13 March 2012

Distinguished Hope

Last Friday night DMP and I attended the Celebration of Champions, part of the Earth's Angels Conference 2012 celebrating 10 years of Encouragement, Mentoring, Leadership for Today's Teen Girl and Young Adult Women.   Link to the sponsoring church:  Internal Hope Fellowship. An important part of the program are college scholarships awarded to conference attendees and one of my favorite parts of the evening was the young women who came back to report their successes and express their gratitude.  In recent years the conference has become increasingly reflective of Houston's racial and ethnic diversity.  Five years ago the conference leadership recognized that many of the young women attending the conference "didn't know what a mature Christian woman looked like."  Every year since they have honored 2-4 women; this year I was one of the honorees.

It's been a challenging couple of months for me. To quote Dorothy Day: "Too much praise makes you feel you must be doing something terribly wrong."  It's always easy for me to see how far short I fall and Lent--well timed to come just when I realize the complete failure of my New Years' resolutions--always brings "missing the mark" even more clearly to mind.  I've been sick off and on since Christmas and have endured some pretty big disappointments and had begun to dread the evening.  The big night arrived with a huge blinding rain storm and this little West Texas girl is still a bit afraid of such blinding rain that goes on and on.

David and I had invited a table of ten friends and young women to attend but fates conspired and we were a small group. Despite my concerns the evening turned out to be very happy and fulfilling.  And the food was hot and delish for which the Hilton NASA Clear Lake deserves props since the rain delayed the start by well over half an hour.
Jo, Taylor, Ashley, Elana, me, and David looking great in a suit.
Jo and I both changed our wardrobe plans because it turned cold.
Our lovely young guests were probably chilly in their pretty Spring dresses.
Steve Sandifer took the pic and also drove the church van through that scary storm.
Hilton NASA Clear Lake would has beautiful views when it's clear.
David and I were moved to a special table as the festivities got underway.  The greatest honor of the evening was getting to share a table and a stage with Mrs. Mayme Canada Brown, born in 1920, graduated from Prairie View A&M in 1946, and began teaching school the year I was born--a truly remarkable woman.  There was a "seven degrees of separation" moment--except that it was more like five degrees.  Mrs. Canada-Brown's daughter Meredith had just spoken to her college roommate whose mother had died.  Willie Mae "Bill" Cummings Hale is another remarkable woman whom I just barely remember.  She would have celebrated her 100th birthday on July 1 and is my grandfather's cousin.  So, through Meredith, we are back in touch with the children of Grandaddy's Uncle Sid and Aunt Susie.  I'm looking forward to reading Bill's Biography being written by her daughter Janna.

Receiving the lovely statue from Earth's Angels' founder Kathy Burrell
with Pastor George E. Burrell, Sr.
Finally the big moment and because some of you asked the rest of this post is my short "teaching" as written, not as delivered with a few notes:
{I believe I began with a word of thanks and a comment that I had never thought my life was particularly remarkable.}

 It is wonderful encouragement to be here with you tonight.  I love seeing all the faces of you glorious, young women who have come this weekend for a noble purpose: to discover who “we are and what God calls us to do with our lives.” It may not have been easy for you to make time for this conference but it will be worth it.

“In a culture where the media shapes our values, goals, and dreams, it is important to escape the constant bombardment of ads and images” and to remember that all of us, that each of us, “is made for more.” We are “made in the image of God.”  {At this point I inserted some praise for the lovely dance presentations by V-star's ensemble and by Camisha Dixon.  I always enjoy dance when it is well done and these young women danced well without one hint of lewdness.  Delightful!}

I’m 63 years old. I’ve been a follower of Jesus for over half a century. {At this point I inserted a few sentences about fellow honoree Mayme Canada Brown.  One of my passions is racial healing and I wanted to offer the words of my heart in deep esteem and respect for the life and pioneering work of this woman who is 30 years my elder.}  I’ve learned one thing: From beginning to end, life is a journey. Each of us lives one day at a time, one step at a time. Each step along the way can move us closer to God and to the abundant, joyful life Christ wants for all of us.” It’s not easy but it is worth it.

{I think I omitted the following sentence.}  This journey “inward, upward, and outward... involves serious soul-searching and risk-taking, honest reflection and courageous action.”

It’s easy to say “just follow Jesus” but it’s not so easy to do when the road is long and hard. Some of you already know that. Doubt, fear, disappointment, pain, despair have more than once caused me to get lost. It’s hard to follow Jesus when I can’t see him.
{There was a lot of energy in the audience.  I've never spoken with a chorus of "Come on now" before.  I love the rhythmic cadence and audience involvement that one often finds in the black church.} 

The good news is: I didn’t have to make my life’s journey alone. I’ve walked the way with the people of God. When I couldn't see Jesus, I followed my grandparents and my aunts and my Sunday School teachers. When I didnn’t know which way to go, I walked beside the older, wiser women at my church. When I stumble my Christian friends help me get back on my feet and take the next step in the right direction. And somehow, even though it is hard, like every thing else it gets easier with practice.

Perhaps most important: Because I wanted to be a godly woman, I waited for and I married a godly man and we make each other stronger and better.  {And much to my surprise I got just a bit gushy about my husband.  I am proud of him.}

No one makes life’s journey alone. The first Psalm tells us that God “watches over the way of the righteous..."  God watches over the lives of His people.  Holy God, watch over us as we seek to walk the way of the righteous, to “live like Christ and... to find God’s image restored in our lives.” Amen.

Thank you, Kathy Burrell and Earth’s Angels for this night of celebration, for these beautiful keepsakes, and most of all for the opportunity to have taken a step on life’s journey with each of you.

Most of the phrases in quotation marks are from my Lenten reading:
by Paul Wesley Chilcote 
which I'm reading in the Kindle edition.