives, simply trying to survive. Simply trying to find a safe place to raise their families.
Dear brothers and sisters. Please in the face of evil in the world, in the face of such great fear, please choose love. We cannot choose any other option and still call Jesus the Lord of our actions. Yes, that might sound harsh. It might over-zealous, but we are to be known by our Love. We cannot simply accept the grace and love that Jesus has pour out upon us, even when we were "enemies of the cross", and keep it for ourselves. We must respond the same. To Love.
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
Radical Islam does seek to kill, steal, and destroy. It is evil. But for us to forsake those whom are caught in the wake of this evil, which we can name and give a face to, for us to sit by and do nothing, for us to forfeit them to their fate. We cannot say it is what Jesus would ask us to do. We must choose Love.
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men to do nothing."
We need to be a people who welcomes the widow and the orphan and those in danger. We need to be a people that seeks justice. And loves mercy. And we need to be a people that pray fervently.
Abu Bakr' is not too far gone. The Lord's heart is still that each member of ISIS would some day know Him and worship Him, His heart is that they would turn and repent. So please join me and pray for ISIS. Pray for peace. And pray that Jesus would be known.
We must be a people known by our love.
I'll end with this prayer from St. Francis of Assisi:
"May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart. May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace. May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain in to joy. And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done."
There’s this painting. It’s by a guy you’ve never heard of before, R. Contellious. You can look him up, he’s really never done anything. Except this one painting, it’s of a boat. One of those old beautiful sail boats from back in the 1800s. This boat, it’s in this storm. The sky is that heavy grey that it gets right before everything comes undone. It’s like the weight of God’s disappointment is all going to come up and out in this one storm.